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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/29/21

Guests: Sharon Stone

Summary

Jeffrey Epstein`s associate Ghislaine Maxwell is found guilty of sex trafficking. Actress Sharon Stone speaks out. The CDC is under fire over how it announced shorter COVID-19 isolation guidance. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is remembered. The ways in which groups of protesters are treated differently are examined.

Transcript

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

Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we are tracking several stories. It may be a holiday week, but there is breaking news, Jeffrey Epstein`s associate Ghislaine Maxwell found guilty of sex trafficking. It`s a big legal story. And we have more on that later.

[18:00:00]

Plus, the icon Sharon Stone on THE BEAT tonight by the end of the hour.

We begin with the mountain coronavirus. The United States has now seen more cases this week at this time from the data than ever before, a record seven-day average now of 265,000 daily cases.

The CDC is also under fire for how it has put out or announced this changed shorter isolation guidance. It`s down to five days if the symptoms are dwindling. Today, the CDC director is out talking to a lot of different folks on a lot of different programs, five networks and counting to defend how they rolled this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The most transmission happens in those first one to two days before you have symptoms and then two to three days after you have symptoms.

Those five days account for somewhere between 85 to 90 percent of all transmission that occurs. They may very well not be able to or willing to comply with 10 days` worth of isolation. So this was really a way to tell people, make sure you isolate in those first five days.

We want to be able to get people back out if they`re feeling well, but to also have them be masked.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: There is plenty of room for debate here because a lot of people don`t like long forced quarantines to begin with or feeling like you can`t go work if you want to.

On the other hand, we have seen the labor unions and the people who represent the flight attendants and others saying that this rollout wasn`t clear and isn`t fair to the safety concerns of their membership. So, it is a big debate.

Under the guidelines, after five days with dwindling symptoms, you can leave isolation with a mask. There is not currently a testing requirement as part of the CDC guidance. And that may be basically a surrender to the reality that, in the United States right now, testing is still in short supply.

Early data, meanwhile, shows that Omicron is, as many were saying the early indications suggested that were more anecdotal, it is less severe than other variants of COVID, including Delta. Hospitalizations are rising overall with the caseload.

But keep this context in mind as we turn to our experts. There are fewer people being rushed to the hospital now than there were at the height of the Delta variant, despite the higher caseload. That speaks to both the problem and the ray of hope, as vaccinations take hold and this variant may not be as damaging.

We`re joined now by Dr. Ebony Hilton from the University of Virginia.

Thanks for being here.

DR. EBONY HILTON, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, thank you for having me.

MELBER: What does it mean when we see the data that COVID is exploding, breaking case records, but this variant is less damaging?

HILTON: Right.

Whenever I hear the phrase mild, it really unnerves me, because what does mild mean, right? We know that, even with asymptomatic persons, there`s literally data that shows that upward of 50 percent of those persons will develop long COVID.

And long COVID is literally your organs no longer properly function in the way they were before you were infected. So to call it now is to belittle the thing that many Americans at this point are literally suffering through day to day.

MELBER: Right.

So you`re speaking to the fact that not dying from something doesn`t make it great. You could have a car accident, and you say, oh, thank goodness nobody was killed, and yet someone could be hurt or affected in a way that impacts the rest of their waking life.

As for the parts of it, though, that do seem less severe, which doesn`t mean don`t take precaution, out of Oxford, they`re basically saying that we need to up our language distinctions, that this isn`t really the same type of COVID as Delta -- quote -- "The disease appears to be less severe. Many people spend a short time in the hospital. They don`t need high-flow oxygen. Average length of stay is three days. It`s not the same disease we were seeing a year ago," they say.

HILTON: Well, it may not be the same disease, but we cannot say that fully, because we know that 62 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.

There`s only 18 percent of us, though, that have been boosted. Let`s keep that in mind. But we also have to see, who is actually now accounting for more of our cases? And at this point, 200,000 children were diagnosed with COVID-19 over Christmas week.

In fact, one in every 10 United States children has now been infected with COVID-19, one in 10. And those children, if you look at New York City, hospitalizations are up for kids, up 400 percent over the last couple of weeks. So this is not benign.

We know those children are largely unvaccinated. So, to compare my outcome with theirs, knowing that I am fully vaccinated and I am boosted, to say it`s mild because I don`t end up in the hospital and I don`t end up having to need oxygen or have support for my organs, it`s unfair, because those children are showing us that this may not be a mild thing at all.

And, unfortunately, at this point yesterday, we had 2,600 Americans die. That`s one American every 32 seconds. And so to -- when we have this soaring of cases, of which we had 412,000 cases yesterday, when we had that large amount that surpasses winter of last year, why are we rolling back safety precautions?

[18:05:04]

Why are we taking down the guards that help keep us safe? Why, if it`s so important for those persons now to say you need to be at home for five days and then wear a mask for five days, because you may potentially be infected, then, CDC, why have you not told the nation that every single American should be wearing a mask at all times?

Because we`re having these cases that are -- they`re surmounting the actual resources that we have within our hospital and the bow is about to break. You need to act now, and not tomorrow.

MELBER: Yes, and you`re hitting the CDC there, as others have. It`s a tough job. I think we have learned that all -- it`s an agency people may not have given a lot of thought to before 2020. And here they are getting criticized, as you mentioned, for that policy shift. And we will see sort of what the data bears out on that.

Dr. Ebony Hilton, thanks for kicking us off tonight.

HILTON: Thank you.

MELBER: We turn now to breaking news.

Just moments ago, within the last news hour here, we got a verdict in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial, guilty on five of the six counts in that sex trafficking case. She was a so-called British socialite and was indicted for effectively being the point person who helped Jeffrey Epstein, now deceased, commit years of alleged sexual abuse.

I say allege because that trial for him on most of the related counts never occurred. He died under suspicious circumstances while incarcerated.

Maxwell convicted of a conspiracy to entice minors to engage in sexual acts, transportation of minors in sex trafficking. She was also acquitted on one count of enticing a minor to travel and engage in sexual acts. You see all of the counts up on your screen. Each of those is a fact pattern. This is a devastating legal outcome for her.

She would face decades in prison, potentially, under sentencing guidelines. She also awaits another criminal trial on a separate perjury count.

I`m joined now by NYU law professor Melissa Murray.

Thanks for being here.

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: What does this verdict mean?

MURRAY: Well, I think we all recognize that this was as much about Jeffrey Epstein as it was about Ghislaine Maxwell, and a lot of the energy that would have been directed at a trial of Jeffrey Epstein was then being channeled into this trial for Ghislaine Maxwell.

And so I think, for many of the victims and for those who have watched this case with great interest, this is a real vindication and accountability for what was alleged to have happened, and, indeed, what the jury believed did happen.

MELBER: What do you see in the way the government approached this case, because there are many problems in the handling of Jeffrey Epstein, as someone who had a lot of public allegations against him for many years?

And yet, at the same time, there seems to be an escalation or an effort by some prosecutors, however late in the game, to go after this stuff and to go after, in this case, Ms. Maxwell, accused of heinous acts, not as heinous as him legally, but the prosecutors looking at that very, very aggressively, rather than saying, oh, well, that`s just a side person or an accomplice.

MURRAY: Well, I think it made clear that they were taking this seriously.

As you know, Jeffrey Epstein had a number of different charges levied against him. And one case was sort of brushed away. He later pleaded guilty to prostitution charges in Florida. He later had a Southern District charge leveled against them in an investigation against him. But, of course, he died while that was pending.

This makes clear that they are going to prosecute these kinds of questions, especially in high-profile matters like this one, to the hilt, and they were really dogged in this. There were 30 witnesses presented over the course of this trial. It was very clear that the judge, Alison Nathan, wanted to make sure that this trial was completed, that the looming crisis of the COVID virus would not complicate the administration of justice in this case.

And she saw it through. They got the verdict. And I think the prosecution earns a well-deserved round of applause for seeing this through under such difficult circumstances.

MELBER: What is the message, then, to other individuals who look at this kind of case?

We heard testimony from some of the women here about -- I should say testimony, and also some of them gave public interviews, so not legal testimony, but publicly -- and referenced the fear of coming forward.

MURRAY: I think they made clear that this is a case that was building over decades.

These women were testifying about abuses that happened to them when they were teenagers. They`re now, many of them, in their late 30s and early 40s, so a long time coming to achieve justice. But they have been very clear that they were staunch in their stories, they were stalwart in their conviction that justice needed to be done, and that what had happened to them should not have happened to them.

And it`s a lesson, I think, that justice may take time, but justice can nonetheless come when it`s necessary and when, again, there is a will to do justice and see justice done.

MELBER: Yes, it`s a big story here. And, as I mentioned, this is a slower news time for the holidays. The government`s closed in many ways.

[18:10:04]

But the courts go on. The jury decided when they decided. And that was today, so a major legal development.

And always good to have you here to break it down, Professor Murray.

And happy holidays to you.

MURRAY: Happy holidays to you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

We have a lot more coming up, including Harry Reid`s legacy, a special guest from inside the Obama world and the Democratic Party.

Later, I want to share with you a special report on the evidence and documented double standard in how police treat and patrol different protests. It matters a lot as we approach this January 6 anniversary.

And, later, the icon Sharon Stone on THE BEAT talking film, politics and maybe even a very special musical moment.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The main reason I`m here is because there`s a guy from Searchlight, Nevada...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: ... who has been fighting on behalf of Nevada for most of his life and is now fighting for working families all across America.

And that`s your Senate majority leader, Harry Reid.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Then-President Obama discussing the now later Senator Harry Reid, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 82.

[18:15:05]

He rose from humble origins, as Obama mentioned there, growing up in a home that had no indoor plumbing. He was also an amateur boxer who boxed his way into the political scene, taking up the leadership of the Senate Democratic Caucus. He was a minority and majority leader and did that for over a decade.

He sometimes used that bully pulpit to try to just stop Republican onslaughts, like George Bush`s proposal to privatize Social Security, a plan that proved unpopular and didn`t happen.

In the Obama era, it was Reid who pushed through what at the time was considered potentially controversial stimulus spending after the financial crisis. He passed a type of Wall Street reform that remains both in law, but also debated to this day.

And in the legacy that perhaps may matter to the largest number of people in the United States, he, along with President Obama, was key to ever making Obamacare law.

Now, he had a pretty low-key style in public, while also knowing how to really use the levers of power. And he was considered effective.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: He comes across as soft-spoken. You know how he`s all like, well, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Even when he`s front of a big crowd, he`s like, well, you know, I`m...

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: OK? OK? We`re trying here. We`re trying hard.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I mean, that`s just how Harry`s is.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: But anybody who knows Harry knows he is made of strong stuff.

This is one tough guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: "Strong stuff," said Barack Obama. And in their friendship and political alliances, you could also see a kind of a different model for political strength, a type of strength that works through results, not through bluster and yelling and so much of what we have come to expect on the public stage.

Are there lessons here for Democrats in the current Biden era, with a lot of controversies -- you follow the news, so I bet you have noticed -- centered on the United States Senate and its weird and sometimes antiquated rules and how do you get things done?

Harry Reid cut deals, and, in that soft-spoken way you just heard, found ways to get results. He did everything he had to do to get his caucus together on Obamacare, at a time when it was not as popular as it proves in today`s polling. He worked with moderates, including someone who was sort of the Manchin of his day, you may recall the guy, Ben Nelson, who was also a Dem in a red state, but he would also, Reid, would get on board with progressives like Bernie Sanders.

When Republicans obstructed Obama nominees, Reid was the one who said, fine, I will call your bluff. I have the power. I will change the rules. That ended a type of filibuster, not all of them. The current Democratic leader, Schumer, now says this about a similar fight:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): He saw what was happening to the Senate.

And it was a group of people on the hard right who gained ascendancy on the other side of the aisle. And they decided to tie it in a knot. And he said that wouldn`t -- that shouldn`t happen. And his views evolved. And he was a strong advocate of changing the rules of the Senate, which I hope we carry with us forward in the next few weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That was Chuck Schumer last night on MSNBC as this news was breaking talking about maybe leaning more into the Reid playbook if they can get the votes.

And Reid was always keeping up with what Biden was doing. Earlier this year, he did publicly back Biden`s efforts to spend more and go big. He said: "If we have the will, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of millions of families and build something more prosperous for generations to come."

As we reflect on both this history, this man, this set of contributions to America, as well as what it means for what Chuck Schumer just said on MSNBC last night, we are joined by David Plouffe, a former adviser to President Obama who was in the White House during some of those key times.

Thanks for being here.

DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, Ari. Good to be with you.

MELBER: Your thoughts?

PLOUFFE: Well, I think it`s evidenced by the clip you showed and the letter that Barack Obama released last night, but Barack Obama loved himself some Harry Reid, and as did I.

I mean, he was an amazing guy to be in the foxhole with. He knew where his votes were and where they weren`t. He was a fighter. He was passionate. I`d say, in both our `08 election and then our `12 reelection, I spent a lot of time on Air Force One with Harry Reid during that reelection.

He probably cared as passionately about Barack Obama getting reelected than Barack Obama did. So, he was just a great partner, as Barack Obama mentioned, and I think someone who did change and evolve, which is what you want to see in leaders, and whether that`s the rules of the Senate, some of his policy positions.

[18:20:00]

But he was savvy. He was tough. He knew how to find compromise. He knew when not to find compromise. But he was someone you could just trust. His word was bond.

In a way -- they`re very different. They stand for different things. McConnell is the same way. He very rarely gets over his skis. He knows kind of what the terrain is like, what he can deliver, when he can`t. And that`s what I think made Harry Reid such an effective leader, that and his passion for people.

He hid it sometimes, but that`s what drove him, was just an amazing passion for the underdog, for people who needed a little assistance to build a better life.

MELBER: Yes.

And he saw himself certainly as a populist in trying to work those levers of power for people, as you say. You mentioned your old boss` letter there, which he did release. And, again, a little different than some of the way politics and public bluster has been working these days or recently, this was pretty old-school.

And I will read from it here, as we remember Senator Reid: "I wouldn`t have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support. I wouldn`t have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination."

I will mention for viewers -- folks may have heard about this, David -- this is something that Harry Reid`s wife, now widow, had gathered, letters. We think about sometimes this expression of, when do we talk about people, or when do you get your flowers?

And she went out of her way here to get some of those letters, so she could read them to him before he passed, which is interesting. People do their own traditions with these matters.

But tell us a little more about what, in that first-person, second-person letter, what President Obama was saying?

PLOUFFE: Yes, well, those weren`t just kind words, Ari, to someone who was in their last days.

Those are words I have certainly heard Barack Obama mention ad nauseum. So, back in 2006, when Barack Obama was gingerly thinking about running for president, but I think it was more of an idea others talked about than him, Harry Reid sat him down and said: I really think you ought to think about running for president.

And I remember talking to him after that. David Axelrod talked to him after that. it really took him aback, because he didn`t expect Harry Reid to stay, at that young tenure in his Senate career, that he ought to think about running for president.

And then, listen, time and time again, whether it was the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reform, a lot of the budget battles that I personally witnessed Harry Reid`s skill in, you know, Barack Obama could trust Harry Reid, and I think Harry Reid could trust Barack Obama. And they had a really, really strong friendship, relationship.

I think they did love each other. And it was really fascinating to watch. I mean -- and Barack Obama captured in his letter -- I can`t tell you how many conversations I had with Harry Reid where he would call you. "Senator Reid is on the phone."

You would pick up, say, "Hello, Senator Reid."

He would talk for five or seven seconds, then hang up. I mean, that`s just the way he operated. He was not someone for long conversation. He was really someone who was about results. And I think the history will show that he delivered results for this country, unlike many people who`ve been in that building in Washington.

MELBER: And, just briefly, what, if anything, does it mean what Chuck Schumer said last night?

PLOUFFE: Well, it`s encouraging.

Listen, I think there`s so many issues, Ari, but let`s -- we`re down to two, really. What elements of the Build Back Better agenda can get passed? And I still think there`s a very good opportunity to pass good chunks of it with Joe Manchin`s support.

The thing I think Harry Reid would be most focused on, though, is saving our democracy. And that`s where we`re going to have to have the Manchins and the Sinemas and a few other Democrats -- it`s not just them -- get comfortable with a carve-out to save our democracy, because the question of whether we`re going to be democracy or autocracy after 2024, it`s a real and pressing question.

Right now, you would probably short democracy, because, if the Republicans do take over in `22 -- and I hope they don`t -- I think what we`re staring at is that -- at that point, it`s too late. So Democrats have to act right now to save this republic and save democracy.

And I think that`s what Harry Reid would be focused on.

MELBER: Yes.

PLOUFFE: And I think what Chuck Schumer said last night was great.

It is the big thing in front of us. And if we slip into the spring without protecting our democracy, we`re going to regret that probably for the rest of time.

MELBER: Yes.

David, thank you very much. And I hope people are listening, because you`re making yourself quite clear on those concerns.

We now have our shortest break of the hour. It`s just 60 seconds.

When we return, basically approaching the anniversary of the insurrection, I have a special report on the accountability for those MAGA rioters and confronting the double standard in policing.

We`re back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:40]

MELBER: The January 6 riot anniversary is on the way, and, right now, a special report on the double standard in policing in America.

On January 6, we saw federal law enforcement, then overseen by the Trump administration, completely caught off-guard by the depths of these violent protesters.

Reporting show there was not enough fortified presence at the Capitol, not a preventive show of force, some officers just in street uniforms. not riot gear, according to "The Washington Post."

Contrast that to this Black Lives Matter protest in L.A. You can see police in riot gear. Some look like they`re ready for war. And they were striking protesters who reportedly were just standing with hands up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: That`s how some officers were dealing with, as you saw there, peaceful protesters in the light of day who were nowhere near the vice president or the entire Congress.

It looked like state-sanctioned violence, a contrast to this treatment of Trump supporters who weren`t peaceful, who breached federal property, who threatened officers and worse.

Here`s an officer assisting someone during these criminal riots, pouring water in their eyes to reduce the impact of the tear gas that the same officers themselves dispersed. This is what it looks like when, even amidst an ongoing emergency that included a death, an officer goes out of their way to assist people on the scene in the trespassed area, a total contrast to police actions at many BLM protests, where peaceful protesters were tear-gassed.

Then they were fleeing. They weren`t on any trespassed property. They weren`t rendered any aid to reduce the impact on their eyes or their health. These are facts.

Now, this report tonight is not trying to proclaim what the ideal tactic is in every policing situation. This report is showing the facts of an American reality.

But let`s be clear. These are facts that many would rather ignore or minimize or lie about. This is America.

This is the double standard that many would rather not face, on the left, the police rendering aid to people in a crowd while they were still actively breaking the law and trespassing, breaching the Capitol, at a crime scene that included a killing, on the right, police treating black and brown people and other BLM supporters who, by most accounts, in the public square, were not breaking any law, certainly not trespassing.

I got to tell you, as part of my job, this is where words themselves also can fail us, because this double standard, it can make even simple terms pretty Orwellian. As journalists, we refer to the police and federal agents as law enforcement. It`s supposed to just be, like, a factual term, nothing more than that.

But take a look at a member of the Capitol Police in riot gear who appears to be escorting a lawbreaker, a person who broke federal law you see there, down the steps, and then releasing, releasing the vast majority of these people, not arresting them.

The people inside the Capitol were breaking the law. They were in an active trespass zone. They also broke other strict laws that protect federal buildings.

If a person is helping walk them out in the middle of that lawbreaking, can we accurately call that law enforcement? Because they`re not enforcing the law in that moment.

It`s broader, of course, than any picture that goes viral any single moment. These recent BLM protests in Washington, for example, were largely peaceful. There was not a single breach of the Capitol, for example, but D.C. police arrested 289 people in one day at those recent BLM protests, and 427 over four days.

You see there, they made just 41 arrests yesterday amidst a criminal and national security breach that the U.S. has not seen at this Capitol since 1812.

If you take the larger account of arrests beyond the Capitol, by the way, it jumps to 68, but 41 of them in that criminal mob at the Capitol.

Those are some numbers. They may not go as viral as some of these pictures and videos, but they`re that larger factual context.

[18:30:02]

This is America, this white man there leisurely sitting at the desk of the elected speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, a police response so lax, he had the time to gloat and pose, compared to how police instantly arrested the woman you see on the right.

She committed no visible crime. She was protesting the police shooting of Alton Sterling in 2016. She said she was exercising her free speech rights. Police took her away on a charge of obstructing a highway.

It is a selective embrace, very specifically, of some Americans, even as they`re literally part of a mob attacking officers and breaking laws, some officers going forward here to take a selfie in the middle of an active crime scene, in the middle of the trespassing, with these individuals, a contrast to the all-too-routine personal escalation by other officers against, for example, BLM protesters exercising a First Amendment right, here being shoved to the ground. Escalation.

Now, we can`t read anybody`s minds, including these officers, but we can report what they do, at a very recent protest at Republican Leader McConnell`s office, Capitol Police finding, in that instance, they knew how to make instant arrests, even on camera. They knew how to drag away protesters, some of them, by the way, in wheelchairs.

What a contrast to how different people are treated by the same Washington police force, not based, apparently, on whether the crimes were in progress, not based on an objective threat, but rather the documented double standard, based on whether those individuals were deemed by law enforcement as somehow sympathetic to police or their politics or somehow deemed an enemy of the state.

Enemies because they are black, or brown, or doing activism that may back brown and black people, or other protests that are deemed as simply criticizing parts of policing, or perhaps some part of the incumbent government. Not reading minds, just reporting the disparate treatment.

Now, these facts are not new, nor are the double standards. Some of the documentation is new. We have more cameras today. We have more mobile phones. We have more networks that anyone can use online to share the videos that document these very old, enduring facts of America.

And some of those videos may have helped change some minds in 2020. The facts, when documented, do matter. Never forget that. I mean that. I want you to know that tonight, even amidst this horror show.

And yet we also need to be clear about these old truths. From my reporting, it seems like black Americans know these truths. It`s especially dangerous for them not to. It seems like most white Americans know these truths. It seems like these rioters knew these truths, these facts very well.

It seems like they took this double standard as a given. It`s unacceptable. What happened is, even amidst everything we know and this enduring history, a low point for American democracy. There are some who`ve wrongly said, well, this just isn`t who we are.

And let me tell you something. It`s who we are today and tomorrow, unless and until we do something about it.

If you are sitting through all of this, and you`re thinking nothing ever changes or it only gets worse, I would tell you from reporting on this and observing it, I understand exactly how you feel.

A lot is changing, even as it feels like too many things are not.

We do return to the question, a question for all of us from our government down to our citizens. You have seen the facts. They`re not new. What are we going to do about it?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:37:40]

MELBER: The Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, facing a fresh wave of criticism as COVID continues to slam his entire state, along with much of the nation, as we have covered.

Florida has record-breaking numbers, over 40,000 new cases today in just that state. Now, the mayor of Orange County says DeSantis has just been MIA -- quote -- "Where`s our governor? When is the last time you saw the governor even do a press briefing on COVID-19?"

Also saying that local officials are the ones that are being burdened with figuring out testing, which needs to be coordinated at a wider level, this mayor not alone. There`s other local coverage. Again, these are people in Florida who`ve been living through DeSantis` approach to COVID for years now.

"The Palm Beach Post" saying he fiddles while COVID churns. And a top Democrat who is running to try to replace DeSantis as governor tearing into him, saying the crisis has not been addressed, and it`s time to not only increase testing and also vaccination sites, but to really end a burden that is better dealt with by policies that are available and, Democrats say, unused by this very political Republican governor.

That`s just a quick update out of Florida.

Coming up next, Sharon Stone is here on politics, movies, and what she`s learned with a life on the public stage.

That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:43:02]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: Joining us now is Academy Award nominee, Emmy- and Golden Globe- winning actor and producer Sharon Stone.

Thanks for being here.

SHARON STONE, ACTRESS: Hi, Ari.

MELBER: You have this new memoir.

In your core, you write that you felt like you started out introverted. How did that work for you in fields that are so much about presentation?

STONE: Well, I think I`m still personally a very shy person and an introverted person.

But I have -- as a professional, my job is to be quite empathetic about others. But I think a lot of shy people are actually in my field, and some of the greatest. I mean, I had the great, great honor of working with Robert De Niro, who`s one of the finest actors, and he`s probably one of the most shy people I have ever met in my life.

MELBER: Many of the characters seem extroverted, no?

STONE: Well, yes, because I have played a lot of antisocial characters who are without regard for others.

MELBER: Did you find that the career drew you to these certain characters because that`s where opportunities were, or, actually, you like doing that?

STONE: Well, I really did want the part in "Basic Instinct." I really wanted that part, because I was so fascinated by playing this person who was so complicated, but appeared so simple, smooth, serene.

MELBER: Did a lot of people just have a problem separating your character in that film from you?

Because don`t we know that your whole job as an actor is to become a different character, and yet they thought it was you to some degree?

STONE: You have to form like a public publicity persona.

[18:45:00]

And I thought that was kind of a fun good idea for me, so that I wasn`t just going to cry when people interviewed me.

(LAUGHTER)

STONE: So I got kind of sassy and funny. And it was easier, because what happened is, people would see the film and then immediately come in a room and be like this, knee to knee, interviewing me, and they were scared of me, because they just saw the movie.

MELBER: Well, you did kill a lot of people.

STONE: Yes, of course. I just ice-picked them left and right.

So, they came in, and they looked at me. And I was like, oh, they`re scared of me. And that was kind of funny to me.

MELBER: I want to read from something we dug up.

This is "The New York Times" in 1994: "Sharon Stone is one of the top two female stars in Hollywood, along with Julia Roberts, who plays victims in need of rescue by men, while Ms. Stone, by contrast, is at her best portraying strong, capable women."

Do you remember what that article was headlined?

STONE: I don`t.

MELBER: "The Ultimate Question: Can Sharon Stone Act?"

Why do you think, at a time when you were factually being recognized for playing strong characters, in contrast to what Hollywood wanted, there was still this enduring public or critical questioning of your talent?

STONE: Because I think misogyny is strong and is still incredibly strong.

And I think, if you portray strength, it`s easier to say that you -- there`s something wrong with you. And if you`re strong, and if you`re smart, and if you have boundaries, there must be something wrong with you. It couldn`t possibly be that you`re just self-possessed female who has both feet on the ground?

MELBER: How do you think that plays out in the way we deal with women in power, in government, in reality?

STONE: Well, I think we see this very strongly even -- and I have to say, even with Liz Cheney, who, let`s say, I don`t agree with all of her views, but I certainly agree with her -- her right and ability to have them.

And I thought she had them quite well. But we`re trying to -- I don`t know how to explain it. It`s almost like McCarthyism all over again. It`s like there is just such an insistence that we have a common opinion about this and a common opinion about that. And if you don`t, see you later.

I feel that, every time we do that, it`s against what this country is about. That is not democracy.

MELBER: And in the book you write about the difference between the critical reception of the times, which, in many cases just doesn`t endure very well.

It doesn`t look all that great in the rearview.

STONE: It doesn`t look good in the rearview and it doesn`t look good right out the window.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: And so you have this great line I want to read to you where you say: "A critic sees movies for free and tells you what they think. An audience tells you how a movie makes them feel."

STONE: Yes.

MELBER: And I have to tell you, when I was reading this, we look to the wisdom of lyrics sometimes around here. And you write songs yourself.

STONE: Oh. Oh.

MELBER: What do you got? You got something?

STONE: Well, I know how much you like rap.

(LAUGHTER)

STONE: If you could give me a little beatbox in the end, I had a little rap here for you.

MELBER: You have a rap.

I will tell you what I will try to do, because I don`t know how to beatbox, and I wouldn`t claim to.

But this is like a...

(MUSIC)

STONE: I`m on the air with Ari, heart beating like a Ferrari. I could have been a Zooming, but I wanted to be in the rooming. Who would want to miss that?

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Let`s see. How can I say this in the most professional way possible?

There are many people dream to have this experience with you. So I`m happy you`re sharing it with us.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: How many songs have you written?

STONE: Me, I have written like a couple hundred songs.

MELBER: The line I was thinking of that echoes from your book is, if Method Man from Wu-Tang...

STONE: Yes.

MELBER: ... he says, with regard to critics -- for him, it`s music critics. For you, I read some of the dated criticism of your time.

STONE: Yes.

MELBER: He says, F a rap critic. He talk about it, while I live it.

STONE: That`s really it.

I mean, it`s like people say to me, when was the last time you watched whatever? And I`m like, I don`t really watch them. I`m -- I live them.

MELBER: Right.

STONE: I was there. It`s like, I don`t really need to go back and look at it, because I was actually on the inside of it.

MELBER: Yes.

And yet, in your world and in ours, prestige still matters to most people. It`s still factored in. And the critics and the awards figure in somehow.

[18:50:00]

It seemed to you when you got, by many accounts, the well-deserved Golden Globe for "Casino."

I want to...

STONE: I was so shocked.

MELBER: Well, you looked a little surprised.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: Let`s -- I want to relive that moment with you.

When`s the last time you may have seen those awards?

STONE: I never saw it.

MELBER: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: And the winner is Sharon Stone for "Casino."

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STONE: And no one is more surprised than me.

It`s -- OK, it`s a miracle.

(LAUGHTER)

STONE: Thank you to the Foreign Press Association for your support to me tonight and for the 19 years I have been waiting for this moment.

(LAUGHTER)

STONE: I have to thank Marty Scorsese for touching me with his incredible genius and making room for the breadth and annoying moments of my uncontrollable passion for this part.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What did it mean to you?

STONE: A lot. Oh, it`s so touching to see that.

It meant everything to me. I mean, I -- that`s so touching.

Oh, my God. It`s so funny. He asked me...

MELBER: What makes you tearful about it now?

STONE: Look, I am a kid from nowhere. I grew up in a farming community.

I mean, there were 87 kids in my school class. You know what I mean? Like, it was like really one-stoplight town. And I had a very big dream that grew up from watching black-and-white movies on a TV that had three channels on good days and bunny ears on the top.

I`m not the person people pick. I`m like the very -- I`m like the dark of darkest horses. And so I went. And I told Vera Wang, my friend -- thank you, Ari. Thank you.

I told her, like, just make me a dress that makes me look like I just jumped out of the swimming pool, please, and came over. Like, I don`t want to look like a big loser in a big puffy dress.

MELBER: You were projecting ahead.

And the industry, of course, makes you dress for what you think`s going to happen and all that. But you were projecting ahead to the moment when you would be the dignified loser of that contest.

STONE: Loser, and I wouldn`t have to like go through that horrible feeling.

And I was just like, la, la, la. And so, when I won, I was like, oh, my God. So I was already a beat behind. So I got up and I started up the stairs. And I kind of didn`t know what was going on. And Tom Hanks grabbed me by the arms. And he went: "You deserve this. And they want a good show. Don`t cry."

And I went: "Oh."

MELBER: He said, "Don`t cry"?

STONE: Yes.

MELBER: Why?

STONE: And -- because they want a good show. Like, you deserve this. Like, go get it.

And I was like, oh, OK.

MELBER: But you still took the shot once you were up there and said it was overdue.

STONE: Well, yes, because it was, like, funny. It was just funny.

(LAUGHTER)

STONE: Like, it was funny.

I remember Steve Martin was sitting in the front. And he was really laughing. And I thought, oh, that`s good.

MELBER: Yes.

STONE: At least people are laughing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: "At least people are laughing."

That is just part of the discussion that I had, as you saw, outside there with Sharon Stone.

You can go on YouTube right now and see the rest of it. Search "Melber and Sharon Stone" on YouTube. Indeed, there was even more rapping than we had time to include. The entire interview is there. We love to share these special sit-downs. So go check it out on YouTube.

And when we come back, I have one more thing that is about the point of life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:50]

MELBER: We have something else to share tonight. And it is about the purpose of life.

I want to show you a little bit from a conversation we just had with Dan Harmon. He`s the creator producer of the hit NBC show "Community." He also co created "Rick and Morty," an amazing cartoon that just got a 70-episode renewal. So it`s going to be with us for a while, to the great joy of its many fans.

Now, we previously taped an interview. And I`m going to explain to you in a moment why I`m showing you this.

But, first, let me show you some of Dan Harmon`s highlights here, as he explains his passions, as well as the darker parts of the Internet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: What is the point of life?

DAN HARMON, TELEVISION WRITER/PRODUCER: You`re a taste bud on God`s tongue?

MELBER: This is exactly what I thought this was going to be like.

(CROSSTALK)

HARMON: It`s not what I thought it was going to be like.

(LAUGHTER)

HARMON: Our job is to create new content. And we have to do that not by writing television as we perceive television.

They have changed everything entirely, fundamentally. Rick is right, I think, about half the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, welcome to the club, pal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARMON: Just smiling at my own writing. Sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

HARMON: You can edit that out.

So, why am I even here? I could have put that above, I got to get an "ARI MELBER." There`s only so much stuff I have to do to prove my mom wrong.

Who would be made comfortable by affirmation?

MELBER: I would say a well-adjusted person who is proud of the work they do, no?

HARMON: Tom Cruise is the answer. So you`re wrong.

MELBER: Success means?

HARMON: You have done it wrong enough. I really believe that.

MELBER: On that note, very inspiring...

HARMON: Very sarcastic, Ari. Duly noted.

(LAUGHTER)

HARMON: Bad interview. Worst guest you have ever had. Got it.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: That`s what Dan Harmon is like. And it was a lot of fast intellectual tennis there.

Now, when we posted this originally, we got such an overwhelming reaction of people loving him, finding him interesting, and then people saying that the long version we posted online, which was over 20 minutes, wasn`t long enough.

People asked for the full, unedited thing. And, here, as we do some special stuff at the end of the year, I want to tell you, we heard you, and we have released it.

You can watch the entire unedited interview with Dan Harmon. It runs over an hour. Go to YouTube and search "Melber and Harmon" -- H-A-R-M-O-N -- and there`s the full hour version, or the shorter one, either way. But his fans said, give it to us uncut.

We heard you. There you go.

And, as always, you can catch up with me online @AriMelber on Instagram or Twitter or, yes, TikTok, where, as I have told you, we`re hanging out more. And you can always link with me at AriMelber.com, where you can put in your e-mail-in sign up for a free newsletter from me.

So, I invite you to go always to AriMelber.com if you`re interested in that, or the TikTok, or, if the Web is not your thing, that`s fine.

I will see you here tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

"THE REIDOUT" starts right now, with Tiffany Cross in for Joy.