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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/10/21

Guests: Cornell Belcher, Joan Walsh, Michelle Goldberg, Kimberle Jones, Karen McKnight, Sharon Walker, Jim Clyburn


President Biden is victorious on $1 trillion bill today, winning over 19 Republicans, to fund infrastructure bill for roads, bridges and water supply. Cuomo is resigning after attorney general report and possible criminal probes, even as he denied allegations. A mother lost her daughter to COVID because she doubted the science behind the vaccine, a woman whose brother died due to vaccine opposition, and a mother who was vaccine hesitant but wanted to be a role model to her son. Democratic congressman from South Carolina is responding to Biden`s political win on infrastructure and on the filibuster getting in the way of voting rights bill. Dominion voting files $1.7 billion defamation lawsuits against right- wing media.


NICOLLE WALLACE: We`re grateful. "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicole. Thank you so much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is resigning over a widening set of sexual harassment allegations. The governor announcing the news today. His resignation takes in effect in two weeks. We have the latest on that story as part of our very first segment in the broadcast tonight. We`ll get to that in a few moments.

But we begin right now with some major national news. The White House is dubbing it a major victory that affirms the change that the American people voted for. That`s how the vice president put it today after presiding over a winning vote.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Madame Vice President, your reaction to the bill passing?



MELBER: Today is the day that the government is passing another trillion- dollars in spending. This is the largest investment in American infrastructure in years. And tonight the senate voting on an even larger plan that would expand the safety net.

This breakthrough today was doubted by many, we should note, on two different fronts. First, conservatives and centrist have long claimed that big government is over so that in America even during big national emergencies there shouldn`t be a burst of federal spending. And second, people said if Biden was going to become some bit of a surprising advocate for an FDR-Bernie Sanders style level of spending, politicals thought he would definitely have to do it alone.

Well, it`s measurably true. I can tell you that Biden may have to tackle other measures without Republican support. But as we reflect tonight on this big breakthrough that is going to affect your life and your family and your pocketbook, I`ll tell you all of us in society and definitely journalism should be very careful with simplistic monolithic narratives because those two things I just referred to, they didn`t pan on this story.

And Biden didn`t just win today. He won over Republican senators on this trillion-dollar plan. And he didn`t just win over some supposed moderates who`ve already broken with the GOP. He didn`t just win over, say, eight or 10 Republican senators which would be, say, 20 percent of the caucus.

Today, on this vote, President Biden won over 19 Republican senators for this trillion-dollar plan which is about 40 percent of the Republican Senate. And he didn`t just get the 40 percent. He also got the vote of the self-proclaimed grim reaper. Mr. Obstruction, Mitch McConnell, voted with Biden today. So that means that Mitch McConnell when he says he`s 100 percent against Biden, well, I guess that`s except for when he`s not, which means either McConnell is not very good at math or he is very good at political hyperbole.

So we are now here at the precipice of a very pivotal moment. A pivotal moment in what the federal government is trying to do to rebound off COVID and the related economic problems. It`s also a contrast to Donald Trump`s many, many claims of infrastructure weeks which were overshadowed by the fact that he never got anything done on infrastructure. It even became something of a national punch line.

Today Biden built on that well-known theme. You can only tell a joke about something people have heard of, basically hitting his predecessor and some of the critics.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After years and years of infrastructure week, we are in the cusp of an infrastructure decade. This bill is declared dead more often anyway. If bipartisanship is a thing of the past, it was characterized as a relic of an earlier age. As you may well remember, I never believe that. I still don`t.


MELBER: That`s Biden flexing on his victory lap. As for what`s in it, well, there`s money here for a lot of things. $110 B for roads and bridges. $66 B for rails systems. $55 billion for water, clean and drinkable.

This will go to the House. Speaker Pelosi says they only intend to act when the Senate also sends over a $3.5 trillion safety net bill. So if you`re keeping track, it`s a lot of different trillions piling up at a time when a lot of Americans are trying to figure out why the rich and the 1 percent are doing so well, where is support for everyone else? Well, today with the breakthrough the answer is the support is coming.

And you can hear President Biden there mocking Trump about failing to ever get anything done on infrastructure. But like a lot of jokes, the punch line works off a truth. It just took Joe Biden two months into office to get that first COVID stimulus bill which sent those needed $600 checks out. That`s when some people online started joking that they were going to start calling Joe Biden "Moneybag Joe." In fact, there`s one of the memes about it.

But remember what I just said about jokes? That joke is true, too. Because he is Moneybag Joe right now. You know, there`s a long running debate about whether the federal government should spend money to tackle this kind of emergencies or just let the states and people go it alone.


Well, today President Biden, or Moneybag Joe if you prefer, is winning another round in that debate. Because it only took seven months to get to this point where they are passing historic, more long-term investments, trillion-dollar investment plans. And this time, this Joe brought along almost half of the Republican caucus in the Senate. Call it whatever you want, but it is happening.

Let`s bring in our experts, the famed Obama pollster and strategist, Cornell Belcher, and "The Nation`s" Joan Walsh.

Cornell, what do you think of this breakthrough by Moneybag Joe?

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA POLLSTER: More money, more problems is one thing I want to talk about as we look at the turn to the midterms. But first, let me say this, this is a significant victory. And it is something that you haven`t seen very lot of in Washington where you actually do have a bill where it`s not one or two Republicans but it is, as you point out, 18, 19 Republicans.

That, you know, we didn`t get most Republicans but we did get a sizable, a swath of Republicans where we can -- where Democrats could say this really was bipartisan. And it was, shall we say, bipartisan. And I think it`s a huge victory for the president because, again, he can say, I am in fact delivering and bringing Washington together to work on big issues. And that`s something that Americans want desperately.

They want Republicans and Democrats to work together. So it`s important politically. Why I say more money, more problems is this, there is also winning the battle -- political battles in Washington, but that doesn`t necessarily translate to winning the political battles outside of Washington. So, I will -- you know, I know it`s celebration time but I will also say this, Ari, you know, go back to 2008 and Barack Obama won a lot of big legislative battles. Right?

He literally pulled the country from the cusp back from the edge and brink of an economic disaster. And in 2010 he and Democrats got their clock cleaned. So I want to sort of preface this that we have got to win the battle outside Washington as well.

MELBER: Yes. And interesting to get your perspective on that. The more money we come across, the more problem we see. You know, the R and the E are silent in the song. I tend to pronounce them. So, Joan, more money, more problems, either way you want to go.


MELBER: Cornell --

WALSH: Even I get that.


MELBER: And Cornell thinking like the strategist that he is.

WALSH: Thanks, Cornell, for closing out something even I -- a song even I know.

MELBER: Wow. There you go. But, Joan, before we jump to the problems, I --

WALSH: Doesn`t always happen here.

MELBER: I want to get your view as an analyst about what does it mean that Joe Biden is winning here in the Senate because this wasn`t automatic and these are big long-term investments for America.

WALSH: No, I think it`s great. And it`s great the former guy never got to do it. I don`t know if Cornell agrees with me, but I think if he had started with infrastructure before he did the travel ban, the Muslim ban and all the other racist stuff, he might have brought over some Democrats. I remember fierce battles about whether Nancy Pelosi -- Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were going to go along with him on infrastructure.

So this is something that unites both parties or it used to. And it`s great to see it happen again. But now I will go to the problems. You know, I think it`s great. I think it`s great to see the emergence of a post-Trump, you know, non-Trump controlled Republican caucus. It`s not just seven or 10 senators. On the other hand I really think they`re doing this to take the wind out of the sails of the $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill. And so I worry about that very much because it could tear the Democratic caucus apart and also because those are things we need. So, you know, mo` money, mo` problems.

MELBER: Well, a fair point because as mentioned that`s the other big story is what Speaker Pelosi is trying to do to put some barometric pressure on that. Why so many people -- not only the Democratic Party, but other progressives and frankly economists and other outside views say this is the time. It`s that first year when the Democrats have taken over, you can`t wait until, you know, six months out for the midterms, Cornell, and the rest.

The Republicans, though, politically seems a little split here because as mentioned, you have just under half the caucus saying, well, we want credit for going along with some of this and then the slightly louder and slightly larger group of Republicans say, no, it`s all socialists. The thing that Mitch McConnell is also helping grease and pave the way for maybe that`s also socialism. Take a look.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): It looks like Bernie Sanders now controls the party and it`s systematic socialism. It`s exactly what he`s always proposed.


SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): The Democrats` radical train, their freight train to socialism.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): We`re playing with fire here.

SEN. MIKE BRAUN (R-IN): It`s like we`re growing a fraud business, you know, here at the federal government.


MELBER: Cornell?

BELCHER: You know, it is interesting, Ari, because I`m looking now at the 19 -- I was trying to scan quickly the 19 Republicans who voted for this. And you know what`s not out there? Most Republicans who are thinking about (INAUDIBLE). Right? Most of the Republicans who think, you know, I have to win a primary against, where, you know, if Donald Trump does not run, I have to win a primary where Donald Trump is not against me and the Republican base can`t say that I worked with Joe Biden.

On the piece about the progressives, look, you know, I hear the debate about this does not go far enough. But look, you know, this is a -- this bill as it is, is a once in a general investment in winning our future. And I don`t think you can look at it in any other way than that. And it puts millions and millions, creates millions of jobs. And you know what kind of jobs it creates, Ari? It creates an awful lot of blue-collar jobs. It`s going to create an awful lot of jobs for a lot of those voters, quite frankly, who look more like Trump voters than they do Joe Biden voters. And it transforms to a certain extent what`s happening in rural communities with broadbands.

So this is really a bill for all American. The question really should be the political calculation for me is this, I think those Republicans and Mitch McConnell calculated that the last thing they want to do going into midterm is for Joe Biden and the Democrats to be able to go (INAUDIBLE) all around the country and say Republicans killed this infrastructure bill. I think the downside to that is larger than the upside of them showing some bipartisanship.

WALSH: I just want to say one thing, I don`t agree or disagree with you, Cornell. I really support this bill, I think it`s great, I think it`s a big step forward. I do worry about the next step. I also really want the Democrats to recast this whole human infrastructure debate as though it`s some new thing as we did human infrastructure when we did Social Security and Medicare. You know, we did it when we built the middle class and we put more people in college, we built universities, we put out the GI bill, we put more people in houses.

That was human infrastructure. And so I think the next bill is important. I would not personally -- no one listens to me. But I would not personally want to see progressives block the first bill. But I think there`s got to be a negotiation back and forth. And I want to see both bills. And I think both bills are necessary.

BELCHER: I listen to you, Joan.

MELBER: Joan, I can`t speak -- hold up. I was going to say, Cornell, I can`t speak for the audience but you got two people that are definitely listening to you right now.

WALSH: Oh, thank you. Thank you. That means a lot, you guys.

MELBER: Cornell, the last point is something that you and others are talking about, and it comes from learning past lessons for Democrats. This is a piece that was looking at Obamacare which in a long run got popular enough that Republicans didn`t really have the stomach to try to fully repeal it when they could. But initially the headline, Democrats head home with a clear message for voters, trying to avoid a repeat of exactly what you mentioned, the midterms that became that referendum.

Three Democratic committees unveiling a plan to sell this Biden agenda by making it simpler. It does a lot of things. As a journalist we cover them. It`s complicated in a way. But they`re saying they`re going to blow down the tax cuts, this infrastructure jobs plan and lowering healthcare costs. Just three out of what is arguably 25 things if you want to make this the full policy list. We`ve shown how long and thick the whole bill when you print it out is, you know, you can`t even read it.

So, Cornell, is that the right strategy?

BELCHER: Well, it is both the right strategy but it`s also problematic, and it is a checkers -- we`re playing checkers, they`re playing chess comparison. Look, I think from a conventional standpoint, yes, we are -- you know, we`re lowering healthcare cost, we`re putting tax -- you know, child tax credit dollars back into pockets of middle class. I think those are all sort of fine talking points, but to a certain extent if you look at the districts and the places where Democrats need to win to hold on to the House, or even advance in the House, they are tough swing districts that some of them that Trump carried.

And look at what Republicans are doing, Ari. They`re not talking about any policy, right? They`re in the cultural wars. And it is almost as if Democrats want to pretend that Americans are just completely rational beings, will look at all the factoids and make completely rationale and cold, calculated decisions. And that`s just not true. We are going to have to engage in the cultural wars and win them as well as the bread-and-butter wars if we want to hold onto the House.


MELBER: Yes. Yes, it`s emotion. Cornell and Joan, I want to thank you both for kicking us off on what we see measurably as the biggest national story today.

We turn now -- because we have another guest standing by to go to the other big story in New York government and politics. A fall from grace for a politician who is harboring public presidential ambitions.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing, and therefore that`s what I`ll do.


MELBER: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing his resignation. That`s today, and it`s a week after the general -- I should say the attorney general in New York released its report. It provided a lot of findings and evidence about the alleged harassment of 11 different women. So this is a story that obviously has many different aspects, political and otherwise. But what changed everything was an evidence-based report by an attorney general that found many of these accounts and the underlying evidence to be credible.

That`s the context for today, Governor Cuomo saying this about the allegations.


CUOMO: I have slipped and called people honey, sweetheart and darling. I was joking. Obviously otherwise I wouldn`t have said it on national TV. My sense of humor can be insensitive and off-putting. In my mind, I never crossed the line with anyone. I didn`t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn. There are generational and cultural shifts that I just didn`t fully appreciate.


MELBER: That is his account. Of course it differs from what was in the report because there were many women who were talking about allegations of other types of conduct including unwanted physical conduct. Now several of Cuomo`s accusers are speaking out, emphasizing they view this as a step towards accountability.

We should also note the Albany Police have an open criminal probe into many of the same issues regarding Governor Cuomo`s conduct. On the political front, it`s unclear if the Cuomo impeachment probe continues right now. There is a big distinction here, though. If he were to be impeached and convicted, which many in New York said was likely and it`s why he resigned today, in that instance he would be barred from ever holding state office again.

Now the New York lieutenant governor will become the state`s first woman governor ever. And on this schedule, she is scheduled to take over and become governor in two weeks.

I`m joined now by "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg.

Michelle, walk us through the significance of this development, how it happened, your thoughts on where we go from here.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I mean, to think about the astonishing turnabout in Governor Cuomo`s fortune. Just think about the fact that there were people not -- you know, during the presidential campaign suggesting that we swap out Joe Biden with Andrew Cuomo. I mean, imagine where we`d be if we were to -- imagine where we`d be today if that had happened. But that`s, you know, how high he was riding not long ago.

I think after Tish James` report which was so thorough and so damming, both about the sexual harassment but also about other sorts of bullying and corruption including using the threat of withholding coronavirus vaccines to ensure loyalty and complicity. On the one hand it was impossible to imagine him continuing on in office. But it was also at least for me impossible to imagine that this day would come because he`s just -- he`s been around for so long.

He`s such -- you know, even as you can see in that rather self-pitying and self-justifying statement that he gave before his resignation, he`s somebody who doesn`t back down, he`s also somebody who has nowhere to go from here. Right? There`s nothing else for him after this. And so, just the scale of the loss for this one man is an astonishment but especially for progressives in New York.

You know, progressives in New York have despised Andrew Cuomo for a long time. I`m not sure that the country at large understands how much he`s frustrated and angered and attacked the left in New York because he became such as a sort of resistance hero during the worse of the COVID surge. But this is a new day for progressive politicians in New York who are going to be -- at least have the opportunity to do a lot of -- to pass a lot of initiatives that they couldn`t have passed in the past.


MELBER: Yes, you raise an important point about where this goes because while the report from the attorney general`s office was thorough, it was methodical, and it had a lot of damming details, not only about the credibility of the accusations against him which we reported at the time and which I`ve mentioned, but also about the extent of the coverup of the number of people who were involved in that.

It is one thing to say that people are entitled to due process and you adjudicate claims. And there are all sorts of times in history where that process is not popular. But you aspire to have that be factual. And it`s another thing to say that this individual, Andrew Cuomo, working with a lot of other people was trying to attack, discredit, bully, intimidate those individuals and you raised a wider point which again may not be obvious or top of mind to everyone around the nation which is the allegations were that this was the standard operating procedure, even about other matters that might be considered smaller or less significant and scary than this one. That this is how he rolled in covering up --

GOLDBERG: Well, in some case it`s not less significant. Right, I mean, the nursing home --

MELBER: Yes, go ahead.

GOLDBERG: It was not less significant. You know, there is a piece in the "New Yorker" that just came out about both his dismantling of the Moreland Commission, a commission to look into the just unbelievable corruption that we have in New York politics, and then to try to get the Obama administration to bully Preet Bharara when he started at looking into the way Cuomo dismantled that commission.

I mean, part of it is that this stuff is complicated. You have to get into the weeds to describe that. You don`t have to get deep in the weeds to understand that it`s wrong to put your hand up someone`s shirt, when, you know, there is a certain clarity about the sexual harassment allegations. But Andrew Cuomo`s record of, you know, kind of dubious behaviors is -- you know, goes much further back than this.

MELBER: Yes. And I think that`s important context as you look to again a situation where New York and California are some of the biggest states with the biggest populations, they often are a place that becomes the source of leaders. I mean, we`ve had a presidential contest between two New Yorkers and right now you have a recall campaign against the California governor. You have Andrew Cuomo ousted and you have a lot of Democrats trying to make sense of where the halo or narrative around him may have been quite different from what people in New York, or as you put it, people who work with him which applies to accusers and others but also just a lot of progressives and other people in New York what they were dealing with and whether there`s some larger lessons or systematic reform to be done.

All of that`s important, so, Michelle Goldberg, thank you for giving us some context.

GOLDBERG: Thank you so much.

MELBER: Appreciate it. Coming up, a lawmaker whose endorsement propelled Biden to victory, the one and only Jim Clyburn is here tonight.

Also, MAGA Governor Ron DeSantis is saying he wants to withhold people`s pay when it would be normally coming to them in schools if they allow people to put on masks. It really is that dumb. We have an accountability check.

We also have people making decisions on all sorts of information from their elected leaders. Well, tonight, we`re doing something important and special. A panel of individuals who`ve actually lost loved ones, family members to COVID over the vaccine, we think this is important and we`re going to share with you their stories coming up.



MELBER: Coronavirus and this Delta variant, they don`t care who you are or where you live or what you believe. The cases are just surging. But as a policy matter we`re seeing them surge especially in some red states and counties where vaccination rates lag. Take Florida, case numbers are shattering records days after day after day. A quarter of the state`s hospital beds are filled with COVID patients and Republican Governor DeSantis is now taking all this, and he`s not really focusing on the safety measures that work or encouraging vaccines, instead he`s picking political fights and says he will withhold school officials` pay if they differ with his new executive order banning mask mandates.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FL: If you believe in the masking during the school, you are free to do it. No one`s saying you can`t do it. But if you`re somebody that is concerned about that, that thinks that that may not be the right thing for your child, then I think you should have the right to make that ultimate decision. Now I don`t think government should override now.


MELBER: Over in Texas, we can report now from local observation, 50 hospitals have just run out of ICU beds. Keep in mind COVID is not the only thing that puts people there. This affects everyone. It affects people`s healthcare in that state which does happen to be run by Republicans. Texas Governor Abbott initially banned mask mandates, now he`s asking for out-of- state medical help to deal with the surging virus there.

Then there`s Senator Ted Cruz. He says there should be no more mandates no matter what and maybe he can get some freedom out in Cancun while people in Texas deal with this emergency. Over on the airwaves, Tucker Carlson is rebooting his message that Americans he says should not be, quote-unquote, "forced or controlled and made to take the vaccine." And this is another problematic talking point because no one is controlling them.

You`re not forced to take the vaccine because there isn`t any kind of federal or state mandate. What there has been is a very frankly reasonable push to get out the information that the safest way to avoid dying of COVID is getting vaccinated. But again, no mandate.

Now how is this all playing out in the real world? That`s something that we all struggle even though we`re living through it, we struggle to fully understand, and the story keeps changing with Delta surging. So to get into the real-life consequence of all this, we turn to some very special guests who`ve lost unvaccinated family members and one who changed her mind on getting the shot, when we`re back in 60 seconds.



MELBER: When the coronavirus first began ravaging America, it was a race for the cure. Now we have a cure and it`s a race to get people to use it. The Delta variant spreading as only half the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Vaccine hesitancy is the major issue. And we see it on the right as well as across all ideologies on Facebook with a major misinformation issue.

We hear from a lot of experts and doctors, but we also want to talk to people who`ve gone through their own evolution or have experienced this personally as so many people have as COVID continues to be a part of American life.

So right now I want to bring in some special guests here. Kimberle Jones lost her 37-year-old daughter to coronavirus this rummer after 50 days in the hospital battling for her life. Karen McKnight lost her 68-year-old brother to coronavirus as well. And Sharon Walker is someone who says she was once quite adamant about not getting the vaccine but has now changed her mind and is now vaccinated.

Each of these Americans are here to have an important discussion with us and have had either their own lives or in their family, this issue of vaccine hesitancy.

Kimberle, Karen, and Sharon, thanks to each of you for doing this special discussion with us.




MELBER: I appreciate it. We want to go kind of down the line at first, and then have a dialogue.

Kimberle, just tell us your story and how vaccine hesitancy figured into it.

KIMBERLE JONES, LOST DAUGHTER TO COVID: OK. My situation presented itself to me on May 16 when my daughter went to the hospital complaining about asthma. And three days later were diagnosed with COVID-19. My daughter was hesitant. She was unvaccinated, first of all, and she was hesitant as many other people are in our communities that she doesn`t believe in the vaccine. So therefore when she was diagnosed on May 22nd, she was unvaccinated and was put on the ventilator on May 22nd, and was never able really pull through.

My daughter was in the hospital for 50 days and struggling for her life. For those of us that have lost loved ones to the virus, our lives will never be the same.

MELBER: I appreciate you sharing the story, and I know you`re still grieving. Give us some insights -- and you say your daughter was 37. Was she holding out on the vaccine because she felt she was young and perhaps at less risk, although you`re telling us what happened?

JONES: There was a --

MELBER: Go ahead. Yes.

JONES: There were several factors and incidents that played into her hesitancy about them. And number one, she was young and she doesn`t really believe that. Her act words to me has always been that she doesn`t believe in the science of the vaccine and she felt that it was kind of rushed.

MELBER: And Karen, what is your experience with this?

KAREN MCKNIGHT, LOST BROTHER TO COVID: Well, about mid-March, my brother who lives in Wyoming, I live in Washington, e-mailed me and said that he`d been really, really sick. He`d never been so sick in his life. And he also expressed that he`d been feeling dizzy, that he was having trouble walking. And I said, you know, Ross, that sounds like symptoms of COVID. And then, at the end of May, the critical care unit at the hospital in Cheyenne, Wyoming, contacted my brother and my brother was in critical care in ICU.

So I flew out, I was back in Cheyenne within two days to see him and at that time he was already in the ICU. And when I was there and visited with his neighbor who actually works at the hospital, runs a cafeteria, she said I tried to get him to get a vaccine and he said he didn`t think he needed it because he rarely went out.

MELBER: It`s very tragic. How do you feel about it now? What do you want other people to know?

MCKNIGHT: Wyoming was a very mixed message. And I just think people really didn`t get the message that masks were important and vaccines were important.


MELBER: And Sharon, I saw you nodding your head while Karen was speaking, and I don`t know Karen`s brother but as an observer I can say respectfully he and you, Sharon, have something in common which at one point you were both vaccine hesitant. It`s OK to have those feelings. It`s OK to talk about it, it`s OK to learn about it. Perhaps you could tell us, Sharon, why you went from feeling that way as some do, and feeling hesitant to going forward and ultimately getting the vaccine yourself.

SHARON WALKER, USED TO BE VACCINE HESITANT: OK. First, I just want to say I`m sorry for the young lady`s loss. The reason why I wanted to get the vaccine is 100 percent because of my child. They have so much rumors in the street, it`s going to change your DNA, you`re going to get sick, you`re going to die from the virus, I mean, from the vaccination, and so many unclear rumors.

This gentleman from (INAUDIBLE) West Chester, and he was giving my son critical information. For some reason he took a liking to my son. I sat down, we had a discussion, and we talked about the vaccine, we talked about government, we talked about politics, everything. And something just clicked. After I left the event, he kept in touch with me and he answered all my questions for a whole month.

And because I want my son to have education, I want to be a responsible parent. I went with my son to an event that he was having in West Chester, and I took the vaccine. I had to be an example for my son so I went first. I prayed over that needle. I prayed over the people administrating the needle, and I took my vaccine. Why? Because even though I`m religious, God gave us free will. And we have to make the right decisions for our individual family and be a good parent. You have to be responsible. So that`s what made me get the vaccine for me and my son. I need him to have a future.

MCKNIGHT: I just want to say another way to look at the religious part is God gave us the ability to create this vaccine.

JONES: That`s right.

MCKNIGHT: And it`s a blessing. And it`s our only way out of this epidemic.

JONES: Yes, it is.

MELBER: All right. And Karen --


MELBER: Yes, let`s go. Now I`m doing the moderating. Let`s go Sharon and then back to Kimberle. Go ahead.

WALKER: OK, I would like -- I`m a parent, I`m a responsible parent. Trust me, I did not want to take the vaccine either but it`s the right thing to do. I want the parents to know that these children need to get back out in society and play. It`s not normal for the children to be behind the screen and it`s causing a lot of depression, loneliness and mental health issues.

JONES: I have a friend, her grand kids have never set a foot in school because of the pandemic. They were supposed to go to kindergarten. And it`s not normal for -- to affect the child to sit in front of a laptop for eight hours a day. And they haven`t even been in a school environment. So if we want to help our kids to be learned -- learn to be productive citizens in our community, we got to get them back into realizing what society is all about. And that is caring of each of other and loving each other, and taking care of your health to the best of your ability.

MELBER: Yes. And shoutout to --

JONES: Get the vaccine.

MELBER: Yes. Shoutout to Karen for each other. Karen, I wanted to ask you because you mentioned Wyoming, you mentioned the political leadership there as well as the culture, and no place, no community has only one thing going on, nothing is monolithic. But we have seen conservative media put out a lot of ideas that then people believe. And so there`s a difference between someone who`s busy going to work. They hear things, they believe them, and the responsibility and some say culpability of people who know better using giant platforms to put out misinformation. I want to play a little bit of that, for example, from FOX News. Take a look.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You shouldn`t get the shot. It`s not good for them. There is a risk involved, much higher than of COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like vaccination in a weird way is just generally kind of going against nature.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The experts still think that parents should trust them and inject their kids with an experimental drug.

CARLSON: If the vaccine is so great, wouldn`t it sell itself? There`d be no reason to force people to take it. But people are being forced to take it.


MELBER: Karen, do you think that drum beat of message had an effect in Wyoming? MCKNIGHT: Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, about the time that my brother was -- became really ill, the governor had released the mask mandate that people no longer have to wear masks. And I`ll just go ahead and say, I absolutely I believe that the politicians and the media people who were spreading these lies need to be held accountable and I think some of them need to be facing lawsuits.


JONES: Yes, I do. I agree. I do agree.

MELBER: What is the best argument to go get the vaccine now, starting the Kimberle.

JONES: Yes, that`s most selfless thing you can do.

MELBER: Right.

JONES: If you say you love yourself, get the vaccine.


JONES: Do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it for your community. (INAUDIBLE) around you. Get the vaccine.

MELBER: Karen?

MCKNIGHT: I just want to say that if you`re hesitant to get the vaccine for yourself, do it for others. Do it for your children, do it for your neighbors.

MELBER: Sharon?

WALKER: For me it`s your children. If you do not care about your own life, think about the future of the world, think about the children. They deserve a fair chance of life. They deserve to go outside and laugh and play and get social and know how to communicate.

MELBER: Because you`ve opened up, Kimberle, do you think your 37-year-old daughter would maybe still be with us had she been vaccinated?

JONES: That is my true belief. I would believe that. And had she been able to ever speak for herself which she never did -- I think she would encourage people and beg people and I know that she would say that she regretted not getting the vaccine.

MELBER: And Karen, for your brother?

MCKNIGHT: I do believe he`d still be alive if he had been vaccinated.

MELBER: But I want to personally thank you from the bottom of my heart because we had this conversation, we`re broadcasting it because we believe your decisions to also grieve publicly and to share your stories and your truth might benefit someone else. So I just want to sincerely thank, Kimberle, Karen and Sharon, thank you each.

JONES: Thank you.

MCKNIGHT: Thank you very much for letting us speak.


WALKER: Thank you so much. Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you.


JONES: Thank you.

MELBER: We will keep listening and reporting on this. Now still ahead accountability for those election conspiracies. A new court battle today and a key Democrat who many say actually saved and propelled Joe Biden`s road all the way to the White House. Congressman James Clyburn is here on that big win today and what`s next.



MELBER: Joining me now is Congressman Jim Clyburn, the South Carolina Democrat, the powerful majority whip and other than Joe Biden`s parents, the man many say is most responsible for President Biden with that iconic endorsement that really pushed the Biden campaign along and he remains a power player in the Congress and of course in the Biden White House.

Thanks for being here.

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): Thank you very much for having me.

MELBER: What is this breakthrough on the infrastructure bill mean and what are its prospects in the House, sir?

CLYBURN: It is a great, great day for the American people. We have been talking about infrastructure now for five years. And we finally got infrastructure day here in the United States. And I applaud the Senate for taking a significant step. But a first step. I call this the first leg on the three-legged stool which cannot be balanced until we get the second leg that they began discussion today, and the third leg is got to be voting rights.

So those three things to me will help to make focused where we ought to be. And I am hopeful that the Senate will not leave until all three legs of the stool are in place.

MELBER: Yes. You mentioned voting rights. We`re talking about the economic support for Americans during this tough time. And you`re talking about the democracy, the civic life, these are issues that you have led on really your whole career. I think viewers who follow it know how important it is to you. And yet I would have to point out as a journalist there might be some daylight here between you and this president that I know you`re quite supportive and loyal of.

We put this together for context. Let`s take a look at this on the issue of the filibuster which has become essential to getting some of these voting rights bills through the Senate. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why not abolish it if it`s a relic of the Jim Crow era?

BIDEN: Successful electoral politics is the art of the possible.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It`s been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically. Why protect it?

BIDEN: There is no reason to protect it other than you`re going to throw the entire congressmen into chaos and nothing will get done.


MELBER: We remind viewers you`ve been clear which is to say at least an exception for voting rights, for this cherished right, as we try to finally overcome voter suppression and racism in this country. But he recently doubling down on different positions, so is he wrong? Can you and your colleagues move him?

CLYBURN: No, I don`t think he`s wrong. I just think that he applies it legislatively, and I`m saying that we have made an exception for the budget. We do not allow a filibuster to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America. And I don`t think we ought to allow a filibuster to threaten my or anybody else`s constitutional rights.

So when it comes to voting and other constitutional issues, I do not believe that you should apply the filibuster. Legislative issues? Fine. But on the Constitution, I do not think that it ought to be applied. And I will continue to fight under these issues and I would hope that the other members of the Sente as well as the president will see it that way.

MELBER: Understood. And finally before we lose you, Congressman, the George Floyd Act passed the House. You and others, and Speaker Pelosi, got that done. This is a breakthrough day. But there`s a lot of important stuff. Is it appropriate, is it right for the Senate to leave town without acting on that? What should happen there on the Senate side?

CLYBURN: Well, I have been working very closely with Senators Booker and Scott, and with Representative Karen Bass.


And as Senator Scott has said over and over again, we are close. I do believe, however, that we aren`t there yet. I think I know that we have to have that before the August break but I certainly would hope that we will have that done before the end of the legislative sessions, sometime in October when that ends or maybe November. I don`t know if maybe around December. Whatever it is, I think we ought to do it even if we`re going to get it done in August.

MELBER: Yes. Well, on those timelines you just mentioned, or soon as well, we`ve been tracking the issue including the debates over police immunity reform in there. So we`ll stay on that.

And Congressman Clyburn, thank you for your perspective from the inside tonight, sir.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

MELBER: One of the nonpartisan voting companies attacked by MAGA leaders including Giuliani, Dominion, is now putting forward two scorching defamation suits against right-wing TV. A new push for accountability. We`ll explain next.



MELBER: Accountability, it`s a theme that we have reported on a lot, especially since January 6th. And it brings us to the misinformation that fuels Trump`s election lie and new accountable consequences in the works because the maker of many voting machines, you`ve probably heard of them, Dominion, is now making a new push in court suing right-wing media outlets like Newsmax, One America News Network and others for over a billion dollars.

They allege that they were materially defamed and that these networks were spreading deliberate disinformation and profiting off the lies. That is different of course than just being confused. Now the new lawsuits follow legal action already taken against FOX, and Giuliani and Trump lawyers. What`s Newsmax`s defense? Well, among other things, they say that they`re just reporting on claims made by public figures.

As a matter of journalism, it`s not a good argument. Will it work in court? We will stay on the story, and we will be right back.