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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, September 14, 2020

Guests: Nicholas Kristof, Reed Hastings, Xavier Becerra


Netflix CEO Reed Hastings discusses his new book. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra discusses the massive wildfires. Joe Biden calls Donald Trump a climate arsonist amidst the wildfires in California. A star impeachment witness speaks out. COVID cases hit a record high worldwide.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH my friend Ari Melber begins right now.

Hi, Ari.

I thought of you today when I covered this Caputo character, who I had only ever seen talk and answer questions on your program.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Mr. Caputo has been on THE BEAT, as you know. He was a part of the four-pack we did. And, as an example, as you know, Nicolle, so many people in Trump's orbit who they go in and out. I mean, he was a little bit out of it during the campaign, but he's back in it and has been trusted by the president.

WALLACE: They go in. They get investigated by a special counsel. They go out. They go back in. You know, the usual stuff.

MELBER: Yes, just normal administration stuff.


MELBER: Good to see you, as always, Nicolle.

WALLACE: Have a good show.

MELBER: Thank you very much. And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

I want to thank you for joining us as we track these stories now.

Joe Biden calls Donald Trump a climate arsonist amidst these wildfires in California, and a star impeachment witness speaking out. Plus, COVID cases just hit a record high worldwide, topping 300,000.

We have much to get to, but our top story does turn on these two crises rocking the U.S. right now, more fallout over Trump's failure to contain the coronavirus or this rolling scandal over his admission that he knew how deadly the virus was, as he downplayed it.

And then the other natural disaster that is rocking America, specifically the West Coast, wildfires raging in California and Oregon. We have more on that later in tonight's broadcast.

On COVID, veteran journalist Bob Woodward is now calling the president's approach a cover-up and stressing the sheer stakes of Trump's failure earlier this year in a new interview this morning.


BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It is one of those shocks, for me, having written about nine presidents, that the president of the United States possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives.

Historians are going to be writing about the lost month of February for tens of years.


MELBER: Woodward, of course, is a famously objective reporter, but, like many people, particularly in the sort of political and media class who've had to adjust their norms to this abnormal era, Woodward also telling "60 Minutes" last night that his book leads him to the conclusion that Trump is just the wrong man for the job, and implying, of course, he thus should not be reelected.

Meanwhile, when you look at the facts today, this virus is topping six million cases, the U.S. approaching a death toll of 200,000. Meanwhile, Donald Trump returning to his preferred campaign mode, indoor rallies, this one just outside of Las Vegas. It breaks the Trump administration's own safety guidelines, Nevada's governor condemning his reckless, selfless, shameful, dangerous, and irresponsible.

Some doctors weighing in, likening the event to the legal standard for contributing to a death, such as callous disregard for human life.

Trump responded to a question about all this today by saying that he was far away from any danger out in the crowd, basically admitting he knows that the crowd poses danger in this context, danger to his own supporters, but, as long as he's OK, it's cool.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Trump administration's COVID Task Force joined in on the rule-breaking with his own indoor rally, Mike Pence there. And let's be clear, this violates the task force's guidelines that recommend you avoid social settings of over 50 people when distancing is not practical.

It also comes amidst a new scandal, as Trump appointees are politicizing and interfering with valid CDC data about the virus in order to try to help Donald Trump's standing, which has prompted a new House investigation.

Let's get right to it.

I'm joined by Dr. Kavita Patel, a physician fellow at Brookings and an MSNBC medical contributor, a Pulitzer Prize winner from "The Washington Post" Eugene Robinson.

Good day to both of you.

Dr. Patel, we put the guidelines up, because, of course, there are ways you can be around some people, and you can be outside, and you can be in distanced settings. But the guidelines flatly bar what Pence and Trump have just convened.

DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that's absolutely right, Ari.

But now we have seen case after case where this is happening. You even saw this with some of the actions during the Republican Convention. And, certainly, we now know from both the Sturgis rally, as well as the Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally, not to mention others, but, at least with those, we have documented increases in cases.

And we certainly -- if you talk to anyone in Herman Cain's family, they would also tell you that this was kind of one of the lessons learned. So I don't know why we continue to be surprised, but I consistently remain a little amazed at how he mocks -- the president specifically can mock and ridicule sound, scientifically validated public health interventions.

It's not political. It's science . And we're consistently seeing behaviors from this president which place anybody against science as being a part of President Trump's rallies or supportive group.

MELBER: Would you elaborate on your point about Herman Cain?


I think -- so, obviously, Herman Cain passed away from COVID. And they link -- it's hard to know, with his death, but, in going back and thinking through, doing kind of essentially contact tracing, that it was directly linked to his attendance at a rally.

Now, even if that's not precisely the cause, what we do know is that it's exactly a person like Herman Cain, someone older than the age of 50, with chronic conditions, who is at the highest risk of contracting the coronavirus.

And you put that inside at an indoors event, and you do not mandate the wearing of masks or social or physical distancing, and that is exactly what leads to what we define as a super-spreader event.

MELBER: And, Gene, the president addressed all this by speaking again about only his personal safety, total disregard for his own supporters in the crowd. Take a look.


WOODWARD: It's going to be a contest between you and Biden.

It's going to be a contest between both of you and the virus. The virus is -- because it's in real people's lives, all those tens of millions of people who don't have jobs, who don't have that income.


WOODWARD: Listen, I mean, you and I...

TRUMP: Nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.


TRUMP: I acted early. I acted early.

WOODWARD: We will -- we will make -- this will...

TRUMP: We will see.

WOODWARD: This will be the history that we start the first draft of.

TRUMP: No, I'm not concerned.

QUESTION: What about people here?

TRUMP: I'm more concerned about how close you are, to be honest with you.


QUESTION: Sorry about that.

TRUMP: Because you know why? Because you know why? I'm on a stage. It's very far away. And so I'm not at all concerned.



EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what could be more Donald Trump?

I mean, he is concerned about Donald Trump. He thinks only first, last and always about Donald Trump. And so, yes, he concerned certain about his own safety. We know from his whole history he's a germaphobe, actually.

And so he doesn't want to go anywhere near COVID. But, as for the people who come out to see him at his rallies, he really could not care less. And it doesn't occur to him to care, actually, that -- and so they're out there in this sort of petri dish of germs, but he's far away. He gets tested all the time.

And so he's fine. That's the president of the United States, and just in his full glory. that's him.

MELBER: And do you think, Gene, looking this as the heart of the campaign -- it's so much happening that people can understandably feel overloaded. But we're really just seven weeks out from this long awaited presidential race.

And Donald Trump's out here running. He does not seem to have his usual control or dominance over the messaging. Obviously, the Woodward book is not his chosen topic, the way these rallies are going and the COVID risk.

Where do you see that fitting in?

ROBINSON: Well, he's flailing and looking for a message, because, no, he can't control the message because he's not in control of the events.

So, a big part of his campaign thrust right now is just pure anti-science, anti-science on COVID, anti-science on climate change. And you can -- I could run on an anti-gravity platform, but if I'm jumping off a roof, I'd still fall and really hurt myself.

And I hope people who might be inclined to listen to President Trump's message realize that, realize that science really doesn't care whether it's a Democrat who opposes it or a Republican who opposes it. In fact, gravity works all the time. And climate change is happening now.

And we know the facts about COVID. And they're going to -- the disease just simply does not care what Donald Trump says.

MELBER: Right, which is why, as a doctor reminded us, there's real world threats and risks even in these events, as well as how people live their lives, and the big question being whether there's political gravity that kicks in, Gene. We will keep our eye out.

Dr. Patel, thanks to both of you.

I want to bring in our next guest on these wildfires which have been engulfing the West. You see it here, California, Oregon, Washington state burning up, thousands displaced from their homes, nearly three dozen dead.

Air quality now is basically equivalent to -- get this -- smoking about 20 packs of cigarettes, if you're out there. That's according to California's governor.

Now, Trump was in Sacramento today blaming forest management and at war with climate change itself, which is an accelerant to all of this.

We're joined now by an official in the thick of it, California's attorney General, Xavier Becerra.

Good to see you, sir.


Remember, Xavier? Acts like an H.

MELBER: Excuse me, Xavier Becerra. And that's a reminder I'm reading off the prompter. My bad, mispronouncing my X's.


MELBER: So, Xavier Becerra, when you look at this situation, what is the most important problem facing California to get it under control?

And how much do the feds fit into that? Is Donald Trump an anti-science distraction, as one of our experts was just mentioning? Or are there more profound failures here that affect the safety of your constituents, sir?

BECERRA: Well, at the end of, Ari, it's the denial that harms California the most, because, if we could tackle climate change now, aggressively, we begin to deal with these raging fires.

It's not just the fires. Think about the five cyclones that are off the Eastern Board coast right now as we speak, or the flooding that occurs as a result of what happens in the South. Or you could talk about the super tornadoes that are going on in the Midwest.

It's taking action now, because we can do all we want, but Mother Nature is a lot bigger than us. And, by the way, most of the fires most of the natural land that's out there in California is federal government property. And so what we need is a team effort.

And that would mean the federal government stopped denying that this is climate change. It's not a matter of raking the forests.

MELBER: Yes, when you look at the temperatures that California has faced, topping 120, hottest on record, what can you do locally to deal with this?

I mean, people are obviously under in danger, as I mentioned, and a lot of people evacuated.

BECERRA: Ari, we have laws in California, locally as well, that require people to clear brush from their property every year. And they pay fines if they don't, because then the local government has to go in and do it for them.

But here's the difficulty. California is very dry. We're still in the middle of a drought. And when you have got these massive storms that come through, especially when the winds whip up, it makes it impossible.

And so it's a kiln, what you have. And we can't stop that by simply talking about asking someone to clear their property. This is massive, and this is happening now not because it's just an occurrence and tomorrow the weather will get better.

No, it's change that is occurring in the climate overall. And it's not just California.

MELBER: When you see Joe Biden call the president arsonist, do you agree with that? Do you think that's constructive right now, or is that just politics? Because, technically speaking, the president didn't literally start the fire.

BECERRA: Well, no doubt that Donald Trump is playing with fire by ignoring what's going on.

And, certainly, those who close their eyes to what they're witnessing have to be culpable to the long-term effects. We had reports of firefighters who are losing their homes because they were out fighting fires.

And I guarantee you that these firefighters know what the rules are with regard to keeping their properties clear of ignitable brush. And so what we need to do is make sure that we got leaders who are ready to get on top of this.

How many warning calls do you need, wakeup calls you need before you finally take action?

MELBER: And while I have you sir, of course, this is our main focus and such an issue for your constituents.

But, as the attorney General of California, what is your outlook on the election itself? Do you have reason to believe that, as we saw in the midterms, it may take time to count all of your state's votes? Should people not expect final numbers on a election night? And any comment you have on the way the president has been lashing out at the election integrity?

BECERRA: Well, voter suppression has been something that we have seen throughout the country.

California, fortunately, we have local officials and our state officials who are working really hard to make sure that every vote will count. And we have changed our laws to make it possible for everyone who wants to vote and is eligible to vote to get out there and cast their ballot.

So, I'm pretty sure that, here in California, we're going to make sure that everyone who's ready is going to have a chance to have their vote counted by Election Day. And those that come in by mail a little after the Election Day, but they were postmarked before, those will count as well.

So, we're in good shape. But I have worry for those states...


MELBER: Just pressing you, because it's part of my job, you're answer, though, on, will we have results, final results from California election night, or should, in your view, people really be ready to wait a few days?

BECERRA: Ari, Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by over 4.5 -- four million votes in the state of California.

On the election night, I think it's going to be pretty clear where California went. Joe Biden's going to win landslide.

But by the time all the votes are counted out, it will be perhaps the largest victory ever seen by a nominee for president, when Joe Biden wins California. And I hope that leads to the more than 270 delegates that he needs to become the next president, so we can get done with this not-normal lifestyle and get back to doing things according to the rules.

MELBER: Attorney General Xavier Becerra, thank you so much, sir.

BECERRA: Thank you.

MELBER: We have just a 30-second break, and then we return with a very special guest, Nick Kristof from "The New York Times," looking at authoritarianism.

And, later tonight, we have a very special interview, the Netflix founder and chief, Reed Hastings, on how the pandemic is changing everything and what you could do to adapt.

Also, Joe Biden's legal team, a war room to deal with those election issues we were just discussing.

And Neal Katyal coming up.

We're back in just 30.


MELBER: We're in the heat of the presidential election now. And these legal battles are starting earlier than any other year, over 300 lawsuits relating to voting in a pandemic, the Trump campaign suing to try to limit voting-by-mail options in several states, as the president stokes misinformation about voting, while projecting it's his opponents trying to cheat.


TRUMP: They're going to be sending out 80 million ballots. And it's Democrats. They're going to -- they're trying to rig this election.


MELBER: It puts the Biden campaign in a bit of a tricky spot.

Do they sidestep Trump distractions and focus on their message, or do they fight on this terrain and try to make sure voters understand that the Biden campaign is ready for any legal brawls?

"The New York Times" now reporting Biden's assembling a massive legal war room with the party's top heavy hitters, including people who used to represent President Obama at the Supreme Court, solicitors General, all to guard election integrity and win any battles needed to fortify the right to vote and what they hope will be Biden's lead.

We're joined now by Neal Katyal, who served in that same high post of U.S. solicitor General and is an MSNBC legal analyst.

Thanks for being here, sir.


MELBER: Let's start with the big problem with Donald Trump basically getting everyone thinking about or worried about election problems, whether that's super strategic or just sloppy, and your view of this Biden effort, which includes some of your peers?

KATYAL: Yes, I think that the Biden effort here makes a lot of sense.

I was part of Al Gore's legal team in the Supreme Court in 2000. It was actually my first big case. And I think it's fair to say that both sides there were scrambling for those 36 days. And, as a lawyer, I always advise my clients, be prepared for stuff in advance, set stuff up in advance, be prepared for that.

And, here, that's really important because what Biden is doing here is just simply a reaction to what Donald Trump has done. I don't think it's any secret that Trump hasn't been all that successful in managing to attract votes. And so his strategy has been to discount them, to make sure that people can't vote.

And, Ari, here this election is different for three reasons than past ones. One is obviously COVID. And the second is obviously Donald Trump. There's a third really important one. Since 1982, for the past four decades, up until 2018, the Republican Party has been under a court order that forbade them from mounting voter fraud campaigns to try and disenfranchise voters, because the courts found that they were doing this to depress and stop minorities from voting.

That order -- court order was lifted just two years ago in 2018. And so now you have the Republican National Committee launching all of these voter fraud things -- and you just heard Trump talking about it -- which are ludicrous. But that's what Biden is reacting to.

MELBER: Well, one of the things the Trump era has done at times is sort of snuff out things that used to be more arguable or things that, in Washington, Republicans would say, well, I'm not really about that.

And I thought it was interesting. Another colleague of yours who was on the other side of some of these battles you just mentioned coming out, Ben Ginsberg -- some folks may remember him from being on air from time to time as a Republican lawyer -- and he says Republicans trying to make their cases in courts must deal with the basic truth that, for decades -- four decades of dedicated investigation produce only isolated incidents of election fraud.

And he basically says that his own side should give up this talk about rigged elections. And he criticizes Trump for overdoing that.

KATYAL: Yes, Ben was one of the opposing lawyers in Bush vs. Gore. And he's a worthy adversary.

I thought it was significant that he came out. And what he's doing is just reminding us all, as Americans, what's more fundamental than the right to vote? What's a more cherished right that we have?

And to have the president of the United States saying things like, in North Carolina, go vote twice, and stewing up all of this concern about how -- about how they will be rigging and so on and, things like that, with zero proof whatsoever, it's reprehensible. It's un-American. It's actually potentially criminal in North Carolina.

MELBER: And one thing I was asking the attorney general about, although he really hit the point he wanted to on supporting Joe Biden, which I get, but I was trying to get him a little more clearly on the fact that, in the midterms, one of the reasons that the blue wave took a little longer to factually document was that there were House races and others that weren't resolved on election night, and that that's OK.

There's no magic to when it happens, as long as it's counted accurately. I'm curious your view of that, as the public, but, frankly, the press also has a big role to play in getting people to understand what election could look like this year.

KATYAL: A hundred percent. There's nothing more important than counting every vote. Whether that takes a long time or not, whatever.

But what we shouldn't do is have someone rush to judgment and declare victory, which Trump has already managed claiming to do, on election night. And in his pal Roger Stone is out there saying, declare martial law if you lose, because the election would have been rigged, and things like that, which is just so far beyond the pale, not just of a president, but any American to suggest that.

And so, yes, we should be in for a long haul. Let's count every vote. Let's see what happens.

MELBER: Yes. Understood.

Neal Katyal, always good to see you.

I want to mention, for more, you can always go to, where we feature these and other segments with Neal.

Up ahead, we have a special guest, with Donald Trump caught on tape boasting about his rapport with authoritarians.

I told you earlier we had a short break. Well, now we really do. We fixed it, and we will be back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Welcome back.

Bob Woodward's 18 interviews with President Trump do continue to haunt the White House. New audio released today features Trump sharing his view that he thinks he gets along best with authoritarian leaders that he considers mean.


TRUMP: I get along very well with Erdogan, even though you're not supposed to, because everyone says, what a horrible guy.

But, for me, it works out good. It's funny. The relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. You will explain that to me some day, OK? But maybe it's not a bad thing.

The easy ones are the ones I maybe don't like as much or don't get along with as much.


MELBER: Critics say Trump abuses his government power for personal gain, from suppressing intelligence about the new Russian election threats to pushing Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani to get that foreign help attacking Biden.

That issue back in the news, with reports busting Giuliani for working with an active Russian spy to target Biden. It is, of course, familiar, because it's the same scheme that got Donald Trump impeached, with damning testimony from people like Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who just spoke out in public actually today here for the first time since Trump's Senate trial.

So, while Trump tells Woodward he gets along well with autocrats, Vindman says, it's autocrats who actually strong-arm Trump, making him there useful idiot, citing Putin as one example, and telling NBC's Lester Holt that, while Vindman sees himself as nonpartisan in his public service, now that we head towards a vote, he lays out why he does oppose Trump.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Are you a never-Trumper?


I was nonpartisan. Regardless of what administration, I would just try to do the best I could to advance national security interests.

But I think, as the president's attacked and politicized me directly, and in taking a very sober view of where this president is taking this country, the divisions, the catering to our adversaries, the undermining of national security interests, that I am absolutely a never-Trumper.


MELBER: Vindman's testimony, of course, made waves by contrasting his home country, the Soviet authoritarianism he fled, to the promise of American democracy, which he argues is undercut by Trump.

Now, as if on cue, the president was campaigning this weekend musing that he ought to not only win, but he ought to be entitled to a third term, which he might be able to negotiate, drawing all kinds of headlines, but many of them you see here bury the lede, because the Constitution flatly bars any third term.

So, let's take this head on. When a president talks openly about illegal, unconstitutional schemes, the news headline here is, your president thinks he can break the law. And that's illegal and wrong and obviously undemocratic.

But the headline here isn't just supposed to credulously repeat, well, Trump's thinking about negotiating a third term. How about that? In fact, that risk normalizing the very attacks on democracy that the president is trying to write all way into November.

Is the United States really in danger of having to substantively fend off an incumbent who would break the law to illegally hold onto power if he loses the race? Well, that requires more prediction and reporting. I don't have the answer for you right now.

But someone who does know Trump up close, his niece Mary Trump, was just telling us she believes he would take America down if he needed to for his own interests.


MARY TRUMP, AUTHOR, "TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH: HOW MY FAMILY CREATED THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS MAN": Donald is a very sick man. He's never going to get better. He's only going to get worse.

And if it suits his purposes, he will take this entire country down with him. And he clearly has a lot of people willing to help him do just that.


MELBER: I'm joined now by Pulitzer Prize-winning "New York Times" columnist Nick Kristof, who wrote about Trump's authoritarian tendencies dating back to 2018.

Good to see you, sir.

What is the right way to deal with this spread of authoritarian-type talk from Donald Trump, ranging from the substantive, like foreign policy, to the rhetorical?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's to challenge it at every level, because, as some of your guests suggested, the country's institutions are at stake.

And the reason that President Trump has so much -- gets along so well with Erdogan and other dictators is because they do share an authoritarian vision, a notion of a -- that history is made by this kind of heroic leader, and that institutions and norms, which are central to our democracy, are -- just get in the way.

And that was what we got rid of with George III back in 1776. And that's what President Trump doesn't seem to understand. And I think maybe, for us in the media, it also -- we also have to acknowledge that one of the things that any authoritarian leader does is flood the zone with all kinds of false narratives and lies and false tidbits.

And it's not so much that they expect people to believe it. It's that it simply erodes the meaningfulness of any information. It reduces the idea that there is any objective truth, and it's just people shouting at each other.

And we, in the media, I think have to very much stand up against that. And we did not do a great job in 2016. We did a pretty lousy job in 2016. The country's on the line this time.

MELBER: You lay it out.

I'm curious, given your extensive international experience, what lessons do you think there are from other countries. The United States has a narrative about itself and often likes to talk about exceptionalism or tell other countries what to do. And there's certainly things that this nation can be rightfully proud of.

But I wonder what lessons we might learn for what some view as the unthinkable, which is, do democracies always stay democracies? Well, world history teaches no.

And we have had recently the president do everything from directly attack voting with his power in the postal office scandal, which was slightly beaten back, to these open musings, which, as I'm trying to stress in our reporting here on this program, that, when the president talks about delaying the election or a third term, the most important thing is to remind and reinforce that there are basically concrete laws and constitutional bars against that, rather than having so much talk about it, that it leaves some with a misimpression that maybe he could do these things, thus normalizing them.

KRISTOF: I think there are a couple of lessons from other countries in terms of how they have combated authoritarian leaders.

And one is to make sure that independent institutions, including the news media, do not allow themselves to be used, because one of the classic mechanisms for an authoritarian rising to power is to use and abuse and independent institutions, whether it be courts, legal institutions, the media, in ways that amplify that person. And you get -- I mean, I think that's kind of what happened in 2016 with the media, frankly.

And one of the other lessons is that what is often most effective for those who want to challenge that authoritarian is not standing up and criticizing that leader, but is making fun of them, and that authoritarian leaders are very full of themselves. They assume this great dignity, and that mockery is often more effective at undermining them than arguments about free speech, et cetera.

That was one of the big lessons in overthrowing the Serbian dictatorship. And then it was followed in Arab Spring and in other countries.

And so there is something to be said for -- we have seen commercials, for example, that poke fun of President Trump's grandiosity. And I think there's something to that.

MELBER: Does that mean, Nick Kristof, that you're going to put aside all your Pulitzer Prize-winning humanitarian reporting and pick up stand-up?

KRISTOF: I know my limitations. And my -- I have a pretty good bleeding heart. I don't think I'm very good at stand-up.

MELBER: Fair. Yes.

Are you -- I mean, we can't generalize, but many comedians have that biting style. And, with you, we have something much warmer and fuzzier, which, of course, animates a lot of the great work people like from your writing, but good to know.

And it reminds me a little bit of -- Victor Navasky had a book, "A Matter of Opinion," that talked about dictators who worked harder to ban political cartoons than even newspapers and books, for the points you raise.

So, a lot of food for thought, as always. Great to have you on, Nick.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you.

MELBER: Appropriate it sir.

We have a lot more in tonight's program, including a first. The founder of Netflix, that tech giant, is here for the first time discussing the pandemic, adaptation, and a lot more, very interesting stuff.

Also, want to go deeper on the infernos out West and why something that people don't always want to talk about, climate change, needs to be addressed here, including an in-person fact-check of President Trump.


MELBER: Here's what the infernos across the West Coast look like, wildfires devastating huge swathes of land across three states, 17 dead, millions of acres destroyed, tens of thousands forced out of their homes in this pandemic.

In fact, one out of every 10 residents of Oregon has now evacuated or under guidance to be ready to flee at any time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the unfolding aftermath of the crisis out here in the West. Thousands of people have lost their homes. Tens of thousands have been forced to evacuate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The search intensifying for dozens of people still missing. Sixteen fires are burning here, incinerating entire towns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It looks like a bomb went off.


MELBER: We're still just getting our arms around this.

California's fires have destroyed more acres than ever before, three million-plus. They currently feature the largest single fire ever recorded.

Why is it so bad now? Well, you know why? Because the Earth is getting hotter, scientists telling "The Washington Post" the scale of these fires show what they call a compound event, which is accelerated by global warming, and it's -- quote -- "unprecedented in modern times," a precursor of a future without steep cuts in greenhouse gases.

Now, California is also breaking new records this summer, with temperatures topping 121 degrees. Scientists note that, of course, makes the fire conditions worse.

And this is the factual context for responses from both presidential candidates right now, Joe Biden confronting climate change, while Trump briefly clashed with a scientist who disagreed with his proposal that maybe the Earth will just soon get cooler.


TRUMP: It'll start getting cooler.


TRUMP: You just -- you just watch.

CROWFOOT: I wish science agreed with you.


TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we have four more years of Trump's climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires?

If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?


MELBER: Biden hitting hard there as this environmental disaster unfolds.

Meanwhile, on policy, the president has tapped a climate denier to run the federal organization that handles climate research and forecasting.

The facts are clear, and these candidates' approaches couldn't be more different. To paraphrase someone else known for dropping some science, Cornell Haynes, it's getting hot in here, so hot. It's getting hot in here, so hot, birds I'm feeding, no deceiving.

But Nelly was talking, of course, about a dance floor. But it applies to global warming as well, except the birds are dying, the fires are burning, and deceiving actually is now a big part of the problem.

When we come back, we dig into how Netflix has become so crucial during this pandemic, and the tech company also has some secrets that affect Black Lives Matter and adaptation.

Their founder, Reed Hastings, joins us next.


MELBER: America is about six months into this pandemic, and it's had many effects, from the tragic death toll and the painful job losses to many other shifts in our daily lives and culture, from the summer protests, to teleworking, to Zoom friendships, to an explosion in streaming video.

Now, no matter how bad it gets sometimes, the challenge, we know, is adapting. How do we adapt for this new world? How do we adapt when we don't know how long it'll take for things to change again or what really comes next?

Well, we turn to an innovator to explore these questions. Reed Hastings founded Netflix, making himself a billionaire and creating one of the most successful tech companies ever. But it's actually three companies. It launched as a shipping operation for DVDs, kind of a Amazon for one product, then adapted, of course, into the streaming service that we all use, where you just click for the video, and then adapted again into a movie studio, now having produced over 1,000 original titles, with big impacts on politics and culture, which does make Hastings an interesting entrepreneur and billionaire to consult right now in his debut on THE BEAT.

And joining me now is Netflix co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings.

His new book is "No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention."

Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.


MELBER: The first question is the most straightforward.

If your approach to business, which is competitive, gives you and your company an edge, why are you revealing this approach?

HASTINGS: I have learned so much from other books about leadership and management. I felt like we should give back to that conversation and share what we have learned, and other people will then benefit from it, including our competitors.

But so be it.

We have had hundreds of years of factories, and the factory paradigm permeates our culture, the boss at the top, the workers following the rules. That model does not make sense for creative workers.

Instead, we have a different model, where we try to inspire our employees. We give them great freedom, very few rules. We really manage on the edge of chaos. It's messy. But it also allows people to come up with lots of new ideas, which has helped Netflix grow.

MELBER: I wanted to ask you, since you're so interested in the honest, radical transparency, about something that one of your former executives told "Forbes" regarding this approach to employee feedback -- quote -- "Everyone gives feedback about the person live in front of everyone else. You go around the table. It lasts for hours. People cry. And then you have to say, thank you, because it's making me a better person."

One is, is that about accurate or not? And, two, what is the value, in your view, of that potentially more intense style than what many companies or many organizations do?

HASTINGS: Well, that's more extreme than anything I have directly experienced.

But it has the right sense, which is, we're willing to go to great lengths to get people feedback about how they can improve professionally. And that can be hurtful.

I mean, I get a lot of feedback and still, as accomplished as I am, it hurts, and I want to fight it.

MELBER: There's criticism of big tech, as you know. And I want to get into that.

But I also want to ask you about some pretty interesting, credible praise that you and your team received from someone who our viewers know, Ava DuVernay, who is an incredible storyteller and known for a lot of great civil rights work.

She said, Netflix is now -- quote -- "the foremost and most robust distributor of black images in the world."

And the company was an early producer/distributor of a lot of that kind of work, including documentaries, including civil rights and prison reform projects.

Did that come about, in your view, just organically because you have the creative culture you told us about, or was there some explicit or even civil rights-oriented in the planning?

HASTINGS: No, that was completely organic by our team to produce great entertainment.

And all of those shows you refer to, "13th," "When They See Us," "Mudbound," have been enormously successful for our service.

So, it's very compatible with an entertainment service, so even though it's upsetting, but, again, many great films are upsetting. So again, it was a natural outcome for us. And what we hope, in fact, is that our competitors do a lot more black programming also.

We're not trying to be the exclusive market for that.

MELBER: So, now we turn to the -- some of the criticism out there, which obviously you're comfortable with, because that's your whole thing, 360-degree reviews, right?

There's been all kinds of concern for people particularly around free expression looking at where Netflix negotiates with, compromises with foreign governments or not.

As a company, how do you decide when you will compromise with a government, including one that, obviously, I think it's fair to say, has different values than some of your leadership or your membership, and when will you not?

HASTINGS: We do push back a lot. We do argue about the content.

And we have had some difficulties in some countries. There's maybe a dozen titles that have come down in individual countries out of thousands of titles. And so very controversial titles, like a "Queer Eye" or "Sex Education," are playing all over the world with no limitation.

So, I think our service is a huge supporter of artistic expression, people seeing different cultures and different attitudes on screen.

But, on occasion, we do get a very specific takedown order, and we end up complying.

MELBER: But a takedown order, right, might be domestically legal, but raise that larger question.

For example, you mentioned "Queer Eye." OK. So if a place has a legal reason that make you take something down, say, because of the sexual orientation of its characters, is that ever something where you say, well, then we're not going to do business there? Or do you view that as the wrong answer, because then you're essentially reverse-boycotting the content?

HASTINGS: Well, I think we would have a really hard time taking down something if it was suppressing LGBT voices or expression, like taking down "Queer Eye."

The ones where we have had those takedowns have been something that attacks that particular leader, perhaps legitimately, but it's still seen as an attack. We want to have our content make a positive impact around the world.

MELBER: Before I lose you, I did want to get you on some other big picture things that a lot of people are focused on. I don't know how specific you want to get. But it is known that you're backing Joe Biden.


HASTINGS: Yes, I mean, I have been a Democrat my whole life. So, I backed Hillary Clinton. I back Joe Biden.

But I try to keep my personal politics out of Netflix.

MELBER: And is that because you really take seriously the idea that it's a publisher, it's a platform, so you welcome other projects?

I mean, do you welcome MAGA Trump-supporting projects and directors, if they want to produce, as you say, something that would be good entertainment?

HASTINGS: We want to cater to multiple tastes. And we're not trying to make judgments about who's right or who's wrong or this pleases Democrats or Republicans.

When we do joyful stories, like "Floor Is Lava" that we have been talking about, it's very open to anyone. So, think of us as trying to -- we will talk about important social issues. We did that with "Criminal Justice."

MELBER: In closing, I'd love to do a quick lightning round with you.

In a word or a phrase, Netflix core culture.

HASTINGS: Freedom.

MELBER: HBO's "Silicon Valley."


MELBER: Elon Musk.

HASTINGS: Amazing.

MELBER: Mark Zuckerberg.

HASTINGS: Sincere.

MELBER: Peter Thiel.

HASTINGS: Interesting.

MELBER: Reed Hastings.

HASTINGS: Work in progress.


MELBER: Understood.

It's really interesting to hear directly from you, given the influence you have had on technology, but also on culture.

Reed Hastings, I really appreciate you making the time, sir.

HASTINGS: Thank you so much for having me.

MELBER: Thank you.

And the new book, everyone, is "No Rules Rules."

And up ahead: a director of some all-time favorite films, also a very outspoken Trump critic from the jump. I have news I want to share with you about Judd Apatow next.


MELBER: Thanks, as always, for joining us on THE BEAT.

Before we go, I did want to tell you guys about something, which is, tomorrow on THE BEAT, we're thrilled to have a very special guest for the first time, the legendary writer, director and sometimes stand-up comic Judd Apatow.

If you don't know him by name, I bet some of his movies, like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin, "Knocked Up," "Trainwreck," "Bridesmaids."

So, we're going to get into all of that, his work in the culture, his writing, his comedies, his work with a lot of really talented women comics, which is something that hadn't happened as often in Hollywood. He also was behind the HBO show "Girls."

And I bet we will be getting into politics, because Judd Apatow is a huge critic of Donald Trump, which he voices all the time on his Twitter feed and elsewhere.

So, I hope you join us tomorrow night, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, the one and only Judd Apatow making his BEAT debut.

As always, thanks for watching.



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