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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 1/17/22

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Kizzmekia Corbett


This weekend at an Arizona rally, Donald Trump once again publicly administered an intelligence test which the attendees failed by believing the lies told by Donald Trump. As Mary Trump has said, Donald Trump has been a racist his entire life just like his father Fred Trump who was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1927. Two years ago, before any country in the world went into lock down and before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett and her team at the National Institutes of Health had already developed a COVID-19 vaccine that was ready for testing by Moderna.



We will be talking about voting rights tonight obviously, on Martin Luther King Day. And our first guest tonight met Dr. King for the first time in 1960, in a meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee with Dr. King. They requested a meeting he said sure.

And the meeting ran from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. --


O`DONNELL: -- which I think was the first kind of work training for James Clyburn to deal with the hours in the House of Representatives, where they do sometimes work from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.

MADDOW: That`s right.

I am so looking forward to hearing what Congressman Clyburn has to say on your show tonight, Lawrence. When you have had him on recently, it`s been absolutely riveting and he is the man in the center of this in so many ways, even from his perch in the house as the conscience of the Congress in many ways on the issue.

But he`s also as you know, one of the shrewdest tactical thinkers in Democratic politics, which is why he`s been a headline maker so many times particularly the last few years. I would love to hear about the road ahead from him.

O`DONNELL: And he knew Martin Luther King, Jr. You can`t ask him to deliver more.


O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.

Well, on the weekend before Martin Luther King Day, Donald Trump decided to spew more of his poisonous racism as a Trump rally in Arizona saying the kinds of things only a hard core committed racist like Donald Trump could say. He said among other things, white people are not allowed to get the coronavirus vaccine in America. We`ll discuss that later in this hour.

Today, President Biden focused some of his Martin Luther King Day remarks on the hundred members of the United States Senate, who are scheduled to begin debate tomorrow on voting rights legislation.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Where do we stand? Whose side are we on? Will we stand against voter suppression? Yes or no? Will we stand against election subversion? Yes or no? Will we stand up for an America where everyone is guaranteed the full protections and full promise of the nation? Yes or no?

I know where I stand. It`s time for every elected official in America to make it clear where they stand.


O`DONNELL: Today, Vice President Kamala Harris made a virtual appearance at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor and where Senator Raphael Warnock currently serves as pastor.

Vice President Harris spoke to the congregation gathered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church from Washington, and she described the new voting laws passed by Republicans state legislatures.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The proponents of the laws are not only putting in place obstacles to the ballot box, they are also working to interfere with our elections. To get the outcomes they want, and to discredit those they do not. That is not how democracies work. We know that if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come.


O`DONNELL: Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi contradicted what Democratic Senator Sinema said last week, about the need for bipartisanship in vote rights legislation.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We all want bipartisan ship. We all strive for it. We have a responsibility to do so.

But when we cannot have it, we cannot confine our democracy to what might be (AUDIO GAP) possible. So, I ask our colleagues in the Senate, respectfully for what you they think the filibuster means, to compare that to way the equities against our democracy because nothing less is at stake than our democracy.



O`DONNELL: Our first guest tonight, Congressman James Clyburn first met Martin Luther King in 1960 at Morehouse College in Atlanta. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee requested a meeting with Dr. King and he agreed to meet with the students. The meeting lasted from 10:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. the next morning.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina. He holds the leadership office of majority whip in the House of Representatives.

Thank you very much for joining us once again tonight, Congressman Clyburn. Really appreciate it, especially on this important night honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Thank you very much for having me. This is really a real pleasure this evening. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Can we go back to the beginning for you with Martin Luther King, Jr. in that meeting in October of 1960. That went well into the next morning? What was that like and what did you learn about him in that meeting?

CLYBURN: Well, we had gone to Morehouse College. I was along with students from South Carolina State and colleges here (INAUDIBLE) and this is our second meeting with SNCC. The first meeting took place in April earlier that year, up at Morehouse College. This meeting, I`m sorry (INAUDIBLE), this meeting was at Morehouse.

As you can imagine, back then, us youngsters had some disagreements. We were there to see on how things were going. And we requested a meeting with Dr. King.

He came to meet with us. He agreed for an hour meeting. The meeting started around 10:00 p.m. in the evening, and around 4:00 the next morning when that meeting finally came to an end.

I came out of the meeting a changed person. I knew from that meeting that this was somebody that really was just beyond anything that I had been a part of. And I got back to my campus, I started reading everything I could about King. I read all of his books, start with "Stride Toward Freedom", which was a book from the Montgomery story, all the way down through "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?"

But I tell people all the time, I believe that the most prolific thing ever written by King was his letter from the Birmingham City jail. That letter dealt with all of the elements that we were dealing with back then. People who said we were moving too fast. People said, you just wait.

You remember that letter came was in response to a letter he received from eight white clergymen who said to him that they thought his cause was right, but his timing was wrong. They asked him to leave Birmingham because they said he was a disruptive force.

Well, King sat down to respond to them. Didn`t have any paper to write on. He used a margins of the newspapers to begin his answer. Now, he did finish the letter after he left jail. He started that letter in the jail cell using the newspaper.

What was critical to me was the fact that he dealt with the whole question of time. King said in his letter, time is neutral. Time can either be used destructively or constructively. And he said on the subject, that he was coming to the conclusion that the people of ill will in our society seem to be making a much better use of time than the people of goodwill.

And he concluded the thought by saying we are going to be made to repent, not just with vitriolic words and these are bad people, but for the appalling silence of good people. You may recall throughout his life, King dealt with that whole notion of good people staying silent. My dad used to tell, son, silence gives consent.


If you see something that needs to be done and you fail to do it, you fail to speak out, it means you consent for it to take place. That`s what bothers me so much about this so called filibuster -- keeping people from everyone discussing the bill. We`re going to work around the filibuster in the Senate.

Will we ever get this to a vote? Our vote is our voice. If you cut off the vote, you cut off people`s voices. You are silencing people, which means you are consenting for this to take place.

That`s what I`m trying to tell colleagues, Senator Manchin and Sinema. The fact that matter is when you take away the vote you take away the voice. When you silence people, you are consenting for something to take place in this case for the right to vote to be denied.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the man who changed your life as you put it said about the filibuster in 1963.


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ICON: The tragedy is that we have a Congress with the Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting. They won`t let the majority senators vote, and certainly, they wouldn`t want the majority people to vote because they know they do not represent the majority of the American people. In fact, they represent in their own states a very small minority.


O`DONNELL: Here we are 60 years later, and he could have said pretty much the same thing.

CLYBURN: Absolutely. No question about that. I remember that very well.

You know, I got into the movement as a pre-teenager, really. I was elected president of my NAACP youth chapter when I was 12 years old. My mother was very active in the NAACP, a big fundraiser for NAACP. And so I kind of grew up in this.

When people tell me they ran for office, because they got mad about something. I didn`t get mad about anything. I just grew up in it. I`m doing today in what I dreamed about doing as a young college student.

And so I understand the background so much of this. And that`s why I say that when I wrote my book, I call it blessed experiences. And I say in that book in the introduction, that all my experiences haven`t been pleasant, but I consider all of them to be blessings.

And I have been blessed with some very unpleasant experiences. They have been informative. I tried to use those pleasant experiences and unpleasant experiences to guide me as I carry out my judicial responsibility today in the congress.

That`s why I make every effort there is to reach out to people. I reached out to Senator Manchin when this first started being discussed, trying to find common ground, trying to get him to understand that his experiences and my experiences haven`t different and therefore, he -- we need to find common ground by stepping outside of our comfort zone.

He has us on the comfort. I have us on the comfort. If both step outside the comfort zone, find common ground, we might be able to move in the vote. I don`t know anybody who would want history to look back and says, they were the ones that contributed to the undermining of the democracy, because as Nancy Pelosi stated in the piece that you put up, this is not about black folks and brown folks. This is about the foundation upon which a democracy is built. And that is the vote.

When you take away the vote, when you do something to nullify the vote, think about that. What they have done in Georgia, put in place a process by which if they don`t like the outcome of the election, they can nullify it.

If you go back and look at King`s speech, at the Washington -- Lincoln Memorial in civil march on Washington, he talked about interposition and nullification.


That was the issue back then and they are bringing it back. Nullifying votes.

We just saw a headline coming out of Texas, where they have used a new law in Texas to deny over half of the applications they got for people to have mail in ballots. That tells me that it`s not just about me, it`s about this entire democracy. Whether or not we are going to allow this democracy to be undercut by a short sided adherence to a filibuster, that we all know why the filibuster has been used historically.

O`DONNELL: You have seen senators change their mind about this Senate rule on a 60-vote threshold, certainly over the last several years. And then at a very high rate of speed over the last year, you have seen Joe Biden change his mind. After his 36 years in the Senate to say, no, this rule has to be changed and has to be changed at minimum for voting rights and other senators saying it should be eliminated completely for all legislation.

And so, we`re now down to two Democratic senators who haven`t yet changed their minds. And everything we hear them say is something that in the past we used to hear every other Democratic senator say. And so, we`re living through this progress on changing the minds of Democratic senators. But we are two minds short at this point. And the question is, can those minds somehow be changed this week?

CLYBURN: I doubt it. And I`m not asking them to change their mind. I`m asking to do for constitutional issues what we have done for the budget. Keep the filibuster if you must have it.

To be sure, I would love to see the filibuster gone all across the board. If you think you need the filibuster for policy issues to give you time to bring people around your way of thinking, that`s one thing. But remember, we changed the filibuster already. You had to stand on the floor. He broke the record in 1957 over 24 hours standing on the floor. He had to be on the floor to do it.

But we changed that now you can stands downtown at the local bar or spa and phone in your filibuster. You don`t have to go to the floor. So, you changed it.

Let`s accommodate people today change it. Not get rid of it. Just say, that the filibuster would not be used for constitutional issues like we don`t allow it to be used for budget issues. We just worked around the filibuster in order to raise the debt limit. It didn`t ruin the Senate. The Senate is still operating.

Let`s just finds a way to deal with constitutional issues like voting just to be done like budget issues, reconciliation. It`s much more aptly applied to constitutional issues than budget issues. Reconciliation, to reconcile, that`s what I`m trying to do with the two senators. Reconcile our differences, in such a way that we can have a vote to restore this democracy, this journey towards perfection.

O`DONNELL: The Honorable James Clyburn, who has been on the vote rights crusade since age 12 -- thank you very much for joining us tonight. Always an honor. We always appreciate it.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Professor and Steve Schmidt will join us next on their comments on what Donald Trump said in Arizona, as well as some of the things the other advocates of election crime said at that Trump rally.

And later, it was a year ago when coronavirus vaccines began saving lives in this country. Joining us tonight on the anniversary is one of the creators of the Moderna vaccine, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who will be joining us from my old neighborhood in Boston tonight.



O`DONNELL: This weekend, at an Arizona rally, Donald Trump once again publicly administered an intelligence test which the attendees failed by believing the following lies told by Donald Trump.

Quote: The January 6th rally was a protest against a crooked election. The real insurrection took place on Election Day, November 3rd.

"Atlantic" reporter Elaine Godfrey covered the Trump rally in Arizona and reports: Nearly everyone I interviewed at the rally vowed to follow Trumps lead and support only GOP candidates who endorse the false idea that he won the election.

Joining our discussion now, Eddie Glaude, chairman of the African-American studies department at Princeton University and an MSNBC contributor. And Steve Schmidt, a former Republican presidential campaign strategist and cofounder of the Lincoln Project.

Professor Glaude, Donald Trump goes to Arizona and mixes in virulent racism with election lies.


And this dream exists among the diluted listening to him. He`s actually going to have his presidency restored before the end of Joe Biden`s first term.

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. So it begs the question, Lawrence, how does one engage in the kind of argument, debate with people who believe these sorts of things, right? I mean, I`m thinking about the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said you can have opinions but not your own facts.

It seems to me when you have a large number of folk who believe these myths and illusions, these fantasies, these lies, it becomes very difficult to have the kind of exchanges and arguments about how we might proceed as a democracy.

Now, in terms of the race issue, I was thinking about Dr. King, Lawrence. In 1968, about ten days before he was assassinated, he spoke at the 69th Rabbinical assembly. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel introduced him. And he said something in the Q&A that was really powerful. He said, we have to admit that racism still occupies the throne of America.

And so, in Arizona, what we saw explicitly was not a racial dog whistle. It was a fog horn. We saw Donald Trump appealing to white grievance as grounds for his political lies and his political ambition. We have to begin to say explicitly that there are concerns, deep worries about demographic displacement, history of graphical replacement that`s driving a lot of what we`re experiencing today in our democracy.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to some of the liars for Trump who appeared at the rally, demonstrating what Donald Trump demands from any Republican candidate who he will endorse. Let`s listen to this.


KELLI WARD (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATOR: Who won the election?

CROWD: Trump!

WARD: You`re right. Trump won! Trump won.

We are going to fix 2020, I hope we`re going to decertify 2020. How about you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump won. See you later.

KELLY TOWNSEND (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATOR: And no more are they going to be able to get away with this kind of deception, this kind of fraud, and illegal activity, not only people in general but the election workers. We want indictments of the election workers so they don`t continue to do this.

ANTHONY KERN (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATE CANDIDATE: I`m sure you have read my name in the paper. Oh, well, screw the media. The fake media right back there, that Donald Trump always points them out. Fake news media.

Boo on the fake news media. Boo on the fake news media.

I don`t believe a word they say. I don`t believe a word they say, a word they print. I have had several outlets call me, "Washington Post," CNN. And they want to know why I was a Trump elector.

Donald Trump won this election. And I call upon the Arizona legislature to vote to decertify the 2020 election.


O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, that final speaker, of course, was not a Trump elector. He engaged in that criminal conspiracy to actually create fake electors to somehow create a Donald Trump presidency where there was none. And so, that that`s what we`re going to be seeing, at all of the Trump rallies.

STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We sure are. It will only get crazier.

Look, I think that the great deficiency in this moment in America`s life in the public square in American life is this singular fact -- nobody knows what to call that, that thing that we just watched. What is that?

How do we think about that in 2022? Is it fair to look at it and say that this is the legacy of, this is the descendant of a George Wallace rally. Is this the descendant of a Bill Connor rally? I think it is fair to say that in substantial measure.

Is it an extremist movement? Does it have fascist markers? Is it appropriate to say it`s fascist, that it`s an autocratic movement? I think it is.

You saw one woman up there amongst the group of crazies talking about locking up election workers. Who else would they lock up? And for how long? And where would they send them? Are they prepared to execute political opponents when you look at the totality of the rhetoric. The intimations of violence.

So that is this that we`re looking at? And what I think it is, is a very dangerous extremist movement that has come to life. That can have its roots connected to the Bunds in Madison Square Garden in 1938.

But it is hostile to democracy. It is hostile to the idea in the visions of brotherhood that Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about. The idea that King himself talked about when he came to the Lincoln Memorial which wasn`t to tear down an unjust society, it was to collect in his words a promissory note. To simply be included under the grand idea that is America that everyone is created equally, endowed by a creator with inalienable rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The debate we`re having in this country about voting rights is not about whether black people are going to be able to vote. They are. We have seen record turn out in recent elections.

The danger in this moment is the decertification of elections, the nullification of the vote after the fact. And we have to understand on this the anniversary of King`s birth that this is a moral issue in this country. And it needs to be infused in this moment by our politics with a fierce moral urgency. I think that`s the deficiency we see in this moment in our politics.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Steve Schmidt and Professor Glaude, please stay with us across the break because I do want to ask you about the specifically racist things Donald Trump said at that rally. And don`t worry, I will not be playing the video tape of Donald Trump. I will deliver you some of those horrible words that he said that we do have to deal with here.

We`ll be right back.



O`DONNELL: As Mary Trump has told us, Donald Trump has been a racist his entire life just like his father Fred Trump who was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1927.

And only the most hardcore white racists could say the following words. These are the words of Donald Trump. "I am the least racist person that you`ve ever encountered." Donald Trump has said that repeatedly. And just consider for a moment how wildly stupid and racist you have to be to believe that you can measure your feelings against everyone else in the world and then declare yourself to be the least racist person that you have ever encountered.

Donald Trump brought his racism to a rally in Arizona this weekend where he told this racist lie. Quote, "If you are white, you don`t get the vaccine. Or if you`re white, you don`t get therapeutics." Most, most of the 208 million people who have received the vaccine in America are white.

Donald Trump told this racist lie also. Quote, "If you`re white, you have to go to the back of the line to get medical health." Think of it. If you`re white, you go right to the back of the line.

Back with us Professor Eddie Glaude and Steve Schmidt.

And Professor Glaude, I literally don`t know what to say after that. And so I leave it to you.

EDDIE GLAUDE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I was thinking two things really quickly. So you know, it`s an explicit rejection of an implicit agreement since the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century. And that implicit agreement held that, you know, explicit bigotry would be banished to the margins of American politics. That you couldn`t be explicitly racist. You would have to only dog whistle.

So you get Ronald Reagan in Philadelphia and Mississippi. You get Bill Clinton in Stone Mountain. Both engaging in kind of racial dog whistling but not engaging in explicit racist remarks.

So what Donald Trump has revealed is that you don`t have to dog whistle. You can just engage in a fog horn. You could be explicitly racist and bigoted in our public and political discourse. That`s the first thing.

And the second thing I was reminded of, Lawrence, is Heather McGhee`s rather provocative formulation about zero-sum racism. What Donald Trump in this moment is doing, of course, is a appealing to white resentment and white grievance. This idea that any attempt to address healthcare inequality, the fact that black communities and brown communities and poor communities don`t have access to the therapeutics, don`t have access or didn`t have vaccine or vaccine hesitant.

And then there were these explicit efforts -- I keep using the word "explicit" here -- these direct efforts to kind of respond to those inequalities, those differentials. That becomes a kind of assault on white folk.

And zero-sum racism is in fact this idea that in order for us to be a just society, white people got to -- has to -- they have to give up stuff. And so Donald Trump again appealing to racism, appealing to resentment, appealing to grievance.

The racist genie is out of the bottle. Our task is not put it back in. Our task is to finally forever banish it from our politics.


O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, your reaction to Donald Trump saying if you are white, you don`t get the vaccine.

SCHMIDT: Well, it`s a lie and it`s a lie for the purposes of gaining political power by tearing the country apart. By trying to create and exploit division across racial matters.

And so, you know, Donald Trump there is just demonstrating his real hostility to the idea of a modern democratic, pluralistic, multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy. Simple as that.

O`DONNELL: And Professor Glaude, as we go forward, again when you hear -- an audience listens to that. Listens to him say this thing which is, you know, on the order of the earth is flat only stupider and racist. He`s saying if you are white you don`t get the vaccine. How are we supposed to address those people who believe that?

GLAUDE: It`s very difficult to do so. I mean one of the things we have to deal with is the intimacy of our hatreds. Trump in that moment is engaged in lying, he`s telling these untruths that in some ways confirm and affirm the sense that some Americans have been left behind. Every day, ordinary, working, white Americans who are busting their behinds to make ends meet and they can`t seem to do so.

And they`re looking for enemies to blame. Looking for folk to scapegoat. And then you have cynical politicians in pursuit of power as my good friend Steve has just laid, who exploit that sense of grievance, that sense of resentment.

How do we respond to it? Well, first we have to tell the truth.

Second we have to address policies that will -- implement policies that will actually respond to the conditions of every day ordinary folk.

And thirdly, we have to go ahead irrespective of Trump and his ilk, we have to go ahead and try our best to build the multi-racial democracy that Steve talked about. We have to work our behinds off to actually make that version of democracy a reality. And we`re failing on that score it seems to me every single day these days.

O`DONNELL: Professor Eddie Glaude and Steve Schmidt, thank you both very much for joining our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

GLAUDE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, we`ll be joined by someone who has never given up trying to tell people the truth about the vaccines. And the two important things to know about our next guest is that she will be joining us from my old neighborhood in Boston and that she created the COVID-19 vaccine that has kept me safe from COVID, the Moderna vaccine.

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who created what became the Moderna vaccine in a weekend, will join us next to mark the anniversary of that dramatic weekend. I leave it you to decide who should play her in the movie.



O`DONNELL: Two years ago, before any country in the world went into lock down and before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett and her team at the National Institutes of Health had already developed a COVID-19 vaccine that was ready for testing by Moderna.

In early January of 2020, the only known cases of COVID were in China. And so on January 10th, Chinese scientists published the sequencing of COVID- 19. Dr. Corbett told President Biden what happened next.


DR. KIZZMEKIA CORBETT: When we got those sequences because we knew how to make that protein as a very good vaccine, we did that really quickly over the weekend. And by the 13th --


DR. CORBETT: Over the weekend. You know something about working on weekends, right?

BIDEN: Not like that. Not like that.


O`DONNELL: What did you get done over this weekend? After years of vaccine research, Dr. Corbett was able to create the vaccine that became the Moderna vaccine in one weekend after the world got the scientific description of COVID-19 from Chinese scientists. That weekend of work and the years that proceeded it have saved millions of lives.

Joining us now on the anniversary of that weekend of life saving work is Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. She is now associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard University`s School of Public Health.

Dr. Corbett, thank you very much for joining us tonight and returning to the program.

DR. CORBETT: Thank you for having me again.

O`DONNELL: So, first question is you now have a choice, you can be called doctor or professor. Not a lot of people have the choice, you do. Which is your preference these days?

DR. CORBETT: You know what, Lawrence, with you I`m still affectionately Kizzy.

O`DONNELL: You have to pick a title. It`s going to be Professor or Doctor. You know what, I`ll mix them up. I`ll just mix them up as we go.

So, take us back to that weekend because a lot of people got the idea that this vaccine development was rushed because the administration had put the term "warp speed" on it as we were trying -- we out here were trying to figure out what was going on.

We were hearing vaccine experts come on this program and others and say, you know, three years would be fast. If they get one in three years that will be really fast for this kind of situation.


O`DONNELL: But what had you been doing for the previous years that allowed you that burst on that weekend?

DR. CORBETT: We had been preparing. We had been studying other coronaviruses for so long at that time for about six years so that we knew exactly how to move in the case that this coronavirus started to circulate in China and then eventually all over the globe. So you just prepare for moments like this by studying viruses within the same viral family.

O`DONNELL: And you wrote recently about how you are not giving up. You get dispirited about it like everyone else, but you are not giving up in trying to convert people to taking the vaccine who have not wanted to or have been reluctant or have been adamantly against it. What are -- what are some of your one-on-one success stories?

DR. CORBETT: There are so many. And I don`t even like to call it convert. What I like to say is that I like to provide people with the bit of knowledge that they feel like they are missing in order to decide for themselves and for their families and loved ones to take the vaccine.

So oftentimes what that takes is just a little one-on-one conversation, answering questions for people, and reminding them that I am here on a consistent basis to do so, and that the journey that we all are taking in this pandemic, we`re taking it together.

So I`m a vaccine scientist, but at the end of the day, I`m also a professor and I am a fiancee and I am a daughter. I`m just a regular human being who also has a lot of questions. My science allows me to answer them for myself, and I just like to translate that information to every one person who asks.

O`DONNELL: You say that your approach to this is to just be ready to listen. You`re not someone who walks in the middle of a room and says, hey, I worked on the vaccine. Who wants to know about it?

DR. CORBETT: You know what, I actually prefer not to walk into rooms that way, because oftentimes I get bombarded if I do. But, you know, for me what we are in this moment in the wake of the omicron variant where people only about 60 percent of us adults in this country have been vaccinated, we are in this moment where we really need to approach this with a little bit of tenderness and with a listening ear. And so that`s where I stand.

I don`t go about boasting about the vaccine data, although it is continuously beautiful. I just -- really just listen to people. And then if they have a question, I say, would you like me to answer that?

I leave the floor open for them at all times so that they are, if they are willing, they can have their question answered.

O`DONNELL: You said, in your USA Today article, "I lead by listening".

DR. CORBETT: I lead by listening. I think that is really all that any of us can do in this moment, you know. 40 percent of people have decided for whatever reason that they are still not going to take the vaccine, although the data consistently shows that the vaccine is protecting people, particularly against the most severe disease and against death.

So if those 40 percent of people have made that decision, they clearly have an obstacle that is preventing them from going to take the vaccine. And oftentimes that is one or two things that they have on their mind.

And so I listen to those things firstly. And then I provide my stance as a scientist, as someone who is very critical about all of the data that comes out, not just the vaccine data.

O`DONNELL: Vice President Harris got the Moderna vaccine, Anthony Fauci got the Moderna vaccine, they both did it on TV. I got the Moderna vaccine at the Dodgers` Stadium, so I`m thanking you for all of us for developing that.

What do we know about how the vaccines are dealing with omicron? And what is the future of these vaccines in THIS battle against COVID-19?

DR. CORBETT: We know that the vaccines are continuously protecting people against severe illness, hospitalization and death, even in the wake of omicron. Particularly typically those people who have gotten their boosters.

So those booster shots are really a way for you to awaken your immune system, to really excite your immune system again to say, hey, if the virus comes your way, you are ready to fight against that virus, even if it looks a little bit different, as omicron certainly does. It does look a little bit different.

But with the boosted, vaccinated person, those people are fighting that virus away and they are keeping themselves out of the hospital which is really important as the hospitals are overwhelmed, and that is really the downside of this pandemic and potentially any parts of any other wave in this pandemic.


O`DONNELL: Is there more research going on that might somehow adjust the vaccines for the coming threats?

DR.CORBETT: Of course. Every single time -- I just put this on my Instagram story last week. Someone else asked this question. Every single time a different variant comes along, we pull all of our heads together and we do research to determine whether or not it`s appropriate to change the vaccine to match that specific variant.

So far we have shown that it has not been necessary to change the insert of the vaccine, that the original vaccine with a booster tends to be showing that it is not appropriate that you need to change it, that people are being protected against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

The further we go out with different variants, perhaps that might change. But so far the data is showing that we are in the clear with these original vaccine sequences.

The data for omicron is going to continue to come out, but we show that with previous variants and the data in real time with people in the hospitals are continuing to show that these vaccines, particularly in boosted people, are being protective.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Kizzy Corbett, who is now Harvard Professor Corbett, thank you very much for joining us again tonight. It is always an honor.

DR. CORBETT: Thank you so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.



O`DONNELL: Tonight`s LAST WORD went into overtime so "THE 11TH HOUR" starts right now.