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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 10/26/21

Guests: Larry Sabato, Katie Hobbs, Tina Polsky, Dana Williams


Democrats propose new corporate tax to pay for President Biden`s agenda. President Biden campaigned with Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. In an April survey, the Brennan Center for Justice found that one in three election workers felt unsafe in their jobs and one in six election officials received threats of violence. The Biden administration continues to make progress in overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. And in Ron DeSantis` Florida, the state surgeon general that he appointed is refusing to say if he has been vaccinated. Toni Morrison published her novel "Beloved" in 1987.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Lawrence.

And she speaks. Senator Sinema -- well, she didn`t actually speak. Her office released a --


O`DONNELL: A written statement which is huge. It`s huge. It`s like a few sentences, which is way more than you usually get and she is expressing her agreement and acceptance of another Elizabeth Warren tax the rich idea, in this case rich corporations, the tax on corporations that report over a billion dollars in profit, a minimum tax of 15 percent.

Senator Warren is now the junior most Democratic member of the Senate Finance Committee, which she got on specifically to get her hand in tax writing, and she`s got Chairman Wyden on her side, and now, Senator Sinema tonight issued this statement saying yeah, that works for me in the infrastructure bill.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Now, on the -- so let me just ask you this, Lawrence, because you`ve been covering this super tightly. The objections such as we understand them from Senator Sinema have at least been in part about how the build back better bill was going to be paid for that she was objecting to lots of the proposals for how they will pay for it.

Now she`s saying, one of the things she`s in favor of is this corporate minimum tax rate. Does Senator Manchin also say that he is in favor of that corporate minimum tax rate? Because if so, that means we`re going to get a corporate minimum tax rate.

O`DONNELL: He`s not said he`s opposed and he`s had plenty of opportunity to say he`s opposed and in Manchin English, that basically means he`s on board. And so it --

MADDOW: For now.

O`DONNELL: It does sound like senator mansion is on board with this. He`s not doing that and so at the White House is supporting this approach because they need taxation to pay for this and Senator Sinema is the really the only Democrat who is standing in the way of the taxation package that was already in the bill which is a bunch of things that they kind of already know how to do like raise the top income tax rate, things like that.

MADDOW: Well, the problem though with all of this is whether or not any of these objections and these supposed wish lists from Sinema and Manchin are real, or whether their real goal is just to make sure Democrats don`t do anything they get the credit/blame. If the point is they enjoy being the center of attention and holding this up and making sure nothing happens because of course, the longer it`s delayed, the more special interest lobby for it and donations and put people on their fundraiser list and all of these things, then, you know, this is the perfect opportunity for Senator Manchin to say, I haven`t weighed in on that corporate tax but since it`s been discussed now, I`m totally against it and everyone has to go back to the drawing room and collect in the ways he likes to collect for the next on going weeks until this thing ultimately plays out.

Am I showing my criticism?

O`DONNELL: Here is my optimistic guess, Rachel. You know me, I`m an optimist. My optimistic guess, and remember now, this is someone who has not had a chance to speak to Senator Manchin or Senator Sinema about this, the person about to say this, I don`t expect to get that chance, I believe Joe Manchin is trying to make a deal and I have still, I have to say, I have no idea what Senator Sinema is trying to do but she`s getting closer. It sounds like she`s getting closer.

MADDOW: She said yes to a thing. That counts as news.

O`DONNELL: She said yes to a thing.

MADDOW: We can put our flag in that. She said yes to a thing. Now, you know, stop the presses. That makes me crazy.

O`DONNELL: We`re almost there.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

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

Well, President Biden was actually late leaving the White House tonight to rush across the Potomac River to Arlington, Virginia, where he campaigned for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic governor for Virginia and the president got a late start because he squeezed in a last minute meeting with two senators, and by this time he should be able to guess which two. Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema met with the president before he left for Virginia.

Now, it is unclear if they had a separate meeting with the president or all in together. It would be better if they were all in the room together because it could reach an agreement but it is possible Senator Sinema or Senator Manchin each have separate agendas that they want to discuss privately with the president.


The new hot topic of the day we`re surely part of the discussions tonight was that new tax proposal by the chairman of the Senate`s tax writing committee, Ron Wyden, who is rewriting the tax proposal from the newest Democratic member of that committee, Elizabeth Warren, designed to create a minimum 15 percent tax on corporations that report over $1 billion in profit.

Senator Angus King who is not a member of the committee joined Senator Warren and Chairman Wyden in a written statement about the proposal saying the corporate profits minimum tax would ensure companies that report over $1 billion in profits to shareholders pay at least a 15 percent tax rate on those gigantic profits. Based on estimates for similar proposals this proposal would generate hundreds of billions in revenue over ten years.

The most important thing said about that proposal today came in a written statement for silence but Senator Sinema who said: This proposal represents a common sense step toward ensuring highly profitable that sometimes can avoid the current corporate tax rate. A reasonable minimum corporate tax on their profits just as everyday Arizonans and Arizona small businesses do. I look forward to continuing discussions with the White House and colleagues to expand economic opportunities, retain America America`s economic competitiveness and help Arizona families get ahead.

Senator Sinema is the single most difficult Democrat to please on the tax side of the Biden infrastructure package. The part of the bill that actually pays for the rest of the bill.

Campaigning for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia tonight, President Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are more people working today than just before the pandemic started. Household wealth is up. People are buying more things, manufacturing is up. We`re on the move. We`re on the right track. We got more to do. If you`re looking for someone to keep the economy growing and growing, the man behind me is the one to get it done.


O`DONNELL: A new poll by "USA Today"/Suffolk University shows that the governor`s race is not a tie. It could be tighter. McAuliffe after 45.6 percent and Republican Glenn Youngkin at 45. 2 percent.

President Obama campaigned for Terry McAuliffe in Virginia over the weekend, and the McAuliffe campaign is, in effect, keeping President Obama on the campaign trail in Virginia through this television ad.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: Virginia, you have a lot of responsibility this year. Not only are you choosing your next governor, but you`re also making a statement about what direction we`re headed in as a country. I know Terry McAuliffe and I can tell you, as governor, no one worked harder for their state, and I also watched Terry stand strong on the values we care about -- protecting every citizen`s right to vote, fighting climate change and defending a woman`s right to choose.


O`DONNELL: The Republican candidate for governor of Virginia is focusing his closing message to voters on banning books, including a book that won the Pulitzer Prize and this is the subject of his latest campaign ad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a parent, it`s tough to catch everything. So when my son showed me his reading assignment, my heart sunk. It was some of the most explicit material you can imagine.

I met with lawmakers. They couldn`t believe what I was showing them. Their faces turned bright red with embarrassment.

They passed bills requiring schools to notify parents when explicit content was assigned. It was bipartisan. It gave parents a say, the option to choose an alternative for my children. I was so grateful.

But then, Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed it twice. He doesn`t think parents should have a say. He said that.

Glenn Youngkin, he listens. He understands parents matter. Join me in voting for Glenn Youngkin.


O`DONNELL: The book that mother was horrified was by "Beloved" that won Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. Her son was lucky enough to be assigned in that book in his high school advanced placement English class when he was a senior. Her son Brett Murphy survived the experience of holding Toni Morrison`s book in his hands and went on to serve as an intern in Donald Trump`s White House.


The fragile young man is a lawyer for the national Republican congressional committee where he spends every day trying to help raise money for Republicans who support Donald Trump`s lies about the election and dreams of returning Donald Trump to the presidency. We don`t know what his mother`s reaction was to Donald Trump`s self-described favorite method of sexual assault that we all heard on the "Access Hollywood"" video. But after that, she was still very eager to get her kid an internship in the Trump White House.

Later in this hour, we`ll be joined by the distinguished professor Dana Williams who is now the dean of graduate studies at Howard University. She previously served as the chair of the English department and the president of the Tony Morrison Society.

But we begin tonight with the president`s campaign for his legislative agenda and his campaign to hold on to the governorship of the state of Virginia for Democrats and leading off our discussion tonight is Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. I just want to go straight to what President Biden said tonight in Virginia about this book controversy.


BIDEN: Just a look how he`s closing his campaign. He`s gone from banning a woman`s right to choose to banning books written by a Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.


My wife Jill, my wife Jill went to interview her. Let`s be clear, this is a guy who doesn`t know much about anything.


O`DONNELL: How is this book controversy playing in Virginia?

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: It`s playing with exactly the people you would expect, Lawrence. Conservative Republicans who are going to vote for Youngkin anyway as long as they show up. This is designed along with young kin`s ridiculous attack on critical race theory, which isn`t even taught in Virginia schools. Amazing, isn`t it, the way these connections are to a black woman and to a black theory of race.

All of these things seem to connect. They`re all dog whistles. This is typical but it`s designed to get the Republicans out to vote and it`s working. The enthusiasm level of Republicans is several orders of magnitude, higher than Democrats and it`s been growing over October. That`s the problem for McAuliffe.

O`DONNELL: Stuart Stevens pointed out tonight that Youngkin`s own son went to Georgetown prep, which is a $40,000 a private school, at least $40,000, maybe more where, of course, Toni Morrison is required reading.

Let`s go to another subject here. This Republican candidate is endorsed by Donald Trump but apparently, he doesn`t really want Donald Trump in the neighborhood during the campaign. Joe Biden talked about that tonight. Let`s listen to that.


BIDEN: And he won`t allow Donald Trump to campaign for him in this state. He`s willing to pledge his loyalty to Trump for private, why not public? What`s he trying to hide? Is there a problem with Trump being here? Is he embarrassed?


O`DONNELL: Larry, I suspect we`ll hear from Donald Trump tonight or tomorrow about that.

SABATO: Well, you`d think so. Terry McAuliffe at one point said he`d pay to have Donald Trump in his entourage in Virginia to make a personal appeal for Glenn Youngkin.

I like to put it this way. Trump is in Glenn Youngkin`s acquaintance, not a friend. He was once a friend and said lots of great things about Trump and thrilled Trump endorsed him five times and now he barely knows how to spell the name. You`ll see a lot of that in 2022. This is typical next year.

O`DONNELL: So, what is -- does the McAuliffe campaign want to stress the word Trump from here on in? What`s the best approach for the McAuliffe campaign at this point?

SABATO: The best approach for McAuliffe is to enthusiasm Democrats and he`s trying to do that, bringing President Obama and all the other Democratic stars in. Certainly President Biden to the extent they can. They`re doing it.

The problem for McAuliffe is he can`t control the embarrassment in D.C. and it has been embarrassing, the fact that you still have Democratic senators and House members parading before the cameras and preening daily and not getting the done.


McAuliffe I know was more or less promised it would be done before the election, well before they had hoped but certainly this week and, you know, here we are, the president is getting ready to go abroad. We were expected to have both bills at least sized up for passage and people are still arguing about details.

So, it`s depressing for McAuliffe who can`t control it. He`s deeply angry about it and he should be but he`s doing what he can do.

O`DONNELL: Well, that was Joe Biden`s delay in getting over there tonight was the last minute with Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema. I`m sure Joe Biden feels at least as strongly about this as Terry McAuliffe does.

If we get to a point on election night and we wake up the next day and there is a Republican elected governor of Virginia and we still don`t have an agreement among congressional Democrats on the infrastructure, the two- track infrastructure bills, will that be the reason?

SABATO: I would put it if not at the top, toward the top. You have to also include the fact that President Biden`s raid ratings have been falling because of COVID, because of the economic problems connected to it.

But one thing Democrats could actually have done and I suppose still do is to pass those two big bills and to prove to Democrats there is a reason for voting that Democrats actually do deliver on their promises. Right now, they can`t say that.

O`DONNELL: What about the possibility the speaker is trying to get this done is at least passed through the House, the bipartisan bill that`s already passed through the Senate on infrastructure so the president can sign that as soon as possible possibly even before he leaves on Thursday?

SABATO: That would be a big plus, and I`m sure the McAuliffe campaign would be delighted because there are specific parts of that bill that very much apply to Virginia and Terry McAuliffe having been governor for four years knows exactly how they apply. He can talk about the details of that.

So that is, you know, the other bill I don`t think anybody knows what`s in it. The Build Back Better bill will take us three weeks to figure out what is in there. We know what`s in the infrastructure bill. Why not go ahead and pass that and get it signed and let McAuliffe talk at some length about the specifics.

A project here in northern Virginia and one over here in Hampton Roads and one in the Richmond suburbs. These are concrete and they would help him.

O`DONNELL: Larry Sabato, thank you very much for starting us off tonight. Really appreciate it.

SABATO: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And joining us now is former campaign manager and White House senior advisor to President Barack Obama. He`s an MSNBC political analyst.

And, David, I want to invite you to pick where Larry left off. What would help in Virginia?

DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, I agree with Larry that Youngkin`s book banning will hurt him elsewhere, but I think it`s going to hurt him elsewhere. I mean, Glenn Youngkin is closing his campaign the way you might imagine Lester Maddox would have in 1966. This is Virginia of 2021.

But there is no doubt, listen, Democrats being able to celebrate a big legislative package that would have concrete results for people in Virginia would be helpful. There is no question about that. But I agree with Larry, turnout is key here.

Now, polls show Republicans had enthusiasm. When you look at the early vote numbers, it`s less present there. So at the end of the day, this will be a close race and I think even if Terry McAuliffe wins, Democrats have to step back and say, OK, we won Virginia by ten. We won`t win by ten again if he wins.

Some of that is unique to Virginia but what happened with swing voters and base and then you got a year to basically try to fix that and there is no doubt if you got two major pieces of legislation that you could do story telling and every family in America, that is most importantly good substantive things to do for people but it`s also great political material that every incumbent can live off and running against opposed all these things. That helped your family.

O`DONNELL: If you were in the White House and you notice this discussion is happened and you know there is this kind of vote where there is basically kind of an informal vote around the room about should we push for passing the bipartisan Senate bill through the House immediately as fast as possible and then get to the other part of the bill later or should we keep them both tied together?


Would you be voting for let`s ask the speaker to try to get it through as fast as possible on its own to have a bill signing ceremony at least on that?

PLOUFFE: Well, Lawrence, you know this really well. So, purely optic standpoint to help in Virginia, of course. You`d say let`s celebrate the one.

The problem is, as you know, would that unravel the deal making? And you don`t have big margins. No margin in the Senate and very little margin in the House and that really is important and Senator Sinema`s statement today and she`s basically saying she`s okay with the pay-fors and I think that probably been the bigger sticking point than the programs are going to get supported.

So we`re probably literally on the one or two yard line. So, yeah, if everyone says, yeah, that`s fine, because we know it will help in Virginia and we`ve all come to agreement you do that. Things are super precarious. You`ve got to put that principle first, which is you don`t want to do anything dumb that might help you in the short term but don`t want to unravel in the media.

O`DONNELL: That last-minute meeting that the president had tonight just before rushing off to Virginia, it seems that he is hoping in each one of these meetings to be the final deal closing handshaking meeting so that they can go public didn`t quite get there tonight but I assume he`ll be trying to use every hour before he leaves town on Thursday.

PLOUFFE: Absolutely. And, you know, I`ve seen him up close. He`s a good closer. He holds people to their word. He is a great listener.

And that`s one of the reasons I think he`s been such an effective negotiator sitting behind the desk at the Oval Office. But, yes, that is what he wants, he wants to get this done to help in Virginia and before he goes overseas.

Most importantly, he wants to get it done for the American people and I think Larry made an important point. You want to go back and report to the shareholders this will help everybody in America whether they voted for Joe Biden or not but for everyone who voted and volunteered, you want to go back and say it`s only because of you that we`re able to deliver, your vote mattered, and I think you got to report back to the shareholders. The sooner we can do that, the better.

O`DONNELL: All right. This is what you would be consulted on if you were still there. Let`s get to the point where both bills are passed and you`ve got two different bills, which means you have the opportunity for two different signing ceremonies, do you have a separate signing ceremony on the bipartisan bill infrastructure bill and do you invite Mitch McConnell because he voted for it? And if he comes, do you hand him one of the bill signing pens?

PLOUFFE: Look, yeah, I think you`ve -- you obviously need to talk about these as a piece but why not take the opportunity to show that you could bring Republicans together? Do that in Washington and go on the road and talk about the infrastructure plans.

But then I think with Build Back Better, I don`t think there is a lot of knowledge outside of Washington and people paying really close attention to this about what is in the bill. Democrats are a little behind the eight ball. You have to talk about home health care and health care expansions and prekindergarten and go out there and do that for basically the next year.

So, yeah, I think you want to talk about these with the same language and values. This is all about helping the middle class, trying to help people try to get to the middle class. Working families, the wealthiest companies and individuals are paying for it so yeah, that`s all under one umbrella.

But I think you want to have the opportunity tactically, Lawrence, to show we`re able to bring together Republicans and talk about the infrastructure piece that is easier messaging. Still important. Can`t take it for granted.

But I do think the elements of Build Back Better, Democrats are in a deficit now with most of America. I think most of what they know with the Democrats are arguing about it. Is it $2 trillion? Is it $3 trillion?

Really important programmatic elements I don`t think (INAUDIBLE) yet, and there is plenty of time to do that. What`s that`s what the White House and the Democratic members of Congress should make the corner stone of the next year make sure you go to every hamlet in America and speaking in great detail about how people are benefitted and who paid for those benefits that average families are enjoying.

O`DONNELL: David Plouffe, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Appreciate it. Thank you.

And coming up, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs testified to the Senate today about her threats that she and her family have faced. She will join us next.



O`DONNELL: In an April survey, the Brennan Center for Justice found that one in three election workers felt unsafe in their jobs and one in six election officials received threats of violence. One of the election officials that received those threats is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs who testified today to the Senate Rules Committee.


KATIE HOBBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Two weeks after the election, armed protesters gathered outside my home and chanted, Katie, come out and play. We`re watching you.

I never expected that holding this office would result in far right trolls threatening my children, threatening my husband`s employment at a children`s hospital or calling my office, saying I deserve to die and asking, what is she wearing today? So she`ll be easy to get.

But what concerns me is near constant harassment faced by the private servants who administer our elections. We`re seeing high turnover among election staff and I fear that many more will reach a breaking point and decide that this line of public service is no longer worth it.




O`DONNELL: In an April survey, the Brennan Center for Justice found that one in three election workers felt unsafe in their jobs and one in six election officials received threats of violence.

One of the election officials who received those threats is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs who testified today to the Senate Rules Committee.


KATIE HOBBS (D-AZ), SECRETARY OF STATE: Two weeks after the election, armed protesters gathered outside my home and chanted "Katie, come out and play. We are watching you."

I never expected that holding this office would result in far right trolls threatening my children, threatening my husband`s employment at a children`s hospital or calling my office saying I deserve to die and asking what is she wearing today? So she`ll be easy to get.


HOBBS: But what concerns me more is the near constant harassment faced by the public servants who administer our elections. We`re already seeing high turnover among election staff and I fear that many more will reach a breaking point and decide that this line of public service is no longer worth it.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Arizona`s secretary of state Katie Hobbs. Thank you very much for joins us tonight on what I know is a difficult day for you having given that testimony. But I`m now realizing or getting a sense anyway of how many more difficult days, much more difficult days you have been having.

HOBBS: Yes, absolutely. I mean, really the level of attacks coming at our office have been unrelenting since election day, which is almost a year ago.

O`DONNELL: Why are you hanging in there when your family is getting threatened, when you`re worried about the safety of your children, your husband -- why not look at it and say well, I have served. I have done my service as secretary of state of this state. It`s now become untenable. It is unsafe. I`m not going to continue doing this.

HOBBS: You know, I was elected by the voters of Arizona to do a job. I took an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States and the constitution and laws of Arizona and I have done that and I`m going to continue to do the job that the voters of Arizona elected me to do.

I don`t have another choice here. Because if it wasn`t me, who else would be here doing this? And you know, this is the kind of thing that we have to continue to stand up to. It`s why I`m running for governor because we need leaders who are going to stand up and protect our democracy and tell the truth about what our constituents need to hear, whether that`s elections or the pandemic or whatever else.

And so if folks want to join me in that, they can go to but I`m going to keep doing the job that voters of Arizona elected me to do.

O`DONNELL: There was more testimony at the hearing today from others who participated including a Republican who -- an election official that talked about the threats to his life that he has been subjected to and he`s decided that`s it.


O`DONNELL: I`m not going to run for reelection. I`m not going to keep doing this. And, you know, I come back to this because I don`t want anyone taking it for granted that this happens to you and then you just continue to do your work.

My first question to myself, if I was in that situation, is am I going to continue to do this? and I have strong doubts that I would under the circumstances you`re in. And so I want to -- I want to kind of grant you the courage that you`re actually displaying in this and not take it for granted.

But what was it like for you to hear from this other official today? And I know you`ve heard it from others about they`ve had it, they`re done. They`re quitting. They`re getting out of this.

HOBBS: Yes. And I think this is one of the biggest threats to our democracy and to election administration as we look to the future is that we are losing really good election officials.

This is a skilled area that is highly specialized and it`s people for the most part who step up to be public servants. They`re not for the most part they`re not elected officials.

And we`re losing a lot of those folks we`ve seen turnover in our office, at local election offices in Arizona. And this is a big concern moving forward in terms of how elections are going to be administered by either partisan people with a partisan agenda or folks who are professional and want to uphold the integrity of the process.

O`DONNELL: How do you feel about the integrity of what will be your next election that you`ll be running in the election for governor of Arizona?

HOBBS: Well, we elect election officials and I took an oath as I said to uphold the constitution of the United States and the constitution and laws of the state of Arizona.

And the fact that I`m going to be on the ballot whether it`s running for reelection or running for governor, I`m going to continue to do the job I was elected to do and uphold that oath that I took and I take extremely seriously.

But will Republicans in the state -- are Republicans in the state of Arizona just interested in effect tampering with the presidential election or are they interested in tampering with all of the elections for all of the offices in Arizona?

HOBBS: Well, I think that what you saw play out in Arizona with this sham audit is exactly designed to justify tampering with future elections, to justify making it harder for people to vote.

And so certainly, we`re going to see these kind of attacks on our elections continue to play out until people are held accountable for these actions.


O`DONNELL: And I mean -- and if this terror campaign works, the ultimate version of it working is the honest people who are terrorized out of these jobs will be replaced by these Trump cultists.

HOBBS: Well -- and that`s absolutely a reason to stand strong and not let them win. I`m not going anywhere.

O`DONNELL: Arizona secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you for doing the work that you do and I am so impressed that you continue to do it.

HOBBS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, the Biden administration continues to make progress in overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. And in Ron DeSantis` Florida the state surgeon general that he appointed is refusing to say if he has been vaccinated.



O`DONNELL: A panel of advisors for the Food and Drug Administration voted today to recommend the Pfizer COVID vaccine for emergency use for children ages 5 to 11. Next the FDA and the CDC will decide whether to approve it.

Last week, the Biden administration released a plan to vaccinate this age group by focusing on partnering with individual pediatricians and primary care doctors.

Last month, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Dr. Joseph Ladapo to be Florida surgeon general. Dr. Ladapo actually refuses to say whether he is vaccinated.

Last week, our next guest Florida State Senator Tina Polsky had to ask Dr. Ladapo to leave her office after he refused to wear a mask even after she told him that she has a serious medical condition.

And joining us now is Democratic Florida Stat e Senator Tina Polsky. Her district includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

We`ve all read about this meeting and it`s reported as you throwing the surgeon general out of your office because he would not wear a mask.

How did this, just tell us how the dialogue went. He came in and you asked him to wear a mask and what happened?

TINA POLSKY (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATOR: Hi, Lawrence. Thanks for having me tonight.

Yes, he requested a meeting because the Senate has to confirm his position. He`s not confirmed as of yet so he asked for a meeting. I had a "please wear a mask" sign from the outside of my office. I was wearing a mask. My aide was.

He came in with two aides. I asked him to put on as mask before we started the meeting and he wouldn`t do so. And unfortunately, this dialogue went on for quite some time. It became kind of a debate or negotiation where he kept trying to deflect and offer alternatives except the simple alternative of putting a little piece of fabric over his face for a few minutes while I got a chance to talk to him.

So it was really quite disturbing especially since he`s supposed to be the top health official in the state of 21 million people.

And I told him I had a serious health condition hoping that that would gain some sympathy and get him to put on a mask but he still refused.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean you`re immunocompromised. He`s a doctor. He`s supposed to know better. And so we now know that he is not serious about public health.

But we also know through his own words that this man is an abject liar because this is his public explanation in writing about why he would not wear a mask when you asked him to.

He said "It is important to me to communicate clearly and effectively with people. I can`t do that when half of my face is covered."

Now, that was one thing to say two years ago when only doctors and dentists had been wearing these masks but we`ve all been wearing them. We`ve all been talking to each other clearly, easily, in office environments and other indoor environments.

And that is a lie. Every word of what he said about why he wouldn`t wear a mask is a lie. Do we have any idea other than possibly orders from the governor, the truth of why he won`t wear a mask?

POLSKY: I wish I could figure out, get into his head. I said to him specifically, is there a reason why you can`t wear a mask. I was trying to be understanding if there was a problem.

And he wouldn`t give me an answer. He kind of smiles smugly and tries to turn the conversation and he kept trying to engage me. And here we were standing in a small room and having the exact interaction that I was trying to avoid of being with people who aren`t masked

And it`s not large area all. It`s the waiting room outside my office. So I don`t know what is in his mind. He`s obviously anti-vax, anti-mask. He is completely unfit to be the surgeon general.

He didn`t care about my health so imagine how he would care about the health of 21 million Floridians. And I really hope that this nomination gets pulled or if it doesn`t, that the Senate refuses to confirm him.

O`DONNELL: Yes, I mean he is such an already confirmed public liar. The most important human communication everyday in this country and the world takes place through masks.

And that is communication among surgical teams, surgeons and everyone else working in the surgical theater are all masked all the time and every word they say to each other is clear and is understood. And every word is a matter of life and death.

And this lying doctor is now saying that he was afraid you wouldn`t understand the words he was saying if he had a mask on.

POLSKY: I said specifically to him when he wouldn`t put on a mask, he said I don`t like to do interviews with a mask on. I said I can hear you perfectly. I`ve conducted dozens of meetings in my office. I`ve had 100 percent compliance, nobody has ever complained about putting on a mask.


POLSKY: And I haven`t had to go to the step of telling them that I have a serious medical condition. And I had to go to that step with him and he just didn`t respect my wishes. He came to my office.

And that`s really the shame of it. I mean imagine a doctor who doesn`t respect the wishes of someone who is telling them that they need this accommodation. He wanted me to accommodate him to go into the hallway or outside. It just didn`t make any sense.

He came to my office to seek my vote. And so it`s really dumbfounding. I don`t understand what he was trying to do. I don`t understand his position. And honestly, I`m so scared for this person to become our next surgeon general for any length of time.

What about the next public health emergency that we have? How is he going to handle it? He`s not using any of the tools that we have available to us with masks and vaccines. He`s not interested in that.

The other major issue we`re going to have on our hands is childhood vaccines. Routine vaccines are not happening at the rate they`re supposed to. And he`s coming off as anti-vax. So how is he going to handle that next public health emergency? It`s truly frightening.

O`DONNELL: Yes, he actually wrote in "The Wall Street Journal" that he thinks vaccines will not stop the spread of COVID-19. It is a desperate situation for public health in Florida.

Florida State Senator Tina Polsky, thank you very much for joining us. And I`m sorry what you had to go through. Thank you very much.

POLSKY: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, the president of the Toni Morrison Society will join us next.



O`DONNELL: Toni Morrison published her novel "Beloved" in 1987. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 and since then has taken a place on the list of the top ten "Most Challenged" books for the American Library Association.

And banning the book from public schools in Virginia where it has been a sign for some high school seniors in advanced placement English class is now part of the closing message of the Republican campaign for governor in Virginia.

Joining us now is Professor Dana Williams. She is the dean of graduate studies at Howard University. She formerly served as the chair of the English Department and is the president of the Toni Morrison Society.

Professor Williams, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I just want to give you an open microphone, open field for your reaction to what you`re seeing in this Virginia governor`s campaign and using "Beloved" as a device for the Republican candidate.

PROFESSOR DANA WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT, TONI MORRISON SOCIETY: Thank you so much, Lawrence, for the invitation.

I think it`s interesting in a number of ways. On the one hand, literature professors, of course, all over are really interested in the conversation because we think about censorship a lot. We talk about it, we understand its implications.

But on the other, anything that has people talking about Toni Morrison is also something that we can get excited about. Not just beloved but a number of her books have been on the banned books list. "Song of Solomon", "Paradise", "The Bluest Eye".

And we understand all of the reasons why. Everything from the content and the kind of material that`s in the book explains why some people want to ban it.

But on a deeper level we also have to think about it from the perspective of a conservativism that really doesn`t want to have the kinds of conversations that "Beloved" has.

That book really forces us to grapple with racial history. It forces us to grapple with the contradictions. A big part of "Beloved" actually is about that conflict between the past and the present.

On the one hand, the narrative thrust is really about forgetting the past. The characters have finally escaped enslavement and they want not to have to think about it again. Even as their supposed plantation owner was good comparatively but there is no such thing, of course, as good enslavement.

So they want to forget that. But then there is this character who says maybe we can`t just forget. Not only do we have to remember but we have to grapple with and confront the past in the present movement.

So, the book really does incredible work for all of those reasons. So in some sense, it`s banned for the same reasons that it`s actually a wonderful work to read.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And to see it used literally in a campaign TV ad, they don`t mention the book, and possibly the reason -- obviously the reason not to mention the book is that it is a great book and a Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

And if you actually mention what the book is, for most people you`re going to completely defang the whole power and concept of that commercial.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I agree. But what the book tells us and, really, the controversy around it tells us is that ultimately even as we are reluctant to admit it, there are limits to open thought in our society in some segments.

We don`t really believe in intellectual freedom or intellectual pursuit as much as we tend to think that we do. And then we also have to think about the book and then the banning in a major election as a reflection on choice or ideas of choice and education. So on the one hand, you`re arguing for the choice of parents to be able to make decisions.


WILLIAMS: But then you are also arguing that teachers and curriculum designers and writers don`t really know how to make good choices in books, of course, help teach us about those things that have been erased.

And there are some things that only fiction can bring to life. There are some stories that you can`t tell historically and then when we have the tradition of historical erasures in the U.S. it`s really important for books to do that work. And Toni Morrison was as clear about that as any writer I have ever read.

O`DONNELL: You know, you mentioned the possibility of it actually attracting attention to Toni Morrison, which I hope it does.

As we leave, give us your top three must-read, go out buy right now Toni Morrison books.

WILLIAMS: Oh, absolutely. "Paradise" is probably the first on my list because it challenges us to think about American democracy. I would say -- I really enjoy "God Bless the Child, the last book that she wrote. And then "Song of Solomon` is probably the top of my list of all books, not just Morrison books.

O`DONNELL: That`s a better way of putting it, all books. Professor Dana Williams, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: My pleasure. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.




O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD.