IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/20/21

Guests: Stacey Abrams, Daniel Alonso, Kizzmekia Corbett, Matthew Mallory, Joan Cephas


Interview with Stacey Abrams. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett and her team at the National Institutes of Health spent years working on a vaccine for coronaviruses before the COVID-19 existed. The Harvard School of Public Health announced that starting next month, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who helped create the Moderna vaccine for COVID19 will head the new coronaviruses and other relevant emerging infectious diseases lab.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, you`re always welcome on this side of 10:00.


O`DONNELL: I`m holding up Stacey Abrams book, Rachel, her new book because it presents from an awkward situation tonight. Stacey Abrams`s new book, "While Justice Sleeps", is number one on "The New York Times" bestseller list for fiction. Here`s the awkward part, she knocked off a friend of mine, Laura Dave, who was number one, on "The New York Times" the seller list perfection with her brilliant new novel, "The last Thing He Told Me" which I loved.

And I can`t promote Laura Dave`s novel on this show because Laura Dave is not one of the national leaders of American politics, like Stacey Abrams, so I`ll be supporting Stacey Abrams number one position on the bestseller list tonight for fiction, knocking off my friend, Laura Dave`s book, "The Last Thing He Told Me". She still on the bestseller list she`s just down from number one. Stacey Abrams owns the number one spot.

So I don`t know how to help Laura Dave on this show, I can`t. I don`t see how it can --

MADDOW: What`s the name of her book again?

O`DONNELL: The name of Laura Dave`s new brilliant novel is "The Last Thing He Told Me".

MADDOW: "The Last Thing He Told Me", I thought that what it was.

O`DONNELL: And it really is great, yeah. It`s really great.


MADDOW: Well done.

O`DONNELL: Something else very important tonight Rachel, the triumphant return to this hour of the amazing Dr. Kizzy Corbett. She`s going to join us tonight.

MADDOW: Oh, great.

O`DONNELL: Now, I want you to imagine this scene, Rachel. Imagine you`re in your local Walgreen`s today and you`re going to step up to the counter for your appointment to get the Moderna vaccine.

MADDOW: U-huh.

O`DONNELL: And down the aisle, as you`re standing there, down the aisle in Walgreen`s comes the creator of the Moderna vaccine, Dr. Kizzy Corbett, right there in your Walgreen`s while you`re about to get her vaccine.

That happened today. An MSNBC camera crew happened to be there and catch that moment for a couple of people.


O`DONNELL: All of that is going to be later in the show tonight. I can`t tell you --

MADDOW: I want to see that.

O`DONNELL: Rachel, it`s incredibly exciting. I was watching it happen live from our control room. It was incredible. It was incredible. It was edge of the seat stuff for me. Really, really exciting.

MADDOW: Lawrence, you should stop talking and go talk to those awesome guests.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, we have a lot of guests to talk to. Thank you, Rachel!

MADDOW: Yeah, OK, bye.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, our first guest tonight, Stacey Abrams, who as you know is now number one on the "New York Times" bestseller fiction list has also been working on strengthening voter rights and voter registration for a very long time. And now, Stacey Abrams is facing a new voting challenge. And you challenge to democracy and justice, counting the votes.

The new Republican challenge to democracy and justice in this country means that the candidate who gets the most votes will not necessarily win, wherever Republicans control state governments like, say, Georgia. Georgia`s new election law appears to allow the Republican state legislature to overturn an election, if a Republican candidate comes in second.

New Republican election laws are trying to limit the role of courts. The same courts in America that preserved justice by crushing every single election challenge that Donald Trump lawyers brought into a courtroom in this country.

Donald Trump failed to have Joe Biden`s victory overturned in Georgia in 2020, but the new law might allow Georgia Republicans to overturn future Democratic wins in Georgia.

But the Arizona secretary of state calls eight fraud-it in Arizona will have no effect on the Biden presidency of these Cyber Ninjas running that fraudulent exercise ever finish with they`re doing to those ballots. But it can be seen as a rehearsal for Republican controlled states in the next presidential election. Some Republican elected officials in Arizona started attacking the fraud this week.

William Gates, a Republican member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors said this today.


BILL GATES (R), MARICOPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: Some people are reporting to meet the Republican National Committee supports what`s going on right now, in Veterans Memorial Coliseum. They support known conspiracy theories, using UV lights to find bamboo. I`m a lifelong Republican, and I`m shocked and horrified at the RNC would be supporting this. I think that the RNC right now would be wanting to sharpening the message and taking it to Joe Biden and the Democrats, who are governing right now as progressives.

But we`re not doing that. We are re-litigating the 2020 election. --


O`DONNELL: Michigan`s Democratic secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, said this today to Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC.


JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Those who are trying to undermine democracy and who did so in the months immediately following the election have not stopped, indeed they have just escalated their effort. This is a nationally coordinated partisan and well-fund strategy that will continue through, I believe, not just the midterms but all the way through 2024, with the same forces that emerged in 2020 will be back, but this time will be stronger.


O`DONNELL: One of the standard questions and one of the easiest questions in a basic mental competency test in this country who is the president of the United States? Two thirds of Republicans fail at that basic mental competency test, or at least struggle with. A recent poll found that two thirds of Republicans don`t think that Joe Biden is the legitimate winner of the 2020 election.

The people who represent those deluded voters are now trying to block an investigation on the attack on the Capitol on January 6th by a independent partisan commission, the legislation establishing the commission passed the House of Representatives last night with all Democrats voting for it and 35 Republicans voting for it, and Donald Trump who as a disgraced, twice impeached lying loser is banned from Twitter and other social media, someone put out a old-fashioned press release for him today in which he called those 35 House Republicans who voted for the January 6th commission, quote, 35 wayward Republicans.

Wayward? Now there is a guy who`s lost his fastball. Wayward has apparently replaced words like low life in the Trump lexicon.

Donald Trump has never used the word wayward, and doesn`t have any idea what it means, but that is what happens when someone else writes your press releases for you. It`s yet another proof that Donald Trump is much more distracted by and panicked about criminal prosecutors into states closing in on him than he is about wayward Republicans.

The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, had at least one angry conversation on the phone with Donald Trump on January 6th when Kevin McCarthy was hiding in a undisclosed location in fear of being murdered by the Trump mob. Since then, Kevin McCarthy`s defense against the Trump mob is to join the Trump. Kevin McCarthy voted against the January 6th commission to investigate with Donald Trump did on that day and what Kevin McCarthy did on that day.

Kevin McCarthy was asked today whether he would testify to that commission. He said he, would fully confident that that commission will never exist, because it will be blocked by Republicans in the Senate where the bill needs 60 votes to pass.

Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked Republican senators to support the bill.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: I was within 20 feet of these hooligans. It was one of the darkest moments in American democracy and, yet not five months later, many on the Republican side are trying to whitewash what happened. My Senate Republican colleagues must now ask themselves, are they going to join us in pursuing the truth? Or are they going to cover for Donald Trump and his big lie?


O`DONNELL: So, the choices, join Democrats in the Senate and pursuing the truth or stick with Donald Trump on the big lie? That`s not a hard decision for most Senate Republicans. Surely, there should be some Republican votes in the commission. Seven senators voted to convict Donald Trump in the impeachment trial for inciting the insurrection of the Capitol, but ten Republican votes in the Senate for the January 6th Commission seem hard to find at this point.

Kevin McCarthy faced another question from a reporter today which showed how afraid he is of being subpoenaed to testify under oath to a January 6th commission.


REPORTER: Are you absolutely certain that none of your members were in any communication with any of the people who stormed Capitol hill?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I don`t believe they are but thank you for the question.

Everybody, have a nice day.


O`DONNELL: There he is running away from the question. That`s the response of someone who is terrified of ever having to testify under oath about what he knows about the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

This week, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski reached a bipartisan agreement of exactly two senators to reauthorize a provision of the Voting Rights Act that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.

In a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer in the Senate, along with the Republican minority leaders of the House and Senate, Senator Manchin and Senator Murkowski wrote: Inaction is not an option. Congress must come together -- just as we have done time and again -- to reaffirm our longstanding bipartisan commitment to free, accessible and secure elections for all.

Senator Manchin and Senator Murkowski will need nine more Republicans to join them to pass that bill.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Stacey Abrams, the founder of the voter protection PAC, Fair Fight Action, and she is the author of the new novel "While Justice Sleeps", which is now number one on "The New York Times" bestseller list for fiction.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

And congratulations on the bestseller list. I want to get a word in on the book after we discuss voting rights and these issues of day for a moment.

I want to start with what Senator Manchin is trying to do in the Senate now, which is to reauthorize that provision of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court basically squashed.

What is your reaction to that effort at this stage?

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: I think it`s an important step to take. We do need to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act because it is the only way to preclude new laws that will erode access to the right to vote.

The challenge is it`s not enough on its own. We have to be both prophylactic with this but we also have to respond to and neutralize the bad bills that are passing at breakneck pace right now in Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, and now being introduced and moving with speed in Ohio and Michigan.

We need the voting rights provisions that are embedded in the For the People Act as well as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Separately, they each do something important, but together they actually protect our democracy. But standing alone, it is insufficient to meet the insurrection that has never stopped, which started on January 6, continues to reverberate, and we need both of those laws, both of those actions to protect the right to vote and to protect our democracy.

O`DONNELL: The Georgia law got a lot of attention on the issue of being able to give voters water while they`re waiting in line, but the provision that seems ultimately possibly the scariest of all is what it does in terms of empowering the Georgia legislature in election -- in dealing with election results.

What can you tell us about what the Georgia law does in changing the aftermath of voting and how the legislature might or might not be able to interfere with the count?

ABRAMS: Part of the effectiveness of voter suppression is that it doesn`t aim at a single target. It tries to dismantle or weaken the entirety of the system. And so, yes, no water because people are going to be standing in line for seven or eight hours and might just give up and go home, but if they make through the gauntlet, they get their ballots cast, they get those votes counted.

On the other side, Republicans have said to themselves, we may not like the outcome so we`re going to wrest away the power that we have invested in our election workers, people who are putting their time and their talent and their lives on the line sometimes, and we`re going to say they can be overturned by the act of state legislators who don`t like the outcome.

When you do that, what you`re saying is it`s not worth knowing what the outcome will be because they`re going to rig the outcome that they want.

What they will say in response is, oh, it doesn`t say that in the law, but I`ve been in politics long enough, as have you, to know enough that what`s on the paper can be just a precursor to what happens in reality. And because they`re also trying to weaken access to the courts, we don`t know the full extent of the power they have given to themselves, but we know enough based on what we see happening in Arizona, what happened in Georgia, what the president of the United States tried to do across this country 70 times. We know that it is not going to be good for America and certainly not good for voters and it is not good for democracy.

O`DONNELL: Republicans don`t like what happened to Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani when they went to court anywhere in this country after the election, lost everywhere they went. And so much of this new legislation that`s being written by Republican state legislatures is aimed at the courts. It`s aimed at trying to control the outcome and minimize the court`s ability in certain situations.

That seems also like a very, very troubling aspect of this. It`s what happens after the votes are cast.

ABRAMS: Let`s be clear. This is not the sua sponte decision of various state legislatures who`ve been wrestling over these decisions and suddenly decided to respond. This is a coordinated attack on our democracy by Heritage Action, by the Republican National Committee, by the big lie and all these purveyors, and this is their next attempt to undermine our democracy.

And so, yes, they`re going after the voters, they`re going after the process, and they`re going after the remedy, because when you get through the entire gauntlet, if the last vestige of support for democracy are our courts, they`re going to try to take power away there.

We cannot afford to be distracted by one or two or three attacks. We`ve got to realize that this is a fuselage and they are attacking every vestige of the system because they want the entire thing to either be so broken that we no longer expect success to be there for voters, or that we are so overwhelmed that we can`t focus on the challenges before us.

That`s why there are, you know, more than 400 bills in 47 states. That`s why they`re refusing to take federal action, because they know if we can actually focus our attention on protection for our democracy, they may lose an election.

I can tell you it`s not a fatal thing to lose an election, but it is dangerous to America to lose our democracy.

O`DONNELL: You have now taken to writing fiction about the courts. Your new book, "While Justice Sleeps", is about the United States Supreme Court. That means you and I now have something in common. We have both written fiction about the Supreme Court.

I was a writer on a not-well-remembered, very short-lived, actually, CBS series set in the Supreme Court with the great James Garner as the chief justice, Charles Durning, the wonderful actor as another Supreme Court justice.

And what I found as a fiction writer was, boy, that`s a difficult place to write fiction. It is very hard to get the action going in the Supreme Court, but you`ve done it in this book.

Why did you choose this focus for your fiction?

ABRAMS: Well, I want to begin by apologizing to Laura Dave (ph) for, you know, doing anything that could possibly ruin a future friendship. But I hope so -- for me this was --


O`DONNELL: That helps me a lot.

ABRAMS: Absolutely.

Now, one of my dearest friends, Teresa Wynn Roseborough, who actually used to work in the Clinton Justice Department, she was one of my mentors at my law firm and we were having lunch one day in 2008. And she said, have you thought about this quirk in the Constitution that the only people with lifetime appointments in our government are also the only people who have mechanism for removal if they failed to be able to do their jobs?

And that just caught my imagination, caught my attention, and it became "While Justice Sleeps", because as we just discussed, the courts are sometimes the last bastion of justice. And if justice cannot be meted out, it`s up to us to figure it out, and in this case, it overcame (ph).

O`DONNELL: Stacey Abrams, if you were a writer on that Supreme Court show that we did on CBS, it would still be on the air.

This book really -- it is really fun to read, it is really great, and I love that -- that leap of the imagination. Once you pick up that one kernel, that one interesting thing, there`s no removal process. It all departs from that.

Stacey Abrams` new book is "While Justice Sleeps."

Stacey Abrams, thank you very, very much for joining us tonight.

ABRAMS: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: We always really appreciate it.

ABRAMS: Thank you, Lawrence. It`s my pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, the criminal investigation of Donald Trump at the Manhattan district attorney`s office has been joined by the New York state attorney general, we will be joined next by a veteran of the Manhattan district attorney`s office, the former chief assistant Manhattan district attorney, Daniel Alonso joins us next.


O`DONNELL: No comment. That`s the response Allen Weisselberg`s attorney gave NBC News when asked about the criminal prosecution by New York Attorney General Letitia James into the long time Trump Organization chief financial officer`s personal finances.

"The New York Times" reports investigators have examined whether taxes were paid on fringe benefits that Mr. Trump gave him, including cars and tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for at least one of Mr. Weisselberg`s grandchildren.

The attorney for Allen Weisselberg`s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg has acknowledged his cooperation with the attorney general. Quote: Ms. Weisselberg has been in touch with prosecutors from the criminal division of the New York Attorney General`s Office since at least March. She has provided information to them as part of their criminal investigation and will continue to cooperate in any way she can be helpful.

Prosecutors are focusing on Allen Weisselberg because he probably has been deeply involved in preparing Trump tax returns, which could include conversations with Donald Trump that could show that Donald Trump intentionally falsified his tax returns.

Here`s Donald Trump`s former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, earlier this evening with Ari Melber.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Allen does not want to spend the golden years of his life incarcerated. So the question is going to be whether or not he`s going to accept the responsibility himself and spend his golden years, or he`s going to provide the testimony that the attorney general and the district attorney wants.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Daniel Alonso, a former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York, and most importantly for tonight`s discussion, former chief assistant district attorney in the Manhattan district attorney`s office.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

If you are at your old job in the Manhattan D.A.`s office tonight, you would be in the thick of this investigation. From the elements of it that have emerged publicly so far, including what we just heard from -- in effect -- from Allen Weisselberg`s former daughter in law, the criminal investigation by the state attorney general has been going on since at least March.

How do you connect the dots in what we are seeing tonight?

DANIEL ALONSO, FORMER CHIEF ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MANHATTAN: So, first of, all thanks for having me. I want to clarify that this isn`t a true criminal investigation into the state attorney general, it`s a criminal investigation of the Manhattan district attorney. The attorney general has joined forces with the D.A., doing what we call cross designated two of her lawyers are now special D.A.s and they`re working closely. Basically, they`re combining forces and it makes great sense.

In terms of connecting the dots we`ve known for a wild that there`s a pretty substantial investigation. Now, I think it`s gotten even more substantial. For one thing, there seems to be an additional personal tax investigation on Allen Weisselberg, which is very serious, right? That`s serious by itself.

Obviously everyone knows but you have to pay taxes on any salary or benefits that you get as long as they`re taxable fringe benefits. So if he willfully didn`t do that, he could well be in serious tax trouble personally, in addition to whatever he`s done at the Trump Organization that the D.A. is investigating.

O`DONNELL: What are the particular tripwires for businesses in New York City? Because New York City has its own law, doesn`t it, in addition to some state law involving doing business in New York City?

ALONSO: In terms of what?

O`DONNELL: Well, in terms of record keeping, and falsifying records, things like that.

ALONSO: Sure. You`re talking about state law versus federal law. A very important state law that is used a lot in both fraud and corruption investigations by New York state prosecutors is falsifying business records. And that`s clearly something that they`re looking at.

That might even be the very first thing that they will be looking at because it`s implicated, that law is implicated in the Stormy Daniels payments where the allegation is that the reimbursement to Michael Cohen of $130,000 was improperly accounted for in those records.

And what is interesting and doesn`t get reported a lot is that if you`re a prosecutor in the D.A.`s office in the attorney generals office and you see one example of expense being mislabeled fraudulently, falsified, you are than going to look for others. And, you know, in my experience, it`s relatively likely that there are others. I`m not saying that there are here but I know for sure that they would be looking for others in this case.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, so you`re saying that you see a transaction like Stormy Daniels and use it feels very unlikely that a business like this that has been operating as long as it has is thinking of this particular scheme for the very first time.

ALONSO: We used to say you know we`re just not that good. We talk to you, with the only every thing you`ve ever, did it`s not that believable.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. So do you have a sense of a timetable here, of when we would expect something to emerge by way of criminal charges? Or some indication that an investigation has been closed down?

ALONSO: Stressing that is educated speculation like all of this is, we are reading tea leaves, I think there is every chance that Cy Vance is going to want to make this decision before he leaves office. He`s not running for reelection. His term is up on December 31st of this year.

So I think it is highly likely that whatever charging decision will be made and I stress we don`t know if it`s against the organization, Weisselberg, Trump, other people, some combination, he`s going to make that decision by the end of the year.

O`DONNELL: Daniel Alonso, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Your expertise is invaluable to us and we hope to be able to call you in the future. Thank you very much.

ALONSO: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, what`s more amazing than developing a coronavirus vaccine? Developing it over the weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got the sequences, because we knew you had to make that protein, we did that very quickly by hand, by the 13th.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Over the weekend, you know something about working the weekends right?


O`DONNELL: Viewers of last week`s MSNBC`s "Vaccinating America" town hall met the amazing Dr. Kizzy Corbett here on MSNBC. The scientific lead at the NIH who developed the Moderna vaccine. Dr. Corbett will join us again tonight with a surprising and exciting, and fun follow-up to that town hall. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Ok. The fun starts now. Remember Matthew?


MATTHEW MALLORY: My name is Matthew. My question is, how do we know the vaccine is safe and who to trust?


O`DONNELL: That was at last week`s MSNBC town hall "VACCINATING AMERICA" which included our interview with President Biden and after listening to President Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci and the surgeon general and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Matthew was still not convinced.


O`DONNELL: Matthew, can I ask you, does it give you confidence that Dr. Fauci, who has been working in this area his entire life, was one of the very first people to take the vaccine, the Moderna vaccine?

MALLORY: In a way it does. I just still have hesitancies.

O`DONNELL: Matthew, you`re lucky because at the end of the hour you`re going to hear from Dr. Kizzy Corbett who`s the woman who invented the vaccine that Dr. Fauci took, that I took. You`re going to really want to listen to her. I think she`s the one who might be able to convince you, ok.


O`DONNELL: Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett and her team at the National Institutes of Health spent years working on a vaccine for coronaviruses before the COVID- 19 existed. So Kizzy Corbett was ready last January to quickly develop the vaccine model that Moderna used for their COVID-19 vaccine.

When Kizzy Corbett joined us on stage at the town hall later in that hour, there was someone she wanted to talk to a lot more than she wanted to talk to me.



O`DONNELL: Where is Matthew? There he is.

DR. CORBETT: Hi, Matthew. You know, I get it. I completely understand. From where I sit, I think I`ve realized that through this moment I sit in a place of privilege where I have information on a day-to-day basis about these vaccines that the general person does not.

But the one thing that reassures me constantly is seeing over time more and more people getting these vaccines. The data are so clear and crisp in that they are safe and that they are effective.


O`DONNELL: After the town hall was over, I turned to thank Kizzy Corbett again personally and she wasn`t there. She had rushed off the stage to speak one on one with Matthew before he left the theater. Dr. Corbett spent several minutes talking with Matthew, maybe 10, 15 minutes, and I stood nearby listening to most of it before I had to leave. And then I saw Matthew out on the sidewalk after I left the theater, and he told me he still wasn`t convinced.

Then Matthew went home, and he talked to his mother about it. Matthew`s mother is Dr. Joan Cephas, a doctor of educational psychology, and she too, was reluctant to get the vaccine.

Until today when Matthew Mallory and his mother went to a Walgreens in Virginia and got their shot of Kizzy Corbett`s vaccine.

And meeting them at the Walgreens to watch them get the vaccine she helped create was the superstar of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Kizzy Corbett, who wanted to be there for the big moment.

And because there was no line for the vaccine at the Walgreens today, Matthew just had to check in at the counter and then take his seat for the big moment with pharmacist Ashley Eckles (ph) administering the vaccine.


ASHLEY ECKLES, PHARMACIST: I`m just going to clean your arm first.


ECKLES: Close your eyes. Get your famous red (INAUDIBLE) ready. Of you`re all set?


ECKLES: You`re going to feel a light prick. Let your shoulder drop so it`s nice and loose for me. Great, thank you. All set?

And you are done. Congratulations.

MALLORY: Thank you.

ECKLES: Thank you.


O`DONNELL: I was watching all of that happen live from right here in our studio in our control room. And I was on the edge of my seat with excitement and joy watching two lives saved today.

And watching Kizzy Corbett stride into the vaccine section of a Walgreens was like watching an Oscar winner walk up to the stage to receive her well- deserved award.

The great Kizzy Corbett and the marvelous Matthew and his mother will join us live from Walgreens, next.


O`DONNELL: Well, Harvard got lucky again because Harvard just got the mazing Kizzy Corbett. The Harvard School of Public Health announced that starting next month, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who helped create the Moderna vaccine for COVID19 quote, "will head the new coronaviruses and other relevant emerging infectious diseases lab to study and understand the interface between hosts` immune systems and viruses that cause respiratory disease with the goal of informing development of novel and potentially universal vaccines."

Dr. Corbett has already saved hundreds of millions of lives with the Moderna vaccine and today she showed up in person at a Walgreens in Virginia to save two more. And we were there to record this conversation earlier today.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Dr. Kizzy Corbett, Matthew Mallory and Matthew`s mother, Dr. Joan Cephas, who is a doctor of educational psychology -- joining us from Walgreens.

Kizzy, this is a very, very exciting day. I really wasn`t sure this was going to happen. What`s it like for you? You`re vaccinating America one shot at a time. And this was a big conversion for you.

DR. CORBETT: You know, every single time someone decides to be vaccinated, it is extremely exciting for me. I will never get tired of hearing that people have made the choice to be vaccinated.

And moreover, whatever my voice can be the beacon of that change, I am so happy. I`m thankful for Matthew and his mom for coming out today. And of course, I was so thrilled to come all the way to Virginia to make sure that it happened.

O`DONNELL: Matthew, how do you feel?

MALLORY: I feel good, sir.

O`DONNELL: So, you know, Kizzy obviously chased you down in the theater right after the town hall. I was following, and you and I were out on the sidewalk afterwards. And in our final exchange, you told me that you don`t like needles.

And you know, I used to not like needles either but I told you that I did not even feel it when I got my Moderna injection. And I know there was no reason for you to believe me, so how did it feel for you when you actually -- you don`t like needles but you got the needle today. How did that feel?

MALLORY: Oh, it felt good. Like I felt the same thing -- I didn`t feel anything at all. Over and done with before I even knew it.

O`DONNELL: Yes, that was my experience with it. And Dr. Cephas, what did you experience in getting the vaccine today?

DR. JOAN CEPHAS, EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY: It was very easy for me. I didn`t feel the needle at all. It went by very quickly.

O`DONNELL: So, Dr. Cephas, I have a question for you about Dr. Corbett. And you are a doctor of educational psychology, so please rate for me the educational psychology that Dr. Corbett used on your son and you to get you into that Walgreens today.

DR. CEPHAS: Well, I looked at the town hall meeting, and I was very impressed with the information that was being shared by Dr. Corbett. And after talking to my son Matthew after the show, that was what really inspired me to go ahead and get the vaccine.

O`DONNELL: Now, Dr. Cephas, we -- Kizzy and I know about Matthew`s reluctance. Why were you reluctant or why did you take this long to get the vaccine? .

DR. CEPHAS: I was listening to some of the conspiracy theories and just not really for sure the effectiveness of the vaccine.

So after I got more information, became more educated, and Dr. Corbett really inspired me to get the vaccine.

O`DONNELL: Now, you just listened to Dr. Corbett on the town hall and then today when you met her at Walgreens, that`s the first time you have had a chance to talk to her beyond what you heard in the town hall, isn`t that right?

DR. CEPHAS: That`s correct.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And so would you say Dr. Corbett was the key to convincing you to get this vaccine?

DR. CEPHAS: Dr. Corbett was the key, because she was the key to convince my son to get it so it was like a snowball effect. She convinced my son to get it and it snowballed to me for me to get it.

O`DONNELL: Kizzy, WHAT have you learned about reluctance in -- have you learned anything new about reluctance in talking to Matthew and his mother?

DR. CORBETT: You know, Lawrence, one of the things that I found in the last, I guess you can say, six months as I`ve talked to people all over the country, mostly virtually, around their reluctance or inquisitiveness with this vaccine is that you really do need that person that`s going to chase you down after a town hall to make sure that your questions are answered.

And that is what I feel like my purpose is with Matthew and his mother and beyond, actually. It is very important for us to make sure again and again that we listen to people and that we leave no question unanswered regarding their questions around the vaccine.

O`DONNELL: Matthew, when you went home from the town hall, what did you tell your mother about it? How did the two of you discuss this?

MALLORY: We thought about it -- how was the -- my experience was going to the town hall. I let her know that I got a lot of information about the vaccine which, you know, kind of pushed me over the edge of going ahead and saying, yes, I`m going to go ahead and do it.

O`DONNELL: And Dr. Cephas, was there anything in particular that Matthew said that drew you closer to this decision?

DR. CEPHAS: As we discussed what happened at the town hall and the information that he gathered from attending the town hall, we`ve talked about how we had -- we like to travel. And one of my motivating factors in getting the vaccine was that I love to travel and it became very evident to me that in order to travel, it`s almost mandated to get the vaccine.

So that was a motivating factor, and that`s how we came to the decision. And I shared with Matthew that if he would get the vaccine, I would get the vaccine. We would do it as a pair.

O`DONNELL: How easy or difficult was it to find an appointment to get the vaccine?

MALLORY: The appointment was very easy. I was able to come down to my local pharmacy, give them my information, and they educated me how everything will go. It was very easy.

O`DONNELL: And Kizzy, how much difference does it make in your experience the degree of difficulty in making the appointment?

DR. CORBETT: It makes so much of a difference. You know, I`m from rural North Carolina, so I understand what accessibility to getting vaccinated looks like, and it is so helpful that there are about 20,000 pharmacies around that country that are now taking walk-in appointments.

People can look up their local pharmacies on And you know, about 90 percent of people in this country live within five miles of a pharmacy to get the vaccine.

And so as accessibility becomes easier, we hope to get more people vaccinated.

O`DONNELL: Matthew, six weeks from now, you are free to travel safely. Four weeks from now, you`ll get your second shot. Two weeks after that, you`re considered fully vaccinated. Where do you want to go if you can travel in six weeks?

MALLORY: Well actually, I already have a trip planned. I`m planning to go to Jamaica.

O`DONNELL: And Dr. Corbett, I think you have a family relationship with Jamaica?

DR. CORBETT: I do, I do. My brother-in-law is from Jamaica. So I`m very excited that Matthew`s going to be able to experience Jamaica. And I just - - I told him that I`m going to hop in the suitcase because I need a break.

O`DONNELL: Kizzy Corbett is a part of your life now. Matthew --

MALLORY: That`s right.

O`DONNELL: -- what do you want to say to Kizzy today? She worked years and years to develop this vaccine. She worked very hard. More than overtime, when COVID-19 hit, figuring out exactly how to build the vaccine you got today, the Moderna vaccine. What do you want to say to her about the work she`s done?

MALLORY: I want to say thank you. You know, you`re very much appreciated. Your all working efforts is definitely (INAUDIBLE). You`re saving the world.

DR. CORBETT: Thank you. Thank you for being vaccinated. That is really it, right. there`s -- I could have made a vaccine, and then if no one took it, the it wouldn`t even matter.

So it`s really at this point, the duty is on the people who are being vaccinated. So thank you.

O`DONNELL: Kizzy, what would you like to ask Matthew and Joan at this point in their experience?

DR. CORBETT: You know, I just want to -- in the same way that you got your information and you transferred it to your mom, I just want to make sure that if people ask you questions about the vaccine, that you are transparent and that you are honest, and that you remind people of all the information that you got that day in the town hall --


DR. CORBETT: -- so that we can keep the snowball effect rolling and continue to get people vaccinated in the same way.

O`DONNELL: Matthew, what are you going to tell your friends and family if they are wondering about getting the vaccine?

MALLORY: Go ahead and get it done. It`s not that bad. Go and get it done. It`s not that bad.

O`DONNELL: Not that bad. That`s the review so far. Matthew Mallory, I cannot thank you enough. First, of all for coming to the town hall. You have been a great lesson for so many millions of people now.

Dr. Joan Cephas, Matthew`s mother -- thank you very much for joining him to day. And Dr. Kizzy Corbett, we will never, ever be able to thank you enough but I`m going to thank you once again for joining us and doing this today.

Dr. Kizzy Corbett, thank you very much. Thank you all. We really appreciate this. This has been a great day. Thank you very much.

MALLORY: Thank you.

DR. CORBETT: Thank you.

DR. CEPHAS: Thank you.

MALLORY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, you will see once again just how easy it is to get this vaccine and we will salute the thousands of heroes around this country who are administering this vaccine to us.

We will watch Matthew`s mom get her shot today at Walgreens. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: When I went to Dodgers Stadium to get my first shot of the Moderna vaccine, I was in awe of what I saw. A massive public health encampment had sprang up virtually over night, and became the biggest COVID-19 vaccination center in the world. It was the work of Sean Penn his group Core -- community organized relief effort.

Sean Penn was there Making sure that 10,000 vaccinations a day were being delivered/out a hitch.

I think everyone involved in delivering that vaccine into my arm that day. Student nurse Robert Ybarro (ph) was especially gracious but the words of thanks I said did not match the enormity o the gratitude I feel.

Houses of thousands of people who were doing something else with their lives have changed course this year to deliver these life-saving vaccines. Into our arms. They all deserve a very long standing location from all of us and today one of them got that standing ovation at a Walgreens.

If you haven`t been vaccinated, please watch this video we`re about to show you of Matthew`s mother Dr. Joan Cephas getting her vaccination today.

You will see, from start to finish just how easy it is and if you have been vaccinated this is your chance to join in the standing ovation for the vaccinators who are saving our lives.


ECKLES: I`m going to clean your arm off here.

You would be perfect. All right, all set.

DR. CEPHAS: Eckles: Yes.

ECKLES: Ok. Wonderful. You are all done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

ECKLESS: Absolutely. And the bending --

DR. CEPHAS: Ok. Could you play that?

ECKLES: No. Perfect. I love it. Congratulations, you guys. We do have your vaccine cards for you both.


ECKLES: Please hold on to these because you will want to bring this back with you to your next dose. Ok.

And again, we will ask you to stay in the store for about 15 minutes.


ECKLES: In that way, if you have any questions or if you start to feel light-headed, anything like that -- just let us know. We`re here to help but I don`t expect that to happen.


DR. CORBETT: Ok. Thank you so much. Congratulations. Almost there.

DR. CEPHAS: Thank you so much.

MALLORY: Thank you.


O`DONNELL: Pharmacist Ashley Eckles gets tonight`s LAST WORD. And that word is "thank you". Thank you to all of the vaccinators all around the world who are saving lives every day. Please go to and make your appointment to get vaccinated.