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Transcript: The ReidOut, 7/23/21

Guests: Kavita Patel, Ted Lieu, Tim Miller, Alexis McGill Johnson, Maria Teresa Kumar, Hank Johnson, LaTosha Brown, Cari Champion

Summary

Pandemic of the unvaccinated worsens. Unvaccinated is account for 97 percent of new COVID cases. Delta Variant is 60 percent more transmissible. Tennessee is set to resume vaccine outreach despite GOP objections. The Summer Olympics are finally officially under way in Tokyo after a full year`s delay, and athletes from more than 200 countries participated in today`s opening ceremony in a mostly empty and silent stadium due to pandemic protocols.

Transcript

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We do this as the news. We need an audience for it. You`ve made the beat what it is. Thank you for watching and DVRing. That`s it for us. The ReidOut starts right now with Tiffany Cross in for Joy.

Hi, Tiffany.

TIFFANY CROSS, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Ari. Your panel mentioned 50 cent and I got to tell you, I got 21 questions for a COVID panel up next, but congratulations, my friend on another awesome show. And I will pick it up from here.

Good evening, everybody. I`m Tiffany Cross in for Joy Reid. And we begin the ReidOut tonight, with the perfect yet deadly storm brewing in our fight against COVID, a highly contagious Delta variant, plus, resistant attitudes on vaccines. The COVID pandemic is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated. More than 97 percent of people entering hospitals right now with COVID have not received the shot.

Children are entering hospitals too, our babies in states like Alabama, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the country with only about 34 percent of the people fully vaccinated, and where virtually every county is considered high risk for the unvaccinated. This is a source of frustration, of course for the Republican governor there, Kay Ivey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it going to take to get people to get shots in arms?

GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): I don`t know. You tell me. Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it`s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It`s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But as the leader of the state, don`t you think it`s your responsibility to try and help get this situation under control?

IVEY: I`ve done all, I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something, but I can`t make you take care of yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROSS: She talks about common sense. One thing COVID has taught us, common sense, ain`t that common. Alabama is far from alone. Red states with low vaccination rates are driving up the national surge. States like Arkansas, where CNN talk to Americans who refuse to get vaccinated, including the parents of an eight year old child sick with COVID.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOY STARR, ARKANSAS RESIDENT: STARR: He was sick a lot. He`s been sick a lot for a while, and he`s still sick. So, we want to get him looked at, and see if there is further damage. I don`t know. I mean, he`s -- he got real sick.

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

STARR: Fever, every day, for weeks.

REEVE: Are you guys going to get the vaccine?

STARR: No.

REEVE: OK.

STARR: No vaccine.

REEVE: How come?

STARR: I just don`t trust the government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROSS: Obviously, we care about children, and I get that some of you out there thinking I don`t care about these people if they refuse to give the vaccine but here`s the deal, a pandemic for the unvaccinated still poses a risk to all of us.

According to new projections released from the COVID-19 scenario modeling hub, things are going to get worse, a lot worse. Listen up and the most likely scenario according to researchers, the U.S. which is only 70 percent vaccination rate, and the Delta variant is 60 percent more transmissible and that horrifying scenario at the peak in the upcoming mid-October, there would be around 60,000 cases and around 850 deaths each day.

Joining us now to try to make sense of all of this is Congressman Ted Lieu of California, Physician and former Obama White House Health Policy Director, Dr. Kavita Patel, and Tim Miller, Writer at large for the Bulwark.

Dr. Patel, I have to start with you here. My mind is blown. Everybody`s so excited. People keep saying it`s going to be the most current summer ever. And yet here we are facing another potential shutdown. I mean, do you think that the country at this point will have a shutdown in October? Or will we just get used to nearly 1000 people dying every day?

DR. KAVITA PATEL, PHYSICIAN: Yeah, Tiffany, you`re in good company. A lot of our minds are blown too. But I don`t think we`re going to get to a shutdown. I do think we`re going to see continuing rolling mask mandates or mask requirements indoors. And I actually think that`s the responsible thing to do. And that could hit us before October, November. This surge is something that we probably modeled out to be in the fall when people came back to school and workplaces open fully. This is hitting us weeks earlier. And so, we`re going to have to deal with it probably the -- as you mentioned in the modeling and the next four to six weeks.

CROSS: Which is insane, so Congressman, I want to ask you because in California in L.A. particularly, they`ve already brought back the mask mandate. And you made a really good point that eventually caring for the unvaccinated will fall to the people who are vaccinated. How in the hell did saving yourself from a deadly virus become political?

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): That`s a great question. Now, I am pleased that we now see more Republicans going public and telling people to get vaccinated. It is this amazing miracle of science that we got these amazing vaccines they`re very effective at protecting you not only from the original strain, but also a Delta variant, according to a study from public of England, the Pfizer vaccine is 88 percent effective at protecting you from having any symptoms from the Delta variant and we just need to get more people vaccinated.

[19:05:09]

I`m glad that Republicans are starting to do this now. I urge more to come forward and tell their base to get vaccinated, because having their base get sick and potentially die is not good for the party.

CROSS: Yeah, look I echo your thoughts, Congressman, but honestly, I feel like blood is on their hands. They could have done this month ago. Donald Trump will come out tomorrow and say, hey, everybody get vaccinated and want to make a huge difference.

Tim, mask mandates are coming back. We`re going to see more restrictions for COVID. And if you`ve never known actual oppression, you can somehow mistake having to wear a mask and having to get a vaccine as such, which is completely not the case. Why the resistance? I mean, this cannot all be Trump. People do have some humane instinct that you at least want to save yourself if you don`t give a damn about anybody else. Why do you think people are so resistant to saving themselves?

TIM MILLER, THE BULWARK CONTRIBUTOR: Look, it`s hard for me to get into psychoanalyze all of the reasons that folks are doing this. So there`s a lot of misinformation out there. Obviously, there have been wildly irresponsible pundits and commentators on Fox and other conservative news outlets, obviously, the Republican candidates were too late to setting a good message. This all has been, you know, kind of really set in stone for a year now, right?

If you didn`t -- if you thought COVID was a hoax last year, you know, why would you get an experimental shot this year, right. So this goes all the way back to what was happening in the Trump administration. Have you seen it this culture war?

So look, I mean, I defer to the good doctor on what we`re going to have to do going forward with mask and all that. I think just as a political, just putting on my political hat talking to the congressmen and other Democrats, I think the Democrats would be really cautious to want to go back to mandates that vaccinated people feel like are punishing them. And I feel like the right path forward is more carrots, right? Like, look at what the NBA did today. They basically said to their players, you know, if you`re going to get vaccinated, you can do whatever you want. If you`re going to be unvaccinated, you`re going to have to stay in your home, right? When you come to summer, like this year, right?

And I think that these types of rules in the free market, these types of nudges is a better path forward, politically speaking, obviously, we get to the point where you have to do mandates and nudges. That`s where you are. But I just think that the Democrats should look to that first and think we`re the responsible party. We`re trying to encourage people to be responsible. You know, we`re not punishing people who are being responsible.

CROSS: You know, I hear you, Tim. But let me just say, I don`t look at it as punishment. I`m vaccinated. And I know enough people who have been impacted by this virus post vaccination. It`s still saving ourselves, right?

So Dr. Patel, I`ll ask you how long I mean, I feel like it`s only a matter of time before one of these variants could potentially penetrate these vaccines in a fatal way. We haven`t seen that right now. But the virus is getting smarter. So is that something that the medical community is considering? And is that something we should all be concerned about as increasingly, people are not getting vaccinated?

PATEL: We should. And to be candid, Tiffany, I agree with the projections that optimistically, vaccinations are going up, by the way, about 600,000 in the last 24 hours, but we will probably peak out at 70, 75 percent. So to your point, we already have variants after the Greek letter Delta, Lambda that originated from Peru, which has even more concerning mutations, and there is absolutely going to be potentially all the way to pi and others. So those variants and their mere existence, Tiffany, pose what we really worry about, which is immune escape, we do not have it. Congressman Lieu is right, our current vaccines work against our known variants.

But, Tiffany, there`s something the virus has taught me and my colleagues, this is so much a land of the unknown. Just when we think we understand it, the virus is smart enough point mutations, to throw a kind of an entire boomerang into the equation. So the only way to mitigate this vaccination, vaccination, vaccination, but if you can`t get to level, we are going to have to talk about mitigation things like mask again, especially as kids are going back to school, which I insist they do.

CROSS: Yeah, I mean, people who are uncomfortable with mask, I can guarantee you a ventilator is a lot more uncomfortable.

Congressman, Tennessee, I have to say I feel like the virus isn`t actually the thing that`s killing us. It`s ignorance. And in Tennessee, they finally started re-engaging with vaccination outreach efforts, after some backlash, and you tweeted about this. I mean, how do we combat ignorance? You know, there`s kind of a war on science of war on the medical community, Republicans on Capitol Hill, like Dr. Rand Paul would rather make Dr. Fauci the enemy instead of trying to figure out how to save American people. How do we penetrate that willful layer of ignorance of people who are saying, well, I`m just not going to do it because I don`t want to?

LIEU: The remaining people who are not vaccinated, there`s basically three groups. There are folks that can`t be vaccinated because they`re either too young or they`re immunocompromised or have some other condition where they can`t be. Then you have a group of people who are just ideologically resistant. But you have this other group that still pretty big, that are vaccine hesitant. And for those folks, the best ways to get doctors to talk to them and medical professionals, and if it gets a fax, maybe then we`ll come around and get vaccinated. So I think there is how to get a lot more people vaccinated as we head into the fall.

[19:10:25]

CROSS: And I, you know, I hope you`re right. But I do also think about people all over this globe, Dr. Patel, who are dying, literally dying for the vaccine, and they`re watching what`s happening here in America, as privileged Americans scoff at it, they dismiss it and you see footage of people who are literally on their deathbeds, just hoping and wishing they can get this vaccine. How do we look to the global community? As we sit here in our comfortable spaces, and we just thumb our nose. It`s something that`s life saving. I mean, how can America really be helpful to other people in the world if we`re wasting these vaccines on people who don`t want them?

PATEL: Yeah, you`re right. We talked about the two Americas. We`re living in two worlds. This is the world of the kind of top wealthiest countries that have essentially hoarded the vaccine and basically 85 percent of the earth and that`s what we need to take into consideration.

Look, I think the Biden administration has been doing a lot. They can do more by urging other countries to kind of pour into the efforts globally, money, Pfizer vaccines, contracts, you know, Novavax, any of these manufacturers that are outside the U.S. But at some point, you`re right, Tiffany, I`ve been throwing doses away. I know that nobody wants to talk about this, expire, they sit on our shelves, I throw them away. Do you know how many lives I could save, with even with less than a precious vial? And I think that`s what we`re going to have to try to figure out how to communicate. And we`re watching this play out globally.

But Tiffany, we`ve been watching it for a year, and it doesn`t feel like people care. And I agree with the Congressman. They`re hesitant people. But there are people who absolutely think that the government is behind this and that there`s magnets in the vaccine, and that Bill Gates will monitor us. I mean, it`s disturbing how many Democrats also share some of those beliefs. So we have a lot of work to do. Tiffany, this is unfortunately not going to be the end. Vaccines are the light at the tunnel. It`s a long tunnel.

CROSS: Yeah. And, you know, honestly, that`s the scary part. This ignorance is not bipartisan. I had plenty of conversations with people who are these conspiracy theories, prison yard philosophizing about what this vaccine allegedly does to you, when you can literally Google, read a reputable outlet and find out what it does.

Tim, last words to you, because Sean Hannity came out and, you know, made this big fuss like, oh, please get vaccinated. And then he walked back his words. This is why I`m hesitant to give Republicans an attaboy and a pat on the back after they sit on their hands for almost a year and let hundreds of 1000s of people die, so follow their mega madman. For people who are solely focused on Fox News and conservative contributors. What`s your advice to those folks who trust these voices and are willing to risk their lives for it?

MILLER: Yeah. Look, two things. One really quick, Tiffany, we do have to give credit, actually, to the Biden administration that has been sharing vaccines with the globe. I may have been a little slow to that. But that is one good thing that they deserve credit for.

As far as Hannity, and these folks are concerned, look, you know, as I said, you don`t get a year of misinformation, a year of calling it a hoax, a year of believing every conspiracy, and then you get put out one statement, we`re like, hey, I think people should get vaccinated. And all of that year, this information goes away, right? I mean, there needs to be a much more concerted effort and forth for Republicans who do care about the lives of their constituents, but just a handful of Republicans, maybe not as many as we`d hoped. There needs to be a much more proactive effort, creative thinking, you know, having if Trump`s going to go do rallies, why not do rallies with vaccines, right. I mean, that needs to be the message to them. This one statement, to the press is not getting the job done. There needs to be a much more creative thinking about how they can get into these communities, making them get a job to go to an SEC football game might be a good start in the fall or, you know, things of that nature, because just one vote in doing the deal.

CROSS: Yeah, well, we`ll be talking about the NFL mandate later in the show. So stay tuned for that. And just if you`re on the other side of the divide in this political debate, just remember the only people who align with you are in the MAGA crowd. So you may want to rethink your whole philosophy around that. But thank you so much, Congressman Ted Lieu, Dr. Kavita Patel and Tim Miller.

Don`t go anywhere because up next on the ReidOut, conservatives are taking direct aim at abortion rights asking the Supreme Court to strike down Roe v. Wade.

Plus, President Biden under pressure to turn his strong words on voting rights into strong action, is he fully invested in this voter suppression crises or what?

And as the Summer Olympics get underway, black women are being counted on to win Olympic gold but are still being disrespected by the Olympic power structure. The ReidOut continues right after this.

[19:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS SENATOR: I don`t believe anyone should be forced to take the vaccine. It should be your personal choice. You should make the choice based on your health, based on the decisions you want.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, as Americans can make our own choices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For our own families, for our own bodies.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If I`m elected governor here in Arkansas, we will not have mass mandates. We will not have mandates on the vaccine. We will not shut down churches and schools and other large gatherings because we believe in personal freedom and responsibility. That`s one of the key cornerstones, frankly, of our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROSS: Oh yeah, the right has been all about my body, my choice when it comes to vaccines and mask. But conveniently that personal freedom does not apply to abortion. They`ve been trying to overturn Roe v. Wade ever since abortion became legal in 1973. And now thanks to Trump and Mitch McConnell`s successful efforts to install conservative justice on the Supreme Court in lower courts, quite frankly, they may finally get their chance. Despite the fact that a majority of Americans support abortion rights.

[19:20:11]

In a filing yesterday, lawyers for the state of Mississippi asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, as well as a later case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Now, they wrote that: "The case for overruling Roe and Casey is overwhelming. Roe and Casey are egregiously wrong, " they say. "The conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history or tradition."

Now, the court will hear the case in the fall, but Mississippi is far from the only state where Republicans are trying to take away a woman`s right to choose. This year alone, 97 abortion restrictions have been enacted in 19 states. And 10 states have laws banning all or nearly all abortions. Now, those laws would be triggered if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Joining me now, Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and my pal Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino.

Ladies, I`m so happy to have you here.

I`m going to start with you, Alexis, because I don`t think people understand that you are not going to force a woman to carry a child to term, if that is not her choice. I want you to take a moment and explain to our viewers what a society looks like when abortion is outlawed everywhere.

ALEXIS MCGILL JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: Oh, well, you`re absolutely right.

I mean, it is not going to stop people from seeking access to abortion.It means they will have less access to safe abortion. It means they will have to travel many miles out of state into other states with other restriction.

If Roe is overturned because of this case -- and, clearly, Mississippi`s A.G. has said the quiet parts out loud -- what we are looking at is roughly 25 million women living in approximately 26 states that are poised to outlaw abortion outright.

And so it continues to mean that our control over our bodies -- this has always been about our control, right? It`s not -- never been about choice. It`s been about whether or not we can control or the state can control our bodies to force pregnancy in cases where people decided that they don`t -- they did not want to be pregnant.

CROSS: Yes, I mean, and I will be a little more graphic, so people understand.

I mean, we`re going back to coat hangers and seedy hotels and women being killed by bootleg seedy doctors claiming to be able to help them. That is not what we want in a society that claims to care about women.

Maria, I will tell you, the thing that really bothers me is, this is not about the protection of a fetus or children. Mississippi, according to "Us News & World Report, " they rank dead last in health care. In the economy, they rank 48th. They also ranked 48th in infrastructure.

This is the same crowd, the Republican conservative crowd, who cheered on kids in cages, who said we don`t care about people showing up at the border, desperate mothers and children seeking refuge.

How can we take them seriously when it comes to agency over our own bodies?

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VOTO LATINO: This is the thing.

If we can level with the American people, with the public, we recognize that what the Republicans are trying to do is say, you cannot have agency over your body, but, if you`re wealthy, you will have access to whatever health care you need, including abortion care.

This is once again a fight against the poor, and not giving people and women the agency over their own body to make decisions for them. At the same time, you have a Republican Party who is encouraging people not to take the vaccine because they should have agency to make a choice, even though that person could be COVID -- basically, could have COVID and, sadly, infect a lot of people.

So this is the hypocrisy. And, at the end of the day, when we want to have a frank conversation about who will access abortion under these new laws, it will be rich women, sadly. It will not be the middle class and it will not be the poor. And we have to make sure that, regardless of socioeconomic status, every single woman has agency over her body, full stop.

CROSS: Full stop.

We talked a bit about polling and public support for abortions in the open, Alexis. And so this false notion that Americans are too undecided or too -- that abortion is too much of a polarizing issue to decide this case without judges to interfere, I suppose polling is important, I guess. For argument`s sake, let`s say it is.

My personal opinion is, I don`t care about the polling. I don`t care about other people`s opinion. If a woman doesn`t want to do it, her opinion is the only one that matters. How seriously should we take any polling when it comes to this issue, given that it doesn`t really matter if -- especially if it`s going to get the will of the people?

MCGILL JOHNSON: Well, I mean, I think it is about the will of the people, right?

And I actually think the polling in this regard actually can be very instructive, because we know that 80 percent of Americans believe that Roe should be the law of the land.

[19:25:08]

And there is literally no state where banning abortion is popular, even in these states that are putting up the most unconstitutional, blatant restrictions on access to abortion, that -- in Texas, the state where Senator Cruz is probably talking about choice, has passed a six-week unconstitutional ban that not only criminalizes providers accessing abortion, the procedure, after six weeks, also places a bounty on anybody who supports someone getting access to abortion.

So I actually think the polling in this in this case is very instructive, because no one in the states actually wants this to happen. You have a vocal minority of state legislators who have control of the power, and they are wielding that power to make decisions about our bodies,

I would no rather have Senator Cruz or any other state legislator making this choice for me than -- that I know I can make for myself, right? This is about trusting women. It is making sure that we understand that we can control the decisions around access to our body.

And, like Maria Teresa said, I mean, full stop, there is just no question about it.

CROSS: Yes. I mean, maybe Senator Cruz should stick to being an expert on Cancun vacations.

Maria Teresa Kumar, I will ask you this. When it comes to the Supreme Court, I am terrified that the Supreme Court may actually overturn Roe v. Wade. I know this argument has been going on for a long time. There`s a real-life handmaiden on the Supreme Court. It feels like we`re 10 minutes from living in Gilead.

Do you think the Supreme Court will take up this case and potentially overturn a law that was so consequential in 1973?

KUMAR: Well, I think that that`s why the there was such a fight for the Supreme Court, because Mitch McConnell made it very clear that, if he could deliver this to the evangelical movement, then it was a win.

And that is why Trump did what he did, and basically not only stacked the Supreme Court, but stacked a lot of the circuit courts, because of the cultural war that we have. The difficulty, though, Tiffany, is that the majority of Americans do not share these values.

The majority of women who are in the reproductive ages definitely don`t show these values. Ask the majority of young women. They are part of the progressive movement right now because of all the local state legislatures that were trying to ban abortion.

This is one of the reasons why they came out in droves against Mitt Romney, and it`s not going to stop. So we have to communicate very clearly to our state legislators and to our congressional members and to our senators, especially if you live in a red state, that you`re not going to allow this on our watch, because the Supreme Court holds everything.

But, sadly, recently, it`s become very clear that they are a politicized entity in the way they have ruled. And we have to make sure that the American people show up for women for -- with our allies.

CROSS: Yes.

I venture to say, if men could get pregnant, perhaps abortion clinics would be like Starbucks everywhere.

Thank you, Alexis McGill Johnson and Maria Teresa Kumar. Thank you so much for joining us in that important conversation.

And still ahead: President Biden is facing increasing pressure to get something done on voting rights. But with congressional Republicans bent on obstruction, is there anything he can do? Some people say yes.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:32:32]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real. It`s unrelenting. And we`re going to challenge it vigorously.

We`re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That`s not hyperbole, since the Civil War.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROSS: That speech took place just last week, when President Joe Biden delivered that urgent message from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Now, he made crystal clear that free and fair elections in this country are under assault and that he would vigorously defend the rights to vote.

But there were some things we were looking to hear that we did not. He never brought up the impediments to doing just that, namely, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, and never once uttered the word filibuster.

Now, everybody knows that the Republican-backed voting restrictions that are sweeping the country right now will disproportionately impact communities of color, which are traditionally, of course, Democratic constituencies.

But, unbelievably, the White House is now suggesting it`s a disparity the country can live with. "The New York Times" reports that, in private calls with voting rights groups and civil rights leaders, White House officials and close allies of the president have expressed confidence that it is possible to out-organize voter suppression.

This is according to multiple people familiar with these conversations.

Now, while several Biden advisers say they recall that conversation differently, it is not sitting well with voting rights advocates and, quite frankly, not sitting well with voters.

They found Biden`s approach to be -- quote -- "naive, at best, signaling that the White House viewed the issue as simply an election challenge, rather than a moral threat to broad civil rights progress."

This comes as 150 organizations signed a public letter yesterday pushing the president to pass voting rights legislation by whatever means necessary.

We also saw Congressman Hank Johnson from my neck of the woods and others get arrested yesterday while protesting for voting rights with the group Black Voters Matter.

That congressman, Hank Johnson, of Georgia joins me right now, along with my buddy LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter.

So grateful to have you both with me.

And happy to see you, Congressman, free this evening.

I`m curious your thoughts, because, as a member of Congress, I imagine you talk to the White House. You served with the president`s senior adviser former Congressman Cedric Richmond.

[19:35:01]

In these conversations, do you get the impression that the White House is doing everything within their power to protect voting rights in this country?

REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): Well, I`m going to give you a straight answer. No. And I`m sorry about that.

But I remain hopeful that this administration, Joe Biden, president, will come to his senses, get away from the sentimentalism of the past of how the Senate used to work and how the members used to consort with each other and work things out over a drink and a cigar. Those days are long over.

These folks are trying to kill us right now, as far as our right to vote. They`re trying to kill our democracy. And no amount of organizing can overcome the wrongfulness of suppressing votes in a democracy. We either have a democracy or we don`t.

And if everyone can`t vote in this country, if some can`t vote because of their race, then this is not a true democracy. So we`re actually in a fight, Tiffany, for democracy. It`s being attacked by those who would take away our vote. And it`s wrong, and we can`t stand for it.

CROSS: Yes, it`s a fight for democracy, Congressman. It`s a fight for our live.

LaTosha, I think the Congress makes a really good point. And I appreciate that straight answer.

Given -- when he talks about Joe Biden is thinking about the good old days, when they could make a deal over a cigar, guess what? The good old days were the bad old days for us. We didn`t benefit from that time. We were getting hang some trees and lynched for trying to vote.

So, as somebody who`s still on the front lines fighting these battles, trying to protect democracy, trying to save the country from itself again, what`s your take? And what`s your expectation of the federal government, as we square off with somebody who -- or with a group of people who intend to impede our rights as American citizens?

LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: Well, let me first say that I`m really happy to be sharing this space with my congressman.

I live in the district of Congress Hank Johnson. So I`m glad to be here and be on the front lines with him.

But I also wanted to say that I think that we have to really recognize that black people, black voters, we have always been a casualty of war within the power struggle of political parties. And so, once again, what we`re hearing, we have to really recognize, when we listen to President Biden, I understand the spirit of what he`s saying around he wants unity and he wants to put people together, bringing unity by bringing people together.

But what he`s also saying or what he`s not really recognizing what he is saying, he is also saying that, in order for black people to have voting rights in this country, it has to be affirmed by white folks, that, at the end of the day, this -- we have to really recognize that we are not a negotiating tool.

We`re not a negotiating tool for the administration. We should not be in a negotiating tool for a political party. This is literally around human rights, not just even civil rights. This is about, as a black person in America, it should not be harder for me to be able to vote or for me to be punished to vote because of the way that I voted or who I voted for.

The very definition of that is political corruption. So, in fact, what I think we have to really think about is, the filibuster, whatever the tool is, it cannot be where black voters are once again a negotiating tool in a political war that was not started by us, a political struggle between two political parties.

CROSS: I mean, you give me goose bumps every single time you talk about this, LaTosha. So you put it in such important context.

And so, Congressman, I will kick it back to you, because the thing that I don`t think enough people realize, this is not just about voting rights. If you narrow the path to the ballot box, this casts a dark shadow over a lot of things.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is using this to limit abortion rights, to ban the teaching of critical race theories in public schools, to put in place new border security policies, to restrict transgender athletes from competing in sports.

I mean, this is what this all entails. Is that what it takes to get people to understand that this fight is urgent, that this fight -- that the world is on fire right now, and that we are the only thing standing between us and an autocracy?

JOHNSON: Well, Tiffany, I don`t know if enough people understand the danger that we are in.

Your last segment about abortion, and how the only people who will, in a new medieval society that they seek to impose upon us, the only people who will be able to have freedom over their bodies are white women, because they have money, any time only people who are light-skinned, white, are able to vote in this country, I mean, these are -- these subjects are of immediate threat to us, I mean, to everyone.

And if everyone does not start feeling a sense of urgency about taking some action -- and that`s why I`m so happy to be with LaTosha today, because she`s a woman of action. She takes action.

[19:40:03]

Yesterday, I was able to take some action, to come out of my comfort zone. But it`s going to take more than Hank Johnson and LaTosha Brown and Joyce Beatty and others to come out of their comfort zones...

CROSS: Yes.

JOHNSON: ... and to confront is evil that is right there in front of our face, and is ready to choke us to death unless we can show that we`re not going to lay down and let it happen.

We`re actually going to seize control. This is our country.

CROSS: Yes.

JOHNSON: We built this country.

And so nobody has a claim to it bigger and better than us. And so it`s up to us now to save this country, if not just for ourselves, but for our fellow man.

CROSS: Yes. As our friend Angela Rye says, we built this country for free, mind you.

So, thank you, Congressman Hank Johnson, for the work that you do. You mentioned Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who also got arrested. Thank her for being on the front lines.

And, LaTosha, you have been doing this work for a long time.

So, on behalf of America -- you don`t get thanked enough -- so, thank you, LaTosha Brown.

And don`t go anywhere at home, because we have a lot more coming up.

The upcoming Olympics are shining a spotlight on inequities in sports for women, and especially black women.

Cari Champion, the amazing Cari Champion, co-host of a new nightly Olympics show on Peacock, she joins me next. You don`t want to miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:45:37]

CROSS: All right, the Summer Olympics are finally officially under way in Tokyo, after a full year`s delay.

Athletes from more than 200 companies -- or countries -- excuse me -- participated in today`s Opening Ceremony in a mostly empty and silent stadium, due to pandemic protocols. This is including Team USA led by flag bearers WNBA star Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez.

Team USA sent a record number of women athletes to these Games. And first lady Jill Biden was one of the few dignitaries president leading the U.S. delegation to the Games.

But the big moment came with some black girl magic, as tennis star Naomi Osaka was given the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron. The number two player in the world will be competing in the Games for Japan.

Joining me now is the amazing, the fabulous, the awesome Cari Champion, co- host of "Tokyo Tonight, " which starts streaming on Peacock tomorrow night.

And I promise she will be back after this break. I just want to tell you guys, in transparency, we`re having some connectivity issues.

But stay right there, because, on the other side of this break, she will join me.

So stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:50:48]

CROSS: All right, I told you. I am a woman of my word.

Joining me now is Cari Champion, the amazing Cari Champion, co-host of "Tokyo Tonight, " which starts streaming on Peacock tomorrow night. Tune in. You don`t want to miss it.

Cari, we got you. I`m so excited that you`re here.

CARI CHAMPION, CO-HOST, "TOKYO TONIGHT": Yes. Yes.

CROSS: It`s just us two sports connoisseurs talking about our sports topics, which you know I love to do.

(LAUGHTER)

CROSS: I`m super excited. I`m seriously going to watch the Olympic show that you`re hosting, because I think it`s fabulous. And I think you`re fabulous.

But I have to tell you, I am not super excited about the Olympics this time. And I wonder if that`s because there`s not an audience. Or maybe it`s the disparate treatment of black women that`s kind of a turnoff. But what do you think? Do I need to get my pep in my step for the Olympics?

CHAMPION: You know what? I think it`s a combination of things.

I -- you are not alone. I know that there`s this -- there`s this overall feeling of, is it really worth it? Are we doing what we should be doing?

CROSS: Yes.

CHAMPION: Do I really want to tune in?

But it`s all of the things. It`s the global pandemic. And I have to feel as if so many people have other things on their mind.

But I will tell you, as it always happens during the Olympics, because it has been a rite of passage, especially -- you and I both love it -- there will be these moments that are so defining that you will want to tune in or you will be excited about it.

CROSS: Yes.

CHAMPION: But when you talk about the lack of respect for our special black women that are competing at the highest level, but still not being heard or seen in a way that`s definitely equitable, I can understand that, Tiffany.

That feeling is very, very much shared.

CROSS: Yes.

And I kind of feel like, you know, if we`re such a problem, have the Olympics without us and see how that works out for you.

(LAUGHTER)

CROSS: But, to your point, I did get super excited when I saw Naomi Osaka light the cauldron. I mean, that was such a magical moment.

And I think we will see other moments. Like, you have Gwen Berry. I am kind of excited to see if she will protest or not.

CHAMPION: Sure.

CROSS: But there are so many of us on the screen.

What are you most excited for about the Olympics?

CHAMPION: What I am excited about is to see how each athlete, and depending on respective countries, because it could be a small country that we`re not even familiar with, but I do believe, this year, there`s so much that`s going on in individual countries, specifically here in America, where we`re going to see these athletes use their platform and demand, demand the respect that they deserve.

And they will use their platform in a way to bring more attention to what they fear is unjust -- what they feel is unjust. I think that Simone will continue, as she said, in her words, to do very tough, tough Olympic tricks, because she can, right? That`s the type of gymnast she is. She can.

And so Simone Biles I think is going to have a lot of our attention, even though they`re refusing to change the game for her. And I think there will be people who -- in the Olympic track and field sector who will be rooting for Sha`Carri.

I also want to point out what we`re watching for the women in track and field, Allyson Felix, who when I tell you she has nine medals, clearly the most decorated in track and field, what`s going to happen with her, she has sponsored nine other women to bring their children to the Olympic Games and provide child care, because she knew...

CROSS: Wow.

CHAMPION: ... as a mom, that they didn`t respect...

CROSS: Wow.

CHAMPION: ... her as a mother and an Olympian. And she`s like, let me tell you, we can do both. We can do our things.

So, when I tell you I`m watching all this beautiful black girl magic, because we carry the world on our shoulders, and we do it so effortlessly, it`s the reason to tune in.

CROSS: Yes.

No, this is true. You`re making me get excited now, just hearing you talk about it...

(LAUGHTER)

CROSS: ... and making me get excited.

I love that, that she sponsored child care for nine women. I mean, that`s just amazing.

But I do have to say, the COVID stuff, that is making me nervous. And I`m looking at our athletes. An estimated 83 percent of Olympic competitors are fully vaccinated, which is good, but about 100 of the U.S. folks -- this is out of 613 -- are not.

What is up with our athletes resistant to the vaccine?

CHAMPION: Look, you read about it even in the NFL today...

CROSS: Yes. Yes.

CHAMPION: ... or yesterday, when they were saying, get a vaccine or don`t get a vaccine. They`re basically saying, you have to get one if you want to get paid.

Once you start messing with my money, then you`re telling me that I got to do something.

CROSS: Yes.

CHAMPION: So, what I believe, especially here in the States, athletes that I talk to you are so slow in responding to getting a vaccination, because they feel as if there`s something else there, they`re not -- and it could be religious reasons outside of that or health care reasons outside of that.

But I think there is this inherent mistrust of the government, which, look, is understandable. But I also know there`s also a lot of uneducated people talking about this vaccine as if they know about it. Everybody`s a scientist. Everybody has a cousin who works at the Pentagon.

[19:55:10]

(LAUGHTER)

CROSS: Exactly.

CHAMPION: It`s like, you know what? I need all you all to really do your research and then say yes or no to why you want to get a vaccine.

CROSS: Yes.

CHAMPION: And I think it`s extremely selfish, in my opinion, if you don`t take the necessary precautions if you`re unvaccinated.

I`m not saying get vaccinated. I`m saying, if you are not, take the precautions necessary.

CROSS: Yes.

Well, I`m saying get vaccinated, because this is all that is at risk if you don`t.

CHAMPION: Yes. Yes.

CROSS: Get that needle in your arm, playboy. It matters, you know?

CHAMPION: Listen, I -- like I said, I agree with you, but some people say it`s religious reasons. Some people truly -- but I`m like, don`t run around here without a mask, Tif.

CROSS: Yes. That`s true.

CHAMPION: Like, don`t sit up in other people`s area possibly infecting them.

It`s -- and so we`re going to -- what we`re hoping is that they`re taking this really serious, because the Village is really small. And like you mentioned -- like you mentioned, 100 athletes, American athletes, are not vaccinated. It`s going to be -- it`s going to be touch and go.

CROSS: Yes. Yes. Well, it`s very frustrating.

And since we`re talking about not being vaccinated, I am curious your thoughts on the NFL mandate. Why won`t the NFL just make this, like, mandatory? And do you think they should?

CHAMPION: I do think they should. I don`t think they have any legal right to say that. I do think that they are going to do -- they`re leading the charge. I think a lot of corporations and companies will start saying that.

They just were afraid and they wanted to see what everyone else is doing. I know people -- look, I talked to a young fellow the other day in the military. He was like, they`re not demanding that I get it. He`s like, they demand we get so many other vaccines, but they`re not demanding that we get this vaccine.

So I think what the NFL is saying is that they know that last year was such a disaster in trying to reschedule games and postpone games and who was responsible. So, they`re saying, look, you don`t have to get it, but if you don`t, and there`s a breakout, here are the things that will happen to you.

And, at the end of the day, it is always about the money. Tiffany, you don`t want anybody to take any money out of your pocket. I don`t want anybody taking any of my dollars. And so they`re telling these athletes who live -- and I know they make a lot of money, but a lot of them live check to check.

CROSS: Yes.

CHAMPION: Bear with me here. You get 12 checks, right, if you don`t make it into the postseason. You get these 12 checks.

And then you realize -- oh, wait, hold on -- or 16 checks, and you realize, wait, hold on. I don`t have any more money? You`re taking a check away? That`s a big check to take away.

CROSS: Yes. Yes.

CHAMPION: You`re talking about a lot of money.

So I think people will pay attention.

CROSS: Yes.

And a lot of these athletes, they`re taking care of families and distant cousins and relatives, like a lot of us are. Amen.

(LAUGHTER)

CROSS: So, I get that. That money matters.

I have to tell you, Jemele, or -- I -- Jemele -- your B.F., your bestie. I called you Jemele.

CHAMPION: That`s OK.

CROSS: Cari, I have to tell you, for weeks, everybody told me when I`m talking about the NFL -- or the NBA championships, a friend of mine said, just say it would be good to see CP3 get a chip.

I don`t have any sports terminology to say anymore. So, you have to like give me something before this segment is over.

CHAMPION: Yes, that`s right.

CROSS: But, before we get to that...

CHAMPION: Yes.

CROSS: ... it`s time to play our favorite game.

CHAMPION: OK.

CROSS: And that is "Who Won the Week?"

That is with me, Cari Champion, our resident champion, and our returning champion, LaTosha Brown, is back with us.

So, hmm, who do I start with first?

Cari, we will stick with you, since we have been talking to you. Tell us, who won the week?

CHAMPION: Naomi Osaka, clearly.

And I`m going to say that, because not only are we right at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, and she lit the cauldron, or the torch, if you will, for Japan, because she is representing her home country of Japan, but because, just a few days ago, she was on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" looking like a firecracker, right?

And then, just before that, I want to say she won the month because of her "New York Times" article, her op-ed, where she was clearly honest about what was going on with her mental health, and she made it so, so OK not to be OK.

CROSS: Yes.

CHAMPION: And she`s so young.

This little girl -- and not even little -- let me say this. This young lady...

CROSS: Yes.

CHAMPION: ... in her early 20s, she`s won four Grand Slams, and she`s changing the conversation in sports. And I applaud her.

CROSS: I love that. I`m going to talk more about her in that with your old pal Bomani Jones on my show "THE CROSS CONNECTION" tomorrow.

CHAMPION: Oh, good.

CROSS: So, I love that you picked Naomi Osaka. I have some choice words for somebody who`s been picking on her.

So, stay tuned.

(LAUGHTER)

CROSS: LaTosha Brown, I say you win the week every week. But I`m curious who you say won the week.

BROWN: Cliff Albright, my amazing partner who is a black man who does the work, who is an amazing organizer, who has literally been working nonstop tirelessly for years on the front lines, I mean, in terms of supporting black women.

He did a whole organizing of black men in support of black women. He has been in consistent in standing in that space. So, a shout-out to my partner and friend Cliff Albright. I think he won the week.

CROSS: I echo that. Shout out to you, Cliff Albright. We saw you out there yesterday standing up for us.

Quickly, because I have to be very quick.

My who won the week is for Pharrell Williams, the rapper and producer. He released that song "Entrepreneur" with Jay-Z last summer. Well, he put message to the music and has founded the nonprofit Black Ambition, which is an organization that funds start-ups. And they just released their new start-ups today. And 34 entrepreneurs received at least $15,000.

And there were two grand prize winners. One received a million dollars, and another HBCU received one. So, anyway, that`s my who won on the week.

Thank you so much, Cari Champion and LaTosha Brown.

That`s tonight`s REIDOUT. I`m way over. Sorry, you guys.

I will see you again tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern for "THE CROSS CONNECTION." My guests will include former impeachment managers Joaquin Castro and Stacey Plaskett.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.