Right wing mocks January police officer. GOP Representative Banks smears January officer. GOP Representative Jim Jordan could be called as a witness after admitting he talked to Trump on January 6. Officer Fanone shares bile Trump-supporter voicemail. GOP Representative Clyde defends statement saying insurrection looked like a normal tourist visit. DOJ says GOP Representative must defend himself. Senate votes to advance bipartisan infrastructure deal. This morning, Bishop William Barber joined by former Congressman Beto O`Rourke kicked off the Poor Peoples Campaign March for Democracy in Georgetown, Texas, demanding federal action on voting rights among other things. By pulling out of her Olympic competitions this week, Simone Biles considered the greatest gymnast of all time, did something the world isn`t used to seeing from athletes -- she focused on her own well- being.
TIFFANY CROSS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everybody. I`m Tiffany Cross in for Joy Reid.
I want you to take a look at the Senate floor right now. At this hour, what you`re seeing is the first procedural vote on a massive infrastructure bill that is taking place. It`s coming after the White House and a bipartisan group of senators said they reached a deal that would include more than $500 billion for infrastructure projects.
Now, it is expected to pass and we`ll have much more on this as soon as the voting ends, so don`t go anywhere.
But we begin tonight with the appalling right-wing reaction to the gut- wrenching testimony we heard yesterday. That hearing was a reminder that without the heroic efforts by the D.C. and Capitol Police that day, the insurrection of January 6th could have been far worse.
At the very least, the sworn testimony of those brave officers conveyed the life-threatening struggle they endured on the front lines as they tried to repeal a determined and violent mob of Trump supporters.
And that`s what makes the reaction from right-wing cable hosts and Republican members of Congress so incredibly shameful. Last night, numerous T.V. personalities on Fox News mocked the investigation. They downplayed the insurrection and ridiculed the officers who risked their lives that day.
Here is just a fraction of what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The whole thing turned into, in the eyes of many, nothing more than performance art.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Let`s see if we can impeach and smear and slander Donald Trump one more time.
INGRAHAM: The theatrics were intended to produce an emotional reaction, logic and facts be damned.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: An awful lot of members of Congress are emotionally fragile. Some seem unable to -- unstable really, some to the point they might qualify for federal disability on those grounds.
INGRAHAM: It was not a terrorist attack. It wasn`t 9/11. It wasn`t the worst thing that ever happened to America. It wasn`t an insurrection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROSS: So, apparently, this is what we can expect from the right-wing media for the duration of this investigation. They`re even willing to attack uniformed police. In fact, Laura Ingraham made fun of those officers by awarding them fake prizes, saying among other things that Officer Gonell exaggerated the threat he faced that day.
Then, of course, there`s Republican Congressman Jim Banks, who was rejected from the committee last week when he tried to undermine its mission. He is now smearing the officers who testified, effectively making up rumors to insult their intelligence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM BANKS (R-IN): Everything that you saw today was carefully scripted by Speaker Pelosi and her staff, even the statements that these police officers read. You can tell at times they didn`t write the statements. They were merely reading them as they stumbled over some of the words that they weren`t familiar with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROSS: You guys heard that, right? He`s attacking the officers who helped to save his life. And that`s the guy Kevin McCarthy wanted on this committee.
Banks is not only insulting the officers` ability to think for themselves but, unsurprisingly, he came equipped with zero evidence to support his baseless allegation. In a statement Speaker Pelosi`s office called his claim despicable, saying that neither the speaker nor her staff scripted their testimonies in any way.
In fact, many Republicans, like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and Congressman Jim Jordan don`t even know what they`re criticizing because they couldn`t be bothered to watch the hearing. Their continued attacks on the only bipartisan investigation of January 6th really reveals just how complicit they are in the events of that day. And in some cases, their bluster might be compensating for a guilty conscience.
Congressman Jordan, who was also rejected from the select committee last week, finally admitted that he spoke to Trump on the day of the insurrection. It comes after he`s weaseled out of the question multiple times. And this is another reason why Jordan should not be on the dais of that hearing room but instead he belongs on the witness stand. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did you talk to the former president that day?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I`ve talked to the former president umpteen times, thousands --
BAIER: I mean, on January 6th.
JORDAN: I mean countless times.
JORDAN: So I`ve talked to the president numerous times. I continue to talk to the president.
BAIER: No, I mean on January 6th, Congressman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On January 6th did you speak with him before, during or after the Capitol was attacked?
JORDAN: I`d have to go -- I spoke with him that day after, I think after. I don`t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROSS: With me now is Susan Del Percio, a Republican Strategist. And in a moment, we`ll be joined by Congressman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania. She was an impeachment manager earlier this year. So she will certainly join us momentarily.
But we begin with you, Susan. I want you -- a lot of people yesterday, they were basically accusing Officer Dunn of making up the story that people were hurling these racist slurs at him. I want you to take a listen to actual audio of a voice mail that Officer Fanone received. People wanted proof. Here is the proof.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a punk (BLEEP), you`re a lying (BLEEP). How about all the scummy black (BLEEP)scum for two years destroying our cities and burning them and stealing all that (BLEEP)out of their stores and everything. How about that, assaulting cops and killing people? How about that, you (BLEEP)? That was (BLEEP) Capitol. I wish they would have killed all of you scumbags because you -- you people are scum. They stole the election from Trump and you know that, you scumbag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROSS: This is insane. And I see Congresswoman Dean, you`re joining us as well. Susan, I`ll give you a chance to answer this question before I move on to Congresswoman Dean. Why is it -- I have to say, I wasn`t surprised when I heard the racist slurs. I wasn`t surprised when I heard Officer Dunn`s testimony. But I am curious, why do you think that there are so many people that support white supremacy, so many racists who find a home and feel comfortable within the Republican Party? Because this doesn`t begin with Trump and it certainly won`t end with them.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, but they found a place that they are literally embraced when it came to Donald Trump and they became part of the party that Donald Trump was part of. And, of course, it`s not a reach to think that they said those things to the officer.
And one other thing, you know, with all of this false hype from right-wing media, you know, how do we know their testimony was true? We know it was true because we saw it on television. We saw what was happening in real- time. There is video to prove the attacks on these officers` lives.
This is -- you know, you started off the segment with saying it`s shameful. These people have no shame that are making these attacks. These members of Congress, the Republican members of Congress who are making these attacks, they have no decency, they have no shame, they have no moral compass. They don`t belong representing our government. But there they are and all they have is this anger to hurl around.
CROSS: Congresswoman Dean, thanks for joining us. I know it`s a busy day on Capitol Hill. I want to bring you into the fold. What was most baffling to me was the fact that the GOP didn`t even bother to watch. They couldn`t be bothered to pay attention and still shamelessly defend the insurrectionists, essentially.
I want you to take a listen to this exchange between your fellow congressman, Jamie Raskin, and Congressman Andrew Clyde. This is a cut down version of a much longer exchange. But take a listen and we`ll get your reaction on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): I would like you to quote my exact statement, not your interpretation of my statement.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Okay.
CLYDE: For the record.
RASKIN: Watching the T.V. footage of those who entered the Capitol and walk through Statutory Hall show people in an orderly fashion, staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn`t know the T.V. footage was a video from January 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit. Those are your words.
CLYDE: And I stand by that exact statement as I said it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROSS: He stands by that exact statement. What he`s saying to people is do not believe your lying eyes, this didn`t happen. How can you negotiate or govern alongside people like that?
REP. MADELINE DEAN (D-PA): Well, you can`t. These people have abdicated their governing role. Instead, they are in support and tethered to the big lie and the former president who is a failed president who, let`s remember, but for Donald Trump, we would not have had an insurrection at the Capitol. He fed the lies for months and months and months and then after the election, when it was so clear that he had lost, he continued the lies. And he had elected officials here on Capitol Hill continuing those lies also.
So I`m very proud that the committee got started yesterday. I had the real privilege of meeting with the four officers last evening and of course watching some of their testimony. I thought the committee acted in a dignified way, which is all we ask, because what do we want? We want the truth. Who was involved? Who planned it? Who failed to respond after the insurrection happened?
Donald Trump invited them on a specific day. He spent more than $2 million from his campaign fund in order to promote this event. And, of course, people came and they came armed. They came with Kevlar vests.
And we saw Americans attacking Americans incited by a failed president of the United States. So, Mr. Clyde, I don`t know where he is in this delusion, but it is impossible to govern with someone like that.
CROSS: Well, we don`t know where he is in this delusion, but we do know that he`s not alone. And so Congressman Thompson, who`s chairing the committee, of course, has said that they`re going to start issuing subpoenas. We imagine that there will be some Republican members of Congress on that list, perhaps even Don Junior and Ivanka, we`ll wait and see.
I`ve got to say, Congresswoman, Democrats have a weak record on compelling these people to testify. You`re a former impeachment manager. What`s your advice to the committee on finding that pressure point and making sure these folks testify? And if they do lie to Congress, what are going to be the tangible consequences for that behavior?
DEAN: Well, I hope and I believe we will do our best to enforce subpoenas. Now, over family members, we know that Mr. Trump himself is not going to cooperate but he should still be subpoenaed. Anybody who has any factual knowledge as to the planning of this event, as to making sure the event happened.
And really importantly, this is what I kept asking as we prepared for impeachment 2, what did the president know in advance? What did he know at the time of the insurrection, and what did he do afterwards? For hours, he sent no help. He had his own vice president where they were saying hang Mike Pence. So we will get fact witnesses.
I do believe this is such an important, historic time of extraordinary violence to our democracy that people will come forward. Just the testimony we heard yesterday was powerful and valuable and nobody had to be subpoenaed.
It is shameful that the Republican members of the House and the Senate do not support our Capitol Police, our Metropolitan Police. They are literally the defunders of the police. It is they, 21 of them, who would not vote to honor our Capitol Police with the gold medal recognition. It was they who failed to pass the supplemental when we were told by General Honore of their deep needs.
So these are the defunders of the police. These are ones who are indecent, to use the word that you used, and also they do not want to get at the truth because, as Senator Toomey and Mr. Banks have said, the truth might not be good for them in another election cycle.
CROSS: Yes, you make a really good point. I`m filling in for Joy Reid tonight, but she said that, you know, Republicans are so caught up on defund the police, they won`t even defend the police and we`re certainly seeing that play out right now.
Susan, I want to bring you back into the fold because Congressman Mo Brooks, I can`t even fathom the audacity, who -- this man stood on the stage and helped to incite this violent insurrection. And he has the at the temerity to ask the DOJ to represent him, so which, of course, the DOJ said get out of here.
But I am curious, because my whole point about this conversation, I think we need to have an honest exchange about, is, again, this kind of rhetoric did not begin with Trump, this is long lived in the Republican Party.
So for folks like yourself who do not like Trump but you are still a member of the party, you just heard the congresswoman say you can`t govern alongside these folks. So we are coming up on midterms. When it comes to voting down ballot, Mo Brooks is running for Senate, Marco Rubio a Trump acolyte now. He is running for Senate. What is your advice to Republican voters? Should they report the Democrats on the ballot or should they keep empowering Republicans who have long traffic in racist rhetoric and policies?
DEL PERCIO: You should never vote for anyone who you think is morally corrupt or is against what your belief system is. Yes, I`m still part of the party, but I think even the congresswoman said there are -- she`s happy to work with the two Republicans on the committee, for example.
There are discussions and it is important that there are people who are sane who are left in this Republican Party because I do believe, eventually, hopefully, sooner rather than later, this will -- the party will burn down and have to be rebuilt. And it should be rebuilt with people on principles.
Yes, Tiffany, we could go back and forth on tax policy. Let`s have that conversation. But there is no room, not only in my party or in government, but in our society for people who are this vile.
CROSS: Yes. I could not agree with you more. Thank you so much, Congresswoman Madeleine Dean and Susie -- our Susan Del Percio. Sorry about that. Thanks for joining me this evening.
And don`t go anywhere at home. Because coming up, a key procedural vote is happening right now after a big bipartisan infrastructure deal was reached today. We will get a live update from Capitol Hill, so don`t go anywhere.
Plus, as new COVID cases surge, new masking guidance is being received just about as you would expect by the GOP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Which is it? Vaccines or masks? Do the vaccines work or they don`t work. Do the masks work or they don`t work? I`d like to know which it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROSS: Hard eye roll. Plus marchers send a message in Texas about our fragile democracy and the responsibility of our elected leaders to defend voting rights.
Two of the organizers, Bishop William Barber and former Congressman and Presidential Candidate Beto O`Rourke, will join me next.
And Simone Biles` decision to pull out of the Olympic competitions this week to focus on her own mental health triggered conservatives, of course, who could not wait to attack this legendary athlete.
THE REIDOUT continues right after this.
CROSS: More now on today`s other big story. Just moment ago, 17 Republicans joined all Democrats in voting to move forward on a procedural motion to debate a bipartisan infrastructure bill announced earlier today.
Now, agreement is just the first hurdle. What comes next is a treacherous marathon filled with land mines that may or may not lead to a final passage. Take, for example, what happened earlier today. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a key Democratic negotiator of the bipartisan deal, finally admitted that she does not support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation spending package in its current form.
Now, this could be a problem for the progressive members of the Democratic Party who were willing to sacrifice a number of issues in order to get the bipartisan infrastructure deal done. But this was only with the understanding that more would be addressed in the reconciliation package.
With me now is NBC News national political reporter Sahil Kapur.
Sahil, busy day on Capitol Hill.
Before we get into the politics of this, though, I think it`s important for the folks at home to understand, what exactly is in this bill?
SAHIL KAPUR, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely, Tiffany.
This is a big vote for the bill, a major breakthrough for a piece of legislation that senators have tried to move for quite a while now. And here`s what it includes. It`s $550 billion in new spending on infrastructure projects. That includes roads and bridges. That includes highways.
It includes public transit. There`s about $65 billion in here for new broadband. It includes water infrastructure as well. There`s a lot in here that every American from coast to coast will experience on some level if this passes. It has not passed the Senate yet.
This was just the first vote. But you had 17 Republicans voting with 50 out of the 50 Senate Democrats to move forward with this. That is not just the core five Republicans who are negotiating this bill. It`s not just moderates, like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. It is conservatives too. It is Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, who has self-styled himself as the Grim Reaper of progressive legislation, says this deal should move forward.
And he appears open to the final product here, so a big deal here for one of President Biden`s top priorities on a series of projects that have long had bipartisan support, Tiffany.
CROSS: Well, it`s a big deal for President Biden, but it seems to hit a sour note with some members of the progressive wing of the party.
I want you to show a picture or a tweet that AOC responded to when it came to the Sinema news, that she would not support the reconciliation. She says: "Good luck tanking your own party`s investment on child care, climate action and infrastructure, while presuming you will survive a three-vote House margin, especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a bipartisan accomplishment."
She wasn`t alone there. Congressman Peter DeFazio called this bill crap.
So, if you have that kind of sentiment in the progressive wing of the party, how will this impact the infrastructure bill overall?
KAPUR: This is going to face a real hurdle once it gets to the House, Tiffany.
And here`s how Democratic leaders are trying to finagle this. There is a $550 billion bipartisan deal which includes infrastructure. That`s surface transportation. That`s highways and roads and bridges, what I just talked to you about. There is a separate bill, this reconciliation bill.
That`s just a fancy term for this major safety net expansion that President Biden is looking at passing. That includes money for child care, eldercare, climate change investments. It includes health care spending that would expand Medicare benefits, to include dental and vision and hearing aids, and potentially also lower the eligibility age.
That second piece is the biggest priority of progressives. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on the side of the Progressive Caucus in saying that the House is not going to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal until the Senate passes both bills. That is her leverage. That is her way of saying that all 50 Democratic senators had better get on board with those other roughly $3 trillion in President Biden`s priorities before the House moves.
CROSS: Wow. Some of the issues you mentioned disproportionately impact communities of color, and we just want to note, as AOC said, there were no people of color a part of this negotiation. So we will certainly keep our eye on it.
Thank you so much, Sahil Kapur.
And up next: Conservatives are pushing back against the new mask guidance from the CDC, as unvaccinated COVID patients express their regrets.
We will be right back.
CROSS: Drama erupted on Capitol Hill today over the updated mask-wearing guidelines in the House, with GOP member Lauren Boebert reportedly throwing a mask back at a floor staffer, drama that will surely escalate as President Biden is expected to announce tomorrow that federal workers will be required to be vaccinated, or else submit to testing.
Now, to be crystal clear, these mandates and measures are designed to protect citizens from a deadly dangerous, and highly contagious variant, a virus that for some will ravage the body, killing to date more than four million people around the world.
So, imagine for a moment not being able to breathe. That`s what our health care workers on the COVID front line are seeing again and again every single day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCISCA, COVID PATIENT: I feel bad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bad?
FRANCISCA: I cannot -- yes. I cannot breathe good. I have shortness of breath.
I feel sorry about not getting a vaccine.
QUESTION: Why didn`t you get vaccinated, ma`am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was scared.
QUESTION: Do you regret not getting vaccinated a little sooner?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I regret it. Yes, I do. I felt like I was dying. I couldn`t do nothing for myself. I wouldn`t wish that on my worst enemy. It`s horrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROSS: Joining me now is Florida internist is Dr. Michelle Aquino.
Dr. Aquino, I`m so happy to have you here.
I mean, this footage is heartbreaking. And I just want to make an appeal to the people watching. If you can, take me inside the hospital and tell me about some of the worst cases, symptoms and conditions you have seen with patients who have refused to be vaccinated.
DR. MICHELLE AQUINO, FLORIDA INTERNIST: You know, Tiffany, right now, about 97 percent of all patients admitted to the hospital are unvaccinated. So, this is a very common occurrence.
I`m a hospitalist. I work in the hospital. I see COVID patients every day. I`m on COVID ward this week. So I`m taking care of just COVID patients right now.
My typical day or my typical visit with a COVID patient is, I go in. They`re very lonely, because you really are in the room alone isolated. And I go and I sit down. And, really, I do a lot of cheerleading: OK, you`re doing well. You`re still breathing. That`s a win. You got to look at it that way.
There`s a lot of crying. There`s a lot of frustration. People are scared. And they feel horrible. It is horrible, as you said just a little while ago, not being able to breathe. That is one of the worst feelings to have.
And so these people are feeling this day in and day out. And it`s just scary, very scary.
CROSS: It`s scary to watch and heartbreaking to watch.
I`m just curious, what are some of the reasons people have given you for not getting the vaccine?
AQUINO: You know, I want to say, when it comes to this issue of vaccine, I want to stress vaccine hesitancy. I really believe that the majority of people are vaccine-hesitant.
There are some anti-vaxxers. We don`t even discuss those, because those people will never change their minds. But I think the majority of people that have not been vaccinated right now is because they`re scared. They`re getting data from all these different areas, from Facebook, from an aunt, of an uncle, of a cousin who used to be a nurse 20 years ago, right?
And they`re hearing all these things through the grapevine. And they`re just scared. And so I think people are just having this sense of overwhelming data, don`t know who to trust, and just get immobile, and don`t vaccinate.
And then they end up in the hospital. And the first thing you -- they tell you is: "Doc, when can I get my vaccine? How soon can I get vaccinated? I understand now why I need to get vaccinated. How soon can I get this done?"
And so it`s -- you know, it`s frustrating, it`s really frustrating because I want to say, call your doctor, talk to your doctor, OK?
AQUINO: We will give you the information. Listen to the doctors.
Don`t listen to people that are non-medical. Don`t listen to politicians, seriously. Unless someone has a medical license, is a medical doctor, seeing patients actively, why are you listening to their opinion. I don`t get that.
CROSS: It baffles me.
Like, you`re not going to your mechanic saying, hey, I got this cough I can`t get rid of. So the fact that people are taking medical advice from social media memes is just -- you don`t really know what to do about it.
I think another thing too is, when you`re young, life is abstract, and you don`t really know the consequences. And there are a lot of people who think this is a disease that disproportionately impacts the old, the elderly.
Talk, if you will, to those folks.
So, that is completely false. I will say, for our first two peaks of Delta in the United States, yes, the majority of people were older, and they were sicker. And that`s who we would see in the hospital.
Right now, with the Delta variant, things have changed. And what I mean by that is, right now, we are seeing younger people, healthy younger people, being hospitalized with COVID. So Delta has been a game-changer in so many ways. But this is one of the ways we see that.
I have taken care of a healthy 19-year-old woman in the hospital. I had a 23-year-old otherwise healthy male. You`re seeing younger 20s, late teens, younger 20s in the hospital. And, again, these are healthy people. These are not people with a lot of medical issues.
And so, when you see that consistently, it`s not a one-time weird event. It`s consistently seeing younger people in the hospital. You think, hmm, I got to pay attention to this Delta. It`s really -- it`s changing the face of COVID right now and of who`s getting sick.
And so that is scary. That is very scary. And, also, I want to mention one of the hospitals that we have -- we have a five hospital system, four adult hospitals and one children`s hospital here in Jacksonville, Florida.
Our children`s hospital right now in the last few weeks has consistently had children, OK, consistently. And I can speak to, right now, I know there are at least three kids, three babies under the age of 5 that are right now hospitalized with COVID, otherwise healthy.
AQUINO: So you see this over and over and over with Delta.
Again, before, we really didn`t see these younger people. But now, with Delta, you`re seeing over and over younger, late teens, 20s, 30s, otherwise healthy, and the babies, as I`m mentioning it.
So, again, Delta is a game-changer for COVID. It really is not a kind COVID. It`s more of a COVID on steroids. And it`s just a nasty, nasty virus. And I, for one, as a doctor and as a patient, have a very healthy respect for it.
CROSS: Let me -- I want our viewers to take a listen to a COVID patient who was having struggles breathing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you have to go on the vent, or you get put in the hospital or ICU, and you get segregated from your family because they can`t get to you, that`s all the answer that you need on vaccination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROSS: So, I just want to make the point that you, as a doctor, and so many other front-line workers are putting your life on the line treating these folks.
And we`re way over time, but I just want you, if you can answer quickly, how you feel about that, when people -- this is all because people are making a decision to not get vaccinated. It`s endangering you as well.
AQUINO: Right. It endangers all of us.
And, earlier, you said you don`t listen to your mechanic, obviously, for medical advice. People are listening to their mechanic for medical advice right now, OK? And that`s wrong. You need to listen to the physicians. You need to listen to the doctors, the people that have skin in the game, OK?
I put a mask on every day. I am vaccinated. And I walk in a room with someone that has COVID. And I sit there, examine them, and I spend 20, 30 minutes in the room with them holding their hand, knowing that Delta can possibly infect me, because it`s more infectious.
But I sit there and I talk them through this process, because it`s lonely. It`s scary. And, honestly, right now, 97 percent of these hospitalizations could likely have been prevented if they had been vaccinated.
CROSS: Well, thank you for showing compassion and being on the front line. And if this interview even helps one person get the vaccine, it`s been well worth it.
So, thank you so much, Dr. Michelle Aquino. You will have to come back.
And still ahead: Voting rights groups are kicking off a four-day march, ending at the latest epicenter for voter suppression efforts. That is the Texas state capitol.
Two of those march organizers and participants, you see them right there, Bishop William Barber and Beto O`Rourke, join me next.
CROSS: This morning, Bishop William Barber joined by congressman -- former Congressman Beto O`Rourke kicked off the Poor Peoples Campaign March for Democracy in Georgetown, Texas, demanding federal action on voting rights among other things.
Over the next four days, the Selma-to-Montgomery style voting rights march will make its way 27 miles across the state to Austin for a rally on Saturday at the state Capitol. Now, the march comes three weeks into the Texas legislature`s special suppression session. Democratic legislators who left the state to block Republican voter suppression bills are still right here in the nation`s capital. Tomorrow, three of those Democrats will testify before the House Oversight Committee, making their case for the passage of federal voting rights legislation.
I`m joined now by former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke and Bishop William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People`s Campaign, a national call for moral revival.
Congressman, I want to start with you here. A recent story that just broke with Donald Trump. "The Washington Post" reports that Trump repeatedly called his attorney at the time, Rosen, to push for -- his attorney general, I could say, the acting attorney general, to push for probes of the 2020 election.
This was happening almost daily. I have to tell you one of the challenges, I think, people attach this story to the big lie and say that`s what fed into the voter suppression. A lot of us have been dealing with voter suppression a long time way before Trump.
What do you expect this march to accomplish to help further move this struggle along?
BETO O`ROURKE, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I think a big reason that this march is happening in Texas is that you`re absolutely right, voter suppression existed long before this current attempt. In fact, Texas has become over the years the toughest state in the nation in which to vote.
And as Bishop Barber has reminded us, that is connected to the fact that we still have a $7.25 an hour minimum wage, the fact that we are the least insured state in the United States of America, and the fact that so many millions of Texans were eligible to vote in 2020 and yet could not very often because of those voter suppression obstacles placed in the way.
And now, there are new elections bills pending in Texas that we`ve got to stop and we must pass the For the People Act in the United States Senate so that we roll back this voter suppression and affirmatively understand that every eligible American should have and will have the right to vote and participate in our democracy.
So you`re right, this preceded Trump, but we`ve got to get it right now because what Trump helped unleash during his presidency and the insurrection a little more than six months ago might very well consume this democracy unless we stand up and fight for it now.
CROSS: Bishop Barber, I want to turn to you here. Adam Serwer recently wrote a piece in "The Atlantic" where he essentially says Democratic lawmakers are betraying black voters and many in the Democratic party take black votes for granted because they believe that racism in the Republican Party gives those voters no viable alternative essentially.
Do you agree that Democrats are taking black voters for granted, especially because the White House has said, well, people will just out-organize voter suppression?
BISHOP WILLIAM BARBER, POOR PEOPLE`S CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: What I believe is that this is not Jim Crow, this is James Crow, esquire. When you look at these voter suppression bills across the country, they`re going after everybody -- black folk, white folk, black folk, Native, Asian people, the disabled, women. We`ve got to look at what this is.
Now, race is certainly there, but it`s also connected to power and economics because the same people that are suppressing the vote, suppress living wages, suppress health care. So what Democrats have to decide, you ran on this and said you were going to do this. You said you were going to deal with voter suppression and deal with living wages, those two things.
We`ve already seen the filibuster block living wages. Now we see it blocking voting rights. We must have end of the filibuster, passing the real John Lewis bill, the For the People Act that he wrote. The Voting Right Act restoration having written, when it`s written needs to be passed and $15 minimum wage.
Otherwise, we are abandoning the infrastructure of the democracy. And to get an infrastructure bill that fixes bridges but then you abandon the infrastructure of the democracy, which is voting, the bridge to all the other policies is backwards.
And lastly, Tiffany, to do an infrastructure bill in your last segment with all white people in the room --
BARBER: -- and then try to make the voting issue just a black issue, no, it`s not just a black issue, it`s an American issue. And that`s why you saw a diverse group of folk marching with us and on Saturday we`ll show up in Austin. We`re nationalizing Texas to say pass this federal protection.
CROSS: Congressman, Bishop Barber makes legitimate points. You know, it`s a diverse coalition of people fighting for this. But then I look at folks like Senator Manchin, who is a hold-up on ending the filibuster and who`s been -- you know, he and Sinema quite frankly have been hold-ups on some of those issues.
Manchin was in your neck of the woods for a fund-raiser hosted by some wealthy Republicans. You were in Congress. I mean, what should the expectation of the federal government be? And if you were given a private audience with Manchin, what would your advice to him be?
O`ROURKE: He wants to be on the right side of history. The people of the future are going to look back on those of us alive with the opportunity to do something about the erosion of voting rights and the very possible destruction of our democracy in 2021.
I want them to be proud of us and the people that we are and the fight that we`re waging and the victory that we will win if we stand together and use that political majority that Senator Manchin is part of in the United States Senate and pass, as Bishop Barber said, the full For the People Act, automatic voter registration, Election Day a national holiday, getting dark money out of our politics and ending gerrymandering with independent redistricting commissions. This is really popular, especially in West Virginia.
So let`s get this thing passed and ensure that we have a democracy for our kids, for our grandkids and the generations that follow. It only happens if Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema stick together with the other Senate Democrats and get this passed.
And, by the way, Tiffany, I think they could use a friendly push from the president. We saw in 1965, LBJ used every single political muscle in his being to get that across the line. We need that from President Biden right now.
CROSS: Yeah, and before I turn it back to Bishop Barber, let me just ask you, congressman, can the Democrats hold the House and the Senate if we leave the voter suppression tactics all across the country in place?
CROSS: No, succinct answer.
Bishop Barber, your thoughts. I mean, because essentially it`s folks like you who will be on the front lines leading some of these campaigns and, you know, voter engagement drives. Do you think that the Democrats can hold the power of the federal government if we leave things the status quo?
BARBER: Our question, can we even hold America? I mean, that`s how serious this is, because the reality is Biden only won by 40,000 cumulative votes in three states. He might have won popular by 7 million votes, but 40,000. No, you can`t litigate your way out of this. I know, and our -- it took us four years and by the end of the day, we had a unconstitutionally constituted legislature.
You can`t mobilize your way out of this. You have to have federal protection like they marched from Selma and Montgomery and said we need federal protection today. We have to have federal action.
Manchin has got to decide whether he`s going to run -- follow the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the U.S. Constitution. Now, he signed as a co-signer on this bill, but he did it when McConnell was in office. He knew it wouldn`t come to the floor. So, 79 percent of West Virginians are against what he did, 81 percent of Democrats in West Virginia, we marched on his office black and white together from the hood to the holler, and they said, wait a minute, you`re wrong on this. We got arrested at Sinema`s office.
It makes absolutely no sense that Democrats are doing this. And the president needs to come to Texas --
BARBER: -- come to Arizona, come to West Virginia and then go to the well of the Congress like LBJ, Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and FDR and make the decision.
CROSS: Absolutely. All right. Well, we are way out of time, but thank you so much, Congressman Beto O`Rourke and Bishop William barber for all the work you`re doing and for joining me tonight.
Up next, the right`s revolting attack on Olympian Simone Biles and her choice to step out of the competition. Plus, how she`s shining a critically important spotlight on mental health.
THE REIDOUT continues right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIMONE BILES, GYMNAST, TEAM USA: I say put mental health first because if you don`t, then you are not going to enjoy your sport and you are not going to succeed as much as you want to. So, it`s okay sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROSS: By pulling out of her Olympic competitions this week, Simone Biles considered the greatest gymnast of all time did something the world isn`t used to seeing from athletes. She focused on her own wellbeing.
As she told reporters, athletes are human, too.
But our society really isn`t used to seeing athletes, particularly black female athletes, as fully human. Some see them as pawns for their entertainment, as bodies that exist for the sole purpose of winning.
So, predictably, Biles faced horrific backlash from some on the right who have never been great at anything. This range from Charlie Kirk calling her a selfish sociopath, to Piers Morgan who couldn`t even handle disagreement on his own show, before running off the stage, he diminished her experience by saying she quit because she wasn`t having fun.
Zero concern for the fact that if Biles wasn`t in the right head space as she phrased it, she could have been seriously injured.
I`m joined by Dr. Uche Blackstock, physician and CEO of Advancing Health Equity.
Dr. Blackstock, so happy to have you with me this evening.
DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK, ADVANCING HEALTH EQUITY, FOUNDER & CEO: Thank you.
CROSS: And I think this is an important conversation. So thank you for being here.
I want to start out with this excellent article in "The Washington Post" that really talked about when, you know, the black woman sometimes being great is just not enough. The quote that struck me the most by Candace Buckner says you are not just representing you, you are representing a community. People who are criticizing her are great at nothing, have -- you know, it`s kind of ridiculous.
They think when she pulls on her cape it can choke. It`s one that -- exceptional black women have to deal with it all the time.
What does it say about how athletes are treated, particularly black women?
BLACKSTOCK: Right. So thank you so much for having me on, Tiffany.
So as we know and as you mentioned, black women athletes really have to deal with both racism and sexism. They are already under a microscope. I think what Simone did, what she really pushed back and rejected, this idea of the strong black superwoman, right? And saying that I`m human. I am not a superwoman. I need to take a break for my mental health.
And by doing that she changed the rules. She changed the game and set up boundaries for herself, which I think is something we are going to see more of from this generation of athletes.
CROSS: You know, and we shouldn`t forget she is also a survivor of sexual assault and still showed up after that to compete. I think it`s important to see people like Naomi Osaka prioritize her mental health and now we see Simone Biles. It`s something to be said about normalizing rest, normalizing -- this is what Dr. Cristina Greer has used that quote, normalizing, prioritizing yourself.
How do you think their decision will change the national conversation around everybody, not just black women, but everybody prioritizing their own mental health?
BLACKSTOCK: Well, I think the message that they are sending is both powerful and empowering. I think for too long, as you mentioned, mental illness has been stigmatized, especially the black community. They are talking openly about taking medications, about needing to take mental health breaks, about doing, you know, what`s right for themselves and prioritizing their own mental health, which is a medical issue.
You know, we forget that. Just because you can`t see the illness, because it`s not physical, it`s definitely still there. And by doing that, these women are creating almost their own counter space. We talk about how black women need space to become undone.
Well, they are creating their counter spaces by creating these boundaries between what is required and expected of them and what they want.
CROSS: Particularly when you are carrying -- in a higher community, you know? Not just an individual but the whole community is uplifting you.
This a question I have that I think a lot of people are experiencing. We collectively experienced something traumatic during COVID, during the social justice movement, the Black Lives Matter marches, seeing people who look like you killed every day and even people who are outside the community, just people, like I said, battling mental health issues.
For folks who are struggling, now, they may not be suicidal, they may just be having trouble managing life and maybe they don`t have insurance, but they need something, what is your advice to folks who are a bit challenged?
BLACKSTOCK: Right. And I am going to say that our systems are not set up to protect our most vulnerable. And so we need to do a better job of looking out for each other to make sure -- ensure that those resources are there. There are a number of hotlines out there for people who call if they are feeling depressed or suicidal, and, hopefully, we can get that information to them.
But I think that this period, especially because we are still in crisis, we are still in the middle of a pandemic, and some of us are having more difficult experiences than others. But it really emphasizes that we need those resources and that safety net out there to help people. We have seen that the rate of depression and suicidal ideation among especially young black people has increased throughout this pandemic and we need to take care of each other.
So there are resources out there. There are not enough. There are not enough psychologists and therapists of color. So I think what this current pandemic is exposing is the deep cracks and fissures in the system and we need to do a better job of taking care of each other.
CROSS: Yeah, I couldn`t agree more. I know there is a popular phrase that we say often, black girl magic. I have to tell people, just because we`re magic does not mean we are not real and have real problems.
CROSS: So, a really good point to make. Thank so much, Dr. Uche Blackstock. That was an amazing interview and great insight you provided for us.
All right. That`s tonight`s REIDIOUT.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.