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Senate Passes Biden's $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill Along Party Lines; First Known Trump Political Appointee Charged In Capitol Riot; Albany Times Union Calls On Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) To Resign Amid Multiple Crises; Texas Governor Lifts Mask Mandate Despite Health Officials' Warnings; W. Kamal Bell Helps Combat Vaccine Misinformation And Hesitancy; House Passes Bill To Counter GOP-Led Efforts To Restrict Voter Access. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 6, 2021 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

It's breaking news impacting millions of worried American households and small businesses. Help, and I'm talking about money, is coming. The Senate pulled an all-nighter to finally pass President Biden's massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

A huge part of that going straight to individual bank accounts, stimulus checks, $1,400 per person including children, meaning if you're a family of four, making $150,000 or less each year, each parent will receive a $1,400 check, so $2,800, plus $1,400 per child for a total of $5,600. That's for a family of four.

The Senate stayed in session throughout the night. They were working on this for more than 24 hours negotiating last-minute demands and some concessions, eventually voting it through straight down through party lines, 50 to 49, not a single Republican senator in attendance voted for this bill, no Democratic senator voted against it.

President Biden spoke shortly after the bill passed. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I promised the American people that help is on the way. Today, I can say, we've taken one more giant step for and delivering on that promise, so help is on the way.

This plan will get checks out the doors starting this month to the American people who so desperately need the help. Many who were lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling wondering, will I lose my job if I haven't already, will I lose my insurance, will I lose my home?

Over 85 percent of American households will get direct payments of $1,400 per person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Our Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean is on Capitol Hill. Jessica, this is not a done deal just yet. So what happens now and when will Americans see the money?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, what happens now is that this bill is going to go back to the House. We know that the vote there has been set for Tuesday. That's expected to pass. They're going to vote on the changes that were made from their original bill and that's about who is eligible for these $1,400 checks, unemployment changes to unemployment benefits and then also too, remember, the $15 an hour minimum wage was stricken from the bill.

So those will come out. The House will vote on it. It is likely to pass and then go to President Biden's desk. They are looking at a deadline of March 14th. That's when unemployment benefits run out. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he anticipates the president will be signing bill far before we get to the March 14th deadline.

As for when people can start to see these checks, the president pledging that some families will begin to see these checks this month. So this is going to move quite quickly once it makes its way to the House then to President Biden's desk, and the that money begins to be distributed.

This is a massive bill. You mentioned the price tag, $1.9 trillion. What is interesting, that's what President Biden originally asked for. It is ultimately what he is going to get, $1.9 trillion. It is in addition to those direct payments that are in there. It's also giving money to small businesses, to schools, to get them reopened.

So there's so much in this, Ana, and so now, it will head over to the House and, again, we expect to see this going rather quickly from here on out. Ana?

CABRERA: Okay, Jessica Dean, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Right after the Senate passed this bill, President Biden was congratulated by the man he used to work for. Former President Obama tweeting, elections matter and we're seeing why. Congratulations to the Biden administration and to the American people on a COVID relief bill that will improve the lives of families all across the country.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois.

Congressman, is this the message Democrats should be stressing? Yes, maybe no Republicans voted for this but because Democrats were in power, Americans are going to get these checks in the mail.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Absolutely. And I'll say, it's bipartisan at least in this extent. A lot of Republican American citizens support it. It's got support somewhere between 65 percent and 70 percent of the American people. So I'll take that count of bipartisan support. And the realization that the president is going to sign the bill this week, that's enough for me.

CABRERA: Congressman, you are a co-sponsor of the Raise the Wage Act but argued for a $15 minimum wage. So I'm curious your thinking with Senate Democrats and one independent in the Senate that caucuses with Democrats, including Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat who gave a big thumbs down when the amendment for raising minimum wage came up, how big of an issue is that?

QUIGLEY: It's a disappointment but, look, this is a good day. The president, overall, asked for $1.9 trillion and got $1.9 trillion. I do believe there's room to gain on the minimum wage.

[17:05:01]

I'd like to still think we get the 15. We absolutely should and must. But I do think there will be discussions on a bipartisan basis to advance that to some level in the near future.

CABRERA: Congressman, stay with us for a second, because we're also learning a political appointee from the Trump administration has been arrested for taking part in the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Federico Klein, a State Department aide at the time of the riot, with a top secret level security clearance, has been criminally charged for pushing police officers and entering the Capitol that day. Prosecutors presented images allegedly showing Klein using a police riot shield to wedge open an entrance for rioters.

Imagine that, a member of the State Department helping the mob. And the concern is that there are other insiders who, even if they didn't storm the barricades, gave aid and comfort and encouragement to those who would and did and might do it again. Listen to what Colorado Democratic Congressman Jason Crow told Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): When I sit back and think about this, you know, what's really sad is that I actually wouldn't be surprised if members of the Congress were involved and complicit in some of the riots.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You really wouldn't?

CROW: I wouldn't be, which is a sad testament to the state of affairs in Congress right now, to be honest with you, and the state of affairs in our politics that there are some depraved people that serve in that chamber, to this day, incite violence and further conspiracy theories and show zero remorse for what happened on January 6th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: It's all the more chilling now that we're getting a look at the more than 1,900-page report that Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has put out. It documents the social media postings of Republican members who voted to overturn the election results. 93 pages are devoted to one-time QAnon supporter Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was posting Facebook videos saying, quote, the only way you get your freedoms back is it's earned with the price of blood.

Another 122 pages are dedicated to posting Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, who you may remember from this speech right before the riot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Today is the day American patriots are taking down names and kicking ass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: But 122 pages on the books is nothing compared to the 176 pages for Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar. On January 3rd, just three days before the riot, tweeted, patriots, the time is now. Hold the line. And sedition and treason for stealing votes is appropriate.

So, Congressman Quigley, you sit on the House Intelligence Committee. Do you expect this investigation to show members of Congress were complicit in helping the rioters?

QUIGLEY: Well, I wouldn't be surprised at all. It's actually a scary time to be there just because in the past, we knew where the threat was. The threat was from outside. After 9/11, we were worried about terrorist threats from other countries. Now, we are worried about it from a domestic basis with cheerleaders and people I sit with in Congress encouraging them, inciting them beforehand.

Now, I'm going to reserve judgment as to individuals' involvement into planning or moving forward this incitement beyond just encouraging them and I understand the FBI is doing that work. Would I be surprised? No. The investigation will continue.

And I do think there will be a 9/11-type commission. My committee and I will be working on the intelligence failures and then so much work as we see that (INAUDIBLE) and instructs us that we need to look at.

CABRERA: What's your reaction in learning a Trump state department official with a top secret level security clearance was charged with attacking police in this riot?

QUIGLEY: How can anyone be surprised when the president has, for months, encouraged this? After the November election, he was inciting. So how can anyone be surprised that his own staff wouldn't take this to heart, right?

I walked around the Capitol on the morning of the 6th and I could see the crowds, I could hear what they were saying, I got back in my office, I saw what the president said and I said, uh-oh, here they come. And it's obviously in that moment you knew he was inciting them.

So, obviously, people closest to them, the people who worked for the administration, for us, was likely to be or more likely to be incited as the crowd itself.

CABRERA: The New York Times is reporting that the FBI found a member of the far-right nationalist Proud Boys was in communication with a person associated with the White House in the days just before the January 6th assault on the Capitol, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation.

[17:10:07]

What big questions do you have?

QUIGLEY: Who else is involved, who knew. Look, there's a lot of information to sort through. It's going to take some time but I do believe we need to make sure they have the resource and access to this.

One of the things I am concerned about is the White House, as it was leaving, destroyed evidence along these lines. It's a reason we have to change some of the laws to protect them. But I think we need to make sure that all of the intelligence community and the law enforcement communities have the resources they need.

At some point, I would like to think these people will start talking and about that they included those above them who were involved in this. It is a great concern.

CABRERA: I want you to listen to what Tucker Carlson said last night about the threat from QAnon believers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: You ever notice how all the scary internet conspiracy theorists, radical QAnon people, when you actually see them on camera or jail cells, as a lot of them now are? Maybe they're kind of confused, maybe they got the wrong ideas but they're all kind of gentle people.

They all kind of waving the American flags, they like the country, they're not torching Wendy's. They're not looting retail stores. They're not shooting cops. No, that's not them. It's the other people doing that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: They're just gentle people waving American flags, not scary criminals, he says.

QUIGLEY: Having been in the room where it happened, I'd remind him that there are three police officers dead and more than 100 injured and many others as well, a total of five were dead. And without the heroism of these police and, frankly, blind luck, it would have been far worse.

I would say, Tucker, you can rewrite history all you want and the facts are still there and the American people can see them anytime they turn on T.V. and see these horrible highlights that took place. And the fact that threat is still out there. And by saying it and talking about in this vein, he's basically giving them carte blanche to say this sort of behavior was okay. He's going to look at it differently after the fact. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: He said it's a scary time to be a Congress member. Do you fear personally for your safety?

QUIGLEY: I guess I can't focus on myself when I'm worried about my colleagues and worried about staff that work there, and people who just travel to the Hill. I think we need to take care of them first. Report that came out today, this week is important. It's instructive. We know what we have to do. The fact, when I was sitting in that room, when the threat was very obvious, I heard someone say, when does the cavalry get here?

We know we need a larger force with better training, better equipment, a fast response force, a fence that's retractable and we need help in the districts as well. We have to understand that members can't be left alone, given the kinds of threats that we saw there and that are taking place on an ongoing basis.

So, look, the reports are pretty instructive of what we have to do and up to us to make sure it's implemented.

CABRERA: And you're referencing the report that's supposed to be presented, I believe, on Monday from General Honore, who is taking a look at some of the failures when it came to security. Congressman Mike Quigley, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

QUIGLEY: Thank you, you too.

CABRERA: The calls for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign are growing this hour. What are Cuomo's options? The official who helped President Bill Clinton navigate the Monica Lewinsky situation joins us next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:00]

CABRERA: We have this just in. The Albany Times Union, the paper that once endorsed New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, is now calling on him to resign as two separate crises surrounding him continue to deepen.

In a new opinion piece, the editors write, New York still matters. It's fourth largest state and the financial center of the world. It's birthplace of women's rights and LGBT rights. It embodies the American melting pot with its wealth, its legacy and its diversity come a special responsibility to stand as a moral voice in America. Mr. Cuomo can no longer be that voice.

This all comes as one of the women accusing Governor Cuomo of sexual harassment, Charlotte Bennett, is speaking out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLOTTE BENNETT, GOV. ANDREW CUOMO ACCUSER: He is a textbook abuser. He lets his temper and his anger rule the office but he was very sweet to me for a year, in the hopes that maybe one day, when he came on to me, I would think we were friends or that it was appropriate or that it was okay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joe Lockhart was Press Secretary under President Clinton during his scandal involving Monica Lewisnky, and Nancy Erika Smith is a civil rights attorney. Great to have both of you for this conversation.

Joe, let me start with you. What lesson did you maybe take away from the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal that would shape how you would advise Governor Cuomo today?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think a couple. One of the first and most important is he's got to take responsibility. It's not they misunderstood or it's their fault. It's this is my fault. This is my mistake. I have done this and now I have to seek forgiveness.

The second thing is, I think this is, in a strange way, an opportunity for Governor Cuomo to educate people on what sexual harassment really is. It's not about sex. It's about abusing power. Whatever his motives were, he abused the power of the governorship of New York and that's what he has to come clean on.

[17:20:00]

Until he does that, I think he'll just see many more editorials like the one you just read from.

CABRERA: When you compare what happened with Clinton to what happened right now with Cuomo, how he is responding versus how Clinton is responding, it's a different time during the Clinton administration. Given the Me Too movement and where the country is today, do you believe Cuomo can survive this?

LOCKHART: Well, I think if he comes clean and talks about what he did wrong and is specific about it and genuine, and then pledges to make the workplace a more hospitable place, a safer place for women.

I mean, one of the big problems here is that if you're a manager at a convenience store or a car dealership and you see a governor of New York getting away with this, well, of course you think you can get away with it. And, of course, you would think that, oh, this isn't wrong. He's got to make clear that this is wrong, that it was his mistake and it was his abuse of power and not some sort of sad tale about others misunderstanding.

CABRERA: Nancy, here is what else Charlotte Bennett told CBS about what she wants from Governor Cuomo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENNETT: I think he should start telling the truth. I'm really confident in this investigation. But if this investigation finds he conducted himself this way, which he absolutely has because I have contemporaneous evidence, he should step down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Nancy, she says she has contemporaneous evidence to back up her story. What kind of evidence could that be?

NANCY ERIKA SMITH, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY, SMITH MULLIN: Well, it may be she told his chief of staff immediately about the worst behavior, which was the questions about are, you monogamous and you -- are you interested in sex with older men? He's 63, she's 25. She may have emails.

In New York, it's perfectly legal to tape recorded conversation since she's described now that his predatory, overly friendly behavior went on for a while, maybe she tape recorded him, but emails to his chief of staff. And then we know she is who got transferred and we know there was no investigation.

So disagree, he may survive it but he shouldn't. It would be horrible if he survives it because that's just telling us all that it doesn't matter, sexual harassment doesn't matter. The most powerful people can claim that they didn't know hugging and kissing subordinate women less than half your age without their consent is wrong. It's not cultural. We've known it's wrong. I've been a lawyer for 40 years, it's been wrong.

Ms. Boylan, he kissed her on the lips. He said he never inappropriately touched somebody. Does that mean it's inappropriate for your boss to kiss you on the lips when you don't want to, to invite you to play strip poker, as he did with Ms. Boylan?

Two women lost their jobs that meant a lot to them as a result of his behavior and the hostile work environment for all women knowing about that, witnessing it, and even knowing now that his aides participated. His aides participated with him in rating women's looks, writing to Ms. Boylan, we've decided that you're the better-looking sister.

And this is a hostile work environment. And if he didn't know this was wrong until now, he should have never been governor.

CABRERA: Well, you just -- again, think about the timing, the Me Too movement. That should have been a wake-up call about being more aware of how your actions are perceived, even if the intent wasn't as such.

Let me play what we have heard from the governor in response to these allegations. This is in part of what he said this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and, frankly, I am embarrassed by it, and that's not easy to say. But that's the truth.

I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:25:01]

CABRERA: Joe, you mentioned earlier what you thought he should say, how the governor's office should handle this. Was that lacking or what would you say to the governor right now about how what he's already conveyed?

LOCKHART: I think he was trying there to pick his crime and plead innocent, which is I never touched anyone. That's not the issue. And if he can't see what the real issue, which is harassment is about abuse of power, then he should resign.

If he can see that, and he can actually do something positive, maybe he should stay. That's up to the people of New York, but that -- even that apology comes up short because it almost makes it like it's shared responsibility between him and others when it is his alone.

CABRERA: How would you compare what he has done in his response compared to how Clinton responded to the allegations from Monica Lewinsky?

LOCKHART: Well, I mean, as the world knows, at first, he denied it, but when he got up and spoke to the nation, he took full responsibility for it. He talked about hurting his family. He talked about hurting Ms. Lewinsky. And he took responsibility. He sought forgiveness. He continued to do his job, but he sort of threw himself on the altar asking the American public to try to forgive him.

But there was no kind of explanation at the end that somehow this was not his fault.

CABRERA: And I don't want to just make this about Governor Cuomo. Here is a reminder of what Monica Lewinsky endured publicly during the Clinton situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The category tonight, the possible first lines for Monica Lewinsky's new book. You all know the drill. We've been through this before.

I knew someday I'd go down in history, number five. Number two, by the time you read this, I'll be on to my next president. And another one possible first lines for Monica Lewinsky's new book, me and my big mouth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Nancy, how does that treatment compare to that of Cuomo's accusers today?

SMITH: Well, let's remember that Ms. Lewinsky didn't come forward on her own. She was forced to come forward by a so-called friend who secretly tape recorded her and the Starr report, which was certainly politically motivated.

In this case, these women are still extremely brave. As I said, two have already lost their jobs. They had to leave their jobs because of this. So, yes, I agree with Joe. We should stop blaming the women. Women don't lie about this stuff because of what we see happening to women. Women don't misinterpret it. And women don't lack a sense of humor. These are not jokes, as Mr. Cuomo also said earlier.

So I think that if he really did get it, if he really, really got it, he would resign because it would finally say to women in this country, you don't deserve to be treated like this in any workplace by any man. As you said, Ana, whether you work at McDonald's or whether you work for the governor of New York, nobody deserves to work in a hostile work environment like this and we're sick of it. And if he really got it, he would voluntarily resign and probably go down as setting best example for the future for women.

CABRERA: Nancy Erika Smith and Joe Lockhart, thanks so much for the conversation.

Texas is gutting its coronavirus restrictions, no more capacity limits, no more masks, even as the state reports one of the highest averages of new cases and one of the lowest vaccination rates. An ICU nurse in Austin is going to join us right after this. Her message for the Texas governor, next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:33:36]

CABRERA: Now to Texas. The governor there ending the state's mask mandate. And in just a few days, any type of business whatsoever would be allowed to completely open, 100 percent, with no capacity limits at all.

Some business owners support this move.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think mask wearing has kept the pandemic from getting worse?

MISSY HERRING, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: No. Everybody I know who's been sick, they wore their masks faithfully. Faithfully. I've never worn the mask. I don't have people coming in my store with the mask. I'm not sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I can confidently tell you doctors and scientists would disagree.

I am going to talk to Brittany Smart, a nurse in an intensive care unit in Austin, Texas. Brittany, first, thank you for all you do.

Your governor there says, take off the mask if you want to, open your business if you want to. He says it's time.

What's your response to the governor?

BRITTANY SMART, ICU NURSE: I don't think it's quite time. I think we're almost there. Maybe just give everyone the opportunity who wants to get vaccinated first. Maybe hold off just a little bit longer. I don't think it's quite time.

CABRERA: Why don't you think it's time?

SMART: Because not everyone's been vaccinated who want to get vaccinated, first.

And, second, we're about to have spring break and we removed masks at the same time. I think it's going to be too much too fast.

[17:35:02]

I understand the need to open businesses and I understand our economy, we've got to get it going again. But I don't understand why we can't do that with masks in place.

I think we're just opening the flood gates and hospitals are going to be overwhelmed again.

CABRERA: Talk to us more about your fear. You treat COVID patients every day. What is your biggest concern with the governor's announcement and what it could mean for you and your colleagues?

SMART: We're tired, like I said. What this means for us is, I think people forget we have families ourselves. You know, we have lives. We want to get back to normal.

Right now, I'm a crisis nurse. This is what I do, is COVID. I spent a lot of time away from my family and I miss my family very much, too,.

And for us, this means opening the flood gates. It means we're going to be overwhelmed again. We're all going to be -- normal nurses work three or 12-hour shifts.

Most hospitals make it mandatory we work five and some do six. For me and a bunch of my friends, we've had to do seven shifts a week for a while. We're tired.

And I think pulling off the mask and opening everything here at spring break, we're going to be back in the same mess we were in before.

CABRERA: Your governor says, and I hope, Texans have mastered the daily habits to avoid getting COVID.

But right now, Texas is reporting one of the highest seven-day averages of new cases. It's also the second highest seven-day average in new COVID deaths only behind California.

What do you make of the timing of the governor's decision?

SMART: Not a good time at all. And I think, right here, before spring, break when people are going to start traveling, kids are going to be out of school, people do want to travel.

I want to travel myself. But I think it's going to be too much all at once. I think the timing is just pretty spot-on to have a major, major mess on our hands again.

CABRERA: Who should Texans listen to, you or the governor?

SMART: You know, I respect my governor. I love the state of Texas. I'm a third-generation Texan.

I think, right now, when it comes down to that decision, I just can't say that you should listen to me over him.

It's just whenever it comes down to the mask mandate, I think it would be wise if everyone kind of kept it on for a little bit longer.

(CROSSTALK)

SMART: And just respected one another.

CABRERA: Absolutely.

Thank you so much for taking time to speak with us. And thank you for all you do. Sending you strength. I know it's been a long road.

Thank you.

We have new pictures in now from Idaho. People there burning face masks. And protests of COVID-19 restrictions. At least 24 burn sites were set up throughout the state as part of a grassroots movement.

The group behind this demonstration said, it has the support of two local congresswomen. We should note, Idaho currently has the highest positivity rate in the U.S., at 24 percent right now.

Up next, could comedy help convince people to get vaccinated?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": Like a lot of people, I like to get my medical information from bizarre dark corners of the Internet that haven't been vetted.

Is that a good idea?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, dear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please do not continue to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: W. Kamau Bell thinks so. He'll join us with the new effort next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:42:44]

CABRERA: Using comedy to get serious about coronavirus vaccines. CNN's W. Kamau Bell is heading up a new campaign aimed at combating misinformation about the vaccine among African-Americans.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BELL: Like a lot of people, I like to get my medical information from bizarre dark corners of the Internet that haven't been vetted. Is that a good idea?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, dear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, do not continue to do is that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is definitely not a good idea.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately, on the Internet, pretty much anyone can post anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are no microchips. There's no stealing of your DNA. Now, none of that is happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: W. Kamau Bell, the host of CNN's "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," is with us now.

Got to love that.

Kamau, where did you get this idea?

BELL: I mean, I was really brought into this idea by Dr. Boyd here in the bay area looking for a way to connect with black folks who were suspicious or nervous about the COVID-19 vaccine.

And luckily thought I was the perfect person to be funny and serious at the same time, so.

CABRERA: And it works very well. What kind of response have you gotten?

BELL: It's great. I mean, I've actually heard from people, a doctor on Twitter, who said that there was a patient in the hospital who was leaving and checking out and they offered them the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. And the patient was nervous about it and showed the five- minute video and walked out with the vaccine.

So, you know, you say, if it changes one person, it makes a big difference. But this is the thing where it seems like a success to me.

CABRERA: I love that. I love that.

I want to play another clip from the PSA for our viewers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BELL: Here's a question from Everybody's Uncle. And since I'm an uncle, it's a question for me, too. Are the drug companies trying to get rich off of this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The drug companies will certainly get rich.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, the drug companies are always trying to get rich but that's not the point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is really how a lot of our innovation happens. That is why the drug companies will spend millions upon millions in research.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Why is it important to have open honest conversations about the vaccines?

[17:45:58]

BELL: Black people have a right to be suspicious about America says, a free thing, come take it. Our history is not that we can trust the government or even the medical industry. A lot of people connect this to the Tuskegee experiment.

But as event as recently is a doctor, named Susan Moore, who died with COVID, in large part because the hospital she was working in wouldn't believe her, a medical doctor.

Black people are right to be suspicious. And therefore, this campaign is like, if we have black medical providers talking about it, maybe it will help black people be less suspicious.

And honestly and openly, like that question: Will the drug companies get rich? Yes, they will get rich. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take the vaccine.

CABRERA: Doesn't mean it's not good for you, too.

Comedian and actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, is known to audiences as Borat. He revealed his fictional coronavirus side hutches, selling vaccines to celebrities during a segment on Jimmy Kimmel.

Let's watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SACHA BARON COHEN, COMEDIAN: It was important to make this film. And I wanted to expose the hypocrisy of those using power to get ahead, criminality.

What? Hey, man. What's up?

Yes, got some AstraZeneca, got some Pfizer.

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Tom? Which one, Hanks or Harland (ph)?

(LAUGHTER)

COHEN: Or Cruise?

KIMMEL: Oh, it's Tom Cruise.

COHEN: You don't need me, mate. You're old enough to get it legally.

(LAUGHTER)

COHEN: No, I thought they were immune.

KIMMEL: Wait. Hold it. Can't I -- I don't mean to pry but are you selling vaccines?

COHEN: Stay out of this, Kimmel.

(LAUGHTER)

COHEN: What?

Look at that freak face of yours. There's no vaccine for broken legs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I need to laugh more these days.

How important do you think comedy is in the age of COVID right now?

BELL: Comedy is always important. With what the country has been through in the last year or so, comedy has been at the forefront of helping people deal with it.

But especially with issues like this. And Sacha Baron Cohen has been very outspoken about political issues on Facebook.

It's important for comics who have done the research and know the truth get out there and make this information easier to go down.

Not all comics are supposed to do this or have to do this. Do I wish I was coming to it instead of doing this? Maybe a little bit. But this is important, too. CABRERA: I want to turn to voting because, this week, the House passed

the For the People Act, which would protect and expand voting rights and counter some state-level Republican efforts to restrict voting access.

Let me read you a statement from former first lady, Michelle Obama. She says, "While we celebrate these historic gains, unfortunately, too many leaders are working to reverse that progress and make it harder for people with every right to vote to cast a ballot."

How important is legislation like this that passed in the House?? And are you optimistic it's going to pass the Senate and actually become law?

BELL: These days, I'm not optimistic about much in America without people doing the work. A lot of activists and online organizers and people on the ground.

When you think about the COVID legislation that passed, that happened, in large part, because of Georgia, because of Warnock and Ossoff, who won because of black-women-led projects who worked to register new voters in Georgia.

I'm only optimistic if the activists get out there.

But we should be aware the GOP cannot win in the marketplace of ideas in the country. They have to win in the back alleys of misinformation, lies and restricting voter rights.

So they're going to work pretty hard to do that. And we should know that. And those on the good side of history need to work harder than they're working to stem the tide of that.

So am I optimistic? Something is going to pass but it's never going to be enough. With the minimum wage going down, not being a part of that, it's not going to be enough. There's still much work to do.

CABRERA: W. Kamau Bell, thank you for being with us today. Good to see you.

BELL: Thank you.

CABRERA: The pope is on the first-ever papal visit to Iraq. More on his trip next.

[17:50:11]

And Stanley Tucci eats and drinks his way to the second-biggest city in Italy. Explore Milan on the new CNN original series, "STANLEY TUCCI, SEARCHING FOR ITALY." That's tomorrow night at 9:00, right here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Condemning violence, extremism and calling for cooperation between religions. Right now, Pope Francis is on the first-ever papal visit to Iraq. Today he met with a prominent Shia Muslim clerk, the grant ayatollah. Shortly after that meeting, Iraq's prime minister named March 6th a national day of tolerance and coexistence.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the "CNN Hero's" campaign. And this week, we introduce the first "CNN Hero" of 2021.

Growing up in Maine, Lynda Doughty developed a passion for the array of marine animals living along it's beautiful coast.

Meet the seal rescuer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNDA DOUGHTY, CNN HERO: Releasing a seal is really bittersweet. And as much as I'm excited to see that animal be released, it's also hard in the sense of seeing the animal now gone.

[17:55:04]

Do you guys know that you're going back to the ocean?

So any seal that we rescue, the ultimate goal is for the animal to be released back into the ocean.

Awe.

I feel this intense responsibility to help these animals. And really, this is what I'm on this earth to do.

Yay!

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: To nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero," go to CNNheroes.com right now.

That does it for me this evening. I'm Ana Cabrera. Thank you for being with me. I'll see you back here tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 Eastern.

The news continues with Pamela Brown after a quick break. Have a great night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)