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As Virus Resurges, GOP Suddenly Embraces Covid Vaccine; DOJ Launches New Initiative to Curb Surging Gun Violence; Cases Rising Among Unvaccinated in Hot Spots Across U.S.; Parents Concerned About Schools Reopening Without Mask Mandates. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: New CNN reporting out today, nearly half of House Republicans still will not say publicly if they're vaccinated. By CNN's count, 97 GOP lawmakers won't share their status. Some say that they don't have a responsibility to model behavior to their constituents.

Now we know that some Congressional Republicans are doing an about face and publicly encouraging vaccines. Some of them held a news conference to explain why they are vaccinated, and Minority Whip Steve Scalise is one of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, question for Rep. Scalise, you were recently vaccinated. You got your first dose this weekend. Why did you wait so long? And have all the rest of you been vaccinated as well?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): First of all, I had done the antibody test months ago and tested positive for the antibodies. And so clearly that gives you protection. But with the delta variant, I felt I wanted that extra level of protection. And ultimately, if anybody in America, I would encourage people to get the vaccine. I have high confidence in it. I got it myself.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: With us now, we have "Washington Post" columnist Max Boot and Carl Cameron. He's the former chief political correspondent at Fox News and the cofounder of Front Page Live. Great to see both of you. Gentlemen, Carl, I want to start with you.

And before we get to what's happening on Capitol Hill, I just want to get your take on what's happening at Fox. Because Sean Hannity said something on Monday night that got all of our attention. After he had been skeptical of COVID, he'd called it a hoax months ago, on Monday night he gave what sounded like an enthusiastic endorsement of the vaccinations. So listen to this.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Please take COVID seriously. I can't say it enough. Enough people have died. We don't need any more deaths. Research like crazy. Talk to your doctor.

I believe in the science. I believe in the science of vaccination.


CAMEROTA: Carl, that is completely different than the way -- the tact the first took with COVID. And so, what do you think is going on?


What changed this week that changed the attitude of some of the Fox hosts?

CARL CAMERON, CO-FOUNDER, FRONT PAGE LIVE: I think the statistics of the spikes that are developing because of the delta variant and the fact that there is the real possibility of breakthrough infections for those who've already been vaccinated. We've heard of this in the last week that both the Speaker of the House's office, someone there has had a breakthrough infection and at the White House.

So, I think they are realizing that it's time sort of get on the right side of the science instead of having been on the side of propaganda that puts their constituents, their families and the general population at risk of dying.

CAMEROTA: I mean obviously not all the hosts feel that way. Tucker Carlson has not gotten on board with whatever this new attitude is that we hear from some of the hosts about the vaccinations. And so, do you think in part they just did the math and they realized that some of the people most at risk are their own viewers in some of the reddest states are also the least vaccinated?

CAMERON: I think it's a little bit of that. I also think that they recognize that worldwide people who get vaccinated are better off. And sooner or later their constituents, their followers, whether it's social media, cable television, all of it, that it's just simply wrong and that the time has come to get vaccines. I think that they recognize that it's bad politics to put your voters in jeopardy. And that's what they've done. And particularly with the conservative media on cable, and that's Fox, the One America Network and Newsmax and things like that, but also on social media.

And the problem with all of this is we have free speech, and it doesn't entirely include lying. It's a cliche, but we say you can't scream fire in a crowded movie house because that's disturbing the peace. And that's a misdemeanor and you can get arrested for it.

BLACKWELL: So, Max, you know, it's long past time for the truth on vaccines although we're seeing this about face from Fox hosts, we're seeing it from Congressional Republicans. Is it too late? I mean has all this congealed for conservatives who are anti-vax.

CAMERON: Well, I think it's --

BLACKWELL: Let's give it to Max. MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it's too late to persuade a lot of conservatives to take the vaccine. You're actually seeing anti-vaccine sentiment is rising on the right despite the evidence showing that over 99 percent of COVID deaths are from unvaccinated people. Despite that there is a lot of disinformation on the right. For example, there was a new poll that came out that showed about a third of all Republicans think that vaccines are being used to implant microchips in people. I mean that's just crazy.

But this kind of insanity is sadly being fed by Fox despite what Sean Hannity said, you have Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and have other hosts. You have major Republican leaders in Congress who are all feeding this anti-vaccine disinformation.

And that's why what I argued in the "Washington Post" this week is stop pleading with the right and start mandating vaccines for people who want to fly, who want to go to stores, who want to go to restaurants, who want to go to indoor spaces. If you want to just stay at home and be unvaccinated, that's cool, that's on you. But you don't have a right to endanger other people by going out in public unvaccinated. The risk right now is just too high. We need to be using vaccine passports which Republicans keep complaining about but which we're not actually utilizing to the extent that we should be.

BLACKWELL: But Max, they're doing more than complaining about them, the Republican governors are signing executive orders that are banning

vaccine passports. You know that most Republican governors are not going to require a vaccine to get into a restaurant or movie theater. So how is that a plausible plan moving forward to require them?

BOOT: Well, I think it will still make a difference if President Biden comes out in favor of vaccine passports for starters. Companies can mandate that right now even in red states. Wherever they are they can mandate that if you want to shop in their store, if you want to go to their office, you have to be vaccinated.

Also, President Biden and the FAA can order all airlines to demand proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test before allowing anybody to fly. Even in red states people want to get on airplanes, they want to go places. So, I think there's a lot that can be done and I'm just puzzled by why the Biden administration is not getting behind vaccine passports which is something that other countries, France and other countries in Europe are going right now and they're overtaking us in the percentage of people who are vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: I think they've been trying to use the carrot instead of the stick. But we'll see if that is going to work as the delta variant rages.

Gentlemen, great to see you, Max Boot, Carl Cameron, thank you both for the insight.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, gentlemen.

So, Attorney General Merrick Garland, he is on his way to Chicago to promote the Justice Department's new anti-gun trafficking initiative. We're going to take you there live.



CAMEROTA: Attorney General Merrick Garland is on his way to Chicago to push the Justice Department's new anti-gun trafficking initiative. The Biden administration is facing increasing pressure to deal with rising crime rates nationwide.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Chicago, one of the five cities the initiative will focus on. Omar, what do you know about the A.G.'s plan?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor and Alisyn, this is a plan to disrupt gun trafficking networks. So basically, we're going beyond those that are pulling the triggers of these weapons and trying to get to the sources of where they're getting them in the first place.

So, as you mentioned this is going to target five cities in particular, that's Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. All cities that have seen significant rises in violence compared to pre-pandemic levels. And all known corridors according to the Department of Justice for illegal gun trafficking, and that's exactly what this initiative is aiming to disrupt.

As I mentioned, the overall goal, however, is to better coordinate federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Now here in Chicago in conversations I've had with the mayor, she told me that these multijurisdictional strike forces are exactly what she's asked for from President Biden and what she's heard other mayors have asked for as well.

Ahead of his visit, Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that a lot of times in these situations, in these shootings, the weapons found come from hundreds or even over a thousand miles away. And so that's the dynamic they're trying to target in this. And when you look at the stakes of course the numbers have been increasing since 2019, as I mentioned, but specifically here in Chicago despite some improvements murder is still up, compares 48 percent compared to pre- pandemic levels. And just last night we had three separate mass shootings. So, the stakes are high with a lot of work to be done.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely, Omar Jimenez for us there in Chicago. Thank you, Omar.

CAMEROTA: So, school is starting in just weeks in some states. And many parents are facing a tough choice. And that's whether to send their kids back to school in places that are not mandating masks and where kids cannot be vaccinated yet. What do you do?


[15:45:00] CAMEROTA: Schools are scrambling to come up with COVID safety protocols as they prepare to reopen. Today the Atlanta Public School District just announced it will require all students and employees to wear masks.

BLACKWELL: Now we know some states have banned mask mandates, and parents across the country don't know if it's safe to send their kids into classrooms. Kami Galvani is one of those parents, she was ready to send her three kids back to school in Phoenix, but now she's reconsidering because there is no mask mandate in Arizona.


Kami, thanks for being with us. Not only is there no mask mandate, but the governor signed a law that bans mask mandates for schools. You've got a fourth grader soon to be and soon-to-be twin sons going to the first grade. How are you feeling about that?


CAMEROTA: So, what's making you nervous? I mean are masks optional at your school? Could you send your kids to school masked even if the other kids are not?

GALVANI: Definitely, yes, masks are optional, so, I mean, I guess that's one positive thing. There isn't a ban on masks, but, you know, based on what I know about people in the community I'm pretty nervous that my kids will be in the minority in the school that they are going to be attending. And so, you know, you know what's really disappointing is that, you know, we kept our kids home from school and did online schooling all last year and I've watched the numbers carefully and watched what was happening in the schools.

And, you know, the schools did a pretty good job of putting safety measures into place and masks were a big part of that, and we were really comforted to see that that seemed to work, so we were really -- we were set. We were all ready to go back to school, the kids were excited. And then the masks went away. And, you know, from what I understand that was -- that's the biggest reason that schools didn't have outbreaks, and now -- and now they are gone. And so, you know, I'm just nervous, that you know, we worked so hard to keep our kids safe all last year and now we're faced with another tough choice, and, you know, frankly I have -- I have decision fatigue, you know.


GALVANI: Yes. It's exhausting.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I know that you can send your kids to school with masks but of course, what we know mostly about the masks that it keeps someone who has the virus from spreading it, so it's the other kid potentially with it that need to wear the masks. So, what is the plan from the school to protect your children if vaccines are not required and your kids are not even old enough to get a vaccine and there's no mask mandate, what's the plan?

GALVANI: I think there isn't one. I mean, I think they're going to do hand washing which, you know, we know is a bit of hygiene theater at this point, but, you know, there's nothing they can do. I mean, in our school district there are 25 to 30 kids in a room so six feet of distance that's not an option, you know, and no mask mandate.

I'm sure there won't be a vaccine requirement and so I don't think that they're going to do anything. I think the governor has decided that all of this is a personal choice and, you know, I know that a lot of parents are going to say, great, I'm going to have my kid not wear a mask. And my biggest concern is that parents who fall into that camp are the same parents who themselves don't want to get a vaccine and so, you know, they are going to be exposed and they can expose their kids who can then come to school and expose everybody else.

And so, yes, I can send my kids to school masked but as you mentioned, you know, that does a better job of protecting other people instead of the mask-wearer, and so, yes, it's a really hard choice.

CAMEROTA: It is a really hard choice because we also know the studies that kids have felt isolated who were home this past year and it has taken a mental health toll on them, and so I'm sure that you're, you know, considering all of that, too. We only have a few seconds left.


CAMEROTA: But have you decided that that's on balance it's safer to have them at home?

GALVANI: We have not decided. We still haven't decided. School starts in two weeks.

CAMEROTA: Wow. Well, Kami, we feel for you. We feel for you, and I'm not sure there is a right answer here or a playbook to follow but we're thinking of you, and thanks for sharing your own family's dilemma moving forward with us. You're not alone.

GALVANI: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: There are a lot of families in your boat. So, Kami Galvani, we really appreciate your time.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Kami.

So, the CDC director warns that the U.S. is at another pivotal point in the coronavirus pandemic. The latest from the hot spots around the country. We have that for you next.

CAMEROTA: But, first, a quick programming note. Be sure to catch the all new "JERUSALEM, CITY OF FAITH AND FURY." Learn how the city's people pay the ultimate price when three empires collide. That's Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.



BLACKWELL: All right. So, you can add short shorts now and cardboard beds to the list of Olympic controversies.

CAMEROTA: Listen to this, Welsh sprinter and double Paralympic world champion Olivia Breen was wearing -- and can you see them here -- competition briefs at an event last weekend when a female official said her briefs were, quote, too short and inappropriate.

BLACKWELL: Meantime Norway's beach handball team was fined after its women's team wore shorts instead of bikini bottoms at a championship match in Bulgaria.

CAMEROTA: OK, so which one is it, so one got in trouble for wearing bikini bottoms and not shorts and the others got in trouble for wearing shorts and not bikini bottoms.

BLACKWELL: Keep the main thing the main thing. We're here to play volleyball and what's the other sport?

CAMEROTA: I don't know, I've actually forgotten. What was the long jump?

BLACKWELL: Let's focus, handball. Yes.

CAMEROTA: Women's handball and the long jump.

BLACKWELL: I don't care if you wear sweatpants and Birkenstocks, just play.

CAMEROTA: Well, sort of, I mean I feel if you have bodies like theirs, the less clothes the better.


CAMEROTA: That's my feeling.

BLACKWELL: All right.

CAMEROTA: OK, then there are the beds for the Olympic athletes. They are made of cardboard. 2016 U.S. Olympic Medalist Paul Chelimo posted his theory.

This as aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes.

Social media went berserk.

BLACKWELL: So, this is what I love about when I was reading this, the idea -- and reading this from our reporting -- that the beds with cardboard frames would be for anti-sex purposes and would collapse under the weight of more was quickly debunked by an athlete. I flipped like, how did they do it? She jumped on the bed.


CAMEROTA: She was jumping on the bed. I see where you mind went, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Sorry, guys. "The Lead' with Pamela Brown, who's in for Jake Tapper, starts right now.