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tv   Cuomo Prime Time  CNN  August 16, 2021 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT

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patty smith to name a few. you'll see it here on cnn saturday night, 5:00 p.m. eastern time. news continue right now. let's hand things over to chris for "cuomo primetime." chris? >> about my brother's situation and i have a note on that. first tonight, i want us to deal with the crisis that is coming at all of us. this is afghanistan. and it is a nightmare. innocent masses begging america not to leave them to vicious extremism. but that is what has happened. this picture is also making the rounds. proof of america saving hundreds on a cargo plane. but be clear, 640 men, women and
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children make for a good photograph. but this is not a good reality. this is a drop of humanity compared to the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands who will now be subjected to a truly horrible fate. people there are so scared they're willing to do this. so desperate they would rather risk death holding on to an american plane than face the certainty of oppression on the ground. think about that. the reality is tragic. the question for us is, did it have to be this way? was there a better alternative for america? is this america's problem? look, we know it's a political problem, the scenes are terrible for america's image, they're terrible for biden's image. but even the president gave a nod that what we're seeing is the price of pulling out.
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>> i stand squarely behind my decision. after 20 years, i learned the hard way. that there was never a good time to withdraw u.s. forces. but i always promised the american people that i will be straight with you. the truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. american troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. i am president of the united states of america. and the buck stops with me. i'm deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but i do not regret any decision to end america's war-fighting in afghanistan and maintain a laser-focused on our counterterrorism mission. it's the right one for america.
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>> is it? did biden have a plan to get our allies out, to rescue those who risked their lives for american troops? why didn't his plan call for leaving a small force to keep the peace? doesn't not doing that invalidate the sacrifice of so much and so many. more importantly or more centrally, why didn't we ever have this debate? why have we never had this discussion? why didn't biden bring -- yeah, we're in the middle of a pandemic. but they always say they can walk and chew gum at the same time. now, one big reason that we've never hashed this out is because you've made it clear what you want. roughly 6 in 10 of you said in may they backed the decision to withdraw all our troops by september 11th. so what do we do now? here's my suggestion.
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don't judge this exit in a vacuum. that would be a mistake. it's not as simple as biden botching the exit or trump pandering to you the public by foolishly making a deal with the taliban to exit. america's 20-year war, if you want to call it that, has stretched through four administrations. now, you want to deal with the instant situation, fine. we are here right now because biden carried forward with the trump deal made with the taliban to exit and didn't do it well. mike pompeo cut a deal with the taliban to leave. no talk to him about biden cozying up with the bad guys. how you do it was always going to matter and that's the difference between playing to a
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po populist and leading one. the bigger question is whether or not this was inevitable. the taliban has been re-establishing itself for years. there's no real will among all the clans and tribes to submit to a single authority willingly. they call afghanistan the place that is a graveyard of empires for a reason. it's not so much a place, it's a territory. it's not a united people. it never was. probably never will be. and without the united states there or some big muscle, the taliban or some other strong crew was always going to take over. so you have to remember, judge this through the lens of why we were there. remember, this was all about 9/11. in the beginning, the mission seemed simple. bush took troops there to find the bastards who hit us at home. you'll remember it was called
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operation enduring freedom. president bush launching it. we all watched the missiles landing, to stop the taliban, from providing safe haven to al qaeda. then bush went to iraq with all that controversy, that getting out of iraq empowered obama in the polls. but obama made the decision to stick america's hand deeper into the hive. >> i would send two to three additional brigades to afghanistan. keep in mind that we have four times the number of troops in iraq where nobody had anything to do with 9/11 before we went in, where in fact there was no al qaeda before we went in. but we have four times more troops there than we do in
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afghanistan. and that is a strategic mistake. >> that was a good point. although it put him in a situation that we've been living ever since, which was to get deeper into afghanistan. just so you understand, it was a republican and then a democrat who put us deep into afghanistan after 9/11. and we would spend over a trillion dollars over 20 years, lose more than 2,400 fighting men and women, many, many more thousands injured in that graveyard looking to avenge 9/11 by getting bin laden and al qaeda, the base. that's the reality. we were attacked by real bullets and bombs and bad guys and i say, yes, i'm a journalist. but we're americans and we were hit. i lived it that day and lost people i knew and cared about. while we've been on the ground fighting in afghanistan, they've been trying to beat an invisible
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enemy. extremism covers the whole region in pockets. it would never be one place, one group or one time effort. it was clear when i was there in 2009, hospitals filled with victims of extremism. patrols could find the enemy everywhere. forward operating bases in these wildernesses. everywhere there was poverty, a lack of education, there was an opportunity for extremism. all that pain in afghanistan was made more pointed when it turned out the guy that america was hunting, osama bin laden, was being hidden somewhere else. bin laden was found in pakistan ten years later, less than a mile from the country's elite military academy. coincidence? look, the hunt for bin laden revealed that there are people across the whole region that don't see good and bad as
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america does when it comes to terror. in 2007, i went to pakistan amid early suspicions that they were crossing in and out of that country with impunity. the president then of pakistan was supposedly america's major ally in the region and listen to how he spoke about this singular purpose that america had. >> if you knew where osama bin laden was, would you turn him over to the united states? >> let's not do the semantics. we will get the target. yes, indeed, absolutely. >> even if it were osama bin laden? >> absolutely. >> it's a big question. >> will we treat him well or beat him up, why get into that? >> it's a big question to the americans. this is enemy number one for them. they want to know that their
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friend in pakistan is on the same page and if you caught osama bin laden, you would turn him over. >> the people who need to know, know it. >> we know is that he wound up being found in pakistan. what was the point? look, that was supposed to be our big ally in the region at the time, the president of pakistan. it's that it's never been as simple as we've wanted it to be back here at home. one place, looking for one face. fighting terror means chasing an idea, it means poverty, religion, it means dealing with societies and clans. it's complicated. and taliban, al qaeda, taliban, isis, who knows where next. it's never been as simple as we wanted it to be. start tonight with clear eyes on how we got here, and the reality is this, now what? we were there for one reason, so
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stop another 9/11. and we did until today. think about that. back then, if you were old enough to have lived it, if someone told you they would be able to stop it, it would be hard to expect as anything other than fantastical thinking. and yet there hasn't been another hit. what does that mean about the time and the dedication? does that mean it was worth nothing? i think the hardest question that has to be answered now is are we as safe tonight as we were six months ago, meaning before this pullout? let's take that question to a better mind who knows the reality. former cia counterterror official, phil mudd. he was part of the diplomatic
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team that helped build a new afghan government after 9/11. did i set it out right? >> you did. i think people are making this too simple because they see photos that you talked about in images that make them think of vietnam. we've been there 20 years. it's not that simple. let's talk about it. >> so when you see this, people say, oh, this is horrible. this has been a complete failure. it's a disaster. what do you say? >> well, they're asking the wrong question. it is horrible. we're asking the question whether the pullout has gone smoothly. it hasn't and president biden ought to answer questions about that. fundamentally different question about whether the u.s. military, cia and others who lost their lives and served for 20 years, served for successfully. i would say they did. i sat there 20 years ago, when he raised the flag over the embassy. it was a time capsule because we left so quickly. i cleared a bird nest out of the cia office. there are still pinup calendars
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in 2001 because they left so quickly. we raised the flag again and let me tell you two things, the mission we had was to ensure there would never be another catastrophic event. if you had told us 20 years later there would be fewer than 200 people killed in international terror events in america over the next 20 years, we would say, you're nuts. if you had asked a second and final question, the debate will have in 20 years is whether we're successful building a nation in afghanistan, and that's the debate americans will hinge their judgment on, i would say you're nuts. we did. americans, the military, the agency, the state department, the american people who funded this, we did what we were told to do. enough with people saying this was a disaster. chris, it was not. >> we were there to stop another 9/11. so now if we leave, the question is, are americans as safe now as they were six months ago?
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>> they are not. but they're being told that this is a catastrophic event, an epic failure for america. it's not for a few basic reasons that i can tell you as a counterterrorism official. we collect intelligence that we could never have collected and collated 20 years ago because we have a lot of people, a lot of money, a lot of technology, and a lot of focus. we have a willingness in the congress at the white house to act on that intelligence. that is send a drone or plane in and kill people. you could not have done that 21 years ago, ever. we have partners, people like the saudis, maybe the pakistanis, believe it or not, who are more focused on this than they were 20 years ago. americans won't like this, but it's a reality. we have relationships with warlords, people who murder other people, but warlords who have the ability to collect intelligence to tell us where the foreigners are. i'm not saying it's great. it's not. we're not as safe. but it's not a horror show and the media characterizations of
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this and the pundits are wrong. >> what's the most important thing to do next? >> to ensure that we have the capability to continue collecting information that identifies people who want to attack a city in america. the question is, can we keep an american family safe. it is not can we ensure that a capital, kabul, halfway around the world is safe. it's going to be a humanitarian disaster. if we're supposed to be responsible for every humanitarian disaster, we should move into yemen, we should move into africa, we should move into north korea. we have to collect intelligence and act on it with partners to stop a catastrophic event. that's what we got to do, chris. >> phil mudd, thank you for your perspective on where we were and where we are today. appreciate you. >> thanks, chris. there's no doubt that this is a bad-looking, botched situation and the president and his team, they'll say, this went
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badly faster than we thought. it's like a line out of a bad movie. but it is reality and it looks bad. let's bring in fareed zakaria to talk about the sobering realities, where the white house is right and where it is wrong. next. >> announcer: "cuomo primetime," brought to you by bath fitter. transforming bathrooms for over 35 years. visit bath today.
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the images of armed taliban fighters patrolling the streets are disturbing. this doesn't look like victory. and it's a long way from what you were promised. remember this? >> we have a strategic interest and i believe a moral interest and a prosperous and peaceful democratic afghanistan. >> more peaceful and democratic afghanistan. >> peaceful, democratic and unified afghanistan. >> not peaceful. not really democratic.
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that's the reality. let's bring in fareed zakaria to help us see the whole picture. you're been mentoring me on this for years. it's no coincidence that administration after administration echoes the same rhetoric. now, you could say, hey, there hasn't been another 9/11, thank god. that's a win. how do you see it? >> well, i think that's an important win. that was the original purpose for going in. and the taliban has not sponsored or participated in any international terrorist activity. they've done a lot of terrorism in afghanistan. over the last 20 years, all the stuff you've seen in paris and london and new york, that has not been the taliban. but you put your finger on it, chris. we kept saying to ourselves that this was a peaceful and democratic country. here's the reality. 2017, this is when trump comes into office. half of the population of
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afghanistan lived in an area that was either controlled by the taliban or was contested between the government and taliban forces. that's the peaceful part. democratic. the last election that ashraf ghani sort of won, 1.8 million afghans took part. this is a country of 39 million people. so it wasn't really peaceful or democratic. the taliban had been making advances really for ten years. i guess the best -- simplest way to put it is, chris, we had lost the war in afghanistan. if by war, you mean our effort to defeat the taliban, we had failed. the taliban was resurgent. what joe biden did was he pulled the bandage off and the veil off from the failure. when you do that, it's very messy, and he screwed up the withdraw. no question about it. but the truth is, you know, there's no elegant way to lose a war. >> do you think he gets what
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went wrong here? >> you know, my experience when you talk to people in government at that level, when they've had pressure on them, they get very defensive and they believe -- i don't think he's putting on an act. i think they believe that they did the right thing, that the choices were horrible, but there's no question in my mind, this was botched, this was poorly planned, poorly executed. look, if you had decided you were going to leave, first of all, you should have made contingency planning for everything, a rapid collapse, a slow collapse, and one would have thought what you would do at that point is say, we're going to build up forces so that we can have control of what we know we are going to need to do, which is evacuate people. which means send in forces to the airport, secure the airport, make a list of all the americans and afghans who need to be out. process their visas in advance. get them all cleared.
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make it so that if this has to be done in two days or three days, we can do it. have the flights, the planes ready, all that. instead, it does feel like, understandable that the whole thing collapsed much faster than anyone expected and that itself is something we should talk about. but to have not made contingency plans for that and to not have -- the evacuation part is the most important thing. if he can still get that right, chris, if eventually he is -- he manages to get out, not just the americans, but the thousands, tens of thousands of afghans -- >> how do you do that? you know you have these guys on the ground now who are going to be hunting them. they say it's going to be gradual, the taliban commander, we've never seen that. they've been making encroachments for years as you pointed out earlier. i really believe that we have to discount the talk. yeah, we're going to try and get them out. they're being hunted right now
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in the middle of the night in afghanistan. you and i both know it. so the question becomes, what is next for them but also for americans and their safety? >> well, i think most americans are secure. but i think that -- i may be wrong about that. but the reporting i've seen suggest that most americans are secure. the issues are the afghans who have supported the americans. i think there should be a huge moral, political, strategic cause. look, the taliban has not attacked americans. it has not attacked american forces. and so maybe there's a way to explain to the taliban, you let us get out, the people who worked with us, and we will -- you know, we will honor this deal. >> do you think you can get that deal done here, fareed? unfortunately it seems that these people, even though they put their lives on the line, they're getting caught up in the
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brown menace which is a fear of people coming into the country from central and south america. they seem to be getting caught up in the xenophobia. >> stephen miller's response to the collapse of afghanistan, the fall of kabul, the takeover of the taliban was, look at biden, he's trying to get brown people to come into the country. it's sickening and it's pathetic. look, joe biden has done something brave. it has not gone well in terms of its tactical implementation. here's an opportunity to do something brave that is the right thing to do, that will go down well in history, when we took in the vietnamese boat people, it was not popular. we took in 1 1/2 million boat people. they turned out to be some of the most amazingly productive immigrants in america. amazingly successful. it is one of the things that we can be proudest of in that whole
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sorry episode of vietnam. if we don't keep an opportunity to do -- >> if america doesn't keep her word to these people, we've lived this before. that's why he was so slow on trusting america because america has left before and left people behind in extreme need. we'll see if we learn the lessons of the past. thank you for setting the table of context for us. brilliant, a gift to the audience. thank you. >> thank you, chris. there's part of this that you can't ignore. we lost so much in america with our commitment to afghanistan. so many lives were changed forever. so many people who put it on the line for us never came home, or if they did, they're different. and i want to bring in my friend after the break p.j. ricoff. he did everything he could to help the veterans. he was there, he knows the situation.
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my blood pressure is borderline. garlique healthy blood pressure formula helps maintain healthy blood pressure with a custom blend of ingredients. i'm taking charge, with garlique. i'm left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay, how many more generations of america's daughters and sons
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would you have me send to fight afghanistan's civil war when afghan troops will not? how many more lives, american lives, is it worth? how many endless rows of headstones at arlington national cemetery. >> the price of blood, let alone treasure, is not in dispute. it's about what this move now means to all that has been exp expended in the effort to this point. let's discuss this with a veteran, the founder of the iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, p.j. "paul" rieckhoff. good to see you brother. >> good to see you. >> what did you make of the withdrawal and biden's handling of it? >> the withdrawal is something i support, chris. but to withdraw has been a
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catastrophic failure. getting out of any military operation is always the most dangerous part. and the biden administration has let us down, has let the afghan people down, and has let the world down. i didn't have to go down like this. i don't support staying forever. but that's not what this is about anymore. today's speech from the president was more about making his case for withdrawal and explaining the last 20 years than it was about recognizing the tragic, devastating reality on the ground right now and explaining what the heck are we going to do next? failing to plan is planning to fail. and it was clear he did not have an adequate plan to withdrawal from afghanistan. what is he going to do right now to try to stabilize the situation and get out as many as 80 or 100,000 of our allies who stood up with us and put their lives on the line, were connected to millions of iraq and afghanistan veterans around the country and are being left.
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he didn't answer that question right now. that's the question that america needs answered immediately. >> can he? i mean, look, you're on the ground in iraq, but the situations are very similar and you've heard so many stories of people who were there. and not being there in force anymore and the taliban as everybody should know is really a predatory group. what's the chance of getting out that many people? >> we need to find out. we need to give it every effort we can. we haven't given it a good effort yet. he announced the withdrawal back in april. back then, it was a bipartisan coalition of congress pushed him to lay out a plan to save our allies. he didn't do it. maybe they'll send them to cask stan -- >> do you think that this is seeding the way to reasonable to get these people in? >> i think this part of it is actually very popular.
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that's where biden has a blind spot here. we're talking about whether or not to get people out who are going to get slaughtered. and that's what's on our hands right now. and that's what's really recking so many afghanistan vets across the country right now. if you look at my cell phone, so many other people who have been in the where'd media for the last couple of weeks, we're getting messages from friends inside of afghanistan, saying what do i do? and veterans saying, how do i get my friends out? there's developed an underground railroad for interpreters. i described it as the dmv line from hell. if you don't get to the front of the line, you die. that's what's happening in kabul right now and it's what the president needs to address. we can't unwind the last 20 years. we can save as many as possible who may come back here go onto thrive and will send a message to our future allies that signing on with america is something we will honor.
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if we don't honor these people now and honor that obligation now, who is going to stand up with us if we need someone to fight russia or north korea or an enemy down the line. it's not going to happen. >> for all the optics and ugliness right now, i hope that veterans understand, especially if they were in theater, that the idea that we didn't have another major attack on our soil from islamist extremists after 9/11 is the success, is an unprecedented and -- you and i are old enough to have been there. we would have never believed that men like you and the men and women who served in afghanistan would keep us as safe as we've been all along. and that is a victory that could have never been imagined at the time of 9/11. so, please, spread the word to the brothers and sisters that their sacrifice is always appreciated. we would not be who we are today without them. p.j. rieckhoff, thank you for your service and your perspective.
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>> thanks, chris. all right. we got trouble abroad. we got trouble at home. we turn the show into the covid command center because we knew what was coming. okay? and, yeah, the numbers are getting scarier and scarier, but it's not just how much. it's where. we are not going to get school right at this rate. these fights about masks or not masks, they are distracting us from having the right kinds of planning, community by community, to figure out what to do. we have a new record for kids in the hospital. and the worst of it is, again, happening in republic states where governors are blocking mask mandates. how do we get to a better place? the former trump white house covid czar for testing here next.
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hospitalized kids is a problem, especially as we're just starting to head back to school. 1900 kids in hospital beds with covid over the weekend. there are few signs that this
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surge is going to subside any time soon. even if everybody were getting immunized, vaccinated, you're still not going to have immunity right away. this is going to go on for weeks at a minimum. high transmission rates still plague most of the country. the top doctor at the nih says he expects things to get worse. >> i will be surprised if we don't cross 200,000 cases a day in the next two weeks. that's heartbreaking considering we never thought we would be back in that space again. >> no wonder why when you look at places like texas and florida, the two states lead the nation in new hospitalizations, accounting for 40% of the nation's numbers. recent headlines show where state leaders are placing their priorities. waging war with local counties and schools over masks rather than fighting the real enemy which is the virus. retired admiral brett giroir, the covid testing czar under president trump, joins me now.
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good to see you, sir. >> good to be on. >> am i missing something about the abbott and desantis fights with local communities and threats about what they'll do if they try to put in masks after they've been told not to? what is the basis for this kind of resistance to masks if not political? >> well, i want to highlight something that francis collins said. he said pretty soon, we'll be over 200 cases. we're only detecting 1 out of 4. 500,000 people every day get covid in the united states. last week, we had 125,000 children and 1,100 of them put in hospitals and only 23 states and new york city report the number of children in hospitals. so texas and florida, where the cases are so high, we have no idea the numbers of children in
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hospitals and it's not just red states. the same is true for oregon and illinois and michigan. talk about flying blind relative to children, we need better data and that's got to be the basis for action. >> what do you say to the families in local communities, kids getting ready to go back to school, they're in states, florida, texas and they're hearing their leaders say, you get to decide the mask thing. nobody can tell you. we don't know that they work that well. they'll never be mandated here. what do you say? >> so let me start with the public health, the public health says -- and we don't know how few masks we can get away with in schools. but we have a raging pandemic and we do know with good data that if children wear masks in school, they can be safe. they can be safe in the community. and i've been vocal about this. look, i like these governors, a lot of things they do. but i do believe local communities need to make the decision. there are local communities where mask mandates can be very
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helpful. there are probably local communities where there could be harmful and i believe the parents and the local community should be making that decision. but the data show right now that masking for children is a very reasonable public health measure. it shouldn't be more months. it shouldn't be forever. but right now when people are coming back in, masking is a reasonable public health step. i support it and encourage parents to encourage their children to do it. >> there's no data that masks can hurt, right? >> well, it is a question, right? there are issues -- that's why the w.h.o. recommends that children under 5 don't wear a mask under any circumstances. and that children between 6 and 11 only in circumstances of high transmission. so there is some concern, right, about social and emotional development, there's concern about skin problems. that's why i'm saying we should do this over the short term, find the data, because clearly
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we know that 1,100 children being put in the hospital a week, you're going to see childhood mortality and we're seeing reports of this, so why not be safe? masks are not perfect. even the cdc says it only provides you about 25% protection from getting, 50% chance for spreading. if i can improve my kids chances by 75%, i'm going to do that. >> i'm saying there's no science that says, you're more likely to get sick if you have a mask. i want you to hear -- >> that's true. >> of course. but i'm saying, sometimes people suggest otherwise which is just crazy. i want you to listen to d dr. osterholm from nbc and a point that he made that i think is very relevant. >> if even everyone got vaccinated today, this surge would go on as it is right now for the next four to six weeks because these people would not have immunity. so what they can do today, though, is mask. but get effective masks.
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>> how do we get people to just see a mask as a mask again and not some kind of capitulation to the man or to some opposing political force? >> well, i think both sides need to get off the political agenda and understand that a mask is not a -- is not a symbol of courage and it's not a silver bullet. it's something that helps. and right now when we have -- we'll soon have over 1,000 americans dying again per day. that's going to happen in the next week or two. 500,000 cases. that means 50 to 100,000 americans will get long covid. for months, they'll be in pain, fatigued and they'll have brain fog. so it's not perfect. but it is -- you know, to the best of our public health knowledge, as a short-term measure, until we get herd immunity, it's really helpful. i urge everyone to do it.
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even those who are vaccinated. i think the data are still unclear whether vaccinated people who get covid can spread it. we need that from the cdc. the cdc needs to follow up. but without adequate data, it's the safest thing we can do. >> i want to keep living my life. and if i'm able to do that with a mask, i'll take the trade. brett giroir, thank you very much. we'll continue the conversation. i appreciate you. thank you. >> thank you. all right. we'll be right back.
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week. there are a lot of people feeling a lot of hurt and a lot of pain right now. my hope is that theultimately, everyone involved can get to a better place. that some higher good will be served in all of this. as for me, i've told you it's never easy being in this business and coming from a political family especially now. the situation is unlike anything i could have imagined. and yet, i know what matters at work and home. everyone knows you support your family. you should also know i never covered my brother's troubles because i obviously have a conflict and there are rules at cnn about that. i said last year that his appearances on this show would be short lived and they were. the last was over a year ago, long before any kind of scandal. i also said back then that a day
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would come when he would have to be held to account and i can't do that. i said point blank, i can't be objective when it comes to my family so i never reported on the scandal and when it happened, i tried to be there for my brother. i'm not an advisor. i'm a brother. i wasn't in control of anything. i was there to listen and offer my take and my advice to my brother was simple and consistent. own what you did, tell people what you you'll do to be better, be contrite and finally, accept that it doesn't matter what you intended, what matters is how your actions and words were perceived. and yes, while it was something i never ever imagined having to do, i did urge my brother to resign when the time came. there are critics saying things about me, many unsupported but know this, my position has never changed.
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i never misled anyone about the information i was delivering or not delivering on this mr.progr. i never attacked nor encouraged anyone to attack any woman who came forward. i never made calls to the press about my brother's situation. i never influenced or attempted to control cnn's coverage of my family. as you know, back in may when i was told to no longer communicate with my brother 's aides in group meetings, i stopped and i meant it. it was a unique situation being a brother to a politician in a scandal and being part of the media. i tried to do the right thing, and i just want you-all to know that. as i've said, we have rules here at cnn that prevent me from reporting ocn my brother. they remain in place and will continue to. tonight, i simply wanted to address something that given what's happened, i just felt it needed to be said. this will be my final word on
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thanks for being with us tonight. it time for the big show "don lemon tonight" with the big ststar don help mono -- the pictures look bad. no question about it. >> hold on. hold on. this is when i usually tell you happy birthday and joke around and i want to say happy birthday. i can't joke around with you tonight because there is so much serious news going on so happy birthday. great to have you back. you're a partner here and i'm just happy to have you back because nobody bounces off each other between shows like you and i do. go on. >> i love you d. lemon. >> i love you, brother. >> i don't think that it is usually ou


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