Sen. Rob Portman volunteers to take part in COVID-19 vaccine trial

This is a rush transcript from “The Story with Martha MacCullum” November 19, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Thank you Bret. Good evening everybody.

I'm Martha MacCallum in New York and this is THE STORY. In the next few days, you are going to see many states across this country certify their results and in each, both sides must agree that they are ready to submit those final tallies.

It's an important responsibility but what happened in Wayne County Michigan last night when two Republicans on the county board of canvassers, Monica Palmer and William Hartman did not say they were ready to certify those results, that they didn't add up in Detroit, voters to vote exactly, the reaction. Well, I'll let you judge for yourself. Watch this.


MONICA PALMER, REPUBLICAN CANVASSER: I believe that we do not have complete and accurate information in those poll books.

WILLIAM HARTMAN, REPUBLICAN CANVASSER: When we had the primary, it was 72 percent out balance and we had a resolution that came out from this board that the city was supposed to have an oversight from the secretary of state which they did get. But the numbers have not been improved. It's still 71 percent out of balance.


MACCALLUM: So Palmer and Hartman voted no based on that. Then the public was invited to weigh in and all hell broke loose. They were bereted; they were called racist because Detroit which is in Wayne County is about 80 percent black and the voters black voters so listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both of you go home tonight and read up on systemic racism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame on you. Shame on you for leading to this level of corruption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is as though the Fifteenth Amendment was never passed. This country has been brought to its knees by Republican fanatics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your cult's followers doing whatever your cult leader tells you to do, why don't you have any shame because you're not smart enough to realize you're in a cult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Trump stick, the stain of racism that you William Hartman and Monica Palmer have just covered yourself in is going to follow you throughout history. Monica Palmer and William Hartman will forever be known in south-eastern Michigan as two racists and more knows when you go to meet your maker, your soul is going to be very, very warm.


MACCALLUM: My goodness. So a short time later they gave in. They changed their votes to certify, here now Ronna McDaniel, the Chair of the Republican National Committee and long-time Michigan resident joins me now.

Ronna, thank you for being here tonight. I mean you know I think all of us can understand when this kind of committee gets into an argument about whether or not to certify.

But the reaction of these individuals is shocking when you watch that.

RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: It's horrific, it's bullying it's frightening and you know if you look at what Monica and Bill were saying and this is an issue in Wayne County in 2017 but Lieutenant Governor who's a Democrat said it was a catastrophe that what was happening there because 80 percent of the precincts did not match.

This past summer, 72 percent, this one 71. What does that mean? It means a precinct has to say these are how many absentee ballots we sent out to voters who requested them so say we sent out a 100 and then they get 200 back. How does that happen? You have to align the poll book with saying how many ballots went out, with how many came in and that's the problem so when

71 percent in this election don't match, it means that only 29 percent worked.

That's a failing grade. They are doing absolutely the right thing to not certify that and to see them be harassed and bullied and attacked, it's mob rule.

MACCALLUM: Well, John James who ran for Senate in Michigan said this about it. He said, "I applaud the Wayne County board of canvassers for their bravery in the face of unbelievable pressure to ignore inconvenient truths that threaten our democracy."

And you're saying that in previous elections Democrats have been upset with the same sort of numbers that were happening but I was watching the Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today and she went after you. She said that you're part of a plan to steal the election in Michigan.

She said there were no irregularities in the vote. She said they're just clerical errors. The Mayor of Detroit said that just 357 votes out of

250,000 cast had discrepancies so how do you - how do you respond to that?

They're saying it's an effort to steal the votes of African- Americans in Michigan.

MCDANIEL: Well, that's just outrageous and I love my state and I love Detroit and this has nothing to do with race and so Democrats don't go there, it's disgusting. This is about 72 percent of the precincts not matching up. I would say this if it were a Republican county or a Democrat county.

MACCALLUM: But they say that in Livonia, there were larger discrepancies and these two individuals voted yes on that district. Is that - what do you say to that? It's Wayne County. They didn't vote yes. It was the whole certification that they voted against. It's the whole county. So they said no. They said where there's too many discrepancies, we want to look into this.

And this is what happened last night. The Democrats on the committee said you know what, we will do an audit, we promise you and if you certify it and within seconds Jocelyn Benson got on TV and said that's not binding, we're not going to do an audit. We're not going to look into it.

Listen Martha, if you have nothing to hide, what's the harm in doing an audit. We've just found 6000 votes that were not counted in Georgia, that were not counted, they were missed because of an audit. With this type of discrepancy in Wayne County, it's very reasonable to say we should look into this especially when it's happened in three or four subsequent elections and the Secretary of State refuses to deal with this issue.

And it's hurting the whole state of Michigan because people are losing faith in our election process so fix it. Don't call Republicans racist, don't go there. These are nice people. These are hardworking people. They have families they were derided and bullied and attacked last night and that's what's happening to any Republican right now who's speaking up.

McCarthyism at its best. Let's not hire people from the Trump administration, let's censor them, let's attack them, let's silence their voices. This is a frightening time in our country and it's not right what's happening.

MACCALLUM: You know look at this. Jennifer Rubin wrote this in a Washington Post Op-Ed titled 'Time to call out the GOP's new Jim Crow tactics.' She says, "We have not seen a coordinated effort of this magnitude and geographic breadth to disenfranchise African-American voters since the Jim Crow era. This should remove any doubt of that the Trumpist Republican Party like many right wing populist parties in Europe is at its core, a racist enterprise." How do you respond to that?

MCDANIEL: Well, it's disgusting especially with the president who passed criminal justice reform. Barack Obama didn't do that. A president who's funded HBCUs at a higher level, who created economic opportunity zones and a Republican party that had offices in urban areas and black communities to turn out the black vote, to compete for the black vote this election.

That's why you see 73 million people vote for President Trump, the highest of any president in history because of our outreach and we are making inroads with Hispanic and African-Americans and Asian-Americans because of the economic opportunity and the things that this party stands for. So I am sick and tired of people calling Republicans racist and dividing our country. You are making our country more divided. We are reaching out to every American and President Trump's policies showed that it lifted the boats for every single American with record low unemployment.

Now what you're saying you know historic gains in jobs coming back and the stock market. This is a president who put good policies in place for everyone.

MACCALLUM: So you know I mean just going back to the Livonia example, right? You know wherever there is a discrepancy, it seems to me that what we need to give people confidence in voting again is for both sides, whether you win or lose to press for these things to be rectified. To say no let's not certify it.

MCDANIEL: Yes, just look at it.

MACCALLUM: But you know I mean, I'm wondering if you know President Trump had won in Michigan, would you be so concerned about the certification here? Would you be saying look, you know let's go back and make sure that we get this right? I mean I think everybody knows the answer to that but that's what it's going to take to actually fix some of these problems.

MCDANIEL: Well, you know Martha I sat at a recount table in Detroit in 2016 for a candidate who got less than 1 percent of the vote here and got a statewide recount, hand count and I sat and watched as poll books did not match the ballot box which makes it ineligible for the recount and so these are things that need to be changed.

We cannot have these discrepancies and we need to have faith in our election process and I would tell you right now if it were a Republican county that didn't let people poll watch, that didn't let people observe like we had in Wayne County and then had 72 percent of the precincts not match up, I would be like all for it, we should look into that.

Why aren't Democrats saying the same thing? This is a problem and everyone deserves to have faith in it.

MACCALLUM: Thank you very much Ronna McDaniel, Head of the Republican National Committee. Good to have you here tonight. Thanks Ronna.

MCDANIEL: Thanks for having me.

MACCALLUM: You bet. So coming up New York Gov. Cuomo says don't trust the vaccine process because it's all about money and ego.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): On the way out the door, he wants to be able to say, I solved COVID because I discovered a vaccine. No, it's all BS. He didn't do anything. Nobody's going to trust him saying it's a safe vaccine.


MACCALLUM: Republican Senator Rob Portman who says skepticism drove him to become part of the vaccine trial. He's up next.



FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: The average time it's taken in the past to develop a vaccine has been about 8 years. This has been done in 10 months and all this supported by Operation Warp Speed making it possible to do things carefully, safely and really quickly in a way that's not been attempted before.


MACCALLUM: So as government health officials tap the speed and the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines developed under Operation Warp Speed, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says not so fast.


CUOMO: Why is it moving so fast? Two reasons. Money and ego. The first drug company that has the vaccine, that is big money. You didn't need Trump to tell the vaccine companies you should develop a vaccine. He had nothing to do with it.

President, it's ego. On the way out the door he wants to be able to say, I solved COVID because I discovered a vaccine. No, it's all BS. He didn't do anything. It's the drug companies and nobody's going to trust him saying it's a safe vaccine.


MACCALLUM: So joining me now Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a volunteer in a late stage trial in the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Senator, great to have you here tonight. Thanks for being here.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): Thanks Martha. Good to be with you.

MACCALLUM: You heard the Governor of New York. He said you know it's just money. Of course all these pharma companies were rushing to create a vaccine and it's the president's ego and he did nothing to move this whole process forward. What do you say to him?

PORTMAN: Well, it's not about money and ego. It's in fact about science and data and safety and saving lives and let's face it, Operation Warp Speed has worked miraculously. It's a private-public partnership that allows us to do two things. One, yes, encourage the development of these new vaccines as quickly as possible and Congress provided $27 billion as you know in the CARES Act to do that.

But second what was brilliant I think by the Trump administration was to say there will be a dual track. At the same time we'll be manufacturing this vaccine which as you heard earlier normally takes years. So you have the development of the vaccine and the manufacturing going on, on two tracks at the same time. If the FDA approval doesn't come, you throw away those vials but if it does come which we hope it will for Moderna and Pfizer which are out front it appears with 90 and 95 percent efficiency, unbelievable.

Effective rates of 95 percent, that's just extraordinary then those vaccines are ready to go and you can get them on the market right away. So I think it was really smart the way they did it and I think it's a great example of where the public sector and the private sector can come together for a success.


PORTMAN: It's irresponsible and reckless to say that this is not safe. That is just as playing politics with people's lives, it's playing politics with the health care in our communities and it's just wrong.

MACCALLUM: But it has an impact, it has an impact too and we should point out that we reached a grim milestone today. 250,000 deaths. Quarter of a million deaths from COVID in this country so while you've got this second wave surge going on that is obviously a very difficult situation for a lot of people.

On the other side of the equation you have this really impressive process so far and we all hope that it passes these safety bars that it has to pass and there's been a lot of reluctance on the part of people in polling at least, whether not they're going to take it, whether or not they feel safe taking it.

And you did something to do your part to try to perpetuate confidence in this. You took the vaccine and the trial. You don't know whether you got a placebo or not I assume but how did it all go. Tell everybody.

PORTMAN: No, look, it went great and I encourage people to sign up. I signed up for the study because we have in our state of Ohio, a company that does these studies all over the country and I had gone for a briefing and they told me, it's difficult sometimes to get people to enter into the trials and I said well, what if I did it?

Would that be helpful? They said sure, if you're willing to go public and say that you did it and you know, it was a good experience and so on and so I did it. You have to go through a questionnaire. You have to answer a lot of questions about your health care. You got to be you know sure that you're the right person for the trial and when you get into the trial, you have to keep a daily diary for a week and then now I do it every Monday and Thursday.

But I think it's a tremendous way for people to step forward and help.

MACCALLUM: Did you feel sick afterwards?

PORTMAN: No, I didn't. I didn't. I've been feeling great and I joked today maybe I got the placebo and it was caffeine because I'm feeling pumped up.

Maybe I got the vaccine, I don't know.

MACCALLUM: Maybe so--

PORTMAN: I will never know you know. Half the people get the placebo, half the people get the vaccine and these studies that are coming out are just phenomenal and this is all happened since I entered into the trial but again 94.5 percent and 95 percent effectiveness for these vaccines. With the flu vaccine, I'm told it's about 30 percent effective.

MACCALLUM: Well, eventually you're going to have to get an antibody test to see whether or not you need to take the vaccine again I guess. I want to play this for you from Joe Biden because there are concerns - there's concern out there that there's not enough coordination between the Biden team and the Trump team at this really crucial time in this process.

Here's what he said.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENT-ELECT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When these vaccines come out, how they'll be distributed? Who'd be first in line? What the plan is? There's a whole lot of things that are just - we just don't have available to us. Unless it's made available soon, we're going to be behind by weeks or months.


MACCALLUM: What would you advise the White House to do about that?

PORTMAN: Well, two things. One, a lot of people who are involved in this issue as you know are not political people. In other words they aren't going to leave the administration. Dr. Fauci is a great example of that. I think he's served under something like seven presidents.


PORTMAN: So he's going to have the expertise, regardless of what happens in this in his final - final weeks here. Second, I do think the information ought to be provided. I think that that is not harmful and I think it's important that people understand both by the way in the Congress and you know others to be sure that there isn't any gap in knowledge.

I think it's pretty clear what's happening which is that we hope by the end of this year, there'll be you know, tens of millions of these doses available and they will go first to people who are in health care and that's good. Frontline workers particularly in the nursing homes where the nursing home inspections tend to be people going in and out of the nursing homes.


PORTMAN: People who are patients and then people like first responder so I think that's appropriate and then it'll go to the most vulnerable and I think that's - that's appropriate but no look, everybody needs to know what the plan is but I think, it's a solid plan and I think it's good that the military is involved in the logistics of it because it is--

MACCALLUM: Fascinating, yes -

PORTMAN: - an enormous undertaking.

MACCALLUM: - the way they've done it and as you said, I think it's important for everybody to be on the same page and have a lot of communication going on there.

PORTMAN: I think it's good.

MACCALLUM: Senator, thank you very much.

PORTMAN: Thank you Martha.

MACCALLUM: Senator Portman, good to speak with you tonight.

PORTMAN: Take care.

MACCALLUM: You too. So next, there's a reason why these vaccines were developed so quickly. They piggy back off of the research with something called Messenger RNA and it may be able to teach yourself to actually fight off even more than COVID. Perhaps it could be used to fight off cancers as well. It's fascinating. We're going to talk to a doctor about that in a moment and China wants to be the world's dominant superpower.

So how would Susan Rice, if she becomes Secretary of State take them on.

Senator Tom Cotton on approving the cabinet picks from the Senate side next.


MACCALLUM: The development of a COVID-19 vaccine could be a medical game changer for years to come thanks to something called Messenger RNA. It's a gene based technology that triggers the immune system to produce protective antibodies. The Wall Street Journal reports, "the strong early results for two leading COVID-19 vaccines have implications that go far beyond the current pandemic. They suggest the time is come for a gene based technology that could provide new treatments for cancer, heart disease and other infectious diseases."

Here now Dr. Richard Besser, President and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former Acting Director of the CDC. Dr. Besser, thanks for being - coming back tonight. If you could explain to everybody in a very civilian way what Messenger RNA is and why it sort of allows you to get to not start from the - from square one but from something farther along square one in order to teach these cells how to fight off things?


Yes, this is - it's really fascinating market. It's a new technology for making - making vaccines and as you said, it's gene based. So the normal way of making a vaccine is, you find a way to present to your immune system, a protein, something that's on the outside of a virus or bacteria.

So your immune system can react to that and so when you see the actual virus or bacteria, you're protected. You've created the antibodies and other protections. This works differently. It injects into you a gene based material that causes your own cells to make a protein that's normally found on the outside of the coronavirus.

It's called the spike protein and so this gene based material, it goes into your own cells, you make the spike protein and then your immune system responds to that spike protein and so it is different from other approaches. The development of these types of vaccines can occur much, much faster and the results that we're seeing so far are really, highly encouraging.

The big concerning question is given that it's new, there will only be about two months of safety data on this before it's likely they're going to be available to people.

MACCALLUM: Yes and does that concern you and what should we all be aware of in terms of that time line?

BESSER: Well, yes, you know I think it it's always concerning. You know, the fact that 250,000 people have died is concerning and so you have to weigh those two things and it's going to be very important that people who've been in these vaccine trials are followed for long periods of time, months and years to see how long this protection lasts and are there any side effects that appear later on.

So you know, it's those two things to balance. There are likely going to be other types of vaccines coming along that are made with more traditional technology and you know doctors are going to have to inform their patients which way they think they should go. But given the consequences of the pandemic so far, there truly is hope that we could see an end to this in 2021.

MACCALLUM: Messenger RNA, before I let you go, what is the potential of this for curing other things as I mentioned from the Wall Street Journal piece?

BESSER: Yes, you know there's all kinds of exciting science. So if you can get yourselves to make a protein for a virus, maybe you can get yourselves to make a protein that's abnormal in particular cancers and your immune system can go after those cancer cells instead of going after virus or another infectious agent.

It opens a lot of doors to new approaches and it's important that as these approaches come, they're available to everybody.

MACCALLUM: Yes, it's fascinating. It's been a tough year but it's exciting to hear about some of these new developments that could have better ramifications for it, for the future as well. Dr. Besser, thank you. Good to see you tonight.

BESSER: You bet. You're welcome, Martha.

MACCALLUM: So coming up next, I'll speak with Senator Tom Cotton about how Joe Biden, as a president would tackle the thorny issue of China.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. I mean, you know, they are not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They are not -- they are a competition for us.



MACCALLUM (on camera):  President Trump's State Department delivered a stark warning to the incoming Biden administration on China's intention to become the global super power of the world.

In a 70-plus page document the state policy planning staff says this. The Chinese Communist Party aims not nearly a preeminence within the established world order but to fundamentally revise world order, placing the People's Republic of China at the center and serving Beijing's authoritarian goals and hegemonic ambitions.

While campaigning, President-elect Biden called China's President Xi a thug but China hawks fear that Biden would not be as aggressive as would be needed to stop the threat.


BIDEN:  China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man. I mean, you know, they are not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they are not -- they are a competition for us.


MACCALLUM (on camera):  So that was last May. Joining me now Senator Tom Cotton, a member of the armed forces and intelligence committee. Senator, good to have you here.

You know, there wasn't a lot of foreign policy discussion over the course of the campaign but there was a bit. And here is something that Joe Biden said about how he looks at China and Russia. Watch this.

I'm going to read it to you. In the near time, Russia, which seeks to undermine our democracy and our partners in Europe -- sorry, including the members of the NATO alliance, in the medium-term, a rising China poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States and our allies in Asia and in Europe. Ultimately, over the long term, the greatest geopolitical threat, he said, an existential threat to all countries is climate crisis.

So, what do you make of where he appears to stand there?

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AK):  Martha, thanks for having me on.

First, I want to commend the State Department especially Peter Berkowitz, the director of policy planning, the State Department's internal think tank for producing an outstanding report about the Chinese Communist Party and its ambitions to replace the United States as the world's dominant super power.

It's reminiscent of what George Kennan wrote the so-called long telegram at the beginning of the Cold War. And it's something that Joe Biden needs to read. Joe Biden, according to former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates who served in the Obama-Biden administration has been wrong about nearly every major foreign policy and national security decision for the last 48 years.

Should he become president I wish that he would change that record but it doesn't sound he is going to. I mean, I remember when Barack Obama made fun of Mitt Romney for saying that Russia was our chief threat.


COTTON:  And I'm worried that Joe Biden is willing to give away the store to Beijing for some elusory fantastical climate change agreement when China the world's largest polluter doesn't change their ways while the United States has had declining carbon emissions does agree to sacrifice our interest.


COTTON:  To stop standing up for our workers who have their jobs outsourced. So, for religious minorities and Democratic activists in China and Hong Kong and Taiwan who don't want to be under the thumb of communist oppression or is willing to kowtow to Beijing and international organizations to get more so-called prestige or credibility when in reality it just is naive and gullibility.

MACCALLUM:  Yes. I mean, you make many good points, one of which is that we've been better at cutting our emissions than we had even been scheduled to be than if we had stayed in the Paris climate accord. So, we have exceeded those expectations even outside of that deal.

You know, I want to ask you about this Afghanistan-Iraq discussion and the drawdown to 2,500 troops by January as we heard from the new defense secretary yesterday. And here is what Senator McConnell had to say about that yesterday. Let's watch.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER:  I think it's extremely important here in the next couple of months not to have any earth-shaking changes with regard to defense and foreign policy. I think a precipitous drawdown in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake.


MACCALLUM:  Do you agree and do you think that is the beginning of the separation between some of the Senate viewpoints and the White House?

COTTON:  Well, Martha, I agree with Senator McConnell's point that we don't want to leave Afghanistan or Iraq if the terrorists are going to be able to take over and use as it a safe haven again. That's exactly what happened in Iraq and in Syria in 2011 to 2014. President Obama drew down our troops to zero and then the Islamic state rose to power and we had to return to those countries to protect our citizens.

At the same time, the president has said all along that he wants to continue this steady and gradual removal of our troops from Afghanistan and those small - and in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East in no small part so we are better postured around the world to confront the genuine long-term threat to security which is a rising in communist China.

But president -- I'm sorry, Senator McConnell made those remarks before the announcement yesterday. He was speaking, I believe about an exit entirely.

The announcement that acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said is that we are going to move a couple thousand troops home.

Again, if that's what the commanders on the ground say that they need to maintain the support for the fragile peace agreement in Afghanistan and to prevent it from becoming a terrorist safe haven --


COTTON:  -- then I would give a lot of credit to their judgment.

MACCALLUM:  It sounds like there is some actual lining up between the Biden team and the Trump presidency on that particular point.

With regard to the future secretary of state, we don't know who it is going to be yet. Obviously, there is speculation out there. And there are -- there is some reporting that President Obama is encouraging President-elect Biden to choose Susan Rice. Here is what she said when she was asked about the potential for a cabinet spot.


SUSAN RICE, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  I'm very glad that we have Joe Biden and Kamala Harris coming to the White House. They are going to bring compassionate, responsible, effective leadership. And if they think I can be helpful to them in any particular capacity, I'm very open to serving.


MACCALLUM:  So, tell me what you think about the potential for her being confirmed in the Senate if she is chosen, Senator?

COTTON:  Susan Rice was the Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration foreign policy. She was at the middle of every terrible, flawed decision.

Just take Libya, for example. Many people remember Benghazi but the very fact that we launched that war to begin with without any plan for stability afterwards to turn that country into an open civil war zone where they are still engaged in the slave trade, which allowed millions of migrants to cross the Mediterranean Sea if they survived the crossing and flood into Europe.

That's the example of the kind of terrible judgment that Susan Rice displayed in the Obama administration. It's why a Democratic Senate couldn't confirm her in 2012 when Barack Obama wanted to make her a secretary of state. If the Democratic Senate couldn't confirm her, I doubt that a Republican Senate is going to confirm Susan Rice.

MACCALLUM:  Yes. And at the time as she was made the national security adviser non-confirmable not necessary to be confirmed spot in the White House.

Senator Cotton, thank you. Good to have you here tonight.

COTTON:  Thank you, Martha.

MACCALLUM:  So as New York City puts its schools back into full lockdown, Mary -- many parents might to have some school choice right now. Something that Betsy DeVos long advocated for. So, if Randi Weingarten, the head of the teacher's union takes her place which has been suggested by some, what would look different at the Department of Education? Bill Bennett weighs in next.


MACCALLUM:  New York City public schools will shut down tomorrow after less than eight weeks of in-person learning. The teacher's union had long advocated for a delay in the return to the classroom back in September and could soon find new found influence under a Biden administration.

The president-elect is reportedly eyeing labor leaders Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia as potential heads of the Department of Education. And changes could come quickly.

The New York Times reports that the plans might look is unlike this. Quote, "to restore Obama era civil rights guidance rescinded by Ms. DeVos that allowed transgender students to choose their school bathrooms, addressed the disproportionate disciplining of black students and press for diversity in colleges and K through 12 classrooms. The restoration can be done immediately because they were not put through the regulatory process or enacted into law," they write.

So, joining me now on some of this tonight, Bill Bennett, former Education Secretary and Fox News contributor. Bill, great to have you with us.

So, let's jump right in here.


MACCALLUM:  So, this announcement today that the country's largest school system is going back into lockdown. Your reaction?

BENNETT:  What a travesty. Ridiculous and cruel. Cruel to the students and cruel to their parents. Cruel to the citizenry. The students are virtually immune from COVID. There have been very few cases, a study that will be coming out of Johns Hopkins shows that of all the children though who have died from COVID across the country small number double digits all of them had serious co-morbidities.

School is a safe place for kids and they will not -- they will now be denied it. Parents. Think of the parents having to scramble tomorrow. You know, here we are pre-Thanksgiving. What are they going to do? They are going to work? They are going to find somebody to cover for their kids?


BENNETT:  And, again, there is no good reason. Follow the science and they're not following the science here.



BENNETT:  The citizenry will lose.

MACCALLUM:  Tremendous loss of learning too.

BENNETT:  Absolutely. And the citizenry will lose. Because these kids will have lost close to a year now.


BENNETT:  The math goes in four months and, you know, not just the learning but the social learning, mix -- missing their friends, their health issues.

The fact that their loneliness, psychological problems for older kids, drug issues. Child abuse is going on, that's not being investigated.

There is no good reason for this to take kids out of school and yet it's being done and it's a shame. Parents should raise holly hell about this.

MACCALLUM:  I think they will. So, one of the things that I mentioned was that the labor union, the teacher's unions had been very much against starting even in September. They wanted to delay that. Now it looks like a couple of the possibilities for the Department of Education to run that department Randi Weingarten and Lily Garcia of the teacher's unions, what do you think the impact of that would be? How would that change education in America?

BENNETT:  Well, frankly, whether it's Lily or Randi it will be the teacher's union running the Department of Education anyway whether either of those is named. Because that's the most powerful education group in the country particularly the Democratic Party.

More organ -- the largest organization that the Democrat could mention was the teacher's unions. They hold enormous sway. And they will have it their way. And they don't want to go back to school. They want to get paid but they don't want to go back to classrooms.

And that's a shame but they have revealed themselves to the Americans people and that's why the American people are more interested than ever in school choice and home schooling and other options. They are very disappointed with the behavior of these unions.

You will see their reversals, too, on a number of the issues that you talked about plus, of course, we may see this farce on the student loan forgiveness issue.

MACCALLUM:  Yes. In a minute that we have left and I'm going to encourage everyone to listen to the podcast that you and I did together as well because we got a lot deeper --


MACCALLUM:  -- into a number of these issues including your thoughts on student loan forgiveness.


MACCALLUM:  But, you know, talk about the social impact of the limit of families not seeing each other. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. And it's such a special time. And this year it just sounds like it's going to be skipped.

BENNETT:  Yes. What do you do? Draw straws? Grandpa, yes, grandpa, no? Six people only? No singing unless it's in a speaking voice. It's ridiculous.

Let's just take tip of the iceberg here the end of the line, Oregon.

So, in Oregon, you cannot gather more than six people together to share turkey but now because of their decriminalization you can gather four people together. All they want and they have can have all the heroin and cocaine without any fear of the police. Police may come for you and your turkey but not for the people using the heroin and the cocaine. What in God's name have we come to? What kind of idiocy is ruling in these places?

MACCALLUM:  Yes, it's unbelievable that those drugs --


MACCALLUM:  -- are legal, legal use. It's unbelievable. Bill, thank you very much.

BENNETT:  Unbelievable.

MACCALLUM:  And I hope everybody listens to your podcast --

BENNETT:  Welcome.

MACCALLUM:  -- because you have a lot of very wise things to say and I want them to hear those as well. Good to see you tonight.

BENNETT:  Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

MACCALLUM (on camera):  Happy Thanksgiving.

So, it's pretty clear that there is an effort underway to cancel Trump supporters to keep them from getting jobs or speaking opportunities. Now a petition is reportedly circulating at Harvard University to prevent any related Trump officials from being on their campus in any capacity. The details next.


SUNNY HOSTIN, CO-HOST, THE VIEW:  People like Kirstjen Nielsen. People like Stephen Miller. People like Kellyanne Conway. People like Vice President Pence who was woefully inadequate at his role of being the head of the coronavirus task force. And people like Ben Carson and Betsy DeVos. I don't think that those people should be able to profit from their experience within the Trump administration and I don't think that they should be forgotten and I don't think that we should look the other way.


MACCALLUM (on camera):  So, Harvard students reportedly taken preventative measures to ban any Trump officials from attending or teaching or speaking at the university, writing in a petition, quote, "we worry that in following tradition and inviting numbers of the Trump administration to Harvard the school would be legitimizing this subversion of democratic principles that up to now had been universally accepted by both political parties. Part of ensuring the survival of our democracy means calling to account those who seek to harm it."

Joining me now, Jon Hartley, a masters student at the Harvard Kennedy School. Jon, thanks for being here tonight. Good to have you.


MACCALLUM:  So, how much attention is this getting on campus? Is it widely signed and what did you think about it?

HARTLEY:  I think it's really interesting sort of development. I mean, I think it's certainly raising a lot of eyebrows on many parts of campus. I think, you know, a little in my own opinion, I think it's unfortunate. In the sense that it's not just unfair to Trump alumni, who by the way may not share the same views as the president, but I think it's especially unfair to students.

This proposal would be particularly unfair to students who disagree with many of the policies of the Trump administration. As a more Republican leaning student on campus, I think I learned a lot from democratic students, democratic-leaning professors as well and it's no secret that Harvard is a more democratically-leaning school.

But I think really, it's -- it marks kind of a disconnect between some of the more progressive students, some of the most progressive students, I would say, and in the administration at Harvard who think actually is in good faith very much trying to promote more intellectual diversity. They're bringing on more Republican-leaning students.

And on top of that, they've actually already hired in the past and in present, they've hired a number of Trump -- former Trump administrative personnel like Gary Cohn and Dina Powell as well.

So, I think halting that I think is very shocking and also in terms of upholding the sort of ideals of democracy, punishing political opponents in my opinion doesn't quite seem to be consistent with that.


HARTLEY:  You know, I think it will be interesting to hear what the school says, I know in the past that they have affirmed their commitment to promoting viewpoint diversity but I think they can probably go a little bit farther --


MACCALLUM:  So that's the whole point.

HARTLEY:  -- and being like a school at the University of Chicago and adopting the Chicago principles.

MACCALLUM (on camera):  Yes. I mean, the whole point of an education is to test your beliefs, to test your studies, to test and, you know, listen to other people's viewpoints so that you can really -- you know, I think it would be a great opportunity for some of those who wrote that statement to get a chance to be a foil, you know, to discuss those issues with those people, otherwise we're just going to be talking -- preaching to the choir.

Here's Kayleigh McEnany, the former -- the press secretary I should say, at the White House, and she went to Harvard Law School. Here's what she said this morning.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I hope the administration stands firm against this sort of call from censorship among the students because when I was there, Stuart, there was this uprising of leftists on campus that tried to silence the speech of people from the right.

I hope the administration, the same way they did when I was there, rebukes this movement because censorship should not be tolerated, our academic communities should be bastions of free speech.


MACCALLUM (on camera):  All right. Jon, we got to leave it there, we are out of time but I want to thank you very much for coming on tonight. Jon Hartley, masters student. We reached out to Harvard, no comment on the petition as of this point. But I thank him for being with us tonight.

So that is THE STORY of Wednesday, November 18th, 2020. But as always, THE STORY continues, so we will see you back here tomorrow night at seven o'clock. Tucker Carlson will be joining us next, so stick around for that.

Have a great night, everybody.

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