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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  April 21, 2021 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT

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he's being held in an isolated prison unit for his own safety awaiting his own 17 sentencing eight weeks. i'll speak with george floyd's brother and legal attorney, ben crump, standing by. officials in columbus, ohio, are promising transparency and accountability after an officer shot a black teenage girl. authorities say she was attempting to stab two other girls with a knife. but let's start our coverage this hour in minneapolis. omar jimenez is joining us right now. the verdicts are in but derek chauvin is still waiting to learn his punishment. give us the late-breaking developments. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. it's going to be a little under two months before we learn what that sentence is going to be, and it's going to be a fight to see how many years he actually gets, which will come down to factors like his previous criminal history and the severity of this particular
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crime. and then that is going to be the next sort of level of accountability people will be watching very closely here. but it's not just about that. people look at this conviction as the beginning of a long process. they want this to be a long process and they say it is a process that is long overdue. >> find the defendant guilty. >> reporter: with the guilty verdict on all three charges, derek chauvin went from former minneapolis police officer to convicted murderer, whose new reality is new a prison cell, similar to this one. separate from the general population at a state prison about 25 miles outside of minneapolis. while in the city -- celebrations. >> we can finally breathe. >> reporter: from a community that didn't think a conviction was possible. and to a george floyd family that knows the work isn't finished. >> we have to stick together and continue to fight, because this
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world is a place that we're supposed to be united and stand together. >> reporter: a mentality from the streets of minneapolis to the white house. >> this is the first shot at keel with systemic racism. >> reporter: and part of that, residents and local leaders hope, can come from the department of justice, now launching a probe into practices at the minneapolis police department. minneapolis mayor jacob frey welcomed the investigation as an opportunity to keep working toward deep change and accountability in the minneapolis police department. while the head of the city council, which has tried multiple times to dismantle the police department, hopes the doj uses the full weight of its authority to hold the minneapolis police department accountable for any and all abuses of power. meanwhile chauvin, with his bail revoked, awaits sentencing, expected in early june as the judge weighs a number of factors, including aggravating factors, like george floyd being
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treated with particularly cruelty, the presence of children when the crimes were committed and separately state sentencing dpied lines. the guidelines for someone with no criminal history like chauvin are up to 13 years for second-degree marurder and four years for second-degree manslaughter. but they are asking for more which could increase his time behind bars. >> i can see him smiling down on us and just being very, very proud of us. >> it's not about black, it's not about white, it's not about asian. it is only one race and that's the human race. and the world, let it be known that we all can breathe again because justice for george means freedom for all. >> reporter: now, a persisting chance we've heard in these celebrations is one down, three to go. that's talking about the three
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other officers charged in this case, all facing charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter and aiding and abetting second-degree murder. all three are out on bail but set to go on trial later this year. now, after floyd's death, the use of force by minneapolis police officers actually dropped, but then spiked late last year, according to a cnn analysis. black people were the subjects of that use of force at a highly disproportionate rate, indicative of the work that people here still feel needs to be done, wolf. >> a lot of work needs to be done clearly. omar, thank you very much. joining us now george floyd's brother, philonise floyd along with the attorney ben crump. he also represents the family of shooting victim daunte wright. philonise, it's been 20 hours since this verdict came down. how are you feeling now that you've had some time to process what happened?
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>> i feel great. never in history that i thought it would be something like this to bring people together. my brother, he's a symbol now and i will cement his legacy. we had a historic day yesterday when the conviction, because guilty, guilty and guilty of all charges, who would have ever thought that, because african-americans, just people of color, period, we never get justice for anything. and this has been a powerful statement for the world to see because we're all united together now. >> yeah. ben, you say the fight for justice doesn't end with this verdict. now the justice department here in washington will actually investigate minneapolis police practices. what do you think they'll finding? how deep rooted are these problems? >> well, wolf, i'm very happy
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that the department of justice is having this investigation because as we've often said, the problem is not just one of a training or a policy, it's one of implicit bias. there's a reason why george floyd was overpoliced when it was a mere misdemeanor allegation of him passing a $20 counterfeit bill. they never had to arrest him. but we see this pattern over and over in america, so i'm thankful to the attorney general, merrick garland. we need to get to the crux of the matter so we don't continue to see these hash tags, wolf blitzer, being created quicker than we can keep up. >> you know, philonise, derek chauvin will be sentenced in about eight weeks, in mid-june. the judge in this case has broad discretion here. what kind of punishment, what sentence is appropriate from your perspective for chauvin?
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>> totally the max. you know, i think the max because he did the max killing to my brother when he put his knee on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. i love my brother, i'll never get him back. my brother is doing his time in the ground now so he need to do his time in the cell. >> what do you think, ben? >> well, i think we are fighting for equal justice and so if the roles were reversed, whatever they would give george floyd for putting his knee on derek chauvin's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, then they should do the exact same. we can't have two justice systems in america, one for white america and another for black america. we have to have equal justice for every citizen in the united states of america, and our
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prayer is that this verdict yesterday represented a precedent, wolf, where everybody can say with liberty and justice for all, and every american can be included in that all. >> how concerned are you, ben, that chauvin and his attorneys may actually try to appeal this conviction? >> well, wolf, i expect every criminal defendant who's found guilty and sentenced to prison is going to appeal. that's their constitutional rights. but based on everything we saw in that video and the evidence, the very compelling evidence that came in during this trial, i see that there is no real grounds for him to have this conviction overturned. >> you know, philonise, we all read your article in "the
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washington post." you write about being part of a tragic club with other families who lost loved ones to police violence. have you actually spoken with those families since the verdict yesterday? >> yes, sir. this is a normal thing. we have to stick with each other because we're all fighting for the same thing. we're all fighting for accountability for officers because of the police brutality that's going on to this day. pamela turner, breonna taylor's mom, tamika palmer. you have the wright family, which her son passed ten miles away from the courthouse that i was at trying to get justice. there's so many people just around this nation that we're having to speak with. eric garner's mom. there's so many people who didn't get this chance. this was great for us, but now we have to go ahead and push
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forward to be able to help them. >> i know, ben, you got a call from president biden and vice president kamala harris yesterday, but since then have you had any conversations with biden administration officials or any lawmakers for that matter on next steps? >> well, we talked with congressman cedric richmond, who is the director of public engagement for president biden, talking about the importance of getting the george floyd justice and policing act passed through the united states senate. and we feel yesterday helped build momentum for that. you heard president biden say this is going to help us do a lot to get meaningful police reform to change the culture and behavior of policing in america where it can be a more just america where you won't see what happened to breonna taylor or you won't see what happened to george floyd or daunte wright.
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we can do better. we can have better policing for all citizens, not just some citizens. >> let me ask you, philonise about that tweet after the verdict from the las vegas raiders that said i can breathe. you thanked the raiders and said it's time to come together. why was it important for you to put that controversy aside? >> this was all about george. this was all about the world. people who had been out during a pandemic when covid was out protesting and marching and everybody here that they can't breathe for a reason because they wanted these police officers to be held accountable. so when i seen that tweet, i stood behind it because he used his platform to help elevate why we couldn't breathe. so he's saying they can breathe now. best believe i will stand behind him because we need to stick with each other and stand by in
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solidarity with each other because we have to stay united to fight for what's right in this world. >> i know, philonise, this has been an incredible journey for you and your family to be thrust in the national spotlight. you obviously didn't choose this. now you're at the forefront of this activism, so tell our viewers what comes next for you? >> i'm going to continue to fight for other victims, because it's like a neverending cycle. so i started an institution for social change and i'm turning my pain into purpose. we're going to get out and make sure we help other individuals, counsel other people like daunte wright's family, who i'm attending the funeral tomorrow. this is something that's historic to us and there's so many individuals that just people of color, period, they have been looking forward to
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this. that is one of the biggest reasons that i'm out here doing what i have to do, because people need to know that they are loved and they have people that they can believe in that will help inspire others to be great. >> philonise, please give our love to your family. thank you so much for joining us. ben crump, as usual, thanks to you as well. we appreciate both of you joining us. >> thank you so much. just ahead, we're getting some new details in the fatal police shooting of a teenage girl wielding a knife as more body camera video has just been released.
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tonight the minneapolis police department is the focus of a new federal investigation following the guilty verdicts against former police officer derek chauvin in the murder of george floyd. let's get some more on this. and president biden's new push for congress to pass police reform. our chief white house correspondent, kaitlin collins, is joining us. kaitlin, the president says this can be a moment, his words, of significant change. >> reporter: yeah, wolf, he says it can be but whether or not it will be is really still another question because congress has been deeply divided on this
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issue. they did not pass a single police reform bill after george floyd's death, so whether they will now and if they have enough momentum to do so is another question. that's what president biden is counting on. of course this comes as we should note right now what is happening is a new justice department investigation into the police department where derek chauvin worked and of course was later fired. the justice department launching a new investigation following derek chauvin's guilty verdict. >> yesterday's verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues. >> attorney general merrick garland announcing a probe into the practices of the minneapolis police department that employed and later fired chauvin. >> i am announcing that the justice department has opened a civil investigation. i strongly believe that good officers do not want to work in systems that allow bad practices. >> reporter: investigators will look into whether the department engages in the use of excessive
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force, discriminatory conduct or unlawful treatment of those with behavioral issues. the justice department will issue a public report if the investigation finds that the police department violated the law. >> building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us. >> reporter: but federal investigations can take months or even years, and the white house wants congress to step in now. >> the president and i will continue to urge the senate to pass this legislation. >> this shouldn't take a whole year to get this done. >> reporter: the police reform bill, named after george floyd, passed the house in march but faces an uphill battle in the senate. >> we will not rest until the senate passes strong legislation to end the systemic bias in law enforcement. >> reporter: the floyd bill would woman chokeholds, creating national police misconduct registry, mandate the use of deadly force as a last resort
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and end qualified immunity. it's that last part that has divided lawmakers. the republicans arguing police officers shouldn't be stripped of the shield that can protect them from lawsuits. >> i don't think, though, that the answer is to get rid of categorical way to get rid of sovereign immunity for our police officers. i think their job is hard enough. >> reporter: another heated confrontation on capitol hill. representative val demings shouting down congressman jim jordan after she criticized a republican amendment for a covid-19 hate crimes bill. >> you know, it's interesting to see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support the police when it is politically convenient to do so. >> reporter: the amendment would prevent efforts to defund the police, which demings called irrelevant since the bill doesn't propose that. >> law enforcement officers risk their lives every day. they deserve better, and the american people deserve -- i have the floor, mr. jordan.
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what, did i strike a nerve? law enforcement officers deserve better than to be utilized as pawns. >> reporter: wolf, we should note tonight that president biden does have a new official in a top spot at the justice department. that's because the senate has narrowly confirmed va nita gupta to be the new associate attorney general. that puts her in the number three spot in the justice department. she will be overseeing the civil rights division and of course that is a division that president biden has said will be key to his role in combatting what he says is systemic racism in policing. >> kaitlin, thank you very much. kaitlin collins at the white house. let's discuss all of this and more with global human rights leader martin luther king iii and derrick johnson, the president and ceo of the naacp. gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us. martin, the murder of emmitt till was a pivotal turning point
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for civil rights in your father's era. do you view yesterday's verdict potentially as a pivotal turning point in this era? >> well, it certainly can be a pivotal turning point. we all felt relief just as soon as the verdict came in. in fact something very interesting happened in my home. i was prepared to do an interview and my wife was on another floor and as the first count was read down as guilty, the doors began to shake in our home. that's never happened. i assumed that was my father and mother saying this is going in the right direction. but the higher point that i want to make in relationship to we must wait and evaluate to some degree and continue to be vigilant. when you hear that the senate is concerned and does not have the votes to even pass the george floyd bill, we should all be very concerned because that's a very good second step.
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the first step was this conviction. then also there are three other officers who have to be tried and hopefully convicted as well as the number of other shootings that we see taking place. tragically yesterday a young lady, 15 or 16 years old in columbus, ohio. so this may be a turning point, but i don't think we know that yet. >> yeah, we're going to have much more on that 16-year-old girl in columbus who was shot as she was holding a knife, but we'll get much more on that coming up. you know, derrick, we saw a rare victory yesterday. in this particular case a white police officer actually held accountable for killing an unarmed black man. what was the significance of that moment for you personally and for the broader movement? >> wolf, i was in minneapolis on sunday and monday and tuesday. that's the first time in the history of that state that a white police officer has been held accountable for killing a
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black citizen. but more importantly, i think directionally, we can go in the right direction now. i do believe that we may see the possibility of something coming out of the senate. i do know that senator scott, senator booker along with congresswoman bass have been working really hard to find a middle place. it is so important to find a middle place. think about the heroic effort that was just done by the minneapolis police department, led by the police chief, to testify during this case. that is bringing down the blue wall of silence. good police officers, they want to be able to be proud about their professions and not allow bad apples like derek chauvin to continue to bring the profession down. here's an individual who has had multiple infractions with their police department, but because of the state's arbitrations law, even if he would have been found
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guilty and despite the fact that he was fired by the police chief, the arbitrator could have reinstated him in his position or he could have gone to another department. we have to stop bad apples from being able to roam within our law enforcement agencies and restore trust, build trust, and ensure safe communities. >> we are, martin, witnessing a renewed push for police reform, for racial justice. but at least among lawmakers in washington, where i am, there are some republicans that have very little appetite for all of this. do you believe real transformative change can happen if this issue is perceived to be along party lines? >> i can only hope. i would not like to characterize it in a negative way by saying no. the reality is we should be in a whole different era. i think about the fact that if my father were here, my mother
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were arrive. but my father 53 years ago was dealing with the same issues that we are dealing with today. that as attorney crump says, we have two justice systems, one for blacks, one for whites. but it's not just the system of justice that has to be reformed, it's almost like dad used to talk about a revolution of values so that we embrace new values of peace, justice and equity to bring about change in this nation that we all call home and where we all must live. so i'm hopeful. i feel that it's unfortunate that there may be very few republicans, but as derrick johnson just stated, there is real dialogue going on among a bipartisan group of legislators in the senate as well as with congresswoman bass. so i feel hopeful, but i wish that they would even go further. this will just be a first step, by the way. there are going to have to be
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many more things that are done to transform policing in terms of identifying officers who live where they work so that they haven't -- they are stakeholders in the community. you know, such as civilian review boards, which we do have some, but we need a lot more. such as psychological evaluations that really evaluate who we are hiring as police. this is really a marathon, not a sprint. >> so what do you think, derrick, do you think senator scott, the republican, senator booker, the democrat, congresswoman bass, they can all work together and get this legislation passed not only in the house but in the senate as well? >> i think those members of congress, citizens of this nation, not political operatives, care enough about our communities, care enough about our democracies to put forth a strong effort to bring this question to the center. you talk to police officers who
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are good police officers, they also want a heightened level of accountability. many of them recognize that we have far too many bad apples within agencies and the respect of our police officers and agencies becomes so critical for their ability to go home safely. we are in our selma, alabama, moment. selma, alabama, in '64 set the tone for the passage of the voting rights act in '65. this moment creates an opportunity to set the tone for true reform so that all citizens can have an opportunity to feel safe and build trust. >> see if that happens. derrick johnson, martin luther king iii, guys, thank you very, very much. these are historic times we are watching unfold here in the united states. coming up, the mayor of columbus, ohio, is asking why a 16-year-old girl died at the hands of police. we're following the investigation and we'll show you new video just released.
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tonight another fatal police shooting is raising questions about law enforcement tactics in this country. authorities in columbus, ohio, released additional body camera footage and 911 calls in connection with the death of a teenage girl. cnn national correspondent athena jones has a report. a warning, some of the video is disturbing. >> reporter: tonight new videos released in the case of mac'khi br bryant. a teenager who was shot after
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police say she tried to stab people with a knife. upon receiving a chaotic 911 call, officers were dispatched to the scene. they don't know the identity of the caller. officer nicholas reardon approached a group of individuals in the driveway outside the home. >> what's going on? what's going on? hey, hey, hey! get ocdown, get down, get down, get down. >> reporter: the video shows him pushing one person down to the ground and lunging at another person in pink who has a knife in her hand. bryant was a foster child in the county's care. >> she came after me. >> reporter: tonight newly released body cam videos from two additional officers show the moments after the shooting as well. officers can be seen performing life-saving measures on bryant and sealing off the scene. officer reardon, who police identified as firing the fatal shots, has been a member of the
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columbus police department since 2019. police say he is on paid administrative leave while an independent investigation takes place. the columbus mayor said the killing was a failure of the community. >> the fact that we had a 16-year-old girl armed and involved with physical violence with other folks in that community, that's something for us to look in the mirror and to say what are we doing or not doing? >> find the defendant guilty. >> reporter: the shooting happened about 30 minutes before the guilty verdict was delivered for the murder of george floyd at a time when police use of force around the nation and in columbus specifically is under renewed scrutiny. >> we'll be sharing more in the hours, days, weeks ahead that doesn't compromise the investigation because it's critically important for us, for the public to have the information that we have so we can be as transparent as possible. >> reporter: now, cnn has reached out to officer reardon and the police union for comment but has not heard back. one thing that's important to note, both the mayor and interim
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police chief are stressing transparency. the police department worked swiftly to release the first body camera footage last night. chief michael woods saying his goal is to share as much information as possible with the public as quickly as possible. this was especially important last night because videos taken bye- bystanders had begun circulating on social media sparking outrage. >> thank you, athena. let's talk more about this case with retired major neil franklin, a veteran of the maryland state and baltimore police departments. thanks so much for joining us. the columbus mayor, you heard him, saying this officer was protecting the other young girl involved in this incident. what did this officer have to weigh in these kinds of circumstances? >> yes, wolf. first of all, my heart goes out to ma k'khia's family, let me jt
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say that. let me first say this was not a derek chauvin moment, situation. kneeling on someone's neck for nine minutes is plenty of time to decide what to do, what not to do. this is a split-second situation where the officer hopped out of his patrol car, saw someone with a knife. the video, not the investigation which is being conducted. what we saw was this young lady, ma'khia attacking somebody else who went to the grounds. she turned her attention to the lady in pink backing her up against the car where she had nowhere to go. ma'khia, knife in hand, the officer had to make a split-second decision. i'm not saying whether it's right or whatever the investigation will bring that out, i'm just explaining to you what an officer has to do and what they have to consider in the split second. he had to prevent someone from using deadly force against someone else. that's what we're supposed to do, we're supposed to protect
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our citizens and that's a decision he apparently made. >> what do you say, major, to those who wonder why the police officer didn't use a taser. people who question whether this was proportional against a teen with a knife. is there anything else that police officer could have done to protect that other girl in pink? >> well, first of all, from what i'm hearing, the officer may have had a taser. i don't know that for sure. so i guess we'll learn that. but one thing that that officer had to do was make a decision. he couldn't -- i know if i'm -- i'm trying to put myself in that situation now and i see someone's hand raised, someone backed up against a car, knife in hand, what's my best option for stopping that deadly force against that person. it may as well -- it may be that firearm. this is how we're trained. you go for what you believe will
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stop the threat as soon as possible. i can't say what was in his mind. that will come out during the investigation. but it's a very difficult decision to make for a police officer, wolf. >> it certainly is. major neil franklin, thank you so much for that analysis. just ahead, the u.s. crosses another milestone in the covid-19 vaccinations. cal: our confident forever plan is possible with a cfp® professional. a cfp® professional can help you build a complete financial plan. visit to find your cfp® professional.
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of the national institutes of health, dr. francis collins. dr. collins, thanks as usual for joining us. as the president celebrates that vaccine milestone, we're starting to see vaccine supply, and this is worrisome, outpace demand. what needs to be done, dr. collins, to ensure americans are willing to get these shots as they become available? >> well, it is a milestone now that we've got 200 million doses in arms and more than half of americans have had at least one dose and more than a third of them are fully immunized having had both doses. but the hard part lies ahead. there's 130 million americans that haven't started yet. a lot of the polls would say a lot of those folks still aren't sure if they want to take part in this amazing opportunity to put this virus behind us so we have to really figure out how to get the message out there. those who are still undecided, get the information they need to see why this is really something
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they would want to do. for me as a physician, a scientist, director of nih, it's a very compelling case but not everybody has bought into it. >> you and i have known each other quite a while and i know you've been outspoken about your faith in god and you've written about it. you say faith in science are complements, not rivals. as it comes to vaccine hesitancy, as it's called, what would you say to encourage other people of faith to trust this miraculous vaccine? >> well, that's a good question because it does sound as if particularly white evangelicals are particularly skeptical about this vaccine for various reasons. some of them feel like this was rushed, but you know some people have had this vaccine in their system now for nine months so we're getting a lot of information here and it looks really safe. some people feel like, okay, why should i trust science, does that mean i'm not trusting god? i think god works through science in cases like this and we ought to celebrate that and give thanks to god's grace that this kind of thing is possible.
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some have heard various conspiracy theories about how this might be that's bad for them or, good heavens, even the mark of the beast, revelation 13 is being brought up in a way that really doesn't fit the situation. but all of that is swirling around there and it's mixed up i'm afraid with some politics. you know what i would say, wolf, is if you're in a circumstance right now listening to this and you're still resistant to this because you've heard these things and you're skeptical, maybe try to hit the reset button on everything you've heard before and say, okay, let's really look at the evidence. here we are in april. there's a lot of experience now. if you're a white evangelical, look at the national association of evangelicals. they're strongly promoting the idea that people of faith should take this vaccine for themselves, for their communities. it's like love your neighbor because if we are going to get past this terrible pandemic, it's going to take most of us being immunized. otherwise the virus can just
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keep going on and on. is that really what we're called to do as people of faith? i don't think so. but again, hit the reset button, look at the evidence. go to a website called if you're interested in something that's not part of the government. in case you don't trust old white guys working for the government like me, there's lots of other information out there that can reassure you. it's not like it's hidden to find. it's there, so don't trust the social media, look at the reliable sites. you'll be convinced, i think, if you pay attention to the facts that this is something that you want for yourself. it's safe, it's incredibly effective. it's one of the most amazing stories in science in decades. >> you're absolutely right, dr. collins. we're grateful to you, grateful to everyone at nih for what you're doing. thanks for joining us. >> glad to be with you, wolf, any time. coming up, i'll speak with cnn's don lemon about the conviction of derek chauvin and how far the country has come since the killing of george floyd.
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we'll be right back.
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fear of the world for your nephew. but your fear subsided yesterday. >> it does help. there is some culpablety. they'll protect and serve rather than think there is an authority over a certain group of people they have just because. it helps a little bit but let's see, wolf, you know this as well as i do, let's see what happens. >> you told me, don, we went back and looked at that interview and watching the p previous administration, does it feel like we have come a long way since then? >> i can't believe it almost been a year since we did that
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and we sat in these very chairs and on this very channel doing that and i just think of the difference, what a difference a year makes when you have an administration now who's calling the family of george floyd's and saying we are going to do everything we can to make situation like this not ever happen again and you had an administration who was, you know, gassing protesters just for a photo-op and denying systematic racism in our society. it puts the emphasis on how important it is to get out and vote and be active and aware. i hope that we continue to move forward with that, that people
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stay agctive and aware. >> you have been joining me since george floyd was killed a year ago, as you look back on everything that happens, what stands out the most to you? >> well, i think yesterday stands out because there was justice for the floyd's family. there is justice for america. what stands out the most, i am grateful of the platform and the privilege i have to speak directly to the american people. i hope that i have been as good of a facilitator in those conversations as you have been here on cnn. it has opened up an awareness in this country and given us room to have these conversations. i was inspired to write the book because of what happened in the summer of 2020 and i hope that other people are inspired to do better and be able to at least
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try to help the issue of racism in this country. i don't think we'll ever fix it. that's what stands out. i think we are in a better place now than a year ago. i don't think that's a bad thing. that's not too much to ask. that's pretty good. >> we still have a lot of work to do. don, thank you very much. don will be back later tonight on "cnn tonight" at 10:00 p.m. eastern. we'll have more news later. a b. ♪ we see companies protecting the bottom line by putting people first. we see a bright future, still hungry for the ingenuity of those ready for the next challenge. today, we are translating decades of experience into strategies for the road ahead. we are morgan stanley.
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