PBS NewsHour


November 29, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode

November 29, 2021 - PBS NewsHour full episode

AIRED: November 29, 2021 | 0:56:46

JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

On the "NewsHour" tonight: Omicron raises concern.

As a new COVID variant spreads, President Biden urges calm and implements a travel ban

from eight African nations.

Doctor Anthony Fauci joins us.

Then: COVID's toll.

Tens of thousands of children face a difficult road ahead after losing a parent or other

caregiver to the coronavirus.

CHARLES NELSON, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital: Our instinct is

to say, how horrible.

A child has lost mom or dad.

What will that lead to?

It could lead to the loss of income.

It could lead to food scarcity.

Children could lose their home.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Then: political stakes.

Democrats push for a Senate deal on the president's Build Back Better legislation in the final

weeks of the year.

All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."


JUDY WOODRUFF: A growing number of nations imposed travel restrictions

today to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron.

The moves came as more cases of the variant were confirmed internationally.

But some warned that the travel bans, including one imposed by the U.S., would not be effective

and could even be counterproductive.

White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Today, a U.S. ban on foreign travelers from across Southern Africa took

effect, as Japan, Morocco and Israel banned entry by all foreigners.

At the White House, President Biden addressed his decision targeting South Africa, where

Omicron was first detected and seven other African countries.

JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: This variant is a cause for concern, not a

cause for panic.

The reason for the immediate travel ban is, there were a significant number of cases,

unlike any other country, well, a few around South Africa, in the world.

We needed time to give people an opportunity to say get that vaccination now, before it

heads -- it's going to move around the world.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Along with the U.S., Britain, Canada and a dozen other nations, including

the European Union, have banned travel from Southern Africa.

Australia has delayed its plans to reopen borders.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa criticized the rush to impose travel bans.

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, South African President: We need to resist unjustified, as well as

unscientific travel restrictions that only serve to further disadvantage developing economies.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Many public health leaders have also pushed back on the bans. 0:04:40.570,1193:02:47.295 Andy Slavitt, President Biden's former senior adviser on COVID-19, took to Twitter, saying

- - quote -- "A far better response would be the mass shipment of hundreds of millions

of vaccines to the area."

The Omicron variant has now been confirmed in more than a dozen countries across several


Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific have all reported that the variant has hit

their shores.

And over the weekend, two cases were confirmed in Canada.

That's the first time the variant has been recorded in North America.

The makers of two highly effective vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are already pivoting their

efforts to address the Omicron variant.

Dr. Paul Burton is Moderna's chief medical officer:


PAUL BURTON, Chief Medical Officer, Moderna: We will know from laboratory tests in the

next couple of weeks just how effective the vaccines are against this variant.

If we need to manufacture an Omicron-specific variant, it's going to take some weeks.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The World Health Organization has classified Omicron as a variant of concern.

But it's urging nations not to overreact.

Here's the WHO director general:

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO Director General: South Africa and Botswana should be thanked

for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant, not penalized.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The Delta variant remains responsible for most infections globally.

And it's not yet clear whether Omicron causes more severe disease.

President Biden says that, while he does not favor further shutdowns or lockdowns, the

best defense against the variant is the vaccine.

JOE BIDEN: The vaccines will continue to provide a degree of protection against severe disease.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: While Omicron has yet to be detected in the U.S., experts say it's

not a matter of if, but when.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In response to the Omicron threat, the Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention today urged all adults receive a booster shot.

For more on all this, we turn to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute

of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

I spoke with him a short time ago.

Dr. Fauci, thank you very much for joining us.

So, first of all, is Omicron in the United States?


ANTHONY FAUCI, Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden: We don't know that right now, Judy.

We are certainly looking very carefully to see if it is already here.

But given the characteristics which we're starting to see unfold about this virus and

what's gone on with other countries over the last 24 to 48 hours, I really would be surprised

if we didn't ultimately have it here in this country.

But, right now, there's no definite evidence that it is here yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Fauci, as you know, the World Health Organization is saying that this

is potentially very high risk, what the Omicron poses.

But then President Biden said today that it is a cause for concern, but not a cause for


So how concerned should people be?


ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, we have to take is seriously, because the virus that was isolated and characterized

by our South African colleagues -- and, I must say, kudos to them for being so transparent

and so helpful in collaborating and giving us the information in real time -- it displays

a constellation of mutations, Judy, that would be suggestive that it has a high degree of

transmissibility advantage.

And it could, in fact, evade some of the immunological parameters that we follow, like monoclonal

antibodies and convalescent plasma, and even vaccine-induced antibodies.

We don't know what the ultimate impact of that.

It might not be a big deal at all, or it might turn out to be something that we are really

going to have to address.

So there are a number of unanswered questions.

But, fortunately, we likely will have the answer for them in a matter of a couple of


Namely, what does our vaccines do when we induce antibodies?

Will it neutralize this virus?

And, importantly, as we're getting information from our South African colleagues, when you

do get infected with this, is it a severe disease, or is it only very -- a very mild


So it could be a highly transmissible virus without severe consequences, or not.

We don't know that.

And that's the reason why the president very appropriately said, we're concerned, we're

paying very close attention to it, but that, really, we should not be panicking about it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there early evidence, though, as to whether the vaccines being offered right

now protect against this new variant?


ANTHONY FAUCI: From our experience, Judy, I can say that I would be very surprised if

the level of antibodies that are induced by our vaccines, particularly following a booster,

would not have some effect in countering this, because, when you look at the Delta variant,

which is a variant that is not really one that the vaccine is specifically directed

against, yet, when you get a high enough titer following vaccination, and certainly following

a booster, you cover the Delta variant.

You have a crossing over of protection to it.

So, knowing what we know about variants, I would be surprised if there was at least some

degree and maybe a significant degree of protection.

We don't know that yet until we prove it, but I wouldn't be surprised if that were the


JUDY WOODRUFF: So, beyond getting vaccinated, getting the booster -- and we saw that, today,

the CDC is expanding their recommendation to all adults now to get the booster.

What more can people do to stay safe?


ANTHONY FAUCI: Just what we have been saying all along.

I don't think anything needs to change, Judy.

And that is, when you're in a congregate setting, and particularly indoors with individuals,

where you don't know their vaccination status, where a mask?

I know there will be traveling during the holidays that are coming up.

When you go to an airport in a congregate setting, wear a mask, keep your mask on.

You can enjoy the family settings, particularly if everybody's vaccinated.

So we don't need to feel that we need to be cooped up and restricted in that regard.

But just be careful.

Be prudent.

But, above all, if ever there was a reason for people to say, let's get vaccinated if

you're not vaccinated, and if you are vaccinated, by all means, get boosted, this is really

a very strong endorsement for that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Dr. Fauci, we know Biden administration and now, what, over 40 other

countries have instituted travel bans against countries in Southern Africa.

But you're also aware there's criticism of this.

I mean, there are those who say, this is overly punitive, that it's not effective enough,

that it could lead to governments being less transparent in the future.

Do you think there is some truth to these criticisms?


ANTHONY FAUCI: It's a very tough call when you have to make a decision like that, because,

when you're looking at something in which the molecular virologists and the WHO and

those who are looking at the virus say, this is really of a concern, we don't know yet

the full scope of it.

So the prudent decision is to try and give us at least a couple of weeks of leeway to

be able to be better prepared.

And that was the motivation for the travel restriction.

No one likes to do that with a -- with any countries.

But, of course, I can tell you, Judy, you know the way things go.

If we had not done that, we would be highly criticized for putting ourselves in danger.

So, there's always going to be criticism.

You just have to do what you feel is the best judgment.

And, hopefully, if things turn out, OK, this will not be a long duration of a restriction.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One final question, Dr. Fauci.

Here in the United States, after all these months, President Biden spoke of the need

to get more testing.

It seems that there still are many Americans having trouble finding a place to get tested.

I know from personal experience over the weekend trying to help someone find a testing site.

What has happened to that?

Should we be farther along in this country right now?


ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, I can tell you what the government is doing, Judy.

There has been an investment of literally billions of dollars to get to the point where

you have anywhere from 200 million to 500 million tests per month available.

That's going to be the goal.

And I think we're really well on the way there.

There are places where you can get testing pretty easily.

But you're right.

I know of experiences of people calling me where they're having trouble finding a place

where they can get a rapid test.

But that is unevenly distributed throughout the country.

So, hopefully, when that money gets put to use to get those 200 to 500 million tests

per month, this will not be a problem anymore.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you very much for joining us.

We appreciate it.


ANTHONY FAUCI: Good to be with you, as always, Judy.

Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: A federal judge in St. Louis blocked a federal

COVID vaccine mandate for health care workers in 10 states.

They had challenged President Biden's order, arguing there was no clear legal authority

for it.

An earlier court order blocked a federal vaccine mandate for large employers.

The rulings in force, pending appeals to higher courts.

Iran today pressed for an end to U.S. sanctions as talks resumed on reviving the 2015 nuclear


Negotiators from six nations met in Vienna for the first time in more than five months.

Iran's top negotiator said the other parties understand what's needed.

ALI BAGHERI KANI, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister (through translator): I think it is itself

a great achievement that all of the members of the group have accepted Iran's rightful

demand and clarified that the illegal U.S. sanctions must first be lifted, and then there

will be discussion, assessment, and decision-making on the remaining matters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump quit the nuclear deal, and, in response, Iran stopped complying

with limits on its nuclear work.

President Biden has indicated he wants to rejoin the agreement, if Iran returns to compliance.

In Honduras, they're still counting votes, but leftist Xiomara Castro appears headed

toward becoming the country's first female president.

Supporters celebrated last night as she ran up a landslide lead in early results from

Sunday's election.

Castro called for a new era after 12 years of conservative rule.

XIOMARA CASTRO, Honduran Presidential Candidate (through translator): We are going to form

a government of reconciliation in our country, a government of peace and a government of


We are going to start a process in the whole of Honduras to guarantee a participative democracy,

a direct democracy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Castro's husband had once been president, but was ousted by a military coup

in 2009.

Lawmakers in Sweden have elected Magdalena Andersson again as their first female leader.

She was briefly prime minister last week, before her coalition collapsed.

After today's vote, most of Sweden's Parliament stood and applauded Andersson as she accepted

her new role for the second time.

Back in this country, federal prosecutors in New York charged that Ghislaine Maxwell

trafficked young girls to Jeffrey Epstein for sexual abuse.

They spoke in opening statements.

The defense answered that Maxwell has been made a scapegoat for Epstein, a convicted

sex offender who died in jail in 2019.

Jury selection began today for Jussie Smollett, accused of staging a hate crime attack.

The former star of the TV series "Empire" arrived at the Chicago courthouse with his

family, but had no comment on the way inside.

Smollett claims white men assaulted him in 2019, shouting racial and homophobic slurs.

Two Black men say that he paid them to attack him.

Twitter's CEO, Jack Dorsey, has stepped down.

He said today that it's time for change at the social media giant.

Dorsey co-founded Twitter in 2006.

Under his leadership, the company was criticized for not doing enough to block hate speech.

On Wall Street, stocks put aside some of Friday's fears over the new COVID variant.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 236 points to close at 35136.

The Nasdaq rose 291 points, nearly 2 percent.

The S&P 500 added 60.

And Lee Elder, who broke racial barriers in professional golf, has died.

He passed away early Sunday in Escondido, California.

In 1975, Elder became the first Black player to compete at The Masters.

Ultimately, he won four times on the PGA Tour.

Lee Elder was 87 years old.

Still to come on the "NewsHour": journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones' new book offers an expanded

look at the long legacy of slavery in the U.S.; Tamara Keith and Amy Walter break down

the coming congressional battle over the president's agenda; the life of the late designer Virgil

Abloh and his impact beyond the fashion world; plus much more.

More than 775,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, a staggering figure.

Left behind are tens of thousands of children, some orphaned entirely after the parent or

grandparent who cared for them died.

In this report co-produced with the "NewsHour," Kaiser Health News correspondent Sarah Varney

looks at the risks these grieving children face to their well-being, both in the short

and long term.

BETTY HAMILTON, Grandmother: I think the little boys don't really have a concept of what's

really happening, what really happened, because I think they keep looking for him.

Hey, boys.

SARAH VARNEY: Betty Hamilton says her five grandchildren still haven't accepted that

their dad died suddenly of COVID in August.

The boys, ages 4 to 10, came to live with her in Eastman, Georgia, because their mom

is gone too.

She died in a car crash years earlier, and they needed a home.

Now Betty's day is filled with helping her grandsons with homework, and she spends endless

hours in the kitchen trying to feed the growing boys.

The boys are among at least 140,000 children in the United States who have lost a parent

or grandparent who cared for them to COVID, and these grieving kids face grave risks.

It was Betty who told the boys about their dad.

BETTY HAMILTON: They looked at me like I was crazy.

I'm hoping, with me and my daughter, that we could give them something to look forward,

even though they don't have a mother and a father in their life, but you got a grandparent,

granddad, grandmom.

You got an aunt.

You got an uncle 24/7, anything you need.

SARAH VARNEY: If only it were that simple.

She gets no financial help for the boys from the government, except food stamps and Medicaid.

CARLA HAMILTON, Aunt: So, that was the main struggle, just getting them clothing and getting

them fed.

SARAH VARNEY: Their aunt, Carla Hamilton, tried to move the boys into her home in Gwinnett

County, but her landlord said they weren't on her lease.

Now she frequently makes the trip, three hours each way, to help her mom figure out the basics,

setting up a GoFundMe page and finding a bigger house, and caring for the boys' mental health.

CARLA HAMILTON: How are they feeling, talking to them.

I didn't want -- death is sad regardless.

And then just losing their mom, I didn't want them real depressed or anything.

So, we tried to talk positive, tell them positive things about how everything that was going

around, keep them happy and hopeful, and not looking at it like, oh, this is another bad

thing that's happened to us, our mom and now our dad.

SARAH VARNEY: Kash (ph) is 4 and sometimes acts out at preschool.

Will you show me how you build a giraffe?


Now you do the yellow block.

SARAH VARNEY: Kolby (ph) is 5 and in kindergarten.

It's difficult for the younger boys to comprehend that their dad is really gone.

Where do you think your dad is now?

CHILD: He's at his house.

SARAH VARNEY: The older boys are dealing with complex emotions.

And about you, Kristian (ph)?

What were some of your favorite things to do with your dad?

BOY: Play a game with him.

SARAH VARNEY: It's hard to talk about, yes.

BOY: It's OK, Kristian.

BOY: Draw with him.

SARAH VARNEY: Even though there are so many families and kids left to grieve on their

own, there is no concerted government effort to help them or even identify them.

There are organizations across the country that help grieving children, but they are

few and far between, and often not well-known.

WOMAN: So, introduce yourself, introduce your family, and introduce who died in your life.

SARAH VARNEY: At Kate's Club in Atlanta, surviving parents, caregivers and kids come together

to grieve and to learn healthy ways to cope.

WOMAN: So this icebreaker is just going to kind of get us thinking about our grief.

SARAH VARNEY: Kids who've lost a parent or caregiver to COVID come from all backgrounds,

but there are stark differences.

One out of 753 white children have lost a caregiver, compared to one out of 412 Hispanic

children, one out of 310 Black children, and one out of 168 American Indian/Alaska Native


WOMAN: It was pretty amazing.

SARAH VARNEY: Compared to kids who have never lost a parent, bereaved children are at significantly

increased risk for lower self-esteem and poor academic performance.

They're at greater risk for death due to illness, suicide, drug abuse, and violent crime.

Ten-year-old London McBurnie and her mom, Lauri Clay (ph), started coming to Kate's

Club after London's dad, Joel McBurnie, died of COVID in August at age 46.

Processing grief in the time of COVID is complicated.

Some children feel guilty for infecting a parent.

Others, like London, are angry that their parent didn't get vaccinated or wear a mask.

And do you find, when people don't wear their masks, does that make you mad?

LONDON MCBURNIE, Daughter of COVID Victim: Yes, because it reminds me of not -- of daddy

not wearing the -- his mask at the soccer - - the last soccer game.

And I told him to put it on, but he said he would put it on, but he never did.

So -- and I -- that's when I got mad.

SARAH VARNEY: The pandemic is far from over.

And with every surge of COVID-related deaths, there are more and more children left behind

to grieve and deal with the consequences.

CHARLES NELSON, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital: In the United

States, the original figure, we thought, was about 120,000.

We think that is now closer to around 175,000.

SARAH VARNEY: Charles Nelson co-authored a study in the journal "Pediatrics" that estimated

the number of children who've lost a parent or caregiver to COVID.

He says, without interventions, these kids face serious risks.

CHARLES NELSON: There's the issue of unresolved grief.

That is, the depression isn't treated, and it becomes a persistent form of depression.

SARAH VARNEY: So, this could affect them for the rest of their life?

CHARLES NELSON: These stressful events can be biologically embedded.

So, their physical health could also suffer long-term.

SARAH VARNEY: But Nelson says there's more to it.

A child's entire life can unravel.

CHARLES NELSON: Our instinct is to say, how horrible.

A child has lost mom or dad.

What we're not really thinking about is, so what will that lead to?

It could lead to the loss of income.

It could lead to food scarcity.

Children could lose their home.

They could wind up living with a relative they don't know.

They could wind up in foster care.

There could be impacts at school.

Kids could make fun of them.

And so, eventually, all of those things could pull the rug out from underneath a child and

make the loss of a parent that much worse.

MALLORY DUNLAP, Daughter of COVID Victim: How are you liking the bigger ball?

SARAH VARNEY: Camille and Mallory Dunlap of Elyria, Ohio, have felt those ripple effects.

Their father, Galen Lewis Dunlap III, died of COVID a year ago.

Mallory decided to quit college softball after a teammate called COVID a hoax.

Camille faced a bully at school, too, who said her dad abandoned them and didn't really


CAMILLE DUNLAP, Daughter of COVID Victim: He came up to me and told me my father went

to go get milk and never came back.

It drived me insane.

And I told the principal.

He got suspended.

SARAH VARNEY: Both girls were home when their dad died in their parents' bedroom.

JULIE WALLACE, Mother: He didn't -- he was here.

SARAH VARNEY: Their mother, Julie Wallace, tried to revive him with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

And Mallory called 911.

Nearly a year later, Mallory is struggling to stay on course.

MALLORY DUNLAP: There's definitely days where it's better.

I can focus really well, I can get good grades, and there's always that sense of like, yes,

good job, and I can study.

I'm good.

But then there's also the other days where, like, nothing seems like it's going to go


It feels there's a big cloud over my head and it's raining, and it's not going to work.

SARAH VARNEY: So, this is where -- this is where they would bring in the big trucks?



SARAH VARNEY: With the sudden loss of Lewis' income -- he had helped run a truck repair

shop considered an essential business at the height of the pandemic -- Julie now has to

pay the monthly bills, find health insurance and therapists and put her girls through college.

She is entirely on her own.

JULIE WALLACE: We demanded these essential workers go to work.

And they did.

And they died.

It's just like, OK, sorry.

We're moving on.

And, meanwhile, all of the families are drowning.

MALLORY DUNLAP: OK, this is when we need dad.

SARAH VARNEY: Experts say that, if these kids and their families continue to be left on

their own, the deaths of their parents will be felt for generations to come.

For the "PBS NewsHour" and Kaiser Health News, I'm Sarah Varney in Elyria, Ohio.

JUDY WOODRUFF: With only a few weeks left in the year, the president has a full slate

of challenges ahead, from passing his Build Back Better plan to tackling the new COVID


Here to assess the politics of it all, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy

Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.

Hello to both of you on this Monday.

Very good to see you.

So we're going to begin with what we're leading with in the program tonight, and that is this

new variant of COVID.

Amy, just when I think we thought maybe we were on the good side of this...

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: We were turning the corner, right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... it turns out that there is a big question mark out there.

We don't know yet how serious, how severe the symptoms are, but we know that it is on

the move.

And President Biden is imposing a travel ban.

He's saying no reason to panic.

We know there are health reasons, health things he has to worry about.

What about the political implications?

AMY WALTER: That's right.

I thought it was noteworthy that he said, be concerned, but don't panic, and also that

he said, we're not going to do lockdowns, made very clear we can defeat this with vaccines

and with boosters.

We don't have to go into where we were in 2020.

So, the challenge, though, for the president, as he noted also in that speech, is, he doesn't

have any control over what other countries are doing.

And this is, as we know, a global pandemic.

So, yes, the U.S. can send lot of vaccines around the world, but you're still looking

at countries in Africa that have -- like South Africa, what is it, 6 percent or something,

of a vaccination rate.

So this is going to go on for quite some time.

It seems to me the other challenge the president has though, is, he's dealing in real time

with these mutations that are going to be with us, while the long tail of COVID is still

with us, just like this piece that ran before us about the mental health challenges for


We watched this year where we have record number of overdose deaths, that we have people

getting in fights on airplanes and punching flight attendants, right?

There's still -- we're still dealing with the effects of being in lockdown for 2020

that that haven't been resolved.

We're still sort of getting back into society, while we're also dealing with the present

reality of a mutating virus that is probably going to be with us for some time.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Not to mention the economy.

AMY WALTER: Not to mention the economy, exactly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, there's so many different pieces of this that the president has to think


But it could affect -- it is affecting him.

TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Absolutely.

And he did come out.

He had to come out after this long weekend, where everyone at home got really frightening

news, that there is a new variant of concern that has this name that we haven't heard,

and we don't know how to pronounce.

And he had to come out and say, basically, I'm president, I'm here to help, even though

they have virtually no answers on all of the important and relevant questions.

And he doesn't have a lot of levers left to push.

He can beg people to wear masks.

But outside of liberal urban centers, people just aren't wearing masks anymore.

The CDC came out with new recommendations pushing boosters even harder than they were


The president can continue sort of pushing boosters.

But they have run out of big, bold things that they can do to move the needle to get

much more of the population vaccinated.

He's in a tough spot, and his political future rests on people feeling like there is some

sense of normal.


TAMARA KEITH: And just as we were having this semi-normal Thanksgiving, where we saw people

we haven't seen -- been in the same room with in a long time, just as this was happening,

this news comes out that is a big, bad reminder that COVID isn't done with us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And as we're heading into the holidays, people are asked to be patient.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's wait.

We will find out later how serious it is.

But, meantime, Amy, of course, this isn't the only thing the president is dealing with

right now.

He's got several things sitting before the Congress, first and foremost, Build Back Better,

his big social spending program.

Then there's a defense authorization bill.

There's funding the government.

What does it all...

AMY WALTER: There's the debt ceiling.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The -- what does it all look like?

AMY WALTER: Remember, it wasn't that long ago, Tam -- but maybe it was 100 years ago,

it feels like -- that these would be considered a really big deal?

There would be panic on Wall Street.

People in Washington would be panicking.

Oh, my gosh, we're getting to the end of the year and there's a debt ceiling, and we're

going to fall off a cliff with government funding.

And now it just seems like there's sort of a shrug, collective shrug, because this seems

to happen every year.

And it fixes itself, and we don't head into disaster area.

But the bigger challenge for the president is getting his Build Back Better plan passed

before we head into 2022, right?

The majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said today we're going to get this done by Christmas,


But he wants this done, so that 2022 starts off with, hey, everybody, look what Democrats

have offered before you for the midterm elections.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, 28 days before Christmas - - or I don't -- I didn't count.

I just made that up, Tam, however many days it is.


JUDY WOODRUFF: It's -- I mean, how much of this is in the president's control?

Because we're talking about this at a time when his public opinion approval ratings are

moving down.


And this comes at a time when Democrats really are convinced that they need this.

Democrats believe that they need to be able to go out and say, look at all this stuff

we did for you.

I'm not sure that that is totally going to work.

But they have become convinced that they need that.

And, certainly, President Biden is going to be pushing for this.

The White House is signaling that they are planning to be tougher on Republicans.

The thing is, Republicans have pretty easily consolidated behind a message that is like,

no, no, no, this thing could hurt inflation.

No, no, no, this is just going to run up the debt.

And Democrats haven't been quite consolidated behind a message of what's in it and why it's

a good idea.

And so the White House is signaling that President Biden is going to get tougher, and he's going

to say, well, what is their alternative?

So, that's sort of the phase they're moving into.

I don't know that that's going to make Democrats all come together and hug before Christmas,


JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amy, while Republicans are saying the country is going to be -- fall

apart if this passes, what is the secret potion that the president has?

AMY WALTER: That the president is looking - - you mean to get his own party on board?


AMY WALTER: Yes, some of it is, hey, if I don't do well, if my approval ratings don't

go up, then it's going to hurt everybody alongside.

So you can try to distance yourself from an unpopular president when your party is up,

but it is very, very difficult to do.

And the really big flashing red light right now for Democrats isn't that Republicans are

against what the president wants to do.

It's that independent voters have soured a lot on this president.

And, in fact, when you look at over the course of these last six midterm elections, the president

going into that midterm election with approval ratings where this president sits with independents

have lost seats in that midterm, lots of seats in that midterm election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Flashing red light.

AMY WALTER: Flashing -- it's the -- yes, I - - yes.

I call it now it's the check engine light for American politics, independent voters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We're going to remember that.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.

AMY WALTER: You're welcome.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones's 1619 Project has become a topic of much debate

in recent years.

For our Bookshelf tonight, Amna Nawaz spoke with her about expanding upon that original

work, the importance of looking back at how our nation's history unfolded, and its relevance

to today.

AMNA NAWAZ: In 2019, "The New York Times Magazine" published The 1619 Project, with the bold

claim that 1619, the year the first enslaved Africans were brought what would later become

the United States, could be considered the origin of this country.

The journalist who created and helmed the project is Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter

for the magazine who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for her work on The 1619 Project.

That work went from a special magazine issue, to a special newspaper section, to a multiepisode

podcast series.

And it has now been expanded into the just-published new book, "The 1619 Project: A New Origin


Nikole Hannah-Jones, now Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University, joins

me now in our studio.

Welcome to the "NewsHour."

Thanks for being here.

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, Author, "The 1619 Project": Thank you.

Thanks for having me.

AMNA NAWAZ: So, why an expansion?

What did you feel it was necessary to expand upon from the previous work in this new book?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: There were still so many areas of American life that we wanted to explore

and other writers and historians we wanted to include that we couldn't fit into the original


And it also was an opportunity to really expand on the original essays, to answer some of

the critics, to really show our work and the scholarship that undergirded the original

project and to make the connection of slavery to modern America even stronger.

AMNA NAWAZ: You tackle a lot...


AMNA NAWAZ: ... even in this expansion, 19 essays, 36 poems and works of fiction.

Issues include capitalism, inheritance, citizenship, music, justice.

Contributors include Dorothy Roberts, Wesley Morris, Trymaine Lee, Ibram X. Kendi.

How did you even decide what to include, who to approach, who to include?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: So, it was kind of a mix.

There's a essay by Dorothy Roberts on how race was constructed.

I knew that Martha Jones, I wanted her to write on citizenship.

And then there were certain writers where, like Ibram X. Kendi, I think he's a brilliant

scholar, and I didn't know what he would write, but I knew I wanted to include him in the


I think one of my favorite essays and one that will probably be the most surprising

to readers is the one by Harvard historian Tiya Miles on settler colonialism, Indian

removal, and how the five so-called civilized tribes also engaged in chattel slavery.

I knew I -- we needed to have an essay that dealt with Indian removal, but we had to find

the right one.

So it was a mix.

AMNA NAWAZ: There's also the inclusion of portraits, beautiful photographs, real people

throughout American history.

Why did you choose to include those?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: When we learn this history, so seldom do you see just regular Black people

in the 1800s or the early 1900s.

And every one of those photos are not of famous people.

Forces you to pause before you enter the essays and reflect that these were human beings with

real feelings, with the same emotions, love, hurts, wants as anyone else, which is the

opposite of what slavery tried to do, which was strip that humanity from people.

AMNA NAWAZ: This claim, this central idea to the book that 1619 could be considered

the country's origin, that that's not the national narrative we're taught growing up

here, and it was met with some very fierce backlash when you first published The 1619

Project, historians, politicians, state lawmakers legislating against it by name.

Did the strength of that backlash surprise you?


Yes, of course.

I mean, I knew that there was going to be backlash to this.

This is an ambitious and provocative project.

The reason the project has to exist is we have wanted to treat slavery as an asterisk.

And even a lot of historians are invested in the idea of American exceptionalism.

We treat the revolutionary period kind of as divine event.

And this project was seeking to unsettle that and to say, yes, we were founded on ideals

of freedom, but the practice of slavery.

And if you think about 1619 as an origin, that explains really some of our most vexing

problems and tensions.

So I knew there would be pushback, but no one could predict that state legislatures

would be seeking to ban the project, that the president of the United States, Donald

Trump at the time, would be castigating the project and passing executive orders against

the project.

I think that's really unexpected.

AMNA NAWAZ: There was an update to the work published, we should note, right?

In March of 2020, there was a clarification made.

The original language suggested that protecting slavery was a -- quote, unquote -- "primary

motivation for all colonists.

You updated that to some colonists.

Why was that an important clarification to make?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: Well, one, let me say we weren't suggesting all colonists.

That was called rhetoric.

So, for instance, if we say Americans love pizza, no one assumes that we mean every single

American loves pizza.

And so when I said colonists, I wasn't arguing that every single colonist had slavery as

a motivation.

But when scholars pushed back on that, then we amended it, because I think that's what

a journalist should do.

I think that only strengthens the project.

AMNA NAWAZ: More big picture, let me ask you about where we are right now, because there's

a James Baldwin line that's actually in the book, cited in the chapter called "Fear,"

that not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced.

So do you see now a greater willingness among Americans generally to face the history of

racism in this country, the legacy of slavery, and to begin to do the work to change it?


I mean, the response to The 1619 Project speaks to that.

You wouldn't see this type of intensive backlash if millions of Americans didn't actually care

about learning this history.

I believe that, if we believe our country is truly great, then it can withstand the

light of the truth.

And it's only if you are afraid that somehow the truth will destroy our country that you

try to repress it.

So I think what we saw last year with the racial injustice protests was Americans starting

to make connections and say, wait a minute.

We have unresolved issues.

When we saw George Floyd killed on national television, that was not just about one bad

police officer.

That was about a 400-year structure that would make this white officer feel he could kill

a man in front of witnesses and not be punished.

So, those connections are very powerful.

And that's why we're seeing the backlash.

So, I do think we're at a place where Americans are willing to excavate our history, so that

we can actually try to build the country that 7we say we are.

AMNA NAWAZ: The author is Nikole Hannah-Jones.

The new book is "The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story."

Thank you so much for being here.


JUDY WOODRUFF: We will be back shortly with a look at how the late designer Virgil Abloh

transformed fashion.

But, first, take a moment to hear from your local PBS station.

It's a chance to offer your support, which helps to keep programs like ours on the air.

For those stations staying with us, we turn to a pianist who found a way to bring her

music to the world.

Jeffrey Brown tells the story of her unusual journey, as part of our ongoing arts and culture

series, Canvas.

JEFFREY BROWN: Called Rapa Nui in the Polynesian language, Easter Island sits in the middle

of the South Pacific Ocean, more than 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile.

It's home to about 7,000 residents and some of the world's most stunning scenery, including

about 1,000 giant statues known as moai.

It's also home to 38 year-old Mahani Teave.

Teave recorded this version of Chopin's Scherzo No. 1 in B Minor for her debut album, "Rapa

Nui Odyssey."

And in March, the album climbed to the top of Billboard's classical charts, a remarkable

development for a woman who grew up on one of the most remote spots on the globe.

MAHANI TEAVE, Musician: As a child, I never felt isolated.

In fact, in the beginning, I thought this was the whole planet.

JEFFREY BROWN: But she told me from near her home on Rapa Nui there was a big problem.

MAHANI TEAVE: It was difficult to have dreams of some kind and want to pursue some artistic

talent, for example, and not have the possibilities.

Like, people would come for a year and teach something, ballet or theater or something


And then they would leave.

JEFFREY BROWN: Pianos were almost nonexistent on the island.

Teave's introduction came from a visiting teacher.

She fell in love with the sound, and her talent was soon recognized, but then another barrier.

To really advance she'd have to leave her island home.

A Chilean music conservatory came first, then top-flight training in Cleveland, followed

by Berlin.

By her 20s, Teave had earned a spot on the international concert stage and was on the

cusp of a promising career.

MAHANI TEAVE: I never imagined myself going - - performing every other day in a different


That was never my goal.

My goal always was -- when I was with these amazing teachers, was to find the maximum

beauty I could find in these pieces.

JEFFREY BROWN: But nearly 10 years ago, she walked away and returned home to create something

she never had growing up, a music school on Easter Island.

Did you feel a -- almost a responsibility, like you're the only one who could do this?

MAHANI TEAVE: Everybody who's here loves being here, and everybody who's far away dreams

of someday coming back and will someday come back.

And I felt that nobody else would understand maybe or would be able to do this, because

I had been the one that had had the chance to study the music.

I had had the chance to go abroad and be with amazing teachers and listen to incredible


I felt in a way then it's just what I had to do.

JEFFREY BROWN: We first met Teave in 2018 at the school she helped create called the

Toki School of Music.

We were on the island as part of our reporting on the rise of plastic pollution around the


The school represents another of her concerns, for the environment.

It was partially constructed out of thousands of cans and bottles and other waste left behind

from the more than 100,000 tourists who normally visit the island every year.

There's also been an influx of garbage steadily washing ashore in recent years.

MAHANI TEAVE: All the currents in the Pacific come to this vortex in which Rapa Nui is in

the middle.

So, we receive the garbage from China, from New Zealand, from Chile, from the United States,

from everywhere.

So, at least, in Toki, we feel that, if we can contribute to offering solutions to the

different problems that we're facing as a civilization, then maybe we can inspire other

places as well.

JEFFREY BROWN: More than 100 students train at the school, receiving lessons in both classical

and traditional Rapa Nui music.

MAHANI TEAVE: Here on the island, we have a very, very strong identity.

And that's what's beautiful of the island.

And in our school, we want to preserve that as well, that our children learn as much as

they can of our culture.

JEFFREY BROWN: I will never forget visiting your school, and even just how hard it was

for you -- you wanted to play for us, but how hard it was for you to find an instrument

you felt was good enough for our cameras, right?

MAHANI TEAVE: Oh, Jeff, you have no idea the difficulties we have faced.

I mean, somehow, our goal was, the music has to continue and we found a way to make it


JEFFREY BROWN: That includes during the pandemic, which has hurt Rapa Nui's economy through

the loss of tourism.

By chance, though, this became the moment Teave reintroduced herself to the outside


On a visit to the island three years ago, Seattle-based arts patron David Fulton heard

Teave play and convinced her to come to the U.S. to record.

Now the album is out.

In addition, a new documentary on Amazon tells the story of her life and home.

It's called "Song of Rapa Nui."

MAHANI TEAVE: Here on the island, there's an artistic blood in everybody.

It just -- I mean, everybody somehow sings and dances and carves and -- or plays an instrument.

And there's nothing more natural and more true to the human being than art and music.

JEFFREY BROWN: All of it adding new wonder and beauty to one of the world's most remarkable


For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The fashion world is mourning the loss of one of its most influential Black

designers, Virgil Abloh.

The artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear died yesterday at the age of 41, after battling

a rare type of cancer.

Stephanie Sy tells us more about his legacy.

STEPHANIE SY: Judy, Virgil Abloh was instrumental in cementing streetwear in high fashion.

An architect by training, his first fashion foray was with rapper Kanye West.

In 2013 he launched his own clothing line called Off-White.

And in 2018, he became the first Black man to helm the creative side of Louis Vuitton,

the famed Parisian design house.

For more on how Virgil Abloh shaped fashion and beyond, I'm joined by Robin Givhan, the

senior critic at large for The Washington Post.

Ms. Givhan, thank you for joining "NewsHour."

What has been the reaction to the death to Mr. Abloh's death in the fashion industry?

ROBIN GIVHAN, The Washington Post: The fashion industry has been in shock.

I don't think anyone really realized the gravity of his illness.

And he was only 41 years old.

I would say the other aspect is just immense sadness, that this was someone at the top

of their game, and really paving a way for others, to have such a short, short legacy.

STEPHANIE SY: Why did his work have such resonance?

Did he have a unique signature you can describe, or was it just the force of his character?

ROBIN GIVHAN: I think it was the combination of things.

One was that he came to fashion from really a circuitous route.

He hadn't studied at FIT.

He hadn't studied at Parsons.

He really came from the creative world of music, from creative directions, from branding,

from working with Kanye West.

And he also was someone who walked very tall when he got to Louis Vuitton.

He was very much proud of the fact that he was a Black designer at that level.

And he sought to hire other Black designers.

He sought to create scholarships specifically targeting Black designers.

And I also think that he was an incredible source of admiration for a lot of young Black

designers, who saw in him someone who wasn't outsized, who wasn't a superhero, who wasn't

a genius, so to speak.

He was someone who very much was talented, but also human.

STEPHANIE SY: How many young Black designers do you think are reflecting on Virgil Abloh's

trailblazing path today and thinking, I can do this, I can reach the very pinnacle of

luxury fashion?

ROBIN GIVHAN: You know, I think the numbers really are countless.

And I think part of it was the fact that here is someone who was an was an incredible optimist,

and who believed that he could make the existing system work for him.

He wasn't trying to burn down the fashion system as it was.

He was just trying to blow open the doors.

And I think he did that.

The other thing is that by stepping through the door at Louis Vuitton, where he worked

as the artistic director for menswear, he was really stepping into a world that had

an incredible heritage, that celebrated that heritage and tradition and exclusivity.

And instead of focusing on that heritage and focusing so much on, like, the craftsmanship

of the object, he was focused on the ways in which the object connected with customers.

He wanted customers to be able to see themselves reflected in the work, and not have the work

sort of look down to the customer, but to really create a kind of community with the


STEPHANIE SY: Do you think that Virgil Abloh has permanently changed the status quo in

the fashion industry?

ROBIN GIVHAN: You know, I think I have hope that he did.

Fashion can be quite stubborn when it comes to change.

But I do think that he proved to the fashion industry that someone from his background,

someone who looked like him had the talent and had the determination and also had the

character to be able to excel at that level.

And, hopefully, if the industry has learned anything, it will be that it should look beyond

the usual suspects for talent.

STEPHANIE SY: Virgil Abloh is survived by his wife, Shannon, and his two kids.

Robin Givhan, senior critic at large at The Washington Post, thanks you so much for joining


JUDY WOODRUFF: A life cut short far too soon.

And that is the "NewsHour" for tonight.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.

For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.


  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv