‘Special Report’ All-Star panel on mask guidance, potential vaccine mandates

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This is a rush transcript from “Special Report with Bret Baier,” July 28, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The pandemic we have now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We will follow the science and will have the science lead the recommendations that we make. I certainly hope we don’t have to be in that situation. But what I can tell you is this — we can halt the chain of transmission. We can do something if we unify together, if we get people vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated, if we mask in the interim. We can halt this in just a matter of weeks.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, (R-LA): You are not going to achieve your end by condescending to people. And this is America. You are going to have to do it through reason.

SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D-MD): As you see, I’m wearing a mask. I think CDC is trying to do the best they can to keep Americans safe. The Delta variant is extremely contagious.


GALLAGHER: Let’s bring in our panel now, Ben Domenech, publisher of “The Federalist,” Juan Williams is a FOX News analyst, and former education secretary Bill Bennett.

To you first, Ben. It seems to me like there really has been this kind of full circle. The government first tried to incentivize these vaccines, holding lotteries, giving people 50 bucks to take them, didn’t work. And then it was kind of shaming, didn’t work. And now they have really just kind of started pitting Americans against each other, saying hey, if you don’t want to weaver a mask and you are vaccinated, blame the unvaccinated.

BEN DOMENECH, PUBLISHER, “THE FEDERALIST”: You are an aura of triumphalism at the White House and from a lot of folks in the administration about two months ago when it came to the level of success that they were seeing at the time with these vaccinations. And then they hit a wall, and they don’t really any how to deal with this.

And I think there is a number of different things going on here. One of these, though, is unfortunately very political. And that is that these government leaders don’t really know where else to turn except to the same things that they have tried before that didn’t really work. And what we know from our experience across the country is that we actually saw in places where there were mandates and places where there were no mandates, there wasn’t actually that much of a difference in terms the levels of case counts and the experiences that people had. Those weren’t the things that were decisive in any real way, and they are not going to be divisive this time around.

On Capitol Hill today, you had the advising physician of the United States Congress sending this message to members of Congress, and he was unable to in the course of a significant meeting make any argument based on science for why vaccinated people, and obviously all of Congress — pretty much all of Congress is either vaccinated or had it before — ought to be masking up. It’s very much a performative act. It’s not going to, I think, lead to any kind of change. What we really need to do is focus on minority communities, black and Hispanic Americans in particular, who are not being vaccination at the levels that we would hope that they ought to.

GALLAGHER: We hear the phrase follow the science a lot, Juan. And when you talk about having vaccinated people carry the burden of unvaccinated by wearing masks, I still don’t see the thoughts on that. Your thoughts?

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it’s a matter of caution. We still have breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated. And what the CDC says is that those people have a very high viral load, meaning that they are capable of spreading the disease even though they have been vaccinated. So we have to be cautious because this thing is picking up speed.

And to my mind, it is a case of people who have been vaccinated now carrying the load to people who are unvaccinated. The virus clearly has gotten a foot hold in states, and most of them are red states where people were dubious about getting vaccinated. And that’s why you are seeing the variants, and variants then are spreading, and we can’t deal with it.

If you don’t want the economic recovery to continue, if you don’t want children to have to wear masks in the schools in September, if you want the NFL season canceled, if you want the death rates and the hospitalizations to climb, then don’t get vaccinated and don’t wear a mask. But don’t blame be anybody else, and don’t say anyone is condescending to you. That’s your decision.

GALLAGHER: But Juan is doing the same thing, Bill, that the government did, saying, hey, if you don’t want to wear a mask, get vaccinated. Now they’re flipflopping. Hey, if you want to see a game, get vaccinated. They might flipflop on that. So there’s no guarantees in any of this, Bill.

BILL BENNETT, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY: No, no, you wake up in the morning, and what’s the weather? Rain, sun? Do we get vaccinated today? Yes, if you are indoors. Well, if you are outdoors in a crowd, yes. Wait a minute, they will clarify at 10:30.

If you want to persuade people of something you need to have a certain consistency. And the problem with this crowd is they wanted so many times to declare victory, that they were better than the Trump administration, that they kept declaring these false victories and saying we have reached the final point. Biden’s famous speech, if you are vaccinated you do not need to wear a mask. I repeat, if you are vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask. Guess what? You need to wear a mask.

The part I want to talk about, though, we heard from the head of the nation’s second largest teacher union today, covering a little bit about what’s going to happen in the fall because kids have to go back to school with masks. Everybody has to wear masks. What’s the science behind that? I make a prediction that some of those people in those teachers unions are going to press hard that they will not go back to school for another year. And boy will there be hell to pay if that’s the case.

This is a mess. Just be honest. We understand things change and you can’t know everything. Be honest about it.

GALLAGHER: Yes, but Ben, Bill is telegraphing my next question, because Randi Weingarten came out today and said, quoting here, we’re going to try to get these kids back in school, Ben.

DOMENECH: Look, I think what you just heard from Juan is going to be what you hear from a lot of Democratic political leaders across the country. And I have a message for those of you, unfortunately, who are watching from a state that is run by a Democratic governor and run by a Democratic legislature — you are going to be shut down. You’re going to have to buy those masks again. You’re going to have to live through everything that we saw happen all over again.

And it’s going to be red state and red state governors where Republicans are going to stand up against this and say we are not going back to that. We promised the people that we weren’t going to go back to that. We are encouraging you to get vaccinated, but we are not going to go back. And I think you’re going to end up with a real split across the country between schools and situations and corporations and private entities where the rules are going to be, as Bill says, a total mess. It’s going to be very different depending on where you live. That was already true. It’s only going to increase in the level of experience of the differences between how Americans live.

GALLAGHER: Yes, if you made a promise, they should live up to that promise.

Gentlemen, stand by. Up next, America’s crime crisis.



REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D-NY): What do I want? I want to abolish our carceral system that’s designed to trap black and brown men.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don’t think it’s a secret that the president disagrees at times with the congresswoman about some aspects of policing. He believes we need to reform our prison system, but he also believes, let’s be clear, if you commit a violent crime and are found guilty and pose a threat to society, you should serve that time. And when you get out, you should have the support you need to successfully reenter society. That’s his view.


GALLAGHER: And we are back with our panel. The problem is, gentlemen, a lot of these big city D.A.s agree with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and so you have this revolving door at the courthouse, and that’s part of the problem.

I want to play this sound from police superintendent in Chicago followed by the D.C. police union chair. Watch.


DAVID BROWN, CHICAGO POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: What we can do different is challenge the courts to render Chicago safe by holding violent offenders in jail longer. Not releasing murderers back into our community. That’s what we can do different.

GREGG PEMBERTON, D.C. POLICE UNION CHAIRMAN: Our court system here in D.C. is backed up 10,000 cases right now that haven’t been heard. And our supervision agency has reported that they are running outs of ankle bracelets, and that they don’t have any funding for more ankle bracelets, and people are just being released on personal recognizance. And then we have elected officials with their hands in the air staring at each other, trying to figure out what’s going on.


GALLAGHER: In Chicago, Bill Bennett, 90 people accused of murder were kicked out with ankle bracelet. I guess you kick them out until you run out of ankle bracelets.

BENNETT: Yes, and then they go out and commit another murder, and then you order another ankle bracelet. Look, we don’t need to wait for the science on this one. The data is clear, and the data is in. Even the mayor of Seattle recognizes it. Here’s the data — when you arrest people for crimes, even small crimes, you find out they are guilty of bigger crimes. And when they do time, they cannot repeat these crimes.

So we brought crime down for a long period of time in this country, 80s and 90s. We’re seeing this resurgence. You go back to the mayor of Seattle, she wanted summer of love, she wanted to defund the police. Now she is seeing we need more police. This lesson, unfortunately, has to be learned again and again.

Tom Wolfe, the great novelist, the guy from Richmond in the white suit walking around New York, he said we need to engage in a great relearning. It starts with one plus one equals two. America is bordered by oceans. When you lock people up, they can’t commit crimes. This is pretty straightforward. We don’t need any deliverance or new insights from science on this. We have our own experience as a nation.

GALLAGHER: I think it’s a fair assessment, Juan, because you look across the country and you see people walk into these stores and walk out with armfuls of goods, and there are zero consequences. And the broken windows theory might be in effect, because it leads to, one would think, bigger crimes or more acceptance of crime.

WILLIAMS: I just have a different point of view here, Trace, because when I look at the numbers, what I see is we keep track of about seven big crimes in this country. Four of them are down. Those four are robbery, rape, burglary, and larceny. Three are up. The three that are up are car theft, assault, and, of course, the one we are discussing, murder.

But this is true, this murder stuff is true in red states, blue states, big cities, small cities, cities where you have had police reform and calls for Black Lives Matter. It’s true in cities where it hasn’t been a matter of police reform or discussion of cutting budgets. This is a problem, I think, all the police chiefs will tell you about illegal guns. This is where the problem is, illegal guns, easy access to firearms at least to this increase in murder post pandemic.

GALLAGHER: If I had the numbers, I would put them on the screen. Ben, it is true in Seattle, it is true in Chicago, it is true in Los Angeles, it is true in New York. The murder rates are skyrocketing in Portland. So these are blue states, blue governors and mayors where a lot of this stuff is happening. Ben, go ahead.

DOMENECH: Juan can advance this argument about illegal guns until he’s blue in the face, but it’s not going to convince Americans because they understand that the level of illegal guns and the access to them has not dramatically increased in recent years. This is about the people who are on the streets. It’s not about the guns that are on the streets. It’s about the fact that we have backed up court systems and that we have situations where we have run roughshod over a lot of the different things that were, to Bill’s point, keeping a lot of potentially violent criminals behind bars.

He quoted Tom Wolfe. I will make a reference to Chesterton. When you come across a fence in a field, you should ask why it’s there before you knock down. And in this instance I think, unfortunately, we have discovered why some of these rules, some of these situations were there in our major cities, designed to keep Americans safe. As we see these homicides continue to rise in major cities, it’s going to have a massive effect on the way that those cities are governed, the way that those cities are lived in, and the experience, I think, in particular, around the crime associated with these ever increasing homeless encampments that we see in many major environments is going to become a major issue going forward. It’s one that Democratic politicians are increasingly scared of headed into the midterms, and I think it’s going to only become a bigger issue as we talk about it in the coming months.

GALLAGHER: And very quickly, Bill, do you think bringing back more police officers will help, or are they hesitant to do their jobs because they know that their superiors don’t back them up?

BENNETT: Well, they need to be brought back in numbers, but they need to be brought back in encouragement and support. They need to know the community is behind them, and the prosecutors are behind them, and the courts are behind them.

GALLAGHER: Gentlemen, thank you.

When we come back, tomorrow’s headlines.


GALLAGHER: And finally tonight, a look at tomorrow’s headlines. We begin with Juan Williams.

WILLIAMS: Trace, I think tomorrow as you pick up the paper you are going to see a bold headline that says it’s really infrastructure week. After all the jokes we’ve had about infrastructure week, it looks like President Biden and his bipartisan team on the Hill finally have a deal, and some infrastructure will be delivered to the American people.

GALLAGHER: Including everything but roads and bridges. Bill Bennett, please do your headline with a Tom Wolfe quote if you would. Kidding.

BENNETT: We need to engage the great relearning. But a little by hyperbole here, but not much. Biden and the CDC will announce tomorrow without ambiguity all people, all American citizens must be masked all the time and everywhere. Indoors, outdoors, in bed, asleep, underwater, wherever they are, they must wear a maverick, and they must carry an I.D., and they must be vaccinated. For the 150,000 people coming across the border illegally every month, not a problem. It’s OK. Just head out, go wherever you want, not a problem. It’s a little bit of hyperbole, but not much. The American people are being leaned on, they’re going to be leaned on again, and these people coming across, nothing is requested or asked or demanded of them. We are insane down there.

GALLAGHER: Ben Domenech?

DOMENECH: For the Coca-Cola executives who have been so performative in their politics when it comes to America’s domestic political fractures, I would like to buy the world a coke, especially the hardest working Uyghur laborer of the week. Coca-Cola’s refusal to condemn China’s genocide against the Uyghur people remains a black mark on their entire corporate woke agenda.

GALLAGHER: No more coke and a smile. Gentlemen, thank you.

Tomorrow on SPECIAL REPORT, President Biden expected to announce the next steps in the renewed battle against the resurgent coronavirus. Thanks for watching SPECIAL REPORT. I’m Trace Gallagher. “FOX NEWS PRIMETIME” with Tammy Bruce right now.

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