NBC’s Guthrie Grills Harris on Reopening Schools, Ignores VP’s Lies

After President Biden was treated to a softball CNN town hall Tuesday night, on Wednesday morning, Vice President Kamala Harris was hit with somewhat tougher questions during an exclusive live interview on NBC’s Today show. However, while co-host Savannah Guthrie grilled the VP on when schools could fully reopen amid the pandemic, the anchor ignored Harris lying in a recent interview about the Biden administration having to “start from scratch” in its COVID response after President Trump left office.

“The CDC a few days ago finally put out some long-awaited guidance on how schools could safely reopen,” Guthrie noted early in the exchange. She then explained how that guidance seemed to be specifically designed to actually prevent the vast majority of schools from reopening:

But here’s the thing, they tied it directly to the rate of infection in any given community. And I’m going to put a map up. Because if schools were to follow that right now, 90% of the counties, 90% of the schools, would not be able to open under the CDC’s own metric. Was it a mistake for the CDC to connect school reopening to how much infection there is in a community?

 

 

After Harris provided only general platitudes about how the administration wanted schools to eventually reopen, Guthrie pressed: “But what about that CDC guidance then? That’s the question. Because the CDC is saying, essentially, their best guidance is, don’t open if you’re in a red zone, 90% of students are in a red zone.” The host pointedly added that “the science is very clear” that “schools are not a source of community risk.”

Moments later, Guthrie emphasized how the administration kept contradicting itself on the topic:

There has been a shifting timeline here. Back on December 8th, the President, then President-elect, tweeted, “We want to reopen the majority of schools in the first 100 days.” He later said that day, “We want to have most schools open.” Now he said as recently as last night, he’s talking about the majority of K-8 schools. Last week, we heard a White House official saying “open” means it could mean just one day a week open. The President said, no, that was a miscommunication. But I mean, I guess, look, again, parents watching, what is the bottom line? What does it mean for schools to be reopened and how soon can they be reopened?

With Harris appearing to be flustered by the unusually tough questioning, Guthrie continued:

A lot of public health officials will say this closing schools is as much of a public health crisis….You know, the CDC has said it is not a prerequisite for teachers to be vaccinated for them to go back to school, but many teachers are wary of going back to school. And we’ve had some cities have to sue the teachers union or their own school districts to try to get these schools to reopen. Can you reassure teachers who are listening right now, that it is safe for them to go back to school, even if they are not vaccinated, if these public health measures, like distancing and masks, are being implemented?

Wrapping up that portion of the interview (which took up most of the nearly 13-minute segment), Guthrie declared: “I don’t want to beat it to death, but I just – I know there are teachers listening. And the CDC has said they don’t have to be vaccinated to go back to school.”

With the remaining time, Guthrie wondered if the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package being pushed by the Biden administration and Democrats might actually be too much money:

It’s a big, big price tag. There’s already been $900 billion just passed a couple of months ago, on top of the $2.2 trillion that was passed with the CARES Act last spring. A lot of economists say, you’ve got to go big in this environment, with this much of a crisis. On the other hand, even some economists who are friendly, you know, Larry Summers, for example, who was a top economic adviser to President Obama, has said, we’re going into uncharted territory here. You’re talking about 10 to 15% of GDP. Is that top-line price tag at all negotiable to you and the President?

Following Harris’s response, Guthrie admitted there was “a lot more to talk about on this topic,” but claimed she was “out of time.” Strangely though, the interview continued, with Guthrie deciding to repeatedly urge the Vice President to take a position on whether former President Trump should be “criminally charged” for the inciting the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill. The morning show host also found extra time to ask: “You’ve been in the office for four weeks. What is the strangest thing or the most surprising thing that’s happened so far?”

Those questions conveniently took the place of any attempt to hold Harris accountable for lying in a recent Axios interview about the Biden administration supposedly having to “start from scratch” in its COVID response, as if the Trump administration had not done anything to combat the pandemic. Something even Dr. Anthony Fauci said was false.

Also missing from Guthrie’s sit-down with Harris were ethical questions surrounding one of her relatives attempting to profit off of her public office. The relative in question being the Vice President’s niece, Meena Harris, a left-wing activist who has been treated to glowing profiles on the Today show.

While Guthrie deserves credit for pressing Harris on the Biden administration’s policy on reopening schools, valuable time in the interview was wasted trying to get the VP to attack Trump rather than hold the sitting public official accountable for own words.

The exclusive NBC exchange was brought to viewers by State Farm and Subway.

Here is a transcript of all of Guthrie’s questions to Harris during the February 17 interview:

7:31 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: President Biden is promising a majority of elementary schools will be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office. Those comments coming last night during a CNN town hall in Milwaukee. The President also saying, by the end of July, the U.S. Should be able to vaccinate every single American. And when asked when life will return to normal, the President offered this prediction.

JOE BIDEN: A year from now, I think that there will be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, having to wear a mask, et cetera. But we don’t know. So I don’t want to overpromise anything here.

GUTHRIE: And that sets us up nicely for our Today live exclusive. Exactly four weeks ago today, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president, the first woman and the first person of color to hold that post. And she and President Biden are facing a country in crisis this morning. Nearly 500,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, a struggling economy, and unprecedented division in this country. And Madame Vice President, a lot on your plate, with that good morning. I say thank you for making time for us, it’s good to have you with us.

KAMALA HARRIS: Good to be with you, Savannah. Thank you.

GUTHRIE: Well, let’s get started right there. We are in a race to get people vaccinated as these new strains of COVID-19 are coming into this country. A lot of folks are watching say, “I can’t get my parents a vaccine right now. I can’t get a vaccine appointment.” States have said they’re ready, they’ve got the infrastructure to give shots, but they don’t have the supply. Governors even wrote the White House, Republicans and Democrats, saying, we need better coordination from the federal government. So this is on your watch now. What’s the hold up? What’s the bottleneck? And what’s being done about it?

(…)

GUTHRIE: Let’s talk about schools. We’ve got a lot of parents watching right now, maybe with their kids right next to them because they’re not going to school.

HARRIS: I know.
    
GUTHRIE: The CDC a few days ago finally put out some long-awaited guidance on how schools could safely reopen. But here’s the thing, they tied it directly to the rate of infection in any given community. And I’m going to put a map up. Because if schools were to follow that right now, 90% of the counties, 90% of the schools, would not be able to open under the CDC’s own metric. Was it a mistake for the CDC to connect school reopening to how much infection there is in a community?

(…)

GUTHRIE: But what about that CDC guidance then? That’s the question. Because the CDC is saying, essentially, their best guidance is, don’t open if you’re in a red zone, 90% of students are in a red zone. And the science is very clear. The CDC’s own science says, schools are not a source of community risk.

(…)

GUTHRIE: There has been a shifting timeline here. Back on December 8th, the President, then President-elect, tweeted, “We want to reopen the majority of schools in the first 100 days.” He later said that day, “We want to have most schools open.” Now he said as recently as last night, he’s talking about the majority of K-8 schools. Last week, we heard a White House official saying “open” means it could mean just one day a week open. The President said, no, that was a miscommunication. But I mean, I guess, look, again, parents watching, what is the bottom line? What does it mean for schools to be reopened and how soon can they be reopened?

(…)

GUTHRIE: A lot of public health officials will say this closing schools is as much of a public health crisis for all the reasons you mention. A final point on this before we move on. You know, the CDC has said it is not a prerequisite for teachers to be vaccinated for them to go back to school, but many teachers are wary of going back to school. And we’ve had some cities have to sue the teachers union or their own school districts to try to get these schools to reopen. Can you reassure teachers who are listening right now, that it is safe for them to go back to school, even if they are not vaccinated, if these public health measures, like distancing and masks, are being implemented?

(…)

GUTHRIE: But if they’re not…

HARRIS: And the –  

GUTHRIE: …vaccinated, is it safe for them?

(…)

GUTHRIE: I don’t want to beat it to death, but I just – I know there are teachers listening. And the CDC has said they don’t have to be vaccinated to go back to school. Of it’s the priority –

HARRIS: We think they should be a priority. We think they should be a priority.

GUTHRIE: Okay.
            
(…)

GUTHRIE: Let’s talk about this COVID relief plan, $1.9 trillion. You’re on to talk about it today.

HARRIS: Yeah.

GUTHRIE: It’s a big, big price tag. There’s already been $900 billion just passed a couple of months ago, on top of the $2.2 trillion that was passed with the CARES Act last spring. A lot of economists say, you’ve got to go big in this environment, with this much of a crisis. On the other hand, even some economists who are friendly, you know, Larry Summers, for example, who was a top economic adviser to President Obama, has said, we’re going into uncharted territory here. You’re talking about 10 to 15% of GDP. Is that top-line price tag at all negotiable to you and the President?

(…)

GUTHRIE: There’s a lot more to talk about on this topic. Unfortunately, we’re out of time. But I do have to ask you, on the subject of impeachment, the President [Trump] was acquitted in the Senate trial. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, though, had some pretty harsh words, saying that, “He didn’t get away with anything yet, and that civil and criminal liability was still a possibility.” I ask you, do you think that President Trump should be criminally charged?

(…)

GUTHRIE: But you’re a former prosecutor, so I’ve gotta ask you, is that a strong case against the President, a criminal case that Mitch McConnell had raised as a possibility?

(…)

GUTHRIE: Well, speaking of, and I really do have to let you go or they’re going to cut off my satellite here, you’re vice president. You’ve been in the office for four weeks. What is the strangest thing or the most surprising thing that’s happened so far?

(…)

GUTHRIE: Alright, well, Madame Vice President, it is good to have your time this morning. Thank you for making time for us.

HARRIS: Thank you, Savannah. Great to be with you, thank you.

GUTHRIE: Thank you, alright.

HODA KOTB: Interesting conversation. First network interview.

CRAIG MELVIN: You guys covered a lot of ground.

KOTB: Yeah, she did.

MELVIN: A lot of ground.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, good to talk to the Vice President. Hope she’ll come back early and often during this administration.

MELVIN: Yeah.

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