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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears Live on MSNBC's Morning Joe

August 4, 2021

Joe Scarborough: Let's bring around the Mayor of New York City, Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mr. Mayor, no secret – you and Andrew Cuomo have had some issues in the past. But, obviously, this Attorney General's report actually supersedes all of that. Many public officials have called for Andrew Cuomo to resign. In fact, almost every relevant one that would matter in New York and Washington, DC have. Talk about why you made the call for him to resign.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Joe, look what these women went through. They were put through hell by a very powerful man – 11 women, including a State trooper, harassed, in some cases assaulted, and he thought he could get away with it. He created a culture where he thought he could treat these women any way he wanted and that no one would ever stop him. And he used his power – remember, he could have destroyed people's careers and reputations. And that's the atmosphere he created consistently throughout his career. He would use that power and you have to do whatever he wanted, and look at how corrupted it became, and look at what these women went through, the fear they lived in. It's absolutely unacceptable. And this is just the sexual harassment and assault element of what we're talking about here. If we were talking about the nursing home scandal, the people who died, and then the coverups – if we were talking about his use of vaccines as a political tool, giving vaccines to allies, withholding them from folks who questioned him, or using government staff to write his book – I mean, it goes on, and on, and on. It's over, Joe. He has to leave. There's nowhere for him to turn.  

Willie Geist: Mr. Mayor, you know, this man very well and a lot of people around him. As I talked to yesterday, just cannot see him walking out willingly of the Governor's Mansion on his own. So, if he doesn't resign, what do you think should happen next? 

Mayor: I think, ultimately, he will have to resign either because of a prosecution wherein he makes some deal around giving up his office or because an impeachment is imminent. I remember in 2002 – and you're right, I worked with him for years, once upon a time considered him a friend before I saw how bad things had gotten. But in 2002, he ran for governor when it looked like he wasn't going to win that primary. He got out of town before the election happened. He literally pulled out of the election rather than suffer defeat. So, I think that is a very likely scenario here. When it gets to the ultimate moment, he will find some honor in pulling the plug himself. But he really should be doing it today out of respect for the 11 women he wronged and all the families out there from the nursing homes who lost their loved ones – he should just have the decency to do one thing – one thing where he thinks about other people rather than himself and step away today for the good of the people of New York State. 

Susan Del Percio: Mayor de Blasio, you've had other issues with this governor over the years. I remember very well the Legionnaires' crisis in New York, which was another example that the Governor always wanted to be at the press conference before you or whatever, which seemed very trivial, but there were real implications for this behavior. And I think it's important to discuss it, because it does reflect the culture that you mentioned and that was highlighted in the report, especially of retribution. So, can you perhaps expand on some of the serious issues or at least one that really kind of hit home that makes everything just crystallized for you that this is the man and this is his behavior? 

Mayor: It's endless the number of examples I could give. Again, nothing more important than focusing on these 11 women and what they were put through. But if you talk about the pattern, the threats – and every leader in New York State could tell their own stories – the constant threats, take away your funding, attack your administration or your reputation. He demanded once one of my press secretaries issue a critical statement. He demanded I fire her as a way of showing that she was wrong. I mean, it's endless, and it's small, and it's petty, and it got worse. And I think this is part of the tragic, kind of, Shakespearean reality here – power corrupted this guy more and more each year. It was bad enough in the beginning, but it got a lot worse. And he got away with it. And, bluntly, you know, there was a certain strange willingness in this state for people to say, okay, well, we’ve just got to deal with it, he's so powerful. I hope this becomes a moment where people say never again, not only in terms of never accepting sexual harassment in the workplace, but also in terms of saying this is not democracy when someone rules like a tyrant and threatens, bullies, tries to take away funding from, you know, City governments, nonprofit organizations. Whatever it is, it's this constant use of power for personal gain far beyond the boundaries of what we should ever accept. And I'm hoping all the other leaders in this country are watching this right now and realizing this catches up with you. It's unacceptable. Don't even think about it. 

Geist: Mr. Mayor, I want to ask you about an announcement you made yesterday. In a couple of weeks, vaccines required. Proof of vaccination will be required if you want to go into a New York City restaurant or a fitness center. Explain a little bit about that decision, because it has implications for the rest of the country. Obviously, this is the biggest place where this will be attempted – a requirement of a vaccine proof of a vaccine before you step inside. Explain it if you would.  

Mayor: Sure. Willie, right now, we have to fight COVID like never before. The Delta variant has changed the game. Unless we want to run the risk of going back to restrictions and having our freedom taken away and people losing their jobs again, it's really clear what we have to do. People have to get vaccinated. And we had a long period where it was voluntary, there was incentives, it was compassionate and kind, but now it's time to get a little blunter about the fact that everyone needs to get vaccinated for the good of their family, their community, their country. And a lot of people I think are close to that point, but they needed a little more of a push. So, here's a clear message. We're saying, if you want to go and enjoy great restaurants – amen. You want to go to movie theaters, go to the gym, that's great. If you want all that, you’ve got to get vaccinated. You want to work in those places? You've got to get vaccinated for the good and the health of everyone around you as well. It's not that tough to do. We say, just get the first vaccination and you're in. Come back later, obviously, get that second one when it's time. Now, here's the bottom line, we've heard from lots of folks in the business community. They said, amen. They said, this is really helpful because it makes the rules clear. And it's the way to stop COVID once and for all. Joe Biden said clearly, he'd like to see more people do this. I'm urging mayors, governors, county executives – just do it, because this is how we're going to get that final push of vaccination we need to end the COVID era once and for all. And bluntly, Willie, I think if you're doing the right thing by everyone else around you and getting vaccinated, then you should enjoy everything in life. But if you are not getting vaccinated, then you're not going to be able to do some of the things you love. And our young people in particular, I guarantee as the father of two 20-somethings, young people don't want to be left out of restaurants, bars, concerts. This is the kind of thing that's going to inspire a lot of young people to just get out there and get vaccinated. 

Geist: Mr. Mayor, we heard from some restaurant groups yesterday who quickly said this is going to be a burden on restaurants who are already struggling. So, how does this work? I walk into a restaurant in New York City, is it like a bouncer at the door I show my vaccine card? How does this work? 

Mayor: Well, Willie, I know you've had a lot of experience with bouncers. So, the bottom line is, when you go to a restaurant, you check in, right? You go and before you get to your table. When you go to a movie theater, you get a ticket, or you’re scanned, and get your admission. There's always that point where you come into a place and people engage you. That's the point where you simply have to show your vaccination card or one of the apps that show that you've been vaccinated. It's really quite positive and straightforward is really easy. And again, think about it this way – this is a way to create a single standard indoors. Outdoors, we've said people can go and dine outdoors. We've got a lot of outdoor dining in New York City. It's amazing. We're saying that's a different reality. But indoors, be vaccinated, and then a whole world opens up to you. There's 5 million vaccinated New Yorkers right now, plenty of folks to be customers for those restaurants, even higher percentage of folks vaccinated in our suburbs and among the tourists coming to visit. There'll be plenty of business. But guess what? Now, people will be safe. Everyone – everyone in there will be safe. Willie, you remember when Mike Bloomberg, my predecessor – something very different, but it bears recognition – he did the smoking ban. And for every single person who had a respiratory problem, or asthma, like I have, you could finally go into a restaurant and a bar and not be coughing all the time or worried someone's going to light up right next to you. It made the experience positive. This is the parallel on a much higher level. You go into a place and you don't have to worry, because you know everyone's vaccinated. You can be in peace. You can enjoy. You can have some freedom. [Inaudible] deserves that. 

Scarborough: So, Mr. Mayor, let me ask about children. What are you – what are you doing with children under 12, who can't be vaccinated yet? 

Mayor: Of course, they should be able to come along with their families. We're really looking forward to kids five to 11, being eligible for vaccination in the next few months. But until that time come along, of course, wear a mask as a precaution.  

Scarborough: And was there any consideration on your part of waiting until the FDA granted approval – final approval to the vaccines? Or did you think – did you have enough evidence before? 

Mayor: We have plenty of evidence. It's a great question. And, obviously, it was worth thinking about, but, Joe, 160 million-plus Americans vaccinated successfully. Justice Department said a week or so ago it's absolutely appropriate to move forward aggressively with mandates with the current authorization. But, really, Joe, it was the urgency of the moment. We've been watching these numbers. The case numbers are crazy, because of the Delta variant. Thank God, hospitalizations are still low in New York, because we've got 5 million people who have gotten at least one dose – that's what's saving us right now. But we’ve got to win this race against the Delta variant, so we had to go into a higher gear with more vaccination. That's why these mandates are so important and we need everyone to do it.  

Scarborough: So, Mr. Mayor, what did your lawyers tell you? Are you expecting a number of legal challenges to this? And if you do get those legal challenges, do you expect to prevail?  

Mayor: Joe, lawsuits are a part of my everyday life. But I'll tell you, we absolutely expect to prevail, because what's so clear – the Justice Department decision, the actions that companies are taking and universities are taken all over the country, the fact that this is about public health. We're going to have a Commissioner's Order from our Health Commissioner, an Executive Order that I'm going to sign. This is airtight legally, because it's going to save a lot lives. And also, Joe, it's going to save people's livelihoods. If we don't stop Delta, then watch out people. We could go back to those bad old days we went through in 2020.  

Scarborough: So, you brought up colleges. I personally think it makes a lot of sense for colleges, universities to have vaccine mandates not just for the student's safety, but also for the professor's safety and administrator’s safety. I'm curious, will this law also apply to all the colleges and universities that are in New York City? 

Mayor: Joe, a lot of them, obviously, already have made that decision to be vaccinated folks only. This is about indoor dining, entertainment, fitness. We're going to look at other options beyond. But I'll tell you, we've heard from so many private companies already that they appreciate this move and they're planning to do things like this to protect their employees and their customers.  

Scarborough: Yeah. And one final question, a lot of talk over the past few days about teachers unions. Randi Weingarten had said a month or so ago, we're going to get back into school. There's been a hedging – a little more hedging it seems every week that has gone by. I want to ask you, how determined are you to make sure that children, if they want, and if their parents want them to be back in classes in New York City – how determined are you to make sure that those teachers are there, they're vaccinated, and the children can learn in-person without fearing for their safety?  

Mayor: Joe, 110 percent. Our kids need to be back in school. We have lost a lot of ground in terms of education. But I’ll tell you, our health care folks say they need to be back in school for their health and wellbeing as well – their mental health, their physical health, and nutrition. We need our kids back in school. We're bringing them back 100 percent, September 13th. We're going to have a safe environment. We're going to have a huge vaccination drive between now and then, telling parents of kids 12 and up go get your kid vaccinated like we've done so many times as parents for other diseases to protect our kids. We're coming back 100 percent in September.  

Scarborough: And is there that vaccine requirement? Are you going to have a vaccine mandate for any public school teacher that teaches school in New York City?  

Mayor: Joe, at this moment, we don't have that mandate in the plan, because we have a very high level of vaccination with our teachers and staff, and more and more with kids as well. We're going to focus on getting everyone vaccinated. And we were able to keep schools safe even without vaccines. That's important to remember. Everyone wore masks, lots of cleaning, lots of careful measures. New York City public schools were extraordinarily safe against COVID. We're going to do it again.  

Scarborough: Why wouldn't a teacher, who is teaching in front of 25-30 children, get a vaccine? 

Mayor: I think they should. I don't think there's any question, I think they should. And, by the way, the unions have been pretty clear about this too. We're going to push every teacher, every staff member. We're going to encourage parents, make it easy. It's free. It's really fast and easy. I think we're going to have a very high level of vaccination in our schools with our current approach. But, of course, Joe, all options are kept on the table, because, with the Delta variant, the ballgame changes every few days. So, we're going to be looking at every option as we move forward. 

Scarborough: So, let’s go from one hot political plate to holding another hot political plate. Since you're talking about restaurants, what about cops? I mean, I've been very outspoken on this show over the past year. Yes, we need police reform, but we also need to support police officers and get them off their back heels and do everything we can to help police officers – good police officers do their jobs without having to look over their shoulder. Police reform – you know, hold police accountable, but let them know that you got their back. So, I’m very clear about that. I'll tell you what I don't understand, is why every New York City cop, why every cop in the State of Florida, why every frontline person isn't required to get a vaccine. As you and I both know, for some reason, law enforcement officers are reluctant to get vaccines. First of all, why is that? Secondly, why isn't every New York City police officer required to get a vaccine if they're knocking on doors to come to protect and defend New York City residents. Should those residents also know their health is protected? 

Mayor: Great question, for sure, Joe. Look, I have issued a mandate for all City workers, including our police officers, that they have to get vaccinated or get tested weekly. And, honestly, what we're finding already, we've just started with our hospital workers, we're going to include all City workers soon – we're finding that that's sending a very clear message and lots more people are now getting vaccinated. But I've also said we're climbing the ladder. We have a lot of tools. We'll use them as we need them. I think our officers – you know, I fought for the right of our officers to get vaccinated when – here we go again – Andrew Cuomo would not allow the City of New York to vaccinate police officers. I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our officers and our police unions to get them the right to be vaccinated. And a huge number of officers stepped forward and wanted the vaccination, wanted to protect not just themselves, but their families, particularly, their parents or grandparents. I think now you've got one reality – of course, a lot of our police officers are younger, and younger folks in general feel a little impervious, you know, a little bit like they can deal with anything. I think we have to show folks that the Delta variant’s a whole new ball game and don't take it lightly. Maybe there's some ideological considerations for some. But what we're going to do now is increasingly say, get vaccinated for the good everyone around you, get vaccinated for your partner, get vaccinated for the people you love, or you're going to go through a lot of testing. And we're certainly keeping other options available as well. If we need to take stronger measures, we will keep climbing that ladder as much as we have to stop this Delta variant. This Delta variant, we’ve got to get it straight – it will take away all of our gains and our recovery if we let it. So, let's not let it. I say to Mayors, Governors, everyone, start with indoor dining and entertainment. Put that vaccine mandate on. It's going to cause a lot of people just come forward to get it done. Let's save lives and let's keep our recovery going. We need it.  

Scarborough: All right. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you so much. And watch out Mr. Mayor, the Yankees are coming. The Yankees are coming – only six out now.  

Mayor: Joe, it's getting – I'm feeling at the back of my neck, there's that tingly feeling. I’m worried. I’m worried, Joe. 


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