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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
The Inauguration of Joe Biden; President Biden Signs 17 Executive Actions in First Hours; New Press Secretary Vows to Bring 'Truth and Transparency Back to the Briefing Room'; 13-Year-Old Boy Who Bonded with Biden Appears in Inauguration Special; Former Presidents Wish Biden Well; Lady Gaga Sings National Anthem at Inauguration. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired January 21, 2021 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: A new day dawning in America.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes!
CUOMO: We have a new president, Joseph R. Biden, taking the oath of office, the 46th President of these United States on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Amazing what a difference a week or two can make.
LEMON: What a day, what a day.
CUOMO: It was much needed. Forget about Left. Forget about Right. Just be reasonable for a moment and drink in where we are and what we need to get to a better place.
Welcome back to CNN's continuing live coverage of the inauguration of President Biden. Chris Cuomo, the one and only Don Lemon.
LEMON: Here we are once again.
Once again and people know it's going to be a good show. I love being with you. I love the conversations we have. So let's continue in that tradition right now, because, on a cold and windy January day in Washington, D.C., our new president and his inaugural address calling this a moment of history and hope, a day of renewal and resolve.
Saying democracy is precious and fragile but emphatically reminding Americans and people around the world who were watching that democracy has prevailed.
Do you believe that?
CUOMO: I believe it survived.
I got a little echo in my ear. CUOMO: Is it just me?
I'm very resonant. On these big occasions, my voice is very resonant. It wasn't my voice. Continue.
I would say democracy survived.
Is the president right to say it prevailed?
Because his job is primarily to capture the imagination of the American people.
CUOMO: To motive the American spirit. But we're in a bad way and I think that today was about relief and was a reminder of us being more than our worst.
Ordinarily, you and I have covered a number of these, never in these kinds of situations, but I usually tire at a certain point of the different pomp and circumstance and the fife and drum. At a certain point, I get it. Let's get through some of this.
Not today. Today I needed every piece.
LEMON: You did.
CUOMO: Every single piece.
LEMON: I was kind of the opposite of it. I needed some of it. I tuned in for the parts. I tuned in for the oath. I watched a lot of it.
But it was weird, Chris. It was enough comfort, shall I say, in the moment in what was going on that I actually took a nap in the middle of the day and had like a solid -- like I'm rested now.
Where I didn't think some doom is going to happen, some crazy tweet is going to -- someone's going to storm the Capitol. Anything that could happen just a day ago, you know, so to speak, that I felt a comfort and I knew that it was not going happen today.
So like any other day, this is the first inauguration that I actually haven't been in Washington covering it. But any other day when there is big news and I don't happen to be on the set, what I did is tune in and out at will.
CUOMO: I was just stuck.
LEMON: I did shed a tear. You did not.
CUOMO: Because I'm a hard guy. But I -- I can cry. Don't kid yourself. I may cry this night. We're on for like 17 hours.
PDTS. A little post Donald Trump syndrome also, that you are always a little bit on edge about what he is going to say, even in the coverage. People weren't having to constantly qualify what came out of his mouth.
CUOMO: And why he couldn't have meant it and why he shouldn't have said it. So there was relief in only that.
But I just think the country is so desperate, so hurt.
CUOMO: That we needed things to just remind us of our better selves. And, of course, it came in a transformative form today.
LEMON: Because today is about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And that's what gave me the comfort, that there were people who I knew were not going to be erratic, that there wasn't going to be something crazy.
Our conversation really isn't about Trump, right, even though he was the president until noon today. This is about the country moving forward and really the shift that was felt in an instant. This is -- I was talking to my fiance about -- he is like, this is amazing. All of the sudden, we've had change in an instant.
Even I said, do you remember Obama?
He said yes but it wasn't where we had this sort of rapid shift back to normalcy, which was an interesting way to put it.
CUOMO: Or we weren't in as big as a big hole. We were in a huge financial hole but it wasn't an existential crisis, the way we had now.
CUOMO: Let us listen to President Biden conveying this message of what the country needs, which, of course, is to come together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so today, at this time, in this place, let's start afresh, all of us. Let's begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another.
Politics doesn't have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path.
[00:05:00] BIDEN: Every disagreement doesn't have to be a cause for total war and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: I had two things that hit me hard today.
LEMON: What was that?
CUOMO: One is, you know, all transparency, I know Joe Biden. I know President Biden. I've been with him in a lot of settings, been with him in personal settings. I knew his son, Beau. I had a deep appreciation for his son, Beau, may he rest in peace.
This is the right man for this moment and I'll tell you why. He is old, OK. He is not at the height of his powers. He would tell you no differently. I'm sure he can do more push-ups than I can but he wouldn't want to deal with the Joe Biden of 20 years ago.
But the Joe Biden of 20 years ago couldn't have handled this today. You don't need the youngest and the best and the brightest right now. You need the savvy, you need the wizened, you need the experienced because nobody has dealt with what he has had to deal with.
And everything he has learned over his many decades in this service is going to have to be brought to bear. That was my first takeaway.
LEMON: I think you're absolutely right about the youngest and the best -- well, part of that. You may not need the youngest because if you look at what some of the youngest are doing now in the halls of Congress and the Senate, awful, right?
I think for me, there is nothing wrong with age, because with age comes wisdom. And I think you're absolutely right. He is the right man for the moment. So therefore -- listen, I'm not even the same person that I was a year ago, right?
Or last week. The fact that he is not the person he was 20 years ago I think speaks volumes and perhaps it's been evolutionary. I know that you're probably talking about something that has to do with what happens when we get older and I don't want to put words in your mouth.
But I think he is the right man. I think he is the best and the brightest. And the age thing for me doesn't really matter, because he has surrounded himself with overly qualified people. He has put people in positions in the government that they're overly qualified for.
Many of those people would say, I can do this job in my sleep. Maybe they could. So that -- that is in direct contrast with what we had been dealing with.
LEMON: And today was all about contrasts. So I agree with you on that.
CUOMO: You saw the results.
What happens when somebody doesn't know what they're doing in a position that demands acumen?
There are great stories about John F. Kennedy and what he learned as president between the first and second Cuban crisis, who to listen to, how to listen. That was a tough way to learn. Joe Biden's been through so much of that.
LEMON: And put the blinders on. All the noise that was around him.
CUOMO: That's experience. That's experience. And we saw what happens when you don't have it.
Second takeaway, all due respect to the brothers and sisters doing the job today. I thought it was fabulous. I thought it made the moment for the country. Very proud to be part of the team.
I do not agree that there was anything regrettable about Trump not being there, because this day was authentic. Everybody you heard and saw from, even McConnell and McCarthy. Now again, we're going to have to see those words followed up with some kind of action and quickly for them to be authentic. But today was very authentic.
LEMON: Who said that Trump should have been there?
CUOMO: That it's regrettable that he wasn't, that it would have been nice to see him with the other presidents, nice if he had been in the crowd and all that.
LEMON: No, no. Everyone I spoke to said they were glad he wasn't there because when you see him in foreign situations with foreign leaders, he is pushing himself to the front, he is preening, he is making faces, he is trying to steal the spotlight. It's all about him.
If you saw his very sad goodbye speech today with that really modest -- you know, I'm giving him credit for a modest crowd, because it was probably full of staffers and dead-enders, not a lot of people -- and all grievance and lies. It was really sad to watch. And we didn't need to see that.
So again, I don't want to focus on the last administration because it's about this administration. And we didn't need that today.
So everyone who said, oh, it was regrettable, it wasn't regrettable. It is fitting for how he has conducted himself over the past five years.
CUOMO: And what the day was is not what he's about.
LEMON: No, not at all.
CUOMO: So if he were there and we're saying now we're about this, it wouldn't have been authentic for me.
CUOMO: Because I would have said, well, then why is he there.
LEMON: We're agreeing.
Can you believe that?
CUOMO: No, we agree all the time. When we don't, more importantly, it's how we disagree. I think that's the message Biden was trying to get across.
LEMON: What do you think he is going to go?
LEMON: Rejoining the Paris climate agreement. I've heard people say this is about undoing his legacy. This is not. He's not a policy person. This is not about undoing legacy.
CUOMO: In truth, he is redoing it.
LEMON: -- to a patriotism and democracy.
CUOMO: -- and things that were working. So you want the list you got it.
LEMON: Rejoin the Paris climate agreement. Go on.
CUOMO: And these are all things he did today: rejoined the Paris climate agreement; rejoined the World Health Organization, which is really big. People will sleep on that but I'm telling you, from my own reporting and dealing with these world experts on pandemics, as often as we have --
CUOMO: -- and I have been doing privately, we hurt ourselves by not being clued into what the rest of the world was doing. And that was because of Trump pulling us out.
LEMON: That is probably the most important in the moment right now, the next one: installing coronavirus response coordinator.
CUOMO: Finally somebody to hold to account.
LEMON: To do something about --
CUOMO: Who is in charge?
This guy, this woman, whoever it is.
LEMON: And saying that he is going to elevate expert voices. CUOMO: Right.
LEMON: To give people -- and the most important thing is he is going to tell people the truth, no matter how hard it is to hear.
CUOMO: Well, we'll see.
LEMON: Well, that's what they say.
CUOMO: They have to, because that's our job. We cannot be lied to about the realities anymore. It's literally making us sick.
Cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. Look, this is going to have competing arguments about it and we have plenty of time to go through it.
CUOMO: But this was something that again was a vestige of the earlier administration that Biden was in. And it's going to be controversial.
LEMON: This one is going to be controversial, included noncitizens.
LEMON: Noncitizens in census.
CUOMO: It will be controversial but I think it's a nontroversy and here is why. The people who are against it believe that you are legitimizing noncitizens.
Let's put to the side whether this is good or bad.
LEMON: This is an accurate assessment of who is --
CUOMO: Exactly right. What you should want, because then you make sure that what you have to pay for in your community is a reflection of what you actually -- who you have to pay for.
LEMON: So continuing on, the one we're going skip that I want to talk about, because we talked about the coronavirus person, the czar, if you want to say. Since we're talking about immigration, halted funding for Trump's border wall.
What do you think of that?
CUOMO: All political. One, I don't think that having -- look, it's not what I think. I know from being down there and talking to the people in charge and the people who do the job, barriers are not a bad thing. There are different types of barriers. There are physical, electronic, all kinds of sensors. They're not inherently a bad thing.
Doing this is a stick in the eye. You want to do that, fine. You want to make it a policy position.
LEMON: You mean building the wall or stopping?
CUOMO: Building the wall was a stick in the eye and taking away the money is a stick in the eye.
LEMON: I disagree with taking away the money. We've always had borders, fencing on the wall.
There were borders on the border, right?
Walls on the border, some barriers on the border, always.
It was replacement fencing, most of it for barriers that were already there. So I don't think it's bad. I do -- I do think we have to be careful about sort of normalizing the way he, you know, went about the whole wall thing, because that was a centerpiece.
CUOMO: Absolutely. It was a metaphor. It started like that. The wall was a metaphor reminder.
LEMON: Keep those rapist Mexicans out of the country.
CUOMO: But it was a talking point for him, to remind him what to say. Then he made it literal. This will play as politics more than practicality, that they put too much money toward the wall?
Yes, as a function of what else they need in terms of rule changes and other help.
LEMON: Can we talk about masks?
CUOMO: Sure. I got mine right here.
LEMON: Here is mine right here as well.
Implemented mask mandate on federal property, mask mandate on federal property.
What do you think of that?
When you're on federal property, you must wear a mask. You told me once you were against the mandate.
CUOMO: Never. I never said I was against the mandate.
Do I think a mandate is problematic in this environment?
Yes, because you should be able to convince people that it's the right thing to do without it being a must.
LEMON: Do you think we can do that after the politicization of mask wearing?
CUOMO: Yes. I'll tell you. People know the difference between real and fake.
LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: On certain things. You know the mask works. You know the mask
is good for you. Let's be honest. We've all learned that lesson. If you're not wearing a mask, maybe there is a slice of you that are just too ignorant or to obstinate to know better.
But the rest of you who weren't wearing the mask, were doing it for just political reasons, you don't have to do that anymore. You don't have to impress him anymore. He's gone.
LEMON: Reversed travel ban targeting largely Muslim countries.
CUOMO: Absolutely. Had to do it. It embarrassed us all over the country. And it was one of the earliest big mistakes for Trump. He completely overreached by saying it was a Muslim ban, which is what he called it. And it never made any sense. And look who we figured out is the enemy anyway.
Who's the enemy?
LEMON: Who is the enemy?
CUOMO: If you wanted to stop a ban of who can travel freely around the country, would it be Muslims or white nationalists?
LEMON: I'm glad you said that. Because the last two, the final two that we're going to talk about, I'm most passionate about. But I think we're going save it for the other side of the break, because it has to do with what you said.
And it also has to do with a return to normalcy, if you will, if you want to describe that, if you want to describe it that way.
But President Biden is vowing unity, right?
But with 17 executive actions already signed, is it more important for him to simply undo the Trump legacy by going it alone for now?
LEMON: I don't know. We'll see.
Straight ahead, our political watchers are here with the takeaways from day one of the Biden White House.
But first, the moment 81 million voters waited to see. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me.
I, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., do solemnly swear...
BIDEN: I, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., do solemnly swear...
ROBERTS: -- that I will faithfully execute... BIDEN: -- that I will faithfully execute...
ROBERTS: -- the office of President of the United States...
BIDEN: -- the office of President of the United States...
ROBERTS: -- and will to the best of my ability...
BIDEN: -- and will to the best of my ability...
ROBERTS: -- preserve, protect and defend...
BIDEN: -- preserve, protect and defend...
ROBERTS: -- the Constitution of the United States.
BIDEN: -- the Constitution of the United States.
ROBERTS: So help you God?
BIDEN: So help me God.
ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility and if we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: President Joseph R. Biden asking some big ifs of a country that is bitterly divided in the middle of a pandemic.
What does it augur in, this inauguration?
LEMON: I asked you if you shed tears today. I didn't on that part. When he took the oath, I got a little misty. I got to be honest. There is a decent guy. It has nothing to do with politics.
LEMON: It was just like, I want the country to return to some sort of normalcy. And when he was taking the oath, I got a little misty.
CUOMO: You know when I got misty, which is kind of weird.
LEMON: When I texted you and said good morning?
CUOMO: Yes, I was like, finally.
CUOMO: No, when they were doing the "Rent" thing. So they sang this, "Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes" --
CUOMO: -- and al these people. And then they went into "Hair," "Let the sunshine in," and there was this woman dancing all of a sudden on like her back patio. And all of a sudden, I got a little allergies there.
LEMON: I'm not crying, you're crying.
CUOMO: I got a little histamine response. I just started some push- ups. I was all right.
Let's bring in Nia-Malika Henderson, Mark Preston and Ryan Lizza.
Look at Nia-Malika, she doesn't like anything that I say, by the way. I have sat with Nia-Malika for hours on this set and all she has done is tell me, "I can't believe you said that."
So Nia-Malika, what drew your attention today in the events?
What mattered for you?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think the pomp and circumstance and the normalcy of it, the Americana of it, the fireworks, Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama's outfit, all of it was just amazing.
Talking about when I got a little misty-eyed and moved, seeing Kamala Harris take the oath. I was there with my 10-month-old daughter, trying to get her to focus on this moment of history that is going to mean so much to so many millions of little girls and little boys and adults all around the globe.
And so it was that. I think a lot of people went into this day with a lot of fear.
What was going to happen?
We lived through what happened on the Capitol.
Was this going to be safe?
Was something crazy going to happen?
Should they even have it at all outside in that way? So the fact that it went off without a hitch so perfectly produced and so perfectly normal and beautiful and American, that was what was so moving and a relief to see that today for me.
LEMON: I'm glad you said that. A couple of things you said I agree with. I like to call it, Nia, radically normal is what it was today, right?
Because I was, this is really great. And it wasn't like a boring normal. It was an amazing return to normalcy. And I don't know if it's a return to normalcy. It's a different sort of normalcy that we're going to.
I'm so glad you mentioned Michelle Obama's clothing. I've been wanting people to talk about that.
Ana Navarro texted me, can you please explain to me all the people in my Twitter feed who is saying Michelle Obama's outfit was laid.
What was that mean?
HENDERSON: No, it was her hair is laid.
LEMON: Her hair is laid. And you know what that means. Her hair is laid because it was --
LEMON: -- so my nieces explained to me, they said, Don, what happened was she went to the hairdresser. Her hairdresser put her hair in flex rods and she took them out right before the ceremony so her curls were bouncing all day. There you go.
CUOMO: It's the same thing I do.
HENDERSON: Yes, right. I was looking at the photo of her all day. She just looked amazing. I want to get a poster-sized picture of her for my office at CNN, because it just gave me life. She looked amazing.
I think she really encaptured the feeling that a lot of women, particularly African American, women of color, had on this day, to see Kamala Harris make that history, taking the oath today from Sonia Sotomayor.
CUOMO: So Preston, what do you think of this observation?
And did you find it as well?
You got Biden, who arguably has all the experience made for this moment because, it's almost insurmountable, how much he has on his plate.
You have Kamala Harris showing the aspiration of diversity in this country.
But then you have the human manifestation of the next chapter of this country in the form of Amanda Gorman, who just blew people away, the youth poet laureate for the United States of America.
Here is just one little bit. Everybody should read her poem. Have your kids read her poem online. You can find it very easily.
"Let the globe, if nothing else say this is true, that even, as we grieved, we grew, that even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tried (sic), we tired (sic), that will forever be tied together victorious, not because we will never again know defeat, not because we will never again we will sow division.
"Scripture tells us to envision, that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid."
That kid blew me away. She is the promise of America. And it was great to see how even Joe, the president, took to her during that.
CUOMO: He was talking during this poem to his wife about how good it was, how big a deal.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: A huge deal. Let me say this before we go into the real nuts and bolts of how really she made a stamp on history today.
I'm not much of a fashion person. But I got to say what she had on today was very compelling, more so than Michelle Obama, I thought.
That red thing in the hair, what is that?
But God, it's compelling.
CUOMO: A halo.
PRESTON: She did that.
CUOMO: It's a halo is what that was.
PRESTON: Don, I got to call your niece. I got to call your niece, Don, for this.
I got to tell you what, though. The interview that she did, you know, about an hour ago here on CNN, was just remarkable. And it just capped what she had done today.
Look, she is somebody who is a stutterer, who overcame. And she is somebody who has worked hard and has really, really given all of herself. And you can see how she did that today, when she delivered that poem. She wasn't just up there reading a poem. She was really sending out
the emotions I think a lot of people are feeling. And I do think, at this time, when we talk about this transition, especially when we look at this White House. We look at Joe Biden and say look, will he be there for another term?
Will Kamala Harris run in four years if he doesn't run?
And then you look at her and you say, gosh, there is hope. There is hope with our kids. It was just amazing. If anyone hasn't seen that interview, you've got to go back and watch it because she really is inspiring. And I think it really was the takeaway, is that she may have stolen the show but for all the right reasons.
LEMON: Can I say something about Amanda Gorman?
Because two caveats: amazing. She deserves all the accolades she is getting. She was fantastic. And not that anyone here has done that. But I just want to make sure that we don't treat her like a zoo animal, because she was excellent.
She is amazing but she is one of many examples of Black excellence in this country. She's great but she simply got an opportunity to show how excellent she can be.
There are thousands of Amanda Gormans around the country who just need the opportunity to show how excellent they are.
And we have to give credit to the incoming administration and Dr. Jill Biden, who, as an educator, saw a poetry reading or who is aware of that you have to be diverse, you've got to look for opportunities to give people and saw her and said, this young lady is amazing.
So one example in the country who deserves all of the accolades she is getting but of Black excellence for people who just need the opportunity to show how excellent they are.
PRESTON: Well and perhaps, Don, and to reiterate what you're saying, perhaps that inspiration that she has shown today, other people will grasp on to it.
PRESTON: Not only open doors for folks of her age and folks --
LEMON: And she is 22. She is not a kid. She a young lady.
PRESTON: Listen, for me, she a kid. She is a kid to me.
CUOMO: He's got shoes that are older than Amanda Gorman.
CUOMO: That's the beauty of it. Her age is the beauty of it. Her age is the promise of it and the way she owned it and the mastery and the command. We have to believe that we get better with each successive generation.
And she is a light in that direction, hopefully. We'll see.
She wants to be president in what, 2034, 2036, she said she is going run?
We'll see what happens.
Ryan Lizza, the day does not necessarily dictate the path forward.
What does Joe Biden step into as the smoke from the fireworks settle and the dawn of a really new day comes up, what is his day like this morning?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a good question, because that's exactly what I was going to get at. I just want to add, Mark Preston, you're really underselling yourself when it comes to fashion. I think we all agree on that.
LIZZA: Three observations I had today completely agree with everything that has been said about the return to normalcy and the call for unity and just the sort of exhale that everyone had about how different this felt.
The second thing I would say is, though, I don't think we should necessarily be handing out participation trophies and gold medals for a White House press secretary giving a press conference, just doing her job. And I do worry a little bit that the standards of the Bush -- excuse me, the Trump era have so declined that that is now the sort of bar.
That if you just do the basics of government, you know, you just talk to the press and give accurate information, that you'll be applauded.
You know, as a journalist, I don't -- we should hold them to a much higher standard than this strange Trump era.
And the final thing, which is more to your point, Chris, is you know, I was at the Capitol today. You know, the -- up close watching that speech. Washington has thousands of troops in it. The -- Trump was not not there. Two weeks ago that little corridor that we watched a few minutes ago Michelle and Barack Obama walk down was filled with a violent mob spurred on by the former president. None of those people were there today.
The exiles of the -- of the Trump era were there. People like the former Arizona senator, whose name I'm forgetting now. You know, people like Paul Ryan, and the Bushes, and the people who have been pushed out of the Republican Party --
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Jeff Flake.
LIZZA: -- by a -- Jeff Flake, thank you, Chris -- by this populist uprising that culminated in an attack on our Capitol. And the former president retreating to Florida and the city now occupied by troops.
And I just thought, where did that all go? That has not gone away. We haven't really dealt with the symptoms and causes of what happened the last four years. And I couldn't help thinking, watching this return to normalcy, watching this terrific speech by Biden, that there is just something out there that hasn't been dealt with and is not gone.
So not to be a bummer on the day, but that's just one thought I thought I would share that just was on my mind all day as I was watching this.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Skunk at the garden party.
CUOMO: No, no.
LEMON: I'm messing around.
CUOMO: These are -- these are in hard times, and I will say something. You know, as Nia-Malika said at the onset, one of the reasons that I think I didn't get too emotional when I was watching things is I was kind of on alert. You know, there was no guarantee that this was going to go off the way it did today.
There are a lot of angry people. There was a lot of chatter, and a lot of people in our intel agencies, as you guys know, who were really worried about today, and we needed 25,000 troops to make them feel a measure of comfort.
Thank you very much for your insights on this historic day. It's good to live history.
LEMON: Nia's hair is late (ph), too, by the way.
CUOMO: Yes, whatever that means, I agree.
All right. One of the most heartwarming highlights of a primetime inauguration special was, again, a young person. This time, a boy. A truly young boy, 13 years old.
President Biden befriended him as a fellow stutterer. OK? Amanda Gorman is not a stutterer, by the way. She had trouble with saying the letter "R" up until just a few years ago. Anyway, we're going to talk to Brayden Harrington about how he helped celebrate democracy today, and he did right, after this.
CUOMO: An awesome 13-year-old boy appeared in Wednesday night's primetime inaugural special, Brayden Harrington --
CUOMO: -- who bonded with Joe Biden on the campaign trail. You know him. You remember him.
LEMON: Yes. He's amazing, yes.
CUOMO: Amazing. Why? Well, Biden shared his experience with him as a stutterer. And what did he do today?
LEMON: He read a part from JFK's inaugural speech. Watch this.
CUOMO: You want to listen to it? Let's go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAYDEN HARRINGTON, STUDENT WHO DELIVERED SPEECH IN PRIMETIME INAUGURATION SPECIAL: In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility. I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.
The energy, the faith, the devotion which you bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He read that better than you, I think.
CUOMO: Absolutely. Brayden Harrington joins us now, along with his father, Owen.
LEMON: Hi, Brayden.
CUOMO: It's great to have you both.
LEMON: How are you?
OWEN HARRINGTON, FATHER OF BRAYDEN HARRINGTON: I'm doing good.
B. HARRINGTON: Me, too.
LEMON: We're really proud of you. Thank you so much for joining us. How are you feeling?
B. HARRINGTON: A little tired, but that's all right.
CUOMO: Come on. I know you stay up this late gaming all the time when your parents think that you've gone to bed. I know the deal. I know the deal.
Look at Owen. Owen's like no. No, never.
So Brayden, what did it mean to you to have this opportunity?
B. HARRINGTON: It was pretty cool, because I mean, it was really good, because before, I didn't really know anybody who had the same kind of, like, personal issues as me. And Biden just walks around here and just kind of like helps me out, so I feel more confident about, like, most of the things I do.
LEMON: Yes. You -- tell us about -- you have an amazing relationship with him, and the person you established this friendship is now the president of the United States. And you are linked with him for the rest of time. That has got to feel special to you and has to not only help you, but you should know, in many ways, you're helping a whole lot of other people, who may have the same -- deal with the same thing that you deal with.
B. HARRINGTON: That wasn't a question.
LEMON: I just wanted you to elaborate on that.
CUOMO: Sometimes it seems like he's asking a question, but he isn't. Just take it anywhere you want. Anywhere you want to go with it, just go with it.
LEMON: So what do you think about that? That's the question, really?
O. HARRINGTON: He wants to know what you think about being -- having the opportunity to help all kinds of other people.
B. HARRINGTON: I would say it feels pretty good. For a 13-year-old, it feels pretty good.
B. HARRINGTON: I wouldn't be doing this normally. I -- this was, like, not in my mind at all. Like I -- I don't even, it just popped up.
CUOMO: We love our kids, Owen. We think they're special. They're special to us. Your kid is special to the president of the United States. What does this situation mean for you, this opportunity that your son has had? What does it mean to you to see your son in this position?
B. HARRINGTON: It's crazy. I mean, the only thing that I wanted out of this was for my son to see someone who struggled with a stutter, as well. We just wanted to listen to him speak and get a chance to say hello and -- and shake his hand, which if you live in New Hampshire, you get that chance with any political candidates running for president.
And boy, did he deliver, above and beyond. And he just saw something that he knew that Brayden could do. And Biden gave him the opportunity, and Brayden has flourished with it. We couldn't be prouder for him.
LEMON: Have you seen a change in him over the past couple months, since he established the relationship?
O. HARRINGTON: Yes. I mean, Brayden, now that he's confident in everything that he does. And if he stutters along the way, so be it. It doesn't matter. Just keep moving forward and letting your voice be heard and do what you know you can do.
LEMON: Brayden, what do you say to other people who may be watching you right now and dealing with the same thing that you deal with?
B. HARRINGTON: That you -- there's always an open door. And if you open that, there's always a good thing behind it. And my mom came up with this one. Your imperfections are your gifts.
LEMON: That's exactly right. Anybody could do it if it's easy.
So how is this playing with your friends?
B. HARRINGTON: I don't really bring it up with my friends.
CUOMO: They're going to know, Pal. They're going to know.
B. HARRINGTON: Yes. I mean, yes. I got a call from my friend this morning saying, like, congratulations. And he's like a new friend this year, but he's really a nice friend. And I -- I didn't really expect him to say that, but that -- that really was pretty nice of him.
LEMON: Yes, well Brayden, thank you. We're so honored to have you here. We're so happy about the journey and the relationship that you have with the president of the United States. And keep making a difference to not just young people but all people. Thank you so much. Owen, thank you, as well. You guys be well and be safe.
O. HARRINGTON: To you, as well. Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you very much.
So, you know, he says that our imperfections are our gifts.
CUOMO: His mom told him that.
LEMON: I had a mentor that told me about doing this thing that we do, because you know, you mess up a word. You do whatever. You didn't think. And I had a mentor and she said perfection is boring. Just sit there and be yourself even in that imperfection.
And that's the same thing his mom gave him. Your imperfection is what makes you -- is your gift. It's what makes you who you are. Embrace that. And he's done it. He did it at 13 years old. I still haven't been able to do it, you know, at 30-something.
CUOMO: You know, what I like is, you know, first of all, he's got a great sense of himself now, and it came from his mom and his dad.
CUOMO: But now, there's been a little booster shot. And it is what politics can be also.
CUOMO: Politics can be a leader seeing somebody that they can connect with.
CUOMO: And help that person be an example to others. That's what politics can be also.
LEMON: This has to make you feel good, Dad. You've got three kids. Some of them are pretty close in age that -- that he is. It's got to make all parents around the country feel good about --
CUOMO: I'll tell you, the whole interview, Brayden, you know, is a cute kid.
LEMON: And young people, right. Right?
CUOMO: Right. But the whole time I'm looking at his dad.
CUOMO: And I'm watching his dad's face, and he's very stoic and straight. And I know that face. Which is where you're just praying it goes right for your kid, because all we want with our kids is for them to be OK. We don't want our kids to get 100 on the test. We don't want our kids to hit a home run every time. We don't want our kids to get a touchdown every time, to be the most popular.
CUOMO: We just want them to be OK. We want them to be safe, and we want them to feel good about themselves. Everything else is gravy.
And to watch his face with this kid who's had a challenge, who is now, before all of us, speaking some of the most important words in our history, what a gift for that family.
CUOMO: That gets me.
LEMON: That's what I'm saying. It has to make you feel good. People have to be optimistic. We had excellence -- youth excellence on display today. All kind of excellence on display today, including former presidents of the United States. They were there, as well. Clinton, Bush and Obama did not just attend Joe Biden's inauguration. They had a special message for the nation, and that is next.
CUOMO: That was a big deal.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [00:48:05]
LEMON: So for all the attempts at division by one president on his way out the door, three others stood up Wednesday for what matters most. And that is the country.
President Jimmy Carter, now 96 years old, wasn't able to make it up for the inauguration but spoke with President Biden on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton came together for a special conversation of their own, an extraordinary sight. Take a look at this.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mister President, I'm pulling for your success. Your success is our country's success, and God bless you.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm glad you're there, and I'm -- I wish you well. You have spoken for us today. Now you will lead for us. And we're ready to march with you. Good luck. God bless you.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Joe, I'm proud of you. And you and Kamala need to know that you've got all of us here rooting for your success, keeping you in our prayers. And we will be available in any ways that we can as citizens to -- to help you guide our country forward. We wish you godspeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So many unforgettable moments from this inauguration, like -- inauguration, like Lady Gaga's powerful performance on the Capitol steps. If you missed it, boy, have we got a late-night treat for you. That's next.
CUOMO: Lady Gaga honored President Biden and this country at the inauguration with a powerful, beautiful, poignant rendition of one of the hardest songs there is to sing, our national anthem. Even if you heard it alive, it is worth hearing it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LADY GAGA: (SINGING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: I'll tell you, it gets me going.
LEMON: Was she -- you know, I was hearing myself at the top of the show. I'm like, OK, I can't. Was she hearing herself?
CUOMO: That's what I was told.
That was a masterful performance under imperfect editions.
CUOMO: But isn't that what greatness is all about?
LEMON: Let's explain what mix minus is. When you're wearing an earpiece, right, when you're -- Because you want to be able to --
CUOMO: Sometimes you'll hear yourself.
LEMON: -- hear yourself --
CUOMO: This thing in our ears.
LEMON: -- like, a second or two later. And it really --
CUOMO: Yes, and sometimes you hear yourself. Sometimes you hear what sound they're playing that's not quite right.
LEMON: Someone talking to you.
CUOMO: So anyway, it was beautiful, and that song is hard to sing.
LEMON: It was very "Evita."
CUOMO: And -- Yes, it was great. And I love the big bird on the thing. Look, I just loved everything about it, because I just felt like we needed it.
CUOMO: We needed that muscularity. We needed the brashness. You know, we needed to remind ourselves what America is. America isn't on the margins. America isn't small. America isn't quiet. It's not who we are at our best.
And we're not harsh strength. See, that's one of things that people get wrong about force and power in this country when they turn ugly.
CUOMO: We're not about harsh strength. We're about that. We're about sweet strength.
LEMON: You know why I liked it? Because when people -- when you have to sing for an inaugural, people like Aretha Franklin and Lady Gaga. They know they're entertainers; they bring it. Aretha brought the hat. And that voice. Lady Gaga brought the entire outfit. Those are true professionals. You know that they're there.
CUOMO: That bird weighed 57 pounds.
LEMON: On her dress. And she still sang like a you know what.
CUOMO: That was great.
LEMON: Like a songbird.
CUOMO: Nancy Pelosi puts that pin on, she falls right down. It was great. I loved everything about it. And that song is the hardest song to sing. And you know what? That's probably the right way it should be.
LEMON: We're live until, what? December? I mean, we're here for --
CUOMO: We're here.
LEMON: For a long time.
CUOMO: We're here.
LEMON: All morn -- all night and all morning.
CUOMO: But I feel like this has been it, for the last five years, is that we've just been living moments together. And you know what? Today was big, and it is just the beginning. We've got a long way to go, and we have to get there together. It began today.
Coverage of the first hours of the 46th presidency. Are better days ahead? Next.