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How England's EU Vote Parallels US Election; Ex-Secret Service Agent Book Attacks Clintons; Fired for Being White? TV Anchor Sues Station; Did Led Zep Steal "Stairway to Heaven"?; How Immigration Policy Threatens to Tear Families Apart. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired June 25, 2016 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:32] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish.
By voting to leave the European Union, has the UK just been made great again? Was Brexit a victory for the Trump world view? And what impact will it have on our economy and our election?
Plus, a former Secret Service agent spills the beans on his time posted outside Bill Clinton's oval office. But doesn't that violate his job description?
And this TV anchor fired for a controversial Facebook post files a lawsuit claiming she was fired because she's white. Does she have a case?
And there's a jury who's sure that stairway to heaven lawsuit, it wasn't gold, but did they hear the whole story? Because you will.
But first, did Donald Trump just win his first election? Not here, but across the pond? The world is indeed flat, elections don't happen in a vacuum from world events and where Brexit was motivated by anger toward immigration policy, concerns over trade and a desire for autonomy, the parallels between what just occurred in the UK and the debate here in America are unmistakable and consider the sentiments run so deep that voters were willing to disregard the so-called experts, former prime ministers, academics and institutions and the demographic divide in the UK election sure does sound similar to American voters. Young versus old, college versus non-college educated, urban versus small town, and rural. So how might this play out here?
Joining me now, someone with unique insight, former British prime minister, Tony Blair. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining me.
TONY BLAIR, FMR. BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It's a pleasure, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Where the forces of Brexit include concerns over immigration, concerns over trade, concerns over central control, it sounds a great deal like our American election.
BLAIR: Yes, I think there are elements of this debate in the UK that are happening the world over, happening with you, happening in the rest of Europe and they're where people feel this power of globalization, changing the world around them, and those people who come forward with very tough and often simplistic popular solutions, yes, they gain traction on the political process. This is what's happened to us and we're going to now face the consequences of that decision.
SMERCONISH: Well, I find it interesting that you referenced simplistic solutions because it seems as if this was a defeat for the intelligentsia in so far as you had foreign ministers, you had academics, you had leaders of institutions all saying don't do this and a significant part of the electorate nevertheless wanted to move forward and exit. BLAIR: You know, one of the curious things about the course of the
debate in the UK is that the word expert or those with experience became terms of abuse. I mean, the reason why the four living people that occupied the post of British prime minister were united in our view that Britain should stay was because we were genuinely worried on the basis of our experience as prime ministers of the consequences of leaving.
SMERCONISH: Another parallel that I see, Mr. Prime Minister, are the demographics of this debate and our American election, a divide between the young and the old, the educated and the less so, the rural and the urban. To what do you attribute those sharp lines of division?
BLAIR: There are real problems in our societies OK. Now, there always have been, by the way, but there are particular problems following the financial crisis where people feel their incomes are flat lining, there are problems of people who feel marginized.
Globalization is changing the world around us and therefore, people who step forward and play to the anger that's aroused by these situations, they can get a lot of political traction and they can get it quickly. And we also have this other difference with today's political world, which is that the combination of a fragmented and quite polarized conventional media, combining with social media means that these insurgent movements get scale at speed and this is - this is a new phenomena, but the real question is, what is the answer to the problem that globalization poses?
Because it poses problems in your country and my country and around Europe and in my opinion, respectfully, I would say, the answer is not to target immigrants. The answer is to not isolate ourselves or shut down our borders.
The answer is through education, through infrastructure, through creating the economy of the future, through trying to bring countries together, united in a common purpose in which all people can have the chance, to benefit rather than divided so that people become against each other in a way that I think will ultimately corrode our society and probably not help our economy. SMERCONISH: Your use of the world globalization reminds me of Tom
Friedman from the "New York Times" commenting that the world is flat. Is it possible that the dialog of our American election, Donald Trump in particular, influenced in some small way the outcome of the UK election?
BLAIR: I'm not sure, but I think all our dialog in today's world influences - you know, we all influence each other. I mean, there's a global debate going on and so yes, obviously, some of the elements tha tare going on in your debate are the same as the debate on Brexit.
I mean, one thing of course that will happen and this is something to watch very carefully in the United States, is that we've decided to engage in this - this big leap or experiment might be a better way of putting it and over the days and weeks and months ahead, we actually happen as a result of this.
SMERCONISH: Prime Minister Tony Blair, thank you so much, sir.
BLAIR: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Donald Trump landed in Scotland on Friday morning on a previously planned trip to his golf course and he tweeted, "just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the view. They took their country back just like we will take America back, no games." Here to discuss her candidate and recent events, Trump's spokesperson Katrina Pearson. Katrina, thank you so much for being here.
KATRINA PEARSON, TRUMP CAMPIAGN, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: I was surprised when he got off that helicopter on Friday morning with the whole world watching and immediately he began to talk about the resort and not Brexit. Wasn't that a mistake? A missed opportunity to appear presidential?
PEARSON: Not at all. Mr. Trump is not a politician and doesn't take advantage of these types of situations. His sole purpose for being there was to support his son, his family. He did make remarks regarding the Brexit. In fact he talked about it prior to going to Scotland, but his sole intention of being there was to support his family.
SMERCONISH: But the optics seems awfully unusual that he was touting the virtue of that course. I'd love to go over there and vacation. I just don't know that he advanced his cause in terms of getting people to support him for president at a critical moment in time because whether by coincidence or good planning on his part, the eyes of the world were on him.
PEARSON: Well, of course he did. He did mention that it was a really good thing that people took their country back. I mean, they are - you can only expect the workers, the taxpayers of a nation to foot the bill for so long to their own personal detriment before they decide enough is enough. This absolutely supported his cause. He's supporting the exact same thing here at home. SMERCONISH: One of the subjects that came up during the press
availability was whether his assets should already be in a blind trust. I think we're unaccustomed to the notion that a candidate running for the presidency is still out there doing business. Isn't that a good issue? Shouldn't the assets already be beyond his reach?
PEARSON: Well, no, not at all. When he becomes president he's already said he's going to put them in a trust and his family will run the business. You know, we look at the Clinton Foundation, I think there's more questions to be asked about that money, where it's coming from and why it's going to Hillary Clinton in the number of amounts that it's going to.
We're talking about a golf course, not trade, not agreements from other countries, not uranium deals like the Clinton Foundation has while she was at the State Department. This is simply a golf course. Mr. Trump is still president and CEO of the Trump Organization. He goes to Scotland to support his family. And the media would like to make a big deal about it. But the media also said this is going to go all the way through the convention. We're not even there yet. Mr. Trump is just getting started.
SMERCONISH: Well, look, I know the subject to which you refer. I've read "Clinton Cash." I've hosted the author on this program, on at least two occasions, but relative to your candidate I guess what I'm saying is it seems as if he's using the world wide attention to sell product and still doing so.
PEARSON: Well, no, not at all. I mean, this is no different than a senator running for office and going back to Washington, D.C. to cast a vote. It's their job. We wanted a businessman, many people want a businessman in the ring and we have one now. He's going to continue to run that business until he becomes president of the United States, and his family will take over.
SMERCONISH: Brexit seemed like an issue that he was unfamiliar with as recently as Wednesday. Let me show you what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm right in the middle of it. I'll be over there just as the decision is coming - you know, I don't think anybody should listen to me because I haven't really focused on it very much but my inclination would be to get out because you know, go it alone. It's a mess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So which is it? On Friday he sounded like he was much more of an authority. As recently as Wednesday he's saying nobody should listen to me with regard to what I have to say about Brexit.
PEARSON: Well, it's Mr. Trump's instincts for a country to do what's best for its people and the best people to make that decision is the people, not the ruling class, not the (INAUDIBLE) politicians that have made things so badly in the UK which is exactly what he's talking about here in the United States.
Globalism is only good for those who can create mass wealth off of it and that is the corporation, that's the lobbyist, those are the politicians and Mr. Trump's instincts are to let the people decide.
SMERCONISH: But I guess, Katrina, I wonder how sophisticated his knowledge is on these issues when he speaks superficially. Let me give you another example. When he was asked about the declining value of the pound he answered the question the way I would as a tourist, who maybe this is unseemly but when I saw the whole Brexit impact on the market, I thought geez, maybe this is a good time to go to the UK because my dollar will go much further. Here's what candidate Trump said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If the pound goes down they're going to do more business. When the pound goes down, more people are coming to (INAUDIBLE) frankly and the pound has gone down and let's see what the impact of that has, but I think places like Scotland and England and different places in Great Britain, I think you're going to see a lot of activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Now, these folks are worried about the wherewithal of their economy and he's saying well, my resort is going to be fine because tourists will be able to come over here and have their dollar go much farther.
PEARSON: Well, that's not actually what he said, what he did say was spoken like a true businessman. He looked at the silver lining. There's a lot of businesses that are going to benefit that are going to benefit from more tourist activity and I think that's a good thing.
The people of the UK decided look, we know it's going to be a tough road, we're going to have to do all of these things, renegotiate our trade contracts but we cut out the middleman. It might be bumpy up front but they've done the right thing for them because at the end of the day freedom and sovereignty to be removed from all the restrictions they've had on their businesses is going to be a good thing for the people.
SMERCONISH: Katrina, your record remains intact. You gave me not an inch.
PEARSON: Well, look, I mean, at the end of the day, this is about the people and you see people all over the world who are tired of being told what to do, how to do it, how much money you can make, what you can and can't eat, enough is enough and Brexit is just the beginning.
SMERCONISH: OK. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.
PEARSON: Great to be here. Thank you. SMERCONISH: Lots to talk about with our political panel. Democratic
consultant, Bob Beckel and national political correspondent for the "New York Times," Jonathan Martin.
Jonathan, we've talked already about Donald Trump's arrival in Scotland and that which he discussed and that which he didn't discuss. Let's talk about Hillary. She issued a statement as soon as the Brexit vote was tallied and what I noted is that she said nothing about immigration, really didn't comment on that which is driving all of this angst. Doesn't she need to pivot and address some of what's causing all of that discontent worldwide?
JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESONDENT: I was struck in that statement and the conference call that her staff had, you know, they basically ignore the kind of populist angst that was driving this vote which obviously has shaped American politics this past year with the rise of Donald Trump and to a lesser degree, Bernie Sanders.
I think the reason that they're doing that, Michael, is because they want to focus this election on which of these two candidates is the more stable, steady, reliable figure who in uncertain economic times across the globe can be a kind of steady hand at the tiller. So I think that's why they're shying away from the immigration issue, but also because you know, it's tough for her.
A huge part of the democratic base is Hispanic and she needs those voters to win places like Florida and like Colorado and Nevada, but at the same time, you know, she's concerned about working class American voters especially in the midwest. So it's a bit of a balancing act for her.
SMERCONISH: Bob Beckel, do you think the result from the UK sent shock waves through Brooklyn?
BOB BECKEL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, I think it probably did some, but look, I hear this comparison between these two all day today. Let's keep in mind that the refugee immigration issue in Europe and England is far greater than it is here. Number two, if Hillary Clinton is not going to out immigration Donald Trump. I mean she's not going to build walls and she's not going to stop people from coming into the country.
So I think, Jon is right, I think what she wants to do is say who can handle a crisis like this best? And by the way, I think in that way, Hillary Clinton may come out on top today a little bit, because when you look at the chaos that will be in Britain over the next two or three months I think people will say it's probably better to have Hillary Clinton sitting on top of that than Donald Trump.
SMERCONISH: Yes, I guess - real fast.
MARTIN: I was going to say, the last two weeks you have seen two, frankly, crises. First of all, you've had the unexpected, you had the tragic massacre in Orlando and now you had something that was more expected, which was the Brexit.
And in both cases you can see a scenario, Michael, where the politics, to be crass, played well for Donald Trump. In both cases he bungled a golden opportunity to step forward and show presidential style leadership. You know, claiming (INAUDIBLE) I don't want congrats after Orlando and then going to his golf course and talking about how the pound was collapsing on the market would be good for his golf course. It's stunning that he would have those two opportunities in two weeks' time and just give them away.
SMERCONISH: There's something else about this that interests me, Beckel, and that is and Bill Crystal actually tweeted on that which I'm about to raise. It's making me wonder is there a reverse Bradley factor. There's his tweet. "Polls consistently underestimating right wing support. Cameron and BB, now Brexit. So if polls show Clinton up 5, could Trump be even?"
Look, it's not fashionable, Bob, in some areas, to tell a pollster who calls your house yes, I'm for Donald Trump. Doesn't he have a point?
BECKEL: No, he didn't have a point at all. Because look, the reality is the demographics of this country and this election is far different from what they were in Britain.
In this case, Donald Trump, given the fact that now, probably 30 percent of the voters in 2016 will be non-white. That's the case, unless he does remarkable huge numbers with white voters, he's toast. He's not going to make it. I'm willing to say this today. He has no chance.
MARTIN: I think you're right in the sense that there could be a so- called shy Donald voter out there. The shy tories last year in the British election. I think that the crystal's on to something there in terms of it's not socially acceptable to tell a live pollster that you're for Trump and I think especially in places from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Michigan, I think Trump may outrun his polling, but to Bob's point, the larger challenge that Trump has is that there's more to this country than the rust belt. Even Trump makes inroads in some of those states it's still tough for him if he can't get back Florida, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and if he hands Arizona over to the Democracts.
SMERCONISH: I know that if they call the Beckel house he's not going to admit to it. That's what I was trying to say.
BECKEL: You can be absolutely sure of that. By the way, there's so much polling going on right now, you think every pollster got somebody who said yes, I'm on the side for Trump, (INAUDIBLE) from Hillary, that doesn't float with me. And I've been through polls for 40 years and there's a lot of them out there and they're good now too. They're very good and if you look at this thing and look at the negatives on Trump, when you're running 78 percent negatives among Latinos, higher than that among blacks, I mean, what are you going to do?
SMERCONISH: Bob Beckel, Jonathan Martin, two pros. Thank you, men, I appreciate it. MARTIN: Thanks very much
SMERCONISH: Coming up a new book from a former Secret Service officer who worked for Hillary and Bill Clinton. It's already a best seller, but isn't he violating part of his job title labeled secret? And a TV anchor fired for her Facebook post about a shooting is now suing the station saying she was discriminated against because she was white. Does she have a case?
SMERCONISH: The Secret Service is supposed to be secret. It's right there in the name. Yet a book coming out next week by a Secret Service agent who worked in the Clinton White House is hoping to sell copies by telling tales about Hillary and Bill Clinton's off camera behaviour. In "Crisis of Character," former uniformed Secret Service agent Gary Byrne claims that Hillary Rodham Clinton exhibited a temperament that "makes he unqualified to lead the nation as president."
Byrne says that he was the guard at the door during the Monica Lewinski scandal and was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury that investigated Bill Clinton's affair. This book is clearly being released to impact the election and pre-orders have made it currently number two on Amazon's best seller list only behind "Harry Potter."
Does the publishing of this book threaten the future safety and privacy of all people protected by the Secret Service? The Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service issued a statement about the book this week saying, "we strongly denounced any book written by former or current employees that attempts to discredit the trustworthiness of those charged with the protective mission of the Secret Service. The protection of the president, first lady and first family is a matter that transcends all partisan politics."
Joining me now, another former agent who protected both Hillary Clinton and President Obama, Jonathan Wackrow, who is the executive director now of the Risk Advisory Group, RAIN. Jonathan Wackrow, thank you so much for being here.
I want to show a photograph of you in service to the nation. That is you next to the beast. Correct? Awaiting the arrival of President Obama?
JONATHAN WACKROW: FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: That is correct.
SMERCONISH: I point this out because you're a special agent. My understanding is that the gentleman writing the book is a uniformed agent. What's the difference?
WACKROW: Well, there's two parts to the secret service, the uniform division is a uniformed policing role. Their mission is charged with protecting the facilities that house protectees. So those facilities are the White House, the vice president's residence, other locations that the Secret Service maintains. So they are really the external ring, they're providing that external protection.
They're maintaining access control. They're an outer ring. The agents are more focused on the individual protectees. They're the close group of men and women that work close to the protectee. So if you think of it on two sides, the uniform division protects the asset, the agents protect the individual.
SMERCONISH: Is it conceivable to you that a uniformed agent could have seen the sort of things that he alleges having seen?
WACKROW: No. I mean, just from the pre-publication documents that are out, I can't comprehend how a uniformed division officer could ever find themselves in those situations to, you know, view what he is saying that he saw.
SMERCONISH: I'm not eager to give traction to any of the underlying allegations, but there is a report that he stumbled into seeing some thing untoward in the map room. I've been in the map room. I know the layout of the map room. Is it conceivable to you as a special agent that a uniformed officer could have walked in on the president in the map room?
WACKROW: No. Not by any means and here's why. Again, roles and responsibilities of uniformed division officer and agents are different. We have different - we have different functions. When the president walks into an environment where the uniformed division officer is, they're displaced by an agent.
So inherently even if he was standing in front of the map room door he would be displaced by an agent and the agent will now take control of that door. The map room has two doors. Both of those are maintained and controlled by agents again because the role of the agent is to protect the individual, the role of the officer is to protect the outer perimeter.
SMERCONISH: I showed your photograph working. Here's a photograph of this individual. I'm sure you're going to see it on Fox all next week. Doesn't that show something? I mean, there he is in front of the Christmas tree with the Clintons.
WACKROW: Absolutely. What this picture tells me is you know, there's - there's something underlying here and the reason for him writing this book. Ten years later he decides to come out with a scandalous book and he is saying that how despicable Hillary Clinton is as a person, how there are all of these issues at the White House with the Clintons when he was there, yet you're looking at a picture of him smiling next to the Clintons, in front of the Christmas tree like there's no disdain whatsoever. I think there's somewhat of a character issue here.
SMERCONISH: Well, the point I would make is I have three or four of those photographs with W and I think seven with Obama and it doesn't mean we're tight. WACKROW: Exactly. The photo doesn't tell the whole story but it tells enough here. I mean he's saying that the premise of his book is that he had so much disdain for Hillary Clinton that he had to write this book and that disdain started when he was a uniformed division officer. Right there, if someone has that much disdain for one of our protectees, why would you take a picture? It just doesn't add up?
SMERCONISH: Jonathan Wackrow, thank you so much for being here.
WACKROW: Thank you very much.
SMERCONISH: Coming up, a TV anchor fired for a controversial Facebook post about a shooting claims she was fired because she's white. Is she right?
[09:32:13] SMERCONISH: Was she fired because she's white?
A racially charged comment on a Facebook page cost a local Emmy Award- winning news anchor in Pittsburgh her job. And now, the anchor Wendy Bell has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that she was only fired because she's white.
After a notorious local shooting that killed six people including a pregnant woman, Bell posted on her Facebook page, quote, "You needn't need to be a criminal profile to draw a mental sketch of the killer that broke so many hearts. They were young black men, likely their teens or early 20s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs.
These boys have been in the system before. They've grown up there. They know the police. They've been arrested, they've made the circuit and nothing has scared them enough.
Now, they're lost. Once you kill a neighbor's three children, two nieces and her unborn grandson, there's no coming back."
Her termination coincided with a meeting between the station management and the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation. She was told her comments on Facebook were, quote, "inconsistent with the company's ethics and journalistic standards." The federation said at no time did it suggest or ask for Ms. Bell to be fired.
Should she have been fired? Will she be reinstated?
Joining me now, civil rights attorney Areva Martin, and Vanderbilt University law professor Carol Swain.
Areva, let me ask you this question. Does she have a point when she says were I a person of color they never would have fired me?
AREVA MARTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I don't think she has a point at all, Michael. I think her claim that she was fired because she is white is preposterous. She's filed a federal civil rights lawsuit so she has a couple of
things she has to prove. She first has to establish that similarly situated individuals would have been treated differently or have been treated differently. She also has to establish that she performed her job in a satisfactory fashion.
I can't imagine that this news station has allowed anyone working for it to post the kind of racial and insensitive comments that this woman posted on her Facebook page and that they didn't discipline them.
Now, if she can come forward and produce some evidence that they have overlooked these kinds of racially charged statements in the past, then God bless her. But I'd be hard pressed to think that she can establish that kind of case and that she's going to get very far with this lawsuit.
SMERCONISH: Carol Swain, do you see it the same way?
CAROL SWAIN, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSORE: No, I don't see it the same way. I think that there is a racial double standard. Many people are concerned about black crime, and had it been a black journalist that posted a similar comment, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
And what I find most unfortunate is that the discussion is about racially insensitive comments rather than the black on black crime that motivated her to post something that seemed to me was not meant to be racially insensitive.
[09:35:10] She was expressing, I suppose on her own Facebook page her feelings after having been the reporter that covered the story.
SMERCONISH: Areva, the crime is unsolved. What if it turns out that she's correct? What if the individual or individuals who are charged match her description?
MARTIN: That has nothing to do with what she said. She is a journalist. She's held to the standard --
SWAIN: She expressed her opinion.
MARTIN: Can I -- Carol, I allowed you to finish your point. Let me finish mine.
She's held to a standard of reporting facts. She's supposed to do that in an unbiased way. She had absolutely no facts at the time that she made that statement. The police don't know who committed this crime and she didn't just call these African-American young men criminals, she talked about their mothers, she said they were promiscuous. They had affairs with multiple men. She talked about their jobs.
She played into every negative stereotype about African-American men possible. And we expect more and demand more from journalists and I think this station has every right to expect that a journalist of her caliber, award-winning journalist, would know better and would do better.
SWAIN: It's laughable that she's saying that journalists are unbiased. They have high standards. It's outlandish what journalists do in America.
It's my understanding that it was her Facebook page, and she was venting. But 90 percent of the violent crimes are black on black crimes, and so her supposing that it would be a black perpetrator that wiped out a black family, it seems to me that that would be a pretty good guess. And there is one suspect that's been apprehended and it's a young black man that is a suspect in that case, and there are other black men that have been questioned.
So I think that we're having the wrong discussion. We should be talking about what's happening in Chicago, we should be talking about the black on black crime that is devastating black communities across America, and get over this racial insensitivity.
SMERCONISH: Areva, there was a part two to the Facebook post and it talks about how shortly after this incident occurred, she went out to dinner with her husband and children, and she speaks admirably, maybe some would say patronizingly about a young African American man who's working as a busboy or part of the wait staff.
She goes so far as to applaud the management for having this young man in their employ. I know you've read it. I hope I'm summarizing it well.
SMERCONISH: That didn't go over so well community who read it. Can you speak to that issue?
MARTIN: Yes, let me say this. First of all, all due respect to the professor. We can have a conversation about black on black crime while at the same time calling out journalists like this woman who makes racial statements. They're not mutually incompatible. We can do both. I am as concerned about black on black crime as anyone on this country.
But to that other statement, Michael, it just shows the tone depth that we're talking about. She made the statement that this black kid is working in this restaurant and she could imagine that no one's ever given him any words of encouragement. And again, she sees an African American boy and she makes all of these assumptions. She doesn't have any facts from which to make any of these statements. They were insensitive statements and it's just wrong for someone in the media who holds themselves out as a true teller, as a fact-finder to make these kind of negative statements and to play into the negative stereotypes that we know plague African Americans, particularly men.
SMERCONISH: Professor Swain, you get the final word, but you've got to make it quick. SWAIN: I disagree. That young black man probably need encouragement.
We hear all the time that black teenagers don't want to work. They do want to work and we should be doing more to get them employed. We're having the wrong discussion. The discussion should be about black crime.
SMERCONISH: Carol Swain, Areva Martin, thank you so much for being here.
We've all heard "Stairway to Heaven" a million times, but a Los Angeles jury had to listen to it and compare it to another song to see if Led Zeppelin was guilty of plagiarism. Their decision surprised many, including Stephen Colbert.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: I've listened to both songs, and I'm not sure Zep ripped them off. But I've got to say, it makes me wonder. Really makes me wonder. And the elves and the fairies --
Judge for yourselves. Here's "Stairway to Heaven".
[09:40:05] COLBERT: And here's "Taurus" by Spirit.
COLBERT: They're screwed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Led Zeppelin is off the hook after a six-day trial. A Los Angeles jury decided this week that the '70s rock icons did not steal the opening of its biggest hit stairway to heaven from an eerily similar acoustic guitar song by the band Spirit. Do you agree? Take a listen to this.
[09:45:10] SMERCONISH: Wow. Amazingly, that back to back comparison that you just heard, the jury never got to hear. When they wanted clarification, a guitarist went into the courtroom and played the songs live. Was justice served?
Joining me now, the lawyer who filed the suit on behalf of the estate of "Spirit's" late guitarist Randy Wolf. He performed as Randy California, Francis Malofiy.
Hey, Francis. Why didn't the jury ever get to hear the recorded versions?
FRANCIS MALOFIY, ATTORNEY WHO BROUGHT LAW SUIT AGAINST LED ZEPPELIN: Well, you know, it's frustrating for us, because you know, justice is always about the search for the truth and in this instance it sort of escaped plaintiff. We feel that there was evidentiary rulings that prevented the jury from ever hearing what was really at issue.
That's frustrating from a plaintiff's perspective but it's frustrating because the jury never got to hear what Jimmy Page and Roger Plant had access to. We were able to prove that they had access to the Spirit "Taurus" composition and they heard it not only live, but also because they had it in the record collection of Jimmy Page.
We were able to prove that point of access. We were able to prove the trust on the copyright but we were never able to allow the jury to hear the very music.
SMERCONISH: But there must have been some logic on the part of the federal judge who said I'm not going to allow the recording itself to be played in open court.
MALOFIY: Well, we believe it's reversible error and that's a big issue in this case. There was clearly evidentiary rulings that went against plaintiff and made it almost as if we had to try a case with both hands tied behind our back. We were never able to play for the jury the composition embodied in that sound recording.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask if I'm understanding. You could show the jury the sheet music, but you couldn't play for them the recording. That's the bottom line, right?
MALOFIY: Bottom line is that basically I was comparing apples to oranges. I was comparing a piece of sheet music to a fully produced version of "Stairway to Heaven" and it was very prejudicial and we believe that the evidentiary ruling really came and hurt us in this case and if they had heard the actual music that was at issue that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page had access to, I'm confident it would have been a different result.
SMERCOISH: I like the way that you filed the complaint. You did it in a very Zeppelin-esque font. Did you grow up like I grow up with Zeppelin posters all over your bedroom and if so, what was it like to take on the rock gods?
MALOFIY: I always believe in every cause I take. And I wouldn't get involved in a case if I didn't have a sincere interest and desire in seeing justice through.
You know, my background is music and I do have a lot of friends and musicians, and I often represent the creatives. Yes, I think led Zeppelin is an incredible band, but I think the fault is they failed to give credit where credit is due, and it's not just in this case. It's in many cases. And it's a history that surrounds.
So, for them it was about their legacy --
SMERCONISH: You cast this as a $60 million lawsuit. I was interested to see that the band's accountant came in and said since 2011, it's generated, this song, $615,000 for Jimmy Page, $532,000 for Roger Plant. Kind of a curious thing, I always wondered what's the value of a song? What's the value of "Free Bird"? You get the final word.
MALOFIY: I think that you know, everyone's going to have a different position on what a song's worth. For us it was never about the money. It was always about credit.
We said we'd settle this case for one dollar in credit and it's unfortunate how it all played out. Different sides are going to have different economists coming to different values, but for us, it still is about credit and we're going to fight to see through to the end. So, it's not done.
SMERCONISH: Francis Malofiy, thank you so much for being here. Good luck.
MALOFIY: Thank you, Mr. Smerconish.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, President Obama's immigration was negated by the Supreme Court which will wreak havoc on many lives like this woman, married to an American with two American kids who now run the risk of being deported and I will tell you why.
[09:53:11] SMERCONISH: This week in a 4-4 deadlock, the Supreme Court thwarted President Obama's immigration plan that would have shielded 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. You know, for most of us, the outcome, it's of stuff of philosophical debate.
But not for Katherine (ph). Let me tell you her story.
Katherine was born in the Philippines in 1979. When she was 5, her parents took jobs at a hospital in Saudi Arabia. She and her sister were left with their grandparents in Manila. The family separation was tough.
After several unhappy years, Katherine's aunt who lived in the U.S. suggested they try their luck here. Katherine's family came to the United States on a visa which expired after two years. When she was 13, her parents decided to stay nevertheless.
As an adult, Katherine met Brian, an American citizen, and in 2004, they married. Brian had no idea of her immigration status and contrary to popular belief, marriage alone does not confer citizenship.
Brian and Katherine had two children, who immediately received birthright citizenship. They are now 6 and 11 years old. So in this nuclear family, only Katherine is not a U.S. citizen, yet she has a Social Security card and a driver's license and Brian and Katherine, they file a joint tax return.
She's had no brushes with the law and still she can't get right with the law. She fully acknowledges that her parents made missteps but says they were trying to better the family's lives.
Katherine tried to protect her own children from all of this, but now that the Supreme Court has forced the issue, she told me, "I'm afraid that someone will knock on the door and take me away."
The decision means that Katherine, a 37-year-old who has been here a quarter century might have to leave her American husband and her two American citizen children to return to the Philippines to renew the visa that first enabled her to come to the United States as a child.
[09:55:09] She's understandably afraid to leave her husband and children to navigate that process, worried the bureaucracy might prevent her turn. President Obama's 2014 executive action tried to give a path to immigrants like Katherine who entered as children, or who have children who are already citizens.
But Texas and 25 other states brought the challenge that the Supreme Court did not overturn. And where the court deadlocked along liberal and conservative lines, she remains in limbo.
What a shame. No sane immigration policy should tear families like Katherine's apart, separating citizen children from their parents or deporting actual U.S. citizens to punish their parents.
That's it for today's program. Tweet me @smerconish. I'll see you here next week.