Return to Transcripts main page
Interview with Carter Page; Infowars Host a Performance Artist?; How Hillary Clinton Lost; Mega-Brewers Chugging Craft Beer Brands. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 22, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: To give his first response.
And trying to explain away the outrageous behavior of Infowars host Alex Jones, lawyers for the provocateur are claiming in a child custody case that he is a performance artist. Why am I not surprised? And what this trial says about our national discourse.
Plus, she was supposed to win bigly, but Hillary Clinton somehow fumbled the biggest football of her life. The authors of a best- selling book sure to be the first of many are here to dissect how Hillary's campaign ended up shattered.
And what did Bill O'Reilly's exit from FOX News and the reaction to it tell us about America in 2017? A troubling message about our divide. I'll explain.
Plus, when is a craft beer not a craft beer? Like this one? Maybe when it's actually made by one of the two biggest breweries in the world. I'm going to raise a glass to the real deal with the founder of Sam Adams, Jim Cook.
But first, extremely intriguing new information about the biggest story of the past year, Russia's presumed meddling in the U.S. presidential election and its relationship to Donald Trump's campaign. CNN is exclusively reporting that the FBI gathered intelligence last summer suggesting that Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign.
This, according to U.S. officials who made clear they don't know whether Page was aware that the Russians may have been using him. Because of how Russian spy services operate, Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents.
Page has repeatedly denied any impropriety. He's a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and worked as an investment banker in New York, London and Moscow. He was also an adviser to the Russian energy giant Gazprom, and joins me now.
Thanks so much for being here. Do you care whether Russians helped elect Donald Trump?
CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER TO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Michael, what I care most about are these steps that were taken to infringe about my privacy illegally. So that has really been my main concern. So.
SMERCONISH: I know, but, Carter, having watched several interviews done with you and read a great deal about the case, it strikes me that you are dismissive of this entire investigation and the prospect of Russians having hacked or attempting to hack the DNC server and played a role in our election. And the question I most want to ask you, I mean, you graduated from the Naval Academy, you've worn the uniform of your country. Doesn't this bother you? Don't you want to get to the bottom of it?
PAGE: Michael, to be honest with you, what bothers me the most is the severe dishonesty and now potentially with the FISA court action, false evidence which is obstruction of justice by definition. So that to me is my biggest concern. And if there was any meddling in the election, all of the false narrative that has been out there is really the ultimate meddling. If you look at the -- by comparison overall impact.
SMERCONISH: But I'm -- but, Carter, Carter, unless -- Carter, unless you tell me, hell yes, that would be bothersome which I think is a simple answer, I'm going to assume that Carter Page frankly doesn't care if there was a black hand in the election of Donald Trump.
PAGE: I care about the negative hands that were all over this thing and all the -- you talk about propaganda and also meddling in the election, in each of those cases, there were significant steps that hurt the Trump campaign last year and have continued to be a cloud over the new administration and really have had serious national security implications for the new administration and really put our nation at risk.
SMERCONISH: I would think --
PAGE: That's the biggest concern, to be honest with you.
SMERCONISH: I would think -- OK, and I would think -- you know, it used to be that political dissent stopped at our borders. I would think that Carter Page would want it known -- I mean, I know you have strong feelings about how you've been cast as public enemy number one and there are things you want people to know. I would think first and foremost you'd want them to know you're a patriot, you're an America first guy and let the parties and the candidates be dammed and if it turns out that the Russians interfered in our election, that would bother you. That's a lay-up. Why not take that overture?
PAGE: If that were the case, Michael, and there is indisputable evidence that that was the case, then I would be totally behind it. But there are certain questions I have, frankly speaking, just reading that report two weeks before Inauguration Day I might add that makes me wonder whether this was really just a political stunt. And we've seen that looking back at the history of political intelligence operations going back many decades. So I wouldn't -- I don't have a final answer on that, but again, I think the bigger meddling in the election was what was done against me and potentially others in the last year.
[09:05:05] SMERCONISH: You're here in part to respond -- you're here in part to respond to this brand new CNN story that broke last night with Wolf Blitzer. Let me ask the direct question. Are you aware of attempts by Russians to use you to infiltrate the Trump campaign?
PAGE: Well, the beauty of that report -- and that really is breaking news and I was so excited to read it. Russia tried to use Trump advisers to infiltrate the campaign. Now remember the headlines for many, many months. The Trump campaign colluded or there were nefarious things going on. Now they're reeling things back and, you know, someone is saying out there the word tried, right? And I've certainly seen a lot of tries going back for much of the last year, trying to put in false narratives over many, many months. So there certainly were many tries and I think the dodgy dossier is the ultimate -- at least from what we know thus far, the ultimate try and a swing and a miss thus far. But we'll see what happens.
PAGE: It's early days in this.
SMERCONISH: Are you aware of their efforts at using you to get into the Trump campaign? That's my direct question.
PAGE: I was never -- nothing I was ever asked to do or no information I was ever asked for was anything beyond what you could see on CNN. There's great -- great depth of reporting, great information. Nothing I ever talked about with any Russian official extends beyond that publicly available immaterial information, Michael.
SMERCONISH: You surely have considered the idea that unwittingly you were used by the Russians. I imagine you've gone back and reviewed in your mind, your notes, et cetera, all of your contacts in the last 24 months. What of that possibility?
PAGE: Michael, the only unwitting element that I'm most concerned about is the unwitting media and the unwitting members of Congress that really took on this dodgy dossier and actually read it into the congressional record and potentially members of the government last year that were using this as part of a domestic political intelligence operation. So that to me is -- there's certainly a lot of unwitting actions that were done last year, so let's see how things come out as we get more evidence. Again, there's been plenty of --
SMERCONISH: Carter --
PAGE: -- leaking and lying but we'll see how this all plays out.
SMERCONISH: I -- look, you're presumed innocent of anything. You haven't been charged with anything. But we're all cognizant of the fact and you may disagree with this but a FISA court found there was probable cause of you having committed a crime presumably in cahoots with Russian authorities. First of all, preliminary question. Do you dispute the reports that you were subject of surveillance pursuant to a FISA warrant? PAGE: Well, that is really interesting information and I am deeply
appreciative of the people that leaked that. Now there's a lot of felonies and potential felonies related to the things that were done against me, but that information that you just cited, Michael that -- by definition, that leak is a felony. You're not supposed to be talking about that.
And in terms of the FISA court and approval by the FISA court, if you just look at some of the statistics -- I don't have the data in front of me, but there's been a pretty limited number of submissions to the FISA court which were rejected in the year 2016 and I think that data just came out. I don't have the numbers on the tip of my tongue. But there's quite a track record of approving most of which comes through there.
SMERCONISH: Well, what evidence -- what evidence do you believe a FISA court judge would have reviewed to come to a conclusion that there was a strong case, probable cause, that you committed a crime? Surely there was something?
PAGE: This is a beautiful question, Michael. There is no possibility of possibly cause. However, as we know, going back to the dodgy dossier and all the times this was put out in the media by certain political operatives last year, there's certainly a lot of potential basis. And again, there have been recent reports that I'm very grateful for that, yes, the dodgy dossier was indeed an element which was used in that warrant. And so that will be really interesting and that's why I'm so excited about my privacy act lawsuit that we'll be moving forward with and the information that that disclosure will provide.
So the -- a lot of general ideas which have been thrown around broadly, but what we're getting into now is real facts. And I can't wait to see some of those specifics that were put into the public record on this.
[09:10:10] SMERCONISH: Carter, I don't know what the finding on probable cause would have consisted of but it does occur to me that the FBI -- and I want you to respond to this as a final question. That the FBI would probably have been derelict in its duty if they were not paying close attention to you. You were on their radar screen in 2013. You gave a speech overseas that was very pro-Russian, anti-Western viewpoint. You were advising in an informal capacity a presidential candidate of the United States.
You met with the Russian ambassador at some point during the Republican convention in Cleveland. I mean, put those things together, you would at least acknowledge that it's the job of the FBI to wonder and to investigate what's going on with this individual.
PAGE: There's always -- I'm open to wondering, right? However, the basis -- you mentioned the 2013 and a case that was filed in 2015. I was supporting -- I was asked to give information and I provided information, so I did nothing wrong in that case, right? So there's meeting with the ambassador -- and I didn't actually spend any time with him. I said hello to him. There's no probable cause there. And so, again, going back to the recent reporting which I'm so
appreciative of, that the dodgy dossier was the main -- one of the main elements that was used in this process, that to me is very encouraging and I look forward to that full disclosure. So that will be great to see over time.
SMERCONISH: Carter Page, thank you for being here.
PAGE: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Tremendous reaction via Facebook and Twitter. Here's a Facebook comment, that has just come in. Katherine, hit me with it.
"The only people who care about Russian influence during the election are people who didn't vote for Trump. Bizarre response from R's and conservatives."
Look, Sheila, I said dissent used to end at our borders. You know, we were Americans first and we would unite against a common enemy. And sadly, those days are over.
Twitter, what do we got?
"Smerconish, it seems like Carter Page wants to make himself the victim here. Classic." Well, he says he's got a world view that is not in line with institutional forces and that he's the one being thrown under the bus.
One more if we've got time for. Thanks for all this reaction.
"Smerconish, I always knew you had alcohol nearby on the set." Stick around until the end of the show, Paul.
Still ahead, this is the Infowars host Alex Jones. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX JONES, INFOWARS: Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured. This is the fakest thing since the $3 bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So does he sound like he means what he's saying? Because his lawyers in a Texas custody case are claiming that this behavior is no different than Jack Nicholson playing the Joker in "Batman," that he's a performance artist. I'll discuss the implications next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, " THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": If Alex Jones really is a character, then President Trump got phished hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:17:32] SMERCONISH: If you want to understand what has driven our political discourse into a ditch, then pay attention to of all things a child custody battle playing itself out in an Austin, Texas, courtroom. Because that's where media provocateur Alex Jones is fighting to maintain sole custody of his three children.
I am not interested in the family dynamics, not going to go there, but I am interested in Jones. He broadcasts his radio show on 150 stations and his Infowars.com Web site had over 7.5 million viewers in a recent one-month snapshot. His ex-wife Kelly is seeking sole or joint custody of the children who are aged 9, 12 and 14, who currently live full time with their father. Her claim, he's, quote, "not a stable person," and part of her evidence is his media persona.
Here's Jones on his program attacking Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Schiff looks like the archetype (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sucker. There's something about this fairy hopping around, bossing everybody around. Listen, you son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is your problem? You get in my face with that I'll beat your goddamn ass, you son of a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Jones has also said that the Newtown massacre of schoolchildren was a hoax and that the government was behind 9/11. But Jones through his lawyer is trying to sell, well, that's not me. At a pretrial hearing his attorney Randall Wilhite told the judge that using Jones' on-air persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Jokes in "Batman."
Wilhite claimed, quote, "He's playing a character. He's a performance artist." His other lawyer, David Minton, describes Jones' show in court as a mix of humor, bombasity, sarcasm and wit. "That's what he does for a living," unquote. Jones has spent much of the week disputing his own lawyers' characterizations, no doubt to preserve his audience. He filmed videos before his court appearances this week defending himself as real.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Then they go, oh, he says he's fake. Alex says he's fake because he didn't mean that. Whatever. I'm about free market, cutting taxes. I 110 percent believe in what I stand for and we're changing the world. We're the most bona fide, hard core, real McCoy thing there is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Look, the duality of the Alex Jones persona is confirmation of everything I've been saying about men with microphones.
[09:20:03] Namely, that so much of it is B.S. The only people that I meet, that I see, that I speak with who see the world entirely through conservative lenses or liberal lenses are talk radio hosts and cable television personalities. For the rest of us the issues are a mixed bag. Conservative on some things. Liberal on others. But not the media provocateurs like Jones. They present themselves out in the fringes because they know that passion sells and they are far more interested with lining their own pockets, getting people to pay attention to their Web sites and their a.m. talk radio shows and cable television programs than they are about bringing about good governance.
Their business model is built on tumult, on division, on fomenting dissent, and proof that it works? How about the fact that Jones' ex- wife already receives from him $43,000 a month. Ironically, that ex- wife is the best thing he has going for his media career insofar as she says what you see on TV is the real Alex Jones.
After listing his many threats to celebrities and politicians, Kelly Jones stated he broadcasts from home, the children are there watching him broadcast. Sadly, what may be performance art to him is real to his listeners and his viewers and therein lies the danger. The conflation of news and entertainment. It's another reminder that society suffers when we surrender our dialogue to the loudest voices with the sharpest elbows.
Joining me now the reporter who's been covering this case from the courtroom every day, Jonathan Tilove, the chief political writer for the "Austin American Statesman."
Jonathan, so that's the dilemma that Jones has, right? He doesn't want to lose the audience outside the courtroom but he wants those jurors to see a different side of Alex Jones. How is it going?
JONATHAN TILOVE, CHIEF POLITICAL WRITER, AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN: Well, you know, I think in some ways his lawyers did him a disservice. I think he is a true believer. What he wants to be able to do is to perform in all different kinds of ways and then label it as he sees fit, whether on occasion it's sarcasm or exaggeration or in other cases, you know, he expects you to take it at face value.
So for instance, the Adam Schiff rant, a couple of days later he said well, that was obviously tongue in cheek. Well, you know, Roger Stone was on with him that day and he's kind of blanching as he's listening to him and saying where are you going with this. And, you know, Stone was filling in with him -- filling in for him this week, part of the time while he was in court, and I think, you know, Stone's rule is in politics the only thing worse than being wrong is being boring and this guy is not boring.
So I think -- you know, in court I don't think it's been quite -- you know, the judgment hasn't been about whether he's real or fake because the judge has not wanted to get into any of his political content. I think the lawyers for Kelly Jones are more using the fact that he, you know, has smoked pot on the air and that he's sometimes drunk on the air to try to impeach his qualities as a father and also the question of whether he brings that personality home with him.
SMERCONISH: Jonathan, yesterday there was a move for a mistrial by Alex Jones because of a piece of video. Let me show a snippet to the audience and then you can explain. TILOVE: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Who has it in confidence, especially if you're famous, said, man, it's crazy, women throw themselves on you, you can do anything you want. That's not sexual assault. A woman's climbing up on top of you, you can do whatever you want. That's what mammals do. She's showing she wants it, she gets it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So what happened yesterday pertaining to that video?
TILOVE: Well, it was a mix-up. That was from the Joe Rogan podcast and they were supposed to show a little piece of that in which he takes a puff of marijuana and they show a different part where he's talking about the -- you know, the "grab them" comment by Trump and that wasn't supposed to be -- the judge did not say that was OK to be heard by the jury. So for some reason it took them a minute or two to object. They stopped playing it. They told the jury to ignore it. They asked for a mistrial but nothing has happened on that so far. I mean, the judge has not accepted that.
SMERCONISH: I'll continue to follow your coverage through the "Austin Statesman."
Jonathan Tilove, thank you so much for being here.
TILOVE: Thanks a lot.
SMERCONISH: We're overwhelmed with social media today. Comments on Facebook as well as Twitter. What do we have, Katherine? This comes I think from Facebook first.
"He's doing his show from home so his kids see that personality. How would they know the difference?" Melissa, that's a great point.
Show me another one. "He has been close to heart attacks over fake news and fake media outlets and then his lawyers say he is fake?" Right, and so you get it because if he goes into court and says well, that's the real me, he risks the child custody but if he says that's not the real me, then he loses the audience.
[09:25:02] One more from Twitter. Here it is. "Smerconish, Alex Jones needs to be taken seriously or else this country goes gown in rubble."
Maurice, your tweet frightens me, scares the bejesus out of me. A guy who thinks that Sandy Hook was a hoax and that 9/11 was an inside job and if he's doing it to stir the pot and line his pocket which is what I think, there are too many people paying close attention to him who are relying on it as if it's gospel. They've completely conflated news and entertainment and that's taken the country down.
Up ahead, how could Hillary Clinton possibly lose? Clinton biographers have a new book that reveals many reasons and the biggest one herself, Hillary.
[09:30:04] SMERCONISH: Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton in November came as a shock to the world and to the campaigns themselves and to the media charged with covering them.
So, what really happened?
Many of the answers -- the poor decisions, the in-fighting, the underestimating of both Bernie and Trump and the candidates' own fatal flaws -- are all revealed in the details of a new book "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign."
Joining me now, the co-authors of "Shattered", Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. Jonathan writes a weekly column for "Roll Call". Amy is the senior White House correspondent for "The Hill."
Jonathan, it's the kind of book that you read and say, how did they get that detail? You were able to do it because you struck a bargain. Everything was going to be on background and it wasn't going to get printed until the election was over.
What does that mean on background? Explain.
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, ROLL CALL: It means that we didn't name our sources in the book. There are certainly moments, key sort of tense moments where people are quoted directly, but the sources are not identified by name.
So, there are several people in a room having a conversation, Hillary Clinton says X, sources will tell us what Hillary Clinton said and say Hillary Clinton said this. But we don't name the sources. And what that allows us to be much more candid about what's going on, particularly before the election.
We knew that if we were talking to folks and they didn't feel like they had that protection, they weren't going to talk to us before the election, and we wanted to be able to measure this throughout the process and see what they were saying in 2015 versus what they were saying in early 2016 and, of course, after the election.
So, I think it really allowed us to get sort of under the hood with this campaign and find out both the things that went poorly and the things that went well, and I think what we've got as a result of it is not only a very interesting and compelling story but also a lot of lessons for future candidates, both on the Democratic side and the Republican side.
SMERCONISH: Amy, if I were to distill this several hundred page book into a paragraph, it would be this paragraph and I put it up on the screen. The context here is back and forth between Bill Clinton and Robby Mook in terms of the way they each see the campaign.
"Mook's response, meaning to Clinton, Bill Clinton, was always a variation on the same analysis: the data run counter to your anecdotes. Bill liked data but he believed it was insufficient. To him, politics was just about finding people who agreed with you and getting them to the polls. He felt that it was important to talk to voters individually to get a real sense of what they were feeling. He also believed that a candidate could persuade voters with the right argument and in pursuit of that, the on-the-ground feel for how hopes and fears were motivating voters was invaluable."
He was constantly saying this is what I'm seeing, this is what I'm hearing, and it was Robby who was saying, yes, but the data shows something else.
My point is bill Clinton was right in the end, wasn't he?
AMIE PARNES, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE HILL: Yes, and I think a lot of his advisers were frustrated by that. A lot of aides around him kind of told -- people explained that to us. But, yes, he was kind of sounding the alarm. He was raising red flags. He was saying, I'm talking to people, I'm hearing different things, I'm on the ground.
And, of course, look what he did for President Obama. He basically helped him win in 2012. He was trying to do that for his own wife and I think that was one of the many problems of the campaign.
SMERCONISH: But it was also the antithesis of what was going on across the aisle in the completely organic, Amie, Donald Trump campaign, right? I mean, Clinton was by the book, following the data, looking at the programs. Trump, it seemed, seated the pants but it resonated.
PARNES: It did. There's a moment that we talk about in the book where she's flying with her confidante, Minyon Moore, and they're having a heart to heart about what's going on. And I think one of the most revealing moments is this particular one where she's basically saying, "I don't understand what's happening in the country." This is in the primary after she loses in New Hampshire. She's just lost the devastating -- had this devastating blow and basically saying, "What is happening?"
She's seeing the rise of populism around her. She doesn't quite understand it. That's something that follows her from the primary and into the general election.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Jon, you're in that rarefied where people review your book and they say, now, here are the five nuggets, here are the ten -- like the week, they said here are the titillating details of "Shattered." Ten wild new revelation.
Here's what I want to ask Jonathan Allen. What's in this book that they've all missed? What's the explosive story that you and Amie are surprised more people aren't buzzing about? ALLEN: I think we were a little surprised that there's been a little
bit of attention to it but there's this incredible moment in September of 2016, Hillary Clinton is still struggling to get Bernie Sanders supporters on board. They weren't really with her at the convention. They still aren't fully coming around -- a lot of them are but not everybody, those working class white voters that could have gone for Bernie or Trump but didn't like her.
And her campaign asks Bernie to cut an ad for her. To -- he's already endorsed her but they wanted him to do an ad that they could run on broadcast. So, his consultant, Tad Devine, goes up to New Hampshire -- I'm sorry, up to Vermont and they sit down in Bernie's living room.
And Bernie's going through the script and he's perfectly happy to say what the Clinton folks want him to say. And then he comes to the end of the ad and the last thing he's supposed to say is, "I'm with her," the tag line that she used. He looks out and he says, "I can't say that, it's so phony."
So, he refuses to say it. They otherwise cut the ad. They send it to the Clinton folks. The Clinton folks do a focus group on it and they find that people don't think that Bernie endorsing Hillary is genuine, and they don't find it -- so the Clinton people start fearing that it will have a backlash if they run it.
I think there were a lot of people around Bernie Sanders or at least the people that were aware of this that felt like they should have run it anyway, that focus groups don't always give you the best information and that she needed that lift at that time. As we saw on Election Day, there were a lot of people who voted for independents, for the third party candidates, especially in some of those big swing states.
She really -- she really lost an opportunity there to use Bernie Sanders effectively on her behalf. Maybe it would have back fired, but they certainly -- but they certainly precluded finding that out.
SMERCONISH: Hey, I'm a junky, I want to see that commercial. That's a great story.
Congratulations to both of you. "Shattered", I think you owe the Rolling Stone royalties from it. But it's a great book.
And, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, I really appreciate you being here.
ALLEN: Thank you, Michael.
PARNES: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Keep tweeting me @Smerconish. And commenting on my Facebook page. We have two quick tweets that I can show you. What do we have?
"By the way, nobody with half a brain thought #crookedHillary was going to win it. It was clear by June, #idiots." All right. Well, guess what, I am the idiot in chief.
One more, please?
"Smerconish, Clinton lost because she didn't energize her base. Sanders should have been her V.P. Progressive platform but never talked about it."
Jason, having just read this book, I think it comes to the correct conclusion -- too much reliance on data and not enough on feel and what was going on. There was a rural rebellion afoot and Donald Trump was able to capitalize on that and she couldn't.
Still to come, even with all the sexual harassment accusations against Bill O'Reilly, he never lost his audience. What does that kind of support mean for the conservative media?
And when is a craft beer actually a corporate shill? I'm going to raise that question and a glass, I hope, with the founder of Sam Adams beer. Jim Koch is here.
[09:41:50] SMERCONISH: So, I'm a beer drinker. I fancy pale ales with a lot of hoppy flavor and I like visiting craft beer stores and assembling my own six packs.
Part of the attraction is supporting what I thought was the entrepreneurial spirit among brewers whose growth is booming. In 1981, there were just 82 breweries in the United States. Today, there are more than 5,000.
But guess what? Nine percent of domestic beer production in the U.S. is in the hands of two brewers, Molson Coors and A.B. InBev.
And you might be surprised to learn that the edgy beer that you're drinking is not being brewed by millennials in their garage of their attic, but by one of those giants. Here, Breck IPA, which says Breckenridge Brewery, or Goose Island is another that I like. Elysian Space Dust, another. Vanilla Porter, you know these, I bet. How about Terrapin Mosaic? How about Terrapin Moo-hoo? They're all owned by one mega brewery, Anheuser-Busch InBev.
In a recent essay for "The New York Times', "Is it last call for craft beer?", the founder of Sam Adams, Jim Koch, raised concerns about both disclosure and antitrust.
It was in 1984 when Jim used his great-great grandfather's recipe for Louis Koch Lager, to brew his first batch of Sam Adams Boston lager in his kitchen. He's also authored the book, "Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two." This is Jim Koch.
So, Jim, by the way, thank you for being there. I see you've already got a beer in your hands, which doesn't surprise me. I can't open these until after -- right. So, your beef is twofold. You think there should be disclosure so
that people know, hey, if you think you're supporting the little guy, that's not necessarily the case.
JIM KOCH, BREWER & FOUNDER, SAMUEL ADAMS: Yes, Michael, I wrote that op-ed because I was frustrated with the lack of effective anti-trust enforcement in the U.S. beer industry. You know, I've watched as our Department of Justice allowed two big foreign companies to come into the United States, buy up 90 percent of U.S. beer production.
And now, that same Department of Justice is allowing those two big global brewers to buy up craft brewers.
So, Mr. President, if you're watching -- and I know you watch the Michael Smerconish show -- this is your opportunity to help 6,000 independent American craft brewers, 3,000 beer wholesalers, 500 Teamsters get a better deal, because your administration is about to sign off on a bad economic deal.
SMERCONISH: Your essay I found compelling, but as I read it I said, is Jim Koch the right guy. You're not so small yourself.
KOCH: Well, I need to put it into perspective. We are about 1/100 of the size of Anheuser-Busch InBev. So, you know, while we've been the most successful craft brewery, we're still like the tallest pigmy. And I guess I, as the leading craft brewer in the United States, felt a responsibility to speak up for all 5,000 craft brewers in this country so that we have a voice.
[09:45:07] SMERCONISH: So, if I'm drinking Terrapin Mosaic, which by the way I've had, and I like the beer. In part, I am attracted to it because I have a vision of some entrepreneurs who are making it.
Your second issue beyond antitrust is disclosure. You want it to say what on this can?
KOCH: Well, I think a beer drinker shouldn't have to hire a private detective to figure out who actually makes that beer that they're drinking. So I believe and I think all of my fellow craft brewers believe that a big global brewer should not hide the fact of ownership. And that would allow beer drinkers like you and me and everybody else out there to make an informed decision.
If you like the beer, that's great. Go ahead and drink it. But at least you should know that when you're buying that beer you may not be supporting the core values that have made craft brewing such a great industry and a great place to be, values like entrepreneurship, creativity, passion, pride, innovation, craftsmanship.
I mean, to me, as a craft brewer for 30 years, that's what I think craft beer and craft brewing has always been about.
SMERCONISH: I should point out, it's a discussion that's bigger than beer. We could be having it about water and soda and soft drinks. We could be having it about yogurt when a company gets gobbled up because they've been successful. But a final question, respond to a viewer watching this who says who
cares? I mean, as long as it's a good beer, who cares, and do we really want government getting involved yet again? I know that mindset exists.
KOCH: Well, it is the government's responsibility to enforce the antitrust laws, so for example, when those two big foreign brewers bought up 90 percent of U.S. beer production, beer prices went up by $2 million a year. So, we really are better off in this country and it's always stood for free market competition.
I mean, I love competing. I love creating new beers. I love innovating. That's the kind of thing that happens when you have 5,000 craft breweries all trying to top each other and do something cool.
So, I think that's why you should care, because it's that spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that came from the independent brewers that has created all this excitement and all this great beer that's available today.
SMERCONISH: Jim Koch, they say it's 5:00 somewhere. I guess it's 5:00 wherever it is you are right now. Thank you for being here.
KOCH: I'm a trained professional, Michael. Don't try this at home. Or maybe do. Cheers.
SMERCONISH: Don't operate any heavy equipment. Thank you.
KOCH: No broadcasting under the influence.
Still to come, what Bill O'Reilly's ouster from FOX News says to me about where America's at these days, and your best and worst tweets, like this one.
"Smerconish, craft is irrelevant. It's either good beer or not, whether it comes from a huge brewer or one man's store, the rest is marketing."
Hey, Simon, I confess I'm a sucker for a good label, but I'd like to know who's actually behind the beer that I'm drinking. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Bill O'Reilly's departure from FOX News says a lot about where we are as a country, not of it good.
Two observations. First of all, the statements about it from O'Reilly and Rupert Murdoch are totally contrary. O'Reilly statement read in part, quote, "It is it tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims." Now, compare that to Rupert Murdoch who said, "We want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on values of trust and respect." Well, there'd be no need to underscore that if indeed the claims were completely unfounded. But my second observation is this: ratings-wise, Bill O'Reilly went out on top. His audience never abandoned him. Even in the face of reporting by "The New York Times" that said five, if not more, women were paid 13 million, if not more, to settle sexual harassment claims and this in the aftermath of similar revelations about Roger Ailes or maybe it wasn't in the face of revelations. Perhaps as full-time FOX viewers, they never learned of those revelations about the lawsuits and harassment at all.
My point is, far too many of us have blinders on and will not believe facts when presented dependent upon the news outlet that has produced them. Instead, we just sit in our silos and continue to believe the news sources of our choice that reinforce positions and values we already hold dear.
And that's a shame. More people need to change the channel, expand their minds, expose themselves to different viewpoints and as one of my Sirius XM Radio callers said, people need to learn to reward what they value.
What do we have in terms of Twitter from today's program and Facebook?
"There is no difference between real Alex Jones and you, Smerconish. One talks with profanity and you all BS."
Hey, Lucho, let me tell you what you'll never hear from me, that 9/11 was an inside job or that horrific event never took place at Sandy Hook. How dare you put me in the same sentence with him in your comparison?
Give me another one.
[09:55:00] "Smerconish, you are spot on about Alex Jones and other Infotainment actors. Sadly, it's a growing industry and the future of news."
Yes. Well, Dirk, you know there's nothing newsy about it at all. It's like carnival barking but too many people think it is news.
A final comment and then we're out of here.
"Smerconish, Page is talking like a person who knows that he did something wrong, not someone who was unknowingly used by the Russians."
David, you know, I got to go back and watch the tape myself, because he struggled at the outset when I said, please tell me, you want to get to the bottom of this, right, like it should matter if the Russians meddled.
Can we do one more? Go ahead, put it up there, all right. He says one more.
"Smerconish, why do you have so many beers under your desk? Covering Trump that rough?"
Shane Smith, it is 5:00 somewhere and almost for me.
I'll see you next week.