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CNN NEWSROOM

Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Race; Black Voters Saved America from Roy Moore; Rohingya Living in Fear in Refugee Camps; Rosenstein Opposes Calls For Second Special Counsel; Sexual Abuse Claims in the Entertainment World. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired December 14, 2017 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[00:01:10] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM, LIVE FROM Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore releasing a new video still not conceding he lost while the rest of Donald Trump's party struggles to move on.

Refugee camps swelling, monsoon season coming, children going missing, women fearful of sexual violence -- the plight of the Rohingya growing even more dire.

And more women are coming forward claiming that they were raped by the godfather of hip-hop music, mogul Russell Simmons.

Hello and welcome to our viewers around the world. I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

Well one day after a bruising defeat in Alabama's senate race, U.S. President Donald Trump is one step closer to his first major legislative victory.

House and Senate Republicans have attempted to have agreement on a tax reform plan. The President hopes congress is only days away from passing what he calls a giant tax cut for the middle class.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress sends me a bill before Christmas, the IRS -- this is just out, this is breaking news -- has just confirmed that Americans will see lower taxes and bigger paychecks beginning in February, just two short months from now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, President Trump is downplaying the humiliating Republican loss in the deep red state of Alabama. Mr. Trump bet on the wrong candidate twice.

You may remember first it was Luther Strange in the primary and then Roy Moore in the special election. The President says some Republicans are happy Moore lost but he would have liked the seat remain Republican.

The Democratic winner Doug Jones says President Trump called him Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATOR-ELECT: Now he -- it was a very gracious call. I very much appreciated it. He congratulated me on the race that we won. He congratulated me and my staff on the way and the manner in which we handled this campaign and went forward.

And we talked about finding common ground to work together. And he invited me over to the White House to visit as soon as I get up there. So it was a very nice phone call, very pleasant phone call and I appreciated him very much reaching out to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Meantime, in the Russia investigation, Donald Trump, Jr. once again facing questions on Capitol Hill. He had no comment as he left he meeting with staffers from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

And the man overseeing Robert Mueller's investigation is defending the special counsel. Some Republicans' claim the probe is political biased after an FBI agent was removed for sending anti-Trump text messages.

But deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein says Mueller is an ideal choice for the task and that no one has asked him to fire Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were ordered today to fire Mr. Mueller what would you do?

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: As I've explained previously I would follow the regulation. If there were a good cause I would act, if there were not a good cause I would not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you see no good cause so far.

ROSENSTEIN: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Busy, busy day in U.S. politics. For more on all of this, political analyst Michael Genovese joins us now.

Michael -- I'm so please you're here. There's so much to discuss.

MICHAEL GENOVESE, POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here.

SESAY: Let's start with Alabama, shall we? And that shock win for Doug Jones. I mean no one can forget and it is the headline that Alabama is a deep red state, the first time Democrats have won a senate seat there in over two decades.

Political watchers saying this is nothing short than one giant self- inflicted wound on the part of the GOP. How do you see it?

GENOVESE: Well, I think you could sum it up in two words -- Moore, Trump. Moore was a terrible candidate. The Republicans should have won this state easily going away. Moore was toxic.

And then Donald Trump -- there's a backlash against Trump, I think. He wants to be seen as the man who moves the machinery and moves the pieces on the chessboard but he may very well be just a paper tiger right now. He might even be toxic to some Republicans.

And so I think it was both the Moore and the Trump effect that allowed the Democrats to steal a seat they should never have won.

SESAY: OK. You say this is a question of Moore and Trump. Others are saying this is about Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon, who championed Roy Moore; Steve Bannon, who's been at the helm of a front to take on establishment Republicans. Listen to what Congressman Steve King from -- Peter King, rather, from New York had to say. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[00:04:59] REP. PETE KING (R), NEW YORK: This is not even so much as a political issue. It almost is a moral issue. This guy does not belong on the national stage. He looks like some disheveled drunk that wandered on to the political stage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: Well, not holding back, letting rip the day after a monumental loss. But is Steve Bannon fatally wounded?

GENOVESE: Well, Donald Trump brought him into the process. Donald Trump has been associated with him now since the campaign. And while they've separated in terms of Bannon leaving the White House, they still work together. They still communicate a lot together.

And Bannon is the side of Trump that wants to tear down the machinery, wants to tear down the system. And that part of Trump was fed into the Moore team and the Moore campaign and it fell flat.

Bannon was severely wounded in this because the mainstream Republicans would love to see him pushed out. And this is a way for them to just sort of nudge him away.

SESAY: The Democrats obviously see this win as something completely different. To them this was an issue of hard work. Take a listen to Doug Jones and how he described the effort on Wednesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: We knocked on 300,000 doors. We rang 1.2 million phones across the state. We knew what we were doing. Knew the importance of minority votes and we reached out. So -- and I think they responded. But I also believe this. I think we had a lot of support from the

leadership and the African-American community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: So talk to me about that. How he got such large numbers of African-American (INAUDIBLE) and how he really demonstrated a muscular, you know, turn out, you know, get out the vote operation -- something we haven't seen from the Democrats recently when it isn't a case of a presidential election.

GENOVESE: Right. Well, I think everything Doug Jones said is true but not quite as robust as he would like to make it seem. They were very well organized. They did have a great get out the vote drive. They outspent Moore significantly -- some people say almost five to one.

African-Americans came out in record numbers, even more so than 2012 for Barack Obama. So -- I mean if anything it's the African-American vote. It's also educated white women who turned against the Republicans.

But you know, I think as good a campaign as Doug Jones ran it was the bad campaign and the bad candidate of Moore.

SESAY: So, if anything if he had a stronger candidate in Roy Moore, you think it might have been a different outcome given the demographics of Alabama.

GENOVESE: I have no doubt. Alabama is a red state. It's going to remain a red state. Doug Moore won a narrow victory in a red state.

And so what you're going to see, and Donald Trump did a very smart thing in calling to congratulate Doug Jones -- what you're going to see is that Jones has to move to the right politically. He can't be seen as a fixture in the Democratic Party; can't be seen as a puppet of the leadership.

He's going to be able to vote a few times here and there with Donald Trump. And Donald Trump realizes that. And that's why reaching out a hand of friendship to Doug Jones makes a lot of sense for the President.

SESAY: Well, Doug Jones clearly looking forward. I want to play a little bit more of what he had to say in terms of what this means for Alabama. Let's take a listen.

Then I also want us to listen to what Roy Moore had to say in recent hours.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: This state is going to be progressed as far as we can because beginning today, beginning with this election, I believe we're on the road to having a competitive two-party state without one party domination. And I think that that helps every state if you look around this country.

And that's what I want to see. I want to see that with the Democrats. I want to see that with Republicans. It doesn't help anybody to see one -- it doesn't help the state. It doesn't help a country to see one major political party at civil war with itself.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: This election was painted by over $50 million from outside groups who want to retain power in their own corrupt ideology. No longer is this about Republican or Democrat control. It's truly been said there's not a dime's worth of difference between them.

It's about a Washington establishment which will not listen to the cries of its citizenry. And the battle rages on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: The battle rages on for Roy Moore.

GENOVESE: And it's also the Tea Party versus the establishment and that's been going on for over a year now. That's going to be the battle for the heart and soul of the party.

And while Doug Jones -- what he said was very true. It's nice to have two-party competition. I think it's wishful thinking. That's not really going to be characteristic of what happens in Alabama.

This is a one-off. And if Doug Jones is smart and he's effective and good he will reach out to Republican voters and he will do some voting on the opposite side -- on the Republicans in order for his own self- preservation.

So it remains to be seen if the Republicans after the Roy Moore thing fades, if Jones can then come in, fill in that vacuum and solidify his support among some Republicans and moderates.

[00:10:04] SESAY: He's going to need that if he's going to retain that seat.

GENOVESE: It's going to be a very tough fight next time around.

SESAY: Michael Genovese -- always a pleasure. Thank you.

GENOVESE: Thank you.

SESAY: All right.

Well, we're not done yet with analysis of Alabama. Democrat Doug Jones' surprise win over Republican Roy Moore was driven largely by high turnout among a single demographic. You had Michael reference it -- black voters.

A stunning 96 percent of black voters went to Jones. As expected Moore performed well among whites, getting 68 percent there. But that figure is just short of what he needed to win and when we take a look at the overall turnout in Alabama broken down by race, as you see there on your screen, nearly one-third of the electorate was black.

And that's the biggest thing that carried Jones to victory especially when you bear in mind that they only have about 26 percent of the actual population there of black people that is.

Our next guest, Michael Harriot (ph) wrote this in the online magazine "The Root". "African-Americans in Alabama saved America in a victory as unlikely as when Rocky Balboa defeated Ivan Drago in the inspiring documentary "Rocky IV". Black people did this. Don't let anyone tell you different."

And Michael Harriot joins me now from Birmingham, Alabama. Michael -- thank you for joining us. I've been wanting to get you on the show for a long time. So thank you for being with us.

MICHAEL HARRIOT, "THE ROOT": Thank you for having me.

SESAY: You are quite welcome.

Judging by that Rocky reference, you did not foresee a win for Doug Jones in Alabama. Am I right?

HARRIOT: Actually I am one of the few people who did. And I think people forgot there was very intense mayoral race here and so a lot of African-Americans registered to vote for that mayoral race. And there were again energized by this senate race.

So -- Birmingham, Alabama which has the biggest population in the state and one of the blackest cities in the country, right. So that is -- when you watched the results last night, you saw Moore ahead all night until they started counting the votes in the black cities in Mobile, Alabama and Birmingham, Alabama and Montgomery. And that's what carried him across the finish line.

SESAY: Yes. It certainly did, you know. You wrote in that brilliant article for "The Root", "The Democratic Party had less the state party members (INAUDIBLE). It didn't think they had a chance. A Democrat winning a state-wide election is as rare as a good Taylor Swift song. It doesn't happen -- ever."

I get the pop music reference but give us some bigger context, the historic nature of this win. Put it in its whole political context four our international viewers.

HARRIOT: Right. So the Republican Party has ruled this state in the south for years ever since 1948. They have consistently voted Republican and so Democrats have basically left this state as the national elections (INAUDIBLE) for dead (ph). They sought for the chance to win a senate seat with Doug Jones and so they poured resources and hit the ground.

And I think it's indicative of the fact that the Democratic Party needs to stop chasing white disaffected voters and stick their base of black people who are the difference-makers in every time. We saw it with Barack Obama. We saw it with Bill Clinton. Every time the Democratic Party wins a national seat it's because of black voters yet they leave those black voters any other time except for national elections because they don't think that they could win in places like Alabama. And this shows that they can.

SESAY: So Michael -- you are there in Alabama -- again, just to remind our viewers. What made black people come out in a non- presidential election year and vote in these numbers. What, to you, was a galvanizing factor?

HARRIOT: Well, I think Roy Moore was a divisive figure for years in this state. But I think it was more about Doug Jones like Birmingham, Alabama specifically and this state as a whole has a long history in the civil rights movement.

And Roy Jones -- I mean Doug Jones, he convicted the -- the people commit the most heinous crime of terrorism probably in American history when they bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church. He convicted the Klansman who bombed it.

So he's a local hero in this state. And people think that it was just about how bad of a candidate Roy Moore was but it was more about how good of a candidate Doug Jones was because he's a hero and this state, as far as African-American voters are concerned, the worst thing that ever happened in this state, he put the men who committed that crime behind bars.

And so it's not just about how bad of a candidate Roy Moore was, not because he was a pedophile. It's partially because of the President (ph) -- that's what moved the white vote.

[00:15:01] But the black voters who carried over Doug Jones across the line is -- they voted for Doug Jones because he has a long history of civil rights and showing his worth (ph) in the African-American community.

SESAY: Well, you know, you mentioned the white vote -- the white vote there. So let me also quote from your article. You said this.

"Do not ever forget that most white people in Alabama voted for Roy Moore. It wasn't even close in the white parts of Alabama." So how about that fact there?

And let's pull out the headline that everyone has been talking about all day -- that black women led the way in the vote for Doug Jones, 97 percent of them voted for him and that 63 percent of white women voted for Roy Moore.

What does that say to you? How do you read that?

HARRIOT: Well, it's funny because, you know, if you listen to the news and the national media a lot of people are saying well, white women turned away from Roy Moore and there is no significant evidence in the statistics that shows that. They overwhelmingly voted for Roy Moore despite the fact that he is accused of molesting young women, despite the fact that there's a national movement to protect young women, they still voted for him.

So white voters and white women in particular because I think it was expected for the white male populace to vote for Roy Moore but white women are kind of taking credit for turning away from Roy Moore when the numbers don't show that fact. They overwhelmingly voted for Roy Moore.

SESAY: So Michael -- final question to you and I want to sum up our conversation with this quote that you -- this quote from your article. You summed up what black people achieved in Alabama like this.

"The only reason the next senator from Alabama isn't a decrepit predator who believed he had the right to control the genitals of women, gay people, transgender people and any one who didn't worship the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the same exact white manner as he does is black people."

So I guess my question to you is this. Are black people feeling the love after all that they did in Alabama?

HARRIOT: I think there's still a sense of accomplishment. I don't think Alabama is a place where white people or people who didn't support Roy Moore will turn to black people and say "thank you". You know, the rest of the country might do it but not really in Alabama but I don't think that they did it to get a pat on the back from white America in the first place.

I think they did it with a sense of concern for this country and for the state and how it would be to see nationally and again because they had a better candidate than the Republican Party.

SESAY: Yes. Yes, I mean I agree with you. I don't think anyone was doing it for a pat on the back. I was just wondering whether in Alabama they're getting the recognition for what went down.

(INAUDIBLE)

SESAY: Ok -- Michael. Thank you for the reality check. Michael Harriot joining us from Birmingham, Alabama -- thank you so much. And you are a great writer and I'm a big fan. So thank you for joining us.

HARRIOT: Thank you for having me again.

SESAY: Thank you.

All right. We're going to pause here for a quick break. And then children going missing, women afraid to go out at night, sick and hungry people desperate for help -- the horrors of life inside Rohingya refugee camps.

Stay with us.

[00:18:30] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESAY: Hello -- everyone. The Reuters News Agency is calling for the release of two journalists arrested in Myanmar. They were reporting on the military crackdown targeting Rohingya Muslims which has caused hundreds of thousands to flee to Bangladesh.

Myanmar accuses the reporters of illegally acquiring information and planning to share it with foreign media. The face charges under the Official Secrets Act, the law from 1923. A conviction carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

Meanwhile the International Red Cross says life has basically stopped in Myamar's Rakhine state. About 180,000 Rohingya are still living there in fear. Muslim traders won't reopen their shops and markets because of tensions with the Buddhist community. The Red Cross says Muslims and Buddhists are quote, "deeply scared" of each other.

Sultana Begum joins us now from Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. She's the manager of regional campaigns and policy on the Rohingya refugee crisis for Oxfam. Sultana -- thank you so much for being with us.

One of the initials points that I want to pick up on is the fact that so many of the women and girls who fled from northern Rakhine state over the border to Bangladesh were fleeing from sexual violence. We've heard of these horrific attacks and assault on women and girls.

And now, excuse me, now we're getting word of sexual violence in the camps themselves. What are we looking at here? How widespread is this problem as you understand it?

SULTANA BEGUM, REGIONAL CAMPAIGNS AND POLICY ON THE ROHINGYA REFUGEE CRISIS, OXFAM: Thank you, Isha. I mean the situation when Oxfam has been working in the camps since September and were providing water and other humanitarian assistance. We're looking at issues such as the fate of these poor women and girls.

And the stories that they've told us about their situation of fleeing Myanmar corroborates a lot of what human rights agencies have said, you know, this systematic use of rape as a weapon of war, seeing their children killed in front of them.

So they are very, very traumatized. However coming to (AUDIO GAP), they say that they feel a lot safer. So we recently did an assessment which shows that people, women in particular, are still very worried about their safety. They talk about the fear of sexual violence. The camps are dark and not lit at night so basically they're afraid to go out. We've heard about kidnapping and men also say they're staying awake at night. They're worried their children will be kidnapped.

So we don't know how bad this problem is. I think it sounds like it's quite a serious problem but we need to make sure that at the very least we're providing things like lighting in the camps. And that there is a focus on protecting their women and girls in the camps.

SESAY: So Sultana -- tell us about the physical conditions in the camp right now. We know that they're overcrowded. We know that hundreds of thousands of people are there in Cox's Bazar. Talk to us about how they are faring in these cramped conditions and the concerns for their health which are growing by the day.

BEGUM: So you've got -- the situation that you have in Cox's Bazar is now since August, you've got almost close to a million people in these camps. So you have had over 600,000 people who came (INAUDIBLE) but there're also thousands of people, Rohingya refugees, who were there from previous ferries (ph) which shows that this is a cyclical problem, like this has happening over generations and this is the first time in the last 40 years that people have fled violence.

So what do you have in the camps? It's an incredible geography (ph). It was previously a jungle and forest land. You have shelters built on hilltops. You've got toilets which are overflowing. You've got limited -- I mean because of the size of the camps. This has now become the world's largest refugee camp.

We're really struggling to get the basics to people. People still really need more food, more water, more shelter and we're getting closer to monsoon season. So in some ways it's a race against time but we're struggling with funding.

[00:24:54] International donors simply haven't given the money that's needed to support this crisis. So we're -- there's still $280 million shortfall in getting assistance in the next few months. So we really need international governments to really dig deep and support this crisis.

SESAY: And what do you think -- what do you think can be said or what image can be shown that would change the mind of international donors. I mean this is a long-running crisis. I mean we have been seeing these pictures of overcrowding and suffering for months. And yet the money is still not coming in. So what will make the difference?

BEGUM: I think we need to work on numerous fronts. On the one hand, this is the largest refugee crisis. So the fastest refugee crisis since the Rwandan refugee crisis back in the 90s. I think in terms of the scale of what happened, you know, human rights organizations have documented the people who have fled have fled systematic crimes against humanity, rape used as a weapon of war. They are stateless.

These people do not have any citizen ship. They're just discriminated against. They don't have any rights. So Bangladesh has done an incredible thing in opening its doors so it's now up to the world to support them. And Bangladesh itself is a very poor country.

But we also need the international (AUDIO GAP) political solutions to pressure Myanmar to create safe conditions needed for people to be able to return to their homes momentarily. You know, we've spoken to refugees and they're very clear they want to be able to go back to their homes. But they can't because they're scared. They're traumatized and they need the root causes of this crisis to be addressed and not what we need to get to.

SESAY: Yes. Absolutely. This cannot be the future for all these people, close to a million people living in such awful conditions with the monsoon coming.

Sultana Begum joining us there from Cox's Bazar. We appreciate it. Thank you so much for the update and the insight.

BEGUM: thank you for having me.

SESAY: Quick break. When we come back, the Russia probe and charges of bias -- how the top U.S. officials overseeing the investigation answers the allegations.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESAY: Hello everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angels. I'm Isha Sesay.

The headlines this hour.

(HEADLINES)

[00:29:55] SESAY: The number two official in the U.S. Justice Department faced a grilling in Congress over allegations that the special counsel's Russia investigation is biased against President Trump.

(INAUDIBLE) text messages between two FBI employees. Jessica Schneider has the latest from Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein found himself taking incoming fire from members of the president's party today, defending the Russia investigation and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who he appointed, from Republican charges of bias.

ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it would be very difficult, Congressman, for anybody to find somebody better qualified for this job. Director Mueller has, throughout his lifetime, been a dedicated and respected and heroic public servant. I believe he was an ideal choice for this task.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is unbelievable. And I'm here to tell you, Mr. Rosenstein, I think the public's trust in this whole thing is gone.

SCHNEIDER: Under relentless questioning by members of the House Judiciary Committee, Rosenstein repeatedly said he sees no reason to remove Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen good cause to fire Special Counsel Mueller?

ROSENSTEIN: No.

SCHNEIDER: And he suggested to Democrats on the committee that the president has not pressured him to do so either.

ROSENSTEIN: I am not going to be discussing my communications with the president, but I can tell you that nobody has communicated to me a desire to remove Robert Mueller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you afraid of President Trump firing you?

ROSENSTEIN: No, I'm not, Congressman.

SCHNEIDER: Rosenstein also dismissed any idea President Trump asked him to pledge his loyalty, something former FBI Director James Comey suggested Trump had wanted from him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it ever appropriate for the president of the United States to demand a Department of Justice official or FBI director take a loyalty pledge?

ROSENSTEIN: I don't have any opinion about that, Congressman. Nobody's asked me to take a loyalty pledge other than the oath of office.

SCHNEIDER: Rosenstein's staunch defense of the special counsel came as Republicans accused Mueller's team of being influenced by politics, suggesting the special counsel had hired partisans looking to take down President Trump.

Congressman Steve Chabot ticked through a list of contributions he says some members of Mueller's team have made to Democrats over multiple election cycles, declaring it evidence of bias.

REP. STEVE CHABOT (R), OHIO: How with a straight face can you say that this group of Democrat partisans are unbiased and will give President Trump a fair shake?

SCHNEIDER: And Republican members pointed to newly-disclosed anti- Trump text messages between two employees at the FBI: Agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the Clinton e-mail server investigation and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The two exchanged hundreds of texts throughout the presidential campaign in 2016 when they were allegedly having an affair.

Page texting in March, 2016, "God, Trump is a loathsome human."

Strzok responded, "Yet he may win."

Another exchange said, "Oh, my God, he's an idiot. He's awful."

Strzok had been assigned to Mueller's investigation but was removed by Mueller this summer when he learned about the texts. Rosenstein stressed the inspector general is now investigating those messages along with the handling of the Clinton e-mail server investigation, pushing back on Republican calls to immediately appoint a second special counsel.

ROSENSTEIN: If we believe there was a basis for an investigation or a special counsel, I can assure you that we would act.

SCHNEIDER: Under questioning by Democrats, Rosenstein pointed out that Mueller was appointed FBI director by both Republican and Democratic presidents and confirmed unanimously by the Senate, saying that political affiliations or opinions are different than bias.

ROSENSTEIN: We recognize we have employees with political opinions and it's our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions. Pardon me.

And so I believe that Director Mueller understands that and that he is running that office appropriately. Recognizing that people have political views, but ensuring that those views are not in any way a factor in how they conduct themselves in office.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESAY: U.S. Justice correspondent Jessica Schneider reporting there.

And now when asked whether the special counsel could investigate President Trump for obstruction of justice, Rosenstein said Mueller's team can investigate anybody.

Up next, more disturbing sexual abuse allegations against music mogul Russell Simmons. We'll discuss the latest claims to rock the music industry.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:35:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

SESAY: Hello, everyone. TV news host Tavis Smiley is the latest star to face sexual misconduct allegations in the U.S. PBS says it has suspended distribution of Smiley's show and an external investigation found multiple credible allegations against him. No response yet from Smiley.

Actor Salma Hayek is adding her name to the list of Harvey Weinstein accusers. In "The New York Times" op-ed titled, "Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster, Too," she writes about repeated instances of sexual harassment, including times where Weinstein offered massages or asked her to shower with him.

Many of those instances came while Weinstein had control over her movie, "Frida." Weinstein has not responded to her story.

And more allegations against music mogul Russell Simmons. The "Los Angeles Times" says five more women have come forward, one accusing him of rape and "The New York Times" reports on three other accusers. These allegations that span three decades. Simmons deny the claims, telling the "L.A. Times," quote, "I have never been violent or abusive to any women in any way, at any time, in my entire life."

Jasmine Cannick (ph) is a social and political commentator and (INAUDIBLE) she joins us now here in the studio.

Jasmine, good to see you. JASMINE CANNICK (PH), SOCIAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you.

SESAY: Let's start with these allegations against Russell Simmons, commonly referred to as the godfather of hip-hop, a music mogul.

What has been the reaction, generally speaking, you know, to lovers of hip-hop from generally speaking, people out there to hear these allegations, intensify or certainly multiply against Russell Simmons?

CANNICK (PH): I think they are more multiplied by the media. I think in the community the folks who grew up on hip-hop the love hip-hop, maybe even those who look up to Russell Simmons, I really haven't heard much.

But I'm not surprised by that because you have to think of the hip-hop culture and you pick up the lyrics, you think of the amount of violence against women that's talked about and was accepted. So even when you read Russell Simmons' quote from the "L.A. Times," it's like, well, what is his definition of violence towards women, right?

Because if, you know, being the godfather of hip-hop, if he doesn't think calling woman Bs or the H word is considered violence, then maybe some of his actions he doesn't consider were violent. But I haven't really seen the outrage and I don't think we're going to see the outrage --

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: Why?

Why is that?

I mean, I do want to read from something that you wrote -- it's on your blog, jasmineonline.com. You wrote this piece, which I found really interesting, which basically talks about the dichotomy between the way that people are really responding to people like Harvey Weinstein and this kind of acceptance, if you will, of the kind of misogyny and language that demeans women in the music industry.

You said this, "While it's no secret that the film industry has an undeniable problem with complicity, when it comes to the sexual harassment and abuse of women, less talked about is the music industry's complicity and role in adding to the stories of #MeToo.

CANNICK: Absolutely.

SESAY: Why?

CANNICK: Because it sells. It makes a lot of people money. I mean when you --

[00:40:00]

CANNICK: -- think about music, you think about all the different genres of music, there's only one genre that encourages violence against women that where it's acceptable, where it makes people millions and billions of dollars and that's hip-hop.

And we're not talking about that. When you think of people like R. Kelly, where's the outrage over that?

But yet we're looking at people in the film and television industry. We're looking at people in the news media. Just the mere allegations, shows are being canceled, folks are being --

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: Immediately.

CANNICK: -- immediately.

(CROSSTALK)

CANNICK: I mean, he married Aaliyah. Let's just start there, OK, and she was, what, 15 years old. But again, you know, hip-hop makes a lot of people money. I know there's a campaign right now for Sony to drop R. Kelly and I'm all for that.

But when it comes to people like Russell Simmons and other rappers, again in hip-hop, folks are conditioned to accept that, you know, accept being called -- those women are told to accept that.

I was speaking at a rally recently and I told people, you can't get this rally talking about #MeToo and demanding your respect and jump in your car and throw on some rap song that is degrading to you. I mean, the two don't go together.

But why isn't the focus on hip-hop?

And as Americans, we have to figure out what our values are. I grew up on hip-hop and I also grew up on rock. And at my age today, I kind of had to put hip-hop aside because the hip-hop today, I can't really listen to.

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SESAY: I want to also read something else you wrote because I think it's a great article that asks lots of important questions.

You say, "On the other hand, you have music industry executives," again, talking about the dichotomy, "you have music industry executives chomping at the bit to sign deals with rappers even those awaiting trial on domestic violence, whose sexist and misogynistic laden lyrics add to America's rape culture.

"Why? Because they know that, even in this new wave of women's empowerment, they'll make 10 times the money spent in profits. Unlike white women, black women will either look the other way or like in the case of R. Kelly, blame the victims."

Explain that to me because I need you to explain that.

(LAUGHTER) CANNICK: Well, it's absolutely true in the case of R. Kelly. You had -- look, let's be very frank here. R. Kelly is only where R. Kelly is at right now because of black women. We are the ones who buy his albums. We're the ones that go to his -- sell out his concerts.

If he didn't have the support of black women, he wouldn't be where he is. And when the whole debate was raging around, you know, whether or not the woman -- the women were telling the truth, you know there was a lot of "blame the victim," again because we've been conditioned to look at things from that dichotomy, in that way, you know.

And so we have these rap artists, even those who are, you know, in prison or in jail or getting ready to be charged with domestic violence, it's like, oh, no, it's just art. It's just art.

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SESAY: And it's got a good beat.

(CROSSTALK)

SESAY: Jasmine Cannick, a conversation to continue. Appreciate it, thank you, great article.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. Stay tuned now for "WORLD SPORT." You're watching CNN.