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White House Tries to Shift Blame to Media in Roseanne Controversy. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 30, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

QUESTION: Is there anything more you can tell us on exactly when this is going to happen and how widespread this massive drop in prices will be?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I can't give any other details at this point, but we do expect some specific policy pieces to come out on that soon. Kelly (ph)?

QUESTION: Has the president spoken to Roseanne Barr, who we know has been a longtime friend of his? And why did he choose to address the ABC apology instead of the underlying issue of concerns about a racist comment that she tweeted out?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of any conversations that have taken place. The president's simply calling out the media bias. No one's defending what she said. The president is the president of all Americans, and he's focused on doing what is best for our country, and you can see that in the actions that he's taken.

You can see where he's focused on unemployment being at the lowest since 2000, opportunity investment zones to encourage investment in underserved communities, an opioid initiative to combat a crisis that impacts all Americans. And, today, the president signed legislation to give patients the right to try medication that could actually save their lives.

And I'd point out that, while the president signed that legislation and actually addressed America, two networks chose not to cover it, and instead covered something totally different in palace (ph) intrigue -- a massive piece of legislation that had bipartisan support, that was life-changing, literally life-changing for millions of Americans -- two networks chose not to cover the president's remarks on that.

He's simply pointing out the bias. The president's pointing to the hypocrisy in the media saying the -- the most horrible things about this president, and nobody addresses it.

Where was Bob Iger's apology to the White House staff for Jemele Hill calling the president and anyone associated with him a white supremacist? To Christians around the world for Joy Behar calling Christianity a mental illness? Where was the apology for Kathy Griffin going on a profane rant against the president on The View after a photo showed her holding President Trump's decapitated head?

And where was the apology from Bob Iger for ESPN hiring Keith Olbermann after his numerous expletive-laced tweets attacking the president as a Nazi and even expanding Olbermann's role after that attack against the president's family?

This is a double standard that the president is speaking about. No one is defending her comments. They're inappropriate, but that's what -- the point that he was making.

QUESTION: Sarah...

SANDERS: Matthew (ph).

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah. Does the White House have any evaluation of its own of the recently released study estimating that more than 4,600 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria? And, if that number is accurate, does this indicate the administration's response to the storm was inadequate?

SANDERS: Look, the president takes the situation in Puerto Rico extremely seriously, and the administration has been monitoring that from the beginning. We've been supportive of Governor Rossello's efforts to ensure full accounting and transparency, and those who have suffered from this tragedy deserve nothing less than that.

The two Category 4 hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico were historic, and we've responded with the largest FEMA operation in history, and we're going to continue to work with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything we can to be helpful.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: April? Sorry, one question today.

QUESTION: ... any concerns or fear any risk in pushing China on -- continuing to push China on these tariffs in trade, considering their relationship with North Korea ahead of talks and what the president has said about that second meeting between President Xi and Kim Jong- un?

SANDERS: The president continues to have a good relationship with President Xi. But what the president's concerned about is making sure he stops the unfair trade practices that China's engaged in for decades, stopping the intellectual property theft that China has been engaged in and making sure that we no longer allow China to play on a different playing field than the rest of us.

He's not going to allow American workers to be taken advantage of. He's going to call that out and he's going to step up and make those changes. At the same time, we're continuing to work with China and continuing to have conversations when it comes to North Korea. And we hope that those will continue.

John (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Sarah.

Given the turbulent political situation in Italy right now, is the administration monitoring it, as well the devastating effect it appears to be having on the markets in southern Europe? And will the president consider strong intervention in that situation through the IMF, very much as the previous administration did with Greece two years ago?

SANDERS: Italy is one of our closest allies, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the new government after it's formed. We recognize that Europe is composed of free nations, that, in the great tradition of Western democracy, are able to choose their own paths forward.

I don't have anything about the United States' specific involvement, but certainly, we're continuing to monitor that and stay in very close touch with our allies.

Jennifer (ph).

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the extension ends again soon. When do you think you'll have an announcement on what will happen next? And is there any chance that there will be another extension?

SANDERS: We'll certainly keep you posted as we get closer to that date.

Mara (ph).

QUESTION: Yeah, can you just clarify the comments about Trey Gowdy? You said there's still cause for concern, meaning about the --

[15:05:00]

-- what the president says was a spy who infiltrated his campaign, or cause for concern in general about the FBI?

SANDERS: I think both. The president still has concerns about whether or not the FBI acted inappropriately, having people in his campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: And, certainly, the president has concerns about the overall conduct of the FBI when it comes to this process.

Blake (ph).

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) explain who was in the campaign? What is he referring to when he said they were in the campaign? What does that mean?

SANDERS: Again, I'm not going to get into those details. But the president certainly has expressed very publicly his concern, as has his outside counsel.

Blake (ph). QUESTION: Thank you.

Something appeared to have happened on trade, because, last weekend, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the trade war was on hold. Fast forward, a few days after that, there was the threat of tariffs, now, on auto imports. Fast forward, a few days after that, there's now going to be this $50 billion in tariffs.

So what exactly happened from the trade war being on hold, to a week later, now, it appears the trade war...

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: He didn't say it was on hold indefinitely. And, look, the president ultimately makes the decisions on trade. And, when we does, we announce them. And that's exactly what's taken place in this process.

Philip (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Sarah, two things. First off, my young colleague here -- he has a very interesting question.

SANDERS: Welcome.

QUESTION: Second, I just wanted to know, how confident does the president feel that he's going to have an agreement on NAFTA before the summer?

SANDERS: Look, we're continuing to have those negotiations, and we'll keep you posted if the -- they get a deal finalized. And the young colleague in the back.

QUESTION: Well, thanks for the complement.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Hopefully -- hopefully these aren't as tough as Bring Your Kids to Work Day questions.

QUESTION: At my school, we -- we recently had a lockdown drill. One thing that -- that affects my and other students' mental health is the worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school. Specifically, can you tell me what the administration has done and will do to prevent these senseless tragedies?

SANDERS: I think that, as a kid and certainly as a parent, there is nothing that could be more terrifying -- for a kid to go to school and not feel safe. So I'm sorry that you feel that way.

This administration takes it seriously, and the School Safety Commission that the president convened is meeting this week, again, an (ph) official meeting, to discuss the best ways forward and how we can do every single thing within our power to protect kids in our schools and to make them feel safe and make their parents feel good about dropping them off.

Eamon.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Sarah, you mentioned Bob Iger a moment ago, and asked where is his apology to the White House for criticism of the president in some of the instance (ph) that you cite. Has anyone at the White House been in touch with Bob Iger or anyone at ABC on those incidents in specific and the cancellation of the Roseanne program, specifically, as well?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of any specific or direct conversations.

Andrew (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) George McGuire (ph) (OFF-MIKE) organization. The pre-infinite shore team (ph) is subject to discussion -- the main subject of discussion in Singapore. Does that include the positioning of U.S. nuclear bombers and submarines that aren't (ph) necessarily on the peninsula, but cover the peninsula, as it were?

SANDERS: I'm not going to get into the details or negotiate that here. Certainly, our focus is going to be on total denuclearization of the peninsula and verifiable confirmation of that. Beyond that, I can't get into any details.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... when you talk about that, you're talking about North Korea, though, not U.S. weapons systems.

SANDERS: Correct. Yeah.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: And, last question, Sayer (ph).

QUESTION: Sarah, has the president received any classified briefing on the details that -- of the intelligence that were presented to Trey Gowdy? And, if he still believes that there's cause for concern, why doesn't he just declassify the documents?

SANDERS: The president receives a number of classified briefings, but I'm not going to get into those -- certainly not here, and not today.

QUESTION: Sarah, (OFF-MIKE).

SANDERS: Thanks so much, guys. And we look forward to seeing you guys here in a few minutes at the sports fitness day.

QUESTION: Sarah, where are the president's apologies for things that he's said over the years?

[15:09:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK.

So, a couple of headlines we're going to get into, what she said, the double standard she referred to with the firing of Roseanne, and where were the apologies from Bob Iger? And we will talk about the president's tweet, where he is basically saying he doesn't want his current attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as attorney general.

But, Dana Bash and David Chalian, let me bring you both in, because, Dana, you're a mom. Sarah Sanders is a mom of three. When that child in the back asked that question -- and it was hard to hear, but you got the sense of the question regarding school shootings and how is the White House keeping me safe, that moment of humanity in that briefing and Sarah Sanders having a tough time keeping it together answering him.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

It looked like it was going to potentially be a lighthearted moment going to a young reporter. And he had the toughest question in the room because of who he is.

He is a young person who said, basically, I'm scared to go to school because I don't want to get shot, and that's what my friends feel.

[15:10:05]

And, you know, Sarah Sanders is, you know, as you said, a mom of three.

And I can't imagine having to take that question from a young person who is expressing the fear that, frankly, young people around the country are feeling every single day, unfortunately, going to do the most basic thing, going to school.

Now, obviously, there are and should be criticisms of the inaction of this administration, of this Congress that allows a young person to feel that way.

But, in that moment, for those 30 seconds, it was just a young kid and a person who was trying to walk that line between being a representative of an administration that has had no action and somebody who sends her kids to school every day.

BALDWIN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And, Brooke, the other thing in that moment, I thought, was you understand the political power of the Parkland kids and the movement they started.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

BASH: Yes. CHALIAN: That there is -- you can see because the way Sarah Huckabee

Sanders from that podium sort of completely broke down the sort of artifice of the back and forth with reporters, it's a bit of a Kabuki dance in Washington, and was in the moment and responding emotionally to this kid, that -- because he's representative of a student community, I thought we also got an example there of why we have seen such political power in that Parkland movement.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BASH: So true.

BALDWIN: On to Roseanne, on to -- we have seen a tweet from the president.

And we will throw it up on the screen, where he basically makes this about him and doesn't say what actually Sarah Sanders did say, that her comments were inappropriate, but then saying it was a double standard, went through all these different attacks Bob Iger and folks at ABC have had on the president and on Christians, and they're saying, well, where were the apologies from Bob Iger?

David, what did you think?

CHALIAN: I felt this was a classic communication strategy to redefine the conversation around this. Right?

The White House is not at all interested in talking about Roseanne Barr, a key supporter of the president, and her racist tweet. They want to make the conversation about a double standard of the press.

And she went through a list. She came completely prepared for this moment, was reading from it, and said Jemele Hill, Joy Behar, Kathy Griffin, and the hiring of Olbermann, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, a fully prepared defense here.

But make no bones about it. What they're trying to do is shift the conversation about a racist tweet from Roseanne and ABC saying that goes beyond the pale to a conversation about a double standard.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BASH: And also not only was she so transparently trying to shift the conversation, there was a big omission there, which is, there was no condemnation of what Roseanne Barr said.

Even Roseanne Barr is condemning herself for those comments.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: She's saying she's not -- I think the latest tweet we have from her is that she's still defending -- she's saying she is not a racist and that it was still a bad joke, I believe, is roughly what she is saying.

(CROSSTALK) BASH: Exactly.

And what we heard from the podium was Sarah Sanders say, no one is defending these comments, which may be true.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BASH: But the president of the United States, who has the biggest, loudest megaphone of anybody, is not condemning them either. And that speaks volumes.

BALDWIN: Yes.

Jim Acosta, let me pivot over to you there in the briefing.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sure.

BALDWIN: What were you asking at the end?

ACOSTA: Well, I tried to ask, where are the president's policies for all the things that he's said over the years?

Sarah Sanders was very careful to point out and turn it back around on the media and asked, why haven't certain personalities at various networks apologized to president for things that they have said, but, of course, this is a president who launched his campaign saying that Mexican immigrants are rapists.

He's said over the years that, in talking about African-American athletes, calling them sons of bitches, talking about the violence in Charlottesville, saying that there are very fine people or both sides.

Obviously, these were all comments that he's made over the years where people on both sides of the aisle have been clamoring, almost begging the president to apologize for comments that he's made.

You only have to go to a Trump campaign rally once in your life to hear the kind of hostility that he generates on an almost daily basis. And so it's a bit much, I think, for the White House press secretary from the podium to come out here and try to shame the media and say it's somehow our fault that Roseanne Barr put out this tweet.

The president decided to weigh in on it. One question that was not asked of Sarah Sanders, by the way, was, yesterday, she said that the president has more important things to do.

[15:15:03]

Well, of course, sometimes, there are not more important things than the president's grudges that he feels he has the nurse on a daily basis. And that's why he posted that tweet earlier this afternoon going after ABC.

He just can't help himself, Brooke. And that was in direct -- that was in direct contrast to what Sarah Sanders told reporters yesterday, that the president had other things to do. And yet here comes out today and starts tweeting about Roseanne Barr.

It just goes to the lack of seriousness. Forget about the fact that Kim Kardashian is here at the White House today and what planet that is anything resembling normal, because it's not. She shouldn't be here talking about prison reform. It's very nice that she is here, but that that's not a serious thing to have happen here at the White House.

But, really, that pales in comparison, that level of seriousness pales in comparison to what the president does when he weighs in on the Roseanne Barr tweet, fails to condemn the racism at the heart of her remarks, and then have having the White House press secretary coming out here and shaming the media and blaming us for making all sorts of comments that need apologies, when they themselves owe the American people plenty of apologies for the things that the president has said over the years.

And, of course, we know, past being prologue with this president, those apologies will likely not be forthcoming, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Let me ask you something else, because at the tiptop, she was asked about Trey Gowdy, right, the Republican House Oversight chair who said what he did, totally debunking this whole conspiracy theory that's been played and played and played by the president that a spy was planted, right, to spy by on his campaign.

And what Sarah Sanders said is that Trump still finds cause for concern. You heard the reporters shouting, well, what's the evidence?

ACOSTA: Yes.

BALDWIN: I didn't hear anything.

ACOSTA: No.

And she said that the president continues to have concerns about what the so-called informant or confidential source was doing inside the Trump campaign. And when it was pointed out to them that Trey Gowdy, a fellow Republican, is now saying, well, the FBI, the federal investigators were just doing what federal investigators do, they're chasing down leads, they are trying to get to the bottom of whether there was meddling inside the 2016 election.

But, Brooke, one thing that we did not hear from the podium today was any kind of evidence about this other thing that the president tweeted yesterday morning, that somehow the special counsel's office is going to be meddling in the upcoming midterm elections, once again, calling us fake news, spreading fake news themselves, and not justifying or showing any kind of evidence to back any of these claims up -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Dana, what do you think about that? Dana -- thank you, Jim. Dana and then Dave, what do you think about that, Jim's last two points?

BASH: Yes. Well, first of all, on the Trey Gowdy situation, there I don't think was any expectation that Sarah Sanders was going to come out and say, you know what, he's right, he's got a point, OK, we're going to move on to the next thing, spy gate wasn't really a thing.

BALDWIN: Yes.

BASH: I mean, there's just no way. I mean, she wouldn't be the spokesperson tomorrow or even in five minutes if she did that.

Having said, the fact that she didn't dwell on it spoke even more. She said, well, we're still focusing on that. I mean, to me, that was sort of reading and speaking sort of the Trump language that we have learned to speak for the last almost three years.

That was as close as I think we were going to get from her to kind of the blow-off, certainly not an acknowledgement, but the blow-off, because she tried to move on pretty fast.

BALDWIN: David?

CHALIAN: But she did. I agree with you, Dana, but she also said that that does not change our belief and that this is still worthy of investigation.

So she also from the Trump playbook took the rule of no retreat whatsoever.

BASH: Exactly.

CHALIAN: And so, yes, she didn't dwell on and she didn't come prepared with as long of a statement as she did at trying to change the topic away from Roseanne Barr's racist tweet to double standard in the media.

But not only did she say that it's still worthy to investigate what this informant was up to after Trey Gowdy blew to smithereens this whole baseless conspiracy theory. She also said it needs to be investigated as to more broadly how the FBI has been conducting itself inappropriately in this investigation.

BALDWIN: David and Dana, thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Speaking of Roseanne, moments ago, a new tweet from her saying that she is not a racist and that she has spent her life fighting for civil rights -- details on that and the new statement from a Disney executive about the decision to cancel her show.

Plus, Stormy Daniels attorney' says there may be tapes of conversations between Michael Cohen and a lawyer who negotiated her hush money payment some years ago. And he wants them released. We will talk about what the implications of that would be for President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:23:52]

BALDWIN: You just heard Sarah Sanders a second ago.

The White House now weighing in on this Roseanne Barr drama, trying to shift the conversation, not addressing Roseanne's racist tweet, but to complain about ABC's coverage of President Trump.

This is what Sarah Sanders said just a moment ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUCKABEE SANDERS: He simply pointing out the bias.

The president's pointing to the hypocrisy in the media saying that -- the most horrible things about this president, and nobody addresses it.

Where was Bob Iger's apology to the White House staff for Jemele Hill calling the president and anyone associated with him a white supremacist, to Christians around the world for Joy Behar calling Christianity a mental illness?

Where was the apology for Kathy Griffin going on a profane rant against the president on "The View" after a photo showed -- showed her holding President Trump's decapitated head? And where was the apology from Bob Iger for ESPN hiring Keith Olbermann after his numerous expletive-laced tweets attacking the president as a Nazi and even expanding Olbermann's role after that attack against the president's family?

This is a double standard that the president is speaking about. No one is defending her comments. They are inappropriate, but that's what -- the point that he was making.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:25:02]

BALDWIN: So, she's made a new comment. Roseanne Barr has.

She has issued this new defense about the racist tweet that cost her and ABC staffers their jobs. This is her latest: "I am not a racist. I never was, and I never will be. One stupid joke in a lifetime of fighting for civil rights for all minorities, against networks, studios, at the expense of my nervous system, family, wealth will never be taken from me."

Earlier today Roseanne Barr had blamed the insomnia drug Ambien for sending out that initial tweet.

So, with me, Alice Stewart, a CNN political commentator who was the communications director for Senator Ted Cruz. Dean Obeidallah, he is a contributor for CNN Opinion and host of SiriusXM Radio's "The Dean Obeidallah Show." So, good to see both of you.

Dean, to you first.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.

BALDWIN: We will get to your piece that you wrote a little while -- in a second.

But just on this massive pivot, claim of double standard from the White House, you say?

OBEIDALLAH: I say, apparently, Donald Trump still has a problem calling something that's racist, racist.

After Charlottesville, we had the same problem. It went for days. Jake Tapper on this network during the campaign asked Donald Trump about David Duke. All of a sudden, he didn't know who David Duke is.

Donald Trump is moving cultural norms backwards, while ABC is moving them forward by saying, if you're going to spew racism, we don't want you as part of our network anymore, while Donald Trump once again refuses to call it racist.

And Sarah Huckabee Sanders, inappropriate is not racist. Say, Donald Trump, once -- and I hope the media presses him -- call it racism. It is racism. I want the president of the United States to call things that are racist, racist.

BALDWIN: But he won't there.

And to Jim Acosta's point -- he was shouting a question at the end and it didn't get the answer -- well, why doesn't Donald Trump apologize for all of the things that he has said?

OBEIDALLAH: Sure.

BALDWIN: How do you see it?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He will never do that.

And if he came out and was critical of Roseanne Barr, it would be the height of hypocrisy, based on a lot of the statements that he's made.

Look, I applaud Sarah for saying that we don't defend the comments. But it would be helpful if they would denounce them. This is a very teachable moment for the president to say, look, this is not about political correctness. This is about human decency. You don't talk about like this about people. You don't make these kind of disparaging comments, and without having consequences.

And clearly the president is not going to go there. His base is in his corner, no matter what -- how he responded to this. But it wouldn't hurt him at all for him, himself, to say, this is not acceptable, we cannot accept this. If you remember, after Roseanne Barr did the awful national anthem, grabbed her crotch and spit after singing the national anthem, at least President Bush had the decency to say, this is disgusting.

BALDWIN: Yes.

STEWART: And it would be helpful if the president did that. I don't expect he will ever get there.

BALDWIN: You had written a CNN op-ed.

Let me just remind you of your words.

OBEIDALLAH: Sure.

BALDWIN: "What is surprising is the apparent blind eye turned by the people who have brought us this rebooted Roseanne decision that ABC may regret."

OBEIDALLAH: I said it last night.

BALDWIN: You were right, A.

OBEIDALLAH: I was right.

BALDWIN: B, when you look at Roseanne Barr's tweet, and she talks about fighting for civil rights, what is she referring to?

OBEIDALLAH: That's absolutely untrue.

Roseanne Barr has spewed anti-Muslim bigotry, which I documented, comments that were about Jews, even though she's Jewish, dressing up like Hitler and pretending to have cookies that are kids coming out of the oven like they're kids burned in the Holocaust.

And Roseanne Barr, I didn't put it in my article -- I debated -- called me personally names years ago simply because I'm Palestinian, wrote an article about being Palestinian, calling me anti-Semitic and essentially equating me with being a terrorist simply because of my heritage, nothing because I had said it.

Then she blocked me as friends said, what are you saying about Dean? Why would you say this?

Roseanne Barr has not pushed the conversation forward. She's demonized communities of color. She's demonized Muslims. And I cannot believe ABC hired her in the first place. That's the reality. That's the stunning part of all this. But I so applaud them for moving so briskly and quickly, sending a message that, in America, we don't care what Donald Trump does. We're not going to have you work for our network, spew this kind of hate.

BALDWIN: But, clearly, ABC wanted to be inclusive. They wanted to tell the stories of people in this country who perhaps have been ignored, right? And, in a sense, you want to say kudos for them, kudos to them for doing that. And, obviously, it worked, because 20 million people had been tuned in.

But how they engage in that section of America without being stung by something like this?

STEWART: You don't let Roseanne Barr be the person that represents that swathe of America

Look, I think the great thing about her show -- I loved it back then.

I loved it, the remake of it. I don't love what's happening now. They did. She and that show gave Middle America, blue-collar, working-class Americans, a seat at the table, a seat at the table, in Hollywood.

BALDWIN: A voice.

STEWART: The entertainment world says, hey, we can entertain an idea, but it doesn't mean we have to accept it.

And, unfortunately, they took a gamble on someone they knew who was a little kooky and a little out there and has done things that were off the charts before. And, unfortunately, they lost. But I applaud them for standing ground and not putting up with it.

BALDWIN: A little kooky?

STEWART: Right. Or very.

(CROSSTALK)

OBEIDALLAH: There should be entertainment that is conservative in focus.

BALDWIN: Right.

OBEIDALLAH: I'm a progressive, and I'm in the entertainment field, as well as...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Yes.

OBEIDALLAH: There should be things.

Just, Roseanne was not the person for that. Let's have someone who is just a mainstream conservative and have that point of view on. In America, we should have all points of view in the entertainment world represented. That's the way it should be.

STEWART: And I do think -- the litany of names that Sarah went down in the briefing, I think there is some media bias.