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SMERCONISH

The Sarah Jeong Twitter War; Secret TSA Program Spies On Ordinary Americans; Is False Sandy Hook Conspiracy Free Speech?; Teens On Ballot in Kansas Governor Primary; My Visit To The Secret Cold War Bunker. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 4, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. The partisan divide explodes over a new hire at "New York Times", are Sarah Jeong's seemingly racist tweets excusable if as she claims she was counter-punching.

And bereave Sandy Hook parents suing Alex Jones for his repeated claims that the elementary school massacre was a hoax. The lawyer for the Infowars host says, this is freedom of speech. Is that going to work?

Plus the Boston Globe uncovers a secret TSA program called Quiet Skies that's been spying on thousands of ordinary Americans, but is that good, post 9/11 police work. Several candidates in this week's Kansas gubernatorial primary, not yet old enough to vote for themselves, I'll ask two what they've learn while navigating controversial issues in our political process.

But first, are tweets making fun of white the people necessarily racist? And are attacks on police to be taken at face value? Those questions arose this week regarding the "New York Times" new hire Sarah Jeong, a 30-year-old technology writer being hired for their prestigious editorial board.

Typically, with a controversy like this, I'd go to the "Times" for my reading. But today, there was nothing in the print version as to what prompted Jeong to tweet hatred for white the people, the police, et cetera, et cetera.

That's something I noted on Twitter, which prompted somebody to reply, well, what else do you need to know? Is it really that simple? Perhaps you've heard that she tweeted, F the police multiple times. In fact, the President has retweeted the drudge report which calls her out.

I note that one time that she said F the police. She included a clip of an animated movie she was watching, Pom Poko, in which dog raccoons with magical testicles, I kid you not, have a standoff with cops. I might question her taste in film. But does that in anyway mitigate the comment on police, no outlet, is it a better precision to tell us that from the "Times". Hopefully they'll be more forthcoming. In the meantime, what do we know about Sarah Jeong? On paper, she sounds impressive, a journalist and a lawyer, a senior writer at the Verge, wrote the book, "The Internet of Garbage", which examines online harassment and the difficulty of regulating it. At Harvard law school, she edited the journal of law and gender. She was a Poynter Fellow in journalism at Yale for 2016 and was named to Forbes "30 under 30" list for media in 2017.

But as soon as she was hired, old tweets by Jeong were reposted unanimously on Twitter which sound completely racist, such as dumb ass F white people, marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants, oh men, its kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men. White people have stopped breathing. You'll all go extinct soon. This was my plan all along and #CancelWhitePeople.

Her defense, it seems to be this, Jeong says, her tweets were in response to being harassed online herself. That she was imitating trolling language in attempt to punch back. In fact, she posted too, quote, as a woman of color on the internet, I have faced torrents of online hate often along this vain. And then these two examples, if I saw you, I would suck you right in your lesbian face and shut the F up, you dog eating and then a slur.

Jeong added, I engaged in what I thought of at the time as counter trolling. While it was intended to satire, I deeply regret that I mimic the language of my harassers. These comments were not aimed at a general audience because general audiences do not engage in harassment campaigns. I can understand how hurtful these posts are out of context and would not do it again.

The "Times" by the way, standing by their hire saying that they were already aware of her Twitter past and understood it for what it was. The statement read impart, we had candid conversations with Sarah as part of our thorough vetting process which included a review of her social media history. She understands that this type of rhetoric is not acceptable at the "Times" and we are confident she will be an important voice for the editorial board moving forward.

Interestingly, the fact that the "Times" already knew about her tweets is significant due to an incident with another hire in February, Quinn Norton. When some of Ms. Norton's old tweets surfaced, which included racial slurs and a friendship with an internet troll who works for a neo-Nazi website, she ended up stepping down that same day.

In that case, the "Times" said, it had not been aware of Ms. Norton's offensive tweets before it hired her. By the way, we reached out to Sarah Jeong, would have loved to have had her here. But we're told that she was unavailable.

I want to know what you think, go to my website, its Smerconish.com, answer this survey question, should Sarah Jeong's Twitter history have precluded her hire by the "New York Times" as an editorial board member? Joining me now to discuss, Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, Rich, does it matter if she was counter-punching? RICH LOWRY, EIDTOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, but usually when you're counter-punching, you're counter-punching directly to, you know, replying directly to other people on Twitter. I mean we all get nasty tweets, don't want to said all the time. But most of us don't react to that with year's long history of racist tweets, which she did here.

So I think that explanation is complete nonsense. I don't like the practice of rummaging back through people's Twitter accounts and firing them on the basis of that. So I'd probably still support her being at the "Times". But I think the explanation here is total nonsense.

SMERCONISH: Listen, I want to know the context for all of these controversial tweets. I went looking myself and found that ridiculous animated movie, we could put up just a --

LOWRY: Right.

SMERCONISH: -- still image that shows the animation, and at the top of that, F to the police. I mean, maybe it's intended as a joke in that instance.

LOWRY: Yes.

SMERCONISH: I noticed that there were others many more, in fact, one relative to Ferguson, which I guess the context, Catherine (ph), can you put that Ferguson one up as well, teaching moment music. Maybe, maybe the lesson of Ferguson is F most of the police. Well, that doesn't seem to be in response to some Twitter troll.

LOWRY: Yes. And the same thing with a lot of the other anti-white tweets, you know, I just don't know how the "Times" can justify firing Quinn Norton. And we actually look back at her tweets, for instance she retweeted the N word. But when someone using the N word satirically to troll racist and make a point that they're wrong. But just the fact that she used that word was enough for her to be ousted from the "Times" before she got there.

I don't see how you standby Sarah Jeong and fire Quinn Norton. And it just goes to the point that there's a rank hypocrisy here. The "New York Times" doesn't -- I don't think has a defensible standard because clearly, if Sarah Jeong had used the N word in any context, didn't matter what it was, she would have been fired. But she can go on for years saying horrible things about white people and that's OK.

SMERCONISH: Look, I'm a big fan of the "Times". I read it multiple times online every single day. So I'm bending over backwards to try to be fair in the statement that they released. I note that they say, for a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating here rhetoric of her harassers implying that the instances were all tit for tat. But it doesn't seem that way to me.

LOWRY: Right, again, these are generalized statements. There are racist on their face. There are some people who try to make the argument that there's no such thing as racist against white people. I think that's completely ridiculous. If you have animus against an entire class of people based on the color of their skin, that's racism, it's morally blame worthy. And the "Times" and Sarah Jeong should own up to it and at least, give us an honest and full explanation and apology.

SMERCONISH: All right, are you going so far as to say based on what is in the public domain thus far that this should have precluded her hire?

LOWRY: No, again, I just -- I don't like the outraged mobs. I think when you play this game very often, innocent people get shot down the way Quinn Norton was. So I would draw a bright line, I don't think people should be fired from media organizations, unless it's based on something they're saying when they're currently employed. And I think Twitter is a medium where the context is very important people were trolly, they're very often tongue in cheek. So it's easily misunderstood.

So based on that bright line, I would not preclude firing her from the "Times". But again, the "Time's" standard is indefensible because it do not have that bright line. It fired Quinn Norton before hiring her. And if you're going to balance the two of them, Sarah Jeong or Quinn Norton in terms of which one the "Times" should have kept. On the merits clearly, it should have been Quinn Norton. But somehow, they've -- and some convoluted way they're defending Sarah Jeong and threw Quinn Norton overboard.

SMERCONISH: I also -- I'll take the final word. I wonder if they thought through the business ramifications and the way in which this would impact their brand and play into the hands of those who want to denigrate the "Times" as being, you know, some left wing rag that's not worthy of attention which I disagree with. Rich, thank you for being here, I appreciate it.

LOWRY: Appreciate you have me.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me at Smerconish, go to my Facebook page, I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we got? Here's a person who is so overtly biased and possibly emotionally disordered in her thinking that the only job the "New York Times" should ever give her is selling papers on the street corner.

Hey Jerry, I'm trying to be fair. I want to see the totality of the record. I could get a weak attempt and humor. You know, watching that ridiculous animated film about big balled raccoons, I mean, are you blanking me? Maybe then, she watches it and said, hey, F the police, look at this. But then you look at the Ferguson tweet and all the others and I can't put those in context.

I want to know what you think, go to my website, its Smerconish.com, answer this question. Should Sarah Jeong's Twitter history have precluded her hire by the "Times" as an editorial board member?

Up ahead, the TSA under fire for its secret "Quiet Skies" program surveilling ordinary Americans hoping to find possible terrorists? But is the idea behind it entirely wrong? And Infowars provocateur, Alex Jones, in court this week trying to throw out a defamation action that stems from his claims that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. Add issue, is he a journalist or a polemicist?

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SMERCONISH: This week, a secret TSA program called "Quiet Skies" monitoring ordinary U.S. citizens caused a lot of noise. For months or longer, federal air marshals have been tracking 5,000 or more U.S. citizens not suspected of any crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting data about their movements and behavior.

And yet, at the same time, CNN exclusively reported the TSA is thinking of doing away with security altogether at small airports. Both of these seem like unsettling approaches. In the "Quiet Skies" program, according to an internal TSA bulletin for March, small teams of armed undercover air marshals are trying to read out quote, unknown or partially known terrorist by documenting things like what are passengers fidget, sleep during the flight, seem overly familiar with the airport or have a cold, penetrating stare.

The program has been widely criticized since its exposure by the Boston Globe. But I want to know before I'll join the critics. I have authored two books about airline security. I'm a believer in empowering police to use instinct. Just consider the good work of Jose Melendez-Perez. It was Melendez, an immigration inspector who on August 4th, 2001, stopped Mohammed al-Qahtani when he tried to enter the United States at Orlando international airport.

Qahtani was a Saudi national who directed to Melendez because he incorrectly filled out a customs declaration. Qahtani claimed not to speak English. Melendez put his name into computer. It came up negative. His documents seemed genuine, a check of his possessions unremarkable. But Melendez still didn't let him pass. Why? As he told the 9/11 commission quote, this guys just gave me the creeps.

He also said, throughout my INS training and military experience, my first impression of the subject was that he was a young male, well groomed, with short hair, trimmed mustache, black long sleeve shirt, black trousers, black shoes. He was 5 foot 6 and impeccable shape, with large shoulders and thin waist. He had a military appearance.

Upon establishing eye contact, he exhibited body language and facial gestures that appeared arrogant. In fact, when I first called his name in the secondary room and matched him with papers, he had a deep staring look.

Well, the next time, the United States encountered Qahtani he was fighting Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. And here's the kicker, we now know that at the moment Mohammed al-Qahtani was being given his walking papers by Melendez in Orlando. There to pick him up as a new arrival was 9/11 Ringleader, Mohammed Atta.

Which is why 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste told Melendez, that his conduct may have spared the Capital or White House an attack, Ben- Veniste reason that with this added muscle of Qahtani on Flight 93, as 20th hijacker, the terrorists could have fended off their passenger revolt and continued on to Washington.

Joining me now, the author of the Boston Globe investigative piece Jana Winter, who is current Globe Spotlight fellow. Hey, Janna, I want to applaud your work and made clear that I thought it was a great report. I just have mixed opinion. I want instinct to be honored by law enforcement, but I don't want them on a fool's errand. Do you think we can do both?

JANA WINTER, BOSTON GLOBE SPOTLIGHT FELLOW: I would like to think so. I mean, what we know now at this point is that obviously there's been a lot of outrage -- bipartisan outrage, I will note, which is pretty rare, since the story of ours published last weekend.

And the Congress was briefed on Thursday. And TSA officials said, hey yes, actually we've followed 5,000 U.S. citizens who are not under investigation or suspected of any crime and not on any terrorist watch list. And 5,000 since March and they have zero threats. They found nothing. They found no one that merited any follow up. No suspicious characters, nothing.

I think, according to the air marshals I've spoken with and other people within TSA that the resources which are slim-to-none should be focused on things that might actually be a threat.

SMERCONISH: I think that's fair. Give me an example. What's stand out in your mind from those cases that are known to you of someone who has been followed in the sky that would seem ridiculous.

WINTER: I would encourage everyone to keep reading our reporting. But I'll say that someone being assigned to follow a southwest flight attendant who was literally working the flight, writing down the behavior and everything they do.

And if they change directions, the air marshals are basically looking at their behavior check list saying, OK. Well, she's not drinking anything but she is pouring a drink. Did she go to the bathroom? She's standing by the bathroom, for how long? If, I mean, flight crew are, you know, they get background check by the FBI and all that.

And if they were a threat, my sources and say, then, they'd be a threat for every flight they worked not just the one that the air marshals are on. So, that doesn't make any sense.

SMERCONISH: So, what would have -- OK. So, what would have caused in that example, that individual to show up on their radar to begin with? Just where they had traveled previously?

WINTER: What this program is based on is not anything the person has actually done. It's based on whether your travel history matches that of a known or suspected terrorist. So, we have flight attendants who have on its face, suspicious travel because they're flying all over the place because that's what they do for work.

SMERCONISH: So, my family, we went to Istanbul two summers ago on vacation. Could something as benign as that cause them to want to then follow me in? WINTER: Oh, yes, absolutely. And then anyone you're traveling with. Right now, there's huge focus on anyone who is in Turkey for a certain amount of time.

SMERCONISH: So where is this headed? I know that you're continuing to report on it. You've already intimated that there must be more to come. What do you think Congress is about to do relative to this TSA program.

WINTER: I think Congress is frankly really pissed off because TSA told me on the record that Congress had been briefed. The relevant committees have oversight, have all been told about this program. And the during the closed door briefing on Thursday, there was a bit of a back and forth. And the committee zappers were like, you never told us anything about this.

So, this is not something that's going to die down. There were some lawmakers calling for hearings. I think that will probably happen. I don't think anyone is letting this go. There's a lot of people filing, ACLU is doing some things, civil liberty groups and I think there's a lot to stay tune for.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Jana. Thanks for your reporting. We'll continue to read.

WINTER: Thanks.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we got? I can't get my head around this. They follow ordinary people around who do not fit any profile of terror or violence, but appeared nervous on a plane -- perhaps flying makes them nervous. What a colossal waste of taxpayer money.

I think what I'm hearing, Ken, from Jana is that you don't get followed for nervous behavior. You're getting followed because of where you've been. And then, once you're being followed and you might not think this is an appropriate defense of the program. I'm just explaining. But once you're then followed, then they're noting everything, including your habits, your posture, how nervous you are, whether you're sleeping, whether you're drinking.

Look, I want to be clear. I really like what she's uncovered. As a taxpayer, it seems like a waste of resources. But let's not go so far that heroes like Jose Melendez-Perez who are operating on instinct because the guy gives him the creeps. And the guy turns out to have been the would be 20 of hijacker can't get stopped because I want them, they'd be empowered as members of law enforcement.

Sandy Hook parents are suing provocateur Alex Jones for saying their children's deaths were staged. His lawyer says he's protected by freedom of speech. Is that going to fly?

And this week's crowded gubernatorial primary in Kansas, thanks to the state lack of age requirement, are several candidates ready for this not yet old enough to vote for themselves. I'll talk to two about the carve (ph) of the 2018 political climate. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Is making up a heinous lie about tragic deaths something you can be sued for, or is it covered by freedom of speech? That's an issue being litigated in the case in which the parents of a child killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school are suing Infowars host Alex Jones for defamation for his repeated claims that the massacre is a hoax. Here's a sample of Jones's assertions that the family finds actionable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX JONES, INFOWARS HOST: The official story of Sandy Hook has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. My gut tells me the White House people controlling the government were involved in this.

So, don't think ever think the globalists who have hijacked this country wouldn't stage something like this. They kill little kids all day every day and it's not our government. It's the globalist. I mean, they're doing it. They're doing it. They're staging it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: In court, Jones's lawyer admitted quote, maybe its fringe speech. Maybe it's dangerous speech. That's not defamation, that's rhetorical hyperbole at its core is trying to get the case dismissed under the Texas Citizen Participation Act, which protects citizens right to free speech against plaintiffs who aimed to silence them through costly litigation. Does he have a case?

Joining me now is a reporter who's been covering the trial of Jonathan Tilove, the chief political reporter for the Austin American Statesman. Jonathan, I remember speaking to you two years ago when Alex Jones was in the midst of child custody battle and his own lawyer --

JONATHAN TILOVE, CHIEF POLITICAL WRITER, AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN: Right.

SMERCONISH: -- at that time said, hey, this al shtick. Don't take it so seriously. That would be like holding Jack Nicholson accountable for his depiction of the joker in the "Batman" movie. Same thing is going on here, right?

TILOVE: Yes, pretty much. In fact in that case, which was back in April of 2017, they were largely able to exclude any use of Alex Jones on air personality in that case.

So, they didn't have to make that argument to any great degree. But yes, it's the same thing. Its people tune in to watch the bombast and they have a certain expectation. They know that this is Alex Jones. They know what he's doing. And they don't take it literally. You go apparently in a few cases. They do take it quite literally and act on it.

SMERCONISH: Well, we know that some people take it literally because according to plaintiffs in this Austin based defamation action, they've been stalked and they've had to move --

TILOVE: Yes.

SMERCONISH: -- a number of times. Explain.

TILOVE: Well, this is -- so, these are the parents of one of the children who were killed. And he has placed them in the middle of this sort of fraud because he said that on a CNN interview Veronique Dela Rosa was with Anderson Cooper and they were using a blue screen, so they really weren't at the scene, so there was something fishy about the way the interview was done. And that would suggest that they were part of this hoax, and as a result of this, they've been stalked, they had to move seven times, there was a woman who ultimately was sent to federal prison for issuing death threats against them and she was instructed then on her release from prison she can't listen to Alex Jones anymore.

So, they said that, you know, they resisted suing him for many years. And then back in April of 2017, he re-issued these claims and they decided enough is enough and he's not going to stop doing this so they finally filed suit. And in Texas the defamation law requires you to file within a year.

So, by remaking or restating some these claims, he kind of revived their ability to sue him. And that's part of what's an issue here is has he said enough within the year of the statute of limitations to qualify as defamation?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Here's the take away, at least according to me, and you're on the scene. The take away is that people follow this guy. I mean, some people in high places follow this guy. When push comes to shove and he's challenged in a courtroom, his lawyers say you really didn't believe that, right? I mean, it's like the equivalent of pro-wrestling. It's all bias. Something that Jones then has to fight against to keep that audience.

TILOVE: Yes, yes. And in fact, in -- on this blue screen argument his lawyer says, you know, you can't prove that what he said was defamatory. And even if it was wrong, it was merely and his audience understands that its opinion masquerading as fact, that's the term of art (ph).

And so, he's saying that, you know, take it with the grain of salt that he is not a journalist, he should not be held to journalistic standards. And the plaintiffs have gone to some length to establish that he makes claims that he is an investigator, that he knows what he's talking about, that his blue screen claim is based on his deep experience in broadcasting, and that there's no reason that a listener should realize that he's not making these claims supported by fact.

And that he's, you know, essentially that because of who he is, he's risk free. He can rant as much as he wants without having to back up his claims.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Jonathan. I want his audience to know to the extent they're paying attention to me here at CNN that this is all shtick, it's an act, and that's his defense. So, don't take it seriously and what an injustice done to those parents if their case is proven. Thank you for being here.

TILOVE: Thanks a lot.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments, what do we have?

Hey Smerconish, Alex Jones was an actor when he was getting divorced. Now, he's a journalist. We should call him what he is, a vitamin supplement salesman.

Seth, you get it, I get it, you know, most of us get it, but that audience, that hard core audience that he's attracted at YouTube, they don't get it. And he's trying to have it both ways in court saying, well, people really don't believe this do they? And then trying to maintain that audience as a provocateur, it's horrible.

I want to remind you to answer today's survey question at Smerconish.com. Should Sarah Jeong's Twitter history have precluded her higher by the "New York Times" as an editorial board member, please go vote.

Still to come, my next two guests are official candidates the ballot in the Kansas's gubernatorial primary this week. But they are not old enough to vote for themselves. I'll talk to them about their political experiences next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:38:52] SMERCONISH: So, there's something different about this week's state primary in Kansas to replace the governor who left for a diplomatic post.

Thanks to a fluke in the state law, several of the candidates aren't even old enough to vote yet. It's quite a crowded field, on the Republican side the candidates include the current governor, secretary of state and state insurance commissioner, a doctor, a businessman and 17-year-old Tyler Ruzich.

On the Democratic side, a former Wichita mayor, a former state senator, a farmer, a family doctor are up against 17-year-old Jack Bergeson. The students have gotten a unique taste of the American electoral process taking stands on issues, even participating in debates all before graduating from high school. I wanted to see what they've learned and what they're thinking about the issues.

Jack, let me begin with you. You're 17, you can't vote. What should the voting age be? You know, in local elections, there has been a trend across the country to lower the age. What should that number be?

JACK BERGESON (D), KANSAS GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I really believe 16 would be a better number. Sixteen, most people can drive, people can -- you can work a part-time job, you're paying taxes, you're a productive -- a lot of 16-year-olds are productive members of our society. And I believe they should have the right to say how the government functions. And there are a lot of 16-year-olds who are more politically aware that I know than some people who were much older.

[09:40:15] I really think it's not necessarily about age that matter, it is about political awareness and with the rise of the internet and such things. It is easier than ever to get our people to know more about politics and to be informed voters.

So, I believe 16 would be a much better age than 19, as if we get more people involved earlier and it allow for greater involvement in our democratic system.

SMERCONISH: Tyler, what's it been like out on the campaign trail? Do people tend to take you seriously or do they think this is somewhat of a lark?

TYLER RUZICH (R), KANSAS GOVERNMENT CANDIDATE: Well, people definitely take me seriously because I think they see that both on a Republican and Democratic side, I'm the most moderate candidate in this race.

So, I'm really -- its about dead (ph) senator since there are militant matter that -- as I like to refer to myself as, but they do take me seriously and I've -- from the beginning in a Op-Ed that I wrote for the Kansas City Star I said that it's ideas not age that matter in the Kansas governors race.

So I think people are focusing on my ideas. And I think the voters are behind me, they're really taking me seriously, but of course the state Republican Party, you know, has really been doing everything they can to express my voice by not including me in the state party sponsor debates.

SMERCONISH: A centrist, a man after my own heart, Jack Bergeson, medical marijuana, the rules have been relaxed in Kansas, how far should we go? Give me a quick answer.

BERGESON: Well, I really believe what we should do with Marijuana is we can legalize it -- we should legalize it from a recreational purposes, do what Colorado and Washington done. With that, we could use the funds that come from that and fund our crumbling education and infrastructure system.

Colorado used to put their education system where they have seen a booming coming (ph) for their education. We could really use that in Kansas, so not only it is a civil rights issue, it's also an issue about ensuring that we have the funds to properly educate our children.

SMERCONISH: That sounds pretty liberal Tyler. What do you -- are you prepared to go that far and open the doors on pot?

RUZICH: You know as I say -- I'd say is the theme of my campaign is we have to meet in the middle and we have to focus on where we agree and sort of where we disagree, ideal principle of President Reagan. You know, what I believe is when it comes to marijuana, I believe on the medical level it should with legalized, but on the recreational level I think we should work to decriminalize before we go to full legalization. I mean, the stance -- the issue in Kansas has many different perspectives, obviously, Kansas is taking more conservative look at the issue. And I think, you know, our action on the issue of marijuana should be representative of the people in the state of Kansas, not just following the trends of our great neighbors in Missouri or Colorado.

SMERCONISH: Jack, what should be the minimum wage? Kansas follows the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Set the number, what should it be?

BERGESON: I definitely believe it should be much higher, 15 would be ideal because that is the minimum someone can work in the United States and work 40 hours a week and not being poverty.

It is a crime, but there's someone working 40 hours a week and they still of in poverty. So, we should make it so no one does that. But also I believe it -- with that is one issue, we need to be incremental on. So I believe at first maybe going to 10, 10, on 12 in the very beginning that the goal should be 15. And I will make that very clear that we are working, so no one has to work 40 hours a week and still be in poverty.

SMERCONISH: Tyler, what's the number?

RUZICH: I think 7.25, maybe a good base sign for it. I know that many -- that, you know, many young people are able to start jobs a little bit of a higher pay than that. But obviously, many minimum wage jobs are low skill. They don't require a college degree or for many at times don't require a high school diploma. I think there's a reason why it's lower.

But, you know, I believe that the federal minimum -- that federal government should get really out of the age -- the wage issue. And I think it should be more localized and up to communities, municipalities and counties to set a better number so they can get, you know, really set a wage that 50 individual economic and fiscal needs of businesses and workers and their communities.

SMERCONISH: Hey guys, I think it's great that you're running. I, myself, run when I was in my 20s, it didn't work out for me but it was one of the best experiences of my life. So, I salute you both and thank you for being here.

RUZICH: Yes, thank you.

BERGESON: Thank you so much for having us on today.

RUZICH: Yes, thank you.

SMERCONISH: Jack Bergeson, Tyler Ruzich on a tkicket for all of us at some point in the future, don't you think?

Up next, when nuclear warfare's were at their peek, the U.S. built a secret bunker under a resort in West Virginia, large enough for both Houses of Congress to operate underground. I visited this week, I still have several questions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:49:36] SMERCONISH: Considering the current anxieties about our relations with Russia, the combination business vacation trip that I made this week could not have been more timely.

With my family, I visited the formerly top secret Cold War bunker for the entire U.S. Congress in the event of Nuclear War with the Soviets. It's buried beneath West Virginia's Greenbrier Resort, a spectacular vacation destination for countless generations of American families and many U.S. Presidents.

One of them Dwight Eisenhower initiated the construction of the bunker at the outset of the Cold War. And for more than three decades, it was maintained as an active facility complete with a regularly rotated food supply to house its potential inhabitants for up to six months.

[09:50:17] Then in 1992, journalist Ted Gup exposed the setup in a "The Washington Post" magazine cover story titled "The Ultimate Congressional Hide Away". Today, the tour costs $39 per person. It's worth the price even though as a taxpayer, I thought I'd already paid for it.

Hidden behind four blast doors, contamination chambers, 18 dorms designed the house more than a thousand people, a power plant with purification equipment, including three 25,000 gallon water storage tanks and three 14,000 gallon diesel fuel tanks. A communications area, including T.V. production and audio recording booths. Medical clinic with a dozen hospital beds and operating rooms, laboratory, pharmacy, ICU, cafeteria and meeting rooms for the House and for the Senate.

This is a video of me checking out the thickness of one of the four blast doors. Part of the genius of the bunker is how portions were hidden in plain sight. But the more I saw, the longer my list of open questions. The bunker is said to be roughly two underground football fields. So, why did I see only half that square footage?

We were told that today the bunker is used for data storage by CSX IP, a division of the successor of the C&O railroad that once owned the Greenbrier. But did data storage alone really necessitate the recent replacement of the power generators, or the constant filling of the water tanks or the maintenance of 42,000 gallons of diesel fuel?

My mind racing, I returned to my Greenbrier cottage and decided to e- mail journalist Ted Gup now 26 years after his discovery. "Was it possible that the bunker was still hiding in plain sight?," I asked. "Indeed, it could be the perfect cover, both decommissioned but operational at a moment's notice." He replied, "why not". He wrote adding personally, "personally I don't think so, but I've often wondered."

Well, I'm wondering too, but what a great vacation. Still to come, your best and worse tweets and Facebook comments, and we'll give the final survey results on this question, go vote. Should Sarah Jeong's Twitter history have precluded her hire by the "New York Times" as an editorial board member?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:57:09] SMERCONISH: Hey, time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com. Should Sarah Jeong's Twitter history have precluded her hire by the "New York Times" as an editorial board member?

Survey says 7461 votes, 61 percent say yes, should've precluded 39 percent say no. Here's more of what came in during the course of the program, what have we got

Smerconish, the only issue most folks have with Sarah Jeong is the double standard bigger than the raccoon balls in her anti-police video. Hey, Mathematician, point duly noted that if any other group were disparaged in the tweets, if it were not white folks the way that some of these tweets do focus, if it had been minorities, people of color, some other ethnic racial group, I don't think they would've hired her. And I think your point is well taken in that regard.

What else?

Smerconish, what is the difference between Sarah Jeong and Roseanne Bar other than her fancy degree and she is liberal counter puncher is spin. Bill Porsche, look, if Sarah Jeong is sending back something nasty to a person who said to her, if I saw you I would sock (ph) you right in your lesbian face or somebody who says shut the "F" up, you dog eating, it's a slur. I'm going to say it, it's horrible, gook.

She gets a license from me to say whatever she wants to say to those individuals. Counter punching, I don't do it. I don't do it. I just ignore the nasty ones that come into my own feed, but to each their own. But unsolicited to go after cops, you know, that's different. I looked at that animated video and the animated video, maybe she thought she was being funny, "F" the police in the raccoon dog video. We're going to probably do wonders for that movie.

But I see a difference between the two, you know, that which is unprompted and that which is in response to this sort of thing. Give me another one.

Should Trump be fired for his tweets, if not, then nobody else should be. Now, Dottie, you're ruining the program because we haven't mentioned the President this week, not deliberately. It's the first show that I -- I have to say this. It's the first program I have done in a few years where not one of my four blocks was all about Donald J. Trump.

I don't think since before the election, since he was candidate Trump, not since MH370 disappeared have I done a show that's been Trumpless. And you just spoiled that. I'll see you next week. Check out the program on CNN Go and on demand. Thanks. CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Morning. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us here. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. And you are in the CNN "Newsroom", welcome.

News this morning, Secretary of state Mike Pompeo met North Korea's Foreign Minister at the East Asia Summit today and they discussed their plan to cooperate on --