Return to Transcripts main page
"Baby It's Cold Outside" Offends #Me Too Supporters; Jail Sentence Recommended for Cohen; Meek Mill Calls for Prison Reform. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired December 8, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in London. We welcome our viewers in the United Kingdom and around the world. All around me Europe in an uproar. Anti-Macron riots in Paris while here in the U.K. Brexit debate coming to a head before Tuesday's vote. Are the world's oldest democracies in jeopardy? And stateside, filings on Paul Manifort and Michael Cohen reveal significant amounts of lying with New York prosecutors recommending substantial jail time for Cohen. Michael Isikoff will break it all down. Plus, it's the most viewed CNN interview I've ever done; 7.3 million and counting on Facebook and it hasn't even aired yet. After three stints in prison, Hip Hop star Meek Mill is back with a number one album. We talk prison reform, Jay-Z, Kanye, and Trump and this.
MEEK MILL, HIP HOP ARTIST: If you go out to my neighborhood, you see seven people die a week I think you would probably carry a gun yourself. Would you?
SMERCONISH: Yes, I probably would, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I really can't stay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baby it's cold outside.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got to go away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baby it's cold outside.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This evening has been...
SMERCONISH: The song, "Baby It's Cold Outside" has been a Christmastime staple but in the Me Too Era it's making some listeners uncomfortable. I talk to a program director that decided to ban it and all hell broke loose. And that is today's survey question. Go to my website at Smerconish.com answer this question. Should radio stations stop playing the holiday classic, "Baby It's Cold Outside?"
But first, the leaders of two of America's staunchest European allies are on the political ropes this weekend. Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May, that much is clear from an enormous protest currently underway in France and a scheduled vote here in Britain. In Paris it's now week four of what began as the Yellow Jacket Protests, named for the safety vests that French motorists must carry that started to opposition to a fuel tax that has since reversed has morphed into an anti-government, anti-establishment movement including President Emmanuel Macron. The populist movement is disparate and lacking a particular leader. Some of its members want to lower retirement wage, a higher minimum wage, salary caps and a rollback of tax benefits for the wealthy.
Meanwhile on Tuesday Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to lose a Parliamentary vote regarding her Brexit plan which itself is set for March 29. The size of the expected defeat may determine whether the vote brings down her government. May was elected two years ago promising to implement the outcome of the Brexit vote. One of the major underlying points of conflict here continues to be border control and of course events in Paris and Britain have not unfolded in a vacuum and thus far have thwarted some significant leaders. The "Guardian" newspaper recently concluded a six month exploration of the rise of populism in the world speaking with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. All three said reason stands little political chance in the face of a simplified antic of a populist. The "Guardian" reported quote, "On specific issues that have wrong-footed the centrist consensus, all three point to migration," arguing that the center left has to come up with a reasoned alternative to the knee-jerk populism of the right. Quote, "There's no doubt in my mind that Brexit was largely about immigration and the lies that were told by the lead(ph) campaign, Clinton said but immigration really helped to push it over the line."
So could May and Macron be the next political casualties? Joining me now to discuss is Quentin Peel, former correspondent for the "Financial Times" now associate fellow in the Europe Program at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Mr. Peel, what's the common denominator if any between the events today in Paris and the vote coming on Tuesday here in Britain?
QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW IN THE EUROPE PROGRAM AT CHATHAM HOUSE: Well, I think what they both share is an uprising of the providences against the elite. Both Britain and France are really quite centralized countries dominated in the French case by Paris and the British case by London and the real revolts that we're seeing on the streets of Paris, not on the streets of London but nonetheless in Parliament is actually this sort of feeling outside the great metropolis that people have been left behind. They're fed up, their incomes are stagnating and on top of that they feel that the modern metropolitan society globalization has actually made their lives more insecure and they feel that their very identity is threatened.
And I think there's an identity question here both in Britain and in France.
SMERCONISH: Well, you're making me feel right at home because the same could be said about what the United States has done in the last two years and some of the political strife that we continue to experience right now. With regard to France let me ask this question, are the French now realizing that perhaps Macron is not the outsider they believed or in some cases hoped he is?
PEEL: Yes, I think that's right because he came to power as a representative of a new political movement and it looked like he was going to be this voice if you like of the antiestablishment. The reality of course is that he is a member of the establishment. He is an anarch(ph). He is one of the elite who went to the great schools in Paris. He became an investment banker. He's very bright and he's clearly very different to the sort of people who are out there now wearing these yellow jackets.
They are the political (inaudible) and the working classes who really feel they've been left behind even when the economy in France has been doing not too badly. So I think that it is a bit of a backlash against Macron and he's got to play this very carefully because he's not in any danger of actually being forced to quit office. He's got a five year term and he's got a big majority in parliament. So neither of those things but he looks like he's no longer entirely in control of the situation on the streets.
SMERCONISH: With regard to the Tuesday vote by the British Parliament, who schedules a vote they know they are going to lose? I refer of course to Theresa May.
PEEL: It's a very strange situation because she's very stubborn and she's really plugged away at this issue of negotiating exit from the European Union because that's what the referendum voted for two years ago but actually she's been on a hiding to nothing because she's trying to reconcile the backlash that we've been talking about, this sort of revolt against the elite with trying not to damage the British economy and it's an almost an impossible task. There is no Brexit deal that's not going to be damaging to Britain and what she's discovered is when she's gone back to her own party, the conservative party, and the whole British Parliament there's deadlock. There is no majority for any deal what so ever.
At the moment she's just plugging away but she's left an opt out there is a chance that on Tuesday night when the vote is supposed to happen she might say, "Hang on, I'm not going to hold it yet." But she won't get any brownie points for doing that either because I don't think the numbers are going to change.
SMERCONISH: A final question, does it feel to you like a second referendum for the nation is at hand?
PEEL: That is becoming more and more likely precisely because parliament is so deadlocked. You've got this strange situation where as I say no majority or any particular solution and both the big parties are split. So in that situation, maybe the only option is go back to the country and say look, "Here's the deal or do you want to change your minds?" Would you actually decide to remain in the European Union? I do think that is increasingly a possibility.
SMERCONISH: Quentin Peel, thank you so much for your expertise. PEEL: OK.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. This comes from Facebook. Brexit shows just how inept these right wing populists are. They can't govern without causing major issues. Look, I think it's incumbent upon Theresa May as uncomfortable as I think she personally is with having to leave the E.U. to carry out the will of the people and I don't know why we would think that if there were to be a second referendum the result would be any different than the first. No easy solution. Still to come, the latest on Robert Mueller's filings in the Russia probe. Michael Isikoff is here to break it all down and my viral talk with rapper Meek Mill after being sprung from jail in April. He's made a new number one album on which Jay-Z calls out Kanye for wearing a Trump hat but like Trump, Mill is on a crusade to reform the criminal justice system.
MILL: The color of your skin can and will be used against you in a court of law.
SMERCONISH: Friday was a significant day for those to federal probes that relate to the Trump presidency; the Southern District of New York and Special Counsel Robert Muller. While the president was quick to tweet quote, "Today totally clears the president. Thank you." The relevance can hardly be distilled into a single sound bite. Here's the big picture. Three things happened. First while saying that Michael Cohen deserves a substantial prison sentence, SDNY prosecutors also said the now president directed Cohen to make illegal payments.
Second, while Mueller's team presents a more favorable view of Cohen, it reveals that a more favorable view of Cohen. It reveals that an unnamed Russian offered the Trump campaign government-level synergy and third, Mueller said Paul Mainfort had lied about his contacts with someone connected to Russian intelligence and about his dealings with the Trump Administration after being indicted.
Among Trump critics, some see the beginning of the end but Sarah Sanders issued a statement saying the government's filing in Mr. Manifort's case says absolutely nothing about the president. It says even less about collusion and is devoted almost entirely to lobbying- related issues. Once again the media is trying to create a story where there isn't one. She said the government's filings in Mr. Cohen's case tell us nothing of value that wasn't already known. Mr. Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr. Cohen is no hero. So, how imperiled is the Trump Presidency? It's hard to say for these reasons. First the SDNY clearly believes that President Trump and Cohen violated campaign laws that Cohen was acting on the direction of Trump and specifically that in paying off a former porn star and Playboy model $130 grand and $150 grand respectively, they hid and exceed the $2,700 donation limit. But where Justice Department policy is not to indict a sitting president, will that have any immediate consequence? Specifically, should that revelation be deemed grounds for impeachment by the House of Representatives? Will it lead to conviction in the Senate? Twenty years ago when Bill Clinton's underlying conduct was similarly about sex, the answer was no. Harder to discern but perhaps more problematic for the president are the less salacious things that we learned yesterday. That in November of 2015, Cohen claims he was contacted by a Russian with ties to Putin offering that synergy to the Trump campaign. Viewed alone or in connection with the revelation that Manifort lied about his own connection to somebody in Russian intel, that could be connected to conspiracy or the term many use, collusion.
And unlike a matter stemming from sex, arguably that would be viewed far more seriously even by a Republican Senate. Joining me now to discuss is Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo News, co-author with David Corn of the best seller, "Russian Roulette the Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump."
Michael, you're the perfect guest to have on this day because you did so much ground-breaking reporting 20 years ago. Wasn't the takeaway then that the Senate was not about to allow impeachment to convict when the underlying matter was about sex and if that's true, these facts are similarly described, no?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, AUTHOR AND CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT FOR YAHOO NEWS: Well, yes, I think that's an excellent point. Look, it is eye-popping to see in a federal sentencing memorandum by the Southern District of New York and a - an assertion that the President of the United States directed illegal payments through his personal lawyer to a porn star and a Playboy model. With that said, what flows from that? As you pointed out, standard DOJ policy is you can't indict a sitting president. The Southern District is bound by that assuming they could ever get the green light from higher ups at the Justice Department, whoever they might be. So then the alternative remedy would be an impeachment proceeding by the Congress.
Think of what that would look like for a moment. Who are your witnesses? Stormy Daniels accompanied by Michael Avenatti, David Pecker of the "The National Enquirer," Karen McDougal. Does Jerry Nadler who so eloquently said concealment of a private sexual affair should not be grounds for impeachment want to hold an impeachment hearing in the House with that set of witnesses. You know bolstered by Michael Cohen who the Southern District has now said, even to this day is not being truthful about his criminal conduct.
It's not the makings for the kinds of impeachment proceedings that I think Jerry Nadler would like to have. So there's a big question mark about where that goes. Now there's lots of other stuff in these - in these memos that do get closer to the core Russia investigation. A lot of question marks about them as well but I think that's probably better where people in the House and the Senate and the rest of us should be focused on.
SMERCONISH: OK, so and I agree with everything you've just offered in terms of analysis as you read the tea leaves and fill in the blanks, what did you find most significant potentially about collusion in those filings yesterday?
ISIKOFF: You know they don't get us to collusion per se but there are sort of intriguing thread lines there. In the case of Cohen, the fact that - you know this additional contact from the fall of 2017 from a Russian national claiming to have - to be - to have connections to the Kremlin offering synergy. My understanding is that's this Olympic weightlifter who contacted Cohen. That's additional evidence of Russian efforts to reach out and cultivate the Trump campaign.
That's important in terms of the larger narrative of the Russians trying to get their hooks into the Trump campaign. Does it get us to collusion? It's not clear because it's not clear that there was any response from Cohen on that. So that's one and then there's also the question of what contacts Cohen had with the Trump team and the White House before he gave his false testimony about the Trump Tower meeting.
SMERCONISH: The reference that Mueller makes to...
ISIKOFF: I'm sorry - the Trump Tower meeting. The Trump Tower Project in Moskow.
SMERCONISH: Right and when Mueller says he was provided useful information on Russia-related matters core to its investigation, that's awfully intriguing. You get the quick final word.
ISIKOFF: Yes it is intriguing but it doesn't have the magic words substantial assistance to the investigation which is the language you use when you're flagging this guy, this cooperating witness gave us evidence we can use to prosecute somebody else.
SMERCONISH: You are good. You are very good. Michael Isikoff well done.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying via Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we have Katheryn(ph)?
Not the sex that matters, it's the felony cover up. Hang on a second, Roger Flannagan(ph) I think I was very clear in saying that there are some intriguing aspects of those filings yesterday that may point in a direction of conspiracy or collusion. I get that but all that we seem to know for sure right now is that the president directed Michael Cohen if you believe those documents, to make illegal payments - illegal vis a vie campaign finance law but they were payments to a porn star and a Playboy playmate to cover up sex. The lesson from 20 years ago, sex is not enough I think. Give me another one if we have time.
Smerconish CNN, the Russian investigation was set up by the Clintons to spy on the Trump campaign. The Russian investigation was set up by the Clintons to spy on the Trump campaign. It came from where? Area 51.
Still to come, it's a beloved Christmas classic written 70 years ago but to contemporary ears, "Baby It's Cold Outside" has a major Me Too problem. Go to Smerconish.com and vote on today's survey question, should radio stations stop playing it? And it's already gone viral online; my interview with rapper Meek Mill is next. He spent his third term in prison on a parole violation dating back to when he was 18. Now he's got a new number one album and a mission - criminal justice reform.
MILL: Do you believe that a young black man can lift up a firearm and point a gun at two, three cops while they're attempting a door bust with their firearms out and not a single shot being fired?
SMERCONISH: Rapper Meek Mill became a poster case for how the prison system deals with African-American males - longer sentencing, tougher parole and now after his third stint in prison he's addressing criminal justice reform on a new album called "Championships" just released on Friday, instantly number on -- on iTunes. In an Op-Doc for "The New York Times," Mill has some powerful words about his experiences.
MILL: The plantation and the prison are actually no different. The past is the present. It ain't no coincidence. This was the plan since abolition, to keep us subjugated by creating this system.
SMERCONISH: Meek Mill joins me now. Meek, all I wanted was a new Mercedes.
MILL: Yes, how you doing man. Nice to meet you. Thanks for having me.
SMERCONSIH: So the words in that video for "The New York Times" I want to break them down.
MILL: Yes. SMERCONISH: You talk about how there's no coincidence when you compare the plantation and the prison. This was the plan since abolition. I think we can reach general agreement among people of all different political persuasions today that the criminal justice system needs to be reformed but what's the basis for saying that today it's all part of a plan to keep people subjugated?
MILL: Just going as far back as parole and probation. A lot of people who go back in and out of prison are being stuck by a parole system or probation system where not even committing crimes puts you back in prison. I learned from personal experience. I actually spent time with men that had 28 months in prison for $100 bail. They weren't even found guilty for their crimes and $100 kept them in prison and we had to -- tax payers even myself had to pay money to keep guys like this in prison. It was for like a petty crime. Things like that never made sense to me even being on probation. I've been on probation since I was 19 years old; I'm 31 years old. Growing up in the system, I always thought this was normal and I didn't value myself the way I value myself now.
SMERCONISH: But in the video you say this is part of the plan that it's all about subjugation of African-Americans and I'm not understanding where's the evidence for that. That we have an unfair system, I get it but that it's all part of a grand design, I'm not seeing.
MILL: My vision of it is I see that some of these statutes and laws are basically targeted towards a certain group of people where we're like trapped inside of a system that's extremely hard to get out.
SMERCONISH: Are you able to square that with the fact that the judge with whom you've had so many run ins recently is herself African- American?
MILL: Yes, I ain't even blaming it on like Caucasian, African- American; I think it's actually a mindset of actually self hate. I don't think it's really a thing of a certain color but it's designed to keep people like myself in the culture I come from. You could be white and come from where I come from and born in these conditions and still get caught up in the same design.
SMERCONISH: Do you see President Trump as an ally in the cause for criminal justice reform? I mean this has been a rare issue where he has sought to do something bipartisan in nature. Surely you're familiar with his efforts in this regard?
MILL: I'm not - I'm not too familiar with everything Donald Trump do because I don't really keep up with politics. I see when they say he has bills - like what was the last bill he passed, you know? I don't know exactly the last bill he passed but I think it was involving the crack and cocaine bill where you get probably five times more jail time for having crack then having cocaine. I call it two Americans where you have one America where it's almost like the white America and the black America. And crack cocaine is a black America choice of drug; cocaine is a white America choice of drug. SMERCONISH: I asked about politics and I asked about President Trump in particular because as you well know Jay-Z goes after Kanye on your new album over the whole "Make America Great Again" business.
MILL: Yes, and I don't think he really goes after Kanye, I think he actually just says like, don't let them separate us like they did, Michael Jackson and Prince basically. Kanye came out of nowhere and just went red hat and that was kind of like everything we represent. I don't know what he represents but coming up in a hip hop community, we came up fighting and fighting for our rights for a long time and what that red hat represent don't really represent what we've been fighting for our whole lives.
SMERCONISH: Did you talk to Jay-Z about those words? You know that today this is a big trending subject so I have to ask you. Did you talk to Jay-Z about what he was thinking, why he wanted that to be on your new album?
MILL: No I didn't talk to him about it. I was just like yo, I had dreams my whole life of having a Jay-Z verse being able to rap with Jay-Z who I view as the greatest of all times so you know whatever he did I was just going to accept it and that's what he gave me; that's what he delivered to me and I was happy with that.
SMERCONISH: You were just happy to have him on the album regardless of what it is he wanted to rap about.
MILL: Yes, that was one of my idols I looked up coming to in the rap business my whole life before I even was in the business so that's what it was more about.
SMERCONISH: How about the mindset, I have to play devil's advocate and ask Meek Mill this, you wrote that piece for "The New York Times,"...
SMERCONISH: Not only did I read what you wrote and watched the video but I also read the comments that were appended to it.
SMERCONISH: Many of them were supportive but many of them Meek said, hey you're not the right guy to take on this fight. I can put one on the screen of just something that was typical. I'm not defending our criminal justice system at all but let's look at the facts; it was more than just a wheelie. We don't know his juvenile record. He got probation on and on and on, got convicted for selling drugs, possessing a firearm. Essentially it makes the argument you didn't play by the rules and if you had played by the rules - I'm going to give you the chance - but if you hadn't played by the rules you wouldn't have had issues with the system.
MILL: I always dreamed to be like on CNN and being able to express myself and speak for like the voiceless young men...
SMERCONISH: Do it.
MILL: ... of America. The first step I would say I grew up in America in a ruthless neighborhood where we are not protected by police. We're not - we grow up with people selling drugs in our neighborhood on our front steps. We grow up in ruthless environments. We grow up around murder. You see murder seven days a week. I think if you grew up in my neighborhood you see seven people die a week I think you would probably carry a gun yourself. Would you?
SMERCONISH: Yes. I probably would, yes.
MILL: Yes, if you see your neighbors and family members or you seen one of your best friends you grew up with get your brains blown out, I think you would want to protect yourself. Second of all, my first juvenile arrest going to school, being suspended I didn't want to tell my mother that I was suspended from school because my mom would have to take off from work; she was a single parent and my father was in a grave yard. So I was afraid to tell my mom I was suspended. I went to school on a suspended day. That was my first arrest as a juvenile for being in school - I guess the charge was trespassing. And at 18 years old I was arrested by the narcotics strike force which most of these guys were federally investigated. Most of these guys were found out to be liars. They lied on the stand and proven to be liars.
I was arrested for pointing a gun at a whole strike force. Do you know what a strike force? A strike is when five or six cops come do a bust. I was arrested for pointing a gun at two or three cops without any shots being fired. And this is for American now we have like cameras and hand cameras. I want to ask you, do you really believe I pointed a gun at two or three cops without a single shot being fired, a young black man and...
SMERCONISH: Yes, I don't know what the underlying facts are. I just don't want to ignore the argument that some make that hey Meek Mill is not the guy that should be making this case. That's all.
MILL: I just want to explain it. I just want to know from a personal opinion, do you believe a young black man in America can point a gun at two or three cops because I'm not the only one that gets found guilty for these things. Cops charge people with these things at an alarming rate and people take deals because they don't have lawyer money or they can't afford attorneys to even fight for their freedom. Do you believe that a young black man can lift up a firearm and point a gun at two, three cops while they're attempting to do a bust with their firearms out and not a single shot being fired?
That don't even make sense in America. I never really spoke on that because I never valued myself growing up in a ruthless environment. I seen that happen to many kids so it was just normal to me and as I grew up I always felt embarrassed being around like my Caucasian friends and I used to always say like do you believe I pointed a gun at a cop? Where I come from I on a successful path. I got sent pointing a gun at a police officer is suicide for a black young man. I never thought about committing suicide in my life so that's almost like disrespect to me and I was accused by another black cop which things I speak on on my album, "Championship," where I talk about myself so I don't know how people can say that they don't think I should be the face of it. I was wrongly accused. I was sent to jail multiple times for not even committing crimes. I've been sent to jail at least two or three times just for being addicted to percocets and never sent to rehab.
I was sent to jail for popping a wheelie. If you follow me on Instagram which many of these kids in America do, I've been popping wheelies on Instagram across America for the last 10 years and I never was arrested. The farthest it ever went was a traffic ticket. And my whole message is get across is if somebody like myself who is doing so good for myself, I'm not involved in crime. I've been working. I employ people. I pay taxes. If probation can stomp me down and bring me back to a state penitentiary without committing a crime, what could it do to these other kids that are trapped in these environments surrounded by crime and violence? They don't stand a chance.
You have thousands of kids that will be destined to be put in prison for the rest of their lives. Their bed is already made up.
SMERCONISH: Got it. Hey Meek, I appreciate the opportunity to give you the platform and have this conversation. Good luck with "Championship."
MILL: Yes and I appreciate you all for giving me the platform I need to speak for the voices. Thank you very much I appreciate it.
SMERCONISH: All right let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. I'm told that social media is blowing up again about the interview.
Smerconish, I grew up in a neighborhood that people were shot and killed, stabbed, selling drugs, no hope, taught by your elders to get out. It's the culture too. If you listen to songs all day about people holding you down, about robbing people and selling drugs, that's what you become. I don't know Jack (ph). I get the argument. I've heard it before but by that logic, today as an adult I'd be going around it and putting my fingers in people's eyes and saying "doink" because I watched "The Three Stooges." Half the audience is applauding me for bringing on Meek Mill and giving him the platform he said he always dreamed of to be on CNN and talk about these issues and the other half of the audience seems to be dug in from the perspective of he's the wrong advocate; he's the wrong spokesman.
Although by definition if you need to be someone who served time to comment on these issues then nobody is going to pass muster. It's an important conversation for us to keep having; that I'll say.
Up ahead, it's a Christmas classic covered by everybody from Doris Day and Dean Martin to James Taylor and Lady GaGa but in the #Me Too era, people are hearing problems with the song, "Baby It's Cold Outside," and demanding it be banned from radio. What do you think? Go to Smerconish.com and answer today's survey question, should radio stations stop playing that holiday classic?
SMERCONISH: The #Me Too era has challenged everybody to revisit many aspects of lives at home and work and now Christmas music. One song in particular has been singled out for controversy Frank Loesser's, "Baby It's Cold Outside" written in 1944. It's a duet in which one singer, traditionally a man is trying to keep the other, usually a woman from going home.
Here is a clip of how it was song in the 1949 MGM movie, "Neptune's Daughter" by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban.
ESTHER WILLIAMS, ACTOR IN "NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER": ... will be...
RICARDO MONTALBAN, ACTOR IN "NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER": Gosh your lips look delicious.
WILLIAMS: My brother will be there at the door.
MONTALBAN: ... Waves upon a tropical shore.
WILLIAMS: My isn't that my...
MONTALBAN: Gosh your lips are delicious.
WILLIAMS: Well maybe just a cigarette more.
MONTALBAN: Never such as a (inaudible) more.
SMERCONISH: Well sure it looks inappropriate to some now but for 70 years it's been performed without protest by everybody from Dean Martin to Dinah Shore to Garth Brooks to James Taylor to Michael Buble to Lady GaGa. On "South Park" they used the song to have Bill Cosby hit on Taylor Swift.
TAYLOR SWIFT CHARACTER ON "SOUTH PARK": Well I guess it's time to leave.
BILL COSBY CHARACTER ON "SOUTH PARK": But it's snowing out there.
SWIFT: Yes, but I need to get home.
COSBY: But it's snowing out there.
SWIFT: I really should go.
COSBY: But what's the hurry? SWIFT: Say what's in this drink?
COSBY: That's just some J-E-L-L-O.
SMERCONISH: And now a couple of radio stations got so many complaints for playing "Baby It's Cold Outside" that they pulled it from the playlist including my next guest Brian Figula. He's a program director for San Francisco station KOIT. Brian, I should point out you're not alone because some will look at this and say, "Oh, there's that liberal program director in San Francisco" but this began what, in Ohio right?
BRIAN FIGULA, SAN FRANCISCO PROGRAM DIRECTOR AT KOIT STATION: Yes, so we - the station here in San Francisco, 96.5 KOIT flipped to Christmas music the Friday before Thanksgiving. I received several complaints on this song; 100's over a period of a week. And yes, last week a radio station in Cleveland among others removed this song from their playlist sparking my red flag right. Like hey, I've got these comments. Radio stations are banning the song and I took it off the air on Monday.
SMERCONISH: What will determine - I know you have your own poll, but what will determine whether your radio station resumes playing it? Are you going to go by the will of the majority?
FIGULA: I am. Yes, I think it's important to do that and what's different about this situation Michael is that typically we don't advertise if we pull a song off whether it doesn't research well or we're getting complaints about it, we just take it off. In this situation this past Monday, the local news affiliate ran a story on it to get a local angle and it caused chaos. Literally in less than 24 hours I said, "Oh no, there's a lot of people that are actually pro this song. I'd better get a poll out and decide what the listeners really think."
SMERCONISH: So I went through the lyrics. You know I parsed the lyrics. I'm of an era where we had things known as lyre notes. So I went old school and I actually looked at the words. I'm probably going to get a hell of a lot of email for saying this but to me, that's what foreplay looks like.
FIGULA: Yes. And a lot of people have said that. It's an innocent song, a different time. But I want to share with you the different extremes, some of the feedback that I've received. One extreme is, "Hey listen I was brutally raped as a college student in college and this song is offensive to me." Women who have been sexually harassed in the workplace find this song offensive. Women with teenage daughters state that, "Mom what does that mean exactly when you put that in my drink?" And then the far right, "Hey our freedoms are already being challenged, now you're going to mess with our Christmas music. I don't think so." I've even been called a Nazi for messing with the Christmas playlist.
SMERCONISH: And by the way to be clear I don't think that it's - I don't think that it's a certainty that he slipped her a Mickey in this. I think it's her saying, "Oh this is a strong drink. What's in my glass?"
FIGULA: You're exactly right, yes.
SMERCONISH: So one other thing that occurs to me and you're the perfect person to ask as a program director. Do you worry about a slippery slope? I just interviewed Meek Mill, right? If "Baby It's Cold Outside" cannot play, holy smokes, what are you going to be left playing?
FIGULA: Yes and this is a really unique situation because this type of radio station an at work radio station that typically plays Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson, we're not in the middle of a controversy typically. In this situation, I want to really put this in perspective; this radio station by Christmas week reaches 1/3 of the population here in San Francisco according to Neilson.
FIGULA: So, yes, so imagine the feedback on this situation where a lot of people are using this brand and we're messing with it.
SMERCONISH: Brian Figula. Many, many thanks for being here. Well told by you. I appreciate it.
FIGULA: Yes, thanks Michael.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments like this one. What do we got? Smerconish, they should stop playing the song. People need to listen to the words and not just because it's a catchy tune. Say what's in this drink implies - no I don't agree with this that he's either added alcohol or she's not used to or a drug. No, I think it's Beckers(ph) I have read the words. I parsed those words. I think instead it's her saying, "wow, this is a potent drink." Not like, "Did you put something in here and are now about to take advantage of me as a result?"
Well, what do you at home think because coming up the final results of today's survey question? I love this question. Right now go to Smerconish.com and tell me. Should radio stations stop playing the holiday classic, "Baby It's Cold Outside?"
SMERCONISH: So how did you respond to the survey question at Smerconish.com? Should radio stations stop playing the holiday classic, "Baby It's Cold Outside;" 10,559 votes pretty decisive - 93 percent say no, no don't stop. What do we have Katheryn (ph) in terms of social media?
Seriously in 2011 "50 Shades of Grey" sold 125 million copies but "Baby It's Cold Outside" is offensive. Please. Lori (ph) a point well taken. What's next? Hit me with another one.
Things I didn't think I would hear this morning, Meek Mill saying I've always dreamed of being on CNN while being on Smerconish's show at CNN. Me too Elizabeth(ph), me too. All right. We're out of time. Thanks for watching.