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What Biden's Apology Means For 2020; Could Liberal Firebrands Alienate Centrist Voters?; Sanders: "You Got Half The Caucus Running For President"; Will America Elect The President By Popular Vote?; Swing States Dominate The Presidential Elections; Should John Wayne's Name Be Removed From Airport?; Late Actor's Views Under Scrutiny; "Leaving Neverland". Aired 9-10a ET
Aired March 2, 2019 - 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, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. So what was the most telling news event of the week? What if I told you it had nothing to do with Michael Cohen? Of all things, it was that Joe Biden felt obliged to apologize after issuing a compliment. Biden's response recognized where passion currently resides among Democrats, which is not without risk as the party seeks a torchbearer to run against President Trump.
Speaking in Nebraska, the former vice president was making a point about the damage caused by the Trump administration to relationships with American allies and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact of the matter is it was followed on by a guy who's a decent guy, our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, "I'm here on behalf of President Trump," and there was dead silence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: It was the reference to Pence as a decent guy that landed Biden in hot water on the left as evidenced by this tweet from actress, LGBTQ activist and former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon. "Joe Biden, you've just called America's most anti-LGBT elected leader a decent guy. Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community."
Well, almost immediately, Biden relented and he tweeted this. "You're right, Cynthia. I was making a point in a foreign policy context that, under normal circumstances, a vice president wouldn't be given a silent reaction on the world stage, but there's nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights and that includes the vice president."
My colleague, Chris Cillizza, joked that Biden has probably called 200,000 people a decent guy during the course of his career and not necessarily because he agrees with them, but rather because it's a reflection of the collegiality that reigned when Biden cut his teeth politically. There's a temptation to say, well, things have changed and Biden's compliment of Pence shows the former veep is out of touch. No doubt it's a different party now, different even than that which nominated Obama and Biden in 2008.
It's a party whose grassroots presidential fundraising leader is a self-described Democratic Socialist who's currently ranked number one presidential contender by "The Washington Post," embraced Medicare For All and seemed to endorse the end of private insurance, whose breakout star in the congressional freshman class is a proponent of the Green New Deal which seeks to, quote, "Guarantee a job with a family sustaining wage to all people of the United States," and who, this week, warned colleagues that voting with Republicans would land them on a list for a primary challenge.
And let's not forget that a close colleague of AOC celebrated her own swearing-in by saying she and her colleagues were going to impeach the MF'er. She's the same representative who, during the Michael Cohen hearing this week, seemed to call a Republican colleague a racist.
My point is that there's a lot of passion for very progressive ideas on the Democratic side of the aisle, the sort of proposals that enliven the base of the party, the very people who can most be counted on in primary and caucus season, but can that energy be harnessed by someone who can not only be nominated, but also win a general election?
Some say it was the liberal firebrands who helped propel the Dems to their historic midterm results, but polls show that most Democrats just prefer a candidate who can defeat Trump. Gallup recently found that 54 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning Independents wanted the party to become more moderate, while only 41 percent wanted it to be more liberal.
President Trump, he looks at this pathos as a gift, the sort of thinking that won't fly in a general election with high school educated white males who crossed party lines to vote for him. He knows he has not expanded his electoral territory since 2016. Think about this. Can you identify a state that he lost in 2016, but has a better chance of winning in 2020? His fate rests with keeping everything he won in his column in the next go-round, especially Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, voters with whom Joe Biden has a lot in common.
That's why, to Trump, it's all socialism, as he referenced in his State of the Union address, and it explains why yesterday, Trump's running mate, the aforementioned "decent guy" Mike Pence, used that same word when speaking at the conservative conference CPAC.
Joining me now to discuss is Amie Parnes, the senior political correspondent for "The Hill." She wrote this piece, "Inside Joe Biden's campaign in waiting," and co-authored the book, "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign."
[09:05:03] And Bhaskar Sunkara is the publisher of the socialist magazine "Jacobin," author of the upcoming book, "The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality," and who has a piece in next week's "New York Magazine" cover package called, "When did everybody become a socialist?" Bhaskar, I suspect you disagree with me. I've read your "Guardian" essay on this general subject. You take the floor and tell me why I'm wrong.
BHASKAR SUNKARA, AUTHOR, "THE SOCIALIST MANIFESTO": Well, I don't think you're necessarily wrong at the level of people should interpersonally be nice to one another. We could have strong disagreements, but there's nothing wrong with having a bit of collegiality. I think where Biden goes wrong is that it's just another reminder that he's part of a political establishment that people don't like, that they're looking for alternatives to.
He might, if he runs in 2020, try to brand himself as the boy from Scranton, but people know that for decades he's been the credit card senator from Delaware, people know that he's been as part of this muck that they're frustrated with.
And the thing that I really disagree with you on is that people don't associate moderate and liberal with Bernie Sanders in those same exact terms. Sanders, actually, was winning over a lot of self-described moderate voters. For most Americans, moderate just means that they don't like the liberal establishment and they certainly don't like conservatives and instead, they're looking for fresh, new ideas, ideas like Medicare for All, all these other things that Sanders stand for. So I'm not sure we could quit being civil or not civil with being more left-wing or more right-wing, you know, so ...
SMERCONISH: Well, no, no, I'm all -- I'm all for -- I'm all for civility. I just -- I just saw significance in the fact that Joe Biden felt he so quickly needed to apologize and take on the issue raised by Cynthia Nixon. Bhaskar, let me ask you a follow-up. The midterm lesson to me was that the less ideologically driven of those Democratic candidates were the most successful. That's what reinforces my belief that the Democrats -- I'll just say it flat out -- run a real risk by drifting too far to the left as they select someone to run against Donald Trump.
SUNKARA: Well, if you look at the polling right now, you have vast majorities of the United States supporting things like Medicare For All, free public tuition. These are the things that we actually have the American people on.
I think if the battle becomes about politeness or about these little Twitter barbs or wars, then of course you're going to have an issue, but Biden's obviously afraid that he's to the right of a leftward moving party, but I think the lesson of the midterms is that people want new ideas and they're willing to vote for people who aren't Donald Trump. I think this is a golden opportunity to actually make the party about ideas and not just about personalities.
SMERCONISH: Amie, you've been writing about the the Biden campaign, if there is to be one. What significance did you attach, if any, to that apology?
AMI PARNES, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE HILL: There was definitely a lot of significance to it. As soon as I saw that tweet, I thought, OK. I mean I've known he's running for a while now, but that confirmed it, A, but B, it shows that he is a little worried that the party -- well, he knows the party has drifted to the left and he is worried about his place in it.
The one thing that I think he can say and the one thing that he has been -- he's kind of been making a pitch lately to people, donors, to Democrats across the board to say this is who I am. I have always worked with Republicans. You know, I can -- I can continue to do that and he's trying to appeal to Independents.
And he's trying to kind of build a case for how he can actually win in a primary because that is going to be the challenge for him. Everyone has always said he could probably defeat Donald Trump in a general election, but how does he get out of a primary? And that is his big problem right now.
SMERCONISH: Amie, I want to ask you a question about the size of the field, but I think I'll set it up with the assistance of Seth Meyers. Roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH MEYERS, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS: So many senators running. Obviously you see them. They are your colleagues. Is it awkward that you all know that you're all trying to be president?
BERNIE SANDERS, UNITED STATES SENATOR: You know, look ...
MEYERS: I'll take -- I'll take that as a yes.
SANDERS: The short -- the short answer is yes.
MEYERS: Yes. OK. I got it. That's human. I would say that's a human reaction.
SANDERS: We all have lunch together every Tuesday and you got half the caucus running for the -- for president, you know what I'm saying? It is kind of strange.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Amie, does the former vice president benefit from the enormity of this field? Does it -- does it make the odds more likely that there won't be a breakout star as compared, say, to him facing just two or three opponents?
PARNES: Yes and it's funny that you say that, Michael, because that is part of his pitch that he is making to people behind the scenes. He is saying the crowded field helps me. There are so many people, particularly on the left, who are kind of in that same lane. He kind of has his own strategy to be in kind of a more right lane, if you will, but he, you know, is also trying to make himself out to be progressive so he can kind of -- kind of straddle that line, if you will.
[09:10:05] So I think that is what he's trying to say. He thinks that a crowded field does help him. He thinks that he is different than all the other candidates out there and I think he thinks that that will benefit him and so that's what he's trying to say. I think -- but as I said before, I think a lot of the skepticism is around, well, can you -- how do you compete with all these people who are kind of, you know, fired up and are kind of speaking to where the base is right now?
SMERCONISH: Bhaskar, Amie, thank you so much for your expertise. Really appreciate it.
PARNES: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses during the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine?
"Smerconish, I mean it's not like he called him a dog, rat, horseface, Pocahontas, low IQ, leaking, dumb, et cetera." Kay, my point is not so much, you know, what did he say about Pence. It's that he felt the need to immediately -- he, Biden, (ph) tampered down any controversy that may come from the most left within his own party. It speaks to where the passion rides in -- resides in the Democratic Party, but as Amie Parnes just said, you know, the issue really is who can win the general election and get through the primary process?
Up ahead, two more states poised to join the growing movement to bypass the electoral college and have presidents chosen by who wins the popular vote. Is that ever going to happen?
And should the name of actor John Wayne be removed from the Orange County Airport because of some of his views? I'll discuss both with the person who raised the issue and with one of John Wayne's sons.
Plus, I'm still haunted by the new HBO documentary that I've already watched called "Leaving Neverland" in which two men allege Michael Jackson sexually abused them when they were young boys.
SMERCONISH: Is America getting any closer to electing the president by popular vote? Well, yes is the short answer, but doubtful it happens by 2020. Quick civics lesson. There are 538 electors, one for each member of the House and Senate, three for the District of Columbia. Each state gets the total number of their congressional delegation and two senators and it takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.
Twice in the last five cycles, the popular vote winner has lost the election, which explains the move by 11 states and the district, including New York, California, New Jersey, to join together and pledge to cast their state electoral votes for the popular vote winner. The National Popular Vote Initiative, it's an agreement among participating states to pledge that no matter who might win the state, the electoral votes will go to whoever wins the national popular vote.
Colorado and New Mexico might be next. If so, that would commit 186 electoral votes, which would be just 84 shy, but for this to go into effect, some red states are going to have to agree. Former Maine Governor Paul LePage issued this warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL LEPAGE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MAINE: What would happen if they do what they say they're going to do, white people will not have anything to say. It's only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now is New Mexico State Senator Mimi Stewart, a co-sponsor of the National Popular Vote Initiative which has already passed in her state's statehouse. Senator Stewart, in Colorado, a Republican said why don't you just go ahead and call this the, "We really, really, really, really hate Donald Trump bill." How much of this is about President Trump?
MIMI STEWART, NEW MEXICO STATE SENATOR: Well, you know, I passed the first national popular vote bill out of the House when I was in the House of Representatives in New Mexico in 2009. That was way before Donald Trump. So this movement has been brewing for 15 years or more. So it originally wasn't about Donald Trump. I don't believe it's really about Donald Trump.
I believe it's about the people who want to have the national popular vote count. We want to guarantee the presidency to the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and D.C.. That's what we want, irrespective of who is president, because this could go both ways and ...
SMERCONISH: Do you have -- sure. It could.
STEWART: It could and ...
SMERCONISH: I've discussed that here in the past, as a matter of fact, with Sam Wang from the Princeton Election Consortium. Let me ask you this question. Do you have any qualms with the possible outcome where your state, New Mexico, may vote for candidate X, but in the end, you are pledging your electors to candidate Y because that's the person who won the national popular vote?
STEWART: I think we need to look at it as a country, not a self- centered my state, my state did this, my state did that. That doesn't really work for democracy in New Mexico because now it's six states that elect the president. It's not the rest of us. Thirty to 40 states get no presidential visits, no ads, no polling, no organization of the parties, nothing because it doesn't matter. It only matters in six or seven states.
And so when George W. Bush was running against John Kerry, Bush got 3 million more votes than Kerry, but 60,000 vote differences in Ohio would have elected Kerry. So it's both parties should be paying attention to this.
SMERCONISH: I pointed out that if your state New Mexico and Colorado come on board, you'll get to 186. I want to put up on the screen the map of the 2016 presidential and ask you this question. You will need some red states to get this done. Where do you think you have a shot?
STEWART: You know, we have I think it's now 30 either state houses or state senates all over the country that have voted for this in the past.
[09:20:02] In the past, the Arizona Speaker of the House, a Republican, carried the bill. So maybe right now Republicans and red states are worried about it, but in the past, they've all been for it. So this is not a partisan issue. It looks like that now because of the current president losing the popular vote by 3 million votes, but it's not a partisan issue. We will pick up some of these states because they've voted for it in the past.
It's only a matter of time. I wish it would happen sooner, but we are getting there. We're at 179 electoral votes. You might have the figures better. Colorado just joined. New Mexico has passed out of the statehouse and now it's in the state senate, but it's really not a partisan issue even though it looks like it right now.
SMERCONISH: I'm fascinated by it and I appreciate the update. Thank you, Senator Stewart.
STEWART: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, actor John Wayne was an American icon for decades and his local airport was named in his honor. Now, some want that changed because of some of his views. His son is here to discuss.
And your view of another American icon, Michael Jackson, will never be the same once you hear about the new HBO documentary "Leaving Neverland" which details his sexual alleged abuse of two young boys.
SMERCONISH: Should offensive views expressed by a long-dead movie actor in an interview he gave nearly 50 years ago cause his name to be removed from an airport? That question has been raised about the John Wayne Memorial Airport in Santa Ana Orange County California near Disneyland, 35 miles south of Los Angeles. In 1979, the airport was dedicated to the macho American icon who was a local resident and had just died of cancer. Wayne starred in more than 150 films, more than half of them westerns, nominated for three Oscars. He finally won for 1969's "True Grit."
But in this woke era that has seen the removal of Confederate statues, new attention is being paid to inflammatory quotes from Wayne's interview published in "Playboy" magazine May 1971 like this one, "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility."
That and more led to this proposal in the "LA Times," "It's time to take John Wayne's name off the Orange County Airport." It's author is "LA Times" columnist Michael Hiltzik. He's here to explain. Also here to respond is Ethan Wayne, the sixth of John Wayne's seven children. He himself acted in several movies with his late father. Michael, the 1971 interview preceded the naming of the airport. So presumably, those who made the decision to name the airport had awareness of these comments.
MICHAEL HILTZIK, COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Sure. I think it was no secret that John Wayne held extreme right-wing views. This was part of his personal persona. The airport was named after him really not because there was any public clamor or community clamor to honor him, but it was part of a political deal so that the airport could get expanded and the one political leader who opposed that agreed to this deal if John Wayne's name would go on the airport. That's how this happened.
SMERCONISH: How much of this debate, this conversation, is due to the fact that there have been some real significant changes, politically speaking, in Orange County? You mention Orange County to me, I think of the sort of the heart of rock bed conservatism and Republicanism. I think of Yorba Linda, Richard Nixon. I think of the John Birch Society having come out of that area, but it's changed.
HILTZIK: It's changed dramatically. In fact, the old Orange County was the Orange County we think of from 1971. It was the hive of rock- ribbed conservative Republicanism that was exemplified, in fact, by the political views of John Wayne. That Orange County does not exist anymore. It's much more diverse. Politically, minorities, ethnic groups have a much stronger voice in Orange County today than they did then. And as we saw in November when the last remaining Republican members of Congress were turfed out by the voters, it's become, right now, a 100 percent Democratic delegation in Congress.
SMERCONISH: Is it fair, looking through a 2019 lens, to hold John Wayne accountable for things that he said in 20 -- pardon me -- in 1971?
HILTZIK: Yes, I think the fact of the matter is that the views that he expressed in 1971 I think were extremist even for 1971. That was not a prehistoric period. As I pointed out in my column, the civil rights movement was at high tide at that point. Martin Luther King had been assassinated just three years before in 1964 and 1965, we had federal legislation for civil rights. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the Montgomery bus in 1955. So these things were all in the air and I think John Wayne was reacting to that movement. He wasn't expressing an old view. He was reacting to the -- to the advances that we were seeing in the civil rights movement.
SMERCONISH: Michael Hiltzik, thank you. Joining me now to respond is Ethan Wayne who's not only John Wayne's son, also president of the John Wayne Enterprises and director of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
Ethan, this is some real tough stuff. I don't know that you will try to defend the words but let's at least let folks see what they were relative to gays.
Can we start with that? Your father quoted in "Playboy" magazine, if we can put that on the screen as saying the following. "Americans will be completely fed up with these perverted films. He's then asked, what do you consider perverted? He talks about Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags and thinks that qualifies.
Relative to blacks, people of color, but we can't all of the sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility."
And then with regard to Native Americans one more of this. "I don't feel we did wrong in taking their great country away from them, if that's what you're asking." Our so called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. "There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves."
And I did read the full interview because I didn't want to take anything out of context. Respond to that.
ETHAN WAYNE, SON OF JOHN WAYNE: Well, thank you for having me on and letting me respond.
I think you do have to go to the context of that entire interview. This is an interview that took place over two days. And I believe the transcript was about eight hours long. It was a pretty contentious discussion over politics in the film industry so if we want -- let's start -- I think he (ph) started with the gay term he (ph) used a terrible word. No doubt about it. But he used it not in the context of an individual's sexuality. He used it in the context of the changing landscape of the motion picture business. Something that distressed him.
You know, my father worked in Hollywood for 50 years and Hollywood is probably, you know, one of the most progressive and diverse communities on earth. He didn't care what race, gender, sexual orientation you were. He cared how well, you did your job.
He took everyone at face value. So, the second place he went I think was the Native American question.
SMERCONISH: Blacks. OK. Do that one.
WAYNE: OK. So my father made a mistake that some people make in interviews by repeating the language that the interviewer used. So that's where the term white supremacy came out.
In fact, we dug through our archives and we found notes that my father wrote to people at the time who were concerned about his use of that term and he explained that it was a mistake on his part, he repeated the interviewer's language. He should have said supremacy of responsible people.
If you'll read the entire interview you'll see that they were discussing a group that he believed was trying to use violence to gain power. And my father would never approve of that he believed in the Democratic system.
So, lastly, I think he went to the American Indians. Native Americans, and I don't think anybody had a closer relationship to the Native Americans than John Wayne he is being asked pointedly political questions about an issue that we have dealt with for a century-and-a- half before my father gave the interview. And we are still dealing with it today.
You know, it's a complex question. My father had a great personal respect for Native Americans. He worked with them, you know, for half his career. When John Wayne and a film crew would come to Monument Valley or to a reservation, it was economic boon for that tribe and those people.
They appreciated him. And I think they all, anyone who knew him would remember him fondly. He had a great respect for them as a people and for their art and culture.
SMERCONISH: How concerned are you? I know you are speaking to me from Irvine in Orange County, where I'm sure it's a great matter of pride to the Wayne family to have that airport named for your dad. How concerned are you that there will be this ground swell and that that 9-foot statue will come down and the airport will lose its name?
WAYNE: Obviously, we don't want our father attacked and we don't want to be besmirched by someone who's taking, you know, words from an interview that are -- that's eight hours long, and using them out of context.
Look, they put my father's name on that airport for the same reason that they -- that Congress voted to give him a Congressional Gold Medal for the same reason that the president decided to give him a Medal of Freedom. And it's recognition of a lifetime of significant contributions to this country, his community and to his industry.
I think it would be an injustice to judge someone based on an interview that's being used out of context. They're trying to contradict how he lived his life and how he lived his life was who he was.
So any discussion of removing his name from the airport should include the full picture of the life of John Wayne and not be based on a single outlier interview from half a century ago.
SMERCONISH: The argument being that those quotes are not reflective of the interview in total or at least of the transcript of all that was recorded over the course of those two days?
SMERCONISH: And you don't think --
WAYNE: You are taking -- you're taking a quote, where he uses a harsh term in relation to homosexually. He is not talking negatively about homosexuality. He is talking about the negative direction that the film industry is taking in regard to sex, violence, and nudity.
And so he spent much more time in the article discussing the violence of a film called "The Wild Bunch." He had a formula for delivering family entertainment in a way that's still appreciated today and when he saw people coming in and trying to add a little bit more to sell more tickets, it was distressing to him. He thought it was bad for the film industry. And I thought he thought it was bad for the fabric of the country in general chipping away, desensitizing people to nudity, sex and violence. Those are --
SMERCONISH: Here's my recommendation. I am putting in my Twitter feed as we speak. The totality of the interview as it was published by "Playboy" in 1971, and I am encouraging people to read all of it and judge for themselves, thank you, Ethan. I appreciate your time.
WAYNE: Thank you very much.
SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have, Katherine (ph)?
Smerconish, I don't like John Wayne's views, but removing his name is a bit much. Soon we'll be talking about taking down Mount Rushmore.
It's a complicated case. I mean, to look at those quotes in a vacuum. Some of will you say not complicated. Things he says about gays, and blacks and Native Americans are abhorring.
What you'll have to do and here's the challenge is to read the totality of what was offered and see if there is any justification. One thing is clear, he was very unsettled. I read it. Very unsettled about what he perceived as the left word drip of Hollywood at that time, late 60's early 1970's.
Up next, I had a chance to see the new documentary on HBO "Leaving Neverland." All I have got to say about the allegations of sexual abuse, man, are they disturbing.
SMERCONISH: Creepy, crude, course, catastrophic and, yes, compelling. That's my personal review after having watched the highly anticipated HBO Michael Jackson documentary "Leaving Neverland." It debuts tomorrow and Monday on HBO.
No wonder the Michael Jackson estate so concerned about the potential impact of this four-hour two-part documentary. It accuses the late pop star Michael Jackson of having sexual relationships with under aged boys at the height of his fame.
Before I get any further I want to warn everybody watching parental discretion is advised. And I'm going to lay it out. The film focuses on the stories of two boys at age 7 Australian born Wade Robson won a Jackson dance a like competition. He wound up dancing on stage with Jackson during the "Bad" tour.
The film's other subject is James Safechuck. He was a child actor. You'll remember him from this appearance in one of Jackson's Pepsi commercials when he was 10. Today Robson is 36, a choreographer who worked with Britney Spears and NSYNC. And Safechuck is 40, a computer programmer.
The movie details how both as young boys were lured into sexual relationships with the super star as "The Daily Beast" summarized. Robson and Safechuck recount incidents of masturbation, kissing, oral sex, being forced to caress Jackson's nipples, bending over for him while he pressured himself, and being coaxed into painful anal sex.
Oprah Winfrey taped an interview with both men and the film's director Dan Reed that will air immediately after the documentary and here's an excerpt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: Can you explain to people why you want to continue the association if you have been abused?
WADE ROBSON, MICHAEL JACKSON ACCUSER: I had no understanding of it being abuse. You know, I loved Michael. And all the times that I testified and, you know, the many, many times that I gushed over him publically in interviews or whatever it may be that was from a real place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I should mention here that CNN and HBO are owned by the same parent company Warner Media. That both accusers previously gave sworn statements that Jackson did not molest them and that the family denies Jackson molested anybody and is suing HBO for $180 million.
The suit claims the film is one sided, that it violates a non- disparagement agreement the network made back in the '90s when it aired a Jackson concert. The very first sentence of the lawsuit says -- quote -- "Michael Jackson is innocent. Period."
And Michael's brother Marlon said this to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARLON JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S BROTHER: The makers of this film. They were not interested in trying to finding the evidence. They were corroborating this documentary.
We were available, I mean, others were available to talk (INAUDIBLE). I think you would want to get another side of the story. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: HBO released a statement saying -- quote -- "Despite the desperate lengths taken undermine the film. HBO will move forward with the airing. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves."
Joining me now is journalist Diane Dimond, author of the book "Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case."
Diane, let's just remind people back when I had hair you have owned this story, 1993, you are the one who brought us the news of the Jordan Chandler lawsuit.
DIANE DIMOND, AUTHOR, "BE CAREFUL WHO YOU LOVE: INSIDE THE MICHAEL JACKSON CASE": Right.
SMERCONISH: You know these two. How surprised are you by these new revelations?
DIMOND: Not at all. Not at all. I mean, I don't say that with any glee. But I'm not surprised at all.
You know, I was looking through the book as I was waiting to come on with you, and I write about Safechuck. I write about Robson in this book. Page after page after page as these two being two of the young boys who were alleged to have been molested by Michael Jackson. Years and years and years ago.
I quote, maids and Neverland employees. And so am I surprised? Michael, no, not at all.
SMERCONISH: Well, one of them was the star witness in the criminal case.
DIMOND: Yes, I was in the courtroom when Wade Robson took the stand, he was the lead defense witness, said nothing terrible ever happened with Michael when Michael's attorney was questioning him. But then on cross examination, I watched Wade Robson's persona completely change and under questioning by the district attorney, Ron Zonen, he really kind of crumbled. And I thought to myself at that time, boy, I wonder if this guy will ever come forward and tell what really happened at Neverland.
And don't forget, now there are five. There are five young boys, Jordan Chandler. There was a boy at the -- well, he was a man at the trial, Jason Francia, a maid's son. There is Gavin Arvizo. There is Wade Robson, Jimmy Safechuck. There are five men now who are all telling similar stories so is everybody lying?
SMERCONISH: Right. I was going to say -- right, they tell a similar story and Diane, I have to say this documentary is every bit about Safechuck and Robson as it is their families.
SMERCONISH: And I think that's such an important ingredient here because the mothers carry enormous guilt from not having stepped in, interceded and cut Michael Jackson off from the access. I thought that was the dynamic that was most revealing at least to me as I watched.
SMERCONISH: Here's the question, though, because now you raise a good issue. You say there are five who've told the same story. Of course, Corey Feldman and Macaulay Culkin spent a lot of time with Michael Jackson. I make this very clear they denied that was ever anything inappropriate that went on between them and Jackson.
But I am wondering, who else, if anybody, comes forward.
DIMOND: You know, I have a copy of my book that I keep just for me. And in the back, I write a bunch of names of young boys who I suspect may now come forward. And it's a long list. It's like 24 names.
So are there going to be more come forward? Maybe. I think if -- the take away on this is, for people who say, why are they coming forward now? Have we learned nothing about the way child victims report?
Look at all the priestly sex abuse cases. Twenty, 30 years later young boys who were molested finally come forward. It's especially hard for young boys to talk about their sexual molestation. So we shouldn't be surprised that they come forward at this late date. I wouldn't be surprised if there is more coming forward.
SMERCONISH: Of course the response from the Jackson estate or attorneys would be the old were you lying then or are you lying now?
DIMOND: Yes, and Michael Jackson was found innocent. Not innocent but not guilty at that trial, I spent every day that that trial was on in that seat, watching. And he was found not guilty.
And the family will underscore that. But that doesn't mean things didn't happen. It just means that 12 people sitting in the box during that short period of time in history said, yes, we have reasonable doubt.
SMERCONISH: "Be Careful Who You Love." Thank you, Diane Dimond.
DIMOND: You bet.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments, hit me.
"Parents should be accountable. They had fame and money in their eyes." And Lisa Cosgrove Grigas, these mothers are carrying that burden. I mean, one of those fathers -- watch it for yourself, one of the fathers took his own life. He had other issues that were going on, but the harm that was done not only to the boys allegedly, reportedly, got to protect the license here but the entire families is incalculable.
I found it to be absolutely stunning. OK. I will come back there a moment with more social media reaction.
SMERCONISH: Hey, follow me on Twitter or hit my Facebook page and I can respond to your thoughts live and unscripted each week here. What do we have, Katherine (ph)?
"Smerconish, my guess is everyone watching you can read. So why say mf'er when the chyron shows the whole world?"
Really did we do that? Ray, I'm a Sirius XM guy where any and everything goes. I can only say this to the extent that you're being critical if we put the full word up on the chyron take it up with Rashida Tlaib, that's what she said about the president. You know, we're just reporting. What else?
"Smerconish, early presidents had slaves so should we take their names off everything as well?"
You know, JG, I had a caller address that issue just yesterday and his point was this and I thought that it made sense. What differentiates Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson from George Washington?
And the caller's comment which made a great deal of intuitive sense to me was it should be the totality of the person's record. What was their legacy and I guess the same thing you could say about John Wayne. Should we judge him for several really offensive paragraphs in a 1971 "Rolling Stone" magazine interview or by the totality of his life?
Another one if we have time.
"Enough. Can we not just leave John Wayne, Michael Jackson, and others to RIP with the many faults they had?"
I see Wayne and Jackson differently. The victims of Jackson alleged are still with us and carrying the weight of what they say he did to them.
Thanks for all those comments. You can catch up with us anytime on CNN Go and On Demand. See you next week.