Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Claims He Made Juneteenth Famous, "Nobody Had Ever Heard of It"; ESPN Host, Elle Duncan, Discusses Fauci Warning Possibly No NFL Season Due to Virus, WNBA's Renee Montgomery Fighting for Social Justice, Moore's Own Experience with Discrimination; Guy Snodgrass, Former Chief Speechwriter to Secretary James Mattis & Author, Discusses John Bolton's New Book Bashing Trump. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired June 18, 2020 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": When it comes to systemic racism, that I understand -- and I think you are probably going to talk about it. -- that he's saying, well, there's some systemic --
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Yes.
LEMON: -- you can't have some systemic racism. It's a part of the system, which means there would be systemic racism.
I'm not surprised he knew nothing, pretended he did, and turned to his black person or friend or someone he knew to find out the information and took it as his own, which he does all the time.
KEILAR: You mean like it's darkly funny, right? Not funny, ha, ha?
LEMON: Not funny, ha, ha.
KEILAR: I don't find it funny at all, Don. You know, I mean, I laugh out of sort of discomfort with the idea that we are even having to discuss the president doesn't know what Juneteenth is when his White House --
LEMON: I look at it as a joke, Brianna. I laugh because it's a joke that the president has made a joke of a lot of himself. And, yes I understand what you are saying.
I think it's terrible he doesn't know. A lot of people, quite honestly, didn't now. They know now what Juneteenth is and was. It may not have been taught. Why not say I didn't know. Now I know. Not a big deal.
I think it's understandable. It's laughable. Because he makes a joke out of himself. But it's sad that he wouldn't know as a leader of the free world.
KEILAR: So you mentioned the systemic racism that Michael Bender of the "Wall Street Journal" reporter who asked him about this. And so the question was, this is the president's quote, response, Don, was, "I'd like to think there's not. But unfortunately, there probably is some. I would also say it's very substantially less than it used to be."
And I mean, put this into context, right? He has all of these aides around him who are saying there's no systemic racism in the system, even in his White House.
This is what I find startling. He is there in a him radio. He doesn't have anyone really in his White House who is black and can sort of clue him in on some of these things?
Isn't that sort of an example right there of systemic racism?
LEMON: Ha, ha, how are you so smart, Brianna.
KEILAR: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: I don't really have to say anything after what you've just said. Because, yes, there's an example. And all one has to do is look at the makeup. Take, look at a picture of people who are in the White House who are his senior advisers, who are his military leaders, people in his ear who are in his inner circle every single day. Then there is, in itself, an exam of systemic racism.
One of his only advisers, who's African -- and I spoke with Ja'Ron Smith the other day who is in the White House. I would hope Ja'Ron, at some level, is trying to educate the president about this.
I think it's tough when you have people around you, who look like you, who only represent your interests, who get on television and say, quite boldly, with no shame, that there's no -- that there's no systemic racism in this country.
First, first of all, I think the president should get a dictionary to look up what systemic means. And then he would realize you can't say I think there's some systemic racism and that it is better than before. It doesn't really work that way.
Now, if he had said, racism, where it is improving in some areas and we need to and we need to work on it in other areas, then I would say, OK. But to say that there's some systemic racism, but that doesn't make any sense at all.
KEILAR: You saw this in the last hour, Don, that Facebook has taken down some Trump campaign ads.
And this is the quote for it. Right. They said this, quote, "Violating their policy against organized hate." And that's because the image, one of the images that was in this ad, is one that the Anti-Defamation League -- which you know you can go and look, they have them listed out -- they say this is identical to a Nazi symbol.
I wonder, how did that happen? Not that you know the answer to that, but how can that be explained away? LEMON: Well, it goes back to your answer about systemic racism. In
that he doesn't realize or the people around him or the people who are part of his campaign, whoever this is, who works for the Trump team, they don't understand what they're putting out and how it may be offensive. Or they're doing it on purpose.
Because if you don't know what a Nazi symbol or a swastika and on and on, if you don't know what that represents, or even a Confederate flag, then you probably need some -- you need to be educated about it. And maybe you shouldn't be working for someone who is supposed to be the leader and representing and world for the American people.
How does that happen? I think it happens because that's exactly what they want to put out. That's what they want to send out.
And I think Facebook and many other social media sites have just gone along with it and not called him out on it, not had precaution or procedures in place, not taken it down before. And now they're realizing what is happening in the country, how the country feels about this, how the American people feel about it. And they're saying, all of a sudden, whoa, we better take care of this. I don't think it's an accident.
KEILAR: Do you think his campaign is purposely putting out a Nazi symbol?
LEMON: I think they are purposely putting out that. I don't know if it's a wink and a nod. Yes, they are purposely putting it out.
If they are not smart enough to realize what it looks like or represents, then what does that say to you? I don't really have to answer that question.
They're doing exactly what they want to do. Wouldn't you? If you saw that symbol, Brianna, wouldn't you know, when you say, hey, well, hmm, I don't know if we should be --
KEILAR: Should they double check it?
LEMON: Of course, they would. Of course, you would.
KEILAR: Don Lemon. Hey, thank you so much. I just want to plug your new --
LEMON: Don't forget about my podcast, yes. I want to talk about that. I hope you will listen.
KEILAR: Here it is, look how gorgeous you look there. "Silence Is Not an Option" with Don Lemon.
LEMON: Amazing conversations on this podcast.
KEILAR: It's amazing. Tell us a little about it.
LEMON: Oh, OK. I thought you were kicking me out.
KEILAR: No. I mean, I was going to, but are you Don Lemon, so. Tell me.
LEMON: We have fun. C'mon, how long have we known each other? Forever? We used to do CrossFit together. Remember? I mean, c'mon.
KEILAR: Once, you got me to do it once. Now tell me about your podcast. Tell me about your podcast.
LEMON: So my podcast is, we're going to have some conversations about race. Because many want to know, what to do, how to be better. I have a lot of people writing me, what do I do?
I'm sorry, I didn't especially with my white friends so I will give them tools. We will give them a space where people can come and hear those conversations, where they don't have to be embarrassed about asking questions so on and so forth.
We have Rex Kindi (ph), a historian and professor on race, who will talk with me about that. Also Christopher Petrella (ph), who teaches history at American University, who happens to be white, will give advice to white people what to do in this moment and beyond. Tangible things to make things better going forward.
And there you go.
KEILAR: Awesome, Don. That is fantastic.
Thank you so much. We will be listening. Always great to see you.
LEMON: I love seeing and talking to you. We should do this more often, Brianna.
KEILAR: OK. Sounds good.
So the nation's top infectious disease expert says he can't see an area where football could come back this fall.
Plus, a WNBA star says she is taking some time off to talk about racial issues. We'll talk about it with ESPN host, Elle Duncan, who is also sharing her own experiences with discrimination.
KEILAR: The country's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci just warned, with the uptick in new coronavirus cases and the threat of a second wave of infections, there may not be a football season. The 2020 NFL season is supposed to start September 10th. But players
with the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans have already contracted and tested positive for coronavirus.
Elle Duncan is an ESPN "Sports Center" anchor, here to discuss with us.
Elle, thank you for coming on.
ELLE DUNCAN, ESPN HOST, "SPORTS CENTER": Yes, thank you for having me, Brianna.
KEILAR: You know this is coming from Dr. Fauci. He is a big sports fan. He previously said he couldn't wait for sport to come back. I know so many Americans who feel the same way as him. So how might his comments here impact what the NFL does next?
DUNCAN: It's interesting because the NFL has been the one sport this entire time, where there's been so many question marks, if and when we get sports back, have stayed according to plan.
They were undeterred when it came to having the draft. They have not been on the postponement train at all. They certain made adjustments to OTAs and organized activities and what training camp would look like and reopening of facilities.
They, for months, stood by the fact, there was always going to be a season, it was going to start on time, while also preaching that they would be willing to adjust.
And I sort of -- what we continue to hear throughout all the sports is that everyone is remaining nimble. Everyone need to be prepared for what happens when the inevitable happens, which is that their players will test positive for coronavirus. We've seen that with Ezekiel Elliot (ph), a Broncos football player that tested positive for COVID as well.
I think, Brianna, the advantage the NFL had is you will see the return of almost all sport -- we will see about baseball -- weeks before they are set to kick off.
DUNCAN: So the NBA, I believe, will be able to offer them a little bit more perspective. That 100-page document that came out in the NBA, how they're approaching this season, might prove beneficial to the NFL as they prove as well.
KEILAR: They'll have test cases.
I want to ask you about Renee Montgomery, the straw guard for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA. Just announced she is going to sit out the 2020 season to work on social justice reform through her non-profit foundation. I wonder what your reaction is. Has anyone ever done anything like this? DUNCAN: Maya Moore, one of the biggest names in the WNBA, has
essentially given up her career over the last couple of seasons to fate for criminal justice reform and has done an incredible job doing that.
But, we have I'm really conflicted honestly when it comes to this, on the one hand, I think the selfishness of Renee is incredible. She is giving up something she's worked her whole life for, something that means a great deal, her livelihood.
I'm conflicted. It seems like black people are the ones that have to sacrifice. I hope she is doing this because she feels like this is her calling and she has found her purpose and she is not doing it because she feels like she has to ride the momentum while people still care. Because I am hopeful that this is not just a moment but rather a movement.
So, if she's doing this because she thinks that she is -- can use her resources to better serve her communities, then I'm all for it. But I hope she's not doing it, I have to strike when the iron is hot, no one will care in a few months from now.
KEILAR: That's a real question. We have seen with other movements. Is this one different?
So I want to talk to you about your personal experience. As we are watching what is going on around the country, you opened up. You recently wrote about, opened up about your experiences with bias while you were living and working in Boston. And you actually chose to quit your job rather than continue to face that. Tell us about this.
DUNCAN: Yes. I, it's something I sort of have been holding on to for many years. I have been at ESPN for years now. I left Boston in 2016. Frankly, I wasn't looking for validation when I decided to finally speak out publicly about this because I know what happened.
I know how I felt. I know what living there meant to me professionally and it was fantastic. But I also know what it did to me and my husband personally. It was a difficult time for sure.
And I think that what I'm struggling with the most right now is again these conflicted feelings of saying to myself, there has been such this outpouring of support, and that's who I am focusing on, right, the people in my D.M.s, e-mailing me, saying thank you for vocalizing what I have always felt.
Boston has a reputation, at least the vocal minorities. Nobody is claiming the entire season of Boston is racist. But the vocal minority are very quick to try to defer and deflect. They try to sort of, you know, vehemently deny racism even exists. They try to tear you apart, kill the messenger than accept the message.
So I find myself not being as defensive as some of those people are. But it was very difficult. I understand that racism is prevalent in every single area of this country.
I think what was really daunting about help and my husband's time in Boston was the frequency with which we were having these experience and the overtness. I mean, we are both from Georgia.
KEILAR: Like what? Tell us about the experiences. Tell us about the experiences.
DUNCAN: Yes. It would be -- you know, there would be some sort of passive experiences where it was, you know, would be the things that you just know. Like you are finding it a very difficult for a waitress to sit you at the window.
In Boston, when it's nice outside, you want to do the indoor/outdoor seating and the restaurant is empty and she sits you by the bathroom and says no one can help you and you have to sit at the back of the restaurant, you need a manager involved.
Or my husband walking down the street in downtown Boston with a friend and a van with number of guys pulling up next to him, doing the Nazi salute at him while they barked. Or being in an Uber with some friends and the Uber driver find out you are from Georgia, she says, oh, aren't they down there picking cotton and eating fried chicken. Which absolutely happened.
Or you walk into a restaurant, and what happened to my husband, we were there to pick up takeout. Two men stood in front of the door tried to intimidate him and tell him, you're in the wrong place. He had to sort of move them out of the way to go pick up our food.
Or it would be you know sort of these -- you know what a microaggression, someone walking up to you and being like, are you from Dorchester? Which, of course, is a predominantly black area of Boston.
So I understand that not all of our encounters were racist. But like I said, the frequency of which they were happening in the first six or seven months that we lived there, really put us in a place we were always on guard.
We were always prepared when we walked out of the house. What are we going to deal with today? In the best-case scenario, it would be absolutely nothing and we'd have a great time. In the worst-case scenario, it would be an encounter like I just described.
So it was for the betterment of my family to choose to leave. I knew I could regroup back in Atlanta. We were moving to Atlanta. Thankfully, it didn't come to that. As we were moving to Atlanta, I got a call at ESPN that I got an audition there. It all worked out in the end.
KEILAR: Thank goodness for that.
I want you to come on and tell us about your experience and also all of the happenings in the sport world right now. It's a really dynamic time.
So, Elle Duncan, thank you.
Let's check her out. Right. You can catch her in "Time for Change, We Won't be Defeated," a special about intersections of sport, race and culture. And that is Wednesday on ESPN.
DUNCAN: It is. Thank you so - yes, thank you so much. We'll see you next Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
KEILAR: All right, we'll see you. Thank you so much.
Next, a former Pentagon official who served in the Trump administration joins me live to talk about the damning claims in a new book by John Bolton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't think he's fit for office. I don't think he has the competence to carry out the job.
There really isn't any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what's good for Donald Trump's reelection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: That is just one of the damning claims John Bolton in his new book makes about President Trump. He details how the president asked China for re-election help and encouraged the Chinese to build concentration camps for its Muslim population.
Bolton says Trump argued that Venezuela is part of the U.S., that he's willing to intervene in court cases to help friendly dictators. And that the president's own senior officials mock him behind his back.
Joining me to discuss is Guy Snodgrass, the former chief speechwriter to Secretary Mattis and the author of the book "Holding the Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon."
Guy, thanks for being with us.
Bolton is, as you know, getting attacked by the administration. They say he's lying. I wonder if this, what he's saying, what some of the things in the book, does this match what you have seen?
GUY SNODGRASS, FORMER CHIEF SPEECHWRITER TO SECRETARY JAMES MATTIS: Right. I mean, I'm going off, like, all American, just what I've seen reported so far across different media outlets.
I would tell you from my year and a half experience in the Trump administration, it has a ring of truth to it. I read the excerpts you mentioned at the top of segment that lines up with the experience I had when working with Secretary Mattis in the Pentagon.
KEILAR: Did you witness any of the moments from the excerpts of the book we've seen so far?
SNODGRASS: Like I said, I haven't seen an advance copy of the book and haven't had a chance to read through the entirety of the anecdotes he presents.
One I was present for, when he talks about the June 2018 trip to Brussels. A trip where you had not only the secretary of state but you had President Donald Trump, Secretary Mattis there for the NATO ministerial. This is the one Bolton relays where Trump was threatening to withdraw the U.S. from NATO. I was present for that. So far, what I've seen from his anecdote, it's how it happened.
KEILAR: Bolton has been mired, really in this book review process. You went through a book review process pretty arduous as well before you came to agreement.
Were you ever warned of consequences by the White House about publishing anything that maybe they didn't want to or thought shouldn't be in the book?
SNODGRASS: Well, like you mentioned, when you've had a top secret, in this case, security clearance, you sign a non-disclosure agreement. That the Department of Justice raised as a significant concern, that Ambassador Bolton signed a non-disclosure agreement. Had submitted his book for review and decided to step away from the process before it was completed.
That's where our two experiences differ. I signed the same non- disclosures he did. I knew when I was writing a book about current events, especially about events that could national. possibly international significance, you need to send that manuscript in for review.
Ironically, it went through the State Department, national security administration at the White House -- excuse me, National Security Council at the White House, and it was handled by Department of Defense at the Pentagon.
Ironically, Ambassador Bolton was, from the White House standpoint the only one who asked to make a revision. It was not due to anything classified. It was simply because I quote Ambassador Bolton during a meeting at the Pentagon with Secretary Mattis where he talked about an overseas ally.
It wasn't a flattering comment so he reached out to ask, would you mind pulling that back out of the manuscript because it would be difficult for future negotiating positions. I said, absolutely, happy to. That's where we differ. It can be arduous process. There's a lot of ongoing diplomacy,
discussions with other nations, domestic discussions.
When you write about such things, you have to take some measure of care how you treat that material.
KEILAR: Guy, thank you so much. Guy Snodgrass, we appreciate you being here.
We're back in a moment.
SNODGRASS: Thank you.