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Is Perception Of Crime In America Being Driven More By Statistics Or Stories?; Did SCOTUS Pave Way For Presidents To Dodge The Law With DACA Ruling?; "Operation Warp Speed" Pledges Billions For Vaccines; Will Americans Be Ready To Take A COVID Vaccine?; Does Posting BLM Signs Help Or Hurt Businesses? Aired 9-10a ET
Aired July 25, 2020 - 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: Does perception match reality? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. These days, it's tough to watch the news. Last weekend, 15 people shot at a funeral in Chicago, then three fishing buddies shot to death in Florida. In Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, other cities, shooting victims have included children. For example, on July 12 in Brooklyn, a one-year-old boy killed by gunfire in his stroller while picnicking with his family.
And of course, for 58 straight nights there's been protesting sometimes violence, rioting and looting in 16 square blocks of downtown Portland. The conflict between law enforcement and the protesters is not letting up. Last night, federal troops again clashed with thousands of Portland protesters. In the early hours of Thursday morning, the city's mayor got caught up in the fray and was among those who were tear gassed.
Three hours north in Seattle, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or CHAZ was cleared July 1st after a series of violent events, including the death of a teenager. And of course, Seattle and Portland followed Minneapolis where the killing of George Floyd sparked days of tumult and protests, both peaceful and violent, across the country.
Perhaps it's no wonder then that President Trump has sought to portray himself as the thin blue line that separates order from anarchy. At yesterday's presser, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany played a video so full of violence that "Fox News" execs decided to pull away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These are not the actions of so-called peaceful protesters and the Trump administration will not stand by and allow anarchy in our streets. Law and order will prevail, and I have a short video for you because I want it to be real, what is happening right now in Portland. So if we could play that video, that'd be great.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. We were not expecting that video and our management here at "Fox News" has decided we will pull away from that at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: "Fox's daytime programming decision at odds with nighttime programming which seems to play imagery of mayhem on a loop. Seeking to capitalize on this perception of chaos, the Trump campaign spent $550000 in just the first two days of the week on a new ad. It shows an elderly woman who calls police in response to a home invader, then drops her phone before anybody answers.
An earlier version of that spot shows a split screen depicting violence on one side and an empty 911 call center on the other. The claim is that Joe Biden will bring about this end. The tagline, "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."
It's all disconcerting to watch, right? And it would be easy to conclude that we're living in a terribly dangerous time, but does perception match reality? Frankly, I don't know. Consider this story from "The Oregonian" titled "Feds, right-wing media paint Portland as 'city under siege.'
A tour of town shows otherwise." It says that many Portlanders denounce the national media's coverage of the city's protests, claiming that while graffiti is typical and occasional clashes with police do occur, stories of violence are exaggerated.
No doubt there has been an uptick in street violence and rioting in certain cities as we're having a necessary conversation about social justice and doing so in the midst of a pandemic. And by the way, I've got zero tolerance for any of the mayhem that I've seen depicted and I believe that local law enforcement needs to take control, but is the perception of widespread lawlessness supported by the data?
The portrayal of violence on the streets of America in the summer of 2020 makes me wonder if we're witnessing a replay of the summer of 2001. You remember? The summer of the shark. It all began on July 6th when eight-year-old Jessie Arbogast had his arm ripped off by a shark.
From then on, every incident involving the frightening fish, no matter the severity, was covered and scrutinized. George Burgess, the director of the "International Shark Attack File," says he received three times the typical number of media inquiries that summer, totaling 900.
It was all that anybody could talk about until the tragic events of September 11 knocked the shark out of the news. In the end, the total number of attacks that year? Seventy-six worldwide, nine fewer than the year before. The number of shark-related fatalities actually decreased that year, going from 12 in the year 2000 to five in 2001.
Or you could think about last year when reports of American deaths in the Dominican Republic led to terrifying headlines, conspiracy theories and a crash in tourism to the country when 10 Americans died in the DR between January and June of 2019, some from natural causes, some maybe not.
If you look at the raw numbers, these deaths, while tragic, are not out of the ordinary. According to the State Department, 13 Americans died in the DR in 2018. That's from non-natural causes, meaning the actual number could be higher. In 2017, the State Department said that 17 Americans died on the island from non-natural causes.
While there may be suspicious circumstances around some of those deaths, the State Department released a statement and it said this, "We do not publish statistics regarding natural deaths abroad. However, speaking generally, over 2.7 million U.S. citizens visit the Dominican Republic each year and we have not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths reported to department."
Bottom line is this -- despite the hysteria, American deaths in the DR were not on the rise last year and my point is we need to make sure our perceptions are based on statistics and not on stories and the stats that will matter most won't be out until next year.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com this hour and answer this week's survey question. Is perception of crime in America being driven more by statistics or stories? In the meantime, I know who I want to ask about perception versus reality.
Steven Pinker is a Harvard psychologist whose last two books have thematically dealt with human progress. In his book "The Better Angels of Our Nature," Dr. Pinker argued that the modern era is less violent, less cruel, more peaceful than any previous period of human existence. So what does he think now? Dr. Pinker is joining me.
So Dr. Pinker you heard my commentary. What gut reaction do you have to what I've just said?
STEVEN PINKER, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, the basic principle of cognitive psychology is that stories always drive perceptions rather than statistics. It's called the availability bias. The more quickly you can recall an image, an anecdote, a narrative from memory, the more common you think it is. That's just the way the human mind works and so our perception of risk and danger is driven by horrible images like shark attacks.
Great for me here in Cape Cod. I can get a parking spot on a beach, but it's out of whack with the actual dangers where risks like falling off ladders and getting into car crashes are far higher than the risk of getting eaten by a shark or being shot in a rampage shooting.
SMERCONISH: So, what does the data show? I had wished to bring to the CNN audience this morning a good overview of the data and frankly, much of what I was reading as a layperson seemed contradictory. It did seem to me that violence is up in some cities, but I'd rather rely on your judgment. How do you read those tea leaves?
PINKER: Well, it looks -- as you said, we're not going to get the data for this year until next year from the FBI. It looks as if violence is up a bit. It might take us back to the level of, say, 2006 if it continues at this rate. So, it's a little bit higher than it was last year, but still way lower than it was in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s.
In the United States, we have seen pretty dramatic declines in violence, once in the '90s, again from 2005 to about 2015. So, it's creeping up a little bit, but it's not even going to take us back to how bad it was in the 1990s or turn of the Millennium.
SMERCONISH: You argue in "Better Angels of Our Nature" that historically viewed, these are the best of times. That book came out about a decade ago. Do you still hold to the thesis?
PINKER: Well, you have to break it down by different kinds of violence because they're not all the same. War is not the same as homicides, it's not the same as child abuse and so on, but most of -- many of the data continue to go down. So the rate of death in war after creeping up because of the Syrian civil war has started to come back down again and it's a fraction of what it was in the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s.
The American homicide rate crept up by a couple of percentage points, but then came back down again. May ease up a little bit this year, but still not even as bad as it was a decade ago. Other things like domestic violence, child abuse, even hate crimes are overall down compared to 10, 20 years ago.
SMERCONISH: Speak to the criticism that will come from the Twitter mob for both of us that will say you're joking, right? Aren't you seeing that footage from Portland night after night after night?
PINKER: Well, indeed and if you edit footage, you can terrify people about just about anything. So more people are killed every year by allergic reactions to stings from bees, wasps and hornets than from terrorist attacks and if you had a clip of all of -- one person after another who got stung by a bee and died from an allergic reaction, we'd all be terrified of killer bees.
So selective editing can make an audience afraid of anything. We don't easily consume statistics and I think the press don't present them enough. It's the images that grab people's attention, but of course it's the data that determine your actual risk.
SMERCONISH: Well, I guess statistics, and this goes back to where you began, just don't have the ability to hold our attention as does an image of a woman on a phone who looks like all of our mother and for God's sakes, we wish someone would pick it up and send the police.
PINKER: Indeed. Narratives, even fictitious narratives, really log in our brains. We don't easily consume statistics, although we can. Sports fans have no problems with statistics and people who read the business page, even people who read the weather report. So, I would like to see the media report more data on trends. Whenever there is a vivid, gory incident, it should be presented in the context of what the trends are like.
Overall, the trend for violence in the United States is down, although there are ups and downs. This year, there'll be a little bit of an up, but again, how bad was it in 2006? That's the worst-case scenario for what this year might turn out to be.
SMERCONISH: OK. My takeaway from Dr. Pinker is thus far, the statistics are a mixed bag. We really won't know until next year and that you don't believe that we are in a crisis now that equates with the '60s through the '90s. Fair?
PINKER: Yes. The real crisis is COVID which is we're probably 15 times more likely to die of COVID than a homicide. That is -- there the statistics really do back up the danger this year.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Pinker, thank you so much for your time.
PINKER: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my website and we will share some throughout the course of the program. What do we have Catherine? From Facebook, eh? "The country is not on fire. Stop spreading Trump's lies about Biden's position on the police." You're not directing that to me, are you, Robert? "The police in most areas are trained to doing a fine job. Nobody advocates against them doing their jobs properly."
I am all for good cops and I do believe that we've painted with a broad brush negativity about all police and that's not right. We need to weed out the bad seeds and support the vast, vast majority who are that thin blue line and keeping us safe. I agree with that sentiment.
One more if I've got time. "Smerconish, you really should change your show to the 'Trump Defense Hour.' There, I said it." Reginald, are you blanking me? I just came on the air and I delivered a six-minute opening monitor -- opening monologue. I'm tongue-tied.
You're making me tongue-tied. I'm getting hostile -- in which I said, hey, I'm seeing this commercial, a series of commercials and I'm watching the presentation on another network and I'm worried that it's not supported in data and it's scaring the crap out of Americans. And your takeaway is to say, you're defending him again? Come on. Go watch it again.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com and answer this week's survey question. Is perception of crime in America being driven more by statistics or stories?
Up ahead, the U.S. government is full speed ahead in the race for a vaccine, but fastest does not always equal best. I'll ask what happens if a better vaccine is produced after we've spent big money on a deal with a different company.
And a recent Supreme Court ruling didn't go in President Trump's favor. They blocked the administration from ending DACA, but my guest wrote a piece saying the Scotus ruling actually handed President Trump more power. Berkeley Law professor -- there he is -- John Yoo joins me to discuss. And the president is taking note of his assessment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Supreme Court gave the president of the United States powers that nobody thought the president had by approving, by doing what they did, their decision on DACA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: The President's efforts to use federal troops to quell domestic civil unrest sparked controversy this week. Speaking on my "Sirius XM" radio program, the nation's first secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge, made headlines when he said this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TOM RIDGE, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The department was established to protect America from the ever-present threat of global terrorism. It was not established to be the president's personal militia. Be a cold day in Hell before I would consent to an unilateral, uninvited intervention into one of my cities."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: On the subject of presidential power, John Yoo is no stranger to controversy. He's the former deputy assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush. You'll recall that it was he who provided the legal justification for enhanced interrogation methods of suspected terrorists post September 11.
Writing recently for "National Review," John Yoo zeroed in on a recent Supreme Court ruling that blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA, an Obama-era immigration program. He argued this ruling would enable a president to evade Congress and impose their own policies in other contexts. Quote, "According to Chief Justice Roberts, the Constitution makes it easy for presidents to violate the law, but reversing such violations difficult, especially for their successors."
"Axios" reported this week that his article was spied on the Oval Office desk of President Trump who'd been discussing it with aids. Critics were quick to pounce.
Ruth Marcus for one writing for "The Washington Post" said, "This is ridiculous. Yoo dismisses DACA as 'illegal presidential action,' which is mighty rich coming from someone who concluded that the president, as chief executive, could not be bound by criminal statute outlawing torture -- indeed, could order the massacre of a village of civilians."
John Yoo is now a Berkeley Law professor. He's the author of a brand- new book, "Defender in Chief: Donald Trump's Fight for Presidential Power" and he joins me now. Professor, thanks for being here. Have you ever met a presidential power that you don't like?
JOHN YOO, FORMER DEPUTY ASST. A.G. UNDER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I'd say this one. I would say DACA itself. If you remember -- and look, I sympathize with the plight of the Dreamers, but I think that's a decision how many people to let in the country, what kind of people to let in the country, that's up to Congress under our Constitution. Nevertheless, President Obama went forward and created a wholly new category of people who could stay in the country just by refusing to enforce the immigration laws.
At the time, I thought it was unconstitutional. I thought the Supreme Court would immediately allow President Trump -- just like President Obama created the program, allow the next president to undo it, but instead, the Supreme Court, as you noted, Michael, said no, actually President Trump has to use a process that's going to take two or three years. In fact, President Trump hasn't been able to undo DACA during his entire term of office. I think that's presidential power that's gone too far.
SMERCONISH: What could a president do -- paint something tangible for the viewing audience maybe not familiar with the legal nitty gritty of this. What might a president logically do based on your interpretation of this decision?
YOO: Well, think about what President Obama did. He said I'm going to allow roughly anywhere from 2 to 6 million aliens who are in the country illegally to stay by not enforcing the immigration laws. Suppose President Trump now comes in and says I'm going to create my own new program, my new own -- my own new criteria for who gets to stay in the country.
I think, mind you, I'd be happy with that because I'd like to see more immigrants allowed to stay in the country. Suppose he says I'm going to make it skills-based or assets-based. You bring money, invest in American business, you can stay. You get a degree in computer science or in mathematics from an American university, you can stay. I'm just not going to enforce the immigration laws against you.
And all I'm saying in the opinion piece and I'm saying here with you, Michael, is that if the rule is good enough for President Obama, why isn't it good enough for President Trump? Why can't the presidents of both parties be allowed to reset immigration policy now that the Supreme Court has said that future presidents have to take years to undo those kinds of programs?
SMERCONISH: Well, and I would discourage viewers from either cheering or opposing that based on whether they like or dislike President Trump because if it's President Biden, he'll be able to do likewise. I have a different question for you on the subject of presidential power. If President Trump were to call John Yoo at Berkeley now and say Chicago's gone too far, I want to send in federal troops to quell the violence. What would you tell him about his authority to do so?
YOO: Well, first, Berkeley would probably fire me if they let such a phone call get to my office, but second ...
YOO: ... it goes to your question that you started out with -- what can presidents do and not do? Presidents, like the federal government, don't have the constitutional authority just to maintain law and order in every city and town in America. As you noted in your first segment, that is primarily the job of state and local officials under our Constitution.
The federal role is narrow. It is, A, protecting federal buildings, federal personnel, B, enforcing federal criminal law which is narrow which is more about getting interstate gangs, interstate criminal groups, enforcing the drug laws.
If a federal role in Chicago is to happen, it has to be limited to those two areas. Federal government doesn't have the constitutional authority just to go around the country and try to reduce murder or robbery or violent crime rates. That's up to the elected officials in Chicago and Illinois or here in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.
SMERCONISH: OK. And I shared with the audience the "Axios" reporting that your piece in "National Review" was spied on the Resolute desk. By the way, first of all, do you know? Is that true?
YOO: Well, I have -- people are always criticizing President Trump for not reading enough. Now they don't want him to read anymore. I don't see why it's a surprise. I mean, I expect President Trump probably reads articles about presidential power.
I assume he was really upset about the Supreme Court decision. People from the White House did call me about this question right after the piece occurred, so maybe they slipped it onto his desk and asked him to read it.
SMERCONISH: OK. So that's a confirmation that they are paying attention to your advice.
Did I just then understand you to say that the answer is if he wants to go into Chicago, and I assume I can apply that to Seattle or to Portland or any other city, only in very narrow basis can he do so, protecting a federal courthouse or I guess you were implying some type of a RICO basis for gang activity, but that's awfully, awfully confined, right?
YOO: Yes, it is and in fact, you can imagine how difficult that is if state and local officials actually oppose the federal government because federal officials need the kind of cooperation from state and local officers to become -- to be effective.
SMERCONISH: So I'm hearing you pretty much then come to the same conclusion if I can go full circle, maybe in less colorful language, then Secretary Governor Tom Ridge shared with me on my radio program which is to say the president really can't do it.
YOO: I don't fully agree with Governor Ridge because I read him to say he would never send in troops, never send in personnel, never send in law enforcement unless he had the permission of the governors. Now, that's not quite right either because just like Philadelphia or Chicago could be a sanctuary city and not cooperate with the Feds, state and local officials can't actually block federal authorities from coming in and enforcing federal law. That's a lesson we learned in the Civil War and reconstruction, but to be effective, you want cooperation between both.
SMERCONISH: Professor Yoo, good luck with the book. Thank you.
YOO: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: I want to remind folks to go to my website at Smerconish.com. Answer the question this hour. Is perception of crime in America being driven more by statistics or by stories?
Up ahead, in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, the government has committed billions of dollars to complete -- to competing companies. If and when one wins, what happens to the others?
And when businesses around America feel compelled to express sympathy for Black Lives Matter, maybe they hope in part they're boosting sales. Some have run into this kind of community reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm making a protest. All lives matter. All lives matter. All lives matter. All lives matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: In operation warp speed, the president's accelerated race for the coronavirus vaccine, the government is promising billions with multiple companies to produce multiple vaccine candidates based on the assumption that some may not work in order to speed the release of the one that does. So, what if we make deals with one company and another comes out with a better vaccine? And will Americans really be ready to take it?
Joining me now is Gerald Posner. He's the author of the recent book "Pharma: Greed, Lies and the Poisoning of America." Gerald, why is the government cutting these deals now?
GERALD POSNER, AUTHOR, "PHARMA: GREED, LIES, AND THE POISONING OF AMERICA": Michael, they're cutting them now because they want to make sure that when the vaccine is approved there's no question that Americans will be able to get it. I say in some reasons it's based on the French.
Just a few months ago the U.S. government they gave about a quarter billion dollars to Sanofi, the French pharmaceutical company, to develop a vaccine for COVID with the idea that Americans would be first in line to get it and then President Macron called in Sanofi's CEO in May in Paris and said, look, you're a French company, you're going to give it to the French first. And so Sanofi agreed.
So, we realize then that the U.S. government who give money to companies to develop the drug they don't necessarily come back and put you first in line, you got to sign contracts with them and that's what they're doing now in the Trump administration.
SMERCONISH: Well, that sounds pretty forward thinking then. Are we making deals with companies, where we owe them the money, even if they don't come up with it?
POSNER: No. The good news is that not even government negotiators as bad as they can sometimes be hit a deal that said we have to pay you even if don't get approved by the FDA. We only have to pay for these deals if they get a vaccine that is safe and effective. So, that's good news. Otherwise, we keep the money.
The real question here is they, the government, they're spreading taxpayer money out among a number of players. So, $4 billion of taxpayer money has been flooded into a number of companies because the hope is that one of them will be first to cross the line. We don't know which one.
As a matter of fact in one case, $2 billion has gone to two different companies, Moderna and Novavax, that have never brought a product to market. That's pretty remarkable. Now, they have interesting vaccine technology but we're gambling a lot of money sometimes on these companies on real hope that it's going to happen, but we're not sure.
SMERCONISH: OK. That begs another question. So, what if we pick a winner, a company that develops the first vaccine but all of a sudden another company comes out with a more effective vaccine? What does that do to the dynamic?
POSNER: Yes, you know, the fortunate part for vaccine makers is it's not like blood pressure where you go into your doctor and you get your blood pressure reading and it's an exact figure. Vaccines you can argue a little bit about which one is better or worse than another.
So, for instance, one may produce more natural antibodies that will help the body fight off the coronavirus. But another may produce some T-cell response which is another way to boost the body's ability to fight off the coronavirus. One may have fewer side effects. But it's very difficult.
Let's say Pfizer crosses the line first. We start using the Pfizer vaccine. And then all of a sudden, you got Johnson & Johnson with their vaccine and they say, ours is better. Maybe the immunity the last 14 months versus 12 months on average gives you a little bit less of a fever or a headache but it's not such a great difference that you say, I bought the wrong vaccine.
SMERCONISH: Gerald, I feel like I want to ask, if we build it, will come? I'm going to show you a clip with the president then you'll understand why I'm saying that. [09:35:02]
Roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The way it works, if I'm the first one, they'll say he's so selfish, he wanted to get the vaccine first. And then other people would say, hey, that's a very brave thing to do. I would absolutely, if they wanted me to, if they thought it was right, I'd take it first or I'd take it last, Marc.
You know that if I take it first, I'll be -- either way I'll lose on that one, right? If I take it first and if I take it -- if I don't take it, they'll say he doesn't believe in the program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: He's probably right in that assessment. It reminds me that I did a call segment on my radio show recently, and I was very surprised at the high volume of callers who were dubious about a vaccine and their willingness to take it. And they were not anti- vaxxers. They were just a little concerned that this whole thing is happening so quickly and at warp speed. Your thoughts?
POSNER: Yes. Look, the good news is it's happening at warp speed. The bad news is it's happening at warp speed. Meaning that sometimes, you don't know what the vaccine -- what the possible side effects are until you actually start to give it out in very large numbers.
That happened in 1976 with the swine flu vaccine here in the U.S. After we gave 40 million inoculations we realized there was a neurological symptom that affected a few thousand people. And it was terrible for those who got it. So, I understand the hesitation.
But the good news is we don't have to have 100 percent of the country inoculated with the vaccine to get immunity or herd immunity against the coronavirus. We need 50 to 60 percent possibly.
So, the question is, will there be 50 to 60 percent of Americans eventually that will -- the vulnerable, those with co-morbid conditions, the elderly who will say I'm willing to take it? If they can get that number then across the country we can get the benefits of that vaccine.
SMERCONISH: Very quick, final question. In your book "Pharma" you are often critical of big pharma on the pricing subject. How is the Trump administration doing in the deals that they are cutting for pricing of a vaccine?
POSNER: Look, drug companies have a different definition of fair when it comes to pricing than we have, especially when taxpayers are paying for it.
Just last Tuesday, Michael, before Congress, some of the heads of these companies were asked directly, will you give it to the government at cost since we've given you billions of dollars? And they remarkably said, no. Moderna said no. Merck said no.
Moderna has received, you know, half a billion dollars and the NIH is working with them. And even Johnson & Johnson said, we won't charge for a profit during the pandemic. So, Pfizer who does the first deal with the government now, they could make in 2021 about $25 billion at the price they're charging, $19.50 a dose. That rivals their biggest selling drug of all time, Lipitor, a heart medication.
So, there's big money in this. And the government and Pfizer and other companies haven't told us what their cost is. So, we don't know if their price is fair or if they're gouging a little bit. That's unfortunate.
SMERCONISH: I hear you. I hear you. But if I'm also hearing you say 20 bucks a shot, that doesn't sound outrageous.
POSNER: No, it doesn't sound outrageous. So, it's all -- it's relative to this. The U.K. has done a deal with AstraZeneca, for instance, which has a vaccine product and its cost appears to be -- they're a little bit more transparent three, $3.00 to $4.00 a dose.
So, let's assume for a second -- or GlaxoSmithKline is under 10 is -- are we getting charged double the price by Pfizer? I'm not sure. Maybe that's a worthwhile price. But if companies are getting taxpayer money maybe the price should be a little lower the cost than the rollout.
Pfizer, I will say to their credit is the only company in the group that has not taken taxpayer money. All the rest of them have taken big amounts of money from the federal government.
SMERCONISH: To be continued. Gerald, thank you.
POSNER: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: What do we have, Catherine? From Twitter, I think, on this subject.
Not taking a shot, literally. For me it's social distancing and mask for the next few -- you're not going to get the shot. Social distancing and the mask for the next few years once a reliable vaccine is available.
Yes. I mean, there is a mind-set of folks out there who say I'm not going to do it. If you don't do it, you are, I would argue, delaying the real herd immunity opportunity that's out there. On the pricing issue, I just want to say this quickly, I can only hope that we are soon having an argument as to whether $20.00 is too much because that would mean we have the vaccine.
Please make sure you're going to my Web site this hour and answering a provocative survey question if I may say so myself.
Is perception of crime in America, this summer, being driven more by statistics or stories?
Still to come, in the national moment of racial reckoning many shops around the country have felt moved to place signs out front supportive of Black Lives Matter. Does this engender goodwill or antipathy? I'll ask one business owner about her experience.
SMERCONISH: If you put a Black Lives Matter sign outside of your store, does it help or hurt business? The signs which have been multiplying in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police have become a flash point around America.
After the landlord of a diner in Dover, New Hampshire told the owners they had to take down their BLM signs. Rather than comply, they announced they would be shuttering the business for good. In Houston, an insurance agent's Black Lives Matter billboard in a parking lot led to him getting death threats.
A maskless patron of a coffee shop in Brooklyn, New York demanded the removal of its BLM sign saying it was offensive and implied he was racist.
On the flip side a health food store in Farmington, New Mexico posted the sign warning, if you support Antifa and or BLM please shot elsewhere. After complaints the sign was changed to all lives matter to us.
So do these signs inspire consumers to patronize a store or is getting involved with politics bad for business? My next guest is a veteran of these wars, beauty shop owner Kristan Martin. She recently put a BLM and a first responder sign outside of her shop, The Cottage Beauty Lounge, in eastern Massachusetts, south of Boston, which is about 90 percent white.
Kristan, thanks for being here. What happened after you put up the signs?
KRISTAN MARTIN, HAIR SALON OWNER WHO PUT BLM SIGN OUT FRONT: Hi, thank you. They were stolen. I had four signs that were stolen each week.
The first time I put it out, that week, it was stolen. The following week the same thing. So, within, you know, 3 1/2 -- four weeks, each sign was taken.
SMERCONISH: Was the first responder support sign taken as well or just the Black Lives Matter sign?
MARTIN: No, just the Black Lives Matter sign was taken.
SMERCONISH: What kind of reaction did you get from customers or from people who otherwise called your shop?
MARTIN: I had a lot of support. But we have had -- we did have a client that did not want to come in and will no longer be coming back when she saw the sign. We did try to explain to her why the sign was there.
I have a son who is black and I have friends and family that are black, and the sign is there just to support them. It's not connected to a terrorist group or any other organization.
SMERCONISH: I know that your motivation was a sense of social justice, that you weren't motivated by whether this would help or hurt the cash register. Nevertheless, did you think, when you put up the sign, that this might have an impact on your salon?
MARTIN: No, I didn't. I never -- I didn't think of it. I put it up to show support.
You know, like I said, I have a son who's black, and I want him to know that his life matters. And, no, I did not expect to see the pushback that I've seen on social media, the messages that I've received since. So, yes, it's shocking.
SMERCONISH: So, what now?
MARTIN: What now? I keep moving forward. I'm still going to support my son, my friends and my family, and the people in the community that are black. And, you now, I'm not afraid to, you know, take whatever comes my way, as a result of it. I believe in -- I believe in this.
SMERCONISH: Kristan, I wish you good things. Thank you for being here.
MARTIN: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still ahead, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final results of the survey question. You've got one more shot to go vote. Smerconish.com is the location.
This is the question, "Is perception of crime in America being driven more by statistics or stories?"
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at my Web site at Smerconish.com this hour.
Survey says, "Is perception of crime in America being driven more by statistics or stories?"
Pretty lopsided, 15,000 and change, 92 percent say it's the stories. Maybe it's always the stories.
What do we have in terms of social media reaction?
Smerconish, speaking of sharks. You jumped one with that comparison.
I don't think so, Donna. I don't think so. Look, when the data comes out from the FBI next year, if you remember, look back at this segment, my opening commentary and say, boy, did he blow it because the stats were off the chart. Or you know what? He's right. It was like the Dominican Republic in the summer of the shark.
What's next? I like the humor, though.
The violence going on in this country is real. You are trying to whitewash it.
Frank, not trying to whitewash anything. Showed you all the footage. Acknowledge that there are issues that have taken place in a defined area of Portland, in a defined area of Seattle. Acknowledged 15 people getting shot in Chicago. But whether it justifies getting worked into a lather, particularly among seniors, that I question.
Fears a big motivator because it works in elections. Shame on me, forget it. Shame on you for criticizing my willingness to think openly on this subject.
Smerconish, it's like Willie Horton at 3:00 a.m. Well, Rep Tile, there's nothing new about this as I just said to the last responder. It works. I mean, that's why we do it. Yes. Willie Horton spinning round and round, wasn't he like a vestibule doorway? It works politically speaking.
The president -- let me give you the bottom line. Here is the bottom line, big picture view. The president is losing the election as things stand now. There's just a mountain of data suggesting it's the case. Yes, I know what the data said four years ago.
And he views his ticket to turning it around as two different things, cognition and crime. The person, woman, man, dog, TV routine was laying the predicate so that when Joe misspeaks in the fall, and of course he will, we all do, then you say, boy, maybe the president was right.
And crime, in portraying himself as the thin blue line. And all that I'm saying in my commentary is we need to see the data to know whether things are as out of control as they are being portrayed by the White House and by its favorite network. That's it.
Thanks for watching. I'll see you next week.