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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Biden, Fed Scramble To Contain Damage After Two Banks Fail; One-On-One With Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers; Trump Campaigns In Iowa As Decision On Criminal Charges Against Him Looms; TN Lt. Gov. Apologizes For Repeated Online Interactions With Young Gay Man Who Posts Provocative Photos In Instagram; Jodi Picoult Speaks Out About DeSantis Book Ban After 20 Of Her Books Are Removed In One Florida School District. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 13, 2023 - 20:00   ET


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I would get down on the level with kids anytime, what I just want to tell them, I see you. You are beautiful. I am glad for you. I am glad you are here. We have to do that.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The former First Lady saying the first time she felt seen by her own parents was when they would sit down at the kitchen table and just talk.

Thanks for joining us. AC 360 starts now.



Tonight what happens next after a weekend that saw the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve scramble to intervene in the failure of two banks both with deep ties to the tech industry.

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in the Bay Area and Signature Bank here in New York shook customers and investors alike. The question was and really still is, would it also threaten the broader market and the banking system? So far, the answer appears to be no.

Markets largely held steady closing the day mixed, those shares in regional banks similar to the ones that failed, did take a beating.

Joining us shortly, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers who accurately predicted the current high inflation to walk us through the coming days and weeks and what he thinks about the Federal response so far, including this promise from the President.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every American should feel confident that their deposits will be there if and when they need them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: In addition to Secretary Summers, we have CNN's Christine Romans and Phil Mattingly on this tonight. Christine on your money and Phil on the White House response to what comes next. We begin with Christine.

So is the threat of contagion in the financial markets, does that seem to have passed?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So for this bank, these two banks in particular, they've put a big ring around these banks and they've stopped the fire here and they have made essentially the depositors whole and these are people who would have to go and make payroll, these are small businesses.

So the White House really concerned about making sure that depositors are made whole, but the shareholders in those banks getting nothing, right? I mean, this is not a bailout of the bank, it is a bailout of the people who have deposited in that bank.

But we looked at these regional banks today, a really tough day for some of these regional banks. There are still some big concerns --

COOPER: Because of their stock prices.

ROMANS: Their stock prices came down very, very sharply. You can see some of them there on your screen. Some of these were -- they halted trading of some of these because it was just so fast and furious, the selling here and what's happening is investors are looking at some of these banks and saying, do they have a similar kind of profile as some of the banks that have failed?

And what kinds of things do they have on their books that may be a little less valuable today? So I think it's going to be some bumpy going here in the banking industry in the near term.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, what should we be looking for in the coming days and weeks?

ROMANS: Well, I think the biggest thing to watch for is what the Federal Reserve is going to do. It was a week ago, Anderson that the Fed chief Jerome Powell signaled maybe there'd be 50 basis points of another rate hike, and we needed to get inflation under control. And then suddenly, you have two banks, three banks, actually, in the past week break, essentially.

So are they worried about the fragility of the banking system and being able to handle more rate hikes in this environment in some of the far corners of banking? And I think that the going assumption now is the Fed might go more slowly. And in fact, put the fight against inflation on pause, while it makes sure that the financial system is truly, truly stable.

COOPER: Interesting. Christine Romans, appreciate it. Thanks.

Now to the White House and CNN's Phil Mattingly.

What is the White House's plan -- Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, I think there's really two key components. There's obviously the policy component, we saw dramatic emergency authorities rolled out on Sunday night and Treasury officials and bank regulators have been watching the effect of those efforts throughout the course of this day, on the phone constantly with regulators in these financial institutions, with bank CEOs as well, trying to ensure that they are having the desired effect.

And well, Christine pointed out, those regional banks are getting hammered in the equity markets. Behind the scenes, I'm told that we're seeing some positive signs as it relates to deposits. Obviously, depositors and the risks that they face were a critical concern here mostly on the rationale of panic.

They were concerned that there would be significant and dramatic depositary outflows from some of these banks. They have seen those outflows start to slow, which they view as a positive signal.

The other key element here is access to credit, ensuring that these banks can stay liquid, even if they're getting hit by the market long enough to maintain some level of durability and sustainability going forward. They've seen some of that as well tied to the Federal Reserve's credit lending facility. So some positive signs going forward on that front.

The other obviously, is messaging. The President making very clear that he wanted to reassure individuals, reassure small businesses, trying to make clear what his regulators and finance officials are saying that the market on the whole is stable and well capitalized.

They need that to be believed, obviously, to ensure there's no panic that carries out further,

COOPER: IS to the White House concerned about any political ramifications of this for them?

MATTINGLY: They're keenly aware that there are political -- there is political fallout that is coming. They've been watching and waiting for Republicans to kind of jump on this.

You've seen a few of the kind of mid-tier presidential candidates like Nikki Haley start to jump on this, call this a Biden bailout. But in talking to White House officials, they have moved very quickly to try and get in front of that. You saw that in the President's remarks, blaming the deregulation in the 2018 law signed by President Trump for some of the effects here, also making clear, as declarative a manner as possible that this is dramatically different from the 2008 financial crisis.


MATTINGLY: One White House official I spoke to said this: "Nobody thinks we're out of the woods here, but we're picking up clear signals that the scale and breadth of what we deployed is having an effect. We're not going to sit back and let Republicans beat the hell out of us for protecting small business owners and individuals, and we're not going to let anyone act like this is 2008 when our actions are designed to ensure the exact opposite is true." And I think that's a critical component here.

We talked to White House officials, they made clear that the President's focus here was on those depositors, on those small businesses and making clear that the executives at these banks like Silicon Valley Bank, like Signature Bank, were no longer employed, that they did not have major kind of parachutes, golden parachutes coming out of this as well.

And also that there will be accountability going forward. The President mentioning all of those things today. That wasn't by accident. That is very clearly a message that they want to get across here, very much so predicting the political fallout that will be coming in the weeks ahead,

COOPER: Yes, Phil Mattingly appreciate it from the White House.

Tonight, as promised, we're joined now by Lawrence Summers, who served as Treasury Secretary during the Clinton administration, and is Director of the National Economic Council in the Obama White House in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis.

Secretary Summers, it's good to see you, those for those wondering tonight, if the country is out of the woods on this, what do you say?

LAWRENCE SUMMERS, FORMER US TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, look, I think that Americans should feel safe, that the money they have deposited in banks is going to be there for them and that's the most important thing. And I think that assurance was given for the banks that were closed very directly by the Federal government last night, and I think the facility, the provisions that were made to lend money on very large scales to other banks were designed to assure that come what may, they would be able to take care of their depositors.

And so I think that is the most important thing that has happened here and I think that's a very important success.

Of course, there are issues that lie ahead.

COOPER: Well, let's talk about that. We saw the stock market closed at a relatively stable level today, aside from some of the regional bank stocks, which Christine talked about. For average investors, what should they read into? I mean, what do you think lies ahead?

SUMMERS: Look, I think we have a complicated economy, because of inflation and because there are risks of recession that are ahead, but I think it's a little bit more complicated, but not vastly more complicated than it was before these problems came to us.

I think it is very important that the Fed continue to do what is necessary to contain inflation. They're going to have to make some difficult judgments, no question, but that events like this are likely to mean that the banking system is a bit less forthcoming with new loans and that is a kind of monetary tightening.

And because that's happening, the Fed may need to tighten less than it otherwise would have. But I certainly think the Fed needs to stay focused on the inflation challenge that is really what the American people have said, is what they see as our principal economic challenge. And I think it's what history teaches us that if we don't keep inflation controlled, we ultimately have much larger recessions, and much more suffering.

COOPER: So should this slow the Fed down in terms of raising rates? Or should they continue on the same course?

SUMMERS: I think that it, you know, many people were talking about the idea and Chairman Powell clearly broached the idea, although he certainly didn't commit to it, that at its next meeting in about 10 days, the Fed should raise rates by 50 basis points, by half a percentage point. I think that looks like a much lower likelihood right now in light of the various concerns that are out there, that this will slow the economy.

And I think it's premature to try to judge what the Fed should do. We're going to get an important data point about inflation tomorrow, an important data point about retail sales the day after that, and we're going to see how these financial measures work through.

But I'd be disappointed if the Fed, which very clearly was on a path to raising interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point and then probably doing it again, if the Fed wasn't able to raise rates by a quarter of a percentage point because of all this, I would be surprised and I would be a bit disappointed.


SUMMERS: But again, it's very difficult to judge the future. The Fed will know much more when it has to vote on that interest rate policy than it does right now.

COOPER: Senator Bernie Sanders has said that he thinks the failure of SVB was the direct result of the previous administration loosening financial regulations. Is there a truth to that? Do you agree with that?

SUMMERS: I think that the decisions that were made during the previous administration to exempt some midsized banks from some categories of regulation, for example, were misguided and many said so at the time.

I do think that this is a current and ongoing failure of regulation, that these problems which in retrospect, look rather obvious, were not caught in advance. Because if they had been caught in advance, there are various adjustments that could have been made that might have might have avoided them.

So yes, the changes in rules are a problem. But frankly, the ongoing process of regulation, I think, is going to need to be reviewed quite closely.

COOPER: Yes, Secretary Lawrence Summers, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

SUMMERS: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, the former President in Iowa tonight and what he is saying potentially just days away from a criminal indictment.

And later, how a top Tennessee elected official reconciles supporting anti-gay legislation with his, well, his online sending of hearts and flame emojis to a young, scantily clad gay man, ahead.



COOPER: The former President is making his first trip to Iowa for the 2024 campaign, and perhaps just days before criminal indictment in the Stormy Daniels' hush money case. Before arriving, he told reporters he blamed January 6th, "in many ways" on his former Vice President.

And speaking tonight in Davenport, where potential rival Ron DeSantis spoke on Friday, he had this to say about the Florida Governor.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ron DeSantis, did anyone ever hear of DeSantis --DeSanctimonious to say --

Ron was a disciple of Paul Ryan, who is a RINO loser who currently is destroying FOX. Ron reminds me a lot of Mitt Romney.


COOPER: Some perspective now on the campaign and the campaigner-in- chief, CNN chief correspondent and "CNN This Morning," co-anchor, Kaitlan Collins. She of course covered the Trump White House as well.

I mean, again, it's remarkable how backward looking the former President is in his comments in what he is talking about, blaming Mike Pence for January 6th.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR: Yes, he has been complaining about the press coverage that Pence has been getting since Saturday night. I was in the room when Pence actually made this comment --

COOPER: That was at the Gridiron Dinner and no cameras were around.

COLLINS: No cameras allowed. We'll get to that next, that as a criticism they're pushing back on. But Pence did take this moment where typically it's just, you know, laughing, making fun of other political rivals. He was doing that at the beginning and he made some Trump jokes.

But then he got serious about January 6th and he did go further than he has gone before. He has criticized what happened that day. Then saying that he doesn't believe history will hold Trump accountable was very notable. Taking that stance, going that far as to say about how Trump's words endangered Pence, endangered everybody who was at the Capitol.

Pence was also really critical of FOX News, which I thought was remarkable because we have not seen him -- I mean, he is going after one of the biggest hosts on FOX and saying that the way that they portrayed what happened on January 6th with that 40,000 hours of footage that they reviewed, he said was -- it mocks decency to portray it that way, because it wasn't just sightseeing, it wasn't just tourism.

Trump has been unhappy with that, and so today on the plane to Iowa where he is speaking now, he was saying that, because Pence didn't do what he wanted, that day, actually, he is responsible for the violence that happened. That is the exact same argument that John Eastman, who was that attorney at the time of January 6th in and out of the Oval Office, e-mailed to Pence's attorney that day, his counsel, Greg Jacob, he e-mailed and said actually --

COOPER: While they were in hiding? While they were at the Capitol?

COLLINS: Yes. The riot was still going on and he e-mails and says, actually, you're responsible for this siege and what happened because basically, you guys did let this happen in public sending these votes back to the State Legislatures.

And so it's not surprising that Trump is saying this, but I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that he's unhappy with the coverage Pence has gotten about it.

COOPER: I've got to say, I read an e-mail you sent out, which had the response by Pence's guy back to John Eastman while they were in hiding at the Capitol, and it was just grace under fire and just a very effective response to John Eastman, essentially saying, you have been pushing a completely bogus legal argument, and you bear responsibility for riling up all of these people who are now attacking the Capitol.

COLLINS: Yes, and I think they knew how Trump worked and so I think the phrase that Greg Jacob used, I won't forget was he said that they were a serpent in the ear of Trump basically pushing these theories saying that Trump -- saying that Pence could do something that Pence legally could not do. Pence actually had attorneys look into this at the time, and so it's just remarkable that we're here.

I think on the timing of Pence saying this, you know, it was behind closed doors, it wasn't on camera, it was on the record, but it wasn't on camera. He is fighting a subpoena from the DOJ to come and testify at the Special Counsel's investigation into January6th. He did not go testify before the January 6th Committee. He did write about January 6th and the conversations in his book. I think, a lot of this has to do with political timing, I mean, the

2024 field is shaping up and what Pence has done by going out this far to say that Trump will be held accountable that day is every other 2024 candidate is going to get asked about this now and if they agree or where their stance is and so he's kind of, you know, setting a standard there.

COOPER: It's interesting, though, because I mean, he was on a book tour. You know, he's had plenty of opportunities before this to say stuff on camera, and he has chosen not to.

COLLINS: He's been critical of it. He has not gone as far as to say Trump will be held accountable for that. I mean, in the room, there was a lot of reporters in the room. It got very quiet as he was saying that because it wasn't even just that, he was also very laudatory of the press talking about how good our coverage was that day and what it meant as they were under siege.

You know, they were still being hidden, he and his security and his family who was with him that day. He praised the press a lot.


COLLINS: And that was something that stood out. Obviously, we've seen how the Trump --

COOPER: Again, he doesn't do that on camera. Interesting.

COLLINS: He doesn't do it on camera. So there's not that moment where you can replay it. I mean, I still think the comment has gotten a ton of attention, but...

COOPER: It is not the same.


COOPER: Does the Trump campaign feel like they are well-positioned, given the rivals that -- because now, you know, everyone -- a lot of Republicans saying, well, look, there can't be a repeat of 2016 where you had all of these potential candidates on a on a debate stage with Trump, and he's picking them off one by one. That's what is being set up right now.

COLLINS: Well, we'll see how big it is. I'm kind of surprised actually, that more people have not gotten in the race so far. DeSantis, remember still waiting until after the legislature ends. Pence has not gotten in yet. Nikki Haley and the Vivek Ramaswamy are the only two people who are actually formally challenging him so far.

Obviously, others are going to get in, but you see people like Larry Hogan who is not getting in, the very popular Governor of Maryland, and he said today that you know now he views his role in 2024 as just singlehandedly making sure Trump is not the nominee.

I think the Trump campaign -- I just was talking to someone in Trump's world last week, they are very worried about Ron DeSantis. That's the reason he spent so much of this these remarks in Iowa where DeSantis just was on Friday going after him and criticizing him and saying, you know, he's bad on ethanol, but if he doesn't run, I'll say he's not bad on ethanol.

They're very worried about him. Donors are not committing to Trump. His former staffers, people like Sarah Sanders are declining to endorse him yet. I think they're watching all of that. Really interesting.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, thank you. Appreciate it.

Now perhaps a sign the former President might find this latest campaign tougher going than his other two as Kaitlan was just referencing, it can be found in Roberts County in the Texas panhandle, most heavily pro-Trump county in 2016 and 2020. Perhaps though not this time.

Our Gary Tuchman returned there tonight to see what, if anything has changed.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The county seat if tiny Roberts County, Texas is pronounced "Miama." It had also be fair to pronounce it as America's number one county for Donald Trump.

TUCHMAN (on camera): So who do you think you'll vote for in the next presidential election?


TUCHMAN (voice over): In this county of about 800 people, he received 95 percent of the vote in 2016, ninety-six percent in 2020, both times the highest percentage of any county in the nation.

But is Trumpism on track for continued success here?

RON SWART, ROBERTS COUNTY, TEXAS REPUBLICAN: I think it's time to move on.

TUCHMAN (voice over): This is our fourth visit here since Trump was elected President. And on this visit, there is a notable shift.

Ron Swart and his wife Kay are retired and live on a hilltop ranch on the county. They and everyone else we interviewed for the story say they voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020.

TUCHMAN (on camera): If the Republican presidential primary were today, do you know who you would vote for?

KAY SWART, ROBERTS COUNTY, TEXAS REPUBLICAN: Probably DeSantis, possibly Pence, but definitely not Trump.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And your husband?

RON SWART: DeSantis, more than likely. TUCHMAN (voice over): It quickly became clear to us that many Donald

Trump voters here are ready for a different Republican.

KURT HIRSCHLER, ROBERTS COUNTY, TEXAS REPUBLICAN: I'm leaning toward Nikki Haley, but --

TUCHMAN (on camera): How come?

HIRSCHLER: Because I like her views and the way she does things.

TUCHMAN (on camera): If you had a vote today, who would you pick?


TUCHMAN (voice over): Wade Jackson has lived in Miami his whole life. He is in the oil and gas business, also collects antique cars and does mechanic work. And he warns any potential intruder, he is not calling 9-1-1. He is a lifelong conservative Republican who is not shy about criticizing the man he voted for twice.

JACKSON: He has done some shady things that I'm not really fond of right now. So I'm going to see if there's someone else better than that.

TUCHMAN (voice over): What kind of shady things?

JACKSON: Like the whole documents and stuff in Mar-a-Lago and all of that. I think he's hidden too much stuff. We don't need that in our country. We need everything on the table out in the open.

TUCHMAN (voice over): Rick McDowell operates a hunting business. We interviewed the strong Trump supporter during one of our previous visits to Miami. But he now says that in next year's Texas primary, he is planning to vote for Ron DeSantis.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Donald Trump likes loyal people. Why aren't you being loyal to him and supporting him again?

RICK MCDOWELL, ROBERTS COUNTY, TEXAS RESIDENT: I think his time is over. I think he's got too much baggage.

TUCHMAN (voice over): Trump certainly still has enthusiastic supporters in Roberts County.

LESLIE ISHMAEL, ROBERTS COUNTY, TEXAS REPUBLICAN: So I'm going to stay loyal, and I'm -- yes, I will stay with Donald.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You have no issues with the way he conducted himself during his presidency?


BILLY HALL, ROBERTS COUNTY, TEXAS REPUBLICAN: I like them to run together and --

TUCHMAN (on camera): Ron DeSantis. HALL: Trump-DeSantis.

TUCHMAN: Who would you want to be the President? Who would you want to be the Vice President?

HALL: That big -- I don't know. I think DeSantis might get elected more easily. Trump's got a lot of people that hate him.

TUCHMAN (voice over): All in all, it does appear Donald Trump has some challenges here, new challenges.

KAY SWART: I voted for him originally, because that's really voting against Hillary and then he was running against Biden, and then I thought he might be good for the country. But he's done a lot of disturbing things that are not good for the country and I don't think --

TUCHMAN (on camera): Trump?

KAY SWART: Yes, and I don't think he is what we want representing us, who we want representing us.

TUCHMAN:` What's disturbing in your mind?

KAY SWART: The Capitol and his --

TUCHMAN: The insurrection?

KAY SWART: Yes and the comments he makes you know, they're just not professional.

TUCHMAN: How do you feel? Do you agree with your wife?

RON SWART: I agree a hundred percent, yes, sir.



COOPER: And Gary Tuchman joins us now from Roberts County, Texas.

First of all, it looks beautiful there.

Did any of the people who are skeptical of the former President that you spoke to, do they say that they'd consider voting for a Democrat if Trump is the GOP nominee? Would they go that far?

TUCHMAN: The answer's no, Anderson. Nobody I talked to who has become disenchanted with Donald Trump gave any indication they would go that far. And I got a pointed answer from that couple on the ranch, a ranch that's been in their family for more than a hundred years by the way. I asked them specifically would you even consider voting for Joe Biden if Donald Trump were the Republican presidential nominee? And the husband, Ron, sort of answered me, his answer was, "I'd never ever vote Democrat" -- Anderson.

COOPER: That is where he stands. Gary Tuchman, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Just ahead, why was the Tennessee 79-year-old Republican Lieutenant Governor who has in the past important anti-gay legislation sending heart and fire emojis and other messages to a 20-year-old gay man who post sexually provocative photos online? He sat down with a local reporter to explain.


LT. GOV. RANDY MCNALLY (R), TENNESSEE: You know, try to encourage people with posts and try to you know help them if I can.



COOPER: Earlier this month, Tennessee's Republican-led government made the State first in the nation this year to restrict drag performances in front of children. The State also has banned gender- affirming care for minors including puberty blockers and hormone therapies.

And now the Lieutenant Governor, a 79-year-old Republican is trying to explain why he has been sending heart emojis and fire emojis and other messages to a 20-year-old gay man who post provocative pictures of himself online.

Randi Kaye has details.



LT. GOV. RANDY MCNALLY (R), TENNESSEE: I'm really, really sorry of --

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tennessee's Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, a Republican and supporter of anti- LGBTQ legislation, apologizing for his repeated interactions with a young gay man who posts provocative photos on Instagram. The progressive website, the Tennessee Holler, first unearthed McNally's interactions with 20 year old Franklyn McClure, who goes by Franklin Superstar on social media.

In many of McClure's posts, he's scantily clad, often pulling his shorts slightly down. Among the posts, the 79 year old Lieutenant Governor reacted to, this close up of McClure's backside. McNally responded with three red hearts and three fire emojis then commented, "You can turn a rainy day into rainbows and sunshine."

McNally declined our interview request, but spoke with our affiliate WTVF.

MCNALLY: You know, try to encourage people with posts and try to, you know, help them if I can.

KAYE (voice-over): How exactly his heart and fire emojis were helping Franklin McClure is still unclear. WTVF also asked the Lieutenant Governor specifically about liking this post, where McClure use language such as prostitute and refer to his sexual act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was liked by Lieutenant Governor McNally.

MCNALLY: Yes, I don't know that, you know, a lot of times on people's posts, you see the name and you see what they've written and you just press the button that says like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you didn't read that post?

MCNALLY: I don't recall reading the part about the lead. I know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what about the prostitute?

MCNALLY: That might have -- I might have read that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In that case, was it appropriate to like the comment?

MCNALLY: Probably not, probably not.

KAYE (voice-over): Franklyn McClure told me the lieutenant governor has been commenting on his posts for several years. On this post, McNally responded with a hand clap emoji along with the comment, "super look". On this one, McNally left a heart emoji.

In this one showing McClure dancing outside in his underwear, the lieutenant governor left a comment saying, "love it", with pink hearts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh come, Ms. McClure.

KAYE (voice-over): There's certainly nothing illegal or inherently wrong about any of that. But there is hypocrisy, rank hypocrisy. That's because at the time Lieutenant Governor McNally was commenting on McClure posts, he and his fellow Republicans in the Tennessee legislature were passing a slew of bills targeting LGBTQ people, or what critics call this slate of hate.

MCNALLY: That was not very kind to the community. As I learned some things and met some people in the community, I realized that there's still individuals in this still have value.

KAYE (voice-over): Just recently, the governor here signed into law a bill that outlaws drag shows in public property, and another that bars transgender children from getting gender affirming health care, Democratic State Senator Heidi Campbell.

HEIDI CAMPBELL (D), TENNESSEE STATE SENATE: I think it's problematic if you support legislation that takes away freedom and rights of our LGBTQ community, and yet you are participating in behavior that, obviously, you know, shows that you have interest in that area.

KAYE (voice-over): In all, Tennessee's legislature has more than two dozen bills proposed by Republican lawmakers that limit the rights of those in the LGBTQ community. We tried to ask Lieutenant Governor McNally about all of this at the Capitol in Nashville.

(on-camera): What do you say to folks who who are calling you a hypocrite? What do you what do you say -- who say you're a hypocrite?

MCNALLY: I think it's in the press release.

KAYE (voice-over): Local reporters confronted McNally earlier when news of this first broke, and he pushed back.

MCNALLY: I'm not anti-gay. I also have friends that are gay, relatives who are gay.

KAYE (voice-over): Meanwhile, Franklyn McClure, the young man in the images liked by McNally told me he was surprised and flattered by the Lieutenant Governor's comments. He also told me this.

FRANKLYN MCCLURE, GAY INSTAGRAMMER: He called me a couple of times on the phone, ability on certain apps.

KAYE (on-camera): And you never responded to those?

MCCLURE: Yes, I didn't even know he did it, so.

KAYE (on-camera): Why would he be calling you?

MCCLURE: I don't know.

MCNALLY: -- of embarrass my family, embarrass my friends, embarrass the -- any of the members of the legislature would oppose. It was not my intent to and not my intent to hurt them.



COOPER: And Randi joins us now from Nashville. So you tried to speak with Lieutenant Governor today said something about a statement. What did it say?

KAYE: Yes, he did issue a statement to us, Anderson, it was quite a long statement, so I'll just give you a few of the key parts. He said that he is pausing his social media, and we'll be getting guidance on how to use it. He also insisted that this characterization of him and his record, as anti-gay is inaccurate in that statement of his.

And he also said that every person has value and deserves respect, regardless of orientation. But Anderson, as you know, this statement comes as he continues to push through this anti-gay legislation. In fact, just today on the Senate floor, they were debating a biological sex bill, while we were there waiting for the lieutenant governor and trying to speak with him.

Also Franklyn McClure, the young man who he had been commenting on an Instagram told me that the hypocrisy and all of this was not lost on him either. He said that he's watching him leave these very nice comments on his Instagram, yet he's continuing to push through this anti-LGBTQ legislation and he sees that as very hypocritical, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thanks.

Coming up, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says talk about Florida book ban is a hoax. Best Selling Author Jody Picoult, who has sold millions of books as 20 of her works were recently targeted and removed from library shelves in one Florida County School System. One of those books about the Holocaust. She joins us next.



COOPER: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was adamant last week that recent say regulations on school libraries did not lead to book bans on seemingly innocuous works. He called that a, quote, hoax. And earlier that week, local media in Martin County, Florida published a list of books being removed from school libraries.

Those books included "Beloved" by Toni Morrison, "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. They also include works by Judy Blume, James Patterson, and my next guest, Jody Picoult. The bestselling author speaking out saying that 20 of her books have been removed by officials in Martin County schools, including "House Rules", "My Sister's Keeper", and "The Storyteller".

Jody Picoult joins me now for her first TV interview on the subject. Her most recent book is "Mad Honey". Jodi, thank you so much for being with us. Can you just explain your understanding of why some of your books have been taken off the shelves? I mean, how does that actually happen?

JODI PICOULT, NUMBER 1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR: So in Martin County School District, you do not actually have to read the books to challenge them. And you do not even have to say what is objectionable in a book to have it removed from a shelf. And this is actually true in a lot of Florida.

So it's worth saying that although 20 of my books happened to be removed this time, this is happening all over Florida and the rest of the country. And most of the people who are affected as authors are BIPOC, and LGBTQ authors. From what I understand, the objection to my books is that they were classified by this one parent as adult romance, which is very interesting, because I do not write adult romance.

And, in fact, of the books that were challenged, one of them is a book called "The Storyteller," which is about the Holocaust, and about the rise of fascism among ordinary Germans. And there's not even a kiss in that book. So I was confused. And, you know, it just felt a little ironic, actually, that that was one of the books banned here.

COOPER: You said, I mean, 20 of your books were pulled from this one district in Florida.

PICOULT: Right. COOPER: Do you know why "The Storyteller"? I mean, if it's about the Holocaust, obviously, it's a, you know, a difficult subject. You know, it's an emotional subject. Was there something that you can really identify that would have made it somebody objective?

PICOULT: No, and I think (INAUDIBLE) point, you know, the laws that currently stand in Florida are so egregious and so vague, that books are being pulled off shelves, without a lot of understanding why, without reason. And what's most important to remember is that these books remain off the shelves, while they are being reviewed, if they are being reviewed, and that can take years, it can take a very long time in some cases.

COOPER: In addition to being a writer, you are also a parent. You're now, I just learned, a grandparent.


COOPER: Congratulations on that.

PICOULT: Thank you.

COOPER: I am a relatively new parent as well.


COOPER: You know, obviously, I have concerns about what my kids are going to be reading. I have concerns about what they're going to be seeing on television all have that you understand what is the line here, that makes this in your opinion, unacceptable?

PICOULT: You're a parent, I'm a parent, as parents, it's totally fine to make a decision about what your child can or cannot read. It is not fine for you to make a decision for everyone else's child. And that is really what's at heart here. That is what the problem is here.

And I think it's also really important that that America realize, no matter what you're hearing, this is not a hoax. It's not a hoax to the authors whose books are being pulled off shelves. And it is not a hoax to the kids who can't access titles that they want to read.

COOPER: The governor has -- Governor DeSantis has said that this is about curriculum transparency. Do you believe that?

PICOULT: I don't believe that, because if it was, then challenging a book should require you to read the book, to know what's in the book and to have a reason for wanting to get off the shelves.

COOPER: Parents are challenging books they haven't read. In some cases, their national organizations, which are sending out lists of books to communities that parents should be concerned about. And parents can take that list to their school board or their principal, and have those books question.

PICOULT: Correct. And that is what happened in the case in Martin County. It is a mom and -- one mom, in particular, who did the bulk of the banning of 92 books. And she works with Moms for Liberty, which is a national organization, and she is part of the local chapter in Martin County. And I have seen the actual forms that she filled out where she checked the box saying, no, I have not read this book in its entirety.


COOPER: Your books are interesting. You're not -- you don't shy away from difficult topics and kind of different perspectives in a lot of your stories. They're very human stories but they are, you know, you have a book --


COOPER: -- "19 Minutes" I think it's called which deals with the aftermath of a school shooting. Obviously, these are things which are important topics and topics that can spark conversations between a parent and a child.

PICOULT: That's how I raised my kids. You know, when my kids wanted to read a book that I thought might be challenging or emotionally confusing for them, whatever age they were, I would read the book, make sure that I felt it was appropriate, and then use it as a springboard for discussion.

And I think that's really important. I don't actually write adult romance. There isn't stuff in my books that would be considered vulgar. What I do write about our topics like racism, and gun control, and gay rights and abortion rights, things that make kids learn how to think for themselves, which last time I checked was actually the job of public education in America.

COOPER: What is the big picture problem here? What is the big picture concern for you here beyond your books, beyond the -- just this principle?


COOPER: What impact -- why does this matter?

PICOULT: The reason this matters is because we have scientific proof that kids who feel marginalized to read books that have characters that are marginalized, feel less alone. And we know also that kids who haven't met or experienced people who are different from them, who do so in the safe space of a book, also learn about those cultures and those identities.

We know that books, bridge divides between people, and we know that book bands create them. And that ultimately is the big problem here. Kids are not getting information that they literally have a Supreme Court right to have. There was a case in 1982 where, you know, the Supreme Court decided that based on the First Amendment, kids have the right to receive information.

And it can't be removed from shelves because of political reasons. And yet, here we are, with a state that keeps pulling books off shelves without a really good explanation of why or a plan for how to get them back on the shelves in a timely fashion. And that's a real --

COOPER: What do you encourage people to do about this?

PICOULT: I encourage them to speak out as loudly as the people who are making the noise because there are far more people who don't want books banned in this country than the ones that do. And so, I encourage them to go to

You can find resources there that will help you join a rally or go up to a school board or write letters or find a way to become involved in your own community or other communities. And that's really what we have to do. We have to start speaking out.

COOPER: Jodi Picoult, I really appreciate it. Thank you.

PICOULT: Of course.

COOPER: Up next, March Madness, which lots of people in my office talk about and I still don't quite understand what it is or why we're expected to fill out brackets. Luckily, Harry Enten will be here to explain it all and help you with brackets, whatever that means.



COOPER: Well, college basketball fans do not need me to tell them it's March Madness time. And if they do, that's pretty sad because I don't know what it is. And I can't even muster up the energy to learn. Luckily, our Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten is mad about March Madness, has some tips for filling out those brackets. OK, what is it? What do -- what's the point?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: So first, I want to give you your own bracket here.

COOPER: Thank you.

ENTEN: I come bearing gifts, and we're going to fill this out a --

COOPER: I always -- when people walk around the office like I do under brackets, I'm just like no.

ENTEN: But we're going to fill this out after the segment.


ENTEN: You know, there are 63 games.

COOPER: A lot of teams.

ENTEN: There are a lot of teams, there are 64 teams -- well, the 68 but 64 that make it to the round of 60 where you're going to have to pick 63 games. But I just want to get an understanding, Anderson, of your level of understanding. So on this, we're going to have the logos up for the four number one seats --


ENTEN: -- and I want to see if you can actually know any of these teams. Can you name any of these teams, Anderson?

COOPER: The bird is Kansas?

ENTEN: Yes. OK, that's one.

COOPER: Yes, KU, yes.


COOPER: I knew someone went there.


COOPER: University of Hawaii?

ENTEN: Ooh, University of Houston. But that's not bad.


ENTEN: They both have H's in it.

COOPER: I don't guess. The script A, I don't know, the Atlanta, Astros --

ENTEN: Kaitlan, would be very upset with you right now.

COOPER: Alabama.

ENTEN: Alabama.

COOPER: And the P is for --

ENTEN: How --

COOPER: -- Pittsburgh.

ENTEN: No, it's for Purdue. It's for Purdue.


ENTEN: So you were able to get one.


ENTEN: Yes, you got KU. So not bad. You're not off to a bad start.

COOPER: So how many people fill out a bracket before the tournament starts? And how many people actually get it right?

ENTEN: Yes. So --

COOPER: How do people -- like it's amazing to me that people would know all these teams.

ENTEN: They don't. There are millions upon millions. You know, ESPN had over 70 million last year who filled it out. When you look at other brackets and combine it, we could be looking at upwards 40, 50, 60 million people who fill out brackets this year wouldn't surprise me.

But you know --

COOPER: I feel this is a flaw in my character that I don't know these team -- like I --

ENTEN: No, no, no, no, don't worry about it.

COOPER: No, I should. I like -- I'd like to know the characters are in pairs.

ENTEN: I'm here to help you.


ENTEN: That's the purpose here.

COOPER: So what tips do you have?

ENTEN: So hold on, hold on, hold on. I just want to note that on the perfect bracket --


ENTEN: -- I wouldn't worry about it because you know how many people get the perfect round?


ENTEN: Nobody gets it right. You know what the odds of getting a perfect bracket by chance are?


ENTEN: One in nine quintillion.


ENTEN: Compare that to the mega millions, one and 303 million.


ENTEN: Compare that to getting a royal flush in poker, it's one in 350,000.

COOPER: Why am I in this graphic?

ENTEN: Because we are making happy things occur for you. That's what it is. I'm trying to help you understand that it's very difficult. So I wouldn't worry about filling out a perfect bracket. COOPER: OK.

ENTEN: But I want to give you some clues.


ENTEN: Some clues to fill it out. Here's the big thing. The number one usually wins, OK? 60 percent of the time the number one ends up winning the entire thing. So therefore, number one seats that we already spoke about earlier, OK? For now one seats, they're the ones who get through this round, round a 64, round a 32, round a 16, round of eight, round a four and the final.


OK, so pick one of the number one teams to win the entire thing that I think is one thing and don't worry about picking the early games necessarily correctly because the truth is most bracket tournaments give you a lot more points. You get a lot more reward for picking those later games.

COOPER: OK. I went into my special place a long time ago.

ENTEN: I am always in my own special place, Anderson.


ENTEN: So I'll join you in your special place.

COOPER: I lost you at the number one thing, sorry.

ENTEN: I -- you always lose me.

COOPER: You can help me fill this out later.

ENTEN: Don't worry. We'll fill it out and we'll come back and we'll check it in a few weeks.

COOPER: Good luck everybody with your brackets.

You can get more March Madness inside tomorrow night when Chris Wallace talks with new NCAA President Charlie Baker in his first TV interview since taking over the organization. Must be a lot of fun with former NBA player and TNT host Kenny Smith as well as outgoing Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

Don't miss CNN primetime "Inside the Madness: Basketball, Brackets and Business" tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm glad they didn't have me doing it because I would have messed it up. We'll be right back.


COOPER: According to new reports, for the first time the International Criminal Court plans to open war crimes cases against Russia for its actions in Ukraine and will issue warrants for, quote, several people. The new reporting from the New York Times and writers, one war crimes cases reportedly prompted by Russian attacks on infrastructure like this one, targeting Ukrainian train station last year.

There's also accusations of deliberately targeting a residential building and parking lot in Kyiv. Russia says it only hits military targets. The other case will reportedly focus on the abduction of Ukrainian children, like these so called evacuees from war torn eastern Ukraine, shown at a Crimean summer camp.

Ukraine says in a recent report from Yale University documents that thousands of kids are being taken to Russia indoctrinated and in many cases adopted or fostered by Russian families, which is a war crime.

The news continues. Erin Burnett Out Front starts now.