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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
FOX $787.5 Million Largest Publicly Known Defamation Settlement; Homeowner Accused Of Shooting A Black Teen Who Rang His Doorbell Released On Bail; Pres. Biden Says He'll Welcome Ralph Yarl To The Oval Office When He's Recovered; 20-Year-Old Woman Shot And Killed After Her Friend Turned Into The Wrong Driveway In Upstate New York; Wall Street Journal Reporter Denied Detention Appeal In Moscow; OK Sheriff's Association Suspends Membership Of McCurtain County Sheriff, Deputies Over Alleged Racist And Threatening Remarks. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 18, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: FDNY officials believe they've accounted for everyone in the building, but searches continue.
And we'll continue to update you on that moving story tonight, through the night. Thanks so much for joining us.
Of course you can watch "OUTFRONT" anytime on CNN Go, but it is time now for AC 360.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
FOX blinked on the day that FOX attorneys and the attorneys for Dominion voting systems the company that is suing them for defamation were to make opening statements in their $1.6 billion lawsuit, FOX decided to settle, $787.5 million. That's how much the FOX Corporation will pay. It is half of what Dominion says they were seeking, but a historic amount nonetheless.
The FOX Corporation clearly deciding, it was better to pay the money than have their star anchors try to explain under oath the election denialism and disinformation they either spread themselves or help spread by giving others who are lying a platform night after night after night.
In a statement after the settlement was announced, FOX said and I quote: "We acknowledge the Court's rulings, finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. The settlement reflects FOX's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards."
Now I just want to repeat that. The first part of it said, "We acknowledge the Court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false." That might sound sort of maybe like an apology, but it's not. They acknowledged the Court ruling doesn't really mean anything in their description that certain claims about Dominion were false is vague at best. As for the second part of that statement that this settlement reflects
FOX's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards, as Mike Wallace used to say when interviewing someone shoveling crap, "Come on."
If there's anything we learned from the depositions, texts, and e- mails that were released by Dominion in the lead up to this case, is that there was no commitment to even basic journalistic standards where the 2020 election was concerned.
FOX anchors said one thing on air to the audience they feared might abandon them go over to some other more conservative news channel, and another thing off air in texts and e-mails to one another.
What most concerned FOX was not properly reporting on the lies that were being spread by guests on their air or by some of their hosts, no, what most concerned them was losing viewers.
FOX argued it was just reporting on claims about Dominion, its voting systems and the 2020 election. But they did that more -- they did far more than that. They were willing participants in spreading false claims of fraud.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNEY POWELL, ATTORNEY: The machine ran an algorithm that shaved votes from Trump and awarded them to Biden. They used the machines to trash large batches of votes that should have been awarded to President Trump, and they used the machine to inject and add massive quantities of votes for Mr. Biden.
The only reason we know we found out --
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: I thought Democrats told us that we like whistleblowers. You're saying that these people can't talk because they're going to lose their jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, that is Sean Hannity weeks after the 2020 election, he was cited by Dominion in their defamation case. Hannity told the Dominion lawyers in a deposition: "That whole narrative that Sidney Powell was pushing, I did not believe it for one second." Anyone with journalistic standards would have confronted Powell about her completely ludicrous, unproven, and false claims, but he didn't do that.
The documents also show that Tucker Carlson privately expressed concerns about Sidney Powell as did others at FOX, but he wasn't saying them on air. According to Dominion, he even sent her a text message quoting now from a Dominion Court filing: "Tucker Carlson told Sidney Powell, 'you keep telling our viewers that millions of votes were changed by the software.' I hope you will prove that very soon. You convinced them that Trump will win, if you don't have conclusive evidence of fraud at that scale, it is a cruel and reckless thing to keep saying." Again, he never said anything like that on his show. As the Dominion documents point out, Carlson hosted other election
liars like Mike Lindell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: Every outlet in the country, they go, Mike Lindell, there is no evidence and he is making fraudulent statements. No, I have the evidence, I dare people to put it on. I dare Dominion to sue me, because then it would get out faster.
So this is -- you know, they don't want to talk about it. They don't want to say, they just say, oh, you're wrong. And I'm going --
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: They are not making conspiracy theories go away by doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Certainly, no pushback there. There were times FOX anchors made the right call. For instance, Neil Cavuto cut away from a lie filled campaign press conference by the former President's team. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: We want every legal vote to be counted and we want every illegal votes to be --
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: Well, I just think we have to be very clear that she is charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting, unless she has more details to back that up, I can't in good confidence continue showing you this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: All right, well, that's a sign of some journalistic standard, but we now know that FOX executives were upset by what Cavuto did quoting the Dominion documents about a communication from Raj Shah, a FOX senior vice president who once worked at the White House: "The brand team led by Raj Shah at FOX Corporation notified senior FOX News and FOX Corporation leadership of the "threat unquote" posed by Cavuto's action.
It was a "brand threat" to tell your audience that you're not going to allow unvetted unsubstantiated claims about the election on air. That doesn't show much corporate commitment to the highest journalistic standards. In fact, when a reporter dared to factcheck the former president's lies about Dominion, Tucker Carlson, according to the documents Dominion released was freaked out and reached out to Sean Hannity seemingly panicked: "Carlson told Hannity, 'please get her fired.' Seriously, what the eff. Actually shocked. It needs to stop immediately, like tonight. It is measurably hurting the company. The stock price is down, not a joke." The fact that he allegedly works for a news organization and he is
fretting about the impact of facts on the corporation's stock price, that is a joke. "The stock price is down" are not the words of someone with the highest journalistic standards, and by the way, according to the documents by the next morning, that reporter had "deleted" her factchecking tweet.
It turns out Tucker Carlson hated Donald Trump according to messages Dominion got from FOX during the discovery process, he wrote in a text message to a colleague: "I hate him passionately." And he also wrote, "We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can't wait."
We start this evening with Davida Brook, the lead counsel for Dominion Voting Systems. Appreciate you joining us tonight.
Can you talk about the decision to settle? Obviously, from a financial standpoint, it makes sense. It is a huge number. You're representing a corporation. A jury trial is unpredictable no matter how strong one's evidence may be.
Given though the threats against Dominion employees, against the family of the CEO, and election workers who used your equipment -- or use Dominion's equipment, why settle for financial without an apology?
DAVIDA BROOK, LEAD COUNSEL FOR DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS: Thank you, Anderson, and I appreciate that.
I actually think your question hit on it perfectly. So, I represent a corporation and bringing this lawsuit was about two things. It was about getting them accountability and it was about getting them justice and we felt like we got that accountability with the summary judgment decision and being able to expose all of the very information that you so eloquently went through in your introduction, and today was about getting them some justice, not just in the form of the single largest defamation verdict, I think this country has ever seen, not just in the form of I think the single largest payout FOX has ever made, but in the form of giving them some closure.
These are people, as you said, who have spent the last two-and-a-half years receiving vicious and horrific threats on their lives and their livelihood, and to give them the peace to not have to come out here and relive that trauma and do so on such a public stage was something that we were really, really just happy to be able to give to them today.
COOPER: I don't know if this is a question you can answer, but I think it's a fair question, are those employees, some of whom are lower level employees who actually are in the places where the machines are and are the ones getting yelled at, are they going to share in the bounty of this settlement?
BROOK: Well, several of our employees are shareholders in the company itself, and so that is a wonderful thing about Dominion and one of the many things about the company that we are so proud of. COOPER: But lower level employees who are not shareholders, I mean,
they're the ones who you're saying should get closure, will this -- will there be any bonuses for them?
BROOK: The employees I'm talking about who are going to come here and share those stories, many of them are shareholders of this company, Anderson.
COOPER: Okay. Was there an effort to get some on-air apologies from FOX anchors or from the corporation?
BROOK: Look, FOX News are big boys and girls, they can and should do whatever they need to do to live up to those high journalistic standards that you spoke so much about at the top of the show, Anderson. I think that what we wanted, what we needed was accountability, and we got that in two forms, both in the summary judgment opinion that they finally acknowledged today. They acknowledged that the statements that they broadcast on their air were false, but also in the fact that this case didn't settle until now.
This case didn't settle before the documents were made public. This case didn't settle until the world got to see what really went on at FOX News in 2020, and that was what we were focused on.
COOPER: FOX released a statement that you're referencing that read in part: "We acknowledge the Court's rulings, finding certain claims about Dominion to be false." Was that language part of the settlement? Was that part of something you guys worked out, can you say?
BROOK: I can't comment on the details of the settlement agreement, Anderson, but I can say that it meant a lot to the folks at Dominion to finally hear FOX acknowledge the clear falsity of the statements that they aired.
COOPER: Do you believe that that was acknowledging the clear falsities? Because it just says that they -- you know, they recognize the Court's findings? Do you feel like that's as close as you would get?
BROOK: I think they can do more, and I hope they do, do more. Yes. I know, I think they can do more and I hope they do, do more, but what we needed from them was them to acknowledge the just wonderful summary judgment opinion that we got from this Court behind me that, as we all know, now made it crystal clear that the claims that were spread about Dominion were false.
COOPER: In its statement, FOX also said, you know, they referenced their "continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards." Does Dominion believe that FOX has the highest journalistic standards?
BROOK: I don't believe we think that, Anderson.
COOPER: Okay. And Dominion still has pending lawsuits against right- wing channels, Newsmax, OAN, as well as against, you know, some of the biggest liars out there, the former President's adviser, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Mike Lindell. Does today's settlement affect those proceedings? Do those continue on?
BROOK: Yes. No, Anderson, you're absolutely right. We actually have another case against Newsmax in this very courthouse before the very same Judge as the Judge that oversaw the FOX News case.
I think what impacts those are actually the victories that you've seen and reported on along the way, the conclusion that the statements were false, the conclusions about what the First Amendment does and does not protect, the conclusions about the neutral report. All of those decisions will have a huge bearing on those other lawsuits as they play out in Courts here and in the District of Columbia.
COOPER: Davida Brook, I really appreciate your time today. Congratulations on the settlement.
BROOK: Thank you.
COOPER: We're joined by Lee Levine, retired First Amendment attorney who represented both CNN and FOX in the past and many other major media organizations in his distinguished career and CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, former Assistant US Attorney. He is also author of "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It."
I'm wondering what your reaction is to the settlement and what its purpose tonight?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think Dominion deserves a good amount of credit here. First of all, they extracted an enormous number. I mean, there's no way around that, $787 million is unprecedented.
COOPER: It's interesting, because you and I were talking before there is -- you know, you hear a lot of people who were hoping there'd be some, you know, embarrassing moments and big apologies, that's unrealistic. These are corporations, it makes sense that Dominion made this settlement.
HONIG: Right. Let's remember, Dominion's job is not to vindicate justice. Their job is to take care of Dominion. They're a small to midsize corporation. They have to take care of their own bottom line.
And I think it's worth noting, and I think Miss Brook made this point persuasively, they did get accountability. The number is astronomical. They got that ruling from the Judge that FOX's reporting was false, and they showed us, they showed the world the contradictory text that you just talked about from Sean Hannity, from Tucker Carlson, so there is some value beyond the money in that.
COOPER: Lee, why do you think FOX chose to settle on the cusp of opening statements?
LEE LEVINE, RETIRED FIRST AMENDMENT ATTORNEY: I don't think there is any question, Anderson, that they chose to settle because they knew they were almost certain to lose on liability, and they knew that it was enormously risky for them to spin the roulette wheel on damages. The damages could have been far higher than the amount that was settled for, even though the amount that was settled for is the largest that has ever been paid out in any defamation lawsuit against a media company.
COOPER: Were you -- I mean, you've had a 40-year career in this, in defamation cases. You had said this was the strongest defamation case you had seen in all that time. Were you surprised by the dollar figure?
LEVINE: A little bit. I had predicted that the number would be somewhere around $450 million, but that it would be accompanied by a full throated on-air apology by the various hosts on their shows. So, I think maybe in some cosmic sense, although I have no inside information, Dominion traded that for another quarter billion dollars.
COOPER: And do you think -- and you think that's what happened. I mean, again, you have no inside information, but for FOX to have their on-air hosts one by one having to apologize, that would be in there -- that's something a media organization would not like to see like FOX.
LEVINE: Well, especially FOX that as you know, Anderson has not reported at all on this lawsuit until today. And today only very briefly, the people who watch FOX News and live in that silo, FOX does not want them to be hearing apologies and retractions and that sort of thing.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, Elie, I don't know if you poor Howie Kurtz over there, you know, the media watchdog over there, he twisted himself in knots. You know, I think he was on for a blip reading the FOX, you know, the statement.
HONIG: Yes. I thought his comments were interesting. I mean, he basically said, oh, the rest of the media is disappointed. They don't get to see our people take the stand, I mean, I think that was one of the driving forces here motivating FOX.
Imagine the spectacle, imagine the devastation that would have wrought to FOX to have Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Rupert Murdoch take the stand and I think when the Judge made his ruling, I think it was last week that yes, Rupert Murdoch does have to testify. I think that was the straw that broke their back. I think at that point, FOX just went into essentially blank check mode to avoid that.
COOPER: And Elie, we've learned that the Judge had formerly named a Special Master to investigate FOX that withheld evidence from Dominion. Does that go away?
HONIG: No, really important point. The Special Master will survive here because the Judge appointed a Special Master to look into whether FOX itself or the lawyers improperly withheld evidence. It could be the lawyers violated their duty as Officers of the Court, it could be something worse than that, a settlement does not make that go away. That investigation should proceed. COOPER: Lee, do you think this settlement with this huge amount of
money, do you think it makes Dominion from a legal standpoint less willing to settle in you know against Newsmax or some of the actual players in there, the Rudy Giuliani's and the Mike Lindell's? I mean, I don't even what they would be capable of selling. I don't know how much money those guys have.
LEVINE: I wouldn't think so, Anderson, I think maybe because there has been some fallout on the meatiest part with respect to Dominion not going through with the whole trial here and not insisting on an apology, that they may be motivated to see at least some of those cases through to the end, or at least to include full-throated retractions by the Giuliani's, Powell's and Newsmax's of the world, but I don't know.
I think it's an important point to make here that the law of defamation is not about accountability, it is not about justice. The PR folks at Dominion who have been feeding those lines to the lawyers who by the way, did a fantastic job in litigating this case, need to recognize that the law of defamation is about compensating people and entities for injury to their reputation, and that's how this case ended and how it should have ended.
Dominion got compensated to the tune of three quarters of a billion dollars for injury to its reputation and that's how it should have ended.
COOPER: Yes. Lee Levine, appreciate it. Elie Honig as well. Thanks so much.
We're going to have more on the FOX-Dominion settlement in a moment.
Also ahead tonight, new details on the arrest of that 84-year-old Kansas City man who shot 16-year-old Ralph Yarl for ringing his doorbell by mistake, as well as the latest on the young man's recovery.
Also, "The Wall Street Journal" reporter who is being held on Moscow on charges of espionage, we saw the reporter today in a courtroom behind, well, basically in a glass box. We'll talk about his future, what happens next when we return.
COOPER: I want to spend some more time on what is now the largest publicly known defamation settlement in US history, $787.5 million is going to cost FOX to settle the defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems.
I am joined now by Kara Swisher, host of the "On with Kara Swisher Podcast," she formerly covering the tech beat for another of Rupert Murdoch's media outlets, "The Wall Street Journal."
Kara, it's great to have you on. Were you surprised by the settlement? KARA SWISHER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" OPINION:
Good to see you.
No, no. We talked about it yesterday on "Pivot." The amount of money that they're getting here is so enormous, I don't know if you realize this. But Dominion, which is owned by a private equity firm, but all the employees have stakes, including the CEO, John Poulos is worth about $80 million. So, it is 10 times the valuation.
And so it's just an enormous amount of money with no risk. You never know what's going to happen with a jury trial. They certainly got all that information about FOX out and all of those e-mails, those embarrassing, terribly embarrassing e-mails, and you know, they got -- I think they did get focused in on this, including its CEO, John Poulos who talked today. I interviewed him before he sued.
So I just don't -- I didn't imagine they could take this risk given the amount of money at stake here.
COOPER: It was interesting, because they talked a lot about, I did a "60 Minutes" piece with him a couple of months ago and, you know, they talked a lot about not only the threats that he and his family were facing, which were just horrific, but also, you know, employees at all levels of the corporation, you know, getting death threats over the phone, people doxing their houses, things like that.
COOPER: I don't know, if you know, I was talking to the attorney before in our last, you know --
SWISHER: Yes, I heard.
COOPER: I'm not sure that some of those employees will actually be seeing any of this money. I guess she was saying people who are shareholders will, but --
SWISHER: That's correct.
COOPER: It seemed to be a good -- a nice thing, for you know, others in the corporation, it's not that big of a company.
SWISHER: Sure. Well, you have to ask the private equity firm that owns it. It is called Staple Street Capital. You know, I think probably they will be rewarding certain people.
When I interviewed him, this was before the lawsuit, in I think 2020, you know, even his own family members thought he was suspect.
COOPER: Yes. That's right.
SWISHER: You know, asked him questions.
COOPER: That's right, yes.
SWISHER: Which was really bizarre. COOPER: Incredible. Yes.
SWISHER: And some people had real, like, very serious death threats. He included, but there are some other employees there that really underwent terrible things. I suspect they will make them whole. You know, this is -- what happened to them is just devastating. And of course, money doesn't make up for it, but it is not bad. It is not a bad thing to have.
COOPER: Well, also, Poulos is a guy who started out trying to make voting easier for people with disabilities.
COOPER: And so with that, if that was what his goal was initially, to have this happen to him, when I talked to him, you know, they weren't allowing his kids -- he wasn't allowing his kids to answer the doorbell if it rang at his house.
SWISHER: Right. Yes.
COOPER: Because they were afraid of somebody, you know, leaving a package that, you know, might explode. I mean, it's nuts.
SWISHER: There are a lot of people feeling much more under threat. And you know, I just had a Olivia Nuzzi, who writes for "New York" Magazine, and she said she felt that the threats were more, were increasing at various places over time.
You know, I don't know what's going to happen to Dominion here, but this is sort of a windfall for them to be able to do what they want and have more choices. There's one right behind it, Smartmatic.
SWISHER: And then of course, there are the other targets of these lawsuits which Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Mike Lindell -- this is not over. And then for FOX, besides they also have the Smartmatic one going is shareholders. This is a trove for shareholders at FOX.
COOPER: Yes, explain it because I think a lot people -- we've had some people on the air talk about that, but shareholders might sue FOX --
SWISHER: Oh, yes.
COOPER: For the way they handle this.
SWISHER: Yes, exactly how they -- there is so much proof here, and of course there were a lot -- they were citing 7,000 documents that Dominion was using. This is all discovery that they could use if you're a shareholder saying, what the heck are you doing here paying close to a billion dollars? It's not going to stop at a billion. It is going to be several billion and they will move on, they have insurance, I suspect, I don't really know how they're going to pay it.
They have I think $4 billion in cash, so they have the money to pay it. It's just shareholders might be not happy about the situation.
COOPER: What big picture repercussions, if any, do you see from this saga for whether it's for FOX or sort of the entire media echo chamber, the right-wing media echo chamber?
SWISHER: Well, they'll either use it and try to weaponize it and that their victims. They love playing the victim card here, even though behind the scenes, we all knew they felt like this, I just didn't realize it was quite as much. They seem to hate Trump more than anybody does, which is kind of odd, but he is their bread and butter, and of course, he is back. So they're going to probably back him.
They will spend a lot of time dealing with this and probably not making very many changes. They don't seem to want to change, they continue to do the same things. I don't know if there's accountability here. But the I do know, they'll spend, you know, Rupert Murdoch will spend the rest of his life in lawsuits on this issue. And so it'll matter on how they're going to cover the next election, and maybe they won't be quite as you know, maybe Sidney Powell won't just pop up you know --
COOPER: You know, the question also is if they have -- if they have the former President on and he continues as he will making these lies, you know, will they actually correct him? Will they push back on it all? We will see.
SWISHER: No, they don't. I've noticed several interviews recently. They did one with Elon Musk, it was full of things that weren't quite accurate. You know, they'd have to push back at least, you know, even if they are sort of cheerleaders for that side, but I think it did prove that this, you know, this is taking the word news organization and stretching it rather far, and we've got -- now, we've got the e- mails and proof, so we'll see where it goes from here.
COOPER: Yes. Kara Swisher, I wish I could talk to you about "Succession," because I'm obsessed with it.
SWISHER: Oh, anytime.
COOPER: I love your podcast about it.
COOPER All right, I will talk to you --
SWISHER: Nothing to do with the Murdoch's.
COOPER: Logan Roy would have settled, I think. Anyway --
SWISHER: Logan Roy would have gotten under $600 million, I'll tell you that.
COOPER: Yes, probably. All right, thanks so much, Kara. SWISHER: That's with Bill Gurr's (ph) consent. Thank you.
COOPER: Appreciate it.
A programming note former, FOX anchor Gretchen Carlson who settled her own sexual harassment lawsuit against FOX will join me tomorrow on 360 for her reaction to today's historic settlement against her former network. We hope you can tune in for that.
Coming up tonight, an 84-year-old man accused of shooting a teenager who rang his doorbell is out of jail tonight, just hours after turning himself in. The latest on the case, next.
COOPER: Tonight, new details in the case of a man accused of shooting a 16-year-old who mistakenly rang his doorbell. According to an attorney representing the 16-year-old, Ralph Yarl and his family, 84- year-old Andrew Lester is set to be arraigned tomorrow afternoon.
Yarl has been released from the hospital. A GoFundMe page created for him has raised more than $3 million, but his family say she still faces a difficult road to recovery.
CNN's Lucy Kafanov has details.
LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Andrew Lester, the 84- year-old white homeowner charged with shooting Ralph Yarl, a 16-year- old black teenager, turned himself into authorities today and was released on $200,000 bond and a prohibition on him possessing weapons.
Community leaders and Yarl's attorney speaking out today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A charge does not mean justice.
REV. DR. VERNON HOWARD, SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE OF GREATER KANSAS CITY: We don't want him out, but we understand that's part of the process.
KAFANOV (voice-over): Yarl's mother spoke with CBS News about the events of that night when Yarl went to pick up his younger brothers from a friend's home.
CLEO NAGBE, RALPH YARL'S MOM: His brothers were supposed to run outside, get in the car, and they come home. And that was what was supposed to happen. And while he was standing there, his brothers didn't run outside, but he got a couple of bullets in his body instead of a couple of twins coming up out and giving him a hug.
KAFANOV (voice-over): Lester faces two felony charges in the shooting, assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. (on-camera): The incident unfolded on the front porch of the home behind me, the homeowner telling police that Ralph Yarl came up to his front porch. He rang the doorbell, but Ralph had made a mistake. This home is located at 115th Street, the home he was supposed to go to is one block away right there, 115th Terrace.
(voice-over): According to the probable cause statement, Lester told investigators he was in bed when he heard the doorbell ring, then picked up his gun before responding to answer the door. He said after opening the main door, he saw a black male, approximately 6 feet tall, and he believed someone was attempting to break into the house and shot twice within a few seconds of opening the main door.
He also told investigators that no words were exchanged, and it's quoted as saying he was scared to death by the teenager's size and by his inability to defend himself.
LEE MERRITT, RALPH YARL'S ATTORNEY: He had to face an ugly reality here in the states that the color of his skin is often seen as a threat in and of itself.
KAFANOV (voice-over): According to prosecutors, there's no evidence Yarl ever crossed the threshold into Lester's home.
NAGBE: You just cannot wrap your head around it from being shot for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
KAFANOV (voice-over): Yarl told investigators he fell to the ground after being shot in the head and was then shot in the arm. He said the man who shot him said, don't come around here. Yarl then ran away, going to multiple homes asking for help.
Investigators say they observed blood on the front porch, blood on the driveway, and blood in the street after the shooting.
NAGBE: Ralph was shot on top of his left eye, I would say in the left frontal lobe. And then he was shot again in the upper right arm. That injury is extensive, and the residual effect of that injury is going to stay with him for quite a while.
KAFANOV: And Anderson, President Joe Biden today shared a photo on Twitter showing him on the phone with Ralph Yarl and his family. He said, and I quote, "No parent should have to worry that their kid will be shot after ringing the wrong doorbell. We've got to keep up the fight against gun violence." He added that he looked forward to welcoming the teenager in the Oval Office when he felt better.
We know that Yarl is hoping to pursue a chemical engineering degree at Texas A&M University. And a White House official told CNN that the President jokingly lightheartedly tried to convince the teen that his alma mater, University of Delaware, is a much better option. Anderson?
COOPER: Lucy Kafanov, appreciate it. Thanks so much. Joining us now for more perspective, CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. He's the former NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism. Does anything we know so far about this Kansas City shooting come close to, I mean, is he going to argue some sort of self-defense?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, the statement he gave to police was actually the basis for the arrest because he couldn't articulate to police what it was that made him feel that there was an imminent danger to himself by this person on the other side of a glass door that was locked, that he didn't exchange any words with.
The burning question here is if that figure on the other side of the door had been white, would he have that gun? The complicating part is Missouri law, which is it is a stand-your-ground law state. It's not only if someone is in your home, but the law is written to include private property. You do not have a duty to retreat.
So the case is going to be based on whether Mr. Lester is able to articulate what he was afraid of and why he was afraid of that, to the point that a reasonable person would have come to the same conclusion possibly.
COOPER: The prosecuting attorney had said that there was a -- what he called a racial component to the case. Is -- I mean, why wasn't this man taken into custody right away?
MILLER: Well, that goes back to the complications in the law. That may be a game day call by police, but you have an 84-year-old man who lives in that house who is not a flight risk, technically, that occurred on his property in his home. And you have to get a decision from the district attorney based on the law whether they're going to charge that case.
So it appears the police decided, we're going to question him, we're going to record that statement. We're going to let him go home. We're going to show that statement to the D.A. And if the D.A. authorizes the arrest, then we go into the process we saw today, which is the warrant was issued on the charges, he surrendered on the charges, bail was set, and so on.
COOPER: We also now have this case in New York. A 65-year-old in Upstate New York, 65-year-old man charged with second degree murder. He shot at a car that had turned onto his driveway by mistake. They were, I think, backing out. A 20-year-old woman was killed. Again, what do you make of that?
MILLER: Well, so, there's two things. One is what's going on here? But let's put that behind this. The first thing is, what's the difference in the law in Missouri and New York? New York is not a stand-your- ground state. New York is a state where you have to articulate imminent, a reasonable person has to believe there's an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death before they use deadly physical force, and they have the duty to retreat if they can.
So it's a very different story for somebody to say it's a reasonable threat of imminent bodily harm or death when a car comes down the driveway is turning around, it's far away from the house --
MILLER: -- and they have to shoot out of the house to hit somebody in the car where they can't even see in the dark of night. You know, this is a car with multiple people in it. So it's going to be very difficult for him to articulate what the immediate threat was to him and what perception drove that as a reasonable person.
COOPER: John Miller, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Up next, the first glimpse of Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich since his arrest in Russia last month. He appeared in a Moscow court today to appeal the terms of his detention. What happens next for him? Coming up.
COOPER: A Russian court today upheld the detention of Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested last month on allegations of espionage. Gershkovich was -- is a U.S. citizen. He was seen in court for the first time today since his arrest. It's the first detention of an American reporter in Russia on allegations of spying since the Cold War. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance has more.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the first glimpse of Evan Gershkovich for weeks. The U.S. reporter accused in Russia of espionage, standing arms folded behind a glass courtroom cage, even manages a smile for the cameras.
A few journalists call out their support. Hold strong, one shouts. Everyone sends you a big hello, the voice says. Before being hustled away. But the court rejected an appeal for bail or for Gershkovich to be kept under house arrest instead of in prison.
Outside, his lawyer spoke of how he was holding up behind bars. Reading classic Russian novels, one said, and watching cooking shows on TV. But the U.S. ambassador was far more critical, expressing her concerns at his confinement.
LYNNE TRACY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: I can only say how troubling it was to see Evan, an innocent journalist, held in these circumstances. The charges against Evan are baseless, and we call on the Russian Federation to immediately release him.
CHANCE (voice-over): Amid its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been stepping up its crackdown on free speech and dissent, using the war as cover to silence independent journalism or to jail long standing critics like Vladimir Kara-Murza, sentenced to 25 years for treason just this week after speaking out on the conflict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The war crimes, these are war crimes.
CHANCE (voice-over): And the pressure is maintained behind bars. Last month, supporters of Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian anticorruption campaigner, accused the authorities of poisoning the Kremlin critic again, this time at a penal colony. Now his lawyers say he's been beaten up in his cell and faces new criminal charges.
It is against this backdrop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evan.
CHANCE (voice-over): Evan Gershkovich remains detained in a Moscow prison, determined, say his lawyers, to defend himself, but utterly at the mercy of an increasingly authoritarian Russian state.
COOPER: And Matthew Chance joins me now, along with the Wall Street Journal's Moscow Bureau Chief Ann Simmons. Ann, after seeing those images, Evan in that glass cage in the court -- the courtroom, what is your reaction to today's hearing?
ANN SIMMONS, MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, Anderson, thank you for having me. We were kind of expecting the result of the hearing. The Wall Street Journal was not surprised by the fact that his detention was upheld.
It was good to see a colleague, despite the fact that we saw him in a glass box and in a courtroom essentially detained.
COOPER: Do you know anything about his condition? What, I mean, are you able to have or is The Wall Street Journal able to have any communication directly with him?
SIMMONS: No, our reporting basically shows, and this is through his lawyers, that his lawyers are able to have contact with him, and the information that we learn is from them. And again, we have reported that he is in good spirits right now. He is obviously at Lefortovo Prison in Moscow.
He is doing his best to keep up his spirits. We have reported that as well. Reading a lot, watching culinary shows on TV. But we don't know much more than that because, as you know, espionage cases are typically classified, and a lot of the information is not revealed.
COOPER: And Matthew, you were in Moscow very recently. What is life like there now, especially for people who are not Russians?
CHANCE: Yes, I came back a few days ago. I was there for a month, and it's an extraordinary place. I mean, I -- one of the things that I noticed, first of all, was how sort of sparsely populated the city felt. Now, obviously, there's still a lot of people there, but, you know, a lot of people have left. Hundreds of thousands of people have left Russia since the partial mobilization was declared, you know, kind of some months ago.
And maybe it's just people I know that have left, but it just felt there were fewer people there. Economically, you know, the brand names have left the city. There are a lot of empty shops. The things that are there are very expensive as well. So it must be very difficult for people who have to kind of like -- you know, their standard of living must have had a massive impact because of this economic situation.
And I think, you know, the -- just the general sort of atmosphere and the way which sort of anti-Western rhetoric permeates through sort of every pore of the state media. You know, Russia is being surrounded. Its enemies in the United States, in Britain, and in the west in general, are trying to break the country up. I mean, it's in sort of almost every breath that is broadcast on Russian television.
COOPER: And Ann, what's Evan like as a reporter? What do you think he brings to his job that's so special?
SIMMONS: Evan is a terrific reporter, largely because he is very familiar with Russian culture and history and tradition. He is from a Russian family. His parents were Soviet emigrates to the United States. And so he has got this very intimate view of Russian society.
And we've reported that, of course, you know, he's very passionate about Russia and Russians and the story in general. And being able to have that kind of intimate view is so powerful, especially when reporting from Russia.
COOPER: Matthew, can you talk about the process of reporting from Russia, how it's changed just say in the past year and a half since the war?
CHANCE: I mean, it's transformed radically. It's become a much more -- it was always pretty hazardous, but it's become a much more dangerous sort of undertaking. And of course, the arrest of Evan Gershkovich has made everybody or what remains of the press corps from the west in Russia really think twice and three times about what kind of work they're doing, whether it falls foul of any law, you know, and what risk, you know, that you want to take.
I mean, it's not just the arrest, of course. I mean, since the conflict began, Russia has introduced legislation which has effectively criminalized critical reporting. It is illegal now to discredit the Russian military. It is, you know, illegal effectively to say the word war, to call it a war instead of a special military operation.
And, you know, violation of those requirements or those laws can result and often do report, particularly for local journalists, very lengthy prison sentences. COOPER: CNN's Matthew Chance, thanks so much. And Ann Simmons, thanks so much for being on. You're the Wall Street Journal Moscow Bureau Chief. I can imagine the strain you and all your colleagues are under, as Evan's family and I wish you all the best. Thank you.
SIMMONS: Thank you.
COOPER: Still ahead, the governor of Oklahoma calls for the resignation of several officials in one county after they were allegedly caught in an audio recording making racist comments about lynching black people and talking about killing journalists. Now new action is being taken against those accused. Details ahead.
COOPER: In Oklahoma, three members of the McCurtain County Sheriff's Office, one of whom is the sheriff himself, have been suspended from the Oklahoma Sheriff's Association, which is a nonprofit that supports law enforcement. The three are accused of making racist remarks, expressing disappointment black people can no longer be lynched and threatening to kill two journalists.
Oklahoma's Republican governor said the three and another county official should all be fired after a secret audio recording captured their alleged remarks and was published by a local newspaper over the weekend. Now the accused are pushing back with their own accusations. Details from Randi Kaye.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've known two or three hit men, that were very quiet guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And would cut no fucking mercy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Officials in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, allegedly talking about hiring hitmen to kill newspaper publisher Bruce Willingham and his son, reporter Chris Willingham.
BRUCE WILLINGHAM, OWNER AND PUBLISHER, THE MCCURTAIN GAZETTE: It was complete shock. Couldn't believe it. Yes, I've been taking it seriously.
KAYE (voice-over): Bruce Willingham owns the McCurtain Gazette, which released the recording. He secretly recorded the county officials following a commission meeting last month.
WILLINGHAM: I left a recorder going after I left the room.
KAYE (voice-over): The officials allegedly heard on the recording are McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, Sheriff's Investigator Alicia Manning, and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix.
According to a CNN affiliate, the Willinghams have written at least 30 articles alleging corruption involving the McCurtain County Sheriff's Office.
WILLINGHAM: They were talking about killing me and my son.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are insignificant in my life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really. They bring no --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The old saying is, what comes around goes around.
KAYE (voice-over): The people on the recording can be heard talking about digging two holes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know where two big deep holes are here if you ever need them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got an excavator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, these are already pre-dug.
KAYE (voice-over): And it doesn't stop there. On that same audio recording, the people talking shared their dismay that lynching black people is no longer acceptable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to tell you something. If it was back in the day, when that when (INAUDIBLE) would take a damn black guy and whoop their ass and throw him in the cell? I'd run for fucking sheriff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Well, it's not like that no more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a damn rope.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you can't do that anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I tell you about --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got more rights than we got.
KAYE (voice-over): Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt told CNN in a statement, he is appalled and disheartened by the comments in the released audio. He's calling on the officials to resign. So is Idabel Mayor Craig Young. MAYOR CRAIG YOUNG, IDABEL, OKLAHOMA: I hate to know that this is 2023 and we still have folks who want to live like the 1921 Al Capone lifestyle when you start talking about lynching and killing folks.
KAYE: And Anderson, CNN has not been able to verify the authenticity of this recording or confirm who said what on it. We have reached out to the people believed to be on the recording. The sheriff's office, Anderson, did release a statement saying that their initial investigation does show them that the recording was, quote, altered.
They also said that this was a recording that was obtained illegally because they didn't have the consent of those people at the meeting who were in the room. Now, the newspaper says that this audio was legally obtained.
But Anderson, it's also worth pointing out how this has upended the lives of this reporter and his father, the publisher. We understand that they have been advised to leave that county, at least temporarily.
COOPER: Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thank you.
Tonight on CNN Primetime, the challenges of being a black man in America is that Oklahoma story and the shooting of a black teenager who rang the wrong doorbell sparks a nationwide conversation. That's minutes away at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.
COOPER: The news continues. I want to hand it over to Pamela Brown and "CNN PRIMETIME". Pamela?