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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Biden Announces Re-Election Bid, Saying Battle For Nation's Soul Isn't Complete; Rape Allegation Trial Against Trump Begins In New York; White House Downplays Concerns Regarding President Biden's Age; Former Producer Accuses Tucker Carlson, Fox Of Creating Hostile Work Environment; 7 Arrested For Protesting In Support Of Montana State Lawmaker Who Argued An Anti-Trans Bill; College Board To Revise AP African American Studies Course That Sparked Criticism From FL Gov. DeSantis And Other Conservatives; 60 Schools Across 33 States Teaching Pilot Version Of AP African American Studies; Singer, Actor And Activist Harry Belafonte Dead At 96. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 25, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight lost in space.

A Japanese company attempting the first moon landing by a private company says it has contact with its lunar lander. It was supposed to land on the moon after a three-month journey today, and Mission Control expected their communications to go dark just for a little bit, but then 20 minutes after it was supposed to be landing, they still had nothing, they still didn't know if it was there.

Here is the last sighting as of now, this incredible photo taken about 60 miles from the surface of the moon.

We'll see if it shows up.

Thanks for watching. Anderson is now.



And so it begins. Four years the day after he entered the 2020 race with a video condemning the former president's comments after a White supremacist rally in Virginia, President Joe Biden today announced he is running for a second term.

He appeared in a video released this morning saying we still are in a fight for the soul of the nation. He spoke about the need to, in his words, defend democracy and repeatedly spoke of the need to stand up for what he termed personal freedom. This time, not just against the extremism of a former president who hopes to retake the White House, but a Republican Party the president believes is enabled by him.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's been the work of my first term, to fight for our democracy.

This shouldn't be a red or blue issue.

To protect our rights, to make sure that everyone in this country is treated equally and that everyone is given a fair shot at making it.

But you know, around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms, cutting Social Security that you paid for your entire life while cutting taxes from the very wealthy, dictating what healthcare decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love, all the while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote.


COOPER: Well, later in the day, President Biden appeared before a group of trade union members touting his legislative record and the need to "finish the job."

Moments ago, Vice President Harris picked up where the President left off in his video on the topic of abortion. She was speaking at her alma mater, Howard University. She cited laws that ban abortion after six weeks like the one recently signed by Republican presidential candidate and Governor Ron DeSantis, and said that, since most women don't know they're pregnant at that stage, it is proof that most Republicans in her words don't know how a woman's body works.

She also spoke about what she called an extremist plan for a national agenda to push strict abortion laws.

Someone else also was speaking about abortion today, it was former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who declared for the Republican presidential race in February. She appeared in an event organized by a prominent anti-abortion group calling for a "constructive conversation" on the issue and the need for what she termed a national consensus but didn't provide any details of what a national abortion policy would look like under a Haley administration.

Also today, something else defining the 2024 race, the many investigations both criminal and civil into the former president.

There were opening statements in a battery and defamation trial against him. E. Jean Carroll says that in 1996, the former president raped her in a department store dressing room. The former president denies the charges.

We'll have more on what happened in opening statement today in court later.

We want to begin with the Biden campaign and CNN chief White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

So what's been going on behind the scenes today at the White House?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, besides the video from the President this morning, his entire day was defined by official events from the White House. Behind the scenes, though there was an intensive flurry of activity from his top advisers, from top Democrats to lay the groundwork for what they know will be both a very expensive and very intense battle ahead.

I'm told advisers throughout the course of the day were making contact and reaching out to key groups of the Biden coalition, kind of the core pillars of what got him elected in 2020 and he will need to get re-elected in 2024, whether it is young voters, Latino voters, Black voters trying to ensure that all of those groups were aligned and understood what was coming and what was going to be needed going forward. So to were reach outs and efforts to speak with donors.

The top advisers for the president holding a call with top donors earlier today laying out the groundwork for the campaign, their message, what they see going forward, and they've also invited more than a couple of dozen of them to Washington later this weekend for more briefings, more intensive discussions around a plan that I'm told between the campaign and its supportive outside groups could total more than $2 billion, Anderson.

As for the President, I'm told he was briefed throughout the day on how things were going, did hold a call with key Democratic governors earlier today to lay out the message and the strategy, particularly in swing states that his campaign sees as their theory of the case going into things.

More than anything else, though, there is an understanding that there is critical contrast here that they want to push forward. They know there are headwinds, they see the poll numbers as well, but they feel like there's a clear pathway so long as they get their allies, their groups and probably most importantly, their money in place for the road ahead -- Anderson.

COOPER: Is the White House addressing their concerns about the president's age? I mean, not that there's anything they can really do about it.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it is a reality. And I think that your point that there is anything they can do about it is one that you hear from White House officials.

This is the reality. The president is the oldest president in US history. He is 80 years old. He would be 86 at the end of his second term.

However, they've taken a lot of heart with the fact that there have been no real Democratic challenges leading up to this moment. The National Party is certainly behind him.


But when you look at the polls that have been coming out over the course of the last couple of weeks, there is an understanding that there's an apathy to some degree, even amongst some Democratic voters due to his age, due to generational issues. They think they can address that.

One way, they have kind of tried to shift the discussion a little bit is talk more about experience and what that has gotten him in his first two years in office; sweeping legislative wins with no precedent over the course of the last couple of decades, all of which he'll be talking about in the weeks and months ahead.

He was talking about it today in his public speech that he gave, that will be a primary focus, also too, elevating the vice president. Kamala Harris, as you noted, giving a big primetime abortion speech at an HBCU earlier tonight, that will be a focus.

She was heavily featured in his campaign launch video, so watch them work together in that capacity going forward. But there's no question, it is a question that will keep coming up, one that they feel like they can only address by just having the president do what he does -- Anderson.

COOPER: Phil Mattingly, appreciate it.

Now for Republican reactions to the Biden video as well as new controversy involving the former president in the party's primary debate, CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us with all of that.

So what did the former president and the Republican Party, how -- what was their reaction to the president's announcement?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, former President Donald Trump released a statement talking about inflation, talking about the war in Afghanistan, the economy, a laundry list, but he also said that President Biden has been the worst American president, worse than the five worst American presidents.

He did not name them, but he said he is surprised that he's running for re-election. He called him a corrupt president, but no specifics to any of this, of course.

One thing he did not mention was age. That was interesting. Of course, Donald Trump, 76 years old; Joe Biden, 80 years old. They certainly are contemporaries here.

Other Republicans went after the Biden administration in a very unusual way. The Republican National Committee releasing a very new ad that was made out of artificial intelligence, sort of imagining what the world would be in a second Biden administration.

But as for the former president, he had this to say, he said: "With such a calamitous and failed presidency, it is almost inconceivable that Biden would even think of running for re-election." He adds, "I promise you this when I stand on that debate stage and compare our records, it will be the radical Democrats' worst nightmare."

But interesting, of course, he says debate stage because he riled some Republicans on that same topic later today.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, he floated the idea he might not participate in Republican primary debates.

ZELENY: He did, and that was sort of unusual. He said he has not been consulted about these primary debates. The first one we know of course, will be in August. The next one will be at the Reagan Library shortly after that, and the first one will be on Fox News.

And the former president said he simply has not been consulted about this and he may not participate at that. He said there were hostile networks hosting these debates, so certainly interesting in the wake of the Tucker Carlson news, of course, he's come out in support of that to fired Fox News host.

But the Republican National Committee, Republican officials say that we've had -- excuse me, his advisers were told about these specific debates, but he's simply a candidate. He's not running this process. The Republican National Committee is running this process.

So we will see if the former president actually decides to not debate. We've heard those same claims four and eight years ago, and at the same time, he has always jumped into those debates, because that TV time simply is too tempting for him -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Perspective on all of this now from CNN chief correspondent, co-anchor of "CNN This Morning," Kaitlan Collins; CNN senior political correspondent and anchor, Abby Phillip; and CNN contributor, Evan Osnos who has written a remarkable biography of the president and his latest book is on the deep division in the US. It's titled, "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury."

What are you hearing, Kaitlan from the Biden campaign about the road ahead?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it's going to look that different in terms of what Biden is doing day by day, initially. They have pointed to you know what President Obama did when he announced that he was running for re-election. He wasn't out of the campaign trail every day.

They will use White House events to really showcase that. He is never going to be holding any kind of rallies like what you've seen, you know, former President Trump do, what he is expected to do going forward.

One thing that this announcement today, though, does help in what they are looking forward to doing is fundraising. That is going to be a key component of this. But there have been questions of was he going to announce now? Was Biden going to announce later?

This was a little bit hastily put together once he said in Ireland, he was going to be announcing it pretty soon. We'll see the formation of what it looks like with the campaign headquarters in Delaware or in Wilmington.

COOPER: But they are gearing up for being against Trump, I assume. COLLINS: Yes. That is who they want to run against. I mean, obviously, they don't know ultimately, that's the presumption right now that Trump is the frontrunner. They want it to be a Trump-Biden rematch.

COOPER: They would prefer that.

COLLINS: Because they know how to beat him. They've done it before and they feel that is more effective. Also, with the age question as well, of course, that is more are in line. They are only three-and-a-half years apart or so compared to if it's a Governor DeSantis or someone who is the Republican nominee.

COOPER: Yes. Abby, how personal do you think this is for President Biden to go against President Trump again?


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR OF "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY": Yes, I mean, you've got to remember that Biden came back into public life because of Donald Trump.

He, after his son died, had kind of receded back into sort of private life and was going to remain there until I think this moment, and that's why Charlottesville really sticks in his mind, because it is, I think, as he has said publicly, the moment that he realized that this was deeper than just politics just occupying the office, but of course, he is a politician, and like all politicians, once you have the office, do you tend to want to keep it.

And Biden is like a lot of people. He has actually been running for president now for 30 years. He wanted to be president of the United States, and I think that that's part of the picture here, too.

But as Kaitlan says, he has a sense of confidence about this particular challenge, especially as it relates to Trump. He thinks he understands the formula for beating the former president a second time, and despite all of the challenges that are out there, he has a team around him that kind of takes a very methodical approach, kind of dealing with one set of issues at a time, shoring up, you know, for example, the Democratic base.

I noted today, they rolled out several announcements of endorsements, including some people who had said maybe they might run against Biden like Gavin Newsom, governor of California, and Bernie Sanders.

So they are strategic and that, combined with Biden's self-confidence about his ability to beat Trump, I think is what puts him back here in this position again.

COOPER: Evan, when Biden first ran, you know, there was sort of talk about well, he would be a one-term president that will sort of bridge the next generation. Was that all just kind of talk?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think there was, to use a term from foreign affairs, a little bit of strategic ambiguity in those statements. I mean, in a way, if you asked him at the time, and I remember in 2020, talking to him about this, what he focused on when he talked about being a transition candidate was the idea that they would open up government, open up the administration to a more diverse roster of talent.

You know, in gender terms, in racial terms, and they have done that, if you look at the people that they brought in to the administration, judicial appointments, but you can't deny the fact that a lot of people took from his messaging at the time the idea that he might only run for one term.

At the time, you know, his advisers were saying to me, look, he would not say that. It would be political malpractice to do so. He would be a lame duck on day two, but that's not what a lot of people heard.

COOPER: Right.

Kaitlan, obviously, the Biden community is making abortion front and center. We see Kamala Harris out there tonight. I just want to play some of what she said at Howard.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fundamental freedoms are under attack in our country today, and it is the tradition of this university, and dare I say the tradition of our country to fight for freedom, to fight for rights, to fight for the ability of all people to be who they are and make decisions about their own lives and their bodies.


COOPER: This is clearly an issue Democrats see as something that is mobilizing people to vote as it did in the midterms.

COLLINS: Yes. Look what happened in Wisconsin recently with that Supreme Court race and Judge Protasiewicz getting that seat because she ran very clearly on what she was saying when it came to abortion, what we've seen happen ever since Roe versus Wade was overturned, which initially galvanized Republicans, of course. It was something they had sought for so many decades.

But in the end, it is energizing Democrats in a way that we've seen is also putting Republicans kind of on -- they are not really sure how to handle it.

We were talking to Asa Hutchinson earlier who is announcing formally tomorrow that he is going to be a Republican contender for this. You know, he has said he thinks abortion may be on the backburner by the time you know, the 2024 really heats up. I am not so sure about that. I mean, it has been one of the number one issues we've seen mobilizing voters.

And Republicans are struggling around, you know, you're saying in North Dakota, they're assigning incredibly strict bills into law; Florida, Governor DeSantis assigning that six-week bill into law, the question of whether or not that is something that's going to turn off moderate voters in the actual general election if he was the nominee.

I think it's going to be something that's more difficult for Republicans to talk about. They haven't really found their footing on it.

COOPER: And Abby, we may have a Supreme Court which weighs in again, this time next year on the medical -- on the pill, the medical abortion, which is widely used and has been for decades.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, look, this is a live issue. I don't think as Asa Hutchinson suggests that this is going to necessarily fade and the reason actually is because Republican legislatures and lawmakers are pushing increasingly restrictive abortion bills at the state level, and that is always going to keep this issue on the front burner.

We're also starting to see among Republicans, a real pressure being put on some of these candidates by anti-abortion groups, for example, the Susan B. Anthony List, really wanting to put people on the record, what number of weeks would you be willing to support in terms of federal abortion bans?


So even if some Republicans, maybe some moderates wanted to say, let's not talk about this so much, I think there is the right flank of the Republican Party that has said, we've been fighting for this for 50 years, and they want to see really hard commitments, and the people who are trying to be somewhere in the squishy middle on the Republican side are not really going to be able to do that because there is this kind of grassroots movement that is still there, pushing them further to the right.

We saw that with Nikki Haley, as she today tried to say, let's just have a conversation about it, never really mentioning what her line is in terms of when she would like to see abortion restricted in this country.

COOPER: Yes, Evan, President Biden often touts his record from his first two years in office. Obviously, Republicans now control the House and no one expects any of the President's remaining legislative priorities to pass Congress. How much could that hurt him between now and the election?

OSNOS; Well, look, I think what you're hearing him stake out and it became very clear in this video today, is that he's framing this election as larger now than just legislative action. They had a lot of that in the first two years, but as he put it today, this is about freedoms, fundamental freedoms, and I think that resonates with a lot of Democrats who feel that they look at the overturning of Roe v. Wade, they look at the challenges to same sex marriage, the effort to try to rollback what have come to be settled freedoms, settled laws and United States.

And I think for a lot of Americans, particularly Democrats who might be uneasy about the idea of a Biden at the age of 80, going for a second term, they're going to begin to look at that choice and say that this is actually a grand choice. It's really a referendum on the character of the nation.

COOPER: Evan Osnos, appreciate it. Kaitlan Collins, Abby Phillip as well, thank you.

Just ahead tonight, after years of legal wrangling, there were opening statements today in a lawsuit against the former president. E. Jean Carroll alleges in 1996 that Donald Trump raped her. She also says he defamed her in more recent comments that he made. He denies all her claims. We'll have details on opening statements ahead.

Also more fallout on the firing of Tucker Carlson by Fox News. New comments by a former Fox producer who once worked for him and is now suing the network over what she says was a hostile work environment for women.



COOPER: Opening statements began today in a civil case brought by a writer named E. Jean Carroll who says that in the mid-1990s, the former president raped her in a Manhattan department store. She also accuses him of later defaming her in comments he made about the rape allegation, all of which he denies.

Our Randi Kaye has more.


E. JEAN CARROLL, SUING DONALD TRUMP: I proceeded into the dressing room. The minute he closed that door, I was banged up against the wall.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Author and columnist, E. Jean Carroll sharing her story of an alleged assault by Donald Trump.

Carol now 79 is suing Trump for battery, stemming from the attack she says took place in late 1995 or early 1996 in a dressing room of the department store, Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.

She is also suing him for defamation for comments Trump made about her last October.

On his Truth Social platform last fall, Trump posted: "It is a hoax and a lie, just like all the other hoaxes that have been played on me for the past seven years. And while I'm not supposed to say it, I will. This woman is not my type."

He also posted: "I don't know this woman. Have no idea who she is. She completely made up a story that I met her at the doors of this crowded New York City department store and within minutes, swooned her." In his October deposition for this case, Trump called Carroll a nut job.

Carroll filed what is now her second lawsuit against Trump last November, after a new law called the Adult Survivors Act was passed in New York. That law allows adults alleging sexual assault to bring claims years after the attack.

Carroll claims Trump forced her up against a dressing room wall, pinned her in place with his shoulder and raped her.

CARROLL: He managed to penetrate me against my will completely.

KAYE (voice over): Carroll's lawsuit says Trump jammed his hand under her coat dress and pull down her tights then forced his penis inside of her. She says the attack lasted two to three minutes. Trump has denied all of Carroll's claims, including the rape allegation.

Carroll says she called a friend right away that night who backs up her story.

LISA BIRNBACH, FRIEND OF E. JEAN CARROLL: I remember her saying repeatedly he pulled down my tights. It was horrible. We fought. And I said let's go to the police.

KAYE (voice over): Carroll's lawsuit claims the alleged sexual assault caused her significant pain and suffering. Adding Trump's defamatory statement has injured the reputation on which she makes her livelihood.

CARROLL: Nobody has held him accountable yet, not one person.

KAYE (voice over): Carroll sued Trump initially in 2019 for defamation, after he denied raping her.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a total false accusation, and I don't know anything about her.

KAYE (voice over): The trial in that first legal battle is delayed as the courts figure out if Trump can be sued for comments he made while he was president. The defamation claims from the more recent lawsuit would not be impacted since Trump made those statements after he left office.

Meantime, E. Jean Carroll is still hoping for justice.

CARROLL: Oh, total jail time, total jail time for the rest of his life. Absolutely.

KAYE (voice over): Randi Kaye, CNN.


COOPER: I'm joined now by CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson.

This is a civil lawsuit. What does that mean for the kind of evidence that you know, is admissible? The burden of proof?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So there are distinctions, obviously, between civil and criminal. In a criminal case, you're talking about criminality. You're talking about jail, you're talking about the prospect of losing your liberty. In a civil case, it's about monetary damages.

COOPER: So when she talked about jail time, that's not on the table.

JACKSON: That is not on the table with respect to this, perhaps her notion of justice stem from the other cases that they're going after Mr. Trump about, but not this case. There will be no jail no matter what happens.

To the point about a burden of proof, remember that in criminal cases, it's a very high standard beyond a reasonable doubt. This is not criminal. It's civil. So what does that mean? It means it's something called a preponderance of evidence.

In English what that means, is it more likely than not? Fifty one percent versus 49 that it happened than it did not happen. But at the end of the day, the determination of the jury will be one off battery that is a touching without consent, that's the rape allegation and then of course, the defamation allegation with respect to Mr. Trump saying it did not happen, when in fact, she believes it did, and that's what this lawsuit is all about.


COOPER: So if -- they cannot say that the rape did not occur, but that he defamed her.

JACKSON: Correct, right. It would be inconsistent. The whole notion and the whole theory is the fact that she believes that in this department store back in the 90s, that he in fact, raped her, and that's a battery.

And so if you believe that, then you also have to believe that it's defamation to suggest that it never happened, and those are the issues we are dealing with.

COOPER: The jury is going to see the "Access Hollywood" tape. Is that -- I mean, what, how is that going to impact this?

JACKSON: So with respect to the evidence, I'll tell you what I'm looking for. There are a couple of things. The first thing, recent outcry witnesses. What are those? When something happens to an individual, there may not be other people that are immediately right there, but at some point, you go and you say I can't believe, right, what so and so did.

COOPER: All right, so the fact that she has one or two people who she on that very day, that night, she talked to Lisa Birnbach.

JACKSON: Correct. There are two people that she gave the indication that this happened to. One said go to the police, another said, look Trump is strong, I would not even think about it. That's not the only thing I'm looking for.

You mentioned the "Access Hollywood" tape. Why is that significant? The judge is permitting that to go to show that it's relevant, because you have admitted Mr. Trump, that you would do this and therefore we're going to allow it in.

What else may be powerful? The judge is allowing two other witnesses who have alleged that Mr. Trump indeed groped them. And so that's going to be relevant or as we lawyers say, probative to the issue of you did this then and so those are witnesses that are not witnesses to that event, but they are witnesses to do modus operandi that will be the argument that he engaged in.

COOPER: All right, Joey Jackson, appreciate it. Thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, what a fired senior Fox producer who is now suing the network is saying about Tucker Carlson, her time working there. According to our reporting, his exit may be partially related to her lawsuit.



COOPER: New allegations tonight that there are recordings and a lot of them that should have been provided in the Dominion Voting Systems case against Fox. That's what Abby Grossberg, a fired Fox Senior Producer who once worked with Tucker Carlson, who was fired yesterday, is saying a reminder that Grossberg has filed two lawsuits against Fox and says she was let go for it. She accuses Fox of promoting a hostile work environment with claims of rampant sexism and misogyny among Carlson's show team.

According to a reporting, that may have been one of the reasons why Carlson was fired yesterday. Grossberg also claims she was pressured to give misleading comments in the Dominion case. Today, she told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, she has many audio recordings from her devices and she claims Dominion said that they didn't have them.


ABBY GROSSBERG, FORMER FOX NEWS PRODUCER SUING THE NETWORK: I have several recordings that I'm still going through that we've recovered from all of the phones. There are 90 that we have.


COOPER: 90 recordings. Not long after that, her attorney speaking on MSNBC said that Jack Smith, a special counsel on the January 6 investigation, wants those recordings. A Fox spokesperson has previously said that Grossberg's lawsuits are, quote, riddled with false allegations against the network and her employees.

I want to get perspective on this and what it means for broader news media landscape without Tucker Carlson in it from media critic David Zurawik. David, good to have you on. Do you have a sense of how much of a role, if any, Abby Grossberg's allegations may have played in Tucker Carlson's ouster? I mean, is it clear really why he was fired at this point? DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC: It isn't. It isn't clear why he was fired. And I think, really, this story has such large cultural reverberations for it that we should be careful and that we shouldn't say, this is why it happened. There's been so much of that, Anderson, in the last couple of days.

And purposely, in the piece I wrote for CNN, I pulled back from that. But if you look at history, there is some indication here that this culture is still in place. The culture of sexism, misogyny, really a culture that debases women was built into the DNA of Fox News by Roger Ailes, the founder, you know, the master propagandist, the political operative who founded this.

We saw it down the line in Bill O'Reilly. Fox talked about as if they excised this cancer when they got rid of Ailes and O'Reilly, Bill O'Reilly, the host. And that was really dramatic. But even cutting off the head with Ailes and then O'Reilly, you don't change a culture overnight.

I wrote at the time that this is like a cancer at the heart of Fox News internally, and they really have to make a serious, systematic attempt to eradicate it. I don't think that they made that kind of attempt.


ZURAWIK: If her allegations are true, Anderson, they didn't do much about it at all.

COOPER: You covered, I mean, Tucker Carlson for many years. Is it clear to you how or even why this -- his persona became what it did? I mean, was he always in this for the money? And he was just reading the tea leaves of where the, you know, and following the money to where he thought the audience was and it was very financially lucrative for him.

Because I talked to Paul Begala last night, he used to work with Carlson on Crossfire here on CNN, and Paul basically said that back then, you know, Carlson was very contrarian, didn't like to be managed, but that the Fox version of him was not the person he knew way back then.

ZURAWIK: Well, you know, I think it's always hard to figure out whether someone is manipulating the system or being seduced and manipulated by it. I think that that wasn't always the way Carlson was. I would agree with Begala about that, but I think it was the man meeting the moment.

When he got that show at Fox, we had the ascent of Donald Trump. And I think he saw what Trump did. How Trump used transgressive behavior and outrage to gather attention to himself, to control the media. I mean, you know, I wrestled in a million columns with how do we cover this guy?

You know, we can't keep covering him. When he says things we know that aren't true, all we can do is say it's not true. But we never figured out exactly how to cover him. And just as Trump did in the political realm, by going where no one else would go, saying horrible things, insulting people in horrible ways, saying racist stuff.


Tucker Carlson did the same thing in the media realm. Like when he said that immigrants -- he suggested that immigrants make us dirtier as a nation. That's a racist statement. That's just outrageous. I can't think of any mainstream journalist who would even want to think that, let alone say it.

But he said it. He gets enormous coverage, his ratings. He feeds the base of his far-right further and further out their --


ZURAWIK: -- audience, and it looks like he, quote, owns the libs. And so they're delighted.

COOPER: The level of hypocrisy, though, of him, you know, saying he, you know, with things -- he hates Donald Trump, he can't wait until he doesn't have to cover him. They're almost there. They don't have to have him on. You know, they don't have to talk about him every night. I mean, it's just so hypocritical to be saying one thing privately and saying something else on air. I mean, it's just -- it's stunning.

ZURAWIK: Anderson, you and me and intellectually -- people who try to be intellectually consistent and honest, the hypocrisy makes you gag. But I think in the world he operated in, somehow in his mind, and I -- you know, again, I don't know --


ZURAWIK: -- but I think, you know, it's easy to get seduced by the power.


ZURAWIK: You know, every time you go out there and say certain things, you get great feedback, you know? And I think he got caught up in that a little bit.


ZURAWIK: I think in some ways, he got caught up in it and hoisted on his own --

COOPER: There's no greater reminder of how powerless one is than being quickly fired and zipping off the screen --


COOPER: -- and, you know, then suddenly seeing how different the world is.

David Zurawik, appreciate it. Thank you. Coming up --

ZURAWIK: Thank you.

COOPER: -- protests erupted in Montana after transgender state lawmaker Zooey Zephyr was silenced after speaking out against a bill that would ban gender affirming medical care for transgender minors. She joins me next.



COOPER: Seven people were arrested yesterday at the State House in Montana after protesting in support of Montana State Representative Zooey Zephyr, the first openly transgender woman elected to Montana's legislature.




COOPER: Zephyr has been kept from speaking on the House floor after comments she made last week in response to a bill that would ban gender affirming medical care for transgender minors. Here's some of what she said.


REP. ZOOEY ZEPHYR (D), MONTANA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: If you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture. And this body should be ashamed. Only thing I will say is if I -- if you vote yes on this bill and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there's an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.


COOPER: Republican lawmakers from the Montana Freedom Caucus demanded that Zephyr be censured for using, quote, inappropriate and uncalled for language. State Representative Zephyr joins me now.

Representative, thanks for being with us. Have you been formally reprimanded or told what specific House rule that you violated that led to all this?

ZEPHYR: I have not been formally reprimanded. When I spoke, the Majority Leader stood up and objected, much like our Minority Leader does when they say something we take exception to. But nothing happened. And then on Thursday, the Speaker informed me that he would no longer be recognizing me because, in his mind, I broke decorum.

COOPER: I want to play a clip of something that the Republican Speaker of the State House said today and let you react to it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT REGIER (R), MONTANA STATE HOUSE SPEAKER: Headlines that have happened over the last week stating that the Montana House leadership, or GOP, has silenced anyone is false. Currently, all representatives are free to participate in House debates well following the House rules. The choice to not follow House rules is one that Representative Zephyr has made.

The only person silencing Representative Zephyr is Representative Zephyr. The Montana House will not be bullied. All 100 representatives will continue to be treated the same.


COOPER: What is your response to that?

ZEPHYR: You know, I would say I am punching in on the bills I am ready to speak on. And Speaker Regier is deciding not to recognize me. And I think it's important to acknowledge that we have had people in that body on the other side who have screamed in their closing arguments, who have equated my very existence to somehow sexualizing children, and yet the speaker allows them to go forward.

So we're seeing a very undemocratic application of what it means to have decorum. But I will say, I rise in support of my community and my constituents every time I speak.

COOPER: The House Speaker has also said that if you apologize for your comments, he would allow you to speak again. Do you have any plans to apologize?

ZEPHYR: When I spoke on Senate Bill 99, I spoke about the very real harm that these bills cause. For example, there was a young trans teen who attempted suicide. And when her mother found her, she had one of the hearings, one of these anti-trans hearings up on her computer.

I see the real harm these bills bring and the deaths they could potentially lead to. And I stand by holding the Republicans accountable for their policies.

COOPER: Can you just explain why -- I mean, you say that not allowing a minor who feels that they are transgender, to trans minor, to get gender affirming treatment or care is tantamount to torture. Can you just explain -- and that you're saying that these Republicans have blood on their hands. How can you -- how is it tortured?

ZEPHYR: So I know being a trans, and I know the joy that comes when you're trans and you get to finally live fully as yourself, when you get to walk through your daily world with the joy and purpose that I would not have had possible if it were not for my transition.

And we know, data wise, that there's a 73 percent reduction in suicidality when trans youth are access care again, care approved for, approved by every major medical association in the country.


And if you rob people of the medical care they need to live joyful and fulfilling lives, if you don't allow them to have access to that, you're putting them in a position where they're going to be in dire straits.

COOPER: Representative Zephyr, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

ZEPHYR: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: Still ahead, new change are coming to the AP African American Studies course that provoked pushback from a number of conservatives, most notably GOP Governor Ron DeSantis. Now the College Board is doubling down on the curriculum, vowing to ensure the updated framework will give, what they say, is the most holistic introduction to African American studies.

We'll go inside a classroom to see what actually is being taught next.


COOPER: Tonight, new details of the controversy around the AP African American studies course. The College Board, which oversees AP course work across the country, is making changes to the curriculum, which sparked criticism from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other conservatives.

The board was engaged in a very public dispute with DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education, which rejected a preliminary pilot version of the class, saying it, quote, lacks educational value.


The board released a statement yesterday pushing back, saying, they're committed to providing a, quote, unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture. A pilot version of the course is currently being offered in dozens of high schools across the country, and the board says it will expand to 800 schools and 16,000 students in the next school year.

CNN's Ed Lavandera went to a school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that offers the course to see what is actually being taught. Here's his report.


DARREN WILLIAMS, TEACHER, MCLAIN HIGH SCHOOL: We need paper. We need our pencils.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Darren Williams is taking these students on a journey through black history of the early 20th century.

WILLIAMS: The Great Migration, Harlem Renaissance, and Jazz.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Williams is teaching the inaugural course in AP African American Studies at McLain High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, alongside Shekinah Hall teaching a second class.

SHEKINAH HALL, TEACHER, MCLAIN HIGH SCHOOL: All these folks are going to be, in their own ways, documenting and creating black culture.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): McLain is one of just 60 schools in 33 states across the country teaching this new AP class.

WILLIAMS: Their culture now begins to take a different shape, and it causes a rebirth of African American society in Harlem, New York.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): McLain High School is located in a city where the lessons of black history were long hidden.

(on-camera): Here along the street, all of these plaques mark where businesses once stood.

WILLIAMS: There will be banks. There will be grocery stores.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): We walked with Mr. Williams and Ms. Hall in the historic Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, the site of one of the worst race massacres in U.S. history. A once thriving black community known as Black Wall Street, it was burned to the ground in 1921, and as many as 300 residents were murdered by a white mob.

(on-camera): And there's generations and generations of Oklahoma residents who were never told about this.

HALL: Yes, it was history that was hidden.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): What does teaching this class mean to you?

WILLIAMS: I want students to know that African American history is American history. It is world history.

HALL: We're there to make sure that we're educating our students, that we are being a force for them.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But the AP African American studies class has drawn criticism from some conservative political leaders, like Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has rejected the class in Florida.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We believe in teaching kids facts and how to think, but we don't believe they should have an agenda imposed on them.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The College Board, which sets the curriculum, made some changes to the course for the state's consideration, but also says the political criticism has moved from healthy debate to misinformation.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): McLain High School Principal Renee Rabovsky says she jumped at the chance to run this pilot program. She's worked at this predominantly black high school for eight years and says her school needs this class.

(on-camera): Florida has banned this class. Do you worry that the same can happen here?

RABOVSKY: I try very hard not to live in that place. The optimist in me says no, but the realist in me says, of course, I'm fearful. Of course I am.

WILLIAMS: How come blues and jazz are not the same thing? Because blues is jazz's mother.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Students say the class has brought history to life in a way they've never experienced before.

CHLOE SPARKS, SOPHOMORE, MCLAIN HIGH SCHOOL: I feel like if we embraced it, we would be more together and we'd be more understanding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We learned about way more people not just Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, we learned way more about slaves and all that.

LAVANDERA (on-camera): So do you guys feel like you're kind of like the torch bearers or making sure that this history doesn't get forgotten?

HALL: You know, our history is important history, and we're not trying to indoctrinate or like change people's perspectives. The point of history is to give the facts and build your own opinions.

WILLIAMS: Learning is limited if it's only an intellectual enterprise. If it didn't get to the place of the feeling of the emotion, it has not done everything that it can do with us. So the feeling is a part of the learning.


COOPER: And Ed Lavandera joins me now. Do we know what changes the College Board plans to make?

LAVANDERA: Well, the College Board, Anderson, hasn't said specifically what will be changed in the class. But after the criticism from people like Ron DeSantis in Florida, there were some changes having to do with Black Lives Matter, reparations, among some, several issues. So presumably, maybe those types of issues get brought back into the class program.

But the officials and the teachers that you heard from in Tulsa and the principal at that school say, you know, this is a pilot program. They were always fully expecting some sort of changes, but that the class has been very popular. They offered two classes this year. They're hoping to move it up to three classes next year, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Ed Lavandera, I appreciate it. Thanks.

A programming note tonight at CNN's Primetime, as Kevin McCarthy races to get votes on his debt ceiling plan, Michael Smerconish speaks with one of the key holdouts from McCarthy s own party. Congressman Matt Gaetz is live. That's at the top of the hour.


Up next for us, the loss of a legend. We remember the singer, actor, and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.


COOPER: Tonight, we remember award-winning legendary entertainer and trailblazer Harry Belafonte. The 96-year-old died this morning of congestive heart failure. In the late 1950s, the opening line of his hit "The Banana Boat Song" made him a household name in America.




COOPER: Belafonte went on to make more than 40 albums, star in more than 10 movies over five decades, including "Carmen Jones" in 1954, which was one of the first films with an all-black cast to have box office success. His 1957 movie "Island and the Sun" was banned in several southern cities when the KKK threatened movie theater owners due to the film's interracial romance plot.

Off the stage, Belafonte was known for his deep dedication to the civil rights movement. He was close friends with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Belafonte helped plan the 1963 March on Washington. And later he was an outspoken opponent of apartheid in South Africa. He came up with the idea for this 1985 hit song.




COOPER: "We Are the World," brought together many singers, raised more than $63 million for famine relief in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa. Tonight, the son of Harlem is being memorialized at the famous Apollo Theater. Harry Belafonte was 96 years old.

The news continues. "CNN RIMETIME" with Michael Smerconish starts now.