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At This Hour

NFL Coach Resigns After Homophobic, Racist, Misogynistic Emails; Netflix standing by Dave Chappelle and "The Closer"; House to Vote to Extend Debt Ceiling through Early December; Mounting Challenges to Biden White House. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan.

Reckoning for the Raiders' head coach, Jon Gruden resigns after offensive emails come to light. What the controversy says about America's most popular sports league.

Presidential problems: Joe Biden facing a growing number challenges to get his agenda passed and end the pandemic.

And major shift: a national task force is proposing that adults over 60 should not start taking aspirin daily to prevent heart disease and strokes. Why doctors believe now the risks outweigh the benefit.


BOLDUAN: Thanks for being here. We begin with breaking news. One of the biggest names in the NFL has resigned after a series of newly released emails showed him frequently and over several years making homophobic, racist and misogynistic comments.

Overnight, Jon Gruden announced his resignation from the Las Vegas Raiders hours after "The New York Times" published details from emails Gruden sent over a period of seven years. They were discovered in an NFL workplace misconduct investigation into the Washington football team.

They showed Gruden denouncing female referees, the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of players protesting the national anthem -- during the national anthem.

Gruden now says he never meant to hurt anyone but he did not exclusively apologize for the disparaging comments. CNN's Omar Jimenez is joining me live with more on this -- Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jon Gruden one of the biggest names in the NFL, multiple years into his contract, one of the highest paid and all this is unearthed. "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" reviewed emails from Gruden showing he used homophobic, misogynistic, racist language, referring to some of the biggest names as part of the NFL.

Specifically releasing a statement as he resigned, saying in his departure, "I love the Raiders and don't want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches and staff and fans of Raider Nation. I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone."

But when you look at the emails, spanning 2011 to 2018 as an ESPN analyst, he used racist language to describe NFL Players' Association executive director, DeMaurice Smith, during the lockout over the collective bargaining negotiations.

He denounced women being employed as onfield officials; he denounced tolerance for players protesting during the national anthem. "The Times" also showing he criticized a team drafting an openly gay player in 2014, in Michael Sam.

He used homophobic language to describe NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. And a league source confirmed to CNN the accuracy of "The Times'" reporting.

We reached out to Gruden, the NFL, Raiders and we haven't gotten a response just yet. But amid all these homophobic comments coming to light, the ironic part of all of this is the first active NFL player to come out in history plays for the Raiders, Carl Nassib, and we haven't heard from him just yet on social media or otherwise.

Also in the email reported by "The Wall Street Journal" about the head of the Players' Association, last week Jon Gruden responded this weekend, saying I'm not a racist. These emails to lead to questions otherwise.

BOLDUAN: Omar, thank you.

Joining me for more is CNN's sports analyst, Christine Brennan, she's a sports columnist for "USA Today," and Carron Phillips, senior writer and editor at Deadspin.

Thanks for being here, guys.

Christine, what do you think of Gruden's resignation, everything that's come to light, the apology, the fact he resigned rather than got fired over this?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Kate, this is a crisis for the National Football League, which you said is the most powerful and important league in the country.

This is absolutely appalling on a human level and it's just absolutely unacceptable, not at any time but certainly in 2021, well into the 21st century.

When you think about it, Jon Gruden was the face of the league on "Monday Night Football." He was -- he was welcomed into people's living rooms or family rooms or dens to watch the game. So he really was a representative in a way that even as a coach he isn't and wasn't. [11:05:00]

BRENNAN: Now what he did was disparage and denigrate absolutely everything and everyone the National Football League needs business- wise to move forward and be successful well into the 21st century.

It is terrible as a human being and it is absolutely terrible for the NFL's business; 45 percent of the fan base of the NFL, according to, you know, studies and reports, about 45 percent is women and girls.

And, of course, the league is 70 percent Black. Obviously gay people, women, people of color, everything, it is so essential that the National Football League has those people moving forward. If they turn off the NFL, there is no NFL moving forward.

BOLDUAN: Carron, as Omar pointed out, Carl Nassib plays on the team, the first active NFL player to publicly declare he's gay.

What's your take on this?

CARRON PHILLIPS, SENIOR WRITER AND EDITOR, DEADSPIN: Well, I go back to right before the season started and Carl Nassib came out. And the NFL released this promo video.

And their statement was, you know, football is for everyone, football is gay, as if, like, we didn't know that this sport that children play isn't for everyone already.

So just like we're seeing touched on, every demographic besides straight white men were in the crosshairs of Jon Gruden over the years and with these emails.

But the question I'm wondering, as I think about this, is what's going to come down the pipeline later?

Because this all came out through, you know, the investigation into the Washington football team.

What else is in those emails?

What else does the league know that the league hasn't told us?

And that is the thing that's interesting to me, because, yes, while we're waiting to see what Carl Nassib is going to say, I feel like there's going to be a lot more that comes up from this investigation and from these emails. But like you said, I want to see what Carl Nassib says when his statement is coming.

BOLDUAN: You raise an important bit here, because just to reiterate, this came out about the NFL investigation of workplace misconduct into the Washington football team.

More than 650,000 emails were turned over. But what you're looking at is also several years that this was going on and just now this is coming out because of this investigation. Carron, is it at all realistic for anything to think, if this is

coming out from someone who wasn't even the target of said investigation, to think that this is the only action that's going to be -- that's going to come from this investigation, that began with nothing to do with Gruden?

PHILLIPS: Well, look, if you're expecting Roger Goodell or the NFL to go out the right way, then you're dreaming. This is a league that just got done with brainstorming (ph) where they were trying not to pay back Black players.

And for anyone who doesn't know what that is, go Google it, to let you know how bad it is. We had the CTE stuff with the NFL. We had everything with the player demonstrations kneeling during the national anthem.

We've seen how they've treated women and the faux patriotism. The NFL is very, very good at trying to hide the dirt that they willingly do, so now when you have something like this, that was an investigation into the Washington football team -- and we know everything that happened with that and how bad that was -- and that was just last year, now we're expecting to learn more.

And the NFL knew about this stuff for years?

Like I said before, that is what's so concerning about it. You know, shoutout to "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" for doing the great reporting, to let us know that all of this stuff was going on, because, without those reporters and journalists, we wouldn't know about any of this.

BOLDUAN: Christine, with this in this moment, with what happened with Gruden, I mean, is the NFL drawing a clear and bright line in any way, do you think, a bright line, saying, you cannot be a coach in this league and say this kind of stuff?

BRENNAN: Certainly, Kate, with the fact that he's gone and he resigned, yes, that he is gone.

Carron makes some excellent points and one is why doesn't the NFL get out in front of this?

Although that train has long since left the station -- but get out in front of what we don't know and come forward and tell us what's in those other emails?

Is this systemic?

Is this going to be one of the great scandals in sports of the year or of our time even, if, in fact, we find that there are more owners and team presidents and others, who are respected in the league, if they, in fact, participated or also said things like this?

Let's find out. So let's have the NFL, have Roger Goodell, get up front, tell everybody what else is in those emails. Don't let it leak out. Let's find out now and find out how bad it is. But absolutely, this is a crisis for the National Football League, no

doubt about it and the question is how deep does it go.


BOLDUAN: Christine, Carron, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.

Another big name facing criticism today for making offensive comments, comedian Dave Chappelle. This morning, Netflix is defending the comedian over the outcry over his new special that includes several minutes of insults and insensitive jokes about transgender people.

Let me bring in Brian Stelter. He's been tracking this for us.

Brian, first and foremost, what is Netflix saying?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Very little in public. But in the message to staffers that has now leaked out, Netflix co- CEO, Ted Sarandos, defends the special and Chappelle. This is a portion of an email obtained by the Virgin Variety (ph).

He said, "Several of you have asked where we draw the line on hate. We don't allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence and we don't believe 'The Closer' crosses that line.

He says, "I recognize however that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with standup comedy, which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of standup to be mean-spirited but our members enjoy it and it's an impossible part of our content offering."

So in other words, the audience has spoken, he is saying. Now this has been an issue inside Netflix for the past several days. There have been employees at Netflix, who have spoken out against the special, saying it does cross a line and should not be on the platform.

One employee, who is trans, was suspended by the company and that created an uproar yesterday, causing Netflix to come out and say, no, this person was not suspended because of the criticism on Twitter. This person was suspended because they -- apparently three employees tried to attend a virtual meeting of the company's senior leadership, tried to listen in and crash the meeting.

And thus those three employees have been suspended. But that gives you a sense of the internal pressure inside Netflix. We've heard from groups including GLAAD, saying it is absolutely true that anti-LGBTQ content does incite hate and violence and thus Netflix should take a stand here and, in the words of GLAAD, "live up to its own standards."

So this is a controversy that continues. But go on Rotten Tomatoes, look at the reviews for the special, they're overwhelmingly positive. So we're hearing a lot of criticism of the special but also clearly a lot of fans of it and that tug of war continues.

BOLDUAN: Kind of bring these two top stories together, right. We just talked about Jon Gruden, two very different people and two very different professions. They're not the same. But this is happening at the same time.

What do you see is the distinction in the broader sense of what's OK, what's not, in entertainment and the workplace?

STELTER: First of all, a hollow phrase like "cancel culture" doesn't begin to capture what's actually going on in these institutions of American life, whether it's the NFL or Netflix. But Netflix is saying, hey, we have taken this seriously. We have been thoughtful about these matters.

We know it's complicated. We are listening and we're taking it seriously.

Gruden, there's nothing thoughtful about Gruden's hateful emails. They were thoughtless. Of course, they were also private and Netflix's decisions are very public. I think ultimately it's a question about intent, Kate, what's the intent?

Or what was the intent for Jon Gruden, for Dave Chappelle?

But there's this ongoing debate about intent versus impact. What matters more, someone's intent, acting in good faith, or the impact of the words?

And that I think is the throughline here, where whether it's Jon Gruden's emails leaking out in a mysterious way or Dave Chappelle's comedy that hurts some people, is what's more important, intent or impact?

BOLDUAN: Interesting. Good to see you, Brian. Thank you.

Coming up for us, crisis almost averted. The House is set to raise the nation's debt limit today. But there are many more crises facing President Biden right now. Why his agenda remains stalled.

Also coming up, a major shift in proposed medical guidance. Why doctors are pumping the brakes on recommending an aspirin a day for older adults.





BOLDUAN: A big moment on Capitol Hill today. The House will vote this afternoon to extend the nation's debt limit but it's only through early December.

So where do things stand today?

CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill with more.

Lauren, where are we headed? LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, like you said, the House of Representatives is back in Washington, D.C., to increase the debt ceiling. That's the bill that the Senate passed last week.

The expectation is that the House Democrats are also going to have to begin those tough discussions about what will be included in their bigger social safety net bill and what is going to be on the cutting room floor.

This is the disagreement the Democrats have been having privately and sometimes publicly over and over again over the last several weeks. And the expectation right now is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be moving in a direction, where the Democrats include fewer programs in their legislation but in a more full and fully funded way.

Here's what she said in a letter last night.

She said, quote, "Overwhelmingly the guidance I am receiving from members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact on families in the workplace and responsibly address the climate crisis. A Build Back Better agenda for jobs and the planet for the children!

"At the same time, we must lift the debt ceiling and hope that we can have a unanimous Democratic vote and perhaps a vote to do so."

This is coming because the Speaker knows she only has a three-vote margin, meaning she can only lose three of her own members and pass this legislation.


FOX: As you know, progressives and moderates have different views about what exactly should be included in this legislation as well as what the top-line number should be, with moderates arguing that this bill might be around $2 trillion and progressives arguing they'd like to see it at $3.5 trillion.

The Speaker clear here that some cuts are going to have to be made. The decisions of course, still to be determined -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Lauren, thank you for that.

As Lauren is laying out, the debt crisis is just one of several major challenges facing the Biden administration. The president's entire domestic agenda remains stalled at this moment.

And there are huge questions about how long Democrats maintain that razor-thin majority Lauren spoke about, in both chambers, and what the broader picture looks like with the democracy in crisis.

Joining me for perspective is CNN chief political correspondent, co- host of "STATE OF THE UNION," Dana Bash.

The opening line from our colleague, Stephen Collinson's analysis kind of cuts through the talking points and the minutiae and looking at the reality Biden is facing here, when he writes, "Presidents get into trouble when they're seen as controlled by events rather than the other way around," because it's not just one thing, right?

It's global crises that can't get fixed quickly, political fights that are always there but had also been brought on by some of Biden's choices.

What does this add up to for the president right now?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Potential trouble. First of all, you're right. Stephen Collinson writes so beautifully every single morning. And this was even for him kind of a zenith, because he put it all into perspective.

It's so hard because there is so much coming at us as reporters and as consumers of the news and as just basic Americans and voters.

And so the idea and the notion of looking at it through the reality, that there is a lot that is out of any president's control.

But it is especially true right now for this president -- what the White House and what Democrats, who are in charge in Congress, will say quietly and sometimes even publicly is that, once they get through the big votes, that have been delayed and delayed on the president's agenda -- infrastructure, which was bipartisan in the Senate, we'll see what happens when it gets a vote in the House and the social safety net bill, that the Ted Lasso goldfish scenario, which the Energy Secretary mentioned a couple of weeks ago on CNN, that that will kick in, that people will forget all of the tense moments and the anxiety among Democrats right now in Washington to get all that passed.

But that's a big leap, especially given the fact that there are other things. And if you kind of look back to when you and I were covering Congress together during the ObamaCare fight, yes, they got it done; it was difficult, it was ultimately popular and successful.

But what it meant when they passed it in 2009 was, 2010, you had kind of awoken an opposition that brought in Republican majorities in the House -- and not that year in the Senate but big majority in the House. And the thing that Democrats are quietly worried about is all of this to-ing and fro-ing will make the 2022 midterms really rough on Democrats.

BOLDUAN: You've raised Terry McAuliffe, he's running in this tight race for governor of Virginia. And he spoke to another aspect of mounting problems that Biden is facing, which is culture clashes, that obviously we see often in politics and they are often exacerbated by campaigns. I want to play what he told you on Sunday.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's trying to do a backdoor deal on the Trump. He talks about this critical race theory. And I've got to be honest with you, that is a dog whistle. We don't have critical waste theory taught in Virginia.


BOLDUAN: McAuliffe is talking about his race but Biden is facing this as well.

BASH: It's true. This is something that Republican campaigns, starting with the one that is right in front of us, the Virginia's governor race -- and it is certainly being planned for Republican campaigns in swing districts and in toss-up states all across the country -- is using this culture clash, this culture war -- or, as Republicans call it, wokeness run amok -- to their advantage because, as much as there is a very real progressive wing that is pushing, pushing, pushing the Democratic Party to be more forward-leaning on these issues, there is also a reality that there are people who are representing -- lawmakers who are representing less progressive districts and states.

And those voters are hearing Republicans saying, wait a minute.


BASH: Look at all of these things that their kids are being taught, which, true or not, that's what they're hearing. Look at the way that society is changing. Look at the fact that there is a "Superman" comic now, where the -- you know, the son of Superman and Lois Lane is bisexual.

A lot of people are applauding that, absolutely. But I guarantee you, Republicans are going to use that -- and they are already using that kind of thing to warn people about the change in culture.

It's a very difficult situation for both parties but especially Democrats, especially moderates like Terry McAuliffe, because you don't want to anger the left wing of your party; whether you agree with it or not, it's very tricky.

BOLDUAN: One thing that's not tricky is truth. But that seems to be tricky right now. Another challenge the country is facing is this continued push by so many Republicans to adhere to and look beyond the Big Lie.

Chuck Grassley is the latest example, speaking out against Trump's role after the insurrection but also accepting Trump's endorsement very happily this weekend. Let me play this.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Judging what he's done. That sort of insurrection is unaccountable and the president's comments didn't help the matter. And he made it worse.

I was born at night but not last night. So if I didn't accept the endorsement of a person that's got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn't be too smart. And I'm smart enough to accept that endorsement. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: I was struck by that, what he said this weekend. He's almost saying everything at once. I may not be excited about Trump's endorsement but I do need it. This seems to be the position of almost all Republican politicians. If so, this isn't a past problem look at the Big Lie in the past, it's a present problem.

BASH: It's absolutely a present problem because the issues that we were talking about, before, which are real policy and cultural debates in this country, whether it's about how much to spend, where inflation is, the cultural shift, that's all legitimate.

But Republicans, a lot of Republicans I talk to, who are not in elected office but are more traditional Republicans, say, we don't have the luxury to have that debate if we can't even agree on a fundamental truth.

And that is what happened in the 2020 election and that is a huge, continuing problem for Republicans, with Trump still having such a tight grip on the party.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Dana. Thank you.

BASH: You, too.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, we all heard an aspirin a day keeps the doctor away but it may actually do more harm than good. An important change of proposed recommendations for older Americans -- next.