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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Ukraine Deputy PM: Putin "Does Not Care About People" In Mariupol; Rep. Gregory Meeks, (D-NY), Is Interviewed About Ukraine War; House Introduces New Bill To Hold Putin Accountable For War Crimes; New House Bill Curbs Russia's Use Of Crypto To Skirt Sanctions; GOP Lawmakers Urge W.H. To Speed Up Weapons Transfers To Ukraine; Florida Governor Signs Controversial LGBTQ Bill Into Law; GOP Led States Pass Flurry Of Bills Prohibiting Transgender Participation In Girl's Sports; Chris Rock Says He's Still "Processing" Will Smith's Slap; Academy Announces Disciplinary Proceedings Against Will Smith; "Pink Floyd" Flamingo Spotted In Texas After Kansas Escape In 2005. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 31, 2022 - 17:00   ET



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So what we saw today was massive destruction. And at the same time still obviously, a very dangerous situation, civilians not yet returning to that area, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Frederik, is fighting still happening in Irpin?

PLEITGEN: Well, there is still a lot of fighting going on in Irpin. I mean, one of the things that we had, one of the big issues that we had is that we didn't even manage to get in just the normal day that you would get in, we had to take back routes and we had to take vehicles. You see some of our driving there as we were going through Irpin and it was it was definitely very difficult to get in because there is still so much fighting, because there is still so much shelling going on. And because obviously the Russians still might have operatives in there.

It was quite interesting, because we were at one destroyed tank that we were filming and all of a sudden the Irpin mayor showed up with Ukrainian special forces. And he said that they were looking for possible Russian soldiers in civilian clothes who might still be in that area and obviously still pose a threat.

It is still extremely dangerous. We saw plumes of smoke from artillery shells the entire time that we were there. So the Russians, while they've been pushed out of Irpin are still shelling airplane. And there's some who believe that that might be because the Russians obviously might be covering some sort of withdrawal that they're conducting. But also they might just be conducting some sort of scorched earth policy, Jake.

TAPPER: And Fred, a U.S. defense official says Russia is focusing its strikes on four areas. One of them is Kyiv, since Russia announced its so called drawdown, have you seen even more bombing?

PLEITGEN: Well, it's interesting because the last couple of days we have actually seen more shelling going on especially last night for a very long time, there was a huge amount of bombardment. And you know, before we managed to get into Irpin today, we actually -- we're at the edge of Irpin yesterday and there was an unbelievable amount of shelling going on, unbelievable amount of noise that we were hearing.

Today, it seemed that in Irpin there was a little bit less however, there were missile strikes here in central Kyiv that obviously hit targets. We're not exactly sure what they hit. So, maybe there's a little bit less shelling, but it certainly doesn't look to us as though there's some sort of massive drawdown going on.

And of course, you know that the Ukrainians say that they don't believe that the Russians are withdrawing from this area. They certainly don't believe that the Russians would be withdrawing to create trust between themselves and the Ukrainians. They simply believe that the Russians lost the battle here for Kyiv and are now having to regroup. Possibly doing that in Belarus, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen reporting live for us from the capital Kyiv. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

In the southern port city of Mariupol, quote, "Russians were negotiating on everything except of people's lives. They do not care about people," unquote. That's according to the deputy prime minister of Ukraine today as officials race to evacuate more than 100,000 Ukrainian stuck in that besieged city. CNNs Ed Lavandera is west of Mariupol in Odessa.

And Ed, how are these evacuations going?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a volatile situation here tonight at this late hour as we have heard from officials throughout the course of the day that there's a team of buses trying to make its way into the city to evacuate at least 1500 to 2500 people, at least that was is the hope that they will be able to pull off here in the coming hours. But it doesn't appear that that has happened yet. In fact, a short while ago, we had heard information that that bus convoy was held at gunpoint by Russian forces. There are pleas for the Russian forces to open up these humanitarian corridors so that people can escape that besieged city.

And remember this is going to take a great deal of time. There are still more than 100,000 people inside the city of Mariupol. The deputy mayor of that city told CNN today that people there are living like mice in shelters underground and in bomb shelters, a horrific situation and a desperate situation for 10s of 1000s of people, Jake

TAPPER: And Ed, you've been reporting on the city of Odessa bracing for Russian attacks. What did you have to see on the ground today?

LAVANDERA: Well, you know this has been a key are believed to be a key port for the country of Ukraine. Russian naval forces are just off the coast. Some military officials here in the region have said that they believe that they're the Russians are carrying out air recognizance.

And when you walk around the city, there's a fortified zone around the center of the city that is completely shut down, void of life basically, and that is an area overlooking the bay, the Odessa Bay out to the Black Sea. But then when you go out into other parts of the city, at least during the day before the curfew goes into effect. In many ways, you see people trying to make the most of this situation but there is an air of what's coming next. When you talk to people, they say they're trying to enjoy this peaceful time here in the city, but they're obviously very concerned that that could change at any moment. Jake.


TAPPER: Ed Lavandera reporting live for us from Odessa, Ukraine. Thank you so much.

Joining us now, New York Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks. He's the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us. So we just heard in Ed's report Vladimir Putin does not seem to care about the human toll of this at all. Do you think the Biden administration could do more to help civilians in places like Mariupol?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, I think that we're doing all that we can. I think that, you know, given the fact that there's no passageway for individuals to cross through to safety. Now, the Biden administration just announced another $800 million that is going to for humanitarian aid as well as military aid to Ukraine. But the problem is, when you have an individual like Putin, who clearly does not care about women and children and people and -- who are infirmed and continuously bombs, you know, where he knows where these individuals are trying to just survive, these are not military combatants, these are civilians, and he continues to do it. And that's what makes it difficult and getting the aid into the areas where these individuals are and or getting them out of the danger that they're in.

TAPPER: So today, you and your Republican counterpart, Congressman Mike McCaul, introduced legislation to try to hold Putin accountable for war crimes. How exactly can you hold him accountable from 1000s of miles away?

MEEKS: Well, the first thing that you have to do is to make sure that you're able to obtain and keep and preserve all of the evidence that you can. And so that's what we're doing. We're saying that, you know, so we will never, ever forget the damage that he's done to Ukraine. But let's collect the evidence because once this is over, there is a trial. And when you have a trial, you have to present the evidence.

And so what this bill says, and as you said, we're doing it in a bipartisan way, is saying, let's be clear to preserve the evidence where some can be evidence that we may obtain or get from the ground, some could be what -- how you're covering this and the pitches that you're depicting and showing today. But we've got to make sure that you are building and we are building a case because he cannot, in my mind, get away with the crime to humanity that he's already caused. And it seems that there's no signs, despite what he has said of him easing up. He's lied all the way through from the initial incursion into Ukraine to right now saying that trying to have some agreement, but yet, just as your reporters just reported, they are still bombing and killing innocent people.

TAPPER: So, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, has been critical of individuals in the U.S. emphasizing the war crimes. He tweeted last week, quote, "Yes, Putin is a butcher in a war criminal, but not obvious how the President saying so, President Biden saying so, serves our interests as could well constrained uncomplicate diplomatic efforts to end the war," which is priority number one for now, "as well as future need to deal with Putin on nuclear stability, Iran, North Korea, Syria, etc." So, what do you make of Richard Haass's argument there?

MEEKS: Well, I hear his argument. And what we're saying, because there's no policy of the United States for regime change. And we're not talking about regime change. We are talking about what we see with our very own eyes. We cannot deny of what we are seeing is a crime and a genocide of Ukrainian people.

We see that with our very own eyes every day. So, there's no way for me or anyone reasonable to turn away and say it is not occurring. It is. And what this bill simply does, it says let's preserve the evidence. And then there is due process that Putin will have.

The decision of what the negotiations and how they should end, if there is one, is something that's determined by President Zelensky and Ukrainian people, not by us, we're not part of that. So I'm not saying that we should be. But I am saying that the presentation of evidence, the fact of the matter is, I'm not fool with my eyes have shown me. I'm not fooled by the people that I've talked to when I visited Poland and met with Ukrainians and we have some Ukrainian parliamentarians and women parliamentarians who've come -- came to the United States who I met with, with Speaker Pelosi yesterday. I'm not fooled and you know, they're not lying to me. I've seen it and heard with my own eyes. And so therefore, I must tell the American people and the rest of the world the truth and I think that's what's going to keep us together.

TAPPER: And you're also introducing new legislation which would regulate Russia's use of cryptocurrency, which they're using now to sidestep sanctions from the west. We know sanctions have not stopped Putin. So, why would this work?


MEEKS: Well, we want to authorize using our oversight authorities. Authorize and create the Office of Director of Digital Currency, so that we can make sure that we are watching and is transparent so that Putin is not able to sidestep the sanctions. And so, if we see anything of that nature, look, you've got to make sure that these sanctions, as the President has indicated, will be crippling as they are, sanctions, and there's no way for him to get around it. And so, this is just another mechanism that the Congress is utilizing, as far as our oversight responsibilities to make sure that we are watching very carefully and trying to be very transparent about where and how Mr. Putin may be getting some dollars to try to continue his vicious war.

TAPPER: And, Mr. Chairman, sources are telling CNN that many Republicans, including Ukrainian born Congresswoman Victoria Spartz of Indiana, who we had on the show yesterday, many Republicans were frustrated at yesterday's classified briefing with the slow pace of U.S. weapon systems that have been -- that are, you know, the Biden administration is trying to move into Ukraine. Biden officials were told that the briefing tried to reassure lawmakers explain the logistical difficulties, which we all understand they're in the middle of a war, this is not easy to do. But the U.S. has the most well- funded military in the world. Do you think the Biden ministration is doing enough to get these systems into place to allow the Ukrainians to defend themselves?

MEEKS: Look, I'm not going to disclose what was talked about in a classified hearing. But I will say that you see the will of the Ukrainian people. And we see in here every day how now they are even going on the offensive.

And I will say to you that if the United States and our allies were not working and getting the weapons in that they are getting in now, then we would not see the results that we're seeing, we not see that Russian tanks are being destroyed, we would not see that they're killing, you know, seven to 15,000 Russians already in just a month. How are they doing that? They're doing that because we are giving them what they need to defend themselves and finding ways to get additional pieces to them.

In just a month time, we've already spent close to a little bit over $2 billion dollars. And with these mechanisms that -- of getting it in that we should not talk about so that others don't need to know that, but it is clear the weapons that are causing them to win on the ground is because we are providing them the ammunition and the military equipment that they need to do just that.

TAPPER: Democratic Congressman of New York, Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, thank you so much, sir. Appreciate your time.

MEEKS: Good to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, war does not stop babies from being born. We're going to visit some refugees who are becoming new mothers quite far away from home.



TAPPER: Sticking with our world lead, more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees are scattered throughout Eastern Europe right now, most of them women and children. And for so many of those refugees even war cannot stop certain parts of life from happening. CNN's Kyung Lah spoke to women in Poland who brought the newest faces of war into the world in a strange country among strangers far, far away from home.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Born just hours ago in Poland, baby Adelina (ph) is already a survivor of the war in Ukraine.

(on camera): Is it hard to be happy?

(voice-camera): It is, she says. Adelina is Khrystyna Pavluchenko's first child.

(on camera): You feel guilty? Why?

(voice-over): Because I left, she says. Left her home in western Ukraine.

The war had begun, the bombing near their city. Pavluchenko escaped by bus than walked on foot across the border. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital. She delivered Adelina a month early separated from her family.

My mother, sister, grandparents still in Ukraine. He's killing our people, she says, of Vladimir Putin. How could anyone be so cruel?

DR. MAGDA DUTSCH, INFLANCKA SPECIALIST HOSPITAL: I'm terrified. I'm terrified that something like this can happen that you can lead your everyday life and all of a sudden because of decisions that you have no influence upon. There is a war and you have to flee. It's unbelievable. It's terrifying.

LAH (voice-over): Dr. Magda Dutsch is a psychiatrist at Inflancka Specialist Hospital in Warsaw. The hospital focused on treating women has seen 80 Ukrainian patients this month delivered 11 babies and treated cancer patients like 58-year-old Tatiana Mikayla (ph).

I ran with my granddaughter in my arm, she says. Missiles had already blown up the windows in their building. As they fled something exploded next to their car. Her city is now occupied by Russians.

She's grateful for her doctors at the hospital and the free health care in Poland that's treating her cervical cancer.

Christina (ph) is one of the doctors. We're not using her last name because she herself is also a refugee from Ukraine. A mother of a five-year-old and the wife of a Ukrainian military man.

(on camera): Your husband.


(voice-over): My husband has been in the military since 2014. At the moment, he's in Lviv.

(on camera): You had to leave your husband behind?

(voice-over): Yes, she says, Now in Warsaw, I can't sit and do nothing, she says. I have this opportunity here to help women who fled the country.

With each breath, Baby Adelina offers her mother a respite from the war.

(on camera): What will you tell your daughter about her birth?

(voice-over): The truth, she says. We will tell her everything as it was. She should know the truth.


LAH: Now all the women, the patients that you saw in this story, Baby Adelina, all of this health care is covered by the government of Poland including all the neonatal all the post care. And they are not alone, the Ministry of Health Care in Poland says a total of 197 newborns born cranium blood but born in Poland. Born since this war began, Jake.

TAPPER: Kyung Lah in Warsaw, Poland, thanks so much.

Coming up, when politics gets personal, a look at some of the real life fallout from the culture wars for same sex couples and their children.



TAPPER: In our national lead, the real-life fallout from what some called the culture wars is playing out across the country. Today, the very first lawsuit was filed aimed at blocking a law that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed on Monday.

The Parental Rights in Education law, that's what it's called, restricts classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Critics call it the Don't Say Gay law.

You can notice the signs the children from families that support the law are holding. Here's a closer look. Protect Children, Support Parents.

CNN's Leyla Santiago just sat down with some families with same sex parents and she filed this report.


JEFF DELMAY, FLORIDA PARENT: Oh my gosh, haven't seen it in a long time. Like oh, wow, this is my marriage certificate. That's right, I'm married.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This piece of paper marks a moment in history. Todd and Jeff Delmay were among the first same sex couples to marry in Florida when it became legal seven years ago. They had to fight for marriage equality and had to fight to adopt their son, Blake (ph).

TODD DELMAY, FLORIDA PARENT: There have been times in history when we have fought for a new right, and fought for something. And there was a joy in expanding rights and access. And here we are fighting something where they're trying to take it away.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The fight today, a new law in Florida officially titled Parental Rights in Education what critics call the Don't Say Gay bill. The new law limits how schools can address sexuality and gender particularly among the youngest students.

The Delmays now fear their son may not be able to talk about his two dads in the classroom.

J. DELMAY: There's some anxiety about it. You know, Blake actually asked me, maybe even yesterday, you know, what does that mean?

SANTIAGO (voice-over): At the dinner table of the Conde-Parlato home, they've been having many of the same conversations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, papi.

EDDIE CONDE-PARLATO, FLORIDA PARENT: I feel like it's, well, now you can adopt these children, but like, keep your business at home. Don't come talking to us at school about, like, your families.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Have you guys had that conversation as a family?


SANTIAGO (on camera): And what's that like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of like sad.

HERB CONDE-PARLATO, FLORIDA PARENT: Come for me and him, don't come for my son. Don't make my son feel uncomfortable at school.

J. DELMAY: It feels like someone is really just trying to, again, push you aside, push you and push you back too slowly back into a closet, back into a corner because of, quote unquote, "parental rights."

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We insist that parents have a right to be involved.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Surrounded by supporters advocating parent's rights, Governor Ron DeSantis signed it into law at a Florida charter school on Monday.

(on camera): What struck you?

H. CONDE-PARLATO: That they were holding signs that say protecting children. It was strange to use children in this bill because it harms other children. And that blows my mind. T. DELMAY: This fits a pattern of using children and people's fears about what might be done to their children, when their children aren't in the safety of their homes is terrifying. They are using children as a prop to say that we need to stop something that in most cases isn't happening.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): But for one mom who spoke at the governor's press conference,

JANUARY LITTLEJOHN, FLORIDA PARENT: We learned the middle school had created a transgender nonconforming support plan with our 13-year-old daughter without our knowledge or consent.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): In while the governor's supporters considered this a win, LGBTQ advocates say it's not over yet and are now taking this to court.

(on camera): You had to fight to get married. You had to fight to adopt your son. You're fighting this now. You think you'll ever stop fighting?

J. DELMAY: Well, I hope so. I hope so. Hope we get to a point where we feel like we can stop. It doesn't look like in the foreseeable future that we have that luxury.



SANTIAGO: And, Jake, this is the lawsuit filed in court today. It's about 80 pages. Plaintiffs here to LGBTQ advocacy groups, parents, students, as well as a teacher saying that their first and 14th amendment rights violated as well as Title Nine. And they say that this is an unlawful attempt to stigmatize and try to erase LGBTQ people in Florida public laws -- public schools, rather. This is scheduled to begin to take effect in July.

TAPPER: Leyla, how did Governor DeSantis respond to this lawsuit today?

SANTIAGO: He was asked about it during a press conference. He doubled down says this is about empowering parents and making sure that they have more oversight over what their children learn in the classroom. And I want to read you a direct quote from the response to the lawsuit. When asked, he said, "These are policy decisions. I don't think it's anything that's invoking first amendment because schools, states and localities have the ability to set curriculum in public schools. We do that all the time and that is not new."

TAPPER: All right, Leyla Santiago in Florida for us, thank you so much.

While the world condemns Putin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Donald Trump is asking that ruthless dictator for a favor. And now one Republican senator is joining the call. That's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, red states are ground zero for America's culture wars right now. Florida's new LGBTQ law is just one in a slew of recent culture clash moves from Republican led states. The ACLU says more than 150 anti-LGBTQ bills as they characterize it, have been introduced so far this year.

Let's discuss with our analysts and contributors. Maria, let me start with you. In addition to Florida, Iowa's governor just signed a law which limits transgender youth from participating in girls' sports.


TAPPER: Oklahoma lawmakers have advanced a bill that would ban a broad swath of books, including ones that discuss sex or sexual identity. Is this going to work? Is this a roadmap for Republicans to take back one or both houses of Congress in the midterms?

CARDONA: Well, the states that you mentioned are pretty red states. And so I don't know that from the standpoint of politics, whether it will --

TAPPER: (Inaudible) didn't used to be, I think (inaudible).

CARDONA: You're right about that. That didn't used to be. And I do think maybe if Democrats and I hope that they do use this, in states like that, where there are possible and we also know in red states, there are seats that Democrats are, you know, are favored in or --

TAPPER: Right.

CARDONA: -- you know, have right now and are focused on in the 2022 midterms. And I think that we can use this and we should use this to point out that these are problems, these are answers in search of a problem. They are heartbreaking to the kids that these laws are geared toward because it singles amount, it marginalizes them. It marginalizes a group of kids that are already prone to being lonely, prone to thoughts of suicide, prone to feeling like they are not part of the bunch.

And so to me, from the standpoint of -- and a lot of these laws, they're calling it the, you know, child protection laws, it's ridiculous. And I think from a messaging standpoint, it is certainly not going to expand the GOP tent whatsoever, it will rile up their base. So if they have made the decision that that's what they need to do for the midterms, and I do think it will work, we need to counter it.

TAPPER: So Ramesh, I should note in Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed two bills, having to do with transgender youth yesterday. One would restrict access to health care treatments for minors that have such as -- they call it gender affirming or --

CARDONA: Right. TAPPER: -- hormones, et cetera. The other would prohibit trans- athletes from competing on girls' sports teams. Utah Governor Cox, Spencer Cox, he's one of the few Republicans pushing back on any of this. He vetoed a bill in his state, and he wrote, "Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That's what all of this is about. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don't understand what they're going through, or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live."

And ultimately, the Utah legislature overrode his veto. How do you see this?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, I think that there are -- it depends on the bill, right? Some of these bills, I think, are more defensible than others. I think, for example, the question of fairness and sports and protecting women's sports, so that it's a fair competition, and you don't have chromosomally male participants in female sports. That's the thing I think a lot of people who don't bear any ill will to people who are transgender, or people who have other sexual orientations, that's something that makes sense to a lot of people.

And I don't think that that is where Democrats are going to be able to take a really strong political stand against these bills. Now, some of these other bills like the Florida one about classroom instruction, I think the vulnerability there was -- could be a vulnerability in court, as well as in public opinion is vagueness. So if you just say, we don't want classroom instruction about sexual orientation --

TAPPER: Right.

PONNURU: -- for people before grade three, I think that also sounds reasonable. But the question then becomes, well, what's instruction?

TAPPER: Exactly.

PONNURU: And does this mean that, you know, as as you were talking about, can a child not talk about their parents? That I think is going to be the place where the opposition should -- can and should take us.

TAPPER: So the vagueness of the law, I think, is an interesting issue. Because, look, nobody supports teachers, you know, preying on students or trying to recruit students to any particular way of living heterosexual or homosexual. You know, what, K through 3, that's nuts. But, you know, my daughter went to school with a kid who had two moms, right?


TAPPER: Would that not be allowed to be discussed in a Florida classroom? I don't know. I'm asking.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and I don't think we know the answer at this point. And that's the problem, because I think you may be talking about a problem that doesn't exist. It's just like critical race theory. Well, how many schools were teaching critical race theory? Was that a problem that existed universally? When did it get invented?

You know, is this about electioneering for 2022? You know, it's just all part and parcel of the wedge issues bringing out the basis you mentioned before and I think that's a big part of it. And no doubt it'll work to a great degree, I think, with the base.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The issue that I think a lot of, educators are having and the concern that they're having is the chilling effect, right?


I mean we've seen reports of librarians taking books off of shelves proactively, because they're afraid of the ramifications, about race, about anything that they think might make predominantly white parents, white, heterosexual parents feel uncomfortable. I can't imagine that when I was going through school, books not being available to me on any wide range of subjects.

BORGER: Right.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Even when I was in, you know, elementary school or before entering college. So that's one thing that educators are facing is that they could be afraid to be willing to be open to a student to have these discussions, or to even suggest books for them to read. That would have been otherwise, OK, on critical race theory, you know, that's just become this catch all phrase for the right, in terms of any book about race or any conversation about race that makes, you know, mostly --


BARRON-LOPEZ: -- their white base feel uncomfortable.


PONNURU: There's a popular concern that is not limited, I think, to the Republican base about parental influence and education, and it helps explain why you've seen things like the polling and education flip, which this has been a democratic advantage for a long time --

TAPPER: To say nothing of the governor's mansion in Virginia as well.

PONNURU: Yes, that was right.



PONNURU: And as Republicans have started talking about these issues, you know, it's not just been a wedge issue in the sense of mobilizing the base. It's been a wedge between Democratic politicians and people who used to vote for Democrats.

CARDONA: But these bills are not bad. These bills, I think, the problem for the Republican Party is that it goes to what Democrats can use, and frankly independents as well, to continue to paint the party as intolerant as bigoted as a party that does not want to welcome people that are different than them. And I think from a messaging standpoint, that is something that Democrats need to focus on.

Because, frankly, they are doing these kids huge harm. You're going to have kids that I believe are going to be in harm's way, perhaps even committing suicide, because of what these bills are going to be doing to them. And by the way, I do give kudos to the governor of Utah and the governor of Indiana who also said that he's going to beat to it.

TAPPER: There's also another story that's getting a lot of attention here in Washington having to do with the frustration within the Republican ranks, with Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. He made some comment about the prevalence of cocaine and orgies among presumably Republicans in Washington, D.C.

The House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy finally found something to outrage him. Cawthorn, he says, he's lost his trust. North Carolina Senator Tom Tillis says similarly he might be backing primary challenge. What's going on here? Why all of a sudden anger at this and, you know --


TAPPER: -- Marjorie Taylor Greene or whatever?

PONNURU: Well, (INAUDIBLE) did in fact today endorse --

TAPPER: It was that right today it happened?

PONNURU: Challenger. I -- it is, I think, the kind of thing that some congressmen found they were getting questions about what's this about you guys all --

TAPPER: Are you key bumps?


TAPPER: Right.

PONNURU: And that, I guess, annoyed them but it is sort of an amazing thing that this -- the final straw for Cawthorn not calling, you know, Zelenskyy a thug or --


BORGER: This is about them.


BORGER: That's --


BORGER: They had -- they're getting questions from their constituents. Do you participate in orgies and do cocaine -- PONNURU: And have got a favor --

BORGER: -- and they run into Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader and said, you got to deal with this. But if Paul Gosar are in an animated cartoon threatens the life of a Democratic Congresswoman --

TAPPER: Gosar literally attended a white nationalist convention.

BORGER: Exactly.

TAPPER: When you talk to your sources on the Hill, how do they explain this very selective outrage? First of all, I didn't know what a key bump was. It's apparently, I guess, doing cocaine on a key.


TAPPER: So thank you to Congressman Cawthorn for educating me as to that. But what are people saying on the Hill?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I mean, I think that what Democrats are saying is that it just shows where the Republican Party is at right now, which is that Kevin McCarthy is willing to be more forceful in his condemnation of Madison Cawthorn about this issue rather than about whether it's Marjorie Taylor Greene or Paul Gosar. And then, you know, making anti- Semitic comments and making racist comments.

So he's not willing to take action against them, in fact, saying that he's willing to give them back their committee posts if he gains the majority, even though they have repeatedly made, you know, racist comments and been titled with (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: All right. Well, thanks to one and all. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, comedian Chris Rock talking about that slap at the Oscars. There is one person he's not talked to about it yet though. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our pop culture lead today, Chris Rock speaking up for the first time since getting so publicly slapped by Will Smith for a joke Smith didn't like. The standup comedian performed two sold out shows last night in Boston walking on stage. Huge cheers and applause and briefly addressing the shocking moment on everyone's mind. Listen to what Rock had to say.


CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend, and I'm still kind of processing what happened, like, I'm so at some point I'll talk about -- and it'll be serious, it'll be funny.



TAPPER: Let's discuss with Deadline Senior Editor Dominic Patten. Dominic, good to see you. So Rock says he's still processing the moment, isn't ready to speak out in detail about what happened. He also implied during the show that he has not spoken with Will Smith since the incident. What was your reaction to it all?

DOMINIC PATTEN, DEADLINE SENIOR EDITOR: Well, I mean, the fact the matter, he doesn't spoken to most of it, it doesn't look like he's spoken to the academy, the people behind the Oscars as well. In many ways, Chris Rock is becoming the Invisible Man of this whole affair, as things have really moved on to how the academy is going to find a way to, as it says with its disciplinary proceedings, find a way to punish Will Smith for what happened on the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday.

TAPPER: So the academy released a statement saying that they did ask Will Smith to leave the Oscars after he physically assaulted Rock, but that he refused. But you have new reporting on this. Tell us.

PATTEN: Yes, I mean, ask is one of those words like Bill Clinton would say. It depends on your definition of the word is, you know. That was supposedly was not asked directly the head of the academy and the CEO asked one of his publicists who went over and spoke to him indirectly. We know producer at the same time producer Will Packer also went over and spoke to him and said the opposite, which is kind of like hey, man, everything's cool. Just hang out.

We also forget, this happened 10 minutes after the actual violence happened, because after Will Smith hit Chris Rock and then yelled at him on stage, Chris Rock then presented the Academy Award for Best Documentary, the "Questlove" for the amazing Summer of Soul, by the way.

10 minutes went by. These conversations happened during the commercials and a bureaucratic organization clearly like the academy, they just could not turn away from the iceberg that they were crashing into. And now this has turned into an almost bigger blast radius than the actual event itself.

TAPPER: Well, it doesn't sound like the academy told the truth when they said that he was asked to leave. I mean, if they just asked a PR person who knows what the PR person said to Chris Rock, I mean, is that just a lie?

PATTEN: Well, we do know that the PR person said to Chris Rock that there had been a suggestion or some indication you should leave Chris Rock -- sorry, not to Chris Rock, to Will Smith.


PATTEN: Will Smith supposedly then said, no, you know what I want to stay. I want to make this right. I want to apologize. I'm paraphrasing a little bit. And then there was the conversation with Will Packer. Also remember and many of us have seen the photos, Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry, Bradley Cooper and several others went over and spoke with Will Smith. And then he went back and sat in his seat for another 45 minutes until he was awarded the Best Actor Award for which he received a standing ovation and then gave a rather long tearful and I would say heartfelt, but somewhat conflicted speech.

And conflict, I think is the word here, Jake. The Academy has now given him until approximately next week, about the 14th of April to respond in writing to them to their disciplinary proceedings. He could be kicked out of the academy, he could be suspended, he will not lose his Oscar because honestly, there's no process for them to do that. And Roman Polanski still has his.

TAPPER: Right.

PATTEN: But I will say is they're going to take some measures, they're going to get his response. And then on April 18, they're going to have a meeting and work out what they're going to do. Let's be honest, you know, this more than anyone, my friend, new cycle between here and April 18, a lot of stuffs going to happen.

TAPPER: Right.

PATTEN: This is going to diminish and diminish. I think they're going to kick this down the can, then they're going to kick this down the road, and then there's going to be something that happened. Will Smith will not show up at the 95th Annual Academy Awards, but I think that he's going to do just OK, it all depends on how much he says sorry.

TAPPER: Well, that's the thing. Are you surprised that at this point, he hasn't done a tearful apology, sitting next to Jada Pinkett Smith and talking to Oprah. And, you know, talking about the -- his abusive father and how what he did was wrong and toxic masculinity and bad role, just -- have you surprised that hasn't happened yet?

PATTEN: Well, I'm surprised it hasn't happened. But I think there's a timeline. Tomorrow morning, we know that producer Will Packer is going on Good Morning America to offer his version of events. I mean, what's happening right now is like they say, not always the crime. Sometimes the cover up.

The blast radius of blame game is going around here. Who was responsible for what and who said what? Was the academy technically telling the truth when they said they asked him to leave? Probably. But they didn't ask him. They did it in the Hollywood way, which they asked through someone and someone else, I think you are going to see some sort of sit down with Will and Jada. And they're going to get their version of events.

I think you're going to hear as Chris Rock said at the beginning there. He's going to say something, but it's not going to happen fast, my friend, because everybody wants us to go away.

TAPPER: The Hollywood way would have been just to not return his phone calls, I guess. Dominic Patten, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Good to see you.

It is a lost and found tale involving Pink Floyd. That was 17 years in the making. That story next.



TAPPER: So, you think you can tell one Flamingo from another. Pink Floyd, the name of an African Flamingo that escaped the Kansas zoo back in 2005. Pink Floyd was spotted on the Texas coast this week. Now normally flamingos in captivity have their wings clipped so as to prevent them from flying away.

A fluke occurred in Pink Floyd's case. A windy day let him take flight before those critical feathers were taken from him. So Pink Floyd took the breeze south and that's where he has apparently remained. Texas Wildlife officials have confirmed it is the same bird. Thanks to a leg band that is still attached.

All in all, it's just another bird in the wild.

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