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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump's Revenge Tour Includes Sabotaging GOP Candidates; Biden Calls Trump A Convicted Felon For The First Time; Fauci Confronted About Arbitrary Six-Feet Distancing Rule; ESPN Host Calls Caitlin Clark A White B-Word; Trump Describes The Criminal Justice System "Corrupt" And "Rigged" Since His Guilty Verdict. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 03, 2024 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: He loves to sleep in the sun. As you can see here, he really smells everything in sight. And he's also adjusting to the New York City lifestyle quite well.

If you are interested in adopting him, he is going to be available starting tomorrow through Muddy Paws Rescue. It's a nonprofit here in New York City, a very special one. They save dogs who may not have gotten a chance, a second chance, and they pair them with people who can give them a forever home. And if you are interested in Chico or interested in just being part of this effort, I would love for you to do that. You can go to on how to adopt, foster or just donate.

Thank you so much for joining us. We'll see you tomorrow night. CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: The lesson Donald Trump hasn't learned, that's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillip in New York.

And tonight, political revenge is now the Republican Party's policy. Governor Larry Hogan dared to say that the rule of law deserves to be respected, and for that, it's now put him in the crosshairs of his colleagues and that three-letter committee that is supposed to be in charge of helping him win in November.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: Does the Republican National Committee support Larry Hogan for Senate?

LARA TRUMP, CO-CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I'll tell you one thing. I don't support what he just said there. I think it's ridiculous. And I think anybody who's not speaking up in the face of really something that should never again have seen the light of day, a trial that would never have been brought against any other person aside from Donald Trump --

HUNT: But does the RNC support his bid? L. TRUMP: He doesn't deserve the respect of anyone.

HUNT: He doesn't deserve the respect of anyone?

L. TRUMP: He doesn't deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point, and, quite frankly, anybody in America, if that's the way you feel.


PHILLIP: Ignoring what the court says because you don't like the conclusions of Americans who were just doing their civic duty, that's not what Americans think, actually. The polls that are measuring how Americans actually think and feel in the immediate aftermath of this Trump verdict, well, just take a look at what they found. Americans think that the jury actually got it right. The Trump should have been convicted of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. And 49 percent say that Trump should end his campaign.

But the virtue most important to the Republican Party is fealty. So, they are happy to swim upstream against public opinion and against recent history. Hogan's very public statement means that he's likely headed for a public breakup with MAGA, if that wasn't already the case.

And, frankly, Trump doesn't have a great track record when it comes to picking candidates in truly competitive races. Remember, Trump backed Hershel Walker in the Senate race. Walker's campaign ended in a loss to Democrat Raphael Warnock. Remember Dr. Oz? Well, Trump backed him over a McConnell approved Senate choice. Oz lost. Blake Masters, he was a Trump favorite, too. Not a favorite of the voters, though. Adam Laxalt, Trump thought that he would win. He lost. In 2017, Republican Roy Moore got the Trump endorsement despite accusations that he sexually abused teenagers. Alabama, yes, Alabama picked a Democrat.

The lesson here, that revenge is a dish that you are supposed to serve to the other guys, not to force feed to your own political party.

Joining me now is former Montana Governor Marc Racicot. He's also the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Governor, thanks for joining us tonight.

When you hear Donald Trump's daughter in law, Lara Trump, who's now the head of the RNC, saying that Larry Hogan doesn't deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party, what goes through your mind?

FMR. GOV. MARC RACICOT (R-MT): Well, it's incredibly, it's contemptuous, it's rude and inappropriate. Larry Hogan is for anybody, any conversation anywhere, but particularly when you're talking about politics and our democracy. Larry Hogan is a distinguished officeholder. He was elected in a Democratic state, strongly Democratic state. He was widely respected by virtually everyone he worked with.

So, you know, at the end of the day, the only thing I can think about is that it was immature, it was contemptuous, and it was rude.

PHILLIP: Is that the role of the RNC, though, to basically say that a Republican who is currently running for office doesn't deserve to hold that post just because they disagree with Donald Trump on his criminal convictions?

RACICOT: Well, it certainly is not acceptable in my time, and neither is it acceptable in my understanding of the values we share.


It has been more acceptable, apparently, to Donald Trump and his progeny and all those who associate with him. That's the language of the modern day Republican Party. It's more of a mob than it is the party and they exercise and demonstrate that particular difference by their verbiage and their lack of good manners and good sense and honest purpose.

PHILLIP: I want to play something that was said from Republican Senator from North Carolina Thom Tillis. He said this to CNN today and it's basically a warning. Take a listen.


SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I think the big mistake that we make is to shift our attention away from a failing economy, a failing global stature.

Those are the key issues that are driving voters in November. Why on earth we would shift our attention away from that for any sort of quick fix on this decision doesn't make sense to me. Trump wins if we focus on those issues, regardless of what occurs in the sentencing.


PHILLIP: Just on the tactics, I mean, are Republicans making a shortsighted decision here by backing Trump on this issue and going so hard on this and not on some of those other bread and butter issues?

RACICOT: Well, you know, frankly, Abby, every race is about character. It's about the ability to have a moral code, a center that keeps our democracy, which is dependent upon everyone in this country consenting to that form of government, maintaining a level of civility that allows for people to actually communicate.

If you can't respect each other, if you can't trust each other, if you can't carry on a conversation with each other and focus upon character, the primary point of our Constitution, then the entire country falls apart.

So, frankly, Senator Tillis, in my judgment, is absolutely incorrect. The first judgments we ought to be making are about character, ethics, and a moral code that serves the people of this country well.

PHILLIP: Not ignoring, of course, that this was a conviction and a historic one at that. Marc Racicot, thank you very much for joining us.

RACICOT: My pleasure. Thank you.

PHILLIP: And breaking tonight, President Biden is using Trump's conviction on the campaign trail now. At a fundraiser, he says that the race has entered uncharted territory. And for the first time, he calls Trump a convicted felon. He also says that something, quote, snapped in Trump when he lost in 2020. And now, Trump is warning what would happen if he's actually thrown behind bars.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know that the public would stand it, you know? I'm not sure the public would stand for it with a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you're saying a kind of house arrest or --

D. TRUMP: I think it would be tough for the public to take. You know, at a certain point, there's a breaking point.


PHILLIP: Joining me now, CNN Contributor Leah Wright Rigueur, former Senior Congressional GOP Adviser Rina Shah, CNN Political Commentators Ana Navarro and Coleman Hughes.

Ana, Trump always going right to the edge of a threat, essentially. What did you make of his remarks?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Reckless, irresponsible, here we go again. Really, it's amazing that after what we all lived through, January 6th, and even though today there might be people trying to erase history and whitewash history, we all know what we saw on January 6th. And we all know that it was reckless words by Donald Trump and his accomplices that led to January 6th that fostered that climate that, that fed the fire and, you know, it was misinformation. It was lies. And he's doing it all over again. He's doing it all over again.

You know, the thing that I keep thinking about is that jury, any of us could be on that jury, right? These are American citizens that did their duty. And what they're getting in exchange for having put their lives in suspense for six weeks is threats, getting doxxed, being told that they are like in Cuba, that this was a sham trial. Really, shame on all of these Republicans who call themselves law and order Republicans, and in this effort to kowtow to Trump --

PHILLIP: It all just goes out the window, it seems.

NAVARRO: -- are criticizing and attacking our legal system, which may not be perfect, but it's the best in the world.

PHILLIP: I paraphrased a little bit of what President Biden is saying tonight at a fundraiser, and it's written the script. I mean, he is going after Trump on this issue. Is that the right move? I mean, there seems to be a little bit of hesitancy in the White House and in the campaign about whether he should touch this particular thing.

RINA SHAH, 2016 RNC DELEGATE: I don't think it's the right move this moment, and I'll say it's because it's taking the bait in a way, and it's because Trump is going to say something more outlandish every day to save himself, to scare people into submission, to voting for him.


But what does this get Biden? By telling the American people that's a square, you know, we get it. You're not going to fit a round peg into a square, but he should be thinking a little bit more, I would say, long-term. He should be giving us a vision of what America could look like if Trump were to get elected, so, again, playing this long game.

PHILLIP: I mean, maybe -- so just to -- I mean, it sounds like that's kind of what they're trying to say. I mean, one of the things that struck out to me was, he's like, Trump has snapped. He can't accept defeat anymore.

NAVARRO: And he's not saying it to the American people, right? He's not, and he's not, he's not saying it from the White House. He's not saying it from the presidential bully pulpit. He's saying it at a fundraiser with supporters and donors. It's a very different ambiance. It's a very different setting than saying it from the presidential pulpit what he has not said.

SHAH: I hear you, but it still gets magnified in the same way. And so those people who are kind of checked out and not really plugged in, they're thinking, hey, it's the president speaking. And in a way they're kind of putting him in a place where it's like, okay, how much more are you going to respond to Trump every day?

I think the campaign messaging right now should not take the bait, should push back. Because as a former GOP operative, I can tell you, I've sat in rooms where I've been aghast at how nasty the messaging is going to get. The GOP is going to go low. Today's GOP goes low. It's what Michelle Obama said. When they go low, we have to go high. Those words couldn't be more true.

PHILLIP: They're doing it though, Rona, and, Leah, you can jump in here, because the polls say the American people are behind this verdict.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So, I think it's important to remember, as Ana pointed out, that the context of this is a fundraiser. So, in part, what Biden is doing is essentially throwing red meat to the Democratic base. We saw last week that there were a lot of people who were, in essence, celebrating what they said was the accountability within an imperfect justice system. And so in a week where the Republican Party has raised anywhere between $52 to $141 million, depending on who you're talking about, now is the time I think for Democrats to think about how are we going to pull numbers? How are we going to pull the same amount of money? And one of the ways that you do it is by tapping in.

You know, I love that Michelle Obama phrase, when they go low, we go high. But we have all seen how that has worked out. It has not worked out. And, fundamentally, what we are talking about now is a shift, not from tactics that are dirty and dark, but a shift away from democracy. And so it's important, I think, for Biden to address it, however strategically he does it.

NAVARRO: Well, I'm glad you two like that phrase because, let me tell you something, if they go low, get me in a shovel.


COLEMAN HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Normally, I would think if your opponent is a convicted felon, you should be hammering on that. That just seems like common sense. If we actually, though, look at the Trump versus Biden polling over the past year-and-a-half, remember, Trump was not dominant in the polling a year-and-a-half ago. But before the indictments landed, as each indictment landed, you saw him ticking up and up in the polls.

Now, is that just correlation or is it causation? If it's causation, it could mean that sort of focusing, spiking the football, turns off independents and feeds into the perception that it's a political prosecution.

PHILLIP: I want to just note that as all of this is going on, just today, the Hunter Biden trial is underway. Jury selection was underway. We saw the first lady in the court today. These things are basically --

NAVARRO: On her birthday.

PHILLIP: On her birthday. These things are basically happening simultaneously from a political perspective. The president also put out a statement. How is this going to impact him, even though these are Hunter Biden's troubles, but it's putting it all out there for the world to see?

NAVARRO: Well, I think, you know, there's two questions. How does it impact him politically? We don't know that yet. And how does it impact him personally as a father? There is no doubt that Joe Biden adores his son, wants to keep him close, I think probably feels some degree of responsibility. I suspect that Joe Biden thinks that if Hunter's last name wasn't Biden, he probably would not be going to court, not be at this trial.

But I think that juxtaposition could not be more dramatic, right? At the time that Republicans are trying to sell this idea, this narrative, that this is a political persecution, that this is Joe Biden's Department of Justice persecuting Donald Trump, which is a lie because it was done in state court in New York, the Joe Biden's Department of Justice, the one they're actually putting on trial, is his son.

PHILLIP: It does actually seem to completely upend that. I mean, you've got Republicans saying the DOJ is corrupt. They're prosecuting the president's son right now. RIGUEUR: But, you know, yes, they are prosecuting the president's son. But I also want to point in, as we've seen these kind of images and these testimonies from the trial trickle in, I think it may actually have a different effect than we expect it to.


In part, one of the things that we saw over and over again in these testimonies was people talking about how alcoholism and drug addiction has affected their families. We know that this has been a cause or an approach that Republicans and Democrats have been able to surround themselves, have been able to jump on, because so many people have been affected by it.

So, I think we can look at, one, Hunter Biden's story in the way that he is being the way that he is both being targeted, but how people are receiving it and the kind of deep sympathy that it is, I think, engendering in people as they are watching this happen. It is very different than the way that people were watching the Trump trials and the Trump hearings.

PHILLIP: All right. Everyone, thank you very much, great discussion.

Ahead for us, a member of the Exonerated Central Park Five reacts to the verdict of Donald Trump for the first time.

Plus, why the chaos at the Anthony Fauci hearing today on Capitol Hill was a big missed opportunity for Americans.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Do you represent science, Mr. Fauci, yes or no? Yes or no?


GREENE: Yes, it's a yes or no.

FAUCI: I don't think it is.

GREENE: Okay, well, we'll take that as a you don't know what you represent.




PHILLIP: When it comes to the trauma of COVID, some people seem to have amnesia. They forget that Americans were dying at record rates, all ages, all races, in all parts of the country. We didn't know what we were dealing with at the time and it makes things worse that there was a void of federal leadership. And because of that amnesia, there is now a vacuum and it's being filled with self righteous and dumb politicians and politics that don't achieve anything. And the consequence is that we don't legitimately focus on the actual mistakes that did happen and what needs to change for the next emergency, like, for example, social distancing.

From the very start, health agencies and leaders told everyone to remain six feet apart, which was, we now know, not backed by scientific studies on COVID. But where did that guidance come from? Well, Dr Anthony Fauci testified this year behind closed doors that the guidance quote just appeared.

He got more specific in his public testimony today.


FAUCI: It actually came from the CDC. The CDC was responsible for those kinds of guidelines for schools, not me.

When I say it was not based in science, I meant a prospective clinical trial to determine whether six foot was better than three, was better than ten.


PHILLIP: Now Fauci explains that he believes the CDC came up with that number based on its decades' old recommendations for avoiding the flu. And it just kind of stuck. But he put the onus on the CDC. Fauci adopted the guidance and he delivered it to Americans.


FAUCI: Ending the COVID outbreak in 30 days has some aspect of it of physical separation, whether that's avoiding crowds, whether that's staying six feet away from people, whether that's doing teleworking, all of it does that.

Rarely goes beyond six feet. So, if you cough, sneeze, or even talk, a droplet would tend to drop to the ground, which is the reason for the six feet limit that we talk about, about staying away.

The minimal thing that you should do is the kinds of things that we've been talking about constantly, wearing a mask, maintaining six feet of distance, avoiding crowds.

Transmission is respiratory route, direct person to person, usually in close contact, which is the reason why we ask that people maintain a six-foot distance.

Things like alternating classes, morning, afternoon, alternating days, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Tuesday, Thursday, what have you, physical separation in class, seating people six feet apart.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: Now, to be fair, officials like Dr. Fauci were trying to save lives. And he has spent his entire life doing that. And studies show that physical distancing did, in fact, achieve that. But, again, six feet, that number, that was arbitrary.

Here's how Fauci is explaining it now.


FAUCI: I've challenged the CDC multiple times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Publicly on this regard?

FAUCI: Excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Publicly, you challenged them on this six foot distance?

FAUCI: It is not appropriate to be publicly challenging a sister organization.


PHILLIP: Going along with guidance without data, that isn't science. But the real question here is why did it take so long for health officials to change or end that guidance? The CDC didn't make it official until August of 2022. That's more than two years into the pandemic. It's also more than a year-and-a-half after the CDC's own study showed that virtual school can be damaging to children's mental health. And, remember, it also hurt their academic health. Children lost about 35 percent of a normal school year's worth of learning during the pandemic and many are still suffering the effects of that.

But I say this because there are legitimate questions that need serious answers about the COVID pandemic, to avoid the mistakes in the next one and to build confidence in health guidelines, except that if you were watching the Fauci hearing today, you didn't get that.


This is what you saw instead.


GREENE: You should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. You belong in prison, Dr. Fauci.

FAUCI: So you said about four or five things, Congresswoman, that were just not true.

REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ): Well, we have emails to prove it.

FAUCI: Well, you don't.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): They're treating you, Dr. Fauci, like a convicted felon. Actually, you probably wish they were treating you like a convicted felon. They treat convicted felons with love and admiration.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Do you agree that there was a push to downplay the lab leak theory?

FAUCI: Not on my part.

JORDAN: Really?

FAUCI: Really.


GREENE: Do you represent science, Mr. Fauci? Yes or no? Yes or no?

FAUCI: No, that's not a yes or no answer.

GREENE: Yes, it's a yes or no.

FAUCI: I don't think it is.

GREENE: Okay, well we'll take that as a you don't know what you represent.

So are you saying this is fake news, Mr. Fauci?

FAUCI: I didn't say I made anything up.

GREENE: What did you say?

FAUCI: I said that it is not based in science and it just appeared.

GREENE: But this is science?

FAUCI: What do dogs have to do with anything that we're talking about today?

REP. ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA): I am so sorry you just had to sit through that. That was completely irresponsible. Quite frankly, some we're hearing -- this might be the most insane hearing.


PHILLIP: Now, I want to be clear. Dr. Fauci is human, and sure he may have made mistakes. Many government officials did, including the president at the time, Trump. But he's been attacked with death threats and ad hominem arguments, all of which have now crossed the line.

Joining me now on all of this is the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Dr. Rick Bright. Dr. Bright was fired because he cast doubt on hydrochloroquine's effectiveness as a COVID drug. That remedy had been embraced by then- President Trump. Dr. Bright, thanks for joining us.

You heard earlier there Dr. Fauci put the responsibility for the invention of the six-foot social distancing guideline on the CDC. He said he didn't think it was right to blame another agency publicly. Do you buy that?

DR. RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE, HHS: You know, watching the play, and thanks for having me on, but watching that replay really invokes a lot of PTSD. And it's really difficult to see people in Congress behave this way when we have so many issues that we need to address to make sure that we are better prepared for a next outbreak.

You know, at the time, and as we are seeing now, we don't have all the information about the outbreak. We don't have all the answers, and we have to do what we have to do that we think is best to protect people at the time, and we will additional data as the time rolls on. And sometimes those guidelines or those things that we think we know change as we learn more data, and I have a feeling that many of those decisions made at that group level were made based on the best information we had at the time.

However, I disagree with Dr. Fauci in saying that you shouldn't challenge a sister agency. I think, as scientists, we always challenge the science. And if we believe that science or things that are happening are wrong or incorrect or not in the best action, we should speak out. And there're consequences in speaking out, as I know dearly, for speaking out against chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. But If the truth needs to be told, we need to tell it and we need to save lives regardless if it's against a sister agency or any agency around the world.

PHILLIP: You heard a lot of the Republicans in that hearing. I mean, some of them, the same Republicans who pushed bogus COVID remedies with absolutely no scientific backing whatsoever. They're talking about scientific guidance coming out of the government. I mean, do you find that to be hypocritical?

BRIGHT: Well, again, the government needs to be on top of the science, needs to work very closely with scientists, and not all those scientists are within government. We need to really pay attention to the best science around the world. And, you know, Congress isn't there to interpret science. Congress is there to set policies and laws and they should listen to the scientists.

And it is a bit hypocritical for those who don't understand science, to try to challenge science and people, who in many cases were doing the best they could with limited knowledge we had at the time.

PHILLIP: Dr. Rick Bright we appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you very much.

BRIGHT: Thank you, Abby.

PHILLIP: And up next, Donald Trump, he's now a convicted felon. But back in the 1980s, he wanted the book thrown at Yusuf Salaam, one of the exonerated five who were falsely accused of raping a jogger. So what does Salaam think of him now? We'll ask him.


Plus, an ESPN host calls Payton Clark a white B word, and now there's a national conversation about race and this women's sport.


PHILLIP: "Corrupt" and "rigged" -- those are the two words that Donald Trump is using to describe the criminal justice system since his guilty verdict. But he had different words for that same justice system 34 years ago. Trump called for the execution of five Black and Latino teens who were wrongly accused of attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park.


They're known as the Central Park Five. And now, one of those five men joins me now. New York City Councilman Yusef Salaam is here. Thank you for joining us, Councilman. Trump, you remember this vividly, I'm sure, took out a full-page ad in the "New York Daily News". He called for you and the other four to be executed. When his verdict came out, your statement said that you don't take pleasure in Trump's verdict. It's quite a contrast.

YUSEF SALAAM, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: You know, when I think about the juxtaposition of what happened 34 years ago -- 35 years ago, you know, Donald Trump wanted the state to kill us. And they looked at us because they said they're guilty because of the color of their skin in a country that says you're innocent until proven guilty.

And so, he was the fire starter that literally lit the match to make people believe that Black and brown people were guilty of some of the most heinous things that you could ever imagine. The fact of the matter is that we hadn't done anything. We were guilty because of the color of our skin. And Donald Trump took out a full-page ad two weeks after we were accused --


SALAAM: -- and called for the state to kill us. Really, really evil, vindictive. And at the same time, it gave rise to other people chiming in saying, you know what, let's just take the eldest one and hang him from a tree in Central Park. Pat Buchanan said that on the heels of what Donald Trump said. And he made it okay, I think, for people to come out and to say, we don't care that the system says innocent until proven guilty. But here Donald Trump was found guilty.

PHILLIP: And he says, I mean, that same courthouse that you were in --

SALAAM: Yes. Yes.

PHILLIP: -- he was found guilty in that courthouse.

SALAAM: Absolutely.

PHILLIP: And he says that it's proof that the justice system is rigged because he was convicted.

SALAAM: I think it's proof that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. I don't think that we should look at people who are in privileged positions, who can use their money and their talk to get out of things. It's about what you're doing. It's about karma. It's about believing and understanding that there will be a reckoning.

And I think we have to really, really hone into that and try to do the best that we can with what we have all the time, not do evil. Here he is now saying, you know what, give me leniency. These people are corrupt. These people are sick. Everything that he has shown us, those words are falling on him.

PHILLIP: He has never acknowledged his role in this. He's never apologized for his role in this. He is a former President, at one time was the most powerful man in this country. I mean, I'm sure it doesn't surprise you, but do you think that it's time?

SALAAM: It's too late. His time would have been when we were found innocent, 13 years after they thought we were guilty, to take out full page ads apologizing. But yet he kept doubling down. Even when we won our lawsuit, he said, now they're going to be rich rapists.

April Ryan came out on the lawn at the White House and asked him, are you going to apologize? And he said, no, they had to be guilty of something. That is a tragedy. That is where the justice system has failed us. But guess what? I called it the criminal system of injustice. I think I might be able to say we have a criminal justice system again.

PHILLIP: So, when you hear people like Senator Tim Scott saying, this is proof that there's a two-tiered system of justice. For people like you who were actually falsely accused, convicted, spent time in prison for a crime you did not commit, what do you say to someone like Tim Scott?

SALAAM: The two-tiered justice system is there. We know it because it runs over us with its spike wheels. The problem is that when a person like Donald Trump says, this is unfair, if they could do it to me, they could do it to anyone. He says, I'm just like you, goes into the Bronx and says, hey, I'm just like you, you should vote for me.

The truth of the matter is that if he was just like us, he would have been marching with the marchers saying justice for the Central Park Five. He would have been marching with the marchers saying justice for any one of the names that we have -- Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice, so many names of victims, but yet when it comes to the real juxtaposition, racism.

When you are able to go into a church like Dylann Roof did, pray with the parishioners, and then shoot them and get captured alive, that is the two-tiered justice system.


That if you can use the color of your skin and say, I have the complexion for acceptance, or I have the complexion for rejection, the truth of the matter is that we need a true justice system that says, innocent until proven guilty, and yet now the jurors have spoken. PHILLIP: Councilman Yusef Salaam, great to have you here. Thank you

very much for joining us.

SALAAM: My absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.

PHILLIP: And next for us, Caitlin Clark getting a rough welcome to the WNBA, but it is the vulgar reaction to the flagrant foul against her that's getting some buzz today. Bob Costas and Cari Champion join me next to discuss.



PHILLIP: Was it a hard foul or something personal? This cheap shot from Caitlin Clark's opponent has America talking tonight, some suggesting that the league should be nicer to its golden child, and others chalking it up to tough basketball. Now, that incident has now sparked an even bigger conversation about Clark's meteoric rise in the WNBA and whether race and privilege are paying any part of it. Now, according to Pat McAfee, it doesn't. Watch.


PAT MCAFEE, ESPN HOST: I would like the media people that continue to say this rookie class, this rookie class, nah. Just call it for what it is. There's one white bitch for the Indiana team who is a superstar.


PHILLIP: The ESPN host did apologize after that, and he said he directly sent an apology to Clark. Joining me now is CNN contributors Cari Champion and Bob Costas. Cari.


PHILLIP: Now, would anyone else have been able to get away with Pat McAfee?

CHAMPION: Absolutely not.


CHAMPION: Absolutely not.

PHILLIP: Right. So, ESPN in a way is --

CHAMPION: I understand that, brand or not. There's no world that I'm familiar with where a woman is okay with another man calling her the B word in any capacity. I think maybe it's okay with girlfriends and we "kiki," that's a fair and honest statement. But I'm not so much mad, I'm really not angry with Pat McAfee.

What I'm angry with are the new viewers and followers and analysts who are trying to describe this women's game. Welcome to the WNBA. We are happy you've arrived, but do me a favor, do your research. That's where the arguments are happening and where people are angry.

PHILLIP: So, let me play, this is Stephen A talking about this on the show.


STEPHEN A., NBS ANALYST FOR ESPN ON SPORTS CENTER: There are girls, young ladies in the WNBA who are jealous of Caitlin Clark. She is a white girl that has come into the league. She has bursted onto the scene. She hasn't proven herself yet. It's not even about them thinking they're better than her because they probably know it at this particular juncture because they've been playing on a level she just arrived to.


PHILLIP: Now, Monica there on the screen, we didn't have time to play it, but she made the point that Cari's making, which is welcome to the WNBA. A lot of new fans, but a lot of people have critiques about women playing sports.

COSTAS: Well, yeah, but I think it's fair to say because it's complicated, like many things, there is an element of jealousy because of all the attention that Caitlin Clark has received. And some people will attribute some of that attention to the fact that in addition to being a very exciting and record setting player, she is white in a league that is not as disproportionate, that's the wrong word, not as, what's the word I want to, I'm looking for.

PHILLIP: Predominantly black, the NBA.

COSTAS: Not as much as the NBA, but it's closer to 50-50 from my observation. But it's still, there's a large African-American presence and there may be some resentment from some people. But that doesn't account, that doesn't mean that that's the entire story here.

A lot of this stuff, to the point you're getting at, a lot of this stuff is what happens in sports. A highly touted rookie, white, black, baseball, football, basketball, hockey, they're going to be tested by the veterans. And sometimes that will cross a line. What Kennedy Carter did was a dirty play.

CHAMPION: It was a dirty play and it was a flagrant foul. No one disagrees, but this is where I take issue. With your large platform, Stephen A. Smith, do you really have to promote the jealousy? There's an element of that, sure, but there's also an element of people saying, welcome to the league, rook.

You get the same treatment I get. I don't care who you are. America has a hard time looking at a black woman go aggressively towards a white woman. They better get used to it because this is how these women play the game.

PHILLIP: Why is it? I mean, this is the thing. Look, I'm going to be transparent. I am not a huge WNBA -- I'm not a big sports fan. Fine. But I look at this and I'm like, why are they treating Caitlin Clark like a child? She's a player.

CHAMPION: Well, she's a star. Okay, so here's the thing.

PHILLIP: What I'm saying is like, why is it that she has to suddenly be protected? She is an athlete like everybody else.

CHAMPION: Well, they created rules for stars like a Michael Jordan, if you will, and they create rules for stars because they do need to be protected. The reason why they are protecting her at all costs is because she is the reason why people are watching the WNBA.

COSTAS: Wait, Wayne Gretzky was protected in the NHL.

CHAMPION: Wayne Gretzky was protected.


CHAMPION: We can go -- it happens in all leagues. And I'm not saying she should not be protected. I don't think they should coddle her. In fact, I don't think they're coddling her.


I think she wants to get out there and ball and play, and she doesn't understand the elements from college to pro.


CHAMPION: And so, what we're looking at right now, I believe in real time is people -- and this is a fair, it's yes and Bob, it's yes, we should protect our cash cow, but people are paying money to watch her. Therefore, we all win.

COSTAS: She's brought a lot of attention to the league as she did to college basketball, and everybody benefits from it.

CHAMPION: Yeah, everybody benefits. But the resentment that I think most people are feeling, Bob, and if I could speak for some of the WNBA players, it's not so much they're mad at Caitlin Clark. They're mad at how the WNBA has now decided to pay attention to the league and give them more attention at this moment. And so, some of that might be residual, Caitlin, but it really is about, I've been here. Abby, you've been working all your life.

PHILLIP: Well, look, can I play one more thing for you, Bob?


PHILLIP: For you to respond to. This is Angel Reese weighing in. She is the other big star right now in WNBA. Listen.


ANGEL REESE, FORWARD, CHICAGO SKY: People are talking about women's basketball, but you never would think that we'd be talking about women's basketball. People are pulling up to games. We got celebrities coming to games, sold out arenas, like just because of one single game.

And just looking at that, like, I'll take that role. I'll take the bad guy role. The reason why we're watching women's basketball is not just because of one person. It's because of me, too. And I want you all to realize that.


COSTAS: Well, she's talking about the championship game.


COSTAS: A year ago, LSU versus Iowa, and LSU prevailed. But to your earlier point, there was an incident recently. Alyssa Thomas, who happens to be African American, grabbed Angel Reese by the throat and threw her to the floor. Flagrant, too, ejected from the game.

The reason why that doesn't spark as much conversation isn't just that Caitlin Clark is a bigger star than Alyssa Thomas. It's because it's a black-on-black incident. PHILLIP: Woe. He said it.

COSTAS: And you don't have that dynamic that people can comment on, yes, but also exaggerate and make the entire story sometimes.

CHAMPION: And also, no one cares.

PHILLIP: That is really the -- that is between the lines what's going on here.

CHAMPION: No one cared about the WNBA when women of a certain color were beating up and bruising each other, because it's been happening since the league's inception. We have this star, this person that people love. They want to protect her. So, now the new fans and the new analysts and the new people have so much to say.

Bob, thank you for saying that and acknowledging that, because you're a legend in this sport. And you are also gracious enough to say, look, I'm not an expert in the WNBA, but what I do know from the history and what I do know, this is why she is being treated this way.

COSTAS: Yes, because I've seen it in every sport. A newcomer is tested and, to some extent, resented.

PHILLIP: I mean, what's wrong with players being aggressive to a certain degree, competitive?

COSTAS: Not the way Kennedy Carter was. That was a flagrant foul.

PHILLIP: There's a process for that. And the game handles that --


PHILLIP: -- by penalizing the player.

CHAMPION: Sure. PHILLIP: Why does it have to be jealousy?

CHAMPION: That's what I have asked this question. I'm sorry. I'm so -- I'm livid. My blood is boiling. I've been so angry about this topic all day, because it's so simple to make women versus women a conversation. But it's just so simple.

There should be more layers to this sport. If you're really going to welcome yourself to the WNBA and cover it and talk about it, can we be more than just jealous? Can there be some real, true competition? Can they just be athletes who want to get after it?

COSTAS: I know you're speaking generally, because that's not where I'm coming from.

CHAMPION: Yeah, that's not where you're coming from at all.

COSTAS: Yeah. Yeah.

CHAMPION: He and I have had this conversation. And I'm like, you know what I'm saying. Why can't --

COSTAS: I do. I do.

CHAMPION: Why can't -- I don't know -- why is this so simple?

COSTAS: I think it'd be foolish to say that resentment and jealousy are not part of the mix, because those are human emotions.


COSTAS: But to elevate that above everything else and discard everything else in a complicated dynamic, that's the wrong way to go.

CHAMPION: Correct.

PHILLIP: Wow. Well, Bob Costas, Cari Champion.

CHAMPION: Bob, are we still best friends? There's no reason not to be. By the way, I'll slip this in quickly. I was telling Cari earlier, I first saw women's college basketball like 40 years ago when I was doing men's games, University of Missouri.

And they play the college game, the women's game beforehand in front of like 150 -- 200 people. And the level of play in that few decades has improved so dramatically. The level of play now is really, really good.


PHILLIP: All right. I think this is good for the sport.

CHAMPION: It's great.

PHILLIP: I love to see it.

CHAMPION: By the way, it's all great for the sport. Thanks for having us on.

PHILLIP: Thank you both very much. Great to have you here. And up next for us, one of America's heroes is finally getting a long overdue honor, one that was held back because of his race. We'll explain.



PHILLIP: He was one of D-Day's biggest heroes, but for 80 years, he never got the recognition that he deserved until now. Waverly Woodson was a 21-year-old medic in the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only all-black unit to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

And today, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest U.S. military honor. As his landing craft approached Omaha Beach, Woodson was hit by two shells. It forced him to jump ship and he waded to shore. Despite being wounded in that attack, he spent the next 30 hours tending to other wounded soldiers, saving an estimated 200 lives.

But the hundreds of medals of honor that were conferred after World War II, Woodson never made the cut. In fact, not a single black soldier was given that honor. That didn't change until 1997 when seven black service members were honored because of the blatant racial discrepancy. Woodson made the shortlist for that ceremony, but still wasn't selected.


Years later, he has finally earned the Distinguished Service Cross and his widow accepted the award on her husband's behalf. She said, quote, "Waverly would have felt honored to be recognized for what he knew was his duty. But we all know it was far more than duty. It was his desire to always help people in need." And thank you for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.