Return to Transcripts main page
Don Lemon Tonight
Big Developments in Mueller Investigation; Calls Growing for Kansas Official to Resign After He Claims to be Part of 'Master Race'; Record Number of Women will be Member of Next Congress Beginning January; CNN Hero, Ellen Stackable, and the Women in Prison. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired November 16, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Lawyers for President Trump are expected to submit written answers to questions posed by the special counsel soon. Well, the president met multiple times with the attorneys over this past week amid a scaled back public schedule. When asked about answering questions from Mueller's office, he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I write the answers. My lawyers don't write answers. I write answers. I was asked a series of questions. I've answered them very easily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The Mueller team has been incredibly tight-lipped about their work, but a number of things happening in the past week suggest things are picking up. On Monday, Veterans Day, a federal holiday, at least eight Mueller prosecutors were spotted showing up to work. Monday is also when former Trump attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, was spotted in the D.C. train station with one of his criminal defense lawyers.
On Wednesday, Mueller asked for a delay in sentencing for former Trump aide, Rick Gates, saying, Gates continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations.
Former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has held multiple meetings in recent weeks with Mueller's team. Manafort was convicted of eight counts of bank and tax fraud in August and subsequently struck a plea deal last month to avoid a second federal trial.
Long-time Trump ally, Roger Stone, said he is prepared to be indicted possibly for something pertaining to the 2016 election. Stone's associate, right-wing conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, says he expects an indictment for lying to investigators.
The president has said multiple times, he is more than willing to sit down with Mueller's team, but it's unclear if that will ever happen. Let's discuss. John Dean is here, Juliette Kayyem, and Garrett Graff as well. Garrett is the author of "The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI and the War on Global Terror." Good evening to all of you.
Juliette, I'm going to start with you. President Trump says he's not agitated by the Mueller investigation, but his tweets and literally everything else he has told us about Mueller over the last year, they tell a different story, right?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. And this is not a man who seems to be calm, cool and collected about this investigation, launching ad hominem attacks against Mueller and his team, lying who appointed Mueller in the first place, and seeming more and more agitated as we get to the whatever moment we're getting to.
I would never pretend that I know exactly how this is unfolding. But one thing to remember is that the questions that are being asked, the one thing we do know is that the questions will disclose a theory of a case. So, they will ask trump, you know, yes or no, did you know that the meeting was happening in Trump Tower down the hallway with these Russian operatives?
It's either yes or no. And what Trump doesn't know is how have other people answered. That's the agitation because for the first time, I think he's starting to see what the theory of the case is, and he probably does not like the -- what those questions are showing in terms of what the Mueller team actually knows.
LEMON: Juliette, quickly, because I want to get the other panelists in, but do you think that he's getting information from Whitaker? Do you think Whitaker has been briefed and is giving him information, knowledge of this investigation?
KAYYEM: I have been on the fence with you and others about Whitaker. You know, I obviously think others should be the attorney general, but I can't say whether it's yes or no. Sometimes when people get into those positions, they actually behave in ways that are more consistent with the position they're in as attorney general.
KAYYEM: We haven't heard anything from Rosenstein of concern. It's a little bit like the judge today in the CNN case, Trump appointee, but when you're in that position, things look a little different.
LEMON: OK. John, President Trump says he's personally writing his responses to Mueller, not his attorneys. Would any lawyer -- no lawyer would let their client especially one who is the president of the United States submit their own answers to an investigation, especially like this one, correct?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely, Don. It was a preposterous claim. What he did in putting it out there was he took ownership of it. And I'm sure his lawyers were unhappy with that. That may be one of the reasons for the delay. But Maggie Haberman who is very well plugged in with the White House and the legal team put the lie to it within minutes after he said it.
[23:05:00] LEMON: His attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told The Washington Post yesterday that some of Mueller's questions ""create more issues for us legally than others." He also called some possible traps. Given what Trump is saying today, does this mean that Trump's lawyers heard something or heard Trump's answers and thought, well, we've got a real problem here, John?
DEAN: Well, you know, I think that they know their client very well and he has great difficulty telling the truth. So there's something in there that is troubling them. And they've got -- they've got a break on it.
They're the ones who would obviously transmit it back to the special counsel. So they're probably working with their client trying to work it out. He also is pretty stubborn. He's convinced of his own lies often and seems to want to ride with them.
LEMON: That's an interesting way of putting it. Yet accurate. So hi, Garrett. Let's bring you in now. So let's talk about the Mueller side of the equation. You're reporting that there are a few reasons to be optimistic that he'll be able to complete his investigation. Tell me about that.
GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, I mean, Juliette was just talking about some of the questions surrounding Whitaker. And one of the things that we are seeing, you know, there's obvious concern around the appointment of Whitaker.
There seems to be no good explanation for why Whitaker has been appointed to this role other than the fact that he is there to, you know, shrink, block, stymie the Mueller investigation.
LEMON: That's a pessimistic part though.
LEMON: Right? What's the optimistic part?
GRAFF: The optimism, that Mueller will be able to complete his probe. What he may find, you know, who knows, but I think the rule of law in the United States, we hope that he is able to complete his probe on his own terms, on his own schedule.
You know, he's relatively far along in this investigation. He's known that this change in leadership was coming. Jeff Sessions has long been headed for the exit and even Whitaker himself was floated as the next person to oversee the investigation months ago.
So Mueller certainly was not surprised when any of this happened last week. And we've actually seen Whitaker take some steps that make it seem for now at least that he is going to abide by the strong norms and procedures of the Justice Department.
He is under a tremendous amount of pressure over the last week. He announce this week that he would seek an ethics consultation with the ethics attorneys at the Justice Department over whether he would actually be allowed to oversee the Russia investigation given his apparent conflicts of interest both in personal relationships and public statements against the Mueller investigation.
LEMON: This president will not like that if that's indeed the case. So, but I got to ask you, I cut you off. But did you really get in, did you get in what you wanted to say about there's a reason that you believe that people should be pessimistic and that is Matthew Whitaker?
GRAFF: Yeah, I mean, there's no good reason for Matt Whitaker to be the acting attorney general of the United States except for the fact that he has been highly critical of the Mueller investigation. I mean, Rod Rosenstein is perfectly capable of leading that department and the OLC, the Office of Legal Counsel opinion about Whitaker's appointment is remarkably thin.
The best example that they can find of someone serving in this role like Whitaker, they have to go back to 1866 before the Justice Department was even created, and it was someone who served as acting attorney general for just six days. So this is -- this is an appointment that is far outside the norms of U.S. government.
LEMON: I want to play this. This is Richard Nixon. This was 45 years ago tomorrow. He said these famous words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say this to the television audience. I made my mistakes. But in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service. I've earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice.
And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: John Dean, I mean, the question is obvious here. But I need to say this. Less than a year later, Nixon resigned. Similarities, defensiveness here. What do you see?
DEAN: Well, Nixon was a pretty good actor. Donald Trump is not. Nixon could actually go out and fake it.
[23:10:01] There's a very different public Nixon than there was behind closed doors as the tapes show. Trump wears his emotions right on his sleeve and you can tell his moods very quickly. Nixon was trying to put on an angry kind of facade for this group of editors he was meeting with in Disneyland to try to start a new disclosure agreement that he was going to be forthcoming.
And he was -- he was very angry about his tax returns. He was found out not to really be a crook although he took a huge tax deduction. As far as obstruction of justice, no court ever ruled on it but certainly public opinion is very clear that he obstructed justice.
LEMON: We're out of time. Thank you all. I appreciate it.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
LEMON: A white male politician in Kansas tells a black female city planner to not forget that he is part of a master race. What's his explanation? That's next.
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So, there is a video coming out of northeast Kansas that I want you to take a look at. This week, the white commissioner of Leavenworth County rejected a development plan presented to a public meeting by Triveece Penelton, who happens to be black and he said this.
LOUIS KLEMP, COMMISSIONER, LEAVENWORTH COUNTY: I don't want you to think I'm picking on you. Because we are part of the master race. You have a gap in your teeth. We are part of the master race. Don't you forget that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK, so, Louis Klemp, who like Penelton, has a gap in his teeth, claims one account that he was making a joke. The mayor and two fellow commissioners are demanding Klemp step down.
The county administrator said this. "The use of the term 'master race' as ill-advised as it may be, was not a reference to Nazis or used in a racist manner in this instance. I am deeply sorry that one misconstrued comment by a member of our elected governing body has caused so much grief, sorrow and hatred."
So for the record, master race is believed to be a Nazi term suggesting that the Aryan race is a superior race, superior to others. So last year during a hearing, Klemp also made some controversial comments about county holidays, and who gets honored, and who doesn't get honored.
Not everybody does them all because we have Robert E. Lee, oh, god, Robert E. Lee, wonderful part of history. It bothers me that if we're going to have Martin Luther day, this is him, "why don't we have a George Washington? I think George was a pretty important guy."
But even free speech advocates like the ACLU, also speaking out against Klemp's latest poor choice of words. It's Kansas chapter condemning the remarks, writing this in part, it says, "at a time when hate-based violence is on the rise across the country, we must make it clear that we stand together as diverse communities and that we do not tolerate hate-based speech, especially not in local government."
OK? So, there we go. Let's discuss now. Charles Blow, Scott Jennings. Good evening.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good evening.
LEMON: Where are we with all of this? What is going on here?
BLOW: Well, there are two things that I no longer debate. Climate change and racism. Right? These are facts. And whenever people are trying to debate them, they're really talking about degree. You're over-exaggerating the extent of it. They're not arguing it doesn't exist. You know, what's contributing to it, what's the extent of it, are you calling things racist that are not racist? That sort of thing.
That to me is a waste of time because that this continues to happen, because these people exist. They exist in positions of power. And there is something coded into the language that is being used where you can kind of argue that you're not saying something racist but the racists believe that you are saying something racist.
That's everything from the president calling himself a nationalist to this guy saying master race is not really about Nazis. Well, yeah, but the people who believe in master race absolutely believe that that's what you're saying. If you can't kind of change your language in a way that is more inclusive and in a way that does not bump up against and wink at the white supremacists, then you're part of that problem.
LEMON: Even if you're ignorant of it, even just an ignorant person?
BLOW: Racism is a system. When you use language like this, when you behave in ways that are dictated by your unconscious biases even, somebody is hurt by that and somebody benefits from that. If you're benefiting from that, you're part of the system.
LEMON: OK. Scott, go on. What do you think?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, at best, this guy's a dump ass. At worst, he's something else. I mean, I watched the video. This guy is definitely old enough to know that if you say the words master race out loud at a county proceeding, what's going to happen? There's no way you live on this earth this long as this guy has and you don't know what it means.
There's like 75,000 or 80,000 people that live in this county. I think this guy should evaluate whether he should be one of them, that is running the county for the rest of them.
I read the explanation. I get it. Maybe they're trying to slough it off here, but there is no possible way you say that out loud and you don't know the historical connotation of it, none whatsoever.
LEMON: OK. So, we heard that -- we hear these explanations as Charles said many times. We heard it -- a number of times recently. We just heard it for the -- yesterday for the woman who is running I think it's in Kansas, right?
[23:20:03] I forget. Mississippi. In Mississippi. So, then, Scott, to your estimation, what is going on here then? As I asked Charles, is it ignorance? He said it doesn't matter, it's part of a system. Why would people even say these things? As you said, they're a dump ass. That's your words. What has been unleashed in our society recently that people feel it's OK to say these things? I'm not asking as the president. I'm asking generally.
JENNINGS: I don't know. I don't like it because it strikes me that people are saying things thoughtlessly. They are not considering the ramifications of their words. They are not considering, frankly, that if you're in public life, politics, government, everything you're saying is being recorded most likely, and then can be rebroadcast.
And so you're not just saying it to the person in front of you. You're saying it to a whole audience of people that could be hurt by what you're saying. You're not just hurting yourself or your body. You're hurting your whole community, you're hurting your county. In this case, Leavenworth County, Kansas is now in the news for a very bad reason.
People have stopped understanding the ramifications of the words that are coming out of their mouth and they need to think twice. I mean, words do matter. Even if you're at the low level of government like county commissioner. So, I don't know what's causing people to do this, but lord have mercy, they need to get their brains and their tongues connected again.
LEMON: Charles, listen, there is a statement from the city commission. It said, "the city commission unequivocally denounces the use of 'master race' or any other that has historic ties to racism, division and bigotry in any setting at any time."
What do we do then? Educate people about the context of some these terms or I don't know. He said people should know better. What's the solution here?
BLOW: Well, I think one thing that we have to dismiss with is the notion that the only reason that people are behaving racist is because we haven't explained to them how that works. We haven't explain to them that the words they're using are offensive. We haven't explain to them that the actions that they're taking oppress some people and benefit other people.
We keep kind of operating under the delusion that it is a lack of knowledge and a lack of presenting them with facts. We keep writing books and writing essays and making shows where we turn our pain into poetry. That is not the problem.
People know that they are doing this. People know that the system exists and they have chosen to either ignore it or to be willfully ignorant because they do not want to change that because they're getting a benefit from it.
Once you accept that, we stop this whole conversation about, can we explain it better? I am not explaining it to you because you already know this problem. I'm not trying to convince you anymore because you already know it's a problem. You need to fix it.
LEMON: Yeah. Thank you both. I appreciate it. So we're getting -- going to take a closer look at women who voted for President Trump. Who are they? Why they support his policies? That's next.
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So white women supported Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. He won 52 percent of their votes. Though when you look at all women including women of color, Hillary Clinton had more support. She got 54 percent. Now, a wave of women, white, black and brown are sweeping into office after the 2018 election.
Does Donald Trump still have the support of a majority of white women and if so, why is that? Let's talk about it. Here to discuss, Kirsten Powers, Alice Stewart and Stephanie Jones-Rogers, she is a professor of history at UC Berkeley and the author of "They Were Her Property." Hello, one and all. This is a very important conversation. I'm sure it's going to stir up controversy in a number of different quarts. Be prepared for that. So thank you for joining us.
Kirsten, let me start with you. There's been a lot of talk about why white women support President Trump despite of or perhaps because of his policies and his tone. What's your take on this?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there's a lot of different ways to look at this. I think one of the first things is that people will say that they support him for reasons other than his racist language which we don't have time to go through, but there's all sorts of things starting from the launch of his campaign all the way up until the latest campaign.
The way he demonized people trying to come to our country on the caravan, and they'll say, well, I'm not racist, I just voted for him because I didn't like Hillary Clinton. And I just want to say that that's not -- that doesn't make you not racist. It actually makes you racist. If you support somebody who does racist things, that makes you racist. I just want to establish that.
As for why white women do it, I think we have to recognize that white men are doing it as well, but I think sometimes we would hope that we would get better behavior from white women because white women are themselves oppressed and that they would therefore be able to align themselves with other oppressed people.
But I think we have to remember that the white patriarchal system actually benefits white women in a lot of the ways and they're attached to white men who are benefiting from the system that was created by them, for them, and their fathers and their husbands and their brothers are benefiting from the system and so they are also benefiting.
LEMON: I just want to read something from a Vox article and it says, "the war on crime has been pitched as an effort to keep white women safe. White women have been the plaintiffs in some lawsuits against affirmative action, and conservatives have argued the practice harms white women, even though research have shown that white women have been some of the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action."
It shows you the contradiction when you actually really think about the policies. People will say that white women are actually voting against their own interests. I'm not sure if that is true because maybe the better interest to them is what they get for -- from voting from -- for people like President Trump and Republicans.
Stephanie, you're quoted in this Vox article as saying, "for centuries, white women have invested in white supremacy because their whiteness affords them a particular kind of power that their gender does not. Explain what you mean by that.
[23:30:00] STEPHANIE JONES-ROGERS, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, UC BERKELEY: So, as a historian, I explore white women's economic investments in the Institution of Slavery. And what that has led to understand is that there was this broader historical context that we need to keep in mind when we're looking at white women's voting patterns today and as we look at their support, their overwhelming support of Donald Trump.
And so what I meant was that we tend to think of white women as primarily focusing on their gendered oppression, that because they are oppressed as women, that that oppression will allow for them to ally and to sympathize with other dispossessed and disempowered people in the nation. But my research actually shows that they long had a deep investment in white supremacy, and not only did they benefit from it, but they participated in its construction and its perpetuation, not just in the context of slavery or the colonial period but well after slavery was over.
DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT HOST: You said that it was overwhelming. It's 52 percent. It is a majority, but it's 52 percent. It's not overwhelming, but it is a majority.
JONES-ROGERS: Well, what I meant by overwhelming was emotionally overwhelming -
LEMON: Yeah. Got it. Got it.
JONES-ROGERS: --and the response that we -- yeah.
LEMON: Alice, why do you think that white women support President Trump? Do you think they identify more with being, as she said, white than they do with being female? She just said that.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think when we're talking about the political arena, voters, women and men, identify themselves as either Republican, Democrat, independent or whatever their political party. And I strongly disagree with the characterization that women are oppressed and by nature of that oppression they should naturally vote for another group of people that are oppressed. I think that's not that's just not how politics works.
I think as a Republican or a Democrat or whatever your political leaning is, you should vote for people that represent those policies. I'm a Republican. I support this president. I voted for this president. I did so because of his policies. I do not agree with his tone and tenor. Don, I've been on your show dozens and dozens of times discounting his behavior, his tone, his tactics, the things he as a about women, his denigrating women, and I don't tolerate that, but his policies are what I stand for.
LEMON: But isn't that part of the policies? Is not that part of the policies?
STEWART: And Don, I'm -- Don -- no, they're not, Don. The two -- they're separate. Look, I worked really hard for a candidate that had the character befitting of this office. Unfortunately, he didn't win the will of the Republican Party to become the nominee and I supported Donald Trump's policies over Hillary Clinton's.
And let me just say this, Kirsten is a dear friend of mine, but I resent she says I'm racist because Donald Trump says racist things. I support this president because of his policies and the things that he says that are disparaging and disgusting, which I've said many times, those don't represent me.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wait. Alice, you don't have to support him. You could you not vote. I mean that's the thing. I could say there's a Democrat who does everything that I agree with, but they say misogynist or racist thing, I would not vote for them.
And I want to step back for a second and say, look, we spent a lot of time talking about Republican women. Look. There's a problem with white women. It doesn't matter whether they're Democrats or Republicans or nothing. There's a problem with racism. Everybody -- every white person benefits from an inherently racist system that is structurally racist.
So we are all -- we're all part of the problem. So, I'm not trying to point my finger at you or at another person. But I think we have to recognize there's institutional racism in this country. And by saying, I'm just going to support somebody who -- you just said says racist things and does racist things is a problem.
JONES-ROGERS: And if I could add to that and just a point of clarification. So, I did not say that white women voted for Trump because they were racists. What I actually said was that there's this broader historical context in which white supremacy is quite important to white women, not simply as the kind of beneficiaries of white supremacy but as part orchestrators, part of the -- you know, the builders of white supremacy, so just to clarify that.
And I agree totally with what Kirsten said. This is -- this is not about simply conservative white women. This is a phenomenon nom that has spread across the country whether the south or the north, you can see that this is -- and it's not an indictment against all white women. This is about a certain percentage of these white women who do indeed vote for a man who is certainly not speaking to their interests as women or as human beings. Let me just be honest about it, as human beingsing.
LEMON: Yeah. OK. We're going to take a break. We'll be right back.
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: OK. We're back now with Kirsten, Alice, and Stephanie Jones- Rogers. So, listen, you guys made the distinction. You said that we shouldn't be talking about Republican women versus Democratic women. They're -- it's all white -- we were talking about white women here.
But I have to point this out. I want you to check it out. This is new Democratic members of Congress compared to the new Republican members of congress. All white, one female -- and I mean, Alice, what draws you to President Trump and this Republican Party if you -- I mean look at the diversity here. It is unquestionable. There's a lack of diversity on the Republican side and one woman.
[23:40:01] STEWART: There's no question about that. And the thing that jumps out at me not -- certainly, the racial component that we see there, but the gender component. Democrats did a much better job of recruiting women. In the House alone, they had six times more women elected to the House of Representatives. In the Senate, they are five times more women elected to the Senate. And overall, I'm pleased to see that we had more than -- almost 130 women elected to the House and Senate and in governor's positions. But yes, Democrats did a better job of recruiting women.
LEMON: But doesn't that say something about the party that -- it's more than just recruiting. Doesn't it say something about the party? Maybe people think it's just sort of radioactive women, I should say. I don't really want to be attracted to that, yet they do most of the time vote -- well not minority women, but go on, sorry.
STEWART: There's two different distinctions here. One, there's women voters and then there's women that will take the courage and put their livelihood on the line and actually run for office, which I have the most respect for them. Republicans did a better job of recruiting them. And look, I'll be the first to admit some of the tone and tenor of this presidency did encourage a lot of people on the left to get in and run for office because they were frustrated and they were mad about the current situation that we have in Washington, D.C. And I think that motivated a lot of people on the left. Now, the Republicans need to go out and recruit women to get involved because we do need a more diverse representation in Washington.
LEMON: And also probably, you said the tone and tenor, they need to work on that aspect of it, as well.
STEWART: Right. No doubt.
LEMON: So, Kirsten, listen. We had this conversation after the whole Megyn Kelly black face controversy. And you wrote a piece how white woman often whitewash racism, you say. Talking about that, how big of a problem is it?
POWERS: It's a huge problem. And I think, you know, it's something that I think a lot of white women aren't aware of. And again, people might be also saying why are we picking on white women. There's white men, too. And to a certain extent, I think it's because of what I said before. There's an idea that because white women experience their own oppression that they would have more of a connection and an affinity with other people who are oppressed. And so I think it's that much more upsetting. I also think it's because of some of the history we've heard about before, that there is a long history of white women being responsible for black men being lynched, for example, for making accusations against them and we see a lot of this -- we see similar types of things happening. It's not as extreme. But when you see white women over and over -- I mean it's just -- it's constantly happening where they're calling the police on black men who are gardening, black -- a little black boy in a convenience store, these kinds of things, knowing full well when you call the police on a black man that he could end up dead.
And so it's a very similar kind of thinking that I don't think people see this kind of parallels that are happening in our society. And so, I think that you know, all white women, not just conservative white women, need to sort of take a step back and really look at what kind of -- how they're being participants in this system and what they can do to try and change the system.
LEMON: Stephanie, can you talk to me about this because I heard Alice said something, but I didn't want to interrupt her flow last time. She said that women -- this is her summation (ph). Correct me if I'm wrong, Alice. But she said she didn't think women were oppressed. And I found that interesting. Is that part of this whole conversation about what privilege is it in the society that as a lightweight woman, maybe a Republican woman, that she doesn't necessarily feel oppressed? Is that -- talk to me about that, Stephanie.
JONES-ROGERS: Well, I think that's really interesting because in my own work what I show is that while white women may be oppressed because of the legal constraints placed upon them by white men. As women, they aren't able to exercise certain rights in the colonial and 19th century context. But at the same time they're able to dominate, subjugate and own enslaved people. So, while they're oppressed in one realm or one dimension of their lives, they are quite powerful in another very important dimension of their lives.
LEMON: You're talking about historically -- you meant historically in the past. You're talking about slavery and so on.
JONES-ROGERS: Yes. And so, in the context of the -- in the current atmosphere, you can certainly be oppressed but also be powerful at the same time. So I think those things can go hand in hand. It's not -- they're not mutual little exclusive. And I think she can be right, but also there are other women who would disagree. And I think --
LEMON: You're saying there are different levels. You can be -- there's a glass ceiling or you can be part of the Me Too too movement at work but you're still more powerful than the women of color in the society. So, therefore, you may not see this much. Great. Alice, do you want to respond to that?
STEWART: No. I think this -- with all due respect, I take issue with the white privilege argument. I come from a broken home with abuse and alcoholism and been on my own since I was 18, paid my own way through school. [23:45:09] So, I'm hardly the poster child of white privilege. So, I think a lot of times what we do is look at things through the racial lens or the gender lens. When in all actuality, we also need to look at it through the socioeconomic lens and the class lens and the financial status of people. I think that is -- it's a lot more determining factor with the people's political leanings, how they voted --
LEMON: Can I just know the difference real quick, Alice. And no one's denying, you know, if people have their struggles and overcome it. And I actually respect that you made something of yourself. But even with that, you didn't have to deal with historic and systemic racism, which is a huge, huge problem, and a huge block in the society. You can be the best person of color as far as smarts and have background and college, and still not go any higher than someone who is not educated and white, someone who doesn't -- who doesn't understand things as much and it may be not as smart and not as talented. That is simply fact in this society. But you don't have to think about that because you're not a minority and you don't have to face racism. Do you understand where I'm coming from?
POWERS: Can I also -- can I also just add to that? I just think --
LEMON: I want her to -- I want her to respond --
POWERS: Oh, sorry.
LEMON: -- let her respond and then I'll let you go. Go ahead, Alice.
STEWART: Don, I'm never going to claim that I understand what it feels like to be in your shoes or any others that are of a different race. That's not what I'm saying at all. But I think --
LEMON: Let me put it this way -- let me put it this way before you respond. So, my mother who has a master's degree, almost a doctorate, in the 1970s, when she went to her job at a very big company, she could only become a secretary. And there were white women who were coming in from trade schools who were becoming, you know, secretaries to the plant manager or who came in at something higher than a secretary, who came in as manager. Didn't have as much education as her, were not as smart as her and it wasn't until the end of her career where there started to be some balance that she started to see the success of non -- of white women.
And so -- but no one thinks about that when you're not dealing with it, when you're participating in the process and you're reaping the benefit from it, you can come from equal levels of economics, one white family, one black family. And historically, the studies will show that the white person will rise faster, will make more money, and will get opportunities more so. There are exceptions, but if you don't have to deal with it, you don't have to think about it. Sorry, go on.
STEWART: I didn't -- I didn't know -- look, as I said, Don, I commend your mother certainly. She was a strong woman and raised a tremendous son. Look, I said, I cannot understand what it's like to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. That's not what I'm saying. I think the question is, and the concern I have is people automatically assuming just because you're of a certain race or gender that you automatically -- you automatically have a leg up on society and that is not always the case. That's the way I view it. That's in part of this conversation. I'm not saying I understand what it's like in someone else's shoes. That's how I view the situation.
POWERS: And I think that's a great thing that Alice brought up because I think that's the misunderstanding. It's not -- when people hear privilege, they think that means I'm like a Richie rich and I'm living a rich life. That's not what it means. It just means you have a privilege that people of color don't have.
And so, in certain situations, like what Don was talking about, there's also systemic and institutional racism that you don't even see. And so, an example would be standardized tests were created by white men for white men and there's actually plenty of studies done on a history of them that they were actually made to discriminate against people of color.
So that's something that you don't even realize. You don't even -- as a white person, you don't even realize that the tests have been skewed in favor of you to help you get into a better college and that that's the way it started. So there's all these things that are happening -- I'm sorry. Yes.
LEMON: Quick, Stephanie, sorry. I have to give you a short trip because I'm out of time. Go on, Steph.
JONES-ROGERS: When we talk about white privilege, you can just imagine that the poorest white woman in this country can call the cops on a black person and be believed. So that's the kind of white privilege that we can also talk about here, not as Kirsten said the Richie rich.
LEMON: So, listen. I think these are important conversations. People often refer to them as difficult. I don't think they're difficult. I think we should just continue to talk like this and be as open and honest with each other as possible. That's the only way there's going to be progress. So, I commend each of you for coming on and discussing this. I'd love to have you back. Thank you very much.
POWERS: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Happy thanksgiving to all of your wonderful families.
JONES-ROGERS: Thank you, Don.
STEWART: Thank you.
LEMON: And even you, Kirsten. I'm kidding. All right. We'll be right back.
[23:50:00} (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Oklahoma has the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate of women in the United States and has done so for more than 25 years. But one high school English teacher is giving some of these women a voice and the power to heal themselves. Meet 2018 Top 10 CNN hero, Ellen Stackable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a lot of feelings in prison and you don't get to feel them. You are not a person and you are not valid.
ELLEN STACKABLE, CNN HERO: Many other women that are incarcerated have been victims of some kind of abuse. We provide a safe place for them to overcome trauma and pain. So it is so much more than just writing.
[23:55:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to change my life of abuse to a life of glory (ph).
STACKABLE: That becomes a therapeutic way for hearing to occur.
LEMON: Ellen's program, Poetic Justice, is in five female prisons in Oklahoma, reaching more than 2,500 women. Go to cnnheroes.com right now to vote for her for CNN Hero of the Year or any of your favorite top 10 heroes now at cnnheroes.com.
Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.
[00:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)