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Don Lemon Tonight
Oath Keepers Leader Testifies; Sen. Lindsey Graham Disagrees With Donald Trump; Trump's Ready-Made Plan To Overturn Election Results; Whoopi Goldberg Has A Lot To Learn From Holocaust; Head Coach Brian Flores Files Lawsuit Against NFL; GOP Attacks SCOTUS Future Nominee. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired February 02, 2022 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We did reach out, by the way for comment to several influencers. They go back to us, they maintain they are not paid by China, which, Anderson, in some cases, may be true. But they at times see the benefit of their work being amplified to a population of more than 1.4 billion people. Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: David Culver from Beijing. Thanks so much. I appreciate it. The news continues. I want to turn it over to Don and DON LEMON TONIGHT.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you very much. I appreciate it. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.
Just imagine what they know. Just imagine what they know. Two more witnesses speaking to the January 6th committee just today. The leader of the Oath Keepers, who was in jail, by the way, in Oklahoma ahead of his trial on charges of seditious conspiracy, appearing remotely for several hours. His attorney says that he is answering many questions and taking the fifth on others.
And then there's Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who pushed the Justice Department to pursue the former president's big lie of bogus voter fraud. He's really stalled for hours. A move that comes straight out of the Trump playbook. And was held in contempt, by the way, for refusing to cooperate with the committee. Before finally showing up today and leaving after less than two hours.
I wonder how many times you can say I plead fifth in under two hours. And the National Archives preparing to turn over records from the former Vice President Mike Pence. The first records to come from his office. That as top Pence aides have been talking to investigators.
So, with all of this is it is no surprise that the disgraced former president is doubling down on the wild claims that he pardoned January 6th rioters, he would do that, even though he didn't do it while he was actually in office because his legal advisers talked him out of it.
Now he's feuding with Lindsey Graham. Who called his pardon talk inappropriate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I don't want to send any signal that it was OK to defile the capitol. There are other groups with causes that may want to go down the violent path if these people get pardoned. I think it's inappropriate. I don't want to reinforce that defiling the capitol was OK. I don't want to do anything that would make this more likely in the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): The disgraced former president lobbing what may be his favorite insult, rhino.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Lindsey Graham is wrong. I mean, Lindsey is a nice guy, but he's a rhino. These people are being treated horribly. I would absolutely -- because some of them are being treated very unfairly. Yes. I would absolutely give them a pardon --
UNKNOWN: If the punishments are out of --
TRUMP: -- if things don't work out fairly. What they've done to them compared to what they've done to the other side. You know, you have to have equal justice. And this isn't equal.
TRUMP: So, I would absolutely be prepared. And Lindsey Graham doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Now Lindsey Graham defending his comments, saying, quote, "all Americans are entitled to have a speedy trial and their day in court. But those who actively engage in violence for whatever political cause may be held accountable and not be forgiven."
It's all part of the same old playbook, really. Intimidating, threatening, dangling pardons. The star witness in the Ukraine impeachment saga, the former first -- the former president's first impeachment, is suing Trump allies including Rudy Giuliani and Don Jr., alleging that they conspired to intimidate and retaliate against him because he was willing to testify against the then president.
Remember this dramatic moment? This is from the impeachment hearing. When the now retired army lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALEXANDER VINDMAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN AFFAIRS FOR THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Dad, I'm sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected professionals, talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): That man told the truth. And the then president fired him from the National Security Council. Like I said, right out of the Trump playbook. Whether Republicans like it or not, the former president still has a death grip on the party, if you want to call it a party. Now there are other words, other terms you can call it.
So, what are they doing when they could be or should be calling him out? Him out? When they should be operating within a democracy. What are they doing? They're stoking culture wars. They're playing to the base with manufactured outrage over President Joe Biden's vow to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.
They can't hang their outrage on her education or her record or anything at all other than the one thing that they know. That she's black. They don't even know who she is yet. You've heard their cries. It's offensive. It's discrimination. It's affirmative action. That's what they say.
All of that is pretty hard to square with the fact that there's never in the 233-year history of the court, there's never been one single black female justice. Think about that. Wouldn't you think a black woman -- black women around this country would say hey, don't we deserve a shot? 233 years.
You're going to call it affirmative action? I guess the facts don't really matter when you're trying to gin up outrage any way you can. There's Senator John Kennedy telling Politico this, and I'm quoting here, "number one, I want a nominee who knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog. Number two, I want a nominee who's not going to try to rewrite the Constitution every other Thursday to try to advance a woke agenda."
There's a whole lot there, especially the whole J. Crew catalog thing. But I don't have all night and I just got off a redeye and I'm tired. Senator Kennedy, really? You're an ignoramus. You are just that dumb. And I'm embarrassed because I'm from Louisiana. You embarrassed Louisiana, all Louisianans.
Just when you think you've heard it all, even though the President of the United States has vowed that his nominee will have extraordinary qualifications, extraordinary character, extraordinary experience and integrity, the senator manages to insult her intelligence.
Now, I'll remind you, before he even knows who she is he insults her with a dumb quip about knowing the difference between a law book and a J. Crew catalog. It sounds a lot like he's already decided that she's going to have a so-called woke agenda.
And we've got more tonight on the story everybody is talking about, and that is a former Miami Dolphins head coach, Brian Flores, suing the Dolphins, the Giants, the Broncos and the NFL itself for racial discrimination, saying that the league is managed like a plantation with owners who are not -- who are not black profiting from the labor of players, 70 percent of whom are black.
Brian Flores will be here tonight. He's going to join me live. And we're going to have a whole lot -- a whole lot of players actually agree with him. Everything that he says. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN FLORES, FORMER HEAD COACH, MIAMI DOLPHINS: This is bigger than football. Many have come before. And done a lot to create change in this country for people of color. And I just felt like in this instance it was my turn to step up and be an agent for change. And I'm proud to do that.
GEORGE MARTIN, FORMER NFL DEFENSE END: Brian is going to become the Rosa Parks of the NFL, and rightly so. It took an inordinate amount of courage for him to file this lawsuit and to stand up against one of the largest corporations in the world and talk about the fact that there is less opportunity for people of color than there are otherwise.
DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: This is not only happening in the NFL but it's happening in top corporations and organizations around the country. And so, for Brian Flores to take this stand against one of the most profitable, biggest entities in the country, it's really saying something.
EPHRAIM SALAAM, FORMER NFL DEFENSE TACKLE: We're seen as people who can't lead. And I'm speaking African-Americans. There's a notion of African-American quarterbacks not being able to perform at the level of white quarterbacks. There's a notion of African-American coaches not being able to perform at the level of black -- excuse me, of white coaches. And so on and so forth. And we still -- we still have that narrative in the NFL, and it starts with ownership.
MARCUS SPEARS, FORMER NFL DEFENSE END: The fact that you have to have a rule to interview minority coaches is a problem. That's the problem. That's the seed and the foundation of it. Because it's to save face. It's to create this whole utopia that everybody is equal in the NFL and everybody is getting an equal opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): That is just the beginning, my friends. Wait till you hear what Brian Flores has to say live on this program.
Breaking news tonight. Newly revealed details of just how soon the fake electors plot started. And it was earlier than you think. [22:10:00]
LEMON (on camera): So, the former president and his allies reportedly hatched a scheme to use fake electors to overturn the results of the 2020 election right after election day. That is according to reporting tonight in the New York Times.
Let's discuss now with CNN's senior law enforcement analyst Andrew McCabe and the former -- he is the former FBI deputy director, and senior legal analyst Elie Hoenig, a former federal prosecutor.
Gentlemen, thanks for joining this evening.
Andrew, the New York Times reporting that just two weeks after the election lawyers for the Trump campaign were laying the groundwork for the alternate elector's scheme which ultimately became key to the strategy to overturn the election. What does this new information tell investigators?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Don, I think what this new information shows us is how much more complex, how much more thought out and planned this activity was than some -- you know, we're clearly not dealing with just a riot on January 6th. This was an agreement.
You could start to couch it in terms of conspiracy potentially that was undertaken by a number of people around the former president with the clear goal of overturning the results of the election. Each one of these documents that we see sheds a little bit more light on exactly who was doing what and identifies new people that the committee certainly will want to talk to and probably folks that will come across the DOJ's radar now that we know they're looking into the same activity.
LEMON: I can hardly believe that I'm speaking to you gentlemen about this every time we report on it. I mean, Elie, federal prosecutors are reviewing the fake Electoral College certificates submitted to the National Archives. Now we're starting to see how early this plan came into focus on January 6th, how early it was hatched. Will --
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Don.
LEMON: -- there be any recourse for laws broken here?
HONIG: You and I are very much on the same page on asking that question. When you look at these fake elector certificates, they're really different than a lot of the other planning, plotting discussion that we've learned about because if you want to point to a specific concrete federal crime, creating and submitting falsified documents to the federal government, to the National Archives, that is a straightforward federal crime. And you and I continue to ask, and I will continue to ask, where is
DOJ on this? All they've told us is they received a referral on this, they're aware of it. That's not enough. And the time frame that we're talking, we are a year out from January 6th and we've seen no concrete evidence that they're looking at anybody above the ground level. And if that doesn't change, bottom line is there's not going to be any meaningful consequences to anyone for this.
LEMON: But Andrew, here's why it matters. This was a key part of the pressure campaign on Pence to step in and not certify the election. That's why it matters. And it's the same pressure campaign that led to that deadly violence by the Trump supporters on January 6th. It's all part of the same strategy.
MCCABE: That's absolutely right, Don. This is -- you know, I think most people started this thinking about it in terms of January 6th and the riot and the attack on the capitol. But every one of these elements was part of a complicated scheme to achieve the same result. Right?
This didn't start on January 6th. It started probably the day after the election. And now we know, now we have documents and these memos that actually take -- put a pin in the calendar, as it were, and show us at specific points in time what people were thinking, what they were trying to accomplish.
You set up the states to pursue the fake electors. You send in that material. That puts you in a position to put more pressure on Mike Prence (Ph) -- Mike Pence to refuse to certify the results. You know, all of these things depend on each other. It's a long process and one that was clearly thought out very carefully by the people involved.
LEMON: Let me follow up, Andrew, because as you know just this past weekend Trump issued this statement saying that he wanted Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election. He is -- he's laying it all out there. Do you think he knows all this information and more, that it's all coming and he's trying to inoculate himself from what is clearly just an un-American behavior here?
MCCABE: You know, Don, we've seen this from Trump many times before. He comes right out with it. He throws it out into plain sight as a way of kind of taking the sting out of what he's doing, what he's saying. He throws it out there and pretends as if this is normal political activity, this is normal activity from a president.
We know that it's not. We know that it's offensive. We know that it's anti-Democratic. But he tries to kind of make things seem normal, to kind of scoop up public opinion to go with him. It's absolutely the same way we've seen him conduct himself all through his time in the presidency. We shouldn't be surprised to see it here.
LEMON: Elie, let's talk about Jeffrey Clark. He's a former Justice Department official. He met with the January 6th committee for nearly two hours, likely pleading the fifth. He pushed these unfounded voter fraud claims within the DOJ weeks after the 2020 election. He was in touch with Trump reportedly. That's according to officials who interacted with him. What exactly was he up to?
HONIG: Well, if Jeffrey Clark took the fifth amendment today, as we believe he did, a, that was the smart move for him legally. B, it's a sad statement that he had a good reason to. Because let's remember what Jeffrey Clark did at the Justice Department that Andrew and I both once worked for. He committed a fraud inside the very department that is charged with prosecuting fraud.
He drafted this letter saying to the state of Georgia, saying we've detected significant election fraud that may impact the results of your election and in other states. That's a lie. That is not true. We know that's not true. And he tried to get the Justice Department to put their letterhead on that and send that letter out.
Imagine if they did what Jeffrey Clark wanted them to do. Imagine if Jeffrey Rosen, who was the acting A.G. at the time, went along with that. You would have had DOJ's official seal, which carries so much weight, behind this election fraud lie. So, Jeffrey Clark is one of the worst actors in this whole thing, and if he took the fifth, he's smart to do so.
LEMON: Yes. And now from Jeffrey Clark, Andrew, to -- did you want to elaborate on that before I ask you a question?
MCCABE: No. I think Elie is exactly right. I think it's also a crafty move to avoid getting referred to DOJ to be indicted for failing to cooperate with the committee. He clearly did technically cooperate with the committee. He came in, he invoked his constitutional rights. The committee is not going to go after him. This DOJ certainly not going to go after him for lying -- you know, invoking his constitutional rights. I think he avoided any potential problems in that regard.
LEMON: Stewart Rhodes, I want to -- he's a former -- he's an Oath Keepers leader, and he testified to the committee from jail today. He and 10 others were charged with seditious conspiracy, Andrew, the most serious charge yet.
He allegedly plotted to stop the transfer of power by force, bringing weapons to D.C. and organizing quick response teams to help insurrectionists. Some of the Oath Keepers fought their way inside the capitol. Are you surprised that he is cooperating? And is that valuable to them?
MCCABE: I am surprised, Don. I'm surprised that the committee asked him to speak at all, to be perfectly clear. I'm surprised that he agreed to do it. It's unlikely that Rhodes is going to come in and say anything except for self-serving statements designed to get himself out of trouble. We all know that he's facing very serious charges under his current indictment.
I'm also shocked that his lawyer allowed him to go in and talk to the committee, potentially under oath, and put himself in jeopardy of getting charged with additional offenses for making false statements. He is -- he's not -- I mean, Elie knows better than I do, but I find it hard to believe he was under any sort of a proffer agreement that would have given him protection to speak freely. So, I find this whole thing to be really surprising.
LEMON: Elie, he invoked your name. Give me a quick response, please. What do you say to that?
HONIG: I'm as confused as Andrew about what the strategy is here for Stewart Rhodes in speaking to the committee. Maybe he's trying to earn brownie points when the day comes when he's sentenced, he can tell the judge, well, I kind of cooperated. But I would be shocked if he gave the committee usable information on other wrongdoers around him.
LEMON: All right. Elie, Andrew, thank you both very much. I appreciate it.
HONIG: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: The former president calling an ally names because he dis -- he disagreed with him. While the RNC is attempting to vote some of their own off the island. And ahead, and behind it all, I should say, Trump's attempt to overturn the election. Stay with us.
LEMON (on camera): The former president making it loud and clear what he expects from the party he's got in a death grip. Admitting the obvious. Again, last night. He wanted the election overturned. And he wanted then Vice President Mike Pence to do it even though, in case anyone needs a reminder, Mike Pence never had the power to change the election result.
Trump also doubling down this week on his pledge to pardon the rioters from January 6th if he is re-elected. And yet most Republicans still say that they'd support him if he is a candidate in 2024.
So, joining me now to discuss, the former Defense Secretary William Cohen. Thanks, Secretary, for joining us.
So, listen, the former president is slamming Lindsey Graham, calling him a rhino, you know, for saying that he would pardon and -- because he's upset that Lindsey Graham is saying they shouldn't get a pardon or whatever. What is going on here?
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, this is what a dictatorship looks like. We have seen this white elephant sitting in our living room for the past five years. He has never tried to hide who he is or what he believes in, and that is total dictatorial power and reverence on the part of those in his party.
So, if you speak the truth, we will condemn you. If you take any action to reveal what he has said or done, he will -- he will try to put you in jail. Isn't this what Putin does in Russia? Isn't this what every tyrant does, is to arrest his political opponents, either kill them in the case of Russia or put them in jail in the case of the Russian dissident.
And so, we're seeing it take place right in front of our eyes, that he wants to lock up Hillary Clinton, lock up anyone -- he wants to lock up Joe Biden, lock up his son. And so, what he's saying is if I get back into power this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to lock up the people who insult me, disagree with me, don't pay reverence to me, and I'm going to pardon all those who have committed crimes.
So, he is foretelling us what he foretold us back in 2016 when he said Putin -- Russia, if you're listening, come on in. And so, what he wants to do is to replicate in the United States what Putin has in Russia.
LEMON: Or anyone who --
COHEN: And that's clear to everybody.
LEMON: Look, anyone who really strikes back, anyone who sort of contradicts what he has to say, especially Republicans personally, right? Anything that Trump says personally. They say what he's doing is dangerous. They get these repercussions happening.
Representative Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, I mean, they could be out of the Republican conference soon. There is -- not be re-elected, right? There's a proposal making the rounds to remove them ahead of the RNC's winter meeting this week. What message is this sending?
COHEN: The message is you should fear me. What, is it FDR who said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself? Well, most of the Republicans are fearful. They're fearful of losing his supporters helping them get re-elected. They're also fearful that he has set loose in this country that it's OK to use violence to either intimidate, harass, or inflict punishment upon my political opponent.
So, he's encouraging them to use violence. He did it during January 6th. He has done it last week. He will do it again.
If you try and charge me with a crime and he's open to being charged in Georgia, he may be open to being charged here in the district for what he did, it was a seditious act, it was treasonous. He's saying but if you charge me, I want to turn all of my supporters loose in every major city to show you can't. I am above the law. I can't be charged while I was in office, and I can't be charged after I leave office. If you do, you will all pay a penalty.
This is what happens when you slide from democracy. And I'd like to say we're one minute to midnight on the doomsday clock for democracy. We're that close to losing what we have fought so hard to have the past 240 years.
And I think it's up to Republicans -- I'm glad that Lindsey Graham spoke out. I would hope that everyone would speak out. Any Republican, Democrat saying we condemn the use of violence to try to intimidate, harass, or hurt our political opponents or those who disagree with our philosophy.
LEMON: I want to --
COHEN: It's really un-American. Unpatriotic.
LEMON: I want to turn now to the escalating tension in Ukraine. President Biden announcing today that he's going to deploy 3,000 troops to Eastern Europe in response to Putin building up forces. We have new satellite images. They show that the build-up tonight of what's happening there, Russia moving troops and equipment to the front lines and building training areas in Belarus, in Crimea. Would you call this an escalation? What would you call it?
COHEN: Absolutely. This is what President Putin does. He's taken and moved his pieces on the chess board to put us in a position of having to react. Look, President Putin has issues that we have to deal with. He said what does -- every country acts out of its self-interest. What is Putin's self-interest? He doesn't want to be surrounded by countries that he thinks would undermine his sovereignty. So that's a legitimate concern on his part. We're not denying that. He wants to be respected. He wants to be seen as having a powerful country.
All of that I would want if I were there. So, I have an issue. We have issues over here. We want -- we don't want free countries to live under the roof of a prison, under a jailhouse of tyranny. So how do we accommodate? How do we find common ground saying I know what your interests are, I want you to know what ours are, let's see if we can work out some kind of a deal where our mutual interests are accommodated?
Frankly, I think we've carried this publicly too much. Diplomacy needs to be carried out privately at some point. And now what we're getting into is tabloid news, tabloid diplomacy, where we're searching for headlines and the next day who can insult the other in a more poetic or demeaning way.
And so, I think we've got to take a step back and say this is really serious, we don't want to get into a war, a hot war with Russia. Nor do they with us. So, understanding that, how do we defuse the situation? I think President Biden has done the right thing. He's saying we're going to send these troops temporarily to our allies, and if you do take action, we are likely to send more and make them not temporary but permanent. You don't want that. We don't want to have to do that.
But I'll tell you this, don. I think that we're paying the wages of the sins of indecision in this country. We sent so many conflicting signals to our allies. It's like the song first you say you do, then you don't. Then you say you will and then you won't.
LEMON: You won't, yes. COHEN: And what we're doing is telling the countries in NATO saying, we're pivoting to Asia. By the way, we're getting out of Afghanistan. We did get out of Afghanistan. We're getting out -- we did get out of Syria. We're getting out of Iraq. And by the way, we've insulted your chancellor, former chancellor, by not even paying her respect. We've sent all of these signals.
We've sent all of these signals. And now if I'm Putin, I'm saying hey, I've got some opportunity here to drive a wedge between the United States and the NATO allies, and I'm driving a wedge back in the United States. I'm pitting Americans against Americans now. We have some Americans saying hey, why aren't we supporting Putin taking over this country, this free country?
So, his game plan is pretty clear. What we have to understand is what we do. We have to be consistent.
COHEN: We have to have a comprehensive strategy and stick with it. Not for one presidential term but two and three and four.
LEMON: Yes. Well, I hope someone is listening. Thank you, that you very much, Secretary. I appreciate you joining us.
COHEN: Well, Russia, are you listening?
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Secretary. So here we go. Whoopi Goldberg off your TV for the next two weeks over her Holocaust comments. Should she have been suspended? Where's the line? When should someone be canceled or counseled? We're going to talk about that next.
And at the top of the hour the fired NFL coach who is suing for racial discrimination is going to speak out live right here.
LEMON (on camera): So, here's a question. To cancel or counsel? Right? That's a question. One day into the suspension of The View host Whoopi Goldberg she was suspended by ABC after offensive comments suggesting that race had nothing to do with the Holocaust.
Now, Whoopi apologized on air yesterday and spoke about what she said with ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt who was on the show and said he accepted her apology.
I want to talk to Yascha Mounk, he's a political theorist at Harvard and author of -- he's a political theorist at Harvard and the author of the upcoming book "The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure." And civil rights leader professor Cornel West.
Good to see both of you, gentlemen. Thank you so much. I appreciate you joining. Yascha, I'm going to start with you. Do you think Whoopi's suspension
by ABC goes too far after her on-air apology?
YASCHA MOUNK, POLITICAL THEORIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Yes, I think it does. I just don't see what it's supposed to accomplish. Her comments about the Holocaust certainly were offensive. It is historically inaccurate to suggest that the murder of six million people had nothing to do with race.
Unfortunately, the way that the Nazis thought about race very much characterized Jews as an inferior race, and this is a large part of what drove what we called the final solution, what drove the murder of six million Jews.
But Whoopi Goldberg made a mistake. We solved the problem in the best way we can, with lots of counter speech, with lots of people pointing out the mistake she made. She realized that she'd made a mistake. As you say, she apologized live on air. And that to me was a great teaching moment.
Viewers of The View may have learned something from it, may have come away with a better understanding of this tragic part of human history. And I don't see what is accomplished by telling her basically to go take a time out, sit in a corner of the room and be ashamed of herself. This is just a way for network executives to demonstrate that they're taking this seriously. It doesn't really accomplish anything in the real world.
LEMON: Professor West, let me play Whoopi's original comments again and then we'll have our conversation. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, ABC: If you're going to do this, then let's be truthful about it. Because the Holocaust isn't about race.
GOLDBERG: No. It's not about race --
UNKNOWN: Well, maybe it is --
GOLDBERG: Well, then can fit --
UNKNOWN: No, it's --
GOLDBERG: But it's not about race. It's not about race.
JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC: What is it about?
GOLDBERG: It's about man's inhumanity to man. That's what it's about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): So, the lesson here is that the Holocaust was about race. Maybe not in the definition that we think of in modern times but it's definitely about race. Remember, they were trying to create a master race. Jews were the inferior race. That's what Jonathan Greenblatt went on The View to say and said that on this show as well, that it was about race. What did you think of this?
CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC PHILOSOPHY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, one is that, brother, in these neofascist times we've got to stress integrity, honesty, and courage. When people are wrong, they're wrong. Our dear sister Whoopi was wrong. Brother Yascha is right. There's no doubt that when you talk about not just the Holocaust, you're talking about 2,000 years of Jewish brothers and sisters being a hated people.
And this is just the modern -- this is just the modern culmination of it with the Shoah, with the Holocaust. But Whoopi's point about man's inhumanity to man is still a crucial one because the Holocaust was distinctive. That six million Jewish brothers and sisters -- you also had Poles. You also had Soviet folks. You also had gays. German socialists and communists. But it was primarily targeting Jews.
But if we can't come out of this teachable moment with a deeper commitment to truth and integrity and honesty and courage, then we're not going to be able to be consistent and learning what we need to, which is that man's inhumanity to man, the fact that we human beings treat each other so viciously in a variety of different ways.
And so, we've got to be concerned about the way Jewish folk are treated. The way Honduran folks are treated. Thank God for our dear brother Brian Flores and his great courage. The way brothers and sisters in Brazil are treated. The way Palestinians are treated. The way Tibetans are treated. We have to be consistent. Has the great message.
And so, I agree. I think the suspension is excessive. But if we don't come out more fortified in honesty and integrity. It's just another P.R moment, brother. Just another P.R. moment in corporate media. You know what I mean?
LEMON: Yes. It's interesting that you say that, Yascha, because I've heard that from many people. But there are others who say she should have been, you know, suspended, she should have been fired or what have you. But what good, if someone -- what is the incentive to apologize and to learn if you're still going to face the same consequences no matter what? Do you understand what I'm saying?
MOUNK: Yes. No, I agree with you entirely. You know, I think there's a broader issue here. I think we're in a strange moment in which we've lost one of the fundamental things you have to believe to live in a democracy, which is that most of the time most of our fellow citizens are trying to do the right thing and can be decent people and are open to argument, are open to persuasion.
And so, you know, as a result, we get -- they worry and say we have to make sure that that idea is not unheard because they're going to influence people on duty, it's going to lead to these disasters. And I understand the fears. There's a lot of terrible ideas out there. There's a lot of dangerous politicians running around.
But if you believe in democracy as I do, you've got to believe that you're actually able to persuade people with the morally right and the factually right ideas. And the way to do that is not to make them scared, not to make them afraid, not to make them think if I somehow slip up and say something wrong, even if I'm as big a star as Whoopi Goldberg, I'm just going to go and be banished and punished and so on.
It is to actually have real discussions and point out forcefully why Whoopi Goldberg was wrong in her comment but also accept with grace when she says, listen, I've understood, I've made a mistake, and then also welcome her into the fold instead of this performative punishment which as Cornel West was saying, serves ultimately the interests of the network more than of anybody else.
LEMON: The interesting thing is that we have this idea, what I said earlier, this sort of modern idea about what race is. What exactly is race? Is it a social construct? Many people see it as color. Is it something that's visible? What exactly is it? Let's have that conversation. We'll take a break, and we'll talk about it on the other side. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDBERG: If the Klan is coming down the street and I'm standing with a Jewish friend and neither one -- well, I'm going to run. But if my friend decides not to run, they'll get passed by most times because you can't tell who's Jewish. You don't know. It's not something that people say, that person is Jewish or this person is Jewish. And so that's what I was trying to explain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): That was Whoopi, what she said when she went on Colbert to clarify her Holocaust comments.
Back with me now Yascha Mounk, a professor, and professor Cornel West. OK. So, listen, this is what -- this whole thing is about having a conversation and getting people to learn, right?
So, professor, listen, quite honestly when I heard that I was actually getting dressed. I was in Los Angeles and I was getting dressed and I had it on in the background. And I kind of understood what she was saying. I was like, it was a little clumsy. She was talking about race as something that you can see. And here in America especially as people of color we get that. But that is not always the case. Not all Jewish people present as
white. Like Jonathan Greenblatt said that on this very program last night.
WEST: That's right.
LEMON: But the Nazis said that Jewish people were a race, the reason for the stars, they wanted to be able to identify them. They saw them as an inferior race. That's the lesson in it here. Talk to me about that. You can understand why people can see where she's coming from with that part of it. But it was clumsy.
WEST: Right. No, that's true. I mean, we know the Klan was founded against Catholics, Jews and then especially blacks. But it was actually all-inclusive in that sense. And it's also true that even during the Holocaust, you know, it was against Slavic folk too. I mentioned the Poles and the Russians were viewed as inferior.
They had black Germans there. They were viewed as inferior. But Jews were targeted by the gangster fascists in Germany. In the United States you have an attempt of many Jews to assimilate and too often become identified with the gentiles, with the Goyim, as it were. And yet the deep anti-Jewish sensibilities in America make it very difficult for there to ever be full-fledged Jewish assimilation within the white mainstream.
But when it comes to caste-like treatment of black people the black predicament is very different from the white Jewish predicament in America. So that's part of what she's trying to get at but she was clumsy about it.
LEMON: Yes. Race is a social construct. Do you guys agree with that or disagree with that. Yascha?
MOUNK: Yes, I agree with that. I mean, I think that people think about social construct as something that I have -- you know, I have something that's completely real and biological or it has no basis in reality at all. And that's the wrong way to think about it. Race is a social construct not because --
LEMON: It is a social construct but there are real world consequences for it. People died because of their race even though it is something that people constructed for.
MOUNK: No. And of course, there are certain ethnic differences that you can see. You can mostly guess whether somebody has ancestors in Asia or somebody has ancestors in Africa or somebody has ancestors in Europe. The way in which we think about the difference between race is socially constructed. And that's what's relevant in this context.
In the United States, traditionally the line that is most important, not the only important line but the most important line has been whether somebody is black or whether somebody is not black. That's what determines whether somebody might have been enslave, that determine whether somebody's right may have been violated in the most extreme ways.
But there's lot of different contexts in the world in which different ways of thinking about race are more prominent, are more salient. Forms of racism like against Jews in Europe --
LEMON: I think Yascha froze. Do you want to continue with that, Professor West? Is this what construct --
WEST: No, what this I think --
LEMON: But have our definition of racism changed over the years?
WEST: -- of the social construct, brother Don. One it is institutionalized and legalized it takes on a life of its own, you see. So white supremacy is a construct but you ascribed in the laws and ascribed in how you perceive black people and ascribe in the attacks on black beauty and black intelligence, same is true with indigenous people, and Spanish, brown, and so forth. it gets institutionalized in your society.
Then that lie become as alive. Because you got institutions that are reinforcing it. And it is rooted and predatory capitalist expansion looking for resources and using black bodies and black people as labor to ensure that they gain assets to big money and then made the law of the land.
WEST: Hundreds of years. And it cannot but have some consequences. Do you see what I mean?
LEMON: Yes. So, Yascha, how do we do this in the short time left here? I wish we had -- we'll have you back and we'll continue this conversation. We have enough time. We'll do it and we'll continue.
But I want to know, how we -- I don't believe in cancel, right, when people say cancel culture. I believe it's consequences and I believe that id, I think intent is important and I don't think there is not a dumb question because that's how you learn, right, when you ask a question no matter how dumb people may think it is. So how do we navigate these tough conversations without fear when race has become such a third rail? What do we do, Yascha?
MOUNK: Well, I think we have to have more trust in each other. We have to have more trust in the fact that most people say something because they actually believe it and they're not bad actors, they're not bad human beings. They're trying to express themselves and they're trying to understand the world.
And if you deeply disagree with them then the right solution is not to shut them up, it is to express your disagreement. It is to say why you are offended by something. It is to express mis context why so many Jews were hurt by what Whoopi Goldberg said and she understood that and she apologized for it which I think is the best possible outcome.
You know, here is one really important thing. One of the consequences of living in a democracy is that in the end people have a secret vote. And I think if we try to change the culture of a country, if we try to change how people -- what people believe and how they feel by punishing them for expressing their ideas, they are just going to take those ideas to voting booth and they are going to vote for people who are going to actually frighten our Democratic institutions.
So, I think it's better to allow them to speak and to disagree with them to explain to them why they should come to have a different point of view.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, I think, you know, I have been saying all along and talking about even to you about this, professor, especially during the election as far back as 2016, 2015, people need to realize who their allies are and sometimes allies say really stupid things, right? Right? As a gay black man.
Sometimes our allies are saying insulting things, but at the end of the day I understand that they are an ally and the chances of you getting through to them are greater than getting through to someone who is a bigot or who is not an ally --
LEMON: -- and so we need to make -- we need to realize who they are and not try to push them aside and not try to cancel them. That's all I've got to say.
WEST: But the trust it's got to be earned.
LEMON: It's got to be earned. Right. But that's what I say you have to know who your allies are.
WEST: In terms of humility and in terms of execution following through.
LEMON: Yes. Yascha, thank you. Will you please come back? I want to continue this conversation. I really appreciate it.
MOUNK: Of course. Thank you.
LEMON: Professor, I know you'll be back. Thank you, sir. I'll see you both later. We'll be right back.
WEST: Blessed to be with both of you. Both of you, brothers.