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FOX Settles with Dominion for $787M Over Election Lies; Homeowner Who Shot Teenager to Appear in Court Today; McCarthy Says He Has Votes to Pass Debt Limit Bill; Collapsed NYC Parking Garage Has 6 Open Violations; OK Governor Calls on Officials to Resign Over Racist Remarks. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2023 - 06:00   ET



ANDI OWEN, CEO, MILLERKNOLL: So people, leave Pity City. Let's get it done. Thank you.



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so that didn't go over well. MillerKnoll claims the comments are taken out of context and says it hasn't yet decided on bonus payouts.

Owen took home, we're told, nearly $5 million in compensation last year. The company's median employee income is less than $45,000.

All right. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. We're glad you're with us.


HARLOW: Good morning, everyone.

LEMON: Good morning. What an evening yesterday --

HARLOW: Right.

LEMON: -- for FOX News and Dominion.

HARLOW: And truth and democracy.

LEMON: Yes, except the people who need to hear it won't.

HARLOW: We'll get into it.

LEMON: Let's just say. Yes.

HARLOW: We'll get into it.


HARLOW: We're glad you're here. Kaitlan is off.

LEMON: All right.

HARLOW: So let's get started with five things to know for this Wednesday, April 19, 2023.

FOX News has agreed to settle Dominion's defamation lawsuit. According to this deal, FOX will pay Dominion $787 million.

Also today, the Supreme Court expected to weigh in on the battle over access to the abortion pill, Mifepristone. The court's ruling could determine whether that will be accessible by mail.

LEMON: New York City investigators trying to figure out what caused a parking garage to collapse in Lower Manhattan. That was yesterday. One person was killed, five others injured.

Also happening today, a Senate Armed Services Committee set to hold a hearing about UFOs. A former Navy fighter pilot will join us to talk about his encounters.

HARLOW: Also, great news. Damar Hamlin fully cleared to return to the NFL, three months after he was hit, and that sent him into cardiac arrest on the field. The Buffalo Bills star announcing he plans to make a comeback to the league.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

LEMON: I keep saying it every day. It's very busy, especially in that we're moving into summer. You know, the summer doldrums. There's nothing dull --

HARLOW: No, there's not.

LEMON: -- about the news, because we have all the stuff we talked about. We're going to get to FOX News in just a moment, but we have the alleged leaker, who's going to be in court today; and also the shooter of the 16-year-old --

HARLOW: Ralph Yarl.

LEMON: -- teenager who was shot and, luckily, is recovering right now.

So a lot to get --

HARLOW: A lot to get to.

LEMON: -- to this morning. So why don't we begin. You want to begin with what we were talking about that?

HARLOW: Let's start with that.

LEMON: Let's start with that. We're going to start with FOX News has agreed to pay a huge historic price for spreading lies about the 2020 election. You said it is the largest what?

HARLOW: It's the largest publicly-known defamation settlement ever by a U.S. media company.

LEMON: I mean, it is crazy. The network reaching a last-minute settlement deal with Dominion Voting Systems for more than $787 million, 10 times evaluation of the company in 2018. It happened right before the trial was set to begin.

Dominion's lawyers say it is a victory for truth and democracy. Watch this.


JUSTIN NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS: The truth matters. Lies have consequences.

STEPHEN SHACKELFORD JR., ATTORNEY FOR DOMINION VOTING SYSTEMS: Dominion needed justice. We got into this case with two goals: accountability and justice. And we achieved accountability when we exposed everything that had been going on at FOX News.


LEMON: Well, Dominion tells CNN that the settlement deal does not require FOX News anchors to apologize or acknowledge on air that they told lies, which is why I said --

HARLOW: Right.

LEMON: -- many of the people who need to hear it won't be able to hear it, and they just simply won't hear it.

Here's what the network said in a statement when the news broke. Watch.


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, FOX NEWS'S "MEDIABUZZ": I do have a statement from FOX, Neil (ph): "We're pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems. We acknowledge the court's rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false. The settlement reflects FOX's continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards."


LEMON: OK we'll discuss exactly what all that means. Simply did it mean that they lied or whatever? We'll talk about it. Elie Honig is here. But stand by.

Here's a small sample of the broadcast and debunked conspiracy theories that got FOX News into trouble.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS HOST: Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software. I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Electronic voting machines didn't allow people to vote, apparently, and that, whatever you think of it, the cause of it, it shakes people's faith in the system. That is an actual threat to democracy.


LEMON: FOX News still facing a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit from a different company, this one called Smartmatic.

HARLOW: So let's go through what happened. Senior legal analyst Elie Honig is here.

Morning. Obviously, this was about a whole lot more than money.


HARLOW: But it is $787 million. So let's begin there. You want to put it -- put it in perspective for us?

HONIG: Yes. Let's start with the bottom line here. This amount of money, 787.5 --


HONIG: -- million dollars, just an astonishing figure, no matter how you break it down.

Now, look, you could look at this and say, well, it's only about half of what Dominion originally asked for, their original $1.6 billion figure. but we need to be realistic about what these figures are.


These numbers the plaintiffs put forward are just that. They're numbers that plaintiffs put forward. There's no guarantee Dominion would have won a trial, and even if they had, there's no guarantee they would have gotten anything close to $787.5 million.

Now, let's put it in some meaningful context. Poppy, as you just said, this is an unprecedented payout. If we look at some of the recent high-profile defamation, settlements and judgments, we are seeing dollar amounts in the $222 million, $177 million, $274 million, $33 million dollars.

The only higher figure came in the Alex Jones case, where a jury awarded $1.4 billion. However, that needs to be split between about 20 different plaintiffs. And realistically, Alex Jones is not going to pay that money.

FOX is going to have to pay all $787.5 million. It's also important to keep in mind exactly what Dominion Voting

Systems is. It's a modest-sized company. They're privately held. They have about 250 employees. The current total valuation of the entire company is under $100 million.

So, Poppy and Don, here they've received more than 10 times the value of the entire company. It's a big big number.

LEMON: So what does -- what does FOX get out of this deal except for a lighter pockets, but still they have enough money. They'll be fine. Why would they agree to pay so much here?

HONIG: Yes. So on the one hand, Don, they could have got hit, theoretically, with an even heavier verdict if this had gone all the way to trial.

But I think more important, they avoided the nightmare scenario of having some of their most prominent hosts have to take the stand at this trial, take an oath, and get cross-examined. We were looking at the very realistic possibility of seeing Hannity, Tucker Carlson and other prominent hosts have to take the stand.

And also, maybe even more importantly, some of FOX's top executives are now spared having to take the stand and get cross-examined, including most importantly, Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of the entire FOX News Corporation.

And remember, the judge ruled just last week that, yes, Rupert Murdoch did have to testify. I think that was a key moment in drawing FOX into the negotiation.

HARLOW: Elie, can I just speak for folks this morning, and Don alluded to it, who -- I thought Erik Wemple put it well in his column in "The Post" today, that you know, it feels a bit empty to some is what he said. Because there was not -- there's, as I understand it, Oliver Darcy is reporting no need or requirement that these personalities get on air and admit that there were lies, that they spread these lies.

HONIG: That's true. And let's keep in mind, though, a verdict does not come with an apology, either, even if they had gone all the way through.

But let's look, Poppy, at what Dominion did get in terms of accountability.

FOX made this statement somewhat ambiguous, somewhat lawyered up, but they say, "We acknowledge the court's ruling finding certain claims about Dominion to be false."

So what exactly are the court rulings that they're talking about here? Well, let's remember last week, the judge in this case made a finding, as a matter of law, that it is, quote, "CRYSTAL clear" -- crystal clear -- "that none of the statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true. That all-caps, by the way, is the judge's.

HARLOW: Interesting. HONIG: That's the finding that FOX has now admitted.

And also Poppy, it's really important to keep in mind, as a result of this litigation, we have now seen behind the curtain at FOX News, Dominion has exposed the private texts and emails.

Rupert Murdoch, for example, wrote, "The Trump myth" -- Trump myth -- "that the election was stolen."

Tucker Carlson, talking about Sidney Powell, one of the main purveyors of this fraud, said she is, quote, "lying."

Gloria Ingraham, talking about Sidney Powell, called her "a complete nut." That's her words.

Sean Hannity, talking about Rudy Giuliani, another spreader of the big lie, said he is, quote, "acting like an insane person."

So no, nobody's going to go on FOX News and say, "Hey, we lied," but this is all in the public record now.

LEMON: Wow. Very interesting. I'm sure Smartmatic is, like -- they're happy about it.

HONIG: Smartmatic hit the jackpot. They still have a pending lawsuit against FOX News. I can't see FOX News paying this much money to avoid trial with Dominion and then going to trial with Smartmatic. I think Smartmatic's lawyers are rubbing their hands.

LEMON: And by the way, Dominion is privately held. So it is -- is it a private equity company?


LEMON: Is it -- by a private equity company?

HONIG: Exactly. So they have to protect their bottom line.

LEMON: So they've gotten ten times more money than the valuation of their country -- their company into their -- wow.

HONIG: Yes. They're a corporation. They have to think about their employees and their bottom line.

HARLOW: One interesting thing about them that their lawyers brought up was that a number of the employees are shareholders in the company.

HONIG: Exactly.

HARLOW: You've only got 215 employees, so --

HONIG: They wouldn't -- the wouldn't quite answer Anderson Cooper last night --


HONIG: -- when he asked, will all the employees --

HARLOW: But Anderson did a good job of pressing him on that.

HONIG: -- see this. But they said, well, a lot of the employees our shareholders.

HARLOW: But hopefully, you know, it goes to some of the employees.

LEMON: Some of the employees.

HARLOW: Or most of the employees.

LEMON: It would be interesting if it went to them.

HARLOW: Yes, because their name and who they work for every day was dragged through the mud.

LEMON: Exactly.

HARLOW: So Elie, thank you.

LEMON: Thank you, Elie. Appreciate that.

Straight ahead, in our 8 a.m. hour -- I almost said 8 p.m. -- 8 a.m. hour, we're going to speak with Justin Nelson, the lead counsel for Dominion. You see his face right there up on the screen. Why his team ultimately chose to settle and should they have pushed harder for an on-air apology from FOX News anchors? Make sure you stay with us for that.


HARLOW: Also this morning, the man accused of shooting Ralph Yarl, a black teenager in Kansas City, that man is expected to be arraigned today. He is 84-year-old Andrew Lester.

He turned himself into authorities yesterday. The sheriff's office has released this booking photo of him, but he was released just hours later on $200,000 bond.

He is facing two felony charges after admitting to shooting Yarl, who said he went to the wrong address. Just went to the wrong House to pick up his younger brothers.

Lucy Kafanov is following all of this in Kansas City, Missouri. Good morning, Lucy. What are the conditions of this bond?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Pop. Yes, Poppy. You know, this has been a whirlwind 24 hours. When we were on the show yesterday, nobody knew when he would turn himself in. Andrew Lester did finally turn himself in yesterday afternoon to the detention center; was almost immediately released.

Conditions of that $200,000 bond are that he is prohibited from having any type of weapon. He is not allowed to have any direct or indirect contact with Yarl's family. His cell phone is also subject to monitoring.

He is facing two charges, as you pointed out: assault in the first degree, and armed criminal action. But take a listen to how community leaders and the Yarl family attorney reacted to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A charge does not mean justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want him out, but we understand that's part of the process.


KAFANOV: So we are anticipating a possible arraignment this afternoon. CNN is trying to reach out to the prosecution to confirm this.

We also know that President Joe Biden actually spoke to -- to the teenager on Monday. He released a photo on Twitter yesterday, showing that conversation. He wrote -- and I quote -- "No parent should have to worry that their kid will be shot after ringing the wrong doorbell. We've got to keep up the fight against gun violence" -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Don did that really powerful interview yesterday with -- with Ralph Yarl's aunt. It was aunt, I believe, right?


HARLOW: Yes. And he -- and she kept reminding us that he will never be the same. This boy will never be the same mentally, emotionally, physically.

Can you update us on at least his physical condition this morning? Do we know?

KAFANOV: We don't know anything as of this morning, but the family attorney did speak yesterday, saying that Ralph, you know, he -- a bullet traveled less than five feet into his upper temple. It penetrated his skull. It sprayed bullet fragments into his frontal lobe on Thursday.

But on Saturday, he was apparently home and playing with his dog. Again, as we've been saying, the physical wounds will heal. The emotional and the trauma recovery is going to take a lot longer.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Lucy, thank you so much for that reporting.

LEMON: All right. We now take you to upstate New York. No signs of remorse. That from the sheriff in the case involving the young woman in New York who was shot and killed after her friend accidentally turned into wrong driveway.

Kevin Monahan is accused of killing Kaylin Gillis on Saturday night in a rural area upstate. He is set to appear in court hours from now

Monahan's lawyer said that they were with a second car and a motorcycle, which made his client think something menacing was going on.

The sheriff responding to that claim just last night.


SHERIFF JEFFREY MURPHY, WASHINGTON COUNTY, NEW YORK: They weren't in the driveway for a very long time at all before they realized it was the wrong House. And they were in the process of leaving, which makes his case obviously a little different.

I don't know how you could menace someone if you're leaving the property.


LEMON: Gillis and her friends did not get out of the car or interact with Monahan before he fired two shots.

The House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, tells CNN that -- tells CNN's Manu Raju that he expects the House GOP to back his debt limit deal bill next week. Why some Republicans say they're still on the fence.

HARLOW: Plus, just an awful story here in New York. That is what happened yesterday afternoon. A four-story parking garage collapsing in Lower Manhattan, leaving one person dead. What officials say may have caused this.



LEMON: A live look at Capitol Hill this morning -- Wow. The sun's out. Really kind of nice -- where House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says that he will have the votes to pass a debt ceiling bill next week. That's what he told CNN's Manu Raju. That was just yesterday.

But the speaker can only lose four GOP votes or the bill won't pass, and many of his Republican colleagues said that they are still waiting. To see key details before they make a decision on this.

If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, experts say that the U.S. could default on its debt as soon as this summer, leading to a crippling recession.

CNN's congressional correspondent Lauren Fox live on Capitol Hill for us this morning.

Good morning, Lauren. Does McCarthy have the votes that he claims he has?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's quite the pronouncement, especially when you consider the fact that a lot of Republicans haven't even seen legislative text at this point. We are still waiting to get more details on what Republicans will include in this debt ceiling increase that is supposed to be joined with intense spending cuts. Lawmakers huddled yesterday for Republican conference meeting, and

there was a lot of concern from conservatives that the spending cuts included in the proposal were not steep enough.

And the argument that McCarthy was making to his conference was, this is about showing the president, showing Senate Democrats that we are united in an effort to get back to the negotiating table to talk about the debt ceiling.

So this is really part of a multi-pronged approach for Kevin McCarthy. And he has to succeed here if he is going to get back to the negotiating table with the White House.

He knows that. His conference knows that. Is that enough to put him over the edge? That's the major question at this moment.

And we expect that they could vote on this as soon as next week. That's what leadership is hoping. So we'll get to see if Kevin McCarthy was right after all, that he has the votes.

HARLOW: Yes. The votes will say it all. Before you go, we saw what was expected, but a formal block by Republicans in the Senate to reject Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's request to put another senator in Dianne Feinstein's place in the Judiciary Committee.

So where does this go? Because I think it was -- at least one Republican senator I saw said, even if she retires, we're not going to help out.

FOX: Yes, I think the major question right now is does this start to build some pressure among Democratic senators to ask her to step aside, to retire or resign?

And I think that we have several more weeks before that pressure is going to build, in part because lawmakers do have some judges that they could put on the floor. That's going to take some time. A couple more weeks.


Maybe that buys Feinstein some time. Maybe she returns to the Senate. That is what Democrats are waiting to see right now, because the reality is, they don't have options to temporarily replace her on the committee. We saw that yesterday.

Schumer could always force a vote on the floor. But again, it's just not clear that 10 Republicans would back up Democrats to help them here.

HARLOW: And just to be clear, in terms of the judges the yare trying to get confirmed. It's not all of the nominees, right, that -- that the Republicans take issue with. McConnell was saying, this is just several of them, right?

FOX: Yes. I mean, there are judges who have bipartisan support and would be able to move through the Senate judiciary process. HARLOW: All right. Thank you, Lauren.

LEMON: Thanks, Lauren.

HARLOW: Ahead, this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to tell you something. If it was back in the day when that when (NAME REMOVED) would take a black guy and whoop their ass and throw him in the cell. I'd run for (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sheriff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, well, it's not like that no more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a damn rope. But you can't do that no more. They got more rights than we got.


LEMON: And there you go. There you go.

HARLOW: The governor of Oklahoma calling on four county officials to resign after that recording captures them making those racist and threatening remarks. Hear more of what they said, next.


Plus, one person is dead after four -- a four story parking garage collapsed here in New York City. We're live on the scene with brand- new details.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard a big boom and we thought it hit our building. So we want to check the windows. We immediately saw smoke, and we went on the side. And we opened the window, and it was completely just collapsed. Everything was collapsed. All debris, smoke. Cars were sinking. It looked like out of a movie, and it was horrible.


HARLOW: Terrifying. We do have new details this morning. What may have caused the four-story parking garage to collapse in Lower Manhattan. This happened yesterday. It left one person dead, five others injured.

The garage has six open violations, three of which are classified as hazardous, according to the New York City Department of Buildings.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine says they think everyone is accounted for, but it's going to be a while before the streets surrounding the collapse are safe to the public. Gloria Pazmino joins us live from the scene.

I was just telling Don, I used to live, like, blocks from there. I know exactly where it is. It's terrifying. What more do we know about these violations that were apparently not fixed?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, a pretty terrifying scene, a chaotic scene here yesterday afternoon shortly after 4 p.m.

We know that the building was cited several times over the last few years for defective concrete, loose concrete that was in danger of falling. What we don't know yet if -- is whether any of those factors played a role in this collapse.

Now, I just want to give you an idea of what things look like here this morning. You can see just beyond halfway down the middle of the block where the park sign is. That is where the parking lot is located.

And as you can see, the streets here have all been blocked. Crews are at work, and that is the location of this collapse.

Now, this is a very old building. It goes back to the 1920s. It's been a parking lot since the Fifties, and this is not uncommon around here. A lot of these buildings are very old.

So what we don't know yet is whether that played a factor in this collapse.

You can see behind it is Pace University, a dormitory, which had to be evacuated following that collapse.

And you can see in the video that cars have just been swallowed up by the building after the floors just pancaked right on top of each other.

I want you to listen to Mayor Eric Adams, describing some of the additional help that first responders got here when they were recovering victims and looking for survivors.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: Thank God we had the robotic dog that was able to go in the building. This is ideally what we talk about. Not sending a human being inside a building that's unstable.

We were also able to use the technology of a drone to give a real visualization of what is happening in this building. At this time, this building is completely unstable.


PAZMINO: As you mentioned, one person was tragically killed. Five others were injured.

Now the Department of Buildings here in the city will conduct an investigation to try to get to the bottom of what led to this collapse and to ensure that the other structures on this block are safe for everyone that lives and works in this area -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. I'm sure everyone that does is really scared this morning.

Gloria, thank you for the reporting.

LEMON: OK, so this one is fascinating. You have to watch.

The governor of Oklahoma calling on four McCurtain County officials to resign. The group, which includes the county sheriff, allegedly participated in a secretly-recorded conversation that included remarks about killing journalists and racist comments about lynching black people.

CNN's Randi Kaye has a story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've known two or three hit men that were very quiet guys.




RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Officials in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, allegedly talking about hiring hitmen to kill newspaper publisher Bruce Willingham and his son, reporter Chris Willingham.

BRUCE WILLINGHAM, NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER: It was complete shock. I couldn't believe it. Yes, I've been taking it seriously.

KAYE (voice-over): Bruce Willingham owns the "McCurtain Gazette," which released the recording. He secretly recorded the county officials following a commission meeting last month.

WILLINGHAM: I left a recorder going after I left the room.

KAYE (voice-over): The officials allegedly heard on the recording are McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, Sheriff's investigator Alicia Manning, and jail administrator Larry Hendrix.

According to a CNN affiliate, the Willinghams have written at least 30 articles alleging corruption involving the McCurtain County sheriff's office.

WILLINGHAM: They were talking about killing me and my son.

ALICIA MANNING, SHERIFF'S INVESTIGATOR: They are insignificant in my life, really. They bring no (UNINTELLIGIBLE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The old saying is, what comes around goes around.

KAYE (voice-over): The people on the recording can be heard talking about digging two holes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know where two big deep holes are here if you ever need them.