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CNN This Morning

Republican-Controlled Nebraska and South Carolina Fail to Pass Anti-Abortion Legislation; Interview with Democratic Former Alabama Senator and Center for American Progress Distinguished Fellow Doug Jones; Haley Criticizes Biden for His Age and Asserts He Wouldn't Complete a Second Term; CBS Poll: Democrats Opposed to Biden Running Because of Age; Students Protest Controversial Speakers on College Campuses; Ed Sheeran Sang, Played Guitar During Copyright Infringement Trial. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 28, 2023 - 07:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN THIS MORNING CO-ANCHOR: New overnight, legislators in two very red states failed to advance restrictive abortion bills just within hours of one another. It was conservative dissenters, actually, in South Carolina and Nebraska who helped block those bills.

Take a look at this, both state bodies are dominated by Republicans, as you can very clearly see here by a two to one ratio. Both went for Trump by about 10 points in the 2020 election. But take a closer look at Nebraska, a state senator there posted this video after that six- week abortion ban in the state failed by a single vote after one of her Republican colleagues abstained from voting. He had raised concerns about the ban being too early for women to know that they're pregnant and he warned fellow Republicans potential political backlash over abortion bans.

In South Carolina, where we've heard from lawmakers like Nancy Mace, concerns about what those abortion bills could do to Republicans' chances in 2024. They are the states' five female senators filibustered on Wednesday against the bill that would have banned nearly all abortions. This is State Senator Sandy Senn who is, I should remind you, Republican.


SEN. SANDY SENN (R-SC): Abortion laws have always been, each and every one of them, about control. It's always been about control, plain and simple. And in the Senate, the males all have control. We the women have not asked for, as a senator from Orangeburg pointed out yesterday, nor do we want your protection. We don't need it. We don't need it.


COLLINS: She said it's all about control. Joining us now, former Alabama senator and distinguished fellow at the Center for American Progress, Doug Jones, who also just got an award. So, congratulations to you. But, you know, we're both from Alabama. To see what is happening in South Carolina, to what's happening in Nebraska, that was a surprise victory for abortion rights advocates in both of those states.

DOUG JONES, (D) FORMER ALABAMA SENATOR AND DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes. You know, Kaitlan, thanks for having me. It really was. But you know, kudos for all of them to stand up, especially the women in South Carolina. I mean, I love the statement that I just heard from the South Carolina representative. She's absolutely right. This has always been about control. It has always been about somebody forcing their views on the women in this country.

So, I'm -- it's happy to see folks standing up for their rights like that and across the gate (ph). And you know, the one elder -- like, older gentleman in South -- Nebraska, he clearly going rough in a conservative way but not a radical way. And I appreciate his vote.


JONES: I like it.


HARLOW: -- I thought that was really interesting too. 80 years old and he said, look, I don't know if by six weeks many women are even going to know they're pregnant. So, yes. I think you make a very important point. Let's turn the page to what you tweeted about this week. And that is presidential candidate, Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley saying this -- let's play the sound about President Joe Biden.


NIKKI HALEY (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you vote for Joe Biden, you really are counting on a President Harris because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely.


HARLOW: He's not -- he's going to be dead in five years? I mean -- and she didn't walk it back.

JONES: Yes, that's -- No, that's exactly what she is saying. You know, there is a combination. And I -- as I tweeted out, I thought those comments were vile. I think they were appalling. I really do believe they're not befitting of a presidential candidate or any candidate for public office in the United States of America. And there is an element of race baiting in that as well, too.

Playing on the fears of folks that might not want a strong black woman as president of the United States. And I think that there is some serious issues and I'd love to see some of her Republican colleagues walk it back for her. But I don't think we're going to see it. I think they're going to probably jump onboard. As I said, I think this is a race to the bottom.

HARLOW: That was interesting. This morning, I was looking for Republicans pushing back against it at all and not see it.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: She's also playing on an actual sentiment, which is concerns about the president's age which we have seen in polling politically. So, given what is to come, right, what we're seeing in this, kind of, partisan attack, how should Democrats argue about this? What is the retort?

JONES: Well, I think Democrats have to push back on comments like this, for sure. But I also think Democrats do exactly what the president's done and pushed forward what he has accomplished in the last two years with the Democratic House --

CORNISH: But does that deal with --

JONES: -- and the Democratic --

CORNISH: -- the age issue, right? I mean, that's what is becoming the problem.

JONES: Yes. You know -- well, look, his age issue goes away when you talk about the accomplishments that he did. That's what people want. People in the -- across the United States want somebody who will do things for them. Things that they can talk about at their kitchen table. That's what they want. They don't care if somebody is 40, 50, 60 or 80.

HARLOW: I don't know.

JONES: If they're -- as long as they're working for the American people.

HARLOW: I don't know. I think accomplishments matter. But just in all the polling we've seen over the last five days, there are real concerns among a majority of Democrats about his age. Some even saying -- some Democrats even saying that's the number one reason why they think he shouldn't run.

JONES: You know, Poppy, those polls are absolutely meaningless at this point. You know, people raised Joe Biden's age four years ago. And yet look what he did in the primary, look what he did in the election. He got more votes than any presidential candidate in history. Those issues were raised. They're going to be raised. They're -- as the president said the other day, it's a legitimate issue.

But look at what he is doing, look what he's done, and I think people are going to rally around that. I think Democrats, for sure, rallying around that. And when you see the alternatives, an alternative over Republican Party puts a bunch of artificial intelligence memes out there to counter this. I think he's going to be in a really, really strong position. I've always believed that.

COLLINS: But, Doug, isn't there a way to raise legitimate questions about the president's age, not just Biden's but also Former President Trump, he's only three years younger than him, a way to raise legitimate questions about age without going there and suggesting the death of the president in that way?

JONES: Well, I think legitimate questions have been raised. Again, Joe Biden said that the other day.


JONES: It is something that he -- that is going to be raised. But the fact of the matter is that you answer those questions with what you're doing. With how you're approaching the job. With how you're approaching world leaders across the country -- I mean, across the world.

I think that that's how counter those kinds of things. You raise the questions. It is obvious. It is out there. And no one can deny his age, least of all Joe Biden. But what he has been able to do, what he is continuing to do, I think speaks volumes. And a lot, lot more than the age issue itself because people are going to look and see what is going on. And at the end of the day, you know what, we've got primaries. Primaries going to tell the tale. Democrats are already rallying around Joe Biden. They're going continue to do that. And the alternatives, I think, will bring more independents and more moderate Republicans in just like it did in 2020.

COLLINS: All right. Doug Jones, thanks so much for your time this morning from Miami.

CORNISH: All right. Next, we're going to turn to the issue of free speech on college campuses. CNN's Elle Reeve went to the University of Pittsburgh during a protest to ask students and educators what they think.



ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think kids are less able to take -- or listen to opposing views now?

JESS KLEIN, INSTRUCTOR, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH: No, I don't think they're less able to listen to opposing views. I just think they take less crap as they get older.



HARLOW: Students have been making national headlines protesting controversial speakers on campuses across the country.



HARLOW: That is at James Madison University in Virginia. Just on Wednesday, students were demonstrating against a conservative speaker, who they accuse of spreading hateful anti-transgender messages. This month alone, we've seen protests like this from coast to coast. Protest that have led to a debate over the state of free speech on college campuses.

CORNISH: Elle Reeve caught up with some students and educators at the University of Pittsburgh after they protested an event featuring a right-wing commentator.



CROWD: Trans lives matter. Trans lives matter. Trans lives matter.

REEVE (voiceover): That's conservative podcaster Michael Knowles being burned in effigy at the University of Pittsburgh last week. Knowles' most famous for this one line in a speech at CPAC this year.

MICHAEL KNOWLES, CONSERVATIVE PODCASTER: Transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.

REEVE (voiceover): And he was brought to pit by a conservative group to debate whether the government should regulate with a group calls transgenderism. But he was met by a rowdy protest outside. Such student protests have sparked a bigger debate about whether kids these days no longer have the appetite to debate controversial issues on campus.

REEVE (on camera): Is free speech dead on campus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, obviously, he is speaking right now. We are not shutting him down. We don't want him to speak. Hopefully we can drown him out. We are, right now, enacting our right to free speech just the way that he is.

CHRYSTAL, PITTSBURGH RESIDENT: You can't debate intolerance. If someone wants to inflict harm on you, are you going to debate them inflicting harm on you? No.

KNOWLES: Thank you very much. It's very kind of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trans rights are human rights.

CROWD: Trans rights are human rights. Trans rights are human rights.

KNOWLES: You there, do you know --

REEVE (voiceover): As the debate started, some protesters were removed. Speakers who opposed trans rights have sparked protests nationwide. At universities in Iowa, Utah and New York just in April. Last month Stanford Law students heckled a federal judge about his record on trans rights. The law school's dean scolded the students in a public letter but declined CNN's request for an interview.

REEVE (on camera): Do you think kids are less able to take -- or listen to opposing views now?

KLEIN: No, I don't think they're less able to listen to opposing views. I just think they take less crap as they get older and realize that hate speech is hate speech and free speech is free speech. And I do believe the two things are very different from each other.

REEVE (voiceover): These speakers are often brought to campus by outside conservative groups, such as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the Young America's Foundation. Then the university has to figure out how to deal with the backlash. Afterward, those group sometimes post videos of the event in which students are humiliated.

MARY ANNE FRANKS, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW SCHOLAR AND PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF LAW: It's not a coincidence, right, that these events keep unfolding the way that they do. It's a deliberate strategy on the part of these organizations to try to find a controversial speaker, try to provoke the liberal students into having a reaction, and making sure all of that gets filmed, edited in a certain way that makes those students look as bad as possible.

REEVE (voiceover): ISS president told CNN that it has no institutional strategy to provoke backlash, but it picks speakers who are substantial and provocative. He adds that he brings speakers who engage in healthy exchange of ideas with students with opposing views.

FRANKS: I think we do need to step back and say, what do we want out of this conversation? There needs to be some kind of reason to put it in front of people. And I think very often what gets skipped in these invitations is in place of value, you get controversy.

REEVE (voiceover): More than 11,000 people signed an online petition against Knowles and two other conservative speakers invited to Pitt. The school went forward with the events saying it upholds the principles of protective speech and expression. Though that speech can contradict the school's values. Knowles had been scheduled to debate Professor Deirdre McCloskey, who is trans. But McCloskey pulled out the week before, telling CNN that Knowles was not a serious person. Then ISI, the sponsor, offered trans writer Charlotte Clymer $10,000 to sub in. She said no.

REEVE (on camera): $10,000 is a lot.

CHARLOTTE CLYMER, WRITER AND ACTIVIST: Oh, yes. $10,000 is a lot of money. That would have paid off my car. That's half a year of rent.

REEVE: Have you ever been offered that much?

CLYMER: No, not even close.

REEVE: What does that some -- say to you?

CLYMER: It says they're willing to pay anything to grow their entertainment enterprise. I don't know why trans folks are expected to accept the premise that our humanity is up for debate. If it were a debate on whether or not to allow racial segregation back into society, we wouldn't have a debate about that. That would be unacceptable.

REEVE (voiceover): Finally, gay libertarian podcaster Brad Polumbo agreed to debate Knowles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Polumbo, it's awesome that you could come here on such short notice. How much were they paying you to do this?


REEVE (voiceover): Knowles, through spokeswoman, declined an interview with CNN. And despite the emphasis on free speech, ISI demanded media not film more than the debate's opening remarks. But once the event got going, no one ushered the media out.

JOSH MINSKY, VICE PRESIDENT, COLLEGE REPUBLICANS AT PITT: Michael Knowles is a big speaker. He should be able to speak and have freedom of speech and sadly that's, kind of, being shut down in modern society as can you see outside.

REEVE (on camera): But would you have a panel where someone spoke about whether or not there should be legal murder?

MINSKY: No, because --

REEVE: So --

MINSKY: -- murder is objectively wrong and you're killing someone. But I would not put that on the same spectrum.

REEVE: What was that?


MINSKY: As I said about shutting down free speech, I think this is very good example of the fact that clearly something is going on here.

REEVE (voiceover): That boom was an incendiary device set off outside the building according to a university statement. No one was injured but some buildings were temporarily shut down.

REEVE (on camera): Do you think the point of this debate is to try to convince people in this room or to convince people on the internet?

MINSKY: I think it's both. I mean, look, all of the event is not to make some uneducated leftist kid, you know, feel like an idiot. So, I hope there's leftist people here that ask questions opposing Knowles and are able to do so respectfully.

REEVE: So, the protesters burned Michael Knowles an effigy which is protected speech.

CLYMER: It is -- I wonder that though.

REEVE: Why not?

CLYMER: It's too violent, it's too aggressive, in fact it's counterproductive. Because what they do is they take an image of that, they spread it online, and they say, see. This is what the movement is trying to do. They are going to burn anyone an effigy who disagrees with them.

REEVE: She says this generation is different, but not because it's more fragile.

CLYMER: As millennials, you know, you and me, I think that we were taught to stand up for what we believe in. But we were also taught that there is a certain amount of abuse that we need to take in order to push the ball forward. In Gen Z, for them, they refuse to accept premises that are dehumanizing.

REEVE: Why do these debates over rights for minority groups always get converted into debates over free speech?

FRANKS: When someone backs you into a corner and says, I don't like your ideas. The easiest thing for you to say, oh, well, that's because you don't like my free speech. It's because you want to sensor me. And it's really the coward's way of trying to deal with any argument. Your answer should be, here is why my ideas are interesting and why important. Not invoking some kind of quasi constitutional grasp (ph) for what you have to say.

CROWD: Trans lives matters. Trans lives matters.


CORNISH: And Elle Reeve is here to talk more about this. What is the, kind of, industry of speakers that is taking advantage of this?

REEVE: Yes, I think it's important to notice that it's not, like, capital gains tax that is sparking these protests. It's not some scientist with a theory about black holes. It's trans rights this year. Five years ago, it was white supremacy. And so, of course, those issues provoke an emotional reaction because they affect someone personally. And what the students are trying to say is, like, that's over the line. That's not just a political debate. I am not a thing to be debated.

CORNISH: Well, thanks so much for this. It was a lovely report.

COLLINS: Fascinating.

HARLOW: Fascinating, as all your reports are, Elle. Thank you very much.

All right. A Manhattan courtroom getting a private concert from Ed Sheeran yesterday. Seriously, why he brought his guitar to the witness stand to make his case.



HARLOW: How similar can two songs be before it's considered copyright infringement? That is what a Manhattan jury is weighing and deciding a high-profile case against British pop star Ed Sheeran. Sheeran took to the stand, Thursday, and brought his guitar with him to actually show jurors the difference between his Grammy-winning hit "Thinking Out Loud" and Marvin Gaye's classic "Let's Get It On."

So, we want to play both songs, a little bit, so you can hear the similarities yourself. Listen.




HARLOW: OK. For that, the lyrics and the melody of the two songs are clearly different, but it's the chord progression that's at the heart of the lawsuit. And Sheeran argues that countless songs rely on the same progression. That's the same theory that was explored by an Australian comedy group in a clip that went viral a few years ago. They played dozens of songs with just four chords. Here they are.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just pay attention. Do you recognize this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the cast of "Glee."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there's a few more songs with the same chords. Check it out. My life is brilliant, my love is pure. I saw an angel, of that I'm sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's just two songs, like --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People kill and people dying. Children hurt and you hear them crying --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three songs. What do we do, whatever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- can you practice what you preach --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too late apologize. Too late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's my life. It's now or never.

CROWD: I ain't going to live forever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't read my, can't read my, no he can't read my poker face.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on Barbie, let's go party.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Wow, but just because both songs sound similar, that's not the criteria in Sheeran's case. And said, jurors have to decide if he knowingly copied Marvin Gaye's song to make his own hit.

COLLINS: OK. As someone who knows nothing about music, that's kind of amazing to hear --

HARLOW: Me too.

COLLINS: -- how it is so similar.

CORNISH: Well, the thing is, the Marvin Gaye family has sued in the past, obviously, with the "Blurred Lines" case, we've got to give it up.

HARLOW: Right.

CORNISH: And in that case, the artist lost. So, this time it's the musicians who are on the song, who were kind of coming at the artist. And it's no surprise that Ed Sheeran brought his guitar into the courtroom to try and make his case.

HARLOW: Right.

COLLINS: And what a way to make your case. Would the -- the Marvin Gaye -- the last one, they had to put an acknowledgment on the song, basically, a credit to Marvin Gaye.

CORNISH: Yes, that's not where you want to land, right? Like, every artist copies to some extent, as it said, but that's -- chord is not where you want to hash that out.

COLLINS: Yes. That's amazing.

HARLOW: That's amazing. Our great producer, Sam, put that together.

CORNISH: Yes, I love that.

COLLINS: Good job, Sam.

HARLOW: That's awesome.

COLLINS: All right. "CNN This Morning" continues right now.