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Moms for Liberty Face Pushback; McConnell Slammed for Border Talks; Yellen to Tout Economy; Stewart Returns to "The Daily Show." Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 25, 2024 - 06:30   ET



CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Virginia Hamilton was a public school teacher for 31 years. She joined the group "Stop Moms for Liberty" because she feels "Moms for Liberty" isn't about liberty at all.

VIRGINIA HAMILTON, FORMER TEACHER, "STOP MOMS FOR LIBERTY" MEMBER: Then it went further. It went into next the book banning. Now Moms for Liberty is pushing for curriculum changes.

SUAREZ (voice over): But now, amid a slew of recent salacious news stories featuring the conservative group, including a sex scandal involving the husband of co-founder Bridget Ziegler, some say the group's influence is waning.

JENNIFER JENKINS, BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, SCHOOL BOARD: People are seeing, you know, news cycle after news cycle the hypocrisy of the things that they advocate for and they say they stand for.

SUAREZ (voice over): "Moms for Liberty" insist none of that is hurting their cause.

TINA DESCOVICH, CO-FOUNDER, "MOMS FOR LIBERTY": I think that that was a very sensational headline that went around the world very quickly. That's not, you know, who "Moms for Liberty" is. We stay focused on defending parental rights.

SUAREZ (voice over): But the numbers tell a different story. According to "Moms for Liberty," in 2022, 55 percent of the 500 candidates the group endorsed won their race for school board. While in 2023, only 43 percent of 202 endorsed candidates won seats. They insist they're not losing traction.

DESCOVICH: To say it's waning, I think that's ridiculous. We are just doing the work that we're doing.

SUAREZ (voice over): The group also says they are a grassroots organization, not politically motivated at all, yet nearly every Republican presidential candidate attended a summit they held last summer in Philadelphia.

DESCOVICH: It's because they know that moms are passionate about these issues.

SUAREZ (voice over): Despite their insistence, they're not losing ground. The conservative group has recently tried expanding into more liberal states, just last week holding a town hall meeting in New York City, which was met by a protest from local parents.

Back in Florida, educators like Jenkins and Hamilton both happy the group's influence seems to be waning, and are still worried about the long-term effects of what the group started.

JENKINS: They infiltrated the state legislature. Those laws are not going to just go away because "Moms for Liberty" goes away.

HAMILTON: We want the teachers to feel like they can teach again. And it's -- it was all taken away.


SUAREZ (on camera): We counted a single "Moms for Liberty" supporter at a school board hearing here in Brevard County earlier this week where board members were taking up a number of issues, including whether to remove two books that had been challenged. Now, after board members heard from a number of "Stop Moms for Liberty" supporters, the board decided to keep the books in the classroom.

Phil and Poppy.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: That was a great piece.

Carlos, thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it really was.

All right, President Biden hitting the trail. He'll be in Wisconsin today touting Bidenomics, making the case that he is the best to handle this economy.

MATTINGLY: And Arizona's GOP chairman resigning after a conversation he had with Senate candidate Kari Lake was leaked. We'll tell you about it, next.



HARLOW: Welcome back.

Another sign Donald Trump's grip on the Republican Party may be just getting tighter and tighter. A source tells CNN that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Republicans in a private meeting yesterday they are in a, quote, "quandary" over the future of any border deal. Trump has been encouraging Republican lawmakers to sink any bipartisan compromise.

MATTINGLY: And that pressure seems to be working, at least right now. Several hardline Senate Republicans slamming the ongoing immigration negotiations yesterday. They haven't seen any bill text, especially McConnell's handling of those talks.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Leader McConnell is really the stage manager of this negotiation.

Without consulting the conference, he took away most of our leverage by saying that we would not even ask to tie Ukraine funding to actually securing the border.

SEN. TED CRU (R-TX): This bill represents Senate Republican leadership waging war on House Republican leadership.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What do you think of his - the handling of the Ukraine and immigration talks, McConnel?

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): No, it's disastrous.

Clearly. Totally. I mean just look, it's in total shambles. It's a total disaster. I mean it's just totally disastrous. It's embarrassing.


MATTINGLY: CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox joins us now from Washington.

Lauren, I have been trying -- I'm a familiar practiced reader of tea leaves here. I've been trying to figure out exactly what was going on yesterday and what McConnell said and the fact that it was reported out with you guys, with the great peace. Is this deal dead? Are the talks over? Is there still some life here?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that McConnell was really nuanced yesterday in this conference meeting behind closed doors. Really just laying out the reality to his conference, which is that given the fact that Trump is opposed to the deal so far, even though a deal doesn't actually exist, given the realities that House Republicans are assailing this potential deal, even though a deal does not exist, that the path in the Senate is extremely narrow, and that timing right now is of the essence.

I think that McConnell wasn't saying that he was opposed or for anything. He was really just reminding his conference, in his sort of soft touch way that he's used over the last several decades in the Senate, that this is a good opportunity. But if there isn't a path forward, perhaps this is as far as lawmakers should go.

He also acknowledged that there's a quandary when it comes to whether or not the issue of Ukraine aid should be linked to the border at all. If that border deal can't get through, McConnell has always steadfastly been behind getting more money to Ukraine. And that is one of his top priorities. So, he's sort of openly acknowledging that that is a real possibility that these two things may not be able to move forward together. And I think that that is a really interesting moment. And it's

important to keep in mind that he's not particularly saying this is how I think the conference should do thing one way or another. That's not McConnell's style. I think he was really laying out the reality in conference.

And I should note that many Republican senators stood up in that conference meeting, made their opinions known. This was not just McConnell lecturing his conference. He just spoke briefly.

HARLOW: What about Trump's role in all of this? I mean one of his key points against Biden, and Republican's key points against the administration is, crisis at the border, crisis at the border, crisis at the border. As Kaitlan asked Mike Johnson, how can you keep saying crisis at the border if nothing - if you don't get behind anything to change it that can pass?

FOX: Yes, but I think that -


FOX: I think Trump is really concerned, as some Republican senators, some House Republicans have openly acknowledged about giving Biden any sort of perceived victory.


Even if this deal doesn't go as far as some Republicans want, they don't want this opportunity to be where Biden can point to some progress and say, look, I've already done something on the border. They are afraid that that could help Donald Trump - or that could help Joe Biden in the election.

HARLOW: All politics.

All right, Lauren Fox, thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, today, President Biden will bring his economic pitch to Wisconsin. A pretty key state. He's expected to talk up his administration's economic achievements, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Now, it comes a day after a major endorsement from the United Auto Workers.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Together we're proving what I've always believed, Wall Street didn't build America, the middle class built America, and unions built the middle class. That's a fact.


HARLOW: The Biden campaign pushing to win over working-class voters, union voters in key battleground states, like Michigan and Wisconsin, where polls have shown him struggling in a hypothetical rematch with Donald Trump. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is going to deliver a major speech

today, really focused on what this administration will do to help middle class families with the high cost of living, childcare.

Our Matt Egan has reporting on that, and he joins us this morning.

They've got to change the narrative, Matt, on Bidenomics, and who it helps, and -- and people need to quickly feel it.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Poppy and Phil, this is a delicate balance because Janet Yellen and the White House, they want to take credit for this economic comeback from Covid, but they're being very careful not to declare mission accomplished. And that makes sense to me because when you look at these economic indicators, there are, no doubt, bright spots out there, low unemployment, 401(k)s are up, people are feeling better about the economy.

The chances of a soft landing have gone up. But they're going to come off as tone deaf if they only focus on those positives because there is an affordability crisis in this economy. And so that's why in this major speech by Yellen today, in Chicago, she's going to flat out say, quote, "it is still too hard to be a working parent." She's going to focus on childcare, housing, education and note that millions of children were plunged back into poverty when the expanded child tax credit went away. So, the message from Yellen is, they're all in on the middle class and their work is not done here.

MATTINGLY: The importance of that message, I think, is underscored by some great reporting you've done which gets at this question we constantly ask -


MATTINGLY: Why is there a disconnect between these top line economic indicators and how people are feeling. Explain that.

EGAN: I talked to a lot of working parent and they are frustrated with how expensive life is, right. Housing, childcare, saving for college, trying to buy a car, it is a lot. Listen to these two working moms talk about how hard it is to try to buy a house in this market while raising kids.


ALLISON POWELL, NURSE: I feel like we're going to be 50 by the time we buy a house if this is the trajectory that we keep going on. But it seems impossible to get any of our financial goals, like, checked off our list.

HANA HUSKOVIC, ECONOMIST: If we could buy a house, let's say were in our budget close to the areas where we want to live, like it's not even - it's like a one bedroom, like 560 square feet. How am I going to live in a one bedroom with 560 square feet? I can't get away from anybody in a five.

(END VIDEO CLIP) EGAN: The problem is that record high home prices, high mortgage rates means that this housing market is historically unaffordable. This chart shows how mortgage payments are swallowing up a bigger and bigger portion of monthly paychecks.

On top of that, childcare. That's come up again and again as a problem. It is just increasingly unaffordable to either have daycare or a nanny. Parents I talk to say that these childcare costs are not just breaking their budgets -


EGAN: It's causing them to rethink how many kids they can have, not because they can't conceive, but because they can't afford it.

HARLOW: Yes. We heard that in this great piece that Alisyn Camerota did. People wanting to have more children.

Can we just - I know we've got to go. Pull that full screen up again. That is weekly costs.

EGAN: Weekly costs.

HARLOW: That is not monthly. Weekly costs.

EGAN: Right. Day care up 13 percent. That's a week. $321 a week. And the nanny's over $750, again, a week.


Thank you, Matt.

EGAN: Thanks, Poppy and Phil.

HARLOW: Appreciate it for bringing it home to us.

Next hour, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will be here in studio live to discuss Biden's economic plans. So, stay with us for that.

MATTINGLY: Well, he is -- you can go home again.


MATTINGLY: Jon Stewart's returning to "The Daily Show." We'll explain why and what it means, coming up next.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (July 21, 2015): You know, I -

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: You're on your way out.

OBAMA: I - I can't believe that you're leaving before me. In fact, I'm issuing a new executive order, that Jon Stewart cannot leave the show.




HARLOW: Very excited about this news. Just as the presidential race heats up, Jon Stewart is set to return to Comedy Central, to his old stomping grounds. He will be back at "The Daily Show" desk that he opened for 16 years, where he took politicians and anyone in power, Republicans, Democrats, to task.


JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is wrong with him?

It is hard to get mad at Donald Trump for saying stupid things. In the same way you don't get mad at a monkey when he throws poop at you at the zoo.

I reckon it's time to find out which of these two is just more plain folk.

Madame secretary.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt.

STEWART: I - I still get emotional just thinking about it.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't hold it against me that I don't own - that I don't own a single stock or bond. Don't hold it -- I have no savings account.


STEWART: Don't hold it against me, but my clothes are made of old curtains.


MATTINGLY: That was pretty good.

Starting February 12th, Stewart will host the show on Monday nights. He will also serve as the show's executive producer.

Joining us now, CNN senior media analyst, and "Axios" senior media reporter, Sara Fischer.

Why? I'm like, people are excited, but why?

SARA FISCHER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA ANALYST: Well, I think there's two reasons. One, his Apple TV Plus show was canceled, so he has some time on his hands. But then, two, I think this is what he's really passionate about, is getting in there in an election year and shaking things up. And what better election to come and shake things up, right? There's so many funny things to be talking about. We have two basically geriatric candidates. He's going to have a fun time.

HARLOW: But this is a different environment too that he comes in. An environment where many more people, especially young folks, get their news from, not only TikTok, but from things like "The Daily Show." So, what he does, yes, he pokes fun, et cetera, but is also like crucially important for people that turn to this show, this show, for some of their news and analysis.

FISCHER: Couldn't agree more, Poppy. And there are people who are saying, look, cable ratings are going down. He's not going to have the visibility. There is a --

HARLOW: Who's saying that?

FISCHER: Yes, I mean, that's not a thing, right? But the reality is that there was no TikTok the last time that Jon Stewart helmed this show. Now there are so many more opportunities for his monologues to go viral.

HARLOW: So true.

FISCHER: I actually think he'll have more impact now than he would have at the height of cable.

MATTINGLY: Really? That's fascinating.

HARLOW: That's a good point.

MATTINGLY: The - there was a - there's kind of cult followings of certain people that were in the running, or we thought were in the running, to kind of take over full-time. Are they mad? Are they happy? What happens there?

FISCHER: Well, so, he's only going to be doing Monday nights.


FISCHER: And then the other three nights are going to have rotating hosts. He'll be the executive producer of all nights, though. So it's going to have that Jon Stewart flair. But I think that they're going to have a new opportunity to get sort of, you know, educated and trained by Jon Stewart. And if you think about the people in the past who have had that opportunity, the Trevor Noahs and the Samantha Bees -


FISCHER: They've gone on to have their own shows. Sometimes at different networks. So, I actually think it's a great opportunity for them, maybe even better than them just coming in and hosting it alone.

HARLOW: One of the many talents Jon Stewart has is focusing in, diving deep on single issues. This is what he did in some of his remarkable interviews on the Apple show, taking politicians to task over key issues like abortion, et cetera. What I also love about him, can you tell I like Jon Stewart, is

fighting for people without a voice. Look what he did to -- for first responders, et cetera.

Do you think we will see him using some of that to platform people that don't have that voice? Not just holding the account - the big names to task, but a platform for those folks.

FISCHER: Absolutely. That's his MO. We should expect to see it on the show. We should expect to see it in everything that he's doing around producing the show.

And, by the way, I'm a Jersey girl. Phil's now a Jersey guy. Like, Jon Stewart is the Jersey guy. He gives a voice to our state. We love it.

HARLOW: I feel left out here.

MATTINGLY: The water's warm.

FISCHER: But I think what you - you hit on something big, Poppy, which is that, because he gives voice to -- like, you know, normal people, there's a big fandom.


FISCHER: And there's a lot of people who are passionate about him coming back.

MATTINGLY: real quick, do we think that it's just going to be Monday or is this going to expand at some point?

FISCHER: Maybe as we get closer to the election. If the ratings are bonkers maybe they will. But I think for now he's not trying to commit to many more days.

MATTINGLY: You can go home again.

Sara Fischer, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: Thank you.

FISCHER: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, just ahead, Boeing's 737 Max 9 jets could be back in the skies as soon as this weekend, nearly a month after a door plug blew off a plane mid-flight. Why the FAA is giving the green light.

Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: Well, it will be a tenure defined by a three and five record against Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh is fresh off a national championship, I'll grant him that. He's leaving the Michigan Wolverines. He has been hired to coach the Los Angeles Chargers. It's a return to the NFL for Harbaugh. Also a return to the Chargers. He finished playing -- his playing career as a quarterback with the team. The team posting these side-by-side pictures on X with the caption, "meant to be." They even changed their profile picture to that super creepy closeup picture of Harbaugh that went viral a few years ago.

HARLOW: Phil, you are relentless.

Sources tell CNN that Doc Rivers has accepted an offer to be the Milwaukee Bucs head coach. The 62-year-old last coached the Philadelphia 76ers for three seasons before the team announced they were parting ways with him last May. Rivers also served as the head coach of the Orlando Magic, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Boston Celtics. That team he won a championship with in 2008.

I just sat down with Rivers a couple of months ago to talk about adversity and the success he's experienced throughout his life and his coaching philosophy that goes way beyond the game of basketball.



HARLOW: What's the best coaching gig you ever had?

DOC RIVERS: Well, you know that gets me in trouble, right.

HARLOW: I don't care. I don't care.

RIVERS: But Boston. Boston by far.


RIVERS: It was just -- well, we won a title.

HARLOW: I think back to the Celtics, 2008, open your hearts.


HARLOW: What's that about?

RIVERS: I believe for you to be a champion you have to open up your heart. You have to take a step out. You have to risk. You have to get out of your comfort zone. You have to give yourself to the team.

And we had this word, "ubuntu." You know, a person is a person through other people. I can't be all I can be unless you are all you can be.

HARLOW: That we are nothing alone.

RIVERS: We are nothing alone and you can't live in isolation.

HARLOW: Do you think more about the wins or the losses?

RIVERS: No, I wish I thought about the wins. That would be great. No. Because I've had so many more wins than losses. But you don't think about them. It's a - it's a curse. It's a coach's curse.

HARLOW: You said, I'm not going to coach the man you are, I'm going to coach the man you're going to be.

RIVERS: I'm not going to coach you to who you are today. I'm going to coach you to who you should be some day. And if you can achieve that, then you will be satisfied. And I won't be satisfied if I don't push you to achieve that.

HARLOW: You walked in here, I said, hi, coach.


HARLOW: But do you think in many ways you're also a teacher?

RIVERS: I am a teacher. I think that's what a coach is for the most part.

You know, I got it wrong. Early in coaching I thought you just coached basketball. And then I realized, no, you coach life.

HARLOW: That's sort of an anthem of your life. I mean in ways (ph).


RIVERS: Yes, it is. It should be an anthem of everybody's life because, you know, I think most people think success is just like that, and that is not true.