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Backlash over Biden Image; Growing Concern about RFK Jr.; LSU Coach Calls Out "LA Times" for Article. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 06:30   ET





How did you spend your Good Friday, if you celebrate? On this Easter Monday, new controversy about how Donald Trump spent his. He posted this video to his Truth Social platform at the start of a holiday weekend for the millions of Americans who do celebrate Easter. This video. It shows a sticker of President Biden on the back of this second truck that's about to drive into the frame, hog-tied, right? Yes, you can see it there. We're going to be very clear, this is not video we're showing. This is something Trump reposted. Trump indicated that the post was filmed on Long Island on Thursday while he was attending the wake of NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller.

Republican Congressman Mike Lawler was asked about this by our own Dana Bash over the weekend. Here's what he said.


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): I think everyone needs to tone down the rhetoric, the language. And, you know, obviously, social media has become a vehicle by which to bludgeon people. I just think, at the end of the day, the former president, current president and on down, all of us have a responsibility to check our language, to watch what we're saying.


HUNT: Our CNN chief political correspondent and the co-host of "STATE OF THE UNION," Dana Bash joins me now.

Dana, good morning.


HUNT: It's wonderful to have you.

So, Lawler's response there. I mean, obviously, this is a horrendous image, right?

BASH: Yes. HUNT: That the former president reposted. It does indicate an increasing comfort with violence in our political rhetoric. You asked Lawler about it. What was your view of how he answered that question, realizing that, you know, these are tough questions for Republicans across town to answer. They're not the ones that are posting these images, but they are supporting this guy who is their nominee.

BASH: Yes, he hasn't said that he's supporting him yet, which is interesting.

HUNT: Ah, of course. Yes, we should note that.

BASH: He - he - well, and I wasn't sure because I asked him at the end of the interview and he says, I'm not going there yet. But, I mean, Kasie, how many hours did you spend on Capitol Hill when Donald Trump was president asking Republicans your view on x, your reaction to y, right? I mean -

HUNT: Did you see the tweet?

BASH: Yes, exactly. I mean that was like -

HUNT: Yes.

BASH: You should put that on a pillow at that point - at this point. But this is the -- frankly, the nightmare that a lot of Republicans are reliving - are starting to relive now. And that is especially true for Republicans like Mike Lawler, who is in a true battleground district in New York. He is a majority-maker. And he has to not make angry the Trump supporters in his base, but also not sort of push away the independent-minded voters who he needs in order to get re-elected.


So, because of that, you heard him do the both sides thing in the answer. And you could see that he's uncomfortable. And it's understandable that he doesn't want to talk about Donald Trump.

HUNT: Yes.

BASH: And this is the - problem that Republicans find themselves in now every single time that Donald Trump says something.

And I just want to add really quickly, Kasie, that image that they showed of the president hog-tied in the back of the truck, that was one thing. The other thing that, I mean, you could argue is perhaps more dangerous, because she doesn't have secret service protection, is what the former president posted about the judge in New York that's presiding over one of his cases. His daughter hosted her picture.

HUNT: Yes.

BASH: Posted her name. That is - people out there who support him, rabidly so, see that picture, see that name, and they might take that as a green light to do something. And that is one of the other things I asked him about. And that's frightening. HUNT: It - very much so. And Dana's been looking over here at Lance,

who is a Republican, sitting with us today.

BASH: Totally am.


HUNT: Lance - look, lance, you are - you worked for Doug Burgum out, you know, midwestern politics so well. You know, and on my family's from the Midwest originally. I mean typically there are, you know, plenty of people who vote Republican, who are not down with this incredibly violent imagery that we are seeing and down with these attacks that the former president is launching. We should just say that.

But I am interested to know what kind of risk you see in the former president doing this, because he's clearly shown that he can galvanize people to take action in the real-world. We saw it on January 6th. And also how Republicans, like Lawler, should be, you know, dealing with these questions. I mean it's tough for them.

LANCE TROVER, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, GOV. DOUG BERGUM'S '24 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Yes, and I was going to say, it's a day that ends and y we're talking about, a Trump social media posts. This is - this is not new. You were asking members of Congress on The Hill, right?

I think what I would say is, I think there are better ways to go at Joe Biden on - there's plenty of issues that he can go at him on, but it goes back to what we were discussing earlier. A lot of the stuff he has been doing since 2016 that his rhetoric is a little heated. But you heard Ron Brownstein talk about it a while ago, a Democratic pollster said, one of the worst things they hear is, they, you know, people are - and polling shows - this people separate the man and the rhetoric from the policies out there. If you look at the polling, he is still tied neck and neck with Joe Biden, and in some cases beating Joe Biden out there. So, it is really - we can have this discussion all day long, but voters, right now, it is not seeping into them and they're - many of them are perfectly happy voting for Donald Trump.

HUNT: I mean do you think that this kind of thing is in some ways, I mean, for the Biden campaign, I mean, isn't this the Trump that they kind of want to run against, this guy that seems this way?

TROVER: Well, I think - I think so. I think that's probably what they seek and what they want. But this is the Donald Trump that's been Donald Trump since 2016. I don't know that there's anything new with him. And again, this is - this is where voters are going to have to decide on the policies. I think it's going to come down to the economic issue, which we were discussing earlier. It's going to come down to immigration and some of these other issues. He's going to -

NAVARRO: I disagree though. I really do disagree. I think what's happened is that up until now voters have sort of tuned this out. He wasn't the presumptive nominee, and now he is. And now not only are members of Congress going to have to face questions from the media about some of his statements, but also voters are going to have to decide if this is the America that they want.

And up until now they've not had to make that choice. But I think, moving forward, they will. And the more that they're presented with this rhetoric - and the fact of the matter is, is that Donald Trump, who is he trying to activate here? Who is he trying to motivate? Because he is actually going to need independent voters. He is going to need Nikki Haley voters. He is going to need some of these Latino and black voters who, again, might like his policies but not like a man. And the more that they're confronted with this, the more that their opinions may change. And so I don't know who this helps. I do not believe it helps the Trump campaign.

TROVER: Yes, it's just not worked its way into - if that's - and I'm - that may be true, but, currently, if you look at the recent round of polling that came out, if you look at the Bloomberg poll last week, he's leading in some of these battleground states.

HUNT: Yes.

TROVER: I mean this - this - some of this rhetoric has been out there for a long time.

HUNT: Right. And the reality is, that wasn't the case in 2020. You didn't see the polling kind of show - show what its showing now.


HUNT: Dana, you had a fabulous interview with Reverend Senator Warnock, who doesn't do a lot of these interviews. And you talked to him specifically about Christian nationalism has become a theme underlying the 2024 election. Take a look at what Warnock had to say to Dana when she asked him about that.


BASH: I don't know if you've heard your friend Reverend William Barber, speak about this, but he says that Christian nationalism attempts to sanctify oppression and not liberation. He calls it a form of heresy.


What do you think? I mean, is this concept, which seems to be growing, something that you see as dangerous?

SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Well, again, I believe in the separation of church and state. And sadly, in our country, in this moment we're seeing religion being used again as one more proxy, as a tool in the culture wars. And very often it is hidden in the language, in the clothing of religion. But Jesus said, you'll judge a tree by the fruit it bears. I judged the depth of people's piety, not based on their pronouncements, not based on them using the Bible as a symbol, but how do they treat the poor? How do they treat the most marginalized? Those are the people that Jesus sent it (ph). And that is the faith that I embrace every single day. And it's something that is sorely needed in our country in his moment in which those who have no vision are trafficking in division.


HUNT: So, Dana, I mean, always, I think, very interesting to listen to Reverend Warnock I talk about this. He talks about the action of, you know, what it really means to have - to have faith here. But the reality is, the former president, Donald Trump, is very much - I mean if you - if you read the Maureen Dowd column from over the weekend, she ticks through all the ways in which he has basically made the argument that he is like Christ. You know, he uses language like the one video talked about him as the shepherd. There you go, Donald Trump presenting himself as the man on the cross, tortured for our sins. I do recommend this. More and more Trump is wallowing in his Messiah complex. Two-Corinthians Trump, she calls him. Wouldn't know the difference between the Old and New Testaments.

What is going on here and what role is this, do you think, going to play in November at the end of the day?

BASH: There is a very strong - really strong base of support among a lot of evangelicals. We've established that. Which is, as you were talking about earlier, I mean the idea that he has more support than a Mike Pence, who is - who lives and breathes it every single day is - is mind-boggling. But the broader question is about the conflating of Christianity and patriotism. And that was one of the other things that I talked about, which is Christian nationalism.

HUNT: Yes.

BASH: And that's one of the other things that I talked about with - with Reverend Warnock, which is, you know, all of this sort of kerfuffle about the Bible that he's selling and just the notion of him hawking a Bible.

The other part that is most disturbing to a lot of people of faith, and even people who are not of faith, especially people who don't believe - n t that they're not of faith, but they don't believe that there should be any kind of overlap between religion and government is -

HUNT: Separation of church and state.

BASH: The - yes. The beginning of the Bible that he sold had the Pledge of Allegiance, the Constitution, and that was a not so subtle nod many people believed to Christian nationalism, which is what Reverend Warnock, who left our interview and went to preach Easter morning services -

HUNT: Right.

BASH: At the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he's a senior pastor, says, is extremely dangerous.

HUNT: All right, it was a great interview.

BASH: Thank you. HUNT: All right, our panel comes back.

Coming up next, how RFK Jr. could hurt President Biden and/or Donald Trump in November. We'll dig in.

And March Madness games played with mismatched three point lines. We're going to show you the floor. When you get the wide shot, you can see that side is way different than the other side.



HUNT: All right, 46 minutes past the hour. Here's the morning roundup.

Today, a judge will sentence Alex Murdaugh for nearly two dozen financial crimes. He's already serving two life sentences for murdering his wife and son.

Fast food workers in California will be paid at least $20 an hour starting today. Many business owners have already increased prices to defray the expense.

The historic Tropicana resort on the Vegas Strip since the 1950s closes its doors this week to make way for a future ballpark for the Oakland A's. The demolition set for October.

A federal judge who ordered the redesign of a New Jersey county line primary ballots says his ruling only affects the Democratic Party, which includes the race to replace Senator Bob Menendez. The controversial ballot has long been criticized for giving preference to party backed candidates.

All right, now there's this, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. picking up steam. He selected a running mate last week, and polls show him potentially gaining support. Donald Trump doesn't see that, he says, as a threat to his campaign.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've always liked him and I've known him actually for a long time. I've liked him. He's a very liberal guys. He's probably the most liberal person in the race, including the Green Party. So, I think he's probably going to hurt Biden. I don't see him hurting me. Our people are solid.


HUNT: All right, the panel is back.

Dana, this has been the big question, right, how does RFK impact the race? Does he hurt Biden? Does he hurt Trump? Some of our polling shows that it's a little bit of an even split.

BASH: Yes. HUNT: There's some new Quinnipiac polling that, you know, I think we can put up on the screen that shows they've got 48-42 Biden-Trump without RFK. Add RFK in, you've got Trump 39, Biden 38, Kennedy 1 percent. And this, I have to say, this seems to be the fundamental question for the Biden campaign. In the absence of third-party candidates, he seems to edge Trump's - you know, Trump has kind of a hard ceiling and a hard floor, right? But when you add these folks in, it becomes much more difficult for the president.

BASH: There's a reason why the Democrats, the Biden campaign, the DNC is - has established and assembled a group of people to deal with third party candidates, particularly RFK Jr. Of course they're worried. Some Democrats I talk to say they're not worried enough about Cornell West, although it's a question about how many ballots he's going to get on.

HUNT: Right.

BASH: Because he truly will take away and he's not going to take away from very many -

HUNT: He's not going to take Trump supporters.

BASH: Very many Trump voters.

HUNT: Right.

BASH: But the fact that these two polls shows an even - sort of an even-ish split is very telling. And I think I'd love to know more about it. But there's one issue where historic Trump supporters are really mad at him. And that is Covid.


And the fact that he supported -

HUNT: The vaccines.

BASH: And pushed through vaccine. And, you know, they're - what do we know about RFK Jr.? He is a rapid and - rabid anti-vaxxer.

HUNT: Anti-vaxxer. Yes, no, for sure.

Lance, can I ask you about this because I'm curious what you think Trump is doing here when he talks about RFK being liberal, because I have to say, the narrative I hear from my sources is a little different that, frankly, the Trump folks think that RFK is going to hurt Biden and that a lot of this is - is not kind of what it may seem to be on the surface. I mean is Trump actually worried about RFK eating into his support, or is he just trying to give RFK more attention so that more people know that RFK is running.

TROVER: When I heard that clip you played, it reminds me of when political parties interfere with TV ads saying, oh, he's the most conservative, he's the most liberal. You heard him - that was basically a TV ad written, saying, look, he's very liberal and so he's telegraphing, you know, he wants people on the left to hear that, oh, yes, RFK is a liberal. He wants to go at Joe Biden's base. And that was what he was saying.

And I agree with what Dana said, when in doubt, look to what the political operatives are doing. If the DNC is setting up a communications and research shops solely faced - dealing with RFK, that tells you all you need to know, that they consider this a big threat (ph).

NAVARRO: I mean, I think RFK is a huge threat to the Biden campaign. I also think there is a big part of the Democratic Party and the left who are also anti-vaccine, who are also very skeptical that he speaks to. And so those are the people that he is going to be pulling away from Biden.

I mean it's a big issue on the left too.

BASH: Yes.

NAVARRO: Not as big as on the right, but definitely there is a far- left group that is very, very anti-vaccine and who like RFK and what he's selling.

HUNT: Yes, I mean it's - I will say, Dana, it is a very strange - like the anti-vaccine group, to Lula's point, I mean it almost kind of meet in the middle and around the back of the circle.


BASH: Yes, There are - there are several issues where the political spectrum, the line becomes a circle and the anti-vax movement is definitely one of them.

HUNT: Yes.

Lance, if you're the Biden campaign and you're trying to run against - you're trying to protect against these threats. Are they doing enough to do it? How would you - I mean if - let's say the Biden campaign was doing what the Trump team was doing there, right, trying to get people to buy in or to pull people from another place, how would you do it?

TROVER: Well, they're doing - the first thing is they're establishing a communications shop, a research shop, and they're going to have to go in and telegraph to folks, you know, some of his positions that folks would find, you know, you know, that they would not be happy with.

I just think that, you know, at the end of the day this is a real problem. What they should be doing, and I think what they are doing, is trying to keep him off the ballot in some of these states. If he gets on the ballot in just a few of these states, it could be absolutely devastating for the Biden folks.

HUNT: Yes, the balance or the entire ball game.

TROVER: Yes. HUNT: It's a really good point.

All right, let's turn now to a headline from women's March Madness after the LSU Tigers Sweet 16 win against UCLA on Saturday. Head coach Kim Mulkey used the postgame press conference to draw attention to an "LA Times" article, since revised, that she said used sexist language to describe her players. The column referred to UCLA's players as "America's sweethearts," and "milk and cookies," while calling LSU "dirty debutantes" and "Louisiana hot sauce."


KIM MULKEY, HEAD COACH, LSU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Take your phone out right now and Google "dirty debutant" and tell me what it says. "Dirty debutant"? Are you kidding me? I'm not going to let you talk about 18 to 21 year-old kids in that tone.

I can't sit up here as a mother and a grandmother and a leader of young people and allow somebody to say that.


HUNT: The article has since been updated to remove the language. And this editor's note was attached. "The original version of this commentary did not meet Times editorial standards. It has been edited to remove language that was inappropriate and offensive. We apologize to the LSU basketball program and to our readers."

I would hope so, Dana Bash.

BASH: Yes. I mean, listen, thank goodness we are at a place in American society and culture where there is a woman who has a microphone, and I would even say a megaphone, who is willing to call out stuff like that. You know, obviously, she's controversial, which you can get to -

HUNT: Yes, we can talk about that too. Yes.

BASH: But on this issue, good for her. Good for her

HUNT: I absolutely have to agree.

NAVARRO: A hundred percent.

BASH: Yes.

NAVARRO: Yes. A hundred percent. I mean this is shocking language, especially about young women, as she pointed out. And I'm just so glad that actually this is getting covered because this kind of language invades our society and it's good that we're calling it out because it makes us look at things slightly differently.

BASH: Yes.

NAVARRO: We shouldn't be talking about athletes like this. HUNT: Yes. And so let's talk about why this column came to be in the

first place. It was because Mulkey has been out there, Lance, basically pushing back ahead of a story that came out over the weekend, which was in "The Washington Post."


It was a long profile of her. And kind of looking at her personality in a way that clearly Mulkey thought she - she, ahead of time, called it a hit piece, attacked the journalist in "The Washington Post."

I think if you read the story, you know, I'm not sure that the things that she said might be in there ended up being in the story. It was kind of portrait of how Mulkey came to be. But, you know, I kind of go back and forth because, on the one hand, it details her kind of pugnacious coaching personality. Would we talk about that with a male coach? I don't know.

On the other hand, we are getting a massive profile in a national publication of a women's basketball coach. And I actually think that's pretty good.

TROVER: I completely agree with you on both counts. I sometimes - I read it and I thought, man, would a man have gotten the same treatment, right? But at the same time, it's bringing attention to it.

I also think this is a lesson PR 101 in 2024, get in front of a story that you think is coming that's bad.


TROVER: And if you don't like what's in it, get out there and talk about it. And look what happened, she got a column changed.

BASH: It's kind of - I mean it is the Trump-ization -


BASH: Of the way to approach - and I'm sure you think about this in your line of work all the time, the way to approach something that's coming is just to get out there on own it and, frankly, appropriate it and to - or to try to quash it in this case.

I just want to co-sign, as the kids say, what you said about the fact that we're talking about women's basketball and any - you know, women's sports in general. I mean this is really great.

HUNT: I freaking love it. I love it.

BASH: It's really great.


HUNT: Like -

BASH: It's really great. It's the Caitlin Clark of it all. It's - it's -

NAVARRO: They're making money. They have fans.

BASH: Yes.

NAVARRO: They have controversies. It's all there. It's happening.

HUNT: Guess what, it's just, you know, just like men's, but, again, I mean, look, Lance, I'm sorry, you're the - you're the man at this table for this -

TROVER: I agree. I'm all in.

BASH: I also love that Lance said - that Lance said that you actually - did you really read that and think to yourself, would this be written about a man?

TROVER: Yes, I did. Yes, absolutely.

BASH: I mean, first of all that is very 2024, the fact that you did that.


BASH: I mean, I want to be hopeful to think that other men are as evolved as you are. But the fact that you did is pretty cool.


HUNT: Yes, no, for sure. Props for that.

I mean, I have to say, you know, I mean we're going to do a story here in a second about the floor of the NCAA women's team. But, I mean, to think about, as well, Dana, I mean, there hasn't been money for women's sports either. And I think that has been one of the things that has really hampered some of this. And you're seeing it also in women's soccer, right, where people have insisted that, well, nobody actually wants to watch this. You know, it's like, if you start getting into the World Cup questions, I mean, the commentary, I've gotten on - when I've ever done a story about the women's World Cup team has been some of the nastiest I get in my career, you know, talking about this kind of thing. So, I do think for women to be able to compete at this kind of level, the money has to be there. And it's starting to be.

BASH: Yes. Yes. It has to be there. And it's like the field of dreams question, like, if you build it, will it come? The answer is, yes.

HUNT: Yes.

BASH: We're seeing it.

HUNT: Last word.

NAVARRO: It's because have taken stands though about getting equal pay. BASH: Yes. That's right.

NAVARRO: I mean, this hasn't come out of nowhere. This is actually a movement -

BASH: Yes.

NAVARRO: That we've seen in women's sports demanding that actually they get the money.

BASH: Shout out to Billie Jean King.


HUNT: Right.

NAVARRO: Shout out.

BASH: Who I profiled and I learned a lot about this. She and other people in her generation 50 years ago pushed really hard to get women where they are today. They're not there, but they're way better than they were.

HUNT: Right. They're not there. But they are - they are absolutely getting there, which is, I mean, to your point, it has been a fight. They have had to fight every step of the way, but I think when you - when you see the kind of attention that Kim Mulkey is getting, the kind of adoration that Caitlin Clark has seen, I mean, $500 tickets to a women's basketball game, you know? You obviously want a lot of people to be able to access it, on the one hand. But on the other hand, I love seeing that for women's sports in a place where -

BASH: Now, if only people could come and watch the congressional press softball game every year.

HUNT: Yes.

BASH: The way - the way that they watched the men's congressional softball -

HUNT: Congressional baseball game. I know.

BASH: Baseball game. Well, we're going to work on that.

HUNT: Are you announcing this year?

BASH: Yes.

HUNT: Yes. I'm playing this year.

BASH: OK. OK, good.

HUNT: I haven't been on the field in a few years because I was -

NAVARRO: Nice plug for that, by the way.

HUNT: Yes.

BASH: Did you like what I did. You saw what I did there.

HUNT: Yes.


HUNT: Dana's going to come back and we're going to -

BASH: They play at Nat's stadium. We do not. I'm just saying.

HUNT: I know. We - well, I will say, there has been a push in recent years to get the softball game on Nat's Field.


HUNT: It has been stymied.

BASH: Well, maybe - maybe this is our year.

HUNT: So, like, let's consider this the beginning of the public advocacy campaign to get the Congressional women's softball game on the field at Nat's Stadium.

BASH: Love it.

HUNT: All right, that, I am going to leave you with this unbelievable story from the women's NCAA basketball tournament that has a lot of people, including me, dumbfounded.

Prior to the tip off of yesterday's elite eight game, look at those three-point lines on the right and left sides of your screen. The elite eight game between Texas and North Carolina State. Coaches for both teams were made aware that the three-point lines at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon were not drawn the same distance away from the basket.


The coaches decided to go ahead and play the game. NC State won 77-66. The NCAA gave CNN this statement. "While the NCAA's vendor has apologized for the error, we will investigate how this happened in the first place. The NCAA is working now to ensure the accuracy of all court markings for future games."

Here was Texas - the Texas head coach after the game, talked about this. The kicker, this was the fifth game that was played on that court this past weekend. The fifth game where the lines were wrong. How they got that far without anyone noticing is a mystery to me.

Thanks to everyone for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.