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CNN Tonight

Amateur Ballonist Group From Illinois Says Small Balloon Last Reported Over Alaska Missing In Action; Residents Fear Air Quality, Water Safety After Toxic Train Crash; Wall Street Journal Reports, Schools Cutting Honors Classes Due To Lack Of Black And Latino Students; School Districts Cutting Honors Classes; New Homeowner Trapped By Own Security System. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 17, 2023 - 22:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN TONIGHT. Is it possible that the U.S. government scrambled fighter jets and used a $400,000 sidewinder missile to shot down a $12 hobby balloon from Illinois? What's more troubling? That or that the Pentagon new about Chinese spy balloon during the Trump administration but said nothing? We'll have the latest on both those developments.

Plus, trains have become less safe. Tonight, we'll talk about the rollback of regulations that allow them to carry more hazardous material through all of our neighborhoods, just as they did through East Palatine, Ohio, causing that toxic spill.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know what we're facing. We find very hard to believe that there is no particulate matter in the air that can cause us harm after particularly an atom bomb was released over our small community.


CAMEROTA: And with smart home technology, are you the boss of your home, or is your home the boss of you? Tonight, I'll speak to one man whose smart home locked him inside without the code to get out. You may think you control your own heat and lights and ring cameras, but think again.

Okay. So, here with me to discuss all of this tonight, we have Natasha Alford, we have L.Z. Granderson, we have Josh Barro, and Chapin Fay. Guys thanks so much for spending Friday night with me. Great to have you guys here.

Okay. Let's start. The Northern Illinois Bottle Cap Balloon Brigade is missing a balloon tonight. It is missing their balloon tonight. They last saw it on February 11th over the Yukon. Is it possible, L.Z., that the Pentagon scrambled fighter jets and used a $400,000 sidewinder missile to shoot down an amateur balloon club's balloon?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, OP-ED COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: It is possible. Before we go in and have complete joy and like how crazy that sounds, let's back up like a couple of weeks, right? There was a spy balloon from China, right? And that spy balloon from China freaked us out a little bit. Why? Because the year before, China and Russia said before the world, our bond is unbreakable. A couple months after that, they're doing military exercises together. So, I do not fault the administration after the Chinese spy balloon for blowing up a toy balloon.

CAMEROTA: Chapin, your thoughts on this. I mean, what was the alternative? If this is in fact, true, and it was this balloon club from Illinois, what should the Pentagon have done?

CHAPIN FAY, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Well, where to start? I mean, there's nothing about this that's not troubling, right? But I think we've learned -- the entire world has learned two things over the past couple of weeks. One, they know there's some real significant vulnerabilities at our national security in America, and, two, that there are hobby balloon groups across America flying all the balloons.

What I think the American public would have appreciated from the Biden administration is for him to immediately have said, we don't know what it is, but we are on it. We are looking into this and just showed us what the overall response is.

CAMEROTA: Didn't his press people -- I know you want him to have done it. But didn't his press person do that? And didn't John Kirby do that? I mean, they were communicating.

FAY: They were communicating, but it took a while. And I -- this communication is I think worse than no communication. Because, just admitting we don't know over and over and over again. I mean, the world is watching. China now knows that we didn't know what happened.

CAMEROTA: Well, what do you want them to do? Lie?

GRANDERSON: A politician lie? Never.

CAMEROTA: No, but if they didn't know, what were they supposed to say.

FAY: Well, that's what I'm saying, President Biden or his people, his top level people, should have said immediately, you know, we shot this balloon down. We're not sure what these other aircraft are. We are on it. Rather than every single day, one of his press people saying, we don't know, we don't know, we don't know.

JOSH BARRO, HOST, VERY SERIOUS PODCAST: Well, that's just another way of saying that you don't know if you say it that way.

FAY: It's true. It's true.

BARRO: I mean, I feel the commentary on this for the last couple of weeks has driven me a little bit crazy because, necessarily, there are things that we don't know here. We don't know what the administration knew about the extent to which that this device that flew over the country was gathering better information.

CAMEROTA: The first one, the real Chinese spy balloon.

BARRO: Yes. And so the question of did the Biden administration handle that correctly depends on information that is unknown to me. And they have an intelligence that we don't have, which doesn't mean they made the right decision. Sometimes the intelligence is wrong. They thought Kabul was not going to fall for months.

But it's the -- people are sort of looking at this and guessing based on whether they like Joe Biden.


And if they do, they assume that whatever decision they made was the best decision possible based on the available information. If they don't like him, they assume that they screwed it all up. But I think looking at it from the outside, the frustrating thing is that we can't really tell whether these were good decisions.

And similarly with a hobby balloon, it's an unmanned device, we didn't need to shoot it down, but apparently we didn't know what it was before we shot it down. And we can -- what is the balloon worth? $20.


BARRO: So, we can make them whole for that and I realize that the missile is a lot more expensive than that. But you spend $700 billion approximately on defense a year. A lot of that is for contingencies, things that in the end we didn't necessarily need to do, but you don't know which things you need to do ahead of time.

CAMEROTA: Agreed. I mean, I think that there has been a steep learning curve it has been visible to all of us.

Here's John Kirby, the NSC coordinator for strategic communications, talking about it.


JOHN KIRBY, NSC COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: When you're making decisions as commander in chief, and, of course, the most core principle of all is safety and security of the American people and our interests. So, again, I say to you, the short answer to that is, no.

And, frankly, given the circumstances in light of what happened with the spy balloon, wouldn't that be a better outcome if it turns out they were, in fact, civilian or recreational use or weather balloon and therefore benign, which is what the intelligence community thinks? Isn't that a better outcome than to have to think about the possibility of greater threats to our national security?


CAMEROTA: Your thoughts?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he poses an important question. Is so much of the outrage really about what is best for the American people or is it about a moment to make the Biden administration look weak, look incapable of handling the situation?

It's funny to watch Ted Cruz criticize President Biden for not moving quickly enough to shoot down the balloon and then to mock him over this hobby balloon and saying that is a waste of money and really just deter as high school science student for putting balloon on the air.

But it does raise a question of, you know, whether this really is, I think, something for the American people to be concerned about. And I think the Biden team should take some lessons for how weaknesses were exposed in communication, if anything.

CAMEROTA: What is the lesson here? Because, apparently, now that we've tweaked our radar to be able to see these, we're going to see them a lot, apparently, they're flying all over the place. So, what is -- I guess at the end of this week, I'm not sure what we're going to do in the future. How will we monitor it without scrambling fighter jets in the future?

GRANDERSON: I'm going to assume that we're just going to be more sort of focused in on what these objects are and have a better way of determining which ones are threats and which ones are not.

CAMEROTA: I hope so.

GRANDERSON: I mean, listen, this is new for everyone, right? And we're going to continue to discover new pieces and technology continues to evolve.

CAMEROTA: Yes. It's sort of interesting to see the sausage being made in this way. I mean, I know you're saying that they have peeled back the curtain too much, but this has been an interesting exercise to watch them try to get their arms around this.

FAY: It has. And in all fairness to the Biden administration, it's fault that we're not monitoring this level of airspace or the slow moving objects. It has never been done apparently or at least hasn't been done for a couple of -- for years. I don't know how long it hasn't done. But that something he could certainly correct.

And I'm just talking about -- I would rather see some concrete plans or something, some information. I mean, information makes people feel more comfortable and I don't think we're getting. And to be fair, they may not have it.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that's true. And here is -- this is interesting information. This is from The Wall Street Journal. They say, now it appears some intelligence officials at the Pentagon were aware of the incidents and harbored concerns that they were related to China, believing Beijing was using these balloons to test radar jamming systems over sensitive U.S military sites. The data collected about the Trump-era incidents was limited to a basic assessment and, therefore, was not shared more broadly within the government at the time.

So, in other words, they were concerned during the Trump administration. They didn't know exactly what was happening and didn't share it the way they have now. So, that's the other option.

BARRO: Yes. And then there's the question of who they is. I mean, I've seen various senior Trump officials saying, well, I didn't know about this, and it wasn't -- not everybody in government knew about this. But I think, again, you can sort of -- I mean, it's similar that after 9/11, you can always point back toward intelligence assessments that you could have picked up and said you know, someone said we should paid attention to this. But there's so much paper that's produced and so many -- so much information out there, a lot of which is going to lead you down dead ends. It's hard to tell the extent to which that was an error ex-ante (ph) or whether it was just bad luck that we didn't pick up the important thing in this instance.

CAMEROTA: But do either of you have any theories on what we're going to do now, now that we know these things are floating around and possibly in U.S. airspace, near commercial airlines, what we're supposed to do?

BARRO: Well, I assume we'll keep shooting some of them down. I mean, again, unmanned objects, it's just the cost of the -- you know, is it half a million dollars for a missile to shoot that thing down?


BARRO: The question of, you know, what are the odds that this is something that poses a significant risk. That's worth doing if there's some percentage odds there. I don't know if they are.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Thank you all very much.

Okay. Next, we have to talk about this. We've learned a lot about that toxic train derailment in Ohio.


It turns out that trains have gotten less safe over the past decade. We're going to explain why and how the next accident could happen in any of our neighborhoods.


CAMEROTA: It's been two weeks since that train of toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Adults and children are still getting sick, and people there are demanding answers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are my kids safe? Are the people safe? Is the future of the community safe?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are people getting sick if there's nothing in the air or the water? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have concerns with dead fish, the smell of the water. I'm not a scientist but I do have common sense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's Norfolk Southern and why can't we get answers from them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they're afraid to answer question!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need help, we do. People are getting sick.


CAMEROTA: You couldn't hear all that. I mean, they were just yelling there out of frustration, saying that there are dead fish in all of the creeks and lakes and the air smell and the water smells. So, who's to blame for this disaster?

Back with me, CNN Political Analyst, Natasha Alford, L.A. Times Op-ed Columnist L.Z. Granderson, Josh Barro, host of the very serious podcast and Political Consultant Chapin Fay.

So, Natasha, it turns out, that having read now in the past two weeks about some of this, railroads have gotten less safe over the past decade.


They have -- railroad companies have cut costs. They have cut their workforce, so there are fewer people manning all of these. They have, at the same time increased the train length. The weight of the train has grown over the past decade. And they filled them with more hazardous chemicals, all of which make them harder to stop. So, this didn't have to happen, but in some ways, it was bound to happen.

ALFORD: That's right. And when President Obama proposed certain rails safety measures, the Trump administration met that with reversal, right? Donald Trump promoted himself as business friendly, industry friendly. And so, while that works well when you are campaigning and people love the sound of that, again, Trump -- trusting Donald Trump as a businessman, what that actually meant was a less safe environmental situation, right? And people are living this right now, the consequences of it.

CAMEROTA: Just to put a finer point on what Natasha just said, Chapin, basically there was -- in 2015, President Obama issued this safety rule for trains, I'll read it for you. The safety rule issued in 2015 required electronically controlled brakes, which apply braking simultaneously across a train rather railcar by railcar over a span of seconds. He wanted it to be installed by 2023.

The rule only applied to certain high hazard flammable trains, case and point. The Trump administration repealed that brakes requirement three years later. If this train had had that, it did not, it would have been able -- well, experts have said it would have been able to stop before derailment. FAY: Yes, it was mistake. When you're -- conservatives and Republicans, ever since time immemorial, have talked about cutting regulations. In my mind, it doesn't mean safety regulations. It doesn't mean, exactly what you said, things that will make our transportation system safer.

There is a lot of blame to go around for this situation and I'm sure we'll get to all of it. But the overall point I would like to make is our train system is like light years behind almost every other developed place in the world. You know, getting places in China takes, you know, a couple of hours, where, you know, you have to board a flight here in America to do the same thing.

But, yes, you know, getting rid of safety regulations just for the sake of saying I'm a tax cutter or regulation cutter is a mistake.

CAMEROTA: I was stunned to read that our nation's railway system is still stuck with post-civil war era technology.

BARRO: And yet railroads have actually significantly less common over the last 20 years. We have a third less per mile that these trains travel in terms of having derailments.

CAMEROTA: In terms of derailments. That's interesting that you say that, Josh. Because what I have read is that they're sort of crunching the numbers differently because now they have so many more cars on each train. They've added more cars. It's gotten longer. So, if you add 26 more cars on there, that can derail but it counts somehow different than the whole train derailing. I don't know how to explain it, but they're using different numbers.

BARRO: There was a significant decline in the number of train miles in 2008 with the recession. That makes sense. And it got back up to about the same level with a significantly lower number of train derailments. And then as with a lot of things with the pandemic, things went a little bit haywire. There was a significant decline in train traffic at least initially.

But my understanding is that it mainly has to do with higher quality of the tracks. You have fewer broken rails. So, that's separate from the braking issue. Obviously, there's a lot of different regulations, a lot of different safety considerations, and a lot of things that you can get wrong here. I just think it's worth noting that we've had certain improvements there.

And the U.S. has a relative high reliance on freight rail compare to tracking, compared to Europe for example and that has environmental benefits, has benefits in terms of producing wear and tear and traffic on highways.

And so I think it's the clear -- this was a regulatory mistake. They should have had this sort of braking system requirement on these trains. But there's also significant value in having the reliance that we have on freight rail for transportation.

So, it's a matter of finding the right set of regulations to reduce frequency of derailments further, to especially focus on these trains would be specially hazardous if they did derail. But it's sort of -- this one horrible event happened. But you have -- the choices that we will make on regulation are not just about not repeating this one specific incident, it's about building a system that is safe overall.

GRANDERSON: I just don't think it's about the train.

CAMEROTA: What do you think is that?

GRANDERSON: I think it's about our attitudes about each other. I think it's about capitalism and morality butting heads. Because let's string this together, right? So, Jackson, Mississippi, right, constantly having water issues. We know about Flint. There're still neighborhoods that have lead pipes that we already know the science behind that. We continually put money in front of people.

So, yes, we can talk about the deregulation. We can talk about the Trump administration, the Biden administration, and the Obama administration for this one incident, but I think it's a part of a larger systemic issue, which is we have a hard time putting people first.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And, by the way, these railroad companies have gotten very wealthy over the same time that these regulations have rolled back.


This was in 2021, the chairman of the Rail Shippers Association at their big annual meeting said since 2010, the railroad owners have taken home more than an astounding $183 billion in buybacks and dividends, far more than the $138 billion spent on railroad infrastructure. Well, I mean, I guess that's a proud moment for them.

ALFORD: And a larger picture in terms of this moment and what it could mean for the Biden administration is the emphasis on the infrastructure. The everyday person might not understand why that matters when President Biden was able to get through legislation focused on infrastructure. It doesn't really connect on a heart level.

CAMEROTA: Unless you have a crumbling bridge.

ALFORD: Exactly. When bridges fall, when trains derail, this is an opportunity to tell the story, to own the story, and to say, this is why the accomplishment matters. This is why we have to finish the job, as he said at the state of the union.

BARRO: That legislation also has significant money for replacing the lead pipes. So, it is something that is a focus for the administration.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it's just not happening fast enough.

FAY: At all. The Biden administration has done nothing over the last two weeks. I mean, the president, the transportation secretary have still have not been there. President Trump is going to beat them do it.

CAMEROTA: He did announce that he's going next week, right?

FAY: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And is it important for president -- for people to Secretary Buttigieg and President Biden to go? And the reason I ask that is because the EPA was there at 2:00 A.M., the morning after it happened. So, they are there. They're testing -- they're monitoring the water, they're monitoring the air. Is it important for the president to go and walk around?

FAY: Yes. People are nervous. I mean, all the Biden administration is doing is saying I don't know to all of these things. And the EPA just said, trust us, trust the government. Well, the trust in government has eroded. Many of my co-panel that's here will say that's because of the Trump administration, but either way it is a fact. But either way it's a fact.

GRANDERSON: I didn't say anything about it's the Trump administration. I said it's the country's attitude toward taking care of people first.

CAMEROTA: So, why isn't the president there then, I mean, to the point of being commiserator-in-chief and going there and walking around with people?

GRANDERSON: I haven't the slightest idea why he decided not to visit that particular site, just like I had no idea why he visited the border. there are a lot of things he does in terms of I guess public eye, in term of image that I do not approve of. But you look at his policies and you look at the effectiveness of the policies and you ask yourself, do you want him to do a photo-op or do you want him to get to work?

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, maybe they can do both.

GRANDERSON: Maybe they can do both.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and particularly since President Trump has announced that he's going to go there. We'll see what the White House says --

GRANDERSON: Is he going to take hold of the 2018 rollback while he's there?

CAMEROTA: We'll ask. We'll see. Friends, thank you very much.

So, there's this high school near Los Angeles that's ditching honors classes because those honors classes did not enroll enough black and Latino students. So, this is an effort to achieve equity, but, of course, some parents are very upset about it. They say it's hurting high achieving students. We discuss all of that next.


[22:25:00] CAMEROTA: Culver City, California, is cutting all of its high school honors classes because they say there are not enough black and Latino students enrolled. This week, parents lined up at a school board meeting to express their frustration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- honors classes under the university of California system, eliminating any competitive advantage to students who have taken honors classes will have in the college admission process.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we need is to give more students more opportunities, not less choices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can provide an onramp for traditionally underrepresented groups to taking A.P. classes in the future.


CAMEROTA: Meanwhile in Florida, there were protests, as Governor Ron DeSantis hinted that he might drop A.P. classes altogether after rejecting that pilot course in African-American studies.

Let's discuss all of this back with my panel. Natasha, you are our resident teacher. As you know, I turn to you, you taught in public school for three years. I can't believe how often during these conversations, I do turn to you because there's so much happening in education right now. But is the answer to more inclusion getting rid of honors classes?

ALFORD: I don't think it's the answer. And I'm going to actually put my student hat on right now and say that I lived this. I was in a gifted and talented program in a public city school district and the program went away. And that was heartbreaking for me because that was the one time in the week where I actually felt challenged and excited to, you know, get out of my classroom.

CAMEROTA: Did it go away for the same reason?

AFLORD: It went away for budgetary reasons. And so this is what I want to highlight that it's really an issue of access.

So, the problem that they're responding to is real, but the way they decided to handle it I actually think the wrong. 15 percent of the population of high school students are black and Latino but only 9 percent are actually in A.P. classes. Some of that is teacher bias, right, a lack of recruitment. So, why would you take the class away to supposedly create equity rather than say, are there black students who I'm not looking at as capable enough who really I need to raise my expectations for them and say that they can meet this bar? I think we can do better and I don't think this is the solution.

CAMEROTA: Chapin, how do you think they should handle it?

FAY: Well, I totally agree. Lowering the bar is, you know, at the expense of high-achieving students, to help lower-achieving students, which it really doesn't do, all it does is bring the curricular rigor (ph) down. It runs contrary to everything America is all about. I think maybe a look at elementary school education in that area is warranted.

The answer here is to figure out, maybe study, maybe it'll take years, maybe it'll take sooner, find out why black and Latino students are enrolling in lower numbers or not at all, and figure out early on when they get to the point of choosing classes, why are they not choosing that. It could be something as back as kindergarten and that's --

CAMEROTA: I think they have figured that out. The achievement gap does start in kindergarten. You're so right. It does depend on access.

FAY: There's a million things you could be doing, little things, big things. But just getting rid of something that challenges certain students for other students is the wrong approach completely, entirely.


CAMEROTA: Yes. Josh?

BARRO: I mean, the quality of the research on this is not as great as I would have hoped that it was. But basically, I mean, it seems to -- it seems to depend on exactly how you do the tracking.

You have some school districts where you have lower track courses where the expectations are just very low, and they don't put enough resources into them and you get poor performance from the students we put in those. If those -- if those classes are adequately resourced, it doesn't appear that tracking actually hurts those students in a way that it does where you don't resource them and they do appear to be benefits for students who are tracking into the classes.

So, I think it depends on how these -- how these districts execute on this. There is also -- I mean there's a lot of nuance. Almost no school district is completely tracked or completely untracked. Culver City will continue to have AP English. And so, we will see whether this --

CAMEROTA: I thought they're getting rid of it?

BARRO: No, they're getting rid of the honor sequence, but there's still be AP.

CAMEROTA: Oh, I see. So, there's two different things.

BARRO: Right.

CAMEROTA: There's AP, which is the college board courses --

BARRO: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- and then there's honors, which they, yes, control, the high school themselves. BARRO: Right. Exactly. So, we'll -- you know, part -- the -- Culver City says they are doing this because they don't think enough Hispanic students are enrolling in AP English. They're actually -- the black enrollment actually is about proportional to that district.

So, if they -- we'll see when they go to this change, did they actually achieved to thing that they were looking to achieve? But I'm -- some of these moves more broadly, I am concerned you have schools reacting to achievement gaps by doing things to make it hard to even measure whether there is an achievement gap, or if trying to move away from testing, if you don't have tracking, then you don't have statistics about who's being -- getting put into the track classes.

And so, you can do that and you may not actually be closing the achievement gap, but it's harder for people to look at any statistics and see your -- say, see your school district has an achievement gap.


BARRO: So, I think -- I think that is a significant mistake.

CAMEROTA: LZ, is this about race or is it about socioeconomic status? Because also there are -- we have a graph that we can pull up -- in terms of honor students, the wealthiest kid, the richest kids, are in honors classes three times more than what the kids in the lower classes are, socio economically?

LZ GRANDERSON, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, I mean, it's almost impossible to separate the two --

CAMEROTA: Can't separate it.

GRANDERSON: -- yeah -- in this country, right? I mean, it's just a byproduct of when this country was founded and where we are today. It's hard to have a socioeconomic conversation and not have it be tied to race. I think it's complete trash to get rid of the AP courses, in part, because students who graduate with AP courses are able to transfer them and be able to use them to help graduate college. That's a money saving measure as well. So, it isn't just the achievement in high school, it's about saving pennies on the other side.

I mean, if you are going to get an associates degree, taking AP courses can get you like almost a fourth of the way they're depending on what time you start. So, I am more concerned about how does this impact students financially on the opposite end that you get rid of the AP courses.

And with your raised question is concerned, listen, especially when it comes to DeSantis, the founding member of the, what, freedom caucus, the person who after the primary said, let's not monkey up the budget and Florida in regards to his candidate, his opponent, who happens to be black.

I think it when it comes to DeSantis specifically, he does not mind using these opportunities to blow a -- to blow a dog whistle, but I think holistically in terms of our conversation as a whole, it's about resources, and I hate the fact that kids who could be using this as a leg up for college are getting this taken away from them.

CAMEROTA: Here's what the superintendent in the Culver City school district says. Parents say academic excellent -- excellence should not be experimented with for the sake of social justice, but it was very jarring when teachers looked at their AP and roman and realize that black and brown kids were not there. They felt obligated to do something.

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And that's what I hate about this moment right now in this country. We lack such nuance in these conversations. So, all the sudden, becomes about wokeness. When try to -- when you take a principle of doing the right thing but the execution is poor, now you want to throw it the whole effort, that is a problem.

The -- our language has changed the country for how we talk about race. So, segregated neighborhoods, right, created these systems where you can say, you know, my child lives in a better zip code, they have a better school, but I am not racist for that, right? The system isn't racist. But it was -- it was based on the premise of separating black people, white people, not allowing them to live together, not allowing us to realize what integration would actually look like. So, we -- people have found ways to get around talking about what this is really about.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, all. Great conversation. All right. Now, this, imagine moving into your new home when suddenly the door is locked. You can't get out. The smart devices in your home have turned against you. That happened to my next guest, we'll speak to him in a moment.




CAMEROTA: At first, they may seem great, controlling the temperature of your home from your phone. How convenient? Controlling your music from your iPad. But what if you could not change the temperature or the volume anymore? What if someone else gained control your smart home?

That's what happened when Clint Basinger moved into his new home. His first night, as he was unpacking, all of a sudden, he heard a voice saying this --


UNKNOWN: Good night. It's bedtime.


CAMEROTA: Then the doors and windows locked, the motion sensors went on, and he was trapped. Clint joins me now.

Clint, that sounds really creepy. What happened? CLINT BASINGER, LOCKED INSIDE HIS SMART HOME: Yeah, it's just -- as you said, my first night in my first home, really excited, and just doing late-night unpacking, and 11:30 p.m. rolls around, and I hear a voice of some kind echoing through the hallway. And I wasn't sure at all what that could possibly be. I was alone in the house, I thought.

And it turned out that, yeah, the home said something like it was bedtime. The home is armed. I heard armed. I didn't know what that meant. So, I just continued unpacking and went to open the door and all of a sudden realized that the door was locked up, you know, and an alarm was sounding. I'm like, what happened?

I had no idea what was going on in place that I wasn't aware of because --


BASINGER: -- because as the new homeowner, I thought that I was aware of -- you know, I had the keys. I had everything else going. I knew I had a smart thermostat, but I wasn't aware of all the other sensors.


CAMEOROTA: So, basically what happened was the previous owner had this smart system but hasn't shared it with you.

BASINGER: Yeah. I -- there was another panel that I was not fully made aware of. I guess, I had seen it, but I thought it was just part of the thermostat system. I mean, you know, there were the controls for that. They showed me how that worked. It was very simple to previous ones I used. It looked fine.

But this other stuff, the voices. I didn't know what the voices were. I was never told about those. And I was certainly never told that there was this routine that came on at 11:30, their bedtime routine. And I went to look at the screen, and it was all locked up. It said, the house was armed. It was bedtime.

I'm like, no, I'm not going to --you can't tell me to go to bed. You're my house. But, of course, it was locked off. I didn't have the PIN number or the account, and I really wasn't sure what to do at that point, except, I guess, just -- I went to bed. There were motion sensors in the living room. Every time I went to move in the living room, the motion sensor would go off and there were lights and alarms. So, I just went to bed.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. I guess the house can tell you when to go to bed. But the next day, you tried to call the previous owner and you thought that he would give you access to the account, but you found out it's not that easy. So, what happened?

BASINGER: Right. So, I got in touch with my realtor and, you know, they went back and forth and got me the information to get a PIN number and put in my own account on this panel. And so, I was able to put in a guest account. But the previous owner, since it was, I guess, this is all registered under their information and their name and the system itself was just attached to them, I didn't have any of that information. And you know, it doesn't really make sense for them to hand all of that over. So, I got a guest account. I'm still technically a guest in my own home as a result because the panel was set up that way.

CAMEROTA: So -- right, so, now, you, the owner, and the previous owner, both control your house?

BASINGER: In theory. I haven't seen any evidence of there being tampering when I'm not there. But you know, yeah, it's still under the previous owner's information. So, yeah, it's not fully mine, so to speak.

CAMEROTA: Because you also found out that in order to get a new account, you would have to start all over. You would have to basically install an entire new smart system at great cost. And so, it's just easier to be a guest in your own home, in your own smart home, with this.

Do you ever worry that the previous owner will do something to screw with you?

BASINGER: No, I really -- I really don't. But, you know, the possibility is there and it's just always kind of in the back of my mind, like, you know, this doesn't feel quite as it should be, you know. I would like to this -- to have been completely disabled and handed over or something. And you know, I went to go and check to see if it was able to just get it all switched over. And while it could be done, it was a bit of a hassle. And they're like, well, you should probably just get a whole another system anyway because it's integrated into the HVAC and the temperature sensors and these other sensors.

So, the fact that it would be such a hassle and upgrade path is now different because the old system used 3G and 3G is no longer a cell service available anymore. So, they're like, oh, you should upgrade to the 4G version and you may as well get a new account that way. It's like, I don't know if I want to now.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. I mean, what happens to a light switch, you know, like did that really need to be improved upon, the light switch? I miss them.

Clint, thank you very much for sharing that creepy and frustrating story. We really appreciate hearing about how your smart home went crazy. Thanks so much for being here.

BASINGER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Guys, I mean, I have this very same problem. I can't control the thermostat in my own bedroom because it's like an iPad and you have to have a password. So, I can't -- what happened to the thermostat? All right. Hold those thoughts. Just how safe is our information with smart home technology listening in. Okay. We're going to talk to the group about all of this, next.




CAMEROTA: All right. You just heard from Clint, the guy whose smart home went rogue. Back with us now, Natasha Alford, LZ Granderson, Josh Barro, and Chapin Fay.

So, that was creepy, I mean, hearing from Clint. So, basically, he -- the night he moves in, he's unpacking his boxes. In the middle -- at midnight, he hears, good night, it's bedtime. And sudden I will the doors lock, the windows are armed. The motion detectors go on, and he doesn't know what's happening.

ALFORD: It's terrifying. If you saw "The Watcher" and you felt creeped out watching that show, this is like living it. I think, we exchange a little bit of power and freedom every time we turn to smart technology to run aspect of our life. Usually, whatever the benefit is, you know, outweighs a trade-off in our mind. But sometimes, I don't think we realized how much.

I know I went on vacation once and the battery died on one of our systems, and it was just like, we just couldn't see what was happening around the house. That's a problem. We fixed it, by the way.


CAMEROTA: Yeah. But I agree with you, like we think it's freedom but, in fact, we're trapped in it. We're trapped in it. I mean, I was -- I was just telling you guys before the commercial break. I can't control the temperature in my bedroom because it's not an old fashioned thermostat where you used to go this way or this way. It's complicated. You have to plug in a password, a user name. It's all on iPad. Why? Why are we making these better? Weren't they good enough?


BARRO: No. The news -- I love this stuff. It drives my husband crazy. I put all this stuff in. But like I have a nest thermostat.


BARRO: If I'm coming and it's hot out, I can turn the air- conditioning on before I get home. If I leave the house and I forgot to turn if off, I can turn it off from my phone.

CAMEROTA: That does sound good.

BARRO: Yeah. No. Like I lay in bed and want to turn the lights off, I yell out to Alexa to turn off the lights and she does it.

GRANDERSON: She does it?

BARRO: Yes. So, she does it. Even my -- even my oven connects to Wi- Fi. GRANDERSON: Okay. Now, see, you're tripping. You're tripping now.


BARRO: It's like I put -- I put something in the oven for dinner at 6:00 and it's off and go out to this bar and I'm there with my friends and like --

CAMEROTA: We're learning a lot.

BARRO: -- half an hour before we come home, I can turn on the oven from my phone. I can even put the temperature probe in the meat and look and see on my phone how the meat is doing.

CAMEROTA: It does? It --

BARRO: What I need -- when I need to leave and go --

CAMEROTA: -- measures the temperature of the meat for you?

BARRO: Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

GRANDERSON: I just want you to know you're not cooking, by the way. You are not cooking a home cooked meal.

BARRO: I'm absolutely cooking. That's not a home cooked meal.

GRANDERSON: Yes, it is. Well, it is a home cooked meal but remotely.

CAMEROTA: By your home.


BARRO: Yes. My home is cooking the meal.

ALFORD: He's actually cooking that.


BARRO: No. I mean, obviously, you don't want someone else to set up these systems for you. And there's -- we had a little issue where I turned on Alexa hunches and where like Alexa guesses you're not home and turns off the lights. But Alexa was only following me. So, it worked fine for me. But then I would leave the house and like all the lights would turn off when my husband was there. So that's, you know --

CAMEROTA: That's no -- that's not good.

BARRO: -- some of these things need to be fixed. But you know --

CAMEROTA: Yeah. You're making it sound good but also a little too spacey (ph). I mean, it does sound good. You're making -- you're letting me know how it's convenient.

BARRO: Yeah. CAMEROTA: But what if it goes wrong?

BARRO: Well, then you fix it, like, you know, it's the -- the oven won't burn the house down. It might burn the chicken. But you know, I -- like, you know -- we learn -- we increment on these things, but mostly it makes my life a little easier.


FAY: Arnold Schwarzenegger warned us about this in 1984 that the computers are going to become self aware and destroy us all. And it's time to find Cyberdyne (ph) and destroy it. And I think we found it. It's in Josh's apartment. When the robots come to get us because of AI, we know exactly where to go destroy the center of it's, it is your apartment.

GRANDERSON: What do you do when you have poor signal or when the internet goes out? For instance, like my husband is the tech guy, right? And the Internet has gone out and we can't get in the garage because we can't -- it won't connect because the phone and blah, blah, blah. We can't turn on the music. We can't turn on lights because the internet has gone out, what do you do when that happened?

BARRO: That just turns my smart home into a dumb home. I mean, I can still -- I can still go up to the thermostat and change the thermostat, even if the Internet is off.


CAMEROTA: Oh, that's good.

BARRO: I can still -- it has a light switch.

GRANDERSON: Why can't it just be home. Why does it have to be dumb?


ALFORD: You got to have a backup plan for with all of this. I think that's the take away, right? When the battery goes out, when the Wi-Fi goes out, make sure you're not stranded -- because not to get too serious on us, but with climate change and all these disasters that are happening, I think we have to be ready for the technology to not be there.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But also, furthermore, there is a serious side, which is that of you're sharing a home with somebody and that person controls it all and that person moves out, they still control it all and there are all sorts of stories of people tormenting the previous person they were living with by turning off speakers, turning on and off lights. You know, we do give away a lot of control because we think it's freedom but, in fact, it can torment you.

ALFORD: Yes. (Inaudible)

GRANDERSON: We won't mention any names. CAMEROTA: No, we're not mentioning any names. I'm sure it's nobody on our floor crew, whatsoever. No, this is serious. But I mean when you look at the list, we have a smart home tech of all of the things that people have now surrendered their control to. I mean, you can barely see this. You need a microscope because there's so many things that -- I mean particularly the kitchen as you were saying.

BARRO: Look at these conveniences. Like it's great. If have someone leaves my porch door open, I know, it tells me.

GRANDERSON: Explain to me how does the smart home tech help you work out. There's a computer (ph) do the lifting for you.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Well, you have a peloton bike which is --

ALFORD: Yeah. I have a peloton.

GRANDERSON: I have a peloton.

ALFORD: So, that's a very smart bike.

FAY: It will just start pedaling for you. You can sit on the couch.

ALFORD: If only.

CAMEROTA: I like that. I like that a lot. And then, yeah, basically just, you don't just have to go downstairs and ride a stationary bike. You have all sorts of like bells and whistles.

GRANDERSON: Okay. All right.

CAMEROTA: Now, you like it. Now, we've won you over.

GRANDERSON: Well, I mean, I use it. So, I can't be all judgmental now.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. That's right. All right, you guys, stick around. We have an important segment coming up. Fox News hosts are revealing the secret that they knew about Trump's election lies, but they didn't want to tell their viewers. We're going to go through the text exchanges.




CAMEROTA: Now, to the court filing that pulls back the curtain on how Fox misleads its viewers. The Dominion Voting System's $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox reveals that its hosts including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham all knew that Former President Trump's claims of election fraud were complete nonsense. They privately ridiculed them as ludicrous and, quote, "off the rails," but they promoted those claims on the air to their viewers day after day.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has more.



SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a damning indictment of Fox News.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The outcome of our presidential election was seized from the hands of viewers.

SERFATY (voice-over): As the network publicly and repeatedly promoted Former President Trump's 2020 election fraud claims to millions of their viewers.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Every American should be angry. You should be outraged. You should be worried. You should be concerned at what has happened in the election and the lead-up to this election.

SERFATY (voice-over): Privately top anchors and executives mocked Trump's lies, calling them ludicrous, really crazy stuff and totally off the rails.