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CNN Tonight

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Takes Pro-Law Enforcement Message On The Road As Speculation Swirls About 2024 Bid; Rep. George Santos (R- NY) Says, If You're Going To Make Up A Lie, Are You Thinking At All; President Biden Makes Surprise Visit To Ukraine War Zone; President Biden Sanctions Moscow Pledges Aid To Ukraine; Changes To Classic Children's Books; New Jersey Boardwalk Games Shutdown. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 20, 2023 - 22:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN Tonight with Alisyn Camerota starts right now.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to special holiday edition of CNN TONIGHT on this Presidents' Day.

One man who seems to want that job, Governor Ron DeSantis, taking his war on woke show on the road today. He's going to blue states and offering police officers money to move to Florida. One person who really does not like what DeSantis is selling, Donald Trump.

And Congressman George Santos gives a revealing interview tonight in which he attempts to explain his litany of lies. He says it's not about trying to trick anyone.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I've been a terrible liar on those subjects. And what I tried to convey to the American people is I made mistakes.

This wasn't about tricking anybody.


CAMEROTA: We will tell you the law he says he regrets every day.

Plus, the classic children's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach are getting re-writes. The publisher is cutting out words like fat, ugly and white. Is it time to update outdated books or best to leave them alone? We're going to talk about all of that tonight.

But, first, let's get to today's politics. We have Mark McKinnon, former Adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain, we also have CNN's John Berman, also Political Analysts Natasha Alford and former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. Hi, guys, great to have all of you here tonight.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, happy Presidents' Day.

CAMEROTA: You're observant. I know that. Okay. Mark, let's talk about, on this Presidents' Day, Ron DeSantis seems to want to be president, though he hasn't officially said that yet. So, he is going to blue states New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, he'd go to Philadelphia, so a blue city, and he's doing something I think quite crafty. He's offering $5,000 to police officers to move to Florida where he says they're battling woke. He said woke so many times, it's his favorite word, and so I lost count at some point, but that's -- I don't know, it seems as though what everyone to call it, stunts, or whatever it is he's doing, ends up working to get attention.

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH AND JOHN MCCAIN: Yes. He's sending immigrants here and bringing cops back to Florida. And he is, I think, playing his strategy building up to a presidential bid very smartly and kind of sitting back in a catbird seat and is in a very strong position. And part of what he was doing is touring the country, talking about his record in Florida on issues like crime and saying we're going to recruit police down here because police, like what we were paying them, for one, but they also like what we're doing in Florida. So, it's a pretty effective strategy and it's -- for now, it is working.

CAMEROTA: His record of crime, John, is hard to get your arms around because he says that crime in Florida is at the lowest it's been in 50 years. But it's hard to double check that because Florida cities don't report to the FBI. So, we've been on the FBI website all night, because that's usually we're we get our crime statistics, and only -- there are only two -- the FBI has only received crime statistics from two out of 757 law enforcement agencies in Florida for 2021.

BERMAN: Well, this may shock you, but I'm not sure what Ron DeSantis was doing in New York was really about crime. I think actually think it was about getting attention, as you said. Look, he is running a Republican primary right now. And it may be quite effective what he's doing and the Republican primary, which is you go to New York and tell them that they're not doing it right, you go to Philadelphia and tell them they're not doing it right and you go to these blue state and say, hey, I'm not like you.

There may come a time, though, where he is not at our publican primary. And it's funny, and I just thought of this as coming with you, I covered the 2000 George W. Bush campaign and George W. Bush went Bob Jones University, which, at a certain point, didn't allow interracial dating, right? And he came -- he thought he needed to do that for a Republican primary. But, boy, did he I think come to regret it later on.

CAMEROTA: But are you saying this is something that Ron DeSantis will regret later?

BERMAN: I think there are things that he is doing in all of this that play well in a Republican primary that may not depending on how he does it or how far he pushes it plays well on a general election. HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: The woke mob actually won the civil war, so.

CAMEROTA: What do you think?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: In his speech to police officers in New York, I don't know if you listened to this full speech, but there was a clear us and them, right? They, the so-called woke people, which, again, is not a thing, it is something that he has created to be an umbrella term for anything that is progressive, don't want you to be safe.


They want to release criminals into your community. So, it is a very clear message that he's trying to send that he is the law and order candidate.

And what was interesting is that I didn't find it to be that charismatic or interesting in terms of being able to be off the cuff in the way that Donald Trump was but he had a long list of policies that he could point to, to say, look, I not only talk it, it I walk it. But as John is saying, that could backfire, right?

There was no nuance in his conversation about policing. We are looking at the story of Tyre Nichols and there was no acknowledgment that police can sometimes be in the wrong or that there needs to be reform. There was a total, complete ignoring of that. And I think that when you go to the general electorate, that is an issue that you cannot ignore, you're going to have to have something to say about it.

CAMEROTA: Let's listen to a portion of what he said today.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): My message is if you are disenchanted, if you don't think things are going to turn around, wherever you are, not just in New York, wherever, just know that there's a state that is doing it right, there is a state that will value your service.

The reason why you have crime that has spiraled out of control in so many of these different areas is because you have politicians putting woke ideology ahead of public safety.


CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Harry, your thoughts?

LITMAN: There you go with the woke stuff. Well, look, he is not very nuanced, I agree. But he is the guy, the one guy who can try to like claim to Trump's big sort of 32 percent. But by the same token, you have two questions with him. First, does -- is he just position himself, as John says, to maybe win the nomination and lose general. That might be you do it one at a time and maybe he attacks left when the general comes. Second, I haven't studied him deeply, but he doesn't seem to be like Mr. Charisma. And the question is, in the open field, and, again, this is the one time that Trump seems to like enjoy himself, being sort of savage in the open field. And will he cut him to ribbons or does DeSantis have the kind of poise and humor to to tack and be a good general election candidate? I think the jury is out on that question.

CAMEROTA: Well, he does seem to be getting under Donald Trump's skin. I'll play for you -- I mean, I'll read for you the post that Donald Trump posted about this. DeSantis wants to cut social security and Medicare. He loves losers like Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan and Karl Rove, and is getting clobbered in the polls by me. DeSantis is a RINO who is trying to hide his past.

What do you think about this? I mean, I often here this about DeSantis. He doesn't have the charisma. He's not going to be as great on the campaign trail. I just don't know that voters are only for looking charisma. And, by the way, they're reluctant who didn't think that Donald Trump had a charisma when he first splashed onto the scene.

MCKINNON: A lot of people see Ron DeSantis but with brains and --

CAMEROTA: Donald Trump with brains.

MCKINNON: Yes, exactly. And if you -- I mean, he's got results to show. I mean, look what he is done in Florida. He has turned Republican deep red. And it was just a swing state for recent elections and won Miami by double digits when recently Hillary Clinton won that city by double digits.

So, he is doing something that is pretty remarkable for Republicans. And for him to be coming out of nowhere and leading the pack substantially, except for Donald Trump, says something about -- and what he is doing is he got his finger on this cultural pulse in this whole woke ideology, which is really just a code for saying, government is getting into your lives in a way that it never did before and I'm going to pull it out.

LITMAN: You think that's what the code for? You don't think it's like sort of dog whistling?


LITMAN: Yes. But both, okay.

ALFORD: I think this is certainly more than government, right? Look at this whole A.P. course backlash. He's really tapping into something that you can't necessarily say you don't want to come across as a racist, right? But, really, a lot of these issues that we're talking about, we're talking about racial justice. We're talking about equality. We're talking about what matters. The idea that you can say, as Ron DeSantis, there's no educational value in an A.P. course, that's insulting to the entire African-American community. It's insulting to our history. So, he frames it as an education issue when, really, it is kind of a secret message to say, you know what, that black stuff, right, this race stuff is not really that important. And the people who hear him, hear him loud and clear.

CAMEROTA: I just think is easy. I think the culture war stuff is easy. It's not -- it's -- policy is hard. Just going after school books, everybody understands, you have a personal reference with schoolbooks, cops, law and order that hits somewhere viscerally. I feel like that all of that stuff, the culture war, there are networks who have made their business model based on all of that.

MCKINNON: Yes. He's framing it also as parental control, and this is COVID-related too. Like all of this stuff that's happening that we didn't know about, and shouldn't parents have had to say?


And Glenn Youngkin did that very effectively.

BERMAN: It's interesting though, CNN has reporting today, Jeff Zeleny, Steve Contorno and others though. You talked about he's running against the idea of government getting too much in your lives. There are Republicans that they are hearing from who are saying that one of the things DeSantis is actually doing that might bite him also is he's actually a sort of big government in a way cracking down on Disney, telling schools what they have to do and what they have to teach.

MCKINNON: Yes, telling businesses what they can or they can't do.

BERMAN: It's not a very libertarian way of doing things, which there are some Republicans who -- that orthodoxy still appeals to them less than --

LITMAN: He wants to be a winner, right, same as Trump.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And, by the way I've talk about this before. I'm so turned around with cancel culture. Ron DeSantis is canceling curriculum that he doesn't personally like but he doesn't call that cancel culture.

ALFORD: And there are parents who will be upset that A.P. classes, period, he's trying to cancel them, not just African-American studies, he's saying get rid of A.P.

CAMEROTA: Because he's angry with the college course.

ALFORD: Exactly. And it's a politics of punishment and heavy- handedness that is going to actually backfire in ways that I don't think he's thinking through.

CAMEROTA: One last thing, this is what Mayor Adams of New York said upon if Governor DeSantis' arrival in New York. Welcome to New York City, Governor Ron DeSantis, a place where we don't ban books, discriminate against LGBTQ neighbors, use asylum seekers of props, or let the government stand between women and health care. We're happy to teach you something about values while you're here. So, everybody taking a political --

MCKINNON: That's where the winds come in the general election.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Folks, thank you very much. Stick around, because truth-challenged Congressman George Santos is trying to explain himself tonight. Why all the lies George? We'll play for you how he justifies his various bits (ph).



CAMEROTA: George Santos like T.V. cameras, even when he knows he'll be asked to explain his litany of lies. Tonight, in an hour-long interview with Piers Morgan, Santos was confronted about some of those lies, starting with the one about graduating from college.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the simple explanation for why you -- why you lied about something like that?

SANTOS: Expectation on society, the pressure, couldn't afford it. I decided I wanted to run for office although I had built a very credible business career. And I just didn't have that part of my biography that I could not give anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you not think that you would be caught?

SANTOS: I just went with it. I mean, if you're going to make up a lie, are you thinking at all? I just think it was a stupid decision in my part, a very stupid decision that I regret every day.


CAMEROTA: So, he has regret. Back with me, Mark McKinnon, John Berman, Natasha Alford and Harry Litman.

John, you lied about going to Harvard, but -- just kidding.

BERMAN: George Santos was roommate.

CAMEROTA: Yes. You think so?

BERMAN: We told we were in the volleyball team together, right?

CAMEROTA: Are you annoyed with me for playing more George Santos or are you one of the people who's like why are we giving this guy airtime?

BERMAN: Look, it's fascinating.

CAMEROTA: I think so too. I think it's fascinating. It's mesmerizing in some ways. BERMAN: But he's like a lying liar who lies. And I get that. I don't know what he could've said here that would have changed anyone's view of him. That is not to say, though, that I didn't find it interesting watching him try to weave this web.

MCKINNON: Well, we have a really unique new defense today in this interview, which is, well, I got away with it before.

BERMAN: That was bizarre. He said, why did you do it in 2022? Because I did it in 2020, no one cared.

CAMEROTA: That's interesting.

LITMAN: And I'm a terrible liar. That's the new -- I think he's a pretty good liar, actually, prolific and imaginative..

CAMEROTA: But he gets caught all the time. So, that makes him not a good lie. He's caught constantly.

ALFORD: And this appeal to ethos, like emotion, right, like if society placed pressure on me to go to college and I couldn't do it, so I was forced to, it's so interesting how he's trying to play emotions, yet again another example of like intentional manipulation.

MCKINNON: Well, he's such a great foil for the Democrats to have him there, and the Republicans, they have to keep defending him.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, I agree with that. But we are becoming a little desensitized to it. But the reason that we keep playing is that when you -- okay, his friends say that he's a pathological liar, and you just don't --

MCKINNON: Because they're his friends.

CAMEROTA: These are his friends and his former roommates. So, you just don't come into contact with a pathological liar that often. And when you do, it is a little mesmerizing. So here is, again, lying about his mother having been in the World Trade Center on 9/11.


SANTOS: I won't debate my mother's life as she's passed in '16. And I think it's quite insensitive for everybody to want to rehash mother's legacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, okay, but hang on. Here's what I would say to that. They're only doing that because you've put this on your campaign website.

But specifically on the point of why nobody can find any evidence that your mother worked the World Trade Center at all, ever, because you've just got this wrong?

SANTOS: I mean, sorry, are you telling me that I got wrong what my mother told me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. Is it possible she misled you?

SANTOS: I don't believe so. She wasn't one to mislead me?


CAMEROTA: Natasha.

ALFORD: Oh, Alisyn, you're putting me in the hot seat.

CAMEROTA: Yes, because I think that is again, as you said, like the pathos or the ethos thing like of playing it like, so now you're calling my mother a liar.

ALFORD: Right. And, again, it shows the scale and the regularity in which he does this. It's obviously really uncomfortable when you are talking about a personal relationship, someone who was not here. But if he did lie about that, again, how egregious, how insulting to families who did lose someone on 9/11. This is going to be hard to watch him in office continuing to do this. Re-election is going to be pretty nasty. I think he's audacious enough to run again.

CAMEROTA: I think he's announcing that he is.

MCKINNON: I think there's going to be a criminal referral here at some kind that -- on his tax stuff or the fundraising scheme are something that's going to get him and get him out of there.

LITMAN: So, I totally agree with you, and he's got seven different prosecutors offices investigating --

CAMEROTA: Is that right, seven?

LITMAN: Yes. But what's so fascinating to me, I think that really is the word, they are separate tracks. He could get convicted, he could be in jail. That doesn't get him out of Congress.

MCKINNON: Somebody ran for president in 1920 from jail.

LITMAN: Yes. So, it would have to be a political solution, only two- thirds actually voted him out. But I do think at that point, McCarthy, who, by the way, seems to have known about some of this, at least that's been the reporting says to him, time to go.


CAMEROTA: Well, I guess that this is a little bit different because his constituents seem disgusted with him.

MCKINNON: Oh, they are.

LITMAN: Oh, yes, 80 percent, right?

BERMAN: They're embarrassed.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But there are Trump supporters who listen to his lies and believed them. He has somehow -- George Santos' constituents are -- feel duped.

BERMAN: It's a Democratic-leaning district that it was remarkable that he won at this time to begin with. It is hard to see how that fluke would happen again. It is hard to see how the Republicans would allow him to be nominated again. If he does end up in court or if he defend himself with this law degree, right, I mean, no problem.


CAMEROTA: Here is another example. This is where he is confronted about saying that his grandparents were in the Holocaust and that he was Jewish.


SANTOS: This is the one that I now battle to my grave, to the one point that I've already ordered those DNA test kits, and I've done four of them so far and I'm just waiting for their returns. And I'm very curious to show those with everybody. Because I grew up with -- the story was my grandfather was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. My great -- it's in Belgium that my grandmother 1940 or 1941, they fled to Brazil where they falsified a lot of their documents to claim they were born there. Look, we're talk about time in history with this was a very common occurrence in the name of survival.


CAMEROTA: Okay. He's waiting for the DNA results.

MCKINNON: We're going to get the DNA results when we get Donald Trump's audits on his tax returns.

BERMAN: Which, by the way, George Santos will do. He will do the audit.

ALFORD: And in this case, tell us a story that we can't verify, right? Because you are saying that the information was changed, it was common, there was nothing we can do about it, we'll never know the truth of him.

CAMEROTA: All right. Well, Mark, this seems like a good segue to The Circus. So, tell us about what we need to know about this season.

MCKINNON: Well, never lack in material. When we first got the assignment, I thought there would be weeks where we just wouldn't have enough. Over 100 episodes now, and to start our eighth season Sunday night. And every week, where are we going to cut? What are we going to cut? And four days ago, we didn't know where we're going to be, and now John Heilemann is in Poland with the president. So, it is great having a front row seat because it is the greatest political show on Earth, American politics.

CAMEROTA: That's so great. Everybody should tune into Showtime's, The Circus. Thank you all very much, great conversation.

Okay. President Biden goes to an active war zone. Former Defense Secretary Cohen is going to tell us how risky that was, next.



CAMEROTA: President Biden making a surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv today, walking through the streets to the sounds of air raid sirens. Biden's show solidarity and it with this message to Russian President Vladimir Putin


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the west was divided. As you know, Mr. President, I said to you in the beginning, he's counting on us not sticking together. He was counting on the inability to keep NATO united. And he was counting on us not to be able to bring in others on the side of Ukraine. I thought he could outlast us. I don't think he's thinking that right now.


CAMEROTA: Joining me now, former Defense Secretary William Cohen. Secretary, thanks so much for being here. This is historic. It's the first time that a U.S. president has gone into an active war zone that the U.S. military does not have control over. And so how risky was this?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think very risky. It was bold, but it was brave on this part. And against all odds, it was successful. So, I have to give the Biden administration really high marks how they were able to keep this plan in the long-term planning under wraps from anyone understanding that this was going to take place. So, I think it's very risky. Again, he pulled it off quite successfully. And as a result, the Ukrainian people feel even more inspired and continue to wage war and fighting (ph).

CAMEROTA: And what does go into the planning of a trip like this?

COHEN: Well, I wear a digital watch, but imagine a Swiss watch. All the intricate parts that allow that watch to turn and to integrate with every other conceivable part, that is what goes into a presidential planning. For example, assuming we land in Poland, assuming we get on a train, what if something would have gone wrong on the train? What if it were to derail, and we've seen our own derailments here in the United States, where would the president be taken? Would he be hurt? Were there hospitals nearby? Every contingency has to be planned so that his life is protected at all costs.

So, those kinds of details are a part of any presidential trip. When we are in charge, so to speak, and we have control the airspace and we have control of the ground, then it becomes a little bit easier. But even here in the United States, here in Washington, the amount of planning that goes into moving the president is extraordinary.

CAMEROTA: I was so interested to read that they had to or they felt like they should alert Russia before he got there for de-confliction purposes. I mean, it makes total sense but I just would've thought that it had to be a surprise for Russia. But, no, in fact, it was the opposite.

COHEN: Well, in this particular case, it was really important. They are not asking for permission from President Biden to go in to pay a visit to Kyiv. They are telling the Russians we are coming. The president is coming. Therefore, make sure you don't fire on the capital. Because if you do, and you assassinate an American president visiting our ally and such, not NATO but an ally, and a great one, and then you will run the risk of starting World War III.

So, I think you have to send a signal. We're not asking permission. We're telling you, make sure no one fires on the capital. But that raises another issue. What if that message doesn't come down from Moscow to the people on the ground and they're going to see another attempt to fire another round of artillery into Kyiv and possibly injure certainly President Zelenskyy but also President Biden. So, that's a risk that is always there.

CAMEROTA: So, today, President Biden announced another half a billion dollars in new aid and assortment of new military equipment, artillery, ammunition, javelins, howitzers. So, what impact will these have?

COHEN: Well, I think these weapon systems will have a great impact on the ground. It will allow the Ukrainian forces to not only defend themselves but to go after the Russians on the ground and take back more territory. Right now, everyone has noted they are running out of ammunition and we are not in a position, with the kind of industrial production capability we have of feeding as much ammunition they need.

So, getting more ammunition as quickly as we can is really important. The other issue is, and they're looking for the big-ticket items like aircraft, F-16, long range artillery. There is a whole package of training that has to go with that.

My own view is I would start training the Ukrainians now. Thus, training them in case we decide to go forward. After they have demonstrated through all that training, they are capable handling the intricacy, not just flying the plane, but also of how to manage the logistical training that goes with sophisticated aircraft, et cetera.

So, I think the Biden administration doing it just right now. But I think if we see the Russians start to push the Ukrainians back and they look like they might be losing ground, I think the cry is going to be give them more, they need this kind of equipment now to push the Russians back.

And just one final point. I think that the United States will continue to fund Ukraine as long as we see they are able to continue doing what they're doing. If it looks as if they're losing, then I think the sentiment of this country exacerbated by someone who like, who are sympathetic to Putin, we'll say time to pull back. Time to review their budgets. So, I think that's the danger. That's why you have to go full force

this year and now with whatever we can afford to give them (inaudible).

CAMEROTA: I have one final point for you also. The China factor. So, China's top diplomat is expected in Moscow soon amid these concerns that China could be increasing their support for Russia. So how would -- how does that change the whole equation?

COHEN: I think we have to understand that we can't dictate to China. You tell them you can or you can't do this. I think the mistake for us to be drawing publicly, red lines. I think if the Chinese were to do this, it would certainly be counterproductive. It certainly would impair our relationship which is at the lowest level in recent years, even more. So, I think we need to go behind and meet with President Xi.

And I think President Biden want to try to schedule something during the course of this year to make sure that we don't go off tracks completely with the Chinese. It's a big country, important country, and a powerful country. And we can make sure we're still talking to them, even as we have these differences with them. Otherwise, it can get very dangerous for the rest of the world.

CAMEROTA: Former Secretary, William Cohen, thank you. Always appreciate talking to you.

Okay now to this. Should classic children's books be updated to takeout offensive or out of date words? Should the word fat be omitted? How about the word white? Well take on the case of rewriting Roald Dahl, next.



CAMEROTA: Change is coming to Roald Dahl's classic children's books. Dahl's estate and publisher making hundreds of changes to some of Dahl's most popular books including "The Witches," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and James and the Giant Peach." The revisions were made by sensitivity readers from the organization called Inclusive Minds. It's described as collective of people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility in children's literature.

Her are a few examples. In the book "The Witches," one line was changed from "You must be mad, woman" to "you must be out of your mind." In the book "Mr. Fantastic Fox" the character Bunce, is no longer described as quote, "the little pot-bellied dwarf." Now he's just Bunce. And in 'Charlie the -- thank you for that -- and in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" the character Augustus Gloop is no longe described as fat, instead he's only described as enormous.

The changes are getting some serious pushback including from author Salman Rushdie who called it, quote, "absurd censorship." Back with me now, Mark McKinnon, John Berman, Natasha Alford and Harry Litman. And Natasha, there is every single night I call upon your former teaching skills. You are the only one of us who I believe used to be a teacher.

UKNOWN: And has written a children's book.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and has written a children's book. You're the perfect guest to have. So, are these, I mean look, part of what they say they are doing is relevance. They want the books to be relevant to kids today. Not to be a timepiece, necessarily, from like Shakespeare. You know, they're not updating Shakespeare. We accept that that is what it is. But they want kids to totally be able to relate to it. So, saying something I think is innocuous, you must be mad, woman. My kids don't know what mad means, you must be out of your minds. So, they're updating it. Is this okay or not, okay?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I just -- I want a world in which we can have conversations about why certain words may be offensive. Why certain words may not be inclusive without actually changing an authors' words. He is not here to approve these changes. We know that his estate has spoken of the changes that are being made. But that is part of what art is, right?


And even thinking about my children's book, your book that you're working on, those are your words for a reason. And so, if a new generation comes along, I would like for there to be a conversation. That can also be a weapon, right, if you know, someone who maybe I don't agree with takes control and all the sudden has the authority to change my words and what I meant. So, again, like the idea of having conversations about the impact. I don't think we need to change the author's words to do that.


HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: One hundred percent. I mean, this is just me as a 10-year-old not as a lawyer, but it's Roald Dahl. He is supposed to be terrible, terrible man, yes, but a great writer in his own way. He is supposed to be a sir, but he's supposed to be scary, you know. And taking, sanding him down, I mean the other times where the expurgate words or even little strains is one thing. This is who Roald Dahl is. That's like peanut M&M's without the peanuts. This is very much, you know, taking Roald Dahl and just de-Dahling him. I think it's terrible.

MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE CIRCUS: The problem is where does it stop, right? And you know, would you rather be called enormous than fat? I think the way to handle it --


MCKINNON: I think the way to handle it is to handle it with an adverse, knowing something at the beginning of a book to say, you may find some of these words' offensive, it was a different time. Just put it in context.

CAMEROTA: Just leave it be? BERMAN: Look, I think, starting what Natasha said, I don't think

there's anything wrong with teaching. Why are we so afraid of teaching what these words mean and how they're different now? One of the things I would like taught when teaching Roald Dahl, is that he was virulent anti-Semite.


MCKINNON: To say that in the introduction, to say he was racist, he was a misogynist (inaudible) might be.

BERMAN: But I do -- but one -- one thing here I do -- the idea that nothing can ever be changed, I think we've come to this place, oh, you can't change anything, you know, Agatha Christie, there's a book -- one of her most famous books is "And Then There Was One," but you all may know it better from when it was called "Ten Little Indiana," which is what they made the movie about.

It was originally published, and I'm not going to say it here, it was ten little N words. That was the original title of the book. And the island it took place on was N word island. This is one of Agatha Christie's most famous books, but they changed it. They changed it before 1940 because it was too offensive then and they changed it from (inaudible). Stuff can get changed and it's not the end all, be all. This, with the words that they're changing here, you know (inaudible).

CAMEROTA: And then they even changed it to "And Then There Was None."

ALFORD: I would want to know that about that author, right. Her original -- I would want to know that. I don't want it packaged up in a nice bow so I can accept the story and forget that there were racist intents in which he wrote, if there was.

CAMEROTA: And to John's point, Roald Dahl himself change things in some of his books when it was too offensive. But even he rolled eyes (inaudible)

BERNMAN: I am not sure what would qualify as (inaudible).

CAMEROTA: -- because we all know the oompa looompa's. The oompa Loompa were not originally these little orange creatures with green hair. I learned today they started, originally being written as, quote, black pygmies from the deepest darkest parts of the African jungle. So, he realized at some point, oh, that's not right. And he changed them to the oompa Loompa's which are --

UKNOWN: Orange dwarfs.

UKNOWN: Sweet.

CAMEROTA: Yeah, I mean, (inaudible), but so much better. I mean, so much more -- so memorable. Even today I think are being stricken in some cases from some productions.

ALFORD: The culture wars right now is frustrating because there will be someone on the right who takes this example and says, look, they are being ridiculous, those people on the left. And also, at the same time they'll go out the way to ban books and say, oh, but we can't have these book that talk about, you know, a young person struggling with their sexuality like George Johnson's "All Boys Aren't Blue." Like it's just an insane time right now.

CAMEROTA: That is such a great point, Natasha. As was saying before about cancel culture. I'm so twisted up with cancel culture, I don't know who is canceling who anymore because you're right, the same people who said, ohm these are snowflakes, they can't handle the words fat, they can't handle the word ugly, one of the things that they are changing. But there are books, as we all know, that have been taken out of classrooms for a host of reasons because whatever, whoever this is, isn't comfortable with the depiction of something.

ALFORD: You know what was fascinating? The African American Policy Forum. They are doing something or they've done something called a freedom tour where they go around into communities with the banned books and they encourage young people to read. And you would be surprised the books on this list, beautiful children's books about diversity, about culture, about unknown stories, that now people have to fight to tell those stories.

That to me is emblematic of the best of America. The ways in which we resist and we rally. But what a sight time that we even have to think about silencing those voices.

MCKINNON: And as if banning the books would work. If I'm a 10-year- old and you ban a book, you guarantee I'm going to find that book. It won't be in the library. (Inaudible).


CAMEROTA: So, is there any word that should be stricken? In other words that these are all --

BERMAN: I don't think you could be an absolutist about this. I don't think you can just say, oh, we should never change anything no matter what, you know.

LITMAN: But no one is saying that about Dahl. I agree with you.

BERMAN: I'm not so sure.

LITMAN: I mean, because this is his whole text. This is who he is a writer. You'd have to really, you know, sniff out -- he is a writer designed to make you afraid, he's acerbic. He is a misanthrope, but that's the kind of writer he is. It's not just your Agatha Christie example, which is a good one, but it's just a different kind of case, I'm saying.

CAMEROTA: Here is Roald Dahl's company statement on the changes. "We want to make sure that Roald Dahl's wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today. When publishing new print runs out of books written years ago, it is not unusual to review the language used alongside updating up their details including the book's cover and page layout. Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text. Any changes made have been small and carefully considered."

LITMAN: Did you know that? It's not unusual for language (inaudible)

ALFORD: I did. I read the statement from the estate, yes.

CAMEROTA: Well, I'm surprised. I too am surprised because I did not know that they can tamper with author's words like you. I mean, they are really carefully chosen. Like you labor over each sentence.

MCKINNON: But here's another example. In some cases, some new lines were added in "The Witches," a paragraph that explain that the witches are bald underneath wigs. It has a new sentence. There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.

CAMEROTA: That's -- no, stop. That's in the new book?


LITMAN: That's added to the text.

BERMAN: They added. They didn't change the --

LAFORD: A teacher could say that outside in a lesson. It doesn't have to be in the book. I was in the play "Witches" actually. Random side not.

MCKINNON: (Inaudible).

ALFORD: I had a wig. And I had a wig and there was no shame in that people.

LITMAN: It's not to say, it's not the offense -- I remember reading and getting scared all of a sudden. You realize, oh man. He's really twisting you around. That's a good experience for a kid to have at it.

CAMEROTA: All right, friends, thank you very much. Wait until you get a load of this next story. Did you ever play game at the boardwalk or amusement park and ask yourself why can't I win? Why can't I knock these bottles down or get that ball in the hoop? It turns out we now know the reason. We'll show you.



CAMEROTA: Have you ever asked yourself why is it so hard to win a stuffed teddy bear on the Jersey Shore boardwalk? I know I have. Finally, tonight, an answer. New Jersey's attorney general cracking down on one operator of basketball games on the boardwalk in the very place I misspent much of my youth, wildwood and north wildwood (ph). They allege the operator over inflates the balls making them bounce off the rim instead of going to the basket. The A.G. saying in a statement, quote, "Every person who plays an

amusement game in the state of New Jersey deserves a fair shot at winning a prize." I'm back with Mark, John, Natasha, and Harry. Finally, you guys, it's not just my lack of athleticism that didn't allow me to win the stuff teddy bear. Now we know the answer, John.

BERMAN: We always knew the answer. Are you the only one? Is this like the entire state of New Jersey knew and you didn't?

CAMEROTA: John, no, people do pay money to try to win those teddy bears. (Inaudible)

MCKINNON: This is different. I was surprised (inaudible) is regulated. I didn't know it's regulated.

BERMAN: Yeah. The A.G. is in (inaudible). Get the government out of my rigged wildwood sidewalk days.

CAMEROTA: John, they are too big to go into the basket. You knew that?

BERMAN: I figured it was rigged.

CAMEROTA: But you didn't know how?

BERMAN: Actually, okay, I suppose I didn't know how.

LITMAN: Oh, come on. The circumference is like this, a basketball hoop is like that, everybody knows (inaudible).

ALFORD: It's a pretty open secret. I am from Syracuse and we have the New York State Fair and you just know that with the basketball hoops chances are you're not going to win. So, I always --

CAMEROTA: But did you always thought --

ALFORD: I thought it was a little tilted. And I thought that they kind of tilted or it's kind of bent the hoop a little bit. That's what I thought it was. Yeah.

CAMEROTA: I thought it just (inaudible).

BERMAN: Well, they're not usually paying for the entertainment value of losing. That's a way to think about it.

CAMEROTA: I want my dollar $1.25 back, Mark. I mean, that's what a, you know, about what I've spent.

MCKINNON: If that's (inaudible) regularly.

BERMAN: Exactly. We (inaudible).


UNKNOWN: That's why you need big government.

UNKNOWN: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, I don't know. I just find that there is this total revelation because some people do win those. That's (inaudible). Is it something -- you do see people walking around with a huge teddy bears.

BERMAN: All the squirt gun games. The squirt gun games (inaudible)


CAMEROTA: So, they're not rigged?



LITMAN: The A.G. has got coyotes in order (inaudible).


LITMAN: Started with the basketball.

CAMEROTA: Thank goodness we have a lawyer around.


CAMEROTA: See. That's where Tom Brady learned it. All right, thank you all.

All right, meanwhile, President Biden back in Poland tonight after that unprecedented and risky and highly secretive trip to war-torn Ukraine. How's the trip playing out here? We're going to talk about that and a lot more, next.



CAMEROTA: President Biden wrapping up an unprecedented and risky trip to Ukraine. He wanted to show that the U.S. stands with Ukraine in the war against Russia.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE OF AMERICA: For all the disagreements we had in our Congress on some issues, there is a significant agreement on support for Ukraine because this so much larger than just Ukraine. It's about freedom of democracy in Europe. It's about freedom of democracy writ-large.


CAMEROTA: But not all lawmakers are on board. Let's talk about it. I want to bring in Mike Broomhead, host of the Mike Broomhead Radio Show, special correspondent for "Vanity Fair," Molly Jong-Fast, CNN political analyst Natasha Alford and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. He's the author of "Silent Spring Revolution." Great to have all of you here tonight. Doug, first let's just talk about the significance of this. This was unprecedented in that he went into an active war zone, not a U.S. controlled military zone. He just went into a war zone.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Never happened before. I mean, today I've been talking some about Franklin D. Roosevelt's, you know, epic diplomacy with Churchill during World War II, but we never had a president quite do this.


I mean, Eisenhower would go to Korea and so we're getting out of Korea.