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CNN Tonight

What Conversations Do We Now Feel Uncomfortable Having Because We're Afraid We'll Get It Wrong; SCOTUS Weighs Fate Of Biden's Student Loan Relief Program; Rupert Murdoch Says Fox News Host Endorsed False Election Claims; The Bidens Order Same Dish At A Restaurant; Tennessee Governor To Sign Anti-Drag Bill; Close Call At Boston Airport. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 28, 2023 - 22:00   ET




BILL MAHER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He was so prescient. He's the one who said, political parties are going to be the death of us. Once we get into that kind of factual thinking, and look at all these years later, that's really how it turned out.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You can catch more of Bill during Real Time with Bill Maher every Friday night at 10 P.M. on HBO. And his post- show segment, Overtime, which airs right here on CNN Fridays at 11:30 P.M. Eastern. I'll see you back here tomorrow on The Lead.

CNN Tonight with Alisyn Camerota is next.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN Tonight.

We just heard the kind of conversation that a lot of us are having at our own dinner tables. Bill Maher talked to Jake Tapper about politics and race and cancel culture and wokeness.


TAPPER: How do you define wokeness? Because I hear people use the term all the time. And it means something different to everybody.

MAHER: Well, again, I think it's this collection of ideas that are not building on liberalism, but very often undoing it. I mean, five years ago, Abraham Lincoln was not a controversial figure among liberals. We liked him. Now, they take his name off schools and tear down his statues. Really, Lincoln is not good enough for you?


CAMEROTA: Aren't we all having conversations also where we accidentally step in it? And what conversations do we now feel uncomfortable having because we're afraid to get it wrong? So, our panel is going to tackle all that in just a moment.

Also, the Supreme Court hearing challenges to President Biden's student debt relief plan. Some of the conservative justices seemed skeptical. So, how do their own experiences affect how they see all of this? Is their solution to the crushing burning of student debt? And why is college so expensive anyway?

Plus, listen to this, President Biden and Jill Biden went out to dinner the other night and they both ordered the same thing. Why? What dish was so good that they both had to get it? We have a lot to talk about tonight.

Okay, here in the studio with me, we have Josh Barro, Host of the Very Serious Podcast, and one of our favorite Republicans, Margaret Hoover, one of our very favorite Republicans, and one of our very favorite Texans, L.Z. Granderson, and my estranged work husband, John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: How come I'm not your very favorite?

CAMEROTA: Estranged husbands, I mean, you know, I do like that.

BERMAN: You can go down the list. I think I'm going to go with one of the very favorite ones.

CAMEROTA: All right, great to have you all here.

Okay, I mean, should I just start with like this totally loaded question of who thinks wokeness has gone too far?

JOSH BARRO, HOST, VERY SERIOUS PODCAST: Well I mean I think it goes back to Jake Tapper's question, what does wokeness even mean?

CAMEROTA: What does it mean?

BARRO: I think people throw it around and they mean all sorts of things. I mean, I think the Freddie deBoer, I think, has the -- when he writes about this, has the best term to use for it, which is that people are talk about social justice politics, which is a politics that is more focused on people's group identities and marginalized groups and how societal biases and history affect the way that people get to exist and live based on their membership in different groups.

CAMEROTA: In its best form? In its best form?

BARRO: Well, in its best form and its worst form. You can do that kind of analysis well or you can do it poorly. I think that's usually what people are talking about when they use the term, wokeness.

And I guess the other thing is, you know, the idea that wokeness can refer to when people are very focused on how stigmas make people feel rather than on whether the statements are true or not. And, again, that can be something that is a bad instinct that causes you to avoid saying things that are true but it can also be a good instinct that causes you to be sensitive to people.

CAMEROTA: I totally understand there's nuance. I guess what I'm talking about is when Roald Dahl's books, when people start removing fat, the word fat or white from Roald Dahl's books, though he wrote it in 1960, but it's time to change them because those make some people uncomfortable, that is something that, you know, obviously, as you know, some Republicans can run with.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's not just Republicans. I think Republicans are leveraging actually a legitimate, not grievance, but gripe that ordinary Americans have, which is that there is in some of this analysis which has come to encompass the word woke when it's used pejoratively, is this sense of intolerance and the sense of, frankly, illiberalism, that somehow there is not a -- there is no birth for people to work through these issues in a way that is honest and authentic and maybe mass steps in it, as you said sometimes, but it's also learning, and instead shuts down the debate because of the way other people feel and doesn't create a space for frankly a civil conversation in the public square.

CAMEROTA: L.Z., how do you see it?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, OP-ED COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: You know, it's interesting that this conversation would start off with Bill Maher because -- so, his show, Politically Incorrect, is out in the early 90s. That is when (INAUDIBLE) so was very popular. And the word woke is being used quite often in music.


For some reason, Bill Maher missed that, probably because he did not care about that.

The reason why woke is such a conversation piece now is because people have politicized it. Where it originated from, black folks, it simply meant to be enlightened, to be aware of your surroundings. Other groups have politicized the word. But those who truly understand its original definition, we still are woke. We're not going to be less woke because DeSantis signed something or because Bill Maher makes a joke or because someone redefines our word. That's your definition. That's fine and dandy.

But the true definition of the word, we still hold true. And by we, I mean, those who are black, who subscribe to a certain belief, which is very important to be enlightened so that you understand why we as a people are in the situation that we're in.


BERMAN: I'm curious what conversations Bill Maher wants to be having that he's not having. He doesn't seem like he's being held back all that much by -- our colleague, Bill Maher, by the way, by the wokeness that is out there. I read an article today where we had a discussion with Greg Gutfeld about incest porn in his podcast. I mean, he seems to be free to talk about whatever he wants to talk to. And, look, that's not for me to judge. He seems to have that opportunity.

And you putting a date on it when you talk about the 90s, it was interesting. I was thinking about Phillip Roth wrote a book called The Human Stain, which was a late 90s book. And the whole premise of the book was that a professor basically loses his job, is run out of town, because he says something that's deemed offensive, right? This is 1998. So, by my math, that's, what, 25 years ago. So, 25 years ago they're talking about this. The only difference between then and now maybe we're all 25 years older. So, maybe this is something that's just occurring to some people as they age.

GRANDERSON: It happened before that.

BERMAN: That's (INAUDIBLE) always.

GRANDERSON: There is a great song called, Wake Up, Everybody. Wake up, everybody, no more sleeping. Like I listen to that every day growing up as a kid, seven, eight years old. This is the early 80s. I mean, the wide awakes were started by Republicans to support President Lincoln. Like the idea of a concept of being cognizant and being enlightened is being bastardized by people who don't want to be held accountable for behaviors of their grandparents or their great grandparents or the greatest generation, because, oh, hello, who enforced Jim Crow laws? Which generation enforced those Jim Crow laws? That when it means to be awake, is to put two and two together and say, oh, that's four.

BARRO: I think whether there are things Bill Maher can't say is the wrong question. I mean, his show, well, now, it's Real Time, but he hosted Politically Incorrect. His brand for decades has been that he says things that other people feel that they're not supposed to say. And that's been a big part of his success on television. I think the reason that the show has been so longstanding and so successful is that he's offering something that other people don't offer but that there is a market for.

And I think it's a reflection that there are things in a broader society and within the media and various news organizations, people can go out and say the things that Bill Maher says. And, you know, I'm not saying that everyone should run their mouth about everything all the time. There's good reasons that if you're a New York Times reporter, there are opinions that you are supposed to keep yourself.

But I think that when people talk about cancel culture and they say, well, look, here's this person saying this thing and they're not canceled, they're getting more famous than ever, that's true. And I think partly people worry too much about how other people react, if you have something that you think is important and you feel like you should not say, then maybe the solution is just that you should not say it, but also most people are not of Bill Maher's professional position. And a lot of people face consequences that he's not going to face.

CAMEROTA: But in your regular life, do you find yourself holding your tongue in a way that you did not used to because you are afraid that a conversation is getting too dicey now?

BARRO: Not -- well, it's actually -- it's funny for me, because I do this for a living now, right? And I actually increasingly just feel like I don't feel like having these arguments in my off time. So, yes. HOOVER: So, then you are putting yourself in an ecosystem or in an echo chamber, a silo in a way.

BARRO: I'm not in a silo.

HOOVER: You're choosing not to engage in the kind of cross- pollinating discussion because it's too tiresome.

BARRO: Well, yes, I mean, sometimes it is tiresome. But I don't know. I just feel like I'm off the clock.

GRANDERSON: Why is information tiresome though?

HOOVER: No, it's not information tiresome. I think -- look, I think what you're getting at is, is there something now than there was 20 years ago? Maybe not in the context of sort of the etymology of the end of this sort of interesting, historical context of the word woke but in the context of what is permissible speech and what is not permissible speech.

Take the academy. I mean, it was in the 1950s, William F. Buckley Jr. writes in God and Man at Yale, which is sort of getting at the original sort of question about free speech and what is permissible in the academy. And then in the 90s, we went through this period of political correctness, as though there was a clamping down of free speech in college campuses, which echoed that same tradition.

GRANDERSON: That has nothing to do with wokeness.

HOOVER: Yes and no.

CAMEROTA: But in terms of conversation --

HOOVER: Not your definition, not the original definition.

GRANDERSON: I'm not speaking in terms of what someone else does to the definition to justify their own political understanding.


CAMEROTA: I understand, but your term is the bastardized version that we're now living and whether we have to pull those --

HOOVER: We're in the purest version. And, L.Z., we are all in the bastardized version.

GRANDERSON: I'm not living in the bastardized version of the word. I'm telling you there is creative Jack Daniels. I'm telling you it was black women who helped send a white man into space. I'm not sitting up here allowing the false stories that we've been taught as kids to dictate how I view myself, my people or my life in this country. And I think there are a lot of people who still hold true to the original definition of woke and not getting caught up in the way people have hijacked the definition to fit their own political agenda.

BARRO: This is why I think the word is a bit of a distraction because so much of what people are talking about this has nothing to do with the African-American experience. It's been broadened out in so many areas.

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) in a serious way. I think they know that it lacks definition and they know that it sets people off, which is why they use it. But I think you're right. I think you're absolutely right.

CAMEROTA: But don't you think culturally, we have obviously, as every generation has, to change our language? And we are having to watch what we say more now than we did previously in our lives and other generations did. I find this with my teenage daughters. I mean, when I have conversations with my teenage daughters and talk to them about being a teenager, they think that I was like a victim of the patriarchy, and that I like only saw myself to the male gaze. And this is how they talk to me now. So, I mean, I just find all these conversations to be a little bit more fraught than they were ten years ago.

HOOVER: That is the case. And I mean this is quantifiable. There are social scientists who have documented how speech is particularly in the academy, and that was my maybe my longwinded way of saying, in academia in particular and on college campuses, exactly. You know, Jonathan Hike has done great work documenting how the impact of, frankly, a dampening of free speech on college campuses.

Of course, you're free to say anything. But will you keep your job? Will you be able to stay in the class? Will you not be bullied? There has been an experience that is worse probably heightened by social media, probably heightened by the polarization that we have in our online experience that has been increased, and frankly heightened during COVID. These are real things. And that's why there is resonance politically on both the left and right for it.

BARRO: And I think you definitely see it in the press now too. I mean, there's been this brouhaha at The New York Times over certain coverage from their science desk on youth gender medicine. And a lot of the arguments against the way The New York Times has been covering it deal only glancingly with reporting, which I think has been very careful and balanced.

It is much more about how the reporting makes people feel, how the reporting might affect people based on what groups they're in, which political actors might be emboldened by the reporting, which are not actually questions about the quality of the reporting itself.

We saw the same thing with the lab leak. I mean, we have this new report out with low confidence about the idea that COVID came from a lab leak. There are other government reports with low confidence that emerge naturally. We'll probably never know where it came.

But we went through this period especially when Trump was president, where basically when people try to talk about that, they were shouted down like it was a conspiracy theory. They were told that talking about it was going to foment violence against Asian-Americans. And, again, these were not arguments that went to the direct question of where did COVID come from. And so I think this has been a change, mostly a negative change that we've seen in the media, where we've gotten away from pursuit of factual questions. I mean, the letter from GLAAD, the LGBTQ lobby group, The New York Times literally criticize them for just doing just asking questions reporting.

What reporters do is ask questions. And sometimes the questions aren't comfortable, and sometimes the questions have uncomfortable political implications. But I do think that's been a shift that's related to this increasing focus on the way people feel based on their group membership.

GRANDERSON: I think the word woke, it's interesting that you characterize it that way, and I agree with you. But it feels to me that those who use the bastardized version of woke are the ones who are sensitive and being snowflakes because they don't the true information getting out there because they don't want kids going home and rethinking their family tree.

I think they are being sensitive to that. There is a reason why when you look at the state we live in now, Texas, trying to re-write how slavery is described. Saying that people were like I think it was involuntarily displaced instead of kidnap and forced into enslavement.

Like there are different ways that you are looking around now that Republicans mostly, but not only, are using their positions and state as well as federal politics to try to make sure that they don't feel bad about the history of their forefathers. And they try to blame black people by saying your being too woke. When the reality is you hid this from us. You hid all the towns that were burned down from us. You hid, as I mentioned earlier, the history of NASA and how this collection of black geniuses came up with the right formula. I look at Star Wars, not a single black person in space. I didn't know for years that black women created that formula. That was because you didn't want us to feel a certain way about ourselves but more importantly, you did not want to feel that way about yourself.


CAMEROTA: Friends, thank you very much for all that.

We have to get this. We have some breaking political news. CNN projects the Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will not be back for a second term in office.

Paul Vallas, who was head of the schools in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson will advance to a runoff election for Chicago mayor on April 4th. Nine candidates were on the ballot for Chicago mayor. But since none of them won more than 50 percent of the vote, I hope I'm saying this right, Vallas and Johnson will face off. Lightfoot found herself with few allies in her bid for a second term, and a host of powerful interests aligned against her. The police and teachers union backed other candidates.

All right, stick around everybody, because when we come back, we want to talk about the big debate over student loan forgiveness. Some people feel burdened, of course, with crushing loans for decades and the Supreme Court is taking this up today.


CAMEROTA: Will millions of dollars of student loans be forgiven? That's what the Supreme Court is deciding after hearing oral arguments today into cases challenging President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan.

The outcome could drastically affect the lives of 40 million borrowers. The plan, which could provide up to $20,000 of debt relief, has been on hold for months after a lower court blocked it.

Okay, let's bring in our panel. Margaret, do you like the idea of student loan forgiveness?


HOOVER: Well, look, there's a lot of ways to fix the student loan -- the student debt problem. There is massive student debt in this country. There's too much of it. College costs too much. It's gotten increasingly expensive. There's a lot of reason why.

So, that I think is a separate question then whether an executive action by a president should wipe out all student loans that's on the books. And the question, the constitutional question that the court is dealing with about whether there's a separation of powers question, that if you are going to do this, Congress should pass a law rather than a president passing executive action in order to wipe all student clean.

But do I like President Biden's approach to this? No, of course not. Do I recognize that student debt is a problem and a serious and difficult policy problem that ought to be tackled by our representatives at the federal level? Yes.

CAMEROTA: And you think they would ever do that?

HOOVER: I wouldn't -- look, I am not Pollyannaish but nor I'm a cynic. Did I think that marriage equality would pass at the federal level and become codified into law, signed by the president, passed with Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate? I did not think that but I worked for it and it happened.

So, look, it takes all of us putting our nose to the grindstone and trying to get the really frustrating process of legislating policy through. That's what you do.

CAMEROTA: Josh, do you like the idea?

BARRO: No. I mean, well, first of all, it's not legal. There is a reason that the Biden administration spent the year trying to get Congress to send them a law that would cancel student debt. Because this cockamamie idea that this 2003 law that allows a response to medical emergencies allows you to cancel hundreds of billions of dollars of student debt on the basis of the COVID emergency, three- plus years after the start of the pandemic. The idea that this is a response to the COVID emergency is just nonsense as a policy idea.

We've already seen the court reject efforts to do something similar when the CDC issued an eviction moratorium. There are important areas of policy here, but the executive branch cannot just keep freelance and especially spend several hundred billion dollars.

And I think part the reason that people think so weirdly about this issue is that they don't feel like it is real money because it's not the government actually sending out checks. They're basically crossing lines off a piece of paper. But all money is just pieces of paper.

CAMEROTA: Meaning that they would give you a tax deduction?

BARRO: Well, that they -- that you don't -- that payments that you'd have to make back to the government, you no longer have to make. And so, basically, the government foregoes several hundred billion dollars of revenue over many years. And that's an expense. It's an equivalent if we sent checks out to people.

And if the president just woke up one morning and was like, I am going to send out several hundred billion dollars in checks without a particular authorization from Congress, people would be like, that's illegal, you cannot do that.

Now, with the Supreme Court case, there are some complicated legal issues about standing, about whether anybody actually is legally allowed to sue in the Supreme Court over this. I don't really have a view on that. So, it's possible that the court will end up deciding that it's not their place to rule on whether this is legal or not. But, no, this is lawless of the administration.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, anybody have strong feelings about this?

BERMAN: If you'd ask like a 24-year-old version of me about this, you know, I'd be like, yes, it's awesome. Because that was -- I was what, two years, into 12 years or however many it was paying off my student loan.

CAMEROTA: But now that you're in middle-age man, how do you feel?

BERMAN: Well, I think the interesting question, I think, is will people in their twenties or early 30s or mid 30s, as the case may be, feel like something is being taken away from them now. That's an interesting political question to me.

Now that President Biden has put it out there as a political move, whether it was justified or not, and he clearly had doubts, because he took a long time to do this, whether or not in doing it now, people feel like they've had something taken away, a little bit --

CAMEROTA: Meaning, with people who paid their debt?

BERMAN: No, I mean students, I mean young people, I mean people in their twenties who have student debt now that thought they might have it forgiven. If they now blame Republicans or the conservative court for taking that away from them, politically, is that something that will help President Biden? I'm not a 100 percent sure because I don't think it's quite as tangible, as Josh which is sort was suggesting as some other things, but I am very, very curious.

Just textually, look, I think it is problematic, and as I said, I think Joe Biden thought it was problematic from beginning. The 2003 laws is written in a pretty squishy way. It is written a squishy way that if you want to be a textualist, and they always seem to in certain cases but not in another, you can look at the text that law and say, okay, maybe it allows for perhaps if they wanted, this court, in this case, I don't think we'll want to.

CAMEROTA: I thought that your were referring to the complaint that I hear from some people, which is hey, I had to pay my student debt, let's make them have to pay theirs. Why do they get a free ride? I had to pay my student debt. I hear that complaint sometimes.

GRANDERSON: I hear that complaint too. First, I do appreciate what the president tried to do to help people. You know, we all were here for the great recession. We saw how the federal government sprung up, because this business industry is too big to fail. This was too big to fail. These people need help. Tons of money going out to rescue businesses that were in need. And every single time it's time to rescue people, is it legal, is it this, is it that?


So, I appreciate the effort.

I think the most important thing for the administration to do and for the Congress do isn't necessarily to focus in on student loan cancelation but rather figure out why there so much money has been spent for college in the first place.

CAMEROTA: Oh, for sure, I mean, that's your point, 1,000 percent. It's so prohibitively expensive for so many people. And there's also an argument that by doing this student debt forgiveness, student loan forgiveness, it only encourages colleges --

HOOVER: That's the big a problem.

BARRO: But this is also the weird thing about the focus on cancelation. If you go an spend more money on Pell Grants or other things that make a cheaper for people to go to college in the future, more people will go to college and you get more education. If you give money to people who already chose to go to college and already spend the money on it, that's great for them. But it doesn't cause anybody to get an additional to get a college degree. It's not education spending that actually --

GRANDERSON: That's not true. That's not necessarily true.

BARRO: Why would people go and get a college degree based on the fact that somebody else received retrospective relief? They hope there will be another cancelation in 15 years?

GRANDERSON: Well, I know for a fact that because I was student loan free, I was then able to have extra money to pay for my son's education, so that he was not saddled with debt. There isn't just a simple, you know, disconnect where it's like, oh, well you are free, and you are in a silo, and that means you're standing in life is not affected by anyone else is. That free money could also help feed people. That free money could actually help house people. There's a reason why it was decided it was emergency, because those student loan debt, those payments are taking food off peoples tables.

BARRO: That was the situation in 2020-2021 when the economy was depressed. If you --

GRANDERSON: Look, that's always been the situation.

BARRO: No, when the economy has the capacity and you send out hundreds of billions of dollars of extra money, it doesn't create hundreds of billions of dollars worth of extra goods and services. It just drives out the price.

We're in a situation -- back in 2020-2021, we need a huge stimulus for the economy. The government actually overshot, which is the reason that we ended up with eight percent inflation. And now they need to find ways to de-stimulate the economy.

And so, that's part of -- you know, I understood politically why the president did this student loan announcement. And even I think it was illegal, I actually think is a savvy political choice. I think he came out ahead by doing it, but it was not what was called for by the economic situation at that time. It was going to tend to push inflation upward, along with several other things that were also pushing inflation up. And it's really important right now, both as an economic manner and as a political matter for the president, to try to get inflation down.

CAMEROTA: I think it's interesting also to look at the justices and their own backgrounds when it comes to their student loans or their education. So, the justices all make close to $275,000 for their salaries. That does not include things like book deals and other forms of revenue. Justice Thomas wrote in his 2007 memoir about having to take out student loans and that he and his young family were struggling and he was still paying them off at age 43 when he became a Supreme Court justice.

Sonia Sotomayor went to Princeton and Yale on a scholarship. I think that's interesting. Four justices have tax free savings accounts for their kids. Chief Justice Roberts has $600,000 in one of them. Brett Kavanaugh has $300,000.

I just think that's interesting and whether or not that somehow colors their decision-making.

HOOVER: But in most cases -- look, in most cases the way the justices, especially at this elite level of the third branch of government, the judicial branch, they're jurisprudence, their judicial philosophy is -- you know, of course, they have their own personal experiences but it's actually not informed by the personal experiences. It's informed by their approach to the law, their approach the Constitution.

CAMEROTA: I mean, that's how it should be, and I want to believe that, but sometimes we just don't know if their own experiences color that.

HOOVER: And I think like if you look what their comments were in this case today, in this hearing today, it was about separation of powers, the role of Congress, the role of the executive branch. None of them are like, oh, well I had a lot of debt, I understand what you're saying. The constitutional question before them has nothing to do with their own personal experience.

GRANDERSON: But how do separate those? How do you separate your lived experience from your interpretation of what's on a piece of paper?

HOOVER: That's what being a judge is.

GRANDERSON: Yes. But do you --

HOOVER: That's the definition.

GRANDERSON: That's the definition, but do you think it's successful? Do you think this particular court, in particular, do you think it's successful in separating its lived experience with the words on a piece of paper?

HOOVER: I think every single justice will tell you that their job in the judiciary is to not adjudicate their own personal experience.

GRANDERSON: We know the job description. But are they actually doing it?

BARRO: I think the way we got Neil Gorsuch, a conservative justice writing an opinion and bostock (ph) extending federal civil rights protection for sexual orientation and gender identity, it was this like basically this extremely nerdy, look at -- this is exactly what these words say. And if you fire Bob for having relationship with a man and you don't fire Anne for having a relationship with a man, then you have discriminated based on sex. That -- whatever that was, that was not about Neil Gorsuch's personal experience.

CAMEROTA: I mean, like, look, ideally that is supposed to be, I just don't even know subconsciously sometimes if we're colored by our own experiences. But either way, I take both of your points. Thank you very much.

Now, to this, Fox News channel under a microscope after revelations that their top hosts knowingly pushed Donald Trump's election lies.


But is any of it surprising to the people who work there, like I did? And two of my former Fox News colleagues, including Margaret are going to join me to discuss this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: It was only under oath that Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corporation, had to finally admit that many of his hosts endorsed Donald Trump's election lies. He also admitted that he keeps conspiracy theorists on the air because it makes him money, and that he tried to silence some of the journalists who are actually telling the truth about Donald Trump's loss.

This has all come to light thanks to Dominion's $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox. Some people find all of this shocking, but not those of us who work there, as I did. And so did my next guests. Conor Powell was a Fox News foreign correspondent. He's now freelancing for CNN. Margaret Hoover was a regular contributor on the "O'Reilly Factor." It's great to see both of you this evening.

Conor, always great to see you. So, you know, this is --



CAMEROTA: -- this dirty laundry of Fox's has come to light because of the Dominion lawsuit, the depositions of which have been made public. You know how they operated. Is there anything in this lawsuit that has surprised you?

POWELL: There is nothing about this lawsuit that surprises me. The only thing that would have surprised me is if the primetime hosts had actually told the truth during this entire thing. And the fact that, like, Rupert Murdoch has tried to say that it wasn't Fox News, but it was these primetime hosts, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson. If they're not Fox News, then who is?

I mean, when Murdaugh says it wasn't Fox News, the very people who are the most identifiable people of Fox News were on air spreading misinformation, spreading these election lies, and Murdoch allowed it. He not only allowed when people told him to stop and that it was going to get the company into trouble, as the head of the organization, not only Fox News, but the larger Fox company, he continued to allow it.

So, he allowed Fox News to do this. It wasn't some rogue reporter or rogue anchor. It was the entire network led by the very biggest stars.

CAMEROTA: And not only that, Conor, one of the myths I always found about Fox was that there was some bright line between the news side and the prime-time opinion side. I worked on both sides of that so- called line. And I found the journalism rules to be often nonexistent, basically.

I mean, or at least they, even on the so-called news side, they fudged them under Roger's direction, Roger Ailes's direction, then the chairman, so often that they were sometimes non-existent. But you are on the straight news side. What did you find in your -- in what they -- your assignments, in your reporting?

POWELL: Yeah, I was fortunate I was halfway around the world most my career, covering stories that very few people at Fox wanted to actually physically be there. And so, I didn't have to watch the channel. I very rarely had to interact with the executives because I was halfway around the world in different time zones.

But I had the experience where when people push back on what I was reporting, I stayed with what I knew were facts and I stayed in my own lane in terms of what was opinion and what was factual reporting. I know a lot of reporters there who see themselves as hard news, straight reporters, but also feel the pressure to get on air with stories that will attract the management of the company.

I'm sure you've seen that as well. And that's one of the biggest problems there, is if you want airtime, the majority of the people there have to sort of tow this conservative commentary line. And that's true for the news people, as it obviously is promoted and true for the primetime people.

CAMEROTA: You're so right. And a lot of the bias does come through story selection there. Margaret, has anything surprised you in the revelations from this Dominion lawsuit?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I left Fox News in 2012 and continued, of course, to observe how they were covering the stories and I actually think it got worse overtime. It wasn't great when I was there. Of course, I was on not on the new side. I was on the opinion side. I was there to give my opinion and be a commentator.

I did always have a very clear sense that there was a certain opinion, a certain point of view that was rewarded. You've got to show up more and be on more shows and get a bigger contract if you had a certain point of view. And I was a little bit insulated from that. Sort of chose to be, because that's what felt authentic to who I am.

But it got worse. And what became clear to me in 2016 and then the 2020 election is there was a point of view that almost was indiscernible from the Republican National Committees point of view. And it just seemed as though Fox News was the official spokesperson for the Trump administration and what you see in these documents is that's exactly what they were. There is literally no difference, no firewall, nothing separating the two of them. They were arms in and of each other.

CAMEROTA: I mean, furthermore, when there are real journalists who are trying to report the facts on some of these lies, this is in the Dominion lawsuit about Shepard Smith. When Shepard Smith attacked the Trump administration's lies on air, Rupert Murdoch em-ailed Suzanne Scott, who is one of the presidents, and Jay Wallace, another one of the presidents, calling it, quote, "over the top" and telling them "Need to chat to him."

So, in other words, you know, there is this chilling effect when one of the journalists is trying to, as you know, Conor, tell the truth about something. Sometimes, management says that's too much truth. And so, Conor, I know that you had a similar experience, like, what was your final straw? POWELL: My final straw was I was slowly starting to see people

interfere in reporting that I have never heard from in my entire life. And I was covering the embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2017. And Fox blew it up. They sent a ton of anchors. It was a huge deal for the embassy -- with the embassy move. And I went into Gaza to cover that side the story.


We all predicted and knew there was going to be violence. And after the embassy moved, of course, there was a huge rash and break out of violence. And about 36 hours after the embassy moved, Fox still had all of these anchors praising the Trump administration and President Trump for this move. And they were -- they had editorial producers telling reporters to stop talking about the violence that had erupted and just to talk about the great and glorious embassy decision move.

And that was when I sort of said to myself, they are coming for all of the reporters at this point. They are going to try to inject as much editorial as they can. And for the most part before that, I had always been able to push back. And I began to see more and more that. And that's when I said I have to get out of here.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. Conor Powell, I really appreciate your candor. Thank you so much for explaining what your experience was. I think it's really valuable. Margaret, as always, thanks so much for explaining yours as well.

Okay, coming up, President Biden and the First Lady ordered the exact same dish at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. Why? Isn't that a huge waste when they could've tried two different dishes. Our panel has very strong thoughts about this.



CAMEROTA: President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have Washington buzzing because you won't believe this. They ordered the same dish at a restaurant! I'm not kidding. "The Washington Post" reports that they went to the popular Red Hen restaurant in D.C., and they both ordered the rigatoni with sausage. We're back with Josh Barro, Margaret Hoover, LZ Granderson and John Berman. Who does this (inaudible)?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: They're out of touch. They're out of touch with America. They're eating the same dish at a restaurant.

LZ GRANDERSON, OP-ED COLUMNIST, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Why is this a story? If she were to cook rigatoni, would they not both be eating the same dish anyway?

CAMEROTA: That's why you go to a restaurant. You can order different thing so you can sample each other's.

GRANDERSON: I thought you went to the restaurant because you can get something to eat. CAMEROTA: No! No, LZ.

JOSH BARRO, HOST, VERY SERIOUS PODCAST: You order what you want. If you and your dining partner both want the same thing, you both order the same thing.

BERMAN: Well, that's a libertarian view and your Republican Party has moved from that.

BARRO: They're trying to take away our freedoms.

BERMAN: They are.


BERMAN: They'll take away your restaurant.


CAMEROTA: No, it's that you coordinate with your date so that you can both share different meals and have bites of different (inaudible) -

BARRO: But that depends like, have you been there before? Is it, you know, are they ordering something really unusual or is it just like a hamburger? Like, you don't always need to taste everything that's on the table.

HOOVER: There is one conclusion that we can derive from this.

CAMEROTA: What is it?

HOOVER: The one conclusion is, that dish must be extraordinary.

CAMEROTA: I agree.

HOOVER: Because if they both ordered it knowing there is a full other menu and options, this rigatoni must be the best rigatoni in all of Washington, D.C.

BERMAN: Is that Chef Boyardee?

CAMEROTA: No, guys. This is "The Red Hen" rigatoni with fennel, sausage, and read sauce and pecorino cheese.

BERMNA: Here's the thing. I bet you the Bidens can get a reservation there again if they want to go back. He can get something --

HOOVER: I think they could probably have carry out. I bet they'd even deliver to the White House. That's my guess.

CAMEROTA: Guys, and we talk about the rest of the menu because I'm also interested in this. They also split a chicory salad. I think I'm opposed to that. I think you should --

BARRO: Oh, I love a chicory salad.

CAMEROTA: No, I'm fine with the chicory salad. You should eat --

BERMAN: You can share that?

BARRO: Oh, well, how big is it?

CAMEROTA: Josh, you're asking a lot of question.

HOOVER: We're not wasting. They don't want to waste.

CAMEROTA: But then they also got this interesting appetizer, grilled bread and butter. That's a lot of carbs, Mr. President.

BERMAN: Well, I hope they're charging extra for the grilled bread and butter.

CAMEROTA: They are.

BERMAN: They should -- you should get bread and butter.

CAMEROTA: That's -- no, it's grilled.

BERMAN: Well, then my issue is with "The Red Hen" not the Bidens. They should be giving you bread and butter as part of the experience.

CAMEROTA: No. It's $8, John.

BERMAN: What if you just get the bread and not the butter? Is it like $4.50?

CAMEROTA: I don't know. I think the grilled (inaudible).

HOOVER: I bet it's the butter. It's probably (inaudible).

CAMEROTA: Oh, it is. It's also -- it's like --

HOOVER: Special butter. It's special butter

CAMEROTA: It is. It's like sweet butter.

HOOVER: It's got honey in it.


GRANDERSON: That sounds delicious.

HOOVER: It does sound delicious.

GRANDERSON: This is why you're mad at this.

BARRO: Is this like -- is this a sponsored segment for --

HOOVER: For "The Red Hen."

BERMAN: This segment is brought to you by --

HOOVER: Well, so, apropos of our previous conversation, I mean, there is one-way editorial selection could slam this. And you know, this could be -- this segment could be used at some news networks as an opportunity to slam the Bidens for hypocrisy. At other networks, it could be used to demonstrate how meritorious the Bidens are of sharing. So, you know, here, we're just going to play it straight. We're doing half and half.

BERMAN: The Marxist eating habits.

CAMEROTA: You're so --

BERMAN: Splitting evenly.

CAMEROTA: You know, we're not really that interested in the Bidens. We're just interested in the rigatoni. That's where -- this is actually just a food segment.

BERMAN: Have you ever ordered the same dish as your husband?

CAMEROTA: No, I don't. That's the whole point, is that we always purposely order different things and then we swap like halfway through.

HOOVER: And that is extraordinary.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, maybe now -- maybe now, I'll try to order something else.

GRANDERSON: I mean, that swap. Would you swap with your husband?

BARRO: I don't know. I find, in general, people overthink the menu at restaurants. Like, they -- they sit down like it's the last meal they're ever going to have and they like stare at it, trying to optimize (inaudible).

CAMEROTA: That's what I do.

BARRO: You have to look at the menu and find something you like. Oh, that sounds tasty. And then you order it. And then you can go back to talking to (inaudible) companions and you know, if you --


BARRO: -- if you order the wrong thing, then you have lunch again tomorrow.

CAMEROTA: You make it sound so simple, Josh. That's great. All right, thank you all very much.

Meanwhile, we want to get to this story. Tennessee's governor plans to sign a controversial anti-drag show bill into law as soon as it arrives on his desk, he says. But there is a decades old photo sparking charges of hypocrisy. We'll explain, next.


[22:50:00] CAMEROTA: Tennessee's Republican Governor Bill Lee says he plans to sign a controversial bill that will ban drag shows in the presence of children. This is curious in part because in what is believed to be a high school yearbook photo, Bill Lee appears dressed in women's clothing and wearing a wig.

This was posted on social media. CNN has not been able to verify this photo. Lee's office calls this costume a, quote, "lighthearted school tradition" that should be not -- that should not be conflated with what he calls, quote, "obscene sexualized entertainment," end quote. This bill is a serious issue for some transgender parents.


CHRIS CANDICE TUCK, TRANSGENDER PARENT: I am literally not allowed, legally, in the state of Tennessee because of this so-called drag bill, because it prohibits people who dress different from the biological sex. This is real. This is affecting our lives. There are transgender Americans and transgender children who are fleeing states. My family has an escape plan. It's not a joke. Most people have never had a conversation with a transgender person and yet, they are more than happy loathing and legislating on it.



CAMEROTA: The anti-drag bill has passed in the Tennessee House and is now awaiting approval from the Republican-controlled Senate.

Meanwhile, another near collision of two airplanes. It's the fifth this year. Why does this keep happening? That's next.


CAMEROTA: The FAA now investigating the fifth runway near-miss this year. This one was at Boston's international airport. A private jet started to take off without clearance.


This is last night. While a JetBlue flight was preparing to land on an intersecting runway. According to Flight Radar 24, the two planes came within 565 feet of each other.