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CNN Tonight

Atlanta Shooting Suspect Arrested In Cobb County; Chokehold Death Of Homeless Man On Subway Ruled A Homicide; It's Not How White Men Fight, Tucker Carlson's Racist Text Revealed; Nordstrom Closing San Francisco Stores To Change Dynamics; High School Musicals And Plays Are Being Cancelled In The Latest Culture Wars; National Assessment Of Educational Progress Conducts A History Test On Eighth- Graders. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 03, 2023 - 22:00   ET


SOLOMON JONES, RADIO HOST, WURD: And he could be a guy who could help the Republicans get the cuts that they want by siding with them in this whole negotiation.


There will be a negotiation, absolutely. But the question is, what side will Joe Manchin be?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and what form will those negotiations take, Catherine, Solomon, Jason, thank you all very much for joining us, and thank you for joining us tonight. CNN TONIGHT with Alisyn Camerota starts right now. Hey, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Abby, great to see you, thank you so much. Good evening everyone, I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN TONIGHT.

Two violent episodes, in two different cities to update you on, a suspect is in custody in Atlanta tonight after a day-long manhunt. Police say, he became enraged and opened fire in a medical facility earlier today. One person was killed, four others critically injured.

And in New York City, a reportedly homeless man who was acting, quote, erratically on the subway was put into a chokehold by another rider. The homeless man lost consciousness and died. The passenger who restrained him was questioned then released by police with no charges. Our panel has strong thoughts on what happened there.

Plus, the culture wars collide with the High School Musical. School districts are pulling the plug on some well-known plays. We'll tell you why the Addams Family is getting canceled.

And speaking of school, could you pass an eighth grade history test? It's harder than you'd think. I tried it earlier. Tonight, we'll see how much you and I and our panelists know.

Okay, but let's begin with updates on two violent crime stories. The man who opened fire in an Atlanta medical facility today killing one person and wounding four others is under arrest tonight. He was captured after many hours of a manhunt.

And then there's what happened on a New York City subway on Monday. We warn you, this video is disturbing to watch. A 30-year-old man named Jordan Neely, who a witness say was acting, quote, erratic and hostile was put into a chokehold by a 24-year-old passenger and he later died.

CNN has not independently confirmed what happened leading up to that incident. We do not know how long Jordan Neely was restrained or whether or not he was armed, but the medical examiner now rules his death a homicide. A source tells CNN that Neely was homeless. Protesters took to the subway tonight chanting Black Lives Matter and the homeless matter.

Okay, here to talk about all of this, we have Van Lathan, Host of the Higher Learning Podcast on the Ringer. Mike DuHaime former Political Director of the RNC, Franklin Leonard, Founder and CEO of the Black List, and Alyssa Farah Griffin, former Trump White House Communication Director. Great to have all of you here tonight.

So, Franklin, how do you see what happened on the subway?

FRANKLIN LEONARD, FOUNDER AND CEO, THE BLACK LIST: Well, I think I only have what's been reported thus far. And I think we have to be brutally honest about what that seems to be, a man on the subway was yelling about not having any food, not having any water, that he would prefer to be in jail and was ready to die.

Another passenger snuck up behind him and put him in a chokehold and held him down and choked the life out of him, while other passengers appeared to have done nothing. Although one did hold his hands down so that he couldn't resist.

There was no attempt ostensibly to talk to the man, to offer him assistance. People didn't escape the subway train to avoid what, you know, danger they thought might exist.

CAMEROTA: They did say they were moving everyone, witness said that they were moving to the other end of the subway car because people were rattled by the fact that he was saying, I don't care if I go to jail for the rest of my life. I'm ready to die. I mean, you can imagine that's unsettling when somebody is ratcheting. They did say he was aggressive.

LEONARD: I mean, again, there's been no indication that he was physically menacing to anyone. He definitely did not commit any acts of violence, and I don't think the crime, the sensible crime of yelling about your miserable state in life is punishable by death and certainly it shouldn't be in America.

I mean, there wasn't an attempt, the 24-year-old who restrained him from behind, snuck up behind him and choked the life out of him, did not attempt to put himself in between this person who was supposedly a threat and the other passengers in the car. He snuck up behind him, choked him out and the man died.

These are sort of incontrovertible facts at this point. So -- and there's no evidence that's been presented that he had a weapon. So, we don't have any evidence that he did, but we don't have any -- we certainly don't have any evidence that he did it. So, it's been weighing on my soul, and I think it's deeply, deeply troubling.

CAMEROTA: How do you see it, Alyssa?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We spoke recently about Ralph Yarl being shot, shot by a man who immediately, when he knocked on the door, didn't take a number of steps that he could have before opening far.

This is similar to me. I don't fault anyone for feeling threatened or endangered that he was acting the way that he was, but why hold him for nearly four minutes?


Why not restrain him? You had two men at this point who could have kept him but made sure that he was breathing, and the fact that people around him, nobody stood up and said, hey, is he okay, at that point, he was contained. He was not posing a risk.

And the bigger picture here is I think that there is a fear amongst us as Americans, a fear of the person next to us, a fear of our neighbor, the person next to us on the subway that is stoked by so many things. I think the media environment, I think that there's a role that foreign adversaries have played in pitting Americans against each other.

I think that the way that we perceive crime with the 24-hour news cycle, people feel like they're constantly at risk. And then rather than dealing with the rising mental health crisis and actually addressing that, we tend to just run from these people and not giving them the assistance they need. I think it is horrible, anyone who watches that. There are 20 steps that could have been taken other than this that could have restrained him and kept everyone safe.

CAMEROTA: Mike, one of the witnesses on the subway car who took that video said that it wasn't apparent to them that he was dying. It was apparent, obviously, that he was in a chokehold, but they couldn't tell that he was dying. In fact, when police later talked to him, he was shocked that the man had died.

MIKE DUHAIME, CEO, MAD GLOBAL: Well, if you're choking someone, you know that's a possibility. And, by the way, if you spend time in New York, you deal with people who are mentally unstable, you deal with people who may have addiction issues. Last week, I was confronted in a park in New York by somebody asking for money. I gave him a few bucks, a little bit of help. He came back five or ten minutes later, very threateningly asking for more, saying I looked rich and he was going to take more.

CAMEROTA: And what did you do?

DUHAIME: Basically, you get a little adrenaline rush but you basically tell the person to leave you alone. I was in a park. I could have run if I wanted to. It went on for a few minutes. Nothing ultimately happened, but point being like it's not okay. You can avoid these situations. You have to avoid these situations. If you lived in a major city, you're going to be confronted with homelessness and confronted with people with issues, and it's not justifiable, it's not okay.

And I do think the culture of this, whether it's stand your ground or whatever it might be, that makes people feel they can have license to do this is wrong. And we have to stand up and say it's wrong when it is. We don't know all the facts, but from what we see, there's probably a way to avoid that situation without the person dying.

CAMEROTA: Van, are you surprised that police questioned him and that there were no charges? I mean --

VAN LATHAN, HOST, HIGHER LEARNING PODCAST ON THE RINGER: No, not at all. I'm not surprised at all, because I think in that situation, the police are reinforcing the societal edict that people feel like they have and like the police have, if I'm being honest with you.

In that particular situation, what you see is somebody who represents the complete -- the whole kit and caboodle of the forgotten of America. You're talking about someone who doesn't have a home, someone who is going through a mental health crisis, and just be real, someone who is black.

So, when you look at all those three things, if that person is perceived as a threat, there seems to be, at this particular time in our history, this knee jerk to kill or to dominate or to eliminate. And as we're talking sort of in this grand, amorphous scheme of where that's coming from, at some point, there's going to have to be somebody with the courage to name that.

There is a specific side of the American political discussion that's telling you the criminals are coming to kill you, that's telling you the undocumented people are coming to kill you, that's telling you that the image of a black man, the image of somebody unwell is what you need to fear when you walk out into society at-large.

So, I mean, I saw another video of a white man choking out a black shoplifter at T.J. Maxx. Like when did all of these people become Batman? Like the reality of the situation is there's something inside of them that makes them think they have to take their country back. And they didn't conjure that information by themselves. They're being told it's us or them. And if somebody doesn't come to stem the tide of some of the political animus and some of the cultural animus that we're seeing, this will get worse.

CAMEROTA: Here's how New York City Mayor Eric Adams talked about it tonight on CNN, a moments ago.


PHILLIP: One of the reasons that this story is really hitting a nerve is because this man appeared to be having mental health issues. This is something that you've talked a lot about. But I want to read to you, this is a response from the comptroller, Brad Lander. He tweeted this, New York City is not Gotham. We must not become a city where a mentally ill human can be choked to death by a vigilante without consequence.

There's also this from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congresswoman, she said Jordan Neely was murdered. What is your response to what they're saying here?

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): Well, both the congresswoman and the comptroller -- the comptroller is a city wide leader. And I don't think that's very responsible at the time where we're still investigating the situation. Let's let the D.A. conduct his investigation with law enforcement officials. To really interfere with that is not the right thing to do.


And I'm going to be responsible and allow them to do their job and allow them to determine exactly what happened here.


CAMEROTA: So now, the -- now, the D.A. is investigating this, because it did come as a big surprise, not to Van, but to a lot of people that he was questioned by police. And never mind homicide, no manslaughter, no anything, any other charge, even a minor one.

LEONARD: I don't think it comes as a surprise to anybody who's paying attention, right, like we are talking about a black victim killed by a white man. There are many, many cases of that happening and no immediate prosecution until there's an outcry from the public.

I also think we just -- we have to be realistic about the fact that -- I actually agree with Van, someone needs to name who is responsible for whipping up this fear. But I actually would argue that it's not just the political right in this country, though they have certainly been engaged in a long political project to do just that. But, you know, if you look at sort of the way in which Hollywood and the way in which the media generally has characterized black people in America going back to the birth of the film industry, with The Birth of a Nation, this has been a common theme.

And the consequence of that is the perception of black men as violent, the perception of black men as dangerous, and that's how you end up with Trayvon and a kid getting shot for going to the wrong door and a young man saying I don't have food and water, I'd rather die, I'd rather be in prison, and someone choking him to death over multiple minutes.

CAMEROTA: Yes. People are nervous about riding the subway. They have been since the pandemic, though crime is now, in terms of the subway, it is down. Crime is down year-to-date by 8.1 percent, New York City transit crime, which is obviously good news. More people are going back on the subway.

But this isn't -- I mean, obviously the death in the chokehold is highly unusual, but the -- being on a subway car feeling trapped and somebody coming in and being aggressive and maybe asking for money or shouting or seeming mentally unwell is not, and I don't know what the right answer is actually for what you do with that situation.

GRIFFIN: And it's difficult because homicides, for example, are down citywide over the past several years. More minor crimes, muggings, stalking, et cetera, have been on the rise but not something that's disproportionate from prior years, but perception becomes reality for people. If your local news is showing something that this happened, you're going to think that there was a threat.

So, I've lived in New York not very long, but I've seen muggings, I've had similar encounters. So, you have that sense of am I at risk. But, again, there is a responsibility that comes with the individual. If you face something, what is your duty to do? What is taking it too far? How can you deescalate something? And time over time again, you see that it goes to the furthest extreme.

And I just want to note, this -- mark my words, unfortunately, I hope I'm wrong, this is going to become a split screen America moment, where people on one side are going to see this blatant -- what I see as a killing of a man on a subway in one way and half of the country is going to see it as totally justified and different. And it reminds me of something like Kyle Rittenhouse, for example, where the country basically divided to one side or the other.

I hope that we can come to a place where we can see perhaps this behavior was wrong or it was threatening, or it was scary to people, but that is so disproportionate to what he was doing and it was so wrong.

CAMEROTA: Is there an answer? I know we only have 30 seconds left. Is there an answer for when you feel threatened? I mean, as you were saying, you could have run away in a park, but what is the answer?

DUHAIME: This city is very different than it was 30 years ago. I mean, you did feel unsafe 30 years ago. Over many years, the city has changed. People feel much safer now, feel much safer on the subway now. And it's inexcusable when we talk about maybe somebody feels this way or that way, having come into this city for a good portion of my life, it is much, much safer. Most people know it. Is crime a little bit up? Did it go up a tick in the last five, six years? Absolutely, but it is very different.

CAMEROTA: Compared to the '80s, you're so right. That is for sure. Friends, thank you very much.

Okay, next, the strange text message that Tucker Carlson sent that purportedly led to his firing. We'll talk about that.



CAMEROTA: Well, we now have a better understanding of why Tucker Carlson was fired. The day after the January 6th insurrection, Carlson wrote a text to his producer, describing a video of a mob of Trump supporters beating up someone he called, quote, an Antifa kid. Carlson says he found himself rooting for the mob to kill the kid.

The New York Times reports that the text alarmed Fox's board of directors and played a role in his abrupt firing last week. I'm back with our panel.

Guys, I feel I should read the whole thing just in case somebody hasn't heard it, because it really is a journey. So, here it goes. Tucker Carlson sent this on January 7th, 2021 to his producer and this came out in the Dominion lawsuit. It says, a couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington. A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid and started pounding the living shit out of him. It was three against one, at least.

Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable, obviously. It's not how white men fight. Yet, suddenly, I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they'd hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it. Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off. This isn't good for me. I'm becoming something I don't want to be.

The Antifa creep is a human being. Much as I despise what he says is and does, much as I'm sure I'd hate him personally if I knew him, I shouldn't gloat over his suffering. I should be bothered by it. I should remember that somewhere, somebody probably loves this kid and would be crushed if he was killed. If I don't care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is? Alyssa?

GRIFFIN: It's just stunning. I just want to note one thing my friend, Whoopi Goldberg, said white men don't fight like that. I would remind them of Emmett Till's murder. White men are just as capable as anyone of brutally harming people. But it's a window into the soul of Tucker Carlson. I've wondered for years having kind of known him, is it an act, is it a character he plays on T.V., and this shows us it's not.

This -- he espoused similarly on air, but this is so stark. It starts with blatant racism and then it descends into wishing harm to somebody purely because you disagree with their politics and then sort of having this like sort of soul searching moment. It's similar to the video he released too after he left where he basically said, I'm shocked people are actually kind of kind and nice. Most people are. It is Tucker Carlson who spews division, hatred, bigotry, racism on the airwaves.


This is cry for help, as far as I'm concerned.

CAMEROTA: I couldn't tell if it was the racism in it or the homicidal tendencies in it that got the Fox board so upset.

LEONARD: I mean, I can't speak to the Fox board, but I don't think anybody should be surprised that this is who Tucker is. I mean, yes, this is something that he communicated in private via text message, but it's very much in keeping with all the things that he says publicly. And I think when somebody tells you who they are over and over again for decades, maybe believe them. I mean, this is someone who described Iraq as semi-literate primitives. And there are countless other things that he said that are sort of analogues that that you can Google and find out yourself. This is who he is.

And I think going back to our conversation in the previous segment, that's not how white men fight. Well, the guy who just killed Jordan Neely snuck up behind him and choked him out, worse than a sucker punch. I don't think that when we're talking about how white men fight and how other groups pf people fight, we already know who you are.

This is just confirmation and I think, you know, Tucker is going to be who he is going to be. I just hope we don't have to listen to him anymore.

CAMEROTA: I thought about another thing that was interesting. I don't know if you hear it that way, but as Alyssa said, people wondered what was real. And do you think that the cancer that he was spewing did end up being a poison? At this moment in here, is this sort of insightful and reflective where he realizes it's also poisoning him?

DUHAIME: Well, I'm not going to say he's very insightful in that. He meanders down the way, but that's far from an insightful text. But I do think that he was probably in an echo chamber that he was contributing to on Fox. And I teach a class at Rutgers and challenge the student to listen to people who don't think like you, watch cable T.V. that you don't agree with, listen to talk radio that you don't agree with, read websites you don't agree with, because you'll find we have much more in common than you think.

And I think when you get into this echo chamber, if you only watch one side or the other, you stop thinking the other side is wrong and you start thinking the other side is evil. And we've gone from policy disagreements to thinking the other side is evil and they deserve to be punished, and in some cases killed, it's absolutely -- it's crazy, but I think it's part of the echo chamber that perhaps --

CAMEROTA: But he was the ring leader of that echo chamber, Van.

LATHAN: Yes, this is a top ten text message ever released. Like I formulated a whole scene around this, Tucker shirtless somewhere, high on dust, just giving like a stream of consciousness look into his mind, it's all right there. It's Tucker tries to be decent, he just can't. He's just incapable of it, right? He wants that. I wanted them to kill this kid, but then I didn't. And I feel bad that I didn't want them to kill the kid and also this is not how white men act.

And like when I think about this is not how white men act line, that is a fear realized like you look at people on television, right, and they're talking and they're doing their whole thing, and as a black guy, I see it. I go, there it is. Right there, I see him. He's doing it, and they all get it. Everybody goes no, it's not. He's fair and balanced. He's representing the other side.

CAMEROTA: Meaning, you can spot the racism? LATHAN: I can smell it through the T.V. It comes off like it's brute, like his cologne is wafting through the air waves, I smell it. And then everybody tells you it's not there. No, it's not, you're being hyper emotional and all of that, and then he says this is not how white men fight. He has a different standard. He's teaching that standard to a very significant portion of the American populous, and he's doing it through this weird racist ESP that we all see but we keep getting gaslighted to see, to people telling us it's not there.

So, when I read that, I actually cracked a cold one. I was like, yo, man, bring up the beat up here. Like Tucker just say, he let it go. I like it. Give it to him, Tucker.

CAMEROTA: But do you think that it would have helped if he had ever said that on the air? Like I don't like that I feel this way, here's how I'm feeling, I don't like how I feel this way, but they're making me feel that way? Do you think that that -- could he ever have opened this window into his soul and would it have helped if he said something like that on the air.

LATHAN: Yes. If he would have said something like that besides the white men part, there might have been a part of it that could have actually been perceived as something incredibly powerful and just transparent, right? It's like, hey, I am all whipped up, just like you are whipped up. I don't want to be that way. The thing is I don't think he believes it and I think he talked himself into it while he was sending the test message.

GRIFFIN: And he misses his own lesson, which you can separate someone's politics that you disagree with from their humanity. Like he kind of roundabout gets there, but he doesn't seem like he fully understands that.

CAMEROTA: Right. After this, he went back on the air and went back to all his usual tricks.

LEONARD: Exactly. I mean, there's this British television show called Peep Show and there was a sketch, and it's been deployed a lot on Twitter as a gift. And, ironically enough, it features is two Nazis, and one of them turns to the other and says, hey, are we the baddies? And in reading that text message, I couldn't help but think that may be this is Tucker's like Nazi, are we the baddies moment, and it really couldn't be more on the nose.


CAMEROTA: Friends, thank you very much for that insightful conversation. I really appreciate that.

Everyone stay with me. First, it was Whole Foods, now it's Nordstrom, why major retailers say they are leaving San Francisco, that's right after this.


CAMEROTA: Another store closing in San Francisco, this time it's retail giant Nordstrom. In a statement today the company said, quote, decisions like this are never easy, and this one has been especially difficult, but as many of you know, the dynamics of the Downtown San Francisco market have changed dramatically over the past several years impacting customer foot traffic to our stores and our ability to operate successfully.

Nordstrom is just the latest store to leave the area. Last month, Whole Foods announced it was closing its flagship store citing concerns about worker safety.

Our panel is back. Franklin, you are not buying Nordstrom's explanation here that the community around them has changed too much.

LEONARD: Well, I think it has changed in the sense that the sort of the office workers who would have made up most of their customers are no longer there.


They're working from home, they're buying things online. But the implication obviously is, when you say the dynamics of the neighborhood, is that it's somehow crime-related. And the numbers just don't back that up. You know, I believe that Nordstrom store opened in 1988, the Nordstrom Rack store that's closing up in 2013, crime was definitely worse when both of those stores opened.

So, if the concern is worker safety or the dynamics of the neighborhood, why do you open the store in the first place? I mean, more realistically, their financial realities to running a 350,000 square foot store in downtown San Francisco right now, and they're making a financial decision for the best of the company. They're also closing 13 stores in Canada. I don't think that has anything to do with the changing dynamics in that neighborhood -- in those neighborhoods.

So, I think, you know, look, they're not making as much money as they used to in this store, so they're closing it. I think that it's a lot easier to communicate to Wall Street that it has something to do with the possibility of the specter of crime. But again, the numbers in San Francisco actually don't back that up despite the narrative that's coalesced around the city. So yeah, I'm a little skeptical.

CAMEROTA: Mike, I'm coming to you next because I read that it's your favorite city or one of your top two favorite cities.

MIKE DUHAIME, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I love, I love, and as you heard before, I love New York, I love San Francisco, too. It's a great city, but it is jarring walking around San Francisco and seeing this open air drug market, whether you see, you know, some of the, again, videos that people have seen about looting, the pandemic.

CAMEROTA: So, do you --

DUHAIME: I agree it was probably the pandemic put incredible pressure on all retail stores, and that has to be part of it. CAMEROTA: But do you disagree with Frank? I mean, in other words, do

you think that crime is the worst and that the dynamics of the neighborhood mean crime and homelessness and it has gotten much worse or that's just the perception?

DUHAIME: Whether that's the only reason, I believe it is probably a reason. And yes, workers are leaving, but if workers don't feel safe and people don't feel safe, then obviously retail is gonna be down. I don't believe it's the only reason, but it's hard to go through San Francisco and see it and think it's not a reason.

LEONARD: I think we have to look at the numbers, though. Like, crime is down from 2017. It went up a little bit, property crime went up during the pandemic --

CAMEROTA: We have a graphic we can put up right now.

LEONARD: -- but I don't believe, you know, overall crime down, violent crime slightly up, property crime down compared to 2022. And if you compare it against five, ten, fifteen years ago, it's down 40, 60 percent.

CAMEROTA: And Franklin, what about homelessness? Because I know that always comes up as well, that people find that, you know, when there are tent cities and there's a lot of homeless that they have to confront in San Francisco, that it -- it makes it hard for foot traffic.

LEONARD: Yeah, I mean, homelessness is not a crime, though. And I think that if -- if there's a problem with homelessness, it's a problem where the victims are the people who are living without homes, not the retail stores and not the people who can't shop.

But again, I think there is a narrative that's coalesced around the city of San Francisco about a massive spike in violent crime, about a massive spike in property crime, and the numbers just don't bear that out. And people should feel free to fact-check me on this, but, you know, all signs that I see numerically don't back up this narrative.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Alyssa.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There was an interesting example in Union Station in Washington, D.C. where a number of much smaller stores, those -- Starbucks, some retail stores closed down because there was a lot of crime. People were coming through, there was foot traffic, it's opened overnight. But again, I think you make an interesting point about the sheer size of this because this is a massive store.

LEONARD: This is the second largest store they have.

GRIFFIN: Yeah, post-pandemic, most people are shopping online, they're going in, you know, to retail shops less, so, I think there is an in between. But there are definitely businesses that have closed because they just can't keep up with the theft that is taking place. But it tends to be much more these small stores that people can run into, grab something and leave. We've seen it all over D.C.

VAN LATHAN, HOST, "HIGHER LEARNING PODCAST" ON THE RINGER: So, to me there are two issues that we're litigating here. One is -- number one, if they didn't leave for the reasons that they said, that's all-time corporate shittiness, without a doubt, okay? But even if they did, then you're looking at this weird, gross corporate white flight leaving an area that is now struggling when you've sort of farmed that area for a long time for its economic goods, right?

And now things are a little bit bad. You pack up. You get out. But there's something else that we have to talk about. I'm a dyed in the wool liberal, as liberal as it gets. You know how liberal you guys thought Obama was? I'm way worse, okay?

But the reality is, liberals -- doesn't matter where you're from, even if you're Northern California Silicon Valley liberal at some point you're gonna have to ask yourself if you care about people. And that, the reason why I say that is because if you've been to San Francisco recently, you've seen how people there are living.

And you've seen the opulence and the wealth that Silicon Valley has that's going on up there and you also see this weird other side of it that it seems like no one is really getting a handle on. And you're going to see people that are gonna be able to scapegoat that to make all kinds of corporate decisions especially if no one cares about them. So, as I'm not a Democrat, I'm a liberal, it's two different things, but if we really care about people and their lives and their day to day, hour to hour, second to second existences, then we have to prioritize their care and how they're moving around and feeling.


Or else you're gonna get Nordstrom's or Whole Foods or --

CAMEROTA: And because it comes up so often in San Francisco, what is the answer in San Francisco?

LATHAN: Well, the first answer is caring about it. That's the first answer. The first answer is prioritizing it. Now, one of the most frustrating things about being an American right now is you're constantly told from a country who has over and over and over again done the seemingly impossible about what they can't do, questions we can't answer. And it's not the will, it's the want.

So, let's, you know, I know everybody up there is making microchips and all of that stuff and inventing all kinds of new stuff. Let's care about it and put a little bit of thought into the people that are living there. And then maybe some of these questions that we're asking on the backside will have easier answers.

GRIFFIN: Just quickly, I do think addressing the homeless issue is very important because while it's not a crime, I do think that you can allow these people to exist on the margins if you don't have a better solution than just letting them exist in tent cities. That's what I take big issue with. I'm from D.C., I've seen it in San Francisco. Let's come up with a solution that actually serves those people, rehabilitate them to get back and be productive members of society.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much. All right, be sure to tune in at the top of the hour when some of our favorite reporters will be here to talk about the scoops that they're covering, including 10-year-old children found working the night shift at a Louisville McDonald's, a lot of them.

And next, why are so many schools canceling their high school musicals? We'll tell you about the latest casualty in the culture wars.





CAMEROTA: That was the Broadway hit musical, "The Addams Family". It's also become a popular high school production. But one Pennsylvania school board deemed it too dark and gloomy. What is dark and gloomy about singing, "Death is Just Around the Corner?" They refused to permit these students to perform it, and that's far from the only production being canceled.


"The Washington Post" reports that several high school plays are getting nixed because they have LGBTQ characters. I'm back with the panel. Guys, so none of you were in your high school musicals? None of you?

GRIFFIN: I was, in the junior high. I was in the "Nutcracker."

CAMEROTA: Okay, that counts, I think.

GRIFFIN: Nothing edgy in the "Nutcracker."

CAMEROTA: Okay, well I was in all of my high school musicals, and there's nothing more wholesome. There's nothing more wholesome because you're going for hours after school and you're dancing and singing with your classmates.

LATHAN: Yeah, with the most asexual group of people in your entire school.

LEONARD: I'm not sure that's true, actually. I think that's the perception if you're not part of it, from what I know, from my friends who were, asexual is not a word that they would use to describe themselves.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, I just -- I don't know. Mike, what do you think? Should high school -- this is a musical, and they're canceling "The Addams Family" because it's too dark and gloomy? DUHAIME: "The Addams Family" is -- that's weak. I mean, you have to

let high school students experience things and see things, and this goes into a much deeper thing about, you know, reading some articles about canceling shows or high school musicals --

CAMEROTA: Yeah, and some books, et cetera, et cetera and the culture wars.

DUHAIME: -- because of LGBTQ characters and banning books. And this is -- this is something that is wrong. My party, as a Republican, my party is completely wrong on this. We used to be a party where we believe in the power of the individual. And you know, you live and let live, and you let people pursue happiness as they see fit, not the way the government sees fit, or the party sees fit, or the church sees fit.

And the -- we talked a lot about a lot of different serious topics on this show. What we need in this country is a little more empathy. And the first step towards empathy is some sort of observation, understanding, experience with people who maybe are different than you. And then maybe you then learn that maybe we're not so different.

If I learn about civil rights, if I learn about slavery, if I learn about housing discrimination, I will not suddenly be an African- American, but I will maybe understand a little bit better what other people have gone through. Same if I learn more about the AIDS crisis, have I learned more about what transgender youth are going through? It's not gonna change who I am but I will be a better person and I will understand people better for it. And my party is completely wrong on this and it's a place that really appalls me as a Republican.

CAMEROTA: You know what else --

LEONARD: Are you sure you're a Republican?

GRIFFIN: But this was Republican orthodoxy for decades. I don't know where we've gone in the last 10 or so years that it's like flipping everything on its head. If you don't want your kid to perform in a certain musical because you don't like the content, then your child doesn't. You don't pull back the right of every other child to participate in said musical. Or if you don't like a book, you don't pull them off of Florida shelves or whatever school but that's old school conservatism, apparently.

CAMEROTA: Yeah, but you know what else makes people feel really good? Musicals. And the fact that they're canceling them, also, there are some that I can see, there's one in Iowa. They cancel the school district canceled the performance of the play, "August: Osage County," which is --

GRIFFIN: Frisque.

CAMEROTA: Very dark. I mean, that's also --

LATHAN: I like that one. CAMEROTA: It's -- it's -- I saw it on Broadway. It's depressing. It's about mental illness. There's suicidal ideation. I mean, there's a lot happening in that. So, I don't know why -- I would rather a high school musical anyway than that one. I understand. But what I don't understand is sometimes these are an introduction, kids have gotten parts when they pull the rug out from underneath them.

LATHAN: Speaking of something that deals with tons of fighting, you know, back and forth violence and suicide, what would you think about Romeo and Juliet?

CAMEROTA: I like it.

LATHAN: Yeah, you know, like, or any of the classic tragedies that we've seen that end in assassination or have people like Othello, which is essentially them torturing this poor brother for different acts on. See, all of this stuff, it's drama. It's people expressing themselves through a device and you're supposed to go and really mess around and manipulate those human emotions.

I was talking earlier, I remember "Indiana Jones and Last Crusade"? You ever see that movie? Remember the Holy Grail and you drink out of the wrong cup and stuff. I remember there's a part in the movie where Indiana Jones is talking to a Nazi because he fights the Nazis, and they're burning all of these books, Holy Grail and you drink out of a wrong cup and stuff.


I remember there's a part in the movie where Indiana Jones is talking to a Nazi because he fights the Nazis and they're burning all of these books. Right? And somebody says something to him and he turns around and he looks at the person and he goes, maybe you should try reading books instead of burning them.

And that was a very powerful message at that time, because the message coming to me as a kid watching that movie was, well, he's an American, we are the people that read the books instead of burning the books. We are the people that, like, confront the information that's inside of the book and then turn around and synthesize it and use it to make cool stuff.

We have become the book burners. Like overnight, you look around and we are now the people that burn the books, ban the plays, and tell the kids they can't sing and dance on stage. It's really, and we're so incurious about how we stopped this or how we got here. But it's really wild when you think about it. We're just too distracted by Reddit to notice.

DUHAIME: You said before somebody's gotta stand up and speak truth to it. You did like, this is not, it's conservatives doing this and this is not conservative ideology. Conservatives believe in the power of the individual, the inherent good of every individual. And to discriminate as a class is wrong. And the way people learn about other people, is reading, is through film, is through plays. I mean, so for conservatives to be against this -- this is wrong. LEONARD: Well, I mean, I think what we have to, I think "The Addams

Family" thing, like you said, it weakens a bit of an outlier. I think what this really is a sort of full, frontal attack on the LGBTQ community. And you know, we're seeing it everywhere and the idea fundamentally is, let's remove all traces of their existence from the education system so that we can continue to do terrible things to the people that are members of it in school and outside of school.

And so, I think we have to sort of look at it as part of a broader context. This is not one fight, one front of which they're fighting, but pretty clearly, that's the goal here. And like you said, like, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, I mean, our town has alcoholism, death of a salesman, like --

CAMEROTA: Don't let school boards know that.

LEONARD: Midsummer Night's Dream. What are we talking about?

GRIFFIN: But it misses that high school students are confronting all these things, whether it's mental health, suicide, racism.

LEONARD: That's exactly right.

GRIFFIN: They're confronting it in their actual lives.

CAMEROTA: Yeah, great point. Well, speaking of school, can you pass an eighth grade history test? We're gonna challenge you and our panel right after this.




CAMEROTA: Can you pass an eighth-grade history test? It turns out a lot of current eighth graders are having trouble. Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress say the average U.S. history score for eighth grade students in 2022 was five points lower than in 2018. That's the last year they were assessed.

I'm back with Van Lathan and Mike Duhaime. Okay guys, we're gonna give you the eighth grade history test. You guys ready? Here we go. These are real questions from the -- these were tests given by the federal government for eighth graders. Okay, ready? Here we go.

Number one, what were European explorers such as Henry Hudson looking for when they sailed the coast and rivers of North America in the 1600s? Were they looking for a water trade route to Asia, a land route to South America, land to use for sugar plantations or religious freedom? Go ahead, guys.

DUHAIME: Do you like a lifeline? Do we get to call somebody?


CAMEROTA: Are you just making up B? Do you remember?

DUHAIME: Trade route to Asia, I believe was a big part of it.

CAMEROTA: That's good. A water trade route to Asia.

DUHAIME: Yeah. Don't ask me any more questions.

CAMEROTA: This one is for an eight-grader. This is fantastic. Okay, very good, moving on. Which of the following is a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution? Is it the right to public education, the right to healthcare, the right to trial by a jury, the right to vote?

LATHAN: Trial by a jury.

DUHAIME: Trial by a jury.

CAMEROTA: How did you guys -- impressive. Okay, moving on. Which of the following changes took place in southern states immediately after the Civil War? A, access to education became more available to African-American people, B, most African-Americans quickly switched from agricultural work to employment in manufacturing, C, African- American women were given the right to vote, D, state governments were required to have African-American people in legislative and executive offices.


CAMEROTA: Any ideas?

DUHAIME: I don't know.

CAMEROTA: A, access to education became more available to African- American people.

LATHAN: This is embarrassing.

CAMEROTA: Okay next, I mean you're basically close to eighth grade.

DUHAIME: I'm kind of two for two because I passed.

LATHAN: Here we go.

CAMEROTA: Okay here comes one. Here's the last one. Which of the following reasons best explains why many people supported the 18th amendment which banned the sale of alcohol? A, they believed that drinking alcohol had a negative impact on society, B, they wanted to prevent organized crime from profiting from alcohol sales, C, they believed that alcohol would hurt the country's ability to fight in the second world war or D, they hoped alcohol would become more expensive if it were made illegal.

LATHAN: It's a -- they see -- it's a trick.

DUHAIME: It's definitely not B or C.

LATHAN: Yeah, so let's -- let's workshop this together so we can work, reach across the aisle.

DUHAIME: I like that.

CAMEROTA: Together you'd make one eighth grader.

LATHAN: Yeah, together we'd make one eighth grader.

DUHAIME: I'll say A and you'll say D.

LATHAN: Okay, yeah, well look, did the conservatives just trick me?

DUHAIME: I don't mean to and if I do, it'll just say, I didn't mean to. I tricked myself maybe. It's like that.

LATHAN: It's hilarious. You have to choose one. You can't just say we're gonna go for two of different answers.

DUHAIME: Well, we each pick one.

LATHAN: Yeah. So he's gonna pick A, I'm going to pick D.

CAMEROTA: Oh, and then you're both gonna win if it's either one of them.

DUHAIME: Yeah, yeah. We're kind of like a team. We're kind of a team.

LATHAN: This is what America's supposed to be -- that's what we're doing.

CAMEROTA: You're building a bridge. Yeah, I see. I see. I see. Collaboration. I like that. Okay, well then in that case, you win. They believed that drinking alcohol had a negative impact on society, that was A.

DUHAIME: Hey, here we go. Three for three with one pass.

CAMEROTA: Well done, guys. Together, you're one, eight-grader.


LATHAN: By the way, I consider myself a history buff? I had zero clue.

CAMEROTA: You did well. You answered some of them. Guys, that was great. Thank you, impressive. Great to have you here.

DUHAIME: Blame -- blame the learning loss with pandemic.

CAMEROTA: Oh, I do. I know. All right. Coming up, some of our favorite reporters are here to talk about the stories they're working on for tomorrow and they're gonna share their scoops with us. We'll be right back.