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Calls For Nation's Highest Court To Address Its Own Ethics; Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) Speaks Openly About Battle With Depression, Partly Blaming Brutal Senate Campaign; Mayor Eric Adams (D-New York City, NY) Says A Lack Of Faith Is Leading To Issues For Young People; Father Of High A School Baseball Player Gets Arrested For Punching Umpire; Ed Sheeran Wins Infringement Case. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 04, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Reports that Justice Thomas' wife, Ginni Thomas, was paid roughly $100,000 by a conservative activist who made sure that Ginni's name was not on any of the billing statements.
That's not all. We're going to bring you even more reporting on more gifts and perks that Clarence Thomas took from that billionaire Republican donor. Wait until you hear what our panelists have to say about all of this.
Plus, New York City Mayor Eric Adams talking about crime and drugs and the danger to children in his own city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): Nine and ten-year-olds, our babies are saying I'm feeling depressed. They start their day going to the corner bodega buying cannabis and fentanyl and sit in the classroom and try to learn. They look at TikTok that's teaching them how to steal cars. A young boy was burned 85 percent of his body because he did a TikTok challenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: The mayor says more prayer is the answer. We'll discuss that.
And why is America losing it? Why are we behaving so badly to our fellow humans on airplanes, at ball games? When did we lose our common decency? We're going to bring you the story of a high school baseball umpire, a disabled vet getting punched out by a parent. We have more of these as well. Our thought-provoking panel on what is happening to us.
Okay. But let's start with the Supreme Court, senators on both sides of the aisle now calling for the high court to fix its ethics issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I just think that the American people expect the Supreme Court to be above politics and to be above personal financial interests and anything of this nature puts that into question, and I think it needs to be addressed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: And Democratic Senator Ron Wyden is tweeting he wants answers from GOP mega donor Harlan Crow by Monday about gifts that he says appears to be, quote, blatant corruption, and the ethics issues are piling up.
So, here to talk about all of this, we have a great panel, we have Van Lathan, Host of the Higher Learning Podcast on The Ringer, we have former Senator Al Franken, we have former Senate Candidate Joe Pinion and Rabbi, Rolling Stone Writer and former Law Clerk for Merrick Garland Jay Michaelson. Guys, great to have all of you here.
Okay. I barely know where to begin with the Supreme Court. There are so many things that have just been disclosed and revealed that are ethics problems. So, let's start with the billionaire GOP donor, Harlan Crow, who we know has already bankrolled Clarence Thomas' trips for 20 years, but now we know that he has also bank rolled Clarence Thomas' nephew.
So, Clarence Thomas has raised his nephew from the time I think the boy was six, basically acting as his father, and he sent him to a private boarding school. And that boarding school costs about $54,000 a year, maybe $60,000 a year. And it turns out that Harlan Crow has been paying at least for it appears two years of that boy's tuition. And Clarence Thomas, Senator, never disclosed that. What are we to make of this?
FMR. SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN): Well, I think that Clarence Thomas has a problem, which is he doesn't report income he's getting from people or trying to trying to buy influence with him. Leonard Leo is one of the architects of the conservative court.
CAMEROTA: And he has given money to Clarence Thomas' wife, Ginni Thomas, to the tune of something like $80,000, maybe more, and also not disclosed that and even took her name off of any billing documents.
FRANKEN: I think, you know, Clarence Thomas should say something. He could say something like I forgot, something like that.
CAMEROTA: And that would be good enough for you, just the simple I forgot?
FRANKEN: It would be better than what he's done thus far. I mean, this is scandalous and ridiculous. And my favorite is his new video where he says he really is -- you know, he grew up kind of lower income, and he really prefers for vacations going to trailer parks.
CAMEROTA: We have played that for our viewers. We'll play it one more time because it's interesting. Here is Clarence Thomas in his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: You know, I don't have any problem with going to Europe, but I prefer the United States, and I prefer seeing the regular parts of the United States. I prefer going across the rural areas. I prefer the R.V. parks. I prefer the Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that. There's something normal to me about it. I come from regular stock, and I prefer that. I prefer being around that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: What do you say, Van, when he was on the super yacht with Harlan Crow and they went to Russia, the Baltics, the Caribbean and Indonesia?
VAN LATHAN, HOST, HIGHER LEARNING PODCAST ON THE RINGER: You know, it's May 4th, today is Star Wars Day. I don't know if you guys celebrate as much as I do. I brought a lot of cool things in my life. I have a lightsaber of my own. That cost me $1,500. That's the level of which I nerd out to. But I've never bought anything as cool as a Supreme Court justice, you know? And I probably would if I could, not that I would know what to do with one, but the fact that you can actually do it is terrifying.
When you think about what the court is and the amount of power that the court wields over the American people, the ability to legislate, to strike down laws, they are probably when you look at it orders of magnitude more powerful than legislators because they can just, by their decisions, do stuff.
And to know that this type of corruption is happening while we're watching this court make decisions about the bodies of women that we share our communities with, it's pretty breathtaking, but it's also frustrating because there doesn't seem to be much that we can do about it without wholesale reform of the court.
CAMEROTA: Joe, is this buying a Supreme Court justice?
JOE PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I don't think that we should be suggesting that Clarence Thomas is bought. I think what we can all agree on is that he has exhibited judgment so poor as to allow people to even ask the question, which is the problem, when you're talking about the highest court in the land, an institution that is supposed to be the guardrails for our republic.
So, yes, I think that the problem that we have here is that the people who are in charge with asking the questions to put the people on the court are now politicizing something that should be non-partisan, that we should have everyone coming together, from the chief justice himself, to every single branch of government saying you have a week to put forth a code of conduct, then Congress would go forth and ratify it. If you don't put forth a code of conduct, then Congress is going to go ahead and do it for you anyway. But, otherwise, we're going to be down this rabbit hole. And next thing you know, we're going to be going through the trash of every single Supreme Court justice looking at the records of all their spouses. At the end of the day, what needs to be done is just ethics reform today, get it done, and let's stop talking about it.
CAMEROTA: Yes, it's not getting any better.
Before I answer, Jay, let me read you Harlan Crow's statement about all of this. He gave this to ProPublica. Harlan Crow has long been passionate about the importance of quality education and giving back to those less fortunate, especially at risk youth. As part of his desire to perpetuate the American dream for all and believing education is the great equalizer, he and his wife have supported many young Americans through scholarship and other programs at a variety of schools, including his alma mater and, in fact, it was his alma mater, which is one of the schools he paid for Clarence Thomas' nephew.
JAY MICHAELSON, COLUMNIST, ROLLING STONE: That literally does not pass the laugh test. I just started laughing that Clarence Thomas' grand nephew is an at risk child. This is ridiculous. Joe and I have been on the show a lot. We disagree about a lot of things. We've been in heated agreement that there needs to be ethics reform in the Supreme Court.
In my opinion, this is the biggest blotch on Chief Justice Roberts' career. I cannot believe as an institutionalist, someone who cares about the -- says he cares about the Supreme Court, that he has sat on this and he has done nothing. And I hope that this next wave of revelations may actually do exactly what Joe suggested, put some rules on the table and we can ratify them or vote on them or we're going to do it ourselves.
I want to highlight, though, that the revelation about Leonard Leo, who I've been following for ten years, I've written a lot about this man --
CAMEROTA: The conservative judicial activist.
MICHAELSON: Judicial activist really understates it. I mean, this is the puppet master of the Supreme Court and the entire takeover of the federal courts.
CAMEROTA: How is he the puppet master of the whole court? He is at Federalist Society. What does he do?
MICHAELSON: Truth controlled the Federalist Society and the Traditional Crisis Network and numerous organizations where Ginni Thomas worked and the Beckett Fund for so-called religious liberty and now the Scalia Law School, and most recently, the largest gift of his career almost, a billion dollars, which appears to be being spent on these state initiatives where hard-right, well to the right of the mainstream Republican Party, hard initiatives are coming up whether it's against gay people, against trans people and so forth.
Leonard Leo is the money behind this. He is the organizer behind this. Not his money, he has dark money. We don't still know most of the donors. And anytime that this man is brought to light where these activities are brought to light, this is good. I really hope folks at home can just check this guy out in the record that he's put out there. Washington Post has done a lot of reporting, I've done a lot of reporting. This is the man engineering the destruction of our democracy, as we know it.
PINION: Well, look, I just think that, certainly, we can get involved in the personal intrigue. I think at the end of the day, we should all agree, to your point, that we can have some type of actual code of conduct moving forward. I think, look, I've met Harlan Crow. He's a wonderful person. I think that we should kind of get away from this assumption that the only time the money corrupts is when it's written by a person who prescribes to right-leaning politics, right? I think money corrupts absolutely, and I think that we should just focus on that.
CAMEROTA: We all agree with that. We just happen to have a face for this one, and Leonard Leo, because The Washington Post just tonight has published this new information about Ginni Thomas and how much money she has apparently taken from him and how he tried to expunge her name from some of the records, according to The Washington Post.
LATHAN: Don't you think it's absolving Clarence Thomas from impropriety by sort of politicizing this and saying we only care about it when right-winger people do it? We're not talking about it in any other case except the one that's in front of our face. And to have a Supreme Court justice have this type of proximity to someone like Harlan Crow and to be this deep in with him, that doesn't give you pause and make you feel a certain way?
PINION: Well, first of all, I don't think those words ever came out of my mouth. Second of all, I do think that, as I said at the top, this has to be completely non-partisan, transpartisan, whatever you want to call it. I don't think that you can say it's impropriety for something that doesn't actually exist. But we should have a higher standard for all those people on the Supreme Court.
CAMEROTA: And I just want to interject one thing because there is also information that came out today that Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch didn't disclose -- they did disclose. They didn't recuse themselves --
PINION: It was a $3 million book deal.
MICHAELSON: I think it was disclosed. Arguably, they were closed.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, they didn't recuse themselves about the Penguin Random House lawsuit. So, when that came before the court, though they had taken collectively millions of dollars from Penguin Random House for their book deals, shouldn't they have recused themselves from that?
FRANKEN: She wrote a book for them, and it was a number one best seller.
CAMEROTA: That's great, you're allowed to take money. But then are you allowed to oversee court business about Penguin Random House after you've taken millions of dollars?
FRANKEN: That's a judgment call. It's nothing, nothing like what Clarence Thomas has been doing. And, look, if this wasn't partisan, why doesn't Justice Roberts -- you want Justice Roberts to write an ethics code?
PINION: Absolutely, I've said it tonight.
FRANKEN: Why did he refuse to appear before the Judiciary Committee?
PINION: Respectfully, I think that he shouldn't actually appear. I think that it would be more responsible.
FRANKEN: Why not?
PINION: Because I think that it's impossible for the chief justice to appear before Congress without it devolving into the politics. We've seen every single hearing thus far with this new divisive brand of our politics devolve in a manner that completely distorts the main issue.
So, I just think, again, I would encourage him to put forth a code of ethics. I think that it's actually alarming they haven't done so on their own accord thus far, but I just think at some point in time --
FRANKEN: The chief justice of the Supreme Court should not testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, that's what you're saying?
PINION: I'm saying that the chief justice, in this particular instance, when Congress does not need him to appear need him to appear in order to act, I think, is doing the prudent thing in not appearing before a hearing that inevitably is going to end up being political at a time when we are concerned about --
FRANKEN: Well, you know what, things are political in Congress, yes, and they always have been.
PINION: You're unbothered by that specter of the chief justice sitting there in the middle of a political crossfire as it relates to a code of ethics that Congress does not actually require him to be present to actually implement? That does not bother you at all?
CAMEROTA: I think we're getting off the point. Isn't the point that they need to do this and police themselves?
PINION: Well, that's what I said at the beginning.
CAMEROTA: I agree, and that's what you guys vehemently agreed.
FRANKEN: And I think that the House -- the Senate Judiciary Committee could have asked him that and he could have responded to that with dignity. And the worst thing that he ever done -- this isn't the worst thing he's ever done. CAMEROTA: Who are we talking about?
FRANKEN: Shelby County. Chief Justice Roberts. Shelby county and also the -- remember he said I'm going to call balls and strikes? He wasn't calling balls and strikes in Citizens United. They brought up an entirely different question in that. You remember how that went down. That was absolutely ridiculous and what that did was injected billions and billions of dark money, and that's what we're talking about now with Leonard Leo. Excuse me?
PINION: We're not concerned with all dark money, just certain dark money.
CAMEROTA: We do have to go --
FRANKEN: I am concerned with all dark money.
PINION: Okay, good.
FRANKEN: Okay? And what unleashed all that dark money, it was Citizens United.
PINION: Well, I would agree that money is a bull horn. It is not actually speech, and that we have to find ways to make sure --
MICHAELSON: You just put yourself to the left of like the entire Supreme Court consensus.
PINION: I am not the attorney or the appointed spokesperson for the Republicans on the Supreme Court or the Republican-appointed justice on the Supreme Court. I'm just here to have an honest conversation about what is occurring.
CAMEROTA: I appreciate that. Meanwhile, I want to read Leo's statement to The Washington Post today, because we've been talking about him and the money to Ginni Thomas. He says, it's no secret that Ginni Thomas has a long history of working on issues within the conservative movement and part of that work has involved gauging public attitudes and sentiment. The work did not involve anything connected with either court's business or other legal issues.
FRANKEN: And part of that work was trying to overturn the last election and part of trying to hide her role in that was Clarence Thomas casting the only dissenting vote about their getting the records in the National Archives, in which he wrote memos to Meadows saying that this election has been stolen, we've got to do something, we've got to overturn this election. Is that something that you agree with, that this election was stolen, this last election was stolen?
Have you ever heard me say that? Have you heard those words?
FRANKEN: No, I just asked you a question. I've never heard anything that you've said. Have you heard me question you before? Wait a minute, no, I just asked him a question. Have you ever heard me question you before?
PINION: Well, what are we doing right now?
CAMEROTA: Senator --
LATHAN: This is called coming for you is what he's doing.
FRANKEN: What a rhetorical advice, have you heard me say that before?
PINION: We're here having an honest conversation, certainly.
CAMEROTA: I promise, we'll be right back. I'll handle all this.
CAMEROTA: I promise everything's fine now. Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman speaking about his recent battle with depression, which led to a six-week hospitalization. When asked if he's mentally and physically fit to be senator, Fetterman replied, quote, hell, yes. He blames his depression on the stroke that he suffered last year and a Senate campaign that he calls brutal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): I feel fantastic, honestly. You know, I know it was -- a lot of people have asked, well, hey, how are you feeling, you know, how's your depression?
And it's like -- again, it's in remission, and I'm just so grateful to just feeling great. It was after the brutality, you know, of the campaign. The other side, it's like a lot -- some people believe that it was one of the most vicious political campaigns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: I'm back with Van Lathan, Al Franken, Joe Pinion and Jay Michaelson.
So, Senator, I think that's interesting, yes, I bet that that vicious campaign could exacerbate depression.
FRANKEN: Yes, and also the stroke and also he had to do that debate. That was an act of courage, I thought. He knew that he was going to perform badly in it. How very badly? I've never seen anything like that. As it turns out, he won by five points. He won by a lot larger margin than he had going into that. I think it was an act of courage, and every campaign is brutal these days.
CAMEROTA: For sure. And so is Congress, I guess is the point, that it's not as though Congress is all rainbows and light. And so there's vitriol there too. And I don't know, I just think it's possible that he's going to be in a situation that can be triggering.
FRANKEN: Well, he says he's great, and I hope he stays that way, yes. CAMEROTA: Yes, we all do. Van?
LATHAN: You know what the important thing that he said to me was, he said that it was in remission. And I thought that that was a really excellent way to address it, you know? I've dealt with mental health issues. I think that a lot of Americans do. And how you're feeling day-to-day is -- it's fluid, it's up, it's down, it has to do with the rigors of your job. And there are people that go to jobs in this country every single day and have to beat back their depression and their anxiety in order to do it. So, I think seeing someone like him with his platform, with his voice, like talking about that very openly, is very powerful.
And anyone that kind of comes at to like maybe Fetterman isn't man enough or he's not dude enough or strong enough, I think that that's the type of vulnerability that we need when we're talking about Americans and what they go through in their lives.
CAMEROTA: Do you hear people saying that?
LATHAN: Of course, like me, particularly, I remember when I first started having panic attacks, like people would call them spells. They would try to pray them away. They would tell me all types of things that I needed to. But what I really needed to do was admit that this was something I was going through, prioritize my mental health and go out there and live my life. So, I think he gives a lot of hope to a lot of people, myself included.
CAMEROTA: That's great.
Hay, I too fastened on the remission thing, because we don't often speak about depression in that way. Basically, what he's saying is like that it's not like, well, I've licked it, it's all done, it's resting and he knows, I assume, the triggers or the cues for when it might come back.
MICHAELSON: Right. Look, I think when you look at some of the decisions that he's made over the last 12 months, to take the time out to get treatment, that couldn't have been an easy decision, right? It was a hard fought campaign. He knew that these attacks were going to happen.
And I want to say that I feel like there's actually -- and we had a little bit of a partisan exchange in the last segment, there's been a fair amount -- there are obviously those who are criticizing him for whatever political reason.
But, actually, this feels like one of the things that's bringing some folks together, that there's an understanding. There are people across the political spectrum who suffer from depression and other issues, and, you know, his decision to actually do this at this moment of his career where, you know, this is kind of the summit of his career thus far, to still prioritize mental health and get his own health in order, I found truly inspiring.
CAMEROTA: What are your thoughts, Joe? PINION: Look, I would agree with many of the sentiments that people have expressed that it was courageous in some respects that he had taken kind of this personal decision to jeopardize what would have been a critical period of his recovery. Anyone who's experienced a stroke or had loved ones who have experienced a stroke knows that those first months, those first days, that period in time where you can address kind of those deficiencies and speech and all of those issues is difficult.
I think the other side of this is the politics that somehow I think that there was a lot of pressure around him not to take that time. So, I think, for me, it's just personally a concern for him, concern for his family, but at least grateful that we can have the conversation about mental health and hopefully bring awareness to what he's experiencing and what so many families across this country experience.
CAMEROTA: Me too. I'm so glad we have this conversation, and I think that every time he talks it, Van, you talking about, like it lifts the stigma. It helps erase the stigma.
LATHAN: And it's really important, like people that suffer, they suffer in silence, you know? I talked about it, I've written about it, but there is like no more debilitating feeling than knowing you feel bad and not knowing when you're going to feel good again, and there's like nothing you can do.
The air is thick. The lights are dim. It's weird. And so seeing somebody else go through it and talk -- being a senator and stand up strong, he came across as strong in that to me, nothing but applause here.
CAMEROTA: Yes, thank you all.
All right, meanwhile, New York City Mayor Eric Adams calling out several problems that he says America's kids are struggling with from mental health, to drug use to rise in crime, but do Democrats agree with what he's saying?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAMS: The level of young people who are dying from violence from other young people is rising at a level that is challenging across the country. How are the children?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaking at the National Day of Prayer Conference all about the dangers that America's children are facing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ADAMS: How are the children? And don't answer to your neighbor. Just think in your mind how are the children? Suicide rates among children have increased to an epic proportion. They are depressed more, at nine and ten-year-olds our babies are saying, I'm feeling depressed. They start their day going to the corner bodega buying Cannabis and Fentanyl and sit in the classroom and try to learn. They look at TikTok that's teaching them how to steal cars. Young boy was burned 85 percent of his body because he did a TikTok challenge. The same TikTok that our children are seeing here in America, you cannot see it in China where they created it. How are the children? How are the children?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: I'm back with my panel and joining us is Natasha Alford from "The Grio Weekly", also Former Grade School Teacher, which is why we often rely on youth when we do segments like this. Did you listen to his whole speech?
NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I did, I did.
CAMEROTA: Okay, I wanna ask you about that because I mean he articulates the problem. We all know that there's -- he's right, I mean he spelled out lots of problems that kids are going through right now. But he talked about the power of prayer and how he believes that prayer can fix a lot of this and that we don't talk enough about the power of prayer and about God. I just am wondering what you thought about that message.
ALFORD: Yeah, well, the question of how are the children comes from this proverb of, if you ask how the children are, it lets you know how the entire village is doing. So, I think that's a valid question. Now, as far as prayer in schools, we know that that changed in 1962. It's no longer something that you can force or require students to do at school, but students can still pray privately, right?
So, this idea that, you know, we just don't have it in the culture, I don't actually think that's true. What I do think is that, you know, there are some people who still have trauma from their religious experiences. So, maybe the focus is not so much on religion as it is on morality, as it is on community. What do our children belong to that is besides their individualistic selves or what they see on their screens? Where is their larger sense of community? And I feel that that's -- it's easily lost in this time where so many of us, even adults, feel isolated.
CAMEROTA: And I don't think he was talking about any particular religion, but he was talking a lot about his experience of religion and his experience of God and how he credits prayer with getting him to where he is today. So, I'll just play you a little portion of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAMS: I have been talking about the need of God being back in our lives. And it's because the same voice I heard 32 years ago spoke to me a few months ago and said, talk about God, Eric. Talk about God. What do you think, Joe?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOE PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I think that something's probably gone wrong in our politics today when we recognize that politicians be the path to the pulpit every campaign season, whether they're Republican, Democrat, black, white, anywhere in between. And then when those politicians get elected, somehow the thought that they would speak about their faith and their experience in faith would be frowned upon.
So look, I think for me the most telling thing in that speech, or at least the most impactful one, was when he talked about what prayer has done. The fact that he is the mayor of New York City, a black man, that's the power of many unanswered prayers, right? That we have the highest law officer, legal officer in the land as far as the attorney general, prayers being answered, right?
You listen to all of these things that most of the leadership from the Senate majority leader in the state, to the leader in the assembly, all minorities, that many unanswered prayers. But then again to your point talking about that village, that at some point, this journey towards power has to culminate natural results for that village.
Right, and so when we're talking about 75 percent of black children in New York City not doing Math at grade level, when we're talking about three out of five black children in the Bronx living in poverty, these are unanswered prayers on some basic level. So, look, I think that it was a powerful speech. I'm a little bit discouraged by the fact that somehow the pre-text of the conversation has to be, is it wrong that these even discussing it?
CAMEROTA: Yeah, yeah, and I don't want that to be the pre-text of the conversation. I just thought that it's interesting.
PINION: Not you, but I think just in general, right? If you listen to the response from people, you know, throughout the sphere here.
CAMEROTA: You know, I actually find it interesting that he's leaning so into prayer and so into his religion and that he's trying to get everybody to be comfortable with it. But then what he did say in the past was don't tell me about separation between church and state. He's basically said there is none. State is the body and Church is the head. That did make people a little nervous.
VAN LATHAN, "HIGHER LEARNING" PODCAST HOST ON "THE RINGER": That's preposterous. You know, I never liked Eric Adams. I gotta be honest with you. This is just a reality. Like, to me, he's like a Scooby-Doo liberal, you know?
LATHAN: He'd take the mask off. It's, hey, it's me, Newt Gingrich. You know what I mean? It's like, I never, I never like, I'm a man of faith, right? And so, I hear somebody calling for faith and calling for the power of uniting people with prayer and talking to God, which is a very important part of my life.
[22:35:00] And of course, I think, yeah, that's right. But I'll be honest with you. When I see the mayor of New York, talking about the problems of New York, I'm not looking for what he wants them to do. I'm looking at what he's going to do. If the children are buying Fentanyl at the corner bodegas, Mr. Mayor, the prayer that puts you into the position that you're in, the prayer that gave all of these people the power that they have, what are you guys using that prayer for word for? What are you going to do about this? Yeah, tell me to pray about it, but I pray that you would do something. So, what are you going to do? And it kind of fell on deaf ears for me from that respect.
AL FRANKEN (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I wasn't listening to the religious stuff in the speech. I was listening to mental health. And look, these kids, during the pandemic, these kids were at home. They lost companionship with friends. We know this. We know this statistically.
I have been for mental health in schools, and that means actual mental health providers. We do that in Minnesota, and it makes a difference so that the teacher doesn't have to provide mental health, but there's someone there for these kids.
Also, we need to put back the child tax credit so there are fewer kids in poverty. The child tax credit reduced poverty tremendously in this country. And there was a study done saying that there was more brain activity for kids in homes where there's more money, that the child tax credit actually helped do that.
So, what I took away from this, I wasn't listening to the religious talk as much as what we need to do in terms of public policy. I'd like to see early childhood education. I would definitely like to see a bigger role for mental health in schools.
CAMEROTA: Yeah, makes sense. Thank you all for the conversation. All right, be sure to tune in at the top of the hour when some of our favorite reporters. We'll be here to talk about the scoops that they're covering, including what the White House is doing to address the rise of artificial intelligence.
But first, it seems like there is some kind of outburst phenomenon that's happening everywhere you look. Like this that we're about to show you. This is the father of a high school baseball player punching a 63-year old umpire during a game. Why are we behaving like this when we go out in the world? What's going on in America? We're going to discuss that next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: Have you noticed that outbursts seem to be everywhere lately? With fists and worse, of course. Like in Florida, where a man has been arrested after allegedly punching a 63-year-old umpire, a disabled veteran, at a high school baseball game. This video shows him approaching the ump from behind. This was in mid-April. And this was an altercation, allegedly, after police say there was an argument between the ump and a player.
My panel is back with me. Van, when did we forget how to be decent to each other, particularly in public? This is happening on airplanes. It's happening at ballgames. It's happening in parking lots, everywhere.
LATHAN: Yeah, the Frontier Airlines flight, where they voted somebody off the plane just reminded me, you know, never fly Frontier. Look, we're wound up. We're being wound up. Part of the calculus to society right now is to wind people up, to make them little warriors, little operatives that go out into the world mad at someone so they can blame somebody for how empty and disconnected that we feel.
And it's going -- there's a cost. There's a cost to the last seven to eight years of political animus that we've had. There's a cost to this and we're starting to see it. We don't trust each other anymore. A functional society will not exist without a certain degree of trust between the members of that society. And once that erodes, you know, the shingles start to fall off and you kind of get what you're getting now, you know?
CAMEROTA: And Senator, do you think that outrage is contagious?
FRANKEN: Yeah, and I do think that we have become much more divided and people are on edge. But I do think that Donald Trump is, to some degree, responsible for that, that he would talk about, you know, if you go ahead and hit somebody at my rally, I'll pay the legal fees. That's, you know, and the kind of belligerence that he's shown, I think, is for the country, but it's obviously more than that, but also the pandemic. And, but yeah, we're on edge.
CAMEROTA: Yeah, and it's a bad combo platter.
LATHAN: I'll say he's --
CAMEROTA: Joe is biting his tongue, here we go.
PINION: No, look, I just think -- yes, obviously it's more than that. Of course, it's more than that. We're a nation under pressure. The economy is not working for people on Main Street and it hasn't been working for people on Main Street for quite some time. We've got economic pain for families. A run amok. You've got families that were devastated during Covid because of those students that were left home, families that didn't have the ability to take care of those kids.
CAMEROTA: That's all true, but we have had hard times, certainly hard economic times and recessions before, but why are we touching people now?
PINION: I think, this is a once in a generational pandemic, right, that I think that people don't seem to recognize that, yes it's great that you get a check with President Trump's name on it or Joe Biden's name on it, but if your bank accounts already overdrawn by four thousand dollars by the time the check for two thousand dollars gets there, it's not really going to help you very much. So, people have not recovered. The numbers, in some ways, reflect that and I think again to Van's point, that yeah, when you have individuals who have decided that if I disagree with you politically not only you're wrong, but you're a bad person.
[22:45:00} That your soul is in mortal danger should you ever vote for a person of opposing political views in any particular race, then yes, you get to a point where you end up with parents walking around the backstop and knocking out a referee. You get people kicked out of malls because they wear "I Love Jesus" t-shirt. And yes, you end up with people being choked out on a subway car by virtue of the fact that again, the destruction of the kind of safety net in society on a day-to-day basis, leads people to take matters into their own hands.
CAMEROTA: It's hard not to see this as all connected. I mean, maybe it's not all connected, an umpire being punched and what happens on Frontier Airline, but it feels like it is because it's happening so often.
ALFORD: I think there is a connection. I think we tried to go back to life too quickly, if that makes any sense. We tried to just sort of move on and pick up without processing the collective trauma, the collective PTSD, what it means to open your phone and see that person after person is dying, right? All of that grief that we are absorbing from each other. And then also the grief of grieving what this nation used to be.
I know that you sort of smirked when, you know, the Senator said that comment about Donald Trump, but for many of us, there was a grieving to see that our discourse civility had sunken so low, there were things that were completely unacceptable that now all of a sudden were the norm. I mean, there's a grieving for America, there's an individual grieving, as well.
And then we are rewarded for bad behavior. This is a society where the algorithm rewards bad behavior on video. If you're fighting, you're beating someone up. If the comments are cruel and mean. I remember honesty box, I don't know, I was in college when that came out. It lasted not long on Facebook, but you could say whatever you wanted to somebody anonymously. Well, all of our comments now, our entire social media sphere is the honesty box with no consequences for what you say. So, it's not surprising to me that all of this is pent up and it's spilling over.
CAMEROTA: Who has a suggestion for how we're going to solve this before I leave it on that note that we're just all hating each other and feeling.
LATHAN: Actually, I have a suggestion.
CAMEROTA: What is it?
LATHAN: Worldwide, well not worldwide, federal lacks marijuana standards. We got to get high. Everybody's got to get smoked out. You know, I know you're with me.
PINION: No. Never in life.
LATHAN: I know you, like, I know on a Friday night, where you take that suit off, man, you hit the bong rip hard.
PINION: Never in life.
LATHAN: I know you're with me.
FRANKEN: But you won't get mad at him.
LATHAN: I know you're with me. I know you're with me. That's in good faith.
FRANKEN: That was in good faith. I know you get the bong out. That was in good faith.
CAMEROTA: That was funny. What's your answer?
PINION: We have the Surgeon General come out today with the PSA talking about loneliness, right? And all of this is connected, right? When you can sit behind the screen and know more about what's going on in the world than you could, if you went out into the world 20 years ago, certainly that has a dangerous impact on the human psyche.
So yeah, we've got to get reconnected. Perhaps, we pick a day a month or a day a year. We all put the devices away. We reconnect with one another because you can't have synthetic contact. You need people to people, person to person interaction.
ALFORD: And I say -- we were just talking about prayer. If you believe in God and you believe in spirituality, faith without works is dead.
CAMEROTA: I like this.
ALFORD: So, it is not just about the prayer. It's not just about the religion, it is living it. It's not just about talking about caring about homeless people. It is actually caring for them. Those are things that we can do. We don't need a politician to do that. You start right at home with your thoughts.
CAMEROTA: Guys, this is what I here. Prayer, day of party, pot.
CAMEROTA: Okay? The three P's. That's what we're doing.
FRANKEN: Stay away from --
LATHAN: If you'll be at 7-Eleven, you won't have time to be mad. Got it. You know what I mean? You'll be getting some points.
PINION: Stay away from Senator Franken. He's bad for your blood pressure.
CAMEROTA: Guys, we're leaving it on a note of belonging and civility.
FRANKEN: That was a joke, you see.
CAMEROTA: That was a joke?
PINION: Yeah, we're smiling, you could tell.
CAMEROTA: Okay, then we're all smiling. A big legal victory and a big sigh of relief for Ed Sheeran after he was found not liable for copyright lawsuit. But will it be the last time we see a case like this? You'll hear some music, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: That's Ed Sheeran's smash single, "Thinking Out Loud". He won a big victory today when a jury in New York decided that Sheeran did not copy Marvin Gaye's classic hit, "Let's Get It On". Sheeran spoke emotionally afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED SHEERAN, SINGER AND SONGWRITER: I'm just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy. I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake. Having to be in New York for this trial has meant that I've missed being with my family at my grandmother's funeral in Ireland and I will never get that time back. These tough trials take a significant toll on everyone involved, including Catherine.
CAMEROTA: I'm back with Van Lathan and Al Franken. Van, I never heard "Let's Get It On" in that song. Did you, can you hear the echoes of "Let's Get It On" in that song, "Thinking Out Loud"?
LATHAN: So I've watched several YouTube videos --
LATHAN: -- that compare the melodies. They're identical.
CAMEROTA: They are? No.
LATHAN: Look, I listened to this old white dude, he had a guitar, and he was like, I'm gonna play both of them for you. I'm like, this guy's great. And, but they're similar. The thing is, it's like, you have to be able to prove that he heard "Let's Get It On" and then he copied it. There are chord progressions and all types of things that happen in music and sometimes you know things are derivative on accident not quite on purpose.
CAMEROTA: That's his point. There's only so many chord progressions.
LATHAN: Yeah, but when you listen, when you take the words out of it you listen to it --
CAMEROTA: Is that right? Because when I hear the lyrics and the way they're arranged and just him singing it I don't get the Marvin Gaye hit from it. But anyway, the jury decided --
FRANKEN: Is there a different part of the song that was more similar, or is it that part we just heard was --
LATHAN: No, that part when you look at -- the part that you hear -- because what happens is when Marvin comes on, he gets sexy with it like the sexy comes out. And then when the sexy's out, you can't really take it as Ed Sheeran because it's not the same thing. So what Allison was hearing is like, oh my God, that's sexy as hell. And so now she's but if you just take the sexy away --
CAMEROTA: You lose the sexy, then you can hear it.
LATHAN: --and you just listen to the music, you lose the sexy, then you can hear the same thing. But I actually think there's something --
FRANKEN: Hey, I'm out of this conversation.
LATHAN: I think the reason why they came back so fast here is more about actually the Gaye family.
CAMEROTA: And what does that mean? Why do you think that?
LATHAN: Because they can be a little litigious. And so, they sued before with "Blurred Lines".
CAMEROTA: Which I did hear the combination there with "Blurred Lines". I could hear the copyright infringement.
LATHAN: I think that the fact that this wasn't taken a little bit more seriously is probably more of a statement to them that may be back off a little bit than it is about the actual record. Because literally, seriously, you could listen to the two records. If you've trimmed down bare bones, they do sound very similar.
CAMEROTA: Okay, very interesting. Senator, thank you for your part in that discussion. That was excellent.
FRANKEN: Very welcome.
CAMEROTA: Guys, great to have you here.
LATHAN: No problem.
CAMEROTA: All right, coming up, some of our favorite reporters are here to talk about the stories they're working on for tomorrow. They're gonna share their scoops with us next. That was great. Thank you.