Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Tonight

Source Says, About 300 Migrants Have Been Placed In Current And Former School Gyms In New York; San Francisco Security Guard Will Not Be Charged In Fatal Shooting Of A Suspected Shoplifter; The Obamas Open Up About Their Marriage; The Obamas Opened Up On Their Marriage; Known American Author Criticizes Book Bans and Revisions of Older Books; Student Suspended after it was Caught Recording a Teacher saying the N-Word. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 16, 2023 - 22:00   ET



JOE FLOOD, WRITER AND PHOTOGRAPHER: And when I got there, there was no one else yelling at them. So, I decided that I should yell at them?

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Joe, did you hear anything from them? Did say anything back? Was there any response?

FLOOD: Yes. When the speaker, the leader, couldn't memorize his speech and he kept looking at his notes, and he kept pulling out his speech to read it, and then he put it back in and started reading it again, and I yelled at him, boring, why can't you remember your -- what can't you memorize your speech? And at one point, I'm like, boring, this has gone on too long. And he was like you should get comfortable because it's going to be a while.

SIDNER: Joe Flood, thank you, and thank you for making us giggle about a very serious subject.

FLOOD: Thank you.

SIDNER: And thank you for joining us tonight. CNN TONIGHT with Alisyn Camerota starts right now. Hey, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Sara, hold on a second. That was the best heckle I have ever heard. You are a loser in high school. That is -- it's so good. It's priceless, really. You've reclaimed your virginity. That is so funny.

SIDNER: It's really funny.

CAMEROTA: I mean, it's a serious topic but he's really making light of it in an entertaining way. That was fantastic. Thank you very much for that, Sara.

And good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN Tonight. So, remember that expected surge of migrants at the border when Title 42 ended? Well, it turns out the opposite happened. The number of migrants has dropped 50 percent in the past few days. But that does not mean the crisis has ended. It is just spread north. In New York, about 300 migrants are now living in public school gyms and parents are not happy. Our panel has a lot of thoughts on this.

Plus, a security guard shoots and kills a suspected shoplifter at a Walgreens Downtown San Francisco. Shoplifting is obviously not a capital crime. So, why is the D.A. not pressing charges?

And former President Barack Obama gets personal talking about his marriage to Michelle.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Let me just say this. It sure helps to be out of the White House and to have a little more time with her.


CAMEROTA: I feel like our panel is going to have a lot of fuss on this too. More from that interview, coming up.

But let's start with the migrant problem. In New York, 300 migrants now housed in public school gyms and parents are crying foul.


ROBIN WILLIAMS, PARENT OF STUDENT AT PS188: I was scared. I was nervous. I felt like it was the wrong decision that they made at the time, where nobody knew anything. My concern is, I will well be in about our children that go to school to get an education at PS188. Our families are walking around here not knowing who were taking in for shelter and for our safety and our well-being.


CAMEROTA: Okay. Let's bring in our panel. We have New York City Councilman Ari Kagan, a Republican, who up until a few months ago was a Democrat, we have Errol Louis, Political Anchor for Spectrum News New York One, the ever fabulous S.E. Cupp and James Surowiecki, a journalist who writes for The Atlantic and Fast Company. Great to have all of you.

Okay. So, Councilman, it's hard to find a community that wants to house these migrants. So, what is the answer?

ARI KAGAN (R), NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL, DISTRICT 47: So, first of all, I would like to say that many parents even today rallied against the idea of housing migrants being in the school gym for a very long period of time because there is no timeframe, there is no timeline when it's going to end. And also now, we're talking about processing center, meaning it could be some of them will be moved to permanent shelter or permanent housing but new ones will come for processing, and there is no time for everything.

Every time I'm asking city hall or Office of Emergency Management, what is the timeframe, when the school will be returned to the community? And the answer is we don't know, this is a very fluid situation. What if tomorrow, another 1,000 or 2,000 will come to New York City? And it's no longer, by the way, by (INAUDIBLE), it's also like by food and also by cars and even by airplanes. So, it's not just from Texas, it's from all over the place.

CAMEROTA: When you say, by airplanes, meaning other governors are sending people by airplane to New York?

KAGAN: No. It means some people learn how great to be New York as a sanctuary city, how great, how generous New York, it's everything. So, if people come to New York from all over the places, including some migrants who already left New York City, they're coming back. They just love New York City.

CAMEROTA: Errol, should Mayor Adams have a plan for this?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's going to have to have a plan, right? If you -- I mean, failure to plan is planning to fail, right? We knew for months that this wave was going to continue. there's no scenario under which anybody could have imagined that governors from Florida or Texas were going to stop sending migrants here after November. This has been going on for well over six months.

And so for the city now to scramble and say, hey, we need another 800 rooms, we need another 200 beds, we have to suspend a lot of our sensible rules that prohibit having family sleeping on the floor and so forth.


For them to scramble in that way and to be so completely overwhelmed, I think, is testing the patience of a lot of New Yorkers because they expect their government to plan and to have a contingency. And if not, to really sit down and explain to people, not just pop up for like a little five-minute interview and say, hey, we are a real problem, we wish Washington would help us, that doesn't even begin to get the job done.

CAMEROTA: Just so our viewers and you guys know this school gym where some of the hundreds of migrants are being housed in New York and Coney Island, it's a separate building apart from where the kids are going to school. It apparently, according to the Department of Education, was not being used. I don't know if any of that makes it more palatable, but your thoughts, S.E.?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think I'll be the voice of the viewer here when I say this is so tragic and frustrating, that like these are our best solutions. I've covered this for 20 years. I know you've covered it a long time, Errol, too. And I have watched the leaders of both political parties kick the can and refuse to solve a broken immigration system because it is politically profitable to leave it broken. Then you can run on it and then you can fundraise off of it.

There's no reason why we have to continually have a broken immigration system. And I think the resentment this breeds among New Yorkers and lots of other Americans isn't out of a lack of compassion for these poor migrants and asylum seekers who are pawns, but out of a frustration that this is all we've come up with asylum, sanctuary cities, or kids in cages, housing people in public school gyms, or dropping them off, dumping them off at the vice president's front yard. This is as good as we can do? It's a joke.


JAMES SUROWIECKI, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: It's a very complicated problem, though. I mean, I think when Adams is saying it's a fluid situation, it's because there's no way to envision how the flow is going to stop, right? I mean, as long as you have the situation you have in -- I was going to say in Central America, but the biggest flow of migrants in recent months has not come from there. It's actually come from Venezuela, from Colombia, from Cuba. As long as you have that, and we are not doing anything about that, it's hard to imagine how this stops.

And one of the paradoxes is that these are people who are here legally. They've gone through the process. And then the bigger problem we have is that --


SUROWIECKI: Yes. But I think the people that are being housed in these gyms are almost certainly people who have gotten asylum.

CAMEROTA: Well, they haven't gotten asylum.

SUROWIECKI: No, they've applied for asylum. But the point is, like, we have all these people who are applying for asylum and we don't have anywhere near enough judges to process them. So, we've created this situation where they end up living in gyms. And no one has been willing to invest the money that's necessary to process them.

So, we have a system. I think S.E. is exactly right. It's a broken system. It is broken.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Isn't it interesting, friends, that the surge that was so anticipated and drummed up about what was going to happen when Title 42 ended has not happened over the past few days? I mean, there're all sorts of different explanations for it.

According to the Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy, the decreased level of encounters at the border, we hope, reflect both an appreciation of the new consequences that are in place for unlawful entry at the border, as well as enforcement actions being taken by our foreign partners. It's just interesting that maybe the Biden policy is actually stricter than what was in place for Trump with Title 42?

LOUIS: Well, it absolutely was. Title 42 goes away. You revert to something called Title 8, and that means if you were caught legally trying to enter, you are barred from any kind of legal entry for five years. That's pretty serious. They did a lot of messaging around that, and lo and behold, the messaging got across, which is, I think, an example to the administration of how focused, targeted, sensible messaging can actually change the situation on the ground. CAMEROTA: Councilman?

KAGAN: I would say that 30 years ago when I applied to come to America.

CAMEROTA: And let's just talk about your story for a second.

KAGAN: But that's really related to the current story.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But your parents were -- or grandparents were Holocaust survivors?

KAGAN: My father was a Holocaust survivor. I would like to say that when 30 years ago I came to America, I went through extensive interview, background checks. I gave my blood test for all kinds of infectious diseases, to check AIDS, tuberculosis, you name it. So, right now, like you're saying, everybody went through this process, absolutely not. It should be organized, everything -- it cannot be just open border, everybody coming then we will ask you any kind of questions. It's not happening right now.

What happened to me, to many other people who came to America legally, many of my constituents telling me stories about their grandparents going through Ellis Island, a lot of interviews, a lot of background checks, a lot of health checks. It's not happening right now. That's one of the reasons what's going on.

Also, again, it's an open borders policy. You do not go into any interview before. You have American embassies all over the world, in every country, including in Mexico, consulate services.


Why not to interview people before they came to America and to check who they are, even if --

CAMEROTA: And that is what Biden is suggesting. That actually is exactly now what President Biden is suggesting. But I think there's been court challenges --

SUROWIECKI: Yes, there's court challenges, but -- and he has this app idea basically that you have to apply via an app or else you're not going to be allowed in as well, which -- I mean, if you actually look at the plan that Biden unveiled or offered up in February, it was actually much tougher than pretty much anything that had been done before but it's inevitably going to run into court.

CAMEROTA: But to the councilman's point, why aren't we doing that level of background check that his families came through?

LOUIS: Well, look, it would be almost impossible at this point, I mean, given the numbers, you know, in fact, just even a small change to reduce the processing to time from one hour to half an hour makes a huge difference. If you start talking about tens of thousands of people, 30 minutes for each one of them, it very quickly swells up into days and weeks that you're going to say, but we just don't have the resources, not the immigration judges, not the health screening resources, not the law enforcement, none of it is there.

And it really goes back to what S.E. was talking about, there are a lot of people who are just fine with that as long as they can continue to profit from it politically and say that there's chaos at the border, please donate at the bottom of this email.

KAGAN: And you think it's winding down. If you live in New York City, if you live in South and Brooklyn, you feel completely opposite. Like it started with 50 people a day, 70 people a day, 100 people a day. Now, we're talking about very soon will be 1,000 people a day. So, it's completely opposite, like a snowball.

And very soon will be not just schools, it's not just in Coney Island, it's in Brooklyn. Many schools now gyms are considered as a normal place for people to live, mobile showers and stuff like this. But also I'm constantly hearing from the city administration all options are on the table, any public spaces, even parks and more. So, I believe we need to legally I'm talking about closing our borders, processing everyone. If you need to invest more into Border Patrol or immigration judges, et cetera, do it. Why not? Why not to make everything legal, I would say caution.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Councilman, thank you very much for sharing your story and for those thoughts.

All right, coming up, a suspected shoplifter shot and killed by a security guard in the middle of Walgreens in San Francisco. Why the D.A. is deciding not to press charges, and what this has in common with the subway chokehold case.



CAMEROTA: The district attorney in San Francisco announcing that her office will not file charges against a security guard who shot and killed a suspected shoplifter at Walgreens. Prosecutors say the guard acted in self-defense.

My panel is back with me, and we're also joined by CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon. John, this is a confusing case because they say the security guard acted in self-defense but also that the shoplifter did not have a weapon. So, it's something of a mixed message. The security guard believed that the shoplifter had a weapon, but is that reason to shoot and kill? I mean, is that good enough to shoot and kill someone?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in many cases, self- defense is predicated upon a feeling that your life could be in danger. And we saw the video. Brooke Jenkins, the D.A., put out the video showing a shoplifter, this young man obviously tragically killed and that is not an outcome anybody wants, but fighting with, wrestling with the security guard.

CAMEROTA: Yes, let's play a little bit of this. So, as you say, there's a pushing and there's a fight, punching, a fist fight, and then they are on the ground. And then, obviously, we won't show the shooting part. But at some point, he --

SUROWIECKI: But, basically, he let the he let the shoplifter go, and then the shoplifter turned --

AVLON: Lunged back at him.

SUROWIECKI: -- lunged back at him. And that's what he that he.

LOUIS: And he thought he was going to be stabbed.

AVLON: Yes. But, look, the controversy here beyond the video, some of the people who are outraged at the decision not to prosecute are saying in the articles that this man was killed for $14. He was killed for poverty. I think that's a dodge. He was killed because of, A, he was trying to steal in an atmosphere of rampant lawlessness.

CAMEROTA: Not a capital offense.

AVLON: Not a capital offense, but the idea that there is a right to steal and that stopping people from stealing in stores is itself acceptable has nothing to do with the same idea as leaving alone these open air drug markets.

Here's where I'm going to be a little more conservative than probably some of my friends here having worked in New York City at a certain time. Anarchy is what the founding fathers understood leads to tyranny. If there is an absolute abandonment of enforcing any laws, you have civic disorder, you have violence, and that creates conditions that end up with incidents like this.

LOUIS: Do you think this person's death is going to stop the next shoplifting?

AVLON: Possibly, because I think people will think twice.

CAMEROTA: What do you think, Errol?

LOUIS: No, it won't. People don't try and steal $14 worth of stuff or make idle threats about I'm going to stab you because, they expect to get killed. I don't think that's a legally enforceable standard. I mean. If more people get shot and killed in the course of shoplifting, I don't think it's going to change anything. I think it will reveal to us as a society that we're using an unreasonable amount of force and we're going to have to try some other tools to try and deal with this problem.

AVLON: I love you, but --

CAMEROTA: But that is true. I think everyone would agree that killing someone for shoplifting is disproportionate. But you don't know in that situation if a person is armed or what their intentions are. And on the one hand, you have to enforce the laws. That is leading to the lawlessness that leads people to feel unsafe, that leads them to do things that end up in people dying needlessly because they feel so unsafe. We're not addressing the root cause of some of this, which is mental health, homelessness and poverty, and we're also not enforcing our laws. This is a terrible combination.

LOUIS: This is a judgment call by an elected prosecutor. She could have made the opposite conclusion and that would have been perfectly lawful too. They could have just said, in our discretion, we think that this was unreasonable, let's give it to a jury.

CUPP: Sure.

LOUIS: They just made the opposite conclusion.


I don't think there's a right or a wrong. I mean, she got elected specifically. She replaced Chesa Boudin, who clearly might have gone in a different direction. So, we can't put this off on capitalism or on the district attorney or anybody else. This is all of us. We have to decide what we're going to do with this.

AVLON: And, clearly, mental illness, sorry, is a major contributing factor to this. But the atmosphere of lawlessness where people feel it's not just this individual case. We've seen videos of people basically pulling things off shelves and stealing with impunity out of stores, creating an atmosphere of lawlessness. We're in a town where spends a lot of money on social services, but mental health, homelessness, drug addiction, all that toxic brew is totally out of control. This is why there's a wisdom to broken windows theory, however unfashionable it is.

SUROWIECKI: The thing to me that was amazing about the videos, if you watched it, was as the fight was going on, people are leaving the store and just walking into the store, literally walk into the store while they are on the ground. The guy has him in a chokehold and they seem totally indifferent to what's happening. And that I think does tell you that a certain level of disorder and crime has become normalized in the city and that just -- people are just like, that's just what happens, basically. And that does -- I have to say that does seem problematic. I mean, it does seem like a problem.

CAMEROTA: That was my next question, which is some of these are connected, as I said, to the subway chokehold, which is that there's homelessness, there's mental illness, there's also petty crime. And some of these aren't crimes, but there's an atmosphere of these things and you're asking people who live there, residents, to navigate through some of this. And what is the answer to navigate --

CUPP: But you don't always feel like to the law is going to be enforced. You don't always feel it. I know. I've been New York every day. You are too. I don't always feel like there's a cop on every corner or someone who's going to step in. It might have to be a citizen. That is awful and that leads to some terrible decisions by citizens because they're not law enforcement, right? But it shouldn't have to be that way. AVLON: No. And this is all taking us back to that era of Bernard Gets and Death Wish. But there's a difference between vigilantism and a security guard trying to do their job, fighting with folks at the door who are showing absolutely no respect for the basic social contract. And it's not about poverty and it is about mental illness in this case. But it's not about $14. It's about the fight and the breakdown.

LOUIS: Well, you know what it's about. It's about fear. You read the transcript of what this person was feeling when he decided to take this man's life. And what he says is, I was afraid.


LOUIS: And you go back to the subway car where we just had somebody who screamed and said he was hungry and thirsty. Instead of giving him a sandwich, he was choked to death.

CUPP: No. He also said, I don't care if I go to jail or die.

LOUIS: I also don't care if I if I live or die.

CUPP: Well, what are you about to do them?

LOUIS: People were so frightened, they said, we're going to kill you. And some people are praising that person as a hero. So --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, agreed that it is about you feel like when somebody rings a doorbell.

LOUIS: I talked to one activist who I think was right on point when he said, scared people make mistakes.

CUPP: Right.

LOUIS: Scared people make horrible mistakes. And it is up to leadership, including media leadership, to not encourage and throw gasoline on the fear, but to try and explain to people, you know what, try not to be petrified in a city where there are --

CUPP: No, that's not the lesson. The lesson is problem, leaders. Solve the problem, not try not to be afraid. I am afraid. Tell people to solve the problem.

AVLON: Yes. This is about why are we not applying public policies. We've gone through cycles in cities where there's civic disorder, rising crime and all that. This is not about coverage of that inflames it and makes it worse, although that may be a contributing factor to the atmosphere of fear.

The reason broken windows works is a theory that was put out in 1982, that's very controversial now, but it shouldn't be. But James Q. Wilson in The Atlantic picked up over to Giuliani, Bill Bratton and a lot of other people and helped bring down crime in just cities across the nation was the idea if there is civic disorder, if there's a broken window and that window is not repaired quickly, it sends a subtle but unconscious signal that it's okay to break windows. And soon, you have no windows left on that street. That's why civic structure is --

LOUIS: Nowhere in that theory, and I actually took classes with James Q. Wilson the year that it all came out. Nowhere in it does it say, if you are afraid, use deadly force.

AVLON: Of course not, of course not. So, this is about the atmosphere.

LOUIS: So then we should recognize in San Francisco or anywhere else, if what you're doing is letting your fear run away with you to the point that you see a shoplifter as a deadly threat and feel empowered to act on it with the color of law behind you, then we are not doing -- you are not upholding civilization. You are actually not curing the problem in any way, shape or form.

AVLON: We're actually agreeing. The atmosphere of fear and disorder causes tragedies like this.

CAMEROTA: Yes. All right, I have to go, but I'll take you --

CUPP: Where are you going?

AVLON: We'll be here. I'm going to miss you.

CAMEROTA: I'm going to show myself out guys. That was so good. We can't do any better. I'm done. Thank you all very much.

Okay, the Obamas getting candid about their marriage, that's next.


B. OBAMA: Did not fully appreciate, I think as engaged of a father as I was, the degree of stress and tension for her.




CAMEROTA: We have a lot to say about this next segment. Former President Barack Obama is opening up about the marital challenges he and First Lady Michelle faced during his years in office. He responded to remarks that Michelle made about their marriage a few months ago.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER U.S. FIRST LADY: People think I'm being caddy by saying this. It's like, there were ten years. Why couldn't stand my husband?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did say that, you said ten years.

M. OBAMA: And guess when it happened when those kids were little.

And for ten years, while we're trying to build our careers and worrying about school and who's doing what, I was like, this isn't even. And guess what? Marriage isn't 50-50 ever.


CAMEROTA: Okay. So, then President Obama explained how his role as a father and husband has changed.


B. OBAMA: Let me just say this. It sure helps to be out of the White House and to have a little more time with her.


Michelle, when our girls were growing up, that was priority number one, two, three and four.


OBAMA: And so, I did not fully appreciate, I think, as engaged of a father as I was. The degree is stress and tension for her.


CAMEROTA: OK, my panel is back with me. Errol, you found this hard to watch.

LOUIS: Yeah, you know, you want to be encouraged by these people. You want to see, like you know, leadership. And not necessarily a fairy tale happy ending, but it's like, if you have, you know, you're the most powerful person in the world, you have the Secret Service, you have a White House staff, you have every need taken care of, you have a chef, right, you have people that chauffeur and protect your kids everywhere, and there's still a lot of tension. You still can't figure it out to the point where the spouses are fighting. I'm thinking, wow, that's -- that's something.

SUROWIECKI: See, I actually think Obama kind of played a little game there, which is if you actually listen to what Michelle said, she was talking, I think, mainly about before they got to the White House, because she was talking about when their kids were little. And when they got to the White House, Sasha was 10 and Malia was 7 or is it the other way around? And I actually -- I have two little kids, and I felt kind of sympathetic to what Michelle was saying and sort of I was like, oh, wow so even Barack Obama has his wife says she can't stand or you know she couldn't stand him and I -- because I'm my wife I think if you asked her, often times, would say the same thing without me.


I mean that really like and I do think there is this way in which. Even in the most progressive marriages where both partners want to be doing the same kind of thing, that there's usually a default parent. And that default parent is usually the mother. And that's really what I think Michelle was talking about, that sense of always being the one who was responsible, basically. CUPP: There's a great series, I don't know if you guys watched it,

called "First Ladies," and it was a dramatized telling of the Obamas and the Roosevelt's and, was the -- the Fords, the Fords.

AVLON: Michelle Pfeiffer is Betty Ford.

CUPP: Really gave that a window into this early time that Michelle is talking about in their marriage. And it was not all good and that was interesting and strange to see.

CAMEROTA: What was the tension? Is she working for his ambition?

CUPP: She was also ambitious. She was going places. And in fact there was a time where they thought she was going to be the sort of --

LOUIS: She was his mentor at the law firm.

CUPP: Yes. And so there was -- there was a tension. And I just thought it was really refreshing. I love that series, but also refreshing to hear in real time today then both of them be honest about their marriages. I love when anyone shares that relatability in their life. I just think that helps someone else in their life. And so, it was great.

AVLON: And I thought that's why I think this resonated so much, right? Here's a couple that can seem close to perfect. And whenever there's these historical figures you put on a pedestal, to see them as human, as flawed, to be the have to be open about their struggles and their challenges, even in their mess marriage, with all that support that I think is not only relatable. I think it's heartening because marriage could be hard and a lot of the really deep victories come from getting through the hard times.

I remember my grandparents were married for over 50 years telling me when -- when, when you know i -- I got married, but my grandmother's think it's never going to be 50-50. If you think it's 75-25, you'll probably end up somewhere in the middle. And that's -- that's what they're referring to as well, particularly when the kids are young.

CAMEROTA: And who among us had a vibrant, romantic marriage when their kids were young? Like that thing, we all are having jobs and you have little kids you'll like see in a few years.

AVLON: You know?

SUROWIECKI: When Obama -- when Obama says like, it's much better now than out of the White House. I'm like, it's also better because your kids are in their 20s. So you're not dealing with this. But I do think one of the things that's really interesting about this is, this is the first presidential couple where we really have heard this. This kind of honesty, right? Because the Clintons, obviously.

CAMEROTA: They were pretty odd.

SUROWIECKI: They had a very complicated relationship.

AVLON: But they weren't talking like that. Yeah.

SUROWIECKI: This is really, I think, the most relatable we've ever heard a President and a First Lady talk about. And I think that's why it's so powerful and so welcome.

CAMEROTA: But to Errol's point, if you are having marital issues, don't run for president. Like that's not going to make your marriage more stronger and more connected, you're going to be preoccupied for four to eight years.

CUPP: But listen, they were both ambitious as a family, as a couple. And in very similar ways to the Clintons, who were both very ambitious and really had their eye on the prize here, they made some sacrifices. And some of those were personal and not great, as we know, in the case of the Clintons. And in the case of the Obamas, there wasn't the infidelity, obviously, or those, you know, awful allegations.


But there was some stuff that they both had to give up and they knew they'd have to because they knew where they were going together.

LOUIS: It was an incredibly hard road, too. I mean, if you read through some of his or her biographies, I mean, they were broke, like broke-broke. And still paying off college debts.

CUPP: And her dad was sick.

LOUIS: He tells a story about going to the Democratic Convention, I think it was in 2000.

AVLON: His credit card bounces.

LOUIS: His credit card bounces, he can't rent a car, he's begging to, you know, he leaves, nobody knows who he is. It's a complete failure. Four years later, he's the keynote speaker. Four years after that, he's the nominee.

AVLON: And you know, public, look, that's actually, remember, one part of that story was when he runs for Senate, he's like, look, this is either up or out. I'll give this up, because public service at any level entails a lot of personal sacrifice. And we just rarely hear it expressed in that raw and self-effacing away from a former president.

CAMEROTA: Yeah, great point. Thank you all for that.

All right, he's been threatened with assassination over his own writing in Iran. And now Salman Rushdie is warning about censorship here in the U.S. We're gonna tell you what he's saying right after this.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: Author Salman Rushdie is speaking out about freedom of expression in a rare public speech since he was stabbed last year. One of his eyes was badly damaged in that attack. He condemned anyone trying to ban books in places like Florida, and those who are even revising older works to take out words now seen as offensive.


SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR: Now, I've been sitting here in the United States. I have to look at the extraordinary attack on libraries and books for children in schools, the attack on the idea of libraries themselves. I have to say it's also been alarming to see publishers looking to -- how shall I put this? Bowdlerize the work of such people as Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming, books have to come to us from their time and be of their time. And if that's difficult to take, don't read it. Read another book. But don't try and remake yesterday's work in the light of today's attitudes.


CAMEROTA: And back to my panel. Certainly interesting to hear him talk. James, he knows a thing or two about being under attack for freedom of speech.

SUROWIECKI: Yeah, I mean, I think both of his points there are really important. In terms of the bowdlerizing or revising of books, so Will Dow's book has been revised by his estate in somewhat strange ways, taking out not just obviously offensive words, but somewhat random.

CAMEROTA: But even in conjunction with scholastic, like, was it his estate that prompted it, or was it scholastic?

SUROWIECKI: I think probably it was a kind of combination of the two. And then Ian Fleming, the -- there his estate is also revising it. I actually don't have any problem with an actual author. Roald Dahl himself changed Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The Oompa Loompas were originally basically slaves and he revised that. That seems totally fine.

I think it's very weird to publish books that under an author's name that they did not write in effect, which is now the case with Roald Dahl. And while the Ian Fleming books, the James Bond books are incredibly offensive. I mean, incredibly offensive, the early ones especially. I think what Rushdie is saying is right. It's -- they're of their time. You read them or don't read them.

But I think the bigger thing is the bans on books in school libraries and in schools that places like Florida, Tennessee, Texas, where some libraries, they've talked about shutting down libraries. I think that's far more consequential and far, far grimmer. So I'm glad he was, when went after that.

CUPP: Well, I think everyone at this table takes First Amendment rights pretty seriously. But I got to tell you, it's very disorienting to live in a time where these rights are under assault I think from the left and the right at the same time. The book bands are awful, regressive, fascist, terrible -- terrible. But the revisionism too is terrible, not just because it's, you know, sanitizing. It's pretending this time did not exist. Well, it's important to know that this time exists so we don't repeat it. And it's important for in age- appropriate ways, people learn that as they grow up. And I mean, it's very weird to be my age and, you know, lived in a time with so much democracy, some joke a little too much democracy, you know, to see these kinds of assaults happening now.

AVLON: But I think that's what was great about Rushdie's comments. Someone who's been such a free speech warrior. Lionized, literally, lionized by many on the right in particular who question whether, for example, the satanic verses could be published today. And here in that statement, he's taking aim at the far left and the far right and the feedback loop that exists. And noting the crucial differences, the extremism on the left tends to be of a cultural sort, right? We're going to rewrite this to account for sensitivities, and there's something Orwellian about that.

The extremism on the right in this case is political. It's governmental. It's book bans, it's speech codes, often in the name of free speech, which makes it even more Orwellian. And he's taking aim at both. And I think that itself is incredibly clarifying.

JAMES: I mean, he's an important warrior, literally put his life on the line for what he believes in, wouldn't question that at all. I think, though, he's a little pessimistic. You know, I mean, I wanted to hear a call to arms. And I think we should, you know, sort of do everything we can to remind people that there are organizations that you can join and you can support and you can, you know, and not just the big ones like -- the American Library Association or PEN America or the Civil Liberties Union, but there's like the comic book legal defense fund. There's all kinds of groups that are out there and it's really important. I was looking and it's, this is the 90th anniversary.


It was May of 1933 when they burned 20,000 books at a plaza you know Beville Platz in Berlin. And you know we knew even then and it later of course became horribly true. They weren't just trying to burn ideas. They were going to come for the authors of those ideas and the people represented in those books and that's exactly what the Nazis did.

And so you know this is not just like sort of a cultural preference and we don't want to hear about LGBTQ in this town. This is really a lot at stake and people should make sure that they understand that and get involved in the fight.

AVLON: And the horrific quote that came out of that time proved so tragically true is in a place where they burn books they will certainly burn people.

SUROWIECKI: I mean, say one thing that was interesting about that was you know in Tennessee where they -- the superintendent basically told the librarian that she couldn't read these two books, one that was about a little girl with two fathers and another one about a bear that ends up adopting.

CAMEROTA: We did that story, yeah.


CAMEROTA: Goslings.

SUROWIECKI: Right. So --

CAMEROTA: It was very offensive.

SUROWIECKI: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So these incredibly inoffensive books that were literally considered offensive only because they included same-sex couples basically. But a couple days ago there was a hearing and parents spoke up against the ban basically and they were quite angry justifiably so.

And so I do think there is, there's a lot of untapped energy I think out there among Americans against banning books and I think one of the big problems we've had with the Florida laws and the things we're seeing in places like Tennessee is that a small minority of people are able to essentially impose their wills, because school superintendents are basically like, you know what, this is too much of a hassle. We're just gonna end it.

CAMEROTA: And sometimes they're on the school board.


AVLON: Or advance their agenda.


AVLON: And you know, and so it's this feedback loop.


AVLON: That we need to find a way to break.

CAMEROTA: Friends, thank you very much. All right, meanwhile, a student suspended after recording their teacher, but that teacher was using the N-word. So is the student a troublemaker or a whistleblower? That's next.




CAMEROTA: A high school geometry teacher in Missouri is no longer employed after video surfaced of him using the N-word in class. That video was taped by a student who caught the teacher saying this.

(VIDEO PLAYING) The student who said that the teacher said it a lot decided to make this recording. Well, that student is also being punished. 15-year-old Mary Walton says she was suspended for three days for violating the school's electronic device policy.

S.E. Cupp and Errol Louis are back with me. So, Errol, the student handbook of the school says that kids are not allowed to use electronic devices inappropriately.

LOUIS: Listen, the rules are intended to create a situation of learning and safety and growth. And all of that happened without the rules. So on one level, you could probably suspend the rule in this particular case.

CUPP: You think?

LOUI: They choose not to do it. And frankly, it sounds a little bit like the school trying to maybe cover up their own hiring policy. How did this person get into a classroom in the first place? They're a little bit embarrassed by it. They should not take it out on the student.

CUPP: That is a student, that student's a journalist is what that kid is. And there is this thing called citizen journalism, right? And I thought that was really brave. And I don't think that student, I mean, I don't know, I can't psychologize, but I don't think that student was, you know, trying to surveil the class. I think -- I think saw an injustice, knew if he didn't have it on camera, no one maybe would believe him or the teacher might contest it.

CAMEROTA: It was a girl.

CUPP; So I loved it, we love whistleblowers in our business, we love journalism, and that was journalism.

LOUIS: And even gave a warning, which I never would have done. I would have just shot it and tried to get the person fired.

CAMEROTA: And what warning did this-

LOUIS: She said, no, you're gonna lose your job.

CAMEROTA: Oh, so that was her saying that to him. I didn't know that. Okay, here's what her mother had to say about all of this.


KATE WELBORN, DAUGHTER SUSPENDED FOR TAKING VIDEO OF TEACHER USING SLUR: I think they're saying know your place. And I think that they are protecting the -- I think they're protecting the adults and the status quo more than they are encouraging the students to learn or grow or apply critical thinking skills.


CAMEROTA: Yeah, I mean, if you want critical thinking skills, what she did was exhibit A.

LOUIS: Yeah, I mean, she should spend the three days, you know, writing up the whole experience and, you know, maybe get it published in the local newspaper.

CUPP; Listen, there are good ways, whereas kids and college kids later, where you're supposed to challenge authority, especially when you think it is unjust. You don't want kids, you know, breaking all the rules all the time. But I love that that kid had that sense of duty and purpose, absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Here's what the Springfield Public Schools has to say about this. Student discipline is confidential. Per federal law, the Springfield Public Schools cannot disclose specifics related to actions taken. The student handbook is clear, however, on consequences for inappropriate use of electronic devices. Here's where they say that the student went wrong. Any consequences applied per the scope and sequence would also consider if minors are identifiable in the recording and what if any hardships are endured by other students due to a violation of privacy with the dissemination of the video in question.

Why is that amazing?

LOUIS: Keep the lawyers out of the classroom, please. Keep the lawyers out of the classroom.

CAMEROTA: You're not seeing a lot of other minors' faces disclosed in that?

LOUIS: Not, not, not. I mean, the kids are so far beyond this.


The technology is so far beyond this. They're applying a strict, you know, narrow reading of the law or their rules as if it was-

CAMEROTA: No, it's Nixonian. I mean...

LOUIS: It simply doesn't make any sense. And the kids are going to put all of this on the web and laugh about it. And that's the way it's going to go.

CAMEROTA: There you go. Errol, S.C., thank you very much. Great to see you guys.

All right. Some of our top reporters are here next to talk about the stories that they are working on for tomorrow including some special elections and primaries across the country. You can see them hard at work right now, right there. As the results are rolling in, we have all their scoops next.