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Trump Admits He Was Told 2020 Election Lies Were False; Biden Frames Age As Experience During Fundraiser; Five Americans Freed from Iran Now On Flight To U.S.; Jann Wenner's Book On Rock 'Masters' Only Includes White Men; "CNN Tonight" Presents "Tomorrow's News Tonight." Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 18, 2023 - 23:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: It was the slap seen around the world when actor Will Smith struck comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards ceremony in 2022. Longtime friend to Rock, Leslie Jones, tells "People" magazine that Rock was so humiliated that he sought counseling with his two daughters, who witnessed the attack, as did Chris Rock's parents.

Smith slapped Rock after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's bald head, which is caused by alopecia. And due to the backlash, Will Smith resigned from the Academy, as you may recall, which has barred him from the Oscars for 10 years.

Well, that's it for me and "CNN Primetime." "CNN Tonight" with Laura Coates starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Hey, Pam. So nice to see you, everyone. And good evening, I'm Laura Coates, welcome to "CNN Tonight."

Look, we've got news on the Trump legal front, including what may be a major case of foot and the mouth disease, everyone. Now, he says he didn't actually listen to his attorneys, who told him that he lost the 2020 election, because he didn't actually respect them, which may turn into a very big problem, of course, for him in a court of law, not to mention in a possible second term. I'll explain just why in a moment.

Plus, the step back, everyone. New tonight, President Biden is now framing his age as experience during a fundraiser, something that he hasn't really shied away from talking about.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I've been doing this a long time. I know I don't look that old. I know.


I'm a little under 103.


I get it. I tried being 110 and doing it again.


Think about it. Think about it. I know I'm 198 years old.



COATES: I guess he's in on the -- is it a political joke or not? Well, Geraldo Rivera is here to weigh in tonight. And the co-founder of "Rolling Stone" magazine has a new book that people are talking about, but actually not in a good way.

Not even about the book, really his commentary, and said it's got interviews with seven rock and roll geniuses, from Mick Jagger to John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen, but not a single woman or a person of color. Now, his explanation for why he did that is adding fuel to the fire.

We've got a lot of thoughts on that tonight, as you can imagine.

But let's begin with Donald Trump, everyone, because, well, oops, he did it again. Now, there is a reason that lawyers tell their clients to stop talking. It's not just that whole, you have a right to remain silent thing, either. It's the next part that comes after that, that your words can and will be used against you in the court of law.

And that goes for the words you say outside of the court of law as well, as in things you might say on television. Now, up until now, his lawyers had been falling on their swords. Also, Trump was the one maybe holding that sword. Now, I've been following my attorneys, he would say. The attorneys told me to do it, they gave me advice, I was just being a good client.

Well, he just told us that he was the one actually pulling the strings. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You hire them. You never met these people. You get a recommendation. They turn out to be rhinos or they turn out to be not so good. In many cases, I didn't respect them. But I did respect others. I respected many others that said the election was rigged.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Were you calling the shots, though, Mr. President, ultimately?

TRUMP: Uh, as to whether or not I believed it was rigged, sure.


TRUMP: It was my decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: Hmm. Jack Smith is somewhere I'm sure salivating at this point in time. Now, the why is actually pretty incredible, too. He doesn't actually respect them or trust their advice. But others who may have told him what he wanted to hear, he did.

Think about who's in that list of people, though. His own attorney general, by the way, the top prosecutor in the country, who, of course, served to his pleasure, no respect there? Hmm.

So, if that's the case, why are your attorneys then saying that you did rely on them?


JOHN LAURO, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: You're entitled to believe and trust advice of counsel. You have one of the leading constitutional scholars in the United States, John Eastman, say to President Trump, this is a protocol that you can follow.

President Trump was following the advice of his lawyer. What he's being indicted for ultimately is following legal advice from an esteemed scholar, John Eastman.

He had an advice of counsel, a very detailed memorandum from a constitutional expert.


COATES: Well, if you weren't relying on your attorneys for advice, you didn't respect them, then who really did call the shots there? Whose advice were you actually following? Does that mean your communication should actually still be privileged then, because you didn't actually follow it? Are they now free to testify about the advice you didn't take or even listen to? And if you don't respect them, should they still now feel loyal to you?

We will talk about all of that with litigation attorney, A. Scott Bolden, and also Jamil Jaffer, a former associate White House counsel to President George W. Bush.


Gentlemen, I mean, think about this, right? We know we never want our clients to be talking in front of the camera without us side by side or if ever. He essentially maybe gave the keys to the prosecutorial castle in some ways. If you are wondering whether Trump was the one to direct something, he said he calls the shots here. So, you've got to wonder how does that bode with his advice of counsel defense. What are your thoughts?

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, LITIGATION ATTORNEY: He walks away from it. But I imagine, while I was listening to that interview, what his lawyers were watching and saying. Oops, there goes the defense, and that is relying on counsel despite what the program that you ran.

Um, he is a walking admission against your interest machine. I just don't -- his campaign is his criminal cases and his criminal cases are his campaign. And as a result, they are inconsistent with one another. He can raise money and run for office, but the criminal justice system is going to dominate this and going to drive this, which is why every time he talks about his case, he may be able to raise money.

But I think he's making party admissions. I think you can get those party admissions in through a hearsay exception, including we're not arguing that for the truth of the matter asserted therein, I'm arguing that the fact that he said this, and the prosecution may be able to get that on their direct case, but certainly on their rebuttal case.

COATES: Love it when you talk professorial.


I'm in law school all over again. I love it. But, you know, it's a little bit more nuanced as well, right? Because what his lawyers may be saying is, well, he didn't respect all of the attorneys. He was talking about this one. He was talking about the constitutional memo, and that's where he really had the rubber meeting the road.

Is that enough to say, look, I didn't believe the rest of you, but then I found that diamond in the rough, I found that one lawyer who I said, you got something, kid, I'll listen to you. Is that enough?

JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO GEORGE W. BUSH: I mean, that's what it looks like he's trying to say. He's -- look, I didn't listen to any of the Rhino lawyers, any of those Bush administration retreads, who I happened to bring in, who I put -- made my attorney general or the like. No.

I relied on John Eastman, this vaunted constitutional star that he is. That's the guy I relied on. Oh, and I also relied on the head of my civil division, who I was going to make the acting attorney general until everybody told me they were going to quit if I listened to him. So, those are the two guys I was listening to. Everyone else, forget them. They're a bunch of rhinos and know nothing lawyers who I'm never going to listen to.

BOLDEN: They're indicted right now, too.


JAFFER: And they're indicted.


COATES: I mean, how -- you know, we have to learn the art of the pivot, right? You're going to have to make arguments in court. Sometimes, the judge is going to look at you and say, I don't buy it. And you got to have something prepared to pivot to. A jury, you may have a juror who's looking at you with a bit of a side eye. You have to pivot accordingly.

How do the lawyers pivot here? How do they do it in a way that preserves the ability to make a valid defense? Because everyone is entitled to a defense, even Donald Trump. You have to have one, be able to have lawyers who will do it. How do you pivot?

BOLDEN: Well, I think you make the argument that you just made, that he did listen to Eastman, he did listen to these scholars. And, of course, he was interviewing lawyers back and forth. And he liked some, he didn't like others.

But this admission on his part is even more powerful because he's owning the criminal conspiracy. He's owning the political criminal organization, right? He's charged with RICO, right? In that interview, he just owned it. He said, I'm the leader.

COATES: That's a good point. I don't want to cut you off. That's a good point because we're talking about four different indictments, right? Obviously, two have to do with the very topic you're talking about. Is it immediately clear that he means the Georgia case versus January 6 and beyond? I mean, he could likely make an argument, I'm sure, to suggest that he -- this was more of an ambiguous statement.

BOLDEN: Yeah, but the federal case is the January 6 piece. And then the state case, in many respects, is the maybe the local state case. But they're very comparable. One is being the RICO case and speaking indictment. The January 6 federal case by Jack Smith is not so. But they're very comparable. And if you think about it, they're partner cases.

This happened at the state level, which was part of their conspiracy. At the federal level, that was the broader piece where they were trying to get Pence to not do his constitutional duty. And so, I think you got to look at them through one legal prism and his statements and him owning the -- being the political crime boss, as he did in that interview. That's detrimental to the federal case as well as the state case if you ask me.

COATES: Well, I think she missed an opportunity to ask who ordered the code red. There could have been a whole few good men moment that happened. You all know we wait for it as lawyers to have that moment. We know it's not a comparable case, although it's being made to feel like that in a lot of the talking points and conversations in this so- called two-tiered justice system as relates to Donald Trump.

That's Hunter Biden, of course, right? He, of course, has indictments right now. There are three very different contacts, Jamil. But he is now suing the IRS because he says that the whistleblowers, essentially, or the IRS, failed to protect his private records and the agents illegally released tax information. He's looking for 1,000 bucks for each disclosure and attorney's fees. When you hear this, does he have a case?

JAFFER: I mean, I don't think so.


Look, he throws a lot of sand in the gears. It's true that tax information came out, but they reported it to Congress. It was Congress, it was the committee, that released their testimony, that out of this whole thing, they were going through the process saying, we don't think things are happening properly at the IRS. This was a legally appropriate route for them to follow. It's not --

COATES: As whistleblowers, you're saying.

JAFFER: The whistleblower is exactly right. And not appropriate then for him -- for them to be sued as a result of that. This will be a contested case. But in a lot of ways, this is Hunter Biden throwing sand into the gears saying, look, I didn't think I was going to get indicted. Now, I'm indicted. What can I do to confuse the situation? It's very much a Donald Trump move.

COATES: Well, you know, the whistleblowers themselves are not named as defendants in this action, likely for the reasons you're talking about, the protection there. But I wonder, just because you gave it to Congress, if you weren't supposed to authorize -- disclose it in the first place, I don't know if it's going to save you forever, but I will say, when you think about the reasons for doing this, is it because he's trying to cloud the issue and he's trying to muck it up?

BOLDEN: Not going to cloud the issue, he's going on the offensive, if you will.


BOLDEN: If the IRS is going to do what they're going to do and work with the DOJ prosecutor or a special prosecutor, then we're going to give IRS something that you want. I'm going to sue you for violating, uh, this privacy law that says, you can't disclose this stuff.

On the other hand, you have the IRS protocols and DOJ protocols. Before they disclosed it to Congress under the subpoena, one of this letters that they were submitting to, they had to know that they were protected and had to be cleared by the IRS.

But Abbe Lowell is a really aggressive white-collar criminal defense lawyer, commercial litigator, and he's going to fight to the very end. He's going to give Hunter Biden every bit of a fight that he needs, deserves, and can afford.

COATES: Best defense is offense, they say.


COATES: Or is it the other way?

BOLDEN: Air-locked (ph) proceedings.

COATES: There you go. Well, Scott Bolden, Jamil Jaffer, thank you so much to both of you.

And coming up, President Biden tonight touting his experience as a rebuttal to all the many questions about his age. The question is, though, what do voters think? Well, California Governor Gavin Newsom weighs in a CNN exclusive interview with our own Dana Bash.



COATES: So, tonight, President Joe Biden said it's not about age, everyone. It's about experience. Commenting behind closed doors at a fundraiser on Broadway, saying -- quote -- "A lot of people seem focused on my age. Believe me, I know better than anyone."

And the president used the experience as rationale for his re- election, adding -- quote -- "When this nation was flat on its back, I knew what to do."

Now, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Dana Bash tonight, California Governor Gavin Newsom addressed concerns over President Biden's age.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is something else that Americans are concerned about. A new CBS News poll shows only one-third of American voters think that Joe Biden will stay in office through a second term. I know you are downplaying concerns about his age. But do you believe that voters don't have any reason to be concerned that he would be 86 years old by the end of the second term?

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Voters have every right to be concerned. But I'm -- maybe I'm a little -- I remember Bobby Kennedy said it best. What the world needs are the qualities of youth, not a time of life, but a state of mind, a quality of imagination. I mean this.

I couldn't imagine three years ago that this president could accomplish so much in such a short period of time. I mean that. If this political season is all about a celebrity, with all due respect, we had a celebrity for four years. It didn't go well.

And so, I want a seasoned pro that knows how to get things done. I'm a little old-fashioned. I want a guy who produces results. And the results are in. It has been a master class. There's simply no administration in my lifetime that has been more effective producing more substantive results.


COATES: Let's take it now with former Fox News host, Geraldo Rivera. Geraldo, nice to see you this evening. I'm -- I'm really curious to see --


COATES: -- what your take is, this notion of a seasoned pro. Something reminds me of what we heard early on for a number of politicians who would look at the likes of say an AOC or the so-called squad members and they would say, you don't know enough yet, you're not a part of the establishment, and therefore, you have to really be more entrenched to have credibility. Is it working now for Biden to say that?

RIVERA: I don't think so. I mean, I like to think of myself as, you know, as an 80-year-old with deep experience. The problem is I can't remember them all.


I think that Gavin Newsom, you know, when you see him on T.V., he looks like he could be, you know, Trump's son and Biden's grandson. It is -- it is remarkable to me how frail Biden looks when it is pointed out that he is befuddled about going this direction or that direction. And Trump, even though he's only three years younger, gets the credit of being more vibrant, more alive.

The polls suggesting that overwhelmingly. They think he'll finish his term while President Biden, so many of them fear that he will not finish his term. And that Kamala Harris, the very unpopular, I don't know if that is a functional word, but the widely ridiculed vice president, whether -- you know, that is a factor also. People fearing that Biden won't be around, Kamala will be the president, and people don't seem to be buying that notion.

At least the polls -- it's early. Maybe people will get inspired and energized. But it seems Biden is not going to get any younger. Even though he's only eight months older than I am, he looks like an old guy. And, you know, when the life expectancy is only in the mid-70s, you know, you start to worry.


COATES: Well, you know, I do wonder to a certain extent how much of it is seed planting. That's the benefit of planting seeds. They start to come to fruition and things become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy in the sense of, if I tell you someone looks a certain way, if I tell you they're vibrant, I might see it through that lens.

Now, the polling does say what you're talking about. But here's the thing, Geraldo. I mean, when you think about it, it wasn't as if his age was a secret when he ran this last time. And most presidents, except for, of course, the last one, have about an eight-year term, right, successive administrations.

And so, wasn't this contemplated before? And the same critiques that happened four years ago were also there, but you have the track record of an accomplishment now. Would that be enough to undermine what some of these polls are suggesting?

RIVERA: I don't think so. You know, time is inescapable. It tolls regardless. And four years is a long time in the life of an 80-year- old. I can attest to that. It is. And I'm an 80-year-old looking for a job. So, I hope that Biden's message resonates.

This is a situation where I believe that this will -- the frailty of the incumbent president is Trump's best weapon. He may cheat at golf, but he's still the club champion. He -- his -- you know, he bounds on to the stage. He walks up railings without holding on to the rail. He -- you know, I think that Trump wins the -- it looks like he could eat Joe Biden on stage. You know, he looks like a different kind of creature. Now, I don't think he should be president. I think he forfeited the right to be president, Donald Trump, when he formatted the insurrection and he unleashed the rioting of January 6th.

But there are also the issues that Joe Biden faces, not just with the economy. Immigration is really heating up. There are other international issues that -- there is a sense of unease.

I think -- and the survey shows. This is the first time, I think, that Trump, the kind of the scarlet letter of presidential candidates and former presidents, that he is now leading within the margin of error, but he's now leading Joe Biden.

It is extraordinary that Donald Trump has survived all of the primaries and DeSantis and everybody else, and is getting three- fourths of the republican vote. And, you know, now has surpassed the incumbent president.

It is remarkable to me. Worse fears are being realized. This is real. This is the first time. That is a historic graphic you have up right there. The fact that Trump now leads Biden is a reality that everyone has to come to grips with.

COATES: Well, as you mentioned, the margin of error, but also the proximity of the numbers. Also, you mentioned this point already, Geraldo, the idea that it's still very early, and there are many people who are skeptical, whether it's in the favor of the candidate you want or not. It would be perhaps a mistake to bet singularly on these polls in either direction at this point, 400 and something days away from the election. But your point is well taken about what they demonstrate today.

But there are things that could really change the course of any election. And prior to the Dobbs decision, naturally, it was the abortion debate, always in kind of invisible ink on every single ballot.

I want to get your take on the abortion debate, particularly in the Republican Party, though. How this is all going to land when it comes to the wide swath of voters in the general election, not just the primary, but how will all of this land?

RIVERA: I think that's a great question. I'm here in Ohio, in Cleveland, Ohio. In August, we had a referendum on whether or not abortion rights would be enshrined in our state constitution. This is a state, Ohio, that has become a red state. Trump carried it overwhelmingly. And yet the issue to enshrine abortion rights on the state constitution passed overwhelmingly. It was like 58% to 42%.

The abortion advocates triumph here. It is the most potent issue the Democrats have by far. Biden, if I were in charge of the Democrats, I would hit that every day, that your rights have been taken away. You want these old grumpy men to have, you know, jurisdiction over your daughter's body. Every day, hit it, hit it, hit it. That, I think, is the Biden hope. But then again, Trump now has immigration in these -- "The New York Times" is showing pictures of thousands and thousands of South Americans coming through the Darien Gap and walking Central America and Mexico, pouring over the border. The image is so frightening. I think that this is going to a very emotional race.


The next 400 days are going to be wild and crazy. I don't think that you could even rely on the fact that Biden and Trump will both make it to the finish line 400 days from now. It's a grueling, grueling, you know, task for a much younger man. I'm not so sure that you won't be seeing a Gavin Newsom or Ron DeSantis at some point down the line resurging or changing their minds, you know, on whether or not they're going to run.

It's fascinating to me. We've never had a situation like this. We've never had someone who's going to be 86 years old, for goodness sake, which is considered a -- you know, Warren Buffett aside, it's considered, you know, way, way, way over the distant hills.


RIVERA: But listen, they're both very accomplished. I want them both to succeed. This is the country that we're all rooting for. You know, what happens now is going to determine a lot about the rest of our lives. I just --

COATES: It will.

RIVERA: -- hope that Biden's health holds up and hope both of their health holds up, Laura.

COATES: Well, since you mentioned your own age a number of times, in case you were fishing for a compliment, you still look good, Geraldo Rivera. Nice to see you.


Thank you so much.


RIVERA: Thank you. I was totally waiting for you to say that.

COATES: I know. I wanted to make sure I said it to you because you mentioned it more than once.

RIVERA: I know you were a skilled lawyer, but now you're a skilled diplomat.

COATES: I mean -- well, there you go. Ambassador Laura Coates, whatever could be next, everyone. Thank you so much.

RIVERA: Thank you. COATES: Former President Trump, of course, is criticizing his party over its messaging on abortion and warning some Republicans will not win on this issue in 2024.

Trump said he could negotiate a deal between Democrats and Republicans on abortion restrictions and called Governor Ron DeSantis's six-week ban on abortions in Florida a terrible mistake. In fact, tonight, Governor DeSantis is actually pushing back.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL) (voice-over): Any time he did a deal with Democrats whether it was on budget, whether it was on the criminal Justice First Step Act, they ended up taking him to the cleaners. He's going to make the Democrats happy with respect to right to life. I think all pro-lifers should know that he's preparing to sell you out.


COATES: Talk about now with CNN political commentator Karen Finney along with former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh. He's also the host of "White Flag" podcast. Glad to have both of you here.

So, who saw? Both of you were champing at the bit during our conversation. So, go ahead, give me your reaction to the conversation before I get into any else. Go ahead, Karen. What do you want to say?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just was thinking, you know, if Joe Biden had the makeup and the hair that Geraldo had or the tanning bed or the comb over that Trump had, maybe we wouldn't be having this conversation about his age. I don't know.

COATES: You got it out. Your turn, Joe. What do you want to say? I knew it was coming.

JOE WALSH, PODCAST HOST: Laura, if Geraldo was going to tell us he was almost 80 years old one more time, I was going to scream. Look, you know how I feel about --

FINNEY: And he's looking for a job.

WALSH: And he's looking for a job. He's looking for a job. You know how I feel about Trump. He's an existential threat to our democracy. But this age thing with Biden, the only way it goes away is if Joe Biden directly makes it go away. I think Biden needs to lean into the age thing, have fun with it. I'm 80 years old, this is it America, look what I've done. I take a nap every day, big deal, I'm getting the job done. He's got to lean into it.

COATES: Well, he tried, though, and that was Geraldo's point. I mean, obviously, tongue in cheek, you're talking about, but his point was, even when leaning into the experience aspect of it, the end of the day, many of the Democrats and Republicans want to have a bigger tent, including younger voters. But is that enough?

FINNEY: Well, but here's the thing. Talking about Joe Biden's age has become like talking about Hillary Clinton's emails in 2016. It doesn't surprise me that people, because you made up the point during your interview, they said he was too old in 2016. They said he was too old in 2020. And as Gavin Newsom made the point, and look at what he has been able to accomplish.

So, you know, but again, we keep talking about it. So, it's not surprising that when you ask voters, do you worry about it? When they've seen lots of stories asking about it, sure. And I'll tell you, the internal polling that I've seen, and also if you look at what happens when voters go to the polls, they're voting for Joe Biden, they're voting for Democrats 2020, 2022, and that recent special election in Ohio.

So, you know, I think it shows that when it comes down to the agenda, people are supportive of what he's trying to do with the country. And I agree with him. I mean, remember, he and Kamala Harris have been presiding over a country in crisis since day one.

It was only a couple weeks after January 6th when they took the oath of office. I mean, I remember walking through the Capitol. Many members of Congress were still teary-eyed, were so emotional for them to be there.

WALSH: His age is a concern. But I agree with Karen. He could swat this away in a nanosecond if he were just more informal about it and I think fun about it, because look at all he has gotten done.


And the bedwetting among Democrats, Biden needs to say, look, I'm running again, come on, everybody, get on board, and enough of this.

FINNEY: Yeah, I'm going to second my Democrats, I got to say.

COATES: You are. Well, what about the issue of abortion, by the way?

WALSH: And I'm not a Democrat. There's too much bedwetting.

COATES: I mean, there are a number of issues. You talk about the platform and the policy positions.


COATES: What are the areas aside? I mean, I got to be honest. I'm sure he's tired of talking about his age. He's tired of talking about all of that. He wants to talk about what he's actually doing or hasn't done, or maybe issues that voters are going to actually circle the little bubbles about or push the buttons. One of them will be abortion in many respects.


COATES: And I'm wondering what you make of the Democrats' position and the Republicans' position on abortion. You heard -- I want to play for a second, if we can, what Trump said about a federal ban on abortion just yesterday. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: DeSantis is willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban.

WELKER: Would you support that? You think that goes too far?

TRUMP: I think what he did is a terrible thing and a terrible mistake. I think the Republicans speak very inarticulately about this subject. Other than certain parts of the country, you can't -- you're not going to win on this issue. But you will win on this issue when you come up with the right number of weeks.


COATES: So, what does that look like? Is that true?

FINNEY: No, it's not, because here's the thing, the whole conversation, and Governor Newsom talked about this in his interview with Dana, has moved on to a conversation. It's not about weeks. It's about a woman should get to decide with her doctor, because no government official has any idea what goes on in your body or my body or some other woman's body. And that's just the reality of health and the way our bodies work.

And so, I think the country understands that you can't have a law that just kind of blankets when -- look at what has happened since Roe v. Wade has been overturned. The horror stories we've seen with women having different situations in their pregnancies. So, no.

And by the way, Mister -- they're not talking about it. Mister I killed Roe v. Wade is the one giving advice about how to talk about it?

WALSH: Yeah. Trump doesn't know what he's talking about. But Laura, Trump, that's a guy who knows he has won the nomination.


WALSH: He knows he has to win the general, and he knows this issue is killing Republicans.

COATES: Karen Finney, Joe Walsh, thank you so much. Geraldo does not appreciate your commentary, by the way.


He was not thrilled by it, everyone.

WALSH: He's 80 years old and he's looking for a job.

FINNEY: That's what I took on.

COATES: I'm going to move on. Geraldo Grump, disabled. I'm moving on right now. Thank you very much.

Okay, five Americans, everyone, were freed from detention in Iran. They're now on a plane back to the U.S. as we are speaking today. Some were held for years in one of Iran's most notorious prisons. What it means once they're back on American soil is next.



COATES: In just a matter of hours, five Americans who the U.S. says have been wrongfully detained in Iran, will be touching down back in this country. It's time for the first time today getting off of a plane in Doha after leaving Iran. They're going to be expected to arrive at a military installation close to Washington, D.C.

I want to bring in contributing writer at "The New Yorker," Robin Wright, who has a new article on this just out tonight. Robin, so good to see you today. You have been covering hostage taking of U.S. citizens in Iran since the revolution. What are the next few days going to be like for these soon-to-be totally freed Americans?

ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: This is the period of adjustment. They will all go through medical checks, and they will get some counseling on how to adjust, how to return to normal life, how to get over the many psychological and in some cases physical problems they've all endured while in Iran's notorious Evin Prison.

The sense of euphoria will be great, but there's also that sense of guilt, as Siamak Namazi wrote about this morning after his release, that he feels incredible joy at finally being able to breathe free air, but he feels a sense of guilt about the people he met new and loved while imprisoned and the fact that they are still held in some cases for very long prison terms.

COATES: And you actually know him as well personally. So, the idea that this person in particular is coming home and gives him that, a kind of, I guess, survivor's guilt, is something that might not occur to people.

But just knowing how long he has been there and what it means to all the people who did not have opportunity to return to their home countries is very significant, as is this, Robin, because this is one deal. Any Americans who are brought home is obviously a tremendous and wonderful thing. But many are concerned this might actually incentivize more hostage taking. Do you see it that way?

WRIGHT: Absolutely. Iran has been using this tactic for more than four decades now. It has at various times held as many as several dozen Americans, a total of almost 100 since the 1979 revolution.

This is a problem that affects Americans all over the world. We've seen the tactic increase in places like Russia and Venezuela, Syria, that many countries have detained Americans because they know the United States values its freedom, values the individual rights, and will go to bat for all of them.

You have Paul Whelan and "The Wall Street Journal" correspondent who are held in Russia now. All of these are traumatic for the United States government and for the American people because it is a violation of our basic rights.


So, there is a danger that while we celebrate this release, that there will be others, not only in Iran, held down the road because the United States is willing to do things, to compromise, to engage in diplomacy, and sometimes transfer of assets in order to free them.

COATES: For the unfreezing here, a really important point. Robin Wright, thank you so much for joining us with your expertise. I appreciate it.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

COATES: Well, the co-founder of "Rolling Stone" magazine facing a mountain of criticism over comments that he made about women and Black musicians. Now, he has been booted from his leadership role in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


COATES: Okay, so, the "Rolling Stone" co-founder, his name is Jann Wenner, is in hot water for comments that he made in "New York Times" interview.


His upcoming book, it's called "The Masters," by the way, it's full of interviews that he did with artists like John Lennon and Mick Jagger. Of course, he didn't include a single woman or a person of color.


JANN WENNER, CO-FOUNDER, ROLLING STONE (voice-over): Insofar as the women, I mean, there were just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Oh, stop it. You can't say that. You're telling me Joni Mitchell is not articulate enough."

WENNER (voice-over): It's not that they're inarticulate, although you go have a deep conversation with Grace Slick or Janis. Please be my guest. The Black artists. I mean, you know, Stevie Wonder, incredibly, you know, they're genius, right? These are genius artists. I mean, I suppose when you use the word as broad as the masters, the fault is using that word, you know. But, uh, maybe Marvin Gaye, you said I could call Curtis Mayfield or -- I mean, they just didn't articulate at that level.


COATES: Says the inarticulate person who would make that comment. But I digress. Wenner also said that perhaps he should have -- quote -- "found one Black and one woman artist" -- unquote -- just to avoid criticism. Well, isn't that special? He most certainly had a list of names to choose from in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I'm just going to talk off the top of my head here. Maybe Chuck Berry or maybe James Brown, Ray Charles, maybe Rita Franklin, B.B. King, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Jay- Z, Dolly Parton, Stevie Nicks. I could just go on all day, but we've got more to talk about. And I'd even give you an exhaustive list of options, by the way.

Now, his comments leading the Rock and Roll of Fame foundation, it led them to remove him from hits' board of directors. And in a statement through a spokesperson for the publisher of "The Masters," Wenner told CNN in part -- quote -- "In my interview with 'The New York Times,' I made comments that diminished the contributions, genius and impact of Black and women artists, and I apologize wholeheartedly for those remarks" -- unquote.

I want to bring in culture writer, Tre Johnson. So good to see you this evening, Tre. I mean, you got this statement that was put out now, right? But I mean, this idea that I should have included a woman and a Black to be able to avoid criticism, many people have criticized the whole methodology of how one chooses the -- quote, unquote -- "greats." This puts on full display the diminishing that people have criticized and with good reason.

TRE JOHNSON, CULTURE WRITER: I mean, absolutely. And frankly, I think it's not surprising. Like Wenner -- Wenner is someone who, if you study his history, is someone who, in the founding of "Rolling Stone," has likely spent a lot of time cozying himself up to the people he admired the most, and that meant he had a very myopic view about who he felt like were the tastemakers and cultural influencers in the realm of music. And this latest work is just a continuation of that kind of fixation.

The idea that he would do so at the act of omission is frankly nothing surprising or new in the American context. People have routinely dismissed and rendered invisible the contributions of Black artists and or female artists through a long history around music.

And so, for me, this is just a continuation of receipts about his behavior. That's not terribly surprising at the end of the day.

COATES: I think myopic is the perfect word to choose. People do have their own personal preferences and tastes, obviously. What I might think is on the top of my playlist and ought to be might not be on yours. But the idea of suggesting that one could not be articulate enough as a musician or that they somehow should not be included is really about the gatekeepers and erasure and thinking about who gets to decide who is great enough to be called the -- quote, unquote -- "masters."

But just the thought that it would not come out until what this last week with "New York Times," that that would be the first time it would have occurred to him, to that -- you could not only say that, but maybe ought not to have felt that way in a position of such power. You call this eraser. Tell me why. JOHNSON: Well, it's erasure because it is a conscious omission of acknowledging the contributions of other people who have contributed to music. Look, music has a deeply, culturally-symbiotic relationship with the artists, with the public, with culture. People kind of are awash in influencing each other, and part of that continual awash influencing is acknowledgement that like women and or Black artists have long been like girding the idea of what the American soundtrack is.

Look, we're talking about this in the context of like two pretty significant moments happening right now. One, we are actively in the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, and hip-hop has now, for many years now, become the dominant soundtrack of the American experience, and how Americans are grappling with the very notion of things like gatekeepers in power.


But then even on a more granular level, what are the two biggest stars that we're talking about this summer? Taylor Swift and Beyonce, who have the two biggest tours happening around the country. They are record breaking for the -- on the back end of two artists who have been record breaking already in terms of their careers.

And so, this type of commentary from someone like Wenner, like -- look, this is the old guard trying to cling to a past that is no longer relevant. Like culture has receipts upon receipts upon receipts about how music has had a broader sense of identity and contribution for impact. This is leaving out, like you said, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Prince, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, like the list goes on and on and on.

And the idea that he'd want to do this is not just about his own narrow thinking but also, again, I think this is about understanding this person's contextual history. This is someone who has spent years, decades, coddling himself up to the very same subjects of his book.

COATES: We're commenting about Jann Wenner today, but we'd be fools to believe that he is an island unto himself in these viewpoints given all of our conversation today.

JOHNSON: Absolutely.

COATES: Tre Johnson, thank you so much.

JOHNSON: No problem. Thank you, Laura.

COATES: Well, the auto workers strike is starting to expand to more plants as we're now about to enter day five. And now, the walkouts are about to go international. That's next.



COATES: Now, before we leave you, here's "Tomorrow's News Tonight." The UAW strike against the big three automakers is about to enter its fifth day. A source telling CNN that while negotiations are ongoing, there are no main table meetings with lead negotiators set for tomorrow. The next ones with both sides are set for Wednesday and also Thursday, but those, of course, could move up. And there could also be a strike in Canada against Ford, literally any minute now.

That as we're learning that former President Trump plans to skip next week's GOP presidential primary debate and instead give a speech in front of current and former union members.

Well, thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.