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Inside Politics

Tucker Carlson Out At Fox News; Biden Likely Announcing Reelection Bid Tomorrow; Klobuchar: Biden A "Steady Hand" With "Strong Record To Run On"; WAPO: Dem Activists, Voters Divided On Biden's Age; Poll: One-Third Of Republicans Do Not Want Trump To Run; Poll: Almost No One Wants A Biden-Trump Rematch In 2024; DeSantis Stokes 2024 Speculation With Japan Visit; GOP Divided Over Abortion Message. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 24, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing busy breaking news day with us. A big divorce at Fox. The network and its highest rated anchor Tucker Carlson sever ties. The timing of this split will no doubt raise eyebrows as it happens of course, one week or so after a near $800 million settlement for election lies.

Plus, waiting on the word go. The president's team rushes to lock in key pieces of a would be 2024 campaign and announcement videotaped, a campaign manager chosen top advisors settled, a green light from Joe Biden to turn the reelect on still not a short. And a world tour for Ron DeSantis. The Florida governor tries to look the part of commander in chief in Japan, while playing coy about if or when he will challenge Donald Trump.

More on the president's coming soon campaign in just a minute. But first, the sudden and stunning end to Tucker Carlson's tenure at Fox. The network revealing just minutes ago that Carlson hosted his last show this past Friday. Carlson had been in network staples since back in 2009, six years, almost seven years he had his primetime show. Just two weeks ago, he headlined a very important network get, the first post during an interview with the former President Donald Trump. Fox on air and in its statement brands this decision as mutual.

Let's get straight to CNN's Oliver Darcy. Oliver, giant news, what do we know about how it happened and why?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: This is really astonishing news, John, in the world of media and in politics. We don't really have any details outside the short statement that I want to read to you from Fox News, which was put out moments ago. It says, Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways.

We thank him for his service to the network as a host, and prior to that as a contributor. And it goes on to say that his last program already aired on Friday, April 21. And that he will -- or his hour will now be hosted by a rotating cast of different hosts over on the network. So, a very short statement. I can't imagine that this was amicable notably missing from the statement was anything from Tucker Carlson himself. And John, this is huge, like I said, in Republican politics, as well as media because Tucker Carlson exerted so much control and so much power and influence over the Republican Party base.

You often saw lawmakers like Ted Cruz, go on his show and grovel at his feet when he would lash out at them on air. And you -- like you said he had the first interview with Donald Trump after he was arraigned in New York court. And so, this was a -- this is a huge moment, I think, not only in media, but also in politics for the whole country.

KING: And so, all of it, we want to be careful, because there's a lot we don't know, as you smartly pointed out there. And you very smartly pointed out that there's no comment from Tucker Carlson in the statement issued by Fox. We can draw an inference from that, but we need to be careful. There was nothing you very carefully covered.

The lawsuit, Dominion voting systems, again, Fox News. This is not required. There was nothing in that settlement. Fox settled the lawsuit, agreed to pay the money, and there was absolutely nothing like this on the table. So, this comes as a total surprise, right?

DARCY: As far as we know, that was not part of the settlement deal. Now, it's always possible that there was something in there that we didn't know. It's hard to imagine, John, that this is a coincidence after Fox pays the highest defamation settlement ever. That's publicly recorded in U.S. history $787 million to Dominion last week.

After the settlement, you know, days after Tucker Carlson losing his show. It's hard to imagine these things are coincidental. But the network's not tying the decision to that in their statement. And so, we just simply don't know how directly connected they are, but hard to imagine that there are -- that this was a coincidence days after that settlement.

KING: It certainly. Oliver Darcy, come back to us if you learn any more in the hour ahead. On this big breaking news story, appreciate the hustle to bring it to our viewers at the top of the hour. Now some of Carlson's three million viewers will be surprised when they tune in tonight, and they'll find their favorite anchor missing. But if you were watching last hour, this is how you learned on Fox of this dramatic decision.


HARRIS FAULKNER, HOST FOX NEWS: We have some news from within our Fox family. Fox News Media and Tucker Carlson have mutually agreed to part ways. Tucker's last show with this past Friday. We want to thank Tucker Carlson for his service to the network as a host and prior to that, as a longtime contributor.


[12:05:00] KING: Want to bring in our CNN media analyst Sara Fischer. Sara, just the way that was read right there. Harris Faulkner reading that on the air very calmly, very quickly, very dispassionately. Have you learned anything in the minutes since we've learned this big news that to the big question, which is why?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, we've asked Dominion spokespeople, if this is explicitly tied. They said that there is nothing they can share yet about whether it's tied to the settlement. But the other thing that we're worried about or thinking about right now is what those tapes from former Fox producer Abby Grossberg may have uncovered.

Of course, you'll recall that she was part of this suit in that she claimed that Fox News had sort of meddled with her testimony. She had then put out an amended legal filing shortly before the court case and said that the basically there was tapes in which Rudy Giuliani and others were saying things about the voting machine fraud, Dominion, etc.

So, one could ask yourselves, you know, is there something implicating there. But there was nothing that was a part of this agreement to your point, John, that said that any personnel would be fired from the settlement. In fact, within this settlement, there wasn't even any requirement that Fox had to apologize or retract any of its reporting.

KING: And Sara, he said at the eight o'clock hour, excuse me, since Megyn Kelly moved on. That's almost seven years, I think six or going on seven years ago. Now the timing, you can look backwards, and you look just a week or so ago, the Dominion settlement. You can also look forward, Fox, whatever you think of it, whatever people watching, think of the network, making this decision as we head into a 2024 presidential campaign cycle.

Somebody who, as we noted, had the first post arraignment interview with the former president United States, Donald Trump, who's the Republican front runner. For a network that prides itself on its political coverage to do this at this moment is stunning and tells you something.

FISCHER: Absolutely does, not only was Tucker Carlson, like the highest rated personality on Fox, John, he was one of the highest rated shows on all of cable. So, it's an explosive move that Fox is going to do this, especially to your point ahead of the 2024 election. There isn't really like a backup for Tucker Carlson. There's no major personality that brings in the same kind of ratings that he does.

The five does very well one of their shows, but it's not like they have someone in their stable that they're going to be able to replace him with. I do think it's notable that they didn't give Tucker Carlson a chance to even sign off. To me that tells you that part of this decision may have been a little bit rushed. We don't know who's going to replace him.

All we know for now is that that hour will continue with political coverage. They ran a promotional spot earlier today, touting an interview with a potential candidate. We just don't know who's going to be the permanent host quite yet.

KING: And so, Oliver Darcy is still with us as well. Let's walk through some of what we do know. Again, we're waiting to learn more about the whys all over. But in the Dominion suit, the text, Tucker Carlson's taxed and several Fox hosts tax, essentially saying what they knew to be true versus what they were saying on television, raising questions about the election.

He said of Sidney Powell, who was the Trump lawyer, who was a frequent guest of his program. Sidney Powell is a lying. I'm not going to say it on television, f***ing bi***. You see that there. I'm sorry, Sara, all of us not with us anymore. So, this was one of the hypocrisy, if you will of what was happening. Tucker Carlson was not alone.

But his program as its lead primetime program at the moment had that then other text about moving on from Trump. We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump. Most nights, I truly can't wait. I hate him passionately. Tucker Carlson saying that in his texts, and then again on the air defending Donald Trump, on the air spreading Trump's lies about a rigged election. And then just recently, that had to be an awkward moment, sitting across from him and giving that interview right after the arraignment.

FISCHER: Yes. Well, I think the most damning stuff if this firing is actually tied to the settlement, John, is actually some of the stuff that Tucker Carlson was saying about trying to get a fellow Fox News reporter fired for her accurate coverage, for trying to accurately fact check a Donald Trump tweet. Donald Trump had tweeted something praising Fox News.

His coverage of the voting systems machines that referenced Dominion that Fox News reporter who is a colleague of Tucker Carlson's back checked it. And so, when in pre-trial discovery hearings, we found out that Tucker Carlson was secretly pushing to get reporters fired for trying to do accurate reporting.

To me that's actually even more damning as it pertains to the Dominion suit, a potential, you know, the settlement and potentially his firing, being connected to the settlement. Then what he was saying about Donald Trump because we know that it was hypocritical, but again, what he feels about Donald Trump doesn't necessarily impact Dominion's lawsuit defamation.

KING: That's very important points and great insight. Sara Fischer, come back to us in the hour ahead or throughout the day, if you'll learn more about this. Really appreciate your hustle on this breaking news for us. When we come back, President Biden ready to run. He's expected to announce his bid for a second term tomorrow. What we're learning about the president's plans and a new poll suggesting, most Democrats still on the fence about this.



KING: Today we are told President Biden prepare to take the plastic off his 2024 reelection campaign. And some new evidence that a Joe Biden, Donald Trump sequel is something very, very few Americans want to watch. Look at this shocking number. Only 5 percent of Americans, say they want both Biden and Trump to run to the White House. That number is ugly.

So as the message. Americans are deeply dissatisfied with both men, the two men that could very well be a top the ballot come November 2024. Tomorrow, the incumbent, President Biden is poised to end what little suspense is left and make Biden-Harris 2024 official. His aides though caution, the timing could still move as the deliberative president spent the weekend mulling over the pace and the politics of going now versus later.

But that Molly (Ph) did end with some important decision making. Mr. Biden we are told will name Julie Chavez Rodriguez as his campaign chief. She will run the day today. Now Chavez Rodriguez a relatively new face in Biden's orbit, but the president plans to pair her with a quartet of trusted advisors rooted in his past.


Let's get straight to the White House, now CNN's Arlette Saenz is standing by live for us. Arlette, we are told tomorrow with a little bit of a maybe.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. And President Biden spent the weekend at Camp David, going over some of those final staffing and operational details for his campaign. And as you noted, they settled on one of those big items. The president is expected to name Julie Chavez Rodriguez as the campaign manager.

She is one of the most senior advisors here at the White House, who is the Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, working with state and local officials, trying to implement the president's agenda. She would be working very closely hand in hand with the senior advisors who have sketched out this campaign and the apparatus of it for months now.

Now, the team has been working towards releasing a video likely tomorrow, though people as always in Biden world have cautioned that that could -- that that timing could slip. And it's also interesting to note that both President Biden and vice president Kamala Harris tomorrow are going to have a pair of events where they could be speaking to some key constituencies for a reelection bid.

President Biden will be speaking at a union event here in Washington D.C. in the afternoon. Vice President Harris will be speaking at a reproductive rights rally at a time when the issue of access to abortion has really been an energizing force for Democrats. But still all eyes will be on tomorrow and whether President Biden a fully launches that campaign tomorrow.

KING: Arlette Saenz, live of us. The White House will be waiting for that video. I suspect we'll start looking early, early, early in the morning for it. Arlette, thank you. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Jeff Mason of Reuters, CNN's Eva McKend, and Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post.

Mr. Mason, you cover the Biden White House. I was reading your reporting on this. Let's listen here. This is one of his rivals from 2020, Amy Klobuchar. She's back in the United States Senate. Now she's a close ally of the White House. And she says, sure. The polling shows Americans are ambivalent about this, but he's the right man at the right time.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): He is going to have an incredibly strong record to run on and a steady hand. When you look at what's out there right now with Donald Trump and what we're hearing again, people don't want that chaos back again.


KING: That's part of their calculation, right? And team Biden that they see Trump as the front runner at the moment for the Republican nomination. And they think that surely American people don't might not want it. But in a Biden-Trump rematch, they think that works to their advantage.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: A, number one, the question is, what's the alternative? And in this case, exactly what you just said, the alternative is probably President Donald -- former President Donald Trump, because he's doing so well in the polls. And things can change, it's a year and a half away. But right now, it looks like he's the most likely opponent.

Number two, President Biden has a record to run on. And they're very proud of that record. The president is very proud of that record. And I think Democrats also believe they're going to pull the American people along. Of course, people are worried about his age. He's 80 years old. That issue isn't going to go away. But I think their strategy is, let's neutralize that by focusing on what he's done. And the quote that he uses all the time is, watch me.

KING: Watch me. He says, watch me. And I noted in your piece, they get this. It's not a COVID campaign that they get, he's got to -- and the question is about his age. They get that he's going to have to be out there more. He's going to have more events. He's going to be traveling the country. So, we'll watch as it plays out.

Interesting, these are a couple of quotes in the Washington Post story getting at this today. If you look at the polling, the biggest hesitancy seems to be, you know, is the president up to it. Even Democrats who are grateful, he evicted Donald Trump in the White House. More than grateful. He evicted Donald Trump, the White House says, he's up for it.

A couple of quotes here. This is from Erin Elwood, she's from Georgia. It's been a really exhausting four years. Yes, Biden is a boring old guy, but he's going to win North Fulton, that's North Fulton County, because he's a boring old guy and he's not perceived as radical. And then you have Eli or Eli Tsarovsky in Wisconsin. He likes putting on glasses and eating ice cream. Does that get people out? When you look at Biden, you say that's my grandpa.

Now those voters are 38 years old and 24 years old. That's part of the challenge for the White House. They believe the younger voters are with them on the issues but might have a generational question.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. It's definitely and the campaign is very much aware that they have to target young voters, they haven't target black voters, some of whom are still turning out for him, but not in the big numbers that we have seen as support. Same thing with Latino voters, which Republicans have been trying to pull support from.

So, they're not going into this completely blind to the big task ahead of them. But even if you look at that NBC poll, I think the one thing that the administration and they can pay the imminent campaign is looking as a positive is that Trump's disapproval ratings are still significantly lower than Biden's.

And to your point, what they really want to be able to say is look at the Republican Party, look at the primary, just keep the focus on the Republicans. Biden is going to be over here, you know, trying to keep the events touting his accomplishments so far. But you know, another Biden ism, he always says don't compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative and look at who the alternative is.

KING: And to that point. If you were just out in Iowa at the Christian conservatives gathering over the weekend. Because of the charges, the New York charges against Donald Trump, there has been a rally around Trump thing and that's evidenced in the polls.


Should these two guys run again? These are questions asked Republicans. 51 percent of Democrats say Biden should not run again. Only 32 percent of Republicans say that now, and that's because there's been a recent rallying around Trump. On the ground in Iowa, do you hear concerns that not so much about Biden but about Trump? Do we really want him again?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Absolutely, there are concerns. There were a lot of voters at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition over the weekend. In the Des Moines area telling me, they liked Trump, but they're really worried about how divisive he is. And they really want to be able to win in a general election and that they're open to new perspectives.

I will say on Biden, though, I think that there's this prevailing sentiment. I think it's a Washington thing that the left will sort of just get in line. I would say, you know, let's slow the brakes on that, because I speak to progressive voters all the time. And they are frustrated with quite a bit of what has gone on.

You are not going to hear. I was on a call with Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, a few weeks ago that she helped the reporters and she said that we don't telegraph, we don't always publicize our disagreements with President Biden. But so, you're not going to hear it from the left in D.C., but the left on the ground that has to do the hard work of door knocking and being out there and really advocating for the president. They have a long way to go to shore up that base.

KING: On the Republican side, one of the challenges is most Republicans that hope anyway, we'll see if it turns out to be true. That at some moment, Trump's too prohibitive front runner at the moment that at some moment Republicans will say are we really going to do this, and you want to be the leading alternative at that moment. That's what Republicans strategy would tell you.

For months, Ron DeSantis has been that alternative. He suffered a little bit in the polls. He still is by far the closest to Trump in terms of number two. But a new ad from the pro DeSantis Super PAC today tells you, they're a little bit nervous, and they want to show up his bio.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, polls show you falling behind Trump. Any thoughts on that?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: I'm not a candidate. So, we'll see if and when that changes.


KING: That's the governor. He's on a trip. You see him in Tokyo there. A little awkward answer to the question, are you a candidate, being asked about those polls. This is the ad that Super PAC backing DeSantis put out today.


KING: Now, it's a traditional bio ad that is his record and what they want to push him, he never backs down. But that they did this now after he's had a few bumps and bruises tells me that they're just trying to push him back up.

MASON: One of the key hallmarks of any presidential campaign is defining each other, defining your opposition, defining who you are. I remember in 2012, the Obama folks really defined Mitt Romney in those early months.

And I suspect that's one reason why President Biden is deciding to run or to announce his -- officially announced his reelection now is to get in on that game of defining. We've seen former President Trump defining Governor DeSantis. And now you see Governor DeSantis and his team trying to shore up the definition that they want to be his image.

KING: It's the starting gate, I guess. If the incumbent president is ready to go, the Republicans are -- many of them are already going, a few others to get in the ring. We're at the starting gate. That's exciting, I think. Up next, the new politics of abortion. Republican 2024 hopefuls court Christian conservatives that I noted in Iowa this weekend, with competing ideas about new state and new federal abortion restrictions.



KING: This weekend serving as a vivid reminder that what helps you get votes in a presidential primary sometimes can cast your votes. If you end up on the general election ballot. Republican 2024 hopefuls attended a Christian conservative event in Iowa at what is a crossroads moment for abortion access in the United States.

There is of course a major court challenge to a pill used for medication abortion. And a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll tells us this. Take a look at the numbers. 64 percent of Americans oppose a ban on medication abortion. 73 percent of Democrats oppose such a ban, as does look at that number, that's interesting, 55 percent, a clear majority of Republicans.

But and it's an important but, evangelicals have considerable sway in early Republican nominating states. So, the weekend event in Iowa was a testing ground. The former Vice President Mike Pence hopes the courts ultimately banned mifepristone. And he says he would support a federal ban on abortion.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: What the Supreme Court has done in overturning Roe v. Wade is return the question of abortion to where it always should have been in the hands of the states and the American people. I do think it's more likely that this issue is resolved at the state level. But I don't agree with the former president who says this is a state's only issue.


KING: Our great reporters are back at the table. Eva, you were out at this event. Pence is consistent on this issue, whether you agree or disagree with him on his positions. If you're a voter, at least, you know he has been consistent or going back to the beginning of his political career. Some other Republicans are trying to figure out in this new world of abortion politics where to be.

MCKEND: They sure are. And I asked the former Vice President about this. How do you hold advancing such position that most Americans aren't aligned with? And he said, I make no apologies for it. Vivek Ramaswamy, the tech entrepreneur or the entrepreneur who is running a credible presidential campaign. I asked him about this, and he said that he really believes this this is a state issue. He knows he's going to get heat from the left and the right on this.

Listen, in a place like Iowa, that's going to have this first nominating contest.