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Laura Coates Live
House Ethics Committee Says Santos Misused Campaign Funds; Some Young Americans On TikTok Say They Sympathize With Osama bin Laden; Elon Musk Claims Antisemitic X Post Is "The Actual Truth"; Sean "Diddy" Combs Accused Of Rape And Abuse In New Lawsuit; New Book Looks At Inside Story Of UFOs. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired November 16, 2023 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the lying congressman is back. The question tonight is, for how long? Tonight, on LAURA COATES LIVE.
You know, you've got to wonder what took them so long. The House Ethics Committee releasing a report shock full, and I mean shock full of evidence, that George Santos allegedly used campaign funds for his own personal profit, also alleging that he reported fake loans and kept it all going through a -- quote -- "constant series of lies."
Not mincing words, they say -- quote -- "He blatantly stole from his campaign," -- unquote. And they brought the receipts. I mean, they literally brought the receipts. A $3,332.81 cent Airbnb listed as a hotel stay on an FEC report for July 7, 2022. A day's own campaign calendar listed Santos as off and spending the weekend in the Hamptons.
A $1,400 at a spa that month charged to a campaign debit card and described as Botox and expense spreadsheets. A $1,500 bucks at another spa, also noted as Botox. I don't know about Botox. That's a whole lot for someone who allegedly was relaxing in the Hamptons.
But there's more. You probably knew that there would be more, right? But this might surprise you. $4,127.80 at Hermes. Now, I can't afford it, so I'm going to call it Hermes, just for effect.
There are also hotel bills, plane rides, taxi bills, casino charges, and get this, what's intriguingly described in the report as smaller purchases at OnlyFans and Sephora. Now, if you don't know a lot about OnlyFans, "The New York Times" described it as a platform where some participants charge money for explicit content. I'm just going leave it at that.
A defiant George Santos calls the report biased, but what do you expect from the congressman who really lie his way into the job in the very first place? Telling one major whopper after another, lying even about graduating from college, lying about working on Wall Street. Who after saying that he was very proud of his Jewish heritage, claimed he didn't mean he was Jewish, he meant Jew-ish. Even lying about being a college volleyball star.
Now, it would be funny if it weren't for real. And this wasn't a member of Congress. It could have an impact on your actual life. I mean, I guess it is kind of funny. But don't take my word for it. See what SNL thinks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: People need to know who you are.
BOWEN YANG, ACTOR AND COMEDIAN: Okay. Well, I am George Santos. (INAUDIBLE) if you're nasty.
I graduated on a volleyball scholarship from Baruch Atah Adonai University.
Four years of (INAUDIBLE). And I am a proud representative from my district in Long Island, New Jersey.
UNKNOWN: What are you talking about?
YANG: Hold on, hang on, Madonna is calling me. Hello? Yeah, like a virgin? I remember I was there, I was the virgin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Now, look, comedy aside, the fact is he is already facing 23 federal criminal charges. Now, he pleaded not guilty. And, of course, there's a presumption of innocence. And today, he also said he's not going to even seek a second term for that time-honored reason because of his family. He says that they deserved better.
Now, Santos faced the possibility of being expelled from Congress. And we asked the members of a nonpartisan group of residents from New York's third congressional district who organized to have Santos expelled. I asked them what they think of all of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC SITTENREICH, CONCERNED CITIZENS OF NY-03: What George Santos wanted to do was to run a campaign and to use the campaign funds as his personal piggy bank. He needs to go.
SALLY MARZOUK, CONCERNED CITIZENS OF NY-03: It has been almost a year and nothing has been done. Santos has been collecting a big six-figure salary with full health benefits all on taxpayers' backs. And, you know, shame on Congress for not getting rid of this guy.
MARIE MARSINA, CONCERNED CITIZENS OF NY-03: He should be expelled immediately. No more excuses now that the Ethics Committee report has been released.
ALDAN DAVIS, CONCERNED CITIZENS OF NY-03: Everybody knows he's a crook. And the fact that he hasn't been expelled yet is a symptom of the broken political system that makes my generation feel disillusioned with our institutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: A lot of opinions there. I want to bring in Maureen Daly. She's the managing editor of "The North Shore Leader" and the reporter who first broke the story of the Santos scandal. Maureen, thank you for being here this evening. I mean, you actually wrote an article when he was running, when he was running for this seat, Maureen.
MAUREEN DALY, REPORTER, MANAGING EDITOR AT THE NORTH SHORE LEADER: It's September.
COATES: And, of course, it cast suspicions. It was September. It cast a lot of suspicions on a fine that claimed the net worth of $11 million. I want to read for people just so they know just how ahead of the game you were here.
Listen to this. It says, controversial U.S. congressional candidate George Santos has finally filed his Personal Financial disclosure Report on September 6th, 20 months late, and he is claiming an inexplicable rise in his alleged net worth to $11 million. Two years ago, in 2020, Santos's personal financial disclosures claim that he had no assets over $5,000, no bank accounts --
COATES: -- no stock accounts, no real property. A net worth barely above zero.
So, I've got to ask you, Maureen, today, when you see all of this coming out and you see this ethics report, are you feeling pretty vindicated about your own reporting?
DALY: I am feeling vindicated. We were called everything. That man called our paper everything that he could possibly come up with. Things I could never repeat. Every form of liar, that everything wasn't true. And we have absolutely been vindicated.
Excuse me. I am proud --
COATES: I know -- I know how you feel. I have a cough myself, Maureen. Let me talk for a second.
DALY: I apologize.
COATES: Don't worry about it. Finish your point.
DALY: I am so proud of our team and so proud that we have been proven right. If only we had been listened to, if only someone had taken notice before election day, we would not be where we are today. But the article didn't get the pickup that we would have liked for it to go gotten.
COATES: Well, Maureen, why do you think that's the case?
DALY: You know, I think because people don't realize how important local papers are. News is local. Everything is truly local. We have a staff, our reporters live, except for a few of us, in the district, live in the neighborhood.
The man who delivers our papers receives our papers. He's a subscriber. It is hand-delivered to the coffee shops. It's hand- delivered to the mom and pop shops. It's hand-delivered to the delis. And people go out of their way to find it.
We cover the local stories, yes. But we -- but this was a major local story. This was very important. The people of Council District, Congressional District 3, deserved better. They did not deserve this.
COATES: Maureen Daly, thank you so much. And again, you were ahead of the game. And now, here we are at this point in time.
COATES: Thank you, Maureen. I appreciate it so much.
DALY: Thank you.
COATES: I want to bring in Robert Zimmerman. He's a former New York congressional candidate who ran against and also lost to Congressman George Santos back in 2022. Robert, thank you for being here.
First of all, I want to echo what Maureen had to say about all politics really being local. This might be another indication of the power of those stories. But there were actually -- I mean, just going through it, Robert, there were thousands of dollars spent on designer goods and Botox and OnlyFans, all on the campaign's dime. I wonder what is your reaction tonight. And really, what are you hearing from the folks in your district about all these revelations?
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, FORMER NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, LOST TO GEORGE SANTOS: Well, you know, I must say first to Maureen and -- to Maureen and to her publisher, Grant Lally, for their excellent work that they did. We certainly took their articles and we circulated them throughout the district. I think 80,000 texts went door to door to thousands of homes with it. We sounded the alarm as best we could. We sounded it very -- we were the only ones amongst the candidates who ever did.
Santos has been running for four years. And Republicans never raised these issues. The Democrat who ran before me never did opposition research on him, Tom Swasey. And so, we did our best as well. And I think also Blank Slate Media, Steven Blank, and others tried to as well sound the alarm.
But I think when you look at the results today, you look at the stories today, yes, it's vindication for journalists and they did their best on it, but the bigger point that strikes me is that, as you said at the beginning of the show, what took so long?
This is not a master (INAUDIBLE). This is a petty anti-thief and a petty anti-hood. And in fact, of course, the Ethics Committee and the federal government has access to the banking records, has this information. Why didn't it come out earlier? I mean, it is -- and the reason for it is --
COATES: That's the question, Robert. Excuse me, that's the real question for it, though, because for the reasons you've laid out, I mean, most people have not been a part of a campaign or don't know how it goes into it, but they assume that opposition research happens.
And the report, the committee actually includes a thing called a vulnerability report. Now, that was commissioned by Santos's 2022 campaign. It's 137 pages long. It details lies about his education, his work history. And so, you've talked about the idea of the usefulness of oppo research. Why did this not get raised earlier?
ZIMMERMAN: Well, you know, in fact, I mentioned before we were the only ones in the four years of his congressional campaigns that ever sounded the alarm on it. Now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which was in charge of opposition research on Santos, produced an 87-page report. Now, they missed a lot of stuff. I'm not going to defend that. But they also nailed a lot of important issues, too.
But part of the problem here, Laura, is that, as your own CNN contributor has said, the media covers the marquee races, they don't cover the local elections, and they get lost in the process.
And many journalists made a sincere effort but came back to us and said, we don't have the money or staff or time to do this kind of work. And part of the problem that journalists have and campaigns have is that the Federal Election Commission that should be charged with overseeing the financial reports that are being issued doesn't have the staff to do that type of investigative work. So that's the real frustration.
But here's the bigger point. For a year now, Laura, the Republican majority in Congress has known the story on this guy. There's no mystery here. Yet for just a selfish manipulation of power, a desperation to hold on to their majority, they buried these stories. This ethics report wasn't written over the past couple of days. These facts have been known for a long time.
But they held on to -- they covered up these facts. In fact, they were accomplices to his crimes by trying to cover up the situation and protect him. And now, they had to release it because of public pressure. But we're not there yet. Don't take for granted that he'll be expelled. We have to keep the public pressure on to make sure that he is expelled from Congress.
COATES: I do wonder what will happen next, including who might take his seat and who will run again. Will it be you, Robert?
ZIMMERMAN: Well, you know, my focus for the past year, honestly, has been building a bipartisan coalition to make sure he's expelled from Congress and keeping the pressure on Congress. We're making progress there. A lot of other great groups are helping us along the way and doing their own -- conducting their own work to do that as well.
But in addition to that, frankly, when there's time for a political discussion, we'll have it and I'll clue you in. But right now, we may have a special election. There may be a new congressional district as well on top of that.
So, now is not the time to talk about the political agenda. Now is the time to focus on restoring integrity to our system and representation for over 750,000 people who have not had a representation, not had a congressional office there to service them.
I've been working on those casework issues with my campaign staff because, quite frankly, I'm the one they're calling now because his office is virtually shut down.
COATES: Robert Zimmerman, I'll put that down as a TBD. Thank you so much for joining us this evening. I want to bring in --
ZIMMERMAN: I'll keep you posted.
COATES: You will keep me -- that's not TBD. That's something IWKYP. But fine, another acronym, another day. All right, look, I love you. Thank you so much.
I want to bring in CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams and former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh. I love both of you, too. It's a lovely night. I'm glad that both of you are here.
Listen, what I get from this, of course, is what's going to happen now? I mean, first of all, you've been a member of Congress. It did take a long time to now get to this particular point. What happens next? Is it a guarantee he'll be expelled?
JOE WALSH, PODCAST HOST, FORMER ILLINOIS REPRESENTATIVE: I think so because I think -- look, it was political that it has taken this long, but now it's political that he's going to be expelled because Republicans now want him gone, Laura. He is damaged good. We're heading into an election year. They're going to move this along quickly now.
COATES: Well, he already has criminal charges as well. How do they stack up? I mean, the charges and the ethics in plain, you have to wonder, does this help the prosecution or do they already know this stuff?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there's a little bit of a conflict with the prosecution because the Justice Department, they went back and forth as to whether to pause the congressional investigation while this was going on. So, there could be more charges here. He has already been charged with any number of crimes and could be more.
But I think the important thing here is it's easy to get wrapped up in the Botox and the Hamptons and all the nonsense, and really what this comes down to is when people give money to campaigns, they ought to know that the money is being spent by the campaign, and campaigns ought to be transparent with the public about what they're doing. George Santos did neither of those two things, took the public's money, and abused his position in Congress. So, that could be a crime.
COATES: There's a really important point about that. The idea of the irrespective test. The FEC has this pretty straightforward, as you talk about, Elliot, test to figure it out.
Here's what it says. If the expense would exist even in the absence of the candidacy or even if the officeholder were not in office, then the personal use ban applies. A fancy way of saying, look, you can't spend the money on things that aren't campaign-related.
So, you look at this, you look at the Hermes bag, you look at Botox, OnlyFans, I mean, forget the irrespective test, it doesn't even pass the smell test.
WALSH: And Laura, as a former member, you have to be so careful about where you classify everything. But there was none of that here. He basically lived off of his campaign. I mean, there's no gray area here. Everything he did, he lived off of his campaign. It's one of the most egregious abuses of campaign finance I've ever seen.
WILLIAMS: And you know what, the beauty of the House Ethics Committee, and folks don't know this, so much in Congress is partisan and vicious and rancorous.
COATES: We know that.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, we know that very well. You know better than anybody else.
WILLIAMS: The House Ethics Committee is split, equal number of Democrats and Republicans. In order to move something forward, they both have to agree on some -- they have to come to some bipartisan agreement here. That's clearly here.
And this was scathing in its tone, starting with literally the first sentence of something like, George Santos cannot be trusted. Those are really strong words from a body in Congress talking about one of their own members.
COATES: He's now saying he's going to have a press conference on November 30th. His term is not over on November 30th, of course. He's not going to run for re-election. What's he going to say, do you think?
WALSH: Well, they're going to move on this, I think, pretty quickly after Thanksgiving, so we'll know. Look, I'm -- maybe I'm the lone wolf at this table. This is historic. I mean, the only members who've been booted were because they joined the Confederacy or they were convicted in a court of law. I worry about this precedent of expelling a member who has been charged.
WILLIAMS: And that's why they were so aggressive about leapfrogging the Justice Department, so they could expel him. If they waited for the Justice Department process to play out, it could have been years before he got prosecuted here. They needed and wanted to get him out of Congress, and that's why they moved as quickly as they did.
COATES: I mean, I wonder from his perspective, too. I mean, if you're talking about trying to have some currency, some bargaining chip, being a member of Congress to say to the prosecutors, look, I'll leave, is that enough for this to happen?
I will note for everyone, he did beat in a decisive victory the person we just spoke to by about 20,000 votes, in a district where Biden won by eight points. Now the question will be, can a Democrat win and run there or will be a Republican?
Elliot Williams and Joe Walsh, thank you both so much.
So, why are some young Americans who are on TikTok saying that they sympathize with, of all people, Osama bin Laden? And why now? That's the question I have for the editor-in-chief of Semaphore, Ben Smith, and he's here, next.
COATES: Dozens of young Americans on TikTok now say that they sympathize with Osama bin Laden. You heard that right. The terrorist who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, the worst terror attacks on U.S. soil in history, now suddenly going viral on TikTok.
Frankly, I'm uncomfortable seeing his face on the other side of me on this screen. But users have been posting videos on the social media platform supporting a letter Bin Laden wrote in 2002 criticizing the United States and its support of Israel, attempting to justify the targeting and killing of American civilians, and filled with antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories.
Let's talk about now with editor-in-chief of Semafor, Ben Smith. Ben is also a former "New York Times" media columnist. Ben, thank you so much for being here today.
I mean, I want to just -- hearing about this maybe for the first time this evening and shocked for a lot of reasons. In one of the videos posted on TikTok, a New York-based lifestyle influencer writes this about bin Laden's letter. Quote -- "If you have read it, let me know if you are also going through an existential crisis in this very moment, because in the last 20 minutes, my entire viewpoint on the entire life I have believed and I have lived, has changed."
And I got to ask, I mean, is it shocking that 22 years after 9/11, a letter written by Osama bin Laden has not only reemerged, but so many Americans seem to be finding it, at least on that platform, persuasive.
BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SEMAFOR: Yeah, you know, this letter went fairly viral on TikTok. The Guardian had posted it years ago and got hundreds of thousands of views to their website. And you know, honestly, in the defense of young people, this was really not just young people. It was a --
SMITH: I would say a diverse array of morons who, you know, for whom this was all new and who were just totally interested and fascinated by it. I would -- it was not -- it was not an enormous phenomenon. And, in fact, you know, we do live in this moment when, you know, really dark, strange theories are spilling out into public in ways that they didn't used to.
And, you know, I think America has always had these very weird currents and right now, they're just much, much more visible. But I think we should also be a little careful about amplifying them. In fact, I think a lot of the attention to these totally nuts videos came actually after, you know, from journalists like us seeing them and saying, what is this?
COATES: Well, you know, the Guardian you mentioned actually had a link to the letter, and then had an article that provided context to analyze it more.
So, they then pulled it down and that fueled some conspiracies about, oh wait, they're trying to shield people from the information. So, it became a kind of, you know, cyclical self-fulfilling prophecy going on about that very issue.
When you talk about being careful about it, careful is not necessarily synonymous with TikTok, for example, as it would be for maybe a media outlet or a news service. But according to a new poll, Ben, a third of Americans between the ages of 18 to 29, they get their news from TikTok.
I'm wondering, when you think about that scope and that cross-section, is there an added danger at the prospect it could go viral, the prospect it could be very quickly absorbed and consumed? SMITH: You know, it's interesting. We've just lived through this decade in media where, you know, Facebook and Twitter were the dominant, dominant platforms for information for news, and a lot of what you've got was people who you thought were crazy or who you hated screaming at you.
And one of the things that has made TikTok so popular is that it doesn't do that. It serves you stuff it knows you're going to like. It reinforces the -- your biases and keeps you in kind of your own bubble.
And I think part of the reason we haven't seen as much of this on TikTok is because it's sort of happening in private when crazy stuff is being discussed on TikTok. It's not always bubbling up to the surface, but I think in this case, you know, it absolutely did.
COATES: Ben, I wonder if you think people are -- I think a lot of the feedback I've heard from people who are avid users of TikTok and are hearing about this story, they find it very condescending to think that there's some snobbery around where they can get their news from, and it's up to you to decide what their echo chamber ought to be.
Do you think that this is snobbery being imposed on people or this legitimately a concern about the type of information that's circulating?
SMITH: You know, I mean, I think it's some of both. There's all -- you know, old people like us have always been panicked about whatever 19-year-olds were consuming and where they were getting their news.
COATES: Who are you calling old right now, Ben Smith? I don't know what you're talking about. I am not old. Thank you very much.
SMITH: Just like me. Like me.
COATES: Go ahead. Okay, there you go. Thank you.
SMITH: But, you know -- but at the same time, America has always had a deep well of people who believe really profoundly strange and crazy stuff. And in this moment, in all sorts of ways, that is breaking through to the surface and you're starting to -- you know, you're starting to see it. I mean, among the many features of bin Laden's letter that are objectionable, it's incredibly antisemitic and just straightforwardly blames the Jews for pretty much everything. I think that's probably part of its appeal to some of these folks.
COATES: Ben, I got to talk to you more. So, stick around for me. I want to carry on our conversation. It's really important because the problems with antisemitism aren't just cropping up on TikTok. Elon Musk and "X" are having the same issues. I'm going to talk about it, next.
COATES: Elon Musk is under fire tonight, being accused of using his influence on social media to promote antisemitic rhetoric. Musk recently endorsed a user's post that falsely claimed that Jews push -- quote -- "hatred against whites," calling it -- quote -- "the actual truth."
He posted in agreement with the false claim that Jewish communities have been pushing the exact kind of hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them. Hours later, Musk appear to backpedal, clarifying that he does not believe hatred of white people extends to all Jewish communities.
Also, today, IBM said it's pulling its advertising from "X" following a report that the social media platform ran the company's ad alongside pro-Nazi material.
Back with me now now, Ben Smith. I mean, Ben, Elon Musk, he's embroiled in yet another controversy, endorsing a claim that there is a pushing of hatred against whites by the Jewish community. He has been called out for so many of these disputes and controversies. It doesn't seem like he cares or that there will be consequences for him.
SMITH: Yeah. You know, in the last segment, we were just talking about like random morons on TikTok saying crazy stuff. And this is really different. And I think even for Musk, who has been through a series of these where he follows and engages with Nazis, I think this one is a little different.
And, you know, people -- I'm hesitant to throw or to just say something is antisemitic. I think, you know, there are a lot of Jews who have very different positions from each other. We're a very broad community.
But when you -- when you run into somebody who just starts talking about the Jews and blaming them for stuff as though there is some unified conspiracy, I mean, that's textbook antisemitism. That's what he was doing here.
I think this felt to me like actually even in the span of Elon Musk outrages, like a real break and a real step for him, you know, in the path of like Henry Ford and Howard Hughes and, you know, American industrialists who wind up really in a very dark, strange place at the end of their lives.
COATES: Well, speaking of the industrialists and, of course, the companies represent, Corporate America is weighing in in a way here. I mean, IBM pulling -- it's suspending its ads on "X" because it appeared next to neo-Nazi content. I mean, this is impacting X's business ultimately. I do wonder, will that make a difference? Because sometimes, you know, Corporate America cares once the bottom line is impacted, even if socially prior to that, they cared not.
SMITH: Yeah. I mean, I know -- I think, you know, Twitter is a privately-owned company that Elon is running into the ground and that dies pretty much cast (ph).
I think the bigger question is, you know, whether Tesla, whether Space X are going to start seeing consumers not want to buy their products. And actually, for space, that's in particular, you know, they're basically a government contractor and Musk's most important business partners are the federal government, state government, international governments. I think it maybe start to become a little harder for him to do those deals.
COATES: I mean, you know, we knew to look for misinformation in an election year on platforms such as this. But now, hate is also on the menu. That's surprising for a lot of people. And knowing full well, it can often intensify the closer you get to election day. What do you say?
SMITH: Yeah, I mean, you know, I think probably like you, I've gone my whole career without like seeing a lot of overt antisemitism in America and it's just everywhere right now. Elections do tend to bring out the absolute worst in everybody. And so, I think you'll probably see a fair amount of that.
COATES: I guess the worst may be yet to come. That's striking for a lot of reasons. Ben Smith, thank you so much.
SMITH: Your full thought (ph). Thank you.
COATES: Thank you. One of the world's most high-profile producers and musicians facing accusations of rape and abuse. Now, Sean "Diddy' Combs is facing a lawsuit from his former girlfriend, R&B singer Cassie. The shocking allegations are next.
COATES: Tonight, music mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs accused of rape and abuse in a new lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend, Casandra Ventura, known by her stage name as Cassie. The lawsuit filed in federal district court in New York alleges years of sexual abuse, rape, as well as -- quote -- "luring her into a drug-fueled lifestyle during their long romantic relationship."
In a statement to CNN, Ventura says -- quote -- "After years in silence and darkness, I am finally ready to tell my story." She also says with the expiration of New York's Adult Survivors Act fast approaching -- quote -- "it became clear that this was an opportunity to speak up about the trauma I have experienced and that I will be recovering from for the rest of my life."
Lawyers for Combs released a statement to CNN vehemently denying these allegations, calling them offensive and outrageous. Here to discuss, Kierna Mayo, executive editor at "One World Roc Lit." Kierna is also the former editor-in-chief of Ebony Magazine. Kierna, I'm so glad that you're with me today.
I mean, I have been going through this complaint and the allegations that are contained in it are pretty stunning. I mean, you have helped women come forward against men who are very powerful in the music industry and beyond like R. Kelly, like Russell Simmons. Diddy is known as a mogul. So, from your experience, I mean, how difficult do you think it was for her to even come forward with these allegations?
KIERNA MAYO, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROC LIT 101/ONE WORLD: Oh, first, thank you always, Laura, for having me, except this evening is so unfortunate, you know. It had to be incredibly difficult. It's difficult for me just a couple of hours in just really grasping the degree of her allegations of abuse, but also just being reminded that there is often so much more than meets the eye when we're talking about even legendary men.
You know, Sean, Puffy, Diddy, all the many names that he's known as, is an icon. He's a legend, literally a living legend within music culture, entertainment culture, certainly a Black culture. And it's a heartbreak for many people, I think, to imagine even for a fraction of what Cassie is alleging. But the truth is these rumors have been around for a very long time, very long time.
COATES: Well, Kierna, you know, they met when she was 19 years old. He was 37. And say what you will about age differences. There is a power dynamic not only in the age gap. But also, she claims that he exerted his power and influence -- that's a quote from her -- over her. I mean, he was a media mogul. When they would have met, she would have been an R&B hopeful. So how does that power dynamic factor into all of this?
MAYO: I mean, look, there can be a power dynamic in a relationship between a man and a woman where there aren't millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars in the room, where there isn't someone who, like I said, is actually a living legend, who is also almost 20 years your senior, right?
You can have a power dynamic with very everyday people when it comes to kind of gender violence and intimate partner violence and sexual assault and everything that Cassie is alleging.
So, when you think about what she was actually up against and how singular -- you know, not many of us know what it's like to be partnered with someone who is at this level and has this much power, access, control. She was also his employee technically as an artist. So, you know, the ways in which he was unmatched -- the match up was not existent. She almost didn't exist if you look at who she is in comparison to who he is, especially at the time of their meeting.
And so, there's a lot of heartbreak for me. I know all around the community, there's just a lot of heartbreak. Many of us are friends or friends of friends. Many of us came up in this business together, all hoping for the best and all aiming for the best. You know, Diddy -- [23:44:55]
COATES: I was -- I don't want to interrupt you, Kierna, but I have to say, I mean, the lawyer in me, the spine kind of goes outside the back for a second, because these are allegations. There are a lot of opinions that have been formed about this already. I mean, you can just -- everyone's phone was blowing up thinking about these allegations the minute it happened.
But his attorneys, I want to say, his attorneys are accusing her of blackmail. They're adding -- quote -- "For the past six months, Mr. Combs has been subjected to Ms. Ventura's persistent demand of $30 million, under the threat of writing a damaging book about their relationship." So, she's being accused really of this being really a money grab. Is that fair?
MAYO: Right. I don't think it's fair. I also don't know whether or not that is true. But even if it is true, it doesn't discount what she's alleging. And so, I think that's kind of keeping our eyes on the prize.
When someone has been partnered again for over a decade with a person of this kind of immense wealth and power, there is a lot of money made, right? And that kind of intimate partner relationship, almost as if in a marriage when partners separate and one spouse says, hey, I'm entitled to so much of what you created during that time.
You know, when she talks about darkness, I have to say that's the thing that feels most resonant to me just as a witness to that space and time in the entire entertainment industry. The 2000s became dark. The drugs. The violence of the 90s almost seeded itself to another kind of darkness where drugs and really this kind of rampant power grab that the men, quite frankly, in the business exerted almost on everyone was a dark time.
So, you know, I'm not here to legislate. I'm certainly not an attorney. I have my own personal feelings. I really don't even plan on sharing those publicly. But I do think that there's a lot to be learned when women come forth, and we should listen and also read between the lines.
And as I said, for so many of us, because the rumors have existed for so long, it's almost as if this testimony kind of aligns with the whispers. So, it's a deep time, I have to say. It's troubling to say the least. And I'm wishing the best for Cassie and for all of these women who are taking advantage of this very slim amount of time that's left. Just imagine, a year exists.
For many women who have been abused in this kind of way that Cassie alleged, it takes a lifetime to come forth. Some women go to their graves with these kinds of stories.
So, I think that there's an impetus because there is a window of time that says, hey, look, we will listen, and we may potentially validate your claims many, many years ago. I think that's a good enough reason for a woman to come forth. Whether or not Cassie feels she's entitled to money or not to blackmail him, I don't know.
COATES: A lot of unanswered questions, and this certainly won't be the end of the conversation. In many ways, it's the beginning of a much longer one. Kierna Mayo, thank you so much. We'll be right back.
MAYO: Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: I come before you as a representative of the intergalactic union of sentient beings from all known universes and beyond. We have been observing your species for many, what you call, years. Our study is now complete. We no longer wish to have any further contact with you. We have returned your music sampler, but will no longer tolerate any further efforts on your part to venture beyond your realm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Well, that was from X-Files. I don't know. Does it sound like a certain message that was signed and delivered to a certain congressman today? You know, a study now complete, no more contact wanted? Too soon? Well, I digress.
Well, joining me now to settle this mystery once and for all, the alien kind -- once and for all, well, maybe. Contributing editor at Wired, Garrett Graff, is out with a brand-new book, "UFO: The Inside Story of the US Government's Search for Alien Life Here -- and Out There."
Okay, I cannot tell you how excited I am about this book.
You and I have talked about "Star Trek" and other things before. Why a book about UFOs?
GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR AT WIRED: So, Laura, we've lived through this really radical transformation in Washington, in national security circles, in the last seven years where serious people are talking seriously about UFOs in the context of things Navy pilots are seeing. The Pentagon is studying this. NASA is studying this.
And to me, as you know, I come at this from a national security perspective. I'm not a lifelong UFO-ologist. And so, for me --
COATES: Is that a thing? Because I like it.
GRAFF: It is a thing.
COATES: Okay. All right.
GRAFF: And so for me, what got me interested in this was hearing this conversation change and thinking, okay, if serious people are talking seriously about this, it's worth exploring and trying to trace the history.
COATES: So, do you believe that there is life out there?
GRAFF: So, this actually is one of the amazing, I think, revolutions in human knowledge in the last 20 years. The math is on the side of the aliens, that in the last 20 years, we have come to understand just how big the universe is and just how habitable so much of the universe probably actually is.
The new estimate now is about sextillion habitable planets across the universe. That's a billion, trillions of habitable planets. And so, when you start playing with that math, we are almost certainly going to see life in a lot of places across the universe, probably a lot of intelligent life in a lot of places across the universe. The question is, is any of it going to be close enough that we would ever have meaningful contact?
COATES: So, have we not seen any of it?
GRAFF: So, I don't think we're seeing it here. I think there is something to the UFO phenomenon, what the government now calls UAPs. But I think the answers are going to lie in science that we don't yet understand.
And this could be very weird stuff. I mean, it's atmospheric science, meteorological science, astronomy that we don't yet understand, and the basics of physics that we don't understand.
COATES: This is an incredible book. And you've heard it here first, everyone. Garrett Graff telling you there's no intelligent life. We are in Washington, DC, after all. The book, "UFO: The Inside Story of the US Government's Search for Alien Life Here -- and Out There."
Thank you all for watching. Our coverage continues. This is interesting.