Return to Transcripts main page
Laura Coates Live
Sixteen-Year-Old Arrested In Las Vegas For Alleged Terror Threat; Court Rules Trump Not Immune From January 6 Lawsuits; Father And Son Duo Helped Solve Decades-Old Bank Heist; SCOTUS Scrutinizes Opioid Settlement That Gives Family Behind OxyContin Maker, Purdue, Legal Immunity; Beyonce's 'Renaissance' Wears The Crown At The Box Office. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired December 04, 2023 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Sylvester Stallone met 9-year-old Ro Knight in Philadelphia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER STALLONE, ACTOR: Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows.
RO KNIGHT, 9-YEAR-OLD FROM ALABAMA: It's a very mean and nasty place. And I don't care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees --
KNIGHT: -- and keep you there permanently if you --
KNIGHT, STALLONE: -- let it.
KNIGHT: Me, you, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about --
KNIGHT, STALLONE: -- how hard you can get hit --
KNIGHT: -- and keep moving forward.
KNIGHT, STALLONE: How much you can take --
KNIGHT: -- and keep moving forward.
KNIGHT, STALLONE: That's how winning is done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Ah, he is giving Stallone a run for his money. Laura, handing it over to you now.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Oh, man. To be nine years old again and go toe to toe with slice Stallone. That kid got some --
PHILLIP: Oh, yeah. Somebody get -- somebody get in the deal. (LAUGHTER)
COATES: I'm sure it's on the way. It sure is coming right now. Thanks, Abby. Great show.
Bombmaking materials and ISIS flag, and a 16-year-old suspect, tonight on "Laura Coates Live."
All right, there is a chilling story that just came out tonight about a potentially deadly terror plot that was foiled. It happened in Las Vegas. But the really frightening part, the suspect I'm talking about is just 16 years old. Think about that.
At an age when most parents are talking about them, talking about their driver's license or about getting their PSATs taken or maybe your TikTok followers, a 16-year-old is in custody tonight, arrested for allegedly making a terrorism threat on social media.
Now, the cops say the suspect claimed that he was beginning lone wolf terror attacks in Las Vegas in support of ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DORI KOREN, DEPUTY CHIEF, LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: We were able to identify the suspect and his location within hours of uncovering this threat. The suspect is a 16-year-old juvenile who is local to the area and a recent convert to Islam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Within hours? Wow. And what police say they discovered at his home might just be the tip of the iceberg. You got a handmade ISIS flag, propaganda, components for building an improvised explosive device. But there's so much we don't know tonight. What would push a teenager, a 16-year-old, to allegedly make a threat just like this? What was the plan, by the way? Was there a specific target? And how did the cops thwart it in a matter of hours?
We cannot, of course, look at any of this in a vacuum. It's no coincidence about what we're seeing in terms of the rise of what happens on social media, a plot coming in the midst of so many horrifying images online of the death, the destruction in Gaza. And as the war rages in the Middle East, how do we deal with the threats right here at home? And what role does social media play in all of this? A question so many are asking again tonight. Is it the symptom, the problem, or the cure?
Joining me now is CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller. John, I mean, I mean, this is a 16-year-old kid in Vegas. How does someone that young get motivated to commit an act of terror?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, we're seeing more and more of that. You know, I was out in Las Vegas just in June with Sheriff Kevin McMahill from Clark County Sheriff's Office, his deputy chief, Dori Koren, the head of the counterterrorism bureau, and we were talking about just this, which is radicalization, propaganda, how slick it has become, how sophisticated it has become.
And that was before there was a war going on between Israel and Gaza. That was generating the kind of heart-wrenching images on both sides of that battle that fit into this propaganda and can bring people to mobilization towards violence after being radicalized, and then operationalizing that, which we saw here, radicalization online, mobilization to violence, and then taking steps to get the bombmaking components, the timing and power unit, the initiation systems, the studying for the chemicals to develop the explosives that would go with that.
What we don't know is what the target was. But we're not certain he had chosen one yet based on what we see in the public documents.
COATES: So, how close was he to actually carrying any of this off? You don't have to have the target. And, of course, I do wonder about how they were able to thwart it. They said a matter of hours. How were they able to pick up on this?
MILLER: Well, that's a combination of factors. In Las Vegas, they have the Joint Terrorism Task Force with the FBI where they have their deputies and police officers.
But they also have the Nevada Counterterrorism Fusion Center, which is scanning constantly for these threats. And then there is the SITE Intelligence Group. That's a privately-funded group that literally spends all day looking in message boards, in chat rooms and places that are very hard to find your way into, where people believe they're not being looked at by others, and they were able to flag this also.
So, you had this coming from the Las Vegas Metro investigation, the people who are on the lookout for this stuff all the time --
MILLER: -- and his bold statement about, you know, I am going to strike in the name of ISIS and the Zionists in this town, Las Vegas are going to know about it, gave it a sense of urgency.
COATES: John, I mean, unbelievable to think where this actually happening are almost happening in any place. I do wonder how broad the different structures you talk about are even outside of Nevada. Thank you for joining us tonight so much.
I want to bring in CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe. Also here, Juliette Kayyem, former Department of Homeland Security official and a CNN senior national security analyst.
Let me just start with you here. I mean, look, Juliette, this was a 16-year-old alleged to be affiliated with ISIS of all things, talking about lone wolf scenarios. Are these sorts of scenarios the biggest threat right now when it comes to domestic terrorism? JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yeah. He's younger than the normal threat. We generally look at 20 to 25-year-olds white males. We don't know his ethnicity. He's only described by our reporting as a recent convert to Islam. So, we don't know his background.
This is young, but it's not young in terms of access and identification and growing a sense of community through social media. We certainly see that in teenagers. So that's not surprising. I actually think his youth is a sign of two things.
One is he is affiliating with the last war. I mean, his sort of focusing on ISIS seems honestly a little dated now. And so, you sort of wonder his access to information. Is he just getting stuff from the internet?
The other is, as John Miller reported, how easily they were able to capture him. He was not sophisticated in hiding what his intentions were --
KAYYEM: -- and they clearly have him on serious charges at this stage.
COATES: I mean, Andrew, when you think about that, it occurs to so many people, all right, they were able to, and thank goodness, thwart whatever attack this might have been. But you've been in law enforcement trying to just look at the scope of the landscape of all the needles in the proverbial haystacks. Is there a way to try to strategically deter and prevent or even identify these kinds of threats?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure, there are several ways to do that work. You know, it really takes you back to 2015, that spring and summer of 2015, when ISIS was really at the peak of their effectiveness in terms of marketing and social media propaganda.
And we had a wave of Americans who were responding very powerfully to that and attempting to join, attempting to travel, to affiliate with the group, to fight for the group in Syria, and finding these people across the country in many different ages, different backgrounds, different religious experiences, different educational backgrounds. They really looked like a complete cross-section of America. So, it's incredibly hard to stay in front of these threats as they start to develop.
But it should also say, Laura, this really proves the thing that we were all concerned about in the immediate aftermath of the hostilities breaking out between Israel and Hamas, that a moment like that provides incredible inspiration for like-minded people around the world, for extremists who are moving down, what John talked about, that path of radicalization.
Seeing those images and, of course, identifying with the plight of Palestinian people is something that is traditionally -- that has been a theme that motivated bin Laden to start Al-Qaeda. It was, you know, a significant motivation for the leaders of ISIS. So, this is not new and it's something we should expect to see more of.
COATES: I mean, Juliette, when you think about that, and for many people, they may not know that correlation or that history or what was the impetus for a number of different movements, but they are, as you talk about, reading what's happening now.
One of the places they're gaining information from, and I use the term "information" at times very generously here, the role of social media is playing and disseminating whatever information is actually coming out, whether it's incorrect or just plain false or far more sinister, not just by default.
When you talk about the role of social media, what could be done or is there enough --
COATES: -- being done to try to warn about these kinds of threats?
KAYYEM: So, the short answer is no. I mean, we know this and not all social media is the same. So, the data, the polling right now shows most young people are getting their information about the war on TikTok. And so, most of us of a certain age are probably not on TikTok. So, they're getting that information. The filtering in TikTok is not vigorous.
So, they're going to get information, not validated information, imagery that may be fake, actually, and some of it is not clearly in terms of what it is that they are capturing and seeing and, therefore, getting radicalized on.
At the same time, some of the legacy social media platforms, Twitter, X, for example, have really stopped filtering. And so, they're just sort of cesspools of hate. And we look for rational explanations of, well, they believe this and they believe that and this person does this. And the truth is that these just become sort of cesspools of hate.
KAYYEM: -- and there's no sort of clear delineation between this group or that group. Someone who would have a propensity towards, say, hate or who is isolated and finds a community on social media that's egging him on, that's saying, yes, what you believe is right, go do this, that becomes the issue that is very hard to track and the limiting filters really don't exist on most social media platforms.
COATES: And when you look at that, thinking of those filters or the absence of them, Andrew, I mean, is that a role that law enforcement, in order to get ahead of this, is sort of embedding themselves in these places, continuously watching this? Because, obviously, you've got the First Amendment issues he will talk about and free speech, although they use the terms loosely in terms of not being in the government, but just what is present in the information.
Are law enforcements beginning to start to embed themselves, starting to survey and patrol these areas to try to figure out -- could they be a part of a kind of an echo chamber?
MCCABE: Sure. And law enforcement works in that realm. It's an open source. It's available to anybody who wants to look at it. And so, therefore, law enforcement can look at it the same way that anyone else can. The question is, what actions can law enforcement take based upon what they're seeing on social media, which is purely protected speech?
So that's where it gets a little more dicey. You can't -- you can't instigate investigative activity based simply on the exercise of First Amendment rights. So that's where the legal challenges come in.
But I should say that we used to have some degree of success. When we would see content like that online, we could bring it to the social media companies, not tell them to take it off, we had no authority over that, but we could say, we believe that this content violates your terms of service agreements, we would like you to review it and take whatever actions you think are appropriate.
Nowadays, law enforcement is in a much tougher position and cannot take actions like that, cannot have those sorts of interactions with social media companies because of recent court decisions and the Fifth Circuit and other places that have really cut against the intelligence community's ability to be proactive in pointing out some of this horribly objectionable terrorist content to the social media companies. So, that has been a big step backwards.
COATES: It's always this conundrum, whether we want our law enforcement to be proactive or reactive, and what we can do about it in between. Andrew McCabe, Juliette Kayyem, thank you both so much.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
COATES: Well, suffice to say, there's a lot going on tonight, and there's always a lot going on with our former president. Here at home, Donald Trump facing a plethora of legal woes. And we knew about all those, right? But what about the floodgates? Are they getting ready to open for him on the civil side, including the case that my next guest is bringing?
COATES: So, the former president, Donald Trump, his legal troubles, they may be about to get a whole lot worse. Why? Well, federal appeals court right in here in D.C. ruling Friday that he can be sued over January 6th. So that rejected Trump's claims of presidential immunity, which is good news from my next guest, Attorney Phil Andonian, representing Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, who is part of the lawsuit by Democratic lawmakers and injured Capitol police officers against Trump. Phil, good to see you here, my friend. The floodgates may be opening because we know about the criminal cases against Donald Trump. Now, the idea of being able to be sued civilly means it could just be, in his mind, Pandora's box, or for those wanting to sue, the floodgates opening. What was behind this decision and what are you going to do about it?
PHIL ANDONIAN, ATTORNEY FOR REP. ERIC SWALWELL IN CASE AGAINST TRUMP: Well, you know, it was a really important decision. It was a unanimous decision by an ideologically, politically-diverse panel of the second highest court in the country rejecting Donald Trump's assertion of immunity for conduct and speech that he engaged in while he was in office.
Like you said, it opens a lot of floodgates for liability and for the accountability that we and others are seeking for his terrible actions on January 6th.
COATES: It's important to note this because when people think about presidential actions, they may make assumption that because he was the president, no matter what he did while he was the president, that was enough, it's presidential. Not actually true.
And the courts essentially said, and I'm reading here for a moment what they have to say about this, that the president does not spend every minute of every day exercising official responsibilities. And when he acts outside the functions of his office, he does not continue to enjoy immunity from damages liability just because he happens to be the president.
That means that the legal argument for this court that he tried to raise and said, look, I'm the president, everything I do while I'm the president is presidential, that was out of the water.
ANDONIAN: That's right. What he -- his argument was principally anything that I say, anything that I do at any point in time is going to be a matter of public concern, and therefore it's official acts, therefore it's covered. And rejecting that, the D.C. Circuit said, much like what the district court said in the opinion that they affirmed, that there's a line that you cross into solely personal, private activity, and that happens when you act as an office seeker, not as an office holder.
That's what we've alleged in our complaint, that at all relevant times, what Donald Trump was doing was acting as a political candidate. That is a lot of things. It's not official conduct of the president of the United States.
COATES: He's going to appeal to the Supreme Court, likely. We already know this, right? Do you think that they'll likely take it? And if they do, do you think they're on his side on this issue?
ANDONIAN: Well, I mean, I don't obviously want to speculate. I certainly -- you know, I think it's safe to say that any avenue of delay, anything that he can do to stall things, he might try to take advantage of. You know, I do know that a three-judge panel that's unanimous, again, that's politically, ideologically diverse, like this panel from the D.C. Circuit, probably going to get a lot of deference from the Supreme Court.
So, we'll just have to wait and see. But for right now, we're feeling very confident in the very well-reasoned, legally sound opinion that they issued.
COATES: And really quick, now that you've won this legal battle, what do you do now? Is the case pick up right where it left off and the lawsuit continues?
ANDONIAN: Well, I mean, we are still waiting. He has some time to petition the full D.C. circuit to revisit the opinion. As you noted, he could very well appeal to the Supreme Court. We have to kind of wait for the procedural pieces to work themselves out. But we are eager and ready to get going as soon as we can.
COATES: I'll tell you what, while you're thinking about that and waiting for him to have those couple of days, I'm sure there are litigants who are thinking, hold on a second, I may have been impacted, too, and maybe those floodgates will open, and what impact it will have on the criminal cases, we'll also have to wait and see.
Nice to see you. Thank you for coming.
ANDONIAN: Thanks for having me, Laura.
COATES: What would you do, this is a big question, if your father confessed that he's not who you think he is? Well, that actually happened. And wait until you hear the rest of the story.
COATES: One of the largest and most mysterious bank heists in Ohio history, well, it has now been solved. But the man who robbed the bank, Theodore Conrad, he was never actually caught. That's because for more than 50 years, he was living in suburban Boston under an assumed name as a guy named Thomas Randele. His daughter, Ashley Randele, tells the story of when the whole thing started to unravel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEY RANDELE, DAUGHTER OF THOMAS RANDELE: My mom, dad, and I were sitting in the living room watching NCIS, and he looked over at us and really calmly said, ladies, just in case anything ever comes up, I had to change my name when I moved here. The authorities are probably still looking for me. I don't want to talk about it, but just so you know, in case it ever comes up, you're not blindsided. And then we went back to NCIS.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: What? I mean, it wasn't until the next day when Ashley then pressed her father for details that she found out that in July of 1969, her father walked out of the bank where he worked with $215,000 in cash in a paper bag. And then he vanished. Now, that would be the equivalent of $1.6 million today.
Now, while Randele had been living his new life, a pair of U.S. Marshals, a father and son, were looking for bank robber Theodore "Ted" Conrad. And until an obituary for a Thomas Randele appeared online, Peter Elliott, one of these marshals who saw it, joins me now and began to put the clues together.
Thank you so much for being here. Peter, first of all, this obituary, I can't believe the story, the NCIS component, all parts of it, you had been looking for 50 years really for this particular individual, you and your father. You saw an obituary, why would that have led you to believe that this was the person under the assumed name anyway?
PETER ELLIOTT, U.S. MARSHAL: Well, you know, when people lie, they lie close to home. And in the obituary, Ted Conrad was born on July 10th of 1949. Randele used the date of birth of July 10th -- July 10th, 1947. He listed his parents as Ed and Ruth Beth Kruger in obituary. He is Kruger-Randele. His real parents are Ed and Ruth Beth Kruger- Conrad.
He said he went to school at New England College. That's where Conrad went to school. He also said that he was born in Denver, Colorado, and that's where Conrad was born. So, there's all these similarities in the obituary for Randele and the real life of Ted Conrad.
COATES: So, you had been looking through obituaries coincidentally or you do this as a part of matter, of course, to figure out where the person may or may not be?
ELLIOTT: No. If I had to look through every obituary, I'd be in trouble.
So, we were led to that obituary by an individual who told us to take a look at it. And that's what we did. We took a look at the obituary. And then from there, we started the process. We found out that Randele filed for bankruptcy in 2015 in Boston court. And we pulled those records from Randele. And then my dad, had records of 1967 when Conrad went to college with a signature. We were able to match that signature with Conrad with Randele's signature in 2015.
COATES: Unbelievable. I mean, thinking about those -- putting those things together and having such tenacity to follow this story to the very end. But then you find this person. It's an obituary. The person has now died. You ended up having to go to the home. What happened when you got there?
ELLIOTT: Yeah, I met Kathy and Ashley for the first time. Look, they didn't know we are coming. Myself and Eric Lydock, deputy U.S. marshal, knocked on the door and introduced ourselves. We said -- I told her, Kathy, that we were not there for her. We think your husband is someone else. It was not, you know, really Thomas Randele. And so, we sat down at a conversation and they both told the truth.
COATES: You know, when you have been following this -- I mean, this story took you to Hawaii, I think Texas, Oregon, if I'm not mistaken, California. Now that it has been solved, when you look back that this was the person that you're looking for all along, were you ever close to catching him before this?
ELLIOTT: Well, again, my dad was a deputy U.S. marshal from '67 to 1990, so it was his case. And he pursued Conrad all the way up to my dad's death in 2020. So, there are some times we thought we were close. One time, I think it was Oregon, we thought we were close. Another time, we thought we were really close in England when we received tips. But really, we were never, ever close to really catching Conrad.
COATES: Until now. And imagine this, after all this time, I have to ask, though, what happened to the money he walked away with? Do you ever find that? Was there ever trace in any way?
ELLIOTT: Yeah, good question. We've been trying to take a look at that. Look, when we went to the house and Kathy and Ashley's house, I'll tell you this, they had bills stacked up and stacked up. You obviously had a guy that filed for bankruptcy in 2015. So, he left them with no money. He had no money at the end of it.
I don't really know where that money went. I think it ended up going somewhere in the 1970s. We're not sure about that part yet. Hopefully, that's one thing we'll still be able to figure out with him. But I'm not 100% sure that -- or I'm 100% sure at this point, we don't know where that money went.
COATES: You know, you mentioned your father, John K. Elliott. He passed away back in 2020. You mentioned his career and his persistence all this time. What do you think he'd say seeing how it all turned out?
ELLIOTT: Oh, he'd be happy that we were able to uncover his true identity and figure out where he was. I know that. And again, this is my dad's case. You know, it's personal, my dad, because he -- Conrad grew up a couple streets from away from where we grew up in Lakewood, Ohio. He went to the high school in our town. He -- him and my dad had the same doctor. He used to work at a local little restaurant that my father used to take us and his kids.
So, this was personal with my dad right off the bat from 1969. Two hundred and fifteen thousand dollars was a lot of money to a deputy U.S. marshal who was making $6,700 per year in 1969.
COATES: Wow. Peter Elliott, to think about --
ELLIOTT: A lot of people --
COATES: Yeah. Go ahead, Peter. I missed that last thing you said.
ELLIOTT: A lot of people looked -- yeah, a lot of people looked at Conrad as being a Robinhood, a hero. My dad felt he was nothing but a thief. When Conrad did run, you know, there are signs up by certain kids in Lakewood saying, hey, run Ted Run. So, you know, they thought he was a lot in a lot of ways a Robinhood. So, again, my dad, it was personal to him. He pursued Conrad his entire life.
COATES: And well, we know how the story ends finally. Peter Elliott, thank you so much.
ELLIOTT: Thank you. Take care.
COATES: It's a fascinating story, I have to tell you. Just thinking about all that transpired there and the coincidences that led to that moment.
Well, ahead, this is no coincidence. Beyonce making history at the box office this weekend. Sit tight because we're going to be talking to a little bit about Queen B.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Today, the Supreme Court is scrutinizing a controversial opioid crisis settlement. The deal was approved by a New York court back in May and included up to $6 billion -- yep, with a B -- $6 billion in exchange for immunity for the Sackler family from all other civil, though not criminal, lawsuits.
Most of that would go to state and local governments to address the opioid epidemic with over $700 million for individual families and victims, and the end of the Sackler's company, Purdue Pharma, which would be replaced then by a new company. Now, the deal was blocked by a division of the DOJ, which requested it to be reviewed by the high court.
While many of the arguments today focus on the finer points of bankruptcy law, they did note today, the justices, that the vast majority of victims and their families were supportive of the deal.
Remember back in the 1990s, Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin as a painkiller. The company has been accused of helping to fuel the opioid epidemic in this country by aggressively marking the drug as safer and even less addictive, encouraging doctors to prescribe the drug over longer periods of time. Now, sales of the drug earning the Sackler family will earn them billions of dollars. And many of the suits allege that the Sackler family knew of oxycontin's addictive properties but continued to promote the drug nonetheless, even as the opioid epidemic skyrocketed. Between 1999 and 2021, nearly 645,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses, including the son of my next guest.
Chris Yoder was but a teenager when he was prescribed OxyContin for a sports injury. He would attempt rehab eight times before dying of an overdose in 2017. His mother, Dede Yoder, joins me now.
Dede, thank you so much for joining me. I'm just so sorry to hear what happened to your son. I know that you have been so passionate about your advocacy as a result of your love for your son and so many other people's children. I have to ask you today, how do you feel about this deal going before the Supreme Court of the United States?
DEDE YODER, TEENAGE SON STRUGGLED WITH OPIOID ADDICTION, DIED FROM OVERDOSE: Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me and giving me the opportunity to talk about this and my son. It was quite amazing that it has gotten up to the Supreme Court. I was actually there today at the Supreme Court, which is also quite amazing, and I'm just hoping that they, after hearing the arguments, agreed to let the settlement go forward.
COATES: Did you get a sense -- of course, the justices, they can be a little -- you know, they're talking to each other, they're not quite showing their hands fully, but did you get a sense in that room today with the justices of how they were leaning? Did you get a feel for it at all?
YODER: Well, I was a little -- I was feeling a little bit better because they did talk a lot about the victims. I mean, it seems like -- you know, the victims and the fact that money needs to go out into the states and help with abatement, it just seems like so many of the conversations about this case are about not letting the Sacklers get away with it, getting more money out of the Sacklers, and it is sort of like the victims in this case have been forgotten.
So, it really -- I felt very relieved that they talked so much about the effect it had on the victims.
COATES: Yeah, that's such an important point because, so often, people can sort of get into the minutiae and think about the legal arguments and very broadly, and they forget about the individual people who have been so impacted, not only those who've been impacted already, but those who yet still, in fact, will be impacted and continue to go on to this very day.
When you look at the -- of what's happened and the money that's supposed to go to the victims, fighting for the abatement as you talk about, can lawmakers be doing more outside of the legal system to try to curb the epidemic? Because you'd hate to have it go case by case or major litigation like this to wait for change to come.
YODER: Yes, absolutely. I mean, probably the large part, probably about $5 billion would go to all the states specifically for abatement and to fight the opioid crisis, which has now become the fentanyl crisis. So, it would really help with -- you know, there are probably 300, 400 people dying every day still. So, this money is really needed by the states. And yes, I do think that lawmakers should be doing more to help evade the crisis as well.
COATES: You know, I'm a mommy. I have a now 11-year-old little boy, and I can't wait to talk about him every chance I get. And so, I can't let you go before you have a chance to tell the world a little bit more about your son because I want people to know who he was. What do you want people to know about him?
YODER: Oh, thank you. Chris was a very special, beautiful boy.
He was my only child. I was a single mom. And we were -- I always said that he was like my soulmate. He grew up in this little village of Irvington, New York, outside of New York City. He had lots of friends. All of his friends called him their silent leader. He was always thinking of the next fun thing to do. He was very active in sports.
He loved snowboarding and skateboarding and mountain biking and all kinds of high-impact sports, which is how he injured his knee, which is how he ended up getting several operations when he was 14, which is what led to him getting prescriptions for OxyContin.
But he just had his own special, you know, drumbeat that he went by. He had -- he loved different authors like Hemingway and Monajat (ph). And, you know, somehow, he would just find interesting people, interesting things, and follow them. He was definitely a unique individual.
His friends still miss him so much. I'm still very good friends with all his friends. It's just so sad that at the age of 21, his life ended and he never got to live his life.
COATES: Well, Dede Yoder, just hearing a little bit about him today and meeting you the way we all have tonight, the apple did not fall far from that tree. It was so nice to meet you.
YODER: Thank you so much for having me.
COATES: Thank you. We'll be right back.
COATES: She said it. Beyonce is number one maybe in life, but also at the box office. Her new movie, "Renaissance; A Film by Beyonce," hit theaters Friday. My next guest is actually in the movie, his aptly titled article "Beyonce. Amen." says Queen B is in a way taking us all to church.
Michael Eric Dyson is here now. He's a professor of African American & Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University. My friend, nice to see you as always. I didn't realize just how big time you were, though, that you're actually in the movie.
You're all up in the movie as well. So, I won't fangirl through you. I'll just say, okay, Michael Eric Dyson.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF AFRICAN AMERICAN & DIASPORA STUDIES: Well, it was an honor and a surprise to me. I must tell you, a brief snippet, and yet it was impactful and powerful. The film is incredible. And, as you know, this is usually a poor time to release a film. It's the doldrums, it's the pits, and yet Beyonce, proving once again that she's one of one, has resurrected this particular weekend as now a viable one, at least for her, and has helped save the year for movies. It's just utterly remarkable.
And the film is extraordinary as a chronicle of her behind the scenes grappling with what it takes to be a superstar, but also to be taken seriously as a black woman. As she says in the film, she says, even Beyonce says, it's hard for me sometimes as a Black woman to be taken seriously and have to continually fight, and at the end of the day, they just recognize this woman just won't give up, and that's what you see in that film.
COATES: You wrote this incredibly poignant piece as well that was just so compelling. Everyone has to read it. And you talk about you, by the way, as a preacher for the last 45 years and a man of God, you talk about how the community that Beyonce has created is what church should be. Why do you think that?
DYSON: Yes. Well, and I'm glad you said that because I've gotten so many responses online where people saying, you're sacrilegious, you're blasphemous, you're comparing her to God, you're making her (INAUDIBLE). That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying, when we go to church, what we're supposed to feel is unconditional love, unconditional affirmation of our being, the assertion that we are a child of God and therefore important to the creator of the universe.
And that's what you feel when you go to a Beyonce concert, especially for queer brothers and sisters. I talk about in the piece, in a culture of church, that is about trans, transmission of, you know, piety from one generation to the other, transformation of life, transition from loss to save, we're resisting the transgender, the transsexual.
So, the reality is, is that Beyonce is creating a space that affirms human beings regardless of those detriments and those negative stigmas that are attached to them, unfortunately and unfairly, and she redeems the presence of those bodies through her affirming language and her music.
COATES: You know, as we're here on December 4th, a couple of minutes before midnight, I want to say happy birthday to her, well, maybe her better half, although who can be better than Beyonce, many would say, but to Jay-Z as well, too, birthday. But I have to ask you, because in a land where everyone is talking about maybe doing Taylor Swift courses at universities, you, professor, I want to know what's on the syllabus.
Are you teaching a Beyonce course as well?
DYSON: I have taught a Beyonce course several times. I've taught a Jay-Z course several times. What's up, Hope? Happy birthday. God forgive me for my brash delivery, but I remember vividly what these streets did to me. But I've taught many classes on Beyonce. And we've looked at her music, we've looked at her dancing, we looked at her voice, we looked at her performance, we looked at her impact upon African American and black culture more broadly, and American culture, and indeed now global culture.
She is a phenomenal and ethical human being whose creativity has won her fans across the world, but she remains at heart a simple country girl, a Southern girl who is loving and affirming of all who come into her orbit.
COATES: Wow. Might drop for you. Thank you so much, Michael Eric Dyson. And thank you, everyone, for watching because our coverage does continue.