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CNN TONIGHT: Herschel Walker Issues New Denial Over Abortion Report, Claims He Doesn't Know Identity Of Woman; Biden & DeSantis Put Politics On Hold, Pledge Florida Relief; North Korea Fires Two Short- Range Ballistic Missiles. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 05, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Her dad was driving. That unspeakable loss changed Molly, forever. And we talk about this, sometimes unusual ripple effects, of early loss that we, like many of you, probably still feel today. I hope it speaks to your grief.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Kasie Hunt, and CNN TONIGHT.


KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you so much for that.

I am Kasie Hunt. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

Surprise! It's October! But in politics, we're about to find out, if the notorious, previously notorious, October surprise, still really matters, on either political side.

For Herschel Walker, the Republican Senate nominee, in Georgia, it's not just "The Daily Beast" reporting. They, of course, reported that he paid for his then-girlfriend's abortion, back in 2009. Reporting, we should note, CNN has not independently verified.

But it's also the words of his son, Christian, who released a video, calling out his father, asking Republicans, straight-up, "Do you care about family values?" And, on top of that, Christian tweeted two days ago that he and his mother had to move six times, in six months, to get away from Walker's violence.

Walker responded to this quickly. He denied the abortion claims, basically, instantly, vehemently.

And in a Fox News interview, today, Walker denied knowing, who his accuser is, despite this Get Well card that allegedly shows his signature, and an alleged image of a personal check that was signed by Walker.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Have you figured out who it is? HERSCHEL WALKER, (R) GEORGIA U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Not at all. And that's what I hope everyone can see. It's sort of like everyone is anonymous, or everyone is leaking, and they want you to confess to something you have no clue about. But it just shows how desperate they are right now.


HUNT: So, what may surprise you, as much as the claim, is the reaction among some prominent conservative anti-abortion voices.


DANA LOESCH, CONSERVATIVE TALK SHOW HOST: How many times have I said four very important words? These four words. Winning is a virtue. So, I don't care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.


HUNT: "Endangered baby eagles?" OK.

It's not just a lone radio host though. Former President Trump, Senator Rick Scott, and other Republicans, are sticking with Walker. They're doing the same electoral math, putting the Team Jersey, above one controversial name that's on the back, in a state that is absolutely critical, to Republican hopes, of retaking the majority, in the Senate.

But they're not the only ones, Republicans, facing an October surprise. Democrats are also grappling, with news, today.

Just when it seemed that the gas price roller coaster, had come to a stop? OPEC+ today, announced it will slash oil production, by 2 million barrels a day, which is the biggest cut, in production, since the beginning of the pandemic. And that could mean higher gas prices, before Election Day, fueling Republicans' hopes, of taking back Congress, on a message of rescuing a troubled economy that they say that Democrats can't fix.

Rising oil prices wouldn't just impact gas prices. It could also mean that inflation generally stays high, for longer, which could put pressure, on the Fed, to raise interest rates, even more aggressively. That would be a rough surprise, for everyone.

So, let's get the statistics that matter, or at least can help us explain, these surprises, and whether they're going to matter.

Our Senior Data Reporter (ph), Harry Enten, joins us now.

Harry, thanks so much for being with us, tonight.

Can we talk about rising gas prices? The potential, here? I mean, we are about five weeks out, from the midterm elections, here. So, there's a little bit of time. But how closely does this track? And how worried should Democrats be? HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I would be worried, Kasie. And the reason I would be worried is take a look here. This is the recent gas prices, and the 2022 generic congressional ballot.

If you look back, when we had the highest gas prices, right, this back, on June 14th? The GOP held a three-point lead, in the generic congressional ballot.

Now look, a lot of things have happened, over the last few months. But one of the things that has happened is that gas prices, in fact fell, to their lowest level, on September 20th. And look, then, what we saw as the trend line, Democrats then had a one-point lead, on the generic congressional ballot.

You look at the current situation. Gas prices have risen a little bit. And as gas prices have risen, Republicans are doing a little bit better, on the generic congressional ballot. So, it does seem there'd be this correlation between higher gas prices and Republicans doing better.

HUNT: Really interesting. I mean, the approval rating too, is really remarkable.

So, let's talk about the Walker-Warnock race, specifically. Where does that stand? And how do you see this controversy moving these numbers, if at all?

ENTEN: Look, I don't know necessarily where things are going to go. But I will tell you, right now, we have a tight race, in Georgia. Raphael Warnock, the incumbent, at 48 percent. Herschel Walker, 44 percent.

You see, I have a Libertarian, on there. You go, "Why the heck would I have a Libertarian, who's just at 4 percent?" And that is because--

HUNT: Run-off.


ENTEN: Exactly. If no candidate gets 50-percent-plus-one, there'll be a runoff on December 6th. I can imagine, no - more interesting thing for a political junkie, such as myself, if in fact control of the United States Senate, relies on a runoff, in December.

HUNT: Yes. I mean, look, we faced something pretty similar, when we had those two races, for Georgia Senate seats that Democrats managed to carry back, in 2020. Of course, Mitch McConnell blames Donald Trump, for that. And I have a feeling that there's going to be plenty to blame to go around, if it happens again.

So, let's talk about precedent, for October surprises, here. In past elections, what stands out to you, and what does that tell you about whether they still have a big impact?

ENTEN: All right. So, let's go through a little bit of history, right? This one is sort of an October surprise, happened right at the end of December. But I'm going to count it. I'm going to count that.

And that was the impact of the Mark Foley page scandal, back in 2006. Look, the forecast pre-scandal, for Republican House seats, was 217. Then, you jump to the forecast, on Election Eve, 204. Actual Republican House seats, won? 202. So, this to me was a scandal, an October surprise, even though it happened at the end of September that did seem to have an impact.

But let's look at a October surprise that really didn't, right? Go back to the last midterm election. Remember, Trump was tweeting all about the "Caravan," right, coming from Central America, the migrant caravans.

Look at the forecast, for the House, before that first Trump tweet, on the caravan. It was 235, for Democrats. What was the actual result? 235. The Senate, 52. And then you see, in fact, this is Republicans, this should actually be 47. But the point is that in fact, there wasn't much of a change, at least in that one.

Now, let's take a look at 2016, the Presidential popular vote. Remember, there were a ton of scandals, right here. Pre-Access Hollywood tape? Clinton, plus six points. Didn't really move a lot. Because, pre-Comey letter, on Anthony Weiner, on October 28th? It was still Clinton, plus six.

Look at the actual election result. Clinton, plus two points. It did seem that the Comey that email that whole entire scandal, the letter on Weiner, did in fact move things. And of course, remember that Trump won the Electoral College, and he won the presidency.

So, sometimes, it does. Sometimes, it doesn't. We'll see what happens this year.

HUNT: Very interesting, Harry. I mean, certainly the Clinton campaign, would be happy to levy a lot of blame, to Comey, for how--

ENTEN: I think they will.

HUNT: --for how that - those final weeks played out.

Harry, thank you so much for being with us. Really, always appreciate your insights.

And joining us now, to talk more about all this, CNN Political Commentator, and Democratic Strategist, Maria Cardona; CNN Political Analyst, and the Managing Editor of Politics for Axios, Margaret Talev; and former RNC Communications Director, Doug Heye.

So, a lot to chew on there, with what Harry was offering. Let me start with you, Maria. Because, quite frankly, I think the OPEC gas prices news, is probably the most significant midterm election news, we've had, in quite a while. What's your take, on how this could affect things?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's certainly not welcome news. But I will say, we don't know yet, how it is going to affect actual gas prices, right? Is it going to be an immediate impact? Is it going to be an immediate rise, in gas prices? Or is it going to be slow?

We know that the Administration is laserly-focused on this. They're thinking of doing some release, of the Strategic Petroleum Reserves, right, to kind of mitigate that. Hopefully, that will work. They're continuing to focus on doing everything they can, also, for the oil companies, to keep down the margin of money, they want to make, right? And I think that the American electorate understands, where this is coming from.

Will it help mitigate blame? Who knows? Again, this is not something that Democrats want right now. But, at the same time, they are focused on the contrast between the parties. Biden is not actually on the ballot. It's Democrats, each candidate, in each district, in each Senate race.

HUNT: Sure.

CARDONA: And they are focused on the keen contrast, between the parties, and I think there's a lot there, for Democrats, to be feeling good about.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, MANAGING EDITOR POLITICS, AXIOS: Axios has a tracker, with Google Trends, for the midterms. You guys go online, you can check what district you live in, and all that.

HUNT: Very good shameless plug.

TALEV: But one thing - but one thing I'll tell you is that over the course of the past month, what we have seen is even before today's news, as gas prices have begun ticking, a little bit, back up, the amount of searches, around the phrase, gas prices, has begun tipping - ticking back up.

Back in June, when it was a real crisis, for Biden, it was the number three search in the country.

HUNT: Amazing!

TALEV: By a month ago, it was like the number 16th search. Guess what it is, before today's announcement, as of last week? Back up to number 12. It seems like on the one hand, you want to think it depends how much they go up by, for how big of a crisis this is.


HUNT: Sure, yes.

TALEV: But, on the other hand, when all of your costs are exacerbated by inflation, everything costs more. The interest rates costs more. Food costs more.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: When everything costs more, gas prices is a constant reminder of it, every time you go to the pump, every time you fill up the tank, every time you commute. So, it is a problem.



TALEV: We don't know how a big a problem. The bigger problem, for Democrats, this is going to take some attention away, from abortion. And all Democrats want to talk about is abortion. And Republicans are looking for anything else.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: Now, gas prices, throw that on the pile with immigration, thrown it on the pile with crime?

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: And all of that is not what Democrats want to be--

CARDONA: It won't keep Democrats from talking about abortion, though.

HUNT: So, yes, I mean, so speaking of abortion, I want to turn back, Doug, with you, to the Georgia controversy.

And I just want to show everyone, there's an ad, out tonight, from Herschel Walker's campaign, where he addresses these allegations. Take a look.


WALKER: Raphael Warnock is running a nasty, dishonest campaign.

As everyone knows, I had a real battle with mental health.

Warnock is a preacher, who doesn't tell the truth. He doesn't even believe in redemption.


HUNT: Doug Heye, what do you make of that?

DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF OF COMMS FOR EX-GOP REP. ERIC CANTOR, FELLOW, HARVARD INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: Well, it doesn't specifically address the concern. So, either they will rock it fast, in how they address this, or this was already in the can, because they were concerned that this or something else would come up like this.

And, to what Harry talked about earlier, we're all going to try and figure out what the political impacts are going to be.

But I'll take you back to that Saturday, in October, when I was in Chapel Hill, going to a football game, and I got a phone call, from a reporter, named Margaret Talev, who said--

TALEV: Uh-oh! HEYE: --"What does this Access Hollywood tape mean, for the elections?" And I said, probably the same thing, Maria said. "It's over. It's over for Donald Trump," right?

HUNT: Yes. We all thought that.



HEYE: Reince Priebus was saying, get out and--

HUNT: Yes.


HEYE: --to Donald Trump, and--

HUNT: So was - I mean, Paul Ryan was on the phone, with House Republicans--

HEYE: Absolutely.


HUNT: --telling them you don't have to - you don't have to back this guy up.

HEYE: And you know, who was wrong? I was wrong. Maria was wrong.

HUNT: We were all wrong.

HEYE: Paul Ryan was wrong. Reince Priebus was wrong. And so?

HUNT: Yes. Donald Trump was the only who wasn't--


HEYE: So, this is a lot of news. But let's wait and see data, on what comes in, on what the impact is.


HEYE: And let's see how long that data holds true.

HUNT: Yes.

HEYE: Because, if we're talking about this, in six weeks? That's one thing. If it's only a two-week or three-week story? It's not that big of a deal, politically, for Herschel Walker.

HUNT: Well, I mean, and Margaret, they're basically running the Trumpian playbook on this, right? Like, I mean, if you look at Donald Trump's statement, he's like, "Yes, Herschel came out there, denying it, which was the right thing to do. And we should believe him." I mean, and that's, you listen to what Trump has said, behind-the- scenes? It's always "Deny, deny, deny, and you'll be fine."

TALEV: And demonize your opponent - and say your opponent's really the bad guy.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: And I don't know, like, I've seen this - the Grace ad. I don't know how you connect, Warnock to having done the wrong thing.


TALEV: Because he preemptively won't redeem you for the thing that you--

HUNT: We should say also--

TALEV: --have denied that you have done.

HUNT: --Warnock hasn't attacked Walker.


TALEV: At all.

HUNT: They've been really careful about it.

TALEV: As far as--

CARDONA: Yes. They don't need to.

TALEV: And--

HUNT: And they told Manu the other day--


HUNT: --yesterday, he hadn't seen it.


HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: Correct. But I think that's exactly what he's doing. He's saying, it's Herschel Walker saying, "I'm not the problem. My opponent's the problem." His denials are weird. Because if you just knew that none of it had any bearing on reality, like, I don't know, it's not the way people talk, like "I don't sign my name, age." This, it's a very curious story. It's a complicated story.

But I think the question is not is the Republican Establishment going to pull up stakes? It is, are voters going to take all of their cues--

HUNT: Right.

TALEV: --from that Republican Establishment? Will the Susan B. Anthony List, and Mitch McConnell's Leadership PAC, and would a - Rick Scott's money, is that how vote - how Republican voters--

HUNT: Voters.

TALEV: --and centrist voters, when they go to the poll? There were already signs of a split ticket in Georgia. There were already signs that Kemp--

HEYE: Yes.

TALEV: --Governor Kemp is doing much better than Herschel Walker.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: Inside the voting booth, what are voters going to do? I have no idea.

HUNT: Right. Especially--

TALEV: But I think that is the question.

HUNT: Especially, White women, college-educated voters that we're looking at for other issues, like abortion, as well.

All right, everybody stick around. We got a lot more to talk about tonight.

Coming up here, President Biden, and Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, put politics aside, to focus on the victims, of Hurricane Ian. Are both leaders rising to the task, ahead of their potential face-off, down the road? When CNN TONIGHT returns.



HUNT: A cordial reception, that's what President Biden received, from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, today, as they toured destruction, from Hurricane Ian. The two men, notably, put their political rivalry, aside, and projected unity, on one thing, Florida's recovery.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think one of the things that you're seeing in this response, we are cutting through the bureaucracy. We are cutting through the red tape. And that's from local government, state government, all the way up to the President.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We've seen extraordinary cooperation at every level of government, as the governor has said. And the cooperation began before the storm hit.


HUNT: So, today was the second time, this week that Biden played the role of Consoler-in-Chief. Much like the sentiment that he expressed, in Puerto Rico, on Monday, today, he issued this vow. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I want the people of Florida to know: You have my commitment and America's commitment that we're not going to leave.

Later, after the television cameras have moved on, we're still going to be here with you. We're still going to be moving. We're still going to be doing everything we can to try to put your lives back together again.


HUNT: Our panel is back with us, to discuss.

So, Margaret Talev, what do you make of this? I mean, we did not see the hug that, for example, we saw between Chris Christie and Barack Obama--


HUNT: --right before the 2012 election.

We saw a handshake. But they both seemed to be, I think, focused on what, quite frankly, even if you look at it, from a political perspective, all voters want, is competence and cooperation, from their leaders, at a time, like this.

TALEV: Yes. I actually wasn't surprised at all that this is how they played it.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: Because, it would have been political malpractice, to do it any other way, for both of them. And they both have a vested interest in projecting competency. And maybe let's not even say bipartisanship, like non-partisanship.


TALEV: It's a disaster of epic proportions that involves death, and that involves months of people losing their homes, being homeless, unable to get insurance, like it's a crisis, a multi-level crisis.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: But DeSantis has a more immediate goal, which is, reelection in November.


Biden's trying to minimize Democratic losses. But he has a longer-term goal, which is reelection in 2024. Florida's a very important state. And he's going to want to contrast Donald Trump throwing rolls of paper towels, against himself, saying "We have only one job."

Just before we began the show, he tweeted, same frame, except for he was at the mic, instead of Ron DeSantis, but the same frame, of them standing together, and said, like to the people of Florida, "We have just one job."

And so, I think, this is both of them, playing both the short-term game and a long game.

HUNT: Doug?

HEYE: Yes. You used, the term, Consoler-in-Chief, with Biden. We know that Joe Biden plays that role very well.

HUNT: Yes.

HEYE: He is one of the most empathetic presidents, we've ever had, if not, of all time.

Ron DeSantis, we know, is a cultural warrior, and he's a very effective cultural warrior. We haven't seen him, in a moment like this. He did what was expected. But it's also notable, given how we've seen him in other roles, that he stepped up, and has done a good job, so far--


HEYE: --in that role of Governor. Because we hear presidents and governors say, "I'm the governor. I'm the president of not one party, but of the entire state, the entire country." This is the opportunity to do that.


HUNT: Yes. I mean, it was - there have been some moments throughout the last few days, where he's kind of taken shots, at the media, and kind of the way that--


HUNT: --it's been covered.

But aside from that, Maria, I think, it's actually, he has really so far passed the initial test, in terms of. And the chances are voters are likely to reward him for that in November.

CARDONA: Yes. I actually think this does have more of a 2024 lens, for both of them than, I think, going into the midterms.

Because, for Joe Biden, he is not just demonstrating that he continues to be the Consoler-in-Chief. He understands what people go through, during these times of tragedy, the empathy. But he's also showing that government can be a force for good.

And that is a huge contrast with what Republicans have certainly tried to communicate, about government. And you saw it even DeSantis said it there, cut through the bureaucracy, right, at the local, state and federal level. And that's fine. But, I think, for 2024 that is going to continue to be a big message. And I wonder if even though there was not a hug, there was the handshake. There was, at some point, Joe Biden tapped DeSantis, on the arm, and they smiled. I think, those images, if Donald Trump is running? He's going to use those against DeSantis. Because I wouldn't put anything past him.

TALEV: Like last time (ph).

CARDONA: And I think that that is going to be something. I mean, 2024 is going to be brutal, if not anything else. And I think that this is going to be essentially a big image that we're going to see then, if Joe Biden is running, if Donald Trump is running, if DeSantis is running.

HUNT: Well, and we actually - I mean, I think we can show you, the President actually had some very kind words, for the Florida governor. Watch.


BIDEN: I think he's done a good job. Look, I told him, I think even before he called me (inaudible) we worked hand in glove - we have very different political philosophies and - but we worked hand in glove, and (inaudible) with this crisis, we've been completely lockstep.


HUNT: So, there you have it, Margaret. I mean, and maybe to Maria's point that gets used against DeSantis, later. But, at the same time, it's sort of hard to, I feel like, it's a pretty easy argument for DeSantis, to rebut. He's like "I was doing what I had to do, you know? We needed money from the federal government to help us."

TALEV: Yes. He's as we have all discussed, in recent days, embracing federal funds, at this time. But like, to Doug's point, this does play, also, to Joe Biden's strengths, being that consoler, competency, in a time of crisis. That's a core part of his brand.


TALEV: He's not as good at, messaging against whatever, I mean, against anyone.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: That's not really what he does.

HUNT: No. I mean, some of the political things Ron DeSantis has done?


HUNT: The immigrants to Martha's Vineyard, et cetera, have put Democrats back on their heels.

TALEV: And there'll be time, for both, to revisit that, but not on the ground, in Florida. CARDONA: Well, I also--

HUNT: Yes.

CARDONA: --I also think it could help Joe Biden, in this whole like, empathetic realm, when DeSantis and, at some point, we know he will, will go back to the culture wars.

And in the culture wars, he can be absolutely portrayed, as somebody, who is cruel, who is intent on causing harm, on certain communities, in the country. And then you have that big contrast, with Joe Biden. And I think that hurts him, and helps Joe Biden, and the Democrats.

HUNT: Final word.

HEYE: We could potentially have four Republicans, from Florida, running for president.


HEYE: Trump, DeSantis, Rubio, and Scott. And all this advantaged DeSantis, without question.

TALEV: I agree.

HUNT: That's a really interesting way to look at it.

All right, everybody stick around. We're going to talk again, later on, this hour.

But coming up next, Alex Jones just ran away, from a fight. Why the conspiracy theorist is suddenly going silent, as the jury gets ready to decide how much his Sandy Hook lies should cost him?

Plus, we have a former Info Wars insider, here tonight. What fuels the machine of misinformation? That's next.



HUNT: A decade of lies, threats and fear. Parents, whose children were murdered, at Sandy Hook Elementary, sat in a Connecticut courtroom, today.

The person, who refused to show his face, was Alex Jones. He chose to leave the state, rather than have to confront the families, he called, liars. His lawyers didn't bother to present any evidence, in his defense.

But the prosecution let Jones' own radio show talk for him.


ALEX JONES, DEFENDANT: I'm just going to be completely honest. I sort of enjoy it (ph). I mean, I've reached that totally (ph) a real peace, where I don't just have peace with this. I enjoy it now.


HUNT: "I enjoy it now."

A Texas jury already determined Jones should have to pay almost $50 million. The Connecticut jury, is expected to hear closing arguments, tomorrow. But none of that is stopping Jones' devoted listeners, from tuning in, to hear his conspiracy theories.

Josh Owens, spent four years, working with Alex Jones, at InfoWars.


Josh, thanks very much, for being with us, tonight. I'm glad you're here, to try and help us understand, what is in this man's head.

In your estimation, where is the line between what Jones actually believes, and what he thinks works, for his brand, his, like, sales pitch? Because, I mean, he's been using these trials basically as content.


I'm not going to sit here and claim to know what's in the man's head, because that would be a futile attempt.

But where's the line? I don't think there is a line. Jones has been doing this for decades. He is on the show, on the air, six days a week, and has been, for a long time. I think if you asked him that question, he wouldn't be able to answer where that line is. And ultimately, I don't know if it matters.

Because, what does it matter if Jones believes what he says? Because he has a giant audience that believes what he says. And they're willing to do, it seems, horrific things, based on what he says.

HUNT: It's really stunning. I mean, his show was kicked off almost all of the major internet platforms, and social media, basically, four years ago, or so. And we know, though, from his trial, in Texas, that InfoWars is now making more money, than it was, four years ago. I mean, how is that possible? How has he maintained the hold on this audience?

OWENS: Well, look, like I said, he's been doing this for decades. So, he may have been removed from social media, so it might be a little bit more difficult, for him, to get new listeners. But he has a devoted following.

So, I think, people found false comfort, in the fact that Jones was removed from social media. They kind of wipe their hands of it. They said "He's gone. So it's over." And I think we've seen in this trial, and we've seen, if anyone that's paying attention to him, has seen that he isn't going away. HUNT: So, what are the chances that he's actually going to have to - I mean, he is going to have to pay money, after this trial. I mean, is that going to actually change any of his behavior?

OWENS: Well, I don't know. I mean, he says, he's going to appeal everything. And he claims, he laughs on the show, and says he doesn't have money, so this is all pointless.

I don't know what the repercussions are of this. I think the value in this trial is for the families. I think that is what the discussion should be, because that's the most important thing going on.

People, I feel like people need to be using the name Alex Jones, much less than they need to be talking about Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, or Robbie and Alyssa Parker, or Francine Wheeler, because those are the people that I believe deserve the platform, right now.

HUNT: No. It's actually - it's a really, really good point. I mean, I covered the wake of Sandy Hook, on Capitol Hill, when those families were advocating, for changes, to our nation's gun laws. And I've never seen people, in more pain, than the faces, of those parents, as they went from office to office. So, I mean, thank you for that reminder.

And let's also talk though, I mean, Alex Jones' impact is bigger than just this. Obviously, this is this emotional and horrible situation. But there was also the Pizzagate conspiracy, and then there's January 6th.

I mean, in the case of Pizzagate, I mean, I - my family regularly eats at that small pizza joint that was threatened. It's in suburban Washington, D.C. Violence followed his rhetoric there. January 6th, you see the same thing.

What's the next threat?

OWENS: I am scared to guess what the next threat is. But Jones? Look, here's an example. So, I don't imagine that the CNN audience watches Alex Jones, on a daily basis, or maybe ever.

A lot of people's introduction to Jones is through, I don't know, some people think he's a comedian. Some people think that what he talks about is funny.

You have people talking about, just for example, Atrazine, or chemicals, turning the frogs, gay, and then people laugh at that, like, "Well, this is this crazy guy." But what's beneath that? I mean, Jones is openly anti-trans. Jones is openly anti-gay. Jones says "LGBTP." That "P" stands for pedophile.

So, you see what Jones' rhetoric has led to, as you've said, in Pizzagate, and then January 6th. So, there is real ramifications, to what Jones talks about. Regardless of how you view him, or what you think about him, it's important to pay attention to him. I just think it's less important to allow him to control the narrative.

HUNT: So, you obviously, I mean, you were inside this realm. But you actually decided that this narrative, you pulled yourself, out of the narrative. You disavowed him. I mean, how did that happen for you? And how do you do that for other people?

OWENS: Oh, it's such an important question. And I don't know, if I have the answer, for everyone.


But I know that I was lucky enough to be with my partner. Her name is Lacey. And I was lucky enough to be with someone, who was willing to push me, and stick by me, and forced me, to question things, and forced me to continue to look at my actions, while in that place.

So, I think that might be the most important thing, is for families, and loved ones, to have conversations with people. Because, unfortunately, it seems like most people know someone, who's kind of fallen down that rabbit hole, and they believe some pretty horrific, absurd things.

I don't know, if there's a silver bullet. But I have to believe that having conversations, and being compassionate, and leading with love, is the most valuable thing, you can do. And I'm not saying that that's going to fix everything. But I think it's going to take persistence. And I think we have to have some hope, in that. Otherwise, what else do we have?

HUNT: A really remarkable statement, from you, just there. Josh, really appreciate it. And remarkable that your partner Lacey, was able to do that for you as well. Thank you so much for your time tonight.

OWENS: Thanks for having me.

HUNT: All right, coming up next, here, new missile launches, from North Korea, reported in the past few hours, as the U.S. accuses Russia, and China, of enabling that testing.

We're going to get a threat assessment, from a retired U.S. Major General, just days after Japan warned its people, to take cover. That's next.



HUNT: New tonight, North Korea has launched two more short-range ballistic missiles, after test-firing a missile, over Japan, on Tuesday.

The U.S., and its allies, responding, earlier this week, with their own show of force, by launching fighter jets, for joint aerial exercises, with Japan, and by firing long-range rockets with South Korea. The military reminder comes along with an offer for talks.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We've made it clear to Kim Jong- un, we're willing to sit down, with no preconditions.


HUNT: Retired U.S. Army Major General "Spider" Marks joins me now.

General, thanks so much, for spending some time with us, tonight.


HUNT: What do you think this latest missile launch means?

MARKS: North Korea wants to remind everybody that they're still there, right? I don't mean to sound flippant, about the whole thing.

But the world has been focused on Ukraine, the world has been focused on Xi Jinping, clearly, Kim Jong-un's benefactor, and what Russia is achieving, in Ukraine, and how they're acting. So, the rule of autocrats has a broad canvas on which to play. And this is clearly what's happening.

Also, what we're seeing, is North Korea has not given up its desire, to marry up its missile technology, with its burgeoning nuclear technology. That's the big concern. And so, you look at these missile tests, and you say, "OK, I got it."

And the one we saw on Tuesday, is the first one, in five years that's flown over Japan. That's frightening, only because we don't know what the technology looks like. If I was in Japan, I'd run for cover as well.

And then, in response, to the deployment of the Ronald Reagan, Korea (ph) naval base, into the Singapore community (ph), and the exercises, the routine exercises that South Korea, and the United States, conduct, this reaction, by Kim Jong-un, and his actions, are not surprising.

HUNT: Yes. So, what is the message that the U.S. is trying to send, with? I mean, we just showed pictures of those exercises, they're doing, with the Japanese, and the South Koreans.

MARKS: North Korea needs to pay attention. The United States and South Korea have this incredibly vibrant alliance. Our relationship with Japan is increasingly strong. The militaries, in both South Korea, and Japan, are modernized, and are top-notch capabilities.

The United States is a very - has been forever a presence in that part of the world. And North Korea has continued, through its activities, to kind of try to ignore all that. And they want to make sure that they're recognized, and that they're noticed. Clearly, we have not forgotten about North Korea. This demonstrates that we won't forget about North Korea.

HUNT: Yes, no, clearly not. And here's actually what John Kirby, with the National Security Council, had to say, about the exercises. Take a look.


KIRBY: And this is not the first time we've done this, in response to provocations, by the North, to make sure that we can demonstrate our own capabilities, bilaterally, with the South Koreans, and with the Japanese.


HUNT: So, if these - this is the action, we take, in response, but we've still seen 23 tests conducted this year, that missile over Japan that you pointed out? Why has it not stopped them? Why is there no deterrence effect, it seems?

MARKS: Well, that's the key. That's the key question.

Look, what John Kirby indicated, is not just a response, by the United States, and its allies. These are routine activities that take place, as a matter of exercise and readiness deployments. I mean, this is what the United States, and our allies, do so very, very well. It happens to be the day after these this test, on Tuesday. So, this is routine activity.

But North Korea - I think, the key issue is the United States, and our allies, need to re-examine what the overall desired end state is, in terms of our relationship with the North. We are going to maintain a large presence. We have indicated, previous administrations have indicated that we are prepared to have open discussions, without conditions, going forward. And we need to continue to do that.

The North has demonstrated, quite surprisingly, that it's not going to implode. It's been like this for over 70 years. And that's the biggest concern, is an implosion. Everything just kind of collapses. And then you have 25 million North Koreans, heading to the south.

HUNT: Yes.

MARKS: I can guarantee you, they're not going to head to China. They're going to go towards South (ph). So, it's a fundamental rewriting of what the relationship needs to look like. There might be aid involved in that. There might be opening the doors that might have to take place.

HUNT: So quickly, sir, the U.S. today called for an emergency meeting, of the Security Council, the U.N. Security Council. And what are the chances that China and Russia agreed anything along those lines?


MARKS: Zero. Not going to happen. Look, the world's a great place, the world is a better place, with the U.N., than without the U.N. I'm just not saying whether anything's going to come out of that. We've gone down this path before. We need to continue to go down this path. We need to continue to talk, and to try to open the doors with North Korea.

HUNT: All right, General "Spider" Marks, thanks very much for insight tonight, sir.

MARKS: Thank you.

HUNT: We really appreciate your time. Yes.

MARKS: You bet. Thank you.

HUNT: Coming up next, Elon Musk suddenly ready to deal again, buying Twitter, maybe at the old price. Is he serious this time? And what would that mean, for the possible return, of @realDonaldTrump? That's next.


HUNT: In a major reversal, Elon Musk now says, he wants to buy Twitter, at full price, after all. According to a securities filing, on Tuesday, Musk told Twitter, he is willing to buy the company, at the original price, of $54.20 per share.

"The New York Times" is reporting tonight that before telling Twitter that his bid was back on the table, Musk tried to negotiate a discount, of as much as 30 percent. This comes, of course - I mean, don't we all want that on our, you know, like I go to the department store, I would really like 30 percent off!


Of course, after Musk waged a months-long battle, to get out of his $44 billion acquisition deal, which Twitter sued him to complete. That lawsuit was set to go to trial, in two weeks, and would have forced, the world's richest man, to sit down for a deposition, this week.

The potential deal is once again raising questions about changes that Musk could bring to the platform, including how misinformation is moderated. Musk has also said that he would do away with permanent account bans, which means Donald Trump could be returning to the platform.

Maria Cardona, Margaret Talev, and Doug Heye, are all back with me.

Margaret, let me start with you here. We know he's pretty mercurial about this. He seems to be trying to do everything he can to get out of it. And there doesn't really seem to be a way out. Is that what's going on here?

TALEV: Far be it for me to guess what's really going on here. But I think the fact that there's been so much focus on keep the lawsuit going, until he closes the deal, tells you that nobody really knows what to trust, or what to believe.

But let's say that this happens for the sake of the panel conversation. Obviously, for most Americans, why does it matter? It could have profound implications, for the future of the First Amendment, the future of free speech, the future of political disinformation, the future of Donald Trump, as you mentioned, but the future of future politicians, who we don't know yet, who we haven't even imagined yet.

Social media has such a powerful ability to reach. And even though it is a fraction of the American readership and the American public? Most people do not read and engage on Twitter.

HUNT: Right.

TALEV: The people, who do can inject into the bloodstream of American culture--


TALEV: --fundraising, voting, donations, behavior, voting, elections, the conversation, it has a profound influence, even though it really only represents a slice of the population.

And when you look at the fact that SpaceX just launched a rocket, with a Russian cosmonaut, into space? And this nonsense is going on, about does he mean it, is he going to close the deal or not? You realize how incredibly rich, and powerful, and ever-present, Elon Musk is, in everything that we see and do, in the present, in the future. And that's why this is so important.

HEYE: Is that why he's often compared to a Bond villain? On the 60th anniversary of James Bond, is that why?

CARDONA: That's why, space.

HUNT: Yes. No. I mean, there's a lot there. I mean, look, so we can show you guys, this - there's this text message that I actually think gets at a lot of the threads you were pulling on there.

And this came out because of this lawsuit. And part of what I'm interested to know is, did some of this information that poured out, is that part of the reason why Elon Musk wants this all to stop?

This text with Joe Rogan, the podcast host, April 4th, he says, Rogan, "Are you going to liberate Twitter from the censorship happy mob?" Musk says, "I will provide advice, which they may or may not choose to follow."

I mean, Doug Heye, what do you take from that? I mean, there are a lot of Republicans--

HEYE: Yes.

HUNT: --even Establishment Republicans, who've been very frustrated with how some of these social media platforms have handled questions around speech, beyond Donald Trump. I mean, is there anything to this? I mean, what would this look like?

HEYE: Well, that's an answer that is also a non-answer that can be a total answer, depending on, how big a relationship is.

HUNT: Doesn't really say much of anything.

CARDONA: What he feels.

HEYE: And says nothing and everything potentially.

Look, for Republicans, battling these tech companies, has been a real shift from where they were 10 years, 15 years ago. I'm old enough to remember going to Google with Eric Cantor. Kevin McCarthy, who may be the next speaker, was a big proponent of Google, and wearing the Google Glasses, and things like that. This is something that really speaks to the base.

And one of the things that I think a lot of people don't understand about Washington, sometimes, is that solving the problem isn't necessarily what you want to do. You want to continue to show that you're trying to solve the problem, because you can raise money from that, you can demonstrate that you're fighting, even though you haven't solved the problem that you're working so hard to do.

HUNT: Cynical, but true.

HEYE: Yes.

HUNT: Yes. No, that's absolutely right.

CARDONA: It's potentially terrifying. If what he says he's going to do, is what he's going to do, he's going to do away with permanent bans, which to me says that he is not really going to take seriously, people who go on there, and perpetuate misinformation and disinformation. And we know just how hurtful that has been, not just to politics, but to American society, to civil society, to civility itself.

And look, as an American, I shudder at the fact that Donald Trump might be back on Twitter. Because then what, you know, like you said, it's not the real world. But it drives so much of what the real world headlines are.

It certainly drives political discourse. And so, are we going to continue to wake up, if Donald Trump is on Twitter, wondering what kind of crazy stuff he has tweeted that day?

HUNT: Well, so here's one thing I just will say. I mean, he is still a huge part, Margaret, of our national conversation, regardless of the fact--

TALEV: We're talking about Elon Musk or Donald Trump?


HUNT: Donald Trump - Donald Trump, let's stick with Donald Trump, right? I mean, he has continually come up throughout this midterm cycle. What, in your view, is the impact of not having, him, on Twitter? How much has that hurt his ability to shape the narrative and the things we're talking about?

TALEV: Well we're talking about him right now, so, right? I mean, look, as long as he continues to be a central topic of conversation, in the media, and as long as, through his fundraising, or the candidates that he promotes, he is able to be winning for the Republican Party? He will maintain a very prominent role.

The midterms are a test of that. His continuing fundraising prowess is a test of that. Whether he gets back on Twitter or not, I suppose, could be meaningful. But it's not like everyone stopped talking about Donald Trump.

HUNT: Yes.

TALEV: I do think that in terms of American democracy, what happens in social media - look, free speech, and the health of American democracy are inextricably tied together. And we don't know exactly what the impact of Musk could be, but it will have implications for democracy.

HUNT: It certainly will.

All right, Maria Cardona, Margaret Talev, Doug Heye, thank you all for being with us, tonight. We really appreciate it.

We will be right back.


HUNT: Thank you so much, for joining us, tonight.

Don't go anywhere, because "DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.

Hey, Don?