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Carlson Fired At Fox A Week After Historic Settlement Over Lies; The Age And "Ageism" Factor As Biden Gets Ready To Announce 2024 Bid; Fulton County D.A.: Trump Case Decision Coming This Summer. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 24, 2023 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Two incidents from different American Airlines planes, frightened passengers.

On Sunday, a bird strike, led to engine failure, and flames being spotted, by passengers and crew. The pilot issued a Mayday-call, safely returned to the airport, in Columbus, Ohio. The flames, from the engine, were even spotted, by a jogger, on the ground, who took this video.

Last Thursday, flames were spotted, on another American flight that never took off, from Charlotte, North Carolina.

The FAA is investigating both incidents.

That's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand over to "CNN PRIMETIME" with Michael Smerconish.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you.

Tuckered out.

I'm Michael Smerconish, from New York City, tonight.

It's been a chaotic day, for the media. Sources say former NBC Universal chief, Jeff Shell, accused of sexual harassment, by a CNBC anchor. Don Lemon and CNN parting ways. Disney laying off more workers. But though, a stunning headline, today, Tucker Carlson is out at Fox News.

These stories, these networks, are all very different situations. But in terms of Fox, reports show the ouster could be, for a variety of reasons. Carlson disparaged network leadership, in text messages. He's accused of a hostile and sexist work environment. He continued to downplay January 6, and play up conspiracy theories, about the attack.

But while the Network's official statement today explain very little, it's unlikely coincidental that the departure comes so close, to the record-setting $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems. If so, that litigation did something that no boycott ever achieved. It removed from the most popular cable outlet, its most watched talent.

That means the civil justice system worked, in a remediated way, just as it has, for other products that posed harm to society. Here though, it wasn't flammable pajamas, or lawn darts or ATVs, but a false portrayal of the 2020 election. The texts, emails, sworn deposition testimony, everything that came into the public domain would be none the wiser, without the litigation.

While it's true that only one of the 20 allegedly defamatory comments, in the Dominion suit, came from Carlson's program, he knew the truth, and he remained silent. And that's why he was scheduled to be one of the first witnesses, called by Dominion, at trial.

Privately, he said the election theories broadcast on Fox were "Insane." Said the whole thing was "Infuriating."

A few days after the election, November 8, 2020, he sent a text, and referenced Sidney Powell's Dominion claims, by saying, quote, "The software shit is absurd."

But the next night, on air, he said this.


TUCKER CARLSON, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, WRITER: We don't know anything about the software that many say was rigged. We don't know. We ought to find out.


SMERCONISH: But he did know.

And Carlson's silence is not the worst of Fox hosts' behavior. No, that award probably goes to Maria Bartiromo.

On Saturday morning, November 7, 2020, the presidential election was finally called, for Joe Biden. That night, an artist, in Minnesota, with no election expertise, sent an email, to Sidney Powell, a conspiratorial lawyer, associated with Donald Trump, and others, the so-called "Wackadoodle" email.

It spewed all kinds of false claims, about Dominion's equipment, in multiple States. There's then reference to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, having been murdered, at the Bohemian Grove retreat.

After citing a scene, from a movie, called "Thunderheart," in which a Native American Sheriff advises to "Listen to the wind," the author of the email writes, "The Wind tells me I'm a ghost, but I don't believe it. Although, it appears that I was shot in the back shortly after submitting a tip to the FBI two years ago... at the time, I thought I just tripped and fell."

You think the contents of the email would have sent it straight to the Delete file! Instead, it garnered a television appearance, the very next day. On Sunday, Sidney Powell was on air, with Fox News' Maria Bartiromo, repeating some of its accusations, about election fraud, contained in the email. It was the first of a dozen appearances that Powell would make, on the network, over the next month.

Privately, Carlson called Sidney Powell, a liar, texting Laura Ingraham, "Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It's insane." Bartiromo put her on the air, which raises a question why is she still there, if he was fired?

Look, whether any of the stunning revelations, from the Dominion suit, are now known, to Fox viewers? That's an open question.

As "The New York Times" pointed out, on the day, the Dominion case was settled for a record amount, it led many major news outlets, but it was hardly mentioned on Fox.


Quote, "The $787.5 million settlement was covered only three times by Fox News in about four hours after the settlement became public, amounting to about six minutes of coverage. For most of the day, including during the network's prime-time shows, hosts appeared to be focusing on other issues, like illegal immigration, and COVID-19's possible origins."

While Dominion was not able to extract an on-air apology, from Fox News, it seems obvious that the network could no longer keep Carlson, on the payroll, because of this case, and apparently other unrelated reasons. Hopefully, it means the network wishes to reestablish itself as an outlet for journalism and not entertainment.

Of course, there's another reason that might have contributed to Carlson's ouster. There remains additional litigation, against Fox, for its post-election coverage, namely the Smartmatic suit.

It's unclear whether Fox's seemingly remediated conduct, in parting with Carlson, would be admissible, in any other litigation. But you'd think jurors would learn of it. And this move will surely send a message, to other on-air talent, at Fox that if a host, who led the ratings, if he was expendable, then so too was everybody else.

But how will it impact the world outside of Fox, the political universe, and our democracy, as a whole, if one of the loudest megaphones, has been taken away, from one of the biggest barkers of disinformation? That remains to be seen.

My first guest is former CNN Washington Bureau Chief. He's now Director of Strategic Initiatives at George Washington University School of Media & Public Affairs. When it comes to Fox, he was one of the experts, scheduled to testify, at the Dominion trial.

Professor Frank Sesno, thank you for joining me.


SMERCONISH: So, what would have been the crux, of your testimony, had that trial moved forward?

SESNO: The crux of my testimony is that Fox strayed so far, from anything, resembling journalism, anything resembling, responsible reporting, media behavior, anything, resembling the truth, that it was unrecognizable, that it was egregious.

And while they didn't go to a jury trial, and a jury didn't come back and proclaim them guilty, 757 -- or what the settlement, $787.5 million, to me, spells guilty.

SMERCONISH: So, I know a little something about the way these cases work.

I presume, you would have written a report, would have submitted that, offered an opinion, within an expert degree of certainty?

SESNO: Correct. I was deposed. I wrote an expert report. I had reviewed depositions, and the evidence. And my conclusion was just what I told you now. I can't speak about anything that hasn't been made public. But a lot has, as you just demonstrated.

Fox deliberately, and over a prolonged period of time, ignored facts, ignored fact-checks, ignored statements, from Trump administration officials, themselves, to continue to promote over a two-month period, and beyond, into January actually, in some cases, these conspiracy theories, around the election, broadly, and around Dominion, specifically.

SMERCONISH: Privately though, the well-known hosts, they knew?

SESNO: Privately, the well-known hosts, Sean Hannity, said, "I didn't believe this for a second."

Tucker Carlson trashed it, both privately, and on the 19th of November 2020, when he said, "Sidney Powell, where's your evidence? You keep talking about this? Where's your evidence?"

Their own fact-checking organization, the Brain Room, they called it, came back and said, "Uh-huh, we can't find this anywhere."

The Attorney General, the Cybersecurity agency of President Trump's own Department of Homeland Security, which said this is the most secure election that we've had in American history.

None of that will you see reflected on any of those accused broadcasts. It's the most extraordinary thing, I have seen, in 40 years of journalism.

SMERCONISH: And, as you well know, it's an awfully high bar, to meet the actual malice standard.

SESNO: The actual -- right, exactly. But it was met here, because there was a willful disregard of the truth, as we have seen. And, I think, unfortunately, what Fox did is they feared their audience, and they pandered to their audience, rather than saying to their audience, respectfully, "This is what has happened. This is the truth. This is what we know."

It started on Election Night, and in the days immediately after, for example, when Fox called Arizona, and then they put the kibosh, on calling Nevada, and subsequent States, until other networks went, and Pennsylvania went, so that they wouldn't be the first to say that Donald Trump had lost. That's how fearful they were, of their audience reaction, which they were getting.

SMERCONISH: So, Tucker Carlson, fired, today. I think I can say it that way. What role did he play, big picture, in that what you're describing?

SESNO: A big picture, he played a role. First of all, he promoted a lot of conspiracy theories, broadly. He did push back on the Sidney Powell thing, which is something I also would have talked about, at trial, because that is something that other hosts, should have on- boarded.


But, as late as January 26, after the inaugural -- after January 6, you had Mike Lindell, "My Pillow," on. And when he raised the Dominion thing, he didn't push back at all. That's something else, Michael that I would have talked about, and wanted to.

What you do, as a host, here? You should push back on me. You challenge me, "How do you know? Where does this come from?"

There was none of that from any of the Fox hosts. They were so invested, in this storyline, even though they knew that it was not true. And they had their own doubts. Several of them anyway, expressed that privately. And still, it went on.

And the harm they did, to their audience, to the country, to the folks, at Dominion, who took incredible abuse and threats, as a result of this, is what that trial would have been all about.

SMERCONISH: Well, as you well know, there's a lot of whataboutism, it's playing itself out today that in social media, they're saying to me, "Well, when are you going to talk about another termination, or departure, that took place today?"

This one was for the sake of the country. For this one, democracy was on the line. Am I overstating it?

SESNO: No, I don't think so. I mean, you're talking about Don Lemon, and others. And whatever happened there happened there. And that is something that you should look at. And it's worthy of attention too, because it's all about accountability, in the end.

But what happened at Fox is in a league of its own. One of the things I would have talked about, had I testified is I would have talked about journalistic standards. Yes, there are journalistic standards. You don't have to pass a test, to be a journalist. Anybody can do that.

But the Society of Professional Journalists talks about certain basic core values, practices, and standards. And those are reflected in virtually every major news organization that has a Standards and Practices Guide, CNN included. Fox doesn't have one.


SESNO: None. Nothing in writing.

SMERCONISH: I remember the ouster of Roger Ailes. I remember the ouster of Bill O'Reilly. And people speculated as to "What would be the future of the network?" Well, The Five, Tucker Carlson, they've all done just fine.

Do you expect the network will do just fine? And what of Tucker Carlson's future?

SESNO: Those are really big questions. And we don't know.

Megyn Kelly, and Bill O'Reilly, and Glenn Beck, came out of Fox, and they lost that megaphone, and they have not replaced that. They're still around. They're still a presence. And Fox is a great launch pad, for these folks.

And Tucker Carlson has been around for a long time. He worked at this network. He worked at lot of other networks. He will reinvent himself. There's talk, he could run for president. He's not done yet, by any means that he's got a very strong base, on the right. There's no doubt about that. But it's a different world for him, now.

What happens to Fox? Big question. Wouldn't it be nice, if Fox now, as part of this, nearly -- no, more than three quarters of a billion dollar settlement is having to look in the mirror, and say, "What are we -- what are we all about?" And can they trim their sails a little bit into their own audience thinking--

SMERCONISH: I can't imagine that this is the end of it.

SESNO: It's not the end. Not the end.

SMERCONISH: I can't imagine this is the end of it.

SESNO: It's worked too well. They've made too much money.

SMERCONISH: Professor Frank Sesno, thank you so much, really appreciate--

SESNO: It's a pleasure.

SMERCONISH: --appreciate your time.

SESNO: Pleasure. SMERCONISH: By the way, I want to hear what you think, about all of this. Hit me up, on social media. I'm easily found, and I will read some of your takes, a little bit later, this hour.

Many Americans, they don't want to see a Biden-Trump rematch, in 2024. Both would be octogenarians, during a second term. So how old is too old in politics? That's next.



SMERCONISH: 57, 65, 56, 75. Not playing Bingo! Those are the mandatory retirement ages, for national park rangers, commercial pilots, air traffic controllers, and Florida Supreme Court justices.

Now, here's another number, 35. That's right. It's the only age requirement, for President of the United States, is that he or she would be at least 35-years-old.

Former President Trump is now 76. If he runs and wins another term, he'd be 78-years-old, at his inauguration, in 2025, and 82, at the end of a second term.

Tomorrow, President Biden expected to formally announce his candidacy. President Biden turned 80, in November. If he runs and wins another term, he'd be 82-years-old, at his inauguration, in 2025, 86, at the end of a second term. Two editorials, this past weekend, addressed his challenges.

The first was the "Wall Street Journal." They said this. "Asking the country to elect a man who is 80-years-old and whose second term would end when he is 86 is a risky act that borders on selfish. It's impossible to know Mr. Biden's real physical and mental" health "because the White House goes to great lengths to hide it. But his decline is clear to anyone who isn't willfully blind. He rarely holds a press conference, and his words are as scripted as possible to avoid embarrassing stumbles that he nonetheless continues to make."

You're saying "OK, that's from the Right."

But this is the "New York Times." The "New York Times" said this. "His most recent health summary, released on February 16, said much the same thing, describing him as a 'healthy, vigorous 80-year-old male who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency.' But his cognitive abilities went unmentioned." And "That's something he should discuss publicly and also demonstrate to the voters, who expect the president to reflect the nation's strength."

Joining me now is Jeff Greenfield. He's a five-time Emmy award-winning journalist, and columnist, for POLITICO.

Jeff, the polling on this issue is pretty stunning. I'm looking at NBC data. I'm going to put it on the screen. I'll read it to you. 70 percent of Americans say, "Don't run, Mr. President." 51 percent of Democrats, Democratic primary voters don't think he should run. And U.S. adults, who oppose Biden's run, say age, 48 percent, is a major reason.

How much of an impediment is this for the incumbent?

JEFF GREENFIELD, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST & VETERAN POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, POLITICO COLUMNIST: It's an impediment. How big an impediment it is, is largely on the shoulders of Joe Biden.

There is no question that one of the significant liabilities, he has, is the first digit of his age. We have never nominated or elected anyone that old. And it should be remembered, back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan's age was considered a real problem? He was 69.

So yes, people are going to -- going to worry about that. And I think people close to him, in age, and I will confess, I am close, know that when you are getting on to 80, there are certain inevitable declines.


Now, whether Joe Biden has a stiff gait, which his doctor talked about, and we can see, that'll be on the screen every day. The biggest problem for Joe Biden is a normal kind of physical stumble, the kind of thing that happen to almost every president, at one point or another, will be magnified, geometrically, because of his age.

Contrary was, if he can perform, on the campaign trail, the way he did at the State of the Union, when he was vigorous, when he was jousting, with the Republicans, when he was having a good time, when he seemed to be in control? I think he can -- I think he can diminish the power.

But there's absolutely no question, and you can talk to people, who are ardent Democrats, ardent Biden fans, this is a specter that is hanging over the campaign.

SMERCONISH: Do you think this is the reason, this concern that the announcement, tomorrow, instead of being in front of a robust audience, is going to be by videotape?

GREENFIELD: All through 2020, and the Pandemic was the principal reason, for that, there was a virtual campaign.

But, I think, as you get into a campaign season, that's not going to fly. He is going to have to be out there, mingling with crowds, speaking at places that gin up enthusiasm, to demonstrate that he has the vigor needed to be president.

Now, look, some of this is superficial. A president doesn't really have to run the 100-yard dash in 12 seconds. The job is essentially sedentary. What's upstairs is way more important. We've -- and there are plenty of examples that Biden supporters will cite, of people, up in years, who did all kinds of things.

SMERCONISH: I think that's fair. And I know they will.

GREENFIELD: From writing plays to governing nations.

SMERCONISH: Let me shift your attention. You wrote this great POLITICO piece, explaining the real reason that Trump seems to have such a strong lock on the nomination.


SMERCONISH: What's the short version?

GREENFIELD: He's President, in the eyes of the Republican Party.

It's something that struck me. We're so focused on the other worldliness of Donald Trump, the sheer outrageousness, of the norms he violated that we never, or I've rarely, paused to think of it in conventional terms.

Donald Trump is the first ex-president, who wants to beat the man, who beat him, since Grover Cleveland took the title back from Benjamin Harrison, in 1892. There is no one alive, in this country who has ever seen an ex-President, trying to get his job back. And, for Republicans, it's not just that he was President. A majority of Republicans believe he was legitimately elected that the election was stolen.

One of the things that struck me, Michael, is ex-presidents rarely run for office, because when they lose, they lose. William Howard Taft finished third. Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, even George H.W. Bush lost substantially. Only Gerald Ford lost close.

In Trump's case, Republicans think well, he was -- it was stolen from him. And he came within 44,000 votes, in three States, of an effect, winning the Electoral College.

SMERCONISH: But you watch those rallies, and you hear him--

GREENFIELD: So, when you're looking--

SMERCONISH: --repeat, in this cycle, that the election was stolen? I, for one, listen to it, and I think, "Why hasn't he moved on from that? That dog won't hunt."

But your explanation is that he's preaching to an audience that totally buy into it?

GREENFIELD: And feels that he was robbed of the presidency.

It's interesting that when you look at surveys? And you know how I feel about them. They sometimes have the half-life of week-old fish, left in the sun.

But still, Trump's approval rating, across the board, is underwater. It's under 30 percent. Among Republicans, it's 80 percent. And something like almost that percentage of Republicans don't want the other people to talk negatively about Trump. So, he's in a position, almost of being an incumbent.

And one of the points worth mentioning, and remembering, is political parties don't dump incumbent presidents. I mean, even Herbert Hoover got the re-nomination.


GREENFIELD: You have to go back to Chester Arthur.

SMERCONISH: You're offering--

GREENFIELD: So it's something to keep in mind.

SMERCONISH: You're offering an explanation, as to why he has such a commanding lead, over Ron DeSantis, despite the perception of DeSantis being such a breath of the future, among Republicans.

Hey, Jeff, always appreciate your expertise. Thank you so much, for being here. I encourage everybody to read that piece at POLITICO.

GREENFIELD: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

SMERCONISH: For more on this topic, check out my website, While you're there, make sure you register, for the free daily newsletter.

Imminent apparently means sometime this summer? The letter that appears to start the clock, on what could be the most serious, of all of Donald Trump's looming legal problems, that's next.



SMERCONISH: Donald Trump goes on trial, in a matter of hours. And it's not his only legal problem, tonight.

We now have a specific window, for when the District Attorney, in Atlanta, plans to announce, whether she'll bring charges, against the former President. It'll happen between July 11 and September 1, according to Fulton County D.A., Fani Willis' letter, to local Law Enforcement. That case, of course, is focused on Trump's effort, to overturn the 2020 election results, in Georgia.

This, as we're just hours away, from the start of a civil trial, involving the Republican frontrunner, for the 2024 nomination. Former magazine columnist, E. Jean Carroll, says Trump raped her, in a department store dressing room, in the mid-1990s. She's suing him, for battery and defamation.

Trump, for his part, denies any wrongdoing.

CNN Legal Analyst, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, joins us. She's a former Chief Assistant District Attorney, in the Manhattan D.A.'s office.

Karen, thank you for being here.

If it happened in the mid-90s, why are we talking about it now?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER CHIEF ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MANHATTAN D.A.'S OFFICE: We're talking about it now, because the statute of limitations has run, on any criminal or civil case, from the mid-90s.

But New York created this Adult Survivors Justice Act, which is a one- year window, where adults, no matter when it happened, can civilly sue their rapist. And so, it was November 24, 2022, to November 24, 2023. I think this was the very first case that was filed, under that new law. So, that's why we're doing that now. We have this one-year window.


SMERCONISH: Am I right that technically speaking the former President does not need to be in that courtroom to defend himself, but practically speaking, might be a different answer?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Yes, it's really interesting. There's a big difference between criminal cases and civil cases.

In civil cases, he doesn't have to be here. He doesn't have to attend. Sometimes, it can be strategic. There's various reasons why a defendant, in a civil matter, might not attend a case.

He tried to couch it in terms of safety, or security, or logistics. But that really, as we saw, how when he came in recently, very easily, to sit for a long deposition, with Letitia James, the New York Attorney General, we barely heard about it, him coming in or leaving. So, there would be no problem, with him, attending his trial, if he really wanted to.

SMERCONISH: Let me shift your attention to Fulton County. You heard the setup. There's now a timeline. Why is this taking so long?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: There could be many reasons.

I would speculate that she has a big sweeping RICO, which is like a racketeering organized crime type case coming. If you remember, she's an expert, in that type of case. That's what she specializes in. And I think she needs some time, to develop that type of case. There's lots of evidence, lots of witnesses. And I think she's putting this together, in a methodical, big, sweeping way.

This isn't a small discrete case, like the hush-money Stormy Daniels case that Alvin Bragg brought. That's a very discrete case, with just falsifying business records. I think this is going to be lots of people, lots of charges, lots of facts. I think we're going to see a big indictment, coming, this summer.

SMERCONISH: Quick answer, if you're able. Do you think a consideration, for Fani Willis, is the bump that Alvin Bragg's indictment of Donald Trump brought to him, politically?

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: I do not. Prosecutors don't think about politics. They really don't. They think about justice.

SMERCONISH: Karen Friedman Agnifilo, thank you so much, for being here. We appreciate it.

FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO: Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: Next, a shakeup, at Bud Light, after the company's partnership, with a transgender activist.

Bomani Jones is here live, with the backlash, and the boycott.



SMERCONISH: Tonight, at least two Anheuser-Busch marketing executives, now on leave, after a partnership, between the company, and transgender influencer and activist, Dylan Mulvaney, sparked weeks of right-wing criticism, and calls for boycott.

Singer Kid Rock took it one step further, posting this video, online.


DYLAN MULVANEY, TIKTOK PERSONALITY: It turns out it has something to do with sport.

KID ROCK, SINGER-SONGWRITER: Let me say something to all of you and be as clear and concise as possible.



SMERCONISH: Yes, it's him, shooting cans of beer, with his MAGA hat, and an automatic rifle.

Joining me now is Bomani Jones, the Host of "Game Theory with Bomani Jones," which is now streaming Season Two, on HBO Max.

I wonder if the critics of this understand that we're never going to sell Dylan Mulvaney cans of beer, like you couldn't walk into your package store, and say, "Hey, give me a six of that." It was just a sort of tip of the hat to an influencer.

BOMANI JONES, HOST, HBO/HBO MAX'S "GAME THEORY WITH BOMANI JONES," HOST, "THE RIGHT TIME WITH BOMANI JONES" PODCAST: Yes, I mean, that assumes a sincerity, in the actions, of those people that I'm not really willing to assume, is the case with them.

I do think though, this is an interesting play from Bud Light. Because typically a company like that, like we think about them advertising at sporting events, where the whole game is, "Whatever you do, just don't offend anybody."

And this was something that was guaranteed to offend somebody. We're not talking about the right or wrong of it, right now. That was a guaranteed outcome of this. Somebody was going to be mad. And they did it anyway, which I think is part of what made this so surprising that they did it in the first place. SMERCONISH: I think there was a mistake, made by the Vice President of Marketing, whose name I can never pronounce. So, I just won't say it. The mistake was not putting Dylan Mulvaney, on cans of beer. The mistake was in then doing an interview, and saying we need to change our fratty culture.

Why would you ever alienate your own base? I see it in political terms. That to me was the mistake here?

JONES: Well, it all depends on how you look at it. Because I do think that one thing that Bud Light has seen is that with younger millennials and Gen Z, they don't really buy Bud Light like that.

How exactly is it that you attract this audience, as your base begins to age a little bit, and you've got new-of-age drinkers? How do you get them to drink Bud Light? This seems to have been an approach to that.

And I wonder if the question becomes part of it being do people that are a bit older at these companies know how to reach the youth, and how exactly to use social media, and just the idea that you see somebody that has a big audience, and you say, "Hey, I want to go in that direction."

But my other question on this, which is just really important is what exactly were they going for here? Because typically, when a company makes a move, like this, it's because they're trying to not make the point that we're moving away, from our fratty culture, but specifically they are aligning themselves as being allied with a particular community. That doesn't seem to be what they were willing to do on this one.

Because if Kid Rock goes and shoots his stuff up, with an assault rifle? That's what you expect from something like that. And you're happy about it.

SMERCONISH: Right, but the--

JONES: Because you have accomplished your goal, typically, when you make a statement like that.

They seem to think that this was just marketing. And that seems to be a bit naive.

SMERCONISH: But the stock tanked, right? I mean, to the extent this was a millennial pitch, like, "Hey, let's woo some new drinkers, of our beer," they got hammered for it.

JONES: Well--

SMERCONISH: So, where was the mistake?

JONES: Well, correlation-causation, right? The stock tanked. Do we know why the stock tanked? Not exactly.

SMERCONISH: Bomani? JONES: No, no, no. But you're--

SMERCONISH: Bomani, come on!

JONES: And I say this though.

SMERCONISH: It's a hell of a coincidence.

JONES: It's a hell of a coincidence. But I cover sports. We had the same discussion around Colin Kaepernick, right? When that came up as a--


JONES: The ratings go down, in 2016, as things are going on with Colin Kaepernick. But ratings also typically went down, during presidential election years, right? We know this one thing happened. This other thing happened after it. Do you know they happened directly? That's a bit more sophisticated than I think--


JONES: --that we can say, right now.

SMERCONISH: But do you have a presidential election like alternative cause, for why Anheuser-Busch stock would have tanked, in the midst of all of this? Like, I hear you, OK, people are, spending a lot of time now, focused on the campaign--


SMERCONISH: --and not so much on the NFL.

But I can't think of anything else that would explain it in this case.

JONES: No, I don't have the explanation. I also admit I haven't spent enough time, trying to figure out what else could be causing it, to come with an answer, right? Like, that's the easiest answer to get to.


JONES: And I don't blame people for doing that.


But I'd also make the argument, the fluctuations that you have, on stock prices, from time to time, this could happen at any point, and it could go away, if they had decided they were going to let this go away.

The only rationale, to me, for making the decision, to put these people on leave, is because, typically, companies do not want to get their advertising caught up in something that is controversial that if that person could not foresee controversy, in this, then maybe you're not the person that needs to do this job. But I also think, at some point, companies, and everybody else, when people behave ridiculously, in response to something you've done that you find to be reasonable? You got to ignore the ridiculous people, at some point. It's just tricky, with a corporation, because all they care about is dollars and cents. It is not that easy for people to just ignore.

SMERCONISH: Why does this light such a fuse, with some people? Why is antagonizing, demeaning, going after the trans community, working people into a lather, where Kid Rock is firing his assault rifle at beer cans?

JONES: I think that that portion of our population epitomizes otherness. It is the easiest thing for a lot of people to get behind, A, because I think a lot of people are generally confused, and don't understand what's going on.

But it's the easiest thing for them to point to, is somebody else that is not like them, and is the problem, like we see in the bills going around, about sports, even though the number of trans athletes that even come up for these bills, and actual application, is so low, but it's so easy to galvanize people--

SMERCONISH: Right. I think that--

JONES: --around the idea they're others.

SMERCONISH: By the way, I think that's a legitimate debate. I think it's a very legitimate debate, to -- I'm for fairness and inclusion. But sometimes, both are not possible.

JONES: Yes. It is a--

SMERCONISH: You get the final thought.

JONES: Yes, it's a fair hypothesis. And then, when you talk to people, informed on these issues, it takes like three minutes before you'd realize this isn't -- there's no there-there, to the fight, about trans athletes. It is just easy for people to galvanize hate around them, and to ignore the fact that these are the most--

SMERCONISH: I don't agree (ph) Bomani.


SMERCONISH: My silence cannot be deemed as acceptance. If you're a cis-male, and you're a mediocre swimmer? And now, you're a transgendered female?

JONES: Right.

SMERCONISH: And you are kicking butt and taking names? Something is not right.

JONES: What I'm saying is this. In Kentucky, they went to push a bill, to stop trans athletes that involved literally one person. It was the weight of the State against a 12-year-old girl. There is no there- there.

SMERCONISH: I think we solved everything!

JONES: I try!

SMERCONISH: Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Bomani Jones.

The NFL lowers the boom, on five players, for breaking league rules, on gambling. It's a practice it condemns, on one hand, while promoting, on the other.

I'll ask Bob Costas about this dangerous balancing act. That's next.



SMERCONISH: A new twist, tonight, in American gambling, an industry that's experienced a sea change, over the past several years. The NFL suspending five players, for violating the league's gambling policy. Three were banned, for the entirety, of the 2023 season, while two others will sit out for six games.

It was a stunning announcement, at a time, when the NFL is walking a fine line. It promotes gambling, through its partnerships, with sports betting companies, yet, punishing players, for partaking in it.

I'm joined now by sports broadcasting legend, Bob Costas.

Tell me about Blinky (ph), and Three-Finger (ph).

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, you start with that! Yes, Blinky (ph), and Three-Finger (ph) were bookies that my dad bet with, in the 1950s and the 1960s. So, I have a little bit of knowledge, about gambling, at least old-school Runyonesque gambling, which is part of the reason why I won't read any of the promos, on the Major League Baseball network, or on TBS.


COSTAS: And they've been kind enough not to force me to do so.

SMERCONISH: And, on a good day, in the back of the what, Buick Skylark, he would take you to Coney Island, and go to Nathan's?

COSTAS: Well, there was a time, when he had a real winning streak, going in, 1966, an improbable winning streak. And we met not Blinky (ph), or Three-Finger (ph).

The guy's name was Al (ph). But we met him at a donut shop, in Brooklyn. And he said "That your boy? Nice boy! Give the kid a glass of milk and a doughnut," which was very kind of him. And then he slid a paper bag, across the counter.

And then, we went out to the car, Buick Skylark, and my dad counted out $14,000, in $100 bills, in 1966.

SMERCONISH: Big score!

COSTAS: Yes. We bought our house. I didn't buy it. He bought it, for $19,000, on the G.I. Bill. So, that was a lot of money, yes.

SMERCONISH: So, this story, the five, who were suspended, tip of the iceberg?

COSTAS: Well, potentially, because not just the NFL, all leagues are in the same boat. Once the Supreme Court decision came down, in 2018, the pot of gold was just too big, to resist.

So, the leagues are in on it, baseball, basketball, the NHL, also colleges, which is even more sketchy, because while you can't gamble, until you're 21, there are college students, surrounded by these exhortations, to gamble.

And all these promos make it seem as if "Hey, isn't this fun? Won't -- it'll be great. The first 200 bucks is free," which is kind of a version of a pusher, in an alley. "Hey, kid, the first one's free."

People need to understand this, if they don't already. If as a group, and over time, gamblers didn't lose way more than they win? Then, there would never have been a Nathan Detroit floating crap game. There'd be no casinos. There'd be no racetracks. There'd be no DraftKings. There'd be no BetMGM.

And one of the things that's happening now is that the "Come on" is for parlay bets, because a parlay bet, while enticing, and if you hit it, it's where you combine more than one outcome.

SMERCONISH: Sure, yes.

COSTAS: If you hit it, you're going to make more money. But the chance of losing it is much greater.

So, generally speaking, on a single bet, the betting operation, DraftKings, whatever it might be, making about $0.05, $0.06 per bet. But per parlay bet, about $0.37.

SMERCONISH: I've noticed--

COSTAS: So, they're trying to draw you into parlay bets.

SMERCONISH: I've noticed that there's a line on anything.

COSTAS: Yes. And when people say, with some justification, "Athletes make so much money now. This isn't the 1919 Black Sox, and Charles Comiskey was a penny-pincher, and they weren't getting paid what they were worth. And so, they were vulnerable to gamblers, trying to entice them. They make so much money now, that won't happen?" Maybe that's true of a pro-athlete, or even a star college athlete, now that Name, Image and Likeness allows them to cash in.


But you can get a line on, and I don't mean to cast aspersions on them, but you can get a line on Troy State versus Bowling Green. You can get a line, on a women's game, someplace, that is not that much, in the spotlight. You can get a line, on a volleyball game, for all I know. So, those people are potentially vulnerable.

And, only recently, Tim Donaghy, an NBA ref--


COSTAS: --who was sharing inside information, and betting on games, he officiated? An FBI investigation sent him to prison. So, referees, in the NBA make, I don't know, 250 grand a year?

SMERCONISH: Know that case well.

COSTAS: Whatever it might be? But not so much that they could not in theory, be enticed, which is why every league says, "Yes, we're going to cash in. But you cannot bet on any games, involving our sport, not just against your own team to lose," which is obviously worse, and might get you banned for life. "But you can't bet, if you're a football player, you can't bet on the NFL at all."

SMERCONISH: I remember, Donaghy. I think my memory is accurate about this, that he never threw any game. Yes, he had insight. He had knowledge. And he was acting, based on that knowledge.

Here's what I want to ask, Bob Costas. This whole conversation?


SMERCONISH: And this story of these five NFL players? Isn't this just going to fuel conspiracy, like, every time there's a missed field goal?


SMERCONISH: Somebody's going to say, "Well, I guess it was the line."

COSTAS: This has been going on forever. And now, with the internet, and social media, it's stoked up to a higher level. Everybody has a theory. "Oh, the league wants a team, from Los Angeles, or New York to get"--

SMERCONISH: Right, right, right.

COSTAS: --"to the Super Bowl, or the World Series," or whatever it might be.

SMERCONISH: Big market, big TV market, right.

COSTAS: Or "They hate my team," or whatever it might be, or the line, somebody's on the take? SMERCONISH: Right.

COSTAS: That always existed. Now that the gambling is not only more out in the open, but the leagues are in cahoots, in a certain sense? That's only going to fuel more of that, even if it's baseless.

SMERCONISH: All right, I got to get this in. You mentioned sports and gambling. I immediately think of Pete Rose.


SMERCONISH: So, what is Pete Rose thinking? What should he be thinking, when he sees these are suspensions?


SMERCONISH: And he's been banished?

COSTAS: OK. In 1963, Alex Karras, great defensive lineman for the Lions--

SMERCONISH: Lions, right.

COSTAS: --and Paul Hornung, the golden boy--


COSTAS: --of the Packers, were found to have bet on NFL games.

They bet on games, in which they played, but only on their own team, never against their own team. They were suspended by Commissioner Pete Rozelle, for a year. And then, they were allowed back. And ultimately, not right away, but ultimately, both made it to the Hall of Fame.

In the minds of baseball fans, this is a simple distinction. No one is nominating Pete Rose for Citizen of the Year. And it was clear, in every clubhouse, because baseball was even more vigilant, about this, than other sports, because of the scarred history, of the Black Sox, in 1919, throwing the World Series, to the Cincinnati Reds.

The penalty in baseball, whether you agree with it or not, was lifetime banishment, for betting, on baseball. You didn't have to bet against your own team. Betting on baseball, lifetime banishment. So, Pete Rose did that. And he lied about it.

I think most baseball fans say he should have remained banned, from baseball, can't manage any more, can't draw a paycheck, from a team. But somebody got those 4,256 base hits, and that person belongs, in the Hall of Fame, or at least belongs--


COSTAS: --on the Hall of Fame ballot.


COSTAS: But baseball remains adamant that they're in a different place. And Pete Rose is in a different category.

SMERCONISH: 20 seconds.


SMERCONISH: Did your dad come out, all right?

COSTAS: It's hard to tell because the losses hurt -- brought on more trauma than the victories, brought on exultation.

SMERCONISH: Sorry to hear that.

COSTAS: But when he was up, he was very generous.

SMERCONISH: Thank you for all that.

COSTAS: There you go.

SMERCONISH: Bob Costas, we appreciate it.

Coming up, on "CNN TONIGHT," singer Lizzo, staging a show of defiance, in Tennessee, dancing, with drag queens, at a concert, in Knoxville, to protest the State's new anti-drag show legislation.

Alisyn Camerota, and her panel, will discuss it. Your thoughts, on tonight's program. My responses, they're next.



SMERCONISH: Here's some social media reaction, to tonight's program. Like you, I've not seen it.

What do we have?

"Amazing what losing a quarter of a billion dollars because of Carlson's lies will cause."

Well, but what's interesting is, Richard L., the Fox stock tanked, today, on the news that he had been fired.

And remember, Carlson, according to the Dominion suit, and that which came to light, he was complaining about the drop in the stock price, because of those who were abandoning Fox, and going to, what would it have been, Newsmax and OAN at the time.

What else came in? Amazing how money drives so much of this.

"Someone will replace Tucker just like he replaced Bill O'Reilly."

I made that point to Frank Sesno that when Ailes was ousted, when O'Reilly was ousted, lot of folks said, "Oh my god, the network is really in trouble." But hey, we're all kind of replaceable, aren't we? And I'm sure they'll find someone. I mean, The Five gets huge numbers! It's not always Tucker, who's driving the bus. What else came in? I like this part.

"This was a separate action from the settlement, but could be an indication of what is to come. Fox may be moving to a defensive posture rather than a war footing," says Brian K.

"This was a separate action from the settlement." I don't know about that. I have to believe it's all related. I think I made very clear, in my opening commentary that there are a lot of -- perfect storm came together, against Carlson. But you have to believe that coming so quickly, after a $787.5 million, largest ever, as far as I know, defamation -- defamation settlement, it had to be a factor, in all of this.

What else came in?

What? What do you mean that's it?

Oh, OK.

Gang, thank you for joining us. I'm going to be back here, at the same time, and, on SiriusXM, tomorrow morning.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Alisyn Camerota starts, right now.

Hey, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hey, Michael. Thank you very much.

And good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN TONIGHT.

In a sudden and stunning move, Tucker Carlson ousted from Fox. Was it the on-air election lies and conspiracy theories? Or was it the behind-the-scenes behavior that's just now coming to light, because of a lawsuit, by one of his own producers? We'll get into all of that.