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Pence Testifies In DOJ's January 6th Probe; White House Denies Biden Got Reporter's Question In Advance; Trump Accuser: "Certain Parts Of This Story Are Difficult To Conceive." Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 27, 2023 - 21:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So, some guys don't know, when to quit. And Drew Maggi is one of them. The lesson for that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drew Maggi will pinch-hit for Andrew McCutchen, making his Major League debut.



BERMAN: So, after 13 seasons, 1,154 games, 4,494 plate appearances, for six different Minor League Baseball teams, Maggi had his first Major League at-bat last night, as a pinch-hitter, for the Pittsburgh Pirates, in an eight-one win, over the Dodgers. Today, he got his first start at third base. Here's for perseverance!

The news continues. CNN PRIMETIME with Michael Smerconish starts now.


He was once a politician. But it wasn't until he pumped up the volume, on talk TV, that this provocateur helped define today's era of politics.

I'm Michael Smerconish, in New York.




SMERCONISH: For nearly three decades, that was the chant, heard over the course of more than 4,000 episodes.

"Controversial," "Unapologetically brash," "Rowdy," all words used in the headlines, today, covering the news, of Jerry Springer's passing.

My favorite? From the BBC, "Era-defining." He truly did usher in an era of television that no one in the world had ever seen before and, I argue, set the stage for today's political landscape.

Springer was 79. His family says that he died peacefully, today, at his home, in suburban Chicago, after a brief illness. Reports are that he had cancer.

The son of Holocaust refugees, he became a global sensation, as a tabloid TV host. But before that, he was the Mayor of Cincinnati. He was an actor. He was a lawyer. He was a news anchor.

And then, there was this.


JERRY SPRINGER, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: My guests today say breakdowns and breakups go hand-in-hand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not a whore.



SMERCONISH: His long-running syndicated show revolved around divorce couples, screaming at each other, physical confrontations, cheating spouses, open racists, chairs flying across the room.

Yes, Jerry Springer focused on raunch, family drama, crazy stories. But his ethos, of course, emotion-provoking, get-the-popcorn style of media is exactly the same style of programming that predominates in much of political talk radio and cable news. Coincidence? I think not. Sober and serious, that's boring. Well over-the-top showmanship is the name of the game.

I've long been of the opinion that programs, like Jerry Springer, and that of Morton Downey Jr., paved the way, for the coarsening, of our political dialog that the election of Donald Trump is a result of the empowerment, of people, with microphones. Having watched bombastic personalities for decades, by 2016, some were ready to elect a person, who resembled their favorite host.

Over the course of the last three decades, these media personalities, they've surpassed party officials, and even elected representatives, in their influence, ascending to exalted status, atop political leadership. Yet, they prioritized goals seemingly at odds with good governance. "Compromise? That's for weaklings. Let's throw another chair at the opponent!"

No wonder that Gallup just determined a record number of Americans, 49 percent regard themselves as Independents, not Republicans or Democrats.

Business motives, that's what drives the Titans of Talk. They aim to maximize revenue, by garnering clicks, and ears, and eyeballs. The more passion provoked by hosts, the better their shot of capturing and maintaining an audience. Consider Exhibit B. Tucker Carlson, fired this week, by Fox News, after whipping up Americans, for years, with conspiratorial programs, saying one thing, on air, while privately speaking the truth. Here's a question. Would Tucker Carlson have ever risen to such fame, but for Jerry Springer's shoulders? I wonder!

An interesting new study, by Gallup, and the Knight Foundation, finds that nearly nine in 10 Americans follow at least one public individual, like Tucker Carlson, to get information. And they place a great deal of trust in them. The findings allude to the amount of power, individuals, with public platforms, have, in persuading, or even misleading the public.

Today, I asked Dr. Brian Rosenwald, for his thoughts, on Springer's passing, and legacy.

Rosenwald earned a PhD, studying talk radio. He wrote the book, "Talk Radio's America."


He emailed me this. "One interesting thing about Springer is that he's a guy who did a talk show and could plausibly have been a force for ideological diversity on the airwaves, but instead gravitated towards sex and raunch. With Springer, by the time that he starts getting an itch to be more politically engaged, he's got a brand and schtick and probably couldn't even contemplate the transition."

Well, to Brian's point, in 2009, Jerry Springer was an in-studio radio guest, of mine. And he was not at all what I was expecting. Funny thing, he complimented me, for not being a screamer, and for hosting rational discourse. I was kind of taken aback that the guy known for refereeing chaos, instead, was giving me a tip of the hat.

He also revealed himself to be a pretty deep-thinker, who was passionate, about contemporary politics. He discouraged my audience, from watching his show, which he described as stupid. But he totally contested my theory, the theory that I've just laid out for you, tonight, that today's political scene was worsened, by his style of TV.

Instead, he told me things have always been like this. There's just more coverage.


SPRINGER: Watch any athletic event, you know, baseball brawls, for example, have been going on forever. You know, people have been cursing forever. It's... We have to be real about it. I'm not excusing. I'm not saying it's a nice thing to do. You teach your children not to do that.


SPRINGER: But to suggest that all of a sudden, people are using language they never used before, just isn't true. It's not new, it's just that right now everything gets covered.

SMERCONISH: Magnified.

SPRINGER: Live. Yes.


SMERCONISH: He revealed himself to me to be a nuanced individual. In today's political discourse, there seems to be no room for nuance. And that's what I'm most going to remember about Jerry Springer.

At the end of every wild Jerry Springer show, he uttered this piece of advice to his viewers.


SPRINGER: Till next time, take care of yourself, and each other.

Take care of yourself and each other.


SMERCONISH: "Take care of yourself and others," despite everything that just happened, in the previous 59 minutes.

And Jerry's closing message? Well, that's a good place to start tonight.

Let's explore the impact that Jerry Springer, and other public individuals, like him have had, on American culture and discourse.

Mohamed Younis is Editor-in-Chief, at Gallup, which as we mentioned, has compiled data, on who Americans are listening to, and why.

Mohamed, why are we turning away from institutions, and toward individuals?

MOHAMED YOUNIS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GALLUP: Fascinatingly, Michael, the work we did, with Knight Foundation, actually gets right to that point you made at the end.

The number one reason why nine in 10 Americans are now following public individuals? And these are celebrities, journalists, TV show hosts, like you here, tonight, Michael. The number one reason is they trust them, they like them.

But more importantly, they're getting a perspective that they feel they can't get, from traditional news sources. And in interesting and twisted way, that really ties into exactly what you were talking about, with Jerry Springer.

Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow, when we ask Americans, in this study, "Who are those, who is that one person you follow?" Tucker Carlson is at the top, with 113 mentions. Rachel Maddow is at the -- right under him with 107. But collectively, they only represent 6 percent of people, in the study.

Over 900 people were mentioned. I'll mention that the top 20 names mentioned only contained two female voices. But Americans are now following a more dispersed list of public individuals than they ever have before.

SMERCONISH: So, what are the ramifications, or implications, if we're not following institutions? What are we losing, if anything?

YOUNIS: What's fascinating, Michael is a lot of our discourse has really missed the mark. When we ask people, where they follow these public individuals, the traditional platforms actually beat the non- traditional platforms, like social media.

So, they are coming to CNN, to listen, to Michael Smerconish, and get his perspective. But they're also listening to a lot of other people that traditionally aren't associated with that news, traditional broadcast or newspapers.

This is also happening, at a time, when our historic trends that go back to Nixon, on this item, are at a historic low, in people's trusted news. When Nixon last left office, seven in 10 Americans said they had trust, in the honesty of news in America. Today that seven in 10 has dropped to three in 10.

SMERCONISH: It's a fascinating study.

Mohamed, thanks so much for being here.

YOUNIS: Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: Another big story, tonight.

For more than five hours today, former Vice President Mike Pence testified, before a grand jury, investigating Donald Trump's efforts, to overturn his 2020 election loss. Pence, of course, was a key witness, to Trump's pressure campaign, and was subject to it himself, in the lead-up to January 6.

Let's get insight, now, from veteran journalist, and Senior Political Correspondent, for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman.


Do you think behind closed doors, he finally unloaded on Trump, because now the base wasn't there to hear it?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that he unloaded a bit in his book, Michael, "So Help Me God," which was his memoir that he put out a couple of months ago. There were actually a number of key conversations in there that were so significant that people were saying, "Why is he shielded by Executive privilege, if he is talking about this in his book?"

I do imagine that he went much further, just given the amount of time that he spent before the grand jury. We know that the process in front of a grand jury tends to be much more rigorous. Investigators ask questions over and over and over and drill down. But I imagine that he was fairly forthcoming.

And what we had always heard -- and granted, there was a bit of a not a -- not a game, that there was an effort, to not testify, after he had not testified, before the House January 6 committee, also.

But what we had always heard from people, familiar with his thinking is he was aware that a Justice Department investigation was a different animal than a congressional investigation. And I imagine he was more forthcoming, there.

SMERCONISH: I understand the arguments that he was making, largely grounded in his interpretation, of the Constitution, and the need to protect the Executive branch.

But I just never understood why, like wild horses couldn't keep me from testifying if a mob got within 30 feet of me, calling for my execution. And yet, he went to great lengths not to testify, in that setting.

HABERMAN: I think that you got to the heart of the issue, in terms of the Republican base. He is somebody, who wants a political future. It is ultimately impossible to have a political future in this party, if you are seen as openly attacking Trump, on certain issues.

Now, Mike Pence has gone further than certainly I expected him, at certain points, to go, than I think other people expected him to go. He has talked about how one person cannot settle a presidential election. He has said what the President did that day is wrong. But has he made it his main cause? No, he has not.

It is not something that Republican voters that, January 6, and the lead-up to it, or it's just it's not something that base Republican voters are focusing on. And I think that was largely his calculation.

His folks would tell you that he does care about preserving, this separate legislative activity, and his role, as President of the Senate. And that was why they objected. And that may be true, but it's hard not to see a calculation in it.

SMERCONISH: Maggie, stick around. There's another subject that I'm eager to get your expertise on.

Republicans, right now, up in arms, over what they're calling President Biden's cheat sheet. So, did he get reporters' questions ahead of Wednesday's press conference? That's next.



SMERCONISH: Republicans seizing on images of President Biden's notecards, from Wednesday's press conference. One of them lists the President himself, as an attendee, at an Oval Office prep session, while another features a picture, of Los Angeles Times' reporter, Courtney Subramanian, accompanied by a question.

Now the RNC cast it as a quote, "Cheat sheet," and implied that Biden not only had advance knowledge, of the reporter's question, but needed the notes, because of his advanced age.

The White House pushed back, on this, today.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is entirely normal for a President to be briefed on reporters who will be asking questions at a press conference and issues that we expect they might ask about.

We do not have specific questions in advance. That's not something that we do. And, in fact, I would point out the questions that was asked was different than what was on the card that you all saw.


SMERCONISH: OK, so how different? Well, here's the notecard, against the question, so that you can decide.


COURTNEY SUBRAMANIAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES REPORTER: Your top economic priority has been to build up U.S. domestic manufacturing in competition with China. But your rules again- -- against expanding chip manufacturing in China is hurting South Korean companies that rely heavily on Beijing. Are you damaging a key ally in the competition with China to help your domestic politics ahead of the election?


SMERCONISH: So, she's not reading the question, verbatim, right that we saw in the note. But the whole thing does look troubling.

What do you make of it?

HABERMAN: It's topically similar, certainly, to what Biden had on that notecard.


HABERMAN: But it is a much sharper question than at least the notecards suggested it might be.

I don't know what happened. I don't want to impugn a reporter, for something that I have no visibility into whether there was an exchange, with the White House or not.

It is not unusual for White Houses, or city halls, or gubernatorial offices, to try to get a sense of what reporters might be asking.

I've never seen that detailed a note card before. And it is an unfortunate image, for Biden, for all of the obvious reasons. We see Republicans hitting him as too old, that he doesn't know enough. I've never seen somebody have to have themselves listed as an attendee, at an event.

Look, we saw Donald Trump, with his hand-scrolled notecards. There were images of that constantly, when he would be at events.

I remember Rudy Giuliani, as Mayor, in New York City, his folks would come up to us, in the press corps, and not only try to figure out what we were going to ask, but tell us what he wanted to talk about.

SMERCONISH: Sure, of course.

HABERMAN: And what they hoped would happen.

So, I don't know exactly what happened here. But I think that the visual for Biden is not ideal.

SMERCONISH: I'm sitting here, by the way, with notes of what I feel like I'll next ask Maggie Haberman, right?


SMERCONISH: I mean, there's nothing wrong with notes.


SMERCONISH: But, in this case, it's political, I'll say this, it's political malpractice, insofar as this is a week, when he announced. And polling data came out expressing that so many Americans are concerned about his age.

Like, who would have even put that note, in his pocket, to put him in a position of pulling it out?

HABERMAN: I'm assuming some staffer did, either in the comms office, or an advanced staffer. But yes, it was not exactly bearing in mind that there would be a camera that was going to be drilling down. And he's holding it, and waving it around.

I think it also just speaks to, again, something he's going to have to get used to, which is being around, and visible, in ways that certainly, in his 2020 campaign, he was not. He's going to have to be, this time.

SMERCONISH: The L.A. Times said they did not submit questions to the White House.


SMERCONISH: I have to take advantage of the fact that you're here, during the commercial break. You're like dealing with popes and presidents. I'd love to see what's going on in that phone of yours.

Here's the question. The E. Jean Carroll trial, playing itself out, in Southern Manhattan, how concerned, is Donald Trump, about that case? HABERMAN: Everyone I have talked to says that Trump is personally very bothered by this case, because it is a rape allegation. It's not a criminal case.


HABERMAN: It's not a charge.


HABERMAN: But it is a very, very serious allegation. And he knows it. And it bothers him. It bothers him a lot. I think that he knows that he got himself in some trouble, by attacking her, on his social media website. That was just unhelpful to his case.


Now, that -- does that mean he's going to talk about it? Not necessarily. But behind-the-scenes, he is making very clear how he feels.

SMERCONISH: I'm wondering--

HABERMAN: And it's not positive.

SMERCONISH: I mean, the response to the Alvin Bragg indictment, I argue and, I think, the data is pretty darn clear, was a boost, to him, at least among Republicans. I can't process, if this goes a different way, if there's a plaintiff's verdict, because it's a case for money damages, right?


SMERCONISH: This is not a criminal proceeding. I don't know whether that makes a bump in the road for him or not.

HABERMAN: Look, in the long-term, I actually don't think the Alvin Bragg indictment is especially helpful to him. It's certainly helpful so far, in a Republican primary. Will that be the case in a general election when there may be additional indictments? I don't think we know. The same as we don't know here, what this would play out, in the long-term. I don't see how a judgment, in this case, would be helpful.

What I do think, and I'm really struck by this, I wrote about this the other day, for "The Times," the fact that Trump continues in the minds of a lot of voters, to be seen as a non-politician, and sort of graded on something of a curve, because of that. And, to that end, this is not even in the top five stories that people are talking about.


HABERMAN: And yet, he is the front-runner--

SMERCONISH: No. I agree.

HABERMAN: --for the nomination. So, I don't-- SMERCONISH: I know.

HABERMAN: --I don't know what this looks like going forward, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Yes, I don't either.

Thank you, Maggie. Appreciate it very much.


SMERCONISH: Up next, the legal side of the story, a heated day, in court, I just referenced, E. Jean Carroll, facing cross-examination, in her civil trial, against former President Trump. Details on the emotional testimony, in just a moment.



SMERCONISH: The woman, suing Donald Trump, for battery and defamation, faced cross-examination, in court, today.

E. Jean Carroll claims the former President raped her, while the two were shopping, in a New York department store, in the mid-90s. She also claims that while he was President, he defamed her, when she went public, with her allegations.

Trump has repeatedly denied all of it. His defense is focused on why she didn't make any public report, at the time, or get the attention of anybody, at the store, at the time.

In court, today, Carroll testified, quote, "Certain parts of this story are difficult to conceive of, yes."

As for why she didn't come forward, quote, "I was afraid Donald Trump would retaliate, exactly as he did," adding she only came forward, after the Me Too movement, quote, "I waited until other women -- I was not a pioneer, I was a follower. I saw other women coming forward after Harvey Weinstein and thought who am I not to tell my story?"

My next guest knows what it's like, to represent famous men, accused of sexual assault. Jennifer Bonjean represented both Bill Cosby and R. Kelly.

Thanks for being here, Counselor.

She testified that ever thereafter, she'd never had a physical relationship, she'd never, I'll say it directly, she'd never had sex. That's pretty powerful testimony, in a case, for civil damages, right? If the jury accepts that, that's big?

JENNIFER BONJEAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, R. KELLY'S CIVIL & CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, BILL COSBY'S CIVIL & CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it's going to be hard to make a nexus between this event that occurred allegedly 20, what, five years ago, and her claim of damages, particularly in light of the fact that she claims she was assaulted, by somebody else.

People live lives during 25 years. And she's going to have to convince this jury. Even if she can convince the jury that this occurred, she still has to convince the jury that the reason she is unable to have had this romantic life, or sexual life, was because of this event. And with 25 years of life in between, that is a difficult thing to do.

But the problem is, is that you may have a jury, who doesn't care, and they're going to punish Donald Trump, either way.

SMERCONISH: Is Donald Trump making a mistake?

BONJEAN: So, that's--

SMERCONISH: If you represented Donald Trump, would you be telling him "You've got to be in this courtroom and offer live testimony?"

BONJEAN: Well, that's a mixed bag, of course. Not having your client's testimony is unquestionably a detriment.

That being said, it's unclear what type of doors that would open, because there have been a slew of allegations, against Mr. Trump.

And we have seen, in these Me Too cases, unfortunately, there's a pattern, of judges allowing in, all of this other quote-unquote "Bad- act evidence" that he might be able to be confronted with. And then, the jury loses sight of what they're really there for. And they're just like, "OK, this guy is just a bad guy. It's about character." And you get a guilty verdict either way.

So, it's a mixed bag. Not being there is a problem. But being there and testifying is a problem, too.

SMERCONISH: Were you surprised that Joe Tacopina did the cross himself, as opposed to a female member of the defense team doing that part of the case? Is it harder, for a man, in a situation, like this, to conduct a cross-examination, of a victim, an alleged victim, of sexual assault, than it would be, say, for you?

BONJEAN: So, that's a hard question to answer, because I'm not a man.

I know, for me, conducting a cross-examination with a woman, who is an alleged victim, is very easy. It's like any witness, frankly. I don't have any pulls about it. I don't have any feelings, that I can't do my job.

Whereas I'm not sure if a man feels that they might be judged differently, or it might be playing differently with the jury. So, that's a hard question for me to answer.

But I can tell you, as a woman, who does cross-examinations, of people, who have made serious allegations, against my clients, I -- it does not bother me, in the slightest. That's my job. And that's what I'm there to do. And cross-examination is the greatest engine of truth. And that's what you're there to do.


BONJEAN: If you're a man, who can't do it? That's a problem.

SMERCONISH: I can imagine that a layperson, following this case, might think it's to the benefit of E. Jean Carroll, the plaintiff, here, if there were more women than men, on the jury. It was never my experience trying civil cases that gender broke that way.

Here's the direct question. If you were defense counsel, in this case, what would you be looking for, if you could control the gender of the jurors?

BONJEAN: Well, I think women are great jurors, actually. And I think -- I really don't think that -- I've seen it break both ways, frankly. I think women can be very tough on each other. So, a woman might say, "If this happened to me, this is how I would have responded," right? So, that's one piece of it.


I do think sometimes male jurors, particularly in this climate, are like I -- there's a certain amount of guilt about the history of misogyny, and they don't want to be that guy, in the jury room, that's like, "Wait a second. I don't know that I believed her on that," because we are in a time, where not believing women is shamed.

And while I understand, in the social media context, and in media, and in the world? But, in the courtroom, we can't start with the presumption that someone's telling the truth. We still have to test every allegation. And I fear that people bring some of their -- some of the shifting cultural attitudes, to the jury room that might interfere, with due process, frankly.

SMERCONISH: Quick final question, if I may. So, her narrative is that there was some playful interplay, verbally, between the two of them, at Bergdorf, which leads to the two of them, then, going into a dressing area, that there's no force, on his part--


SMERCONISH: --getting her to go into the dressing area.

I can't help but wonder, if he made a mistake, in saying he had no knowledge of her, because it removed consent, a consensual, quick relationship, from the table, right?

BONJEAN: Yes. He committed himself to "I have never seen this woman, never heard of this woman."


BONJEAN: "Never happened." And there's no going back from that.

So, again, I'm not on the jury. I don't -- I'm not hearing the evidence come in. And there may be that -- that may be the truth, and the jury may find that. But a consent offense certainly is something that seems very plausible as well.

SMERCONISH: Jennifer Bonjean, thank you, appreciate your expertise.

BONJEAN: Thank you for having me.

SMERCONISH: A new diabetes drug, promising to be a game-changer, for weight loss. Should you believe the hype? Is it safe? An obesity medicine doctor answers those questions, next.



SMERCONISH: Pills, shots, and elixirs, promising weight loss for decades, the domain of snake oil salesmen quacks and scams. Now, a growing number of Americans are clamoring for drugs, first used to treat diabetes. The popularity of drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, fueled by TikTok, and a long list of celebrity champions.

But Eli Lilly says they've got an injectable drug that helps people with type 2 diabetes lose up to 16 percent of their body weight. We're talking more than 34 pounds, over nearly 17 months, in trial.

Dr. Holly Lofton is the Director of the Medical Weight Management program at the NYU School of Medicine.

And Doctor, we should point out that you were principal investigator, for a separate obesity study, funded, in part, by Eli Lilly.

How big a deal is this?

DR. HOLLY LOFTON, BOARD CERTIFIED IN OBESITY MEDICINE, DIRECTOR, NYU LANGONE WEIGHT MANAGEMENT PROGRAM: Well, this is what we call a game- changer with regards to weight loss for patients with type 2 diabetes, because we know that it's harder, for these types of patients, to lose as much weight. And this study has demonstrated significant weight loss, in this population.

SMERCONISH: Might it then lead to folks without diabetes who nevertheless, are obese, getting some benefit.

LOFTON: Well, we've done a separate study. Eli Lilly has looking at patients with the same medication, Tirzepatide, the patients without type 2 diabetes, and they actually lost more weight than theirs around to (ph) trial in patients with diabetes. So, it's promising for both populations.

SMERCONISH: What are the side effects?

LOFTON: Well, side effects of these medications have to do with the mechanism. And because these are medications that look just like hormones, we make in our gut, they cause gut-related side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. But overall, the benefits are much greater than those risks.

SMERCONISH: I was reading about the trial. Obviously, not having your expertise. But if I'm right, the placebo group also lost weight.

LOFTON: Yes, so that's something to be said--


LOFTON: --for the benefit of diet, exercise and behaviors. When we look at these trials, we are still seeing weight loss, in patients, who are not taking any medication, but receiving lifestyle intervention. And that proves that we shouldn't negate the effect of those.

But the benefit of losing, say, 15 percent weight loss, we saw, in the trial, 35 pounds, the likelihood is much greater. It's 40 percent to 50 percent likely to lose that amount, where it's only 3 percent likelihood of losing that with the no medication.

SMERCONISH: Do you have any concern that if this all turns out for the benefit? We hope that it does. But there'll be some, among us, who now will avoid healthy lifestyle choices, thinking "Hey, there's a magic pill." OK, it's not a pill. It's an injectable here. But you follow, right?

LOFTON: Right. Well, I see patients every day, on different medications, for weight management. And we, as providers, always try to encourage the lifestyle. And patients do want to do this.

But there are environmental factors, such as they're very busy, or they're tired, and they can't always do the lifestyle, so the medications can help them get more benefit, with the waxing and waning of diet and exercise.

SMERCONISH: So, where does this go next? OK. Here's the trial. The result has just come in. How long until greater availability for all?

LOFTON: Well we know this medication is now approved for type 2 diabetes.


LOFTON: Looking at this study, it's now beneficial for patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity, and it will lead to the medication being fast-tracked, for weight management, or obesity treatment. And we expect that to happen later this year.

SMERCONISH: OK, Game-changer. Game-changers are cool. That's great.

LOFTON: Yes. Well.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Doctor. We appreciate it.

Head of State, by day, singer, by night, South Korea's president, putting on a show, at the White House, singing "American Pie."

The Don McLean will join me in a moment, for his review.




SUK YEOL: I can still remember How that music used to make me smile





SMERCONISH: It was a White House State Dinner surprise that ended on a high note.

The South Korean president visited President Biden, for a bilateral meeting, in Washington, to mark the 70-year alliance, between the two nations. They discussed ways to combat North Korea's nuclear threats, promote peace in Taiwan, and Russia's unprovoked war.

But it was this unexpected moment that stole the show, when the President serenaded guests, with a rendition of a beloved classic rock song.





SUK YEOL: I can still remember How that music used to make me smile.


SUK YEOL: And I knew if I had my chance That I could make those people dance.


SUK YEOL: And maybe they'd be happy for a while.



SMERCONISH: After his performance, Biden gifted him with a guitar, signed by Don McLean.

Here to talk about this, none other than the man himself, singer and songwriter, Don McLean.

"Long, long time ago!" What is it about that song that we all love singing it, the shower, the car, wherever?

ON THE PHONE: DON MCLEAN, SINGER, SONGWRITER: That's very -- that's very good, Michael. I like that.

SMERCONISH: What's so special? What is it about it?

ON THE PHONE: MCLEAN: Well, I'd tell you it has a melody, which is something that is pretty hard to find these days. And that's just the opening part of the song. I mean, the song is eight and a half minutes, and it's a rock and roll song.

I intend to go over to South Korea, next year, and sing it with the President. So, that's probably going to be another news story. He wanted me, at the White House, to sing this song. But I'm in Australia, right now, on tour. I've -- doing 24 shows over here that are all, I'm happy to say, sold out.


And the interesting thing about this "American Pie" moment is that it just happens to be the celebration we're into, of this 50th anniversary of the album, and the -- and the song, "American Pie."

And there's a lovely documentary, "The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean's "American Pie" on Paramount+ now. And this week, or next week, it is actually up for one of five documentaries for an MTV award. And I'm up against, Selena Gomez and J.Lo, and all those hot people.

And it's just a trip, you know? And it really goes back to the days, when record companies were willing to put out music, by artists that did many different things. They might be protest songs. They might be insulting to some. "Short People," you remember that one, and Randy?

SMERCONISH: Of course. Yes, Randy Newman.

ON THE PHONE: MCLEAN: Yes. Well, that insulted a lot of people. Would -- that never come out today.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Don, I'm of an age, where I'm one of those guys, who was sitting, in my bedroom, with headphones on, reading liner notes, and trying to figure out what a guy like you was saying. I promise I will not ask here, I'll watch the movie. I'll not ask who's the Jester, and who's the king?

ON THE PHONE: MCLEAN: Well, that's the thing. That's the thing. People need to watch the movie, if they want the answers to this, because I finally--

SMERCONISH: OK. But I want to-- ON THE PHONE: MCLEAN: --discuss it there (ph).

SMERCONISH: But I just want to ask you this.


SMERCONISH: You must get a kick out of the fact that so many people love spending so much time, trying to figure out what you were saying, even today?

ON THE PHONE: MCLEAN: I get a kick out of the fact that the song is still alive. Music is live. Musicians are dealing with a thing called alchemy. We deal in magic. And some of the things that we do are fall on their face, and others are very, very fortunate, are magical and live forever.


ON THE PHONE: MCLEAN: So, this is what we're after. You can't really describe it. You can't really find out the meaning of life either, because this is magic. And when you do something, and we are always seeking perfection of some kind. As I say, I was lucky the record company was willing to put out this album, and this song, all those years ago. And so--

SMERCONISH: Well, congratulations. It had to have been--


SMERCONISH: It had to be -- "So bye-bye" Don McLean.

ON THE PHONE: MCLEAN: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me, Michael. I enjoyed it.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Don.

Ahead, on "CNN TONIGHT," the President of one of the most powerful teachers unions, taking the congressional hot seat, over school closures, during the COVID pandemic. Did classroom closures go on for too long? Alisyn Camerota talks with Randi Weingarten, next.

But first, 68 years ago, this August, a young Black teenager was taken from a home, in the middle of the night, never seen again, by his family, until he lay unrecognizable, in his casket. His name was Emmett Till.

A White woman accused him of propositioning her, inside a grocery store. Witnesses say, he whistled later. Her husband and brother-in- law kidnapped, killed, and tortured, and shot him. They put barbed wire around his body, and dumped him into a river.

His mother decided the world needed to see the horror that was done to her son, so she opened his casket, at the funeral. What the world saw inside shocked it, accelerating the Civil Rights movement.

That woman, who accused Till, died, this week, at 88-years-old. Despite decades of calls, for accountability, Carolyn Bryant was never charged, for her role. An all-White jury acquitted the two men of murder, for which they would later confess.

In recent years, the woman recanted parts of her testimony, to Author, Timothy Tyson. When asked in 2008, Bryant told Tyson, quote, "I have thought and thought about everything about Emmett Till, the killing and the trial... Telling who did what to who."

When Tyson asked her, about what happened, she told him that Till did not grab her waist, which had been one of the critical claims. When Tyson pushed her on what did happen, she said this, quote, "Honestly, I just don't remember. It was 50 years ago. You tell these stories for so long that they seem true."

One of Till's cousins, saying, today, "She was never tried in the court of man. But I think she was judged by God, and his wrath is more punitive than any judgment or penalty she could have gotten in a courtroom."


MAMIE TILL, MOTHER OF EMMETT TILL: I appreciate the 14 years that we spent together. It was a joy watching the unfolding of his mind and the development of his body. And I don't regret about a minute, bit of the time that we spent together. I'm just sorry that it was so short.


Because, if I had known that we were going to be separated, so quickly, I probably would have done the wrong thing, trying to do the right thing. But I feel like that I did the very best that I could, and I don't have any regrets for any time that we spent together.



SMERCONISH: My next guest is on a mission, to encourage, revive, elevate and enhance the teaching of civics. He's a self-described libo-conservo-rado-middle-of-the road-o. He's also an Academy Award winner.

I spoke to Richard Dreyfuss, earlier. He's the Founder of the Dreyfuss Civics Initiative, and Author of "One Thought Scares Me...: We Teach Our Children What We Wish Them to Know; We Don't Teach Our Children What We Don't Wish Them to Know."


SMERCONISH: Richard Dreyfuss, what don't we want them to know?


RICHARD DREYFUSS, ACTOR, AUTHOR OF "ONE THOUGHT SCARES ME...": Right now, we are deeply committed, to turning them away, from any knowledge, of how this country is run, how the Constitution works, what the Bill of Rights is doing, inside the Constitution, and anything else that gives them a heads-up and an open brain, because we were, after all, the most important political revolution, in the history of mankind.

And no one today knows what the hell I just said!

SMERCONISH: You say in the book, "Fewer and fewer Americans comprehend any issue printed on the front page of any newspaper."

So, what I'm hearing you argue, and what I think you argued in the book, is there's this deliberate attempt, underway, to keep the masses uninformed. So what, so that decisions can be made for them?

DREYFUSS: Yes, so that they don't have to be consulted, because that would be after all, awakening things that make your head hurt. And we don't really want that anymore. We did, for a long time. And -- but once we passed the 60s, we said, "No, this is getting in our way." And--

SMERCONISH: What's the solution?

DREYFUSS: Seriously, the solution is for people to realize that when we say the phrase, "We, the People," we're talking about us, everyone, all of us, you and me. And it means that we have the God-given right, to make our opinions known, to make our status known, in the hierarchy.

Right now, politicians all make one terrible mistake. They think that they are our boss.

SMERCONISH: And for the benefit of those, who have not yet read it, because I have, and they're looking at you now, and they're wondering, "Is he coming at this from the left? Maybe he's coming at this from the right?"

You're a self-described, as I tried to read the pronunciation, middle- of-the-road guy, right? There's not a -- there's not a bias, on either end of the ideological spectrum that you bring to this table.

DREYFUSS: Right, right. There is -- there is no bias. And what I've said to every audience ever since I started this is that I am not a liberal. I am a libo-conservo-rado-middle-of-the road-o, just like you. But we just haven't given it enough thought, lately.

SMERCONISH: Amen to that! I wish it could fit on a bumper sticker!

Richard Dreyfuss, thank you. I enjoyed the book.

DREYFUSS: And blame your parents.


SMERCONISH: All right, my favorite part of the program. Let's get some social media reaction, to tonight's show. What do we have?

"I prefer to remember Jerry Springer when he was an anchor and commentator for WLWT in Cincinnati. His commentaries were reasonable, thought provoking. Totally different persona than with the "Jerry Springer Show."

He was a totally charming guy. I told the story, came into my radio studio, complimented me, for civility. I'm thinking "What's wrong with this picture? He's complimenting me for civility." And then, he told my radio audience "Don't listen to -- don't watch my show. It's stupid."

What else came in?

"Worth noting that Pence only testified because he was forced to. He COULD have done the right thing and volunteered. But, that's not the GOP way."

This relates to my conversation with Maggie Haberman, and the fact that today the former Vice President testified, in front of a grand jury.

Look, the MAGA base wasn't watching. Like maybe today was the day that he vented and laid it all out. How could it sit well with him that a mob was in 30 feet of him, at the Capitol, chanting for his execution? And he didn't want to testify to the congressional committee that was investigating January 6? It never made sense. But I'll bet today was different!

What else? I like this part of the show.

"I think he wanted to speak up all along, but felt the MAGA people would trash him for it. Politically, he played it safe in waiting until he was compelled to testify. Wonder what he said???"

Respectfully, to Mike Pence, I think He's fooling himself, thinking he can have it both ways, because the MAGA base controls the nomination process. And he's done to them. It's like you're all in for Trump, or you're not. And so, it's not going to work.

One more, if we have time? I think we do.

"Wouldn't it be great if it became a thing where world leaders sing a song that's meaningful in the host country? Humanity is just what this world needs right now."

How many of us now have a bug in our ear, of Don McLean, singing "American Pie," right? And whether you're in the shower, or driving in the car, you're going to be doing it.

One more? I think we can do it.

"He did a better job than you did with Mandy."


If you don't know what that is, it's a reference to the fact that walking to work, early this Morning I passed Radio City, I see Barry Manilow is coming, and I couldn't help but break out in song. Go to my social media.

Hey, this has been a privilege for me, for the last couple of days. Thank you so much, for watching.