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CNN Live Event/Special
Trump Expected To Surrender To Fulton County Jail At The End Of Next Week; Alleged Author Of Fake Electors Plot Followed Alex Jones Around Capitol Grounds On January 6; Trump Expected To Skip Debate, Do Tucker Carlson Interview; Culture War Erupts In A Suburban Atlanta Classroom; Actor And Filmmaker Bradley Cooper Faces Criticism Over Use Of Prosthetic Nose In "Maestro"; Hurricane Hillary Expected To Dump Over A Year's Worth Of Rain On The Southwest. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 18, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution uncovered this video of the judge back in high school, not that long ago for him, rocking out to the Star Spangled Banner in the vein of Jimi Hendrix. And just like Hendrix played the guitar with his teeth, McAfee did the same with his electric cello. The crowd was so impressed that someone even and the audience even yelled for him to take off his shirt.
Thank you so much for joining me tonight and every night this week. CNN PRIMETIME with Abby Phillip starts right now.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you learn something new every day. That is really fascinating. Thank you, Kaitlan. Have a great weekend.
COLLINS: Bye, Abby.
PHILLIP: And good evening, everyone. I'm Abby Phillip. Welcome to CNN PRIMETIME.
Donald Trump's terms of surrender, the 45th president of the United States, he'll turn himself into the Fulton County Jail at the end of next week and is a sign of just how close we are to that stunning moment. The Secret Service has been at the jail for weeks working with local officials to plan the former president's appearance, a mug shot, fingerprints, the whole nine yards. And what will this mean for the first Republican debate, which is on Wednesday?
Plus, classroom culture wars in a suburban Atlanta district, a school board has voted to fire a teacher who read a book about gender identity to gifted fifth graders. That teacher is here with us tonight to tell us why she did it.
And Oscar Nominee Bradley Cooper is in the middle of a controversy about his latest film, Maestro. He plays the composer and conductor, Leonard Bernstein, but some of his critics say that the makeup that he wears reinforces hurtful anti-Semitic stereotypes. And others questioned his casting since he's not known to be of Jewish ancestry. So, who can play whom in movies and in television shows? And what does this all say about diversity in Hollywood? We've got a fascinating conversation just ahead.
But, first, let's begin tonight with what we know about Donald Trump's surrender in Georgia on charges that he and 18 other people orchestrated a criminal enterprise to overturn Joe Biden's election victory. A senior law enforcement official tells CNN that the former president is expected to surrender either on Thursday or on Friday of next week. And if that process is anything like what most criminal defendants experienced, he could be waiting for hours to his fingerprints and his mug shot taken.
But this is, of course, the former president of the United States and nothing like this has ever happened before, not in the least four times. The Secret Service has been planning for weeks. And the treatment of defendants being booked and processed on criminal charges in Fulton County does vary drastically case by case, but it normally does include a thorough search by a jail deputy, a medical screening, pre-trial consultation, fingerprinting, and, of course, a mug shot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF PATRICK LABAT, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: Unless someone tells me differently, we are following our normal practices. And so it doesn't matter your status. We have mug shots ready for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: All right. Let's bring in former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams and Republican Strategist Shermichael Singleton.
So, Elliot, this is supposed to be time number four for Donald Trump. He's going to go to the jail Thursday and Friday, according to a source. Do you have a sense of how the processing is going to look different in a county jail versus a federal courtroom or even the New York City Manhattan courtroom?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. The challenge here, Abby, is that you have a former president of the United States who is entitled by a law to 24-hour Secret Service protection. And anytime a president is in sort of custody of something other than the Secret Service, it's cause their alarm.
So, the question is, number one, is he ever put into a jail cell? Number two, is he ever put into a general population? Number three, how is he handled and treated? Setting aside the questions of whether he ought to be held guilty for things that he's accused of and so on, there are serious safety considerations.
Now, another question we all have to ask is, is this really just like any other case, or are there going to be accommodations made on account of the fact that it's a former president? And I do think that even despite the bluster that you're hearing from the Fulton County sheriff, I mean, this is going to be different. PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, the other jurisdictions, they have not needed to take a mug shot. Everybody knows what Donald Trump looks like, so there's that. But Shermichael, this is going to be a moment where, potentially, maybe they might decide to do that, just to make a statement that he's like any other defendant. But it's not just going to be him. It's going to be a lot of other high profile people, the Rudy Giulianis of the world, Mark Meadows, a former White House chief of staff, a very high ranking government official in his former life.
You're a Republican. I mean, what kind of moment is this for this country and for the party that we're seeing this parade of people showing up at a county jail?
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean, look, it's an unprecedented moment. I think it's a moment, Abby and Elliot, that most Americans would have never foreseen.
I mean, I talked to my grandparents about this. We talk about politics often. And my grandfather said in 60 years he's been engaged in the political process, even through Richard Nixon, think about this, he never thought that it would get to the point where a president would be arrested facing, what, 90, 91 indictments, I mean, or charges? I mean, this is serious, and a very serious moment for the Republican Party.
But, again, when you look at the numbers, Donald Trump is leading the pack. Donald Trump has 37, 40 percent support. And if you somehow try to remove the guy, then the question for Republicans is, well, do we now lose those supporters, making it nearly impossible to compete in 2024?
I talked to one friend who's the chief of staff earlier today, and he said some talks are trying to figure out, do we just stick with Trump and say we go all in and hope to win next year or do we abandon him, and many are leaning towards, we stick with him?
PHILLIP: Yes. Meanwhile, Elliott, Trump is unapologetic, as he has been throughout this whole thing, but these cases are serious, and the Georgia case is not one that he can pardon himself out of. If you're his lawyers, would you be advising him to talk, defend the lies, the election lies that led to this point?
WILLIAMS: You know, I think if I were his lawyer, what I would do is, number one, try to get the case thrown out on some sort of legal matter, try to move it into federal court, try to raise whatever avenues you have for just making it go away.
PHILLIP: And not deal with the substance of it.
WILLIAMS: Not deal with the substance of it. Then I think all you can do as a defendant is attack the credibility of witnesses, attack the credibility of the evidence, and also just make the point that I thought I won this election and this was my attempt to zealously advocate on behalf of myself. So, you sort of make the case about your own intent, and the fact that everybody else is somebody you can't trust. There isn't really a great way to go about it, but that's just what defense attorneys have to do.
Shermichael, this is going to be like a train wreck kind of situation. You've got a Republican debate on Wednesday, and then a potential surrender on either Thursday or Friday. Trump seems to be banking on the idea that, hey, any news is good news, even bad news, of me surrendering in a jail. What do you think? How do you think voters are going to respond?
SINGLETON: All the news is going to be on him. And I think if you're an average lay Republican voter looking at this and you're looking at a pool of nine other candidates, you're starting to ask yourself, do these guys actually have a chance or will it indeed be Trump? And if it is Trump, then do I just hold my nose and vote for the guy anyway, because I want Biden gone or do I stay home?
And I think looking at the polling data outside of the 25 percent of never Trumpers who won't vote for Trump no matter what, I think most Republican voters are on the side if it's him, I'll vote for him.
PHILLIP: Yes, it certainly looks that way. Elliot and Shermichael stand by for us.
I want to bring in now criminal investigator and a former Secret Service agent, Evy Poumpouras. Evy, thank you for joining us.
We are learning that the Secret Service, they've been at that Fulton County Jail now for weeks preparing for this surrender. What do you think they need to have down before Trump appears? They've had a lot of practice, though.
EVY POUMPOURAS, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Yes, but it's really not a heavy lift. He's actually going to a secure location. It's a jail. It's got a lot of law enforcement there. It's already locked down.
So, usually, when you have a movement, the most vulnerable point is an arrival and a departure. That's really when a protectee like Trump is the most vulnerable. Once he's inside, they're going to secure the facility. You've got all these law enforcement entities helping with the motorcade route, the arrival, the departure, and the surrender itself.
Now, the surrender itself is quite common. Many -- you know, I would arrest individuals where I would allow them to surrender when they were nonviolent crimes. So, they will likely, though, expedite the process for him.
They probably don't want him to be there very long, so he's going to move to the front of the line, whatever that looks like. They're going to process him. I think it will be a negotiation about what they do or don't do because they really want to process him and then move him out.
Nobody really wants -- you have to think of it, the problem or the threat in their home that long a period of time.
PHILLIP: Yes. And this jail, of course, is a different venue than some of the other places that he's surrendered, Manhattan and Washington. These are jurisdictions that are very used to high profile, basically VIP defendants. This Fulton County Jail is actually known for its poor conditions. How does that affect where Trump is kept and how the Secret Service prepares for that?
POUMPOURAS: So Secret Service goes out in advance. It's called a site advance agent. So, they always send an agent out in advance, they leapfrog, they get ahead there with one week or a couple of weeks. You do an assessment of the whole structure, the building, the layout, what's it made out of, and you're doing an assessment, manpower. So, they're going to look at how many officers work there. What's the manpower like? Do they need to bring in supplemental?
You also have to think about the exterior, right, protesters, demonstrators. And you're also thinking about any vulnerabilities, who's going to show up, who's going to cause problems, is there a threat. And you're thinking about just the safety, not just of Trump, but other people in that area.
They're going to do a thorough job.
I've done so many of these advances and I've done them in places that you would think. How are you going to do this?
They can do really I don't want to say it's another Tuesday for them, but it really is kind of like a methodical process that they follow, fire safety, chemical, biological attacks, any lone wolves, any explosives, everything you could think of, what's above, what's below. So, they're really going to do a thorough assessment.
And I will tell you this. They don't want to have a bad day, not just the Secret Service, but the facility itself. It would really look very poorly on them if they're really not on their A game.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, absolutely. The eyes of the world is looking at them, even on this fourth time for Donald Trump. Evy, thank you very much for joining us.
And I want to bring in now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Thomas Joscelyn. He was also a senior staff member for the January 6th house select committee.
Thomas, many of the names that were brought up in the January 6th hearings, they are now facing charges in Georgia. That's actually very different from even the federal investigation where it's only Trump. What was your reaction to both of those scenarios that Jack Smith didn't charge those individuals and that Fani Willis decided to do so?
THOMAS JOSCELYN, SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well, I mean, I think they're pursuing different legal strategies, obviously. But I was impressed with Ms. Fani Willis' indictment. I thought it was very comprehensive. I thought she laid out the case and the narrative of the conspiracy to overturn the election in a very efficient and methodical.
And, you know, I would point out that in her indictment, even though she focuses on the Georgia charges, one of the things she does is she points out how these same actors likely violated the law in several other states. In the count one, which covers the RICO conspiracy, she lists all these different actions that also occurred in up to six other states.
And she's basically begging. I look at it as basically begging other prosecutors to file charges that are similar. I mean, this is something she did that I think was very -- she did the right thing here with these charges. And it is curious that others aren't following suit so far.
PHILLIP: Yes, it is curious, and we've asked that question here as well. One of the interesting things that emerged today from our own K- file here at CNN, they have a video showing Kenneth Cheseboro, whose name is in this indictment, following Alex Jones, a notorious huckster, basically, he's following Alex Jones around the Capitol grounds on January 6th.
The committee investigator, Temidayo Aganga-Williams, was just on CNN with my colleague, Kaitlan Collins, and he said that the committee wasn't aware of this video at all. Was this completely unknown to you all?
JOSCELYN: I didn't know that Kenneth Cheseboro was with Alex Jones. I mean, we certainly -- the committee certainly looked at thousands and thousands of hours of video from all the different camera footage, and we certainly looked at a lot of video footage of Alex Jones. And it's quite possible that Cheseboro was in some of that footage and we just didn't recognize know.
One of the things about Chesboro that we've kind of been learning is that there's more recent images have come out of late, and maybe that helped sort of identify him here.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, does it tell you anything more, though, about this question of what is the line, is there a line between the people who were leading the political part of this and the kind of election interference part, the fake electors and the people who were breaking windows and breaking into the Capitol? Does it tell you anything more about that?
JOSCELYN: Well, you know, Abby, one of the things we've seen in the press recently has been a lot of questioning about how did somebody like Kenneth Cheseboro, with his pedigree and his education, end up in the thick of this sort of conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election. And we're starting to get clues, assuming that he was with Alex Jones because he was sympathetic to Alex Jones and his cause, and I don't think that's a bold assumption, it does start to tell us something about his view of all this.
And one of the things we documented on the committee and in the final report is that Alex Jones and his Infowars played a very big role in the Stop the Steal movement. And it's important to keep in mind that what Alex Jones is all about is anti-government extremism, right? It's this idea that the U.S. government is illegitimate. And the inherent in that thought is the idea that should be overthrown.
So, the idea that Alex Jones would find himself there on January 6th and Cheseborowould be right by his side, I think, does start to speak to something about the mindset of Cheseboro, who is also this political conspiracy -- at the heart of the political conspiracy and the fake elector scheme to overturn the election.
PHILLIP: But does it surprise you that neither -- well, certainly not Jack Smith. I mean, I think that's where it would end up being if there was evidence to support it. Jack Smith was not able to say, we're charging someone, anyone, with the violence on January 6th.
Does that surprise you?
JOSCELYN: I'm not a lawyer, so I'm always a little curious how the lawyers make these decisions. But the way I look at it, it's all part of the same package. So, I don't think that there's really a firm line between the political conspiracy and the political violence. I think the political violence came about because of the political conspiracy. That's obvious. And I think that's every man on the street can understand that argument.
I mean, Jack Smith's indictment was very narrow to Trump, and he focused on very specific charges. But you can even see in that special counsel indictment, he is saying Trump is responsible for the attack. I mean, he says that throughout the speech at The Ellipse, for example, that Trump gave, which was very incendiary with the exception of one word, was entirely incendiary. He cites that speech all throughout the indictment.
So, I think, you know, this is something that just didn't charge him for inciting the attack but he certainly lays blame at Trump's feet for it.
PHILLIP: All right, Thomas Joscelyn, thank you very much.
I want to come back now to Elliot and Shermichael. Elliot, you are a lawyer. I do wonder what you think about this video that has emerged showing that connection. And also, I mean, this is an important question. The charges -- they don't really charge Trump with January 6th-related charges, and Fani Willis is dealing with some other issues, but does that surprise you?
WILLIAMS: Yes, two questions separately. So, with respect to Kenneth Cheseboro being seen on January 6th, it gets much harder for him or Donald Trump, anybody to claim that what Cheseboro was providing was merely legal advice and bouncing ideas around with the president when he's clearly palling around with Alex Jones on the day of January 6th. So, it muddies his avenues for defense a little bit. Now, to the second question about charging the president with a crime, I've been saying for a while, it would have been very hard to charge the president with a crime for the conduct on January 6th because you would have run into a lot of free speech questions with the words that he said there and linking him to the actual violence.
And then for seditious conspiracy, which some people have been charged and convicted of on January 6th, you'd have to prove some agreement or conspiracy that is still thin based on what's in the public record.
Now, is it conduct that is shameful, disgraceful, unpresidential, un- American, whatever? Absolutely. But know if you could charge it as a crime.
PHILLIP: So, Shermichael, just to bring this into the political realm real quick, I mean, on Thursday, it sounds like a lot of the candidates are going to be defending Donald Trump. And in order to do that, they're going to have to defend Donald Trump's conduct in the lead up to the 2020 election, between the 2020 election and leading up to January 6th. That's going to be quite a thing for a lot of Republican candidates to do, to align themselves with that.
SINGLETON: Well, they don't have a choice. I mean, don't shoot the messenger here for the viewers. But when you talk to the average Republican voter about January 6th, they will say, well, what about the BLM riots? What about the Antifa riot? What about this? What about that? Those guys were peacefully protesting. There were individuals causing a ruckus in the crowd that weren't real Trump supporters. People really believe this, Abby.
And so if you're a Republican at 6 percent, 2 percent, and you're thinking, I need to somehow pivot and reach into some of those Trump supporters, then you're going to take the stance of defending Trump and defending the individuals who have been now persecuted, according to many Republican voters, because they believe those individuals were wrongly charged.
PHILLIP: It might even be the ones at 20 percent, like Ron DeSantis, doing that as well.
Shermichael Singleton and Elliot Williams, thank you both very much.
SINGLETON: Thanks, Abby.
PHILLIP: And coming up next for us, we'll hear what a group of Republican voters are thinking ahead of next week's debate.
Plus, the CNN original series, Giuliani, What Happened to America's Mayor, provides a revealing look at the epic rise and fall of this American political icon. And here is a preview of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to Rudy Giuliani?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is almost unthinkable. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A theme that runs through his life is that he's got to be at the center of the action. Rudy's got to be the star.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rudy really wanted to make big cases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We sure attack him, deliver a message, which is you're going to go to prison. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York has five organized crime families and
they have been permitted to grow and grow and grow and grow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Giuliani was taking on the mafia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard a plane. It had crashed into one of the twin towers.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: There's a terrible tragedy. The best way we're going to get through this is if we remain calm.
The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear, ultimately.
Those of us who are here have to defend freedom by going about our lives unafraid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He stepped forward to be a leader.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was the man meeting the moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fast forward to Giuliani becomes the story of rise and fall.
GIULIANI: And we're going to fight to the very end to make sure they don't take away our free and fair vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rudy Giuliani arguing that he wasn't literally advocating for insurrection.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To understand the arc of Rudy Giuliani, one has to appreciate how intoxicating fame and power are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was always this tension between genuine public service and the pursuit of the glory of Giuliani.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rudy is not a guy who backs down. Rudy is a guy who doubles down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To stand up and be defiant in America, that's what they love.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Giuliani, What Happened to America's Mayor, tomorrow at 8:00 on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Everyone should debate if you qualify. I think you owe to the people to put out your vision, to talk about your record, answer questions about your record and decisions that you may have made or not made. And if you're not willing to do that, then I think that people are not going to look kindly on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: That was Governor Ron DeSantis, and you'll notice, he did not specifically named him, but he's talking about Donald Trump, but he's criticizing the Republican frontrunner for refusing to take the debate stage next week.
And sources tell CNN that Trump is not going to be there. He's going to sit down instead with an interview with former Fox News Host Tucker Carlson.
Joining me now to discuss whether a Trump-less debate will have an impact on the first primary debate is Pollster and Communications Strategist Frank Luntz.
So, Frank, you know, a debate without Trump in the Republican primary is something that is not unfamiliar to a lot of people. But how do you think it's going to affect the approach of the other candidates on that stage and even just the tone of it all, the vibe of that stage?
FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: Well, I guess it's kind of like breakfast without orange juice. You can still have a great meal but it just doesn't get started as good as you want it to do.
Make no mistake, this debate matters millions. Tens of -- I think you're going to have as many as 20 million people watching this debate. It's as significant as the first debate in 2016. The first appearance of Donald Trump actually was back in 2015. And everyone is tuning in because they want to hear what the candidates have to say. They want to see how they relate to each other. They don't want the negative.
So, it's going to be fascinating for those candidates that are critical of Trump, how they take him on, but without alienating his vote. Because in the end, it's not the criticism of Donald Trump that matters, it's pulling Trump's voters over to them because his lead is so significant, and we've never seen a primary election with someone with a lead this big who in the end is defeated in the pursuit of the nomination.
PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it would actually be historic if, at this point, Trump did not become the nominee.
So, on the debate stage, the next highest polling candidate would be Ron DeSantis. And on the campaign trail, you're seeing all these candidates trying to break through. This morning, Chris Christie actually aimed his firepower on DeSantis over the issue of January 6th. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When he got asked up in New Hampshire by a 15-year-old about his point of view on the January 6th riot, he said, well, I wasn't in Washington that day, so I don't know as much about it. Well, (BLEEP), man, I wasn't in Washington either, but I have a TV set, and I saw what was going on, and I got an opinion about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Could this become a DeSantis pile-on at the end of the day?
LUNTZ: Absolutely, absolutely. The question now is, who's going to be the alternative to Donald Trump? It's going to be one or two candidates. Right now, Tim Scott is doing very well in Iowa. Chris Christie is doing very well in New Hampshire. And whoever emerges from this debate, and there will be somebody who's crowned the winner, that person automatically raises money, automatically ends up on shows like yours, automatically starts to get the attention that they need.
Up until this point, it's been Trump, Trump, Trump, the indictments, his victimization, his accusations of persecution. And it's why Trump has been gaining and gaining, even though these indictments are happening. But on next Wednesday, the real election begins. And that's when somebody like a Chris Christie will emerge.
And the question is going to be who's got the best line? Who's got the best attack? But you have to deliver that attack without alienating the people that you're trying to win over.
PHILLIP: Yes, that will be very interesting to see. And I would probably add that how the attack is delivered, whether it looks overly scripted or natural, is a huge part of this, too.
But, Frank, I want to get to what you've been up to, which is talking to Republican voters. You talked to a group of 15 of them ahead of next week's debate, and you asked them to actually listen to a moment when Trump mocks Chris Christie's weight in a previous era. Here's how that exchange went with those Republican voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: No. Christie, he's eating right now. He can't be bothered.
Sir, please do not call him a fat pig.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It disgusts me because there's no need for it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't really want to see a candidate try their hand at standup comedy. I'd rather go see a comedian of my own choice. I don't like his humor. I don't really have anything flattering to say about Donald Trump aside from his policies. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like him because he always speaks the truth and just because people don't like the way he says it. Everybody is so sensitive in the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's speaking his mind. And that's one of the problems with a lot of the other candidates, is that, in some ways, they're too guarded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: That last comment is so interesting, they're too guarded. It kind of speaks to what we were just discussing, which is voters like Trump being kind of just off the cuff and saying whatever he wants. Some of them do, but others, as you saw in that group, did not.
LUNTZ: Well, let's be clear. Republicans like his approach. Independents and Democrats don't. What gets Donald Trump towards that nomination is exactly what hurts him in the summer, in the fall, as you enter into the general election.
And, frankly, and I've not heard enough of it yet, I think there's going to be a case. I think one of the big issues is whether Donald Trump can beat Joe Biden, because Republicans desperately want to get back to White House, and electability is going to matter to them.
Trump, as a person, is very controversial. Among Republicans, Trump's policies are very much supported.
PHILLIP: All right, Frank Luntz, thank you very much for all of that.
LUNTZ: Thank you.
PHILLIP: And up next for us, a teacher reads a book about gender identity to her class in suburban Atlanta and is subsequently fired. That teacher will join me here next.
PHILLIP: The culture war is erupting in a suburban Atlanta classroom. The Cobb County School Board has voted to fire a teacher who read a book about gender identity to her gifted fifth graders. The board voted four to three yesterday to terminate the contract of Katie Rinderle against the recommendation of another panel of retired county educators. Now, she was removed from her classroom back in March after a parent complained. She'd read the book, "My Shadow is Purple", to her class. Here's an excerpt of that book. It says, quote, "my dad has a shadow that's blue as a berry, my mom is as pink as a blossoming cherry.
But there's only two choices, a two or a one, but mine is quite different. It's both and it's none." And joining me now is Katie Rinderle and Craig Goodmark, her attorney.
Thank you both for being here. Katie, by now most people watching, and I'm sure you were, as well as a teacher, you're aware of the controversy surrounding books on this topic. But you chose to read it anyway. Why?
KATHERINE RINDERLE, TEACHER FIRED FOR READING BOOK ON GENDER IDENTITY TO STUDENTS: I purchased this book at our school scholastic book fair and my students were able to vote on a selection of books. So, they actually chose this book and that's why I wrote it aloud to them. But, you know, this book is an affirming book that truly is celebrating, you know, the importance of honoring who you are and also the unique assets and identities of others.
PHILLIP: That's interesting that the students themselves were the ones who wanted this book read. One of the things that is happening in the state of Georgia is that the state passed a bill that's being called a parent's bill of rights and it passed last year. This is similar to what's happening all across the country. But it says that it gives transparency to parents and what their children are being taught in school. I wonder, did you think about that or factor that into your decision making when you were in this moment? Your students asked you to read this book and you knew it was potentially on a controversial topic.
RINDERLE: When I originally read this book aloud, you know, I used my best judgment when I was selecting the book, and I truly felt that, you know, this book was an inclusive book, and that, you know, there was no policy that, you know, where you needed to get permission or, you know, anything of that nature. So, you know, and I still believe that.
PHILLIP: They, Georgia officials, they also say that you violated the state's divisive concepts law that bars teachers from, quote, "espousing personal political beliefs", and it guarantees the parents have, quote, "the right to direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of his or her minor children". I wonder what was the reaction from your students to the subject matter of the book? And do you think that when you hear about what that law is all about, that you violated it?
RINDERLE: So, it's really hard to know where this invisible line is. These laws are intentionally vague and, you know, really causing teachers to self-censor because they are so vague. My students, they were able to, you know, relate to this book as gifted students and truly were able to celebrate not only, you know, their giftedness and all of their interests, but also their own unique identities. And we're able to engage in conversation with one another and you know, that's important.
It's important for students to be able to have open discussion, to share their thoughts, to not only be able to connect with the books that are reflective of them, but also are reflective of identities that are different than them, and for them to be able to learn from the perspective of others. You know, literacy is, you know, a foundation. The foundation of literacy is to foster communication and that's critical.
PHILLIP: Craig, the Cobb County School District, they have this statement that I'll read to the audience here and to you. The district is pleased that this difficult issue is concluded. We're very serious about keeping our classrooms focused on teaching and learning and opportunities for success for students. The board's decision is reflective of that mission. But Craig, what do you say to the officials who made this decision and claim that Katie here violated multiple rules and laws?
CRAIG GOODMARK, ATTORNEY FOR KATHERINE RINDERLE: I really, I really wish it could be that simple. And clearly I disagree with the board's statement. They've put this type of politics over educational policy the entire way. It's just, it's unfortunate that they've allowed the political agenda of outsiders, of people who aren't in the classroom with Katie seeing the good work that she does ahead of the students. And that is, it's not good.
PHILLIP: And before we go, Craig, do you plan legal action on behalf of your client?
GOODMARK: So, we're evaluating all the avenues. Katie has the right to an appeal to the State Board of Education and we're looking at all of our legal options, yes.
PHILLIP: All right. Katie Rinderle and Craig Goodmark, thank you both very much tonight.
GOODMARK: Thank you. And up next, an uproar over the latest Bradley Cooper movie. The actor wearing a
RINDERLE: Thank you.
PHILLIP: And up next, an uproar over the latest Bradley Cooper movie. The actor wearing a prosthetic nose to portray famed Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein. Did he cross a line? That's next.
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Are you itching to move? No, I'm not. Okay. Actually, at all. I'm thinking of a number. Oh, I don't know. Nine. No. Five. You have to think. Okay. It's two, darling.
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PHILLIP: Bradley Cooper is now facing criticism over his use of a prosthetic nose in his newest film "Maestro" after the trailer was released earlier this week.
Now Cooper, who is not Jewish, portrays conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, who was Jewish in this upcoming biopic about his life and marriage. Some feel that the prosthetic nose reinforces hurtful anti- Semitic stereotypes. And here to discuss it is screenwriter and journalist Neil Turitz. Neil, thanks for joining us. You call this a manufactured controversy and an overreaction that undermines, you know, real claims of anti-Semitism. Why do you say that?
NEIL TURITZ, SCREENWRITER AND JOURNALIST: Well, I think that ultimately this is a small thing. Anti-Semitism is sinister. Anti- Semitism is meant to injure and to hurt and to separate Jews as the other. There is maliciousness to anti-Semitism. This is not that. This is a prosthetic nose that, is it a little bit big? Okay, maybe it is. But Bradley Cooper doesn't look anything like Leonard Bernstein. And seeing this, it makes me think that he does look like him. I think that it's makeup. People play people who don't, they don't resemble all the time. Rami Malek doesn't look anything like Freddie Mercury, for instance, but he put the teeth in and suddenly he wins an Oscar.
PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, you brought up Rami Malek, who you can see there on the screen, made himself to look like Freddie Mercury. There's also Nicole Kidman. She in the movie, "The Hours", played Virginia Woolf.
TURITZ: Virginia Woolf, yeah.
PHILLIP: And I don't even know how many prosthetics she had, frankly, because she transformed her face to look like Virginia Woolf. This is definitely a part of, you know, the costuming in Hollywood. And you point out that the nose is actually, if you look at the trailer, it's larger at the beginning when he's younger. And then it kind of more fits his face, which I think might also have been a choice.
TURITZ: It fits his face, yes. As Leonard gets older and Bradley wears more prosthetics, the face fills out and the nose feels natural. I mean, I think that, there were a lot of opportunities. Bradley Cooper worked with Bernstein's children in the lead up to in the making of this film. He worked with them very closely and I think they had a lot of opportunity to say, hey, dial back on the sneezer a bit. And, you know, the fact that it ended up like this, they actually came out with tweets or I guess whatever they're called now.
PHILLIP: Yeah, I actually have this statement. I'll read it to folks. Yeah, they put out a statement supporting him. It says, "It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose and Bradley chose to use makeup to amplify his resemblance and we're perfectly fine with that. We're also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well."
You know, I mean, that is pretty crystal clear. It was a choice they were perhaps a part of and okay with. But there is, you know, the argument that some people make that that idea of a large nose is an anti-Semitic trope and that by just perpetuating it, you're sort of feeding into the trope.
TURITZ: I think that if the cliche of the big Junos that is used in the cartoonish version of this is meant to injure. And this is not, I just, there's no rational argument that anyone could make that would convince a sane reasonable person that Bradley Cooper is trying to injure or is trying to create some things like this cliche. And the fact is in the intro, you mentioned that Bradley's not Jewish playing a famous Jewish man. And that's another part of the outcry as well, that only a Jewish person should be playing him. But where does that end? Does that mean only Christians can play Christians? That only straight people can play straight people? Richard Gere can only play a Buddhist?
PHILLIP: Well, to that point, I wanna just play, I mean, just to that exact point, I wanna play what Stanley Tucci said earlier this year about straight actors playing gay actors. Listen.
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STANLEY TUCCI, ACTOR: I'm always very flattered when gay men come up to me and talk about "The Devil Wears Prada" or they talk about "Supernova" and they say that like it was just so beautiful, you know, you did it -- you did it the right way because often it's not done the right way. But I really do believe that an actor is an actor is an actor. You're supposed to play different people. You just are. That's the whole point of it."
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PHILLIP: I would say that maybe the exception to that is, yeah, right, maybe the exception to that is, we don't wanna see blackface in 2023.
TURITZ: Of course not.
PHILLIP: But on some of the other forms of identity, you think he's right?
TURITZ: I absolutely do. I think that also the -- the outrage is selective, you know.
There was -- I don't remember any kind of large protest some years back when Jim Caviezel was cast to play Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ". Jim Caviezel is a devout Christian, and I don't think I need to remind you that Jesus is perhaps the most famous Jewish person who ever lived.
PHILLIP: Yeah, exactly. That's a very good point, as well. Neil Turitz, thank you very much. An interesting conversation there.
TURITZ: Thanks for having me.
PHILLIP: And over a year's worth of rain could be coming to the Southwest, the latest on Hurricane Hillary, right after this.
[22:55:00] PHILLIP: Hurricane Hillary could dump over a year's worth of rain on the southwest from Sunday into early next week. And now parts of California are under a historic first ever tropical storm watch, including the Los Angeles area. Hillary was a powerful category for a hurricane turning about 325 miles south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and this afternoon with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour with stronger gusts as well. That's all from the National Hurricane Center. But just small deviations in the hurricane's track could change the forecast for the most intense rain and wind. And at 11, Jim Acosta will have the latest forecast in just a few minutes. But that's it for me here on CNN Prime --
PHILLIP: And that's it for me here on CNN PRIMETIME. "CNN TONIGHT" with Jim Acosta starts right now. Hey Jim.