Return to Transcripts main page


Biden Beware; What To Expect At Next Week's Dem Debates; School Board Votes To Remove Historic H.S. Mural; "Meat" With Approval:" Can Plant-Based Foods Be Called Meat?; Civil Trial Set To Be The Biggest In U.S. History; Lawsuit Alleges Companies "Turned A Blind Eye" To Drug Abuse; Lawsuit Accuses Pharma Of Promoting Opioid Epidemic; Boris Johnson's Politically Incorrect Story. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired July 27, 2019 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in Washington D.C.. "I'm not going to be as polite this time." With those words this week, former Vice President Joe Biden sets the stage for a pair of presidential debates in Detroit that Biden remains atop the crowded Democratic field and in head-to-head matchups with President Trump was confirmed by new polls released this week and the president took umbrage with "Fox News" after it showcased a survey in which Trump loses to Biden by 10 points.

The president tweeted, "'Fox News' at it again. So different from what they used to be during the 2016 primaries and before -- proud warriors. Now new "Fox" polls, which have always been terrible to me, they had me losing big to crooked Hillary, have me down to Sleepy Joe."

Perhaps he'd be more concerned if he followed the money. At "Bovada," an online gambling site, Trump is a straight 50-50 to win re-election. Not the margin to be expected of an incumbent against an undetermined opponent and if money talks, it's Kamala Harris' name that is being shouted. The wagering site ranks her most likely to win the nomination higher than any other Democrat. Interestingly, Biden and Elizabeth Warren have an equal shot to win the nomination, but Biden has a higher probability of being elected president.

So all eyes will be focused on center stage where Biden will be sandwiched between Harris and Cory Booker and keep in mind that Booker just called Biden the architect of mass incarceration for supporting the 1994 crime bill.

But there's this. This week is the last dance for certain of the Democratic contenders. The rules for the next debates in September are more demanding. To participate in Tuesday and Wednesday's debates here on CNN, candidates needed 65,000 unique donors in at least 20 states, including at least 200 donors in each state or a candidate must have earned at least 1 percent polling average in three separate surveys, but the rules for the third round of debates in September are much more demanding in terms of polling data and donors. So Biden best not ignore what might come from the fringe. On his far left will be New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and to his further right will be Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Biden might want to keep his eyes on the two feisty New Yorkers. Kamala Harris proved in the first round that the surest way to elevate one's self is to try to topple the king. If de Blasio or Gillibrand, in an effort to keep themselves on stage for the next round, attempt a Hail Mary at Biden's expense, the front-runner will literally be getting hit from all angles.

Joining me now to discuss is Amie Parnes, the senior political correspondent for "The Hill" where her latest piece is, "Team Biden Fires Back: 'You Can't Let People Say BS and Not Respond to It,' and Todd Graham, director of debate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His debate teams have won five national championships and three times he's been named national debate coach of the year.

Todd, if you were advising one of the so-called second tier candidates who will be on that stage the second night with Joe Biden, would you tell them to train their sights on the former vice president?

TODD GRAHAM, DIRECTOR OF DEBATE, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY CARBONDALE: Not necessarily actually, no. One of the problems with the second tier candidates are they're second tier. They aren't going to be elected president. So I think one of the things that history has taught us is that second tier candidates have a chance to become president in the future as long as they don't offend people.

One of the things about attacking Biden is while it might work to bring Joe Biden down slightly, there's no indication anywhere that it ever actually elevates those lower tier candidates into upper tier status. In fact, what it does is it turns off some of the voters. So yes, maybe some Joe Biden voters now don't really appreciate some of Joe's policies after a lower tier candidate attacks him, but they also really don't like that lower tier candidate now either because they made them mad and they made them uncomfortable.

SMERCONISH: Todd, a follow-up -- a follow-up for you. Does Joe Biden have some sensitivity in the way in which he responds if it's to both Kamala Harris and Cory Booker that he faces a challenge given that they're both candidates of color and of course, you know, the strength of people of color in the Democratic primary and nomination process is really a serious consideration?

GRAHAM: Yes. Joe Biden's staring right into the reverse pit of doom. So like, you know, debaters get around and try to make cool names for stuff because we're generally not very cool people and so the reverse pit of doom is this. Here's what happens in this debate when Kamala Harris brings up issues of race again, Joe Biden's got to be very careful because if he decides to go on the attack, which he says he's going to do, but if he does that in any way that's imprecise in his language or in his tone, he's setting himself up for a new criticism which is what I'm calling the reverse pit of doom.

[09:05:05] So for instance, let's say that Joe Biden attacks back. Here's all Kamala Harris or Cory Booker has to say. They have to say listen, don't lecture me on racism. I've lived it. SMERCONISH: Amie ...

GRAHAM: That's going to hurt.

SMERCONISH: Amie, your reporting has been great on how team Biden is getting ready. You say they've got specific lines of attack for both Kamala Harris and Cory Booker should those challenges come. Explain.

AMIE PARNES, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE HILL: Well, I think, Michael, what they're aiming to do is they -- as an advisor told me yesterday, they're expecting the unexpected. So I think he's going in. He is going over, with his team, things that anything and everything in debate prep to make it seem like he hasn't seen these attacks for the first time to go over them. So he is going to be ready. You're not going to see him kind of take the more statesman like approach this time.

I think he is going to throw punches and as someone told me the other day, someone that's on his team, I think people want to see him throw a punch because that's part of his problem. He was unable to do that the last time. He is proving that he is the most electable, but he hasn't proven that he's a fighter and you need to be a fighter when you're up against President Trump.

SMERCONISH: Amie, I don't want to overlook night one. Night one, among others, features Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. My perception and I think borne out by the polling data is that she is the more ascendant of the two and probably at Bernie's expense. What do you anticipate from those two in particular vis-a-vis one another?

PARNES: I don't think they're going to be particularly -- I don't think they're going to throw punches and go after each other. They are -- they remain friends and both people -- both allies on both sides say that you're not going to see that, but I do think that they're going to draw contrasts with each other and there are contrasts. They're not the same type of -- sure, they appeal to progressives, but they have different issues. They are -- you know, they appeal to different people in that demographic.

So I think you're going to see them say this is what I am for. You're definitely going to see Elizabeth Warren try to own that night as she owned the first round of debates and I think she was probably a little disappointed that she's not going up against Joe Biden this time around because I think she kind of wants to prove that she is the more electable in that group.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Todd, you have coached so many collegiate debate champions. Among all who are on the stage both nights, who's got the best chops as a debater and does it matter in the way in which this all goes down?

GRAHAM: Well, it does matter somewhat. In the first debate, I thought the person with the best chops -- we had three of them. Obviously Kamala Harris was good, Pete Buttigieg was good and obviously Elizabeth Warren was good. So they all have -- they all have particular skill sets. I actually look for Pete Buttigieg to have a good debate because he'll be on the same stage as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Obviously his age makes a difference between the two. Plus, remember, he's the more moderate of those three candidates. So I think he'll be able to contrast his ideas nicely with theirs, but at this point, most of the top-tier candidates are quite good at debates. So it's just do they have a bad debate and if they do, why?

SMERCONISH: Amie, final question. What are you most looking for either Tuesday or Wednesday night? What do you most want to know?

PARNES: I think I want to see if Elizabeth Warren can kind of prove that she is sort of ascendant, as you said, if she -- if she is sort of the one to beat this time around because she has run such a stellar campaign pretty much all the way around.

So I think a lot of people are kind of looking for that and I think a lot -- all eyes are on Biden. I mean, certainly he -- this isn't his last dance. He is the front-runner by far, but I think a lot of people want to see, like I said before, that he is the fighter, that he's not going to be this passive guy and that he is not going to let people walk all over him and that remains to be seen.

GRAHAM: But he has to pick his ...

SMERCONISH: Amie, Todd ...

GRAHAM: Thank you, but I was just going to add he has to pick his topics carefully when he does want to attack.

SMERCONISH: Nicely done, guys. Thank you for being here.

PARNES: Thank you.

GRAHAM: Absolutely.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. This, I think, from Facebook. What do we have, Catherine? "Bernie is the only one who can beat Trump."

Dave, it's not what the data shows. I mean, you know, Biden continues to benefit from the perception that not only does he have experience, et cetera, et cetera, but Democrats, they want a winner and the perception which is borne out, take a look at the Ohio polling that we saw just this week, is that in a head-to-head contest, he's the strongest candidate. The question is whether he can survive this gauntlet that is the Democratic nomination and caucus process.

Hey, up ahead, a San Francisco school board has voted to remove this New Deal-era mural from a high school because of complaints about its depictions of slavery and depression, but those topics are what it's supposed to be about. Have the culture wars gone too far?

[09:10:02] And this week, I went to lunch, I had sliders and chicken fingers. They were delicious. There was no meat in my sliders, no chicken in my wings. Twenty-four states now pushing laws preventing vegan products from being called meat, but the alternative meat makers are fighting back. Who's right? I want to know. Go to my website at and answer this question. Should it be illegal for vegan or vegetarian food items to be called burgers, steaks or dogs?


SMERCONISH: The latest target in the culture war that has brought down Confederate monuments is a high school mural. This 1,600 square foot Depression-era mural in San Francisco's Washington High School depicts the life of George Washington. It was painted in 1936 by Russian artist Victor Arnautoff, a communist who was highly critical of America's history of racism.

In one panel, Washington directs gun-carrying colonists westward past what looks to be a slain Native American. In another, Arnautoff depicts Washington negotiating with a slave owner and slaves working at Washington's Mount Vernon estate.

The fresco has been criticized by an ad hoc committee of students and others who say it, quote, "glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, manifest destiny, white supremacy and oppression."

[09:15:09] A meeting on the topic devolved into a screaming match.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a licensed psychologist. The trauma is real. Why don't you believe the trauma is real? Why don't you believe the trauma is real? Why don't you believe? Believe the trauma is real. My daughter can't go there.


SMERCONISH: The school board voted six to zero to get rid of or cover the mural. To do so will cost upwards of $600,000 before court costs, but a petition signed by more than 400 academics and educators urges the board to reconsider.

Joining me now to discuss is Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco. His daughter attended Washington High School. He wrote a column in the "San Francisco Chronicle" about the dispute entitled, "The new America: Those who yell loudest win."

Mayor, how do you see it and why?

WILLIE BROWN, FORMER MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO: Well, frankly, I don't understand why anybody would not want the actual things that occurred in this country to be appropriately depicted for educational purposes. There's no other way to get the discussion going and that's exactly what Arnautoff had in mind when he so displayed the horror of being part of George Washington's slave family.

SMERCONISH: And one of those who was shouted down was a guy with the best body of knowledge about the artist who wanted to explain where he was coming from. Am I right? BROWN: That is exactly right. You've got to know that in this country when you talk about taking away a statue of Robert E. Lee, that's one thing, but removing a demonstration that constantly generates dialogue between people, as this particular mural does, is an educational tool. It's actually and should be a part of the curriculum.

SMERCONISH: Mayor, so often today, these battles devolve into the left versus the right, red states and blue states, but an "LA Times" editorial caught my eye. I'm going to put it up on the screen and read you something.

They said, "Rather than the usual left-right divide, in this instance the fight is primarily among liberals -- those who want the mural removed because they consider it a traumatically offensive reminder to Native American and African American students of a horrible past and those who defend the mural as an honest and anything but racist representation of the nation's history, including its less than admirable aspects. Talk about a teachable moment." Is this a fight among liberals?

BROWN: It is, at the moment, it's a fight among liberals, but then again, you cannot assume that because you're a liberal, you're well informed, because you're liberal, you're artistically inclined, because you're liberal, you're culturally oriented. That happens not to be the case and believe me, it's unfortunate that it paints San Francisco dramatically different and somewhat akin to some of the other places in the country as not well informed and certainly as not liberal.

SMERCONISH: I read a letter that was sent to "The New York Times" by three members of the school board and they were defending their position and they said, "For 80 years this has traumatized students." Now, I pointed out at the intro that your daughter is a graduate of that high school. For 80 years, has this been traumatizing students?

BROWN: Not at all. As a matter of fact, frankly, the mural was an instructional tool for dialogue in my family. We always, at dinner, discussed what occurred in the school, what occurred in the job or some other place and to have this particular opportunity, those school board members obviously don't know what they are talking about.

SMERCONISH: OK. A naive question. Why in the hell would it cost 600 -- assuming it were to go away or literally be whitewashed, why the hell would it cost $600,000? I think a couple of buckets of paint and a few buddies, I could knock it out for $100.

BROWN: If you were going to do it, clearly you could do it with simply a roller and some paint from Sherwin-Williams or whomever and it would not cost $600,000. Understand, however, San Francisco is different. We'll have to do an environmental impact report. We will have to make the appropriate kind of safety systems around removing this particular item or whitewashing it in some fashion. We will have to make sure it's union labor who's actually doing this and then it, of course, has to be appropriately supervised. A combination of all of those things makes it incredibly expensive.

[09:20:04] Those school board members, if they want to move it, ought to go raise some money themselves or donate it.

SMERCONISH: You're sounding like a conservative. Final question. Where does this all -- where does this all end up?

BROWN: Well, I suspect that the school board is going to have to seriously reconsider because for one time, it's the students who are saying don't remove the mural. It's not their parents.

SMERCONISH: Mayor, thanks so much for being here.

BROWN: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are you saying on my social media, my Twitter, my Facebook comments? This comes from Facebook. "Liberal snowflakes continue to attempt to erase history. Pinheads!!!" Look, the mayor is no, you know, far-right guy and I think he agrees with the fact that there's a healthy debate here and a wonderful teaching moment that will be ignored and removed if, in fact, the mural goes away. I think it's a wonderful thing. If it were in -- if it were in a school where one of ours had been educated, I'd be thrilled and similarly at the dinner table, would be using it as a teachable moment.

Up ahead, a massive lawsuit seeking to punish pharmaceutical companies for saturating the U.S. with billions of pain pills. Does it have any chance of curbing the opioid epidemic?

Plus, veggie substitutes for meat, so successful, so popular these days. They've even hit fast food chains like Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts, but 24 states have introduced legislation saying it can't be called meat. Are they right? The fight reminded me of this "SNL" sketch from 2004 with a pitchman you may recognize.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To all you people out there, stop by and enjoy and to all you chickens, you're fryered. I don't like that. Come on. Get the dancers back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (PH): Trump! You know our wings will make you happy. Trump in! You know our wings will fill you up.





SMERCONISH: For consolidated -- (ph) unless it settles a lawsuit pending in federal court, scheduled to begin trial in October will be the biggest civil case in U.S. history. The subject? Opioids. The consolidated case in Cleveland ultimately pits 2,000 cities, counties, Native American tribes and other plaintiffs against various pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in creating the overdose and addiction crisis that has overwhelmed public resources. Last week, it was revealed that drug companies saturated the United States with 76 billion pain pills over seven years. Lenny Bernstein is a health and medicine reporter for "The Washington Post" who has covered the case for the last three years. His latest piece, "Opioid makers say there's no proof they are responsible for the epidemic's harms." Why Ohio? Why is this pending in Ohio?

LENNY BERNSTEIN, HEALTH & MEDICINE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Michael, the case was consolidated before a federal court judge in Ohio and because there are so many plaintiffs, he decided that he was going to take two counties, Cuyahoga and Summit, and use them as test cases. They're going to go first to see how the arguments fair in court and then all sides are going to assess after that.

SMERCONISH: Lenny, it seems unusual in a case where political subdivisions are the plaintiffs. Why is that the case?

BERNSTEIN: Because the epidemic has had an impact on them as well as the people who have been using the drugs. They have had to pay for emergency care, for law enforcement, for courts, for babies born addicted to drugs, for kids that they've had to put in foster care and their argument is, listen, drug companies, you showered these 76 billion pills down on this country when you knew or should have known that they were being diverted to illegal use. Now you have to help us pay for the consequences.

SMERCONISH: So let's summarize then what both sides say. Begin with the plaintiffs. What's their pitch? What's their argument?

BERNSTEIN: OK. So their pitch is just that. You did this. You caused the epidemic, which started 20 years ago and now has evolved to heroin and then later fentanyl, and you caused us untold billions of dollars in costs to take care of the things I just mentioned. You also created a public nuisance. In other words, you damaged the health of people in our communities the way, say, a factory that was polluting a waterway has damaged the health of people in our communities.

SMERCONISH: I have to ...

BERNSTEIN: That's the plaintiffs are saying.

SMERCONISH: I have to believe that part of the defense is going to raise causation to say that you can't lay -- you know, the pharmaceutical companies will say well, you can't lay all this off on us, if any of it.

BERNSTEIN: Precisely. The plaintiffs, at least for now, they're relying on a lot of aggregate data and the pharmaceutical companies who, remember, come from all different points in the supply chain. There are manufacturers, distributors, large retail chains. They're saying can you really show that our pills are the direct cause of all of these harms that you're alleging?

They're also making another interesting argument which is if you're saying we worked in concert to do this, because the plaintiffs have brought a sort of racketeering cause as well, how do you explain the fact that we are fierce competitors and that we're fighting each other tooth and nail for different shares of the market?

SMERCONISH: What about the role of physicians? Do the pharmaceutical companies point at doctors and say, hey, but for them writing all the scripts, we wouldn't be in this position as a country?

BERNSTEIN: Constantly. Constantly. They've been saying that for years since the epidemic began and there's certainly truth to that. One doctor who's willing to sell his prescription pad for cash and hand out drugs to anybody who wants them, to users and to dealers, can create an enormous amount of damage, especially locally. Think about the way one crack house could ruin an entire neighborhood. So the pharmaceutical companies have been saying that forever.

The law, however, makes the distributors, the wholesalers, the middlemen responsible for bringing -- for knowing what's going on with these drugs, for finding suspicious orders of pharmaceuticals and reporting them to the DEA.

SMERCONISH: Well, there are a lot of players in this dynamic between manufacturer and actual use and one of them, I presume, are the pharmacies. How do they factor into this litigation, if at all?

[09:30:00] In other words, is there a claim that says, hey, pharmacist X, Y or Z, you should have known when you were fulfilling that prescription that it was being abused?

BERNSTEIN: Yes. That is why some of the plaintiffs have sued the large retail chains. Your CVSs, your Walgreens, Walmart in fact.

And what they are saying is very analogous to the situation with doctors which is pharmacists have a corresponding responsibility not to give out drugs when they knew or should have known or suspected that they were giving them to illegal users and dealers. And to the extent that they didn't do that on a large scale they are culpable as well. That is what the plaintiffs allege.

SMERCONISH: Final question. Does it settle?

BERNSTEIN: I think that is an open question. I think Judge Polster, the federal court judge, is encouraging settlement, has all along.

I think it is a question of who blinks first. Who feels that this trial is less in their interest than settling and we may not know until the first two test cases go forward.

SMERCONISH: Lenny, that was an excellent summary. Thank you for it.

BERNSTEIN: My pleasure.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments, Catherine (ph). This is from Twitter.

"Opioids are a self-induced crisis. Their own responsibility."

Wow! Really, Duckwhisperer? A self-induced crisis. What about the individual who becomes dependent because this is what's been prescribed for them and now they just can't get off?

It will be very interesting to see the outcome of that case. I don't mean to suggest that any one of the parties bears all the culpability. I think there is plenty of blame to go around.

Still to come, to replicate the fat in beef this burger has coconut fat, ground wheat and potato. Do they get to call it a burger? Twenty-four states are saying, no.

Is that right? Make sure you're answering today's survey question at "Should it be illegal for vegan or vegetarian food items to be called burgers, steaks or dogs?"



SMERCONISH: On Tuesday I had lunch with an old law school professor of mine. He picked the spot. It was the Greyhound Cafe outside of Philadelphia.

My meal included two impossible sliders and some buffalo chicken wings. And it was delicious. There was no meat in the burgers, no chicken in the wings.

My lunch partner you see was Gary Francione. He's is a national renowned animal rights activist. The Greyhound Cafe is 100 percent plant-based which is plainly printed on every menu.

My lunch brought home a burgeoning controversy in which animal meat people are trying to stop plant-based food from being labeled as meat. "The New York Times" reported just yesterday that in 24 states this year the animal meat side has worked to pass legislation to prevent the practice. But the plant-based industry is fighting back in First Amendment grounds and the argument that consumers they know what they're getting.

Joining me now is Jessica Almy, director of policy at the Good Food Institute. A non-profit that promotes plant-based meat alternatives. And Dr. Mike Strain, a veterinarian who's the commissioner of agriculture and forestry in Louisiana.

In October of 2020 the ban on vegan food using meat on its label will take effect in his state. Dr. Strain, let me show you, let me show everybody a commercial right now for the impossible whopper.

Take a look at this. I want to know if you have an issue with it. There you see a burger on the grill, 100 percent whopper, zero percent beef is what it said. The impossible whopper. What do you think of that advertising?

MIKE STRAIN, VETERINARIAN, LOUISIANA COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY: Well if you are going to advertise an impossible whopper that is fine. As long as people know that it is not meat. That it is plant-based. What our legislation does is clearly says that what is on the label is what the product is. So if you want to have a burger, and as long as you know that it is plant-based. That is fine. But you can't call it a meat burger when it is not meat.

All we're saying is that the label must conform to the identity of the food product.

SMERCONISH: And is the purpose here to protect consumers or is it to prevent competition? Because I must tell you. Having eaten vegan meal this week which was delicious, I can understand why the status quo, the meat industry would be very, very nervous about what is coming.

STRAIN: No. I think what we're trying to do is that, you know, I'm charged with enforcing standards of identity. And if you look at throughout all of the code of federal regulations and our state laws, we have specific standards of identity. And what we're saying is, whatever the product is, is that it must be exactly what's on the level.

And so -- no, everyone loves competition, but if you are going sell, for instance, rice, it needs to be rice. It's aromatic rice, short grain, medium, white rice, brown rice. That is fine. But cauliflower rice, for instance, cauliflower is not a type of rice.

And so what's happening is that more and more you have products, they are creating new products but they want to use the identity of a known product to market and sell the new product. Just call it what it is. That is all.

And we have a duty to make sure that consumers know exactly what they are getting. Consumers and the new consumers that are coming up that will be buying these products.


STRAIN: And so whether or not it is meat, poultry, beef, shrimp, crawfish then we need to make sure that that is what the product is.

SMERCONISH: Jessica, does everyone love competition? What is really going on here in your opinion?

JESSICA ALMY, DOCTOR OF POLICY, THE GOOD FOOD INSTITUTE: Yes this is an absurd law and the other state laws that are like it are also absurd. This is an imaginary crisis. No one is mistaking a veggie burger for meat.

What is really going on is that producers are afraid of the new competition. But -- and they have enlisted the government's help to sensor the labels of their competitors.

SMERCONISH: I want to show you both another ad. This is from Dunkin' Donuts. Put that on the screen if we can. BYND DNKN'. Now what it says in that label and I think it's a bit tiny but what it says is plant-based protein patty. Plant-based protein patty. Jessica you first. React to Dunkin' Donut's ad there.

ALMY: My reaction is that looks delicious.


I think it is a great product. I'm really excited that Dunkin' Donuts has it. I don't see how anyone could possibly be misled by that product.

People are choosing plant-based meats because they understand that they are plant-based. That's the entire value proposition of the BYND meat product at Dunkin' Donuts. And so state laws are unnecessary. They are really not about consumers and they are about protecting the producers and they also violate the First Amendment.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Strain, have you eaten any of the food that we're describing and if not would you be interested in eating say an impossible whopper?

STRAIN: Sure. I'm from south Louisiana. So there are very few things here that we don't eat. And when you get to the crux of the matter, when you are talk about plant-based meat that is the crux of the matter.

Because you are saying meat is not produced from plants. There is a standard identity of what meat is. There is a standard identity of what shrimp is or what crawfish is. And so all we're saying is that if you are going to have a plant-based hamburger patty clearly say that.

If it is going to be an imitation meat product say imitation meat. If it is going to be a product where you are combining things, make sure that is on the label.

So, everyone loves competition. We like looking at new different products but the bottom line is just have truth in what you are selling. And the other part is that you know when we talk about rice, we talk about shrimp, crawfish, beef those industries have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to promoting their products, you know, both -- talking about the nutritional aspects, the dietary aspects, all the different things to promote these products. And now you have a new wave of products that are being created to look like, to have the texture of and trying to compete with the taste of, and in order to basically utilize the marketing that hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent on.

So if you are going to have a hamburger, burger made from a plant- based, just say it is imitation meat or it's a plant-based burger. But you can't call it meat because it is not meat.

SMERCONISH: Jessica -- Jessica, you get --

STRAIN: Meat comes from a live creature.

SMERCONISH: -- you get the final word. Go ahead. ALMY: There is no trademark on those words in the English language. And it violates the First Amendment for governments to come in and sensor products on the marketplace, to sensor the words that they are putting on the label. No one is confused by a veggie burger.

There is no evidence that anyone has ever eaten a veggie burger thinking it is a hamburger. These laws are really an overstep of government coming in and penalizing people sometimes with the threat of jail time for calling a veggie burger a veggie burger.

SMERCONISH: It is a great conversation. Thank you both for teeing it up for us.

ALMY: Thank you.

STRAIN: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and your Facebook comments. This comes from Facebook.

"If it ain't meat, don't use meat terms."

OK. Ray Franklin. How about this? Beef Steak tomato. Same thing, right?

I guess that would also need to -- Frisbee golf. Is it really golf if you are using a Frisbee? I could sit here and go through a whole laundry list of things that are already part of the lexicon that we haven't seen to complain about until now.

My hunch is that what has crystallized this conversation is, and maybe it is always been this way. I don't know. I've never tried it before. That they perfected the taste. It tastes really good.

And so it is appealing to folks who heretofore would not have been interested. I want to know what you think. Answer the survey question at

"Should it be illegal for vegan o vegetarian food items to be called burgers, steaks or dogs?"

Still to come, he's now the prime minister of the U.K. but back when he was mayor of London, Boris Johnson visited this show and the stories he told me predicted his rise and that of his pal Donald Trump. I'll explain.



SMERCONISH: This week Boris Johnson became the U.K.'s new prime minister. He met with the queen, he addressed parliament, he appointed ministers. He started making changes. It remains unclear if he'll be able to push through Brexit, the issue that helped propel him into office. But in November of 2014 when Johnson was London's mayor he came here on CNN with me to discuss his book on Winston Churchill. And looking back the politically incorrect anecdote he recounts about Churchill's (ph) expression (ph). It helps explain both Johnson's political rise and that of his friend now President Donald Trump.


SMERCONISH: We've all heard the story about Bessie Braddock, although I would be thrilled if you would quickly tell the story.

MAYOR BORIS JOHNSON, LONDON: Yes, it's diabolically rude. Really, Bessie Braddock, this rather large proportioned socialist M.P., she sees him coming out of the treasury, slightly the worst for wear, and she says, "Winston, you're drunk." And he says, "Madam, you're ugly, but I will be sober in the morning."

And, you know, I'd say we couldn't say that sort of thing. This is too rude.


SMERCONISH: OK. But here's the reason I bring it up.

JOHNSON: But he was generally very funny and very (INAUDIBLE) --

SMERCONISH: But he would be too politically incorrect to be elected today.


SMERCONISH: And what a loss that would be. Are there Winston Churchills among us that could never today run for elective office?

JOHNSON: They are, I'm sure there are plenty of people whose views are being pasteurized and homogenized and sterilized out of the system by the terror of the tweet storm of hate that engulfs them whenever they say something remotely politically incorrect.

And I think actually it's one of the reasons why people are so turned off politics, because they feel people aren't speaking from the heart.


SMERCONISH: I got to say that is amazing for me to watch. That is two years to the month before the election of Donald Trump. And I very incorrectly am saying yes but a politically incorrect candidate could never be elected today. I'm saying it to Boris Johnson, you know, who's just been elected prime minister in the U.K. and now saying it today on the watch of Donald Trump.


I was wrong on two counts. Amazing.

Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and you've got one shot to go vote now at You've heard the conversation, answer the question.

"Should it be illegal for vegan or vegetarian food items to be called burgers, steaks or dogs?"


SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question today at

"Should it be illegal for vegan or vegetarian food items to be called burgers, steaks or dogs?"

Survey says, 68 percent say no with 8,284 votes cast. I think that's probably the right outcome. Having eaten the food, here's my perception. My perception is that it's competition that is driving this, not consumer complaint, and anecdotally I will tell you that my guest was tremendous from Louisiana, I appreciated him being here.

I would have loved to have had consumers who were being duped and made a -- no pun intended -- beef about this, but I can't see any out there. Instead, it seems like it's the industry and their lobbyists and consequently legislators who are pushing back. If there were consumers out there who said I ate this and I had no idea what I was eating, I might feel differently about it.

Here's some other social media that came in this week. What do we have?

"Don't care if someone wants to eat a vegan burger. I want to know what I am eating.


Label it non-meat."

Joseph, I don't want to be repetitive. I don't think that you would be shocked if you looked -- I showed you the impossible whopper ad, which by the way made me swallow after I took a look at it. I don't know that in any of these instances you would say oh, my God, I was shocked by what I was eating.

I ate at a vegan restaurant this week. The menu said we are 100 percent plant-based. I understood what that meant.

What else?

No meat in my burgers with no chicken in my wings, you know you have the makings of a great song there.

Yes. But here's the problem, the problem is could it really be a country song if it's no meat in my burger and no chicken in my wings.


I think it would have to be a rock song. Hit me with one more.

"What? The mural is accurate. Why is everyone so sensitive."

I must say, Shirley, I agree with you. That mural to me in San Francisco is like 50 lesson plans, yes, show it. I mean, my God, let the teachers iso (ph) on that frame and explain what's going on and have a conversation and a debate. I can't think of a better place for it to be.

And one other comment if I may, not that I'm some fine eyed critic, but it's well done. It's a great piece of art.

Gang, I'm headed for Detroit for the debates. I'll see you next week.