Return to Transcripts main page


Can Either Coronavirus Or Bernie Sanders Be Stopped?; Will Superdelegates Risk Party Damage To Stop Sanders? What It Would Take For Sanders To Beat Trump; Why Some South Carolina Republicans Are Voting For Sanders.; U.S. Companies On Defense As Coronavirus Spreads With 67 Confirmed Cases Now In The U.S.; Backstage At Facebook: The Inside Story; Super Bowl LIV Half-Time Show's 1,300 Viewers Complain To FCC. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 29, 2020 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Can either coronavirus or Bernie Sanders be stopped? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. An already unpredictable presidential campaign just became more so. A list of intangibles which included the impact of impeachment, a large Democratic field, congested candidate lanes and the looming prospect of no one getting the majority of delegates needed to secure the nomination before the convention now includes the spread of a deadly virus.

We have 67 known cases in the United States, including four of unknown origin. For the past three years, President Trump has governed amidst domestic turmoil, largely of his own creation, but thankfully for he and the nation, absent during his tenure has been any national or international crisis. That's now changed.

As coronavirus spreads, it places the president under a microscope while managing a crisis and doing so without the benefit of a solid stock market to stabilize his support. The Dow has just lost 11.5 percent in five days and there are concerns about testing since only about 459 have been tested in this country as compared to nearly 9,000 in the U.K., plus worries about messaging.

Today's "Wall Street Journal" I think accurately sums up the president's challenge and opportunity. Quote, "Voters aren't going to blame him for a slowing economy caused by the virus. They will blame him if the government response seems inept or if he dismisses the problem and it turns out to be much worse than he has advertised.

The best posture is to tell the truth that no one knows how much damage the virus may do, while offering assurance that the government's infectious disease experts and enormous public health bureaucracy are ready for the challenge. It's best to project confidence without the gratuitous boasting or attacks." Whether the president has the discipline to follow that advice remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, today is the South Carolina primary. We're just three days from Super Tuesday. Former Vice President Joe Biden favored today in the Palmetto State, but then comes Super Tuesday when 34 percent of the Democratic delegates will be selected. So here is my question. Will Super Tuesday solidify Bernie Sanders' frontrunner status or place it more in doubt? Go to my website right now at Cast your ballot. I'll give you the results later this hour.

Are Democratic leaders willing to risk party damage to stop Bernie Sanders? Joining me now is New York State Democratic party chair Jay Jacobs. He is a superdelegate. Mr. Jacobs, how do you view your role? What's your job as a superdelegate?

JAY JACOBS, CHAIR, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY/SUPERDELEGATE: Well, a superdelegate, as you know, is just an automatic delegate. We have the same amount of vote power as any other delegate, as the elected delegates and I think our responsibility, certainly in the second ballot, because we do not vote on the -- by the virtue of a deal that we made, we do not vote in the first ballot. We leave that to the choice of a majority of the elected delegates.

And so on the second ballot, if no one gets a majority, then it becomes our job to decide and help decide on who will be the best candidate to win in November and not just the presidency, but all the way down ballot.

SMERCONISH: I had a professor as an undergraduate at Lehigh University, Dr. Frank Colon. I remember him saying always remember this, political parties exist for one purpose and that is to win. Is that how you see your role, to decide who among this field or someone else can win the White House?

JACOBS: Well, I think -- I think the priority certainly is winning. I think political parties exist for other purposes as well, promoting values and principles and policies that the members believe in, but I think winning is exceedingly important and I think there's been far too much talk so far about, you know, who's going to win based upon what's actually occurred. If you take a look at it, we've had less than 2 percent of the delegates decided already.

While Bernie sits right now with 45 percent of the delegates that have been selected to-date, that's only based on a vote, if you look at how many voters voted for him, the vote is 28.6 percent voted for Bernie. So there's no sure leader at this point, although it seems like in the media, it's a preordained decision.

SMERCONISH: Well, I totally -- I totally understand and respect that.


But, you know, we've talked about this for so long and now it's finally game on and by close of business on Tuesday, 38 percent of the delegates will have been selected and if it goes the way anticipated, it might not, then Bernie will be the presumptive frontrunner coming out, let's say, by Wednesday morning. Let's get to the plurality issue.

You know that he's now saying something different than he said four years ago which is that if he has a plurality headed into Milwaukee and no one obviously has a majority, he thinks by rights he ought to get it. What's your response?

JACOBS: Well, I just want to ask you Michael, is it such a radical idea that the Democratic Party will stick to the rules and is it such a radical idea that the person who helped negotiate those rules, who wanted them this way, is going to be kept to his word?

I mean, Bernie gave his word that this was going to be different, that we were going -- actually was going to be a majority rule decision, delegates -- that a candidate who had the majority of delegates would be the one who should be the nominee. That's what we agreed on and that's what I think he should stick to and I don't think that's so radical and I don't think we're so wrong to demand that we stick to those rules.

SMERCONISH: So the catch-22 perhaps that the party will face, though, is that you don't want to piss off that base that he brings to the table. You need them to win. So if they feel like he's earned it with a plurality, how do you handle that conundrum?

JACOBS: I think you have to look at two things. First of all, you know, I agree with you. We don't want to piss off any wing of the party, but realize something. Bernie gets the nomination without having achieved a 50 percent plus one majority of the elected delegates, you're going to have the other side not happy. So let's not be so sure that somebody isn't going to be walking somewhere.

The other end of this is we're not going to be bullied by any faction of the party over, you know, what we're to do, which is the right thing to do, which is stick to a majority and frankly, I have to tell you. We've seen this before. We're always under threat of, you know, the discord in the party that's caused by primaries.

We have to understand the bigger picture is this, we have to defeat Donald Trump and any member of the party who thinks they're going to walk out of a convention and choose not to vote, well, they might as well just put on a red MAGA hat and go all the way because the fact of the matter is they're going to be helping elect Donald Trump and if that's the most important thing, OK, but I think it's more important we elect a Democrat, whoever it is --


JACOBS: -- and if it happens to be Bernie, I'll be voting for Bernie.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Colon would have said because your job is to win. Thank you, Mr. Jacobs.

JACOBS: Well, thanks for having me. Superdelegate drama aside, if Bernie Sanders were to win the Democratic nomination, could he actually beat President Trump? After all, the ability to beat the president is what a majority of Democratic voters say is the most important factor in choosing a nominee.

New research from my next guest suggests Sanders would drive swing voters to Trump. David Broockman is associate professor of political science at UC Berkeley. He just co-authored this study titled "Candidate Ideology and Vote Choice in the 2020 US Presidential Election" where he collected more than 40,000 survey responses about voter preference. Dr. Broockman, right up front let's make clear, you and your co-author are Democratic donors. I don't want somebody thinking that you come to the table with a Republican bias. Fair to say?

DAVID BROOCKMAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Yes. In recent elections, I think I gave $27 to Bernie Sanders, like $2 to Pete Buttigieg and I think $5 to Amy Klobuchar or something like that. So we have our personal biases, but we come at this as social scientists and just wanted to say what does -- what does the data say?

SMERCONISH: OK. And so the data generally says that the moderate stands a better chance in a general election. You point to the fact that in 2018, those House Democratic candidates who were supportive of Medicare for All fared more poorly than those who were not. You also acknowledge that Bernie Sanders, superficially in the survey data, runs very well against President Trump, as do the other Democratic candidates, but upon closer inspection, you find what?

BROOCKMAN: Yes. So thanks -- first of all, thanks so much for having me on. so I think what's really interesting about this data is that, as you said, if you look at the top lines, it seems like Bernie Sanders is doing just as well as the leading moderates, but when you dig in, you find a couple interesting things. So the first is, as you alluded, it seems like there are some Republicans who, when they try to decide between Trump and Sanders, they say I got to stick with Trump, but who, when we ask about how they choose between Trump and one of the moderates like Buttigieg or Bloomberg, we find that they'd be willing to cross over the Democratic side.


That's just consistent with decades of social science, that when parties nominate candidates further from the center, some of those votes that they need to win that they would normally get from the other side, they turn away. And so it seems like, you know, just that classic pattern that we found for decades seems to be true in this case as well, that there -- it seems like there are some Republican swing voters who Bernie Sanders has a risk of turning away that otherwise might come into the Democratic column.

SMERCONISH: A pro Sanders perspective would say, well, wait a minute. Whatever he loses in defection, he's going to make up for with the youth vote and I think this is really the crux of your argument. Based on data, what do you find?

BROOCKMAN: Yes. So when we dig into the numbers, I think this is the other thing we find that's really interesting. So why is it that if Bernie Sanders seems like he's turning away some swing voters, that he's still doing really well in the polls? And in our data at least what we find is that there's just a huge number of left-leaning young people who, when we asked them about Trump versus, say, Buttigieg or Bloomberg. they say, you know, we're going to stay home, but when we ask them about Trump versus Sanders they say, oh ,I'm going to turn out to vote for Sanders.

That kind of enthusiasm would be great. The challenge for Sanders would be that the number of young people who say they're going to turn out, it's something like a 10 percentage point boost and that 10 percentage point boost, if that really did add to his numbers in November, would be a huge asset, but there's a couple of reasons to be skeptical that that might actually materialize.

The first is that what people say in surveys about whether they will turn out to vote is just, we know, really inaccurate. It just doesn't correlate all that well with what they'll actually do. Second of all, when you think about a 10-point turnout boost, it is just a gargantuan in political science terms.

To give you one point of comparison, when our first black president, Barack Obama, was on the ballot in 2008 and 2012, black turnout, depending on what numbers you look at, it went out by about 5 points. You know, really inspiring candidate for the African American community.

So the kind of turnout increase Sanders would need to bank on, in our data at least, is something like 10 percentage, double that and there's just not evidence from the early contests that young voters are going to --

SMERCONISH: Let me just --

BROOCKMAN: -- turn out at that historically high rate.

SMERCONISH: Let me just underscore this because I think this was the biggest takeaway and you tell me if I'm being too simplistic. Bernie Sanders would need to be a better stimulant for the youth vote than Barack Obama was for people of color in 2008 and that's why you don't think he can make up for the defections. Yes or no, does that encapsulate it?

BROOCKMAN: I think that's a fair overall summary. I think what I would say is, look, these early polls are not a crystal ball and there's no way to know for sure. So many different things could happen, there's so many other dynamics that matter, but it is true that the Sanders campaign has said, you know, part of how we're going to win is by inspiring this historic youth turnout. I'm sure everyone would love to see higher voter turnout, higher turnout among youth.

The challenge for Sanders is going to be that, you know, that social science just doesn't suggest that, by nominating a candidate further from the center, you can really inspire your base to turnout. I know people are really hopeful that would happen --

SMERCONISH: I encourage --

BROOCKMAN: -- but there's just not much evidence that suggests that that's the case.

SMERCONISH: I encourage folks to read what you wrote for "Vox" and to delve into the study itself. It's fascinating. Thank you, Dr. Broockman.

BROOCKMAN: Thanks for your time.

SMERCONISH: A group of grassroots Republicans in South Carolina do not believe that Bernie Sanders can beat Donald Trump. In fact, they actually plan to vote for him in today's primary because they're so confident he's the worst choice for Democrats. It's an effort being dubbed Operation Chaos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even after losing in Iowa and New Hampshire, Joe Biden is still the favorite in South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all know that the DNC and the Democrat establishment do not want the independent senator from Vermont as their nominee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're asking South Carolina Republicans to show their support for President Trump by crossing over and voting in the Democratic primary for Senator Bernie Sanders. We feel this may help move the needle in closing our primaries in South Carolina.


SMERCONISH: So here's the logic. South Carolina voters do not register by party, so they're allowed to vote in either party's contests. These grassroots Republicans are against open primaries, so they want to make a political point by voting for Sanders. Even President Trump brought up the idea last night at his rally in South Carolina.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, are the Republicans allowed to vote anyway even though -- am I allowed to request -- first we have to figure out who would be the weakest candidate against President Trump. Are we allowed to tell them who we would like them to vote for?


SMERCONISH: So will the effort backfire? Will it be successful? Joining me now is Pressley Stutts. He's the chair of the Greenville Tea Party and one of the organizers behind Operation Chaos. So Mr. Stutz, you're doing today or leading this effort to do today exactly what you think should be banned. Is that fair?

PRESSLEY, STUTTS, CHAIRMAN, GREENVILLE TEA PARTY: Yes, Michael. We're basically saying to the Democrats who have always crossed over for many years here in South Carolina what's good for the goose is good for the gander.


And we're using this as a demonstration to say to our legislators close our primaries. Primaries our selection processes and they're not an election. They're private party selection processes and the Democrats should not be telling the Republicans what to do, nor should the Republicans be telling the Democrats what to do.

But because of this double standard that has been applied upon us for so many years, we have launched Operation Chaos 2020.

SMERCONISH: How big is your effort? Is there any way to know how many Republicans in South Carolina today will vote for Bernie Sanders?

STUTTS: You know, it's hard to tell. We've had thousands and thousands of responses. You know, we think that 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 votes can swing, you know, the election by several points. Joe Biden is leading Bernie Sanders right now. Our goal is to get Bernie up there to make him very competitive with Biden on the delegate count.

SMERCONISH: Maybe it's a case of be careful what you wish for. I was just addressing with my last guest of the strength that Senator Sanders has with the youth vote. Maybe you would actually be boosting the strongest opponent for Donald Trump.

STUTTS: Well, we believe that Bernie is actually the worst candidate for the Democrats because it would be a clear contrast between his communist socialist ideologies and the free enterprise and capitalism and the Republican principles of President Trump. So we don't think the American people, even though some of the younger skulls full of mush may be leaning toward Bernie, as Mark Twain once said, if you're not a liberal by the time you're 20, you don't have a heart, but if you're not a conservative by the time you're 30, you don't have a brain.

SMERCONISH: The so-called skulls full of mush, according to the national surveys, their candidate would beat President Trump in a general election.

STUTTS: You know what, Michael? All the surveys in 2016 had Hillary Clinton beating president Trump hands-down. It did not happen. I'm just a regular guy. I'm an activist here in Greenville, South Carolina. We talk to people every day and the polls are never right.

SMERCONISH: It will be interesting to see the results tonight from the Palmetto State. Mr. Stutts, thanks so much for being here.

STUTTS: Thank you, Michael. Have a good day. Bye-bye.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine? From Facebook, "Trump winning in 2016 was supposed to be a mirage. Bernie Sanders could definitely win." Brian, I have said this routinely on my radio program. The best argument that Bernie has as these questions are raised about his nomination is to say they said the same thing about Donald Trump four years ago.

And further, I think what Bernie could say is had there been superdelegates weighing in on the side of the Republicans in 2016, Republicans, by the way, don't have a superdelegate process like the Democrats do, but if there were one, your nominee would arguably have been a more establishment Republican like Marco Rubio, maybe John Kasich, maybe it would have been Ted Cruz and Republicans would have denied themselves a White House victory.

One more from Twitter if we have time. "In 2016, most polls had Hillary Rodham Clinton in the lead and look at how that turned out." Nicole, my guest just made the same point. I guess my response to that would be to say those pollsters were actually right because she ended up winning the popular vote by three million votes and in the national surveys, they pretty much got it on the button. Where they blew it were in the swing states like my home state of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. So point made, but it's just not that clear to say, oh, the pollsters, they really, you know, screwed up in the last cycle.

Remember, I want to know what you think. Go to my Web site at Answer this question. Will Super Tuesday solidify Bernie Sanders' frontrunner status or place it more in doubt?

Still to come, the coronavirus is causing shutdowns and quarantines worldwide, rattling the stock market. What should we all be doing? Is this overblown? An expert on pandemics joins me next.

Plus, Facebook ended up playing a huge role in the 2016 election in part because Hillary Clinton's staff didn't think it was that important, while President Trump's team utilized it brilliantly. I will talk to the author of "Facebook: The Inside Story."




SMERCONISH: As coronavirus continues to spread and encroach on the United States, how worried should we be? Keep your eye on corporate America for an indication. Major companies are reacting to the news by making big moves. My company, "Sirius XM" where I host a radio program on the "POTUS" channel during the week sent out a memo that bans international business travel effective immediately. Anyone who's been to affected areas or in contact with someone who was in an affected area has to work from home for 14 days before returning to the job place.

And that's not all. Google has cancelled its upcoming news initiative global summit. Amazon has deferred non-essential travel. These decisions have a direct impact on business and were not made lightly. Think about the scenes from Wuhan, China, the streets mostly empty, commerce shut down, corporations getting nervous and want to prevent that from becoming a reality here in the U.S.. Schools are preparing as well. Miami-Dade County has plans to teach kids online.

As of now, we have 67 confirmed cases of coronavirus.


The CDC wants every state and local health department testing for the virus by the end of the week and the World Health Organization has upgraded the risk of an outbreak to the highest level, yet acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney continues to downplay fears of a pandemic. So where are we?

Joining me now is Dr. Amesh Adalja. He's a Pittsburgh-based infectious disease and critical care physician, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. He works on pandemic preparedness, emerging infectious diseases and hospital preparedness. Doctor, speak to the preparedness and testing issue as you see it.

AMESH ADALJA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Right now we've come to the conclusion that this virus is not going to be contained. So that means every country, every location really needs to prepare to be able to diagnose and treat those cases and the cornerstone of that is going to be able to get our hospitals prepared to deal with the surge of patients and that includes diagnostic testing and that's been one of the biggest hiccups that we've had, that we are woefully behind in being able to diagnose these cases, especially the mild cases.

And even the newest CDC criteria doesn't really allow people to be tested unless they have symptoms of lower respiratory tract infection, pneumonia. Not the runny noses, not the sore throats and we really need to understand how much community spread is going on and most of those cases are going to be mild and we don't want to miss them and surprise the American public when all of a sudden we have community spread and it seems to have come from nowhere because it's going on right now.

SMERCONISH: A California woman was diagnosed this week with any -- without any known link and had to wait four days, despite being requested for a test. Are the federal standards for testing too strict?

ADALJA: I do believe they're too strict. They've been modified in the last couple of days. Now there's more countries that you can come from and if you are severely ill and the clinician really wants the test, you can actually get the test, but we need actually this test to be in doctor's offices and emergency departments, we need it to be point of care.

We need doctors to be able to order this freely without having to go through any kind of bureaucracy and for that to happen, we have to have tests that are not just done by government labs. We need to have tests done by commercial labs, hospital labs. We really need to treat this the way we would treat influenza, for example, where everybody can test and we need to move quickly to do that.

SMERCONISH: In Washington State, a high school student's been diagnosed with no travel history. How does something like that happen?

ADALJA: The only way that that can happen is that there are cases that are undetected in the community and like I said earlier, many of these cases are mild. They're indistinguishable from the flu or the cold and this virus had been spreading since at least November in China, so that gives the virus a huge head start to seed the world and because most cases are mild, they may not have gotten noticed in the middle of our pretty severe cold and flu season we had this year.

So there are cases that are undetected and because they're mild, they're not meeting that criteria, so we don't know about them and each time these things pop up, people panic, but for most people in infectious -- in the infectious disease community, we knew these cases were out there and we were really only seeing the tip of the iceberg with the travel-related cases.

SMERCONISH: Sadly, it's become political. The White House says it deserves credit for having imposed travel restrictions from China weeks ago. Are they deserving of credit in that regard and where, if at all, are they falling short?

ADALJA: The travel restrictions are very controversial because they were initiated after this virus had a major head start and it's a respiratory-spread virus with a spectrum of illness including mild illness and it's easily transmissible from person to person. So there is a question whether or not this diverted resources away from hospital preparedness and mitigation strategies.

It may have slowed some of the importation of cases, but we believe that there were cases here already that were mild. So I don't give them too much credit for that travel ban. We know that travel bans in general don't work and we don't want to see any more of that with this virus. We need to focus on mitigation. What they have done good is communicate to the public well and have started to increase the readiness of hospitals to to prepare for this, but it's going to be a long haul. We're just in the very early days of what is it likely to be a pandemic.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Adalja, thanks for your expertise.

ADALJA: And thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: Here's more of what you're saying via Twitter and Facebook. I think this comes from Twitter. What do we have? "Smerconish and your commie viewers, stop rooting for the virus?" Amelia, did you hear anything that I just said in that five-minute segment that suggests I'm rooting for the virus?

I'm rooting for the eradication of the virus. I'm not playing any politics here with regard to the virus. I'm simply scared to death about my retirement given what just happened to the stock market this week, but I'm not putting a partisan finger on either side of the scale and I encourage everyone else to do likewise.

Up ahead, was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected? The answer is partly yes, but not for the reasons you may think. The author of "Facebook: The Inside Story," Steven Levy joins me after the break.



SMERCONISH: How did the Trump campaign utilize Facebook in 2016? And what can we learn vis-a-vis 2020?

My next guest Steven Levy has more information about this than anyone. He literally wrote the book "Facebook: The Inside Story" weighs in at 583 impressive pages. For the past three years he's had unprecedented access to Facebook's co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, some ex-pats who have turned against the company. Anybody with an insight into Facebook's launch and the ramifications on society.

Steven Levy is a technology journalist and editor-at-large of "Wired" who previously wrote about the history and culture of Google. We spoke at the Free Library of Philadelphia this week.



SMERCONISH: Steven, I want to talk to you about the 2016 and 2020 elections and Facebook. Conventional wisdom about 2016 is that the Clinton campaign was much more sophisticated, much better organized than this slash-dash Trump campaign. That was not true with regard to Facebook.

STEVEN LEVY, AUTHOR, "FACEBOOK: THE INSIDE STORY": Absolutely, that's correct. As it turned out, the Clinton people didn't think much of Facebook. They thought they were above that. And really never made the adjustment, even to where Obama was in using Facebook which is more in nation state back when he ran. But the Trump people were on it very early.

They had this guy Brad Parscale who wants to spend all the money he possibly could on Facebook and he learned every possible trick to use. As a matter of fact, he took advantage of an offer that Facebook gave to both the Clinton and the Trump campaign to embed some of his people in there to help them use the platform even more devastatingly.

SMERCONISH: Not because of any favoritism, which, by the way, Facebook would be very sensitive to.

LEVY: Right.

SMERCONISH: But, rather, because the Trump campaign was a big advertiser. And if you're a big advertiser, Facebook gives resources.

LEVY: Right, whether you're Procter & Gamble or the Trump campaign. The Clinton people turned it down.

And the Trump campaign they played the Facebook platform like Stradivarius. They did things -- their Facebook has this thing called look-alike audiences. So they can compare people with different traits to audiences they knew would respond to their come-ons. And they would try variations. Every possible variation to try to tweak the emotions of people who were in different groups. Sometimes, they would do as much as 175,000 ads in a single day because different ads would go to different people. They used artificial intelligence to craft the ads. They didn't have people in the boiler room saying this is ad number 100,000, it would be every variation. And they would try to find that subjects would resonate with certain people. Facebook allows you to not only to micro target people, but to merge them with other databases to know precisely who they are. And things like voter registration and other things. So they would know exactly who they're talking to and what the political aspects of these people's lives were.

SMERCONISH: All of that was completely legitimate. There were some illegitimate uses of Facebook during the course of the 2016 campaign. One of them was DC Leaks, the Russians. And you pointed out in the book that the Russians used Facebook exactly the way that the Facebook engineers had set it up to be used.

LEVY: That's right. Facebook -- and this came from decisions they made around 2008, 2009 when Mark Zuckerberg was obsessed with Twitter. And he wanted the Facebook platform, the newsfeed to be more -- to have more viral content and have sensational content spread more. That wasn't exactly his intention but that was the effect of that.

So it turns out that a lie travels faster than the truth. And the Russians in particular but also other purveyors of what's called fake news, articles that are totally made up --

SMERCONISH: Doing it for profit?

LEVY: Right. They did it for profit. What happens is they would make up a story or take a blog item that some far right-winger posted and make a story out of it, and link to their page and make money and ads.

SMERCONISH: Well, here's my favorite example again from your book. Denver Guardian. Totally bogus. There's no such thing.

LEVY: As it turns out the address was a parking lot.

SMERCONISH: Is that true?

LEVY: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Here's the headline. FBI agent suspected in Hillary email leaks found dead in apparent murder suicide. 500,000 shares, headline viewed 15 million times, bogus from Macedonia.

LEVY: Right. There were a lot of people in one little town in Macedonia were driving around in Mercedes because of fake news on Facebook. And it turned out that they found strictly as a profit matter they made more when they did anti-Hillary content than anti- Trump content.

SMERCONISH: Right. It resonated.

LEVY: Yes. Yes.

SMERCONISH: One more example in terms of 2016 in the way in which Facebook was sometimes manipulated for elicit purposes. Cambridge Analytica. It all began with the happiness quiz.

LEVY: That's right. As it turns out Facebook gave a lot of information, personal data to people who write applications that run on top of software and they could be quizzes. So if you took a quiz, you signed a little button, push a little button that gives your personal information.

But also the personal information of your friends. Things like likes and political preference, relationship status. So each person that took a quiz, people have an average of 130 friends on Facebook so it doesn't take a lot of people to get into hundreds of thousands and millions of people who get information --



SMERCONISH: Who had not consented.

LEVY: No consent whatsoever. And that's why one researcher in Cambridge University wound up getting 87 million profiles from Facebook which he then broke Facebook's rules and licensed it to Cambridge Analytica company co-founded by this guy from the extreme far right Robert Mercer.

SMERCONISH: So what should concern us the most as we look toward 2020's election with regard to Facebook?

LEVY: Disinformation campaigns through cutouts rather than directly overseas or from fake news purveyors overseas. They would plant their fake news not from their home base but find legitimate authentic accounts inside the United States, and entice those people to purvey that information.


SMERCONISH: Great book, by the way. Written for folks at various levels of understanding. If you're a techno-oriented person, I am not, I think there will be a lot in there for you. Someone at my level who relies on social media could understand exactly what the lessons were. And I think he was pretty fair in his approach. So I recommend it.

I want to remind you go to my Web site at Answer the survey question this hour.

"Will Super Tuesday solidify Bernie Sanders' front runner status or place it more in doubt?"

Still to come, the Super Bowl halftime song and dance by J. Lo and Shakira brought down the house. It also motivated 1,300 Americans to file complaints with the FCC. What's the one state where nobody complained?


[09:45:44] SMERCONISH: So, who was most offended by the Super Bowl LIV halftime show? You remember, the risque song and dance routine by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, well, some TV viewers compared it to -- quote -- "pole dancing" in -- quote --"S&M outfits," 1,300 of them felt compelled to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission.

For example, one viewer from Spring Hill, Tennessee said, "I do not subscribe to The Playboy Channel, we do not buy porn for $20 a flick, we simply wanted to sit down as a family and watch the Super Bowl. God forbid we expected to watch football and a quick concert but instead had our eyes molested."

The FCC complaints represent one one-thousandth of one percent on the 102 million total viewers on Fox and its platforms. In comparison Janet Jackson's notorious 2004 Super Bowl half time show featured the wardrobe malfunction, that yielded 540,000 complaints.

The complaints were obtained through a freedom of information act request by a Texas TV station, WFAA, the names were removed but the locations identified. They came from 49 states and Washington, D.C. which begs the question, which ones?

We broke it down. At first, it looks like they mostly tracked relative to population size. One of the largest states, Texas had the most with 139. There were zero complaints from one of the smallest, Vermont. But I wanted to drill down on which states voted red or blue in 2016 and see the comparison. Guess what, among the top-15 states registering the most complaints, three voted for Clinton and 12 for President Trump in 2016. To me, if you don't like the show, change the channel, restock the chips

One viewer from Avon, Indiana offered a suggestion for Super Bowl LV. "No pole dancing, no nudity, no crotch grabbing, no indecent costumes. Just good music. Could be inspiration or uplifting or even patriotic."

Still to come, your best and worse tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final result of this week's survey question. Go right now to and answer this, "Will Super Tuesday solidify Bernie Sanders' front runner status or place it more in doubt?"



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at my Web site at

The question was this, "Will Super Tuesday solidify Bernie Sanders' front runner status or place it more in doubt?"

Survey says -- 74 percent will place it more in doubt. Wow. With let's call it 11,000 votes cast. I read into this that, you know, if Joe Biden wins tonight in South Carolina, that gives him some kind of a head of steam that he otherwise didn't have going into Super Tuesday. The impediment is he can't quickly convert it to dollars and get on the air in time because we're three days out. But I presume that many of you think that if he does well tonight, he comes out with a head of steam and that reshuffles the deck for Tuesday. We'll find out because it's game on right now.

Here's some of what else you thought this week. What do we have, Catherine?

Smerconish, if I've learned anything from the 2016 election it's that pundit predictions mean nothing. I remember yours.

Jenna, I wear it as a badge on my lapel. I was absolutely wrong. I didn't think -- how about if I give you the full version. I didn't think he'd run, much less win the nomination or win the election. I make no bones about it and there's a lot of company that I have. But the point I think you're referring to is earlier in the program when I somewhat defended pollsters because the national polls that had Hillary were right insofar as she won by 3 million. But did I blow it? Absolutely.

What else? Didn't expect that, did you?

A Bernie nomination will push me to vote for Trump.

Right. So, Richard, the research that I went over with Dr. Broockman earlier in the program says that there are a lot of people like you out there. You know, who could be turned away from Bernie, the Democratic ticket that you'd like to support, and go for Donald Trump.

Now the Bernie response is to say, yes, but we've got this awesome youth vote that is going to come out in droves. And what that analysis really said is, it would take a more significant stimulant of the youth vote than there were of African-Americans in '08 for Obama. That seems like a stretch.

One more if we've got time. Real quick.

Smerconish, you can't stop the virus with an executive order or tweet.


Can we just all be cool and be level-headed about this and not view it in partisan terms? Let's hope that the scientists are on top of it and protecting us here and that we're not all looking to suit up as red state or blue staters. But instead just to empower the medical community to take care of business.

Join me for my "American Life in Columns" tour. Tickets are still available. Only one stop where seats are available, Bellevue, Seattle, Washington. And I'll also be a part of CNN's special live coverage of the South Carolina primary which starts today at 4:00 p.m.

Thanks for watching. See you next week.