Return to Transcripts main page


An Update On Coronavirus And How Vulnerable The Average Person Is To The Virus; What Should Happen When People Ignore Quarantine Advice?; Democratic Primary In Michigan On Tuesday; Did Gender Affect Warren's Ability To Win Votes?; Crackdown On Coronavirus Price Gouging. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 07, 2020 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: The nation prepares for the worst with one exception -- me. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Here is the very latest. The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. stands at over 330 and that number is growing rapidly, including 17 deaths. There are now cases in 29 states. A cruise ship carrying over 3,500 people of 54 nationalities is being held off the California coast for coronavirus testing. So far, 19 crew members and two passengers have been confirmed as infected.

California, Florida, Maryland, Kentucky, and Washington have each declared a state of emergency. Washington's primary is this Tuesday. Two top infectious disease experts have advised people over 60 and those with underlying health problems to strongly consider avoiding activities that involve large crowds such as traveling by airplane, going to movie theaters, attending family events, shopping at crowded malls and going to religious services.

Fears about the coronavirus disrupting the global economy continued to unsettle Wall Street. The S&P 500 Index has dropped 12 percent since February 19. In Austin, the South by Southwest music and film festival was cancelled, which last year brought 400,000 people and $350 million to the local economy.

Around the world, there have been other drastic changes to public events. In Venice, Italy, a string quartet played a Beethoven concert to an empty Opera House, streaming it instead online. In Korea, to announce their new album, that K-pop superstars BTS held a press conference without any members of the press. The BBC reports that China has discontinued live audiences for many TV shows, even singing contest ones.

Meanwhile, everybody in America, it seems, stocking up at Costco with hand sanitizer, drinking water, even toilet paper selling out. Me? I've stockpiled literally nothing. That's been my response so far. Let me say this clearly, you should make your decisions based on what the health experts are telling you, but me? I've altered nothing. I've actually increased my exposure to the public. I'm not deliberately escalating my activities. I just haven't scaled back.

By way of example, I've been traveling by train back and forth to D.C. for CNN election coverage, last Tuesday, next Tuesday, the Tuesday after that. Someone close to me unfortunately is sick, so this week I flew to Florida and back within 20 hours. I took five Uber rides in connection with that trip, all Uber X. I was in cars of total strangers. I made plans with a friend of mine who has season tickets to go see a Flyers playoff game.

Our middle son who is a college senior asked me whether he should take a long-planned trip to Cabo with his fraternity brothers for his final Spring Break. His mother and I, in varying degrees, both came to the same conclusion which was take the trip. In less than a month, I'm doing my final "Life in Columns" live event in Bellevue, Washington. That's King County where 12 people have died so far from coronavirus. It's ground zero for the United States.

The Meydenbauer Center, that is the venue for the event, sent out an alert. It says this, "King County Public Health is recommending, but not requiring, event organizers avoid bringing large groups of people together when feasible for at least the next three weeks." I'm not intending to cancel unless they tell me so and more than 300 of the 400 tickets have already been sold and nobody's asked for a refund.

This spring, I've got two live 30th Radio Anniversary shows in Philly, sold out, 750 people and instead of considering canceling them, I'm looking at the prospect of adding five more dates around the country. Later today, I'm visiting a friend of mine who's gone away for a while. He's in a federally gated community. Again, a confined space with lots of people. If anything, I'm now more active in terms of traveling and being in public places than at any time as an adult. I'm washing my hands, but I've always done that.

So am I nuts or am I doing my part to ensure that corona damage does not become a self-fulfilling prophecy? I note that health care professionals aren't discouraging us from doing what I'm doing. Instead, there seems to be an overreaction among some that deprives them of the joy of the day and deprives us of their company and their commerce. On Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted, "The coronavirus panic is dumb."

And according to former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Austan Goolsbee, behaving with too much caution could really affect our economy. Quote, "Advanced economies like the United States are hardly immune to these effects. To the contrary, a broad outbreak of the disease in them could be even worse for their economies than in China.


That's because face-to-face service industries, the kind of businesses that go into a tailspin when fearful people withdraw from one another, tend to dominate economies in high-income countries more than they do in China. If people stay home from school, don't travel, don't go to sporting events, the gym or the dentist, the economic consequence would be worse."

So it all brings me to this week's survey question. I want to know what you think. Go to my Web site at Smerconish. com and answer this. Have you -- have you undertaken any coronavirus preparations? I'll give you the results at the end of the hour.

So how vulnerable is the average person to coronavirus? Joining me now is Dr. Jeremy Samuel Faust. Dr. Faust is an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He's also an instructor at the Harvard Medical School. He wrote this recent piece in "Slate," "COVID-19 Isn't As Deadly As We Think."

Dr. Faust, thank you so much for being here. You say you think that the Diamond Princess cruise ship is an odd lab experiment of sorts, maybe more reliable than the World Health Organization data. Explain.

JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Michael, thanks for having me. It's really an important area that you're doing. We're on the same page here. I think that we've entered a new phase, right? I'm an ER doctor, so what I want to do is I want to reassure the well and I want to really help focus in on who is sick and actually, as you say, the Diamond Princess cruise was a really nice, if unfortunate, laboratory to figure out who the right people are to really be worried about.

We now know that young people are very, very unlikely to have any serious problems. They are going to be outliers there, so we're going to hear stories about that and that's going to scare people, but for the most part, this affects people who are older, who have many, many chronic medical conditions.

And what we saw on the Diamond Princess was that the overall fatality rate so far have been lower than the numbers that have been spread by other places like the WHO and even within the risk group populations who did actually have deaths, the 70 plus, the 80 plus, the people with medical problems, actually even among those people in a closed sort of system like the Diamond Princess, the numbers were far more encouraging.

SMERCONISH: Here's what you published. Put this up on the screen, Catherine. "This all suggests that COVID-19 is a relatively benign disease for most young people, and a potentially devastating one for the old and chronically ill, albeit not nearly as risky as reported." Why the disparity, Doctor, between what transpired on the Diamond Princess and the WHO number or that which is coming out of China?

FAUST: It's a great question and it all comes down to actually what you measure, what you test and, you know, economists do this and doctors do this. And so if you test -- if you only have 10 test kits in your whole hospital, you're going to take them to the ICU and you're going to say here, here are my sick patients and let's test them and of course the fatality rate among the 10 patients in the ICU would be pretty high and very scary.

But then if you have an influx of 100 new test kits, maybe now you can test the whole hospital and you will actually pick up many, many more cases, but not that many more deaths because those people were OK or they picked up this virus perhaps and not even -- don't even have a symptom from it and then maybe you have 1,000 kits so you can test the friends and neighbors. This is what they're doing in South Korea and actually that's kind of what they did on the Diamond Princess if you think about it. They tested everybody and so widespread testing in a situation like this is very important and the reason is really a -- it's really twofold. Number one, it gets us better numbers that reflect what's really happening.

That might help us ramp down our fears because we're going to pick up more cases that we didn't know about, the ones who have no symptoms or mild symptoms and that's really important to ramp down our fears to make ourselves feel reassured that this is not so much of a problem for everybody.

And yet, on the same token, it helps us with recognizing those cases to say to those individuals please, if you do have this virus, if you do come down with it, those are the people who need to isolate from the elderly. I wouldn't recommend if you have an illness right now go into a nursing home because that's where you could really cause a problem like we're seeing in Washington.

So the disparity between the numbers has to do with your testing strategy and the fact that in this country we actually -- surprisingly or unsurprisingly, we were really caught flat-footed here. We saw this coming and yet there's not enough test kits available. That's not tenable because we need to actually --


FAUST: -- have more testing and that's what they did in South Korea, by the way, Michael, and their numbers are actually so much better. They have a 0.6 percent fatality rate in South Korea because they tested so many people.

SMERCONISH: I want people to read what you authored for "Slate." It's in my Twitter feed and it's also posted on my website, but here's the important takeaway. It has to do -- put this up on the screen -- with who and what should be stockpiling.


You say, "Healthy people who are hoarding food, masks and hand sanitizer may feel like they are doing the right thing, but all good intentions aside, these actions probably represent misdirected anxieties. When such efforts are not directly in service of protecting the right people, not only do they miss the point of everything we have learned so far, they may actually unwittingly be squandering what have suddenly become precious and limited resources." Take the final word and expand on that.

FAUST: We've got to play the ball and not play a zone defense. We know where the problem is and so it's a real problem if you go to a pharmacy, if you're a home health aide who takes care of the elderly and you can't find hand sanitizer. So some degree of disaster preparedness is always good.

I grew up in San Francisco. We had earthquake preparedness. You got to have your house set up, but hoarding actually could deprive the resources to where we need them to be and so that's really where I'm going with this.

I'm really glad to see people washing their hands actually like they're scrubbing into a surgery. I was in LaGuardia yesterday, Michael, and I just couldn't believe what I saw. Men were finally doing the right thing.

We actually may save lives for generations to come if we actually finally learn to wash our hands correctly through this, but at the same time, as you say, hoarding is not going to help, the panic is not going to help. What's going to help is focusing our attention on those elderly and sick people whose lungs cannot handle this and the rest of us need to calm down and hopefully don't get it, but if we do, you know, just do the normal things and actually things will be all right.

SMERCONISH: OK. Let's be rational. Let's look at data. That's what I hear you saying. Dr. Faust, thank you so, so much because it's quite different from what I've heard elsewhere. Thank you.

FAUST: Yes. Anytime. Thanks for doing it this way.

SMERCONISH: Now, what should be done when someone is advised to quarantine him or herself and willfully ignores it? That's a situation in Hanover, New Hampshire where a local health care worker who had traveled to Italy and been told to, quote, "self-quarantine" after showing signs of possible coronavirus last week instead attended an event at a crowded music club hosted by the Dartmouth Business School. He since has been diagnosed with the virus, as has a second person who interacted with him, though it's unclear if it occurred at the club.

Dartmouth said that four students at its Geisel School of Medicine thought to have been in close contact with the second patient are now self-quarantined and being monitored. As you can imagine, there's been outrage on social media calling for the first person to be jailed or fined. To be clear, at the time of the party, the patient was under no legal obligation to stay home.

Yes, under New Hampshire law, refusing to comply with a health commissioner's formal isolation order, that's a misdemeanor, in some other states it's a felony, but in this case the patient had not yet been diagnosed and had merely been advised by a health care worker to stay home. Still, did he have a societal obligation to be cautious?

Joining me now is the nation's foremost bioethicist Art Caplan, the director of bioethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center. Dr. Caplan, analyze this case from Hanover, if you would.

ART CAPLAN, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF MEDICAL ETHICS, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: Hey, Michael. By the way, you've solved the whole corona outbreak for us. The person to avoid is you apparently, travelling all over the nation.

SMERCONISH: Stay away from me.

CAPLAN: I've got to say -- stay away from you. So I think the obligation is there. If you get advised by a healthcare worker that you might be at risk, you could have been exposed, you might infect someone else, then do the sensible thing and isolate yourself.

Don't go to parties, don't go out to functions. It's a different situation than the one I was just ribbing you about. You're not at risk, you haven't been exposed to anybody that you know of who's got the disease. So yes, there's a moral obligation absolutely. This person was not a good citizen, not a good community member.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Caplan, in "The New York Times" on a related, but different subject, you weighed in on incentivizing self-isolation. Will you speak to that issue?

CAPLAN: Yes. Look, Michael, it's one thing to tell people who've been exposed, who might be at risk or who actually have been diagnosed as having the disease to stay home and, you know, we just heard about stocking up some food under those circumstances and so on, but if you work in the gig economy, you're somebody who's getting paid for delivering food or driving people around and that sort of thing, you can't take the time off. You're going to financially suffer, your family, your kids may suffer.

If we're going to talk about isolation as a response to a diagnosed case or being exposed to someone who has it, then I think states and the federal government should step in and say here's your work subsidy, you're not going to go without pay, you will get paid if you stay home. If you can't get paid, we're going to create some kind of program to make sure that you don't starve to death.

It's one thing to say isolate, it's another thing to say isolate and good luck to you, you're going to lose your wages, you're going to have to figure out how to keep you and your family going for a couple of weeks. You know what that means. People won't do it.


SMERCONISH: There were stories that broke just in the last 24 hours from Silicon Valley about Apple, about Facebook, about Google employees being told to work from home and I think that your point is a very important one because those of us who are reliant on technology and work from it have a portable ability that many among us just don't have and it's important that they not fall by the wayside in this process. I hope Congress and the White House are listening to what you're saying.

CAPLAN: You know, there's one other group, Michael. What do we have? Nineteen million people without documents in the country? What if they're exposed? What if one of them gets sick? Are they going to rush off right now and go see the doctor? I think not. They're going to worry about getting deported. Are we going to declare an amnesty? Are we going to say, hey, in the middle of a pandemic, you know, let's make sure that we do the right public health thing and give people an incentive to seek out care, to talk to the doctor.

We've got to reassure them too and I don't see the leadership either on the subsidize the cost that it takes to stay home or protect those who have reason to be fearful of the authorities. That's not the way to operate in a pandemic if you want to take isolation seriously.

SMERCONISH: Yes. Same argument that comes up in the discussion of sanctuary cities. The whole premise is that if there's unlawful conduct in a particular community, you know, a violent offender of some kind, we want people picking up the phone without fear that they're going to be deported for making that call, otherwise whomever is perpetrating that criminal activity is going to still be on the lam. Excellent point. Thank you, Dr. Caplan, as always.

CAPLAN: Hey, thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. Catherine, what do you have? From Twitter I think, "Smerconish, how dare you use your voice to fool people into thinking it's OK to go about as usual. It's irresponsible to go on TV and do this. It's your covert way of supporting Trump."

Hey, Mindful Spy, I could not have been more clear in saying here's the update. Of all of these factual headlines from what's transpiring around the country and around the globe, it occurs to me, not through some conscious decision, that I've never been more active in my life and I've told people expressly, you make your own decisions. I'm not telling you how to lead your life, but what I don't want to do is perpetuate headlines about the collapse of the economy based on fears that get out of control.

Then you heard from me, a Harvard physician come on and explain how, from his educated perspective, the numbers might not be as bad as are being broadcast. Make up your own mind and I shall do likewise with my health.

I want to know what you think. Go to my website at and answer this survey question. Have you undertaken any coronavirus preparations?

Up ahead, in Michigan in 2016, an estimated 47,000 Bernie Sanders supporters voted for Donald Trump, helping swing the swing state. Now Sanders might need Michigan in his column to thwart Biden's Joe- mentum. What are his chances?

And six women were running for president. Now Tulsi Gabbard is the last woman standing after Elizabeth Warren suspended her once promising campaign. Did gender play a role?


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): One of the hardest parts of this is all those pinky-promises and all those little girls who are going to have to wait four more years. That's going to be hard.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SMERCONISH: The next big make-or-break primary, Michigan on Tuesday. six states are voting, but the Wolverine state has the most delegates up for grabs, 125. it's also a critical general election state and an indicator to Democrats of a candidate's broader appeal. Sanders' campaign, well, they've been confident about Michigan since he beat Hillary Clinton there in 2016. a win could be the catalyst that Sanders needs to form a comeback.

Joe Biden, he's got the momentum. One Super Tuesday lesson we learned is that late deciders voted overwhelmingly for Biden. In Michigan, nearly 800,000 voters have requested absentee ballots. That's almost double the number at this point in 2016. In Michigan, you could actually change your vote on an absentee ballot, which could be good news for Biden.

Joining me now, Senior Political Writer and Analyst at CNN, Harry Enten. Harry, I respect your view and I also respect the view of David Wasserman.


SMERCONISH: I want to put on the screen a tweet from David Wasserman. See if you agree with this. He said the following, "Folks, barring a seismic event, this race is pretty much over." You agree or disagree?

ENTEN: I mean, I don't know if I'd be as strong as David, who tends to do that type of thing occasionally, but I will agree that Joe Biden is the clear favorite. Look, we've had multiple polls out this week that show that Joe Biden's leading by double digits nationally. You obviously saw those late deciders on Super Tuesday after South Carolina got overwhelmingly into his column and I would say that Sanders certainly needs to change the dynamic if he hopes to really be a competitive partner in this primary season.

SMERCONISH: Would you say that it's all on the line for Senator Sanders in Michigan on Tuesday night? Could he recover if he's unsuccessful in Michigan?

ENTEN: I think the press would be so bad for him. You know, that's part of the game we're playing here. We're playing a delicate game, right? We're also playing a press expectation's game. Given that he won Michigan last time around, given that he's right now trailing in the delegate count, if he loses a state like Michigan, which was a great state from last time where all the polls said he was going to lose and he actually won, I think it would be really, really bad.


I think he has to go in and win Michigan. No doubt about it.

SMERCONISH: How do you assess the demographics of Michigan and who do they advantage?

ENTEN: Yes. You know, this, I think, was the key difference between what we've seen so far in the 2020 primary and what we saw in the 2016 primary. The reason that Bernie Sanders went into Michigan and won in 2016 is because he won white voters without a college degree. He won them by 15 points in Michigan I believe. That was pretty much the same as he won them nationwide or at least in the north.

And what we saw on Super Tuesday across three states in the north that were not Vermont, Minnesota, Maine and Massachusetts, we actually saw that Joe Biden carried that same group of voters by 8 percentage points on average and so that is the group that I'm keeping my eye out on. I'm also keeping my eye out on African-Americans, a group that Joe Biden has done particularly well with.

SMERCONISH: There's interesting interplay between Sanders supporters and the Trump electorate and there's a map that depicts what I'm stumbling for my words to say. It shows -- let's put it up.

ENTEN: Sure.

SMERCONISH: Sanders supporters who ultimately went for Donald Trump. I mean, 48,000 in Michigan, 51,300 in Wisconsin, my home state, Pennsylvania, 117,000 Sanders primary voters who then, in the general, helped elect Donald Trump. Your thoughts?

ENTEN: I mean, my thoughts are pretty simple. Number one, obviously that was a nasty primary in 2016, perhaps not as nasty as 2008, but I should also point out it's not so surprising to me that some of Sanders supporters did not, in fact, support Hillary Clinton. I think that Sanders benefited last time from an anti-Clinton vote and I don't think he's benefiting from that same factor this time around. That's part of the reason why I don't think he's going to do particularly well in Michigan. I think Joe Biden's favorite there.

And I think that obviously if we come down to a close general election in this fall, it wouldn't be surprising to me, you know, let's say, if the Sanders voters in fact make the difference again in a state like Michigan if it's very, very close, but if Joe Biden's winning by a wide margin in Michigan or any of the states you put up on that screen, they're not ultimately going to make the difference.

SMERCONISH: And finally, Harry, no love lost, it seems, between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders from this new dock that's created quite a buzz. Here's a 10-second clip of Hillary talking about Bernie. Roll it.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Honestly Bernie just drove me crazy. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done.


SMERCONISH: Interesting, Harry. You wonder if she'll just formally say those things on the stump. Maybe she thinks it's not necessary because of the Joe-mentum.

ENTEN: Yes. I mean, I do wonder about that, but I think that, you know, Elizabeth Warren got out of the race this week and there's a real question of where her supporters will go and a lot of her supporters were people who backed Hillary Clinton and they feel very similarly about Sanders as Hillary Clinton does and that's why I think it's actually going to be the fact will be that the Warren supporters split evenly between Sanders and Biden and that's not what Bernie Sanders needs in order to catch up in this race.

SMERCONISH: Harry, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you, sir.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish social media Twitter and Facebook pages. I think this comes from Facebook. "Regarding Bernie, no one thought Trump would advance. Don't count him out just yet." Kelly Ann, your point's well made.

There are a lot of similarities, except Donald Trump pretty much led from wire to wire in the last process. You know, people kept thinking it would all shift when the field got narrow. He had that momentum from New Hampshire on. this is a little different, but I get that you don't want to count out an underdog.

Up ahead, with shortages of hand sanitizer and other products for the virus-conscious, it's inevitable that crazy asking prices have followed. Is this economic phenomenon controllable? Should it be?

Plus, remember the pink hats, the march on Washington? Where'd all that energy go After Elizabeth Warren withdrew from the presidential race this week, although Tulsi Gabbard remains, it looks like it's four more years of male presidents. Is it because America has a gender problem?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think lack of talent was her problem. She had a tremendous lack of talent. She was a good debater. She destroyed Mike Bloomberg very quickly like it was nothing. That was easy for her, but people don't like her. She's a very mean person and people don't like her. People don't want that. They like a person like me that's not mean.




SMERCONISH: Senator Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign this week after coming in behind both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in her home state of Massachusetts. Her departure reduces the field of female candidates which at one point numbered six to just one Tulsi Gabbard who so far has accumulated only two delegates. More than 70 nations have been led by women but America will not catch up at least not this election cycle.

So was Elizabeth Warren lack of success tied at all to her gender? She was asked this outside her home on Thursday after her announcement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Gender in this race, you know, that it's the trap question for everyone. If you say, yes, there was sexism in this race, everyone says, whiner. And if you say, no, there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think, what planet do you live on? I promise you this, I'll have a lot more to say on that subject later on.


SMERCONISH: Joining me now is Lisa Lerer, national political reporter for "The New York Times" where she wrote this piece, "Was It Always Going to Be the Last Men Standing?" Lisa, it occurs to me that this could be self-fulfilling in so far as perhaps a person is not him or herself sexist, but perceives their neighbor to be so.


And then concludes, well, I'd like to vote for Elizabeth Warren but I don't think she can get across the finish line because others won't do so. Therefore, I will divert my vote. What do you think of that?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think you've got it exactly right. The number of times I've heard those exact comments from voters is just too numerous to count over the past year. And I think there's something really interesting going on where our cultural politics are really dovetailing with our political politics in a way that feels sort of unexpected.

I think there's a greater awareness particularly among Democratic voters, female voters, we've seen this in the polling, of sexism of the role of gender bias in their everyday life and the culture at large. Yet they've internalized that message to say, well, yes, sexism is real. And that's why they'll say, they don't want to vote for a female candidate because as you put it, exactly as you put it, they believe that their neighbor or somebody else won't do the same.

SMERCONISH: The data is interest when you look at women. Let me put up a screen for what happened in 2016 among white females, Donald Trump 47 to 45 defeated Secretary Clinton.

Super Tuesday Elizabeth Warren ranked third among female voters. Speak to that issue.

LERER: Well, look, women of course are not a monolithic voting bloc -- right -- like any group they vote in different ways and I think partisanship can overwhelm gender.

So you're sort of looking at two different things there. You're looking at a general election and a primary election. I think we have seen in the Democratic electorate this huge force of these suburban moms, they call them whole food moms or resistance moms, who have come out. Some of those people may have voted for Trump last time around, they've now don't like the way his style or his behavior, they've flipped over to Democrats, and they're coming out on record numbers. They helped Democrats win over the House in 2018. And they did vote in higher numbers this time around for Joe Biden. Although Elizabeth Warren also did fairly well with that group.

SMERCONISH: Here's a contrary analysis that gender played a decisive role. She led in the polls at one point until a discussion I would argue of "Medicare for All" kind of consumed her campaign.

Her own state rejected her. They have a record of voting for her. It's hard to believe that Massachusetts would be adverse to electing president someone they put in the U.S. Senate.

And, of course, I am reminded of the fact that Secretary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the popular vote. Your final thoughts?

LERER: I think you don't have a presidential candidate in history who haven't made mistakes. I mean, that's sort of the nature of running for president, making strategic missteps.

I think what's striking here is that we are at a moment in the Democratic Party where women are the powerhouse of this party. They are the volunteers. They run for office in record numbers and win office in record numbers. You had an unprecedented number of women, six in fact, running for the presidency. America has never seen that before and at the end of this whole process, the party ends up with two white men as their standard-bearers who are fighting it out until the end, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons for this. It's certainly notable that those are the two people in the race who had run president before. But I do think that outcome is prompting a lot of Democrats and voters, officials, party leaders to reflect on where the party is and the image that the party wants to represent.

SMERCONISH: And certainly, a lot being discussed and written on this subject including the great piece that was on the front page by you of the "Times" yesterday. Thank you, Lisa.

LERER: Thanks.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your social media reaction, Twitter, Facebook. This comes from Facebook, I believe.

If it was sexism, how did she become senator? How was she the early front-runner? How did she not realize she was a woman?

Sean, you kind of -- you know, I should restate every once in a while. I don't see the social media in advance. But you kind of channeled the thinking that I just offered which I think you're making a valid point.

How did she get to the United States Senate from Massachusetts? How was she the front-runner? How was Hillary elected by the popular vote? Are some of among us sexist? Yes.

Are some among us racist? Yes. Sadly on both counts. But can you attribute solely to sexism in this case the flaming-out of her candidacy? I personally don't think so.

I want to know what you think. Go to my Web site at Answer this week's survey question.

"Have you undertaken any Coronavirus preparations?"

Still to come, how much would you pay for a bottle of hand sanitizer? How much for a face mask? Thanks to the coronavirus the internet it testing those limits in the latest demonstration of crisis price gouge economics. Should that be legal?



SMERCONISH: Stack up on your hand sanitizer for only $400. As people try to protect themselves from the coronavirus some third party online retailers are jacking up prices. It's not unusual to see masks and other protective items listed for insane amounts of money.

Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts urging Amazon now to stop third party sellers from price gouging for items like hand sanitizer. Amazon said that it would remove sellers who violate their fair pricing policies. eBay completely banning sales from U.S. listings for hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and surgical masks.

Coronavirus concerns will continue to increase the demand for these products. How much legal trouble could this cause for companies that don't tamp down their price gouging?

Joining me to discuss now is Dan Abrams. He wears many hats. He's a SiriusXM P.O.T.U.S. channel radio host and founder of Mediaite PD, Live PD, kids love that program.


Our whole house loves it. And he's the "ABC News" chief legal analyst. His new book "John Adams Under Fire, The Founding Father's Fight for Justice in the Boston Massacre Murder Trial."

Dan, I want to talk to you about coronavirus. But I have to say this about the book. This week was the 250th anniversary of the Boston massacre. History apparently got it wrong. There's this iconic image -- can we put it up on the screen from Henry Pelham? I think that's what's ingrained in our minds and you say it's not the way it went down.

DAN ABRAMS, FOUNDER, MEDIAITE; ABC NEWS CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right. Yes. What actually happened in 1772, 250 years ago was not a line of British soldiers just firing at colonists. It was much more complicated. Colonists were throwing rocks at them. Fights ensued. And the trial that occurred that is the subject of this book where John Adams represented the despised British soldiers was their trial for murder, for killing five colonists. So eight soldiers and their captain all tried at a time right before the revolution. And I will tell you as someone who I know cares enormously about the rule of law it was that respect for rule of law that I think prevented violence. I think there really could have been violence in response to this. It didn't happen because John Adams ended up representing the British soldiers and there was a sense that fairness was the result.

SMERCONISH: Now, apply the rule of law to price gouging.


SMERCONISH: Is this stuff illegal and if not, should it be?

ABRAMS: So, more than two-thirds of the states have price gouging laws. This tends to be a state-by-state thing, as opposed to federal. And in order for that to kick in, typically, you need a state of emergency.

Right now there have been, I think, four states so far that have declared states of emergency in connection with the coronavirus. If there is a state of emergency then you're talking about essential supplies, the price can't go up more than let's say, 10 or 15 percent. If it does, in certain states there can be civil penalties. In a few states there can actually be a criminal action taken as well.

So, it's a little bit complicated. The laws, I think, are better suited for something like a hurricane, right? Where it hits a particular area. And then you're talking about something, you know, like water or gasoline and other items like that. Here, when you're talking about something that spreads throughout the country, that is a public health menace. And it crosses state lines, it becomes a little more complicated.

Companies like Amazon and eBay have to do what they can. But as you point out, you're talking about these third party sellers who are offering these products on those platforms.

SMERCONISH: You know, Dan, there's -- as appalling as it sounds there is a libertarian argument that says, this is the best way to allocate scarce resources. Take my final 30 seconds and respond to that.

ABRAMS: Yes. I mean, look, some people are going to say if the price is so high that people aren't going to be able to buy it, and as a result, the government and first responders will be able to have it.

You know, I don't know that I buy that argument. I think that there's a reason that price gouging laws exist in a vast majority of states. I think that it makes sense in the vast majority of states and I think it works. I just think it's a little more complicated when you're talking about a health crisis like this one.

SMERCONISH: Congrats on the book. I read it. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

ABRAMS: Thank you, Michael. Appreciate it.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, yourself best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final result of the survey question. Have you voted yet? Go vote right now at

"Have you undertaken any coronavirus preparations?"



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at this week. Thank you for voting.

"Have you undertaken any coronavirus preparations?"

Survey says -- interesting. Nearly 12,000 votes have been cast. By the way I'm sure by now, 14,000 have been cast. The noes in which I include myself, 55 percent. Not advocating that. Not telling you don't do anything. That's not my role here. That's not what I said in my commentary. I was simply reflecting on the fact that there's panic among us and I don't share it thus far.

Here's some of what came in during social media this week. What do we have, Catherine?

Smerconish, finally someone with the guts to say the emperor has no coronavirus. Thank you, Michael.

C.J., not exactly what I'm saying. I'm just -- I'm a data guy. OK? I'm like Bloomberg. I'm a data guy. And the doctor, Dr. Faust from Harvard, who said, you know, the fatality rate on this Princess ship really might be a closer approximation of the reality than what the reality the WHO is saying because the data that comes out of China is not exactly reliable. I'm just looking at the data. You guys you all make up your own mind as to what your response may be.

What else came in?

This isn't a zombie outbreak. Next it will be AK-47s to protect their hand sanitizer. It's scary how you see the true hearts of people anytime there is a disruption in daily life.

Yes, William Myers. And, you know, I had that interesting conversation with Dan Abrams at the end about price gouging. It sounds appalling to defend a merchant who might want to charge a boatload for hand sanitizer, but when you think the issue through it becomes one of allocating scarce resources.


And the best way to allocate scarce resources might be to allow those prices to rise. Here's one thing that Dr. Faust told us, don't horde stuff that people who are sick or going to get sick are going to need which I thought was an important message as well.

One more real quick. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. I'll just say yes or no to it.

Bernie barely beat Hillary -- Tuesday, Michigan will be his waterloo, not his firewall.

Lenny, it all rides on Michigan Tuesday for Bernie. Tune in. I'll be part of that coverage.

Thank you for watching. See you next week.