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Should Confederate Battlefield Monuments Be Left In Place?; Should Gettysburg's 40 Confederate Statues Be Removed?; Can Biden's Basement Strategy Prevail Over Trump?; How Much U.S.-Russia Election Meddling Occurred Before 2016?; Pro Sports In The COVID Era; Update On American Family With Newborn Trapped In Ghana. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 27, 2020 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: One battlefield remains quiet amidst a growing culture of war. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Reminders of the Confederacy have been toppling across the country. Following the death of George Floyd, many monuments to Confederate soldiers and slaveholders are being taken down either by protestors or by local officials.

The president has ceased upon statues as one of his wedge issues to shore up his base. Yesterday he tweeted, "I just had the privilege of signing a very strong executive order protecting American monuments, memorials and statues and combatting recent criminal violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our great country."

So imagine that I told you there's one location that is home to not just one, but roughly 40 Confederate monuments. Not only that, but this location is just north of the Mason-Dixon line and as debate engulfs many a town square as to what should be done with statues honoring Confederate leaders, this area has remained quiet.

I speak of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which I visited yesterday. Gettysburg, the scene of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and that which turned the tide of Confederate fortunes. From July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, 160,000 fought there and there were close to 50,000 casualties when it ended. Robert E. Lee then led his troops on a tortuous trip back to Virginia. How sad and ironic that many bodies were cleared on July 4th.

Three and a half months later, President Abraham Lincoln would deliver the Gettysburg's Address in a cemetary adjacent to the battlefield. This coming week will mark the 157th anniversary of Gettysburg. Thus far, the statuary here has remained out of the contemporary fray, notwithstanding that several of the statues were erected not close in time to the era, but amidst a more modern debate over civil rights in the 1960s and '70s.

For perspective, I spoke to both Scott Hancock, associate professor in history and Africana studies at Gettysburg College, and Jason Martz, acting public affairs officer for the Gettysburg National Military Park.


SMERCONISH: Professor, thank you for being here. We've agreed to socially distance and drop our masks for this conversation. Tell me about the Mississippi statue.

SCOTT HANCOCK, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND AFRICANA STUDIES, GETTYSBURG COLLEGE: Well, this is the Mississippi State Monument and it was erected in 1973. It's one of nine of the 12 confederate state monuments that goes up during the civil rights era or immediately thereafter and there are other monuments to the Confederacy, but most of them are regimental markers and so what's different about this is it's a state monument, like think Virginia, North Carolina and the others.

So it has a more political message because of when it went up and some of the things that it says on the -- in the description of the monument itself. Well, the inscription says that, "These brave sires fought for their righteous cause."

SMERCONISH: Which is what?

HANCOCK: Well, I would argue and any legitimate historian today would argue the cause was slavery, that the organizing principle of the Confederacy was slavery, but when this monument goes up, they're saying the cause is something much more abstract.

It's about individual rights, things like George Wallace, when he spoke at the Dedication South Carolina Monument said it was about protecting the constitutional and individual rights of the south, which everybody knew what he was talking about was resisting federal orders that they had to desegregate and it was about maintaining a certain kind of racial hierarchy in the south.

SMERCONISH: So what message do you think was being communicated in the early '70s with the erection of this statue?

HANCOCK: I think it's very much about protecting this and communicating this identity of how some white Southerners, certainly not all, wanted to see their past and that was a past that didn't have anything to do with slavery, didn't have anything to do with black people, didn't have anything to do with the several thousand slaves that were here in the battlefield and they actually started talking about erecting this monument in 1962.

So it took them awhile to get it in place and when they wanted to put that inscription on, actually the superintendent at Gettysburg National Military Park at the time said you can't put that on there.

The Mississippi committee got a state Supreme Court judge to weigh in, it went back and forth for awhile, the superintendent left, not because of this I don't think, the new superintendent who came in was from Mississippi, a white man, and he OK'ed it.

SMERCONISH: We all learned, you know, back in the day that you and I are now standing at the location of the seminal battle of the Civil War, greatest bloodshed of Americans on any battlefield in the United States. Does the context matter to you? And what I'm asking is do you apply the same frame of reference to what's behind you that you would to a statue of a Confederate soldier in a town square?

HANCOCK: I think the context matters tremendously. So those statues in town square that aren't situated on a battlefield and are not situated because of the consensus of people in those towns, because it's not like they're talking to the black folks in those towns, for me personally, I'm all in favor of those coming down.


These, because it has a educational value, I think are a bit different. Well, significantly different because it is about pointing to the battle. That's the way this statue is facing, where Pickett's Charge was, but what I would love to see the park service do -- and I think they're thinking about this -- is not let that statue communicate a one-way message because that one-way message is that they had a righteous cause. Well, I would say their cause was to maintain the institution of slavery. There was nothing righteous about it.

So for me, it's not so much about taking the statue down, it's educating visitors about why that statue went up, that it went up to maintain white supremacy.

SMERCONISH: If I go to the visitor center, I'm told that story.

HANCOCK: Yes. Yes.

SMERCONISH: You think there needs to be a different telling on the battlefield?

HANCOCK: Yes. So the visitor center does a great job with all this stuff, right? And they have thought about that very intentionally and I think the National Park Service are very aware of that. The battlefield communicates a very different message than the visitor center because on the battlefield, there's no references to slavery, there's only a couple of references to any black presence on the battlefield, there's no references to the fact that the Confederate army kidnapped free black people when they -- when they retreated from here.

You know, so if you -- if you never went to the visitor center and you spent three days on the battlefield, you would have no idea that the reason there was a battle here in the first place is because of slavery, because of enslaved black men and women. So I think they need to make the battlefield line up with what the visitor center does.

SMERCONISH: So I'm curious, as the nation is now embroiled in a conversation about what to do with these icons of the Confederacy, has there been controversy here at Gettysburg?

JASON MARTZ, ACTING PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER, GETTYSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK: There has not. SMERCONISH: What do you think differentiates it from the town square and the debates that we see playing out all over?

MARTZ: What you see here at Gettysburg is a time capsule. It is a window to the past. This is where those soldiers fought. Approximately 165,000 soldiers fought each other on this surrounding ground for three full days in July of 1863. They were here. The men from Mississippi were here, the men from Louisiana were here and so forth all across the battlefield. So the tangible connection to the place and the men who fought here is unlike anywhere else.

SMERCONISH: What about the issue of some of them having been erected post-civil rights era, almost as if sending -- maybe not even almost -- sending a message?

MARTZ: Sure. That also is a window for us, as National Park Service employees, to be able to educate the public not just about those three days in July of 1863, but in various eras and decades throughout the history of the United States that led to some of these monuments being placed here in the first place and so some of these monuments have some lost cause feel to them, but that's endemic to when they would have been placed here throughout the 1900s.

SMERCONISH: Is that, therefore, grounds to have them removed?

MARTZ: We don't think so. In fact, all of these monuments here on the battlefield fall into one of two categories. They were either congressionally mandated, so it would take a congressional mandate to remove them, or they fall under a length of history that they've been here so long, they are an intrinsic fabric of the battlefield as much as the battlefield is. So removing them really isn't necessarily an option. They are here in perpetuity. So it's our job to, at that point, educate the public about when the monuments would have been placed, at least those that certainly have an offensive view to them.


SMERCONISH: For what it's worth, I came away from Gettysburg thinking the statues should remain. Robert E. Lee depicted in a 1917 statute adjacent to a battlefield where 28,000 of his men perished, one-third of his troops, to me is not the same as a Lee statue erected 1,000 miles away in front of a public building where decisions are made.

Jane Nutter, the president of the Gettysburg Black History Museum, told a local newspaper that battlefield statuary doesn't honor, but recognizes history and I'm inclined to agree with her. Telling that history needs to include an explanation as to why some statues were built amidst more contemporary debate over civil rights. I like Professor Hancock's idea to add more markers and tell a more complete story.

If, for example, the South Carolina statue is to remain, and I think that it should, visitors need to know it was not put up until 1963 and among the dedication speakers was George Wallace. Now here's something on which we should all agree.


Visiting a national treasure like Gettysburg is a must. I'm embarrassed. I hadn't been there since I was a kid. I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Please answer this survey question. Should Confederate battlefield monuments be left in place? What are your thoughts? Tweet me. Go to my website, go to I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine?

From Facebook, "No, and I am a direct relative of many Confederates. Put them in a museum of the history of Civil War." Brooke, I think your "no" is -- you meant yes in response to the way in which we worded the question.

Make sure you're looking at the question the way we worded it on the website, but I get -- I read what you're saying. You want them down. In the context of Gettysburg, I disagree. Looking at Robert E. Lee looking over a battlefield where so many lost their lives, if there's any place that's appropriate, it's that place. I guess your argument is that there's no place.

Still to come, starting next month, baseball and basketball are finally coming back for COVID shortened seasons, but there won't be any fans in the stands. I want to ask legendary sportscaster Bob Costas if we will watch on TV when there's no one there live in the stands.

Plus, did you know that the Russian meddling in our 2016 election was only the latest round in 100 years of subversion by both countries in each other's elections? I'll explain with a guest.

Plus, I spoke with Susan Rice, one of the women on Joe Biden's VP list, about a subject near and dear to both of us -- the need for national service.

And "Politico" dubbed him the "Biden Whisperer." Senator Chris Coons is here to whisper about the presumptive Democratic nominee in a moment.



SMERCONISH: I moderated an online gathering of the National Commission on Military National and Public Service this week. Congress created the commission under direction of former Congressman Joe Heck to review the selective service process and increase participation in military, national and public service. The online event marked the release of their final report titled, "Inspired to Serve." My role included interviewing Ambassador Susan Rice who surprised me with a bold suggestion.


SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I wish we could have mandatory national civilian service in this country so that every kid between the ages of 18 and 21 spent six or 12 months in national service, whether it's laying broadband or building infrastructure or rehabilitating inner-city schools and libraries.

The reason I think service is so important, not only is it creating economic opportunity and training and skills for those who may not otherwise have them, but most importantly, it's teaching us to understand and to know each other as Americans across different geographic, racial, socio-economic lines as part of one nation and one community.


SMERCONISH: Ambassador Rice not the only one thinking the time is ripe for a new national service initiative, be it mandatory or voluntary. A week ago, Senator Chris Coons introduced bipartisan legislation to expand national service programs.

Joining me now is the Democratic senator from former Vice President Joe Biden's home state of Delaware, Senator Chris Coons, who this week was dubbed by "Politico" as the "Biden Whisperer," saying that Senator Coons is poised to play a critical role in Biden's agenda if Trump is defeated. You were able to get Marco Rubio and Cory Booker on the same page. What are you trying to do?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, Michael, thank you so much for highlighting national service. Susan Rice is exactly right. We have 14 senators, Republicans and Democrats, led by Roger Wicker of Mississippi, including John Cornyn of Texas and so many others on both sides of the aisle agreeing that doubling the size of AmeriCorps, increasing the service allowance, the education award would give us a chance to have 150,000 younger Americans fighting hunger, helping teachers and students, addressing some of our critical public health issues.

We're going to have to vaccinate 300 million people in this country later this year or early next year if and when we get a vaccine. So as Susan was just saying and as the conversation that you facilitated, Michael, focused on, national service is a great way to bring Americans together, to create opportunity and to give people a chance to give back to our nation.

SMERCONISH: You and I have sons who are contemporaries.


SMERCONISH: My heart breaks for the class of 2020, be they high school or college, because so much of their future planning has now been disruptive and I regard them and the reason I wanted to call attention to this as this great untapped national resource, if we can get them in the game, it's a perfect marriage.

COONS: That's right. This is something that can help us meet a number of our current urgent crises. We've got, as you know, a pandemic that hasn't gone away, that continues to threaten and to impact families and communities all over America. We have a significant recession and a lot of job loss as a result and we have the unaddressed challenges of racial inequalities in America and if properly focused, locally led and prioritized, AmeriCorps could create avenues for addressing all three of those challenges at the same time.


SMERCONISH: Let's talk about your fellow Delawarian. Is he laying low more out of consideration and concern for public health issues or because he wants to follow the first rule of politics which is do no harm? You know the president says that he's staying sheltered so as not to make an additional gaffe.

COONS: Well, I disagree with the idea that he's laying low. He was just out in Lancaster, Pennsylvania near Gettysburg and gave a rip- roaring speech. It was very forceful and I think if you contrast the response of President Trump and former Vice President Biden to the wave of recent protests, it's pretty instructive.

At a time when President Trump used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters and march across Lafayette Square to wave a Bible in front of St. John's Episcopal, former Vice President Biden was invited into an AME Church on the east side of Wilmington, Bethel AME, where he wore a mask, knelt, prayed and then listened to civil rights leaders, activists, community leaders. Joe's been to a number of roundtables with small business owners in the Philadelphia area. He went to visit with the family of George Floyd before he was laid to rest.

I wouldn't agree that he's laying low, but I would agree that President Trump has certainly hurt his own standing nationally and internationally by the ways in which he's both missed this moment, said that protesters are terrorists who deserve retribution, failed to speak to the pandemic in any meaningful way now in weeks, in fact threatened to cut off funding for testing that caused the two Republican senators of Texas to say that would be a terrible mistake as the numbers spike in Texas and hasn't called for a clear plan for how we get out of this recession.

It's amazing to me that the Senate still has not taken up the HEROES Act passed by the House now more than 10 days ago that would provide another critically needed round of stimulus for our country.

SMERCONISH: I know the danger of living in front of a live microphone. I do it 16 hours a week. I'm not running for anything, but you know they're hanging on his every word. This is this week's example. Roll the tape.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people you have unnecessarily. Now we have over 120 million dead from COVID.


SMERCONISH: And the president then immediately, Senator, tweeted about this saying, hey, you know, how is the media letting him get away with it and so on and so forth. Is this not a sign of what's to come in the fall as we reemerge -- we hope we reemerge -- where the president will attempt to portray him as just not being grounded?

COONS: Well, Michael, he may attempt to. The reality is all of us who are elected know that, as you just referenced, if you're in front of a mic for 10, 12, 16 hours a day and frankly with cell phones, all of us are on TV or being recorded in some way digitally all the time, you make minor missteps and gaffes. Everybody knows that Joe Biden didn't think 120 million people had died, he just misspoke.

But in the age of Trump where President Trump chooses to tweet out intentionally 2:00 and 3:00 A.M. rants that are not just unfactual, that are not just error-filled, they are in some ways hateful distractions often from the focus of our country, I think it's awfully rich for him to suggest that some of these minor missteps in terms of facts or dates or details that happen to all of us who are elected indicates that Joe Biden is less worthy of the service of the presidency than he is when Trump is intentionally and repeatedly choosing to send out tweets as his official statements that are filled with errors and typos and that, frankly, show a heart that in too many ways in too many times seeks to divide us and doesn't actually connect with or empathize with the average American and the challenges that our nation is facing.

SMERCONISH: If that's whispering, what's shouting?

COONS: Well, I ...

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Senator.

COONS: ... enjoy being an advocate for Joe Biden.

SMERCONISH: Appreciate your being here.

COONS: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: From Facebook, what do we have? Hit me with it. "Come out of the closet, Joe." You know what's interesting, Robert? A week ago -- a week ago -- Tulsa was a week ago tonight. Tulsa was a week ago tonight and the Trump campaign -- I think the president desperately wanted the split-screen, right? He wanted himself surrounded by throngs of supporters in Tulsa, maskless, you know, America's back, we beat back COVID-19, et cetera.

Look at Joe, he's wearing a mask, he's in Delaware, yada, yada. The polling data suggests that the public is favoring caution over expedience. I refer to "The Times" Siena College poll. So it seems that it's Joe who has struck the right tone. You can say get out of the basement and so forth, but that's where the public seems to be right now.


I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Answer this survey question. Should Confederate battlefield monuments be left in place?

Up ahead, yes, the Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but what if I told you the meddling goes back 100 years on both sides?

And will we never again hear the national anthem at sporting events like this rendition by the Washington D.C. Community Choirs at the 2018 baseball All-Star game, not just because of the controversy over taking a knee, but because there will be no fans in the stands when Major League Baseball in the NBA reboot their seasons in July? I've got the dean of American sports, Bob Costas, coming up.



SMERCONISH: Many of us were shocked by Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But perhaps we would not have been, were we aware of the history contained in a brand-new book, "Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Convert Electoral Interference," reveals that 2016 was far from the first time one country sought to influence another's election and sometimes the actor was the United States.

The author is David Shimer. He's pursuing a doctorate in international relations at the University of Oxford as a Marshall scholar and he joins me now.

David, you argue that -- quote -- "American operations to interfere in elections are comparable but not identical to Russian efforts to do the same." So what's the difference?


But in seeking to make that comparison, what I do in this book is restore history, as you said, to the subject of covert electoral interference because as it turns out, Putin's 2016 operation was just the latest episode in a very old story. And part of that story, Michael, is Russian and Soviet operations to interfere in elections all over the world.

But another critical part of that story is CIA, American operations to interfere in elections around the world, particularly during the Cold War with the KGB -- in competition with the KGB. And as you said there is a difference in that their systemic objectives often were either to build up democracy if you were America, or to elect candidates who would degrade democracy if you were from Russia, but the ideas and tactics behind these operations are very similar. And my argument is that we should be learning from them to understand how to defend ourselves today.

SMERCONISH: Your examples include the United States' actions in Italy in '48, Chile in '64. You talk about Central America, El Salvador in the '80s, Nicaragua in '90s.

I remember, David, being in a room of all places at a CPAC conference in the '80s where President Reagan spoke and we all applauded as so called Afghan freedom fighters were recognized in the room. I think they ended up being the Taliban. But the point is that the United States has a long track record of trying to influence the outcome of foreign elections.

SHIMER: Sure. And I think the historical record plays that out. I think that the best way to think about this is operations to either influence voter or -- change votes or influence voters. The CIA has done that historically. Russia and the Soviet Union has done that historically.

Putin achieved new things in 2016 and we should recognize what those were. However there is a history here and it reveals lessons that are essential to understanding why we're so exposed today and how we can defend our democracy in November and thereafter.

SMERCONISH: Wherein lies the line historically speaking for American actions?

SHIMER: So, I think, historically speaking what typically motivated U.S. presidents to interfere in elections were when they felt as though there were undemocratic candidates competing at the ballot box. And for me the line moving forward as I conclude in the book is that the CIA should no longer be interfering in elections because it's not only it misaligns (ph) with America's interest but also its values to be doing so at a moment when our elections are so exposed and when we're saying we stand for fair elections overseas.

SMERCONISH: There's an intriguing quote from the book. I want to put it up from page 121. "Either the agency no longer seeks to influence election outcomes, as Morell and Brennan asserted, or it does so in rare cases when, as with Milosevic, a tyrant can be ousted by ballot." Emphasis mine. "The exact truth is unknown. But this general shift makes a dramatic departure from the Cold War, when, as David Robarge, the CIA's internal historian, put it, the agency was interfering in the elections of many, many countries. In modern times, the costs of such operations have come to outweigh the benefits."

What do you think the truth is? The exact truth is unknown? What do you think we're willing to do today?

SHIMER: Sure. Yes, I know. I worked really hard to get the answer to that question. I mean, I ended up interviewing more than a hundred thirty people. Eight former CIA directors, a KGB general, and my sense is that the Serbian operations, which I'm glad you mentioned in which I get into in the book is that we did interfere in an election in 2000 in order to undermine or defeat Slobodan Milosevic.

But what I also found was that the operation was more the exception rather than the rule because of the murderous and tyrannical nature of the Milosevic regime, and that by and large America has moved away from this practice while Russia has doubled down on it which is important because this is a complete history. We have to look at both American and Russian policymaking in order to understand how we can adjust our own posture moving forward.

SMERCONISH: President Bill Clinton whom you interviewed for the book said that Milosevic was a stone cold killer and had caused the deaths of thousands of people. He seemed to have no remorse.


Final question, important subject, I know that some who are watching this who've not yet read the book, and I hope that they will, "Rigged," they'll say, oh, you're trying to draw a moral equivalence between the United States and what the Russians have been up to. Will you address that?

SHIMER: So, I'm not doing that at all. What I'm seeking to do is to gather facts, to collect information, to discover truths about the past so that we can have a more informed response to our current plight. But there are differences between Russian and American operations to interfere in elections.

I'm not interested in justifying what happened in the past. I'm interested in helping people to understand what happened in the past so that way they can interpret what's happening today in a much more informed and comprehensive way.

SMERCONISH: I should say that there's been a lot of advance praise for the book. And I find that the reviews were all focused on that which I didn't bring up, which is the second half of the book where you analyze 2016. Just speaking personally, I was intrigued because I wanted to know what's the record in terms of where the United States has been for the last 100 years. So thank you for enlightening me.

SHIMER: Of course. Thank you so much for having me and for reading the book.

SMERCONISH: Up next, I'll talk to Bob Costas about the attempts by the NBA and Major League Baseball to play COVID-shortened seasons and whether controversy over the national anthem means it won't be played anymore.



SMERCONISH: The NBA and Major League Baseball finally announced start dates next month to their COVID-shortened seasons. There will be no fans in the stands and I've got a lot of questions. For instance, will the national anthem go the way of confederate statues? I of course, wanted to discuss with MLB network announcer and sportscasting legend Bob Costas, winner of 28 Emmys. We spoke earlier.


SMERCONISH: Will we watch on television sports that are being played in empty arenas and stadiums?

BOB COSTAS, MLB NETWORK ANNOUNCER: Yes, I think a lot of people will watch. I think the numbers will be high at the outset if only out of curiosity. And then we'll see how long it sustains.

I think that people are willing to grant that these are unique one-off circumstances. And if this is the best that the various leagues can do, at least they'll have some live sports and there will be some degree of interest in it, but also some concern as to whether they can get all the way from one side to the other without the coronavirus derailing them.

SMERCONISH: I've heard some regard this as a return to normalcy. Is that how you see it?

COSTAS: You can look at it that way. Current sports, instead of archival stuff that we've had to content ourselves with over the last few months, that seems like a return to normal. On the other hand, everything about it will shout abnormal. No one in the stands. You're watching a baseball game.

The manager has to come out with a mask if he wants to talk to the pitcher. If the ball goes around the horn, they will have to throw the ball out of play. And there will be inevitably be reports of some players testing positive and having to be sidelined. So, in a certain sense it's going to be a reminder of just how abnormal these times are.

SMERCONISH: Does it put an added onus on a broadcaster given that you may be there but an audience is not physically be there?

COSTAS: And the broadcasters may not physically be there. In many places they'll be in the booth in the empty stadium. In other cases they may well be doing it from some kind of studio some place off a monitor or even from their own homes or apartments depending upon how the stations or networks decide to play it. And it cannot be a standard play-by-play situation.

I won't bore you with the details, Michael, but you're a sports fan. When you're up there in that booth you're looking at monitor, yes, but you're also looking out at the field, or the court, or the rink, whatever it might be. You move your head from side to side, trying to take it all in. That's not going to be possible now for a broadcaster.

And also, the absence of crowd sound, you just intuitively raise your voice when the crowd reacts. You hear it in your headset and you react that way. If we're talking about television instead of radio, you ought to lay out for several seconds at a time. But now that might seem like an eternity. Five, six, seven seconds of completely dead air, we'll have people reaching for the remote saying, wait a minute, where's the volume. Oh, yes, there is no crowd sound.

So, it's going to be a work in progress. I think none of us have experienced it before. We'll just have to figure it out as we go.

SMERCONISH: I think I'm accurate in remembering that part of Ronald Reagan's lure is that he called baseball games that he wasn't physically watching?

COSTAS: Yes, on WHO in Des Moines in 1930s. He wasn't the only one who did it, but perhaps he's the most famous to have done it. And all of those recreation type broadcasts had sound effects, knock on a piece of wood for the crack of the bat. If they got more creative someone's in the back going, peanuts, popcorn, get your score card.

And they got booing and cheering mixed in all that sort of thing. And it's famous that Reagan and others if the ticker-tape broke down they'd have a guy foul off 15 pitches in a row. Or after describing this a beautiful sunny day, all of a sudden, clouds would roll in and it would begin to rain. It's part of broadcasting lure.

SMERCONISH: I'm eager to watch the first playing of the national anthem. I don't know if it's going to be at an MLB game. I don't know it if will an NBA game. But I'm not sure what that's going to look like, Bob.

COSTAS: Nor am I. But I imagine we will see players kneeling, especially in the NBA and in the NFL, if in fact the NFL is able to start a season.

SMERCONISH: But if you had a player of color take a knee previously and a white teammate lay a hand on his shoulder, that was enough. I don't know if that's enough going forward.

COSTAS: Yes. There will be some pressure. People will view it differently. At the extremes, I don't think agreement or mutual support is enough for some people.


You can be indicted for insufficient affirmation in this atmosphere. So, everyone will just have to play it according to their own best sense of things and their own conscience.

SMERCONISH: And finally, the NBA has a plan, the MLB has a plan. What about the NFL, what do you anticipate there? All I know is that Tom Brady keeps working out and people keep criticizing him for doing so.

COSTAS: The NFL I think faces the most severe challenge, the size of the rosters, the nature of the game, contact, and a lot of it on every play. And they play in the fall and winter when the best educated guess is that there might be another coronavirus surge.

So, I think they face a very difficult task. Every one of these leagues has an abundance of medical advice. They're proceeding with an abundance of caution. They have 100-page protocols. And it's hard to believe that everyone will be able to adhere to all those protocols 100 percent of the time.

But even with best practices and best intentions there are a whole lot of needles to thread here. And it's just a fingers crossed situation that they can -- I can use another metaphor -- that they can complete this tight rope walk and make it from one end of the ravine to the other.

SMERCONISH: Bob Costas, thank you as always.

COSTAS: Thank you, Michael. You're welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments from the world of Twitter. What do we have?

Smerconish, the national anthem should be played at every sports event whether there are fans in the stands or not. And players should be allowed to take a knee if they like. Both remind us of what make Americas great regardless of what our leaders say and do. Says the Consummate Loner.

Why sports though? You go to a Broadway show you don't hear the national anthem. You go to the movie theater, you don't hear a national anthem, although I think historically you might have. It's just a curiosity that to American sports, by the way, that this is the way that we're going to do it.

I don't know what the outcome will be. I didn't mean to say that the anthem should play if there's a crowd versus not a crowd. I meant, I'm sure some. In fact there's right now a challenge to Francis Scott Key. So I wonder if that, too, is something about to be questioned.

Still to come, an update on the American couple I spoke to a couple weeks ago, you remember trapped in Ghana with their newborn daughter. And as always your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. Plus, the final results to the survey question at Have you voted yet?

"Should Confederate battlefield monuments be left in place?"



SMERCONISH: Now for an update on the story that I did here a few weeks ago on the two Americans stuck in Ghana trying to bring their surrogate daughter back home. Steve and Zara Wilcox, Philadelphia restaurants -- residents. There we go. Hello?

They went to Ghana in late February to welcome Vernice Tallo Wilcox, born on March 23rd via a surrogate using in vitro fertilization of Steven's sperm. They had not been able to leave for three months because obtaining a passport requires DNA evidence of their biological relationship and the pandemic has made DNA testing impossible to obtain.

Well, on Thursday, Steve Wilcox emailed us this happy news. We finally got a passport this morning and are booked on a Monday flight. I don't think it was a coincidence that after we had been struggling with them for months the embassy suddenly called us back shortly after your segment aired. Thanks for the help. A Happy ending.

Time to see how you responded to the survey question at

"Should Confederate battlefield monuments be left in place?"

Survey says -- they'll be interesting. They're always interesting. Fifty-nine percent left in place, 41 -- a 60/40 spread with let's call it 16,000 having voted. I thought it would have been more than 60 percent.

As I said at the outset, if you missed the program, please find a way to watch it. I went to Gettysburg yesterday. And having seen the context, I'm of the opinion they should remain right where they are but with some additional explanation. You know, the idea that certain statuary went up in the midst of the civil rights movement, '60s and the '70s that's unsettling to me and that needs to be explained. But if there's ever a place where this sort of thing is appropriate, it's looking out over a battlefield where a lot of Americans lost their lives.

What else, Catherine, do we have from this hour?

Smerconish, should Nazi monuments be standing around Germany or other European countries? Absolutely not.

You know, Jacquelyn, you remind me that Ronald Reagan went to Bitburg and there was quite a controversy over him saying, look, all I'm doing is -- I'm here to pay my respects to individuals who died.

What else came in?

The very word confederate reminds of slavery and its humiliating atrocities to black people. Place statues in a designated civil war museum or park.

Garth, I agree with you. And guess what, that's exactly what Gettysburg is. Forty confederate monuments but not in town squares, all adjacent to a battlefield where there were 50,000 casualties, 23,000 members of the confederacy paid with their lives. One more if we have time for it.


Real quick. Here we go.

Remove the national anthem from all sports. Let sports be focused on sports.

I think if you look at the history as to why it was done, it was to gin up enthusiasm and patriotism in the name of selling seats. Nothing I guess new about that form of ingenuity.

Hey, gang, we are off next week for the Fourth of July. Have a wonderful week and see you back here in two weeks, on July 11th.