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Are the Current Calls for Andrew Cuomo to Step Down Amidst Sexual Harassment Allegations due to Facts or Politics?; What Should the Dems do With the Filibuster?; Should People not yet Eligible for the Vaccine get it Anyway?; "Teen Vogue's" New Editor Out Of A Job After Backlash Over Old, Racist Tweets; NFL Owner And Team Advocate For Mental Health Awareness. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 20, 2021 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Can Andrew Cuomo hang on? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Friday came the latest allegation of sexual harassment. This time, a current employee of the Governor's Office telling "The New York Times" that Cuomo would, quote, "Ogle her body, remark on her looks and make suggestive comments."

The New York governor, nearing the end of his third term, has, for weeks, been slammed with dual crises -- an alleged cover-up of the COVID nursing home death toll in his state and accumulating accusations of sexual harassment by young women, some of whom worked for him. Interesting that the latter seems to be causing him more problems than the former.

I can't remember a politician sustaining this sort of ongoing, escalating bad press with no new news story knocking him off the front page and it's not like there's been a lack of news. The border crises, the vaccine roll-out and relief bill fight, Meghan and Harry, even "The Bachelor." "Fox News" had already been continually covering Cuomo in a negative light over COVID. It was as if he was the knee jerk what-about response to anything bad being said about Trump.

Cuomo's denied ever touching anyone inappropriately and apologized for making others feel uncomfortable. He's also denied wrongdoing in reporting COVID-19 nursing home deaths but says that he should have done a better job in handling the information.

Meanwhile, nobody has come forward to defend him and every day, the list grows of those calling for his resignation, including leaders of not just his own party, but his own state, including AOC, Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jerry Nadler, to name a few.

So far, his attempts at apologies have not satisfied critics. Some have portrayed this situation not as whether Cuomo will survive, but just a matter of how many more days and now come a pair of polls of registered New York state voters released just this week by Quinnipiac and Siena Colleges. Their findings may surprise you. Starting with Quinnipiac. On the matter of whether the allegations of sexual harassment are mostly true, 50 percent said yes, 26 percent said no. As to his handling of the nursing home issue, 58 percent say that he deliberately tried to conceal the number of nursing home deaths. Asked if they view him favorably, overall, the result was favorable 33 percent, unfavorable 51 percent.

Now, with numbers like that, you might think they'd be joining the chorus for him to step down but think again. Forty-nine percent said that he should not resign, while 43 percent said that he should. And lest you think this is an outlier, the Quinnipiac survey, Siena College did a similar poll the week before and found this. Fifty percent said that he should not resign, 35 percent said that he should, with the rest undecided.

So let's go deeper into the cross tabs. Here's where it really gets interesting. Among whites, he's at 22 percent favorable, 67 percent unfavorable, meaning that he's under water, as we say. Among people of color, among blacks, those numbers reversed, 66 percent favorable, just 15 percent unfavorable.

Again, the Siena College poll showed similarly lopsided results. Whites only 37 percent favorable, blacks 61 percent, which is borne out by the recent "Times" story headlined "Battered by Scandal, Cuomo Leans on Black Leaders to Build His Defense."

What about the gender divide? Is there one? You might presume that women would be more quick to condemn Cuomo's alleged mistreatment of young women. Instead, asked whether they think the sexual harassment claims are mostly true 55 percent of men said yes. Among women, the numbers are more favorable to Cuomo, 47 percent. And when asked whether the governor should resign, Quinnipiac found that 51 percent of men said yes, but only 36 percent of women said that he should.

While these numbers have crept up from the Siena poll, a week prior, the gender divide remains. By Siena's count, 52 percent of women say he should not resign.

So, to summarize, more New Yorkers want him to stay in office than wish for him to resign. His support among women is stronger than men and his support among African Americans exceeds that among whites by a long shot. It all made me wonder are the calls for Andrew Cuomo to resign driven more by the facts of his personal and professional conduct or by politics?


Of course Republicans would overwhelmingly like to see him step down, perhaps because they don't want to face him running for a fourth term, 72 percent according to Quinnipiac, but in defiance of their own party leaders, 67 percent of Democrats say he should stay. When I asked my "SiriusXM" radio audience what was behind the push to oust Cuomo, 8,000 people responded. The result was 18 percent said the facts, 82 percent said the politics.

Maybe the takeaway is that while we're all interested in paying very close attention to the allegations against Governor Cuomo and recognize that they are most serious, many voters continue prioritize issues like jobs and healthcare, education and crime critical to their personal well-being.

Now, if President Biden wants to achieve his ambitious agenda, the Senate's 50/50 makeup gives him very little margin for error. Why? The filibuster could be a major culprit. The merits of the infamous Senate rule have been heavily debated since the first successful filibuster took place in 1837. The rule itself came about by accident decades before. President Joe Biden, who served in the Senate for over three decades, has been pressured by Democrats who favor a filibuster overhaul to embrace reform. That pressure seemed to pay off this week.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think you have to eliminate the filibuster. You have to do what it used to be when I first got to the Senate and back in the old days when you used to be around there and that is that a filibuster, you had to stand up and command the floor and you had to keep talking alone. You couldn't call for, you know -- no one could say "quorum call." Once you stop talking, you lost that and someone could move in and say, "I move the question of." So, you got to work for the filibuster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you're for that reform? You're for bringing back the talking filibuster?

BIDEN: I am. That's what it was supposed to be.


SMERCONISH: My next guest also wants to make the filibuster more difficult. In a co-written "New York Times" op-ed, the dean and professor at U.C. Berkeley School of Law proposed, "If a filibuster must exist in the Senate, let it be the original 'speaking' version that protects the conscience of the minority without turning the Senate into a super-majoritarian body."

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky himself joins me now to state his case. Dean, yesterday, I spoke on radio to your colleague, Burt Newborn, with whom you co-authored that piece, and Professor Newborn made the point that Democrats need to weigh the upside of ending the filibuster and getting things done against the prospect of Republicans doing likewise in the future.

But my question to you, are the Biden and Democratic goals necessarily one in the same? Meaning Biden wants to get things done now, maybe he doesn't have to worry so much about the future.

ERWIN CHEMERINSKY, DEAN, U.C. BERKELEY SCHOOL OF LAW: The reality is if the Democrats don't change the filibuster now, when the Republicans are the majority of the Senate, they're going to do that. There's the Republicans, for example, who eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in 2017. I see no downside to the Democrats making the change now. SMERCONISH: OK. But I guess the response is that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says and wrote an essay this week for "The Journal," hey, Donald Trump, President Trump, wanted me to do that on his watch and I wouldn't do it. What makes you think that in the future, they necessarily will?

CHEMERINSKY: I think that the experience that we saw with regard to the Republicans eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nomination shows that. When the filibuster kept the Republicans from accomplishing what they wanted, confirming Neil Gorsuch, they simply eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations.

I don't think the Democrats should, can engage in unilateral disarmament. The Democrats know the Republicans can do this when they've got the Senate. The Democrats need to do it now or Biden's agenda will not be able to be advanced.

SMERCONISH: Is going in the direction of Jimmy Stewart, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," reinstituting the speaking filibuster, is that sufficient?

CHEMERINSKY: If I could, I would eliminate the filibuster entirely. I believe the filibuster is unconstitutional. The Constitution prescribes majority rule in the House and the Senate except for a few narrow instances, but it doesn't seem there's a chance of eliminating the filibuster. So I think the next best thing is to go back to what it was before 1975, what it was with Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Require it be somebody occupy the floor of the Senate and keep talking.

SMERCONISH: In that the aforementioned "Wall Street Journal" editorial essay that McConnell wrote, Minority Leader McConnell, he said the following. I'll put it up on the screen and read it to you, professor. "If the Democrats kill the legislative filibuster, history would repeat itself, but more dramatically. As soon as Republicans wound up back in control, we wouldn't stop at erasing every liberal change that hurt the country.


We'd strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero input from the other side." You'd respond to him how?

CHEMERINSKY: What's to believe they're not going to do that anyway? When there was talk about eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominations, there were all of the threats that this was the nuclear option and look what's going to happen in the future. It did anyway. The Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations as soon as they needed to do so.

So, I think what McConnell is threatening is certainly a realistic possibility. I think it's going to happen whether the Democrats now do or don't eliminate the filibuster.

SMERCONISH: Final question. The politics of this. If the Democrats were to eliminate the filibuster and pass Joe Biden's robust agenda, do they then run the risk that they've upped the ante for the midterm, meaning that Republicans then surely retake the House of Representatives and as well as the U.S. Senate?

CHEMERINSKY: I think just the opposite. I think accomplishing things is the way in which the Democrats going to keep control of both the House and the Senate. If the filibuster had applied to the American Rescue Plan 10 days ago, it would have no chance of passing because every Republican voted against it. It was only through it being a reconciliation bill that the filibuster didn't apply and it got adopted. If the Democrats want to keep Congress in the midterms, they've got to do things and that's going to require changing the filibuster.

SMERCONISH: Dean Chemerinsky, thank you so much for being here.

CHEMERINSKY: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish, go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. From Facebook, "Have to keep filibuster! What happens when we lose majority, and that day will come!" Tina, you just heard Erwin Chemerinsky offer you the opinion that no matter what happens on Joe Biden's watch right now, Republicans will make that change in the future. So his point is go get it done.

Do you agree with him? I want to know what you think. Go to my website at and answer this week's survey question. Should the Senate vote to end the filibuster?

Up ahead, despite troubling COVID numbers, many Americans are still shunning the vaccine, others impatient to get our shots. So what are the ethics of trying to get your vaccine before you qualify?

And the incoming editor of "Teen Vogue" already got a pink slip before her first day of work because of some of the racist tweets she made as a teenager. Has America forgotten how to forgive?

Plus, we've all seen the commercials. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is sponsoring a new campaign promoting mental health awareness and he's here to explain.




SMERCONISH: It's a question many Americans are grappling with. I'm not eligible for the vaccine yet. Can I hunt for a surplus dose? It's tricky. Several "New York Times" readers recently asked that of the paper's ethicist column looking for guidance. One college student in Montana wrote, "Since I am healthy, young person who is not an essential worker or at risk, should I wait to get vaccinated in hopes that someone at greater risk or more essential could take the spot?"

Then there was a 44-year-old overweight since childhood wondered about being on the cusp of eligibility, quote, "I've been much heavier than I am currently, which is hovering right at the border between overweight and obese. My state considers anyone who is classified as obese to be in the priority group for vaccinations. Is it ethical for me to bend the definition of chronic condition?"

Or how about this. A person who's working at a farmers market one day a week asked, quote, "I feel that my limited exposure as one-day-a- week essential worker makes my claim to vaccination doubtful. I want this vaccine to be rolled out in an ethical manner and ideally privilege won't play a role in it, but is eligibility eligibility, plain and simple?"

To wrestle with these questions and more, "New York Times" ethicist columnist Kwame Anthony Appiah joins me now. He's had the gig since October of 2015. He's also a professor of philosophy and law at NYU. Kwame, thanks so much for being here. I had this conversation weeks ago with Dr. Arthur Caplan who's at NYU Langone and to paraphrase, he said to me, nobody should jump the line, nobody should lie, but when you have opportunity to get that vaccine, take it because you can't assume that it will go to someone more worthy. Do you see it that way?

KWAME ANTHONY APPIAH, NEW YORK TIMES ETHICIST COLUMNIST/PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY & LAW, NYU: Well, he's my colleague and he's usually right about these things and I agree with him about that. The thing is once the system's set up and once the system is set up in a basically reasonable way, then if you are eligible, you should go for it. It's not up to you to try and fine tune the system, in part because, as he said, there's no guarantee that the person who gets it when you don't is going to be more in need of it than you are.

SMERCONISH: How about the college student that you addressed who's thinking of the surplus dose and am I worthy? What was your answer?

APPIAH: Well, I think, again, if you -- if the rules allow, if you don't lie and if you show up and they have a spare dose and they're going to give it to you because there isn't anybody who's eligible in the normal way ahead of you, go ahead. My view is we've got a system, it should be fair and reasonable and the system in most of the states is fair and reasonable.


Any fair and reasonable system will have cases where somebody who has greater need is going to end up behind someone who has lesser need because one reasonable feature of a reasonable system is it has to be manageable and if you were making very, very complicated rules, it would be extremely hard to manage. So, we have these rules, they're reasonable and fair. If, under those rules, you are eligible, go for it. We really want everybody to get vaccinated as fast as possible.

SMERCONISH: To that point, I thought there was a very interesting quote, I'm going to put it up on the screen, from Dr. Stephen Thomas at SUNY Upstate Medical University where he's the Chief of Infectious Disease. Quote, "I think it's a race against time. Every single person we can get vaccinated or every single person that we can get a mask on is one less opportunity that the variant has." Almost embracing the idea that everybody should get it as soon as possible so as to reach herd immunity more quickly.

APPIAH: Well, I mean, yes, of course we should be aiming for herd immunity for as many people as possible, but we should do so in a fair way and as I say, as long as the rules that are operating are fair, it's right to prioritize getting it to people who have greater risk and it's right to prioritize people who are taking for us, as essential workers, the risks of keeping the system going while many of us, like me, are staying at home and not having to go out because of the way the essential workers are delivering and doing their job.

So, I think we've got a -- we got a basically good system and we should try and get people vaccinated as fast as possible within that system. I don't think that the thought that we should get people vaccinated as fast as possible should lead some people to think, OK, so I'm going to try and get vaccinated even if I'm eligible or not. We've got to stick with the system.

If it turns out that -- I think a reasonable feature of the system should be that if there is stuff left over somewhere and there's a way of getting it out to whoever shows up, then you should give it to whoever shows up, but as I say, I think the basic principle here is when you have a basically fair system, you should do your part in it and if that means that you have to wait a bit because you're at less risk or because you're not doing essential work, then please do the rest, first, the courtesy of keeping to the rules.

But yes, it is also true that the people running the system should be making sure that they get through with the vaccine they've got as fast as possible, that it's at a rate (ph) that means that they've always got replacements and that as the people who are at the top of the list get done, we move swiftly down the list so that as soon as possible, as many people as possible have been vaccinated.

I mean, one of the really important things here, it's not just that there's a race against time for the variants that already exist. The longer we have a large population exposed to and getting the virus, the more likely it is that new variants will develop.

SMERCONISH: Right. Understood.

APPIAH: So, with all -- it's in the interest of all of us -- it's in the interest of all of us to make sure that everybody gets vaccinated as fast as possible, but in a fair way.

SMERCONISH: Kwame Anthony Appiah, thank you for the guidance. We appreciate it.

APPIAH: Very good to talk to you.

SMERCONISH: You too. Still to come, the entire point of being a teenager, it used to be to make egregious errors so that you can learn from the experience, but new "Teen Vogue" editor Alexi McCammond had to step down before she even started the gig because of decade-old racist and homophobic tweets. Did she deserve a second chance?



SMERCONISH: Twenty-seven-year-old journalist Alexi McCammond out as "Teen Vogue"'s editor in chief before she even started. Thursday's announcement made by both McCammond and the magazine, it comes after anti-Asian and homophobic screenshots of tweets of hers from 10 years ago resurfaced this month. The journalist mocked the appearance of Asian people, perpetuated racist stereotypes and made homophobic slurs.

The tweets are no longer on her account. The offensive tweets first resurfaced in 2019 when she was at "Axios" where she acknowledged they were wrong and apologized for them. Her new gig was announced on March the 5th. Three days later, "Teen Vogue" staffers sent a letter to management expressing their concerns regarding her past to which McCammond responded with another apology.

On March 10, she issued yet another apology on Twitter where she said, in part, "I'm so sorry to have used such hurtful and inexcusable language." It's worth noting that Conde Nast, which owns "Teen Vogue" and other media publications, was aware of the tweets during the interview process and knew that she'd apologized for them.

The controversy over McCammond's hire caused Ulta Beauty and Burt's Bees, some of the magazine's major advertisers, to suspend their campaigns with the publication. So even after publicly and privately showing remorse multiple times, the backlash continued. McCammond issued a statement Thursday announcing her departure where she apologized publicly for the third time and took full responsibility. McCammond also noted her past tweets have overshadowed the work that she's done to highlight the people and issues she cares about.

She was 17 years old when she fired out those tweets and like any adult should, McCammond took responsibility for them and promised to do better. Does she really deserve to lose her job over this now? There's no question it's necessary to denounce racist and offensive behavior, but is redemption even possible in an unforgiving climate like today's?


SMERCONISH: Graeme Wood joins me now to discuss. He's a staff writer for "The Atlantic." He recently wrote this piece titled "American Has Forgotten How to Forgive." He is also the author of the book "The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State."

Graeme, I'm watching the reaction to the firing, the lack of her accepting being able to be given the job and she is drawing so much support at least in the quarters that I'm paying attention to that I'm wondering if this case represents a pendulum swing. How do you see it?

GRAEME WOOD, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: "TEEN VOGUE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE POINT OF BEING A TEENAGER": Yes, it might. I mean, when I heard about it I thought -- I was a teenager, Michael, you probably were too, at some point. And it seems strange that of all magazines "Teen Vogue" would not understand the whole point of being a teenager is that you make terrible mistakes, mortifying mistakes, the worst mistakes of your life, and then at some point you correct them and there is this wonderful bonfire of your mistakes that -- and you enter adulthood and you ideally don't make them again.

So, I think there's a lot of people who now understand that maybe things have gone a little too far. Maybe there needs to be some mechanism of forgiveness, some mechanism of redemption and instead we see that people who are -- sometimes, you know, the guardians of teenagers years right now and their culture, instead, acting as if what you do at the age of 17 is unforgivable. That any tweet that's on your record then is on your permanent record forever and will torpedo your job chances at the age of 27 and beyond.

SMERCONISH: Look, I love the internet. I'm forever grateful, though, that it didn't exist when I was a teenager. I mean, the most trouble that we could create that would follow us around was something to do with a Xerox machine that I best not describe. I'm wondering if there is an age differential on this. Because the people that I'm hearing from or that I'm following are similar in age to me and I'm wondering if maybe those who are somehow, you know, 18 to 30ish look at it differently. Any thoughts on that?

WOOD: Yes, I think that's -- that's pretty likely. I mean, there is a whole generation that has been living on eggshells. You know? They have been recorded in their foolish behavior for their entire adolescence and adult life. And they have been trained to watch each other and that doesn't sound like a healthy way to live for anybody.

I, too, am glad that the permanent record of my social media and so forth didn't begin until well into my adulthood. And, yes, anybody who is under the age of 30 has experienced a level of panopticon like judgment and views from other people that you and I are probably have never felt until very recently. So, it is generational, I'm sure.

SMERCONISH: In "The Atlantic" you wrote, "The coup d'etat at Teen Vogue is the result of a debased form of identity building -- one that mistakes an identity worth having for one based on the pitiless prosecution of offenses by members of other races regardless of whether they are large or small, intended or unintended, ongoing or long-disavowed." Speak to that issue.

WOOD: Yes. I mean, part of this is -- has to be spoken of in the context of anti-Asian violence, murders that have taken place against Asian people. And part of this has to be seen as an attempt to build identity in the ways that we have seen previously in other ethnic groups, other races. And part of that, I think, is good. I mean, people should not be able to tweet about the facial features of Asian people in a mocking way in adulthood without any consequence.

On the other hand, there is something different about the Asian identity. You know? White identity, black identity. These are part of this long history of American original sin. And Asian identity, if we build it up, as an Asian person myself, I think that it would be nice if we didn't have to use these sorts of broken templates that have come from previous ethnic group's experiences. And what that means is not adopting some of the vindictive excesses, the total lack of forgiveness that has beset people when they have made offenses in those other racial contexts.

We might be able to create an identity that is more positive and avoids those excesses altogether. This "Teen Vogue" incident is unfortunately a step in the wrong direction in that regard.

SMERCONISH: Right. And I hope -- I hope it -- personally, I hope it does represent some kind of a pendulum swing because my view is that in temperate even racist tweets when one is a teen should not be a permanent professional death sentence.

Graeme, thank you so much. I really appreciate the piece you wrote in "The Atlantic."

WOOD: Thanks, Michael.

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


This, I think, from Facebook. What do we have?

"So, we forgive Cuomo but condemn a young woman for insulting tweets." I don't know that anybody is speaking of forgiveness of Cuomo. You didn't hear me say that in my opening commentary where I analyzed all the data.

I think we are saying that everybody needs to be held accountable. How is that? Everybody needs to be held accountable but, at some point, the punishment outlives the underlying offense. And in the case of Alexi McCammond, in my view, the punishment was too harsh.

I mean, the comments as a 17-year-old to now deny her a professional gig. What she did then was deplorable. She knows that. She has taken ownership of it.

Still to come, he won the Super Bowl -- Super Bowl XLI. Won that trophy with Peyton Manning. But now Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay has his eye on a different goalpost, ending the stigma of mental illness. He's here to explain why he has put $4 million into a new campaign.

And don't forget I want to remind you to answer this week's survey question at "Should the Senate vote to end the filibuster?"



SMERCONISH: Sharing feelings of insecurity and shame may not be something we usually associate with the National Football League which is why I'm fascinated when I keep seeing this commercial on TV including here on CNN called "Kicking the Stigma." It features Indianapolis Colts' owner and CEO Jim Irsay and Colts' all-pro linebacker Darius Leonard.


JIM IRSAY, OWNER AND CEO, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: One very important cause we wanted to be advocates about is mental health awareness.

DARIUS LEONARD, ALL-PRO LINEBACKER, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: I struggled. I struggled for a long time. And then I had to go to counseling and it's OK to not be OK. This thing we going through, life is not perfect. And there's so many times where, you know, you going to face so many obstacles and you're going to feel like the world is against you. And you just got to keep fighting. You got to keep fighting no matter what and just don't ever give up.

IRSAY: "Kicking the Stigma" is our commitment to eradicating and getting this environment change.


SMERCONISH: The Irsay family kicked off the fund-raising campaign with a gift of more than $4 million and it couldn't have come at a better time. In typical times one in five Americans suffer from some form of mental health disorder. But for instance, according to a new Ipsos poll, since the pandemic began last year, nearly half of parents reported their teenagers face new or worsening mental health conditions.

After growing up with the Colts while his father Robert owned the team, Jim took over upon his father's passing in 1997. And with quarterback Peyton Manning, the team won the Super Bowl XLI trophy. Jim Irsay joins me now.

Jim, I'm in Philly so I'll begin with this. Congratulations on Carson Wentz. I think you got the better end of the bargain.

IRSAY: Well, thank you, Michael. We appreciate you coming in at the end and mediating a little bit there to get the deal done. So, much appreciated. We are excited about having him and excited about being here today.

Let me just say, first and foremost, you know, 53 years ago this coming April 5th, Bobby Kennedy had his famous speech, "The Mindless Menace of Violence." And, you know, our hearts are out to the Asian community in this country and the world after what has happened, and I wanted to say that.

And being here today, as Bobby Kennedy said in the speech and started out, this is not a day for politics or mourning. And that's the way I feel coming and talking about "Kicking the Stigma" and where we are at with mental health in this country right now, because it's all hands- on deck after we have been through this pandemic.

It's really a serious situation. It's one step away from the apocalyptic scene of the "Joker" at the end of that famous movie. And we are here to do everything we can to change that. SMERCONISH: Well, I applaud your efforts. And every time I see the commercial, I say that out loud. And I also say, I want to talk to this guy.

And the reason that I want to talk to Jim Irsay is to ask you why when someone in our familial circle, when someone in our social orbit gets cancer they publicly acknowledge it and we rally around them. And yet in the realm that you're discussing, still it's shunned and shameful and remains in the shadows. Why is that the case?

IRSAY: Well, I think that's a great point. We had an outstanding coach here. Many people may know Chuck Pagano. His first year in 2012 after I hired him, he developed leukemia and missed most of all the season. He courageously fought back and now leads Chuck's "Strong Against Cancer" particularly in youth. But the point is when he wasn't -- when he got out of treatment and was feeling better around December in 2012, he didn't -- he had a huge debt he had to pay because the insurance company said we won't pay for mental health. He didn't have that aspect of could I be prosecuted for doing -- having too much chemotherapy?

This is the extreme difficult situation that people face with mental illnesses. I've dealt with people just this week with people that can't get a penny for insurance with serious eating disorders that's wrecking the lives of their children, serious conditions like OCD that become really serious.


No money there to help them. And you can imagine how the world even closes in more. And so it's so critical. I just, you know, want to say a shout-out to our troops throughout the world as well because we know what they go through dealing with mental illness and the stress that they are under.

And as they say, we leave no man or woman behind. And that is the same way we feel about "Kicking the Stigma." We want to find the lonely. We want to find the people that are hurting.

When people are lonely and hurt and afraid, you don't attack them. You try to find ways to embrace them. And that's where I really feel, Michael, that this is about a spiritual awakening as well as growing this country to a higher spiritual level.

You were mentioning it earlier in your program about the internet and how that drove so much of us closer together, but without a spiritual growth and awakening, that is where the true answers have to be found. I mean, we can't want our brothers and sisters out there hurting and we are not going to leave them alone. We are going to find them, give them help, embrace them and love them.

SMERCONISH: Jim, there has to be a back story to the use of REM's "Everybody Hurts." What is it?

IRSAY: Well, it's a great story. Those guys in REM are good friends of mine, particularly Mike Mills, the bass player and backup vocalist. And when we were putting this commercial together, this PSA, I was looking and talking to my daughter Kalen who really drove this thing as well. And I was going to use possibly U2's "One" except that (INAUDIBLE) trying to find Bono and the guys and getting -- so I told Mike, I said, well, really "Everybody Hurts." That's the perfect song. You know? Is that OK? And he said, sure, it's OK.

So, he just followed with the other three guys and it was a go from there. So, it was great that I know REM is really excited about being behind this because everyone understands how mental illness, how this awareness of mental health has to change in this country and everyone has been affected at every level. So, people are so eager to help.

SMERCONISH: Jim, a quick final -- a quick final question, if I may. What has been the reaction? Tell me what it's like to be Jim Irsay after you've adopted this cause and have been so visible.

IRSAY: It's been a tremendous reaction and it has grown and grown and grown. And we want to see that continue, Michael. I know with Merrick Garland coming on as attorney general, with the changes that's going on in this country, whether it's insurance companies or bureaucracies in the government, we want to see more compassion and really find ways to help people.

So, it has been a privilege and I'm humbled to be able to help out in any way I can. This illness has affected my family for many generations and I'm not ashamed to say that. I'm very proud to say it. Because when you come through something like this, it really makes you a better person and changes the world for the better.

SMERCONISH: What a privilege. Thank you so much.

IRSAY: Thank you, Michael. And I love the fact that you actually didn't vote for Hillary or Donald Trump in the 2016 election. I found that quite interesting in your bio. You're a smart man --

SMERCONISH: Listen. Keep watching. You're good for my demographic. I appreciate it.

IRSAY: OK, Michael. Thanks so much for having me.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final result of the survey question at "Should the Senate vote to end the filibuster?"



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to this week's survey question at "Should the Senate vote to end the filibuster?"

Survey says 79 percent of 26,000 and change. Let's call it 80/20, say, yes, it ought to be ended. Which was what Dean Chemerinsky from Berkeley argued at the outset of the program.

What came in, Catherine, from social media this week? Here's what we've got. Smerconish, who are these people who are holier than thou and have never made mistake lives. Who are they to be dictating who gets a second chance and who doesn't? If you know them, please put them on your show.

Braxton, I totally agree with you. I mean, if my youth were judged by today's standard, there's no way I would have this gig right here.


So, I would be hypocritical if I said, oh, she should lose her job. It was 10 years ago. She was 17. By the way, don't misunderstand, that which she tweeted was horrible, indefensible, but for how long are we going to punish somebody? You've got to eat at some point, right?

One more if I've got time. I think that I do. Trump didn't resign and has two ongoing sexual assault cases over 25 accusations. So, no, Cuomo shouldn't resign until he's proven guilty. Innocent until proven guilty, isn't that a thing?

Jeremy, I'd tell you what's a thing. You know what's a thing? Inconsistency is a thing. Whatever the standard is that an individual has for one person, maybe they're a Republican, maybe they're a Democrat, who is accused of these sort of improprieties, needs to be the same standard that they apply to the next instance where it's a different of a different political stripe, a person of a different political stripe. That's where I'm coming from.

Thanks so much for watching. See you next week.