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Florida Gov. DeSantis Signs Bill Revoking Disney's Special District Status; Russian Orthodox Leader Backs War In Ukraine, Divides Faith; Study: Democrats "Sleepwalking Into A Senate Disaster" In 2024; Electric Ford-F150 Truck Takes On Tesla. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired April 23, 2022 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: The unhappiest place on Earth. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law revoking Disney World's designation as a special tax district, which allows the entertainment giant to self-govern its 25,000-acre theme park.

How Disney originally assembled that land? Great story and I'll tell you in a moment.

The Magic Kingdom now finds itself embroiled in controversy. Initially, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Disney would take no position on HB 15-57. The Parental Rights in Education or as critics call it, the "Don't Say Gay" bill that was signed by Governor DeSantis.

The bill prohibits the classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity through the third grade in Florida's elementary schools. On March 7, Chapek told employees, as we have seen time and again corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or mines. Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame.

He said he did not want the company to become a political football. At that time, more than 150 companies had already signed a letter opposing the legislation.

Two days later, Chapek changed course amid widespread outrage from Disney employees and fans. He called Governor DeSantis to express disappointment with the law. And on the same day at an annual shareholders meeting, he said, our original approach, no matter how well intentioned, didn't quite get the job done.

He further apologized at the town hall for staff on March 21. Then on March 28, DeSantis signed the bill into law.

We've recently seen corporate activism on a number of issues guns after Parkland, social justice after George Floyd, the perception of infringement on voting rights after a new law was signed in Georgia, and a boycott of companies still doing business with Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, is the Yale professor with the golden Rolodex, the coordinator of many corporate actions on matters of public concern. I've often asked Professor Sonnenfeld whether corporations should be worried about anything other than their bottom line. He's told me certain situations demand a corporate response.


JEFFREY SONNENFELD, PROFESSOR AND SENIOR ASSOCIATE DEAN, YALE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT: Well, the geopolitical context is critically absolutely critical part, of course of a business leaders responsibility. You want to have faith in society, trust in free markets, and you want to have social harmony, as Alexis de Tocqueville when he visited the U.S., back in 1840, he wrote the book Democracy in America, he took a look at what really makes our system work. It was that the communities trust each other. There's a foundation that believe that it isn't just the tightness of the legal system, and he called it he called capital. People think that's a recent term.

And that's what business leaders have to work on because they say it's just as powerful as financial capital when some people say that to business leaders get back in their lane. I wonder what lane are you talking about the breakdown lane, it's absolutely critical for them to focus and 80 percent of the American public is behind these moves.


SMERCONISH: But the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal sees a different lesson in Disney, quote, there's a warning here to other companies, especially big tech, and Wall Street, which are mainly based in liberal states but conduct business everywhere. If they try to impose their cultural values, they risk losing Republican allies on the policy issues that matter most to their bottom lines, such as regulation, trade, taxation, anti-trust labor law.

The Disney lesson for CEOs is to stay out of these divisive cultural issues. The lesson from political partisans in the workplace is that their bosses run the office, but they don't run the country.

Well, what a shame that today, even Disney is subject to the partisan divide. But here we are, whether Florida should have ever passed the underlying law, I say is open to fair debate. I wouldn't want any teacher instructing any of our children on sexuality between kindergarten and the third grade.

That again, the law was poorly drafted insofar as the word instructed was never defined. The preamble of the bill states that the aim is to prohibit classroom discussion about sexual orientation, or gender identity. But the actual bill states that classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur.

If a young student asks a teacher why a classmate has two mommies, I think the teacher should be empowered to reply that family love comes in many shapes and sizes. Another legitimate debate is whether Disney should have yielded to employee pressure and taken a position on the matter. That's the Sonnenfeld Wall Street Journal divide.

But about this there should be an to debate, when a state actor punishes a speaker corporate or individual for expressing a political viewpoint, they've brought the full force of government on the wrong side of the First Amendment.


And I don't think that will stand. If challenged.

I want to know what you think. Go to my website, it's this hour and vote on today's survey question, should Disney have taken a position on Florida's new education law?

So, how did Disney obtain the special tax status it has enjoyed for the past 55 years, which is now due to end in June of 2023. I'm reminded of the time that as a family we took a backlog tour of Disney World when the kids were younger, and were shown a plane with a fake company name on the side.

We were told that Walt Disney and his brother Roy had floated over Central Florida to anonymously scout the swampy land they were thinking of obtaining for an East Coast Disney Land.

Starting in 1964, Disney used multiple shell companies to buy huge tracts of swamp land at low prices from unsuspecting landowners often in cash to avoid a paper trail. They ended up with 27,000 acres. Walt wanted more freedom to develop the land and the company condition petitioned the Florida State Legislature to create the Reedy Creek improvement district which would give them near autonomy.

It was signed by Governor Claude Kirk back in May of 1967. And this is the law that allows Disney to construct new buildings and expand its parks without having to follow state or county regulations.

Today, Reedy Creek includes four theme parks, two water parks, one sports complex, 175 miles of roadway, 67 miles of waterway 40,000 hotel rooms, hundreds of restaurants and retail stores.

It has a permanent population of about 50 and its own fire department and Board of Supervisors. If the status does get revoked next year, there could be a financial consequence for local taxpayers.

Joining me now to discuss is James Clark. He's a historian at the University of Central Florida who has written several books about the state including "A History Lover's Guide to Florida."

Dr. Clark, thank you so much for being here. I love the story as to how anonymously they were able to do this this land assemblage was their secret ever at risk?

DR. JAMES CLARK, SENIOR LECTURER, UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA: No, they kept it extremely well for months and months. Finally, a reporter asked Walt Disney could walk be the one buying all the land. And he said no, that he had no interest in Florida. But there were two things he said that gave it away. One he knew the annual rainfall for Orlando, and two he pronounced Kosumi (ph) correctly. Everybody else in the world pronounces it, Kissimmee (ph) and the reporter immediately thought, something's awry here.

SMERCONISH: You know, I know when you walk down Main Street, USA, there's retail on the ground level. And if you look at the windows up above, there are names of fake companies and businesses and so forth. Only now do I know that in some of the windows, you'll see Reedy Creek Ranch Incorporated, Bay Lake Properties Incorporated, iFour Corporation, which apparently was a tip of the hat to Interstate 4. These are all sort of a remembrance and homage of what you and I are talking about.

CLARK: Right. And they're also names of people up there who were instrumental in the early days of Disney for being a dentist or being a doctor's office. So they do tip the hat to the past.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Clark, do Osceola County and Orange County want this to take place? Do they all of a sudden want to assume responsibility for what we're discussing?

CLARK: No, this is a gift they do not want for a number of different reasons. First of all, Osceola County has some of the acreage but almost none of the buildings so it plays a very small role in this. Orange County is about 95 percent of this and they simply don't want to take over this area.

Disney does an excellent job. There are no potholes in Disney World. Their utility is among the best in the country. In fact, in 2004, when almost all of Central Florida lost power, Disney kept going so they run a good operation out there.

SMERCONISH: Are the tax implications clear because it is a partisan football now sadly, and I've heard each side try and make a tax argument as to what will happen when the dust settles.

CLARK: Yes, Michael, a month ago the Republicans in Tallahassee were giving Disney whatever he wanted and the Democrats were criticizing it.


Now it's flipped entirely. The Republicans are punishing Disney and the Democrats are praising it. So no one knows for sure. Disney pays about 60 million a year in county taxes. And they also pay another 150 million or so to support Reedy Creek. So that's over $200 million they are paying now.

It could be that Disney saves money. It could be that Disney loses money. No one knows until it happens.

The best guess I think is that the county as they have done for others will set up a special taxing district and give Disney back many of the powers that has. SMERCONISH: It's amazing to me how people suit up in their partisan jerseys. If this were a progressive, a liberal governor taking on a corporate entity, I'm sure there'd be a complete role reversal.

Here's my final question for you. Is this a fait accompli? You have educated me to the fact that this doesn't take this doesn't get implemented until what did I say June of 2023. And that's unusual. Explain.

CLARK: Yes, Florida laws go into effect July 1. So, all the laws passed in the legislature this year will take effect July 1st, except this one. It has to wait 14 months. And my guess is that during those 14 months, remember, Disney has 38 lobbyists in Tallahassee, they're going to be working to put this kind of back together again. Orange County is going to be working to get off the hook. And so, I feel that by next July 1st of 2023 all of this will be behind us.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Clark, that was excellent. Thank you. I really appreciate it.

CLARK: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: To be a Disney lobbyist in Tallahassee, that has to be like the epitome of job security these days, right? What are your thoughts? Tweet me at Smerconish or go to my Facebook page, YouTube page, I'll read some during the course of the program. What do we have Catherine?

From the social media world, Disney chose its political path, and now we'll pay the consequences.

Well, I mean to hear Professor Sonnenfeld say it, what choice did they have? Right? If there aren't guardrails for us as a society, then there's no environment in which to do business. I'm more of the opinion that -- we can have the argument about the merit of the law. I already told you my view about that. We can have a separate argument as to whether Disney should have yielded to the wishes of its employees.

But what about the First Amendment implications? This was retaliatory, right? I mean, what would -- what Governor DeSantis have signed into law yesterday what he did but for Disney speaking up? Why? Why are conservatives wedded to the Constitution not discussing that point? That's what I want to know. All I want is consistency. For goodness sakes, just be consistent.

I want to know what you think, go to my website at this hour answering this week's survey question. Should Disney have taken a position on Florida's new education law? While you're there, register for the daily newsletter.

Still to come, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill has expressed full support of Putin's war against Ukraine, despite the fact that it's killing many of the church's civilian parishioners. So what's behind this seemingly unreligious attitude? And this week, President Biden confused the issues of ending Title 42, which has kept the borders closed because of COVID. And fighting the judge who ended mask mandates.

Well, he's not the only one struggling to square their position on mass mandates with border control and I'll explain.



SMERCONISH: Tomorrow, 200 million Eastern Orthodox Christians around the world will celebrate Easter but this year the church finds itself fractured over Russia's war against Ukraine which has pitted Russian Orthodox Church members against each other in battle because Patriarch Kirill of Moscow has fully supported President Vladimir Putin's invasion.

Kirill is a major religious figure in Russia. He's repeatedly bestowed blessings on the Russian military framing the war as a holy struggle against what he has called Western scourges like gay pride parades.

He has not condemned the killing of civilians, including his own parishioners, some 400 Ukrainian clerics have signed a petition asking church hierarchy to label Kirill's support for the Kremlin as heresy. Another 300 priests mostly inside Russia have signed a petition against the war.

The Orthodox Church is decentralized with 15 branches. The economical Patriarch of Constantinople, that's Bartholomew, has been openly critical of Kirill telling recently a group of students he should not have identified so much with President Putin and even called Russia's war against Ukraine sacred.

And Bartholomew told an interviewer, it is damaging to the prestige of the whole of Orthodoxy, because orthodoxy doesn't support war, violence or terrorism.

Joining me now is Olenka Pevny. She's an associate professor of Slavonic and Ukrainian Studies at the University of Cambridge.

Dr. Pevny, thank you so much for being here. I've often heard Kirill described in similar terms to the Pope, but that's not entirely accurate, right? This church is much more decentralized. Can you explain?

OLENKA PEVNY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT UKRAINIAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE: Yes, so the difference between Latin Christianity and Eastern Christianity is that in Eastern Christianity decisions are made by a council of patriarchs and there more or less national or regional churches.


So for example, you have the Greek Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the sort of equal among equals the Ecumenical Patriarch is the patriarch of former Constantinople, now the city of Istanbul.

SMERCONISH: OK, so the parishes in Ukraine, are they taking direction from Kirill in Moscow or from Bartholomew in Constantinople?

PEVNY: So the situation in Ukraine is quite complex. So one of the things I would argue is that we shouldn't focus so much on Kirill. Kirill is clearly someone who is slightly deranged, and most of the churches have expressed their discontent with his leadership and the fact that he is making all of these statements in support of Putin.

And so what you're having is individual parishes and priests and parishioners leaving the church, what we would want to see is more of these heads of churches instead of just condemning the war, actually step out against Kirill, and maybe expel him, for example, from the World Council of Churches.

But the situation in Ukraine is that we actually have an autocephalous church. We have the Orthodox Ukrainian Church, which received its autocephaly or independence, which is formally recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Orthodox Greek church, the Alexandrian church, a number of other churches, and the head of, I'll stop in a second, the head of this church does not answer to Kirill. He answers to the Patriarch in Constantinople. So to Bartholomew,

SMERCONISH: Right, so is the motivation of Kirill, I understand what you're saying, like, Hey, don't give this guy too much attention, but he's playing a very important role as we speak. Is his motivation a land grab like it is for Putin? Putin wants Ukraine does Kirill similarly want that territory back for the church?

PEVNY: Yes, so Kirill has -- so we are -- what we're dealing is -- we're dealing with a dying empire, where we have the leader Putin and close association with the church, right. There's almost no separation of church and state. And Kirill's putting his right hand man, and he sees all of the territory of Ukraine as canonically his so what he's trying to do is land grab the parishes in Ukraine, because if you have parishes in Ukraine, you have more money coming in.

So the situation is complex, because the only legal church in the Soviet Union was the Russian Orthodox Church. When Ukraine declared independence, the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine renamed itself the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

So now the Ukrainian government has required them to add up the Moscow patriarchy because many Ukrainians when they went to their churches didn't even know if they were giving money to Moscow, to the Moscow patriarchy, or to the head of the church, the Metropolitan Epiphanius now in Ukraine.

So now there's the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. And then we have the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Muscovite patriarchate, and it is the church of Muscovite patriarchate, sorry, but it's losing parishes by huge numbers right now, during the war.

SMERCONISH: I think you've done an excellent job synthesizing a very complicated subject. I'll just take the final word because I want to make this clear. The Orthodox Church in America and the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia have both condemned the invasion. Thanks so much, Dr. Pevny. I appreciate your time.

PEVNY: You're welcome.

SMERCONISH: Up ahead, with mask mandates morphing constantly. This week, President Biden mistakenly answered a question about Title 42 and the border by talking about mask mandates. He's not the only one blurring the two.

And this, week Ford ships its first all-electric version of America's best-selling vehicle the F150 pickup. Could it enable Ford to zoom past Tesla? The project's chief engineer is here to discuss her company's big gamble.

Also, remember to answer today's survey question at Go there now and vote. Should Disney have taken a position on Florida's new education law?



SMERCONISH: It's masked confusion. Here in the city of brotherly love the city has reversed its recent decision to require masks indoors. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles County masks will again be required on all public transit including buses, trains taxis, and ride hailing service vehicles. That's not the only inconsistency.

On Thursday, President Biden was asked about whether he's open to delaying the rescission of Title 42 the Trump-era limitation on asylum seekers based on concerns about COVID, instead he responded on the subject of masks and public transit mandates recently struck down by a federal judge.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On Title 42, sir, are you considering delaying with the Title 42?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, what I'm considering is continuing to hear from my, first of all, there's going to be an appeal --


-- by the Justice Department, because as a matter of principle we want to be able to be in a position where if in fact it is strongly concluded by the scientists that we need Title 42 that we be able to do that. But there has been no decision on extending Title 42.


SMERCONISH: On Fox that mistaken Biden response gets played on a loop along with the handshake to nowhere and the Easter bunny wrangler. On MSNBC, it doesn't get played at all. But here's the thing in this case, I get Biden's mistake. For politicians it's hard to know how to respond on these issues. Yes, science changes but COVID demands consistency and that has been in short supply.

Title 42 was implemented by President Trump in March of 2020 in direct response to the pandemic. It's justified as a public health measure which will limit the spread of COVID in our country. Something else intended to stop the spread of COVID, wearing masks in mass transit.

But this week, a federal judge threw out that mandate. The Biden administration relying on the CDC has decided to appeal. Meaning, the administration sees a need for continued masking in transit.

Well, which is it? Is COVID still such a threat that masks on airplanes are required? Because if so, then presumably, we still need to limit asylum seekers who might spread the disease. But if we don't need masks on airplanes, then it follows logically that we no longer have justification for stopping asylum seekers on the basis of public health.

Of course, if Title 42 goes away and results in a mass migration event, complete with film footage of migrants coming across our southern border, then it will pose a nightmare scenario for Democrats in the midterms. Added to concerns over inflation and crime, it will be a trifecta that guarantees that Republicans take control of the House and probably the Senate, too.

History and conventional wisdom are on the side of the GOP in 2022. But according to an analysis by my next guest, what follows in 2024 could be even worse for Democrats.

In this piece, at the "Slow Boring" blog, "Democrats are sleepwalking into a Senate disaster," Author Simon Bazelon has run the likely voting numbers based on the past several decades and for Democrats they're not pretty. Simon writes on "Substack" for "Out of the Ordinary" and is an undergraduate at Yale.

Simon, thanks so much for being here. So with regard to the midterms, you say there's been a nine-point shift to the right. Explain.

SIMON BAZELON, WRITER, "OUT OF THE ORDINARY": Yes, so, you know, Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election by about 4.5 percent. And traditionally, the president's party in midterm elections gets around 47.5 to 48 percent of the two-party vote. And given current polling -- that polling average tends to decline as we get closer to Election Day.

I think it seems reasonable to assume or to predict that Democrats are going to lose this national environment by around 4.5 percent this time and that would represent a 9 percent swing to the right over these last two years.

SMERCONISH: Give me names. So, who, therefore, is in jeopardy in the midterm who is currently a Democratic Senate incumbent? BAZELON: Yes, folks like Raphael Warnock, folks like Mark Kelly, even Maggie Hassan, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada also. Those are the four who are most at risk.

SMERCONISH: So with regard to 2024, here's what you have written. You've written that every Democratic senator in a state won by less than 2 percent, won by Biden by less than 2 percent is likely to lose. And if you're right in this prognostication that would be Jon Tester in Montana, Joe Manchin in West Virginia, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bob Casey in my home state of Pennsylvania, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona. And for good measure you add that races of Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen in Nevada would likely be toss-ups. Explain the logic behind that assessment.

BAZELON: Yes, just to be clear. I think it's important to note that this is -- this is assuming that Democrats have a roughly average presidential election. Over the last 30 years since Ronald Reagan, Democrats have won presidential elections by an average 2 percent of the vote. And right now, the correlation between the Senate vote for Democratic candidate in the state and the presidential vote for that candidate is around 0.95. The highest correlation can be is 1. This is really, really close to 1.

And so, if you think that, you know, we're going to have a business- as-usual presidential election and Democrats are going to win by about 2 percent in the popular vote, then all the -- all the senators who are in states that Biden won by less than 2 percent are really going to be in danger.


SMERCONISH: Simon, what I think I hear you saying is that this is really not an issue-oriented analysis. This is -- this is you looking at historic models and then fast forwarding to the way things should probably continue unless there's an aberration. Is that fair?

BAZELON: That's fair. I think it's important to note there have been a couple trends in American politics over the last decade that have really intensified, and they are causing huge problems for Democrats in the Senate going forward. Even beyond 2024, into the next decade as well.

And the first trend that I want to talk about is education polarization. You know, over the last 10 years we've seen non-college educated voters move very strongly towards the Republican Party. And college educated voters move towards the Democratic Party. And the Senate tends to overweight the votes of people who didn't go to college.

And so, this has created a bias in the Senate against the Democratic Party to the point where Democrats now need to win roughly 53 percent of the vote in every single election in order to hold a simple majority in the Senate. And this is a huge ask in any party and really puts Democratic Senate fortunes in a bad place.

SMERCONISH: I encourage people to read what you've written. But here's the takeaway. The takeaway that I'm gleaning is these looks like, meaning the midterm cycle, a tough year for Democrats for the reasons that I articulated. And you are here to say that what comes in 2024 could be even worse.

BAZELON: Right. And I think it's important to note that even with a pretty decent performance electorally by Joe Biden in 2024, a ton of these Democratic incumbents who got elected in years that were really good for Democrats like 2006, 2012, 2018, are going to still be in danger.

SMERCONISH: Simon, I buried the lede. I said you're an undergrad at Yale. You're a freshman at Yale. That's unbelievable.

BAZELON: That's right.

SMERCONISH: Thank you for your contribution. I really appreciate it and wish you good things.

BAZELON: Thank you. Thank you for having me on.

SMERCONISH: Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments, YouTube, et cetera, et cetera. What do we have?

It will all depend on how the U.S. economy is doing in 2022 and 2024.

Darrel, I think I made clear that Simon's analysis is really not issue oriented. It's one that focuses on education models. It's one that focuses on the urban versus ex urban or suburban plus divide in the country. But I must say it was an eye-opener.

I'll put it in my social media. Follow me on Twitter and read what he wrote because so many of us are fixated on the upcoming midterm election. But long term, there's trouble on the horizon for Ds if that race follows historical model.

I want to remind you answer this week's survey question at Should Disney have taken a position on Florida's new education law?

Still to come, do Elon Musk and Tesla finally have some competition? This week, Ford start shipping its all-electric version of America's best-selling vehicle, the F-150 truck. I'll get the scoop from the chief engineer on the project.


LINDA ZHANG, CHIEF ENGINEER, FORD F-150 LIGHTNING: One major thing that I still haven't told you yet. Are you guys ready?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No way. ZHANG: So this F-150 prototype is all-electric.




SMERCONISH: So, does Detroit finally have a worthy challenger to Elon Musk and Tesla's dominance of the electric car market? Next week, Ford will begin shipping the all-electric version of the best-selling vehicle in America, the F-150 pickup. The base version of the truck called Lightning can tow up to 5 tons with 425 horsepower, goes from zero to 60 in four seconds and change. Its range on a charge will be between 230 and 300 miles depending on the battery pack. The price, it starts at $40,000 and it will be the fastest F-150 Ford has ever built.

Last year, Tesla nearly doubled its worldwide sales to almost 1 million. Although Ford sells four times as many vehicles overall, its sales fell 6 percent. And right now, Tesla is valued by investors at about 16 times what Ford is worth. So far, when it comes to U.S. electric vehicle sales, Tesla is completely dominant.

In 2021, Tesla which doesn't break down figures by country is estimated to have sold more than 300,000 cars to Americans. Ford was in second place selling just 27,000 of its electric Mustang Mach-E. Executive Chairman William C. Ford Jr., great grandson of the founder Henry Ford, told "The New York Times" they are betting the company on the truck.

By 2030, Ford hopes fully electric vehicles will be at least 50 percent of its product mix. Should Elon Musk be watching his back?

Joining me now is Linda Zhang, chief engineer of the Lightning. Linda, so nice to have you back. I'm thrilled for what's about to unfold this week. A blogger saw -- wrote something online that I saw and said the only way to get some of among us to embrace a green initiative is to wrap it in a pickup truck. I guess that's what you're doing.

ZHANG: Hi, Michael. Thanks for having me back. I can't believe it's been almost a year since we revealed the truck. And we're really excited to be here today because we're prepping the vehicles to start shipping out to our customers. As far as E.V. pickup truck, we expect it to really do well.


I think this is definitely an inflexion point in the evolution to E.V. vehicles. And when you wrap a pickup truck around the E.V. what we're able to provide our customers with is the smartest, most innovative E.V. that really gets our customers the best vehicle that they can get. This is best-selling truck for 45 years in America -- actually best-selling vehicle for 45 years in America. And when we electrify that vehicle, that is telling our customers that -- American population that this truck can be durable and usable for them. SMERCONISH: Are the typical F-150 owners, if there is such a thing, because it is the most popular vehicle on the road in America, are they ready to go electric? Your market research must suggest that they are?

ZHANG: Absolutely. Our market research suggests that the pickup trucks -- the pickup trucks customer is ready for electric. And you can see that in our reservations. We have over 200,000 reservations for the Lightning to the point where we had to actually pause it back last year in December because it went so high. So, I think with that that's the proof that America is ready for an E.V. pickup.

SMERCONISH: Linda, you're the chief engineer which is pretty cool. What is the design feature of which you are most proud?

ZHANG: Oh, my goodness. This truck is just amazing. Like I said it is so smart. We've got the latest digital experience. And it's only going to get smarter with time, with over the air updates. It's tough, just like any of our F series are with being able to tow and haul, just like -- as you said.

And I think what for me is the most exciting is really some of the new features. I mean, these are game changing features that we're introducing into the product. For example, this power unit basically that you've got on wheels being able to be a backup generator for our customers at their homes, in a power outage or, you know, even on the go as a backup generator on wheels, whether it's tailgating, construction sites or, you know, camping sites. So just a lot of really great excitement in terms of those features.

And even the mega power trunk, this new space that the customer --- the truck customer particularly has never had. Being able to put two full sets of golf clubs in there, 400 pounds of whatever it is that you might want to put in there. Just a lot of excitement.

I think those two are some of the -- my favorite as well as just the performance. I mean, this is the fastest truck. Zero to 60 in mid four seconds. And, I think, President Biden said it best, this sucker's quick.

SMERCONISH: Right. I remember watching him. I think he was surprised when he hit the gas. Hey, a final dopey question. I don't know how this works. So when they start rolling off the line, this week who gets VIN number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5? There must be some historic precedent for that.

ZHANG: I don't have an answer for that one yet. But I'm really excited to be able to be there for Tuesday when we have our Lightning strikes event. And we'll have more information to share then.

SMERCONISH: All right. Well, listen, if you're the chief engineer, you ought to be in top five, for goodness sake. Tell that great grandson of Henry Ford, you know, you got to be right there at the top of the line. Thank you, Linda. Good luck.

ZHANG: Thank you, Michael. SMERCONISH: Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments. From the world of Twitter, what do we have?

Are you thinking about trading in the Tesla for a Ford Lightning?

No, I'm not thinking of trading it in but I'm thinking about getting a Ford Lightning, too. Because I had an F-150 for 15 years, for 15 years. Loved that truck. Yes, I could definitely have my head turned by this, as you can tell from my excitement.

Still to come, more of my best and worst tweets and Facebook questions and we'll give you the final result of the survey question. Please go vote at right now. Register for the newsletter while you're there. Should Disney have taken a position on Florida's new education law?



SMERCONISH: My hunch is big voting today. We'll see. It's time to see how you responded to the survey question this week at Should Disney have taken a position on Florida's new education law?

Survey says, 73 percent -- more than 20,000. A lot of voting. Pretty decisive. Roughly three quarters say, yes, they should have taken a position on it. Well, you know my view. I gave it to you at the outset of the program.

Here's some of the social media reaction. What do we have?

Loved your "The Unhappiest Place on Earth." I'm a gay mom of two young boys and agree with every point you made. I don't want teachers instructing my children on sexuality, but I believe children ask and teachers should be able to reply with questions with love.

Right. Lindsay David, yes. Here's the issue. Do we want our kids instructed in a conventional sense on sexuality K through 3? By the way, nobody has explained to me. Why did they stop at third grade? I, as a parent, wouldn't want my -- I would want them through sixth grade, at least. Right? But you can't -- you can't limit a teacher's response.

I'll explain it this way. Have we not all had sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandkids come home with some kind of a stick figure image, sketch, painting of the family unit?


I mean, it seems like it's a part and parcel of an education in the United States. "Hey, draw your family." So if one kid looks at another and inquires about -- I hate to use the line, "But why does Heather have two mommies?" The teacher needs to be able to respond and the response is obvious, "Oh, Heather has two mommies because families come in lots of shapes and sizes. Sometimes it's a mommy and daddy and sometimes it's just a mommy and sometimes it's just a daddy and sometimes it's a mommy and a daddy."

But guess what? Families are all about love. Now, ask your parents if you want to know more. Next. That's it. So when Florida doesn't define instruction, they queue the whole deal. That's the -- that's the answer. And as usual, it's somewhere in between.

Did I speak too long? Oh, I did. Sorry. See you next week.