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Are Demographics Still Democrats' Best Friend?; Must Schools Tell Parents Their Child Is Transitioning?; Should Midterms Impact Possible DOJ Indictments?; Sesame Place Accused Of Racism After Viral Video. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired July 23, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Are demographics still destiny? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia.
I remember this well, it arrived with a thunderclap. January of 2008, Pew Research Center released a report titled U.S. Population Projections from 2005 to 2050. And the overview said this, "If current trends continue, the demographic profile of the United States will change dramatically by the middle of the century."
Among the projections that by 2050, the nation's racial and ethnic mix would look quite different than it did then. Non-Hispanic whites who made up 67 percent of the population in 2005 were projected to be just 47 percent by 2050. And this was widely interpreted to be good news for one party, demographics are the Democrats best friend or so thought many. In fact, in 2009, James Carville even wrote a book titled "40 More Years, How Democrats will Rule the Next Generation."
But here we are 14 years later, and things might not be turning out as anticipated. In fact, Josh Kraushaar from Axios is calling the new great realignment, "arguably the biggest political story of our time."
Here's the latest data. If current trends continue, the U.S. population will rise to 404 million. By 2060, the non-Hispanic white population is projected to shrink over that time by nearly 19 million. Now, non-Hispanic whites are projected to become a minority sooner than was anticipated by 2045.
Previously, it was presumed that this was a huge threat to the Republican Party, which had not been doing well with minority voters. But this is no longer the case. Data from a recent Times/Siena poll shows that although gaining support from college educated white voters, the Democratic Party is losing support for minorities, specifically Hispanics, as well as the working class.
As CNN's Harry Enten recently pointed out, Republicans are currently polling 10 points better with people of color than their previous best year, 2004. And Harry explains it this way, "Part of why that's occurring is the changing demographic makeup of voters of color. They're a lot more Hispanic than they used to be. At the same time, they're a lot less black. Hispanic voters don't support Democrats as much as black voters. But that's not all that's going on. Democratic support from Asian American, Black and Hispanic voters is much lower than it has usually been."
And what issues are driving this great realignment? The "New York Times" analysis summarizes them like this, "Voters who said abortion, guns or threats to democracy were the biggest problem facing the country backed Democrats by a wide margin, as Republicans make new inroads among non-white and working-class voters who remain more concerned about the economy."
You'll remember that last month at a special election in South Texas in the heavily Hispanic blue leaning 34th congressional district, it was Republican Myra Flores who flipped the first democratic seat of the 2022 cycle. Axios' Kraushaar says, "The bottom line is this, the GOP is trading soccer moms for Walmart dads," or put another way, gone are the days of Country Club Republicans, here are the days of Country Club Democrats.
This whole discussion immediately brings to my mind Thomas Frank, The New York Times bestselling author who's been analyzing political trends for decades. He's written multiple books on the subject, including his latest, "The People, No, A Brief History of Anti Populism." It was in 2004 that Frank wrote his award winning "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America" in which he evaluates the question, why do the working people of Kansas historically vote for Republican candidates, even though supporting them seems against their interests?
Thomas Frank joins me now.
Thomas, thanks for coming back. Chicken and egg question for you. Did Trump bring this about in some way? Or did this realignment give rise to Trump like candidates?
THOMAS FRANK, AUTHOR, "WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?": No, by the way, hi, Michael, thanks for having me on.
I would say this process has been going on for a long time for my entire lifetime, but Trump has certainly accelerated it. I should say I, you know, I come from a part of -- I grew up in a part of the state of Kansas that's closely identified with Country Club Republicanism. I'm referring to Johnson County, Kansas, which is the affluent suburbs of Kansas City. And when I was a kid, this -- I thought this is the most Republican place in the world and, you know, it was at the time and it just flipped for Joe Biden in 2020, kind of an amazing story. But that's happening in affluent suburbs all over America.
SMERCONISH: So, is it an American phenomenon or is this a global phenomenon? I'm thinking Brexit may have something to do with it.
FRANK: Oh, my God. Yes. It is global now, but it's been going on longer in this country. Look, the beginning of all this, as with so many of the things that we -- that we're still fighting with here and fighting over here in America, it'd be all begins in the late 1960s when you basically have the Democratic Party in a civil war, you know, fighting with themselves over Vietnam, over civil rights issues. And at some point, they decided they did not -- they no longer wanted to be the party of organized labor, they basically wanted to turn their backs on the white working class and The New Deal. And it took them years to finally do this. But they -- along the way, they developed a new sort of understanding of themselves that they were going to be a party of what they call -- it was the term that they like to use, the wired workers or the learning class are going to be a party of affluent white-collar professionals and also of, you know, of minorities, so the people you were talking about.
The problem with this theory is it leads them to this, like, this sort of incredible complacency when dealing with these voters. You know, back in the Clinton years, they used to always say, those people have nowhere else to go, right? So they could do whatever they wanted.
FRANK: They didn't have to, you know, they didn't have to actually get anything done on these voters' behalf. They didn't have to deliver anything. The people that they really had to worry about were those, you know, affluent suburban professionals, those are the ones they had to care about.
And it assumes that the Republicans, you know, are going to -- are never going to do, actually do anything to reach out to these people, but that's an incorrect assumption. You know, the Republican Party, they're smart people, they're dynamic, you know, they're constantly coming up with new ways of reaching out to these people.
You asked about, you know, is it a worldwide phenomenon? It absolutely is. We were -- America was ahead of the rest of the world in this regard of the party of the left reaching out to and becoming a party of affluent white-collar voters. But you see that now in France, you see it in Britain, you see it in Germany, you see it in Australia. Well, you basically see it everywhere in the, you know, in the Western world, everywhere that I know.
SMERCONISH: Thomas, can I ask you a quote from -- one of my favorite quotes from "What's the Matter with Kansas?" I'll give the short version. Out here the gravity of discontent pull only in one direction to the right, to the right and further to the right. Why? Why is that the case?
FRANK: The Republican Party saw their opportunity. Look, when the Democrats became the sort of, you know, made their outreach to affluent voters to, you know, to affluent white-collar professionals, the Republican Party said, look what they're doing. This is back in --
FRANK: -- Richard Nixon days. He said, look what they're doing. They're abandoning the most important, you know, voting bloc in American life, which is working class people, in those days were the white working class, but now it's obviously expanded. And they developed all of these very ingenious ways of reaching out and winning over those voters and speaking to their discontent. They used to have a saying back in the 1970s, this is the right wing by the way, the Republic -- right wing of the Republican Party had a saying, organize discontent. Organized discontent, it sounds like something you'd hear from, you know, from radical farmers in the 1890s. But no, that is the Republican Party that believes in organizing discontent.
SMERCONISH: Can I say that Ron Brownstein, for whom I have the utmost respect, and Catherine (ph), put it up on the screen, wrote about this subject in the Atlantic, essentially saying, hey, not so fast. Just one data point. He says, "Even though the major data sources all show that Trump carried only about 1/4 of nonwhite voters without a college degree and 2020, Biden actually carried a notably higher share of white voters without a college degree."
So it's not as if the shift is complete. My final question for you is, take 30 seconds --
SMERCONISH: -- and tell me, where are we going?
FRANK: So, look, Biden was -- in a lot of ways, Biden was a hopeful sign. You know, Biden, middle class, Joe, you know, comes from Scranton has those roots. But I'm afraid that -- and people were willing to listen to Biden. And in some ways he did, you know, slightly reverse this, put this phenomenon into reverse. But I'm afraid that he hasn't really delivered on a lot of the things that we expected him to.
And I'm very -- look, I was very hopeful -- I was hopeful about Biden, I was even more hopeful about Barack Obama back in 2008. But you know, when these guys keep dropping the ball, you know, it allows Republicans to do it again, to organize this content one more time. They're very, very, very good at it. I don't think (INAUDIBLE), Michael.
SMERCONISH: Thomas, thank you so much for being here.
FRANK: Yes, my pleasure.
SMERCONISH: It doesn't end is what I hear you saying. Yes.
SMERCONISH: Thank you for that. Appreciate your time.
What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. Reach out for me on social media, however you find me.
This comes from YouTube as a matter of fact. What do we have? Democrats need to moderate their stance on social issues and simultaneously support the economic empowerment of working-class voters says, William.
Yes, I think it's an economic agenda primarily. I mean, Carville is right about one thing, it's still the economy, stupid.
Politically speaking, nothing lasts forever. I did countless radio programs 15 years ago, about how the handwriting is on the wall for the Republican Party. Democrats are ascendant because of demographic changes in the United States. The changes are happening, right?
All those changes, all those predictions were accurate. But the allegiance that was anticipated to be with the Ds and the Rs, that's not turning out to be the case, at least not uniformly.
Still to come, the DOJ's investigations of possible criminality by President Trump and Hunter Biden might soon be in limbo due to guidelines about not wanting prosecutions in the midst of an election cycle. But is that really required by the guidelines? I'll explore.
Plus, a video of an interaction at Sesame Place between a Muppet character and two young black girls has gone viral. But there's disagreement about what it actually shows, an innocent gesture or racial snub? And did Sesame Place react correctly?
Plus, it's an issue that pits student privacy against a parent's right to know. Does the school have an obligation to tell parents who are unaware that their child is gender transitioning? That is this week's poll question. Go to my website right now @smerconish.com and vote.
Here's how "Sex in the City" recently dramatized it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to say how funny Rock (ph) was in school play.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my goodness. Yes, Rock. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Rock was a total rock star.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, wait, who's Rock? Rose (ph), did you change your name at school to Rock?
ROSE (PH): Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You changed your name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you didn't want to tell us before you told everyone at school?
ROSE: I did let you know. I put up at TikTok.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you put up about 10 TikToks a day. So, I guess I'm behind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Does a school have an obligation to tell parents who are unaware that their child is gender transitioning? The question pits a student's right to privacy against a parental right to know. One complicating factor, when a student confides in a teacher or counselor because they fear parental reaction.
At least 18 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico have issued some form of school guidance about inclusion and treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming students. But keeping the parents in the dark has prompted parent lawsuits in at least six states, Massachusetts, Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, Virginia and Maryland.
That's this week's survey question at my website. Go to smerconish.com and cast a ballot. Does a school have an obligation to tell parents who are unaware that their child is gender transitioning?
Joining me now is Erica Anderson, a clinical psychologist and former president of the U.S. Professional Association for Transgender Health, herself a transgender female. As a matter of fact, Dr. Anderson, you're both psychologist and part of the community and yet you think parents need to be in the loop? How come?
ERICA ANDERSON, FMR. PRESIDENT, U.S. PROFESSIONAL ASSOC. FOR TRANSGENDER HEALTH: Absolutely. Well, parents have the responsibility for the overall well-being of their children. And they partner with educators when kids are in school, but they don't give up that responsibility just because the child is at school. And on this issue, I think it's a very complicated subtle issue, but it's important that parents know what's going on with their children.
SMERCONISH: Almost by definition, if the child is comfortable in sharing with a counselor or teacher but not the parent, doesn't that tell us that they fear a reaction at home?
ANDERSON: Not necessarily, in my opinion. Children are often afraid to tell parents lots of things. And so, we can't take that necessarily as the indicator that there's something wrong at home. We do have provision for detecting whether there's abuse, and educators are mandated reporters. But I don't think we -- the default position should be to assume that there's a problem at home. Most parents love their children and are eager to do what's right for them.
SMERCONISH: So, what's the process that you envision? In a scenario where there's some level of notification made to the school, the family at home is unaware, how should it play out?
ANDERSON: I think it's important information about the child and I think the school has an obligation to inform the parents. If children are afraid, that's something that should get the attention of a school counselor or school psychologist. And if necessary, they should have a conference at school among the staff there to determine how best to approach the parents. But I don't think leaving the parents in the dark is the solution to the problem. I think ultimately, we want parents and educators collaborating on what's best for every child.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Anderson, the numbers for identification among Gen Z, identification as LGBTQ, as you well know, weigh up in comparison to other age groups and other generations. When I discussed this, as a matter of fact, with you on my radio program, thank you very much, I was overwhelmed with callers who wanted to offer opinions and one of the observations from parents was that they had seen in their children's classroom a spike in the identification, but that those numbers didn't hold. And I guess my question for you is, given the fluidity of identification, does that impact? Are we moving too quickly, for example, to affirm gender identity among the youth?
ANDERSON: It's possible in some settings that we are. I've been very vocal about this for some time. Concern that professionals are too quick to facilitate transitions and even medicalization. I think we have to distinguish between the ordinary exploration of identity that kids go through, especially adolescence and gender questioning, and distinguish that from transgender identity or a need to transition. But I don't think that differentiation is happening routinely yet.
SMERCONISH: So, I circle back then to the parental notification question, should age be a factor? Does it matter whether you're dealing with a fourth grader or a 10th grader on this issue of the parents are out of the loop and yet the school know?
ANDERSON: Yes, I think age does matter. I think there are developmental differences in terms of information about children and their willingness to engage others, including teachers and parents. So, the closer we get to the age of majority, I think the more we have to agree that we want to give some latitude of agency to the young person, a 17-year-old, for example. But someone who's eight or nine years old, someone who's 12 or 13 years old, they're still a child and parents are owed the courtesy of knowing what's going on with their child about these issues just as they are informed about another health problem or a performance problem in school.
There's a time honored process of doing parent teacher conferences about issues with kids. And we need to do that with this issue now.
SMERCONISH: It also strikes me as yet one more area where teachers are having responsibilities heaped upon them that heretofore they've not had.
Dr. Anderson, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate your insight.
ANDERSON: My pleasure. Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying about this in my social media, Twitter and Facebook. Follow me on Twitter. I never seem to say that, but I should.
Teachers first duty is to the child, not the parents or their beliefs. Students should be able to tell teacher stuff in confidence. Teachers should only tell parents if the parents need to do something to support the child.
JP, that's at odds with what I just heard from Dr. Anderson, who herself believes that, no, the parents need to be in the loop. I mean, how about the response that says, if you're giving a Tylenol to a student in school, you'd be sending home a note. You know, if there's a class trip and they're going to leave the school environment, you're going to notify parents. And yet on something of much greater consequence, you're saying, no, don't bring them into the loop? I don't think I can go along with that.
Make sure you're voting @smerconish.com. Can't wait to see how this one's going to turn out. The question this week, does a school have an obligation to tell parents who are unaware that their child is gender transitioning?
While you're there, registered for the daily newsletter? People seem to love it.
Up ahead. The media narrative, you've heard this, holds that the DOJ's guidance says prosecutors must avoid bringing politically sensitive cases close to an election. Will that delay any potential indictment of President Trump or Hunter Biden because of the upcoming midterms? Well, not if you actually read the guidance, at least according to me, and I'll explain.
Plus, a viral video seem to show a costume character at Sesame Place snubbing two small children because of their race. Is that really what happened? And what about the theme park's handling of this potential PR disaster?
SMERCONISH: Should the timing of the upcoming midterms have any impact on a decision by the DOJ whether to indict Donald Trump or, for that matter, Hunter Biden? This week, CNN reported that the federal investigation into Hunter Biden's business activities launched in 2018 is quote, "Nearing a critical juncture as investigators way possible charges and prosecutors confront Justice Department guidelines to generally avoid bringing politically sensitive cases close to an election."
The report also rightly points out that there's a debate about whether such rules apply because neither Hunter Biden nor his father is on the midterm ballot. And similarly, the January 6 committee's hearings have been laying out a possible road map for prosecution of former President Donald Trump, but the DOJ is said to be similarly reluctant to indict Trump in this environment. Yet Trump's not on the full ballot either. The potential for indictment is said to be weighing on the timing of Trump's announcement to retake the White House.
To me, those who think either or both of these cases should be tabled are misreading the DOJ guidelines. Most media cite the quote, "holder memo" on this topic. There are actually three very similar memos from attorneys general from both parties, Republican Michael Mukasey in 2008, Democrats Eric Holder in 2012, and Loretta Lynch and 2016 issued early in the election year, all three of them, bear the same title election year sensitivities.
And all three have the same language including this paragraph, "Simply put, politics must play no role in the decisions of federal investigators or prosecutors regarding any investigations or criminal charges. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party. Such a purpose is inconsistent with the Department's mission and with the Principles of Federal Prosecution."
That paragraph for me doesn't square with the widely accepted interpretation of generally avoiding bringing politically sensitive cases close to an election. As I read it, it directs a prosecutor not to bring an investigation with the purpose of affecting an election. But I don't see it or read it as saying you got to sit on your hands when there's an election on the horizon, especially when the people you're thinking of indicting aren't even candidates.
In 2020, Bill Barr added to the conversation when he adopted what his predecessors had been saying but he went a step further. He said that no investigation may be opened of a declared candidate for president or vice president, a campaign or a staffer without first clearing it with the A.G. and relevant U.S. attorneys.
I mean, I get it. It's understandable why there's a general feeling of no investigation close to an election. But in the black and white, does the guidance preclude an indictment this year of either Trump or Hunter Biden if the facts warrant it?
Renato Mariotti is a former federal prosecutor, legal affairs columnist for "Politico Magazine." Renato, you know the media narrative. It's that the justice guidelines say you have got to avoid bringing politically sensitive cases close to an election. As I read the memos, I don't see that in black and white.
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's not in black and white, that's fair to say. It's not actually written there, but I think there's a general understanding that as an election gets closer, taking overt steps that are going to generate public attention and scrutiny, like executing a search warrant, what people call a raid, or an arrest or an indictment is something that needs to be considered by a prosecutor because it could create an appearance that the Justice Department is trying to influence an election.
SMERCONISH: How about the fact that neither of the two that I referenced is on the ballot?
MARIOTTI: Well in that memo that you cited there is a discussion of what they call politically sensitive persons. And so my reading of that memo and I think the way that most prosecutors would read it is that both Hunter Biden, to your use example, and Donald Trump are politically sensitive persons regardless of whether they're on a ballot this year.
SMERCONISH: So, it also talks about overt investigative steps being avoided, but it really doesn't define what's an overt investigative step. It also says, near an election. What does that mean? Like Labor Day weekend, the traditional start of the fall campaign?
Some of this stuff is just not spelled out and frankly maybe it can't be spelled out. Maybe it's one of those situations where if you said to me, OK, Michael, you write it, I couldn't do a better job.
MARIOTTI: Well, it's deliberately not spelled out. They don't want to create hard and fast rules. They want to give prosecutors flexibility to consider the facts and circumstances of that case because there may be situations, Michael, where you have to, for example, execute a search warrant because you know that someone is going to destroy evidence.
So I do think that they were -- they are trying to offer flexibility to prosecutors. But overt investigative step is something that a prosecutor would understand. That means like I said like executing a search warrant. And the reason that's considered overt is when the FBI is pouring into somebody's office that generates a lot of attention, right, in the public.
Whereas, for example, serving a subpoena in private to the person's attorney might not because that's not overt publicly unless the attorney decides to reveal that it could be kept private. So that would be the distinction.
SMERCONISH: Renato --
MARIOTTI: And I think there's --
SMERCONISH: No. I'm sorry. Finish your thought.
MARIOTTI: I was just going to say there's no hard and fast rule regarding days. There's no rule somewhere that says there's a 30-day rule, a 60-day rule, a 90-day rule. But generally, it's understood that as you get closer to an election, the concern about what I call -- what we call an appearance issue, that the Justice Department could appear to be trying to influence an election goes up and I think prosecutors are rightfully concerned at that point about whether or not the department has an appearance of making a politically motivated prosecution.
SMERCONISH: What about a scenario where someone's name is about to appear on the ballot and justice know that he or she is dirty with regard to ethical improprieties? They know it, they have got the evidence, they're putting the case together, shouldn't they bring it when they have it? Because otherwise the public will be none the wiser and maybe that person gets elected.
MARIOTTI: That's a very challenging situation. I think that, you know, prosecutors have to weigh. I think the paramount concern that prosecutors have is ensuring that the reputation of the Justice Department and the individual offices that they represent is seen as above politics. I know whenever I -- when I was a federal prosecutor, we always talked about the office that we worked for being greater than all of us.
And that we were -- you know, we were basically stewards of that reputation. And so, I think that, you know, ultimately at the end of the day more than anything Justice Department attorneys want to be seen as a mission that is above and outside of politics and that is their paramount concern.
SMERCONISH: I get it. Makes sense. Renato Mariotti, thank you so much for your insight.
MARIOTTI: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: More social media reaction. From the world of Twitter, I believe.
Are you making an -- oh, I knew this would come? Are you making an equivalence between Hunter Biden and Trump who tried to overturn -- no, I'm not? I'm not -- I'm not trying to establish any kind of parody. Put that camera on me because I have got to address this.
I'm not trying to assert any parody between what's alleged or asserting against Trump trying overturn an election and Hunter Biden which, by the way, when you read the CNN coverage, it seems like they started with this mass of potential business dealings overseas and now they're down to just tax and a question about gun access given his addiction.
Nope, not saying that there's balance between them at all, but I would be derelict in my duty if I sat here and I spoke only about Trump and the possibility that he gets indicted before the midterm and didn't even tell you about Hunter Biden when the exact same legal issue applies through the prism of justice. So you're asking me to ignore the Hunter Biden legal issue and I refuse to do that.
I want to remind you to answer this week's survey question, now that we have got that cleared, up at Smerconish.com. Does a school have an obligation to tell parents who are unaware that their child is gender transitioning? Results to come in a couple of minutes.
Also, still to come, discrimination or misunderstanding? Viral video shows two girls appearing to be snubbed by a character at Sesame Place theme park. The park has apologized but some say that's not good enough. I'll speak with a crisis expert next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAMIKA MALLORY, ACTIVIST: First thing is that the employee behind that character should be -- been fired, immediately fired. Period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:41:23]
SMERCONISH: Not everything is A-OK down on Sesame Street. This week a suburban Philadelphia theme park based on the famous children's show came under fire after a viral video purportedly showed two Black children being snubbed by a costume character.
In the nine-second video posted to social media by Jodi Brown, her daughter and niece are seen at a Sesame Place parade extending their arms toward a performer dressed as the bilingual Muppet Rosita. The video shows Rosita high-fiving other park visitors before wagging her finger at unidentified guest. The Muppet is then seen shaking her head no as she walks past the girls.
Another video surfaced this week showing a different angle of the incident. In a statement, Sesame Place called the Brown family's experience unacceptable. Brown tells CNN she believes the character intentionally ignored her daughter and niece. The theme park initially responded to the incident with a post on Instagram saying -- quote -- "The costumes our performers wear sometimes make it difficult to see at lower levels and sometimes our performers miss hug requests from guests."
They also added, "The performer portraying the Rosita character has confirmed that that the no hand gesture seen several times in the video was not directed to any specific person, rather it was a response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo which is not permitted." The statement went on to say that the performer did not intentionally ignore the girls and is devastated about the misunderstanding.
The park said they spoke to the Brown family, invited them back for a special opportunity to meet the characters. This is what Brown had to say to CNN's Victor Blackwell about the park's apology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JODI BROWN, DAUGHTER AND NIECE IGNORED BY CHARACTER AT SESAME PLACE: In the video you can clearly see the character looking at the children and saying no. I think that was just an excuse. Damage control because of the severity of where they see the video was going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: An attorney who represents the Brown family says they believe the character intentionally mistreated the six-year-old girls. In a statement, B'Ivory LaMarr says, "We will not hasten to exercise every remedy under the law to hold the theme park accountable for what we construe as nothing short of intentional mistreatment to their minority patrons."
Sesame Workshop, which licenses the Sesame Street brand to the theme park also weighed in. In a statement the nonprofit said this, it took the incident very seriously, called what the children experienced unacceptable. After which Sesame Place issued yet another statement apologizing again and assuring Sesame Workshop they will conduct bias training for its employees.
Here with me to discuss is Howard Bragman. He's a P.R. and crisis expert. He's chair of La Brea Media. He has worked with Sharon Osbourne, Wendy Williams, Chris Rock -- pardon me, Chris Brown, Nick Cannon and others.
Howard, welcome back. What does a company or how does a company defend itself against something that I look at as a Rorschach test?
HOWARD BRAGMAN, CRISIS EXPERT: You know what first I thought was that, Michael. At first I thought it was kind of -- your opinion was -- could go a lot of ways. The more I dug into this, the more I'm disappointed in how Sesame Place is handling this.
And let me tell you why. First of all, their initial apology was very weak. And in my business you want to say -- you want to apologize once and you want to apologize well, that's number one.
Number two, you want to ask a basic question. If you have a theme park that's designated for kids, why do you have costumes in the first place where it's hard to see kids? It doesn't work for the performers.
It doesn't work for the kids. It's dangerous.
Number three, if I'm going to take a client and have them put a denial online I better be sure a lot of other people aren't going to jump out of the woodwork. And as soon as there was a denial by the parent company and by Sesame Place an Instagram page was set up and a whole bunch of other videos that appear to be racist started appearing.
And then the theme park had to put out a second apology. And then the Sesame Workshop had to put out something. And now it's turning into a much bigger situation than they could have imagined. So, they really kind of butchered this one so far.
SMERCONISH: But, you know, I come at it from a different angle. I looked at the first statement and the successive statements. I'm thinking it's probably some 17-year-old sweating his ass off inside that costume. By the way, for all we know could be an employee of color. We don't know that yet.
But when in the follow up statement they say now we're going to have sensitivity training. And I discussed this with someone who does what you do for a living, my friend Lanny Davis. And we both came to the conclusion that Sesame Place is then essentially admitting racism because why is training necessary by that kid, if it is a kid, unless it was an act of discrimination, which to my view it may not have been.
BRAGMAN: Yes. We don't know what's in the heart and mind of that particular character. But what you have to do is go over board when you have committed at least a perceptual error. And that's what's going on here. The people who think that Sesame Place is racist look at this video and they see racism there. And you can say whatever you want. And you're not going to convince them otherwise.
What you need to do is convince them that you see their problem their way and that you're going to fix that for them. And that's why they put in the bias training. And that's why that needs to be there. Even -- and it's never a bad thing. OK?
You're a park outside of Philadelphia. You're going to have a diverse audience. I think it's a good thing on every level.
SMERCONISH: But Howard -- Howard, can I -- can I hit you with something else? Because --
BRAGMAN: Of course.
SMERCONISH: -- if this person in that costume is identified Google searches in the future are going to pin this on him or her for the rest of their professional life and I'm not convinced it was an act of racism And yet if you take the hit and say we're going to have sensitivity or training of some kind, you are now branding the R word on that young person, if it is a young person, for the rest of their life. That seems unfair.
BRAGMAN: And that person has not been named by name or gender. And I don't think they should be. And I also don't think that -- I know there have been calls by the original family's attorney for determination. I don't believe in that. That reeks of cancel culture and I'm not a fan of that. Because I think that if there was bad behavior I think in many ways that can freeze bad behavior in its place as opposed to get somebody to understand their behavior and move to a better place.
So I'm with you on that. I don't want -- I don't want this person named. I think their identity has the right to be protected. And I think if they do a general training that's much better and not name or call out this person.
And I would work very hard to protect this person because, as you say, they're probably a teenager. They're probably working their way through college or getting some money for -- to get their first car, their first job. And I think it's very important that we respect the dignity of young people and while they learn to operate in the work force.
SMERCONISH: Howard Bragman, thank you for coming back to the program. Appreciate it.
BRAGMAN: Thanks a lot, Michael. Thanks for having me.
SMERCONISH: Thank you. By the way, Catherine, if we can interview Rosita we'll do like the screen where we'll garble the voice. I want to hear the story, right? We can do that technically, can't we? We'll put up like their image and let them tell us what really went on here.
Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments. This comes from Twitter, I think. What do we have?
Don't care, overblown. They lost me when they hired a lawyer. I live two minutes away from Sesame.
When our kids were younger, I should say, we used to go there with some regularity. And, yes, it was always great. I know some of are you saying, well, yes, great for you because you're a White guy.
Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and we will give you the final result of this week's survey question. Go to Smerconish.com and cast a ballot right now. Does a school have an obligation to tell parents who are unaware that their child is gender transitioning?
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to this week's poll question at Smerconish.com. Does a school have an obligation to tell parents who are unaware that their child is gender transitioning?
Here come the results. Wow, a flat 60/40, 16,000 and change, nearly 17,000, 60 percent, say yes, they have an obligation. So our guest, Dr. Anderson, carries the day I guess with her argument. I'm just surprised by the margin, a 20-point margin.
Here's some of the reaction that came in, we're limited on time but from social media this week.
What do we have? I don't think viewers will ever understand that you aren't a right-winger or a left-winger. I guess you're a middle- winger? Did I just make up a new category?
It's so funny, Guy, because -- oh, by the way, I love the handle, the Dead Guy in Chicago. I think he means as in Grateful Dead, which is a good thing. It is funny. Because I don't see the social media before we put them up on the screen, I truly don't.
We could put up tons that say you are such a lefty and you're in the tank for Biden. And we could put up a bunch of right things that -- actually did I just reverse that? You get the point I'm trying to make.
It comes in from the left and the right and people see what they want to see or what they're accustomed to hearing because they figure everybody else is coming from the hard left or the hard right so he must too. But it's just not the case.
See you next week.