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Musk Reveals Twitter Content Regulation Via Journalist Taibbi; DNC Panel Votes To Hold First 2024 Primary In South Carolina; Should The Homeless Be Hospitalized?; William And Kate's U.S. Visit Clouded By Docuseries, "Crown"; Diana's Chief Of Staff On Her Infamous Bashir Interview. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 03, 2022 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: In the words of Elon Musk, here we go. I'm Michael Smerconish in New York City. That was what Musk tweeted at 6:44 last night with two popcorn emojis. He alerted his 119 million followers to a long thread called the Twitter Files posted by Substack journalist Matt Taibbi.

Taibbi said that it was the first installment in a series, quote, "based upon 1000s of internal documents obtained by sources at Twitter, Musk promise that more is coming today."

Now, depending on your news outlet of choice, this was either a huge bombshell or a nothing burger. On one hand, you've got the "New York Post" blaring on its front page today, Twitter Scandal Exposed. And as I speak, it's leading drudge. Then there's the Rolling Stone which calls it a "snoozefest." Even Fox News went with a much more neutral "Elon Musk reveals what led to Twitter suppressing Hunter Biden story." The Libertarian outlet Reason wrote, "The Twitter files are interesting but contain few true surprises, a mix of incompetence and partisanship got the site in trouble."

Politico predicted the move will ingratiate Musk further with conservatives and plunged the social media platform deeper into political controversy. Axio summarized it this way "Musk's following greeted the Twitter files as evidence that Twitter had operated with bias, but there was no smoking gun evidence of a partisan conspiracy to sensor." Here at CNN the headline is, "Released Twitter e-mails show how employees debated how to handle 2020 New York Post Hunter Biden story."

Here's some of the Taibbi reportage. Quote, "Some of the first tools for controlling speech were designed to combat the likes of spam and financial fraudsters." Slowly over time, Twitter staff and executives began to find more and more uses for these tools. Outsiders began petitioning the company to manipulate speech as well. First a little, then more often, and then constantly.

"By 2020 requests from connected actors to delete tweets where routine, one executive would write to another, "More to review from the Biden team." And the reply would come back "handled."

"Celebrities and unknowns alike could be removed or reviewed at the behest of a political party."

"Both parties had access to these tools. For instance, in 2020, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored. However, this system wasn't balanced. It was based on contacts, because Twitter was and is overwhelmingly staffed by people of one political orientation, there were more channels more ways to complain, open to the left, well, Democrats, then to the right."

Taibbi then discusses the story of Hunter Biden's laptop and Twitter's decision to keep it off the platform in the weeks before the 2020 election. Quote, "On October 14 2020, the "New York Post" published Biden secret e-mails and expos a based on the contents of Hunter Biden's abandoned laptop. Twitter took extraordinary steps to suppress the story, removing links and posting warnings that it may be, quote, "unsafe." They even blocked its transmission via direct message, a tool hitherto reserved for extreme cases, example, child pornography. The decision was made at the highest levels of the company, but without the knowledge of CEO Jack Dorsey, with former head of legal policy and trust Vijaya Gadda playing a key role."

"They just freelanced it," is how one former employee characterized the decision. Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours pretty much everyone realized that wasn't going to hold but no one had the guts to reverse it."

Taibbi also shares an e-mail written by California Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna to Twitter's Gad, voicing his concerns about the suppressing of the story. And it reads in part, "this seems like a violation of the First Amendment principles. If there's a hack of classified information or other information that could expose a serious war crime, and the "New York Times" was to publish it, I think the "New York Times" would have that right. A journalist should not be held accountable for the illegal actions of the source unless they actively aided the hack. So to restrict that material, especially regarding a presidential candidate seems not in keeping of the principles of "New York Times" versus Sullivan.

I say this as a total Biden partisan and convinced he did nothing wrong, but the story now has become more about censorship than relatively innocuous e-mails, and it's becoming a bigger deal than it would have been."


We reached out to Congressman Khanna, invited him on the program today. He provided us with this statement, "I believe our Constitution and First Amendment are sacred. As the congressman who represents Silicon Valley, I felt Twitter's actions were a violation of First Amendment principles so I raised those concerns. Our democracy can only thrive if we are open to a marketplace of ideas and engaging with people with whom we disagree." I want to know what you think this hour. Go to and answer this week's poll question. Should Hunter Biden's laptop have been more extensively covered in the final days of the 2020 campaign?

Joining me now to discuss, someone who wrote on this very issue back in August in the Wall Street Journal, a piece titled "Twitter Becomes a Tool of Government Censorship," coauthors Vivek Ramaswamy and Jed Rubenfeld wrote about Alex Berenson who was kicked off the site at the White House's urging, calling it a violation of the First Amendment.

Jed Rubenfeld joins me now. He's a professor at Yale Law School and a First Amendment lawyer.

So, Professor, lot of folks waking up trying to wrap their heads around a complicated story. What's the big takeaway from your perspective?

JED RUBENFELD, PROFESSOR, YALE LAW SCHOOL: Well, you know, I think the big takeaway is that the whole thing is very discouraging and damning from a free speech point of view. I mean, in a way, you know, it wasn't the blockbuster that some people I think hope they might find but that's only because we've kind of already known and suspected what was going on. What we're seeing is the sort of censorship machine working and we're seeing that, you know, that a political campaign had a direct channel to Twitter to get them to suppress information that they didn't want folks to see right before a presidential election. And everybody who's concerned about free speech and Democracy in America should be very, very worried about that.

I think what Representative Khanna said was exactly right, this is a, you know, a threat to free speech principles. You know, even if it wasn't a direct constitutional violation, the Biden team was not yet in power at that time. But of course, one of the, you know, really important things about this is the Biden team learned from this experience, and when they were in power, they kept doing the very same thing. They had their back chat on Twitter, they would communicate with Twitter about specific individuals like Mr. Berenson, the reporter, and about particular viewpoints and facts and information they did not want people to see online. And they were doing this with both Twitter and Facebook.

This is, you know, really the most profound and systematic free speech violation of our time. Constitution does not allow governmental actors to encourage, promote or induce private parties to do what the government can't do itself. That's --

SMERCONISH: OK. So, let me --

RUBENFELD: -- a straight constitutional violation.

SMERCONISH: So, let me ask you about the First Amendment implications, because in August of this year, and I just made reference to this, you wrote about Twitter becoming a tool of government. When the town square is controlled by private, it's private social media platforms, should they nevertheless be subject to the First Amendment? RUBENFELD: Yes. Well, you know, if they're totally private, private companies, private parties are not subject to the First Amendment, if they're private and acting privately. But here's what, you know, the Constitution goes on to -- constitutional law goes on to provide that governmental actors can't secretly work with those private parties, cajoling them, working with them jointly in concert, to do censorship. And when governmental actors can get social media to serve as their, you know, censorship surrogates are to serve as their censorship wing, that's an actual constitutional violation, and everybody should be worried about it.

You know, 50 years ago, 60, 70 years ago, there was a Senator Joseph McCarthy and other members of Congress got Hollywood, the Hollywood studios to blacklist people who were suspected of being leftist, not let them work, not let them produce, you know, films, we call that the blacklist. And we thought, you know, I thought we had learned our lesson of that. Those are private parties, but the government was trying to get them to censor. It did it. We all thought that was terrible at the time, we should -- everybody left and right should have the same view of this now.

SMERCONISH: Professor, is the line clearly delineated? In other words, there's nothing new about a White House or a political campaign trying to work the media for favorable coverage.

RUBENFELD: Yes. What's new here is that we've got platform gatekeepers with historically unprecedented control over public discourse, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, principally. So what we never had before was these three private companies with such immense control over public discourse. And what you can't have is the government working behind the scenes with them telling them what particular people they don't want to be able to communicate online, what particular viewpoints they don't want to be seen online, and to work with those platform gatekeepers to achieve that kind of censorship. This is a very profound threat to the First Amendment.


SMERCONISH: Professor, thanks so much for your time and expertise. I appreciate it.

RUBENFELD: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Checking in on your tweets, social media, YouTube, Facebook. Not you too. You are facing losing democracy in your country and you're trying to solve the Hunter Biden laptop mystery? Seriously? You've lost your way.

Well, then I never had my way. What are you -- Trevor Wade, what do you wish for me to do, Trevor? Put that camera back on me. Ignore the story? Story shouldn't have been ignored in the 11th hour of the campaign.

Ro Khanna, by the way, I think enhanced in his perspective on how he reacted to this issue by his leadership in the Progressive Caucus, you know, so he's not coming from a tea party organization, he's not part of the Freedom Caucus on the right, no. Ro Khanna said correctly, it then became a story about censorship. And it became much more than it would have been. The Hunter Biden laptop story to me is a story about addiction at the top of the list. No, I'm not going to ignore it.

Remember now, go to my website and answer this week's poll question, Should Hunter Biden's laptop have been more extensively covered in the final days of the 2020 campaign? Let's finally have that conversation, OK?

Up ahead. The rulemaking arm of the DNC voted to drastically reshape the presidential primary calendar. Is this better for the party, for the president, for both?

And this week, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the city would begin hospitalizing the homeless population who are, at what he calls, in a psychiatric crisis. There was immediate backlash. But was he wrong?



SMERCONISH: On Friday at the urging of President Biden, the DNC's rules and bylaws committee voted to tear up the traditional presidential primary calendar for 2024. Instead of kicking off with the Iowa caucus, as has been the case since 1972, the plan puts South Carolina first on February 3 to be followed by New Hampshire and Nevada, then Georgia, then Michigan. The idea is to test candidates earlier in crucial swing states instead of letting the momentum be decided by Iowa, whose voters are 90 percent white.

In his letter proposing the framework, the President emphasized racial and geographic diversity. He said, "For decades, black voters in particular had been the backbone of the Democratic Party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process. It's time to stop taking these voters for granted." But South Carolina, of course, was also the key to securing President Biden's 2020 nomination, whereas he plays poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire. So is this helping the country, the party, the President?

Joining me now to discuss, CNN Senior Political Commentator, David Axelrod, who of course, was Senior Advisor to President Obama.

David, so nice to see you. Who will do the vetting?


Well, that's the issue. I mean, first of all, look, I think, in the main the idea of having a more diverse offering of states at the beginning of the process is a wise thing to do. I think the idea of geographic and demographic diversity is a good thing. And it was clear that Iowa was going to get the boot after 2020, not simply because they were unkind to Joe Biden, but because they didn't handle it well and they botched the caucuses, and we didn't know who won for a week, and that was problematical. So, that that was going to happen. But there was a huge push to make diversity -- to value diversity more at the beginning of the process, and I think that this does that. But as you know, Michael, because you're a student of this, Iowa, New Hampshire, they played unique roles, particularly Iowa in this process. And that candidates had to go and make very personal intimate appeals to small groups of voters over a long period of time, Barack Obama spent 87 days in Iowa in 2007. And had there not been in Iowa, I don't think there would have been a President Obama. Ironic, of course, because he was the first African American president.

So I will miss that part of the process. I will miss the vetting that the voters do in that state. And I'm not sure given the nature of the calendar here and the fact that we'll start with a primary not caucus, I'm not sure that we're going to get the same effect here.

SMERCONISH: So, look into your crystal ball, who does this benefit and for whom is this a problem going forward beyond President Biden? For example, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, how does the fact that South Carolina would vote first affect those two?

AXELROD: Well, you know, Buttigieg ran in the South Carolina primary, didn't do particularly well in the South Carolina primary. One of the challenges he's had has been his ability to break through with the African American community. He may still do that but he hasn't proven his ability to do that. Theoretically, it could help the Vice President as she is a woman of color. But you know, we would have to wait and see.


I think, Michael, the thing that we should note is that this was dictated by the White House and the President. And this to me was a strong signal that he is indeed intending to run because he has set a firewall up for himself. I mean, he won the South Carolina primary by a huge margin in 2020. He got -- he won African American voters there who were 56 percent of the electorate in South Carolina by 44 points. And there are other states Georgia, Michigan in this mix that were strongholds for him.

I think the message here is, if you're an insurgent and thinking of challenging the President, forget about it, because there's not going to be an opportunity here to do that. And generally, I think, better known candidates are going to fare better. Insurgencies are going to be harder. I mean, I should say dark horse candidacies are going to be harder in this process. But we'll see. It may be moot because, as I said, I think this is a strong signal that Biden intends to move forward.

SMERCONISH: David Axelrod, thanks as always for your expertise. Happy holidays.

AXELROD: Always good -- same to you. Always good to see you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

Let's see what you're saying via social media. From the world of Twitter, what do we have? Why select a state that has no bearing on the general election? Pick a toss up state, says Tom Craft.

Hey, Tom, you know what I like? Florida senator, Florida governor, Bob Graham, and this goes back like 15 years but it stands out in my mind, and one time presidential candidate, I'll be -- he didn't get that far, but reflecting on the process said like, let's look to college athletics, I think he used football as an example, and have a regional primary system. I've always liked Senator Graham's idea. So like it's the Northeast one cycle. And then four years later, it's the south, that is the Midwest, and so on and so forth.

Everybody gets a say the media can all go into a particular area, and no one state has outsized influence. That's the best proposal that I've heard as to how we ought to do this.

Reminding you to go to This hour, Should Hunter Biden's laptop have been more extensively covered in the final days of the 2020 campaign? I weighed in on that myself at the outset of the program. Now I want to know what you think.

Still to come. This is Los Angeles Skid Row back before the pandemic. Look at those changed and how America handles the population we call homeless. Well, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, is he right to think the answer is enforced hospitalization in some circumstances?

And Netflix dropped the trailer for Harry and Meghan's six part docu series the very same week that the Prince and Princess of Wales are making their first trip to America in eight years. I don't believe in coincidence. I'll discuss the latest palace intrigue with Patrick Jephson, Princess Diana's longtime private secretary.



SMERCONISH: You remember Phil Collins singing about Another Day in Paradise? Well, here in Manhattan Mayor Eric Adams under attack for his approach to what we've come to call homelessness. This week, the mayor announced the city would begin hospitalizing more of the population that is in, quote, "psychiatric crisis."

In reading the new city directive, I was surprised by how little of a policy shift it should represent. Here's the heart of it, "Section 9.41 authorizes a peace officer or police officer to take into custody, for the purpose of a psychiatric evaluation, an individual who appears to be mentally ill and does conducting themselves in a manner likely to result in serious harm to self or others." Similarly, the written policy maps out a role for designated clinicians who may remove or direct the removal of any person to a hospital for the purpose of evaluation or for admission, if such person appears to be mentally ill and is conducting themselves in a manner likely to result in serious harm to the person or to others. That's pretty much the law of the land, born of both progressive and libertarian thinking that doesn't condone detaining an individual against their wishes, which certainly makes sense when the person is mentally healthy.

And this has been our approach in the decades since a shift toward deinstitutionalization that has coincided with the rise of mass incarceration, which leaves police in the untenable position of having little choice but to often lock up those who are more in need of treatment. I get that the causes are many that it's complicated and that the problem is widespread, most common to big cities. I've witnessed homelessness here in New York City, in Washington, D.C., in Los Angeles, in the Tenderloin section of California.

You might remember my interview with the mom from Washington State who traveled to San Francisco in an unsuccessful effort to rescue her homeless drug addicted daughter. California has got a massive problem. Governor Gavin Newsom has pledged to make it a priority last month. He paused 1 billion in state spending for local government's homeless programs saying plans submitted were simply unacceptable.

About a month ago, early on a Saturday morning I stopped at a WaWa in Center City Philadelphia in route to do this show to get coffee. Getting back in my car I spied a man nearby an event prone in an awkward position but nonetheless sleeping. On any other day I would have kept moving, that day I stopped and I watched, transfixed by the sadness of the situation.


What is it about me? What is it about us that has so easily enabled the desensitization of the plight of the human beings, a tolerance that would never apply to a pet in distress?

I don't have it figured out, but I know the status quo is not working. We're doing these people no favor by continuing with failed policy which is why I credit Eric Adams for trying. Just after he was sworn in last January, a woman was pushed to her death in front of a subway by a mentally ill man who had been in hospitals, jails and on the streets for decades. That and other incidents have caused him to act.

The policy for which Adams is now being criticized it exists in theory all over the country. It's just not being enforced. The universal standard is to not intervene unless a person poses a risk to themselves or to somebody else. We know what it means to be in danger to another. That's physicality or an act or a threat of violence. Harder is defining a threat to someone, themselves.

The New York City policy says this, "Case law does not provide extensive guidance regarding removals for mental health evaluations based on short interactions in the field. But it does suggest that the following circumstances could be reasonable indicia of an inability to support basic needs due to mental illness that poses harm to the individual, serious, untreated physical injury, unawareness or delusional misapprehension of surroundings, or unawareness or delusional misapprehension of physical condition or health."

That's the hard part, defining harm to the individual themselves. The guy that I watched on the vent didn't appear to have a physical injury. There's no way of knowing if he had a delusional misapprehension of his surroundings or unawareness of his own condition or health without engaging and assessing it. But he's clearly not thinking rationally, probably, due to mental illness and/or substance abuse.

At its root, that's what this is, underlying conditions that lead to the loss of shelter. The lack of a roof is a manifestation, it's not the problem itself. Homelessness is probably the wrong descriptor. Housing alone won't fix the addiction and illness that are the drivers which is not to say they don't need shelter, they do.

Mayor Adams is going to be fairly judged by how well he cares for those he removes from the streets. It would not be lawful for him to remove them unless he can care for them. Eric Adams says we have a moral obligation to try and help them. I'm hoping others will follow his lead.

This initiative is reminiscent of something presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt said in 1932 amidst the Great Depression. Roosevelt called for bold persistent experimentation. Well, Eric Adams is doing that. So, let's give him a chance and save our criticism for mayors who are not trying anything new.

Joining me now to discuss is Michael Shellenberger, the author of the book "San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities." You've studied this issue far more than I have. What do you make of what Eric Adams is trying to do?

MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER, AUTHOR, "SAN FRANSICKO: WHY PROGRESSIVES RUIN CITIES": Hey, it's good to be with you, Michael. It's really wonderful that the mayor is doing this. I think his approach is very thoughtful. They spent a lot of time on it, they're pointing to the fact that what's happening is that people with mental illness, or substance use disorder, drug addiction, basically are going into emergency rooms, then they're stabilizing, then they're being let out. They then often end up in jail.

You know, we have 10 times more people in jails and prisons with mental illness than we have in hospitals. So, the basic picture that you're describing where we, you know, underfunded or under staff our mental hospitals in the Great Depression and World War II then led to this overreaction to basically just let everybody out.

Community-based care is better for most people, but it does need to be mandatory. People become delusional and they think that they're better off living in the park often in their own waste, that's obviously immoral. There's only a tiny percentage of Americans that are so radicalized in their commitment to civil liberties that they defend that sort of thing. The vast majority of Americans understand that part of the mental illness is the delusion that you're fine living on the street.

So, I think what Mayor Adams is pursuing is really great. I think that California's governor wants to pursue a similar direction. But I also think that the federal government needs to step in here. We need to basically start protecting the mentally ill in the same way that we protect the health care rights of the elderly, of the very poor and the disabled. I think it's time for something like a Medicare for psychiatric -- people with psychiatric disorders, something like a Medipsych (ph). [09:35:01]

Because when there's failure like this occurring at the local level, at the state level, it's because the federal government hasn't clarified that that we're going to provide world class health care for people with mental illness. And that we're also going to establish what the right standards are for when that care needs to be involuntary, when it needs to be mandated.

SMERCONISH: Michael, one of my observation that when my actually pulled the four or five-page directive that the city is now operating under I said to myself, well, like this is the standard nationwide, theoretically, this is the law of the land, the only difference here is that Adams is going to do something about it.

SHELLENBERGER: Yes, for -- we hope so. I mean, you have to remember the problem -- the problem is that when you understand the long history, 150 years of attempting to deal with this problem in a scientific way, in a medical way, rather than leaving mentally ill people chained up in their basements or in barns, we start getting them into the hospitals, then they get neglected in the hospitals, then we brought them into the community.

The problem is that you've got a bunch of -- basically you've got the civil liberties unions in different cities and states and across the country that litigate to get people with mental illness out of mandatory care. And so, my concern is that while I totally applaud what the mayor is doing and what the governors want to do, I do think that it's going to require an act of Congress to clarify the circumstances in which care must be mandated for people when they're --


SHELLENBERGER: -- when they're a threat to themselves or others.

SMERCONISH: Well, and I made clear that I support what he's trying to do. He will be judged, and he should be judged, based on how he cares for the folks that he's now going to remove from the street.

Michael, thank you for being here. I appreciate it very much. A lot of this data is laid out in your book which I enjoyed.

SHELLENBERGER: Thank you, Michael. Good to be with you.

SMERCONISH: Checking in on your social media reaction. What do we have, from the world of Twitter?

We need to do the hard and expensive work of treating the root causes instead of the symptoms like being proposed in New York City. We need to do the hard and expensive work of treating the root causes instead of the symptoms like being proposed.

Crutchfield, I'm not sure exactly what you're saying. I think that -- again, I'm no expert, but it seems to me it's not an issue of shelter. Or how about if I say it this way? It's not an issue of shelter alone. Do these folks need to be housed? Absolutely. And cared for? Certainly. But have you had any level of intersection? I mean, I have in Philly, in New York, in Washington, in the Tenderloin in San Fran and in skid row. It is so heartbreaking, the mental illness is pervasive and so is the drug addiction.

So we need a better -- my two cents, we need a better descriptor. These are folks in crisis. And they are human beings, and we can't just so quickly move beyond them. Step over them literally and go about our business. I hope Eric Adams is successful.

I want to remind you, answer this week's poll question at Interestingly, they tell me many of you don't like the fact that I'm even asking the question. Should Hunter Biden's laptop have been more extensively covered in the final days of the 2020 campaign?

Still to come, the latest season of "The Crown" depicts the collapse of the late Princess Diana's marriage to the current King Charles. Her longtime chief of staff Patrick Jephson joins me next to discuss the lies that journalist Martin Bashir told about him to land his infamous interview with Diana. And then there's that upcoming Harry and Meghan docuseries.


PRINCE HARRY, DUKE OF SUSSEX: I have to do everything I could to protect my family.




SMERCONISH: America just can't quit the royals. The prince and princess of Wales are in America for the first time in eight years. Yesterday, William met President Joe Biden during their trip in timing that many see as not coincidental. Netflix dropped the trailer for the six-episode docuseries on William's brother Harry and his wife Meghan, duke and duchess of Sussex.


PRINCE HARRY: No one sees what's happened behind closed doors. I had to do everything I could to protect my family.

MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: When the stakes are this high, doesn't it make more sense to hear our story from us?


SMERCONISH: All this (INAUDIBLE) of the Netflix series "The Crown" which drills down on the fractious end of the marriage of the boys' father and current King Charles and their mother Princess Diana, now played by Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki. I was particularly fascinated with the storyline in episode seven when Diana is officially separated and BBC journalist Martin Bashir woos and lies his way into landing the infamous 1995 interview with her.


MARTIN BASHIR, BBC JOURNALIST: Do you think Mrs. Parker Bowles was a factor in the breakdown of your marriage?

DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES: Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.


SMERCONISH: That was 1995, but it wasn't until last year that an independent inquiry into the circumstances of the interview commissioned by the BBC, revealed to the world that in pursuit of his exclusive, "Bashir acted in a deceitful way and faked documents." The BBC and Bashir both apologized. Bashir still contended his fakery -- quote -- "had no bearing on Diana's decision to be interviewed."

"The Crown" shows him fabricating bank statements to suggest to Diana's brother, the Earl of Spencer, and then Diana herself, that her long time private secretary and chief of staff Patrick Jephson was on the take as a spy for the royals.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since we last met, I've called in a few favors. The phone lines at the palace, it turns out that at least three of them have been tapped for sure. I'm afraid you've been followed twice this week. Not by the paparazzi, but by members of the security services posing as such. Your private secretary --



SMERCONISH: The real Patrick Jephson joins me now. His books include "Shadows of a Princess" and "The Meghan Factor." Patrick, did she go to her grave believing that you had sold her out?

PATRICK JEPHSON, PRINCESS DIANA'S PRIVATE SECRETARY AND CHIEF OF STAFF: Michael, I'm very sorry to say that I believe she did. Nobody knew the true extent of Bashir's unethical journalism until last year, as you said. Therefore, since Diana and I parted company in 1996, when I resigned, as a result of Bashir's underhand work, then she will have died thinking that I who had served her faithfully to the very best of my ability for eight years, did go to her death thinking that I had betrayed her. It's a chilling thought.

SMERCONISH: How would -- how would history have been different without the panorama interview?

JEPHSON: Well, it's certainly legitimate to speculate, I think, what might have happened if Bashir's strategy had not worked or if Diana had seen through him or as I would have advised her not to go ahead with the interview, certainly not in that format. The fact that she wanted to say something on TV was fine by me. But it was one of those opportunities that only come along once. So, it seemed to me she had probably a better message to give than the one she eventually gave to Bashir.

Really, the outcome could have been very different. The interview brought to an end what tenuous links there were still with the royal establishment. And apart from forcing my resignation also deprived Diana of some other messages of support. That meant that her life which was already in something of a limbo since her separation from Prince Charles became less and less organized and she eventually found herself trusting people with her safety, who were not really competent to look after her, with tragic results.

SMERCONISH: Patrick, so you and I are speaking as both boys are on this side of the pond. What do you see in that Netflix trailer? We just ran off 40 or so seconds of it. I didn't see a bombshell. Does that mean they don't have a bombshell? Or that they're saving it?

JEPHSON: Well, if you look at it as a communications story, as a PR story, it is a -- it's a big coup. Princes and princesses generally don't make documentaries about their own lives. Not in ways that threaten to or promise to reveal sorts of -- of damaging secrets.

I think the mere fact that it's being made is a sign that the royal organization isn't working as it should. What we're plainly looking at here, the house divided against itself. We have one prince in Boston pursuing what you might call traditional royal duty, and after all, the royal family's job is to serve the British people, British interests. And another prince in Montecito serving what appears to be his own interest, and that's the crucial difference. And the Netflix film and Harry's forthcoming book are just parts of that fracture in the family.

SMERCONISH: A quick final question. Visits to Boston among the royals don't happen overnight. Obviously, that's been on the calendar for a while. I don't believe in coincidence in terms of when Netflix dropped the trailer coinciding with Kate and with William being in the United States. What do you see in that, if anything?

JEPHSON: Well, Netflix have put a lot of money into this project. And understandably, they want to see a return on that. It's just plain presentational common sense, to see that every opportunity you can, to promote your product. And this opportunity is too tempting a target, I think.

But what it has also pointed out is the difference between the two brothers in their approach, to their duties, to their own lives. And I think some of Prince William's advisers will be thinking, well, at least the opposition is out in plain view now. People can see the enormous contrast between their philosophy and ours. We have confidence in what we are doing. We believe the Boston visit has been positive. And you are free to draw your own conclusions about what Harry and Meghan's priorities are. On the one hand, Prince William is giving awards in this case for environmental projects. On the other hand, we have Harry and Meghan receiving awards.


The contrast couldn't be clearer.

SMERCONISH: No, it couldn't. Patrick, my heart breaks for you. I watched that season five episode seven. I never understood or appreciated the skullduggery that had taken place and to your detriment. Anyway, thank you for being here. I appreciate it very much.

JEPHSON: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, more of your social media response to the program and we'll give you the final result of this week's poll question at Have you voted yet on this question? Should Hunter Biden's laptop have been more extensively covered in the final days of the 2020 campaign? Can't wait to see that result.



SMERCONISH: All right. There it is, the result. Should Hunter Biden's laptop have been more extensively covered in the final days of the 2020 campaign?

Thirty-one thousand and change, now they tell me many more than that have voted. Seventy-three percent say no. I am in the 27 percent. I say yes. And I'm in good company, by the way, with Ro Khanna, you know, head of the -- one of the leaders of the progressive caucus in the Democratic caucus, represents Silicon Valley. And now we know he was telling them, hey, you are making this more about censorship.

Quick reaction, Catherine. What do we have from social media?

What the heck happened to CNN and Smerconish? He's spending his time on air giving credence to this Hunter Biden nonsense. Falling in --

No, no, no, you're disgusted, Just Lisa? So, Lisa, you would rather I repeat the mistake that was made in the 11th hour of the campaign and just ignore -- just ignore the whole issue today?

No. All you're doing is making it larger. Confront the issue and deal with it head on, which is what should have happened in the waning days of the 2020 campaign. Instead, Twitter treated it like it was a hack, then they knew it wasn't and they continued that charade. See you next week.