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AC 360 LATER
Race and President Obama; Cheney Family Feud; Cheney Family in Public Spat Over Gay Marriage; Alec Baldwin Defends Himself for Apparent Gay Slur
Aired November 18, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everyone. Welcome to "AC360 later."
Tonight: Oprah Winfrey's allegation. She says no one ever days, but everybody is thinking it. President Obama, she says, is being disrespected because of the color of his skin. Agree or disagree, it's quite a conversation starter. We will take her up on that.
Also, the Cheney family feud over same-sex marriage and Alec Baldwin's eruption.
We begin, though, with Toronto's crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford. Tonight -- I love saying that -- tonight -- not really, but tonight, more like Toronto's crack-smoking mayor in name only, after another day of antics, including storming through the city council chamber, knocking over almost an elderly legislator. The council stripped him of most of his powers later this afternoon. He calls it a coup d'etat, says he's not stepping down.
A lot of what he's been saying lately, he's been saying to CNN's Bill Weir, who went on a roller coaster of an interview with the Ford family, with Mayor Ford and his brother, Doug, this weekend. Bill asked why he decided to admit to crack smoking after months of angry denials. Here's the answer he got.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB FORD, MAYOR OF TORONTO, CANADA: No, no, I didn't say that. No, I didn't say that. You're wrong. You're absolutely wrong what you said. They said, do you smoke crack and are you a crack addict?
No, I don't smoke and I'm not a crack addict. Have I? Yes, I have. I didn't lie. I don't smoke crack. I haven't smoked crack in over a year. But did I?
R. FORD: It's typical media. You guys are the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Typical media. An amazing interview.
Bill Weir joins us tonight, along with blogger Andrew Sullivan. He's had a big week expanding his blog The Dish to embrace long-former journalism, embracing a new family member, a three-legged beagle named Bowie. You can read both at AndrewSullivan.com. Also with us, CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro. Currently, she's a fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics. Senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us. And in the fifth chair, "Toronto Star" reporter Robyn Doolittle, author of "Crazy Town: The Rob Ford" story, who has been out in front of this story for a long time.
Robin, the Rob Ford we just saw in that interview, is that the Rob Ford you know so well?
ROBYN DOOLITTLE, "THE TORONTO STAR": Yes. You guys are really getting a chance to see vintage Rob Ford. After he was elected mayor, he really calmed down like a lobotomized Rob Ford. His temper was even-keel and then very in contrast to his 10 years as a councillor.
He's pulling back the old guy.
COOPER: Bill, how did you find him this weekend? The fact he is arguing it is just semantics. No reporter asked me the right question...
WEIR: Yes, typical media, you guys with your questions there.
But to your point, I always used to brag I saw Guns and Roses play before their first big album came out. Now I have seen Rob Ford live. When you see his mood swings in person, it's a staggering thing.
That talking point about I never lied about it because you didn't ask me in the proper way, he was ready to jump on that. He had actually misheard my question, which was, doesn't smoking crack in the first place indicate a huge lack in judgment when you are the leader of a city as big and rich as Singapore or Hong Kong?
But he -- it's this mixture of entitlement and a sense that everyone else is a hypocrite because everyone's getting hammered, and I'm just a man of the people. We all have feet of clay. It was fascinating.
DOOLITTLE: I can also throw several recordings of us asking him directly, have you ever smoked crack before? That's just a complete lie.
COOPER: He is saying everyone was always saying, do you smoke crack now? Are you a crack addict?
DOOLITTLE: Right. That is not absolutely true. He's been asked dozens and dozens of times. And like I said, I have several recordings on my phone as recently as two weeks ago.
COOPER: Is that like your ring tone? DOOLITTLE: Yes. Have you ever smoked crack before?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Robyn, one of things certainly a lot of people ask, certainly, how does a guy like this get elected mayor? Look at him.
DOOLITTLE: Yes. It's interesting. I think a lot of people say, this doesn't look like Canada. But really it's sort of Canadian in the sense we are much more uncomfortable reporting on people's personal lives. And we also have really ridiculously strict access-to- information laws.
There's also rumors about him drinking about driving or domestic incidents at his home. You call up the police and they don't even have to tell you they have been to the house unless they lay charges. I hope that that is really what Canadians take away from this.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This not something that has happened recently. How long do you think this has been going on?
DOOLITTLE: I can say from our reporting that "The Star" has been reporting on guy's erratic behavior for a year-and-a-half. I wrote about domestic incidents with his wife as recently as December 2011. He has this domestic assault in 2008 and it was eventually dropped because of inconsistencies in his wife's story.
But the pieces have been there that was something was going on below the surface.
ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM: What do you think is going on below the surface? What is this guy's real problem? Is he bipolar? Does he have untreated -- is he self-medicating for untreated mood disorder? What is really going on with him in your view? You have followed him for so long.
I can say that I have spoken with numerous people who have worked closely with him, as well as current and former staff members, who say he has a substance issue. They are talking about they have never seen him drinking at work, but they think he has been drunk at work. He has denied this.
But you find the police are following him around and he will leave a spot and they will find mickeys of vodka tossed in the trash nearby. There are these mysterious handoffs with him at gas stations and parks with one of his close friends who is a drug dealer or alleged drug dealer. He's on charges of drug offenses right now.
I think a lot of the signs point to a substance issue and how long that has been going on...
SULLIVAN: Who voted for him? Who is his base? Why do they love him? He got to be elected, so who put him there?
DOOLITTLE: They call themselves Ford nation. I guess it's sort of a Tea Party north. But polls show that is about 20 percent of the city. This is his bedrock supports. It doesn't matter what he does, they are going to support him.
And then he convinced this other 27 percent of the city that he was the guy that is going to watch the bottom line. He was the most effective conservative voice. And he did run by far the best mayoral campaign. He was the only one that had a clear message. Whether he can win again, I don't know. But people who are writing him off are wrong.
WEIR: That's what I learned. I had the same question as you.
How does this guy win? When we went up, I met his runner-up, a guy named George Smitherman, who is a liberal openly gay candidate who ran the health ministry who oversaw the disastrous rollout of e-Health, if that sounds familiar, in fact, the same contractor that healthcare.gov had to build their site.
And his argument -- there were eight candidates, right, for mayor and they have something like 105 debates and town halls. You get 30 seconds to say your message. And Rob Ford was on message, which is, we are going to end the gravy train and we're going to stop the spending down there.
DOOLITTLE: Subway, subway, subway.
WEIR: And the ironic thing is that when Smitherman admitted that he had been addicted to party drugs in the '90s, members of Ford nation would line up and at these town halls and question his fitness to lead because of his struggles.
NAVARRO: I was a huge fan of Chris Farley. I have never missed him as much...
COOPER: And Chris Farley's brother actually tweeted, saying I got to say my brother would do an amazing imitation.
COOPER: Let's just a quick refresher now of just some Mayor Ford's wild comments, frankly, over the past few months.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORD: I do not use crack cocaine nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.
Yes, I have smoked crack contain. But no -- do I? Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you purchased illegal drills in the last two years?
FORD: Yes, I have.
I'm not perfect. Maybe you are, but I'm not, OK?
FORD: I know none of you guys have ever, ever had a drank and got behind the wheel. I know that.
Have I drank? Have I done drugs? Yes, I have. I will do a drug test and alcohol test right now.
Olivia Gondek says that I wanted to eat her (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Gondek. I have never said that in my life to her.
There's nothing else to say, guys. I really F'ed up. And that's it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So what happens now? Does he remain in office?
DOOLITTLE: He rides it out.
COOPER: He rides it out?
DOOLITTLE: He rides it out.
He's really effective at looking like the victim. A lot of the stuff you have seen he I think looks like he is deliberately picking fights with the media, because the media doesn't look great chasing him around. He looks like he is being harassed.
And he will just kind of keep building that sort of they're out to get me. I'm just every other average Joe guy.
WEIR: Your hate only makes me stronger.
NAVARRO: What are his approval ratings right now? Because I have seen some numbers that I have a hard time believing.
DOOLITTLE: They're in the -- there are two polls, and one is about 40, 45 percent and one is 40 percent. That is where he has been most of the time.
TOOBIN: He is doing better than Obama.
DOOLITTLE: For a mayor of Toronto, they should be much higher than that. And certainly, after he was elected, it was around 60 percent. They aren't great approval ratings anyway. They haven't moved a lot with the crack allegations.
COOPER: With the crack -- Robyn, great to have you on the show. Thank you very much. Just bizarre.
And, Bill, fascinating interview to watch.
We are going to have take a quick break.
Coming up next, Oprah Winfrey did what Oprah Winfrey does so well. She started a conversation, in this case a conversation about President Obama and whether he is being disrespected because of his race. We will be right back.
COOPER: Hey. Welcome back to the show.
You can agree or disagree with President Obama. His popularity has gone up and down over the years. And so has support for his policies.
That's not what Oprah Winfrey was talking about, however, when she spoke recently to the BBC. She was talking about the antipathy she says that some have for the Obama presidency not because of politics or policies, because, she says of race. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, "OPRAH'S NEXT CHAPTER": Just the level of disrespect, when the senator yelled out you're a liar. Remember that?
Yes, I think that there's a level of disrespect for the office that occurs and that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he's African-American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, she referenced in particular Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst, his exact words, "You lie."
Back with Andrew Sullivan, Ana Navarro, Jeffrey Toobin, joining us, "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow, and in the fifth chair, The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart, associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York.
Charles, what do you make of what Oprah said?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's an interesting -- I think she taps into something that a lot of people believe, although very few people can measure it and they have very little evidence of it.
She was responding to a question. She didn't bring this up. She wasn't going on to say I have something I really had to get off my chest. The questioner asked her, do you believe he is treated in some way different because he is African-American? And that was her belief.
I think that that is a very real sentiment in public. And I think trying to figure out to what degree that is true or not both for Obama supporters and for those who oppose him is really -- has kind of subsumed a lot of the energy and discussion about his presidency.
A lot of people point to very high levels of African-Americans voting for Barack Obama, although black people vote Democratic regardless of who the person is at the top of the ticket. And in fact there have been other black people on the Democratic ticket who didn't get that level of vote.
Just go ask Jesse Jackson. But on the other side, people look at a lot of kind of things that you get just kind of anecdotally, things on the Internet, just kind of nastiness. We have that now because a lot of our politics is filtered through multimedia, and you get to see how individual...
COOPER: Do you think race is a part of this?
SULLIVAN: I think you would be crazy to think that it has nothing to do with it. The one that always got me was that view among some Tea Partiers that he could only ever speak with a teleprompter. What on earth is that? No one ever went on about other presidents using teleprompters.
COOPER: But isn't that what people said about Reagan?
SULLIVAN: Reagan knew how to use a teleprompter and how to act. He was terrific.
I think it was interesting she said this to the BBC, because almost ubiquitous opinion around the rest of the world when they look at this country and they see Obama and think, why this incredibly intense opposition from the get-go? People want him to fail from the beginning. And they know other presidents have had this. But there's a level of it that they can't quite explain.
PETER BEINART, THE DAILY BEAST: It's worse than Bill Clinton? They tried to impeach Bill Clinton.
There was serious military insubordination. If you remember, Colin Powell had to try to put it down. I think Jesse Helms said Clinton better watch out if he comes to North Carolina. I don't know what's going to happen to him.
I think the difficulty in this argument is that we have had another Democratic president who had in some ways even more serious question of his legitimacy in his office.
SULLIVAN: The first black president, he was called.
SULLIVAN: Why do you think that stuck?
BEINART: It's possible -- and, look, I think American partisan politics has clearly been racialized forever. There's a racial element even if you have a white Democrat in terms of the way the two parties are perceived.
I just think we need to remember that it didn't start with Obama.
BLOW: But you are not absolving people and saying that it cannot possibly be a contributing factor in whatever feeling...
BEINART: Of course it is a contributing factor. It's just it precedes Obama.
NAVARRO: Listen, is there racism in America today? Yes. There's racism left.
One of the things I like about what Oprah did in this full interview was talk about the progress that has been made in America. She did acknowledge that there is still a problem and that comes out and manifests itself in the attacks against President Obama.
But I think that it is a manifestation of where we are as a country in general. The attacks, the personal attacks, the virulent attacks that are going on in our political spheres against each other, against partisans, within our own party are a lot more disrespectful than they have ever been in the past.
COOPER: Is that true?
TOOBIN: Politics has been ugly in this country for a long time. Maybe in the '50s and '60s, it wasn't as bad as later.
TOOBIN: Well, again, I don't know if there was ever a golden age.
Let me just say one thing about what Oprah said, which I think is somewhat -- feels off to me. It has to do with the timing. What's going on now, what the Obama presidency is subsumed by is this health care disaster, so far disaster. It may yet turn out to be less than a disaster. That's not about race. That's not about criticism for him. This is a self-inflicted wound in this administration.
BLOW: She was flogging a movie.
TOOBIN: I think one reason why it got so much attention -- absolutely. I don't think she brought it up on her own. But it feels off to me to be discussing it now because I don't think the criticism he's getting now is because he's black. It's because he has got a big problem.
BLOW: But I think you linking those two things is a bigger problem than what she was doing.
I think there is no wrong time to discuss this. I think that we keep trying to figure out exactly when is the right time to ever have conversations around this particular subject. I don't think there is a wrong time. I think that you have continual conversations where they're not inflamed, where people don't attempt to overreach and try to say all of one group is feeling one way because of one reason.
Then you can sophisticated conversations.
COOPER: But is there ever a discussion you can actually prove definitively one way or another?
BLOW: I think that what happens is that with every civil rights movement, you get past the easy part.
It's really hard to say it's the easy part because it really takes so much to do, which is the legal part. You have really crystal things that you are fighting against. It is written into the code of law. The women's rights movement had the same thing. The civil rights movement had the same thing. The gay rights movement is having that moment at this as we speak.
But once you get past that, it gets really hard because biases become very hard to detect. And you can only look at it in the macro level and not necessarily on the interpersonal level.
SULLIVAN: If you are a Tea Party Republican being accused of being racist about this, you will say this. Oprah Winfrey is saying that Barack Obama can't cut a break in this country? There, you have one of the most powerful media figures in the world, a black woman. Only in America did that happen. We had a black president. Only in America did that happen.
We have come a huge amount of way here. One of the reasons that some of us still want to come live here is because of that. And all these Europeans have never elected a black prime minister or any minority to that kind of position. I think to say it cannot possibly exist is wrong. But I think to be as specific as she was, in this particular moment, I think you're right, Jeffrey Toobin.
BEINART: I think the best evidence we have of the degree of racial hostility is the extraordinarily high percentage of Americans who say they believe Obama is Muslim and born outside of the United States. And what is fascinating about that is, those are not traditional racist views. Right? They are actually views about the idea that he is foreign, that he is not American. And I think part of the anxiety that Obama has provoked is that he is a symbol of a new kind of America, much more cosmopolitan. He is the first president who is the child of the post-1965 immigration that has transformed the United States. And a lot of those anxieties which have a racial component, absolutely, I think are getting expressed here.
NAVARRO: Oh, gosh. Why the timing on this also?
Let's just remember that Oprah was out there promoting "The Butler," which is a movie that traces the life of a black man who was a butler at the White House from the 1920s until he passed away and saw Obama become president.
It was in that context. And let's also not twist what she said. What she is saying is there's a great disrespect and a great level of disrespect. Is some of that due to racism? Yes. Is all of it due to racism? No.
SULLIVAN: Obviously not.
BLOW: I have to say this. Overcoming barriers is not the same as the removal of barriers.
And the idea that people who are successful cannot at the same time be successful and say that I have had to overcome a lot in order to get there is a problem in the statement that you made earlier.
COOPER: We got to leave it there.
Charles, I appreciate you being with us.
The rest of the panel is sticking around to tackle the next topic on the table, the very public family feud being waged by Dick Cheney's daughters over same-sex marriage. We will be back.
COOPER: Welcome back.
By the looks of it, the holidays may be bumpy this year for the Cheney family, what with the very public feud raging between Dick Cheney's two daughters. It all began Sunday when Liz Cheney, who is making a GOP primary challenge for U.S. Senate seat in Wyoming said on FOX News that she doesn't support same-sex marriage. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ CHENEY (R), WYOMING SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe it's an issue that has to be left up to the states. I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage. CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Your sister Mary, who is married to a woman, put out this post. She said, "For the record, I love my sister" -- you -- "but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage."
CHENEY: Yes. And, listen, I love Mary very much. I love her family very much. This is just an issue in which we disagree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It turns out Mary Cheney and her wife, Heather Poe, were watching when Liz said that, fired back on Facebook.
Mary wrote -- quote -- "Liz, this isn't just an issue on which we disagree. You're just wrong and on the wrong side of history."
Mary's wife, Heather, went even further, all but calling her sister- in-law a hypocrite. Here's what she wrote about Liz: "When Mary and I got married in 2012, she didn't hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us. To have her now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive, to say the least."
This isn't just about two sisters fighting publicly, obviously. Dick Cheney has been working hard to help get Liz elected. And today he seemed to take Liz's side, releasing a statement with his wife, Lynne, saying: "Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage. She has also always treated her sister and her sister's family with love and respect. Compassion is called for, even when there's disagreement about such a fundamental matter and Liz's many kindnesses should not be used to distort her position."
We're back with our panel.
Are you surprised by this sort of public spat?
SULLIVAN: A little surprised by how public it became and because I have known Liz for a long time.
And I think it just shows you two things, one, that you can talk about political matters in an abstract way. But when it comes to your own family, something like someone's marriage becomes pretty non- negotiable as a matter of respect.
And for actually go out there and campaign to deny your sister the very institution that she belongs in, the very marriage that she has cannot but kick Mary in the gut. That's all I can say.
COOPER: Is it hypocritical? If it's true that Liz Cheney went to her wedding and was loving and didn't say anything negative and reached out to -- is it then hypocritical to campaign against it?
TOOBIN: I don't think it's hypocritical.
She showed respect to her sister's marriage. The thing that I think is worth pointing out, one of the things we always talk about on this program is how much the country is changing. You know what? It's not changing that much in Wyoming. What started this whole controversy is that Mike Enzi, the incumbent senator, ran the most repulsive imaginable. He ran this ad that criticized Liz Cheney for saying that she didn't think it was wrong for the State Department to recognize same-sex marriage, this very bland thing.
And Mike Enzi thought this was something that would get votes in Wyoming. And it may well get votes in Wyoming, but think about that and how reactionary and backward that is. And we all sit here on West 58th Street and think the world is changing so quickly. It's not changing that fast.
BEINART: I want to disagree with something that Jeffrey said.
I don't think you can actually respect somebody to whom you want to deny the most basic rights. You wouldn't say that you can respect an African-American, but simply not be in favor of them having the right to vote of equal accommodations or the right to marry.
SULLIVAN: Or marry a white person.
BEINART: Or marry a white person, right.
We would say, this is fundamentally an issue of respect. And I think this is what is great about this is, this is how things are changing. This has been the right wing's kind of line for a couple of years now, basically that we just happen to disagree with you about these issues, but of course we love you and respect you and we feel compassion.
No. We get to a stage as a society which says if you don't accept that people have the same basic rights as other people, African- Americans, Jews, Muslims...
BEINART: You don't respect meantime,.
COOPER: But to counter that argument, Mary Cheney herself was out there campaigning and strategizing for her father's administration, which had the Defense of Marriage Act.
NAVARRO: But that was then. This is now.
COOPER: Well, she was a lesbian then.
NAVARRO: Right. But, listen, just a year-and-a-half ago, Barack Obama was against gay marriage. It wasn't until shortly before the election that he came out for it and that we have seen this very big shift politically. And also let's remember I also want to point out I think there is some movement within the Republican Party. What, last week, there was an ENDA vote in the Senate that got 10 Republican Senate votes. That probably wouldn't have had that same vote result a year ago or even six months ago.
SULLIVAN: It got also 49 votes in the Senate about 15 years ago. I can't remember the exact date, but...
NAVARRO: But not 10 Republican...
SULLIVAN: But what is interesting to me, Ana, is, this is also a story about Republican elites and the Republican base.
Now, I know a lot of Republican elites, because I lived in Washington a long time and I tended to be more right-of-center. Many of them are totally fine with gay people, but they exist in a party where they are catering to some people who are very upset and frightened by gay people.
At some point, the rubber has got to hit the road. You have got to decide which side of this you're on. I just want to say one thing about Wyoming, however. I don't -- I think Wyoming is a very libertarian kind of place.
And I think this kind of Enzi thing is a cheap shot. I'm not sure you should talk about Wyoming quite that way.
TOOBIN: Well, Enzi is ahead 50 points in these polls.
SULLIVAN: I know, 58 points.
TOOBIN: Whatever he is doing seems to be working pretty well. I don't know if it's all about gay marriage. It's -- probably carpet bagging has a lot to do with it. But it remains that I just think we have to be careful about assuming that the country is changing as fast as we think it is.
It's changing. But it's not all the way there yet.
NAVARRO: Some states are changing faster than others. Some people have more gay people in their lives, and that needs to change.
I think this is sad. This kind of public fight, internal fight of a family coming out into the public this way is, frankly, sad. And it's also counterproductive for Liz Cheney.
Because yes, a lot of people in Wyoming, a lot of Republican primary voters in Wyoming may oppose gay marriage, but I can assure you, they don't like family drama either. This is not -- being embroiled in this sort of reality show thing that we're seeing played out on, you know, national TV is not good for a single campaign. TOOBIN: A question I have, in watching this drama play out, is how much is it -- do you think Liz Cheney really doesn't approve of same- sex marriage? Or isn't part of the problem here she is so obviously pandering to the electorate?
BEINART: Her father, too. I think one of the sad things that's really sad about this is how the parents responded. Right? I mean, Dick Cheney, one of the few things the man ever did that I liked was he actually went out and said, "I disagree with George W. Bush. I don't have a problem with gay marriage" at a time that it was actually a harder position to take.
And now, basically forced to make this decision between his one daughter's basic dignity and respect and his other daughter's Senate race in Wyoming, he chooses the latter. I think that's pretty sad.
SULLIVAN: It is very sad.
NAVARRO: He parsed his words very carefully. I think if there is something that we can say about the Cheneys, is that they have loved their daughters. They have a history of being supportive to both their daughters.
BEINART: This is not support of them, sorry.
NAVARRO: This has got to be physically painful for any parent. And I think we have to have a bit of sympathy for the family as it is playing out this way.
And it's, you know -- it is only because the social issue has changed. Today gays and lesbians are saying, "Don't tread on me," and they're not looking the other way. But it used to not be that way.
SULLIVAN: As people in my own family...
NAVARRO: I think Mary Cheney has every right to feel offended. It is not hypocritical, maybe. But certainly, it is hard to reconcile how you can love somebody but say to them that they are not entitled to the same rights as you. That is a -- that is a complete conflict and difficult to reconcile and understand for a sister, certainly.
COOPER: You say?
SULLIVAN: I think this is best suited to a family. It's happening in families. This kind of debate is splitting families and uniting them and engaging them. My own family has members in it who really do not approve at all of my marriage and oppose it. But I love them nonetheless. They are not actively campaigning against my marriage publicly. That's the question -- that's the issue.
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. Change of topic when we come back. Alec Baldwin is defending himself tonight. He's insisting he did not use a gay slur when he lost it on a paparazzi days ago. We have the video, a lot to talk about when we come back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back. Actor Alec Baldwin is once again trying to explain his way out of a P.R. crisis. Not surprising, perhaps. Baldwin has a long history of using anti-gay slurs. There was a trail on Twitter. His anger issues are also pretty well-known.
This time, he was caught on camera screaming what certainly sounded like an antigay slur at a paparazzi who was outside his New York apartment last week. TMZ obtained the video. We're going to play it. You can decide what you hear. We're bleeping out some of the profanity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Get away from my wife and baby with the camera. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you want that in. What language you want it in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alec, come on, let's go.
BALDWIN: Get away from my kid with the camera. You know what's going to happen to you, don't you? Come on! (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Faggot (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAMMER: The trend at Baldwin show up late for two weeks (ph), and in a tweet that's since been removed, Baldwin claims he said "fathead," not "fag." And here's what he wrote in an essay posted on the "Huffington Post." Quote, "What word is said right after the other choice word" -- the other choice word, by the way, was -- started with a "C" and ends with "sucking" -- "is unclear," he said. "But I can assure you with complete confidence that a direct homophobic slur, or indirect one, for that matter, is not spoken."
The panelists back with me: Andrew Sullivan, who I think may be the crusader Baldwin refers to in that "Huffington Post" piece. Ana Navarro, Jeffrey Toobin and Peter Beinart.
Andrew, you've written -- you've written about this.
NAVARRO: You're the -- he's saying you're the gay sheriff according to Alec Baldwin.
COOPER: He says I'm the gay sheriff, because I was in the closet for so long. I'm not going to argue with him on that. You say he's a homophobic bigot. Why?
SULLIVAN: Because when you use the term "C"-"sucking fag" to another human being in rage and anger to put that person down, you are thinking of the worst thing that you can say to that person to demean them and to debase them in public in front of you. And that is, I'm afraid, a textbook case of being homophobic. I don't know what else would merit such a thing. I mean, it's the most homophobic thing you can do, to actually yell at another human being to try and put them down in public as a fag.
COOPER: And he says he didn't use that word "fag." Originally said, tweeted "fathead." But even if that is the case, the first word he used is obviously -- to use it against another guy is clearly an antigay statement.
SULLIVAN: And this isn't the first time. He tweeted about this -- I mean, I must say, the paparazzi are horrifying, and I'm not defending them at all. But when you also say about another gay journalist that you want to stick your boot up their backside and you'd like to do that...
COOPER: He said about that guy, about a U.K. journalist, he said, "I'm going to find you, George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I'm going to 'F' you up." And then he said he wants to put his boot up the guy's backside, but the guy would probably enjoy it too much.
SULLIVAN: Yes. Well, I'm sorry. But that is textbook schoolyard homophobia. It's disgusting, bullying, and it's about -- it's about telling that person they're an inferior human being because they're gay. I'm sorry.
Now, look, I'm -- I'm in favor of anybody being able to say whatever they want. And I certainly -- there's hate crime laws, and I'm not a thought police guy. I just don't think you can say that and have it in public and then claim you are pro-gay or a you're a big liberal progressive. I mean, come on. If a conservative had said that they would be finished.
COOPER: And I've tweeted about this, as well. And he's attacked me for various tweets that I've said. My point is, and I agree with you, anybody can say anything they want. If he wants to yell "C"-"sucking fag" to people on the street, if he wants to call people "toxic little queen," but then don't lie about it afterward and claim you didn't know this was an antigay slur.
If you're -- I don't know how old he is, in his '50s or whatever. If you attain that great age, and you don't know that the word -- calling a guy a toxic little queen reference -- is an antigay reference or calling something a "c"-"sucking fag," whether or not you say "fag" or not but "c"-"sucking" to another guy, that that's an antigay statement, that's just a lie. And for him to say, "Oh, I was informed of this afterward," I mean, come on.
TOOBIN: I just have a question about the whole scenario. And maybe this is more an inquiry into Alec Baldwin's psyche than many of us are interested in doing. But it is true that, in his public statements, in his politics, he's very pro-gay rights and same-sex marriage. Yet at the same time, he has this weird obvious hostility to gay people in moments of anger. What is that? What is the juxtaposition of political...?
NAVARRO: It is political correctness when he can control it. When he loses control of his anger, he goes into the real mode, and this is what comes out. I think him knowing when to...
COOPER: But why lie about it afterward? Not everybody is stupid. It certainly implies that everybody is so stupid...
NAVARRO: How can you say -- how can you say, "Yes, I am gay homophobic..."
BEINART: I want to say, I came of age at a time when homophobia was acceptable, mainstream, normative part of American culture. I still bear some of that inside of me. It's terrible. It's something I'm going to struggle and fight against so that I can make sure it doesn't get transmitted to the next generation, because that's how bigotry historically in America ends. One generation doesn't transmit it to its children.
That's basically how anti-Semitism died in the United States. It became socially unacceptable. The older generation after World War II, because it was associated with the Nazis, they still had those feelings, but they didn't pass it on to their children, because they became ashamed of it.
If Alec Baldwin would say that, then I think, actually, we could have a useful conversation.
NAVARRO: It's actually very reminiscent of what Paula Deen said when she had her issue...
COOPER: She had her career destroyed over a lawsuit, by the way, that ultimately was dismissed, and she admitted using the "N" word.
If Alec Baldwin had yelled the "N" word to that photographer or yelled an anti-Jewish slur against that photographer, it would be over.
COOPER: But the "F" word is a word kids are called in school every single day. Teachers often do nothing about it. Coaches -- you know, the Rutgers coach was calling his players that for years. Nobody did anything about it.
SULLIVAN: And it's important to note that all of this stuff is laced with a threat of violence.
SULLIVAN: All of these instances are also about "I'm going to get you."
COOPER: Not only that, "and I want all my Twitter followers to get you, too." That's what he did to this British reporter who, I'm sure is some snide, not very nice person who deserved...
NAVARRO: But I think you wrote it just right in your column that you wrote. They're free to say -- anybody is free to say whatever they want in this country. It's one of our rights.
But we also, as consumers, are free to make choices of what we watch, what movies we go to, what commercials we use, what vendors we use. He's in commercials. If people are offended by this, we have a way to change it.
SULLIVAN: What I find worrying about what Jeffrey said that is you can sometimes use your political position in favor of gay rights to just -- to get away with this stuff. So that you're actually -- the gay community needs to say, "We don't need you, Alec Baldwin. And we don't actually want you anymore."
COOPER: I'm sorry. And then he brings out his gay hairdresser to defend him?
NAVARRO: "Some of my best friends are gay."
COOPER: I thought that was a joke.
TOOBIN: Honest to God, I thought the same thing.
COOPER: And then this hair dresser who is like, "Oh, yes, the gays love him, because they love drama." I'm like, oh, my God.
SULLIVAN: It's just so painful stereotyping that is further (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
Now, look, we need to -- we don't need to divide about this. We need to talk about it, and we need to understand it. We're all human. I'm a sinner, too. I have all sorts of -- we all have feelings that we're not proud of. Right? But we do our best to restrain them, and we don't use them and threaten to do violence against them.
BEINART: And the larger story is that although, as Anderson said, there's still a tolerance toward homophobia that does not exist towards racism and anti-Semitism, that I think the gap is narrowing. The fact that we're even having this conversation, the fact that a guy is even being suspended.
It's the same with the Mary Cheney/Liz Cheney thing. There is a shift. And we can debate how fast the shift is going. This is not inevitable. I think people are struggling to continue that shift.
But I think actually that's the best thing you can say about the American story, is that there is this norm of equality. It takes, unfortunately, us longer to get there with some groups than others. But that's clearly the trajectory we're going, at least in this case.
NAVARRO: I will tell you, I've been very disappointed with -- as somebody who is a gay rights supporter, who respects and loves gays -- I can't have enough gays in my life -- listen, I have been very disappointed with the left on how they've reacted to this.
SULLIVAN: Me, too.
NAVARRO: And the void of silence that they have had.
SULLIVAN: Me, too. Me, too.
NAVARRO: If there had been a conservative who had said anything close to this, boycotts would be called. GLAAD would be having -- I mean, they would be having all sorts of letters coming out...
COOPER: And by the way...
NAVARRO: ... from every single organization. And this is just -- this is just wrong.
SULLIVAN: GLAAD is an anti-defamation organization.
COOPER: And I've got to say, GLAAD's first response on -- and I won some -- you know, an award from GLAAD, but -- but -- and I went to the ceremony. But their first response on this latest Alec Baldwin thing, the guy was like, "Oh, well, we're going to have to assess how we're going to respond to this." It's like, really? That's the response?
NAVARRO: That's the history of behavior here.
COOPER: And they subsequently came out and said what he said was inappropriate.
SULLIVAN: But you're right: the deafening silence from gay liberals about this is really staggering.
TOOBIN: And your point about how his career would be over with a wide variety of slurs that we could all come up with. The "N" word...
COOPER: Just replace the "F" word with any -- the "N" word or anything else.
TOOBIN: And I think the fact that that kind of slur is still in a separate, lesser category tells you a lot.
NAVARRO: Take a look at what happened with Mel Gibson and his anti- Semitic slurs. Where has his career gone in the last several years? I mean, I just think this is...
COOPER: And he even actually didn't threat violence, as I recall.
SULLIVAN: He was drunk off his, you know, backside as well.
NAVARRO: Yes. This guy was sober.
COOPER: And I hesitate to even bring this up on the program here, because one, I don't want it to become, like, oh, it's a CNN-MSNBC thing. And, like, get roped into that -- what's clearly some game he's going to be playing.
And also, there's something just so -- whatever is going on in his life, I mean, imagine being in that apartment and just being...
NAVARRO: Let's not. Let's not imagine being in that apartment.
COOPER: But anybody who is constantly in these fights and in these -- tweeting this stuff, it's just like who wants to live like that? I mean, really? Is that how you want to live your life? I mean, anyway.
TOOBIN: All we can say, no.
COOPER: I think we're done. We're going to take a break. Up next, items you might have missed. I ask the panel, "What is your story?"
COOPER: Time now for "What's Your Story?" Welcome back to the program. I'll start with you, Jeff Toobin. What's your story?
TOOBIN: George Zimmerman, acquitted earlier this year in the death of Trayvon Martin, was arrested today for domestic violence, charged with a felony after his girlfriend called 911. And we have some of the 911 tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you serious?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nine-one-one, police, fire, and medical.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need police right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. What's your address?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're done breaking stuff in my house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ma'am? Ma'am? What's going on?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's in my house breaking all my (EXPLETIVE DELETED), because I asked him to leave. He has a freaking gun and breaking all my stuff right now. No, this is not...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm doing this again? You just broke my glass table. You just broke my sunglasses, and you put your gun in my freaking face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TOOBIN: Pretty amazing, when you consider that we know George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. He just was not convicted of a crime in connection with it. He's spending tonight in prison. He'll be in court tomorrow. They'll be seeking bail.
COOPER: And there's a new mug shot we were showing of him.
TOOBIN: Right. With the beard.
COOPER: But on a case like this, I mean, he claims he called 911 once the police arrived, just to get his story on the record that, I guess, would be played in the media. And he basically has the complete opposite. He said it was his girlfriend who broke the table. So if it's a he said-she said, what happens in a case like this?
TOOBIN: That's where you start to collect evidence and you see what the surrounding circumstances were and you can listen to the background of what's going on in the background of the 911 tapes. There will be an investigation. He's only been arrested. He hasn't been formally indicted or charged. So there will be a police investigation.
But now, look, George Zimmerman, we know he killed Trayvon Martin. We know that in September police were called with his -- with his -- an incident with his wife, now estranged wife. No charges were filed. He's been arrested -- he's been stopped several times for speeding. He seems to have a lot of problems...
NAVARRO: You know, I'll tell you what's amazing to me: that there are still women, women in Florida that this man can find to date. I mean, he's got no looks. He's got no sense. He's got no money. He's got a bad temper. He likes to point guns at people. I mean, ladies, ladies. For real, ladies, Match.com.
COOPER: Andrew, what's your story?
SULLIVAN: The pope, one of his harshest critics from the right is seriously ill, and the pope called him up the other day and talked to him. And his critic was like, "Thank you, Father, but -- Holy Father, I must say I still criticize you."
And the pope said, "I know. I'm really grateful. I love you, and I know it comes from love. I'm grateful for your criticism." If only all of us could respond to criticism like that. Once again, this pope is showing not the doctrine of Christianity but how to be a Christian.
BEINART: It's not quite Alec Baldwin.
COOPER: Ana Navarro.
NAVARRO: Andrew and I are out-poping each other today. I think -- I think it's because you and I have found the fervor for the Catholic Church again, thanks to the pope. And it's not just us. My story is about the pope came out in "The Sunday Times" this Sunday, and he has reversed the exodus from the Catholic Church. The attendance is up; the slump is over. And it just shows you what one person...
COOPER: One person can do.
NAVARRO: ... can do, when that person exerts leadership, leads by example, and leads with love.
COOPER: Peter Beinart, what's your story?
BEINART: There may be an interim deal with Iran this week. This will be the foreign policy equivalent of Obama care, meaning the most significant, most important thing that Barack Obama will do as president.
To end the American cold war with Iran, which has been going on since 1979, could reshape the Middle East, but it will also be the most bitter, toughest domestic fight that Obama will have in his second term. It's going to be incredible consequential. And I think an interesting question is are his woes from Obama care going to make it hard for him to win that fight?
TOOBIN: Will they have to put up a Web site or anything?
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break -- that. Oh, we're done? All right. We're done. That is it for this edition of AC 360 LATER. Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: "OUTFRONT" next, George Zimmerman arrested and charged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had broken a table and at one point pointed a long-barreled shotgun at her.
BURNETT: And Toronto's crack-smoking mayor acts out again...
ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: I didn't push her.
BURNETT: ... and again.
Plus Lady Gaga's revelation.
LADY GAGA, SINGER: I was smoking up to 15 to 20 marijuana cigarettes a day with no tobacco.
BURNETT: And her reason why could affect the way pot is viewed in America.
Let's go "OUTFRONT."
Good evening, everyone.