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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Major Legal Blow Delivered To NSA's Domestic Spying Program; Republican Versus Republican On Capitol Hill; Missing American's Family Demands Answers; Interview with Mike Tyson
Aired December 16, 2013 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Next, a major blow to the NSA spying program. Does today's ruling prove Edward Snowden's case?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is just an absolutely scathing rejection of the NSA program that the government has defended.
TAPPER: Plus, was Rick Santorum right?
RICK SANTORUM, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Gender doesn't matter anymore. Why does number matter?
TAPPER: Does a new legal case show gay marriage opened the door to legalizing polygamy?
And Google's robot army. And it won't be a small one.
TAPPER: Good evening. I'm Jake Tapper in for Erin Burnett.
We're following a developing story out of Madison, Wisconsin right now. A Delta airlines flight 385 has slipped off the runway at Dane County regional airport. You are looking at the phone we just received a photo from our affiliate, WISC. You can see how snowy it is in Madison tonight. The incident occurred as the plane was taxiing. There are, thankfully, no reported injuries at this time. And the passengers are being bused to the terminal for their safety.
We will continue to follow the story and bring you an update as soon as we have it.
Our other top story tonight, a major blow to the NSA's spying. A judge has ruled that the spy agency's both collection of millions of Americans phone and e-mail records is likely unconstitutional.
We are going to talk about this with the senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
The actual specific criticism is that the data mining program revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden who actually issued this response, saying, quote, "today, a secret program authorized by a secret court, was, when it exposed to the light of day found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many."
But a justice department spokesman say quote "we believe the program is constitutional as previous judges have found." Still, they say the ruling is being studied.
CNN's senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin is here. as I said
Jeff, this ruling is limited. It only applies to this specific case, but are there long-term ramifications.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that remains to be seen. But it's certainly nothing but bad news for the NSA today. The ruling, as you say, only applies to the two individuals who brought the case. And the NSA can no longer collect data on them.
Plus, the judge himself, Richard Leon, who is, by the way, a George W. Bush appointee and a well-known conservative on the bench, he says I'm going to stay, I'm going to put my order on hold while the government appeals.
So, the government program is still operating as we speak, but now there is a real political and legal problem for the Obama administration what to do now.
TAPPER: And as you heard earlier in the day when you and I were discussing this with Ben Wisener of the ACLU, civil libertarians are arguing this is what happens when an open court discusses these things as opposed to a private FISA court.
Do you think that this means, the NSA, will ultimately have to make any changes or not?
TOOBIN: It certainly seems possible. Remember, tomorrow President Obama is meeting with a group of tech executives from Google, from Yahoo, from Facebook, all the big companies who are not happy with this program either. They want changes made. The combination of this court ruling, the corporate unhappiness, some of our allies unhappiness, it certainly seems like there might be some changes in this program that would respond to those criticisms, but it is also true that national Security is a very powerful interest in this country. And there are going to be a lot of resistance to changes. So, the president and no one but the president is going to have to resolve these competing pressures.
TAPPER: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you so much.
Of course, the president will discuss some of these issues tomorrow at the White House with some top tech executives who are visiting.
Republican versus Republican on Capitol Hill. The bipartisan budget bill that easily passed through the House last week is now running into opposition in the Senate. So far, there are not yet on the record. The 50 votes needed to pass this bill, not to mention the 60 votes needed to begin voting. Still, the deal is expected to pass, but it's already it caused a big split within the Republican party. Last week House speaker John Boehner chided conservatives groups who opposed the bill. And on Sunday, deal maker, Congressman Paul Ryan, weighed in on the internal GOP spam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think John has got his Irish up. He was frustrated that these groups came out in opposition to our budget agreement before we reached a budget agreement. I was frustrated too, but I think these are very important elements of our conservative family. I would prefer to keep those discussions within the family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Matt Kibbe is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, one of the conservative groups that opposes this budget deal. William Kristol is editor of the "Weekly Standard," Paul Begala is a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator.
Bill, I'll start with you. Is speaker Boehner right? Should these fights be kept within the family, not publicly? And should conservative groups wait to see the deal before they criticize?
WILLIAM KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Look. In a free country, people speak out, and conservatives don't agree on everything. And that they agree on this deal. But I think one argument for the deal is to let's have this little spat now. It's going to pass the Senate, I think, tomorrow or Wednesday. Let's get it over with so conservatives can unite and go after the thing that's really ruining America, which is Obamacare.
TAPPER: Paul, I will let you talk about that in one second.
But Matt, I want to get to you. I mean, very clearly, John Boehner has expressed very serious frustration, two days in a row. It wasn't just getting his Irish up just once. It was the entire Ireland. He's talking about your group, he is talking about other groups. What do you think of that?
MATT KIBBE, PRESIDENT, CEO, FREEDOMWORKS: Well, I think it's a little disingenuous to go after us for expressing opinions about a deal that was on a very fast track. The challenge has always been in these last minute budget deals to understand what's in there before members vote, before (INAUDIBLE) gets to know what that is.
But remember, this is the Republican party that promised upon winning election and winning the majority, winning the speakership in 2010 that they were going to cut 100 billion in one year. Now, they're raising spending, 63 billion in the next two years. I think it's an acknowledgement that they just don't want to fight this budget fight anymore.
TAPPER: Paul, there are also progressive Democrats, Liberal Democrats, who have refused to say how they're going to vote on this and who don't want to because it doesn't include extending an informant insurance benefits. They don't like other provisions in it. How many Democrats do you think are going to vote against this?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think -- against it? Very, very few, almost none. I think almost all the Democrats will be for it. And here's why. Because it's not a great deal, but it's a deal. And it's a good deal. And frankly, it's a good deal for both sides.
Bill wants to go fight about Obamacare. And frankly, I think Democrats are already fight back on that. That's fine. It finally allows us to get back to regular order, right? So that we won't have government shutdowns. It does enshrine, actually, the Democrats don't like it. They are trying to many of those freely, clumsy and stupid cuts that were in the sequester which was never intended to be public policy. It was supposed to be a threat, a doomsday device that sadly came into being.
So, they want to get out from under some of that and on national security as well which is getting some Republican votes for it. My question, I guess is, what deal would you take? What deal would the right take?
TAPPER: That's a decent question. I want to play some of I asked Paul Ryan about the deal last week. And here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We're basically passing an agreement that we can pass that we can agree to. There are a lot of things not in the agreement that people wanted in the agreement. And that's just the way, you know, it compromise and common ground works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Democrats control the Senate, Democrats control the White House. Something needs to pass to fund the government. This is Paul Ryan's argument. And it's a lot easier to say no and be a purity Republican than actually accomplished something. How do you respond to that argument?
KIBBE: Well, I think the compromised position was the sequester that we were promised in 2011 for $2 trillion increases of debt. And the president supported it, and the Democrats supported it and the Republicans supported it. What they have done is unwind that last promise for another long-term promise to do something in the tenth year. The tenth year never comes. So I think our compromised position was let's settle for this sequester. Nobody likes it. If nobody like it is in Washington, it must be doing something good.
TAPPER: Bill, I know you hated the sequester, so go ahead.
KRISTOL: Well, I just think it cuts defense way disproportionately. The Obama White House proposed the sequester. It is a little off and deserves Republicans fall in love with it and they proposed it with widely disproportion of cause in the defense. But I understand --
TAPPER: It was never meant to actually happen. It was to be a threat. KRISTOL: Right. Fine. But that make it is to me a little - that's why I'm not one of those Republicans who fell in love with it and decided it was the best thing to do. I don't, you know, that are those -- that is their sincere relief and I don't far with people voted against it. It got more than two-thirds of the vote on House Republicans. A lot of those conservative Republicans who did on cutting spending and perhaps that spending is soundly for the last two years decided that a little relief in the short term, trade off -- minor entitlement reform and relief for defense. And above all, getting this off the table so we don't have Republicans fighting Republicans for the next year so we can focus on --
TAPPER: Yes, say it.
TAPPER: This time, I will let Paul weigh in.
Obamacare. You actually think by November 2014, Obamacare is going to be a winner for the democrat party? Nancy Pelosi told me that last week.
BEGALA: If they fight. You can't win a fight you're not engaged OR AS John McCain like to say, a fight not engage, a fight not enjoy. I think Democrats will enjoy this because the computer and the rollout have been a disaster. It has been awful. And I would never defend that.
Here's the problem with the Republican position. They don't really have an alternative, so they want to repeal it. And so, Democrats will say, you will hear this million times, Republicans want to take us back to the day when is you can be denied coverage for having a pre-existing conditions, or we can be discriminated against for being a woman. Or you can, of God forbid, your child get sick or insurance can be cut off because of some lifetime limit or annual limit. They will go right back to the parade of horrible that existed before Obamacare and Americans don't like to give up their rights.
TAPPER: A lot of head shaking here. And we will have all of you back here to discuss Obamacare.
Thank you so much.
Paul Begala, Bill Kristol and Matt Kibbe, I appreciate it very much.
Still to come. A dramatic change to marriage laws in this country. Why a judge says it's now OK to live like a polygamist in Utah.
Plus, the latest from the Colorado shooting, the parents of the shooter speak out for the first time.
And a FOX News anchor explains her comment about Santa and Jesus, but is her explanation go far enough?
TAPPER: Welcome back.
Polygamy is against the law in America. But living like a polygamist is now legal in Utah. A federal judge has overturned part of the state's polygamy law after a lawsuit by Cody Brown and his four wives. You may recognized them from the reality TV show "Sister Wives." The controversial decision has been heavily criticized most notably It perhaps by former Republican presidential candidate, former senator, Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania who said quote, "if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right incest, you have the right to adultery." Now Rick Santorum says he was right. Was he?
Laurie Allen was born into polygamy and escaped at the age of 16. She is also the producer of the documentary, "Banking on Heaven." Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council.
Thank you so much for being here both.
And Laurie, I will start with you.
Yesterday former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum tweeted, sometimes I hated when something I predict comes true. He was referring to a statement he made it decade ago in which he said polygamy, among other things, would be allowed. The fans on Sata (ph), were struck down by the Supreme Court. Do you think it is fair to make that way?
LAURIE ALLEN, ESCAPED POLYGAMY AT AGE 16: Absolutely not. It is ridiculous to even compare the two because, you know, polygamy is about harems and prostitution and the subjugation of women and the abuse of children and women. It has nothing to do with two couples, to a male and female or man and a man or a woman and woman who love each and want to live a married life. I mean, this is about concubines. It is about criminal acts and then fortunately these laws are not being enforced in the state of Utah. And we need to do something about this and not listen to people like Rick Santorum who don't know what they're talking about.
TAPPER: Tony, the judge's ruling overturn the sanctions of Utah law that prohibited cohabitation among consenting adults. It did stop sort of legalizing plural marriages. Why is that a problem to you?
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, THE FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, it is the same progression that we saw with same-sex marriage. And the judge in this case maid a lot of reference to Lawrence V. Texas, which is use what Santorum was talking about.
In fact, Justice Scalia himself predicted this would occur over a decade ago. So, they may not, you know, there are maybe some who don't want to equate sister wives with same-sex marriage. But it is the deconstruction of natural marriage. You know, if the judge cab arbitrarily change the qualities of marriage, a man and woman, the quantities are easy to change. And that's what we see happening right here. And so, there is a legal connection. We go all the way back to the Supreme Court. As they said a decade ago, the judge (INAUDIBLE) made reference to that in his decision.
TAPPER: Laurie, you heard Tony's argument. He is also, his organization, The Family Research Council, also put out a statement today saying quote "redefining marriage to fulfill the desires of same-sex couples or polygamists only creates social chaos." Your reaction?
ALLEN: That is just salacious propaganda to scare people into not supporting same-sex marriage which has nothing to do with polygamy. We are talking numbers, you know, there are male to female birth rates, globally or 50-50. When a man takes ten wives, nine boys have to be thrown out of the community. This is why we have thousands of lost boys in the southwest who have been thrown out of this colt so that older men, pedophiles really, can marry all the young girls.
This does not have to do with two consenting adults who marry because they love each other. This has to do with cult, barbaric cults, who subjugate women and abuse children and marry underage brides. Because when you're 35-years-old in a polygamist cult, you are not a single there and no single women available, period. They have to prey on the young girls so the man can have multiple wives and they have to run the young boys out of town.
So, the problem with this argument is these people don't know basic math, OK, they don't know the numbers and they don't know how to add and subtract. So, what we have is we have barbaric cults that are occurring and we have kind of screwball judges who are trying to change laws and trying to mess up the United States of America and put a big, red flag on Utah like a mountain saying all you pedophiles and you people who want to start these kind nasty little cult, let's all come to Utah and start another little cult that abuses women and children. And if the people in Utah don't stand up against this, it's going to be a problem for them.
TAPPER: Tony, you look like you want to weigh in.
PERKINS: Well, I agree with Laurie the fact, Jake, that this is a real war on women. But it is not judicial gymnastics to get to this point from a redefinition of marriage. This is the result of the deconstruction of marriage. So we should not be surprised, despite the fact that we're looking at different numbers or quantity, it is the deconstruction of marriage that has brought us to this Lawrence V. Texas was the starting gun while this just decriminalizes polygamy.
We'll see the next step, professor Turley who is pushing this. It will be to recognize these plural marriages and it is going to be all the same. If it's all about love, you can't deny three or four or five people. And this is going to be a big immigration issue as well with 50 countries that recognize polygamy. When they are knocking at the door to come into the country, mostly Muslim countries, we're going to see women become a real target in this country. And, again, you want to talk about a war on women, this is it.
TAPPER: So let's remove the cult aspect from this for a second. And let's remove, obviously pedophiles. Let's just talk about adults for a second. Tony, Cody Brown and his four wives together have 17 children. They're featured on the reality show "Sister Wives" which has, you know, popular audience. They issued a statement today saying many people do not believe approved of plural families. But we hope that in time all of our neighbors and fellow citizens will come to respect our own choices.
I'm playing devil's advocate here. Why shouldn't they be entitled to that, Tony?
PERKINS: Well, you know, I know Hollywood has done their part, just as they've done with same-sex marriage by putting "Sister Wives" out there, "Big Love," but they haven't put out there the Warren Jeffs, they haven't obviously told Laurie's story, what she has seen in the polygamist movement.
And I would say what we see here in the United States with illegal polygamy probably pales in comparison to what we see internationally especially in the Muslim community. And the fact, the equality that women have achieved that this country on being on far husband and wife, which is a western civilization product will be lots as we see women subjugated, we see more sexual abuse, we see less economic mobility of this women.
This, again, this is a real war on women and this judge has unleashed that here in this country.
TAPPER: All right, Laurie Allen and Tony Perkins, thanks so much. We appreciate your time.
Still to come, Google buys a company that supplies machinery to the Pentagon. What does Google have planned for its new army of robots?
Plus , the highs and lows of a former champ, my interview with Iron Mike Tyson coming up later in the show.
TAPPER: Google is growing its army of robots. Tonight, the tech giant is a proud owner of Boston dynamics, a company that's been building robots for the Pentagon for years. Robots that, as you can see, crawl, walk, run, and jump. And as you know, Google would started out as a search engine, which it is known for it is wild project, a self-driving cars, Google glass, Wi-Fi balloons, barges. So, what is up with the robots?
Spencer Ackerman is a national security editor with for "The Guardian" newspaper. He joins me now.
Spencer, thanks for being here.
Google ha goofed up seven other robotics companies in just the last six months. What is it planning to do with its budding robotics division?
SPENCER ACKERMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR, THE GUARDIAN: See, the basic problem that Google's got to face here is the two of us are made of flesh and blood things. We exist offline, hopefully as well as we exist online. And then, you sort of run into a problem of how do I market things to make your life run better when you're not in front of the device. And that's where all these robotics come into play.
TAPPER: So, since 2000, Boston dynamics won nearly $140 million in contracts from the defense department? Over the ten period, Google made less than 300,000 from defense contracts. There's also the simple math here. This is a going to be a cash cow for Google.
ACKERMAN: Absolutely. It all of the sudden right that, gets them into a military market that they've not really been a player in. They've had some success in the intelligence field, the intelligence market. But now they're hoping that the money will still be there after the defense sequester and so forth to really start capitalizing on the moments plan Boston dynamics investments in autonomy and in usability start to hopefully come in.
TAPPER: All right, fascinating.
Spencer Ackerman, thank you so much for being here.
Still to come, the latest details from the Colorado shooting. The shooter's parents speak out for the first time.
Plus, a FOX News anchor apologizes, kind of, for saying Jesus and Santa were white. Did her apology go far enough?
TAPPER: Tonight we're hearing for the first time from the parents of Karl Pierson. That's the 18-year-old who opened fire at this Colorado high school on Friday.
The Pearsons issued a statement saying in part, quote, "We are shattered by the tragic events that took place on Friday at Arapahoe High School. We cannot begin to understand why Karl did what he did. We ask for privacy during this unthinkably difficult time and hope that you will respect our need for time to grieve," unquote.
The Pearson family added their thoughts and prayers are with their son's 17-year-old Claire Davis. Family members tell CNN that Davis is in stable condition but still in a coma. Police say Pearson was armed with a shotgun, a bandolier stock ammunition, a machete, three Molotov cocktails.
The director of the FBI has agreed to meet with the family of Robert Levinson, the man who was kidnapped in Iran nearly seven years after the family publicly accused the U.S. government of abandoning him. Last week, several news outlets reported that Levinson, a former FBI agent, was actually working undercover for the CIA.
According to reports, the FBI, the State Department, even the White House, knew of his CIA connection and continued to say he was a civilian at the time of his disappearance. Levinson's family last heard from him in 2011 when they received this series of photographs. And now, they're demanding to know why more has not been done to bring him home.
Jim Sciutto has more on the story -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning that this relationship --
SCIUTTO (voice-over): His family has said the CIA lied to them about Robert Levinson's work for the agency. Now, Senator John McCain told CNN the agency apparently lied to Congress.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The CIA did not tell the truth to the American Congress about Mr. Levinson. If that's true, you put that on top of things that the intelligence committees didn't know about other activities which have been revealed by Snowden.
SCIUTTO: The Levinson family makes an emotional case that those denials led to CIA and FBI to drag their feet on securing his release.
CNN's Susan Candiotti spoke with family lawyer David McGee.
DAVID MCGEE, LEVINSON FAMILY LAWYER: What they were doing was contrary to policy and rules within the CIA. It was clearly a firing offense. They chose to stone wall it, leave him in Iran and hopefully save their jobs.
SCIUTTO: That's an accusation Secretary of State John Kerry vehemently denies.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: To suggest that anybody has abandoned him is simply incorrect and not helpful.
SCIUTTO: Still security analysts say he should not have ever been in Iran, a so-called "denied areas" since the U.S. government has no presence there in the first place.
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Given Levinson's background, the notion that you thought you could infiltrate him into a denied area was particularly risky. This is a retired FBI agent.
SCIUTTO: Now, the publication of his CIA links may further endanger other Americans held in Iran and accused of spying, a favorite charge there.
Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati has been held for two years. Representative Dan Kildee has been fighting for his release.
REP. DAN KILDEE (D), MICHIGAN: They can say what they want. They can do what they want. But if they want to be taken seriously as they negotiate this nuclear agreement, there's a lot of skepticism.
SCIUTTO: For their part, the Hekmati family says they are satisfied with U.S. government's support for their case. In fact, I spoke with Representative Kildee. He told me that President Obama, Vice President Biden have spoken with him personally. Now, we also found out today that Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and while I'm told that he regularly raises the cases of Levinson and Hekmati and others, he was not able to raise the case on this particular call. They just talk about the nuclear negotiations.
TAPPER: Jim, you and I were talking during the break. What's so unusual about this case is that usually, there's an acknowledgement by Iran, Cuba, North Korea, whatever, that they have somebody in custody, maybe there's a show trial, trumped-up charges, et cetera. In this instance, the Iranian government is saying they know nothing about it.
SCIUTTO: Yes, you're right. An acknowledgment they even advertised it, right? They make a case of this as they've done with, for instance, the journalist Roxana Saberi, held there on trumped up charges, baseless charges that she was a spy, or the American hikers as well. These were big cases advertised. In this case where he seems to have substantial ties to the security services, they are not advertising it. They still denied.
In fact, the foreign minister, Javad Zarif, saying again yesterday in an interview with CBS, that he -- just as far as they know, he is not in the country. They have no information on it.
TAPPER: In a country where there isn't a lot that goes that the government knows about.
SCIUTTO: Biggest police state.
TAPPER: Right, exactly. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.
FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly who caused quite a stir for suggesting that Santa and Jesus were white is taking on her critics. She insisted on her show Friday that the whole controversy was motivated by race-baiting because she works at FOX.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: Well, this would be funny, if it were not so telling about our society. In the knee-jerk reaction to race bait and to assume the worse in public, especially people employed by the very powerful FOX News Channel. Contrary to what my critics have posited, neither my statement or Harris's, I'm sure, was motivated by any racial fear or loathing. In fact, it was something far less sinister, from the "Miracle on 34th Street," to the Thanksgiving Day parade, to the Christmas tree lightning, we continually see St. Nick as a white man in modern day America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, did Kelly need to apologize or does she have a point?
Here to talk about it, radio talk show host Mel Robbins, author Tim Wise, and filmmaker Rochelle Oliver.
Thanks one and all for being here.
Mel, I'll start with you. Did Megyn Kelly go far enough to silence her critics?
MEL ROBBINS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I personally don't even think she needed to apologize. And one of the reasons why is I think she is right. I think that this was about race baiting. She was clearly talking about the representation of Santa Claus in popular culture. And here's one of the things, Jake, that I found to be profoundly sad about this entire story is that everybody missed the point.
The point is that Santa, if you believe in him, which many of us do, is a function of what you grew up with. And so, she was talking about the Santa that not only do we see in popular culture, but also the one that showed up in her household.
So, I don't think she needs to apologize, for the Jesus comment because she was wrong. Santa problem, no way.
TAPPER: And, Mel, just to follow up, you think the bigger issue here is that people are insecure about their race, so much so that a joke would set them off. Explain what you mean.
ROBBINS: You know, here's the thing, Jake, is that if you have a belief, and you have faith in something, whether it's you believe in Santa or you believe in a certain religion, belief is anchored inside you. So, it's very sad that a news host could say something about her belief and it rocks your world.
That tells me that you don't have very firm convictions if you're offended by what somebody on television says about something you believe in.
TAPPER: Tim please, Tim and Rochelle were shaking their heads. Tim, go ahead, please?
TIM WISE, AUTHOR: Yes, first of all, a Dartmouth graduate just says she believes in Santa. That's number one. Number two and perhaps the more important point, Megyn Kelly did say this is my Santa --
ROBBINS: I happen to have kids at home who are watching.
WISE: Hold on a minute. Well, let me finish. This is not one of your TED Talks. Let me finish my comment.
TAPPER: Yes --
WISE: What Megyn Kelly said was very simply, quote, "Santa is white," end of quote. And so is Jesus.
So, I think the real issue, if you want to make a joke about Santa's whiteness, here's a way to do it that would not presume white normalcy or that white is norm. You could say for instance, and I would, that if there were Santa, he'd have to be white because no black man could break into millions of homes, even if he was bearing presents, and not be shot by some neighborhood watch captain. That's the way to be funny.
But FOX News would never do that because that would presume that they had to admit racial profiling and racism were real. So there's that. I think the real issue is that she made a statement of fact, not for her own opinion, but fact.
There's a difference queen believing in Santa or Jesus or the Buddha. Buddha did not come from Kansas. Jesus was not born in a manger in central Pennsylvania. He was a man of color. And the fact that we have represented him for centuries literally as a white man speaks to the entire history of white supremacy.
We can act like it didn't happen. We can make it the punch line of a joke. But the reality is, this iconography, Jesus more than Santa, I agree with Mel here -- Jesus more so than Santa is a real problem. There's a reason we've represented these icons as white. It's not a coincidence that we've done that.
TAPPER: OK. Rochelle, I want you to respond.
I would like to say also that -- I mean, many cultures throughout the world represent Jesus and Santa as their own culture, whether it's Latinos or African-Americans or Africans or whites.
ROCHELLE OLIVER, FILMMAKER: Exactly.
TAPPER: But, Rochelle, please weigh in.
OLIVER: Megyn Kelly did say that Santa is just white. She was very clear about that. And the fact is we can talk about this is Santa and a fictitious character, but the real issue here is that people who think like Megyn Kelly believe it's more comfortable for them to believe there is a white man flying around the earth with magical reindeer than to believe that a black man in the year 2013 can actually be kind, can be loving and can actually be caring toward children.
That's really the issue here, not only --
ROBBINS: That is absurd what you're saying this right now.
OLIVER: (INAUDIBLE) to my Jamaican Santas, my Haitian Santas, and you know what? My Cuban Santas, because I'm in Miami, and every corner reflects the community.
And, you know -- how, the characters of kindness and love and caring are not exclusive to the right race. And that's what was wrong with what Megyn Kelly said. And she didn't apologize for that. She merely defended her point.
TAPPER: Mel? Lots to unpack there. Go ahead.
ROBBINS: I mean, I think it's absolutely absurd where you guys are taking this. Absolutely absurd. Why aren't you complaining about the fact that Harris said that Santa should become a penguin which would traumatize children everywhere that think he's a human being? I mean, this has gotten to be so --
OLIVER: A penguin would traumatize children? A penguin would traumatize children? Would the "Lion King" traumatize children? I mean, my goodness --
WISE: Let me ask you a question. We can talk about a penguin. But here's the simple historical fact that's a lot more important than speculation about what a penguin would do to children.
Here's the reality. The image of a white Jesus has been used to justify enslavement, conquest colonialism, the genocide of indigenous peoples. There are literally millions of human beings whose lives have been snuffed out by people who conquered under the banner of a white god.
That is a much more significant problem than whether a black writer in 2013 suggests somewhat humorously but perhaps seriously that we should change Santa into a penguin. No one is going to die because of that iconography. The white Jesus, white god imagery has resulted in death. That's something that folks ought to deal with.
TAPPER: Tim, without defending --
ROBBINS: Well, I can't imagine Christmas morning at your house, Tim.
TAPPER: Tim, without defending --
WISE: Well, I'm Jewish.
OLIVER: Tim, it sounds awesome.
TAPPER: Without defending genocide, let me just ask you to -- I read something interesting, an interview with the scholar. Reza Azlon (ph) who is I think it's fair to say, not a conservative. His argument in an interview with "The Washington Post" was that Jesus was from Galilee and probably looked like a Palestinian Jew.
TAPPER: But Christ is what we make of him, and that if there are Asians who are Christians, they celebrate, worship an Asian Christ, same thing with south Americans, whites.
Do you think there's something inherently wrong -- I understand what you're saying that a white Jesus --
WISE: Here's the difference, though.
TAPPER: -- has been used to do horrible things.
WISE: Here's the difference and Reza's right. But the difference is that the power of others to make Jesus or to make Christ as they view him has never come close to the power of the European power to make Jesus white. In other words, black folks can think Jesus is black and view Christ as black, but at the end of the day, the image that has been used to dominate Christianity in this world and on this planet is the white image. So, therefore, you can believe -- you can think Jesus looks whatever you want.
Ultimately, though, there is such a thing as power. And it's not equitable. And if certain people have been able to impose their image of the Christ, of the savior on others or god, or Adam and Eve, the first human beings, as white people, to believe that doesn't have an effect is to believe that advertising doesn't have an effect. That companies that spend billions of dollars don't actually sell you stuff based on the images they use, which is nonsense.
TAPPER: Well, allow me to say, as I bid you farewell, merry Christmas to all, to one and all. Dartmouth's own Mel Robbins, Tim Wise, Rochelle Oliver, thank you so much.
Still to come, he was one of the most fearsome fighters of his generation. But what's he up to these days. More of my interview with Iron Mike Tyson coming up next.
Plus, crack smoking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford finds religion. We have the video, and, yes, he's dancing in it.
And it was one of the year's most shocking TV deaths. Where does it rank on the all time list?
TAPPER: Hey, good news, everyone. It looks like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is working on redeeming his image.
New video surfaced of Ford, shall we call it dancing with the church choir. The cell phone video was allegedly recorded in a prayer service late Sunday afternoon in the West Toronto Church of God. Ford told CBC, last month, he had a, quote, "come to Jesus" moment since admitting to using crack cocaine, during what he calls a drunken stupor.
Ford claims he's finished with alcohol and drugs. And with this video going viral, perhaps his next stop will be "Dancing with the Stars." I shouldn't have given him that thought, should I?
Now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's head on "AC360" -- Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Jake.
Yes, we're keeping them honest tonight in the program.
Remember the thousands of passengers drifting for days on that Carnival triumph ship? There was no powers, no lights, no flushing toilets. None of it had to happen. The ship left port with a third of the generators not working while knowing that the remaining ones were a fire hazard. Drew Griffin tonight is keeping them honest.
Also tonight, Dr. Sanjay Gupta weighs in on two important health stories. New evidence tonight that antibacterial soap may not work any better than regular soap. And it's actually be harmful. Also, the benefits of multivitamins. Are they actually a myth? You want to hear what Sanjay has to say. There are some three new studies out. Those stories and tonight's ridiculous, a lot more at the top of the hour, Jake.
TAPPER: Sounds great. Thanks, Anderson.
He was the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history, but Mike Tyson's rollercoaster life took him from idle status to rock bottom. But with a cameo roll in the hangover comedy franchise, a one-man Broadway show and now, a new tell-all memoir, Mike Tyson has mounted an unlikely come back that virtually nobody expected, including Iron Mike himself.
Earlier today, I talked to Mike Tyson about his second round in the spotlight.
TAPPER: You're a complicated guy. You've had real highs and real lows. What do you think has been the highlight of your life so far? Your best moment?
MIKE TYSON, FORMER BOXING CHAMP: I don't know. Maybe getting off drugs. Just living my life. This is the highlight of my life now. Not being in jail, I didn't kill anybody. No one killed me.
TAPPER: Considering how ferocious you were in the ring and some of the troubles you've had with the law, it is kind of amazing that you never killed anyone.
TYSON: Well, it's amazing no one ever killed me either.
TYSON: It goes both ways. I'm just happy. If anybody said Mike Tyson, you did this and that, you would have to go 15 years ago. No one can say in the last five years you've done this or done that. I've tried the best of my ability the five years to live my life like a productive citizen of society.
TAPPER: Cus D'Amato was blessing?
TYSON: Yes, I think so, unbelievably so.
TAPPER: Where do you think would you be if you hadn't ended up in Upstate New York?
TYSON: You know, people ask that. I'm not clairvoyant. He said you can accomplish anything. I was a boxer. I was boxer and I discovered you first.
You were discovered by a teacher. You had the mentors. You became a great teacher. You become a great actor if an acting coach got involved with you.
It's just that I got involved with first, and I got involved with somebody who was interested in boxing.
TAPPER: He not only thought you were one of the greatest fighters he ever met, when you were very young. But you also learned very quickly how to fight. How did you do that? How did you learn so quickly?
A lot of people who don't watch boxing don't understand is, it's a psychological game. It's a physical game. It's a complicated game.
TYSON: Well, first, excuse me for interrupting.
TAPPER: No, no.
TYSON: But when I first met Cus, we didn't talk about punching and we all talk about the psychology of boxing and the psychology of fear. And he had the psychology of fear down to a science. It was all psychological because it's hard to believe boxing was 90 percent psychological and 10 percent physical.
And I was pretty much a psychological fighter, even though I would across fear. That's all part of the psychological game, intimidation, being the tough guy and all these antics, and I was very successful to (INAUDIBLE).
TAPPER: You've been in "The Hangover", "Hangover II", "Hangover III", there definitely seems to be part of society that is rooting for you. That enjoyed seeing you in these movies. That must make you feel good after years of feeling hated.
TYSON: Hey, I don't know. I don't know about feeling good. But it's different. It's really different.
I'm just living my life. You know, when people tell me you're great, you're the best. You deserve an Oscar, I think of my demons, and I think of my flaws, you know, because the reason that I succeed in life is because of my flaws.
TAPPER: What flaws?
TYSON: Whatever they are, they caused me to ascend to highest places in life, because I despise them. And I believe that ascending -- this is really ridiculous, because it's not true. I believe by ascending to these high places in life, they will leave, they won't exist anymore, but they do.
TAPPER: Just like there are some people rooting for you, there are some people out there who think he's gotten as many chances as I want to give to him. What do you say to them?
TYSON: I don't say anything to them. I just let them watch me in the ring. And the only way we can stop hate is by love. And that's all I'm doing now is pretty much love.
I used to be one of those people who had a lot of hate. I don't feel -- I'm not angry at them. I'm not mad at them. I understand it's just a disease or just an illness. Sometimes, we feel comfort in hate, you know. We feel comfort in our misery. So, I understand that (INAUDIBLE) I'm no one to judge.
TAPPER: Well, I wish you piece.
TYSON: Thank you very much.
TAPPER: Thanks for the interview. I appreciate it.
TAPPER: Still to come -- last night, we saw a shocking TV death, but where does it rank on the all-time list? Coming up.
TAPPER: Tonight, the Senate broke another filibuster, confirming former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson to lead the Homeland Security Department via 78 to 16 votes. Johnson will replace Janet Napolitano who left the post earlier this year to head California's public university system.
Spoiler alert. If you have not seen last night's homeland, you might want to turn down the volume for the next two minutes. In last night's season finale, the fans were shocked to see one of the show's main characters get killed. It was a gruesome death.
It was so shocking because unlike most other TV deaths, there was no external force guiding it. Will John Ritter and Cory Monteith and Jerry Auerbach were written out of their respective shows when they die in real life, characters played by Charlie Sheen, Valerie Harper and Shannon Dougherty were killed off over contract disputes, this death however falls into that rare third category, deaths that were necessary to advance the story, at least in the judgment of the producers and writers of the show.
There have been more than a few of them on TV lately. I had the opportunity to chat this year with some of the show runners behind some of the most memorable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BENIOFF, CO-CREATOR, GAME OF THRONES: Many of our most beloved friends from the series we've had to kill and it makes you sad. But they got to go.
SHONADA RHIMES, CREATOR, GREY'S ANATOMY: Medical dramas aren't that interesting if you know that everybody is going to live.
MATTHEW WEINER, CREATOR, MAD MEN: If you're going to pull the trigger on something that permanent, you want to make it count.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Even though some characters made triumphant returns after they died, probably wouldn't hold out hope for the same thing happening on "Homeland".
So where does Brody's death rank on the list of most shocking TV deaths? And will you keep watching the show without him? Let us know on Twitter @JakeTapper, or @OutFrontCNN.
"AC360" starts right now.