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@THISHOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Jill Abramson's 1st Public Speech; Robert Birgeneau Cancels Graduation Speech Following Protests; Hillary Clinton Gets Advice on Potential Presidential Run; DirecTV Merging with AT&T.

Aired May 19, 2014 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL ABRAMSON, FORMER EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure, losing a job you love hurts but the work I revere, journalism that holds powerful institutions and people accountable, is what makes our democracy so resilient. This is the work I will remain very much a part of. What's next for me? I don't know. So I'm in exactly the same boat as many of you.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: That's former "New York Times" editor, Jill Abramson apparently making light of her firing last week. Her commencement address to the graduates of Wake Forest University wrapped up a short time ago, her first public speech since her ousting.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to bring in our senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources"; and political commentator, Sally Kohn.

Brian, I'll start with you. You have history with "The New York Times."

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: That was my boss until six months ago.

BERMAN: Having worked there for a little while. When you listen to this speech, aside from the controversy, I thought it was a remarkable discussion about failure and resilience.

STELTER: She took not only the high road, the highest road she could have, saying nothing negative about the "Times," even though I'm sure she's not feeling great about the publisher who fired her. She talked about how it was the highlight of her career to have worked there and she talked about how her late father always was more impressed by his daughters from what they failed at rather than what they succeeded at, from what they recovered from rather than what they succeed at.

PEREIRA: Interesting nuggets. Sally, you know, for us media types, it seems so important. Remind folks at home why this is a story important for all of us to be mindful of.

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She was the first female executive editor of "The New York Times." That's historic because of the role that "The New York Times" occupied in the media and then being the first female head. She didn't last very long. And the nature of how she was fired, of how she left doesn't sort of -- it doesn't tend to follow the kind of story lines. Media organizations understand how to do damage control for other media.

STELTER: Spend more time with their family, if it's voluntary.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN: They know how to cover it up and look it papered over. They didn't do it. This is ugly.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: I don't think she wanted to go quietly.

KOHN: That's possible. But they're putting out all kinds of nasty statements and, for a lot of people in the media, there's a general intrigue of what happened and why did it happen, but a lot of people in the media, especially in the women's media. I'm on a lot of women's journalist list serves --

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN: -- and they are outraged. They are outraged and terrified because it just doesn't smell right. She worked hard. She did her job better than many men and she was treated worse. What's up with that?

BERMAN: You said this thing hasn't been handled particularly well. It's been brutal. Let me read you what came out over the weekend from the publisher of the "Times," Arthur Sulzberger, and he was explaining finally in detail why he claims he let her go: "During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues including arbitrary decision making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication, and the public mistreatment of colleagues." That's an unusual thing to say about someone after they are out the door.

STELTER: As someone that worked there, those words ring true to me. On the other hand, public mistreatment of colleagues, isn't that what he's kind of doing now by putting out this statement? It's ugly how two narratives have set up. One is she was treated unfairly because she's a woman and paid less. The other narrative is she was bad boss. There's truth to both of those. It's possible she wasn't a great manager but there's unequal expectations for women when they reach the top of an industry. That's why this matters.

(CROSSTALK) PEREIRA: Some of those words that we heard pushy, unapproachable, et cetera, et cetera, if those were used for a man, Sally, the argument made would be those would be good characteristics.

KOHN: They wouldn't be called pushy but called assertive. There is some of this to welcome who have risen through ranks over media over any business, it rings hollow. On the other hand, it is also possible that she was fired for legitimate reasons and concerns. And we can also say it looks like there may have been a gender way to which she was talked about and is now being talked about.

BERMAN: Both men and women can be bad bosses, I'm told.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Also great bosses and editors.

(LAUGHTER)

KOHN: Men get more shots. That's also the scary thing. After two years, this is over opposed to lots of men in the industry --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Top-10 newspapers in the U.S. do not have a female editor.

PEREIRA: That is a problem. That is a problem.

BERMAN: Brian Stelter, Sally Kohn, great to have you here with us. Good discussion.

PEREIRA: That isn't the only graduation controversy we're talking about today. This season lots of big-time speakers, Condoleezza Rice, et cetera, they are backing out of their commencement speeches. What's going on here? We'll hash it out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: You may or may not remember your college graduation speaker but, for some 2014 graduates, they will not even get a chance to hear them.

PEREIRA: At least three prominent leaders, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the IMF's managing director, Christine LaGarde, and former U.C. Berkeley chancellor, Robert Birgeneau canceled, canceled their commencement speeches after students protested, the most recent would-be speaker to pull out.

BERMAN: Former U.C. Berkeley chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, was scheduled to speak but had to pull out but students wanted him to apologize how he treated Occupy Wall Street protesters years ago. He didn't speak at all. Instead, someone else came, Former Princeton president, William Bowen, who said this about it. Let's listen if we can.

We don't have the sound. Bowen said it was a bad idea. He called the students immature and arrogant.

I want to bring back in our senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, host of "Reliable Sources"; as well as CNN political commentator, Sally Kohn. And Will Cain has joined the mix.

And, Will --

(CROSSTALK)

WILL CAIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It wasn't crowded enough.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: You're the new kid on the block. What do you make of this, people dropping out of speaking at schools because kids are protesting?

CAIN: I wouldn't call these arrogant arrogant. I would call them insecure and entitled, protected their entire life. We raised a generation of kids we pick up when they fall down and tell them they're special their entire lives. Everything they say is unique and smart. They can't be exposed to disagreement and this is what you get. The "Wall Street Journal" wrote about this. From 1987 to 2008, there were 48 protests that resulted in 21 cancellations. Since 2009, 95 protests that resulted in 39 cancellations. Something has changed. We're not capable of hearing disagreements.

PEREIRA: I'm an interesting point. I don't think I'm too far off where you stand on that.

Sally, isn't it a right of passage to question authority and protest things in college? Isn't that what those college years are about, to take a stand?

KOHN: I was a student protester. I love students protesting. It would be nice if students were protesting things that mattered, which is to say, if the Iraq War were still happening, protest that. You're not going to protest and change Condoleezza Rice's heart and mind about things. And there are other things to do. Go protest. Go join the fast-food workers striking in your community. Do something that matters.

CAIN: This means I oppose you, I disagree with you, not shut up. It turned into shut up.

KOHN: Right. I agree. Protest outside of the commencement speech. Don't applaud in the commencement speech if you don't agree. But the other side, I don't agree with the way that Will denigrated a whole generation. But as a country --

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN: As a country, we're not good at listening to people we don't agree with anymore. (CROSSTALK)

KOHN: That's a value.

STELTER: I feel like I have to speak up here on behalf of Millennials.

BERMAN: Is this an issue of us being grumpy old people?

STELTER: I don't think you're grumpy. I don't think there's an entire generation that's entitled. I get excited when I see students protesting and trying to figure out what boundaries of free speech are. These students have grown up in 9/11 age and in the Occupy age and I understand, for example, on that where they campus upset about how students were treated. U.C. Davis where those kids were sprayed, that was disgusting. I like that those students stood up against it.

PEREIRA: To the point that's interesting, we have to put the responsibility on the adults, if you will. If they said we want you to apologize for this or else, that person then said that he wasn't going to give the commencement speech --

(CROSSTALK)

PEREIRA: -- so maybe he should stand up and take a stand on his own.

CAIN: Adults have shown no backbone to the students of these universities. Ali was given a commencement honorary degree was given and then rescinded because students protested. The other thing is I do appreciate you suggesting that you see student activism as a good thing. We have to recognize it. They can't hear opposite opinions.

KOHN: Whoa, I don't --

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: Christine LaGarde, from the IMF, can't speak because IMF put strings on their bailouts.

KOHN: Wait a second. Having a conversation about critiques of IMF policies and how they hurt poor countries is appropriate. What we should do in our universities, left and right --

STELTER: But that's not what happened.

KOHN: -- is having those debates.

STELTER: That's not what happened. She was told she shouldn't come to college to speak.

KOHN: I don't see conservative colleges and hiding liberal speakers there. There's a larger problem in our country that we have become polarized and if we want young people to sharpen their ideas and sharpen their minds, they do that not by holding opposing opinions at bay but by inviting them in and engaging with them.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: -- flag-ship universities, like Rutgers, are now liberal universities.

KOHN: Listen, if truth and information lean liberal, that's not those universities.

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER: There it is. We just turned it into a 30-minute segment.

BERMAN: Brian Stelter, Sally Kohn, Will Cain, great to have you here with us.

PEREIRA: That stunned me into silence.

Don't forget "Reliable Sources" with Brian Stelter airs Sundays at 11:00 a.m. eastern.

What a pleasure to have you here.

STELTER: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Ahead for us @thishour, Hillary Clinton gets some advice on her potential presidential run, slow down. And this is coming from members of her own party.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any presidential candidate or vice presidential candidate is going to have to answer questions about their health.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Health and age is fair game. It's fair game for Ronald Reagan and fair game for John McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: That's not exactly breaking news. Top Republicans criticizing Hillary Clinton before she's even in the presidential running.

BERMAN: Now the former secretary of state is getting some unexpected political advice from members of her own party.

PEREIRA: We want to bring in Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian.

Delight to have you here.

I want to play sound. Democrats are heeding caution. Let's take a listen.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: OK. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEVAL PATRICK, (D), GOVERNOR MASSACHUSETTS: I do worry about the inevitability thing. It's off putting to the average voter. I think that was an element of her campaign the last time.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D), CALIFORNIA: This is hard for me because I did talk with her and thought it would be better she not get out there early, because her favorability was so high, because this could go down, because people would do stupid things Karl Rove has just done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: It's one thing to hear Republicans say it's too soon and throwing water on the fire but to have people in her own party. Do they have a point?

BRINKLEY: There's a coronation going on for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. That's problematic. You want someone to challenge you on ideas and someone to get TV time with in the Iowa caucus or New Hampshire primaries. However, it's an uptown problem, to have the public opinion poll ratings that Hillary Clinton has and to be this historic first woman that might actually be a president. You would want to be in her catbird seat. She's selling out venues around the country like a rock star, and her memoir will be a bestseller staying on the bestseller list for two years.

BERMAN: What choice does she have? In 2008, it was a strategy. This time around, what is she going to do? Disappear completely? Even if she did, the media would fill the void everyday with "she's planning her campaign in private. She must be running." I don't see a choice here.

BRINKLEY: I agree. I think Karl Rove's talking about brain damage was unseemly. Yes, health matters. Dwight Eisenhower had a terrible heart problem or Ronald Reagan not just about Ronald Reagan's age but he was shot in 1981 and almost died, and our country pulled behind him. We shouldn't be talking about health as fair game.

PEREIRA: You think it is a fair issue to discuss?

BRINKLEY: It's a fair issue to discuss.

PEREIRA: Not fair game.

BRINKLEY: But we don't want to hammer people on their health woes. Hillary Clinton would be 69. That's the new 50, 69 now.

PEREIRA: You do make a good point. It's not 69 of 20 years ago. It's 69 of today's world.

BRINKLEY: Today, and women have a longer life span than men. If the Republicans think they're going to score points on age and health on Hillary Clinton, I'm afraid they're misreading the currents of our time. BERMAN: I just don't know what the gain here is, unless there's some incident that happens during the campaign. She doesn't come across as someone who's going issues.

BRINKLEY: I think there's a fear in the Republican Party that she's Godzilla, she's going to stomp on their party. This is a very important midterm election going on right now. And they need to show their base, the Republicans, that they're not going to give a coronation or anoint Hillary. They're not going to be timid. What Karl Rove is doing is energizing his base in a midterm election year.

PEREIRA: You wrote a profile of Joe Biden last year and you said, "He can give Hillary Clinton a run for her money."

BRINKLEY: I think he gives her a run for her money in the state of Iowa caucus, if he got in it, because he's built a network of friends there, all along the Mississippi River. It's heavily Catholic. Joe Biden's Catholic. He's not looking right now like he's going to enter it. He would be the one potential person that could get in and make it a bit of a race. And the labor unions love him. Farmers love Biden, too. And we'll have to wait and see with he decides to make that plunge or not.

BERMAN: That would be something. It could create quite an uncomfortable position for President Obama, I think.

BRINKLEY: Yes, it would.

BERMAN: Douglas Brinkley, thank you.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

PEREIRA: Thanks so much.

Ahead @thishour, to call it a big deal would pretty much be a big understatement. AT&T and DirecTV merging. What does it mean for your bill, your choices?

BERMAN: Plus, the nasal strip that shook the world. Will a 3-year- old Colt set to make history get to wear it as he goes for the Triple Crown or will the phlegm lobby in New York state win?

PEREIRA: Oh, my.

BERMAN: We'll have the breaking news just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: If you watch TV, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say you probably do, this is going to have a huge impact on you and your wallet. AT&T and DirecTV, two huge players, set to become one in a deal worth almost $50 billion.

BERMAN: We're told it is a very big deal, but is it a good deal for all of us?

Our Christine Romans is here, along with technology analyst, Brett Larson.

Christine, explain why I care.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Why you care is there are going to be fewer people providing these services in the end. You're going to have fewer companies. The worry is, fewer companies means less choice and potentially higher prices.

This is a news flash. Prices for your pay TV have been going up. They've been going up for a long time. The question is, does this merger slow that ascent or make it faster? What they say they can do is bundle all kinds of services. AT&T's going to be able to bundle new services. You're going to have more choices. Will you pay for it? That's the question.

PEREIRA: Apparently, this is going to affect people who aren't even DirecTV or AT&T customers.

ROMANS: If you're a DirecTV customer, you have three years of everything being the same before you see changes. If you're an AT&T customer, you'll see all this bundled stuff. For the rest of us, what if there's a very spirited competition between the new Comcast and AT&T? What kind of deals might they have to have because they're going after the same customers in the --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: In some markets, though, there are going to be fewer choices.

BERMAN: Brett, I'm skeptical. Whenever I hear about a merger like this, I assume they're just doing this to stick it to me. What can become of this?

BRETT LARSON, CNN TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: I think you hit on a lot of great points.

ROMANS: But?

(LAUGHTER)

LARSON: But in the effects of a merger, I think what we're finding is more and more people want to watch content here on our mobile devices. It will give, is give AT&T a huge bundle of content they can give you. They can effectively give you an AT&T/DirecTV app that --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: DirecTV NFL ticket, by the way. If DirecTV doesn't negotiate for the NFL Sunday ticket, now the deal is off.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Now I care.

(CROSSTALK)

LARSON: Now you'll be able to watch everything.

PEREIRA: Talk about burying the lead to get Berman's attention.

BERMAN: Now I'm in.

PEREIRA: That's the other thing, has to get over regulatory hurdles, right?

LARSON: Absolutely, regulatory hurdles. I think once we get through that, I really think -- the bundles aspect, I think is where customers will win. We'll be able to go into rural areas where you don't have a lot of choice. And they're going to be able to come to you and say, look, if you get your high-speed internet from us, your cell phone service for us, and your TV from us, we'll sell it to you all for 100 bucks. And this was something you couldn't get beforehand.

BERMAN: They don't really know where this business is going, do they?

PEREIRA: It's a shot in the dark. It really is.

LARSON: We're all moving towards mobile devices. We're all moving towards this cut the cable. I don't need cable tv in my house anymore.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Don't listen to him. You all need cable tv in your house.

LARSON: You need the cable for the Internet connection. That's where I feel like we're seeing a lot of these unusual mergers between big wireless companies and big DirecTV, big satellite TV providers.

PEREIRA: Bottom line, Christine, you feel like we're probably going to see prices go up?

ROMANS: Prices are going up. The two things are prices are never going to go down, health care and your cable bill. That's the rule of law. Whether this merger slows it or -- we just don't know.

LARSON: I would hope to see some spurring in bringing more broadband to people by way of DirecTV. They've done a good job of bringing it to rural areas. That would be a win for consumers.

ROMANS: Regulators might look more favorably on the deal.

PEREIRA: At some point, net neutrality, what it mean, why he needs to care about it.

(CROSSTALK)

LARSON: It could mean the NFL Sunday ticket more expensive.

BERMAN: Now I care.

LARSON: Bam.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Brett Larson, Christine Romans, great to have you here. Cable TV is essential.

PEREIRA: It is.

BERMAN: As is this next story.

PEREIRA: Tell us.

BERMAN: Everyone is holding their breath or, dare I say, holding their nose. California Chrome has been waiting for an answer. Who's California Chrome? The 3-year-old colt who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and wants to run in the Belmont Stakes to win the third leg of the Triple Crown, which hasn't happened in, oh, so many years. But he might not have been running. Why? Because he's been wearing these nasal strips. These nasal strips that help him breathe better. But New York State, for some reason, did not allow them until now. New York racing officials have decided that California Chrome can wear these nasal strips when running. So we can all breathe easy. Right, breathe easy, like California Chrome and mucus free.

PEREIRA: It's not a snoring issue he had.

BERMAN: Those strips, they make you look hot, even horses.

PEREIRA: That's what he tells himself.

Thank you for joining us @thishour. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.