Return to Transcripts main page


White House Calls for Review of Iran Nuclear Deal; Bill O'Reilly Forced Out at FOX News. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2017 - 07:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're watching a major moment now in American life, in American culture.

[07:00:07] ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I think it's fair to say that, as of this morning, the face of cable news has changed.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. It's a big change at FOX News. The question is now what is next? We'll be covering the O'Reilly story for you.

CAMEROTA: More developments even this morning.

CUOMO: Absolutely. So good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY.

We begin with the Trump administration tangling with another dangerous adversary and leading the way with tough talk. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warning Iran could be heading down the same nuclear path as North Korea. America's top diplomat now calling for a comprehensive review of the Iran nuclear deal.

CAMEROTA: And with so many questions surrounding the president's foreign policy, critics are questioning why the White House is poking another bear. That's with worsening tensions with North Korea, Syria and Russia.

It's day 91 of the Trump presidency, so let's begin our coverage with Joe Johns. He is live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.


The administration says it is reviewing the Iran nuclear deal, but so far they appear to be playing by the rules. So there's skepticism. The latest example of the administration seemingly going backward and forward at the same time on a foreign policy issue. The president railed against the deal during the campaign. But now that he is in the White House, it's complicated.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The JCPOA fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran. It only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state. JOHNS (voice-over): Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declaring the

Iranian nuclear deal a failure one day after the State Department said exactly the opposite, affirming in a statement that Iran has been compliant with its commitment to the deal. Despite this compliance, Tillerson ratcheting up the rhetoric against Tehran.

TILLERSON: An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it.

JOHNS: Announcing that the deal is under review, but stopping short of threatening to issue additional sanctions or dismantle the agreement, one of President Trump's top campaign promises.

TRUMP: My No. 1 priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.

JOHNS: Tillerson's attempt to clarify the administration's position, the latest in a string of mixed messages on foreign policy. Earlier this week, President Trump called the Turkish president to congratulate him on a referendum that strengthened his rule, just hours after the State Department noted reports of irregularities in the vote.

The White House also struggling to get its story straight about why the administration said in April that an aircraft carrier was racing toward the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea's provocations.

TRUMP: We are sending an armada. Very powerful.

JOHNS: When in reality, the fleet was headed in the opposite direction.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said that we have armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact. It happened. It is happening, rather. The statement that was put out was that the Carl Vinson group was heading to the Korean Peninsula and is heading to the Korean Peninsula. And it will arrive there.


SPICER: What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's headed there now. It wasn't headed there last week.

SPICER: But that's not -- that's not what we ever said.

JOHNS: Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan rallying NATO allies amid escalating tensions with another international power, Russia.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Russia interfered in our elections. And they are interfering in elections here in Europe as we speak.

JOHNS: As the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says, the Russia investigation is back on track. REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: I

think we're very close to agreement on our initial witness list and the process going forward.


JOHNS: The president is expected to play host to the Italian prime minister here at the White House today in advance of the G-7 summit to be held late next month. Then we expect to see both leaders in the news conference this afternoon -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you for all of that background reporting. Let's discuss it with our panel. We want to bring in political analyst David Gregory, reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza; and former U.S. undersecretary for political affairs, former State Department official, Ambassador Nicholas Burns. Gentlemen, great to have all of you.

David Gregory, why -- why would Secretary Tillerson say that Iran is complying with the deal. So that's good news. All right? And you want to encourage that and then turn around and ramp up the rhetoric about Iran?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't understand this turnaround. I mean, 24 hours ago, I was struck by the fact that the State Department was certifying compliance by Iran. There's no other way around that if you look at the facts of that compliance.

And noting that it was significant, because candidate Trump had said that he would tear up this agreement and -- and start anew. And it's clear that the administration doesn't want to do that. So, you know, this could be a feint. It could buy them some time before they say, "We're going to stay on course here." Or it may be a way to provoke Iran with an undetermined outcome.

[07:05:14] What I think we see in a lot of these instances with the Trump White House right now is an instinct for aggressiveness, but still, some pragmatism underneath and then a question mark about what the overall strategy is and how these strategic points connect. And that's why we have to stand by and wait to see how these things play out.

CUOMO: Ambassador, we keep hearing that this White House isn't about strategy; it's more about tactics. I saw a satirist last night, calling this the "Why I oughtta" tactic. Talking tough to North Korea, now seeming to talk tough to Iran. What is the plus-minus on that as a tactic in foreign matters with actors like these?

AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. UNDERSECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, I think one of the problems we're seeing here, Chris, is that the president has not set out a coherent set of objectives. What he wants to do in foreign policy. And if the president is not communicating that inside the government, you do have confusion between State and DOD and with the NSC and some of the sloppiness, including over the flotilla, I think, can be attributed to that. On Iran, however, the administration really doesn't have an option

here. The Iranian deal is going forward. If we try to walk out, none of our allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- would walk out with us. The Iranians would get sanctions relief if the deal fell apart because we left. Then they also get freedom of the restrictions that are in place that freeze their program for ten years.

The real problem is not so much the nuclear deal. That's going to go forward. It's Iran's behavior in the region, in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon. The administration does have a case there, but I did think the secretary of state was just too tough in his talk yesterday, because it sends a signal that maybe we'll pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, and we're not going to do that, I think.

CAMEROTA: Chris Cillizza, do we have any reporting from inside the White House that explain what goes on inside those walls after Secretary Tillerson said something like, yes, Iran is complying with the deal. Does he go back and get like -- called on the carpet somehow?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Honestly, Alisyn, not really. And the problem that I think we have as reporters for the -- when you're talking about the Trump White House is it's never really clear who is the person that Donald Trump is listening to. And the reason for that, I think, is because he listens to different people at different times.

The sun rises and sets around different people. It was Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway have not been terribly visible of late. How much H.R. McMaster is listened to seems a significant amount. That's the difficult thing, is that Trump, for all of his sort of consumption of cable television.

All of this consumption of media is in some way a sphynx for us, because we don't necessarily know. There's not a group of core people that he listens to at all times. And I also think, even if we identify, OK, it's this one person that he listens to, he changes his mind a lot. I mean, I think that's one of the definitional pieces of this first, you know, almost 100 days, is he says one thing and then something else happens.

Now you can -- maybe that's strategy. Maybe he just sort of wakes up every day and what occurs to him is what he says. But as the ambassador points out, you know, that -- that can work in the context of a campaign. It works less well when you're trying to run a government.

GREGORY: It's also important to remember that these threats and these crises tend to develop over time. So I think, as Nick would tell you, having worked for President Bush, you know, whether it was North Korea and missile tests that became a mushrooming issue that created conflict with China or whether it was Iran's nuclear program developing at that time and then, of course, you had terrorism in Iraq.

You're confronting all of these things at the same time, and in this case, you have a new administration looking anew at a lot of these different problems. Engaging anew. Right? They never intended to engage in Syria. Now, look where we are.

And as a result, engaging with Russia in ways that maybe President Trump isn't still on board yet with. So -- so that makes it, I think, harder to figure out where the power center is and what's driving a particular policy.

CUOMO: Mr. Editor-at-Large, Maggie Haberman said this morning on the show, we see here a clear decision not to clarify, which is a beautiful example of her genius but also really nails what we're seeing here in terms of the messaging.

Sean Spicer cannot feel confident that he has done anything to advance the cause of the president by saying what he said about the armada, that we never said when. Everything about the context was about imminence. This was the reaction? There is no show of strength by delayed action. What is the impact of Spicer once again twisting up an explanation of a mistake?

[07:10:05] CILLIZZA: Well, so Chris, typically, the White House press secretary has two bosses of a sort. One is the president, obviously. The other is the media -- the American people has channeled through the media. Right? Which is, you know, he has to maintain credibility with both of those groups.

In this White House, I think Sean has and Donald Trump has probably made clear to Sean that he really only has one boss. And it's Donald Trump. Because look, the reality of the situation, you play the clip. What Donald Trump is trying to do in that interview with Maria Bartiromo is say, "In the past these provocations have gone unanswered by people like Barack Obama. That won't happen. I sent an armada there to send a message."

You know, he wasn't -- I don't think he was talking about time in the universe -- that time is a flat circle sense. Like, we're all going to do something, you know, in that way. It was meant to be urgent. It wasn't. So the idea that there was no mistruth there is wrong.

CAMEROTA: On that metaphysical note, thank you, gentlemen very much, for all of the insights this morning.

Now we need to get to the other top story, and that is the bombshell that will change the face of cable news. FOX News host Bill O'Reilly has been fired as more accusers come forward, accusing him of sexual harassment and many of his show's advertisers had pulled their support.

CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, is here with all of the latest -- Brian.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: This has ramifications even for President Trump, for corporate America and for FOX and its rivals. If anyone in cable news was invincible, it was Bill O'Reilly. But it turns out that even he is not too big to fire.


STELTER (voice-over): Bill O'Reilly's two-decade reign as the king of FOX News coming to an abrupt end.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, FOX NEWS: Bill O'Reilly, the biggest star in the 20-year history of FOX News, is leaving the network in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.

STELTER: His namesake show cancelled amid growing sexual harassment allegations from women associated with the network. FOX News quickly removing the anchor's name from his show.

Rupert Murdoch and his sons, who lead 21st Century FOX, announcing the decision in a statement on Wednesday, writing, "After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the FOX News Channel. This decision follows an extensive review done in collaboration with outside counsel."

O'Reilly, who has been on vacation for a week overseas, dismissed the accusations in a statement: "It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today."

That statement, a sharp contrast to a "New York Times" investigation, which this month, revealed that O'Reilly and 21st Century FOX have paid out $13 million in settlements to women who have lodged harassment claims against O'Reilly.

LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY FOR O'REILLY ACCUSERS: This is a disgusting human being. These women not only stood up for their rights not to be sexually harassed by their boss, but they were then driven out of FOX News and driven out of the television industry entirely.

BRIGGS: It was only nine months ago that FOX News chief Roger Ailes was ousted by the Murdochs after his own firestorm of sexual harassment claims. President Trump stood by Ailes, who also denied the accusations, and just two weeks ago, defended O'Reilly, a friend of 30 years, in a "New York Times" interview.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a good person. I think he may -- YOU KNOW, I think he shouldn't have settled, personally. I THINK He shouldn't have settled. I don't think Bill would do anything wrong.

BRIGGS: Critics NOW wondering if this latest firing by the Murdochs goes far enough in addressing what they see as a systemic problem at the network.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D) CALIFORNIA: Let me just say this. The day will come when rich persons with rich men won't be able to buy their way out of this criminal activity. And they will go to jail, and they should go to jail.

(END VIDEOTAPE) STELTER: This is not the end of the crisis at FOX, just the middle. And this story is partly about the power of the pocketbook. Look at just some of the advertisers that withdrew their ads from "The O'Reilly Factor" as a result of "The New York Times" investigation less than three weeks ago. There were business interests at stake here and, ultimately, money talked -- Alisyn, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Brian, thank you very much. We're going to be covering the implications of O'Reilly's abrupt downfall. Up next, what would happen when an employee complained about O'Reilly? Remember, this isn't supposed to be just about money and big moves at the top. It's supposed to be a culture and making it better. We have a former FOX News political commentator sharing her story next.


[07:18:43] CAMEROTA: So one of our CNN political analysts is now sharing her story about her dealings with Bill O'Reilly during her time at FOX News. This started with this on-air exchange between O'Reilly and current CNN contributors Margaret Hoover and Kirsten Powers.


BILL O'REILLY, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST: Trust me on this, Powers. Hoover.


O'REILLY: I know.


O'REILLY: A lot of blondes in this operation. A lot of blondes in this operation, so once in a while, I get you mixed up. I've got Wiehl and Kelly going on. I mean, I need sunglasses in here.

POWERS: It will be so tough for you.

O'REILLY: It's going to be very tough.

Ladies, thank you very much for your blondeness.


CAMEROTA: Powers took offense to the exchange, and she complained to management. Here is what she told Anderson Cooper last night.


POWERS: I went to his executive producer, and I said, "He needs to apologize, and he needs to never do that again or I'm not doing his show anymore."

And I was told basically, "Well, you know Bill. There's nothing we can do about it. He's a throwback. He's kind of an Archie Bunker."

And so I said, "Well, if you mean he's a Neanderthal, then we're on the same page. He can never do that again. I'm a political analyst here."

Went to Bill, came back, said, "No, he's not going to apologize."

So then I went to my -- I was called into my boss's office. I was told, "What can we do? It's Bill. There's nothing we can do. You know, we're sorry this happened to you, but there's nothing we can do."

I complained to Roger Ailes. I was told the same exact thing: "There's nothing we can do. It's Bill. He's a jerk. Nobody likes him."

[07:20:12] And then Roger said, you know, "Bill, he likes to put up dirty pictures and ask pretty girls to talk about them." And so the whole thing was sort of Bill -- and then he said, you know, "And what am I going to do? I don't like him, but he makes so much money, there's nothing I can do." That was Roger Ailes.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wait a minute. Who was it who said that?

HOOVER: Roger Ailes.

HOOVER: And so this was the culture, which was Bill is, you know, just too big and so there was nothing you could do about it. So I did quit his show, and I didn't do it for two or three years. This was an election year. This was the biggest show at FOX.

And -- and then about three years later, I went back and I said, "Look, I'm willing to give this another try." And he said sure. And I came on the show. I never had another problem. We actually ended up having quite a good relationship.

But it just spoke volumes that I had to completely handle it on my own, that there was nobody that was willing to even say anything to him. Just to basically say, you can't treat one of our political analysts this way.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now is CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover, who used to appear regularly on O'Reilly's show and was also just featured in that clip. Also joining us, CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza; CNN media experts Brian Stelter and Bill Carter. Great to have all of you.

Margaret, so that exchange there on the air where he said, "Thank you for your blondeness," what -- how did you process that?

HOOVER: It was a moment that makes you feel like you're there as a blonde backdrop for O'Reilly's opinions and not as a political analyst or a commentator who's there as a person in their own right, with their own experiences and their own opinions as contributing. And that was, frankly, pretty common an experience at FOX News.

For me with Bill O'Reilly, whose show I continued to appear on for about four years. I mean, that's -- I want to be clear. I was never sexually harassed explicitly by Bill O'Reilly. But there were moments we were very uncomfortable with him, and I had to navigate a minefield, is what it felt like to me, to make sure that I never was in an experience or a situation where I felt vulnerable.

I mean, he would critique everything about our appearance as soon as we would get on set, from the length of my eyelashes to the color of my lip gloss.

CAMEROTA: He would? What would he say?

HOOVER: "Hoover -- Hoover, what's going on with your eyelashes? They're way too long," or they're way too short. Or whatever they were. And our dress. And the color and the thing. Yes, I had a dress for success dressing down one time. "Margaret, you've got to dress better."

And, you know, there was a very clear message about what was acceptable to appear on air, both from what you said at FOX News and what you wore at FOX News.

CAMEROTA: And there you have it. I mean, that -- you and I have talked about this in private, but we might as well talk about it in public, since we both worked there for a long time. And it is -- neither of us were harassed with Bill O'Reilly.

I had an experience, more than one with Roger Ailes, but that wasn't the half of it. The real harassment was emotional harassment there. Roger could be a bully. He called people names. And it was that feeling of not wanting to ever run afoul of him that was really the chilling effect.

HOOVER: And a chilling effect not just by him, but also by a set of really gossipy culture that was set up that also helped police what he wanted to see. I mean, he really was a bully and enforced it in a culture that became so toxic that it was hard to feel that you had the ability to say what you wanted to say and sort of be authentic on the air there.

CUOMO: Yes. So people are going to listen to this conversation, OK, and unfortunately -- and it really should not be the case in this particular instance, but it will. Everything has been politicized. O'Reilly is a political animal. This is going to be viewed left and right. And I can't think of a situation that deserves it less. But that's how we're living.

The question becomes what do you do about this? Is this sexual harassment? No. I'm not saying that just as a lawyer.

CAMEROTA: It is harassment that we're talking about.

CUOMO: There is a culture in place that is known that is somewhat fanned, right, because people are almost forced to laugh when he's saying these things. Now you are removing Ailes. You remove an O'Reilly. Does that remove that culture?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, it probably doesn't unless they remove a lot of the other people in place. I think there are people in place that are still there that sort of sanctioned this and look the other way.

CAMEROTA: I don't know. I mean...

CARTER: You made complaints. They didn't go anywhere.

HOOVER: That was Kirsten Powers. I actually never...

CAMEROTA: I want to talk about that. I think that they wanted to help me. I met with sympathetic ears with management. But they, I think, felt that they couldn't change Roger. There was nothing that they could do. And I think they were right.

CARTER: He was the king. No higher power.

CAMEROTA: There is nothing that you can do when the king wants something a certain way. So I think that they felt for me, but I don't think that they felt they could do anything.

CARTER: We also have to note that Roger Ailes was very famous for saying he wanted blondes on the air. That's sort of what his message was. And Bill O'Reilly probably thought, "Hey, I can say it too. The boss is totally in my corner."

[07:25:05] CUOMO: But you don't want to confuse what offends a sense of political correctness with what makes a Margaret or an Alisyn feel like, "I have to just take this. Otherwise, I'm going to get in trouble."

HOOVER: That's exactly right. And let's be very clear. The king has been gone for nine months. OK. And there were a lot of people at FOX News that hoped that things would change after he left. And they didn't. They didn't change at all.

And now that Bill O'Reilly is gone, that's great. I really commend, really, a new generation of leadership at FOX News that has taken this step. I think they had to. But many of the executives who knew about this behavior, who were complicit in this behavior.

CUOMO: Still there.

HOOVER: The entire culture and environment is the same.

CAMEROTA: But you don't know that they're still doing it.

HOOVER: Until that changes...

CAMEROTA: How do you know that those people are still there?

HOOVER: All of the senior leadership are the same. I'm not saying people are still being harassed. But I'm saying the culture that you and I just described is in place because there are many executives who are still there. And by the way, you and I both know people still there. Nothing's changed in the sense that the culture that perpetuated this kind of behavior is still in place.

STELTER: This has impacts -- it has impacts across corporate America. Because this story is so high-profile because people are paying attention to what's going on here.

I do think what FOX does and doesn't do sends a message about what's still acceptable or unacceptable in 2017. It's a shame we're having these conversations at this late date. We've seen a lot of change in this country with regards to treatment of women in the workplace. And yet, you're still describing a really uncomfortable, toxic environment from day-to-day inside FOX News.

CUOMO: That was ignored and therefore is a proxy for empowerment. So what are they going to do with that? How are they going to change their culture? That all, arguably, matters most. But there are going to be other roots of this.

Cillizza, you have been writing about a couple of them. Bill O'Reilly was a huge figure, not just as a persona, but as a political actor, especially when you look at his agency and promotion of Donald Trump.

What did he mean for Trump, and what does it mean now that Trump is silent about the man who he defended without any professing of knowledge of the facts of the situation of these harassment allegations?

CILLIZZA: Well, to take your second question first, Chris, remember that Donald Trump defended Bill O'Reilly after "The New York Times" came out. This was not sort of a broad defense of Bill O'Reilly. This was after specific allegations that was clear at the time Donald Trump didn't know any details of. It was just sort of a blanket, "Oh, Bill's a good guy."

What does it mean more broadly? Look, Roger Ailes was the architect, and Bill O'Reilly was the executor of a new way of thinking about conservatism, which is populist, which is anti-elite, which is anti- media.

So much of what you hear from Donald Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail and even in the White House now is born of what Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly built from about the mid-1990s on. They built a wing of the conservative movement that was open to a Donald Trump.

And I would say -- and this is to Margaret and Alisyn's point. They also built a wing of the party that sort of the argument against political correctness, which was at the core right of O'Reilly's appeal and remains at the core of FOX's appeal to many people: "Well, the liberals tell you this." They made it OK. That sort of bro culture that Donald Trump could go and grow up.

And look, again, any other candidate who withstands that "Access Hollywood" tape, particularly given that "women are pigs," all the things he said about women, is out of the race. And yet, Donald Trump, I don't want to say he prospered from that, but it didn't hurt him, because there was a strain within the culture that had been built or at least fostered by Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly. That made that -- "Well, it's just locker room talk. That's just boy. That's just guy stuff." That made that acceptable.

CUOMO: So what does this move mean, Bill Carter, to an extension of what should be not tolerated to President Trump? This changed judgment of him in any way? Does it create a different standard for what he says?

CARTER: You would think it needs to. It should. It sounds like, if FOX News is changing, how could Trump not change? But Trump's attitude has always been, and he criticized Bill O'Reilly. Don't give in. Don't give an inch. Never concede.

CAMEROTA: Don't settle. That just makes it open season for people to come after you.

HOOVER: But what I would love to see from all of this also is a resounding rallying from conservative media outlets that this kind of behavior with women isn't part of the conservative movement. And a resound renunciation and retraction of this kind of behavior.

CUOMO: What are you getting? When you're talking about this, when you're putting it out there, about what the realities were and what's, you know, wrong versus what's illegal or actionable, what are you getting?

HOOVER: I don't read my Twitter feed. I have no idea.

STELTER: Bill O'Reilly fans are upset. Angry at the media, angry at the liberal "New York Times" trying to tear down.

CAMEROTA: Are they angry at FOX? I mean, do they think that FOX caved?

STELTER: I personally see a lot less of that. I see a lot more of scapegoating and identifying O'Reilly as the victim here. I think, Chris, unfortunately, you're right.