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25-Year-Old Charged with Leaking Top Secret Report on Russian Hacking; Bill Maher Racial Slur Causes Outrage; British Police Identify Two of Three Terrorists Behind London Assault. Aired 11:00- 12:00mn ET
Aired June 5, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:33] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news. A 25-year-old charged with leaking a top secret report on Russian hacking.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
A Reality Winner accused of leaking a classified NSA memo on Russian hacking. That report detailing a Russian cyber-attack on an American voting software supplier. We are go having to more on that in a moment.
Plus new information tonight about the deadly London Bridge terrorist attack. Was one of the terrorists hiding in plain site?
And it's no surprise when Bill Maher says something outrages, but has he gone too far this time?
We will discuss all of that.
I want to get right to the latest on our breaking news on that 25- year-old federal contractor accused of leaking a top secret document.
CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto has that -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, first let's talk about this NSA document. What we know about is it was classified, prepared by the NSA just last month and what it focuses on is Russian attempts to probe probing cyber-attacks of electoral systems during the election. We knew some of this during the election that they had probe voter election, rolled registration rolls, et cetera in Arizona, in Illinois.
In Florida, this provides more details, more intelligence about those efforts. Does not change the intelligence community's assessment that Russia did not change voter tallies in the election but gives more details about those efforts to probe those voting systems. And that by itself is alarming. Whether or not it had an impact on the 2016 Presidential election.
I'm told consistently by intelligence community officials that Russia is certain to attack U.S. elections again. What they learned here, could that help them attack voting systems in elections to come, 2018, 2020? That's possible. It's adding to their broader intelligence picture.
Let's then talk about the leaker here. 25-year-old contractor working for the NSA accessed this classified document, printed it out and then shared it with a reporter. That reporter then shared it with another contractor. That contractor shared it with bosses. They were able to look at that image of the document, determine it had been printed out because it had the crease in the image there showing it seemed to have been folded and then based on the small number of people who had printed out this document were able to find their way back to this leaker who now faces very serious charges. CNN has spoken to her mother there. We know she has a court appointed attorney but facing very serious legal challenges going forward -- Don.
LEMON: Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.
Now I want to bring in CNN global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier, CNN political commentator David Swerdlick as well.
Good evening to both of you.
David, what's your reaction to the breaking news that Jim just reported on this federal contractor charged with leaking classified information?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Don, as a number of people have already said, winner is in big trouble. This is illegal to leak classified information. We don't know yet about her motives and I should that say she is innocent until proven guilty. I think that is important to state. But if this plays out as it has been reported so far, it's a really difficult situation. I don't want to be a hypocrite as a journalist and say - but journalists are looking for leaks and looking for sources. But that same time, I do know, everyone on all sides agrees that classified information is supposed to be protected and someone in her position with a clearance is not supposed to leak.
LEMON: Yes. Maybe not looking for but certainly will accepted it. It is good enough information or information that is relevant enough to be reported. So I guess you are correct on that.
Kim, this NSA report says that the hacking in question was the work of Russian military intelligence. Could this have happened without the knowledge of President Putin?
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Probably not. From my understanding, talking to former U.S. intelligence officials, a campaign was decided by the Kremlin last spring. It was first in support of Donald Trump or anyone who might defeat Hillary Clinton. And then when they realized or thought that Clinton would win, they sought to try to attack her. And then after Donald Trump won, Moscow was sort in a position of what do we do now? But yes, there was a decided campaign ordered from the Kremlin from the very top. So this would have been part of that. LEMON: So David, you know, we talked about the leaks, you know, and
the leakers. But in the past few weeks we have learned critical information from leakers, the fact that President shared classified information with the Russian, Jim Comey wrote a memo saying the President asked him to end the investigation into General Flynn and that Jared Kushner is under scrutiny by the FBI for his Russian contacts. Should all of these leakers be prosecuted or are some leaks and leakers OK?
[23:05:27] SWERDLICK: Well, again, clearly leaking classified information by people with security clearances is illegal. But let me step back from that and just say, well, at the end of the day all of the smoke that has surrounded this White House about Russia that's now in the hands of various congressional communities, that's in the hands of the FBI, that's in the hands of the special prosecutor. The ultimate goal in this is to find out what exactly happened between Russia and individuals in the United States if anything at all. Clearly there's a lot of smoke. Nothing has been proven. That I think is the thing for us to keep our eye on the ball there. Not as far as, you know, what specific committee is ahead of the game or which outlet is reporting what.
LEMON: And it probably has to be judged on individual bases.
LEMON: So after the horrific attack on the London Bridge on Saturday, London mayor said the city should not be alarmed by police in the streets. In response, here is what the President tweeted. He said, at least seven dead and 48 wounded in terror attack. And mayor of London says there is no reason to be alarmed.
And then today, he said - he wrote, pathetic excuse by London mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his no reason to be alarmed statement. In that sentence, he means stream media, of course, is working hard to sell. Well, tonight Sadiq Khan is responding. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SADIQ KHAN, LONDON MAYOR: Since Saturday I have been working with the police, with the emergency services, with the government and others to deal with the horrific attack on Saturday. I just haven't had the time respond to tweets from Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would like to state visit to be pulled off?
KHAN: Well, my position remains the same, you know. I don't think we should run out of the carpet to the President of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for. I think one of the things when you have a special relationship is not different -- is no different to when you have a close mate. You stand with them in times of adversity and you call them out when they are wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: U.K. should not roll out the red carpet for Trump. What's your reaction, Kim?
DOZIER: Well, I have to say as a Londoner who would have voted for Sadiq Khan if I had been back in the country, I was offended. Look, when a city has been hit hard and people are trying to pull together, the last thing you do is attack the leading city official who is trying to pull everything together.
The other thing is there is a large body of research and knowledge out there that shows somebody like Sadiq Khan who can bridge communities is the kind of person who can lead some of these disgruntled youth types, some of these people who are drawn to militancy back into the fold of our larger community.
So to attack a city official as opposed to attacking the people responsible for the violence, I really didn't get that. And this really I think it's going to leave a mark for a lot of Londoners and a lot --
LEMON: And also getting it wrong. It's not actually what the mayor said.
SWERDLICK: Sorry, Kimberly. Don, just quickly. Not only did the President in my mind clearly cherry pick and mischaracterize what mayor Khan initially said, but it's just not the Presidential thing to do in a situation where our closest ally, the mayor of the city that's one of the greatest cities in the world, that's the capitol of arguably our closest ally is in a crisis and to sort of take issue or take shots at him in that situation is not I think what most Americans see in their President.
Contrast President Trump's approach to the approach of Ariana Grande who went to Manchester, stood shoulder to shoulder with and basically said, by her actions, you know look, we are family, we are here, we are looking forward. We are not backward. Look, she is a pop star. She is not, you know, she is not going to be next secretary of state, but that was the diplomacy that was missing, I think from the Trump administration.
LEMON: Who knows in this environment she could be secretary of state especially with that move. One never knows in the future. But listen, it also makes it look personal to him because Sadiq Khan is London's first Muslim mayor. He was also very critical of the President, his stance and his words towards immigrants and especially Muslims during the 2016 campaign. So it make as President's tweets and words look personal.
But Kim, I need to move on because of time here. Because you have new reporting tonight that the White House looked into unilaterally easing sanctions on Russia's oil industry even after General Flynn was fired. What can you tell us about that?
[23:10:15] DOZIER: Well, a top White House official, according to some emails that I reviewed by the state department had asked the state department wouldn't it be good to lift the Russian oil sanctions because wouldn't that help the U.S. economy? And they had to explain to this official, no. Actually that would hurt the U.S. oil shell industry because keeping Russian oil prices low helps the American energy sector.
Also they had to explain if we unilaterally lift sanctions, which ally would stand with us again the next time we ask them for sanctions against North Korea or Iran? And why would Moscow comply with any of our other requests if we lift this sanctions without having any good behavior from them?
Now, this was a snap shot of policy making in March but it shows that this White House is still tussling with its instinct to try to improve business with Russia but also being beset and besiege with accusations that they are too close to Moscow.
LEMON: More on Russia when we come back specifically James Comey testifying on Thursday. What these two think about that. We will be right back.
[23:15:02] LEMON: Fired FBI director James Comey set to testify in the senate on Thursday about his conversations with the President.
Back with me Kimberly Dozier and David Swerdlick.
David, the former FBI director is going to testify on Capitol Hill. It is on Thursday. The White House now saying the president will not stop Comey from testifying. How big of a moment is this for this Trump/Russia investigation?
SWERDLICK: I mean, I think it's a pretty big moment. Look, I don't expect that director Comey is going to tell us that much more than we already sort of think we know but even if all he does is confirm what's already been reported out, that in his mind, again, in his mind, there is two sides of every story, that the President was trying to get him to put the brakes on the investigation. If we hear that from his mouth, I do think that hardens the narrative that is going on around these many investigations that are going on. That doesn't mean that there is evidence that the president or anybody in his circle colluded with Russians. That doesn't mean the investigation stopped. That doesn't mean director Comey is going to tell us classified information. But he, I think, I expect him to speak pretty directly. We have seen him testify enough times before Congress to know that he pretty fully directly in this situations.
LEMON: And Kim, the Senate intelligence chief told our Manu Raju that Comey told him personally, that special counsel Robert Mueller has not limited his testimony. So how likely is it that he's going to come out and say more than what we already know?
DOZIER: Well, you have got to remember that he is also on trial here in that he has testified before Congress that he didn't see any sort of attempt to effect the investigation. So now he is going to have to explain that one way or another. But to widen the (INAUDIBLE), what I'm worried about is he will confirm what has been out there that he believed that the President was trying to influence him and we are going to have this country even more divided between those who believe Comey and those who believe Trump. And in terms of Russian disinformation campaign meant to damage the U.S. democracy, couldn't be better than that.
LEMON: Yes. And what about getting their agenda across, the Trump administration, because David, the director of legislative affairs, his name is Mark Short (ph), admitted to reporters that Russia investigation, Comey's upcoming testimony distracting Congress focusing on the president's agenda. How big of a problem is this for the White House?
SWERDLICK: This is an ongoing problem and I foresee no end to it, Don.
Look. President Trump has been his own worst enemy when it comes to messaging. You know, there's all this talk right now about whether Sean Spicer will continue to give daily briefings or whether to be Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
SWERDLICK: Well, but whether it's him or Sanders or whether they stop having briefings, whether the President gives briefings himself, you know, I said this the other day, I will say it again. You know, it's like that old movie. The call is coming from inside the house. It's not an external messaging road block or obstacle. It's the President having no discipline, tweeting constantly and by the way, not having a core set of believes from which he is working, right.
I mean, if Barry Goldwater were alive today, he would look this like, this is what's passing for conservatism now? You can't sort of run an operation like this and expect to get big things done.
LEMON: By the way, some worry Sean Spicer is back tomorrow.
Kim, what did you want to say?
DOZIER: I would add, you know, it's not the messenger in this case, it's the person behind the messenger. And I feel bad for both Sean and Sarah every day they go out there.
LEMON: Thank you both.
When we come back new information on the London terror attack, what police have learned about the terrorists? How one of them may have been hiding in plain sight.
[23:23:08] LEMON: New information tonight on the London bridge terror attack. Police identifying two of three terrorists behind Saturday night's assault that killed seven and wounded dozens.
I want to bring in now CNN's senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward. Hello, Clarissa. What's the latest on the investigation to Saturday's
attack and what are you learning about the attacker?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the investigation is starting to get a little more interesting, Don, as we are learning a little bit more about who these attackers actually were.
As you said police have now identified two of the three. The third, they still have not said who he is though it's believed that they do in fact know who he is. One of the attackers is known as Rachid Redoune, very little known about him. Apparently he allegedly claim that he was a Morrocan or Libyan decent. That's pretty much all we know about him.
But the other attacker who we do know quite a bit about is a 27-year- old British national who was born in Pakistan called Khuram Butt. And the reason he is quite well-known and certainly was well-known to authorities as well is because, Don, he was part of a group known as (INAUDIBLE). This was a group of young extremists who were very public, very vocal and their support of ISIS and this sort of this sort Islamist extremist ideology. They fell under the spell this sort of silver tongue's Bengali if you will called (INAUDIBLE). He is a very well-known hate creature here in the United Kingdom who has been who has been preaching his poisonous message for some time. He was eventually sent to prison in 2016.
But all of this raises the question as to why he wasn't more on the radar of authorities. They knew who Khuram Butt was but they are saying basically, well, we knew he was affiliated with this group but we didn't think that he was planning any kind of an attack. Some people described him as sort the quiet one.
That said, Don, there was video that came out in the documentary last year called "the jihadists next door." where you actually see this young man unfurling a black flag which has become sort of synonymous with extremists radical Islam in a public park in central London, another scene where you see him having an altercation with police. Other video has emerged on You Tube. Similar things, him praying in public and unfurling this black flag again. So clearly, some red flags, if you will excuse the pond the here, in terms of why authorities were not keeping a closer eye on him, Don.
[23:25:41] LEMON: Clarissa Ward in London for us this evening. Thank you, Clarissa.
I want to bring in now CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, a former department of homeland security official and Mubin Sheik is a former extremist turned counterterrorism operative who is the author of "undercover jihadi."
I'm so glad to have both of you.
Mubin first, strong words tonight from the London mayor about President Trump. Mayor Sadiq Khan says the U.S. should not roll out o that the U.K. should not roll out the red carpet. What's your reaction?
MUBIN SHEIK, FORMER EXTREMIST TURNED COUNTERTERRORISM OPERATIVE: Yes, well it's very bad to do that to a mayor who is undergoing a crisis of that magnitude at that time and to say those things. It's just I think everyone across the board understands, I think even the London embassy was tweeting out in support of the mayor and the way he handled it. It's a lesson to be taken.
LEMON: Juliette, what's your reaction?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's so embarrassing. I mean, Don, t's so horrifying. That less than 48 hours after a significant terrorist attack and our closest nation and ally, one that has supported us after 9/11, that has fought wars with us that we instigated, that it's come down to a fight between the President on twitter and a mayor who by all accounts has done a tremendous job. And it's bringing the city that has been under stressed for the last couple of months. It is just -- as you can tell, I'm obviously speechless. Look. There are dead Londoners because of a terrorist attack, that's what we should be talking about. And it's just sad.
LEMON: Let's talk about the attackers now. I want you to listen to this woman who believe she reported one of the attackers to authorities before the Saturday's attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERICA GASPANI, NEIGHBOR WHO CONFRONTED SUSPECT: All the sudden we saw this individual speaking to the kids and (INAUDIBLE) for the last, it was (INAUDIBLE) and speaking to them about Islam. And showed them how to pray.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Juliette, how hard is it to follow up on all of these leads? Are authorities overwhelmed?
KAYYEM: Yes, they are. The numbers are too significant, I mean, in terms of a couple thousands at this stage in Britain. So where this investigation will go now I have a couple questions. How does the three of them actually meet and - of course, this is a coordinated attack. It is not lone wolf attack. It seems that we don't understand their ties as Clarissa reported from a law enforcement perspective the fact they have ID'd the third (INAUDIBLE) but have not actually disclose his name. I don't know what to make of that yet. He might be a minor or they might still be investigating some aspects of it.
But there is one piece that we have or at least has been reported which is just a lesson learned. I would like us to learn lessons from this tragedy. It appears that maybe the second of the last three attacks where the community itself had warned law enforcement said there was someone amongst them in their midst that was worrisome.
LEMON: So then what happened then? Because that old saying if you see something, say something. Everyone said --. KAYYEM: Right. I mean, you can't blame a community for having
radical elements in its midst and then learn that the community has come forward. And then ignored. So we have got to get better at having those linkages having, you know, both requiring the community and not letting to community up to come forward when they have information but also to not be ignored. I think that's going to be one big take away of this investigation.
LEMON: So Mubin, it's the third attack in the UK in three months. And as Juliet said maybe two of the last three where there were possibly warnings from members in the community - from community members. What do you think is happening here?
SHEIK: You know, I think it is very good point I wanted to reinforce Juliette that yet again another attack known to the police, reported by the Muslim community and we read about it in the paper. I mean, you know, people keep asking Muslims don't do enough. Well, I mean, we are, you know, agents. I was a spy. I mean, infiltrating extremist and terrorist groups. There New York police depart that there were a thousand members who were Muslim. Like we do a lot. Of course the community doesn't get a free hand.
But in terms of warning signs, look. The British police are dealing with this problem. Barking dogs that don't bite and dogs that don't bark but do bite. How do you tell the difference? Ultimately, 24/7 surveillance is the only way to do that and that's not the kind of way most people want to live.
[23:30:19] LEMON: Why is this happening, you think, three times in the U.K. and three months?
SHEIK: Is that for me?
Well, look. I mean, it's also Ramadan. ISIS has encouraged and incited its members to up their attacks. I think I'm expecting another attack in the last 10 days of the fasting month. There is the (INAUDIBLE) which is a night of power where most Muslims are praying for mercy from God, of course, ISIS that worships, you know, something else, is praying for the opposite. So this is why we are seeing this uptick. It is a result of ISIS incitement to attack in Ramadan.
LEMON: Juliette, I want to ask you about this young lady tonight of being accused of leaking information, classified information. What do you make of this story? 25-year-old, she is in a heap of trouble? Her name is Reality Winner, a contractor charged with leaking this classified information to an online media outlet?
KAYYEM: Yes. And it was an odd media outlet to choose, given that they have a track record in terms of some of these issues. I think she is in big trouble. I don't approve of it. And I think my fear is that we might be reading too much into what in fact was disclosed. My understanding of it, at least as reported here and as I have seen
in the news clips so far is that there still is no proof that the Russians actually altered or changed votes. And so, I just -- look, the Russia-Trump thing is a big deal, but if people start to think it was something that it actually wasn't, I think that the investigation might be undermined.
And so, just as everyone take a deep breath. The NSA document does not say that there was proof of changes in voting. And we have to remember that. And you know, just keep the facts coming out and they will come out on Wednesday with some testimony as well as on Thursday with Comey and focus on that rather than rampant speculation about possibilities that the Russians actually changed votes in favor of Trump.
LEMON: Thank you both.
When we come back how serious brutal civil war led to the birth of ISIS.
[23:36:59] LEMON: A new documentary called "hell on earth, the fall of Syria and the rise of ISIS" explores the brutal civil war in Syria and how it led to the birth of ISIS.
Joining me now are the film's co-producers Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested. Thank you so much for joining me.
Sebastian, I'm going to start with you. What was important about -- why did you want to tell the story?
SEBASTIAN JUNGER, CO-PRODUCER, HELL ON EARTH: I have covered civil war since Bosnia in the early '90s. And one of the misconceptions people had is that if this is civil war in the world. People in this country assume they are crazy. Just let them kill each other. And we wanted to make a film that explained the mechanism of a civil war. How good -- perfectly good people can be dragged in to the civil war and was really no escape. And we wanted to explain how that happened and also how ISIS came out of this.
LEMON: But you wanted to do this from the very beginning, right. This isn't like you don't just come in from a certain point. You are telling the story from the very beginning.
JUNGER: Yes. The civil war started as protested by civilians who were demanding - asking, demanding for democratic reforms. Things that any reasonable human being would want for themselves and their family. And those demands were met with machine gun fire in the streets. And that started the war.
LEMON: I think it's important to say that so much of the documentary is told from people who are living in. And I want to share this very poignant moment with the audience and then I will talk you about it. Here it is.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
LEMON: I don't even know what to say because they are children and in many ways (INAUDIBLE) but they have to live with this nightmare every single day. And then there's the extra burden on the parents I guess to try to keep them safe and still give them a child hood. What did you want people to know from that?
NICK QUESTED, CO-PRODUCER, HELL ON EARTH: Well, we want people to understand that in the same situation most people would do the same things that they did. That they would try to live where they were being bombed in Aleppo, where they try to escape to a man beach where we first made contact and then after that, they would try and escape to Turkey. We managed to get a camera to them in Man Beach where in occupied ISIS territory and they documented their whole journey through the various front lines to the border with Turkey and crossed into Turkey in about January last year.
[23:40:24] LEMON: OK. So you, January of 2016, they crossed. Is that the last you have heard of them?
QUESTED: On a nutshell (ph) we picked them up. I came and met them in (INAUDIBLE) which is in southern Turkey. And then we followed them all the way to trying to cross into Greece on a raft.
LEMON: Do you know where they are now?
QUESTED: Yes. They are in (INAUDIBLE) at the moment. They are doing OK.
LEMON: In Syria, is it a choice between Assad and ISIS? Is that a choice?
JUNGER: ISIS is going to get wiped out. And Assad, I think, as long as Russians backing him, it is not going to be going anywhere. So I think eventually you are going to have a defacto partition of the country with ISIS in power on Damascus.
LEMON: Talk to me more about that. Why do you say that? Why do you say ISIS is going to be wiped out and then Assad is --?
JUNGER: Well, I mean, ISIS has a huge array of military forces against them and there is very steadily losing territory and revenue from oil take it to another source of revenue. It's all sort of collapsing. And I think eventually the clock is going to run out on ISIS.
LEMON: In a roundabout way is Russia propping up ISIS, do you think?
JUNGER: Not propping up ISIS, but --.
LEMON: Facilitating the existence of ISIS?
JUNGER: Well, this is what they are doing. Assad needed ISIS so that the west wouldn't arm the free Syrian army, who are reasonable people. So with ISIS, they are kept the west from actually supporting a democratic movement and the Russians are supporting Assad, so. LEMON: Let's talk about a travel ban, right. Because the president
is tweeting about it. The President said the people, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want but I'm calling it what it need and what it is, what we need and what it is, a travel ban. How the President's policy, his executive orders, these tweets both received and perceive by the families that you have worked with?
QUESTED: Well, it's not a direct effect to the family we worked with. The family that we worked with were directly affected by the EU/Turkey agreement. But I think that anytime that there's a unilateral ban I think you are sending the wrong message to people being displaced by war.
LEMON: These battles are not always won and lost on the battle field. How would you - what would you tell the President? How would you advise the President of the United States? What would you tell him?
JUNGER: We can win really any battle on the grounds. What's harder and more important is to win an ideological fight with radical Islam. My father is a war refugee. Some of my very good friends were refuges that I helped with their cause in this country. This country, America, is a beacon of light on a hill top for a lot of people in the world. And when you talk about a travel ban, you are talking about children like that. Those are the people who are being excluded from this country.
We -- this country has not been attacked by people who have come over here (INAUDIBLE), of course, but the people who live in this country have not attacked us from other countries, right?
LEMON: Have you - is this why you said because you wrote in an article that says how Donald Trump could stop being a coward. Is that what you mean by that? Do you mean as rhetoric?
JUNGER: He is a coward in the sense that he is a bully. And he prays on the powerless. And my point in this article is in "Vanity Fair" a couple of weeks ago. My point is that I think that cowardness comes from I think a lot of abuse when he was a child. The opposite of being a bully is being a protector. And I think one of the things he could do is do what America has always done and stand up for vulnerable in the world.
LEMON: Thank you. Documentary is fascinating. I really appreciate you for joining us. Thank you for doing it. It is really important.
The document is called "Hell on Earth, the fall of Syria and the rise of ISIS." It airs Sunday night at 9:00 eastern on the National Geographic Channel.
[23:48:28] LEMON: Let's talk about a conversation a lot of folks have been having this weekend. We are talking about Bill Maher. Made a career out of being controversial. But this time a lot of people think he has gone too far, using one of the most controversial words in the English language. But now, I say the n word. But just so you are not shocked, like Maher's guests and the audience were, I want to warn you that you are about to hear that word itself in this discussion with my guests, no beeping, no beating around the Bush.
Joining me now Tim Wise, the author of "White Like Me," Scott Jennings is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, and CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers.
Good evening, gentlemen. I'm so glad to have you on.
Bakari, you know, Friday night, HBO's show, Bill Maher got into a lot of trouble saying that word on his show. He was speaking to Senator Ben Sasse. We'll play the moment and then we will talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, COMEDIAN: Got to get to Nebraska more.
SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: You're welcome. We would love to have you work in the fields with us.
MAHER: Work in the fields?
SASSE: That's part of --
MAHER: Senator, I'm a house nigger. It's a joke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you think, Bakari?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't think it's a joke. I think it's foul. I think it is despicable. I think if we are going to talk about or he wants to be self-deprecating and talk about a house nigger, we need to really say what that is. And for me and for many people, that brings back images of slaves having their way with individuals in their homes, raping and beating and pillaging black bodies and what they did having any work. So Bill Maher or anybody else wants to talk about a house nigger, I think it's fair that we accurately describe what that was and what that time in our history was, so that people understand the pain that goes along with that term. And so, I didn't find it to be funny at all. In fact, I found that to be rude and disrespectful. But even more, I found it to be a teaching moment.
[23:50:17] LEMON: Tim, do you think, before we get into that whether he should be fired, I just want to get your reaction. Does it make a difference that it's nigga or nigger or he was referencing himself and not somebody else?
TIM WISE, AUTHOR, WHITE LIKE ME: Well, first of all, there is no historical etymology of house "n" word with the "a" at the end. S clearly, as Bakari is making the point, that history is the word with the "er" at the end. And what he's just done is sort of doubly offensive.
Number one, he is comparing himself to a house slave. This is a rich white man who is essentially saying yes, I am a house slave. And then he uses that word, which is historically obscene. But more importantly, by referring to an enslaved person in the house, by that word, he is then essentially calling that house slave that word. So he is using it in a way that is historically problematic and by comparing himself with that, obviously, absurd. It doesn't matter that he tried to make it the "a" word ending in the end, because ultimately, everyone knows what he is talking about.
And as I have said in your show before, I just don't see any reason for a white person to audiblize this word. It does not have a mixed history in our mouth. What everyone says about whether black folks should use a version of the word, that's a black discussion. But the history of this word in our mouth is not ambiguous. And Bill Maher should know that.
LEMON: Scott, he quickly apologized. He apologized the next day and he said Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep, because I'm up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn't have said in my live show. Last night was particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and I'm very sorry. He rarely apologizes. Is that enough, Scott?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, I don't think it is. I agreed with HBO's statement. They called what he did inexcusable. But HBO PR department, hear me. You said it was inexcusable, but now he is going back on the air Friday night. He has not been suspended. He has been fired. There apparently is no punishment for this. That is the exact opposite of something being inexcusable. I whole heartedly agree this was inexcusable. And I can only come to the conclusion that the liberal illuminati has decided Bill Maher is too important for the resistance. And so, he gets to escape punishment here. I think it is terrible. It is inexcusable. And I can't believe they're putting him back on the air.
LEMON: Do you think it's that, Bakari, or do you think that because of the terror attack it received less coverage and that people just became to strike now a lot of coverage?
SELLERS: No. I think it's shallow to say this is a partisan argument, because it's not. And we don't need to go down that rabbit hole. The fact is, being white, black, Hispanic, green, blue, libertarian. If you utilize this word, if you say nigger, then you are going to have some problems and there are going to be some repercussions if you address somebody as such. Even though he used it in a self-defecating term or form, it was still very foul. It is still very despicable, because he apparently as I believe Tim said doesn't understand the meaning or the history of the word. This isn't partisan at all. This isn't some double standard that people are trying to make it out to be. What this is --.
LEMON: There are liberals calling for him to be disciplined, as well. Some are even asking them to you.
SELLERS: Yes. But this is the ignorance that is the epitome that is at the root of this discussion that we have about race. This is nothing more and nothing less than a very difficult discussion that we have to have in this country.
LEMON: Yes. Ben Sasse, because a lot of people brought up Ben Sasse and looking slightly uncomfortable. I don't know if we can show it and not listen to it.
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LEMON: But there he is, looking slightly uncomfortable. He didn't express regret or he didn't really respond verbally in the moment. And listen, I think it's -- people are condemning him, he didn't condemn it. I think that was Bill Maher's moment. It wasn't up for Ben Sasse to respond. It was Bill Maher's show. And I don't know how I would react even as a black person. And I hate that word. I don't know how I would react to it.
My stance on the word is it should be used officially. I think Journalists should be able to use it because people are not saying -- if you come on TV and you say Bill Maher said house "n" word, it doesn't have the impact. If someone in a court case says, you know, writes in a memo or, you know, during a court hearing. That someone said the "n" word, it's not what they said. It was the whole reason I held up the n word on this program once, to show the impact of the word.
If you don't understand the impact of that word, then you shouldn't be using it. And if you do understand the impact of the word, then you probably should not be using it. So I don't really like it in music. I know it's different in art. I'm not the word police. That's a very tricky subject. But I don't think that people should just be willy- nilly using that word. And I think that sometimes it gives people license to use it. I don't think white people should be using it. I don't like it when anybody uses it.
But my question is, what sort of consensus are we going to come to that word? Why do we have so many different standards for so many different people? Shouldn't we just say pretty much one standard, don't use it, unless you have to officially have to, and then we won't have to go through this (INAUDIBLE) every single time.
[23:55:24] WISE: Well, I think the bigger issue than the supposed double standard of the use of language is the double standard of history in this country. The history of America is the history of a double standard and it is usually worked to the benefit of white folks like Bill Maher, like myself. And to the detriment of people of color.
So I think the bigger issue is how do we address that double standard? And the fact that there are white people in this country who whine and complain about not being able to use this word.
LEMON: Why would they even want to?
WISE: Right. Why would they even want to? And as I said on your show before, if your biggest problem in life is not being able to use that word openly, your life is sweet and you demonstrated white privilege better than I ever could.
LEMON: Quickly, Bakari. We are over, but we are going to go a little bit.
SELLERS: Yes. I want to issue a PSA really quickly. There is a very mix and unsettled relationship with this word in the black community. However, that relationship is very settled in the white community. Therefore white people do not need to say the word nigger ever.
LEMON: OK. Here's the thing. We say that we are taking back that word, obviously it causes so much pain, that hasn't worked yet.
My stance is that we shouldn't -- we have given that word away, and the cost was too high for that word. Don't give it away. Don't think that you are taking back the word by overusing it or bastardizing it. It is not working. Let's just not use the word.
Thank you all, good night.