Return to Transcripts main page


Awkward Republican Response to Roy Moore Allegations; Swimmer Diana Nyad Shares Story of Sexual Assault; The Life of Iconic Celebrity Chef Jeremiah Tower. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 10, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:32:30] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: File this next moment, when two big news stories collide. Just as the allegations against Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore, were coming to light, the Senate Republicans were talking about the tax plan, and would-be questions of income brackets quickly changed course, creating one of the most awkward 44 seconds in Mitch McConnell's leadership. So we couldn't help but break it down for you.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you believe that. (INAUDIBLE) -- accusations against Roy Moore?



BALDWIN (voice-over): Senate majority leader goes silent. Is he pretending he didn't hear the question.

Senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch seem to think he did. Waiting for a response.


BALDWIN: Nope. This isn't going away. Cue the awkward smiling.


BALDWIN: A resilient staffer attempted to end the questioning, but to no avail.


BALDWIN: McConnell regains his composure, willing these questions to stop. Grassley tries waving. A laugh of gratitude from McConnell, his eyes a desperate plea for this to end. Then the wave becomes less friendly, dismissive even.


BALDWIN: Steve Mnuchin's and Gary Cohn are there as well eager talking tax cuts. But instead, looking like two deer caught in the highlights.

Finally, the awkwardness is over.


BALDWIN: The press leaves empty handed. But with one major takeaway.


BALDWIN: To be clear here, Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, did put out a statement on Roy Moore one hour before that exchange. And he said, "If these allegations are true, he must step aside."

What the moment shows is the line of questioning that all these Republicans up on Capitol Hill can expect to face for the next, at least couple of weeks, and how they choose to respond is up for debate.

So let's start here. Two CNN political commentators, Jack Kingston, former congressman and former adviser to the Trump campaign, and Sally Kohn, the host of the podcast "State of Existence."

Welcome to you both. Happy Friday.

Congressman, let me begin with you.

Your party, those 44 seconds, does that just summarize what life is going to be like for Republicans in the days and weeks ahead?

[14:35:21] JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that, actually, it shows much discipline in that the majority leader had put out a statement and he did not want to get bathed into any further explanation or any further comments. Because no matter what he says, he can be criticized from the right, the left, the middle, and in between. So, frankly, I'm glad to see a Republican do that. Because so often I think we feel like, oh, you have to answer every single question, whether it leads you in a direction that you want to go to or not. The other way to answer that question was I'm glad you asked that, that's why we are here to talk about the middle-class tax cut and lower the corporate tax rate. In media training classes which we've all sat through, you have to be ready for a moment like that. But I'd say that I think Mitch McConnell did a good job because he just sat there and didn't get bathed into it.

BALDWIN: Resistance. Restraint.

Sally Kohn, what did you see?

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It really shouldn't be hard for any Republican, you know, in Alabama, at the federal level, on television, to very plainly, clearly, and simply denounce anyone of other party who is running for office, who has a pattern of preying on young girls. This really shouldn't be a hard one. And when you have four well documented examples of showing consistent pattern, it shouldn't be pardon.


BALDWIN: Again, Roy Moore says these are allegations and it's not true.

KOHN: John McCain, a lot of people are coming out saying, if they are true, John McCain was clear, he needs to step down.

But, look, let's be clear about something else here. Which is the Republican Party already shot itself in the foot by not distancing themselves from Donald Trump when 11 women made similar, a dozen women at least made allegations against him and he himself bragged about sexually assaulting women.


KINGSTON: Sally, I wasn't going to bring up William Jefferson Clinton.

KOHN: I had a feeling you were.

KINGSTON: I wasn't going to go there. I was going to say stay with Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. But since you brought it up, where were the Democrats denouncing him?


KOHN: Jack, the difference between Bill Clinton and Donald Trump is Bill Clinton was impeached. So we aired that one as a public. And also he was not currently the president.

KINGSTON: He was impeached for perjury.


KOHN: This is fine. I'm fine watching this Roy Moore go down. Because with condolences to the poor state and women who he has abused and made suffer, we are watching the destruction of the Republican Party before our very eyes. They are doing themselves systemic damage for generations. And I'm going to be honest I'm here for it.

KINGSTON: Sally, don't over claim. Let me give you congratulations for Tuesday. It was a great day.

But I also want to point out, year-to-date, our fundraising of $104 million at RNC and I think you are around $40 million range.

KOHN: Because you keep giving people tax breaks.

KINGSTON: Great rhetoric but not true. September, we raised $10 million you all raised $3 million or $4 million. Question is, from here on, are we going to deliver on the middle-class tax cut? And are we going to have good trade policies? Are we going to continue to have a strong card that we play overseas in terms of restoring our stature?

(CROSSTALK) KINGSTON: And the president will continue to negotiate with North Korea successfully.

BALDWIN: But a lot of that has been in the last 24 hours maybe over shadowed by this story that is looming out of Alabama. Truth or not. And by the way, we may never know. And in the end, it's up to the Alabama voter to vote with their heart and their head and figure that one out.

But in terms of the Republican Party, I mean, you know, you did have a tough night on Tuesday. It is already a fractured party. How do you get your divided party back together and move forward ahead of the midterms, Jack?

KINGSTON: Well, on Wednesday night, I had kind of a catch-up reunion dinner with many so of my friends, including two full committee chairmen and two cardinals from the Appropriations Committee, two members of the Tea Party group, or the Freedom Caucus and two from the more moderate branch of the party. And they are more focused we are going to react to Tuesday, we won't panic, but we take instructions we better deliver on our campaign promises, from jobs, which they are doing a great job with, and less regulation, peace through strength. And yet, they do have to get this tax cut done. I don't know that they may come back on health care. You have other issues out there in the appropriations process which they need to finish up by Christmas. So I think that they are going to it be a little bit more disciplined. But also they need to rebuild their relationship with the White House. It's not in anybody's interest except for Sally's to be snide in public, whether it's by Twitter, whatever. We do need to unify with a party and we can't do it without northeastern moderates and southern conservatives and western Libertarians.

[14:40:29] BALDWIN: And Sally knows -- let's also being tough on Democrats. Yes, it was a great night on Tuesday for Democrats. When you saw those poll numbers coming out earlier on Tuesday afternoon, this is also key going into the midterms, those favorability numbers for the Democrat party were a mess.

KOHN: Look, we are a deeply divided bipartisan country. And I hope that upsets Jack as much as it upsets me. The reality is, look, voters are now going to face this Republican Party going forward and they are looking for two things. Look, on the one hand you always were the party supposedly of moral values and social conservative values. That's what Roy Moore stood for. Literally. And now it turns out he's morally bankrupt. So you are losing ground there. Obviously, Donald Trump no great bastion of moral leadership either. On the other front, let's be clear, I don't agree with what Republicans have been elected to do. But they haven't delivered. They haven't repealed Obamacare or trade policy. And that tax plan is really a giant giveaway to the super rich, including keeping the biggest tax break for the super-rich that Trump promised he would get rid of. He promised he would get rid of it in the election. So when voters are looking at this party they are not getting anything.

BALDWIN: OK. Maybe some Republicans, they have some, as we would say in the south, come-to-Jesus ahead, right. But also Democrats, Democrats do as well.

We'll leave it. We have to leave it there.

Sally and Jack Kingston, thank you so very much.

KINGSTON: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Looking ahead here for both parties.

KOHN: Nice to see you both.

BALDWIN: Here's a quote, "Tell your story. Let us never be silenced." Those are the words of long-distance swimming champion, Diana Nyad, in a "New York Times" sharing her story of sexual assault. She will join me live coming up next. Please do not miss this.


[14:46:51] BALDWIN: Legendary, distance swimming champion, Diana Nyad, first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. She penned a powerful op-ed in the "New York Times" describing terrible accounts in 1964 abuser was former and now deceased swim coach. So in one excerpt, let me read for you what Diana Nyad writes. She says, "He yanked my suit down. He grabbed and hyperventilated and moaned. He pleaded with me to open my legs, but they were pressed hard together. If breathe gives us force, that day I could feel the strength in my body from the polar opposite, from not breathing."

Diana Nyad joins me now. She is the author of "Find A Way," the inspiring story of one woman's pursuit of life-long dream.

Diana Nyad, thank you for coming back and your bravery and courage. Good to see you.

DIANA NYAD, CHAMPION SWIMMER: Brooke, visa-versa. Thanks for opening up the conversation with the other sectors in society in the last couple weeks.

BALDWIN: You are an elite swimmer, conqueror of Mount Kilimanjaro, quite frankly, a bad ass. And to read your story is telling for a lot of Americans.

NYAD: And it's one reason I take pride in being one of the tellers of the story. Brooke, if I stand in front of a group, let's say as a public moment of 2,000 people from a corporation, I like to think that I'm weaving an arc of a story of inspiration never give up on your dreams. But if you went to hear a life story I don't compare myself to people who have truly suffered, you know, egregious times, but this was my cross to bear, being sexually abused as a kid, and it wasn't just that first time you read about at age 14, but all through the high school years, humiliated, degraded. It has stayed with me. As you just said I'm a bad as, and I am, I walk around the world like this is my planet, I own the place.

BALDWIN: Good for you.

NYAD: But there is a little hurt corner of that soul, the rage and the humiliation and the shame never go away. Trust me, they don't.

BALDWIN: Why now share your story?

NYAD: For me, it's not about why now. I started speaking up and went into the principal office age 21 after I graduated told the story. That coach was fired from that school. He went as the epidemic goes up the coast, got another job, molested at the next job, went up the coast and got another job.

BALDWIN: Unreal.

NYAD: It's the way it goes. But for me, I've been telling this story all along. But now that we have the me to movement. I want to be in the middle of it and take the first step and be one of the leaders who says it's embarrassing. When you have to tell these stories to the police you have to start talking about where was the penis exactly. Was it erect or 18 inches away? Most people are mortified to have to come up with these terms. And they feel it was all their fault. It's just a twisted deal the whole way around. So it's not like why did I come up now, but the movement is happening, and I want to be a leader within the movement.

[14:50:30] BALDWIN: So, again, good for you. And the movement is happening. We are in the middle of the movement. We keep hearing all these stories, I should answer not just from women but men as well. And Ali, the gold medalist, talking about her abuse with the team physician.

But my question to you is we have all of these voices coming out of the either and sharing. What then?

NYAD: Well, isn't that the key question. So I suppose if you and I were to sit down and interview a bunch of doctors in the world of epidemics of infectious diseases, they have to identify where is it, what sort of populations does this exist in. Well, that's what we are beginning to do now. We are beginning to archive how deep is this epidemic and we are learning it's not just a few people in Hollywood, it's not just a couple of coaches, gymnastics and swimming coaches, it's in every suburban neighborhood. Sexual abuse is in every urban center. Once we start identifying and the voices come up, we'll change how we go about things. A 28-year-old young actress will not listen to producer anymore, who says, why don't you come up to my hotel room, I want to help you with your career, she will say, why don't we meet at our agencies office. I'd love to talk to you. It's just we are going to stop the patterns of behavior as soon as we can identify who is doing all this.

And by the way, Brooke, if I do speak to 2,000 people, and afterwards let's just say randomly 200 of them out of 2,000 come up to me and say, Diana, the same thing happened to me. It was my coach. It was my priest. It was my stepfather. Well, when I'm looking out of those 2,000. How many of them are the perpetrators? Don't they have to be in that crowd? They do. So next is going to be identify the perpetrators and maybe, I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe find some, I won't say sympathy, but find some analysis of why they do this stuff. What happened to them as children? Maybe. BALDWIN: You are so right. That is all part of this national

conversation. And the way you in your piece tell your story, never let us be silenced.

Diana Nyad, thank you, thank you, thank you.

NYAD: Thank you, Brooke. Appreciate it.

BALDWIN: You've got it.

Coming up next on CNN, Melania Trump speaking to CNN about her role as first lady. What she told our Kate Bennett during the president's high-stakes trip to Asia.

Also ahead, the fallout continues to grow as Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, fights back against allegations of sexual misconduct. We are live in Alabama, next.


[14:57:37] BALDWIN: Ask a modern-day celebrity chef to name America's first rock star of the restaurants scene, and it might say Bourdain. But a lot of people in the know will point to Jeremiah Tower. I recently caught up to Tony Bourdain who pulls back the curtain on this forgotten iconic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeremiah was probably one of the first practitioners of proud American cooking in the late 20th century.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST, PARTS UNKNOWN: He was the first celebrity chef in America.

BALDWIN (voice-over): The year was 1972. The place, Chez Panisse, a tiny restaurant in Berkeley, California. A young Harvard graduate by the name of Jeremiah Tower walked in looking for a job as a chef.

(on camera): What was it about Jeremiah Tower cooking back in the '70s that made him, made his dishes so totally stand out?

BOURDAIN: Jeremiah was one of the first to start proudly attributing ingredients to regions of America. These were proud American men uses written in English. Source ingredients attributing them to American producers with American wines.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Chez Panisse became a critically acclaimed restaurant in America in just a short time.

Tower left and went on to create what many call his masterpiece, Stars in San Francisco.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say Stars was the single most influential restaurant in my entire life.

BALDWIN: Stars broke the mold on what a restaurant could be. Tower described it as elegant simplicity.

BOURDAIN: He also changed the very way that most dining rooms look nowadays with an open kitchen and a more democratic or chaotic mix of high and low villains and celebrities.

BALDWIN: Jeremiah not only played the role of chef but ringmaster as well. Usually, with a glass of champagne in hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a rock star in that people would bow to him when he came in. Jeremiah came on the scene and everyone was aware that Jeremiah was like the Mick Jagger of the restaurant scene.

BALDWIN: Those who know him say Tower is the complete package, blending personality and passion for food unlike any other chef in America before him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Celebrity chefs doesn't mean anything unless you change something. Jeremiah changed the way we looked at food.

BALDWIN: His run at Stars ended abruptly. Tower vanished from the public eye for close to 15 years, moving to Mexico, until a tweet from "The New York Times." Towers' time at New York's fable institution was short lived.