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Washington Post: Congressman Tried to Keep Explicit Photos Under Wraps; Heavy Security for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; Trump Defends Roy Moore, Doubts His Accusers. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 23, 2017 - 07:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

[07:00:03] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and happy Thanksgiving. Welcome to a special holiday edition of NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joining me.

Thank you so much for being here on this special day.

ERIC HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for having me.

CUOMO: Thankful for you.

HILL: Thankful for you, Chris Cuomo.

CUOMO: A senior Republican lawmaker is apologizing after an explicit photo of him circulated on social media. But this story is different than others that you've heard. There's an unnamed woman involved. We think the "Washington Post" would know her name, but she's reporting this. That the congressman, Joe Barton, threatened to go to the Capitol Police if she exposed lewd images that he sent her during a consensual relationship.

The congressman is now raising the possibility that, yes, he did go to the Capitol Police, because he believes he is a victim of revenge porn.

Now, on a very different side of this spectrum, we have the story of a former staffer for Democratic Congressman John Conyers. They tell CNN he harassed and verbally abused her. Conyers adamantly denies the allegations.

HILL: Well, Congressman Conyers is refusing to resign as the House ethics panel investigates a settlement he made in 2015 with another former staffer accusing him of sexual harassment.

The flurry of allegations have lawmakers wrestling with how to handle these controversies. And as pressure is mounting, of course, on Congress to unmask harassers on Capitol Hill and disclose details on those secret settlements we're learning more about. The one thing, of course, we do know is they came at the expense of your taxpayer dollars.

We have it all covered. We begin with CNN's Sunlen Serfaty, live in Washington this morning. Good morning.


A lot of questions about this after a sexually-explicit photo of Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton surfaced on the Internet this week on an anonymous Twitter account. Now, Barton has apologized for the lewd photo but also raised the possibility that he's the victim of revenge porn. Barton's spokeswoman tells CNN Barton did not release the image himself. He doesn't know who did. And an unnamed woman has come forward, telling "The Washington Post" that Barton sent her lewd photos, videos and messages when the two had sexual encounters over the course of five years.

The woman told "The Washington Post," she last slept with him in 2014. And she said, quote, "I was in it for the politics connection."

Now, the woman shared a secretly-recorded phone call from 2015 with the paper, and according to "The Post," in that call, Barton warned her against using explicit images he had sent her in a way that would negatively affect his career, vowing that he would go to the Capitol Hill police over her threats. And the woman told "The Post" that she took the phone call as a threat.

Congressman Barton says it was to stop her from publicly releasing the images as revenge porn, which Texas outlawed in 2015.

Now, in a statement, Barton says, quote, "'The Dallas Morning News' has identified a potential crime against me, and the transcript referenced in 'The Washington Post' may be evidence. This woman admitted that we had a consensual relationship. When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation. As the transcript reflects, I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today, the Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation, and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment."

And also this morning, Democratic Congressman John Conyers of Michigan is facing new harassment allegations. A former staffer, Melanie Sloane, says she was verbally abused and harassed by Conyers. While Sloane doesn't think she was sexually harassed here, she claims the congressman's behavior was inappropriate, recalling one instance where he called her into his office when he was in his underwear.

Now Conyers's lawyer says the congressman is not going to resign, but the House Ethics Committee is also investigating a reported settlement with an unidentified former employee over claims of sexual harassment. And that was in 2015 -- Chris and Erica.

CUOMO: Sunlen, appreciate it. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Let's discuss with CNN political analyst David Drucker; and associate editor of RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard. David Drucker, a few days ago I said -- I think you may have been here

-- not all accusations are equal. This latest turn in this story is evidence of that.

Barton does not belong in the same sentence with Conyers. I'm not saying what's true and what isn't. But you have Conyers with allegations of harassment, a settlement, a named person coming forward, you know, an ethics investigation. Barton, you've got an unnamed single source from the "Washington Post," respected outlet. But both stories, I guess, matter, because we're dealing with public officials. But they are not the same kind of story.

DRUCKER: No, they're not. I think in the court of political opinion, they can be discussed together because of the judgment the voters may make. And they're both sexual in nature, to some degree.

[07:05:14] But you are correct. In terms of the legal and moral plane that we have been discussing with sexual harassment, sexual assault, unwanted touching, there is simply no difference between the two. One, a relationship gone bad. Consensual. The other, unwanted advances in the workplace.

And I think that the Barton story, while it needs to be covered, because he's a public official and this is in the news, not the same thing as women being assaulted, women being harassed. And I think that it's important for the stories that we have been covering about harassment and assault, that we not confuse the two when we're discussing them, because it muddies the water and then everything becomes -- I'm not saying it should be.

But the danger, long term, is everything becomes a "he said, she said." Those are the kind of things that John Conyers, who keeps denying allegations and is saying, "I'm not going to resign," and the same thing that Roy Moore, the Republican from Alabama, denies all allegations: "I'm not going to get out of the race." That's what can help them survive these things, even if they shouldn't.

HILL: There's also the point of not just those denials but the way the accusers are being looked at. Right? The women who have come forward, who are bringing forth these allegations and how they are being received, A.B., in very different ways, I would argue, depending on the political party of the person who is involved.

When does that change? Because that's an important distinction, as well.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: You know, this is very difficult, because the conservatives are excited to jump on the allegations that women have made against Senator Al Franken, a Democrat. And they'll be interested, of course, in the Conyers story, as well, because he's a Democrat.

But because both President Trump and Roy Moore have denied the allegations that women have made against them, they don't seem interested in talking about that. So it usually, obviously, has to do with the perspective of your political party. And that is, obviously, unfortunate.

We're looking, really, at two stories here on the Democratic side, which are similar, the Conyers and the Franken story. I see Democrats interested in pitching John Conyers out of his powerful position as Judiciary chairman, because they want him on out of that job, because he's 88 years old. In the last few years, he's been disoriented. He has a long history of these anecdotes about inappropriate behavior with his staff. This has finally gone public. It's an excuse, in case they take the House back, to get rid of him.

But they're awfully silent at the same time about Senator Al Franken. So it really depends on -- on what political side you sit, and it becomes apparent which -- which claims become the most outrageous to you. And that's really hypocritical and unfortunate.

CUOMO: And be straight with me. Am I wrong to make this suggestion about my concern about media mission creep? I mean, I just feel like we have an opportunity here. Women are coming forward. We know why they don't come forward. It's not because, you know, they're waiting for the right time. Like they're trying to play to advantage. They're afraid. You know, there are ramifications that come. There's payback that comes. There's scrutiny that comes.

So we have this opportunity where you have this bravery on display. And again, not all accusations are equal. You've got to assess the credibility on everyone. That can be a painful process but necessary. But every moment we talk about a Barton and the salacious aspect of that story, we're not talking about these settlements that Erica Hill and I are paying for in Congress. We're not--

HILL: We're not.

CUOMO: -- talking about alleged sexual assault. And you know what else we don't talk about? Is when a Russell Simmons. You should go check out his Twitter feed. We'll say the allegation against him, because it's mission creep. Here's the next one. Here's the next big thing.

Then he comes out, and he pens this denial, where he supports hashtag "#metoo." He supports these women, but he is not one of these people who has ever done this, in his opinion. We don't cover that the same way. That's my concern about this: mission creep.

After Barton, then what is it? Oh, a serial cheater. And then what is it? Someone who's living a lifestyle that they don't want to tell us about.

HILL: But as long as we're having this conversation, isn't that the important part, right? So we're not saying they're all the same.

CUOMO: I hope not.

HILL: We are saying--

CUOMO: We're not. HILL: We're not. But we are saying they deserve attention. Because what we're seeing in the Barton story is there are two conflicting accounts. Yes, they both say this was consensual. Right? And consent is also a whole separate are that we're going to hear more and more about, as other things come out, to your point, as well.

But there is the question of was this an attempt at revenge porn or was this a lawmaker attempting to silence a woman? And that is an important question that we have to talk about, because as we move forward, whether you're a lawmaker or not, if something like that happened on either side, that's an important move, as well, for the country.

[07:10:02] DRUCKER: I think that your concern about mission creep is on point, because context matters. And when anything happens in the news, whether it's salacious stories like this or anything, there's -- look, the nature of being in the media and being a reporter is to go try and find every story you can to push things forward and to try and bring as many -- as much information to light as possible.

The hardest thing to do, I think, as a journalist is to say, "No, I'm not going to report on that. I'm not going to cover that. Because given the context of this particular story, it doesn't deserve the same kind of scrutiny and coverage as these other real problems."

And you're also correct in saying that there's danger in losing sight of what one of the real problems is, which is how his Congress has been handling all of the sexual harassment allegations. And I think that one of the reasons this has been happening. And a lot of people -- if you're not in Washington, it's impossible to understand this. It's not a normal workplace. It's as if you work at a family business where loyalty is paramount, and people get away with the kind of behavior that is not necessarily fireable but you never would in a real corporate environment.

CUOMO: But their loyalty is supposed to be to us, not to each other. And I've got to tell you, A.B., I lean on you all the time for perspective on what this means within the realm of D.C.

I can't find a lawmaker to say, "Oh, yes, you know, these settlements, yes, we've heard about them over the years." They all say, "I didn't know. I didn't." All they do is gossip about each other down there. But they've never heard about these settlements that we're all paying for--

HILL: A surprise to everybody.

CUOMO: -- with -- with what's happening down there. It's so silly that they have to account for private versus public expenditure of dollars, except when it comes to these lawsuits that we never hear anything about. The loyalty is to us, A.B. That needs to change.

STODDARD: I agree. I really hope from this -- all of this, and the Barton story is completely separate, obviously, from what we're talking about, with John Conyers settling accounts privately, making settlements out of his office budget account privately that the leadership didn't even know about it. There is and Office of Compliance, and all employee discrimination, racial discrimination, all sorts of complaints go through there -- their system. And settlements are made privately.

And we have to look at how many of those are from sexual assault, or sexual harassment and get to the bottom of that. Reforms need to be made about what you can do with your office budget, as well. If you're going to be paying off large severance packages to try to silence women with taxpayer dollars, that's a huge concern, and it needs to be remedied.

HILL: Absolutely. And one we cannot lose sight of.

A.B., David, thank you both.


DRUCKER: Thank you.

HILL: Security is tight, to put it mildly, here in New York ahead of the 91st Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which of course, kicks off in just a matter of hours here. The balloons ready to soar high above the city. You see some of them tethered there, ready to go.

CNN's Jason Carroll is live along the parade route with more.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to you, Erica.

Some 200,000 people expected to line the parade route. I feel like all of them are already here. They've been starting to line up here at the parade route ever since about 4:30, 5 a.m. this morning. Some even earlier.

As you say, we are seeing enhanced police presence out here along the parade route. Police basically at every single block that we've seen. The counterterrorism needed out here, as well. Concrete barriers at every intersection along the parade route. Checking some of the bags of some of the folks who are here already in the bleachers, waving along there.

What we're also seeing out here are a lot of smiles, smiles from folks coming in from Pennsylvania. And yes, Minnesota, I did not forget. And they've got the hats here, as well. You want to start with Minnesota. You've been lined up here since how long this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably ten to 6.

CARROLL: Ten to 6. That's not too bad. And look, the weather cooperating. Down here in Pennsylvania, where they love the hats. And what do you call these things?


CARROLL: Headbands, OK. Don't act like I'm asking you hard questions. You've been here since 4:30, though, right?


CARROLL: Four-thirty? And who are you coming to see? I know Olaf is very popular. That's one of the giant balloons this year. One of the new.

Pikachu. That's old school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Totally. But we're excited about the drum cadences.

CARROLL: The drum cadences. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brings the tears.

CARROLL: That's nice.


CARROLL: Jimmy Fallon? It's not just about balloons, you guys. It's about real people, as well.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Celebrating everyone.

CARROLL: And celebrating everyone. Well, we're thankful to have you out here. Thank you, Pennsylvania. Thank you, Minnesota. Thank you very much.

I'm old school. You know, there's going to be 17 balloons out here. But I like the old-school balloons, people like Charlie Brown. So that's what I'm looking forward to seeing -- Chris, Erica.

CUOMO: Favorite balloon, Jason Carroll, right now.

HILL: Charlie Brown.

CARROLL: Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown.

CUOMO: Charlie Brown. All right.

I used to love Garfield.

HILL: Is he gone?

CUOMO: I don't know if he's still in the line-up. You know, it's hard to stay in the first string.

HILL: They change, and I'm not familiar with who they all are.

CUOMO: The new ones, right.

HILL: Olaf and the Grinch this year. Chris very excited about the Grinch.

[07:15:02] CUOMO: Big on the Grinch. Love it. Love the Jim Carrey Grinch also, though. Got to be honest about it.

You know, E. Hill almost did her first show here on NEW DAY solo because of the tightened security.

HILL: Yes, indeed.

CUOMO: Almost didn't make it in time.

HILL: Glad you made it. Foiled again.

President Trump is weighing in on one of the big debates in Washington right now in a rather surprising way. So just what signal is the president sending by defending Roy Moore? We'll tackle that one, next.


HILL: A growing number of congressmen facing accusations of sexual impropriety, and it comes as Donald Trump is defending Roy Moore and doubting Moore's accusers. So what signal is the president sending?

Let's discuss with CNN political commentator Ed Martin and Christine Quinn, the president of Women in Need.

So when we look at this, Christine, we can't help but point out what we're seeing from the president in terms of Roy Moore. He was very clear yesterday before -- or two days ago, I should say, before leaving for Mar-a-Lago. He denies it. He totally denies it. Let me tell you again, he denies it.

For the president, it's the end of that story. It's different with Al Franken. It's also different with Conyers. How do we weigh those?

[07:20:03] CHRISTINE QUINN, PRESIDENT, WOMEN IN NEED: Well, look, I think the president and some of the president and Moore's defenders are very stuck on that. If you say you didn't do it, you didn't do it, which is a very bizarre logic if you think about it. Because then any misdeed committed by anyone ever, if they say, "I didn't do it," it goes away. That's simply not how right and wrong works, and we all know that.

But I don't think the issue really should be at the end of the day what the president is saying. Because we know -- we knew he was going to just king of try to distract us. That he was in some way going to defend Roy Moore because he believes Roy Moore will support his, what I think is a very conservative and dangerous agenda.

The issue here is every day you turn on the TV, you turn on Twitter, and there is another person being accused of serious sexual violence or misconduct in this country. And that is the issue.

And what we need from the president and all of the leaders is a strong and robust response to that, whether it's in sports, politics, Democrats, Republicans, media. That's where the president is failing. He's sending a message, as he did, in my opinion, in the campaign and in his own behavior that sexual assault and sexual harassment doesn't exist and shouldn't be cracked down upon. And that -- this really is the shame of our nation. And the president is kind of leading that shame on parade.

HILL: So how does that change then, Ed? Because then we have two very different messages and two different narratives in this country right now. We have what Christine is setting up what she sees. Although I will point out, the president quick to weigh in, of course, on Al Franken. And yet, we have what the majority of the country is talking about, and that is this need to address -- to address these allegations of harassment and to listen to accusers.

I would argue it's important for the president to speak out on this but to have a clear message. Can we get that?

ED MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, happy Thanksgiving.

QUINN: Happy Thanksgiving.

MARTIN: And I think you're right. Yes, it's such an important issue. Ad I was listening to the show a few minutes ago. And I think Chris was bringing up the comment that, you know, each case is different. And that's one of the things that we've learned in this process that each of the victims, and especially each of the accusers, situations and descriptions deserve both honor and respect. And I think that's -- I think that's what we're saying. I want to join that chorus.

I think in the case of another thing Chris said, is every instance, though, is different in terms of the accusers and the comments. And what the president has said on Roy Moore was he denied it. You know, Al Franken and, to some sense, the congressmen, all the ones we've talked about have either admitted something or apologized for conduct.

In the case of Roy Moore, he said the 40 years ago allegation he said didn't happen. Now again, I have said over and over, and I want to say it again -- we should be very respectful. I'm not saying the women are not telling the truth. I'm saying I don't have a reason to doubt them or know their truth, and neither was Roy Moore.

And what we also -- but what we know in politics, and Christine knows this, things down the stretch of a campaign get tossed up. And the president is saying on that one, focus Alabamans on your choice. And by the way, Mitch McConnell and all the other senators have said after someone wins or loses the election, or wins the election, they're going to take up the issue in Ethics Committee investigation.

So we need to have more airing of the grievances. But we also have to be respectful that not every accusation is true in the way it's being presented. And people have a right to deny it if they didn't do it and to face the consequences of the denial. But -- but I think that's what we're seeing some of. So I think it's actually good.

QUINN: I think Mr. Martin confused some of what I said. What's happening here, as you pointed out is, one, the president's hypocrisy. Right? Two, because someone denies it, because Mr. Moore denies it doesn't mean it's not true. Not at all. And I think we're seeing, particularly when you have people and women after women after women coming forward with nothing to gain, right? We've heard story after story of the women and the families of the women who come forward are attacked, are threatened literally. There's nothing to gain. Nothing at all.

And I think what we need to be careful, and I'd urge people in Alabama to think about, is do you want someone who is both a sexual predator and a liar representing you in Alabama?

MARTIN: But that's not -- that's not fair.

QUINN: And there is no evidence--

MARTIN: That's just not fair, Christine.

QUINN: -- to indicate that Roy Moore is telling the truth. We now not only have women, we have people associated with the mall. We have other members of law enforcement and law enforcement affiliated entities saying they knew of this. They saw him in the mall after he was supposed to have been banned.

The fact that we're having a conversation about someone who wants to be a United States senator being banned from malls because he was stalking young girls and calling them out of class in school--

MARTIN: Yes, I mean, Christine--

QUINN: -- this is a level of specificity in accusations that is very hard to dismiss.

MARTIN: You sound like--

[07:25:00] QUINN: And that the president is making it about politics speaks to the deep level of hypocrisy and really how the president hasn't dealt with his own sexually--

MARTIN: Christine, OK, we got your point.

HILL: Go ahead, Ed.

QUINN: -- harassing and violent behavior.

MARTIN: Christine -- Christine is in the tradition of the Salem witch trials and the crucible in New York City. It's very famous for people to get so wound up in what they want to see to not describe what's happening.

What the president of the United States has said is, with 40 days left in an election, 35 now, we have two candidates who are running. And the Alabama voters are being bombarded with accusations.

And if the standard is anyone who says with sincerity that there is something that's happened to them, then they are true, then we -- then Christine's side of the aisle, every single candidate running for office from now until the end of time will be disqualified, because there will be people who accuse them.

So all I'm saying is this. The president has reframed the debate and said, "If someone denies it, you have to at least respect that." Now, you may all disagree, but I think a lot of the country looks up and says, "Hey, we do have a system that balances that."

And then the president turned the argument towards there is policy judgments that are going to take place. The next senator is going to vote for a pro-abortion or pro-life Supreme Court pick, is going to vote for the wall funding, is going to vote on crime and other things. And the Alabamans are going to decide.

And let's be clear. The Senate says they're going to investigate. And they're not really telling the truth. Because the last two senators thrown out of the Senate, expelled, was in 1862, Missouri senators, for joining the Confederacy. So--

HILL: We're going to have to do more on history next time. Because we're getting cut off.

QUINN: And Erica--

MARTIN: Thanks very much.

QUINN: You just made it loud and clear. For him, it's about aisles, and politics and bills, and not about protecting people--

MARTIN: No. Proof.

QUINN: -- who have been victims of sexual assault.

MARTIN: Proof, Christine.

QUINN: He made it very clear we're making it about politics. And that's sad.

HILL: I can tell you what it definitely is about. There are a lot of conflicting opinions here.

MARTIN: Right.

HILL: And we're getting different messages. We're going to continue to dive into those.

QUINN: And it shouldn't be about politics.

HILL: We're going to continue that--

QUINN: It should be about the truth.

HILL: -- at a later date. Thank you both for joining us. Happy Thanksgiving to both of you.

QUINN: Thank you. And your family. MARTIN: Happy Thanksgiving to you.

HILL: It is, of course Thanksgiving day, Mr. Cuomo.

CUOMO: They just put my face up there every once in a while, just to show my obvious concern. And that was a great conversation.

Thanksgiving, E. Hill, is right. Holiday shopping, big part of the season. We all know about Black Friday. Who is open today on Thanksgiving? Where can you get the best deals? Christine Romans tells you. My credit card is already getting warm.