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Lauer Fired at NBC; May Responds to Trump's Retweet; Trump Still Questions Birth Certificate. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 29, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:12] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with the breaking news here on this Wednesday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Beginning with news that another powerful man is out of a job over apparent inappropriate behavior at work. This time it is Matt Lauer, the longtime co-anchor of the "Today" show whose name is synonymous with morning television. NBC News says that Lauer was fired after a detailed complaint by a female colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior that happened at the 2014 Sochi Olympic games.

Lauer's co-host, Savannah Guthrie, made the announcement at the tip top of the show this morning, sharing her shock and her heartache and her disappointment.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-HOST, NBC'S "TODAY" SHOW: For the moment all we can say is that we are heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for Matt. He's my dear, dear friend and my partner. And he is beloved by many, many people here. And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.

And we are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks. How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly. And I don't know the answer to that.


BALDWIN: We've got a lot of voices standing by, but let's begin with our senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, who's with us. He also wrote a book about the "Today" show, "Top of the Morning." So he knows a lot about this show, the people involved.

I know a lot of people woke up this morning tuning in thinking it would be another day and at the top of the hour people were shocked. What happened?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: These allegations date back to 2014. A woman came forward to NBC on Monday night with a detailed complaint saying that Lauer had behaved inappropriately when they were all over in Russia for the Winter Olympics. You know the "Today" show always goes on the road for the Olympics.

So she says this relationship -- this inappropriate relationship started then and continued after the Olympics. We don't know the details, however. We don't know how she described the behavior. I was told that she didn't use the word assault, but she may have described a pattern of harassment. We just don't know the details, nor do we know her name. She's remaining anonymous. But when that --

BALDWIN: Is she even a current employee (INAUDIBLE)?

STELTER: She is a current employee.


STELTER: What we do know is that on Tuesday it was investigated inside NBC and it was so serious that by Tuesday night he was fired.

Now, we've heard from the lawyer from this anonymous accuser who says she doesn't want money. She didn't go -- come forward for a settlement. She just wanted the company to do the right thing.

So that's what we're hearing from the accuser side. What we don't know is are there other stories that are about to come out.


STELTER: "The New York Times" and "Variety" magazine have been investigating Lauer's past for several weeks. They've talked to other women, probably only on background. We don't know of any women are ready to go on the record. And we don't know when those stories are going to come out. So there's a cloud here and certainly a lot of curiosity and mystery. And that's what informed NBC's decision to fire him.

BALDWIN: Stay with me. Let me bring in a couple other voices.

Joining me now also to talk more about Matt Lauer's firing, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel and Liz Plank, the host of "Divided States of Women" for Vox Media. Also with us, Hadas Gold in Washington. She's our politics media and business reporter.

So, Jamie Gangel, I wanted to talk to you. You know, and obviously full disclosure for everyone, you know, before CNN, before you joined us, you were at NBC. That was your family for more than 30 years, much of that time spent working with Matt and others on the "Today" show. When you saw the news this morning, what was your first reaction?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I was shocked. I want to say, before anything, no one condones any kind of harassment. I think it's also important to say, we do not know many facts in this yet. As Brian just said, there is very little we know. But I've known Matt and worked with him for more than 20 years. And

nothing that I have seen or heard would ever lead me to believe that he would harass someone. It's just not the person I knew.

BALDWIN: Can you tell us more just about the culture at the "Today" show?

GANGEL: So it's interesting. Someone -- a reporter called me and asked me about, was there a bro culture at NBC?

BALDWIN: A lot of guys.

GANGEL: A lot of guys. So here's what I can tell you. I was there for more than 30 years. So when I started, there were many more men than women.

But the "Today" show is a very unusual place. I would say, I don't know the exact numbers, about 80 percent of our staff at the "Today" show was women. It was perhaps the most forward-looking workplace for women. It was one of the first places to have job shares for working mothers, to have people work at home. So at the "Today" show, absolutely no bro culture whatsoever.

[14:05:09] BALDWIN: I want to go back in time a little bit because it's significant in this whole bigger conversation. Before this movement and all these people coming forward there was Bill O'Reilly and there was Fox News. And we know what happened with him.

I want you to watch Matt Lauer with Bill O'Reilly.


MATT LAUER: You were probably the last guy in the world that they wanted to fire because you were the guy that the ratings and the revenues were built on. You carried that network on your shoulders for a lot of years. So doesn't it seem safe to assume that the people at Fox News were given a piece of information or given some evidence that simply made it impossible for you to stay on at Fox News?

BILL O'REILLY: I -- I -- that's a false assumption. There isn't any smoking gun or anything.

LAUER: But you don't let your number one guy go --

O'REILLY: Sure you do.

LAUER: Unless you have information that you think makes him --

O'REILLY: That's not true.


BALDWIN: Hadas, he was tough on Bill O'Reilly. I remember that interview. Do you watch that differently now?

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: I mean I was just watching it now, I thought, wow, if you replace Fox News with NBC and Bill O'Reilly with Matt Lauer, it could almost be the same because Matt Lauer was the face of the "Today" show for more than two decades. He commanded a top salary amongst all television anchors and really helped create the "Today" show into a huge money making machine for NBC. Just the amount of money that that show brings in for the network, it's undeniable that he himself probably carried a little bit of that on his own shoulders. And so it's really ironic to be watching that interview and say that must be kind of the same thing that happened here. Clearly the evidence was damming enough from the NBC News executives to decide that they needed to act so quickly on this.

BALDWIN: My heart really goes out to Savannah. She is an incredible woman. And, Liz, just on Savannah, and also thinking back not to long ago thinking about Norah and Gayle and before that it was Mika talking about Mark Halperin. It's like, people don't understand, when you do morning television, you are up far too early. And, you know, these people, they're your dance partners. These are the people who know so much about you and your lives and your personal lives. And so, you know, I felt for her when she was talking about being heartbroken, not only for, you know, the allegations and this woman who has come forward, but also for her good friend Matt.

LIZ PLANK, HOST, VOX MEDIA'S "DIVIDED STATES OF WOMEN": Right. And I think that's how a lot of people felt even watching that. I mean we all sort of got texts or calls from our mom's or grandmother. And I think this is the first sort of public figure that feels so accessible to a lot of people.


PLANK: And they turn on the "Today" show feeling like this was their friend. And I think it's important, you know, it's not because it didn't happen to you that it didn't happen, right? And so this, you know, often when there's people -- big public figures who have worked, you know, I'm thinking of Al Franken with "SNL" and the women of "SNL" coming together and saying we only have great things to say about him, you know, it's not because he didn't rob your house that he didn't rob any house, right? A robber, it still sort of happened and we have to be careful how we talk about it.

And, for me, I mean, I can't help of all of the -- I can't help but notice all of the chances that we've given men and the lack of chances that we haven't given to women. When you look at Matt Lauer's age, for example, as he has aged, his co-hosts have sort of remained the same age. Many women were pushed out of the "Today" show. Katie Couric, Ann Curry. You talk a lot about the cut throat world of morning television. Katie Couric in 2012 said that Matt Lauer had a bad habit of pinching her behind.

GANGEL: I think that that was a joke.


GANGEL: I went back and looked at that --

PLANK: OK. GANGEL: And I actually think that was "Today" show family humor. I don't think that that was the case. I think we should also say, Katie Couric left the "Today" show to go anchor the CBS "Evening News."


GANGEL: That's not exactly getting pushed out.

PLANK: But is it a coincidence that there's, you know, women are --

GANGEL: That was her dream job.

PLANK: There is ageism, though, I think.

GANGEL: There are very few women of Matt's age on the air.

BALDWIN: We love you, Jamie Gangel. Love you.

GANGEL: I am probably -- other than Wolf Blitzer, I'm the oldest person on the air here. So that is -- that is fair to say. But I just think, you know, with Katie, that's the case.

I want to say something else about this. And, again, we have to preface it by saying, we don't know very much about this. But one of my concerns, in general, watching this story unfold, and you have been at the forefront of it --

STELTER: Harvey Weinstein two months ago and it's ever since.

GANGEL: Is , we have lots of different kinds of harassment. And that's a very general category being thrown in one bucket. We have accusations like Harvey where we're talking about assault. We have allegations of rape. We have other charges where someone touched someone on the behind. We don't know what's happened in Matt's case on either side. He hasn't said anything yet. But -- but I'm just --

BALDWIN: You don't want (INAUDIBLE) case to be deluded by a deluge of people coming forward with various --

[14:10:05] GANGEL: I am concerned. I want all harassment to be taken seriously.

PLANK: Right.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

GANGEL: But I also think we can't jump to assumptions that all of these cases are the same. And I want to make sure that when there is assault, rape, a terribly hostile work atmosphere --

BALDWIN: That it's taken very seriously.

GANGEL: People losing their jobs, that that is taken very seriously.

BALDWIN: Do we know, Brian, how long NBC knew about this?

STELTER: We know that they were aware for the last few weeks that "The New York Times" and "Variety" were making phone calls.


STELTER: But, you know, think about the situation if you're an NBC boss. What do you do? You don't have an HR complaint on file against Matt Lauer, but you know reporters are making calls trying to find out if he's been engaging in sexual misconduct.

So the network kept him on the air. He anchored the Thanksgiving Parade last week, for example. And only last night did they decided to fire him.

Tough decisions by these company's. And, of course, this is not just NBC or last week CBS. We're seeing this in many different industries.

Today, Garrison Keilar (ph), a broadcaster on the radio --


STELTER: He's been fired by Minnesota Public Radio.


STELTER: There's a producer out in Hollywood of a show on CW just fired today.

You know, I was thinking about the case of John Lassiter (ph). He was one of the heads of Pixar at Disney.

GANGEL: Pixar.

STELTER: He recently said I'm taking a six month leave of absence amid misconduct allegations.

But, again, it's a spectrum. There are different kind of charges against different men in different industries. All of them are serious, but they are different. And in the case of Lauer, we don't know what he's being (INAUDIBLE).

BALDWIN: I just -- I hope -- let me -- here's my concern, to add to yours, is just that I don't want all of these people coming forward to have a chilling effect on women being hired.

GANGEL: Right.

BALDWIN: If there are women -- if there are men in power who say, well, we don't want that female intern this summer because I'm just -- I don't want to take the chances, or women, you know, up and coming. That's my worry.

GANGEL: What if you're a male boss and you're hiring someone who's going to be traveling on the road with you? Right?

PLANK: Well, why not hire more female bosses then? Then more women in power --

BALDWIN: Need them equally.

PLANK: There we go.

BALDWIN: I hear you loud and clear.

PLANK: All set (ph).

BALDWIN: I know. I know. It's tricky. It's serious. But I appreciate all of you here. And again, we don't know all the facts in this case with regard to Matt Lauer. I know you're digging. We're all trying to figure out what is going on.

Jamie and Hadas and Liz and Brian, thank you so very much.

PLANK: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up here, President Trump is headed to Missouri to push his tax plan. But there is separate controversy brewing. The White House on the defensive after President Trump retweeted a series of anti-Muslim videos from a far right British Twitter account. We're going to talk about that.

Also ahead, outrage overseas. The British prime minister, Theresa May, she's firing back, saying that President Trump is entirely in the wrong. How are other world leaders reacting to this? How might this chill relations with our friends over in the United Kingdom?

And, after a two-month manhunt, a major development today in the search for that serial killer in Tampa. How police found the suspected killer and his weapon, but still questions surrounding a motive.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.


[14:17:28] BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

President Trump coming under heavy scrutiny today for sharing what many say is incredibly offensive and explosive messages again against Muslims. Two days after being condemned for using a racial slur about Native American. And, once again, the White House is defending the president after he retweeted three different videos bashing Muslims from a leader of the far right group Britain First. These videos, which, by the way, CNN has not verified, report show Muslims murdering a teenager, smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary, and beating a disabled boy.

They came from Jayda Fransen, a leader of this Britain First organization, who has been convicted of a British hate crime. Earlier the president declined to talk to the media or explain why he retweeted the videos.




BALDWIN: Today, not so chatty with members of the media there. But here he is from the White House. This is the White House response on those tweets.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Whether it's a real video, the threat is real, and that is what the president is talking about. That's what the president is focused on is dealing with those real threats. And those are real no matter how you look at it.

Look, I'm not talking about the nature of the video. I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real and that's what the president is talking about.


BALDWIN: Let's start here in London with my colleague Phil Black.

And, Phil, before we talk about who is Jayda Fransen is, we know that the British PM has responded to the president and his retweets. What did she say?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, the British prime minister really didn't want to have to criticize Donald Trump. She's worked very hard to maintain a close relationship with him, even when it's not popular. But here today, through a spokesperson, she had to say that President Trump was wrong for circulating these videos.

Through the spokesman, this is what the statement said. Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions. The British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudice rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents, decency, tolerance and respect.

Now, that was from the prime minister. And we've had even stronger statements from other British politicians today as well.

Britain First will tell you that they are patriotic Christians defending the British people and their traditional values. But the more widely held view here is that they are extremist, divisive and often racist.

[14:20:09] The woman, the deputy leader, whose tweets President Trump circulated very widely today, has, as you touched on, been convicted for a hate crime for harassing a Muslim woman on the streets. She's facing other charges. So are other members of this organization as well.

So the roundly held view here also from notably the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of London, a man who's been in Twitter arguments with Donald Trump before, today he made the point that this is an organization that needs to be condemned. Its views should not be amplified.


BALDWIN: This is who the president retweets.

Phil Black, thank you.

Phil talked about the British prime minister there, Theresa May, far from the only leader there condemning the president's retweets. The outcry from multiple people came in fast and furious today, including a response from the husband of a murdered member of parliament.

You remember this story about Jo Cox. She was shot and stabbed by a man who reportedly shouted, put Britain first, as he was attacking her. Her husband, Brendon Cox, tweeted, quote, Trump has legitimized the far right in his own country. Now he's trying to do it in our ours. Spreading hatred has consequences and the president should be ashamed of himself.

So I've got two people with me now. Dana Bash, our chief political correspondent, and Chris Cillizza, our politics reporter and editor at large.

Dana, what is going on in the Oval Office?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wish I could answer that question. And I know I'm up on Capitol Hill right now. There are lots of the president's fellow Republicans who are, once again, in the very uncomfortable position of having to answer that question themselves. And they have similar -- they have similar voters. They have similar constituencies in many cases and yet clearly most of them do not agree with this, do not support it, are trying to kind of put their hands on their ears and saying, la, la, la, I don't hear it.

But there's only -- that only goes so far. I mean that's what's happening in the hallways here. That only goes so far because at the end of the day the president of the United States retweeted videos, real or not, that have a content and have a source that is racist, that is bigoted, and that is, you know, nothing that this country should stand for. And it has the effective stamp of approval from the leader of the free world. And it's really hard to wrap your head around that.

BALDWIN: Well, our lawmakers may be wearing earmuffs -- and I want to come back to that point.

But, Chris Cillizza, the MPs in England are not. I just want to read one more. This is an MP tweeting, Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in. The president of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours. Donald Trump, you are not welcome in my country and my city.

It makes me wonder, Chris, what are world leaders thinking of us? CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: I mean I

would just take a look at the last 48 hours, Brooke, from Pocahontas, the reference to Elizabeth Warren in front of the Navajo talkers, code talkers, to this, to the tweets about Matt Lauer, to the fact that he was on the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping this morning.

I don't know how you can look at this and think that there -- that we aren't entering some sort of new phase for Donald Trump. Yes, I know he prides himself on being unpredictable, on being unconventional. But it -- this borders on erratic and wild what he's doing here. And I've said this before but I think especially now, dangerous, while North Korea continues to test missiles, while we live in a fraught and tension-filled world. We have a president who, as Dana point out, is engaging in the sort of stuff that you would likely condemn if a local shock jock radio host did. And this is the president of the United States.

BALDWIN: Maggie Haberman would agree. She was on "NEW DAY" this morning. You know, she's the one who's done all this reporting about how he's been peddling some of these conspiracy theories, that they're not over. And I believe the words she used was unleashed and unmoored.


BALDWIN: That something does seem afoot in the last couple of days.

Adding to her and Jonathan Martin's reporting out of "The Times," apparently a couple of things. One, the president, you know, this is all behind closed doors, reportedly is now saying, even though he publically acknowledged the "Access Hollywood" tape was his voice, he's now, you know, denying that behind closed doors. He's still claiming that he lost the popular vote because of all this wide-spread voter fraud, which, not true. And, third, he is still questioning the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate.

I mean, Dana, I can't believe I'm asking this, but is there something seriously wrong about him?

[14:25:12] BASH: Listen, I think I'm going to answer that by reminding you and everybody what the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, has said. And the answer is, yes, he is concerned about that. And he is concerned about World War III breaking out. That is -- that was no small thing. And that -- it's still sort of ringing in the hallways here and probably should be across the country and even the world.

Again, there -- whether it's here or outside the Oval Office with the president's chief of staff who said just last week or the week before, once again, that he doesn't see that it is his responsibility to police the president's tweets, that's a good, you know, job insurance policy. It makes sense because it's not policeable, it's pretty clear, if you want to keep your job as chief of staff or anything in the White House.

But that is the president's main mode of communication and the main way that he has an impact on the world. And it's pretty hard to put your head in the sand if you're chief of staff to the president or you're a senior member of the Republican Party and pretend like these tweets are not happening.

I think if there is a bright side, and I'm really reaching here, it is that he's not putting the things that Maggie and Jonathan reported in "The New York Times" on Twitter yet. It's just behind closed doors.

CILLIZZA: I'll just -- can I just add -- can I add something to Dana's point though?

BALDWIN: Yes, go ahead, Chris.

CILLIZZA: I -- look, I think the fact that you have Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is the White House press secretary, the official spokesperson for our federal government, our White House, saying, it doesn't really matter if these videos that Trump retweeted are real or not, the point is still the same. No, it does matter, right, in a very real way.


CILLIZZA: I hate to keep using the word "real," but there's a difference between videos that are real and not. And the fact that, number one, the White House press secretary seems to say there's not really a big difference. And, number two, to think that Donald Trump did no verification of where this came from, whether these videos were doctored, fake, in any way, shape or form, he just did it because, why? Because it supports the points he's already making.

BASH: Yes.

CILLIZZA: He is flexible with fact. We've known that from the beginning. He continues to show it every day.

BASH: And can I just add one thing, quickly, Brooke?


BASH: Many times when we have seen this kind of outrageous, outlandish behavior, it is because he doesn't want you to watch the bouncing red ball over here, he wants you to look at the one that he's creating over here. And that might be the case now.

But we're also in a situation where what were you and I talking about this time yesterday, the fact that he had a really successful meetings here on Capitol Hill with the tax bill that he's trying to push through.



BASH: That he did a good job by all accounts in twisting arms and wheeling and dealing and doing the kind of thing he's supposed to be doing to get -- finally get a legislative accomplishment. Why step on that? BALDWIN: Right, what about a good old fashioned pat on the back to Republicans and -- totally.

BASH: Yes.

BALDWIN: I -- I -- we've all -- we've all lost -- you know, we've all -- we've all stopped trying to wonder, but we all need to be functioning in the same world of facts, you know, and not being flexible.


BALDWIN: And this just takes it to a whole, crazy other level.

Dana and Chris, thank you for the conversation.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And a quick programming note to all of you, tonight the husband of that murdered member of parliament that we just mentioned, Jo Cox, her husband will join Anderson Cooper to talk about how he feels and the ramifications of these Trump retweets.

Coming up, now North Korea is calling its latest missile launch a, quote, gift package for old lunatic Trump. Those are direct quotes. The president says he'll take care of it, but what does he mean by that? We are live on the Korean peninsula coming up.