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Press Forward Panel; Daniels Physically Threatened; Legal Battle Over Daniels' Interview. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 16, 2018 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:31:28] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You all know about the sexual harassment cataclysm that's hit the news business and taken down some of the biggest names on TV. But the question that I get now is, what's next? After Roger Ailes and Matt Lauer, et cetera, were ousted, what will change?

That was the question that brought together a group of women in network news who experienced and witnessed sexual harassment themselves. I sat down with them in an exclusive interview about how to fix what's rotten in newsrooms and beyond.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA (voice over): It started with Roger Ailes of Fox News.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Breaking news, a media bombshell. Roger Ailes now officially out.

CAMEROTA: And over the next 16 months, some of the biggest names in the news business fell like dominos.

Bill O'Reilly at Fox.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An embarrassing end to a 20-year run.

CAMEROTA: Mark Halperin at NBC News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A flood of sexual harassment allegations has now reached the program "Morning Joe."

DIANNA PIERCE BURGESS, CO-FOUNDER, PRESS FORWARD: There was this -- this momentum that was building.

DIANNA GOLDBERG MAY, CO-FOUNDER, PRESS FORWARD: I was so scared to come forward.

GLORIA RIVIERA, CO-FOUNDER, PRESS FORWARD: I can remember a moment of relief when I got a phone call that said, oh, my gosh, another person has come forward.

CAMEROTA: Charlie Rose at CBS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For decades Charlie Rose covered the headlines, now he is one. CAMEROTA: Matt Lauer at NBC.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a sad morning here at "Today" and at NBC News.

LARA SETRAKIAN, CO-FOUNDER, PRESS FORWARD: I think it was the feeling that we're not crazy. This isn't one network. This problem is system wide.

CAMEROTA: This week, ten current and former journalists came together, some meeting for the first time, to try to stop bad behavior in newsrooms.

MELINDA ARONS, CO-FOUNDER, PRESS FORWARD: Everyone knew it was true, and yet there was obviously no structure to bring about change.

CAMEROTA (on camera): A show of hands. How many women were sexually harassed? And how many of you feel that that moment did change the trajectory of your careers? How many of you are still nervous or reluctant to speak out and tell your full story today?

SHANNON VAN SANT, CO-FOUNDER, PRESS FORWARD : I'm still a working journalist. I feel a tremendous amount of risk speaking with you here today. But this industry, which I've dreamed of since I was 13 or 14 years old, has given me tremendous extraordinary experiences and a life of tremendous adventure and magic, but it's also brought a lot of pain.

CAMEROTA: Addie, you did speak out.

ADDIE ZINONE, CO-FOUNDER, PRESS FORWARD: I did.

CAMEROTA: And what happened after that?

ZINONE: I felt very exposed. I felt incredibly vulnerable. I didn't realize the severity of it. I mean it's brutal, brutal.

CAMEROTA (voice over): In December, Addie Zinone decided to tell the story of what happened to her nearly 18 years ago when she was a production assistant on the "Today" show. She says the host, Matt Lauer, at the time the biggest name in TV news, began pursuing her for sex.

ZINONE: I was in a position that he knew he could take advantage of. He wasn't going to go after a senior producer. He was going to go after the intern or the PA.

BURGESS: It's about abuse of power. Sexual harassment, consent, appropriate behavior, and all of these things are things that we are delving into.

CAMEROTA (voice over): That was their motivation to create Press Forward, the new initiative to stop harassment in newsrooms and make them safer for future journalists. On Tuesday, Press Forward launched at the National Press Club in Washington. It was a day of high hopes and high emotion. [08:35:02] CAROLYN MCGOUTY SUPPLE, CO-FOUNDER, PRESS FORWARD: I landed

my dream job at "World News" at ABC. But because of the culture in television, including sexual harassment, I left. There were many reasons that made me pivot my career and I still believe in the news.

ZINONE: I was the most vulnerable, and I believe I was violated by the most powerful and put in a situation where I didn't have an agency to make a good decision. And when you're a young woman and you know that you were an active participant in something that wasn't right, you carry that shame with you forever.

CAMEROTA: Press Forward has assembled a distinguished board of advisers with journalists, like CNN's Jake Tapper, and the long-time host of ABC's "Nightline," Ted Koppel, who made the provocative suggestion that perhaps employees should dress differently.

TED KOPPEL, FORMER HOST, ABC'S "NIGHTLINE": That, I am sure, is an unpopular notion today. But the fact of the matter is, I would feel just as -- I would feel just as upset by a guy coming in wearing a t- shirt and torn jeans to come to work at the office as I am by a woman who comes in wearing a skirt that is so short that it is provocative.

CAMEROTA: That elicited groans followed by awkward silence.

MAY: I found his comment very provocative, but --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Helpful (ph).

MAY: But -- but really interesting. It's like, you know what, let me bring you along. You can't just shut him down and just be like, what?

CAMEROTA: Yes.

MAY: Let me explain to you why I feel that viewpoint is misguided.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we want to create change, we have to invite men into the conversation. And they're going to say things that may shock us and surprise us, but we have to work together to talk --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About what's appropriate and what's not appropriate.

I work with men every day and they're wonderful. We love guys. And so I don't want people to feel like this is just a woman's issue or a gender issue. It's a human decency issue.

CAMEROTA: Press Forward has ideas for how to change newsrooms that they hope will ripple across other industries, including more sexual harassment training, raising money for a legal defense fund, hosting town halls and conducting industry assessments.

SUPPLE: To me it's really black and white. And, you know, if you -- you should not have a button under your desk that shuts the door. You should -- if your -- you should not parade naked in a towel if your assistant is in the room. You know, you should not really have masturbated during a job interview. I mean that's pretty black and white to me.

CAMEROTA (on camera): I hope these are the guidelines you've spelled out on the new website.

ELEANOR MCMARUS, CO-FOUNDER, PRESS FORWARD: My favorite one on the website is, if you can't say what you're about to say to a woman to that woman's mother, just don't say it. It's not appropriate.

CAMEROTA: How would you all finish this sentence, a year from now newsrooms will be blank?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Safer.

VAN SANT: And inspiring and an elevating place to work for every single person, not just the big stars, but the younger assistants and producers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A place where our best and brightest want to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More enlightened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Empowered.

CAMEROTA: What would you tell college students today who say that they want to become journalists and are idealistic? What would you tell them about this business?

RIVIERA: You deserve to be in a place where you can succeed without conditions, where your potential will be supported, where your focus will be your job, and that's it.

MCMANUS: Just because you're ambitious, hard-working and, you know, excited about your chosen career, that -- it doesn't mean you should be exploited for having those qualities.

SUPPLE: And we hope they have the courage to, if and when this happens to them, to do something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we need you. We need you to succeed. We need you to stay in the business and figure out some of the challenges that lie ahead. So don't give up.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: So that group is called Press Forward. They've asked me to be on their advisory board, which I'm honored to be a part of. So, of course, I will keep you updated on the tangible changes made in TV news and beyond.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Great conversation. You had to fold in the stuff by Ted because that's how culture changes. And, of course, that energy all has to go up, right? It has to go out, right? Get as many people involved as possible. Then it has to go up, because culture is changed from the top.

CAMEROTA: From the top, for sure. And they also do believe that it will have a ripple effect on other industries. The guidelines that they're trying to set they think can be a blueprint for any sort of industry. And, look, the more we talk about it, the more change happens.

CUOMO: It will be interesting to see what corporations make real moves. Thanks for bringing us that.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

CUOMO: Important stuff.

All right, so the lawyer for Stormy Daniels claims she was being physically threatened to stay silent about her alleged affair with President Trump. Proof? We have the attorney, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:43:55] CUOMO: All right, we have some developments that have to be discussed. The lawyer for Stormy Daniels claims that his client was being physically threatened to stay silent about her alleged affair with President Trump. There's some other news in this story as well.

Joining us now is Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti.

Counselor, thank you for the turnaround and coming in.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: Good morning.

CUOMO: But you're starting to drive the news cycle a little bit on this, so I want to talk to you about it. There are actually two developments, maybe three that we have to get to.

Let's start with that one. Again, state it for us here, what are you alleging was done to your client in terms of pressure to stay quiet?

AVENATTI: Well, I'm not alleging anything. I'm stating a fact. And the fact is that my client was physically threatened to stay silent about what she knew about Donald Trump. The details surrounding that she's going to discuss, I'm sure, on the "60 Minutes" interview on March 25. And the American people are going to weigh her voracity and whether she can be trusted, whether she appears to be credible and whether it happened or not, and they're going to learn the details surrounding that. And we're going to let them judge for themselves whether she's being honest.

[08:45:08] CUOMO: So, first of all, that means that the interview is going to air as far as you know. And we're hearing not this Sunday but next -- the 25th.

AVENATTI: "The Washington Post" reported I think yesterday that it is going to air on March 25.

CUOMO: They haven't communicated with you, CBS News, and given you the courtesy of letting you know when the piece airs?

AVENATTI: They have communicated with us, but I don't know the definitive date. I mean that is handled internally at CBS.

CUOMO: Why the vacillation on their part?

AVENATTI: Well, I don't know there's a vacillation. I think the issue is, is that they want to make sure they get it right. They're crossing every "t," they're dotting every "i." They understand the importance of this.

CUOMO: OK.

AVENATTI: They don't just run off half-cocked and air something without vetting it.

CUOMO: So the truth is, there was never an earlier date that was moved? It was always in flux, as far as you know?

AVENATTI: Well, my understanding was, it's always been in flux --

CUOMO: OK.

AVENATTI: And it's always been determined -- the determining factor was, first they're going to get it right and then they're going to determine what airs.

CUOMO: That's the way you're supposed to do the job. They're the top of the craft. I mean it's --

AVENATTI: No doubt.

CUOMO: Just trying to create a clear record here.

All right, so, again, now, all right, we wait for the interview. Fine. That's an acceptable tease because you have to have proof of this. That's why I say it's an allegation. You say it's a fact. The difference between the two, obviously, is proof. And you're saying that she will have proof of the same. When she says, I was threatened, she'll say by whom and how?

AVENATTI: What I'm saying is, is that she's going to be able to provide very specific details about what happened here.

CUOMO: Including who issued the threat?

AVENATTI: And I -- and I am confident -- I'm confident that the American people, after this interview, are going to come away and have little to no doubt that this woman is credible, she's telling the truth, and she knows what she's talking about.

CUOMO: All right, but just to not dance around that, that means she has to say who issued the threat, because a threat's only as good as it's source, right?

AVENATTI: I think I've answered the question. CUOMO: All right.

AVENATTI: And I think -- I think when people tune in on the 25th of March, they're going to know she's shooting straight with them.

CUOMO: Right. No, I hear you. But, I mean, you can yes-no on that. I mean you're a lawyer. You know, you're not a PR guy, you know what I mean? It's not about hyping the interview.

Now, the -- the --

AVENATTI: I don't have to hype this interview.

CUOMO: Well, no, I hear you, that's -- and you shouldn't. You're the lawyer, not a PR guy.

But the idea of, was this somebody close to the president of the United States?

AVENATTI: Again, I'm not -- I'm not looking to hype the interview, because the interview is going to get whatever ratings and whatever attention it's going to get.

CUOMO: Will that question be answered?

AVENATTI: I think when people tune in, they're going to learn what happened.

CUOMO: All right.

Another suggestion is that you say since your representation, you have received information from other women who have NDAs or something that are -- may or may not be germane to what's happening with Stormy Daniels. Is that true?

AVENATTI: We've been approached by six separate women who claim to have similar stories to those -- or to that of my client. Two of those women, at least two, have NDAs. We are in the very early stages of vetting those stories. I want to preach caution and restraint. We are not vouching for these stories. We are investigating them. We're not going to stake our reputation on them until we have confidence that they're telling the truth. We have 100 percent confidence that Ms. Clifford is telling the truth.

CUOMO: All right. You got to vet them. That's smart for you and your reputation.

Do these women though -- in terms of what their allegations are at this point before you vet them, do they all involve the president of the United States?

AVENATTI: Yes.

CUOMO: And only two of the women have NDAs with the president of the United States?

AVENATTI: No, that's not what I said. What I said was at least two. We know --

CUOMO: At least two. You don't know if the other ones do?

AVENATTI: Correct.

CUOMO: All right, so then we get to the relevance. The, so what, now what. You know, why would the American people care if six women came forward and said that they had affairs with the president of the United States?

AVENATTI: I don't know that they would care (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: But why would you represent them? In what regard?

AVENATTI: Well, we haven't made a determination as to whether we're going to represent them. We are in the very early stages of examining these allegations, learning the facts. We're not going to just run off and start making accusations or doing anything. We may not even end up representing them. But I think that I will speculate that ultimately the American people may be interested if, in fact -- and it's an if -- if, in fact, one or more of these women had a similar circumstance relating to my client as it related to the intimidation tactics --

CUOMO: Ah, so that's what --

AVENATTI: The bullying tactics and the efforts to muzzle and gag these women from telling their story.

CUOMO: Are you suggesting that your client entered into this NDA with Michael Cohen under duress?

AVENATTI: What I'm going to suggest --

CUOMO: What does that mean, first of all? That would mean that it's not a real contract because she did it because she felt pressured to have to do it. It wasn't a real bargain for exchange. Is that what you're saying?

AVENATTI: I think that when people tune in to this interview, they're going to learn the details, the circumstances under which she signed the original agreement, as well as what happened thereafter relating to the threats and coercive tactics that were used to shut my client up.

CUOMO: All right, but the timing matters, right, because if the fact pattern is she came, wanted a deal because she was shopping herself and her story to networks --

[08:50:08] AVENATTI: That's not what happened.

CUOMO: All right. But, again, well, we've got to see that proven, right? That's one thing. And says, I want to -- I'm going to speak unless we can figure out a deal. Fine, legal, as long as it wasn't being coercive. She makes that deal. Now she doesn't like that deal or she wants to speak. That's one disposition under the law. If it was, well, I have to do this because I'm afraid if I don't do it something will happen to me because that has been articulated, that's something else. Which was it?

AVENATTI: Something else.

CUOMO: Now, this is new. I haven't heard you say this before. Why?

AVENATTI: Well, I'm assuming that's why you had me on your show. You don't want me to just repeat what I repeat everywhere else, right?

CUOMO: That's true. But, look, what I'm saying is, I have an issue, from the beginning, if you knew that she had done this under duress, you wouldn't be doing all of this fine print law about whether it's executed to everybody and who the parties are who aren't the parties. If it were done under duress, you would have said it's not a real deal because they threatened her if she didn't do it.

AVENATTI: Well, as you know, proving duress is a very, very difficult thing under the law. And so why prove duress when you can just point to the agreement and allege that it wasn't signed?

CUOMO: Oh, a huge difference. A huge difference. Not only perhaps in terms of legal sufficiency, but in terms of public court of public opinion. I mean we're having this conversation here, not in front of a magistrate, for a reason. And if it was, she was threatened into the deal, it's a lot different than, yes, she wanted to be quiet and the time. Now she doesn't want to anymore and they're not being fair to her. Very different. Very different. Fair point?

AVENATTI: I agree.

CUOMO: Fair point.

All right, so we'll see what you can prove. We'll watch the interview. You come back. We'll discuss what matters to the American people.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

CUOMO: Michael Avenatti, thank you for taking the time.

AVENATTI: Appreciate it.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris, "The Good Stuff" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:55:42] CUOMO: "Good Stuff" on a Friday. It means it's better stuff.

A Virginia restaurant is allowing customers to order your meal without saying a word.

CAMEROTA: How does that work?

CUOMO: And why are they doing it? Server Sierra Campbell (ph), born deaf. It did not stop the owners of the restaurant from hiring her. They adjusted the menu so customers can point to what they want on the menu. Campbell, beyond grateful.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIERRA CAMPBELL (through translator): I have a lot of regular customers. They come in. They want to see me and that makes me feel good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right, why did I want to do this one? I love it. I love the acceptance of the idea that there is no limitation. Everything can be accommodated and everything can make us better because there's more diversity and strengths around us. Perfect example.

CAMEROTA: OK, on that note, have a wonderful weekend everybody. CNN "NEWSROOM" with John Berman picks up after this very quick break.