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Comedian Makes Controversial Remarks at White House Correspondents Dinner; President Trump Holds Rally in Michigan. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 30, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:36] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your new day. It's Monday, April 30, 8:00 now in the east. The uproar over a comedian's controversial roast of the Trump administration at a White House correspondents dinner is heating up. President Trump ripping the White House Correspondents Association for the, quote, embarrassing comments.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The journalists group now distancing itself from the comedian. So will President Trump use the uproar to intensify the long running battle with the media when he holds a Rose Garden news conference today. Let's bring in CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN political analyst John Avlon. Great to see you. Nia-Malika, so the correspondents dinner, let's just start with that. Obviously there has been all sorts of controversy in the past 24, 48 hours.



CAMEROTA: And 24, 48 minutes that we've just lived. What's the White House going to do?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I think they're going to milk this for all it is worth. We saw the president obviously tweeting about it. We will see what he says today in the Rose Garden. But yes, this fits perfectly into what the White House wants to do which is sort of tie journalists into the Hollywood elite, in this case a comedian.

And in some ways the White House correspondents dinner did some of that work for them by distancing themselves from this comedian and essentially suggesting that the comedian has the same sort of responsibilities that journalists do. In no way is that true. She is a comedian. She gave her act there. Some found some of it funny. Some people found it offensive. Guess what, that's what comedians do. For whatever reason they decided that the centerpiece of this thing at least in the absence of a president is going to be a comedian. I think if they want somebody who is not offensive maybe you get somebody like Carrot Top, maybe you get Gallagher, right?

(LAUGHTER) HENDERSON: Somebody like that who is smashing watermelons. But here they have gone with Michelle Wolf who everybody knows what kind of comedian she is.


CAMEROTA: Let's just stop for a moment.

AVLON: Can we just please, Gallagher, Carrot Top, Sinbad in there. Really this is good. This is a good strategy.

CAMEROTA: They are very grateful for this moment.

CUOMO: Somewhere all three of them are very happy. I'm back, baby. He's getting that hat on, Gallagher, getting his watermelons ready.

So, John, is there room for criticism of how the dinner is and the weekend? Of course, but who cares about that? That doesn't matter to American people. Is there room for criticism of the comedian? Absolutely. Why? Because she was not there to spread warm and fuzzy. So there will be people who say she was too mean to Sarah Sanders, it was too much, and that's fine.

But here is the larger point. For people to say I'm outraged at that because I'm a conservative and you guys were offensive to me about my feelings of abortion, it was mean and I didn't like it, but not have the same reactions to things that the president of the United States says on a regular basis, he literally just said it at that rally in Michigan, they hate you, the media, they hate you. Those are conservative principles, too. They always were, how people treat their families, how they the treat people in their romantic lives, how they act and what kind of language they use. These were bedrock conservative issues. They are being ignored now because the president lines up with their political interests.

AVLON: This is all situational ethics, and it's absurd to hold the media to a higher standard than the president of the United States. But we see that all the time. I think when people get too offended by comedians they are really directing their anger in the wrong place.

But I do think that one thing is notable. On a number of occasions when Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been confronted by journalists agree or offended by something the president has said, she has recommended get a sense of humor. Try it out some time. That certainly applies here. If feelings are hurt, I feel terribly. But if it is being used to play the victim to get an edge on the outrage meter of the day, that doesn't actually serve anybody. So let's be real about what is offensive, what's not, and how to judge a comedian versus the president of the United States.

CAMEROTA: Nia-Malika, obviously if this is a teachable moment, the journalists didn't play this one right because if their real goal was unity, solidarity, showing that they don't want a battle royal with the president, the president may want that with the media, this missed the mark of those goals. And so now here we are, and maybe it is, as you say, going to be for the president's war with the media. And OK, we accept that, but I don't know that it is helpful.

[08:00:05] HENDERSON: I think part of the problem with this new iteration of the White House correspondents' dinner is that the president hasn't decided to go. So typically when you have a White House correspondents dinner the president is there. The president is making fun of everyone. He's making fun of himself, he's making fun of his administration. He's making fun of Democrats and Republicans. So in the absence of that there is this outside focus on the comedian there. So it turns into a different kind of event. We were talking about it now. We probably would have been talking about President Trump if he had been there and the jokes he would have made. Who knows, he might have poked fun at Sarah Sanders and other folks in his administration.

So I do think they probably have to rethink it a little bit because if the president doesn't go then you're going to have this focus on whoever the comedian is whoever the act is or whatever. But this is also what happens every single year with the White House correspondents dinner. There is always this rethinking, is it too celebrity focused. When Larry Wilmore did it when he called the president the n-word, should he have done that. So there is always this pearl clutching around this event which is just silly. It's a joke. It's a comedic act. They have to decide whether or not the way they want to conduct this dinner. I didn't go to the dinner. I don't really like usually going to the dinner because you are packed in there eating a terrible dinner usually late at night. No offense to the folks who cooked the dinner.

CUOMO: Why would they be offended?

HENDERSON: They are going to come after me on Twitter.

AVLON: But you make a good point. When it is the president of the United States and a comedian there is a high low. Presidents use self-deprecating humor. When President Trump does that, as he rarely does, it is actually very effective. But that itself feeds into the outrage Olympics. And it's worth folks remembering that before President Trump, the last president not to attend the correspondents dinner was Ronald Reagan when he was recovering from being shot. So that itself is part of how we end up in this echo chamber.

CUOMO: And let's see how it played out. So the White House correspondents dinner is going on. President is in Michigan giving a rally. He says to the audience they hate you, the media. They hate you. Did that dinner give him an opportunity to say that? Yes. Gave him some ammo. No question about that. But you don't hear any outrage of people who are conservative about you shouldn't say that. You should say that the media hate them. You shouldn't say the media should be put in jail. You shouldn't say that this caravan is some kind of new phenomenon that shows laxity of our laws. As Alisyn pointed out earlier, how many last year got asylum? Three out of a similar number of people who came. So it is not about our laws being terrible. This is a bad picture on the screen for people who think that border security is a nonissue.

CAMEROTA: They are not jumping over. They are just sitting atop. CUOMO: It doesn't send the right message of having an impenetrable

border for the political optics, not good. But the president sat there, he got it wrong about the law, he got it wrong about the work situation, what's happening. They used to say they take your jobs. Now he is there in front of this audience talking about how, Nia- Malika, it is good they are coming. They're going to come. We are going to do guest work. Listen to this, because it is a total change in the hate parade that Trump usually has.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the farmers, OK. It's going to get good. And we're going to let your guest workers come in because we're going to have strong borders. But we have to have your workers come in. The unemployment picture is so good, it's so strong that we have to let people come in. They are going to be guest workers. They are going to come, they're going to work on your farms. We will have the H2Vs come in. We're going to have a lot of things happening. But then they have to go out.


CUOMO: Nia, this is new, is it not.

HENDERSON: It is. It is new. And it's directed at farmers, and farmers who were reacting not so well in the Midwest there to some of those tariffs and what that might mean for their crops and their livelihoods. But what was interesting about that is that crowd was pretty much dead silent when he said that. That really fell flat. He wasn't selling that well because it is such a change from what he normally says.

That is a crowd used to him saying build the wall, keep immigrants out. Immigrants come here and they reek all sorts of havoc. So that is usually what stirs up that base of supporters there. So him saying something very differently there and really I think an olive branch to farmers there, and really, let's face it, he does the same thing, bringing in temporary workers for a lot of his properties a lot of the times. So it's sort of a business decision, but it fell flat in that audience.

CAMEROTA: I thought it was interesting, too, that they were confused. They had some cognitive dissonance of wait a minute, I don't know what message this is. But the way the president spun it I thought was so interesting to watch President Trump do his thing. This is about to get good, everybody, OK. For the farmers it's going to get really good. You guys are going to love this.

[08:10:02] And you can hear him pitching this. So obviously someone, Larry Kudlow, someone on his economic was like Mr. Trump, actually we need workers right now because of the unemployment level.

AVLON: Right. And so he was at a rally and supposed to offer his greatest hits, and all of a sudden people were like guest worker program? That is not what I came here to expect. That is what the president should be advancing. We should be talking about policy. There should be more on an emphasis on governing rather than grandstanding. But that is not what people expect from this president. That actually ends up hurting our civic conversation more than a comedian making an off color joke.

CUOMO: And it also ignores a big part of the reality of immigration is somehow not helpful to Trump's rhetoric, which is the farmers are going to be happy about it. Of course they are. They get flooded with really cheap labor that lives in almost subhuman conditions and that's really good for their bottom line, and nobody goes after them in any real way for hiring undocumented immigrants. Why? Because they've got money and power as a lobby. That's why. So Trump chooses to demonize the workers who are only coming because of the supply. That is why they are coming here, Nia-Malika.

So we heard him do that. We also heard him say Trump is so tough on Putin that he put that lawyer up to saying that she works for him to try to hurt me here at home. He basically said now we need to be worried about Russian interference. Now it is real.

HENDERSON: In some ways admitting it wasn't real before, right, and Putin was looking out for him before when typically the party line is somehow this wasn't happening, that maybe Putin was going after Hillary Clinton, or not going after Hillary Clinton in Clinton's camp. So this is a new argument from him, this idea that Putin has all of a sudden turned on him when before presumably in this story he is telling now they were looking out for each other. So we will see how long this argument lasts.

That whole thing, he is trying out lines. We imagine that this is the president who wants to be helpful to his party which is facing perhaps a blue wave come November. So there he was trying out some lines to see how they play with that audience that is always, usually at least, so loyal to him. So we will see how this plays going forward.

CUOMO: So the president tweeting, Nia-Malika, he says the people made the dinner at the White House correspondent dinner should be outraged. He said the White House correspondents dinner is dead as we know it. This couldn't be less true. This was a total disaster and an embarrassment to our great country and all that it stands for. Fake news is alive and well and beautifully represented on Saturday night.

So we know, he took an opportunity and he is very good at this, and he's going on attack. But again, this will be about the people who support him. And they are not going to say, Mr. President, you say ugly things all the time when it helps your cause. You did it there in Michigan. So maybe if you want it to be nice maybe you should be nice. They're not going to say that, but he is playing to advantage because he got an opening.

AVLON: Yes. But we expect so little from this president by any standard of past presidencies. We are no longer even aiming for presidential. But you can judge by the 44 people who came before him what is in that ballpark. And that ends up dumbing it all down. That hurts the civic conversation. Is he going to take a shot at this? Sure. Is he going to say somehow it's related to the media and quote- unquote, he calls fake news. Yes. It doesn't. This is a comedian. You might like her humor, you don't like the humor. But we need to be holding the president to the highest standard of all. And we have stopped doing that. That's normalization.

CAMEROTA: John Avlon, Nia-Malika Henderson, great to talk to you. Thank you.

HENDERSON: Thanks, guys.

CUOMO: Big news coming from the Korean peninsula. Listen to this. The South Korean president says -- actually, let's start with North Korea. The North Korean leader Kim says he is going to close his nuclear test site soon. Should the U.S. be skeptical? Of course. We're going to have a Republican congressman weighing in on that next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This administration has its eye wide open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to require those steps that demonstrate the denuclearization is going to be achieved. We are not going to take promises. We are not going to take words. We are going to look for actions and deeds.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisting the administration will remain vigilant as North Korea comes to the negotiating table. This comes Reuters reports that South Korea's president says that President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the standoff.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia, former Navy SEAL, Iraq war veteran. Always good to have you on the show, sir. I know you are under the weather. I hope you are feeling better. You have the strength of three men, so you are probably better already.

REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Good morning, Chris. It's great to be with you. I am I feel great. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Good. That's good to hear. We need you healthy. So North Korea, we get that the White House is saying let's be cautious. But are you pleasantly surprised by the momentum to this point?

TAYLOR: I'm certainly happy with it. I think, you know, putting diplomatic efforts backed by a strong military and sanctions has certainly been a big part of what brought us to this point. So, I'm happy about it, but certainly I'm cautiously optimistic about the prospects for peace.

CUOMO: And what do you think of the idea of the South Korean president saying just for getting to this point the president of the United States deserves the Nobel Peace Prize?

TAYLOR: You have to give credit where credit is due. I mean, I understand that the president's -- the way that he does things sometimes are unorthodoxed, but clearly, they have produced results in some areas and this is certainly one of them.

And you know, the South Korean president has done a good job towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and it's what the world needs, of course. I think there are other things that we can do.

I would like to see the president quite frankly lead on a new marshal plan or Trump plan, if you will, using the Asian states of China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan to help create a fund to help infrastructure which could be another carrot to make sure that we get rid of this --

CUOMO: That is a good idea. That's a very interesting idea. Have you offered that up?

TAYLOR: I'm writing an op-ed right now, but I think that, you know, obviously war would be much more costly than treasure and lives than putting forth an infrastructure plan. Kim when he was over in South Korea spoke about their outdated infrastructures. That might be another carrot that the United States could lean on and use to get our allies over there to help finance bringing that country into this century.

[08:20:06] CUOMO: I don't have to tell you this. You have been securing our freedom all over the world, but the military campaigns don't forestall or remove the need for the infrastructure. They only enhance it. It is just about when you need to do it and how much more because of what has been destroyed by military action that would need to put a situation under control.

So, we have the right enthusiasm at this point. We have giving credit where credit is due to this point. What are your concerns? How iffy do you think this situation remains?

TAYLOR: I think you have the clip with Secretary Pompeo. I think he's absolutely correct. We have to trust but verify. We have to make sure that there are concrete steps not just rhetoric. The North Koreans have been very good at extracting concessions over the past couple of decades.

So, it is important that we don't just have international inspectors going there, but we have Western, American, or British or et cetera, that actually go there and verify that in fact whatever deal is potentially created that they are verifying and there are folks seeing that.

Recently, when he talked about shutting down the one nuclear test site, that is a great symbolic step towards potential peace and denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, but it is not really a functional step because they may need not test anymore. We don't know yet. It is important that we have our own inspectors. CUOMO: Does it shed light on the fact that you need to be careful about the politics around the Iran deal? I get what the president said during the campaign. I got why it was a buzz word for him. But now that you are seeing the situation with North Korea shape up, they really seem to be approaching it with some type of potential outcome that would look like the Iran nuclear deal. Do you think it would change the politics around the Iran deal for the administration?

TAYLOR: Possibly. That is a good point, but I think that with any kind of North Korean nuclear deal would have to be a lot stronger than the Iran deal, which is something that I did not support because I think short term wise, sure, you prevent them, but then you basically -- essentially, you guarantee them the ability to get it --

All the while they are spending money getting influence around the region and working on the delivery capabilities. So, I think it is important that if there is a deal that if there is one it is strong and has a lot of verification there. I think that actually sends a good signal to the potential for renegotiating an Iran deal.

CUOMO: You are obviously representative from Virginia, but you are certainly aware of what is going on in the border. The president is saying look at this caravan coming. Here's proof of the proof.

Of course, these caravans are not new. One came a similar size last year only three people who sought asylum reportedly got it. So, I don't know how this caravan is proof of the laxity of laws and the nonexistence of a border.

That said, these pictures on the screen I'm sure are very emboldening for the president and his argument that we need tougher security there. Do you believe that this caravan is proof that the system is broken?

TAYLOR: Not that the system is broken as you said. Asylum laws are tough. It's tough to be granted asylum in this country. I think those images are a strong symbol for the president and folks who want stronger border security but also a symbol for the other side as well. I think it is dangerous to use that symbol quite frankly because if you are advocating and pushing folks to bring convoys or caravans like that, it is very dangerous.

It's very dangerous. There is a lot of crime down there and organized crime and a lot of death quite frankly. So, I'm concerned about the lives of the women and children and the men who actually in those convoys. But I do think there are asylum laws are strong. As you said, it's very tough to get asylum.

CUOMO: All right. I mean, the president was saying that we have the worst laws, weakest. I know that we excuse what he said. I mean, there is a larger conversation going on this morning, as you know, that I'm not going to burden you with.

But it should matter when he says something that is demonstratively false. You know, if we are going to go after a comedian because she was being too harsh, the president should be held to that standard, too. It's just not true. The proof is in the numbers.

You had hundreds of people come. They wanted asylum, only three got it. Right now, all of these people are being told that they can't be accommodated. We'll see how many get it. However, he is tweeting about something else.

I want to take you back, "Numerous countries are being considered for the meetings", he is talking about Korea, "but would peace house on the border of North and south Korea be a more representative important and lasting site than a third-party country? Just asking." Odd for him to put this out on Twitter. Something that should be a very sensitive discussion, but what is your take on the idea of where to hold such a meeting?

TAYLOR: You know, I don't really have a strong opinion. Quite frankly, I'm optimistic about a meeting. So, I just want it to happen. So, obviously, I don't really have a strong opinion.

CUOMO: As long as it happens, wherever it is, doesn't matter.

TAYLOR: Yes, I think so. Obviously, it has to be great security there, but I think the president has a knack for symbolism. You know, we'll see what happens and where it is, but I'm optimistic about it.

[08:25:08] CUOMO: Right. Of course, Taylor is a Navy SEAL, so he feels safe wherever he is. It is the normal people like us that we have to be worried about in a situation like that. Congressman, thank you for joining us and talking about what matters to the American people as always.

TAYLOR: Thanks, Chris. Have a great day.

CUOMO: All right. Be well -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Chris, so comedian, Michelle Wolf, was a lightning rod at the White House Correspondents Dinner and this morning on social media as well. Is she being held to a different standard than the president? We debate that next.



MICHELLE WOLF, COMEDIAN: We are graced with their presence tonight. I have to say I'm a little star struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in the handmade tale. I actually really like Sarah. I think she is very resourceful like she burns fat and then uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she is born with it, maybe it is lies.


CAMEROTA: President Trump this morning is blasting White House Correspondents Dinner after that monologue from comic, Michelle Wolf. Moments ago, the president tweeted in part, "The White House Correspondents Dinner is dead as we know it.