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President Trump Pushing More Conspiracy Theories; ABC Cancels 'Roseanne' Following Racist Tweets. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 29, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values. And we have decided to cancel her show."

Joining me now, CNN media analyst Bill Carter, CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer, and on the phone with me is my colleague Don Lemon.

But, Bill Carter, let me just begin with you.

Twenty million viewers.


BALDWIN: All kinds of money coming in, but that tweet, beyond racist.

CARTER: It is clearly a racist tweet, and it's not the first time. It's not the only thing she said.

There's been a litany of comments that she's made that have been over the line, and people have wondered, how much is ABC going to take? Still, to make this decision, you have to say this is a decision very much against their commercial interests. And they're making it on the basis of a moral decision. They're saying it's wrong. They are just saying it's wrong.

This toxic is. It's ugly. We're not going to stand by it.

It's pretty unusual for any corporation to do that kind of thing against its own interests.

BALDWIN: Don Lemon, what did you think when you saw this?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I thought that they would have no other choice but to fire her.

But I thought that they might not, considering the show was a hit in its second turn.

But I have to agree with Bill. And I'm surprised other people aren't saying it. Listen, while I commend Channing Dungey for doing what she did, there were many people, me included, who wonder -- who wondered why she got the opportunity in the first place, again, considering what she has said about Susan Rice. She made similar comments about Susan Rice.

She had -- she made similar comments regarding gay people, at least offensive comments involving the LGBT community. She -- the president stood up to -- or said things, negative things about football players who took a knee for believing and standing up -- or at least kneeling for what they believed.

Well, we remember what Roseanne did. She yelled out the national anthem and see spat.

BALDWIN: She grabbed herself.

LEMON: And grabbed her crotch during the national anthem. And yet the people who supported her this time around are the people who are calling -- or who are agreeing with the president that those football players are sons of bitches or that they don't deserve to be in this country.

I think it's complete hypocrisy. I don't understand why they hired her to do a reboot of "Roseanne" in the first place. I commend them for doing what they do, but some people get opportunities that others don't. And that's part of the everyday racism in this country that we have to deal with.

Roseanne is a problem, yes, Roseanne is at the -- Roseanne is going to be. She has tons of money. She has tons of fame. She's always going to be OK. The little things that people get away with every day that this administration is normalizing, that's the things that we should be more concerned about.

That is the lessons from this particular incident. Does it happen in your workplace? Are you treated the same as your colleagues as a woman, as a person of color, as a minority? Do you get paid the same as your white colleagues?

Do you get the same sorts of promotions and opportunities? Those are the important things. Roseanne will be OK, but all this other normalizing of things and things that we ignore because there are big stars who get called out, we know Roseanne feels.

We have always known how Roseanne feels. And so the lesson from this is, what we do about it when it comes to everyday racism, instead of a big star in Hollywood like Roseanne?

BALDWIN: To Don's point, Tara, she has been peddling these conspiracies. And I don't know where she gets them, right, and these racist remarks, for a long, long time.

Yet ABC, they knew who they were dealing with. And they have -- they chose her as the star in this network reboot.


Don says a lot of the words out of my mouth about why -- I don't understand why ABC even gave her a show in the first place.

And just for full disclosure, I'm also an ABC News contributor, but that's on the news side. This is the entertainment side.

So, yes, you -- someone as despicable as she is -- her entire career has been nothing but bad taste. I'm glad Don brought up what she did with the national anthem. I mean, we all remember how disgusting that was and how offensive it was, yet she seems to be able to be rewarded now in the era of Trump.

Does anyone believe that she would have gotten a show during the Obama administration? No, because that kind of behavior was never OK. There was a red line of decency and certain common decency that people just expected from people, even from comedians.

And when you crossed that line, it was no longer OK. In the era of Trump, when you see what the president does on a daily basis, then a major network thinks that someone like Roseanne Barr can be redeemed and give them -- reward them with a platform of a network show.

And the fact that it was a hit and they made this decision, I applaud ABC for the swift action. There was absolutely no other action they could've taken. It had to be this.

And it wasn't only this. Let's not forget she does peddle these crazy conspiracy theories that you see on 4chan and other places. I mean, Pizzagate, she was one of those. She actually was -- she's been peddling this thing about child sex trafficking rings that President Trump...



BALDWIN: No, no, that's -- that's my whole point in asking.


BALDWIN: They knew -- ABC knew who they had on their hands. And so obviously they ended up getting a hit, but it came with serious, serious baggage.


BALDWIN: Right, right, right.


SETMAYER: And that's recent. Like, that wasn't like 10 years ago. That was like -- it was in the last year.


SETMAYER: She made a comment about Seth Rich when Steve Scalise was shot last year.

She made -- she tweeted out some crazy conspiracy theory about he went to the same hospital that took out Seth Rich, who was the DNC staffer who was last murdered last year.



SETMAYER: Very irresponsible stuff.

CARTER: She is very irresponsible.

We do have to say, part of what's happened here is that ABC was playing to the Trump audience with this show.

BALDWIN: Well, it shows with all the viewership that so much of this country felt ignored.


CARTER: ... responded to it. And so did he. And he took credit for the success of her ratings.

And, unfortunately, I'm sure his base will object to this, but some of the opinions that she has are shared by that base. It's -- there's a toxic poison that's infecting our conscious -- our national consciousness.

And she was playing into that. And people are responding to that. And you see now there's backlash against ABC. Oh, she's being censored. Oh, they're taking her off the air, instead of people saying, this is the right thing to do. This is repugnant, what she's doing. And somebody has to say no. Even though it's costing us money, we're not going to take it.


BALDWIN: No, I was just going to say, repugnant was used by the head of ABC Entertainment.

Go ahead, Don.


But as soon as they said that they were going to cancel her, I said the conspiracy theory about stifling conservative voices is going to start in three, two, one.


LEMON: And surely enough, it happened.

This isn't about stifling. If you're a conservative and you're supporting someone who is a bigot, who is a racist -- and let's not get it twisted. And let's not soften the words here and say, oh, racially tinged.

This is racist. She is racist. There's no other way to put it. The president traffics in racism as well. And I have said that I believe he is a racist because he traffics in the same thing.

And she's not just about playing to it. She is promoting these conspiracy theories that people are believing. And the president is doing it as well. And the administration is doing it as well. Again, this is part of the normalization of conspiracy theories and everyday racism in this country.

And people are starting to believe that it's OK. They believe these conspiracy theories because there are people like Roseanne who have a platform and a megaphone to push it out there all the time, 20 million people who followed Roseanne. Why do they follow her?

Because, in some way, they bought into her bigotry. And at least part of what she was selling is the bigotry, the racism, the homophobia, the conspiracy theories. That's all part of Roseanne.

And if you watched that show and you believed it, then you bought into it, and you're part of that as well.


SETMAYER: Well, as the conservative -- as the -- amen, Don.

And you know what? And as the conservative on this panel, I am concerned about what reaction we're going to see. We're starting to see it trickle in already, where instead of condemning this for the racism that it is and how despicable her behavior is, and that she deserved to lose her show, you're starting to see people justify this and try to turn it around and make excuses for it.

And, to me, that is exactly the Trump effect. And I don't -- I'm not someone that has Trump derangement syndrome and blames Donald Trump for everything. But this right here, this kind of stuff, is a direct byproduct of how Donald Trump behaves, that things that he has said...

BALDWIN: Well, to that point...

SETMAYER: ... the things that he does not condemn.

This is the world we live in. I have been a conservative for over 20 years, and never received the kind of racist death threats and despicable things that I have received since Donald Trump has been around.

BALDWIN: I'm so sorry.

SETMAYER: So, I live it every day also. It's real.

BALDWIN: Let's go back -- it was two months -- I believe -- I believe you 100 percent.

And this is how -- let's remember, two months ago, today is how President Trump spun -- member, "Roseanne" show number one came out, mega, mega ratings. This what he said at the time:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at Roseanne. I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings. Look at her ratings.


TRUMP: I got a call from Mark Burnett. He did "The Apprentice." He's a great guy.

He said, "Donald, I called just to say hello and to tell you, did you see Roseanne's ratings?"

I said, "Mark, how big were they?"

They were unbelievable, over 18 million people. And it was about us.


BALDWIN: So, claiming credit at the time. P.S., no Trump tweet.


BALDWIN: I don't know if we will hear him at all.

This was born out of the Trump election, right, filling that void.



CARTER: It's the same thing. He's saying this was about him.

And so he's attaching itself to Roseanne. Then this is about him too.

This sort of toxic language and opinions are what he's been spewing across the country. And they are taking hold. And people are feeling more emboldened to take it.

I got to tell you, the other thing be interesting to see, Brooke, is, will someone else pick this show up? The show is -- ABC does not own this show. The show's owned by a production company, Carsey-Werner.


BALDWIN: So, it could live on elsewhere.

CARTER: It can be sold elsewhere. Another network could step up and by this.


BALDWIN: Yes, but what if everyone -- Wanda Sykes bailed.

All these -- we're seeing tweets from all these big names.

CARTER: That's right. And some cast members. That's right.

But you just saw 18 million people. There might be a network out there that says, I'll take a shot at this.


SETMAYER: I hope not. I hope not, because this is a rebuke.

CARTER: I hope not too.

SETMAYER: I mean, this is a rebuke of this -- of that underbelly of people out there that subscribe to this kind of bigotry and racism, think that it's OK and cheer on Trump or Roseanne when they -- when they say things like this.

But I hope that another network does not pick up a woman who in 2018 compares a black woman to an ape. I'm sorry.

BALDWIN: Let's get a quick break in.


LEMON: And don't forget about the Nazi cookies, her dressed with the cookies in the oven. I mean, come on, really.


BALDWIN: We have done segments on the tweets and the conspiracy theories of Roseanne Barr.

Quick break. We're getting some new information on her agent. That's next.



BALDWIN: All right, let's go back to our big story this hour, ABC canceling its hit show "Roseanne" after the star, Roseanne Barr, sent out a racist tweet this morning.

And we have also just learned that she's been dropped from her talent agency.

So with me to talk more about this, Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's "SMERCONISH."

And, Michael, let me go to your tweet. I understand you tweeted about this. And you said, "On a 1 to 10 scale, she gets a 9 for racism and a 10 for stupidity."

Talk to me about that.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's such a no-brainer.

And I'm sensitive to the forces of political correctness. I try and look at a circumstance and determine whether there's a benign meaning, a benign interpretation. Is this something that we're getting far too worked up about? In this case, no.


SMERCONISH: It deserves our consternation.

It is a no-brainer. And that leads me to the second of those scores, which is to say, how could someone be so stupid as to send out that kind of a tweet and think that it's acceptable or to think that it's a laugh line in 2018? Sorry, no, you're done.

BALDWIN: Well, she obviously still thought it was a joke when she apologized -- I put that in air quotes -- because sitting here talking to Bill Carter, I kind of agree, I don't know how much of an apology this is

This is what she wrote: "I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I am truly sorry for making a bad joke" -- so, she says a joke -- "about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me. My joke was in bad taste."

SMERCONISH: Yes, I'm sorry.


BALDWIN: Was that the full-throated apology? Yes, yes.

SMERCONISH: It's so beyond the pale that I think that a professional death sentence, which is what ABC has imposed in this case, is warranted.

I wish I could give her some kind of the benefit of the doubt. I just don't see it.

BALDWIN: We talk so much, especially in this Trump era, about how apologies just don't seem to exist. And I think Roseanne's apology is case in point.

And you write in your book, Michael -- I know it's coming out tomorrow -- "Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right," like, the left and the right in this country -- I mean, this story flows right into I think part of your point in the book.

Tell me more.

SMERCONISH: Right, but there have to be some things.

I mean, facts do need to matter. There have to be some things that decent people from the left and the right can look at and can reach an accord on.

And, yes, I mean, this tailor-made for the subject matter of the book, because this kind of a comment is not something that should be subject to a left-right debate. It's not about ideology. It's about something that was in horribly poor taste, unfunny, racist. That's it, no-brainer, move on to the next case. BALDWIN: And just lastly, again, your book, it is out tomorrow.


SMERCONISH: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So, everyone run out and buy "Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right."

Love that song as well. And do not miss his show, "SMERCONISH," Saturday mornings 9:00 a.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Thank you.


BALDWIN: Coming up next here on CNN: President Trump floating a new theory out there with zero evidence that special counsel Robert Mueller will meddle in the midterm elections.

One of Trump's biographers joins me live to discuss why this is totally in line with the man she knows.



BALDWIN: Another day, another slew of lip Trump tweets, another lie, another conspiracy theory, another falsehood.

Call it what you will. There is this chorus of critics screaming, this is not normal.

But I wanted to take a moment today to really step back and dissect exactly what the president is saying here and why it matters to all of us.

Today, the president has said that the special counsel is rigged. He accused the Justice Department and FBI of meddling in the midterms. He called for a federal investigation of his opponents. And he claimed the Justice Department attorneys are pushing a political agenda.

This should not be normalized, should be recognized for what it is. All of this, these tweets, these attacks, his own attorney admits is a political effort to sway the court of public opinion.

So, let's go now to Trump biographer Gwenda Blair. She recently called the president the blame shifter in chief.

So, Gwenda, nice to have you on.


BALDWIN: What do you mean by that?

BLAIR: It's -- he's never the one who's responsible. If something goes wrong, it's somebody else's fault.

And, if anything, if he wants to change the subject, he does. So we have had an -- I mean, as you were just saying, an endless stream of accusations, charges, all sorts of distractions to keep -- most of all to keep our attention, but also to keep our attention diverted from anything, to being able to really focus on the serious kinds of things that are happening, what's happening across various departments of the executive branch, all the rollbacks of various regulations, all that stuff.


BLAIR: We don't look at those. We don't look at what happened in Russia.

We want to look at the accusations.

BALDWIN: But there is this thing called accountability. How does one live a life without accountability?

BLAIR: He's been -- he's a very shrewd guy.

He's a tremendous salesman. I don't mean -- we all have seen this in action in the last three years and way before that. He knows you want to keep people's attention on, keep their attention away from anything that's a problem, keep changing the subject.


He's really good at that. So, accountability, what's that? Blame it on somebody else, move on.

BALDWIN: I want to read part of this tweet from the president where he said: "Sorry. I have got to start focusing my energy on North Korean nuclear, bad trade deals, VA" -- goes on and on and on -- "not on the rigged Russia witch-hunt."

Does it seem to you -- I don't know how often you wake up and read the president's tweets, like so many of us do for work -- but it seems there is this obsession on the part of the president regarding the special counsel, Robert Mueller, obsession.

BLAIR: He needs, wants to and arguably needs to undermine the legitimacy of that investigation.

He's undermining and delegitimizing every chance he gets. And he makes a chance if he doesn't have one at the ready. I think -- I think it's really interesting, the recent addition of Giuliani to the White House team.

There have been a lot of questions about, is Giuliani muddling things, is he making a mess, is he contradicting himself?

It's all great, I think the way that Trump sees it, because Giuliani is a distraction machine in himself. He is a headline grammar -- grabber. He's got all of our attention. Any time we let up from listening to Trump, Giuliani's on stage.

I think that's exactly what purpose he is serving. He's also the hero of 9/11. So, it's all aimed at that base of voters that elected Trump in 2016, and that he's looking to reelect him in 2020.

BALDWIN: Back to the point a second ago about not feeling this accountability.

I mean, there are -- there is a spectrum of lies, right, active lies, lying about something that maybe he didn't know the full picture of.

Maggie Haberman with "The New York Times" was on TV earlier today, and she writes a ton, ton about Trump. And she had said that she's afraid to use the word lie all the time regarding the president, because it loses its impact, or else you would be saying lie 20 times a day.

But how else, Gwenda, would you call out the president?

BLAIR: It's a big problem. And Maggie is one of the best journalists around.

BALDWIN: The best.

BLAIR: And she's absolutely right. It is a big, big problem.

Trump speaks the language of cable. That's about headlines, incomplete sentences, limited vocabulary, tons of charges. And he's got Twitter to get that language out there ahead of the mainstream journalism.

Maggie Haberman, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," CNN speak the language of facts, of accountability, of cause and effect. And that language is very hard to catch up to the language of cable.

It's two different communication systems. And Trump is really good at the cable one.

BALDWIN: Gwenda Blair, your book, "The Trumps: Three Generations that Built an Empire."

You so very much.

BLAIR: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: On the very same day ABC takes a stand against racism by canceling "Roseanne," Starbucks is also addressing the racial issues at its own company, closing 8,000 stores today to train its employees about recognizing bias.

Is that enough? How effective will it be? We will talk to the executive who worked with the Starbucks -- Starbucks on this particular program coming up.