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ABC Pulls Plug on "Roseanne" Show After Racist Tweet Storm; WAPO: White House Aides, Staffers Liken Atmosphere to "Game of Thrones"; White House Slaps China with Tariffs on $50 Billion Worth of Goods; Former NY Major Rudy Giuliani Booed at Yankee Stadium. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 29, 2018 - 13:30   ET



[13:34:13] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: More breaking news involving the firestorm, a true firestorm swirling around the ABC star, Roseanne Barr, and her racist and ugly tweet storm.

Our senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, is joining us.

Brian, one of her cast members now, another cast member weighing in?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": It is interesting, Wolf, because we were talking about ABC having no comment about these racist and, in one case, anti-Semitic tweets. But we have heard from Sara Gilbert, one of the other stars of "Roseanne." Of course, she plays Roseanne's daughter on the show. Here is what Sara Gilbert has just shared with her fans trying to distance herself from Barr.

She said, "Roseanne's recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, equating her to an ape are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I'm disappointed in her actions to say the least." Sara Gilbert went on to say, "This is incredibly sad and difficult for all of us. And we created a show that we believe in, are proud of, and that audiences love, one that is separate and apart from the opinions and words of one cast member."

[13:35:17] So you can see there, Wolf, Sara Gilbert trying to create some space between what Roseanne Barr says in her personal life on Twitter and how the show feels and how the show reflects America.

But let's be real about this, there's no real way to separate the star of the sitcom called "Roseanne" from what she says on Twitter. That is why social media is full of complaints about this, calling for ABC to say something or maybe do something in reaction.

Just to remind our viewers, one of the tweets about former Obama aide, Valerie Jarrett, was clearly racist. There was another tweet calling Chelsea a relative of George Soros. Then making some anti-Semitic claims about Soros' ancestry. Really ugly stuff, even by Barr's standards. She's always been controversial on Twitter, but today, she took to a different level. And I am expecting some comment from ABC in the coming hours. BLITZER: But so far, silence from ABC, is that right?

STELTER: So far, that's right.

BLITZER: As soon as you get something from them, let us know. We're all standing by for that.

STELTER: Thanks.

BLITZER: Brian Stelter, thank you.

Other news, President Trump making it clear to everyone in the West Wing that he is the one certainly calling the shots. A new report from the "Washington Post" details the dynamic in the White House after the dramatic staff turnover in President Trump's first year. The president himself is stepping into roles of many senior aides leaving them scrambling to make his vision a reality.

Josh Dawsey worked on that article for the "Washington Post." He's joining us now. He's also a CNN political analyst.

One part, Josh, of your reporting says at least two people in his inner circle, quote, "liken the dynamic in the West Wing to HBO's 'Game of Thrones.'" They chose the show they said not because of the conflicts and deadly family feuds, but because of the general sense of confusion and see sawing fortunes."

Tell us more about what you're hearing.

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, the first year was dominated by in-fighting. You had Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, a number of aids clashing. And this year, it is not the same. Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, Larry Kudlow, his economic advisor, John Bolton, his national security advisor, they are all contemporaries of a certain age of the president. He sees many as peers. And it is not the in-fighting.

Nut what is different is that far less people have been replaced and they are not necessarily always coordinated with one another. So a different place where president is serving as his own political strategist, his own communications director. And he has a few advisors around him who are giving him some guidance and wisdom, but for the most part, he is calling the shots. And he is not leaning on advisers like he was at much in the first year.

BLITZER: And the White House announced this morning that China tariffs are now back on. That is a rather abrupt about-face from last week where the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said that they were, quote, "on hold." What do you know about shift?

DAWSEY: Tariffs are the biggest illustration in our article, Wolf. For the first year, some aides, Gary Cohn, Rob Porter, others really tried to stop him from doing it. The president kept illustrating in his mind why all these countries are he thinks taking advantage of the United States. What we're seeing now, the president is trying to impose tariffs on automobiles, on China. You know, and other countries as well. What we are seeing, his restrictionist policies that dominate how the president sees the world are really manifesting themselves now when you don't have a number of folks around him who are prohibiting that from happening.

BLITZER: And the Dow Jones clearly not very happy right now with this announcement. Down about 450 points. We'll see what happens in the coming few hours.

Josh, good reporting as usual. Thank you very much.

DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.

[13:39:16] BLITZER: A frigid reception. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani booed on his birthday at one of his favorite haunts, Yankee Stadium. What is behind the anger towards the man once known as "America's Mayor?" We'll take a closer look.


BLITZER: From America's mayor to the president's controversial personal lawyer, in recent weeks, Rudy Giuliani doing interview after interview defending the president in some rather interesting ways.


RUDY GIULIANI, (R), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR & DONALD TRUMP PERSONAL ATTORNEY: If you are innocent, you got to fight back.


GIULIANI: It's not poor little Hillary, we have to be nice to her.

It's a damn witch hunt.

I'm not an expert on the facts yet. I'm getting there.


BLITZER: And at one of his most favorite places, Yankee Stadium, on his birthday, Rudy Giuliani -- watch this -- is getting booed.


ANNOUNCER: Happy birthday to mayor Giuliani.



BLITZER: So what happened to New York's former golden boy?

Our politics reporter, Chris Cillizza, is with us to take a closer look.

Wow, what a change.


Let's go through -- because Rudy Giuliani has been in public life for a very long time. So, 1980, he is -- this is where he comes to prominence. He is the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, the area that is handling Michael Cohen's case now. But he is a prosecutor of real note. He prosecutes the mafia, he raises his profile significantly enough that, by 1989, he runs for governor and loses to David Dickens in the narrowest election result at that time ever.

Let's go forward a little bit to our next one here, because the '90s, so Rudy Giuliani becomes the first mayor -- in 1993, he is elected the first Republican mayor since John Lindsey in 1965.

I think we have some footage of that when he was elected in '93.



[13:45:37] GIULIANI: BLITZER: Thank you, thank you.



CILLIZZA: So he builds up a reputation as a tough on crime, cleaning up New York streets. And then, obviously, in 2001, another iteration of Rudy Giuliani where he goes from a big figure in New York City to a big figure nationally, and that is because of September 11th, 2001. It comes at the very end of his second term as mayor. It makes him into a massive figure for his handling of it, for the calm.

He becomes -- and I think we have video of this. You see Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, the two Senators at the time, he becomes there it is "Times" Person of the Year. That profile makes him into someone who is hugely wanted in Republican circles.

I remember in the 2000s, he is not running for anything, he briefly ran against Hillary Clinton for Senate. He had to drop out of that race, but he becomes someone that everyone wants on the campaign trail. He is America's mayor. Without question, the most hotly desired person in politics. In '08, he runs for president and he doesn't win a single state.

And 2010, which brings us up to where we are now, he is kind of out of the spotlight. And now he has become Donald Trump's lawyer and that brings us to where we are. He is in the mix constantly, quoted constantly. I don't know if he is a good thing or bad thing for Donald Trump. He has said things about the Stormy Daniels case, about North Korea, and the release of the hostages that turned on out to be incorrect. But at the moment, he shares Donald Trump's confidence and we know that is the only guy's vote who matters. So Rudy Giuliani, from 1980 to 2010, he is a chameleon. Who he is today is very different than who he was in the 1980s.

BLITZER: And being booed on his 75th birthday at Yankee Stadium, that must have hurt.

CILLIZZA: He did the time so the phone bit, pretending he's not hearing the booing, which is not the worst --

BLITZER: Not nice, but that's what he got.

CILLIZZA: Anybody who has been in public life as long as he has --


BLITZER: "Time" magazine said he was a tower of strength on that cover when he was Person of the Year.

Thanks, Chris, very much.


BLITZER: A Democratic congressman is getting called out by President Trump after he proposed a bill to repeal the Republican tax cuts. And that Colorado lawmaker is standing by live to respond to the president's tweet.

Also, a new study estimates that the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria is far higher than the government had said. We have details.


[13:50:27] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We have the breaking news. ABC just releasing a statement moments ago after the star, Roseanne Barr, went off on a racist and extremely offensive Twitter rant earlier in the day.

Let's go back to our media correspondent, Brian Stelter.

Brian, what does ABC say?

STELTER: ABC has just issued a sunning statement, Wolf, that says the show has been canceled. I'll reads the two-sentence statement: "Roseanne's Twitter statements, these racist remarks earlier in the day, are abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values. And we have decided to cancel her show."

Just a short statement from Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment. By the way Dungey, one of the most prominent African- American women in network television, in Hollywood. She and other ABC executives were horrified with her tweets earlier in the day. They decided to pull the plug on this sitcom. It's remarkable. You and I talked about this 45 minutes ago and I told you I couldn't imagine Roseanne being fired because she was such a money maker for ABC. Here show was revived a few months ago. It became one of the biggest hits on network television, drawing 10 million to 20 million viewers each week.

And ABC knew who they were hiring. Roseanne Barr had a long history of controversial, sometimes offensive, even racist remarks on Twitter. Yet ABC picked up the show because they believed they could draw millions and millions of dollars from it. However, today, ABC has drawn a line by cancelling the show, not long before they had to renew for a second season. They made a statement about what was appropriate and acceptable in mainstream America.

At a time we talk about Trump's America and the strain of intolerance we've seen, the idea that President Trump and his allies may be normalizing racist belief or behavior, I think we see Disney, one of the biggest companies in the country, make statement against that and say there are certain lines you cannot cross. You cannot compare a black woman, a former Obama aide to an ape and still be employed by ABC.

BLITZER: Back in 2013, she made a comparison of Susan Rice, President Obama's national security adviser, also an African-American woman, to an ape. I won't read that tweet.

The tweet she had on Valerie Jarrett this morning was also disgusting.


BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.

STELTER: Briefly, I have a theory, Wolf, on what ABC might have been thinking. Up until now, the attitude of the executives was that they were going to hold their nose about her tweets. She had posted horrible stuff in the past, they were going to look the other way and try to get her to focus on her show, making her sitcom the revival it could be. But today, they couldn't take it anymore. They had to take action. They are losing one of its biggest sitcoms, giving up millions in revenues, but it's making a statement on what is acceptable in the public domain.

BLITZER: Let's get Van Jones' reaction.

Van, you're joining us right now. What do you think?

VAN JONES, CNN HOST, "THE VAN JONES SHOW" (via telephone): Well, I also did not predict this and did not expect this, but in some ways, it feels like we've been in sort of a moral freefall for three years where standard after starred and is lowered and lowered and lowered, things that were considered completely off the rails, out of bound and out of other parts of society as well. And it started to feel like there was going to be a new normal of intolerance.

This is one. First signs I've seen that there's a limit how much obnoxious behavior and speech is going to be tolerated at least by people know better, whether it's a Starbucks or Disney, you're getting corporate America standing in to say enough is enough and enough.

BLITZER: It is disgusting.

And ABC, to its credit, Brian, they reacted very quickly, as you point out. Earlier this hour I asked you, do you think they're going to fire her, you didn't think they would. At least to me, it looked like how could ABC continue with her given the disgusting racist and anti- Semitic tweets?

[13:55:10] STELTER: A bridge too far, a line too far. There will been rumors that the show might get cancelled. Even 30 minutes ago, Sara Gilbert didn't seem to be aware the show was going to be cancelled. She went out and distanced herself by saying the comments were abhorrent. I think there was an attempt to save the show but instead ABC is making it very clear what is u unacceptable. Earlier in the day, we heard there was going to be some sort of decision.

They're making the boldest statement they can make, a show that was a huge money maker, a show that was going to be bringing in tens of millions of dollars and viewers on a weekly basis and go ahead and yank it because of a star's off-air behavior. ABC is known as the American Broadcasting Company. What we're seeing here is a basic advocacy of American values. She had also, Roseanne Barr, posted anti-Semitic comments. She was going after George Soros, a conspiracy theory, about him being a Nazi. Really nasty stuff that's been checked and proven false years ago.

But she was getting this from the fever swamp of the Internet, fringe message boards and chat forums. Some people buy into it because it makes them feel good to believe the worst as the other side. In this case, she portrays liberals as the enemy, as down-right evil. So Barr does that in her free time, but it hurts the show so much. It tarnishes her sitcom so much, ABC thought he could not stand for it.

BLITZER: I assume, Brian, a decision like this, given all the stakes involved, isn't just a decision that ABC makes, but their parent company has to be involved as well at the highest levels of that parent company.

STELTER: Yes, Bob Iger is the CEO of Disney. He would have been involved in this decision along with Ben Sherwood. Most media companies run, frankly, by white men, like Bob Iger, who want to make it clear they stand on the right side of history when it comes to diversity. Last year, Iger was thinking about running for president against Trump in 2020.

He later backed away from those plans. He's going to be running Disney for the foreseeable future. But he's the head of Disney. Disney is a multi-national company, van was referencing corporate America. Disney has to reference its place in the world and it decided it can't be affiliated with Roseanne Barr.

BLITZER: Brian, stand by a moment.

I want to bring in Cornell William Brooks, former head of the NAACP, a CNN contributor.

Cornell, what's your reaction?

CORNELLL WILLIAMS BROOKS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): I'm absolutely horrified by Roseanne Barr's comments and heartened by the decision of the network to drop her show.

Just to be clear here, the indication, if we can say that, of this imagery of African-Americans or blacks as monkeys is one with an ugly, long history. And just to be clear here, her use of this imagery, this metaphor is racist, is Islamophobic, but it's dangerous. When we have the president of the United States referring to certain groups as animals and where we have a storied comedienne comparing the senior adviser to former president Barack Obama as an ape, this is dangerous for people on the street.

These stereotypes kill, they maim, they hurt. The anti-Semitism of this woman is dangerous for ordinary people. So it's not merely offending the sensibilities of citizens, it's also a matter of posing bodily injury to people. Stereotypes really hurt people.

So I'm glad the network has dropped her, but this should be more than a cautionary note in terms of comedians for advertisers. It should be a wake-up call. Because what Roseanne Barr has said and done is characteristic of the rising hate crime in this country. So this is a serious moment. And I'd certainly like to see our president, Donald J. Trump, who opines on a great many things, opine on this, call it out and call it for what it is.

BLITZER: And we're going to continue our special coverage. Roseanne Barr making not only racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Islam statements, but now loosing her show.