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Barr Defends Herself on Twitter, Blaming Ambien for Racist Tweet; GOP Rep. Gowdy Upends Trump Conspiracy Theory. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 30, 2018 - 07:00   ET



VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER AIDE TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment.

[07:00:33] BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: This was part of how ABC was going to go and try to appeal to red-state Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Trump presidency has unearthed this level of ugliness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were looking for a reason to cancel Roseanne.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This isn't about political correctness. This is about human decency.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is there anybody that's infiltrating our campaign? Would you please raise your hand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's profoundly undermining to the rule of law.

SAM CLOVIS, FORMER CAMPAIGN AIDE TO DONALD TRUMP: Our meeting was totally innocuous, and I didn't think anything of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Giuliani is trying to say that the president has the right to ask the attorney general to unrecuse himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the president to try to push the top cop to violate the ethics of the bar is just outrageous.


ANNOUNCER: This is is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Still like the sound of it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm trying to move ever closer to you.


BERMAN: They said I was too far away from you yesterday on our first day, so I'm moving ever closer every segment.

CAMEROTA: That's better. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

Roseanne Barr has been tweeting eight hours straight through the night. The last one was about one minute ago. She has sent out more than 100 posts, including retweets, defending herself after being fired from one of the most popular shows on TV by ABC for a racist tweet she sent about former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett.

BERMAN: Yes, again, Barr up all night writing new things. Among other things, blaming Ambien for the racist tweet. One of the side effects of Ambien, apparently, unknown to anyone, being a little bit racist.

She also says she thought Jarrett was Saudi or Iranian, not African- American. I didn't know Ambien made you do that.

And what is most interesting, she's suggesting she was not fired because of the repugnant comments she made but because of her support for President Trump.

Now, as for the president, who initially wrapped himself in Roseanne's large ratings, he remains silent on this.

So let's begin our coverage with CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

Brian, busy day.

STELTER: Yes, indeed. Yesterday morning, ABC executives called up Roseanne Barr. They called up her producer and publicist and Barr, and they said, "Look, we've got a problem here. We are canceling your show."

She was contrite. She apologized. She seemed to know how bad this was. But now, now she's on Twitter saying she's the victim. She's apologizing but promoting more conspiracy theories. She's trying to have it both ways.


STELTER (voice-over): Roseanne Barr making excuses for her racist tweet comparing one of President Obama's top advisors, Valerie Jarrett, to an ape. Barr now blames the sleeping pill Ambien and claims that she did not know that Jarrett is black.

Despite initially apologizing, the star is now suggesting that her show was canceled due to her support for President Trump.

ROSEANNE BARR, COMEDIAN: Thank you for making America great again.

STELTER: But Barr undermining her own apology with a torrent of retweets from fans, portraying her as a victim of a liberal double standard. The comedienne also retweeting a number of fake and offensive posts, including this fake yearbook quote, claiming Jarrett wanted to change America to be a more Islamic country, also later deleted.

Jarrett is taking the high road, responding to Barr's initial tweet on Tuesday night.

JARRETT: I think we have to try and turn it into a teaching moment. I'm fine. I'm worried about all the people out there who don't have a circle of friends and followers who come right to their defense.

Those ordinary examples of racism that happen every single day.

STELTER: Executives at ABC and Disney decided within hours to end the show, first speaking with Roseanne by phone, then publicly announcing the cancellation, writing, "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values."

Disney CEO Bob Iger adding, "There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing."

Roseanne's talent agency, ICM Partners, also dropping her as a client.

Behind the scenes some of Roseanne's co-stars were already planning to quit, including actress Emma Kenney, who plays Roseanne's granddaughter, and Wanda Sykes, one of the show's consulting producers.

But Barr has spent years posting derogatory material online and peddling right-wing conspiracy theories. Recently, she falsely accused a survivor of the Parkland massacre of giving a Nazi salute at a protest. That was based on a doctored photo.

She also promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy, falsely claiming that Democrats were running a child-sex trafficking ring out of this Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant.

[07:05:05] This time, though, ABC said she had gone too far.

President Trump, meantime, keeping silent about the controversy Tuesday night, despite praising "Roseanne" when the show premiered in March.

TRUMP: And look at Roseanne. I called her yesterday. Look at her ratings.

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

STELTER: Trump's son, however, did weigh in, retweeting two of Roseanne's outlandish tweets, calling billionaire Democratic donor George Soros "a Nazi who turned in his fellow Jews to be murdered." Trump Jr. insisting that Barr's tweet was not anti-Semitic.


STELTER: Even though it was. Again, this is more "us versus them." Way too much of our politics is about resentment and victimhood and that's exactly what Barr's playing into. She's arguing that she is the victim through dozens and dozens of retweets of supporters. At last count, over 90 retweets.

She's also been replying to her fans overnight, thanking them for her -- their support. She says, "Don't worry about me. I'm sorry. I know I made a mistake." But then she's retweeting all these people who say she did nothing wrong. So she's trying to have it both ways.

And let's remember the stakes here. It's not just about Barr. More than 200 people are out of work as a result of the cancellation of this sitcom. Her producers, her co-stars, grippers, guys that do the lights on the set, all of them out of work because of her racist tweets.

CAMEROTA: I'm so --

BERMAN: She's attacking some off them, by the way.

CAMEROTA: I'm so curious about this. Why couldn't ABC just have killed off her character?

STELTER: Well, is there a "Roseanne" without Roseanne? Is that possible

CAMEROTA: Let's be creative enough to think that there is still the point of the show, which was, again, the blue-collar ethos of what it's like in middle America. So why couldn't they just have killed her off? Why do 200 people have to lose their job?

STELTER: I do think there's some chatter about that today in Hollywood. There's been a lot of revivals lately of shows that get canceled and then brought back from the dead. That's the popular new thing for Netflix and Amazon, Hulu to do. Maybe there's a chance, but I don't want to get anybody's hopes up here.

It's hard to picture "Roseanne" without Roseanne.

CAMEROTA: It is called "Roseanne."

BERMAN: After all.

CAMEROTA: Brian Stelter, thank you very much for all of that.

Let's bring in our analysts. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory and national reporter for "The Washington Post," Wes Lowery.

So David, I want to start with you this hour. Roseanne Barr says that -- is claiming through retweets that she was fired for her political views, because she is a Trump supporter. She has it absolutely backwards. She was hired for her political views, because she's a Trump supporter. That's what they wanted this reboot to be. That's what ABC realized, that they could harness half of the country when they realized that Roseanne could be the vehicle for what a family of, you know -- led by a Trump supporter looks like.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The notion of why she was originally hired, that she had this kind of appeal. I suppose she was seductive to ABC. But Roseanne herself is such an imperfect figure. People don't remember all of her outrages, including deliberately botching the national anthem some years ago, which in today's context would be outrageous to a lot of Trump supporters, right, since that's played out in the NFL.

So you know, this was simply a case of a comedian who did something that was just outrageous, no matter who you are, and crossed the line. And ABC, as a media company, was simply not going to put up with it and under any circumstances, certainly not in an atmosphere now where crossing the line results in zero tolerance. #MeToo movement. We've seen it in with these kinds of jokes. We've seen it whether right- leaning or left-leaning. That's the reality that we are living in.

And in this case, it's just so clear to have gone over the line like that that President Trump doesn't even come to your defense that somehow this was an outrageous move. In his -- in his mind, he's been -- you know, he's been silent about it.

BERMAN: That's an interesting standard you just created. Not even President Trump will defend you for the comments you made. And it does seem as if Roseanne Barr is trying to maybe bait him into coming to her aid.

One of the tweets, one of the most recent ones that came at 5:45 percent a.m. Eastern Time this morning was this from Roseanne. "I feel bad for POTUS. He goes through this every single day." Again, you know, she's making the connection between herself and President Trump here, even as there are other people asking, has the president somehow created this atmosphere where Roseanne feels comfortable saying the racist thing she said.

WES LOWERY, NATIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Certainly. Two things there. One, Roseanne has been tweeting seemingly all night. The assumption is that she's on West Coast time, and she was tweeted as of even since a few moments ago.

But the feed I've been watching has been the president's. I mean, it is a little remarkable someone in President Trump, who kind of cloaked himself in Roseanne's success and at his rallies would talk about this show, who had a rally last night and did not mention this.

And we all know sometimes he likes to watch morning shows like this one. And all the channels have been talking about this controversy. And we have yet to see him weigh in on his Twitter feed, so that's really fascinating.

[07:10:03] But I do think there is a real question, and it speaks to a moment of our culture right now. We have a president who was elected after trafficking in barely -- barely-cloaked racial animus. And so we're seeing a lot of other people who are, in many ways, mimicking this type of language, who are promoting these types of far-right conspiracy theories, racist conspiracy theories, George Soros talking points. And having this rude awakening that perhaps no, it is not OK, just because the president was elected this way, for everyone to talk -- to use their racism with their outside voice. And I think that, for a lot of people, it's a little -- it's a little jarring, you know. For Roseanne, again, she has a long history of using her Twitter feed this way. ABC hired her in that context, and yet all of a sudden, this was not OK. GREGORY: But you know what? It's interesting to me. I'm trying to

process all this this morning. Because I think it's right that there's this weird dynamic right now in the culture, where people who oppose President Trump scratch their heads and think, "Wait a minute. How does he get away with a lie like the birther conspiracy? How does he get away with, you know, Charlottesville?" That there's no real repercussion for him, and yet other people, in a second, they're gone.

You know, the comedian who was aligned with CNN.

BERMAN: Kathy Griffin.

GREGORY: Yes, who was gone in a moment.

So there's that thing that I think is real. The other piece of this is I think we reduce what's happening today as a new phenomenon -- to a new phenomenon when it's not that new. You know, comedians have been doing lots of outrageous things for a lot of years that cross the line, and it goes too far. Or maybe in today's contexts, you know, that threshold is lower.

But this is another example of somebody doing something that's ignorant and offensive and crossing the line initially in the name of what they think is consistent with their persona. I don't know that it requires too much more thinking that somehow she's getting up in the morning thinking, "Well, you know, President Trump has given me permission to be this way," or this is just who she is.


GREGORY: I think there's lots of examples of it.

CAMEROTA: I mean, here's the answer to the first part of your question, which is why does President Trump get away with it? He has no boss. Everybody else who gets fired for repugnant comments and repugnant behavior has a boss and gets fired, as we've seen. The country seems to have shifted in terms of their tolerance for this stuff, or at least corporate America. So there's this stuff.

But the president has no boss other than the voters. And for whatever reason, his voters overlook this or compartmentalize it, or agree with it or whatever. I mean, that -- that's why we are experiencing this crazy paradox, where there seems to be zero tolerance for a comedian and then yet, President Trump does -- spreads these same conspiracy theories.

But let me just show you, Wes, before you respond to that. This isn't the first time. So Roseanne Barr last night said, "I'm not making excuses, but I was on Ambien, OK." So when she sent out this tweet storm of racist stuff and retweets.

Well, in 2013, she had other examples of sending out racist stuff. She says here in 2013, "Susan Rice," who of course was in the Obama administration, "is a man with big swinging ape balls."

I went there. I just read that. BERMAN: It was -- it was what she wrote. And unclear whether she's

been on Ambien nonstop since 2013, Wes. I mean, the Ambien defense there, you know, nor does I think Ambien covers anti-Semitism. It's unclear to me whether that maybe is the acetaminophen she was taking.

CAMEROTA: It's the bad judgment that she was -- and the manic quality that I think that maybe what she was blaming on Ambien.

LOWERY: No, certainly. And with the Susan Rice tweet, which is disgusting and racist, in that case you can at least see how perhaps that is constructed as a bad joke.

What I think is important to add, though, is these tweets about Valerie Jarrett, her going back and forth having this kind of pseudo- political conversation with someone she initially defended as a joke.

But the context we have doesn't lead any of us to believe, I don't think, that this was just a comedian who said a joke that didn't land; that she was exposing or espousing her actual, sincerely held political beliefs here, at the very -- and parroting the types of comments we see very often on right-wing message boards and conspiracy theorists.

You know, again, you're taking President Obama's top adviser, one of the most accomplished black women in our politics, and comparing her -- calling her the spawn of a Muslim terrorist group, a Muslim terrorist group, and "Planet of the Apes." Clearly racist, clearly coming from kind of far-right political vindictive (ph).

This isn't Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. This isn't a Dave Chappelle joke that didn't land. This is someone saying something that is viscerally disgusting.


BERMAN: Dave, we keep waiting to hear whether President Trump himself will respond or weight in in any way. And he chose not to last night. He had a rally last night in Asheville. Didn't respond. Sarah Sanders says he's too busy worrying about North Korea, though he did talk about his hand size.

But David, his son, Donald Trump Jr., you know, who's not the president, but Donald Trump Jr. did choose to retweet some of the sort of hateful anti-Semitic conspiracy things that Roseanne put out about George Soros. So Donald Trump Jr. has decided to weigh in, who's at least close to the president or part of that movement.

[07:15:17] GREGORY: And I get that. But you know what? Nobody cares about what Donald Trump Jr. thinks. So, you know, the fact even that we're waiting, I think it's remarkable that we're waiting for President Trump, to to see if he weighs in.

But I do think that's part of the problem. Two-fold. One, you know, President Trump cannot be blamed for everything that's wrong in our culture. And it is also a mistake to say, "Oh, well, it's the president's fault that this kind of thing has been unleashed." This is a much bigger issue than President Trump. The people -- that

so much of our cultural dialogue, our national dialogue is reduced to what people say on Twitter, it is really a lot of what's wrong with public discourse.

And that people think, including the president, that they can elevate this social platform to be a place of discourse when so much of it is irresponsible, offensive, wrong and provides this kind of veil of anonymity, although not much that allows people to unleash. It's what's wrong, because it makes people feel like, oh, yes, this is really the conversation that's happening.

Now, I mean, I think that's right. Or go back to a different era. We're talking about comedians. This was not Lenny Bruce, you know, with some offensive tirade with profanity in the -- in the '60s. I mean, this is just someone who's got a high profile as an actress who somehow wrongly has been elevated as the voice of Trump America. That's unfair, too. Who's just racist and offensive and has no problem just waving it around for the country to see.

And when you work for a company like ABC, any company, but a company like ABC whose whole brand is about family appeal and being more diverse, having more diverse shows and making that a real part of their brand, it's just -- you're not going to last, period.

CAMEROTA: You know, there's no law that you have to be on Twitter. You can break up with it.


CAMEROTA: I mean, you know, if it becomes a toxic stew, you can actually turn away from it. We are still --

GREGORY: But John Berman -- John Berman is really funny and effective on Twitter.

BERMAN: And Twitter doesn't make you racist, nor does Ambien. Because again, you know, I use both, or have in the past.

All right. Wes Lowery, really appreciate you being with us.

David Gregory, appreciate you being with us, as well. Really interesting discussion.

Republican congressman who has seen the the intelligence behind President Trump's claim that an FBI spy was planted in the Trump campaign has a message for America and the president. The president may not like it. We'll discuss next.


[07:21:39] BERMAN: All right. Overnight President Trump once again claimed, without evidence, that the FBI had a spy planted in his campaign. One person who has been briefed on the intelligence behind this debunked claim is Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy. This is his take. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump.


BERMAN: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware who serves on the Judiciary Committee.

And Senator, this was a stark, almost stunning statement from Congressman Gowdy, who was brought in to see the intelligence behind, you know, the fact that this -- this confidential source was sent to talk to Trump campaign officials. After Republicans and the president have been saying, "We were spied on. We were spied on. We were spied on. Trey Gowdy saying, "Unh-uh." What do you make of it?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, John, I'm grateful that Congressman Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, stepped forward and made this important statement.

He certainly demonstrated some partisan leadings in the past when he helped run the Benghazi hearings. He was an aggressive partisan against then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In this matter, I think he's stepping forward and putting to rest the baseless allegations by President Trump.

I'll remind you, unfortunately, our president has a long history of rolling out baseless accusations and conspiracy theories from his role before he was president in arguing that President Obama was not an American to his claim right after the campaign that 3 million illegals had voted without any proof or evidence to his claim that President Obama had tapped his phone in Trump Tower without any evidence.

Frankly, this undermines the United States around the world. It suggests that we have a national leader who traffics in conspiracy theories. And so I'm frankly grateful to Congressman Gowdy that he had stepped forward and made such a clear and forceful statement.

BERMAN: What are the chances, Senator, that this actually puts it to rest? Do you think this will actually keep the president or Rudy Giuliani or others from bringing this up again?

COONS: No. Unfortunately, the president was right back at it, claiming, without foundation, that Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, is going to meddle in the 2018 elections. He just made that accusation on Twitter recently. And he continues to claim that the special counsel investigation is a, quote, unquote, "rigged witch hunt." So I don't think this will slow him down at all.

Let me just remind you and our viewers that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is a lifelong Republican, nominated to be FBI director by a Republican president, unanimously confirmed by the Senate and that the person supervising him, Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, a lifetime Republican; and the FBI director, Chris Wray, a Republican, both of those gentlemen Trump nominees. So I don't see how he can credibly claim corruption in the FBI and that he's being framed by federal law enforcement.

President Trump ran as a pro-law enforcement candidate. And I think his continued baseless attacks on law enforcement and the FBI is, frankly, very unhelpful. If the president is innocent, he should act like it and stop these attacks on the special counsel.

BERMAN: Senator Casey of Pennsylvania has suggested that, you know, look, no one thinks that Robert Mueller will meddle in the 2018 election. The president saying that is absurd.

[07:25:06] Do you think that the special counsel needs to be sensitive about the timing of various releases that might come from his investigation as we get closer to the midterm election?

COONS: Yes. It is longstanding Department of Justice policy to not make major announcements around investigations in a way that might influence an election. There was widespread and bipartisan concern expressed about former FBI Director Comey's timing of his announcements about reopening an investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails just days before the 2016 general election.

I'm confident Special Counsel Mueller will be very aware of and follow that longstanding Department of Justice policy.

BERMAN: What does that mean? Does that mean silent from, you know, September until November?

COONS: Roughly. You know, I'm not going to pick a specific date. But I would expect that, if there's going to be bombshell announcements out of the Mueller investigation, we'll see them in the next two months. And we won't see big announcements in the weeks leading up to the midterm election.

BERMAN: And you're -- and that is what you are calling for, too, just to be clear? Correct?

COONS: Yes. I think -- yes, I believe it's important that the special counsel avoid any major announcements in the weeks before, the months before the midterm elections. And I fully expect him to follow that practice.

BERMAN: Let me ask you about what's going on in your committee right now, because it's a little bit of a back and forth between you and the committee chair, Chuck Grassley.

You have suggested that Donald Trump Jr. needs to come back before the committee in a public setting to testify again about something he said behind closed doors when he said that no foreign government or foreigners have reached out to influence the campaign. He said no to you when you asked him that question.

You suggest that that could have been perjury, or he could have been lying. At least he has to answer for it. Chuck Grassley says there could be an innocuous explanation for that. What's the upshot here?

COONS: Well, I respect the chairman. I appreciate that he recently gave a markup to my bipartisan bill with Senator Lindsey Graham, with Senator Tillis and with Senator Booker. We got a mark-up of a bill that would protect the special counsel from being abruptly fired. Chairman Grassley supported that bill, so I'm grateful for his bipartisanship on that.

On this matter, I think just reviewing these transcripts, which were publicly released by Chairman Grassley, there's an obvious tension with a recent report by "The New York Times" that Donald Trump Jr. met with representatives of both -- of two gulf nations who were offering to assist his father win the general election in 2016.

So there might be an innocuous explanation. We won't know if we don't have him back in front of the committee to answer questions.

BERMAN: Other inconsistencies with Glenn Simpson's testimony? Because Chairman Grassley says there were when he said that he was, you know, not being paid to do any research on President Trump after the election.

COONS: No. I think what's important is that we continue this investigation in a bipartisan way. The chairman has some questions he'd like to ask of a witness. I have questions I'd like to ask of a witness.

My concern is that our partnership between the Democrats and Republicans, the Judiciary Committee, seems to be grinding to a halt. The only congressional inquiry that seems to be continuing on a genuinely bipartisan basis is on the Intelligence Committee. The disadvantage there is that it's classified. It's not public.

I think a Judiciary Committee has oversight responsibility for the Department of Justice, the FBI and for potential obstruction. We should be continuing and, I think, I'd welcome a change to work further with the chairman on this.

BERMAN: Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, thanks so much for being with us.

COONS: Thanks, John, and welcome to NEW DAY.

BERMAN: I appreciate it.



More than 60 Democrats are demanding an ethics investigation into the president's relationship with China after he tried to save jobs at a dubious Chinese electronics company. Why would the president do that? A former ethics chief is next.