This is a rush transcript from “Special Report," June 4, 2020. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: "SPECIAL REPORT" will come too. All right, thanks, Dana.
Good evening, I'm Bret Baier. "BREAKING TONIGHT", an American Navy veteran is free this evening after being released from an Iranian prison. We will have exclusive video of that shortly.
But first tonight, the grief, outraged, and frustration, over the death of an African American man at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer on full display. Memorial service has held a few hours ago in Minnesota and Brooklyn for George Floyd, who's killing ignited a week of protests, mostly peaceful but sometimes devolving into violence all across the U.S. and overseas.
We're also learning the effects of those demonstrations, tens of millions of dollars in damage, and hundreds of injuries to law enforcement personnel as well as a few killings.
We have "FOX TEAM COVERAGE" tonight. Laura Ingle in New York with protests and a vicious attack on police there. But we begin with senior correspondent Mike Tobin in Minneapolis tonight, site of the George Floyd memorial service earlier. Good evening, Mike.
MIKE TOBIN, FOX NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bret. Here in a city that is mourning the loss of a man relatively unknown until a video of his death shocked the world, people gathered for the first of the goodbyes to George Floyd.
After all the rioting and damage, after the outrage of another black man killed at the hands of a white police officer, the message was that this is a moment for change.
TOBIN: A memorial service for George Floyd, whose death horrified viewers around the world. Whose death inspired marches, some resulted in widespread destruction.
AL SHARPTON, FOUNDER, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: The reason why we are marching all over the world is we were like George. We couldn't breathe not because there was something wrong with our lungs, but you wouldn't take your knee off our neck.
TOBIN: A friend of Floyd, Maurice Lester Hall, who reportedly was in the car with him last Monday, says Floyd never resisted even tried to defuse the situation after police engaged him for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill. That engagement ending with Floyd's widely witnessed death.
Three of the four officers involved in that encounter were in court for the first time. Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng faced charges of aiding and abetting murder in the second-degree for helping restrain Floyd or standing by watching his former officer Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Floyd's neck.
Chauvin was arrested last week, and the third-degree murder charge against him has now been increased to second-degree murder. He faces a maximum sentence of 40 years behind bars.
KEITH ELLISON, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MINNESOTA: I strongly believe that these developments are in the interest of justice for Mr. Floyd, his family, our community, and our state.
TOBIN: U.S. Attorney General William Barr, saying today, the Department of Justice and the FBI are conducting separate investigations into possible civil rights violations.
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: And in the weeks and months ahead, we will be working with community leaders to find constructive solutions so that Mr. Floyd's death will not have been in vain.
TOBIN: Meanwhile, the city of Minneapolis will seek federal help to pay for the estimated $55 million dollars of damage the city sustained last week after protests there devolved into riots.
Since then, the city streets have remained mostly calm. The focus now shifting to recovering and remembering.
BRANDON WILLIAMS, NEPHEW OF GEORGE FLOYD: I just want to say thank you to him on just for being there, just being a really genuine person, just being loving, and caring, and somebody that I can count on no matter what.
TOBIN: Another development from Court, the attorney for one of the officers, Thomas Lane, mentioned that -- twice in court that Lane had suggested twice that George Floyd be rolled over. But Lane was a rookie. Derek Chauvin was a 19-year veteran of the force, and the lawyer says Chauvin refused. Bret.
BAIER: Mike Tobin in Minneapolis. Mike, thank you. Law enforcement continues to be a target of some of these violent protesters. Hundreds have been injured during rioting, many seriously. Correspondent Laura Ingle, reports on another night of sometimes violent encounters from New York.
LAURA INGLE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: These shots caught on video during a violent night for the NYPD here in Brooklyn. Two NYPD officers and a suspect were shot during a struggle after coming to the aid of another officer, who investigators say was stabbed in the neck by the suspect.
All three wounded officers are said to be in stable condition and are expected to recover. The NYPD commissioner called the incident a despicable and unprovoked attack.
DERMOT SHEA, POLICE COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY: This violence has to stop and people have to speak, and words matter.
INGLE: Though it's still unclear if this incident is related, the NYPD says more than 200 of its officers have been injured in clashes with the looters and protesters. Attorney General William Barr, confirming today, Antifa and other extremist groups were involved in the violence.
BARR: While many have peacefully expressed their anger and grief others have hijacked protests to engage in lawlessness. Violent rioting, arson, looting of businesses, and public property, assaults on law enforcement officers and innocent people, and even the murder of a federal agent.
INGLE: Yet, protests still continue across the country for a ninth straight day. More than 10,000 people have been arrested so far, according to an Associated Press nationwide count. Most of the arrests were for low-level offenses, including curfew violations and failure to disperse.
This as thousands of protesters joined George Floyd's brother for a memorial prayer service, before marching across the Brooklyn Bridge.
INGLE: And speaking at today's memorial service, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, received some boos from the crowd. And while the curfew here in New York will go on until next Monday at 8:00 p.m., many other major cities around the country have ended theirs like in Seattle and Washington, D.C. Bret.
BAIER: Laura Ingle. Laura, thank you.
A Navy veteran detained in Iran for nearly two years is on his way home tonight. And Fox News is the only on the scene in Switzerland. Michael White had been sentenced to a decade in prison for insulting Iran's supreme leader.
State Department correspondent Rich Edson has the story tonight from Zurich.
MICHAEL WHITE, UNITED STATES NAVY VETERAN: I'm doing all right. I'm happy to be back.
RICH EDSON, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He is free. After nearly two years in Iranian custody, U.S. Navy veteran Michael White has been released.
WHITE: I would do want to extend my personal thanks to President Trump for his efforts, both diplomatically, and otherwise, it's making America great again. And I look forward to what's going to happen here in the future.
EDSON: In images captured exclusively by Fox News, White was transferred to American officials at an airport here in Zurich. White landed on a Swiss government plane. The State Department's Iran envoy Brian Hook completed the transfer and walked White off the plane into American custody and back into freedom.
WHITE: I'm recovering pretty decently, getting back in shape.
EDSON: In July 2018, White says he was visiting his girlfriend in Iran when authorities there arrested him. In March 2019, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges he insulted Iran's supreme leader and posted private photographs on social media.
A U.S. official says the state department negotiated for nearly four months with Iranian officials through Swiss intermediaries to secure White's release.
BRIAN HOOK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPECIAL ENVOY FOR IRAN: Negotiating with the Iranians is never a linear process. There's a lot of stops and starts, you have to be very patient. This is a regime that has been taking Americans, hostage, for 41 years. And our diplomacy has been successful and we're going to keep working at it.
EDSON: A senior U.S. official told Fox News that as part of the deal to free White, the U.S. agreed to release an Iranian American doctor, Majid Taheri. He served 16 months for violating American sanctions against Iran and was sentenced Thursday to time served.
The official says, Taheri has lived in the U.S. for 33 years and is a medical doctor in Florida.
EDSON: Senior U.S. officials, say they are still trying to free several other Americans detained in Iran. As for Michael White, we asked him what he plans on doing when he returns to the United States. He says he's going to Disney World. Bret.
BAIER: Rich Edson in Switzerland. Rich, thank you.
President Trump is celebrating Michael White's freedom tonight. He's also said to be working on new policies in response to the Floyd killing, and they could be, we're told announced next week.
This comes as several high-ranking current and former officials break ranks with the president. His first defense secretary with scathing commentary on President Trump. And as expected, the president is pushing back. Correspondent Kristin Fisher is at the White House tonight.
KRISTIN FISHER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: President Trump makes good on his promise to free Navy veteran Michael White and pledges that he will never stop working to secure the release of all American held hostages overseas.
Here in Washington, it appears Defense Secretary Mark Esper's job security is safe, at least for the moment. Senior administration officials say that while the White House was frustrated with Esper, for opposing invoking the Insurrection Act and for playing down his part in that walk to the church, they also note that "Nobody wants a Cabinet-level shake-up with everything going on right now.
HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: When the president loses confidence, if he loses confidence, you'll know about that.
FISHER: Today, Attorney General Bill Barr defended his decision to order the pushback of protesters, and he questioned why Esper implied that the trip to the church was politically motivated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go.
BARR: Chief executive of the nation and should be able to walk outside the White House and walk across the street to that church of presidents. I don't and necessarily view that as a political act, I think it was entirely appropriate for him to do.
FISHER: Esper's predecessor has now fired an unprecedented shot across the bow from a former defense secretary and four-star general. In a scathing statement to the Atlantic, James Mattis said, "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us."
President Trump fired back by calling Mattis, the world's most overrated general. And he repeated his claim that quote, "I asked for his letter of resignation and felt great about it."
But the president's former Chief of Staff John Kelly, came to Mattis's defense in an interview this afternoon with the Washington Post. "The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation." Adding, "Jim Mattis is an honorable man.
On Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, says Mattis's criticism is off the mark and missing one critical point.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): But one thing I would tell General Mattis is that you don't quite to understand that from the time President Trump wakes up, he goes to bed, there's an effort to destroy his presidency.
FISHER: But Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, believes Mattis's words were necessary and overdue for this moment.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): When I saw General Mattis's comments yesterday, I felt like perhaps we're getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally.
FISHER: Senator Murkowski also said that she's now struggling with whether or not she will be able to support President Trump in November. And speaking of November, President Trump attended two big campaign-related meetings here at the White House today.
According to two top campaign officials, they tell me that a big focus was spent on going over all the latest poll numbers, and on the campaign strategy to secure more support from black voters heading into November. Bret.
BAIER: Kristin Fisher, live on the North Lawn. Kristin, thanks. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis has had a bumpy history with President Trump, with his stinging criticism which we brought you here first on Special Report last night. Well, that carries weight.
National security correspondent Jennifer Griffin has that part of the story tonight from the Pentagon.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I can say is, he is the real deal.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: At first, the president had nothing but praise for his first defense secretary, using a nickname, the four-star Marine general hated.
TRUMP: Mad dog, he is great.
GRIFFIN: But Mattis soon found himself at odds with the president. On his first trip overseas to NATO headquarters, Mattis tried to reassure allies as the president threatened to end the alliance over defense spending. He resisted efforts by the president to send a large number of active-duty troops to the Mexican border to build a wall. But it was after the president's decision to pull troops out of Syria that Mattis resigned, just short of two years on the job.
TRUMP: What's he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good.
JAMES MATTIS, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I'd earned my spurs on the battlefield, Martin, as you pointed out, and Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from the doctor.
GRIFFIN: The former defense secretary mostly held fire until this week, when he saw how the president spoke about using the military against protesters. "Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens, much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside."
Top retired military officers also spoke out in unprecedented numbers. Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, wrote, "We are at an inflection point, and the events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent.
Retired Admiral James Stavridis, called on retired military leaders to speak up. Saying, "We cannot afford to have a future Lafayette Square end up looking like Tiananmen Square."
Senator Tom Cotton, a former Army captain pushed back.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Everyone is entitled to his opinion, including Secretary Mattis, but he's wrong on this one.
GRIFFIN: Former Joint Chiefs chair, General Martin Dempsey, tweeted after the president told governors to dominate the protesters. "America is not a battleground, our fellow citizens are not the enemy." Bret.
BAIER: Jennifer Griffin at the Pentagon. Jennifer, thank you.
Up next, as Las Vegas reemerges from the lockdown, the huge stakes for a possible coronavirus treatment.
First, here is what some of our Fox affiliates around the country are covering tonight. FOX 5 in Atlanta, as a judge rules there is enough evidence to try three white men for the murder of an African American man in South Georgia.
Evidence presented indicates Ahmaud Arbery was repeatedly boxed in by two pickup trucks as he tried to escape. He was then shot three times with a pump-action shotgun. A state investigator alleges one of the men was heard saying a racist slur as he stood over the body.
Fox 11 in Los Angeles says a magnitude 5.5 earthquake jolts the region of California. The California desert, specifically, where a powerful quake last summer has been followed by thousands of aftershocks.
The U.S. Geological Survey, says Wednesday's quake hit a fairly shallow depth around 6:30 p.m. and was centered just north of the small city of Ridgecrest.
And this is a live look at Orlando from our affiliate Fox 35. One of the big stories there tonight, the NBA's board of governors is reportedly set to approve a plan for 22 teams to restart the season at the Walt Disney World Resort. The proposal calls for an eight-game regular-season schedule before the playoffs there.
That's tonight's live look "OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY" from SPECIAL REPORT. We'll be right back.
BAIER: Republican senators are increasing their pressure on investigators of the Russia collusion case. New subpoenas are being issued, others discussed and debated, while Democrats blast all of the moves as a waste of time and resources.
Correspondent David Spunt has the latest tonight from the Justice Department.
SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE): I don't think anybody in private ever disagrees with me when I say it's (INAUDIBLE) the way people grandstand for cameras in here.
DAVID SPUNT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: A tense partisan clash on Capitol Hill today as to Senate committees debated subpoenas in an effort to review the origins of the Russia investigation.
GRAHAM: Once we find out that the Mueller investigation was run by people who hated Trump's guts dripping with partisanship, nobody seems to care.
SPUNT: Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, says he is on a mission to find out why the investigation was launched in the first place. Today, the committee planned to vote on 53 subpoenas but pushed it off until next week to allow for more debate.
If the vote passes, former FBI Director James Comey, Ambassador Susan Rice, and former CIA Director John Brennan, among others could receive subpoenas if they don't voluntarily testify.
And Graham wants to investigate the FISA warrant approved to surveil former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): I can't support this kind of dragnet authority to conduct politically motivated investigations.
SPUNT: In another Senate office building, Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson's committee, voted to issue 33 subpoenas. Rice, Brennan, and Peter Strzok, the former FBI agent involved in an interview of former national security adviser Michael Flynn also made the cut.
SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): The sudden shift to seek authorization of 36 subpoenas without, first, voluntarily seeking to compliance gives the appearance of a fishing expedition.
SPUNT: Even as we inch closer to the election, expect to see more hearings like today in the coming weeks. Senator Graham, says he hopes to vote on subpoenas one week from today. Bret.
BAIER: David Spunt, outside DOJ. David, thanks.
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is refusing to advance some of the president's nominees over recent dismissals of inspectors general.
Grassley, says he wants adequate reasons for the termination of the intelligence community and state department watchdogs. Grassley will not consider the nomination of a prospective National Counterterrorism Center director and a state department undersecretary for arms control until he gets that.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is endorsing the Democratic primary challenger of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel tonight. Ocasio-Cortez is backing a local educator, Jamaal Bowman.
She says the moment requires renewed and revitalized leadership, while that is a serious break from the tradition of supporting incumbents and primaries. Early -- earlier this week, Engle was caught on an open microphone, admitting his comments about the George Floyd death were only made because of political considerations. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBEN DIAZ, BOROUGH PRESIDENT OF THE BRONX: There's too many folks here.
REP. ELIOT ENGLE (D-NY): If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care.
DIAZ: Say that again?
ENGLE: If I didn't have a primary, I wouldn't care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Engle is responding tonight by saying, in the context of running for reelection, it was important for people to know where he stands.
In tonight's "DEMOCRACY 2020" report, as Joe Biden increases his lead over President Trump in various polls, he is being criticized by some law enforcement groups and some progressives for his positions right now and in the past. He is also getting plenty of input from supporters.
Correspondent Peter Doocy takes a look tonight.
PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: What kind of advice might Joe Biden be getting from his V.P. vetting committee? Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is part of it, and he wants a quarter of a billion dollars invested in communities of color. But, that means up to $150 million less for the LAPD.
ERIC GARCETTI, MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Well, this involve cuts? Yes, of course, to every department, including the police department.
DOOCY: This comes as a former spokesman for Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder tweets, "Defund the police." And a California state senator, says he won't accept any donations from law enforcement anymore. Tweeting, "I'm donating all contributions to my reelection campaign from law enforcement unions to San Francisco and Daly City nonprofits serving at-risk youth of color.
Joe Biden's position is straightforward.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We also have to fundamentally change the way in which police are trained.
DOOCY: But his record on racial issues is complicated.
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, CO-HOST, THE BREAKFAST CLUB SHOW: Biden's record in the Senate actually reflects very racist legislation, but he had a chance to correct that by doing right by black people.
BIDEN: It is outrageous.
DOOCY: This week, Biden was told his role engineering the 1994 crime bill is a problem with young people in Delaware.
REV. SHANIKA PERRY, YOUTH PASTOR, BETHEL AME CHURCH: They want to know how do you plan to undo the impact of the mass incarceration and the things that have resulted from that particular crime bill?
DOOCY: The executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations is troubled. Biden has have been more sympathetic to officers, telling POLITICO, "Clearly, he's made a lot of changes the way candidates do during the primary process, but he kept moving left and fell off the deep end.
Whatever comes next, big-city police chiefs are hoping to find middle ground with activists.
JAMES CRAIG, POLICE CHIEF, DETROIT: We come to the table of the common goal of keeping our city safe. But defunding the police is certainly not the answer.
DOOCY: So, Joe Biden has advice coming in from every direction. But a new Monmouth poll finds that when it comes to handling race relations, voters nationally trust Biden more than Trump. So, whatever it is that he proposes next, he's got a lot to lose. Bret.
BAIER: Peter, thanks.
Up next, the fight over hydroxychloroquine and a major reversal you may not hear about from some health experts. That's next.
BAIER: "BREAKING TONIGHT", what happens in Vegas is actually happening and again tonight. The casinos are now taking bets for the first time since the coronavirus lockdowns, and we are learning new details about another roll of the dice. The use of a controversial anti-malaria drug to treat COVID- 19, but there's a hitch now, a change. Here is correspondent David Lee Miller with this. Good evening, David.
DAVID LEE MILLER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bret. From the moment this study on hydroxychloroquine was published in the medical journal "The Lancet" it was controversial. Among its findings, it was no benefit in treating COVID-19 and had dangerous side effects. Now the authors of that study have issued an apology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm taking it, hydroxychloroquine.
MILLER: It is the drug that President Trump took and touted the benefits of. Now the authors of a study that said hydroxychloroquine was potentially dangerous have issued a retraction. The study's authors say the reversal came about after the company that provided analysis and data refused to fully cooperate with a peer review, citing client agreements and confidentiality requirements. The retraction reads in part "We always aspire to perform our research in accordance with the highest ethical and professional guidelines." It goes on to say, "Based on this development, which can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources."
The World Health Organization, which halted its own study on the drug because of the now retracted study, reversed course even before the retraction was issued because its findings were wildly questioned. Meanwhile, a separate study just released concludes hydroxychloroquine does not prevent the COVID-19.
Las Vegas is back. After a 78-day shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, many casinos and resorts today resumed operation. Swimming pools, buffets, and shows remain closed. The most recent data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows just over 20,000 new cases on Wednesday, and in the past five days there has been an uptick of a disease in 20 states.
Health experts are worried nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd could spread the virus.
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event.
MILLER: In Missouri, officials say despite crowds celebrating Memorial Day at the Lake of the Ozarks, there has not been an increase in new virus cases in surrounding Camden County.
DR. RANDALL WILLIAMS, MISSOURI HEALTH DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR: The number one county has not seen any more contacts, any more positives. And that's now been a good a while ago, 10 days, 11 days.
MILLER: And the country's top infectious disease doctor says now is the time to consider reopening schools in the fall, and here in New York City, despite the protests and the curfew, Mayor Bill de Blasio says New York City is on target to begin phase one of its reopening on Monday. Bret?
BAIER: Good news. David lee Miller in New York, David Lee, thanks.
Nearly 2 million people applied for a first-time unemployment benefits last week. The total number of people receiving jobless aid rose slightly to 21.5 half million. That is actually down from a peak of nearly 25 million two weeks ago. Friday, the May jobs report will be released, and the unemployment rate is expected to be nearly 20 percent.
Mixed reaction from Wall Street, the Dow gained 12, the S&P 500 lost 11, The Nasdaq finished off 67.
Extreme positions in extreme times -- we'll look at how the media were covering the George Floyd story from all angles when the panel joins us.
First, Beyond our Borders tonight. Thousands of people in Hong Kong defy a police ban, breaking through barricades to hold a candlelight vigil on the 31st anniversary of China's crushing of a democracy movement centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square. The even happens as China passes a new security law to clamp down on resistance in Hong Kong.
The British government hosts a vaccine summit. The goal is to raise billions of dollars to immunize children in developing countries and to discuss how any potential vaccine against the new coronavirus might be distributed globally and fairly.
Japanese media published several versions of virtually the same story, citing unnamed sources predicting next year's Olympics will be downsized, simplified, or very different. Athletes are likely to face quarantines, there are questions about whether spectators will be allowed, and the delay is costing Japanese taxpayers billions of dollars.
Just some of the other stories beyond our borders tonight. We'll be right back.
BAIER: Many observers feel the news media coverage of the response to the George Floyd killing has hit new extremes, sometimes under internal pressure. FOX News media analyst and host of FOX's "Media Buzz" Howard Kurtz has some example of the night.
HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS MEDIA ANALYST: "New York Times" editorial pages are relentlessly liberal and anti-Trump, but many staffers are rebelling over yesterday's op-ed by about the nationwide protest by Republican Senator Tom Cotton titled "Send in the Troops." Black "Times" journalists are especially offended. Nikole Hannah-Jones of "The Times" magazine, who worked on the paper's 1619 Slavery Project, "As a black woman, as a journalist, as an American, I am deeply ashamed that we ran this." Jenna Wortham, "Running this put black "New York Times" staffers in danger." Roxane Gay, "His piece was inflammatory and endorsing military occupation, as if the Constitution doesn't exist."
But aren't op-ed page supposed to foster debate? Editorial page editor James Bennett says it's important to run counterarguments, though "We understand that many readers find Senator Cotton's argument painful, even dangerous." Publisher A.G. Sultzberger said today he backs the principle of openness to a range of opinions, even those we may disagree with.
SEN. TOM COTTON, (R-AR): And they've stood up to the woke progressive mob in their own newsroom, so I commend them of that.
KURTZ: The media are overwhelmingly critical of Trump's handling of the protests, often in harsh language. "Washington Post" editorial, "Trump's threats to deploy troops move America closer to anarchy." "The New Yorker," "Donald Trump's Fascist Performance."
The president, meanwhile, has assailed coverage of the protests, "If you watch fake news CNN or MSDNC, you would think that the killers, terrorists, arsonists, anarchists, thugs, hoodlums, looters, Antifa, and others would be the nicest, kindest, most wonderful people in the whole wide world." We couldn't find anyone on those networks praising killers, arsonists, or thugs, but Nikole Hannah-Jones did say this to CBS.
NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, "NEW YORK TIMES" MAGAZINE: Violence is when an agent of the state kneels on a man's neck until all the life is leeched out of his body. Destroying property which can be replaced is not violence.
KURTZ: Tom Cotton could've made his case anywhere, but as Bennett says, "Times" readers might not have seen it or be able to challenge it. As for the op-ed page, it's back to business as usual today, with a column titled "No More Lynching" and another by Stacey Abrams. Bret?
BAIER: Howie, thanks.
And some breaking news, literally just moments ago, a spokesman for "The New York Times" tweeted regrets for publishing that op-ed, apparently referring to the Tom Cotton piece, Senator Tom Cotton. This apology reads, "We've examined to the peace and the process leading up to its publication. This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an op-ed that did not meet our standards. As a result, we are planning to examine both short-term and long-term changes to include expanding our fact-checking operation and reducing the number of op-eds we publish." Again, this is an op-ed from a Republican senator from Arkansas.
That's not the only apology tonight. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is apologizing for saying he opposes kneeling during the National Anthem. Brees says his comments were, quote, "insensitive and completely missed the mark." Brees was roundly criticized by other professional athletes after comments, and he was cursed by some protesters in New Orleans. Brees, by the way, was one of the biggest supporters of charities for communities hit hard by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Next up, the panel on the memorial for George Floyd and disagreement within the Trump administration, plus the next steps against groups organizing violence. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have evidence that Antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity. And we are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: We don't have a problem denouncing violence, Mr. Governor. We don't have a problem, Mr. Mayor, denouncing looting. But it seems like some in the criminal justice system have a problem looking at a tape and knowing there's probable cause, and it takes a long time for you to go and do what you see that you need to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: The attorney general speaking about the organized efforts in some of these protests turned into rioting and looting around the country. And you see from Reverend Al Sharpton at the memorial service for George Floyd today in Minneapolis.
Let's bring in our panel, former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr., now currently the chairman of RX Saver, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and Jonah Goldberg, editor in chief of "The Dispatch."
Harold, your thoughts on the memorial. The family obviously portrayed a picture of George Floyd from a personal point of view, but then at times it obviously got political as Reverend Al took over.
HAROLD FORD JR. (D) FORMER TENNESSEE REPRESENTATIVE: The family's words are the best. They humanized him. He was cheerful, he was loved, he was loved by his family, and like all of God's children, he was ordinary, he was flawed, and he was human. And he will have a big impact. Ordinary men and women often do, the ones that really make big impacts in life. He'll have a big impact on how we think about policing and how we think about the way prosperity is spread across the country.
And there is no doubt it got a little political. Reverend Sharpton, who I have great respect and admiration for, reminded us that we are in a political moment. And all of that will play out here over the next several months.
I do hope as people think about this, we find ways to try to rally the country and try to be more united. As much as we may be divided in the political decisions we make here over the next several months, what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong, and our country has always risen to that moment and risen to that occasion, and hopefully this is one of those moments again.
BAIER: Jonah, there is this push and pull, obviously, and it doesn't seem like there has to be -- you can be for peaceful protests but against rioting and looting, doesn't seem that hard to jump to make, but it seems like lines are being drawn along how you talk about it.
JONAH GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. There are times of the day when you feel like you're taking crazy pills. My sense is that in the Venn diagram of attitudes in the United States of the America, somewhere close to like 95 percent of Americans think looting, arson, rioting, mob violence are bad, and that protesting, even if you disagree with it, is an important right in this country. And I think that's something that a lot of people of people agree on.
But we live in an age of shibboleths and speech codes where if you don't -- if you sound like you're referring to a protester as a rioter or a rioter as a protester, everyone gets triggered in all sorts of ludicrous ways. It makes it very difficult to navigate, when in reality I think the vast majority of Americans have a very commonsense attitude about all of this, which is that violence is bad. The violence that was done against George Floyd was worse than vandalizing some store, but that doesn't mean vandalizing some store is good or something that we should praise or just simply dismiss. And the lack of moral clarity in all of this rhetoric is maddening.
BAIER: Mollie, we talk about the former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, General Jim Mattis' comments, his letter that he wrote to "The Atlantic." As predicted, the president responded today via Twitter saying "Probably the only thing Barack Obama and I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world's most overrated general. I asked for his letter of resignation, felt great about it. His nickname was "Chaos," which I didn't like and changed it to "Mad Dog." His primary strength was not military but rather personal public relations. I gave him a new life, things to do, battles to win, but he seldom brought home the bacon. I didn't like his leadership style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he's gone."
Quickly, his former chief of staff, John Kelly, also a former general, said "The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation. The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused. Jim Mattis is an honorable man." Clearly has a lot of supporters, Mattis does, in both Capitol Hill and in the military. What's the fallout from all of this?
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": I'm not sure how much fallout there is at all. Mattis is clearly a better tactician than he is a politician, and of course his tactics were also in dispute when it came to how he was handling the situation in Syria and Iran.
But thinking about the content of what he said, he was saying that Donald Trump is not unifying the country, and this was something that pleased a lot of people, who said yes, yes, Donald Trump isn't unifying the country. I think the problem is that the grounds for unity right now are being set by a mob that is demanding subservience to a very far leftwing position. Jonah said that 95 percent of the country opposes rioting. Unfortunately a poll came out and something like 17 percent of people think that rioting and looting can be justified, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it's actually a dangerously high percentage.
And there is a lot of support or refusal to condemn some of these positions. There is a political group named Black Lives Matter, and that political group has some very particular policy positions. One of them is that the police should be defunded nationwide. Probably 70 percent of the country at least does not agree with that policy position, and being told that they have to agree with that policy position or be called a racist, that is not a way to have unity. And so we are seeing a lot of battle lines being drawn, and that can be a good thing even if it's difficult to go through.
BAIER: Harold, I saw the former Hillary Clinton national spokesperson Brian Fallon tweet out "Defund the police." How is that going to work for Democrats to get independents or disaffected Republicans come election time?
FORD: Look, I am African-American and I am not for defunding the police. I think it goes hand-in-hand, honest and good policing, with one to get rid of bad cops. Those four cops are bad cops that we saw in that video. But they're not representative of everyone.
Whenever you have a big political fallout, you have big political fallouts, and people are divided, and I think we all have to be careful with some of the rhetoric. There's no doubt General Mattis' comments touched a nerve with a lot of Republicans, but so did Admiral Mullen, General Dempsey, Senator Murkowski, Senator Romney, and even Senator Scott to an extent has been a little critical of President Trump.
As we sit here today, his numbers are down. He's got five months. I do think presidents in the middle of a crisis, a real crisis like we are facing, instead of pointing to the issues and ideas that may excite their base, be it a group on the left or a group on the right, the president has got to rise above it.
I think the president's real challenges, Bret, is that he seems to be more concerned about self and himself and how he looks holding a Bible upside down and turning it right side up in front of a church that he really didn't get permission to go in front of, the American people want something a little different. And this is not to say he can't turn it around, but he's in a bind right now. We can use labels all we want, but at the end of the day the president has to bring the country together during moments of crisis, and I think we are lacking that right now.
BAIER: All right, Jonah, final thing, this "New York Times" apology for running an op-ed from a senator from Arkansas which has an opinion that, if you look at the polls, there's a big percentage of people that say rioting and looting must stop even if you have to call in the military. There is this internal debate at "The New York Times," and now they've apologized for running the op-ed.
GOLDBERG: It's nuts. I think that poll is a little off insofar I think a lot of people think that means the National Guard, not necessarily federal troops in the way that Senator Cotton proposes. But even so, it was perfectly -- I don't agree with his case, but it was a perfectly legitimate thing to run. This is the same newspaper that has run op-eds by a leader of the Taliban and by President Erdogan. And this is a view that a lot of Americans at least have some sympathy for, and they lost their minds over there. It's insane.
BAIER: This will be a topic, I'm sure, about these choices. Panel, I ran out of time, but thank you very much. When we come back, the brighter side of things, some powerful images coming up.
BAIER: Finally tonight, the brighter side, some powerful tributes. Hundreds of health care workers at Jackson Memorial Hospital and University of Miami Hospital paid tribute to George Floyd during today's memorial service. They knelt down for the eight minutes, 46 seconds. A moment of silence representing the amount of time that former officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd's neck.
Some light in the darkness, peaceful protesters in Denver also held a moment of silence for Floyd as they held their cellphones in the air and lit up the sky for just under nine minutes.
And finally, another kind of peaceful protest in New Jersey, demonstrators and police dancing to "The Cupid Shuffle." A number of those protesters and police dance videos popped up all over the country today on social media.
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