Paying for the past: 2020 Democrats signal support for slavery reparations

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 22, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why you weren't in favor of reparations?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Again, it's the same reason the president is not, and I think --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what is that reasoin?

SANDERS: -- Hillary Clinton is not. We have got to invest in the future. What we have got to do is address poverty in America, something that very few people talk about, and especially in the African-American community and the Latino community.


BRET BAIER, HOST: The president, obviously he's talking about President Obama, who spoke out against that as well, just one of the examples of going left, at least part of the 2020 field.

Let's bring in our panel, Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz, Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at "The Federalist," and Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for Reuters. Howie, we're getting more and more examples of at least part of those field really touching base with the progressive side of the party to try and tap into that.

HOWARD KURTZ, MEDIA ANALYST: Maybe this business about Kamala Harris coming out for reparations, maybe this is her wall. It excites her base but it will never be built.

I'm frankly kind of stunned. As we just saw, too radical for Bernie. Barack Obama never touched it, that Senator Harris, Elizabeth Warren would come out for this. I understand she may be trying to excite her African- American base in the case of Senator Harris. I understand it may be important to talk about racial inequality. But this is the kind of thing that can turn off white moderate voters who might be looking for an alternative to Trump. And I think that it gives the GOP a very fat target, and it could open an even greater lane for more center left candidate like Amy Klobuchar, or if he ever finishes his Hamlet act and gets on the stage, Joe Biden.

BAIER: Mollie?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE FEDERALIST": If socialism, vegetarianism, and reparations are the campaign theme for the eventual Democratic nominee, it sounds like Donald Trump will win in a landslide. But that is what the talk has been this week, has been some of these very far left views. It does appeal to a certain constituency, but on a larger scale, I'm not sure how well it will go. We need to have details on what do these reparations means so that people can determine whether they want, as taxpayers, a nation of immigrants and a lot of them are taxpayers, they'll need to know whether they are on board with reparations.

BAIER: Similar to the details about the Green New Deal, which has now been called aspirational and kind of a resolution, but we have laid it out as it's been written so far this week in different elements of it.

HEMINGWAY: Yes, and it all does come down to the details. It is interesting to see what people's larger scale is, what their big vision is. But we need to get much more nitty-gritty.

BAIER: A FOX News poll, most recently, socialism and capitalism, and the split in parties, favorable-unfavorable. You can see where this stands. And this is across both parties. But for Democrats, it's much tighter, the favorable-unfavorable on socialism-capitalism, Jeff.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Yes, I think that is one reason why President Trump keeps bringing it up.

BAIER: You are sensing this is one of the main pillars he is going to run on.

MASON: He keeps coming back to it. Even in a speech just about Venezuela from Miami a few days ago he spent as much time talking about problems in that country as he did talking about this is something we can't have in our own country. And that was a clear reference to people like Bernie Sanders and others. So, yes, I think that word is going to come up. I think that issue is going to come up.

But going back to the conversation we were just having, I think reparations is a word, and that was part of the question for those presidential candidates, but I think when we get to do the details, if this continues to be a theme, it will be more about trying to work on income inequality, trying to make sure that poor people, both African-Americans and Latinos, as they mentioned, have some more opportunities, and have policies that can help them. Whether or not it ends up being a check, which is probably what people think of when they hear reparations, I'm not so sure that's what they're talking about.

BAIER: There are candidates in the Democratic Party who are speaking more towards the center part of the party. Here is John Delaney on the trail.


JOHN DELANEY, D-MD, FORMER CONGRESSMAN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lot of people are talking about climate change and all these kinds of things they want to do, most of which are completely impractical. If we want to win, if we want to beat Trump, we should not put up a candidate who embraces socialism.


BAIER: So he is out there talking about that. You mentioned Joe Biden, we don't know if he is getting in, but likely would have similar talk. And Amy Klobuchar, who has another article in "The New York Times" now about this treatment of staff which she's addressed many times, including here on the panel. "An aide joining her on a trip to South Carolina in 2008 had procured a salad for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once aboard he delivered the grim news. He had fumbled the plastic eating utensils before reaching the gate, and the crew did not have any forks on such a short flight. What happened next was typical. Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not. She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it, according to four people familiar with the episode. Then she handed the come to her staff member with a directive -- clean it."

Howie, this is now probably the sixth article citing anonymous sources.

KURTZ: And that's the point. I'm not going to defend it comb-gate. Maybe she did something she shouldn't have done. But there are probably about half a dozen former aides to Amy Klobuchar who have been talking to "The Huff Post," "Buzzfeed, now "The New York Times," trashing her. She is so difficult to work for, she's so cruel to her staff. I don't think this resonates with voters. She's tough on her staff? She says she is tough on herself and she has high standards for her staff.

It just seems the kind of thing that if these people feel so strongly, having worked or dealt with Amy Klobuchar that she is a terrible person, then they ought to go on the record. And as long as they are doing the anonymous sniping from behind a curtain, protection, granted by journalists, I think it is unfair and I don't think it goes anywhere.

BAIER: Here she is last night addressing this again.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, D-MINN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am really proud of our staff. They've been with me seven years. You can ask him. And we do really great work. And not that many people have raised it here because I think they are much more focused on, can you do the job. And I have shown that I can do the job.


BAIER: It sounds like she is going to have to keep on answering these questions.

HEMINGWAY: As long as this is a story that people in Washington, D.C., are very excited by. I agree that there are big problems with it being sourced anonymously to people who are going after a former boss. And I'm not sure that being a tough boss is a trait that will make people not vote for someone. I think it might even be -- when they look at the results that she has achieved, they have a lot that they can go with. She has been a senator who has accomplished things in a tough environment. That's probably more important than if she is mean to her staff.

BAIER: But let's be clear. We've heard the stories around Washington for some time. It's not just these articles. It's been floating out there.

MASON: I've heard it long before she was a presidential candidate. And I think that if there's anything we've learned in the last couple of years, the last year in particular, Americans do care that people treat each other well. And so it could hurt her.

BAIER: We'll see how this flies. Next up, the Friday lightning round.



GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, JOINT CHIEF OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: We always had planned a transition into a stabilization phase, where we train local forces and provide security and prevent the regeneration of ISIS. So there is no change in the basic campaign. The resourcing is being adjusted because the threat has been changed.


BAIER: That's the chairman of the Joint Chiefs talking about leaving, the president's decision to leave some 400 American forces inside Syria. The president saying it's not a change, it's just a transition, as you heard the chairman of the Joint Chiefs there. We are back with the panel. Jeff, there was a lobbying effort by Lindsey Graham and others to make this happen, to increase European buy-in to having troops on the ground as well.

MASON: So I was in the Oval Office today when the president was asked about this, and he said, as you just noted, that it wasn't a change, it wasn't a reverse in course. But it is. His initial comment was we are taking all U.S. troops out of Syria. And you're absolutely right. I think what he's done is agreed or agreed to some of the advice that he has taken from people around, the military advisors, and the people like Lindsey Graham, who have said you have got to have at least a few people still there.

BAIER: Mollie?

HEMINGWAY: I think what it really points to is we need a foreign policy establishment with some better ideas. We need to learn how would we accomplish a mission in another region that then it's time to come home, and not leave troops for years or decades in regions. We had a goal, which was to take away all the ISIS controlled territory. We achieved that goal 100 percent. It is time to go, not continue to be involved in a civil war. And yes, the people who wanted to keep troops there, they want to overthrew the government. It's like they don't learn lessons from their failed projects of the past.

BAIER: Quickly.

KURTZ: This is a symbolic bow by the president to critics of the pull out. I think the few hundred troops doesn't do much in terms of helping the anti-Assad forces or keeping the peace, but unfortunately it could be a tempting target for terrorists.

BAIER: Winners and losers. It's Friday. Winner first?

KURTZ: My winner is Pope Francis for saying we hear the cries of little ones at this Vatican summit he convened on the massive church sexual abuse scandals. He's been slow on this in the past, slow to punish offenders like Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop here in D.C. I think a tougher rhetoric in the summit shows he may be turning the corner and taking hold of this terrible issue.

BAIER: And loser?

KURTZ: My loser is Jussie Smollett. This is a guy who blew up his career, traumatized the city of Chicago, ignited a racial firestorm, betrayed his friends, all because he wanted a raise. We should airbrush them out of the public square just as the Fox show "Empire" has written him out of the series.

BAIER: He might be a lot of people's loser this week. Mollie?

HEMINGWAY: My winter is Bill Barr, who was confirmed as attorney general. And for the first time in two years, there is actually an attorney general who can oversee the department, which is desperately needed at this time.

My loser is "The Washington Post." They were stopped with a $250 million lawsuit for smearing the Covington children who were here for the March for Life. It's unlikely that that suit well win, but it speaks to some great frustration with media performance. And we did have a Supreme Court justice this week say it's time to revisit libel laws of "New York Times" versus Sullivan.

BAIER: Winner first?

MASON: Winner first, Kim Jong-un. Next week there's a summit between the president of the North Korean leader in Vietnam, and the fact that that summit is happening at all is a win for the North Korean leader. U.S. officials have been playing down expectations of what is going to happen there, and that alone is good for him.

Loser, Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Accused of soliciting a prostitute. I don't think you have anything more I need to say.

BAIER: That's it. That's really all you have to say.


BAIER: We should point out, next week, we will be in Vietnam. We'll bring you SPECIAL REPORT from Hanoi for the summit. Chris Wallace will be here on Monday, and he will have Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand on the show. We'll continue to bring Democratic candidates as they become available to the show. We ask all the time.

When we come back, "Notable Quotables."


BAIER: Finally tonight, it's Friday, that means "Notable Quotables."


MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: The people of Venezuela are standing for freedom and democracy, and the United States of America is standing right by their side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jussie, any comment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to look at hate, look at U.C. Berkeley's campus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Patriots' owner Robert Kraft has been charged with soliciting prostitution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very thankful for the diligence and sealed investigation of the FBI and the Coast Guard investigative service.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Chairman Kim is at the table because he is afraid of Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stone took the stand and apologized for posting a photo of Instagram of Judge Jackson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think the president has any concerns whatsoever about Michael Cohen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My caution to everybody is keep your powder dry, because do you not know what Bob Mueller has.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bottom line is you can't just Andy McCabe.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: She is a terrorist. She's not a U.S. citizen.

REP. ALEXANDRA OCASIO-CORTEZ, D-N.Y.: We should be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-CALIF., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can poach these eggs, I can scramble these eggs. He said just don't lay an egg.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I hear the name Tulsi Gabbard I think of Assad apologist.

SANDERS: I'm running for president.

TRUMP: You've got a lot of people running, but only one person is going to win. I hope you know who that person is. Goodbye, everybody.


BAIER: Hard to believe one week. A lot jammed into that week.

Thanks for inviting us into your home tonight. That's it for this “Special Report,” fair, balanced, and unafraid. We're on the road to Vietnam next week.

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