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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melver, 4/20/22

Guests: Chai Komanduri, Liz Plank, Elizabeth Dwoskin, William Taylor


Florida GOP pushing law to punish Disney for LGBTQ support while Senator Ted Cruz claimed Disney would start showing cartoon sex scenes in children`s programming. Billionaire Elon Musk courting fame to deflect scrutiny of his power, taxes and ideology. Chai Komanduri and Elizabeth Dwoskin join THE BEAT and tells Musk`s free speech talk and buying Twitter is about money and power. Biden Administration plans a new round of military aid to Ukraine.


WALLACE: This Wimbledon news, though, another repercussion for a country that has for so long use sports and competition as a source of national pride.

Thank you so much for letting us into your homes during these truly extraordinary times. We`re grateful. THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now. Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much. Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.

We begin with this news on the Republican assault on civil rights and free speech. This is all part of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis`s attack that has turned on Disney after going after equal rights. It started with the so- called "Don`t Say Gay" bill. That was signed into law last month. Today the Florida Senate has a bill punishing Disney financially because the company stood by what it calls its values as well as many of its employees who may identify as LGBTQ to say nothing of people who want to visit Disney and their parks.

So today`s bill could hit Disney with millions of dollars a year in new taxes. Republicans are clear that this is basically the use of government power to go after a company for its views or values, that it is a penalty tax because they supported equal rights. And this has become something of a litmus test on the right especially among those who are positioning presidential runs.

Senator Cruz is also attacking Disney with the bizarre claim, wait for it, and yes, he does want attention for it but also it is both damaging enough and dumb enough and he has enough power as a senator that we have to deal with it. Mr. Cruz now says the company could include cartoon sex scenes in children`s programming.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): There are people who are misguided trying to drive, you know, Disney stepping in saying, you know, in every episode now they`re going to have, you know -- you know, Mickey and Pluto going at it like, really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for that image, Senator.

CRUZ: You know, but it`s just like, come on, guys. Like these are kids and, you know, you could always shift to Cinemax if you want that.


MELBER: This is standard political propaganda. Ted Cruz makes a false hypothetical accusation against Disney or some people and then acts as the defender of the thing that`s not happening. And that brings us, as we start the hour, with a double fact check.

Fact check number one, Mickey Mouse and Pluto are cartoon animals. They don`t go at it. They`ve never gone at it and as far as we can tell, this is the news, the only people in the world publicly conjuring that image, whatever you want to make of it, the only person is Ted Cruz. The only reason this is on your TV and on the news is because of Ted Cruz, and yet he`s the one who claims he would defend you against conjuring the image of those cartoons going at it.

OK. That first fact check was exhausting. I`m being sarcastic.

The second fact check is that Cruz and DeSantis, they`re not in line with the majority of Americans here. There are aspects of these issues especially when you get to children and schooling and how to deal with these issues that can be complex. But on the big questions about eight out of 10 Americans support the laws that protect people against discrimination, be that discrimination based on gender identity or these related issues, and the numbers are quite high as well as when you get into racial discrimination.

The fact is there is broad support across America including among independents and self-identified conservatives to let people be themselves and to not let them be sanctioned or punished for who they are. Now there is a political issue that has come up when you get into real world situations about how and when to deal with these topics with children, and that`s sort of the narrow wedge that`s being used, exploited and lied about, but writ large what Disney is saying is what most Americans are saying, and it`s what people like DeSantis and Cruz are apparently very upset over.

New attacks from the right trying to fire up a very specific part of the base that as we`ve shown you, in terms of the measurement, and I say this with all fairness, it`s not all Republicans. It`s not all conservatives. It`s a much narrower subset that these people think they need apparently for a future presidential election, and meanwhile everyone else has to pay the cost. Disney with money and a lot of other people with a lot more on the line.

Let`s get right into it. I`m joined by Chai Komanduri, a veteran of several presidential campaigns including the Obama campaign, and Lis Plank, the author of "For the Love of Men" which explores many of these issues including feminism and masculinity. She also hosts "The Recount Live." Has given a lot of thought to all of this. So welcome to both of you.



MELBER: I could -- good to have you. I could divide this up any number of ways. I`m not going to assign who has to represent Pluto against Ted Cruz`s carton defamation. We`ll skip that. I`m going to go to Chai on the politics, and then Liz on the philosophy on the right and policy if you will.


Chai, I cite the numbers because there are other issues, certainly some racial issues where we do see real big divisions in our society, especially when you get to the details of look at the racism in policing. How do you fix it? Why disagree? We cover that a lot. What`s striking here is the numbers I showed. A lot of Americans, a vast majority, when asked point blank, do you want this kind of discrimination, they say no. So what do you see on the politics coming out of Florida and Ted Cruz?

KOMANDURI: Well, first let me say that I`d be happy to represent Pluto. Pluto was a great dog. Very loyal. Wonderful. Great character. But I do think politically this is a bit of a mystery that the Republicans have made based on Glenn Youngkin`s victory in Virginia last year where he used culture war attacks, and also a bit on Ron DeSantis and the fact that his poll numbers have held very steady. They haven`t really gone down since he`s been doing this.

As to why they`re doing this and the nature of this, I think it`s a kind of a complicated issue. But I think we can say quite bluntly what Ted Cruz is really trying to do there with using the QAnon inspired pedophilia style attacks of endangering children, the GOP is trying to mainstream QAnon. They`re trying to bring sort of the QAnon energy and the vibe into the GOP. If that seems kind of farfetched to you, remember what they did with birtherism. They did the exact same thing. They took something that was on the fringe and they very successfully mainstreamed it into the Republican Party so they could draw upon those energies going into the midterm.

Now I think the problem for Democrats politically is for a lot of working- class voters who might be open to these sorts of appeals, we simply have not been able to deliver the things that we had promised that we would deliver them. Now you can blame Joe Manchin for that. I think a lot of blame lies there. You might be able to blame Joe Biden for that. But the reality is voters blame Democrats for not getting things done and being seeming to be ineffectual.


PLANK: Yes. So I am definitely Team Pluto. I didn`t have Ted Cruz talking about Pluto and Mickey being gay on my bingo card for the year but here we are. I have to agree. I think that this is a very big distraction, right, from the issues that Americans really care about, which we know what Americans care about. They care about the inflation right now. The fact that they have, you know, can`t afford gas and putting food on their table to feed their kids, making sure that their kids can breathe clean air.

But this is a great distraction from the fact that, you know, the rich are getting richer and that CEO pay has gone up 19 percent since last year, and that a lot of the policies that the Republican Party, you know, is presenting, if there is a Republican agenda at this point beyond this, you know, Pluto and Mickey and whatever -- you know, the green M&M or whatever next thing it is, next iteration of this culture war that we end up encountering, they don`t have a lot to bring to the table.

And so what we`re seeing in your perfect intro, chef`s kiss really, is the strongman argument, right? That Disney somehow is creating the story line which Disney has never talked about creating in the first place. And what Disney is doing is really largely uncontroversial. Right? Standing with children no matter how they identify. Not a controversial statement. Disney wanting to make sure that their characters are diverse and represent, you know, the 50 million school children who actually, you know, largely, the majority of them are non-white. And so the fact that Disney is going to create characters that look like the children who are watching these shows is not a controversial thing.

MELBER: Right. And you just hit on it, Liz, the issue of the generational change, it`s no accident we`re talking about the future generation, the children, the next -- the next people who will populate society because there`s clearly something about that that is threatening. I think we`ve all experienced so many political cycles around that with race, race is America`s original sin. It remains a huge challenge and Donald Trump put resurgent open appeals to bigotry and racism up on the national stage in a way that we haven`t seen directly in decades.

The racism was there. But it was handled differently. So that we know. The idea of this resurgent male-centered sexism and a fear of anything else, right, and these gender conversations, that is somewhat more recent. And so you know where I`m going, Liz. What`s sillier than Ted Cruz talking about Pluto? Tucker Carlson talking about anything but especially gender.

PLANK: I knew it.

MELBER: You knew it. Take it away. Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once the society collapsed he said, you`re in hard times. Well, hard iron sharpens iron as they say, and those hard times inevitably reduce men who are tough, men who are resourceful, men who are strong enough to survive, and then they go on to re-establish order and so the cycle begins again.



PLANK: Thank you for that.

MELBER: The flexing -- the flexing at the end. That`s real. I want to be clear. You could drop that into the top of "SNL" and people would think it was parody. It`s just self-parody. You`ve been writing about this for a long time in your books. I mentioned you`ve been writing specifically about Tucker now. That`s the originals for people who get their five hours of Tucker`s programming and then want the original stuff.

PLANK: Want more.

MELBER: That`s what you`re going to get. What do you see here as the threat? And then if we can open our hearts, and I think your book talks about this, and I say that earnestly, where does this fit into a conversation with people who might be getting weird, Carville last night called it weirdo information, or bad information or misinformation at a time where there is a genuine exploration of gender fluidity and these issues in a way that previously was around sexuality. How do you turn that corner and not let it become well, Tucker`s dumb and everyone goes in their corner, quote-unquote.

PLANK: Yes. Exactly. I love that question, Ari. For a party that is obsessed with masculinity and manly strong men I can`t think of something that is least strong or more weak, I guess, than going after queer kids, and children in general, and going after underpaid teachers. Right? I can think of something, you know, yes, weaker, than going after someone who is half your size, right? So that`s number one.

Number two, to the point of your question, what Tucker Carlson is speaking to, and I think he is very talented at this, is that he is speaking to real things. In this trailer that we just saw you would -- truly at the root of that is that there are dwindling testosterone levels so this is a real thing. Right? But it`s not because men aren`t men anymore, and because they`re drinking soy lattes. It` because, or again watching Disney movies with Pluto in there, it`s because of climate change.

It`s because of the lack of governmental regulations when it comes to plastic and BPA and things that we`re ingesting. The studies are showing that we eat the equivalent of a credit card of plastic every week just from the products that we`re, you know, handling. So there are -- this is the real issue for men. Men`s health is an important thing that we should all care about. But saying that this will be solved through red light therapy and homeopathy and this really pseudoscience crap is dangerous to men. And it exploits their real fears which I think are valid and that we need to discuss as a society.

MELBER: Yes. As you say, the people purveying are different than the people who might be what we sometimes in the COVID context have called it information victims. And they`re getting all this and as you say they may have other valid concerns that relate.

Look, we`re just scratching the surface on the conversation. I do feel that we addressed the stupidity. Always part of our job in the news. But also got to the import.

So I want to thank Liz Plank. Chai comes back later in the hour. Thanks to both of you.

And let me tell them what we have coming up. You know, on THE BEAT we do these special reports, well, I have a new one tonight we`ve been working on. This is about a plan that, one, could put Donald Trump back on Twitter with the help from the world`s richest man, Elon Musk. It`s our special report. Also with a fact check of what you need to know about Musk`s latest claims about free speech and democracy. Next.



MELBER: Now to our special report on a big new step in this ongoing clash over big tech. Many have been confronting the companies that they say damaged all sorts of issues in our society from equality to democracy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Social media under fire.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): We`ve already seen big tech use their size and use their scope to rig marketplaces.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Elon Musk is a danger to Twitter and to freedom of speech.

HARVEY PITT, FORMER SEC CHAIRMAN: Mr. Musk hates the SEC and it`s childish. It`s immature and it`s narcissistic.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Maybe we should be asking ourselves why one company is trying to monopolize the internet communication platforms and digital commerce and maybe we should break them up.


MELBER: Break up big tech. This has been a conversation for a minute now. And policy and politics have not fully adjusted to what has become this massive power of tech companies and those titans who run them. The fact is, the largest companies today are not banks or oil companies anymore, they are the top tech companies. And the people who founded them are far richer than any other people in the entire history of capitalism.

That`s a big deal. That`s a big shift. And America has laws that restrict, for example, how many TV stations and newspapers one person can own. That`s something Rupert Murdoch has run into. But those laws were written before Congress could imagine this kind of massive media power on this new set of internet tubes and platforms. So that regulatory loophole is a reason that we are witnessing a current debate over whether the publicly traded company, Twitter, can be bought and wholly owned by one person. In this case, the world`s richest person, Elon Musk.

The news tonight, he is racing to get financing to complete an acquisition to buy Twitter outright. He could mix his fortune with investor support and drop a whopping $43 billion to buy the whole thing.


So this is a story of business and a story of speech. That`s what powers Twitter. But also of politics. More than any other American, Donald Trump showed the reach and potential damage of Twitter as a platform. He literally used it to summon people to D.C. to stage an insurrection. Remember, he didn`t give a national televised address. He`s the president at the time after all. He used Twitter to get to the people that he exactly wanted to get to and used an algorithm that stokes at the time exactly the kind of division and hate that he wanted.

It was that more than anything that got him banned from the platform outright, and now Elon Musk is fanning the idea that Twitter is something different than a simple publisher. We know publishers can post or ban anyone. The "New York Times" doesn`t have to run your letter or op-ed or article. That`s true under practice and it`s true under law.

But here we`re seeing something different. Musk talking up the idea that Twitter, especially if he gets ahold of it, would be really a true town square where everyone, which would mean Donald Trump, can say virtually anything.


ELON MUSK, TESLA CEO: Well, I think it`s very important for -- that it`d be an inclusive arena for free speech where -- so, yes. Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square so it`s just really important that people have the -- both the reality and the perception that they`re able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.


MELBER: That sounds like someone trying to get people back on the platform if he were in charge. Now Elon Musk is clever at business and strategy. He`s made himself one of the more controversial but also more popular members by the relative scale of his billionaire tech peers. He certainly in more measures is more beloved across the spectrum than a Zuckerberg or a Bezos. He`s really played politics masterly for his business interest as well.

He sold kind of a green image on the left. He gathered government subsidies from both parties. In the Obama era he was telling Congress all about the national security of space programs and positioning himself as a kind of responsible business steward with an eye on the public interest. Then he cozied up to Republicans for tax breaks which many of these companies benefit from and while Trump has made a point of clashing with Elon`s tech peers like Bezos, Trump also has already clearly said in public he sees Musk as more of a potential ally.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I especially want to congratulate someone who truly embodies the American ethos of big thinking and risk taking. He`s a little different than a lot of other people. Elon Musk, congratulations.


MELBER: And the feeling may be mutual or at least it`s perceived that way. And that`s part of what`s happening this week whether you`ve been following this as a business story or a democracy story because Elon Musk`s very real push to get a hold of Twitter while talking about getting people back on Twitter has some very well-known Trump fans salivating over the thought that this business deal could unlock the art of the deal, if you will, and get Trump back online.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For once this isn`t about power and money. Musk is doing it to save free speech.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST: It`s not an over statement to say it could be the single most important development for free speech in the modern history of the United States.

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX HOST: The five people at this table all are fans of Elon Musk. I don`t think that I overstate that.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guy who`s made a lot of money. He`s been very successful. Loves this country and the freedoms it affords.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s our Edison. This is our Thomas Edison. This is our Da Vinci of our generation.


MELBER: OK. OK. First of all, it`s always worth a little caution when people start declaring billionaires who are skilled at self-interest and amassing wealth as some kind of a once in a millennian innovator, creator or artist. We saw FOX`s Brian Kilmeade there. He almost sounded like another infamous Trump fan who`s known for his own hyperbole, Kanye West.


KANYE WEST, RAPPER: I`m standing up, and I`m telling you, I am Warhol. I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh, Walt Disney.

Picasso is dead. Steve Jobs is dead. Walt Disney is dead. Name somebody living that you can name in the same breath as them. I have ideas that can make the human race existence within our 100 years better.


Now who`s going to be the Medici family and stand up and let me create more?


MELBER: Fall back like at least a little bit. I mean, this is what we`re talking about, a world where billionaires declare themselves or their loud, powerful allies declare them at that level. If you want to be that historic, you`re going to have to wait for history`s judgment which does take hundreds of years, that`s history.

Now having said that, Musk is very talented. And he could improve Twitter as a business for users. That`s possible. He also is doing things that matter that are different than people who just capital around. He`s disrupting space travel. He is really changing the auto industry in some amazing and hopeful ways. Tesla is helping fight climate change while making money, there`s no doubt about that. Each Tesla car cuts an estimated 500 pounds of CO2 a year while reducing the need for gas.

That`s why other rappers have shouted Elon Musk out for helping eliminate gas. As one famously said, can`t see straight. These shades, Celine Dion, you can`t gas me up. Shout out to Elon. And shout out to Tyler. So, yes, nothing about the problems with this issue in corporate or individual control of Twitter takes away from Musk`s rather impressive record.

Reporting on this subjectively doesn`t require a negative view of him at all or the prospects here but we put this report together to make something clear because this is a very big deal for democracy. The reporting shows and the objective facts are that Musk is a billionaire entrepreneur. You might say, duh, Ari, I already knew that. But what that means is, his skills, his record, his role means self-interest, business and profit is his motivation and his skill, and it will continue to be what he is about.

Indeed, under law he has a fiduciary duty to the investors that I told you tonight he is pursuing right now. He must maximize profits for them even if he takes the company private. That`s a fact. But yet he cultivates this image that he`s focused on something else, this Da Vinci level artist talk. This free-thinking advocate for free speech. This principled friend of MAGA. This fascinating iconoclast and celebrity who just happens to have tens of billions of dollars.

Well, this isn`t accidental. I told you he`s brilliant. It`s a wider strategic effort to cast him as something other than another business person doing a business deal, when that`s what he is. So he`s been very shrewd about positioning himself public as this free thinking, fun-loving, softer, relatable person who can even cameo with the best of them.


MUSK: Thank you very much. It`s an honor to be hosting "Saturday Night Live."

GWYNETH PALTROW, ACTRESS: Mr. Musk, how are you?

MUSH: Congratulations on the promotion.

PALTROW: Thank you very much.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR., ACTOR: Elon, those (INAUDIBLE) are fantastic.

MUSK: Got idea for an electric jet.

DOWNEY: You do.

MUSK: Yes.

DOWNEY: Then we`ll make it work.

MUSK: Good luck, machete. Get the bastard.

To anyone I`ve offended, I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I`m sending people to mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?


MELBER: OK. And he has done those things. The punch line is that he has no chill, that he`s probably chill about very little, and he is very bright and strategic, and that is important here because we are talking about a platform that does impact our democracy in ways that quite frankly many in Congress don`t even understand. They don`t even claim to sometimes if you watch the tech oversight hearings.

Political strategist Chai Komanduri, who joined us earlier tonight, he says strategy is at play, that Musk deploys Twitter already, it`s not a place to just have philosophical debates but to, quote, "promote his financial interests."

Indeed, Musk`s fight one cryptocurrency after tweeting that he was holding on to his investments, he`s also helped impact Tesla`s share price that went up after a tweet about something he was going to announce at a press conference. He also delayed disclosing his own Twitter holdings to the SEC which allowed him to buy the stock at an artificially low price according to critics.

And all of that is the times that Musk was just engaging Twitter as a user, not an owner, albeit a very influential one with over 75 million followers. If he becomes an owner of this platform, I want to be clear, Elon Musk could unilaterally do all kinds of things. They could be transparent or not. Nothing in our current laws would force his hand on a lot of the core running of the platform.


The financial rules focus on the funding and the creditors but not the secret sauce, not the algorithm, not whether he decides to just unilaterally restore Trump or Putin, or takes other people down, or secretly chained what Twitter presents in order to play politics, which could also be, again, given his record something he could do to enrich his companies that could probably be legal most of the time.

Going back to Komanduri, he says, Musk would be on a track to helping Trump and the GOP, which in turn will increase his own bank account. So, Musk talks about limited government. But he`s also gone further than most and attacking legitimacy of democracies themselves. Again, you need to know this about someone who`s going to have more power than the owner of The New York Times and The Washington Post combined, if he gets a hold of Twitter. He`s made the thin and really maybe dangerous argument that democracies are essentially just corporations with militaries.


ELON MUSK, ENTREPRENEUR: The government is simply the biggest corporation with a monopoly on violence and where you have no recourse.


MELBER: The government is the biggest corporation. That`s an argument we can debate it. But the things that make people believe in their governments when they do well. When they`re patriotic, or stand up for civil rights, or protect the little guy, or find ways to help people who don`t have value to a corporation, like children who aren`t even allowed to work for him.

Well, that`s different than a corporation. Corporations don`t give out money to kids, or school lunches, or help people who fall on hard times. That`s his view, some credit for being transparent about it. But it is a long ways from what a lot of people believe democracy can provide. And when Musk says he`s a libertarian, will remember in Silicon Valley, libertarian is often just code for Republican.

He moved Tesla`s headquarters out of that whole California blue state area to Texas to get tax cuts. Other companies were actually leaving Texas at the time because the state had a big government, anti-libertarian, anti- abortion law that put the government inside doctors` offices, a little bit of irony, but only hypocritical if you took the original claims seriously. Now, if you listen to Musk, he will tell you that his purchase of Twitter and the changes he will make will improve the platform and help free speech, and also along the way be profitable.

The reporting shows and his record reveals that many of his past claims about ideology and principle remain negotiable for the bottom line. And by the way, that doesn`t make him a bad businessman. But let`s just talk about what he is. Musk did not create the patchwork of laws that let billionaires wield this much power. But he benefits from it.

We`re in a world right now where billionaires can buy and sell these platforms and wield uncheckable powers over who even gets to use them. One day, it could be bringing back Trump. Another day it could be banning the Democratic candidate or a Republican one, or it could be secretly minimizing or muting the speech of one party, or the critics of say one billionaire owner of the platform.

No matter what happens with this attempted takeover. I`ll tell you one thing that might be a positive step if you want everyone to pay attention to this very confusing, fast-moving technological, Democratic world we live in. This whole clash is dramatically showing everyone this power imbalance. These flaws in the system. This is the kind of challenge that can only be met by equally competing powers. Billionaire on billionaire clashes, or by the force of law.

And that leaves some pretty big open questions on the table right now tonight. So, we turn to one of the experts I quoted the strategist Chai Komanduri, and Washington Post reporter Elizabeth Dwoskin, who has been all over this Musk`s story when we`re back in one minute.



MELBER: We are back with Obama veteran Chai Komanduri and Washington Post technology correspondent Elizabeth Dwoskin. Her latest piece is Elon Musk wants a free speech utopia, as technologists clap back. Welcome to both of you.

Chai, we quoted you because of your points about this. What is important for people to understand about this story, even if they don`t consider themselves techies, they don`t have a Twitter account. But they might care a little bit about democracy.

CHAI KOMANDURI, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, if you care about democracy, you must care about this story. Because Twitter is essential to understanding Donald Trump`s rise, is essential to understanding Donald Trump`s power, is essential to understanding the Republican power and how they operate. And why Twitter has always been so central to that. Donald Trump desperately needs Twitter. And it`s no coincidence, I would argue that Elon Musk is doing this after truth, social sort of became the Hindenburg of social media apps.

The need for Donald Trump to get back on social media is extremely important. He uses Twitter on a regular basis to dictate terms to the media as to what they would cover and how they should cover him. It was really essential to his appeal. It`s something that Elon Musk knows well. And Elon Musk knows the power of Twitter very well. To manipulate stock prices, to make money for himself, to expand his reach and his power. That is why he`s doing this.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, that`s all that all seems to be borne out. Elizabeth, to chase point, Trump`s forays to build his own platform have gone down like a proverbial Led Zeppelin, if you will. You cover this closely. How do you -- as an objective reporter gauge Elon Musk`s repeated claims with some following, I mean, people buy it. That really -- he`s just here to help and he`s going to help again.

ELIZABETH DWOSKIN, TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, look, he this is a person who -- we don`t exactly know what his relationship with Trump is. But we do know that he said after Trump was kicked off Twitter, and Facebook, and all the other social platforms, you know, he was the lone voice in the tech industry to say the platforms went too far. And they`re going to regret this decision.

Since then, you know, he`s gone out of his way to talk about how he`s a free speech absolutist. He`s against censorship. You know, just -- just yesterday, he tweeted, you know, a social media platform is only, you know, doing a good job of, you know, equal numbers of people on the left and right, are unhappy with it, which sound -- or which sounds like bothsidesism to me.

So, the question of do we take him at his word does he just want an all- inclusive Townsquare, I think you have to read between the lines a little bit, and not even with -- not even that much, which is that he says the tech platform should only be bound by the boundaries of the law. But in the U.S., we have the First Amendment and the law says you can basically say anything short of yelling fire in a crowded theater.

So, essentially, that would make these platforms. And that`s what I argued in my piece that it would regress these platforms like thought to five, six years ago, when they had no content moderation rules. And people were just being -- they`re still being bullying her -- bullying and harassed -- bullied and harassed on these platforms.

And they`re still full of hate speech. But Twitter was a lot worse before - - even four or five years ago. And there`s hundreds of people at Twitter now who work on initiatives around taking down content. It`s called healthy conversations. And those people are just terrified that Elon Musk might run the company.

MELBER: Well, Elizabeth, when you look at how much he`s doing, I mentioned it was careful to mention the contributions he`s made because he`s been very effective in a lot of things. But he`s very busy, and he`s stretched very thin. And this is a massive and expensive undertaking. Do you see this as something that is important to him? Because it would vastly reinforce the rest of his business projects? Or do you also see the passion part of it, which he claims as I showed, in fairness, he claims that his passion about these issues also guides the interests? We don`t see other people at this net worth doing this. I mean, Bezos buying Washington Post looks like a tip jar compared to this.

DWOSKIN: Thank you for saying that.

MELBER: Sorry. I don`t -- I just to be very clear, I don`t mean that pejoratively. I just mean in the scale of it.

DWOSKIN: I mean, well, actually, the posted cost more than Bezos did pay more than what Musk would have paid for Twitter. But to your point --

MELBER: Wait, how much did he pay?

DWOSKIN: Did he pay paid 200 million for the most.

MELBER: But we`re talking about billions here.

DWOSKIN: Right, and we`re talking about 43 billion, excuse me.

MELBER: Go ahead.

DWOSKIN: It`s been a long day. Thank you for correcting me. What I`ll say though, is that for Musk, you know, he has said that many times that, you know, he`s he said this isn`t for money. And one way you can think of this is like within Silicon Valley buying Twitter. You know, who`s going to buy Twitter, has long been kind of a parlor game, because Twitter has always been seen as this sort of undervalued asset. It`s like a really cheap jewel. It`s a jewel because it has this massive megaphone where influencers are on it, politicians, and yet, you know, it`s a fraction of the size of a Facebook or a YouTube. So that`s why Google has been interested in buying it. Salesforce has been interested in buying it.


So, you can see and kind of the Masters of the Universe world that Elon operates in. You know buying Twitter is a parlor conversation and then you also have a person who is a master marketer. He`s probably one of the shrewdest marketers in the world. And Twitter is his main marketing mechanism. So, would you want to own it?

MELBER: Yes, no, you may -- you make a very fair set of points. 30 seconds Chai. If he prevails, who benefits in American politics?

KOMANDURI: Republicans benefit in American politics. Elon Musk is doing this because he wants to give Donald Trump and the GOP a more powerful platform than they currently have in American politics. He wants to rebuild their influence. He`s doing this not because he`s Daddy Warbucks. He`s doing this because he`s Darth the Vader and Twitter is his death star, aimed at American democracy and American politics.

MELBER: Strong words. I`m going to have to call -- I`m going to have to call hyperbole flag. I mean, Vader was -- Vader was a really bad egg. I mean, he was really murdering people in the intergalactic universe. So, I`m calling hyperbole flag. But we always welcome to Star Wars analogy. Chai Komanduri, a repeat guest on THE BEAT. We appreciate you. Elizabeth Dwoskin your first time, helping us understand tech. I hope you come back. Thank you for joining us.

DWOSKIN: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely, appreciate it. Coming up. It got worse for this Republican senator who has been accused of pushing the coup and then basically lying about it on the Senate floor. We`ll explain.




JOE BIDEN, UNITES STATES PRESIDENT: Weapons and ammunition are flowing in daily. And we`re seeing just how vital our alliances and partnerships are around the world. And it was united, focused, and energized as has ever been.


MELBER: Turning to Russia`s ongoing invasion and war in Ukraine. We`re joined by the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor. Welcome back, sir.

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Thank you, Ari. It`s good to be here.

MELBER: Your view on where we`re at right now.

TAYLOR: So, we are transitioning from one battle, north of Kyiv, where the Ukrainian military did great. To the next battle, which is going to be in the east, as we`ve seen, and the Russians have already started the bombardment. Haven`t really started the ground attacks yet. But that`s in a different terrain already.

And so, the weapons that are necessary in the north, around Kyiv, in the forests, in the small towns -- small villages in the urban -- sometimes urban areas. Those are different weapons when you move to the east. Where you have great plains. Where you have large expanses of open terrain. Now, the Ukrainians need long-range artillery, and they need other kinds of things -- like drones, they need the ability to take the fight to the Russians. And that`s what we`re in the middle of right now. Ari?

MELBER: We -- have been seeing, you know, these harrowing sites, especially in the places where the seizures continues. Here`s a Mariupol commander who has been sheltering in the steel plant there and issuing really a plea. Take a listen.


SERHIY VOLYNA, MARINE COMMANDER, MARIUPOL, UKRAINE (text): This is our appeal to the world. This could be the last appeal of our lives. We are probably facing our last days, if not hours. The enemy is outnumbering us 10 to one.


MELBER: You know, this -- this country so well, we`re hearing from people - - you know, people that have already -- you know, then been forced to flee or worse or hurt or killed. And what we`re hearing from this country that you served in, is that -- in many places, they feel that they`re now being wiped out. That Ukraine, as we know it, in those regions is being destroyed. And yet, it`s a grim fact of the way wars work that this aspect and what some experts have called allegations of war crimes of ethnic cleansing.

This part is less reported, less visible in a way than those first few weeks when we saw more above-ground clashes. If you will walk us through the real politic of that because very sadly, although we continue to cover it, as you know, that would seem to go in Putin`s favor if he can keep this part less known, as opposed to the what people remember, which was weeks of war coverage, and in the beginning.

TAYLOR: Ari, you`re exactly right. This is going to get worse before it gets better. The destruction of Ukrainian cities that you`ve been covering, in particular Mariupol, but that just Mariupol. I mean, the other cities like Kharkiv, like Sumy, like Chernihiv up in the north. These have all been heavily damaged. Probably none more so than Mariupol as you just described. Mariupol, Ari will go down in history. And whatever the outcome, it will go down in history as a heroic defense.

And the men, and women, and civilians, and military who stuck out, who stayed there in Mariupol and fought the Russians. For what -- 56 days already, they will be seen as heroes -- they are heroes. The city will be a hero -- a hero city. This will Ari, week -- little back into our history sometimes and we say remember, this event or that event, Ukrainians will say remember Mariupol, they will remember Mariupol because Mariupol is the essence of their fight. It is the essence of their determination, to be independent, to be free.


This war, Ari, where you just made the point. This war is -- was unprovoked. This was a -- this was a war of Russia on Ukraine, unprovoked, unjustified. And this is what we`re now seeing. And we need to keep our focus on it because Ari, they are fighting for us. Ukrainians are fighting our fight. We are not there at their side. We are providing them weapons. We need to provide them more so that they can continue that fight. But they are on the frontline of our fight.

MELBER: Yes, understood and we know your service. We know how much you care and I think so many people around the world. Look at this. In this slow roll in horror, Ambassador Taylor, as always, thank you for your perspective.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: We`ll be right back.



MELBER: Breaking news out of the Obama administration, the CDC is formally asking the Justice Department to go ahead and appeal that new federal court ruling which struck down the mask mandate for people on planes. You may recall this was a back and forth inside the Biden administration, the DOJ filing this notice of appeal. The fight will play out in court but the mass mandate is still on hold.

And an update on the story we`ve mentioned Republican Senator Mike Lee under fire, for how he secretly texted the White House trying to help Trump`s basically coup plot and then lied about it. He`s literally refusing to answer questions even from Utah reporters.


BRYAN SCHOTT, REPORTER, THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE: Senator Lee, why did you lie about your involvement in the Trump White House? Senator Lee, why won`t you answer questions about this? Senator Lee, why were you trying to call? Senator, why were you calling? Senator Lee?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To talk with delegates.


MELBER: That`s the Salt Lake Tribune there in his home state constituents. Want to know the facts. If there are good reasons that Mike Lee was texting with the White House all about trying to overthrow the election and then saying the opposite that he was shocked by the idea of such a plan. Well, tell the people that vote for you in your state, sir. We will see if he ever speaks out. And we will be right back.