As the GOP sues journalists, the Supreme Court mulls attacks on press freedoms. New developments emerge in the Matt Gaetz case. Music journalist Brian "B.Dot" Miller speaks out. The FDA approves emergency use of the COVID vaccine for kids 5 to 11. President Biden travels overseas while his agenda at home remains in negotiations.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.
Hi, Ari. Happy Friday.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi. happy Friday. Thanks, Nicolle. Appreciate it.
I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.
We`re tracking news on Matt Gaetz later tonight this hour.
We also have a special legal report tonight on billionaires` civil rights and the free press, as the Supreme Court considers a new case potentially to take, or at least that`s what people are pushing for. It`s a report we have been working on that we don`t think you will see anywhere else. That`s later in this hour tonight.
Our top story, now, though, is another breakthrough, a breakthrough on COVID. We`re going to show it to you this moment, the FDA approving emergency use of the new vaccine for kids, medical leaders heralding the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As mother and as a physician, I know parents, caregivers, school staff and children have been waiting for today`s authorization. Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This emergency use plan is for the same age range that has been under discussion, kids aged 5 to 11.
The CDC schedule suggests that children could begin actually getting these shots by as soon as Wednesday. So, this is good news for many families. And experts see a path here for COVID to join the long list of vaccines that kids take when they go to school, like measles and mumps and other obviously bad things that schools require vaccination against.
And the history here is, that includes schools in very Republican areas, just like very Democratic ones, because while there are things people can debate in this pandemic era, liberty, consequences, tradeoffs, the fact is, if you are watching this news right now in America -- and this is the live, real news -- then you`re living in a society that has long used these vaccine rules to keep people safe.
And, for many decades, it just wasn`t the controversy that some are claiming it to be today. And that includes people who previously followed their own vaccine rules, either at school themselves because they went to school in this country, or for their kids lately.
And that brings us tonight to these so-called adults in the room, because the rubber is hitting the road. Tonight, the deadline arrives, for example, for New York City workers to get vaccinated. And there may be a shortage of public officers and firefighters, first responders, people who serve in the public sector who are resisting these rules.
Especially interesting when they are people who usually require everyone else to follow the rules. Now, politically, New York tends to vote Democratic, but you should see, this week, it has also featured some anti- vax protests. There are roughly 19,000 holdouts, according to the count.
Over in red Mississippi, the governor is now trying to defy Biden`s vaccine mandate, another place where the rubber hitting the road with pushback, or, down in Florida, Governor DeSantis still suing the Biden administration over the same mandates.
Now, you take it all together tonight, and here`s what we`re living through, a policy process that started with carrots. Here`s a vaccine. Now it`s free. Here`s a shot or a beer or a pizza for it. Hey, let`s all hold hands and do this together.
And when that didn`t work, it turns to the stick with more requirements. Now, that`s for the adults, whether they act like adults or not. The stuff with kids, what`s coming first, that is an option, but, eventually, if we`re living through what it looks like we`re living through, would eventually join these other things like measles and mumps that you don`t want your kid to get, so you get them vaccinated.
That`s a choice. Or you need to get vaccinated because they`re going to go be with other kids. This is not actually a real, active controversy. This is something that is a product of a political moment in our time and perhaps, if you want to be charitable, a lot of misinformation on the Internet that has people who didn`t use to get this confused at a statistical level getting more confused.
But the confusion is dangerous, dangerous to yourself and your family, but in a society where we interact, where we eventually get off Zoom, dangerous to others as well.
With that in mind, as these mandate deadlines arrive, I want to bring in two experts, on the politics and the policy, Fordham University Professor Christina Greer, on the medicine, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who advised the Obama White House on health policy. He`s also vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Emanuel, we are seeing this rubber hitting the road. Your thoughts?
DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Yes.
Well, I think, first of all, for kids, it`s very important to get them vaccinated. And I think we will enhance the uptake, because it`ll be through pediatricians` offices, where the pediatrician can reassure the family.
Parents should remember, over the next few months and years, you`re either going to get COVID or you`re going to get a vaccination. And getting COVID is a lot worse than getting a vaccine, even for children.
And the other thing I would say...
MELBER: Well, you just put in so starkly.
Would you say that? You do a range of things in policy, but would a doctor say that responsibly to a patient? Hey, it`s one or the other?
EMANUEL: Actually, Ari, I shouldn`t take credit for what I said, because it was actually a paraphrase of a doctor at the NIH who is an expert in cellular immunology and these kinds of viral diseases.
So, yes, doctors will say that because it`s true.
And then the other point you wanted to raise?
EMANUEL: Yes, I just wanted to raise, we have heard that -- we have seen this situation again. You come close to a deadline for vaccine mandates, and everyone who`s against them says, we`re just going to walk out, we`re not going to be there. And, suddenly, you see this big upsurge in people taking the vaccine.
We have seen over the last week 9 percent increase, 9 percent of the New York Police Department, when they`re saying, we`re not taking the vaccine, suddenly getting the vaccine. Same in the fire department. As the deadline gets close and your choice is between getting the shot or losing your job or losing your paycheck, you`re going to get the shot, because it really isn`t that big a deal.
We should remember, in New York, more policemen have died of COVID, many more, than have died of gunshot wounds. That is a bad story. And that should melt the opposition to the vaccine.
CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, I agree with Dr. Emanuel.
I also want to just remind people, as someone who lives in New York, what we should focus on are the more than two-thirds of police, fire and EMTs who actually have gotten the vaccination. So, hopefully, they will look at their colleagues and say, this is what I`m doing to protect myself, my family and the public that we have been sworn to protect and serve.
And so when we think about FDNY firefighters, who oftentimes live together for a week at a time, one would think that they have seen enough. They and EMTs have gone to emergencies at people`s homes as they have died of COVID. Same with police officers who were begging to wear masks.
So I want to focus on the over two-thirds of all three of those departments who are doing the right thing. And, as you said, Ari, we started with carrots, right? And the people even got financial incentives to take the vaccine.
And because they don`t want to protect the safety of citizens all across this city, now we have to sort of start talking about unpaid leave and questions about whether or not they will receive their pension or overtime.
And it`s not really on the leadership sort of making them take the vaccine. I would say police officers and firefighters and EMTs who are doing the right thing should look at their colleagues and say, why are you continuing to put us at risk? Why are you continuing to put the citizens of New York City at risk, right?
You all have seen what has happened, how COVID ravaged the city, last year especially. And we still have people who are obstinate and who are believing the big lie.
MELBER: Yes. Yes, and, as you say, we started with carrots.
I mean, Dr. Emanuel quoted an NIH doctor. Professor, I will quote Ma$e, Ma$e, who said once in a song to a would-be paramour, I`m going to give you carats until you feel like a rabbit.
Now, those carrots were not the policy carrots we`re discussing. It was the double entendre, of course, 24 carats or more. Mace was generous. And he had to be. He had a dollar sign in his name, Professor.
But, Dr. Emanuel, in all seriousness, Joe Biden did feel that Ma$e energy. He felt like they gave out a lot of carrots for months. He said publicly on the record, we don`t want to do mandates. We want to get this participation up. And so it seems important here.
There`s a tendency in the news sometimes to sort of jump on to the next, next, next thing. But we`re tracking these deadlines tonight because this is the policy in New York. It is what Biden`s trying to do. It is what`s being sued upon. And everyone has the right to sue, we have covered that, if they -- we don`t expect any traction there because the Supreme Court upheld these kind of safety mandates for over a century, even in the absence of a pandemic, I remind viewers.
So, the court has said you can make this kind of requirement for public safety without the existence of a pandemic. Well, this is a pandemic. It`s a stronger argument.
And so, Dr. Emanuel, to your point about mandates working and deadlines working, what do you expect, based on precedent, in the coming weeks? Will these mandates, unlike carrots, work better? Are we going to see a surge in the weeks ahead?
EMANUEL: Well, we have seen a surge in the last week. And I agree with you, Ari. We will see a surge in the weeks ahead.
And you have already seen even in Alabama, where the governor, Ivey, has said we`re going to resist these mandates, the University of Alabama, because it`s got money at stake, has instituted a mandate for the university, Auburn the same.
Federal funds come with this requirement for a mandate and -- if you have contracts. And that will shift a lot of employers as well. And I think the important point, to build on what you said is, we`re now social norming it. Getting the vaccine is the right thing to do. And let me just add one last data point, which I think is so important.
If you look at states, there is a high correlation between states with high vaccine mandates and low hospitalization rates.
MELBER: Imagine that.
This works. And all of this misinformation, it doesn`t work, that`s nonsense. All the data show how it works. Is it flawless? No. Some people with the vaccine do get a breakthrough and do get a serious infection. But the vast majority of people in the hospital and the vast majority of people who end up dying, unfortunately, because of COVID, they`re unvaccinated.
On the political side, Professor, Congressman Kinzinger, who was known as one of the Republicans standing up to Trump, he`s not running for reelection. He may or may not be a household name, but it speaks to where the party`s at. Take a quick listen to where he`s been on some of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): This is outrage politics that has been played by my party. And it`s going to get Americans killed.
Putting out fund-raising after fund-raising e-mail about first it`s going to be a vaccine mandate. Next thing, the Gestapo is going to show up at your door and take your Bible away. Like, that`s not going to happen. And that`s playing on people`s fear.
It`s absolute insanity. The best thing we can do is point out the role that these politicians are playing in creating fear. The vaccine is safe. COVID is real. Get vaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A voice of dissent, but he`s leaving, Professor.
But what we have said time and time again, Ari, the vestiges of the Trump era will be calling truth and facts into question. And so we have sensible Republicans who are saying, well, I can`t win a primary. I have the party against me. I don`t have support.
And so they`re leaving. And the former president`s tweeting, one down, nine to go, two down, eight to go.
But it is real. And the fact that we have Republican governors, former Republican presidents who are all vaccinated who are saying quietly, you should get the vaccination, but they also are so afraid of the Trump base in 2022, they don`t really want to be out there that much saying it.
It`s really -- it says a lot about where the Republican has devolved over the past few years, and how they`re still letting Donald Trump lead them down a path of literally death and destruction. It is beyond clear that COVID is real. However, if you have right-wing media saying that it`s the liberal elites who are literally making up deaths, these are deaths that aren`t really happening in hospitals, they want to see them, we`re just -- we`re creating these false numbers, and it`s just a vaccine to try and control us.
I don`t know how that is. Maybe with 5G. I have no idea. And then we have celebrities who are following suit, celebrities who tend to be left- leaning, but are now with these right talking points.
And we`re in a moment where we will not get on the other side of this global pandemic, unless people start using common sense and listening to science.
MELBER: Yes. Yes.
Professor Greer and Dr. Emanuel, important points. I hope people are listening. We are here. Thank you very much.
Coming up, you have President Biden on the world stage with talk of a breakthrough and a meeting with a pope, well, unlike any we have seen before.
Also, as I mentioned the update on the Matt Gaetz sex crime probe later this hour and our special report we have been working on, billionaires trying to use American courts to target the free press and critics. It`s an under-the-radar attack. It also deals with civil rights.
That`s our special report. Stay with me for that later tonight.
MELBER: We`re at a critical juncture for the Biden administration, the president traveling overseas, meeting with the pope today, and the White House trying to get everything done.
There was this daylong roller coaster, Biden leaning on Democrats to get close to a deal. You may have heard Nicolle Wallace and I discuss this. She was saying, well, at some point, you got to take the deal. Well, they`re not quite there. Today, there are even questions about whether this might be stalling out, or is it still going to be a historic breakthrough eventually?
Politico, which sometimes sets the mood for at least a few hours in Washington, had this headline: "Biden Already Won," cites the endorsement from progressives and signs that the holdouts will ultimately pass this huge package.
But, then again, someone at Politico may have forgotten to tell Politico, because they have another piece with a different piece of conventional wisdom that says Biden tried and stumbled, and has now suffered clearly a - - quote -- "blow" to the agenda.
Now, they`re talking about the same story. And I have said it on air myself. Sometimes, it`s hard to know what`s going on. So, anyone tracking this, a news viewer, a news person, someone at Politico, I feel you. Are they winning or is this thing stalling out?
Now, like Biden, Obama has traveled overseas while also trying to deal with domestic battles. That`s what presidents do, more than one thing at a time. He was actually in Mexico in 2009 during some of those heated Obamacare battles. Salon even wrote of Obama`s health care horror and argued that, while he was representing the U.S. with dignity abroad, he had trouble back home, with competing, fluctuating drafts of Obamacare.
Now, we actually went back and show you that to make a point. And it`s a point about intellectual humility for even those of us in the news, and certainly everyone monitoring it, which was, yes, it looked like he was in trouble, until he wasn`t. That moment, that international trip, that sense that things were falling apart was momentary.
And, sometimes, when you pull out, you realize that, whatever other battles with Obamacare, Congress wasn`t the issue that year. They did pass it.
Indeed, there`s someone who knows all about that long haul and passing things, rather than getting stalled out. It`s David Plouffe, of course, one of President Obama`s most senior and trusted advisers.
We`re going to get into it with him when we`re back in 60 seconds.
MELBER: We are joined, as promised, by former senior adviser to President Obama David Plouffe.
And your thoughts on this point? Is it a momentary lapse that looks larger, or is this actual Biden deal in trouble, because they have been claiming it`s over for a while now?
DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Ari, I think the notion that somehow this is a huge blow to Biden`s presidency that he didn`t have this signed before he left, it`s all over -- history suggests that quite strongly.
He`s able to tell these leaders around the world that he`s on the precipice of signing major climate investments, things that are going to help create jobs, changing our tax structure. So they`re not going to ask him, well, when is the vote going to happen?
PLOUFFE: They`re just going to be, I think, excited that he made progress.
And so what matters is -- and, listen, maybe it falls apart. I would be shocked by that. You`re basically waving a white flag at that point in terms of the legislative agenda and maybe the politics of next year. So this is going to pass.
And then the Democrats have to -- A, you have got to make...
MELBER: So, you would say -- we`re getting you on record here. You say odds of passage are?
PLOUFFE: Exceedingly high. I mean, it would be shocking, tragic, unprecedented to be on the goal line here, and basically say, we don`t want anything, we`re just going to let it fall apart, because then you got to get to the real work, which is, A, executing on this, the actual execution of making sure this gets distributed properly.
Then there`s the storytelling, not just about what`s in the bill. And I will tell you from experience it`s hard enough to sell a single piece of legislation that`s maybe got one big idea, really hard these days. It`s really hard to do this with a big package.
So you`re going to have to have campaigns really run each of these things. Yes, it all ladders up to the big architecture of both of these bills. But for child care, for universal pre-K, for the health care expansions, for eldercare, you have got to go out there and reach the audiences to care about that, and not just tell them what`s in it, but as they get benefits along the way, make sure people know that.
PLOUFFE: This to me is going to be the cornerstone of next November`s elections.
PLOUFFE: And then, of course, this entire debate, Ari, has been Democrat on Democrats.
You got to swing the opposition into the picture frame now, and say these guys haven`t lifted a finger to help anybody, except they want to protect billionaires, and they want to help Donald Trump with his absurd big lie.
MELBER: Well, you`re definitely making another fair point there, which is, because of the way this has played out and the time it`s taken, it`s drawn attention to differences among Democrats, which exists. I think our viewers are clear on that. We have been covering that.
But they`re not as vast as the other differences. And paid family leave id an example where Joe Manchin really decided he was going to strip that out of the bill. And that`s one thing.
It also is a reminder that there aren`t any Republicans among the 50 there have talked about family values, or spending time with your kids, or why family is more important than other things, who actually seem to be anywhere interested in supporting that for American families. So that`s a contrast.
And, again, people make up their own mind about whether that`s good or bad. But, as you say, it`s that.
Now, I do want to press you on something. People know you`re a very respected and established Democrat, but you bring a Democratic perspective. So I did want to get your view. This is a part style, part substance of take a look at how long Joe Biden has been claiming this was done or victory, and whether that was, at least stylistically, right or wrong, because you can run the tape all the way back to June.
Take a quick look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a deal. None of us got what we -- all that we wanted.
I think we have an historic -- I know we have a historic economic framework.
No one got everything they wanted, including me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is there any misstep here in telling the public so many times they have a deal, when they haven`t passed the deal yet?
PLOUFFE: Well, I think he was probably given assurances by folks on the Hill.
I think that misstep, looking back on it, was, this is a historic piece of legislation. So, Ari, a year ago, let`s think about that. We`re on the precipice of the election, Trump vs. Biden. So if you had said that Trump gets defeated, Democrats win the Senate, and in addition to the COVID relief bill, you`re going to have a package like this infrastructure and the human piece of this, I think we all would have been excited.
I think -- but when it`s compared to the $3.5 trillion that hung out there for months, I think we should have fast-forwarded to the reality more quickly. Quite frankly, that`s the one thing I would critique.
But I think that, right now, the big challenge is, most Americans don`t have much sense of what`s in these pieces of legislation, . The infrastructure will be easier to sell, because I think that is more familiar to people, more visible.
But it`s going to take a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of money. And, yes, you`re going to do that through earned media, of course, but I think Democrats are also going to have to spend quite a bit of money doing that storytelling.
So that would be my one critique is, somehow, this thing ends up looking like you have a bad aftertaste, when it`s something we should be celebrating.
PLOUFFE: For the most part.
There`s things in it -- I wish were in it, for sure, but when you have got 50, with no margin, this is probably the most Joe Biden could get with this composition and this thin a majority.
You make a really interesting point, David. And if you`re right, if it passes, I think it`ll be certainly true that they will have passed a social domestic spending package that`s larger than anything President Obama did in eight years. And if, after that, as you put it, the aftertaste is somehow that they went small or aren`t good at this, if they did that in one, compared to the other eight, and, obviously, all the differences in politics, and Obama did health care first, but if that aftertaste is meager, that would suggest a messaging problem more than a substance problem.
MELBER: Whether they`re going to pass it or not, I leave to you.
I`m running out of time. So I got to run. But I leave it to you, because we don`t do predictions. But I`d love to have you back as soon as next week, if you`re around, David.
PLOUFFE: Sure. Of course.
MELBER: Right. David Plouffe, thank you.
Let me tell everyone what we`re doing next. It`s what I mentioned at the top of the hour. Our BEAT team here of journalists has been working on something very important. It has to do with an important ruling on Martin Luther King and civil rights and how billionaires are attacking free speech and how Putin kills people.
All of this is something that the right wing is trying to get before the Supreme Court. It`s our special report.
MELBER: Powerful people and corporations have many tools to enact their will.
If you get on the wrong side of motivated billionaires, they can legally impact your career, your money and your life, or bankrupt you for a cause they barely notice. That`s what Trump supporter and tech billionaire Peter Thiel did to the media company Gawker. He was mad it published personal information about him, so he funded a slew of huge lawsuits that bankrupted the entire rich company.
Vladimir Putin has an entire army, but he uses the threat of expensive legal attacks to blunt criticism even abroad. I will explain why that matters here in a moment.
But, first, why is this in the news now? Because, today, the Supreme Court heard from people who want to give billionaires and press critics even more power to attack, harass and bankrupt the free press and free speech.
This relates to two cases that have already gained some traction on the right, where there is an appetite for more ways to just hammer the press.
And I don`t mean just criticizing the press. I mean a formal operation with many planks, one of which is pushing harder libel policy, as Donald Trump demanded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to open up the libel laws, so, when they write falsely, we can sue the media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s a direct admission.
A politician who has been challenged and held accountable by media reporting, wants to sue the media. And he did. Donald Trump is actually suing "The New York Times" right now.
But this is much broader than him. Republican Congressman Devin Nunes suing "The Washington Post" and "Esquire." The top Republican in Pennsylvania suing reporters who exposed his questionable spending. And conservative OAN suing MSNBC and Rachel Maddow on a weak defamation claim.
Now, full disclosure, as journalists, we do have a professional interest in these kinds of issues and cases.
But, tonight, this special report right now will bring you many sources. You could put my word aside and just see what independent judges concluded. They ruled that MSNBC won and was also entitled to extra legal fees because those defamation claims were so baseless.
Politicians are pushing this, especially on the right. And Trump`s addition to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is also publicly suggesting a harsher approach on this libel issue, citing the Internet`s shifting standards, where people publish without investigation, without fact-checking or editing, and use an ignorance is bliss approach.
Now, it`s certainly a valid concern that, compared to the print era, when these libel laws mostly developed, there is now more speech and more propaganda on the Web, which masquerades as journalism. Our society is grappling with that, from COVID disinformation to Facebook`s penchant to spread a catchy, clicky conspiracy over just plain old-fashioned facts.
The high court has not yet agreed to take a case challenging this, but it`s in the news because it`s already going all the way up to the court with people asking for it. It is what Trump and Gorsuch want.
And those claims from the justice that I just read to you about the Internet are actually a really long ways from how the Supreme Court developed these protections for free speech to try to make sure that people could not crush reporters and other critics with these kinds of libel lawsuits.
So, I want you to stay with me right now, because this may be the most important thing that I talk to you about tonight. The actual factual history is instructive. It started right here, with the Ku Klux Klan coordinating with an Alabama official to crack down on civil rights protesters in the early 1960s.
It was a very tense time, with state and vigilante violence waged ruthlessly against black citizens, and specifically black protesters. And then this official, L.B. Sullivan. used official power against protesters.
Now, how did they respond? Not with violence, not with insurrection. These black activists, these civil rights protesters, they responded at the time with speech. They wrote down words. And it was hard for black activists to be heard or published at all. And there was no Internet, let alone Twitter.
So they bought ad space in "The New York Times" criticizing how officials there that I just showed you working with the Klan, how they were trying to treat Martin Luther King.
Now, these citizens, these activists, they were just people. They didn`t have a newsroom of fact-checkers or professional process. And they did get some points -- in the ad on your screen, they got some of their points incorrect.
So, this person I told you about, Sullivan, seizes on that and sued them for alleged libel. Sullivan lost. The civil rights activists won. The Supreme Court ruled that free speech gets very strong protection, including the idea that people can sometimes get things incorrect without having to be dragged into court or fined or bankrupted, as long as you don`t deliberately lie with actual malice, knowledge that it`s false, against a public official.
The court found the alternative to not have that protection would tip the balance too far towards powerful people, like Sullivan, who worked with the Klan, who could outspend and bankrupt those critics, those activists.
That ruling that I`m telling you about tonight that`s back in the news, that`s what protected the activists, the civil rights leaders, other citizens, and so many journalists for really the past 60 years. That`s what people are now, at least on the right, asking the court to overturn.
But we actually know what could happen if the court does that. England makes it much easier to sue over libel. It puts a burden on the defendant to prove they didn`t defame someone. And that has now made England a legal destination for powerful people to mess with their critics.
Now that brings us to Putin. I know you might have said, Ari, how are we getting to Putin on this? That`s how. Vladimir Putin is a dictator with an army and a cyber army and a spy service that literally poisons people. He has many powerful tools against his opponents. He even jokes around with other leaders like Donald Trump about just getting rid of reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Fake news, great term, isn`t it?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes. Yes. We have. We have it too. It`s the same.
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you a killer?
PUTIN (through translator): He deliberately wanted to be arrested. So he did what he wanted to do.
If someone had wanted to poison him, they would have finished him off.
QUESTION: If all of your political opponents are dead, in prison, poisoned, doesn`t that send a message that you do not want a fair political fight?
PUTIN (through translator): People went into U.S. Congress with political demands.
QUESTION: There you go again, Mr. President. What about America? When I have asked you about Russia.
TOM BROKAW, NBC SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: One of Russia`s most powerful media bosses is under arrest and in prison.
MASHA LIPMAN, JOURNALIST: President Putin is sending a message. Those media, those forces are in danger, and they should beware.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A leader who wields that kind of power can be scary.
And yet the press has its own kind of sway, especially outside of Russia. So it remains a threat to him. Now, as the U.S. considers weakening these laws to be more like other countries, know where Putin goes to attack his press critics, to the U.K.
And even if critics or journalists are courageous there, he goes after their corporate publishers in the U.K. and uses their harsh libel laws, which are the kind of libel laws that the right is trying to replicate here in America.
This is all really out in the open. I want to show you the specific evidence, so you understand the stakes. Take the book "Putin`s Kleptocracy," which reports and alleges his links to the mafia.
A renowned British publisher, Cambridge University Press, said it couldn`t publish that book, despite the quality of the research, because of their company`s risk tolerance, in light of their limited resources.
That just meant they could go bankrupt fighting Putin in court over one book. And after another critical book came out last year, "Putin`s People," it`s facing lawsuits against the publisher and the writer, with Putin- linked oligarchs alleging defamation.
Experts say these Russian cases in foreign courts are not just about crushing that particular writer, but deterring anyone who would investigate Russia`s elite. A Saudi millionaire is attacking an American writer who reported on his alleged links to al Qaeda, using this playbook, suing her in England, to get around U.S. free speech protections.
And the writer ended up caught in a very expensive international plot.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RACHEL EHRENFELD, AUTHOR, "FUNDING EVIL": I just set out to write the truth, to expose those who funded terrorism.
I did not live in England. I do not live in England. The book was not published there, so why not come and sue me in the United States, right?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: She refused to go to England for the case, so their courts ended up fining her a quarter-million dollars.
These are writers. These are journalists. These are researchers. Remember, people can`t afford this. The U.K. also ordered the book destroyed in that proceeding.
So it turns out, America, it`s not just the food that`s much worse in England. Sick burn, but true. It`s not just the food. It`s also their free speech laws, which suck, like the food.
Now, if the legal outcome hear sounds messed up to you, you`re not alone. The U.S. Congress was actually so outraged by that foreign attempt to stifle that American writer, who, again, was just taking on powerful interests and al Qaeda, that the Congress did something very rare.
It reached a bipartisan consensus to pass new laws protecting the American press and the American public from these kinds of foreign libel claims, in a unanimous voice vote on the House floor. If you go back and look, President Obama signed this into law.
So, while one-businessman-turned-politician openly attacks our First Amendment, a constitutional-lawyer-turned-politician reminds us we must protect it. It`s actually something then President Obama advocated in his farewell address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED: Protecting our First Amendment rights are vital to who we are.
An order based not just on military power or national affiliations, but built on principles, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion and speech and assembly and an independent press.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: That order is now being challenged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: An outgoing president`s warning, citing the threat of modern demagogues, like Trump or Putin, but also this much wider tendency to crack down on speech, which goes back much farther across world history.
Wherever the powerful seek to oppress people, you will usually find efforts to suppress their words and ideas. Operatives want to overturn a Supreme Court precedent that established the right of civil rights activists to protest the treatment of Martin Luther King in America.
The words the government really wanted to suppress and punish down there were the words of those activists. As we reflect on alternative justice systems, be it in England or in Putin`s Russia, it`s worth recalling that Martin Luther King reflected on this as well, challenging America and American courts on what kind of free society we really had or wanted to have.
He did that to the end. He did it in what would be his final speech the day before he was murdered in America. So, as we see this effort to reverse free speech protections in our country, we should reflect long and hard about how we got them and what it looks like when you don`t have them.
And in that realm, Dr. Martin Luther King gets the last word on this tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: If I lived in China or even Russia or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions.
Somewhere, I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere, I read of the freedom of press.
And so, just as I say we aren`t going to let any dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren`t going to let any injunction turn us around!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The first big election since 2020 is coming in Virginia next week. It`s been pretty close. We have been covering it a lot on MSNBC.
And Democrat Terry McAuliffe has been doing everything, including getting a boost from President Biden. And that brings us to what you see on your screen, because, while it`s not the most important thing in politics, we wouldn`t want you to miss out on this comparison from none other than Stephen Colbert about Terry McAuliffe dancing his way to Election Day.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": The real star of the show last night was Terry McAuliffe`s dance moves. Look at that vanilla shake.
This isn`t the only time McAuliffe has backed it up like a campaign bus. He also boogied with Barack, did whatever this is with Kamala Harris.
COLBERT: And here he is last week advertising zero percentage APR financing and all-new Honda Civics. There you go.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, we checked. Quality dancing is not a prerequisite for being governor of Virginia. So none of this really matters. But that is some of what is playing out there on the campaign trail.
Now, that is something a little fun in Virginia.
We also have an update, as promised, on a very different story, which is Congressman Matt Gaetz. The Republican has been under investigation for these allegations regarding a kind of a corrupt ring in Florida, concerns about sex with a minor. He denies the allegations.
And a week ago, there was a major development in this case. We discussed it with Maya Wiley. Two new prosecutors were added to the team who specialize in child exploitation and public corruption. Gaetz`s guilty associate Joel Greenberg has been cooperating with authorities.
So, these new lawyers come in. They are prosecutors. They would not be there just to tie up loose ends, according to several experts. And Greenberg`s sentencing has been pushed back multiple times, prosecutors telling a judge that his allegations "take us to some places we did not anticipate."
Greenberg`s attorney, another perspective on this, made a lot of waves with something that might have sounded like conjecture, but now that we are putting pieces together, like adding those prosecutors, something that came out of the feds, it`s more interesting to consider that he said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Does Matt Gaetz have anything to worry about?
FRITZ SCHELLER, ATTORNEY FOR JOEL GREENBERG: Does Matt Gaetz -- that is such a -- I`m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Matt Gaetz denies all again allegations and has not been charged with any crimes.
As for his comfort and what is happening in the case, well, a lot of developments. And we will stay on it.
Now, I`m going to tell you one more thing before the break. Our friend Barbara Res is not only here, but here in person, because we are returning in some ways to normal.
Barbara sits at this table with me when we`re back right after this.
MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT.
And we`re falling back in person. Look who`s here. We got two fantastic guests on set in the building at 30 Rock.
Brian "B.Dot" Williams (sic), a premier music journalists, he leads all kinds of coverage, MTV News` Complex. He`s interviewed musical luminaries like Drake, Jay-Z, Will Smith, and the late great Nipsey Hussle.
BRIAN "B.DOT" MILLER, MUSIC JOURNALIST: That sounds like Brian "B.Dot" Miller.
MELBER: Brian "B.Dot" Miller.
MILLER: You said Williams. But...
MELBER: I think we -- I even know your name because I know you for real.
MELBER: B.Dot also hosts the "Rap Radar" podcast on Tidal and hosts the show "Brackets" on Complex.
And we`re joined by author Barbara Res. She worked alongside Donald Trump in the Trump Organization, has spoken out about him, and the book "Tower of Lies: What My Eighteen Years of Working With Donald Trump Reveals About Him."
Welcome to both of you.
BARBARA RES, FORMER TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MILLER: Hey, thank you for having me, man.
MELBER: I love it.
RES: It`s so great to be back.
MELBER: I love being physically here.
MILLER: I know, right? It`s none of that Zoom stuff, man.
MELBER: It`s like, this is not a Zoom.
MILLER: Are you a clone?
MELBER: No, this is me. I`m a real person.
MILLER: OK. Making sure.
MELBER: My "Fallback" is real quick.
MILLER: All right.
MELBER: The haters of candy corn.
We`re going into Halloween. Candy corn hitters need to fall back. Candy corn is really good.
RES: I agree totally.
MILLER: I`m with candy corn. Candy corn is free. And free is my favorite F-word.
MILLER: So, I`m with that.
MELBER: Barbara, what`s on your list?
RES: Mitt Romney. He is a man that`s got to fall back, not just now. Send him back to 2012, if you ask me.
He comes out with this thing. He`s going to explain to people what a trillion is. So, he says, I want you to understand, this is a very, very big number. And he decides to say, think of it in seconds. And we will start with a million. A million seconds passed, and that`s like a couple weeks ago.
And then, when you go to a billion seconds, well, that`s when George H.W. Bush was president. But a trillion, a trillion takes you back to when Neanderthals walked the land.
MILLER: A trillion.
RES: Now, first of all, Neanderthals are walking all over the Senate. I don`t want to hear...
RES: But couldn`t he have made something that people can relate to?
Like, well think of it this way. A trillion dollars is like four times what Microsoft`s net worth is.
MELBER: It almost makes you wonder if he`s trying to confuse and distract people away from whether the billionaires are paying a fair share.
RES: Oh, well, absolutely.
MELBER: You know?
RES: But you give -- you ask a billionaire if he should -- or a multimillionaire, like Romney, should you have a millionaires tax, a billionaires tax?
It`s like asking a saloon keeper in 1919 what he thinks of prohibition.
MELBER: Yes. Yes, he may have a vested interest. I like that one.
B.Dot is a special guest.
MELBER: You are beloved in hip-hop. You do a lot of good work. So we actually made something special, those that know and then those that may need to learn.
MELBER: Let`s take a look at B.Dot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILLER: I still can`t believe we`re here. Cheers. Cheers. I made it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four-forty-four.
MILLER: They said this would never happen.
"Rap Radar" podcast. I must have done some writing man.
Musically, like, when it comes to criticism and like you said mentioned earlier how some people might say, hey, Drake`s appropriating this culture of music or -- for your own personal gain. How do you feel about those kind of critiques?
DRAKE, MUSICIAN: I think that they`re -- it`s kind of a similar thing. They`re curated by a bunch of people who just aren`t on this -- weren`t on this boat to begin with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You do big things. We like to acknowledge that.
MILLER: Yes, I want that on my funeral. Like, put it on the big screen. I need that right now. Like, wow, thank you for that. That`s appreciated.
MELBER: Are you pulling Drake and saying play this ish at my funeral?
MILLER: I`m just saying. I`m just saying, Ari, that`s going to come in handy one day.
MELBER: I heard, at your funeral, they`re going to have to come in and do the fake cry.
MILLER: You are...
MELBER: Treat these other rappers like it`s lunchtime.
MILLER: You really speak hip-hop, boy.
MELBER: What`s on your "Fallback" list? We appreciate you.
MILLER: Well, on my "Fallback" list right now is Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.
Facebook turn into Meta? Like, what is this? Like, how young do you have to be to go through a midlife crisis? That`s another Drake...
MILLER: But I come from the hip-hop world, right? So, like, name changes are common.
Like Sean Combs, for instance, we were introduced to him as Puff Daddy. Then he`s Diddy. Now he`s going by Love, right? So my whole stance is like, if it ain`t broke, don`t fix it.
MILLER: I like it Facebook.
But I kind of have seen this movie before. Mark thinks he`s real slick, right? Because Facebook is the one that stole your data and stuff like that, allegedly. But Meta didn`t do anything.
MELBER: Yes, who`s that?
MILLER: Who`s Meta?
RES: That`s the point.
MILLER: You know what I mean?
RES: Yes, right.
MILLER: So, I`m still calling it Facebook. It`s still going to be -- but, matter of fact, I think I`m speaking too much, because I don`t want to get shadowbanned on Instagram or Facebook or anything like that. So...
MELBER: They might be listening. The algorithm is always listening.
MILLER: I think they might be. They might be.
So, my -- I think to -- I need to fall back.
MELBER: Well, number one, the only thing that listens more than the streets is the algorithm.
MILLER: That`s true.
Number two, since you mentioned branding...
MELBER: Do you think that the people, a lot of people who use Facebook, which is really a wide age range...
MELBER: ... will be OK with this or fooled by it? Or do you think that this is them trying to be just kind of too cute with it?
MILLER: I think it`s just trying to be edgy.
But it`s like we -- Facebook is, what, 15 years in now so far, give or take? People are used to what they are used to. So it`s going to be Facebook whether you change it, you flip it, you reverse it.
It`s going to be Facebook no matter what.
RES: You know, I don`t care what -- I had to look up meta, even though I have heard it so many times.
RES: So, he`s moving ahead. He`s going to -- getting better, reaching the pinnacle of what it is. That`s what meta is.
RES: Meta, as a name for Facebook...
MELBER: Yes, it`s a corporate name. It`s a rebrand. It seems like a way to try to distract.
The only Metta I like is Metta World News.
MILLER: Metta World -- I like Metta World Peace, because he`s from queens, and I`m from Queens too.
MILLER: Shout-out to Ron Artest.
RES: Well, I think -- when you get older, you`re allowed to do this. I`m calling Meta B.S.
MELBER: Hey, you`re calling it B.S.
MELBER: You do get to do that.
I just want to say in closing to two people that I love talking to, I told you in pandemic we would come back here, have coffee, be at the table.
MELBER: So, I`m thrilled to have you, Barbara, be a part of our physical return to "Fallback"s.
And, B.Dot, it`s your first time.
MILLER: This is my first time.
MELBER: Not your last time.
MILLER: Listen, yo, man, you will get that Grammy, man.
MILLER: I had to come. You know, I had to come through you, Ari. I appreciate you having me here, man.
I wear my good clothes and...
MELBER: You guys look great, and great together.
MILLER: This is cable news, man.
MELBER: That`s what it is.
MELBER: All right, I got to go. I got to give it to Joy.
Thanks to everyone. That`s THE BEAT.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts now.