tv Matter of Fact With Soledad O Brien KOFY May 7, 2017 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT
announcer: right now on "matter of fact." wish you could drown out the voice of the opposition? >> if they allow liberals and not conservatives, they might be violating the first amendment. announcer: where do you stand on free speech? and the retail apocalypse hits the heartland. >> we have citizens who need jobs. announcer: how one city is fighting to reclaim its shattered stores. plus, kids suing the federal government over climate change. find out why their case against president trump is heading to trial. soledad: i'm soledad o'brien. welcome to "matter of fact." the 45 words that make up the first amendment are being tested
by the 140 characters of twitter. at least, the president's twitter. president trump's anti-media posts and chief of staff reince priebus' admission that the white house is looking into opening libel laws could pose a threat to freedom of the press, suggesting retaliation for news coverage considered slanted. one legal scholar says the president's trail of tweets could actually protect the media proving his intent to punish journalists by using the legal system. floyd abrams has written a new book. it is called "the soul of the first amendment," to re-educate us about the importance of protecting speech -- even when we find it offensive. abrams argued at the supreme court on behalf of the "new york times" in the pentagon papers case during the nixon administration and has been back in court many times since defending reporters and editors. it's nice to see you, sir. thank you for joining us. you start the book with a fascinating look at our nation's
forefathers. 1787, the first amendment, they went back and forth on the phrasing. originally, they talked about the people's right and eventually it shifted to what congress couldn't do. why does the nuance matter? floyd: it matters because the language we wound up with -- exactly what you're saying - "congress shall make no law." congress later became the president also and the states also. but it became clear a ban, a bar, a limitation on government, which is the stuff of law. the first amendment is a law. it is not a poem, not aspirational, not just a hope for the future. if you phrase it the other way, if you say people shouldn't be denied their rights, it sounds as if what you are saying -- wouldn't that be a good idea? so they deliberately made it
stronger, by making it narrower. "congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press." soledad: yet we are constantly going back and forth about whether or not something is protected by the first amendment, for something that was supposed to be kind of strong. do you worry about president trump, who has made his distaste for both journalists and the first amendment pretty clear? floyd: well, yes i am worried about it. i think some areas he's talked about he really can't and won't be able to get into, like libel law. he has said he wants to loosen the libel law. but there is no federal libel law. there is no united states libel law. we have 50 states, they have libel laws. there is no role for the president or the congress about libel law. and of course, it is the first amendment which protects against the state libel laws so as to
make it really hard for a president or a public official or a public figure to win a libel case, purposely. libel law only applies to false statements of fact, not opinion. now an example, president obama could sue our president and say, "you said i committed a criminal act by wiretapping you, and it is not true." that is a lawsuit. soledad: the former president could sue the current president for libel? that would be -- floyd: that would be a great lawsuit. soledad: wow, wow. constitutional scholars will be going crazy over that. let's talk about protests on college campuses. most recent one is ann coulter supposed to speak at berkeley, it sort of became this big free speech debate. even though she never spoke and she withdrew, protesters made it
clear, and i am roughly paraphrasing, that she is conservative and she doesn't deserve to speak here. problematic because berkeley is a public university. floyd: right. public university and therefore subject to the first amendment. we treat public universities as if they were the congress. and so, if a public university treats her differently because she is conservative or because she is outrageous, there could be a lawsuit. soledad: so if somebody has a right to free speech, and we know that people who are protesting, that is also a form of free speech and they have the right to protest, where is the line? they both have a right. floyd: they do both have a right. and they have a right to heckle. what they don't have a right to is to shut people up. they don't have a right to be so loud, or so continuing, or so threatening that the speech simply can't go on. unfortunately, that is what has happened too often on college
campuses around america. we can't just say thesese collee students don't know what they are doing. we have to teach them in junior high school and high school, and we do need civics course. we do need a lesson on american liberty on a continuing basis from the time people are kids. soledad: floyd abrams, it is so nice to have you. the book is called "the soul of the first amendment." floyd: thank you. announcer: next on "matter of fact." why do leaders put their own spin on the truth? >> it is human nature. announcer: what can you do to stop a bad case of truth decay? then, she's the mayor of a town many have written off. >> i am still cautiously optimistic. announcer: would you bet against her city. and later, kids taking president trump to court over their future. >> my biggest fear is if climate change continues. announcer: do they r
soledad: stating the obvious, we're in the fact business. to us, facts matter. but in an era of fake news and alternative facts, who are the gate keepers of the truth? more and more, citizens seem to be rejecting the media, government, and even science, relying instead on bots and tweets and viral posts from sources that mirror their own viewpoints. there is reason for skepticism. our top political leaders on both sides of the aisle only tell the truth about 14% of the time. michael rich is president and c.e.o. of the rand corporation. it has been around for about 70 years and is known for its nonpartisan research from national defense to social issues. he has coined the term "truth decay" and says there can be huge consequences when people can't agree on the facts. nice to see you, michael. thanks for being with us. michael: nice to see you, soledad. soledad: so i sit on the rand
board, and it was back in november when i first i heard you say "truth decay." and i thought, yes, this is exactly what we should be talking about. when you talk about truth decay, what do you mean? is it fake news? is it bots? is it people just making up stuff? michael: i started using the term maybe a year or so ago to describe a collection of trends that i was seeing in our public discourse, the debate and discussion about public policy issues. the first is a drop in agreement that i saw about facts or analytical findings that once were widely accepted. and then, we have the blurring of the line between fact and opinion and the explosion in the quantity of opinion relative to fact. finally, we have had, as you mentioned, the decline in trust in institutions that used to play to a role in being authorities about matters of fact and matters of accuracy. and i think the combination of those factors have produced a situation that i found it good to refer to as truth decay.
because i think if we are going to understand how to turn back, we have to understand how we got to this point. soledad: did it start with president trump? michael: this isn't new. many of the factors that have caused truth decay have been in the process of getting worse for some time. we have had other eras in history that are similar to the era that we have now. i think this era is different in several ways, but it didn't start with any particular politician or candidate or any political party. soledad: what caused truth decay? why are we in it now? it feels worse to me than in past eras. michael: it is complex, but i think humans have a tendency to seek out and believe facts that already conform to their opinions or individual personal experiences. but it is more than that. we have had a dramatic change in the information landscape, which is the 24/7 news cycle, social media platforms, the mobile devices, and so on. what it has meant is the tremendous increase in the
speed, in the volume, and the accessibility of information. most of all, opinions. when you add to that ever more sophisticated disinformation techniques, you have a very changed, dramatically changed information landscape. soledad: do you think there is an interest in turning it around? i know that the media companies and certainly tech companies seem sort of interested. but i'm not sure the american public is running around saying, "oh, my god, we need to stop with these false facts." michael: it is hard to be optimistic in the short run. but over the long run, i take some comfort in the fact that trends in almost every other sector are going in the opposite direction. take business, the military, agriculture, philanthropy, even baseball. i'm a baseball fan. there is more and more reliance on data and more and more uses of sophisticated analytic methods. so truth decay, to the extent that it exists, seems to be
centered in one slice -- an important slice of society -- political life. and the danger is that it leads to gridlock. we have seen it -- difficulty passing budgets, difficulty confirming nominees. and persistent gridlock erodes confidence in institutions, and confidence in institutions is the bedrock for a democratic system. i think the hope i have is that the leaders in these other sectors will exercise their influence to say, "this is enough," in the political sphere. soledad: michael rich of the rand corporation, thank you so much. michael: thank you, soledad. announcer: next on "matter of fact." when the jobs move out, can america's mayors bring them back? >> we are looking to marry our citizens with jobs. announcer: what this rust belt city is doing to not get written off. and praying for a winner. do you think churches should be
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about threats to our democracy -- truth decay. first amendment rights under assault. and now, a barometer of america's economic health and well being -- the state of black america. this year's annual "state of black america report," put out by the national urban league, reveals signs of progress in the last eight years. the economy added 15 million new jobs. the black unemployment rate improved and high school graduation rates for african americans went up. but could that progress be reversed by the trump administration policies? a year ago, we visited gary, indiana. population 77,000. 37% of the citizens live below the poverty line, compared to a national average of 13%.
this once thriving steel town is a bellweather of black america. about 80% of the city's residents are black. when we spoke to mayor karen freeman-wilson a year ago, she told us she was optimistic that jobs were returning. air and water quality improving. and hardship was giving way to hope. mayor freeman-wilson is back with us today. it is so nice to talk you. a year ago, you were optimistic. how do you feel now? mayor freeman-wilson: well, i am still cautiously optimistic. i am an optimist by nature, but there are grave areas of concern. obviously, there was improvement when you look at urban league's report, when you look at social and income equality, and other indexes they use. at the same time, i see policies coming out of the trump administration that threaten all aspects of that from health, to
economics, to education, to social justice. soledad: before we get into specifically policy, i want to ask you about retail, because certainly there is a number of retail jobs that have recently gone away in gary. you've got payless and dollar express and gander mountain and sears, and that is the short list of retailers who really struggled or closed up shop altogether. what will you do to replace those retail jobs, that have in turn replaced steel and manufacturing jobs? mayor freeman-wilson: we have seen a decline in number of our retail jobs. but we have also been recruiting light manufacturers, advance manufacturers, and that is going well. in fact, one of the other strategies we have seen success in is providing jobs to residents outside of the city, that is providing transportation
to residents in other communities. we do that with ups. we are engaged in working out an arrangement with lippert components in elkhart, indiana. they need employees. we have individuals who need jobs. we have citizens who need jobs. so, we are looking to marry our citizens with jobs that may not always be in gary. soledad: the president has made it clear that he is going to roll back a lot of functions and restrictions of the e.p.a., regulations, even staffing of the e.p.a. what are your concerns with these changes that are going to be coming, most likely to the e.p.a.? mayor freeman-wilson: we expect the e.p.a. to protect our communities. and to say that they are going to return authority to the state and local government, that sounds like a good thing when
you talk about local control. but there are some things as it relates to the environment, as it relates to setting standards, that only the federal government can do. so, when we look at the protection of water, when we look at the protection of land and making sure our citizens are not subjected to housing on contaminated land, that is something we need the e.p.a. to continue to be involved in. soledad: mayor karen freeman-wilson, it is so nice to see you. thank you for joining me. mayor freeman-wilson: it is great to be with you again and see you, soledad. thank you for having me. announcer: coming up next, preaching politics from the pulpit. soledad: they can now directly oppose or support political candidates. announcer: and later, meet the kids taking the president to court.
soledad: now for a weekly feature we like to call "we're paying attention, even if you're too busy to." congress agreed not to shutdown the government, at least for now. lawmakers passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill, keeping the government open through the end of september. more than half of republicans voted for the 1665-page bill, though it left off some items on the president's wish list. compromises include continued funding for planned parenthood. despite threats, the environmental protection agency's budget decreased by just 1%, with no staff cuts for now. republicans are touting a $25 billion increase in defense spending and $1.5 billion bump for border security. but none of those funds can be used to build the border wall. the deal will provide a permanent $1.3 billion extension of health care benefits for coal
miners and a $650 million increase for opioid addiction , prevention, and treatment. also this week, the president signed an executive order easing restrictions on political activity by churches and charities. they can now directly oppose or support political candidates. the order includes churches, mosques, synagogues, faith-based non-profits, and any organization that has cleared the i.r.s. hurdle as tax-exempt. it also exempts some religious organizations from the obamacare requirements that contradict their religious beliefs, such as contraception coverage. announcer: when we return -- talk about a legal education! find out why these kids are telling the president, "see you find out why these kids are telling the president, "see you in court!"the home of "wow" savings.
wow means you save 50% or more. there are three stages of wow. denial. is this price right? acceptance. and boooyah. wait for it. boooyah has three o's. ♪ grocery outlet bargain market. ♪ stop in right now and save on top name brand juices. soledad: a group of kids is taking the federal government to court. their claim: it is violating their consitutional right to life, liberty, and property by
knowingly contributing to climate change. they argue the government knows the dangers of burning fossil fuels and still supports their use, causing damage to the environment. therefore, they are suing on behalf of their future. the plaintiffs, age 9 to 20, participated in both the people's march for climate change here in d.c. and the march for science to make their case. an upside, i suppose, the kids are getting an education in how our justice system works. and how slow it can be. they filed the suit in federal court in oregon naming president obama, his administration, and the fossil fuel companies as defendants. the obama administration asked the judge to dismiss the case. but the judge ruled for the kids and said the case would move forward. the plaintiffs added president trump as a defendant, replacing president obama. the trump administration has filed an appeal asking that the trial be put on hold. that motion was denied. the case is scheduled to go to trial late this summer.
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