Hi, folks, it's Rick Wilson and welcome to The Daily Beast, the new abnormal. Hi, I'm Molly John Fast, a left wing pundit and editor at large at The Daily Beast.
I'm also an editor at The Daily Beast, a former Republican political strategist and best selling author and full time troublemaker. We're here to have fun, sharp conversations with some of the smartest people in media, politics, business and science that help make what's happening in the country and the world clearer.
I'll try to keep Rick to the minimum number of F bombs and try to keep our kids, pets and other wildlife sounds from invading our respective bunkers. Hi, Rick Wilson. Hello, Molly.
John, first, how was your experience today in the wild health scape that is New York City? I am told reliably by our president that it's currently in flames. Roaming the streets are black clad antifa thugs, on the one hand, cannibal radioactive mutants on the other, and a small vestige of proud Trump supporters riding through the streets in their pickup trucks.
That's right. You know, my Antifa Antifa that walks down my street tends to take NetJets because they're a very discerning group and they don't fly commercial.
So there's sort of an artisanal antifa, if you will. Yes, artisanal antifa. I don't know. I have yet to see any burning or any rioting. But I was told on the Internet by a few conservative Twitter accounts that clearly I am at fault and I am too privileged and if only I would go somewhere else, I would see burning. But, you know, a lot of my friends have sent me pictures too, which show sort of beautiful spring days and people eating outside.
So who are you going to believe, conservative media or your eyes?
Well, I mean, obviously, those photos are all Photoshopped. Yes. And they're all sent here by the Soros deep state lizard people conspiracy to trick.
You see, the only answer that makes sense, but at least our president is standing up for Law Order, justice and stability by saying he's going to cut off federal funding to what was it, lawless areas?
I think it was. Didn't anarchy come into that?
It may have come into that anarchist anarchist jurisdictions. What I love about a Trump executive order is that they are so shoddily written that they almost never get they almost always get overturned almost immediately at that sort of the hallmark of Trump's, I believe, using the phrase suck it leotards as the opening salutation.
Most of them really is a difficult thing for most tourists when they're appraising the legal validity of the president's orders. Also, when they say the purpose of this executive order is to produce liberal tears, it again also tends to minimize the import and scope and power of such things. Although I must state, if we're going to talk about lawless areas, I this morning was driving my car, using my cell phone without hands free, like you're going to get arrested.
I didn't, but I'm expecting the feds to swoop in any moment to declare my town to be a lawless area, a region of anarchy.
But what's interesting to me about this is cities are the new caravanned. Right?
So in the term nicely put right. The Trump Fox News would say, you know, there's a caravan coming. It's filled with people who want to come and take your jobs and whatever. And now that never worked. It didn't work in twenty sixteen. It didn't work in twenty eighteen. So now they've decided that it's cities are filled with rioting, liberals wearing black who are looting. And it's the same weird scale attack that not just cities but airplanes.
Why are they on airplanes?
I will say this. I mean, look, the airline industry is struggling. And so given the president's overall adherence to the broken windows make for a great economy theory, wouldn't you think that having antifa traveling across the country on the behest of whatever dark and mysterious forces to pay for the Antifa, wouldn't you think it'd be better? I mean, you're helping the airline industry. You're helping the local construction industries. I mean, this could be a win for the president.
Maybe this is his October surprise. The Antipas are really led by Don Junior and Kimberly, and they're going to pull off their ski mask at the last minute. It'll be like a whole, like Scooby Doo and Biden shaking his fist like I would have won.
But for those meddling kids and their presidential father, the thing I thought was interesting about this Antifa airline thing is airlines are notoriously strict about taking weapons on them.
So as I'm well aware. Yes. Oh, good. Ripkin can provide a little first person experience with this, but they're actually really strict. So with the antifa fly without the weapons and then be given weapons when they got there. I mean, there's so many holes in this theory. And then I recently read yesterday that this was actually cooked up by the broken brain of no, that's what I read, that that this idea had first been germinated.
And discussed by was it Devin Nunes, it was Devin Nunes. OK, you did get something wrong there, though.
Nothing can germinate in the brain of Devin Nunes. It is barren soil. It is infertile. It is as if the sun had baked every nutrient out of a barren, bitter desert of d'Avignon, as the idea is, is it that starts with that guy, Derek fucking Harvey.
Who is Derek Harvey? Derek Harvey is a former Flynn guy, a former DEA guy, a whack a doodle doo nutjob, completely batshit Muslem conspiracist. I think one of the things we had a great conversation with Myles Taylor, former chief of staff at DHS, and he said that all the adults are gone. Every every grown up is out of the room. Trump is being let run Buckwild through the White House. He says something now and then instead of saying, Mr.
President, we can't do that, as maybe John Kelly would have in the beginning or Mr. President, that's not a great idea, as maybe Mick Mulvaney would say. Now, when the president says, I want to decapitate every third Antifa protester and ride around with their head mounted on a spike on the front of my limo is like Mark Meadows is like, I'll call the spike installers. There is no control over his behavior. I just wrote a piece for The Beast about this this morning, basically saying, you know, if you think it's bad today, wait until we get a little closer because it's pretty bad today.
It's going to go sideways. It's going to get really bad and really vicious and really ugly. And anybody who thinks that it's going to get better or that the president is going to say, maybe I should calm down in order to win. No, none of that's going to work. It's going to get much, much darker.
Hard to imagine, but very likely. I mean, we heard that guy from was at HHS who got pushed out, which was really pretty fucking tragic, said that this is going to be the darkest winter in America, modern life between the coronavirus and the flu. And then we have President Looney Tunes.
Yeah, well, I mean and we have we have a lot of people on the right around Trump who are starting to feel the pressure and are starting to feel the ugliness of a Trump collapse. We're seeing it in a lot of the swing states that the numbers are are bad. And so every time Trump feels something going wrong, he tries to blow things up to change the subject. He is going to try to blow shit up in the next few days to try to get this thing reset because he failed in Kenosha.
It was an embarrassment for him. And most things he does now are an embarrassment. And this base only strategy, you know, today is going to a town in Pennsylvania where he won by something like 36 percent of the vote. So he's going to beat Hillary by thirty six percent. So he's going to be going deeper and deeper into his little binkie bunker where he's with with the friendly people who like him. And they're going to give him the adoration he wants.
But the rest of the world around him is still falling apart. And he's going to keep getting this distance. It's going to get louder and uglier as the weeks go on, which I love.
Well, one of us has to love it. Oh, I can't take it. Oh, yeah. Rick, let's talk about your ratings ad for a minute, because it did get a presidential tweet. It got a presidential tweet. And every time you do an ad that gets a presidential tweet, it's mandatory that we talk about it.
An angel gets its wings. It's Angel. That's right, Angel. Get to pay for birth control pills, right.
Or something like that. I don't have the tape in front of me, but we could play it. It works pretty well just on tape suggesting you want to just drop it in.
Donald, News ratings are in for your convention. It's not pretty.
Biden had better ratings than the president last night.
Joe Biden beat you by a lot, the TV president, the reality TV president who sold himself as a showman below and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in these two is yet to come on harassing Democrats beat you in ratings every night except one when your wife was giving a speech house.
That's got to be awkward at the dinner table. Even Fox said your low energy, it didn't seem to have the bite.
He was, I think, a little flat.
We know it's different now. You're tired. It's hard to keep your ratings. You used to get applause. Now get ready to hear. Your budget is responsible for the content of this advertising, but, yeah, look, we have become the anthropologist's of shit and we understand who Donald Trump is and we understand that he is obsessing right now about both ratings and polls. He was furious. You know, we have people that talk to us from inside the White House, inside the campaign.
And by the way, it started out with like with like a single source to each. Now it's like people like beating the door down. Hey, can I tell you something? I got to brief you guys.
You know, it's crazy that that's pretty great. But with all these things, you know, we we kept hearing he's really pissed about it. He's really pissed about it. So, of course, we generate a spot and it gets right into his head. And the girl who does the voiceover who we're not can identify. But she has a tone with him that is just just maddening, apparently, for him. So it's another week where we've got this guy where his brain is broken for us and he's obsessing and he's tweeting about the Lincoln Project instead of going after Joe Biden.
So God bless America. I work here is done.
How many times are you going to vote in this election, Rick Wilson?
Well, I have been reliably told the lawmaker, you mean President Law and order by president, law and order and of course, by Judge Dredd, his interior minister.
Ah, that's right. I know him well, that voting twice, just to quote, check the system. It's OK. In every state it's illegal. In some states it's a felony. And in all the states that Donald Trump wants to have voters come out, it's illegal. And in some of those, it's a felony.
And of course, now there will be MUGA dipshits who got government, because I do believe that I'm going to show those look toward cookes. I'm going to go vote in the voting booth. Well, and some of them may get away with it.
But this is once again, the ironic thing about a guy who's supposedly running on the on the law and order platform, being a lawless, borderless hack, and, of course, say what you really feel.
I know. I know.
I keep switchin. I know I really need to share. That's where I need to be unfettered. Rick, after dark. OK, well, hello. Hello. Right. I go back to talk you out now. I've started something terrible back in the bottle. How often does that happen? I've started something terrible. But and then Bill Barr, of course, came out and said, well, what the president meant to say was, fuck you, because Bill Barr is an absolute servant of Donald Trump.
He is his he is his lackey. And he will defend anything he says, no matter how lawless. And so here we are again, lawless president, lawless interior minister. And it shouldn't surprise anybody, though I will say what this also represents. And we're hearing this inside the Republican campaign world and the consultant world, inside and out of Trump. They're freaking the fuck out because the secret sauce of Republican elections all over this fucking country for years was we were really good at getting early early ballots.
We were really good at absentee voting and early voting and mail voting operations. We're really good at it. And now the base of the Republican Party are telling these guys, Mr. Trump says vote by mail is dangerous, will lead to antifa and and scrofula. And also, I will not be able to maintain an erection with my lady friend, so I cannot come up with my own. And so these fucking people are going to vote by mail because Trump kept telling them, don't vote by mail, it's dangerous.
And so I told them to vote twice. I know.
But look, consistency is not his strong suit. But these folks are out there. And like I said, the Republican consultant class is in a panic because early voting used to be their secret sauce and now not so much because the president took a shit in the punch bowl.
So do you think that this ends up backfiring on Trump and Republicans just checking? So should we vote more than once? I miss the punch line here.
Well, the old phrase to vote early and often, right? Exactly.
Is something I would never recommend because I am a law abiding citizen.
That's right. Brian Stelter is the host of CNN's Reliable Sources and the author of Hoax Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of News. Well, Brian, welcome to the New Abnormal. We are so delighted to have you on with us today. And I wanted to start with something that came up on your show this weekend about the Facebook bubble. And while we talk a lot about news and media, I think it's incumbent upon all of us to like dig into what's happening to a lot of Americans where they've stopped going through any kind of media except for the stuff their friends and the Facebook shovels into their feet every day.
That doesn't come from actual reporting, but they interpret it as news. Where do you see that influencing the future?
Where we go in this country in terms of media write, these outrage machines do cause a form of radicalization. And we have to talk about this in the language that it that it warrants, which is radicalization. When your feed tells you every hour that the cities are burning, when they are not, when you're seeing month old video of something that happened on one street corner. I do think you end up going down a rabbit hole that leads to radicalization.
It leads to isolation. It leads to this sense of I need someone to protect me from all these threats, which, of course, is a narrative that President Trump promotes. And I do think Facebook and Twitter have responsibility for this, just like Fox News and just like The Daily Caller, you know, it's both pro Trump media as well as these platforms that feed off amplifying these scary messaging. Yeah.
Do you think that this problem comes back to the death of local news?
I think it's a related problem, but this is also deeper about people's reactions to imagery and what happens when people press the fear button over and over again. There's a book that I loved many years ago by Barry Glassner, all about the culture of fear. And, you know, he wrote it, I think, in the 90s, and it's feeling even more true now. It's called The Culture of Fear, and it's about why people are afraid of the wrong things, meaning.
And I think that's it's just becoming more and more true in the Internet age and the social media age where we have these these messages blasting us in our eyeballs every day.
You wrote this book about Fox. Start with like when it was revealed you are writing this book. Did they come after you?
Well, I think Sean Hannity and others used me as a punching bag even before I announced the book. And that continued during the reporting process. And I tried to use that to my advantage. I sometimes gained sources by pointing out the B.S. that these guys were spreading about me.
I swear that really actually came in handy several times in the course of the reporting in terms of feeling targeted. I did not feel any more targeted than I felt before I started working on the book. You know, I tried to do all the right things. I tried to let Fox know ahead of time before the announcement. I tried to let sources know ahead of time, and I tried to play as fair as possible and certainly in the in the fact checking process as well.
But let me say this. When Sean Hannity calls you Humpty Dumpty or Tucker Carlson, because he was unique in front of four million people, your inbox fills up pretty quickly, Ben, to that rodeo.
Yeah, I know your pain. And there are most most times I blow it off, but I do try to look at it once in a while with innocent eyes just to remember what it's like for folks who are not used to this, what that avalanche of hate is like.
You mean Erina Briganti isn't like an honest broker when it comes to trying to slag people writing about Fox.
If you're going to try to get me to say, I you know, I'll tell you what I've always said about Fox News and I truly mean it.
They defend their brand very, very well. And I got to respect that. As someone who is a media reporter who covers all these companies, there have been times in the last 16 years where I've thought these other networks, other media companies, should play a little more hardball the way Fox does. The danger there, though, is, of course, these horror stories from many years ago in a prior Fox regime where Fox PR was engaging in unethical behavior.
And I describe a very amateur version of that in my book, where this Fox News PR intern is assigned to go and pretend to date me to try to get information about me.
Now, that happened under a different PR leader, but that kind of stuff, that's unacceptable.
I think Fox is very effective at working the refs and playing the refs very effectively. So I do.
I write a newsletter at night for CNN. And almost every night Fox News PR sends out an email with a bunch of stories suggested sorry. So the newsletter, I think they do this for other newsletters, other reporters as well. That's a very smart thing to do. I've always said I wish other outlets would do the same thing. Do I usually find the links anyway? Sure. Do I get most of them short, but it's helpful. They are very good at what they do and I think it's important in Hoke's to acknowledge what Fox does.
That is very effective business wise, very effective. Production wise, very effective. Just look at their screen. I swear. I think it's brighter than the other channels. It is almost like Candia it catches your eye.
Well, that was always part of their sort of graphic vernacular that Roger was very into, which was big, bold color splash movement, you know, as the CGI got better from 96 on when they opened the doors. You know, you've always got a gigantic, busy, busy, busy screen happening all the time with lots of lots of animation and logos and everything else.
Yeah, there's a lot that I appreciate from a television standpoint about Fox, where the network is. Falling down right now is on the journalistic front, and the reason I had to write the book is because so many journalists at Fox were coming to me saying that. So when I try to relay in the book is this is not my view of Fox. I'm just a viewer. Well, this is about is producers, anchors, correspondents and executives saying to me, we've gone off the rails.
Our news muscles have atrophied, our propaganda muscles have taken over. The management seems to want pro Trump pro Trump propaganda and discourage real reporting. And that's ultimately the problem.
Who do you think is the worst offender? Oh, boy.
Well, what's worst offender? I mean, you mean the most propagandistic like the example to you of the does it rhyme with Shuker or Carlson?
I think the way to measure this by the guests that are booked and there are certain shows on Fox that book, Democrats and Republicans, and there are certain shows on Fox that engage in limited amounts of fact checking. But then you have Sean Hannity Show, Maria Bartiromo Show, Jeanine Pirro Show. You know, either these are programs that swear the sky is green when it's blue.
Yeah, I've noticed Fox Business seems to have a different standard, a lower or higher standard guess.
Well, Fox Business is best known for Lou Dobbs. Lou Dobbs is by far the highest rated host on the channel, even though his ratings are quite low. He's by far the biggest star there. And as a result, you have others like Trish Regan, who was forced out in March who try to be like, Lou, try to be like Lou Dobbs. And I don't think any journalism professor would go out there and tell you, go be like Lou Dobbs.
Brian, do you think that other networks have the same kind of culture inside that Fox does? My view is that they don't, because even when people think of MSM as sort of a counterweight to FOX, but I don't see the same sort of unified cultural, the sort of bunker thing that Fox has. It's so unique to other networks.
Well, the positive thing I would say about the culture is that people feel like it's a family. They feel like it's us against the world. Staffers told me how much they appreciated that feeling of being about something bigger and important.
So there's that. However, there's also a lot of low morale there right now because of a lack of strong leadership, a lack of clear vision. What's happened is the vision is just lean in to Trump. You know, as one staffer said, the place is on cruise control and has been ever since Roger Ailes was forced out. I think it is very different from MSNBC or CNN or ABC or the others, because, you know, it's a series of fiefdoms and it's a series of individual shows.
There's not a lot of narrative that follows through as a network, although obviously things like law and order, those permeate everything.
But there's not a I think right now one of the tensions internally is what are we here? What are we working on?
So I interviewed someone who is not ready for primetime, but she said that in some ways it was less scary. And this runs counter to everything I have ever thought. My life was less scary under Roger Ailes because you knew where you stood.
Yeah, I hate to say it, but a lot of people there, Miss Roger Ailes, it's crazy to hear as an outsider.
But when I heard it so many times from sources, I started to believe it really is a common feeling because at least he was a strong leader. At least you knew the boss was and you knew where you stood. Unfortunately, he used that power to abuse women, abused his power. Thankfully, the Murdochs took action in 2016. But ever since there's been a leadership vacuum there. I think they've got executives that are doing a great job running the business because the business is more profitable than ever.
But editorially, there's something missing. And in this way, it's not so dumb. From the Trump White House, you have a lot of people not that happy at a place that's chaotic who choose to stay because they hope they can make it better. I hope they can make it saner and some eventually leave because they can't take it anymore.
Speaking of the Murdochs, what do you think about I mean, look, the actuarial tables will get all of us eventually unless Rupert can upload himself into the cloud. What do you think the transition looks like? My theory has always been people who hold out hope that, like, oh, James and Lachlan aren't like their dad.
They're my theory has always been these guys are never walking away from equity. They're never walking away from this. I know. But this idea of it that there's some sort of cultural change that will happen after Rupert passes. I just want to get your feeling on. I'm a skeptic.
Well, it's a cliff and hoax because I am also partly skeptical. But but here's what I do believe will happen. I do believe that in the event Rupert Murdoch dies, there will be a battle over the future of the company because there's this trust right now. There's eight votes in the trust. Rupert has four votes and the kids have four votes. So he wins. If and when he dies, there will be four votes from four children.
And James Murdoch, the more liberal son who is purposely left, News Corp and Fox, is purposefully every step he takes, every move he makes seems to be in preparation for something bigger, maybe a takeover of Fox Corporation.
So the theory goes like this. He has the support of his sisters, three votes versus one. He takes over Fox Corporation. Lachlan Murdoch, the more conservative brother, is out. And in that scenario, I think there could be a big change of Fox News. But I don't know what we're talking about. Five years. Ten years, I don't know. We're talking about, you know, we're not talking about twenty twenty. I know that right now.
Fox News is only going in one direction for the last twenty four years. Right. Further, right. Further. Right. That's the history of Fox News. For it to move in any other direction would be stunning.
Is there any read in the book A. I'm looking forward to reading it. Is there anything in the book about the role of Tucker Carlson himself? Because he seems like I knew Tucker for years and years is sort of a nihilist asshole, bro Servet of how I look in the mirror. There we go. But he has taken on this like white nationalist overtone town and in a way that has become a touchstone for a lot of these people out there in the world who are on the right and the far right and the guys, the boogaloo boy types, etc.
I have on on page two, 15 other hosts of FOX saying to me, I wish management would ring Carlson and I wish they'd make him drop the white supremacist shit because it tarnishes the entire network. But I think what people understand is he seems to have an alliance of sorts with Lachlan Murdoch. I'm not saying Lachlan agrees with every word Tucker says, but these are two men that seem to have a lot in common, that are close in age. They pandemic.
They would meet up and have meals together when they were in the same city. He has this really important relationship with Lachlan, and I think that explains why every controversy that happens, every time there's some eruption. Fox stands by Tucker.
Now, what do you think? Twenty, twenty four. Because I do mention in the book. Oh no, no, no, I need three seventeen guys.
My mother Bering's think they could be Carlton on the primary ballot after Kimberly Guilfoyle murderous Don Junior in his sleep.
Oh Jesus. The front runner for the twenty to twenty four Republican nomination is Tucker Carlson.
God help me. He speaks fluent trumpeter's. He's actually the author of a lot of it, and I think he's the leader. So that actually leads me to other question about about, Tucker, the degree to which Tucker will tweet or say something on the air. And two days later, it's Donald Trump's policy. I can't think of another television commentator who's had that kind of influence on a president in a very long time.
No, this is unprecedented. This is why I could have written another three hundred pages, because the examples are almost countless. Sometimes it's silly stuff. You know, sometimes the president tweets about Goodyear because of Fox, but other times he tweets about North Korea because of Fox. And there was that famous day when when, you know, we were locked and loaded, you know, as the president said, ready to fire on Iran. And Tucker Carlson was in Trump's ear.
Now, Tucker wasn't the only one, but Tucker's voice was in Trump's ear. And some staffers give him a lot of credit for talking the president down. I had a Fox commentator joked to me, well, if I had to choose, you know, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, I guess I feel safer having Tucker in charge of the country than Sean.
Yeah, well, that is a pretty low bar. We're so doomed. Would you consider Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson to be the de facto leaders of FOX?
I would put that on the to the folks I interviewed at all levels who said it seems like Tucker and Sean are more managerial than the managers. And certainly some of them brag about their power. But I want to be clear, obviously, there are actually executives.
There are people in positions of power. There is a management team. It's just that I think there's not a clear, strong leadership emanating from the top where there's accountability, all the sorts of things that you would expect from a major news that. But of course, that's if you look at it as a news network, if you look at it, a political operation that's intended to support the president, then you might say it's working really well. I don't I would argue they do the president a disservice.
And I argued throughout the book, The Times where Hannity is trying to help Trump. He's hurting Trump. He is feeding the president bad information, sending him down rabbit holes, actually hurting the guy he's trying to help. So, you know, look, maybe we'll have a better sense of this in November. Did Fox really help the Trump presidency or did Fox ruin the Trump presidency?
Oh, I think Donald Trump had the ability to ruin his presidency a whole long. But there certainly have been times they've given him a nice shove. So let me ask you this. And I know we've been on sort of a fox tear today. I want to look back on that first question again. What does the future look like for cable news when this this migration to Facebook, especially of viewers? Unfortunately, in the demo, you know, as these people continue to slide over to Facebook and say, well, I'll just look at Eagle Patriot Magga Forum nine thousand instead of watching CNN or MSN or ABC or NBC or CBS, what does that look like for for journalism and for the media going forward?
I just I still feel like there's a disconnect.
They don't have a pathway to address it or compete with it yet to compete with hyper partisan sites out there.
Yeah, I person what with Facebook as the hyper partisan aggregator of all these crazy sites. Right.
The reason I'm more bullish about cable news is I think there are will always be times. There always are, and there always will be times where something really bad or something really good happens in the world. And you want to experience it on television. You want to see it on the biggest screen possible. You want to gather around with others and watch both pandemic, of course.
But, you know, I look at our ratings and I see it. For example, viewers can tell when something is really actually breaking news, not when I, you know, called it breaking news.
There are a lot of examples of this, but I always think about one from last year where there was an actually serious earthquake in California. This was the Ridgecrest quake late at night on the East Coast, in the evening out west. And the ratings for CNN doubled within an hour. And, you know, that just speaks to the idea that when there's something actually big happening, people. No where to go and FOX benefits from this to some degree, MSNBC benefits last, but all the cable news channels benefit from that sense of real actual breaking news, you know, a trusted guide.
And you're not going to get that from the Gateway Pundit, at least not any time in the casino way.
Now, that said, of course, these sites are really good at pressing people's buttons.
They're too good at it. And I think they're only going to keep getting better at it. And I don't know if there's a solution to that in the cable world, but I think cable always is going to have this unique role to play with actually breaking news. And then the rest of the time, hopefully we can provide something that's high quality, not low quality. You know, there's there's a real wide spectrum of content on cable news from Mark Levin to to Fareed Zakaria.
Right. And I hope folks are more interested in watching Fareed, not just because he's my lead in than they are and watching, you know, the Jesse Waters a gag show.
You know, it's interesting how Fox has turned a comedy in the Trump years. Greg Gutfeld, Jesse Waters, like when in doubt, just make fun of the news.
But don't those guys seem like increasingly less funny and more the owning? The little stuff is not, to my mind, as comic as they think it is. But I certainly see them as they've become much more much more partisan. There's a lot more partisan bitterness sweeping through them.
Bitterness? Well, they're also both men are experts in the anti media shtick. You know, their base, their base messages.
You cannot trust anything else. It's one of the most cynical things about Fox and what I try to hit a bunch of times in the book, which is they're constantly saying to the viewers every day, do not trust anything but Fox and Trump. Do not you're going you're going to be you're going to be you're going to be tricked if you turn the channel, the word hoax, even. You know, when someone tells you there's a hoax every day that someone's out to hurt you.
That's extreme rhetoric. I know that in the you know, we're all used to this in the Trump age, but people didn't used to talk this way. You know, even only a few years ago, we weren't divided into pro Obama, anti-Obama or pro Bush.
Like, give me even the way we talk about this stuff has changed because of Trump.
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The new abnormal is going to release a limited run series of bonus interviews over the next few weeks starting in August, we'll release a new one each Sunday. But listen carefully. Only beast inside members will have access to these. So head over to a new abnormal dot, the Daily Beast dot com to join. Now your beast inside membership helps support the great reporting at the Beast and podcast like The New Abnormal. Thanks. Today on the podcast, we have Dr.
Gross, who is running as an independent in the state of Alaska against the evil Republican Senator Dan Sullivan. Rick Wilson cannot join us for this interview because of his involvement in the Lincoln Project. So I'm extremely excited about your Senate race. Can you just tell me, how did you get involved with politics? How did you decide to run for the Senate? Give us a little backstory about you.
Sure. Well, as you probably know, I was born and raised in Juneau and I grew up in a very political family. My father was the attorney general that helped create the universal basic income check, the permanent fund dividend and the oil sovereign wealth fund alongside our Republican legendary governor Jim DeMint, who was a Republican. My dad was a Democrat and they were close friends and worked really well together for the future of Alaska. And it was never about partisanship.
And that's ultimately why I ended up registering as the nonpartisan independent when I turned 18. And my mom was also very engaged in the state. She founded the Alaska League of Women Voters, which was the founding director of the United Fishermen of Alaska. She was the founding director of the Alaska European Office in Copenhagen. And so I grew up in a politically charged family and politics was always at the dining room table. And I've been friends with the leaders of the state ever since I was a young kid from Alaska's first governor with whom I was on a first name basis with when I was just four years old.
And Alaska's first senator, Ernest Greening's, who, by the way, was Alaska's first doctor. Senator, I will be the second. I grew up literally right across the street from the state capital. And so while I never expected that I would get into politics at a young age, I felt very comfortable around it and have always been very interested in it. And certainly I've been very, very interested and personally invested in the future of Alaska. And when I saw Alaska failing economically and our country splitting apart more and more, and after having gone to school, gone back to school and gotten a master's in public health and had made a name for myself statewide talking about the need for health care reform, I saw an opportunity to step up and take a leadership position for the state because Dan Sullivan, as Alaska's senator, in my opinion, was doing a terrible job representing Alaska and was not addressing the issues that Alaska needs to address in order to be successful into the future.
And because I saw a pathway to win.
What were you first? A commercial fisherman, an orthopedic surgeon or a master's of public health? And how did those all fit together?
I started commercial fishing when I was 14. I had a lot of friends in a small town nearby called Petersburgh, who Petersburg's a commercial fishing town with a Norwegian history to it. And a lot of my friends started fishing and it looked like a lot of fun, looked like a great way to spend the summer and a good way to make money for college. So I tried to get a job on a larger boat as a deckhand. But because of my age and my lack of family connections, I was unable to get a position on a bigger boat.
And so I talked my parents into cosigning a loan for me to buy my own boat. And because I had pretty much lost the season because of a mechanical breakdown, I was unable to pay off the bank loan. And so my mom and dad made me sell the boat in order to do that. A deal's a deal was a deal. I was heartbroken, but and I learned some really humbling lessons out of that. But I didn't let it get in the way.
And I got back on another boat the following summer and basically for 10 summers in a row, I worked my way all across the state of Alaska, including Bristol Bay, and worked on a number of larger fishing boats and ended up putting myself through college and medical school. And when I was in medical school, I ran out of time in the summers and so I wasn't able to fish then. And then I came back to Juneau as an orthopedic surgeon and again was very, very busy for about 20 years.
But when I went back to school and got my master's degree at UCLA, I got a master's in public health. I had my summers free and so I got back into commercial fishing.
You're an independent.
I think that I registered as an independent when I was 18 because I've never been one for labels. And I can identify with certain aspects of the Republican Party and I can identify with certain aspects of the Democratic Party. And as a senator, I will caucus with the Democrats. The Republicans failed miserably when it came to any attempts to reform our health care system. And I believe the Democrats are motivated to improve the Affordable Care Act and come up with ways to provide coverage at a more affordable rate for poor people.
I want to get you on UBI because I feel like it's really it feels like the future right now. And Alaska is was the first place to have it and has really had a lot of success with it. Can you talk a little bit about what? How you see UBI working on a larger scale and and what it was like living through, I mean, because that was pretty wild stuff.
Well, I was actually one of the best duck hunting trip of my life with my dad and Governor Jim and just the three of us on my dad's boat when dad and J came up with plans to create the permanent fund dividend. And there was some controversy in Alaska as to who would qualify for the UBI and how the UBI would be distributed. And it actually went and was challenged in court. And so Dad and Jay had to come up with a constitutional mechanism or a constitutionally correct method to distribute the money.
It's been very, very successful here in the state and people love the program. It really brings funds into the economy and help stimulate the economy in the fall, which is a good time of year to be that after tourism has left the state, it comes before Christmas. So people have money to buy Christmas presents for their family members. And in parts of the state where there's not a lot of economic activity, bring badly needed funds to people who really need it.
So it's a widely liked program. And on a more national scale, as people are forced out of work, we need to find a way to get money in their pockets so that they can afford to live. So I certainly think it has relevance on a national level given our world wide pandemic.
So the dividend is one of the most interesting and unique concepts in America, but outside Alaska, it's relatively unknown. Can you explain to our listeners why it has such a huge effect on Alaskans?
Well, there are a lot of Alaskans who don't make very much money. People who live in rural Alaska are often below poverty levels. And so getting a check from the government, that is somewhere between fifteen hundred dollars a year and twenty five hundred dollars a year. For every man, woman and child in the state that registers for it is a big injection of funds. And you've got a big family that can amount to a lot of money, which can really translate into the ability to buy gas for your snow machines or buy gas for your gifts.
You go hunting or fishing, and there are a lot of real practical applications up there. It's for many people it's it's become a really important part of their economy.
Alaska is so different. I mean, there's the great story as Lisa Murkowski. She doesn't win the nomination and she wins as a write in. So it seems to me like running in Alaska is completely different than running anywhere else in America. I'm curious to know, is that true? Am I wrong? And how are you running for Senate there?
Well, it is very different. And I think most people down south consider Alaska to be a deep red state. But people that live here don't believe that at all. It's a very, very independent state. I believe close to 60 percent of registered voters are registered as nonpartisan, independent, and people have a fierce sense of independence up here and they often will split tickets. You know, Trump only won the state with fifty one percent of the vote.
It's not nearly as deep a Trump state as a lot of people give it credit to be. And a lot of independents are successful politically in Alaska. Democrats are sometimes successful politically in the state as well. If you have the right message, you can win. And people don't like to be influenced by outside forces and they like the federal government to leave them alone or at least have that feeling that they're being left alone by the US government and the state government, for that matter.
And and it's certainly not nearly as ready for those people to be.
How do you campaign there like it's a very spread out. What do you do? What's your campaign looking like? I mean, are you on a bus or are you on a plane or are you on a boat? Just want to know the brass tacks. I'm, like, fascinated by.
Well, it's it's a huge state. Believe we only have about seven hundred and twenty thousand people spread out all across state. And our campaign has changed dramatically since covid-19 arrived. When I launched my campaign, I had first gone on a listening tour all across the state and I took my commercial fishing boat and really went all over the state listening to people before I even launched the campaign. And once we launched the campaign, we based primarily out of Anchorage, where I have been living for the last three years.
Our focus initially was on fundraising, but with June I, with Kogure 19, that was the most telling Freudian slip I've ever you know, ever since covid-19 that we've been we've had to dramatically change our approach. And reaching out to voters has been very different. And initially we did a lot of tella town halls. The very first one we did had almost twenty thousand participants all across the state, and that was primarily focused on on public health. It was.
Right after COGAT had come out and there was a great deal of interest in our campaign because, of course, I'm a doctor and we have done a lot of Zoome events. I've been on the radio all across the state.
What do you think you could do in Congress that would I mean, it must be just infuriating to see what's happening right now in America. What is sort of your focus?
Well, I stepped up to do this because Alaska was ailing economically and I saw a pathway and a mechanism to bring jobs and a future to the state. And, of course, the issues that I'm speaking to here in Alaska are big national issues as well, the high cost of health care, the high costs of pharmaceuticals, and really addressing a lot of the injustices in this world. And since I stepped up to do this, President Trump continues to divide the country more and more in issues regarding racial and social.
Social injustice are more relevant than ever on a national scale. And so, as the senator, I would like to work to address those as best I can. And I have a lot to learn on these issues, but I'm willing to listen and I'm excited to do that to that end.
So like one of the complaints most Americans have about who they vote for doesn't really change their lives. How would having your voice there as opposed to your opponents be beneficial to your constituents lives?
Well, my opponent has done virtually nothing other than the status quo here in Alaska to come up with new ideas to bring Alaska into a successful future. He has voted repeatedly against the Affordable Care Act and has never put forward any ideas to make it stronger and better and more affordable. He has come up with no other ideas as to how to lure businesses to the state. And as you know, the high cost of health care are eroding into our middle class and they are responsible for wage stagnation across the board and labor and education and public safety and all these dollars are getting funneled into health care rather than increased wages.
So these are issues that are very relevant on a national level. And as a doctor, I am very excited to take a leadership role and do help get a public option across the finish line. I want to be the doctor that gets that done.
Jesse and I are both like want to move to Alaska and vote for you. That's awesome. Yeah.
When I was on the campaign trail prior to over 19, the biggest issue that I heard from Alaskan voters was that they were fed up with partisanship and that they lost the election system because of campaign finance, that people don't feel that their vote matters and or counts anymore. Which is ironic, really, because so many elections in Alaska come down to one or two votes are very close. Elections are coming up here. So it's unfortunate that people really do believe that.
But I think as a U.S. senator, I would really want to work towards restoring confidence in our election system and to reform our campaign finance system so that people's vote really does matter and elections can't be bought.
How is Alaska ready for this election? Because I know there's a lot of fuckery going on with the mail and you have a lot of rural communities and you also have this crazy time difference. So can you talk about that?
All the crazy time difference. You're all going to have to stay up late in Alaska, it turns out. But unfortunately, we may not know the results of the election until possibly a week after the election because of the high number of absentee ballots in Alaska has a long history of fair elections. And I know that the director of elections here in Alaska, she and I went to kindergarten together all the way through high school. And I've taken care of her family as a doctor for a number of years in Juneau.
And I trust that Gail will, to the best of your abilities, to provide the very fair election. But people are, of course, concerned about whether their absentee ballots will show up in time. So far, I don't believe that that's going to be a problem. But if Trump continues to try and meddle with the US Postal Service, it potentially could be.
Yeah, it's really so scary. Can you tell us where people could find you on the Internet?
Yeah, my website is Dr. Outgrossed, a.k.a. dot com. Rick Wilson, let's get to our one segment, what is our one segment, Molly, what does that one segment? Are we ever going to tire of this joke? Our producers tired of this guy?
I'm sure the producers, but the American people love it.
That's right. So who is your fuck? That guy. My fuck.
That guy today is Congressman Clay Higgins. Congressman Higgins of Louisiana, of course, he has been posting a series of things that have now been removed from the Facebook by him or by phone or by Facebook.
Wow. You know how bad it has to be for Facebook.
This is necessary for him and for Facebook to actually post up and say up too much. Right. It's pretty bizarre. Quite. Higgins put out a photograph of black demonstrators carrying guns and legally carrying guns, by the way, which is OK for the burglars. Right. And I'm a Second Amendment believer. So I believe that African-Americans who are protesting, if they choose to exercise their Second Amendment right in a legal and safe way, will God bless America.
But Clay Higgins for some reason has no problem with the Bogalusa and no problem with these guys, whether they are fifteens in the state capitals. But he loses his fucking shit when African-Americans are carrying firearms in a legal and safe way. He posts this thing on Facebook. And I'm just going to read you a little bit of it. Look, fair warning. If this shows up, we'll consider the armed presence a real threat. We, the people of Louisiana, one way ticket fellas have your affairs in order.
Me, I wouldn't even spill my beer. I drop in each of you where you stand because some of we like me. We are swat, nothing personal. We just eliminate the threat. OK, bro.
Jesus, fucking being a shit talker in politics is a universal standard. Everybody in politics talk some shit. But Clay, you post pictures of African-Americans, then you write this long spank bank entry in your erotic diary, your fucking erotic fan fiction of of wanting to shoot black people. Go fuck yourself.
Fuck that guy. Yeah, that was a good one. I mean, he's. Yeah, he's Jesus Christ.
I bought the ticket. He gets to take the ride. My fuck. That guy is earnest and bar. Not to be confused with Ernst and Young, which includes Joni Ernst, the absolute. She's gone from being like I guess there was some fantasy that she was a moderate. She's now become sort of the queen of Trump. Well, she's I would say she's like Martha McSally. She's gotten very Trumpy. She recently started questioning the coronavirus death numbers and she's facing a really steep re-election.
She's also she's just completely on the Trump train. And she's she's proven herself to be a vehicle of everything Trump touches dies.
I mean, look, Iowa should not be a bad race for her this year. She came into it without it didn't look like a complete disaster, but it has gotten tighter. And so the last survey in in Iowa had Trump only plus to the DMARC poll back in June at Trump plus one, which is a damn good survey. Iowa is a very, very tight race right now. And so Joni Ernst is not prospering because in part, Trump is not in the state that that is where it was four years ago.
Greenfield was running a really good campaign and she's brought herself up from basically nothing. Ernst is outspent her, but she's slightly ahead in most of the surveys. It's a tie ballgame. And maybe if you're in a tie ballgame in an old state full of old people, that's very old and also elderly and also people who are staring into the great void which consumes us all at the end of our days and also who are in nursing homes.
You should take that telescope. It isn't a right.
Maybe call me crazy, but no, I'm with you on your fuck that guy.
Yeah. And then my other fuck, that guy is Bill Barr, who will literally die on all the House to protect President Trump. And yesterday he gave that weird, weird Wolf Blitzer interview where he said that, I mean, just weird stuff. And he refused to say that you couldn't vote more than once, which was a very strange moment in television.
I have to say, that is not a moment you want to have on your on your whole attorney general copybook, because it makes you seem like you're less of an attorney general and more authoritarian thug enabler.
I think that's a fair I think that's a fair, fair assessment. A fair assessment.
On that note, we'll wrap up this episode of The New Abnormal for The Daily Beast. In future episodes, we'll be talking with smart folks from The Daily Beast and beyond, from media, culture, politics and science to help us understand what's happening to our country and the world.
We hope you'll subscribe to us on your favorite podcast app and share the show on social media. We're just getting started and don't want you to miss an episode. If you'd like to follow us on Twitter. I'm Molly Chan Fast, and he is Derek Wilson. Thanks so much for listening. And we'll see you again on the next episode.
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