Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
White Ex-NAACP Leader: "Race Is Complex"; Writer, Director, Producer Judd Apatow Opens Up; Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired June 16, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:31:45] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
The politics lead. Leave it to a reality TV star to go off script. Businessman Donald Trump is, in his words and under no uncertain terms, really rich. And all those decades behind the boardroom table is the very thing he believes makes him the man to make America great again, he says, as president of the United States.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns was at Trump Tower.
Joe, this announcement, to be honest, it was unlike anything I have ever seen in presidential politics.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: True, Jake.
This was as raw and unedited as it gets for the modern American presidential candidate. Donald Trump always says what's on his mind, and he did not let the script for his kickoff speech get in the way today.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I tell you that.
JOHNS (voice-over): The billionaire businessman Donald Trump made it official today, never shy or modest about why he's running.
TRUMP: I don't need anybody's money. I'm using my own money. I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors. I don't care. I'm really rich. I will show you that in a second.
JOHNS: By any standard, an unusual kickoff speech.
TRUMP: When did we beat Japan at anything?
JOHNS: Omitting the critical words, except for World War II. Trump was very clear on who he sees as bad and good, starting with the current occupant of the White House.
TRUMP: Our president doesn't have a clue. He's a bad negotiator.
JOHNS: Trump strayed wildly from his prepared remarks, riffing from topic to topic.
TRUMP: Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people, but we have people that are stupid. I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me. Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump.
JOHNS: He minced no words about fellow Republicans.
TRUMP: I mean, you looked at Bush. It took him five days to answer the question on Iraq. He couldn't answer the question. He didn't know. I said, is he intelligent? Then I looked at Rubio. He was unable to answer the question, is Iraq a good thing or a bad thing? He didn't know. He couldn't answer the question. How are these people going to lead us?
JOHNS: Classic Donald Trump, now embarking, perhaps, on his biggest selling job ever, heading to the early voting states.
He goes to Iowa tonight, where 57 percent of Republican respondents to a poll said they would never vote for him, and then on to New Hampshire,, where he is polling more in the middle of the pack, Jake.
TAPPER: Joe Johns, thank you so much.
Let's talk about this with CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston, making her inaugural appearance on THE LEAD.
Maeve, welcome. Congratulations on the baby.
MAEVE RESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you. Thank you.
TAPPER: So, I was asked this earlier today. And how seriously are Republicans taking him? My answer was, he's worth billions of dollars and he's already polling fourth in New Hampshire, tied with Rubio, so you have to take him at least a little bit seriously.
RESTON: You do.
And I think the biggest risk for Republicans here is that he makes this entire thing look like a spectacle for them. The Democrats are going to have a field day with this. They are going to watch Trump try to push these candidates, as we saw today, to answer questions that they don't want to answer. And it just it makes this entire reality show feel to the entire race.
TAPPER: But let's -- let's -- just to play devil's advocate here, if Chris Christie's bluntness and his candor, which, to be honest, it's relative, right? I mean, it's compared to other politicians. He still hedges and hems and haws, as most politicians do. He's just relatively candid.
Donald Trump makes Chris Christie look like Calvin Coolidge. RESTON: Yes, it's good for Chris Christie, right?
TAPPER: Well, but on the other hand, like, he's saying things about Iraq that voters maybe want to hear.
RESTON: Right. Right.
TAPPER: And he has a point about Rubio and Jeb Bush kind of getting tripped up in some of the stuff.
RESTON: Absolutely, and I think that's probably what was refreshing to a lot of voters today, is that he went out there and said whatever he wanted off the top of his head. It was completely mind-blowing in every way.
TAPPER: S.E. Cupp called it a rambling mess of a speech. That is S.E. Cupp, who is a Republican commentator on this network. He certainly didn't -- he wasn't tethered to what was in the prompter, I think is fair to say.
RESTON: That's true.
But he also was throwing a lot of red meat out there. He talked about China. You know, he was just in Iowa a couple weeks ago, and there are a lot of people out there who want to see him in the race, not just because of the entertainment value, but because he talks about China and he talks about all the money that is being spent on roads and bridges that could be spent more efficiently.
I was talking to two voters who said, you know, he knows how to fire people, so they love that fact of his background, and, you know, think he could really bring something to the White House that's different, which is true.
TAPPER: A lot of bombast. He said something to an Iowa reporter the other day about how he has a Gucci store in Manhattan that's worth more than Mitt Romney. And then "The Des Moines Register" went and fact-checked it, and it was true. He does have a Gucci store that the real estate is worth more than Mitt Romney.
TAPPER: So, he does -- if his finances are as he presents them, $9 billion, with only something like $500 million in liabilities, they're much better than people thought they were.
RESTON: Well, I think there will be a lot of questions to be answered about that.
You know, how much are we going to see of his taxes? There's a lot of questionable business deals in his background. I'm sure that the oppo researchers are digging through all of that right now, but it does make a very fun counterpoint to the race right now.
TAPPER: The other thing is, he talked about ISIS with characteristic of bluntness, saying no one would be tougher on ISIS. He would find the general who would be the General Patton. He would find the general that would be the General MacArthur to go after ISIS, but -- what?
RESTON: What do we know about that?
RESTON: What do we know about that piece of his record? All of these governors and senators that are running, they have a long record that is being combed over right now by the opposition researchers. We have no idea what Donald Trump is going to do, you know, in any of these policy areas, because we don't have anything really to look at beyond his business record, which is, you know, certainly controversial, at the very least.
TAPPER: No, absolutely.
And then there are -- you know, people are going to pore into his business records and talk about bankruptcies, talk about things. One assumes that he is prepared for that.
I don't know anything about what kind of political apparatus he might have and how much anybody can give him advice. I mean, I think one of the great things about leadership is you -- every great leader needs somebody near him who can tell him, don't do that. I don't know if a guy like Donald Trump has somebody around him like that.
RESTON: That was the big question about Hillary, right? Does she have the no-person around her who can tell her no? I don't think we know the answer to that yet with Donald Trump.
TAPPER: Or with Hillary Clinton, by the way.
RESTON: True. That's a good point.
But I think, as far as his team, this is going to be like a very mysterious evolution of what his presidential campaign looks like, because it will be entirely different from anything we have ever seen before.
TAPPER: It's certainly going to add a lot for us to cover.
Maeve Reston, thank you so much. Great to see you.
Make sure to tune in to this Sunday. On "STATE OF THE UNION," I'm going to sit down with Donald Trump, the newest Republican presidential candidate. That will air Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. Should be interesting.
Coming up, she was outed as a white person after living as a black person for years. Now, for the first time, Rachel Dolezal says she has identified as African-American since she was a small child. Her parents' reaction? Yeah, right.
And you may or may not know his name, but he has made many of you laugh. Coming up, director Judd Apatow elaborates on his life lesson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDD APATOW, DIRECTOR: Life is ridiculous, so if you don't laugh at it, you're in trouble.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
In national news today, it was the revelation that sparked a firestorm. Rachel Dolezal stepped down yesterday as the head of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington, after her parents outed the self- identifying black woman as a white woman.
The Dolezal situation has raised serious questions about her honesty and prompted a lot of interesting debate about race and ethnicity and whether one can choose such things.
This morning, Dolezal tried to explain her decision to Matt Lauer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, "THE TODAY SHOW": When did you start deceiving people?
RACHEL DOLEZAL, FORMER PRESIDENT, SPOKANE NAACP: Well, I do take exception to that, because it's a little more complex than me identifying as black or answering a question of, are you black or white?
I was actually identified when I was doing human rights work in North Idaho as first transracial, and then, when some of the opposition to some of the human rights work I was doing came forward and started, the next newspaper article identified me as being a biracial woman.
And then the next article, when they there were actually burglaries, nooses, et cetera, was, this is happening to a black woman, and I never corrected that.
LAUER: Well, why didn't you correct it? You knew it wasn't true.
DOLEZAL: Well, because -- because it's more complex than, you know, being true or false in that particular instance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Wow. For more perspective on this, I'm joined by Goldie Taylor. She's a
senior editor and columnist for the Blue Nation Review and a cultural critic. If you don't follow Goldie Taylor on Twitter, I do recommend it. She is one of the most enjoyable follows and enlightening.
Goldie, I have to ask you. I know you're fired up about this story.
GOLDIE TAYLOR, BLUE NATION REVIEW: She seems to be suggesting that the only reason people thought she was black is because the newspapers misidentified her. But that's not my understanding of what happened.
TAYLOR: You know, I have listened to a number of Ms. Dolezal's interviews today, and none of them really sort of check with the timeline of history.
Those interviews came well after she got her scholarship based on being an African-American to go to grad school at Howard University. Those interviews came well after she got her scholarship based on being an African-American to go to grad school at Howard University. Those interviews came well after she even later identified herself as white when she sued that same university.
TAPPER: Why did she sue Howard? She was a white student at Howard --
TAYLOR: She was a white student at Howard and she felt like she was passed over for a position --
TAPPER: Because she was white.
TAYLOR: -- because she was white, because the university knew that she was white. But when you look at the case, it turns out, she never officially applied for the position she said that she was passed over for, and so the case was thrown out of court. But if you look at the timeline around this, the entire story in and of itself becomes suspect. And so, you wonder, what is it about Rachel Dolezal that we can believe.
TAPPER: It's strange. I'm wondering what bothers you most about her episode. One of the things I find most curious is that she has been out there as a black moral voice saying don't see this movie because it's white people playing people that should be played by African actors or African-American actors.
Don't listen to this rapper because it's somebody appropriating our culture. I find that very odd. But what bothers you the most about this story?
TAYLOR: Well, I'll start with what doesn't bother me. What doesn't bother me is that she was in a leadership position with the NAACP or that she even teaches Africana studies.
TAPPER: No, plenty of white people --
TAYLOR: Plenty of white people can and do those jobs successfully. What bothers me is that she pretended to be an African-American woman, a woman of African dissent and then to squeeze out other people who she didn't believe sort of fit the mold.
TAPPER: People who weren't black enough?
TAYLOR: Black enough for her taste. Eminem, the rapper, platinum- selling -- I'm a huge Eminem fan, by the way.
TAPPER: As am I, sure.
TAYLOR: Who never once has claimed in his life to be black and so, I think she has lost the opportunity to be a lifelong, credible ally for our community, and I think she -- the opportunity was always there for her. This sisterhood, this series of love, this compassion, it was always, always available to her until she decided to don blackface and decide that her life was going to be something different.
TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to something she had to say to Lauer about identifying as black from an early age.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When did it start?
RACHEL DOLEZAL, EX-NAACP LEADER: I would say about 5 years old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You began identifying yourself as African- American?
DOLEZAL: I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, her parents say they don't have any recollection of this, but she does raise the issue that race is complex and complicated. You wouldn't dispute that.
TAYLOR: I don't dispute that a bit. I don't dispute it at all. What I do dispute -- you know, they made the complication, the comparison somehow that this is like Caitlyn Jenner's situation. The Caitlyn Jenner situation is both a social construct and a physiological construct.
Race is purely a social construct and the way in which we come into race, we come into that consciousness is something that is purely societal, has really nothing to do with our being.
You have brown eyes, I have brown skin. It's really no different than that. So, race is sort of in viewed upon us by a society. There were no black people around her in Montana as she was growing up.
She said, for instance, that she grew up in a teepee, that they hunted with bows and arrows. None of that turned out really to be true.
TAPPER: Well, she had adopted black siblings.
TAYLOR: She had adopted black siblings, but those came as she was older in life. She's much older than those siblings.
TAPPER: In fact, she passed one of them off as her son.
TAYLOR: She passed one or two of them off as her sons. So, the story in and of itself becomes more complicated really the more that Ms. Dolezal talks and that's really the unfortunate thing about this.
She could today decide to say, you know, I do embrace African-American culture, I do more readily identify with this culture, it is more reflective of who I am and my spirit, and as a white woman, I want to continue to work the charge of social justice. What she's done is gone back and concocted a backstory.
TAPPER: She had that stuff about being born in a teepee and stuff?
TAYLOR: Hunting for food with bows and arrows. We know there were grocery stores and wood frame houses in Montana in 1977. We know that to be true. And her parents said, you know, she was born in their own house. And so, I think if you look at this backstory that she's gone back and concocted, that's where the real problem is. It's not how she chooses to identify.
TAPPER: Very, very interesting. Goldie Taylor, thank you so much. What is that, @goldietaylor. Follow her on Twitter. She's great.
Up next, pain and security, a tough time getting dates and getting interviews under false pretenses, those were just Judd Apatow's teenage years. The man behind the hottest Hollywood comedies on how strange life can be and what to do about it.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Time now for a little lighter fare, the Pop Culture Lead, his latest film out next month is "Train Wreck" starring Amy Schumer.
TAPPER: And he is the creative genius behind numerous blockbuster hits, including "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" and "Bridesmaids" and "Superbad" along with television series such as "Freaks and Geeks" and "Girls" on HBO.
Now Judd Apatow is bringing his talents to the literary world. A writer, producer, director extraordinaire is out with a new book called "Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy" featuring interviews with legendary comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno and Steve Martin and Chris Rock and Adam Sandler.
Judd Apatow, thanks so much for being here. It's good to see you again. I think I profiled you for "Nightline" like a decade ago, when you were just coming up.
And the book, I have to say, it is a great read, not just for wanna-be comedians, and amazingly, for people who don't know, you started doing these interviews as a kid in high school.
You basically snookered these comedians into talking to you, pretending the interviews would air on your high school radio station.
JUDD APATOW, FILM DIRECTOR: Yes.
[16:55:11] TAPPER: Where did you get the chutzpah to do that?
APATOW: You know, I had a friend, Josh Rosenthal, who worked at our high school radio station, WKWZ, and he would go to the city and interview bands like REM and Susie and the Banchees. And I thought, could I trick comedians into talking to me because I wanted to be a comedian. So, I would call up their publicist and say I'm with the radio and I'd like to talk to Jerry Seinfeld.
TAPPER: Seinfeld and Gary Shandling, and it's just an incredible array of comedians you got to. One of the themes in the book, in all these interviews is how comedy for you and for every other comedian, except for possibly Jerry Seinfeld, it's a way of dealing with pain.
APATOW: Yes. That's true. Well, also with not understanding the world and how it works, and it is, you know, it's a little bit of like an existential thing, where you know, life is ridiculous, so if you don't laugh at it, you're in trouble.
TAPPER: Or as Harold Ramos says to you, life is ridiculous, so why not be a good guy? I mean, that's one of the things. It's so many, it's not just lessons on comedy, it's lessons on life of all these interviews, talking with people like the legendary late, great Harold Ramos or Mike Nichols or the very much alive Steve Martin and Gary Shandling and Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock. What lesson do you think might have impacted you the most in terms of your own life?
APATOW: Well, when I did interviews as a kid, everyone said it would take a long time to get funny and to figure out who you were as a creative person. And so, you know, I set my clock differently. I didn't think it was going to happen for me in six months.
I thought it was going to take seven to ten years to even have a sense of what I did as a comedian and a writer, and that helped a lot. But I have to say, Harold Ramos was probably the person that influenced me the most personally because he was very zenlike.
And he did say, you know, life is a very strange and mysterious, and you do have a choice if you want to be a good guy or a bad guy. And he said, I choose to be a good guy and that may be the only religion I have.
TAPPER: You write in the books that the comics you interviewed, however different they were, they all shared a common humanity. What did you mean by that?
APATOW: Well, you know, comedians, we're not like rappers. We don't fight each other, you know. We can't believe that, you know, other people do what we want to do, and you know, we like each other, and I think we all come from a place of feeling a little awkward and immature and confused, and we try to express our confusion or our rage through doing comedy.
And I think that comedians have a sensitivity to other people and a compassion that I think is nice. And you know, we're trying to make people happy. I think we're also on some level trying to find ways to get some damn self-esteem out of this.
TAPPER: Right. And a way to get girls, of course, as you point out.
APATOW: Well, that never happened.
TAPPER: Well, you're married to Leslie Mann, so I think it happened to a degree.
APATOW: I guess, in the most important way.
TAPPER: One of the things that I know gives you rage, because I've noticed you on Twitter, and you and I have talked a little bit privately, is you're very angry at how complacent Hollywood seems to be about Bill Cosby.
APATOW: That's true. I mean, I just think there's a deafening silence about it. There are certain issues where people get very upset, and it does feel strange to me. And I understand it. There are all sorts of reasons why people don't stand up and say, you know, this is one of the most awful things that has ever happened.
But if you don't stand up and speak out against him and his crimes, you are not standing up for all of the victims. And if you don't stand up for the victims, then people who are victims of these crimes won't speak up, and we need to tell these people, we believe you and we care about you. So, it's wrong to be silent on this issue.
TAPPER: And lastly, I do want to ask, one of the themes, as we discussed in all these interviews, is pain and insecurity. You're so successful now, Judd. Has the insecurity gone away?
APATOW: Has it? Has it gone away?
TAPPER: Yes, I'm asking.
APATOW: When will it go away, Jake? Thank God it doesn't go away, because if it goes away, then it's all done. No, I think when you feel weird I think you feel weird for life. You know, whatever drives you to do this, it doesn't go away.
Because every time you start a new movie or tell a new joke, you just don't know if it's going to work. So, you can't ever get comfortable, because any joke can fan so that's good for us.
TAPPER: Well, the book works. I'll tell you that and I'm looking forward to "Train Wreck" your new movie with Amy Schumer, but the book is called "Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy." Judd Apatow, it's so nice talking to you. It's so great to see you again, much success.
APATOW: Thank you. Great to be here. TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Brianna Keilar who is sitting in for Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.