Via America’s Lawyer: Former Amazon warehouse employee Kevin Smalls is alleging the company targeted him in a smear campaign after he requested management be more stringent in sanitation procedures and transparent in disclosing the number of workers infected with Coronavirus. Also, with Joe Biden now clearing a pathway to the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama has re-emerged in politics as Biden’s most prominent and influential cheerleader. Plus, Fox News is facing a lawsuit alleging the network intentionally downplayed the severity of Coronavirus in a misinformation campaign which endangered the lives of thousands of viewers. Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discuss.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio: An Amazon worker recently learned that the entire company was planning on launching a smear campaign against him in the media after he tried to form a union. Joining me to talk about this is Farron Cousins, editor of the trial lawyer magazine. No surprise here. When I read this story, I mean, you almost, it’s, it’s, it’s laughable in the sense it looks like Keystone cops here. I mean, lay this story out for us a little bit.

Farron Cousins: Well, what happened was you had an Amazon employee at a Staten Island warehouse, Christian Smalls.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah.

Farron Cousins: And he had been pushing other workers had been working with them trying to form a union. And at the same time they had also been speaking out about the lack of health protections at this particular warehouse. They had planned a walkout a couple Mondays ago and then they fired Christian Smalls. That was the first part of the story that had come out in the media.

Mike Papantonio: Now, didn’t they contact you about a story that you did?

Farron Cousins: They did because I talked about Christian Smalls getting fired for wanting to form a union. Amazon, or at least a PR person, I guess, who was working for Amazon, sends me an email and says, hey, Mr Cousins, you have a lot of misinformation in your segment here. Would you mind retracting this? And here’s the correct information. Now, the correct information was nothing but quotes from Amazon executives and the next day I’m about to do this segment. Just say, listen, I obviously don’t want to get sued here. So here is what Amazon has said in response. But then this story came out where it was revealed that at a recent meeting that Jeff Bezos himself was attending via telephone, they laid out a plan to smear Christian Smalls as an idiot. They wanted to call him stupid. In the media they wanted to say that he was incompetent. He was inarticulate, could barely speak, is how they wanted to paint this man.

Mike Papantonio: Interesting. What they were really trying to do is they want to create him as the figure head.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: Because he’s easily attacked, you see. The, as I was reading this story and looking at some of the memos, I see this kind of thing in cases all the time where you have some silk stocking, you know, corporate lawyer who believes that this is still the kind of thing that they can do and get away with. They don’t because ultimately the memos come out. You’re in trial, you’re reading these horrible memos. The, let me read this. This is something that was written in regard to Smalls. This is how they’re trying to go after Smalls. It says, we should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer Smalls, why his conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal in detail, and then follow with our usual, our usual talking points about how we care about worker safety. Now this was written, and again, I’m telling you Farron, I see it all the time. These silk stocking disconnected corporate lawyers who have never represented anybody individually in their life. They represent characters like this. Am I, am I just overstating, does this look like a character out of a James Bond movie? You know, but at any rate, look, I, I’m just, I’m, I’m stating that this is playing itself out exactly like you would expect when you let corporate silk stocking lawyers make common sense decisions for how a crisis should go.

Farron Cousins: Well, and these are also the kinds of statements, you know, I’ve watched the videos of your depositions where you flat out read this to the executive who wrote it down and you say, now you know, Mr Amazon or whoever it is here. Did you really say that this man was in competent and articulate and downright stupid? Could you explain that? Can you defend that? And of course they never can, but they always hope it never gets to that point where they never have to be asked those questions. But this is in the ether now and this comes at the same time when Bezos through Amazon said, listen, I’m going to donate $100 million to, to coronavirus relief. Look how good I am and this is what he’s doing behind the scenes.

Mike Papantonio: Okay. But let me pick up on that just a second. Part of the memos that came out where they’re talking about donating strategically.

Farron Cousins: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: What they mean is donating strategically is where can we get the most benefit? Do we donate to a politician and put their name on it? Do we donate to a, in other words, it’s not really about, hey, we want to come help. It’s, they want to squeeze every PR dime they can out of everything they do. And it’s a shame because, you know, if they would just leave it alone, if they just do the right thing, which they’re trying to do here, I mean, they’re doing the right thing. This attack on Smalls is ridiculous. It’s going to get worse and it’s going to come out. And I’ll tell you every time, every single case I’ve handled like this, that will evolve into a case at some point, every time I do that, I, I’m, I’m always amazed as I’m in deposition attack, attack attacking in the deposition. And the thing I’m attacking with is what some corporate type has written that says, hey, nobody’s ever going to see this.

Mike Papantonio: Now that Joe Biden is the only Democrat left in the race, reports have surfaced detailing how Barack Obama made it happen for his old friend. Now is that a good thing or a bad thing? Now that, you know, first of all, you know Obama we know was making calls to everybody telling them get out of the race, get out of the race. And, but he, he was, he was hiding behind a screen to do that. And so his goal obviously is have the same old guard, the same, you know, the, the Clinton company, the Biden company, the Obama, all of the same DNC establishment, corporate DNC, stay in power because that’s what he was. He was a corporatist, just, you know, just like Bill Clinton before him and, and just like Joe Biden. So what is your take on this? I, I’m a little bothered in the sense that I don’t think it’s going to do him any good. First off, I don’t think the endorsement does him any, any good. If you look at past endorsements.

Farron Cousins: Well, I, I think what this story does is it proves what a lot of the Bernie Sanders supporters and a lot of the Progressive’s had feared since the start of this primary. And that is some kind of shenanigans, whether big or small was going to happen behind the scenes to ensure that Bernie Sanders doesn’t get the nomination. I mean, two months ago we’re talking about Bernie, you know, winning all these States. He is leading in the polls in every single demographic. Then suddenly the day before Super Tuesday, all these massive dropouts, all these big endorsements for Biden, Biden takes Super Tuesday. The rest is history. But now we know, this is from Politico. You know, this is not a liberal organization by any stretch of the magnet imagination. So they are telling us that they have spoken with Obama’s people and they have confirmed that this days before Super Tuesday, Obama’s making phone calls, he’s talking to Buttigieg, he’s talking to Klobuchar and they said he didn’t want to look like he was putting his thumb on the scale, but he was nudging.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, he was nudging to get rid of Bernie Sanders.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: And I, between me and you, I’m really disappointed to hear Bernie Sanders endorsement of, of Biden. Either Bernie was what he said he was. He was, look, we, we, we, we’re progressive. We’re revolutionary in, in our idea about progressive politics and to come in and just say, oh well, it’s almost like I didn’t mean all that. It’s, it’s not the thing I would have advised him to do. The, the truth is, you know, there’s the point that we’re seeing from the other side is the other side is saying, look, we like what we’re seeing here because this is a return of the swamp. The GOP is saying this is the swamp that Trump ran against the first time. Pelosi, Schumer, Biden, Obama, the same players. This is the same swamp that’s coming back. They’re actually jubilant about it and talked about, talk about your projection on the numbers. Right now it’s an even heat. Where was Hillary at this time?

Farron Cousins: Hillary at this point was pretty much digits ahead of Trump and she stayed double digits ahead of Trump until October. That’s when things went South for her. But Biden’s already essentially playing catch up. He doesn’t have a double digit lead on Donald Trump, certainly not nationally, and definitely not in any swing state. So he is already falling behind because what is he doing right now? He’s doing, you know, these pre-packaged videos from his living room where he comes across as not even knowing what’s happening. Sometimes they, they’ve had to bring his wife in there to do 100% of the talking because they don’t even trust him. They know, they know.

Mike Papantonio: They don’t even know if he’ll make it.

Farron Cousins: He’s a, he’s a bad candidate.

Mike Papantonio: They don’t even know if they’ll make it to the general election. I mean, I really.

Farron Cousins: I have doubts myself.

Mike Papantonio: You really sense that. That they’re not even sure he has the health or the mental stamina to make it to the general election. That’s not me talking. I mean that’s, that’s, there’s concern about that. You know, of course when we do a story like this, we have all the, the establishment Democrats, you know, the corporatist Democrats coming after us and saying, how dare you talk about this? Well, we talk about it because you gotta be aware of it.

Farron Cousins: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: And when you see a story, well, they’re at an even heat right now. Everybody says, oh good. That means Biden, no, it’s bad. It’s not, it’s not good news. It’s bad news. That’s why when I heard, what’s his Carville come out and say, I mean this is the kind of thing that kills the Dems every time. When Carville comes out and says, oh, Biden doesn’t have to do anything. Did you see this article?

Farron Cousins: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: He says he’d doesn’t, he could just stand there and he’s going to win the election. What does that do for this, for this election? It has everybody standing down. This is, this is not a time to stand down.

Farron Cousins: Well, and the polls right now are actually showing that a majority of people in this country do disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But those same people polled said they would rather have Trump in charge during the pandemic than Biden. So they don’t like what Trump’s doing, but they still think that would be better than what Biden has to offer. That, that’s going to be the poll, watch that poll.

Mike Papantonio: Same thing came, same thing came up on the economy.

Farron Cousins: Yeah, yeah.

Mike Papantonio: Same thing, Trump just trashing him on economy. So isn’t the point, don’t you focus on where you might be able to win? You certainly don’t stand up like this, like Carville saying, oh well, where, you know, Biden could just stand there and he’s going to win. I don’t know where, you know, Carville’s in LA LA land and anybody giving that idea out right now is really doing a disservice to this process.

Mike Papantonio: Fox news is being sued for downplaying the risks of the pandemic, but the suit is dead on arrival. There’s no question. I looked at this suit, I, when I looked at this case, I said, oh my God, the people bringing this suit are at a bigger risk than the people being sued, which is Fox. Because, you know, the, these people are going to get hit for cost, attorney’s fees. It’s, there’s no way to justify this lawsuit. There is no causation connection at all. Go ahead and pick up from there.

Farron Cousins: Well, what’s interesting about this lawsuit is like, look, everybody knows Fox news lies all the time. That’s always been their thing. They exaggerate. They downplay when they need to. They’re not a beacon of truth or honesty. However, years ago the courts had already ruled, in the case of Jane Akre, the media has no legal obligation to tell you the truth. They legally can lie to you. They’re allowed to do it. So right there off the top that tells you this isn’t going anywhere. But then this group, they wanted to take I guess a different route with the way they filed it and they thought, well, what if we get them under the consumer protection act?

Mike Papantonio: Which isn’t, the California…

Farron Cousins: That actually makes your, your case weaker if you try to go that route.

Mike Papantonio: And when a news organization says no, we know more than the doctors that are using this in the field right now that are getting results. Until you have a study that it doesn’t mean, it doesn’t mean anything. But here you have, and the documents are going to look, I promise you the documents on this case, if it were ever brought, it would be where you’re having this trash talk between producers and talking heads where they’re trying to beat down on the nut on the idea of using this chloroquine because Trump says it’s, it’s, it’s a solution. You see if you, if you get there in somebody ends up saying, well I just saw the news, I don’t want this stuff and in the end they say, well, it could have possibly saved their lives. There’s, that’s where the case is. It’s not in suing Fox because they’re out there, you know, making broad statements.

Farron Cousins: Right. This, this group that’s filed the lawsuit is going to end up having to pay out a lot of money for this. The suit as we said, it is dead on arrival and I think part of what, why they did this is mostly the publicity. They wanted these stories out there. They wanted to come back six months from now and say, well, well remember we’re the group that tried to take on Fox news, but darn it, they, they beat us down because they’re too powerful. So we need your help.

Mike Papantonio: No, they had…

Farron Cousins: We need you to give us money.

Mike Papantonio: The truth, truth is they have bad lawyers.

Farron Cousins: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: The lawyers that drafted that, it was looked like it was drafted by a 10th grader. I mean, honest to God, they don’t understand causation. You have to have some connection between the act and the event that takes place. There’s no causation here. Nobody can say, yeah, because of what Fox said this happened.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: It’s too many moving parts. Farron, thanks.

Farron Cousins: Thank you.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.