Via America’s Lawyer: Nationwide demonstrations sparked by police brutality against black Americans have resulted in a hodgepodge of mixed messaging and protest tactics. Is the upcoming presidential election a chance to restore some semblance of normalcy? Also, President Trump issues an executive order targeting social media platforms after being fact-checked by Twitter. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss.


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

Mike Papantonio: Riots in America, where does it all lead? What does it mean for the next presidential election? I have Farron Cousins with me, we’re going to talk about this. Farron, you know, this is, this is complicated. It’s tough to do in eight minutes to round all this out. But as I was watching a couple of commentaries, the thing that struck me was Rick Perlstein. You and I did, actually we, we interviewed Rick Perlstein my memory is, who wrote Nixonland. And, and as I look at Nixonland, it plays right into what I see happening. What is your take on it?

Farron Cousins: I think there’s a lot of moving parts to this, obviously. You know, we’ve got the, the actions of the police officers, not just the one, you know, who killed George, George Floyd, but what’s been happening since then. The videos of all of that, the videos of people, you know, looting a target, walking out with Lego sets as if that’s important to what’s happening. So there’s a lot of different angles to this. There’s a lot of different sides to it. But I think overall for me personally, the biggest issue is the death of George Floyd, the death of too many African American men and women at the hands of these officers. There’s no justice for them, hardly ever.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah.

Farron Cousins: But this has evolved into so much more than that and I don’t think a lot of that was intentional.

Mike Papantonio: Well it. I don’t think it was.

Farron Cousins: And it’s potentially problematic.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, I don’t think it was intentional to put Antifa on the streets. Okay. That’s the first thing, there was no intent there. I have kind of Bill Maher’s opinion about Antifa. You know, you remember several years ago, he was very critical. Kind of describe the whole Antifa movement as privileged white kids going to, you know, going to college, bored for the summer. They dress up in black uniforms. It’s almost like they saw too many hunger game movies and too many star war movies. I kind of agree with him in that analysis of Antifa, but the reason I raised the Rick Perlstein issue is Nixonland to me is it tells the story of what I believe is going to happen here. Right now, Biden is slightly ahead of Trump on the polls. You’re going to see that reverse itself and here’s why. It, Perlstein in Nixonland talked about why did Nixon win in the biggest landslide election in American history?

Why did that happen? And he analyzes it very well. He says, look, it was a combination of people’s fear. They saw the weathermen, they saw the SDS, they saw the Black Panthers in the street. They saw the Vietnam war protest. They were aware of the counter-culture, the left wing counter-cultural that was developing. The drug scene in America. All of these things scared the bejesus out of mom and pop middle America and you know, who showed up at the polls, mom and pop. There weren’t enough votes to balance out the fear factor. Another thing and you, you know, you talk about Roger Ailes a lot, not Roger Ailes, but Lee Atwater. Lee Atwater, who worked with Karl Rove, engineered all that for Nixon. You know, who’s in the white house right now, engineering Trump, Karl Rove.

Farron Cousins: Right, and you know, there, there’s obviously Perlstein is, is phenomenal with that analysis, but you also do have to wonder today, you know, when, when Nixon got elected, because he was running as the law and order guy returned to normalcy guy, Biden has now been the return to normalcy snd that’s what the whole establishment democratic party has been. Let’s get back to normalcy and a lot of people said, yeah, okay. That, I guess that just means a president that doesn’t tweet. So will they look at that now and say, oh, does that mean when we didn’t have a pandemic? When we didn’t have, you know, these, these massive protests happening. So is it going to turn against the incumbent? Because after all, whatever happens when you’re the president kind of falls on you.

So is the public going to blame Trump for this? Or is he going to get things under control? Or is his attempt to get things under control, gonna make things worse? You know, if the military is released here in the United States, that could be a whole different ball game and we’ve seen it before. We saw it happen in the early nineties, when George HW Bush was president. He did activate beyond the national guard. The US army went into Los Angeles when those riots were taking place. Bush didn’t win reelection shortly after that. Was it related? The riots came up in the election, but we don’t know if it played enough of a factor. So there’s so many variables it’s going to be interesting.

Mike Papantonio: I want, I want you to think about what you just said. The criticism of Bush in those riots was, he wasn’t heavy handed enough.

Farron Cousins: Right, and he waited too long.

Mike Papantonio: He waited too long. He was a wimp. That was the whole image, Bush the wimp. Okay. The difference here is the public loses respect for leaders that don’t take action. Let me give you the dichotomy of that. Martin Luther King, incredible leader who understood that nonviolent protest works. Why was he so popular? Why was he so successful? Because the American public, even mom and pop in middle America respected the fact that Martin Luther King was saying, we don’t blow up buildings. We don’t burn down buildings. We don’t shoot policemen in the back of the head. We don’t build, beat up mom and pop store owners because they’re trying to protect their, their business. We don’t do all that. We have protests, but they’re controlled protests. That’s one, that’s one type of leader. The other type of leader and here, I’m talking about the public’s development or, of respect for leadership.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: The other side of it, though, this is the ugly side. The public says, okay, heavy handedness is okay if you gain control of everything, that’s what the Perlstein book was about. That’s what Nixonland was about. You had Nixon who was up front saying, I’m not going to tolerate it. It’s just like his speech in the, it’s just like Trump’s speech in the rose garden yesterday, right? I’m going to call in the military, I’m going to gain control of this. Why is he doing these things? Why did he clear out the peaceful protestors in front of the white house? That was a show, Farron.

Farron Cousins: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: It was part of the Karl Rove agenda. It’s the Lee Atwater agenda all over. Understand Lee Atwater is the guy who started the Reagan presidential race in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where there is the worst civil rights record in the country.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: Because he, it was a dog whistle issue. This is not dog whistle. This is Trump saying, dammit, you know, I’m gonna, you guys are in trouble. I don’t, you know, the Antifa now you’re terrorists. We’ve, we’ve claimed that you’re terrorists. We have, we, we have the military in the, in the streets. So there’s two types of leadership and the interesting and both, at two ends, and the interesting thing is the public respects both kind. Provided both get a good result.

Farron Cousins: But we also have to keep in mind in terms of the protest and the peaceful protest. We had that for years and what that culminated in was Trump going to Alabama and calling Colin Kaepernick an SOB. So they tried the peaceful protest to raise attention to this issue and to be honest, they are still peacefully protesting. They are not the ones going out there and burning buildings and spray painting, and doing all of that. That is a different, animal.

Mike Papantonio: Is the media picking it up though?

Farron Cousins: No, and that’s the problem because the media is feeding into whatever people want to see.

Mike Papantonio: Right.

Farron Cousins: And that’s the other issue that we have today that we didn’t necessarily have with Nixon.

Mike Papantonio: 24/7.

Farron Cousins: Right. You have, if you want to tune in and just see video of cops being the worst people on the planet, there is plenty of places to tune in and that’s all you see.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah.

Farron Cousins: If you want to only see people beating each other up, that’s available too. So the, the media is playing a huge role in shaping the perspective.

Mike Papantonio: No question.

Mike Papantonio: Last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order, allowing citizens to file complaints against social media companies to the FCC. Okay. First of all, from a legal standpoint, this might be DOA, but Trump doesn’t care.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: He sees a possibility with the FTC and the FCC, both of them controlled by Republicans, right? So if I’m going, if, if I’m advising Trump on this and I’m one of the lawyers working, I’m saying, you know where social media is, you know where to go after them, it is this. When you had, when you had Twitter be granted their license and they said, yes, we’re going to follow certain rules. The rules are this, the rules are very clear. They have to be an open forum. They have to be fair. They can have no bias. This is what they have to sign into. Now, if I’m going after them, I’m saying the FTC says, you know, what, what you’ve engaged in is unfair practice. You’ve lied to us and if they win there, you know, even though it’s going to go to the courts, social media has got a problem here. This cat, I got to tell you something, you know, I know he thinks that this Jack Dorsey thinks that he’s just this, you know, new Mahatma Gandhi. I mean, he’s, he’s out there thinking I’m going to solve all this. I’m the new Gandhi where it comes to social media, he’s going to kill social media.

Farron Cousins: Well, you know, I’ve got no problem with Dorsey, me personally. I, I think what he did, you know, with Twitter, putting the fact check on Trump’s tweet, which is what sparked all of this, that was overdue, but they need to do it to every politician, not just, you know, the one that everybody loves to hate at the moment. But I’ve never been in favor of social media outlets, you know, de-platforming anybody, right, left anything. That, that is an important part of the conversation and that is what I guess this order is designed to prevent because that has been an issue. But again, now you’re starting to run into problems where we have other groups out there that have said, well, I don’t want to serve or make a cake for these specific people and there’s some similarities there. But I don’t think that there is actual malicious intent necessarily with the social media outlets. Facebook, Zuckerberg has said, he’s going to let it all fly. He doesn’t care.

Mike Papantonio: At last, he’s starting to look like he’s got a brain where it comes to saving social. See, I disagree with you on J on Dorsey. I think Dorsey is he wants to be the poster boy of what he feels is the high ground here. Dorsey is going to become the poster boy of government getting involved in censoring social media. And I tell you, I feel very strongly. The Avenue that I would take is the F is I would, I would use the FTC and I would use that clause, those clauses that they had to sign and I would hold them up for at least two years in court. And I mean, that’s what he’s doing. And I don’t think this wins. I don’t from a legal standpoint.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: I don’t think this is a winner. But from a practical standpoint, the way he’s going, I think is effective.

Farron Cousins: Well, I do think Twitter, you know, Facebook, all of those outlets, they’ve got a problem with what’s happening on their, their outlets in terms of the hate. But in terms of the, the fake news, you know, or, and the calls for violence, we’ve seen so many of that that has to be reigned in. You, you can’t just do that, but the, any kind of political statements, even if it’s fake news, even if it’s satire, you have to let that go.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah.

Farron Cousins: You know, we, we hate it. We, we despise it. We try to avoid it, but if we can’t avoid it or we choose to not to, that is our choice and you can’t take that away. So it’s a delicate issue. I do not agree with his executive order and I agree with you that the courts probably aren’t going to agree with it either.

Mike Papantonio: I don’t agree with it either. I’m just, I’m calling balls and strikes.

Farron Cousins: Right, and so.

Mike Papantonio: Jack, Jack Dorsey will be the poster boy for all of this going bad and then everybody else in the social media business is going to be aware that. Hey, thanks for joining me.

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.