• Show Notes
  • Transcript

On this week’s episode of Stay Tuned, “The Debate From Hell,” Errol Louis, NY1 anchor and political analyst, joins Preet for a discussion about the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. They reflect on the tactics of the two nominees, and the event’s format, which drew much frustration and well-deserved criticism. Louis, who is one of New York’s most influential voices in news and politics, also discusses the quality of life in the city and the curious politics of its mayor, Bill De Blasio. Preet closes out the episode with a remembrance of the great journalist, editor, and writer Sir Harold Evans. 

In the Stay Tuned bonus material from the episode, Louis speaks to the importance of local news. To listen, try the CAFE Insider membership free for two weeks and get access to the full archive of exclusive content, including the CAFE Insider podcast co-hosted by Preet and Anne Milgram. 

Sign up to receive the CAFE Brief, a weekly newsletter featuring analysis by Elie Honig, a weekly roundup of politically charged legal news, and historical lookbacks that help inform our current political challenges.

If you don’t already receive CAFE emails, sign up to receive an invitation to the Stay Tuned Live cocktail hour featuring all CAFE hosts on October 1, 2020 at 6:30PM ET: www.cafe.com/preet 

As always, tweet your questions to @PreetBharara with hashtag #askpreet, email us at [email protected], or call 669-247-7338 to leave a voicemail.

Stay Tuned with Preet is produced by CAFE Studios. 

Executive Producer: Tamara Sepper; Senior Editorial Producer: Adam Waller; Senior Audio Producer: David Tatasciore; Audio Producer: Matthew Billy; Editorial Producers: Noa Azulai, Sam Ozer-Staton, David Kurlander. 

REFERENCES & SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS

THE INTERVIEW: 

DEBATE ANALYSIS

  • Errol Louis, Inside NY1 Host
  • Dana Bash calls the debate a “sh*t show” on CNN, 9/29/2020
  • “The Brooklyn Democratic debate transcript, annotated,” The Washington Post, 4/4/2016
  • Daniella Diaz, “Trump looms behind Clinton at the debate,” CNN, 10/10/2016
  • Shane Goldmacher, “Five Takeaways From the New York City Mayoral Debate,” The New York Times, 10/10/2017
  • Louise Dufresne, “Ronald Reagan’s testy moment in the 1980 GOP debate,” CBS News, 2/11/2016
  • Preet’s tweet about the Lincoln-Douglas debate format
  • Video of the 2013 debate between Scott M. Stringer and Eliot Spitzer, candidates in the Democratic primary for city comptroller, hosted by Errol Louis and Brian Lehrer
  • Joe Biden Laughs at Paul Ryan’s ‘Malarkey’ on Foreign Policy at the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate 
  • 1980 presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter
  • Nick Gas, “’Lock her up’ chant rules Republican convention,” Politico, 7/20/2016
  • Marianna Spring, “Trump ads push baseless Biden earpiece conspiracy,” BBC, 9/30/2020
  • Timothy Bella, “‘The president thinks his best case is made in urine’: Biden campaign mocks Trump’s drug-testing demand,” The Washington Post, 9/28/2020

ELECTION 2020

  • Russ Choma, “After RBG’s Death, Democrats Are Donating Record Amounts,” Mother Jones, 9/19/2020
  • Dean Obeidallah, “The Democrats’ response to RBG’s death should terrify Trump,” CNN, 9/21/2020
  • The Associated Press, “Error leaves thousands in NYC with flawed absentee ballots,” NBC, 9/29/2020

NEW YORK CITY

  • “DOJ Designates New York City as an ‘Anarchist Jurisdiction’,” NBC New York, 9/21/2020
  • Errol Louis, “The amazing shrinking NYC: De Blasio and others make a huge mistake shrugging as New Yorkers leave,” NY Daily News, 9/17/20
  • Mondays with the Mayor, Every Monday on Inside City Hall from NY1
  • Gloria Pazmino, “Mayor Hits Gym One Last Time, Despite Warning NYers to Stay Home,” NY1, 3/16/2020

BUTTON: SIR HAROLD EVANS 

  • Robert McFadden, “Harold Evans Dies at 92; Crusading Newspaperman With a Second Act,” New York Times, 9/24/2020
  • Jacob Bernstein, “Harry Evans, Potentate of Print, Was Also a Social Butterfly,” New York Times, 9/28/2020
  • Amelia Hill, Thalidomide survivors mourn Harold Evans, their hero and friend,” The Guardian, 9/24/2020
  • Jon Meacham, “In Memoriam: Harold Evans,” Random House, 9/25/2020
  • “Speech by Harold Evans at 60 IPI World Press Freedom Heroes ceremony,” International Press Institute, 2010 

Preet Bharara:

From CAFE, welcome to Stay Tuned. I’m Preet Bharara.

Errol Louis:

The president basically signalled to a bunch of racist ruffians “Standby, I may need to activate you, because there’s some stuff going on out there related to the selection,” and nobody knows exactly what he means or how far he’s going to go. That happened on national television last night.

Preet Bharara:

That’s Errol Louis. He’s an anchor at New York 1, where he’s hosted the nightly primetime show Inside City Hall for the last decade. It focuses on New York City news, politics and culture. Throughout his career, Errol has moderated dozens of political debates, and is one of the most influential voices in New York City politics. He joins me today to reflect on the first presidential debate, if we can even call it that. We talk about the candidates’ performances, their strategy, and the craft of moderating. Plus, we talk about the current quality of life in New York City, and the curious politics of its mayor, Bill de Blasio. That’s coming up. Stay tuned.

Preet Bharara:

My guest this week is Errol Louis. He’s a political news anchor at New York 1, and has been one of the go-to voices in New York City and national politics for over a decade. Today, Errol joins me to break down what happened during the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden. Errol is an experienced debate moderator, so let’s turn to his analysis.

Preet Bharara:

Errol Louis, welcome to the show.

Errol Louis:

Glad to be with you, Preet.

Preet Bharara:

It’s long overdue. I’ve watched you for a long time. I have appeared on your show. We’ve done conferences together as recently as last week, so it’s a real privilege and a treat to have you, sir. Thanks for coming.

Errol Louis:

Absolutely, love to be with you.

Preet Bharara:

We’re recording this on Wednesday morning, the last day of September, much of America probably waking up from a hangover that was caused not so much by the imbibing of alcohol as from that so called presidential debate we had last night. I want to spend some time getting your reaction. Dana Bash, who we both know from CNN, even though it was a cable television, and not that late at night, her reaction was…

Dana Bash:

I’m just going to say it like it is. That was a shit show.

Preet Bharara:

Do you agree with that?

Errol Louis:

It’s interesting. Well, yes, yes, of course.

Preet Bharara:

You don’t have to adopt the language, Errol. I know you’re very innocent.

Errol Louis:

No. No. No. What I was thinking was that I worked with her. The only presidential debate I ever got a chance to be a part of was in April of 2016 when I was one of the questioners for the final primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and she was one of the other questioners. I actually got to work with her for a few weeks. That night was a big, big deal, and we got to talk a lot. I was a little surprised, because that was said advisedly. She’s not somebody who just flies off the handle. I’ve worked with her. I’ve seen her under pressure.

Errol Louis:

I think she was being analytical.

Preet Bharara:

Was it warranted?

Errol Louis:

Well, she was being analytical and precise. Yes, it was a shit show.

Preet Bharara:

Analytical and precise.

Errol Louis:

That’s right. I mean, it was. I mean, nobody involved in television on any level. Even if it’s the Presidential Debate Commission that does this once every four years, nobody could have thought that that was good television. I know from the viewers point of view, it was hard to watch. Being a media professional, I mean, I’ve seen good television. I’ve seen bad television. It doesn’t matter. It’s my job. I got to watch it, but I could certainly tell that for innocent viewers who are out there just trying to get a little information about the government, it was probably very, very hard to watch.

Preet Bharara:

My question is, “Was Donald Trump being intentional and strategic?” You say you’ve seen good television and bad television. Whatever else you say about Donald Trump, his policies, his ethics, his veracity? The guy became president because he knew something about good television, so how do you reconcile those things?

Errol Louis:

Well, I mean, he was stopping good television from happening. The best moments in that debate went to Joe Biden when he looked directly in the camera, and sometimes he held out his hands in an open appeal saying, “All of you at home, how are you doing with your family, your health, your jobs?”

Joe Biden:

Look, you folks at home, how many of you get up this morning, and had an empty chair at the kitchen table because someone died of COVID? How many of you are in a situation where you lost your mom or dad, and you couldn’t even speak to them? You had a nurse holding a phone up, so you can in fact say goodbye? How many…

Errol Louis:

That’s a great way of using the medium. Donald Trump fully understood that, probably more than most of us, and then he just immediately tried to do the equivalent of what basketball players do when somebody’s coming down the lane about to do an easy layup. He tried to foul him. It’s like what you see in hockey, right? I mean, somebody’s getting ready to get near the goal. You just stop that guy, and it never looks pretty, but I think that’s what Donald Trump was trying to do, that he’d rather have a bad, awful disrupted, derailed debate than a good debate where the other side is scoring points.

Preet Bharara:

That’s interesting. He was trying to prevent… His knowledge of television, his expertise in television, taught him in this circumstance to prevent a good television for Biden, even if it meant not great television for himself, because that was his only move.

Errol Louis:

Exactly right. I mean, this is the person who sees the maneuvering four or five chess moves ahead and says, “Oh crap, here comes checkmate. I better just knock the table over,” which is pretty much what we saw last night.

Preet Bharara:

Well, how come he didn’t do that with Clinton? I thought that was a much more watchable series of debates in 2016.

Errol Louis:

Well, he was riding high, and he was doing all kinds of things. Remember the town hall format when he just stood behind her and was looming over her, invaded her personal space?

Preet Bharara:

Stalkerish.

Errol Louis:

I mean, it was crazy, but it did what his audience wanted him to do. The name of the game, in that particular race, for better or worse, for a lot of different reasons, we could get into was disrespecting Hillary Clinton was the path to victory for a lot of people. It certainly helped Bernie Sanders in the primary season. It helped… It has made the career of I don’t know how many countless radio show hosts and pundits. Donald Trump rode that same wave. After 20 years of demonizing Hillary Clinton, it became an industry. You could sell a book. You could sell a magazine article.

Errol Louis:

You could sell an appearance on television. You could build a political campaign out of simply disrespecting her. That’s just what he did. It didn’t hurt him one bit politically, unfortunately.

Preet Bharara:

When people keep saying it was difficult to watch, in that brief statement, no one is taking a particular position. I guess the three figures who are involved in the debate, there’s Biden. There’s Trump. There’s also Chris Wallace. When you make that statement, where do you lay the blame mostly?

Errol Louis:

Well, it’s interesting. I would say much of the blame that’s going to attach to Chris Wallace actually belongs with the sponsors of the debate. Of course, he’s there as the visual face of the debate sponsors, but he didn’t really have the level of control that would have been required to put things in check if that’s what he wanted to do. I say it this way, I’ve moderated over 100 debates. I’ve done a ton of debates for U.S. senate for… I told you about the presidential one. I’ve done state attorney general. I’ve done every mayoral debate since 2005 in one capacity other another.

Errol Louis:

The key thing in all of it is you’ve got to keep control. By that, I mean, you have the full control up to and including cutting off microphones. You have to be able to make a credible threat to people, “I will stop this debate. I have the power to stop this debate if you don’t follow the rules.” Chris Wallace didn’t really have that kind of power, because the rules were set by the Presidential Debate Commission. It was not a Fox News debate. He didn’t have any producers in his ear so that there was nobody for him… I’ve actually done this. I did this in 2017 in the mayoral debates.

Errol Louis:

One of the candidates was acting out, Bo Dietl. I threatened him. I had planned this out with our folks. I said, “Look, you guys, you’re going to back me up if I have to go to the wall with these guys.” They assured me that they would. I told him, it’s like, “Look, if you keep interrupting, I’m going to cut your mic off.” He kept yelling and shouting and interrupting, and I told them to cut off his mic.

Preet Bharara:

Then did he turn to you and say, “Reagan style?”

Bo Dietl:

I am paying for this microphone.

Errol Louis:

Actually, what he did was even worse is he yelled so loud, the other mics picked it up.

Preet Bharara:

Some people don’t need a mic.

Errol Louis:

No, but here’s an example of how far you have to go with control in that same debate. I became a minor legend in local political circles for this. I actually ejected somebody from the audience because the audience was getting rowdy, and they were screaming and yelling and stuff. Again, I had cleared this with my folks in advance. I said, “Look, are you guys going to actually help me out here if I have to throw somebody out?” They said, “Sure. We’ll have the security throw the guy out.” That’s just what we did.

Preet Bharara:

Errol, can I make a comment?

Errol Louis:

Yes.

Preet Bharara:

I think you’re thirsty for power. I think this is going to your head a little bit. You’re cutting off mics.

Errol Louis:

No. No. No. No. No.

Preet Bharara:

You’re bouncing people out of the theater.

Errol Louis:

I mean, look, here’s the exact equivalent. If somebody came along while we’re talking, and kicked your producers out of the room and said, “You know what, we’re going to take over this podcast. We’re going to start inserting commercials that you haven’t approved. We’re going to start raising and lowering mic levels. We’re going to start introducing new guests that you never asked for.” You would say, “Before I let any of that stuff happen, I will just end the podcast. We’re going to just end it right here now.”

Errol Louis:

That’s the exact equivalent. I mean, what I tell my students in journalism class, I said, “Look, the only thing you’re there for if you’re the moderator is to control the flow of the conversation, and if you can’t control the flow of the conversation, you might as well just get up and leave, and just let any random person off the street come in and take over your debate. You just can’t let that happen.” I mean, for me, you talked about power hungry. Among other things, when I’m doing debates for New York 1, it’s my show. You know what I mean? It’s like, “You can’t come in and take my show away from me,” some guy off the street. I don’t think so.

Preet Bharara:

You’re the captain now.

Errol Louis:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

On this question of the mics, because I find that interesting, because some people were suggesting exactly that last night. You said you had that power in the debate with Bo Dietl. Do you always insist on having that? Did you have that power of mic cancellation in the debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, or do you insist upon it or ask for it when you think it’s going to be a problem, and you’ve anticipated it?

Errol Louis:

There is some planning. First of all, in the CNN debate, it wasn’t shop. I was there as a guest, but it did come up. I mean, these things do come up. One of the things when you’re gaming out what is likely to happen, which you have to do for your rehearsal purposes, technical stuff like, how long will it take, and what’s the proper wording of a question, and which question should we ask and in what order? But then along with that, you have issues, especially in New York politics with, “Is there going to be any disruption? Are there going to be protesters there?”

Errol Louis:

Are there going to be slanderous accusations hurled from the podium? If so, how do we handle that? To the extent that you want to plan this all out and make sure it doesn’t run away and run out of control, different questions do come up so that, “If such and such happens, then what? If this, then that.” In the case of Bo Dietl, we knew that he was enough of a loose cannon, that, frankly, we had an internal discussion about whether you should even be part of the debate. I lost that argument. That’s the only reason he was in the room.

Errol Louis:

Then the additional question was, “What if he just acts completely disruptive?” That’s when we introduced the question of like, “Look, can I…” I have to be able to tell them that we’re going to stop the debate, or else other people will either take control of the debate or in fact, stop the debate. We can’t let this stuff go out over our air. In the case of last night, I don’t know how much control Chris Wallace had, but I know because they said this, there were no producers talking in his ear, feeding him questions or steering him towards an exit if there was a real problem.

Errol Louis:

He had to make it up as he went along. The one thing I will say is he needed to… If he was going to take any strong action at all, he needed to do it on the very first interruption. It’s like, I don’t know, like the old movies. If you’re in a prison yard for the first time, the first person who comes up to you, you’ve got to take that guy down, right? Because everybody else is watching, and they’re going to see what is and isn’t going to be permissible. For him, for Chris Wallace to finally raise his voice, I think, about an hour into the debate, it’s like, “Well, dude, you should have done that the very first time. You should have stopped the…”

Errol Louis:

I’ve done that. You just stop the debate, and you tell everybody. It’s like, “Everybody stop. We’re gonna stop the debate right here. We need to have a little check in. How do you want to do this? Are you gonna follow the rules that you agree to, or are you not? Because if you’re not, then we really don’t have the debate that we had all agreed to have?”

Preet Bharara:

Do debate moderators ever pack a tranquilizer gun?

Errol Louis:

I mean, it’s not a bad idea.

Preet Bharara:

I think a taser probably maybe is too much [crosstalk 00:13:45].

Errol Louis:

Well, no. No. The next step would be to say like, “Here’s a video of your loved one in the next room.”

Preet Bharara:

Be ashamed if something happened to them.

Errol Louis:

It’s up to you, Mr. President. We’ve got Melania in the next room.

Preet Bharara:

Can we just be clear where… This is just jokes, guys. Errol is just joking, and as we discussed, is power hungry.

Errol Louis:

Control hungry. It’s not the same thing, control.

Preet Bharara:

Chris Wallace, generally speaking, I think is an excellent journalist. I think coming into this debate was hailed as one of the better if not one of the best debate moderators. I don’t want to harp on him too much, because I want to talk about the candidates and the substance. How did he screw it up?

Errol Louis:

Well, I mean, again, you agree to these rules, and it’s like…

Preet Bharara:

But it’s beyond the rules, right? It’s not something…

Errol Louis:

No. Look, if you put on a blue uniform that says NYPD, and you start walking around, tapping your billy club on the street, but you’re actually not a cop, you have exposed yourself to some really funky situations. That’s pretty much what he did. I mean, we look at the guy and we say, “This is Chris Wallace, the esteemed award winning journalist who’s the son of a legendary journalist, who has done this stuff for years and who only a few days ago faced down the president and basically called him a liar to his face sitting there at the White House.”

Errol Louis:

This guy’s got some grip. He’s got some steel, and he’s smart. He’s on the issues, and he’s not afraid. He’s got a powerful news organization that’ll back him up. He’s got everything you need to do the moderator’s job that we think he was doing, but again, these presidential debates, they want to and he’d said, I think Frank Fahrenkopf had said it on television too that they wanted him to be invisible, that they just wanted magically for some great conversation to happen between these two candidates as if it was France or something, where they sit and just talk without a moderator for two hours.

Preet Bharara:

I joked on Twitter last night, “I love that they’ve returned to the Lincoln-Douglas debate format.”

Errol Louis:

Minus Lincoln and Douglas.

Preet Bharara:

And debate and format.

Errol Louis:

Exactly. Exactly. I’ll tell you, there was one and it only lasted about five minutes. It’s fleeting, but you can find it online, so I want to tell your listeners about it. In the primary debate in 2013 between Scott Stringer and Eliot Spitzer, Eliot Spitzer decided to make a comeback. He had resigned in disgrace as governor, but was making a comeback. This is the Democratic primary for New York City controller. I was moderating the debate along with Brian Lehrer, who’s a great guy from Public Radio. We gained it out. We timed it out. We had a lot of questions, and about, I don’t know, maybe eight minutes into the debate, they really started going at it.

Errol Louis:

It got personal. They brought up ethics. They were really, really going at it. Brian and I, we did something you’d normally wouldn’t do. Having said all of the stuff about control, control, control, we just sat back and ignored the format, and just let them trade basically body blows. One would speak, “You did this. You did that.” “That’s not true. You’re a liar.” Bam, then the other would answer. “On the contrary, you did this. You did that. How dare you question my ethics. There’s more to the story.” Bam. They just traded back and forth.

Errol Louis:

Emotionally and substantively, it just seemed like the right thing to do, to let them go at it. In fact, what happened was they got out a lot of that bad energy. They said the things that were were making both of them crazy about the other, and then we settled in, and we did the rest of the debate, and it worked out fine. But that’s so rare. That’s so, so rare. It’s so-

Preet Bharara:

I guess it has to be in the moment, because I’m wondering why. Maybe it happened. Did people afterwards suggest that you and Brian Lehrer abdicated and lost control, or not?

Errol Louis:

No. No. It never came to that, because if it had gone on too long, we would have had to intervene, but it was substantive. It was real. It was real. I mean, because look, all of the rules are just a framework. I mean, the other way you can screw up a debate, which some people do, is the minute they go over some arbitrary requirement… Like, last night, they said, “You get two uninterrupted minutes.” If the moderator started jumping in at two minutes and five seconds while the person is mid sentence, that’s just dumb. It’s a framework to enable a good conversation to happen.

Errol Louis:

If the good conversation actually happens, you thank your lucky stars, and you let it happen. But a lot of moderators don’t think of it that way, and that’s when things go wrong.

Preet Bharara:

I want to talk about the position of Joe Biden in all this. We talked about Trump. We talked about Chris Wallace. Now, you’re Joe Biden, and you have your talking points. You understand you can look directly in the camera, and you can talk about empathy, and you can talk about the pandemic. There’s some powerful moments when he talked about how his son had an addiction to drugs, gets lost in all the discussion afterwards.

Joe Biden:

My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem. He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it, and I’m proud of him.

Trump:

But why was he given-

Preet Bharara:

When Trump starts interrupting you, and Chris Wallace is not gaining control, is there something else that Biden should have done?

Errol Louis:

No, I think he did it right. I think he did it exactly. I mean, he probably let more of the bad behavior go by than you or I would have, but that’s why we’re not going to be president of the United States. What he did do, though, from time to time was throwing some zingers that we all remember the next day. I mean, look, the bottom line is, and nobody else… There’s very few people in the world who can say this. He called the president to his face a racist, a clown.

Chris Wallace:

Wait a minute, you’ll get the final word in this one.

Joe Biden:

Well, it’s hard to get any word in with this clown.

Errol Louis:

You know, I mean-

Preet Bharara:

He told him to shut up?

Errol Louis:

He told him to shut up.

Trump:

Why wouldn’t you answer that question?

Joe Biden:

Because the question is… Because the question is… The question-

Trump:

You want to put a lot of new Supreme Court Justices. Radical left.

Joe Biden:

Will you shut up, man?

Trump:

Listen, who is on your list, Joe?

Preet Bharara:

Was that smart? Was that a good thing to do, or a good thing to do a few of those, or did he sink to Trump’s level?

Errol Louis:

He had to do it. Yes. No, I don’t think he sink… He didn’t sink to Trump’s level., or else, he would have been doing it constantly. By dropping it here and there. He let it be known… To me at least, he let it be known, it’s like, “Okay, at least he’s not going to be a doormat,” because nobody wants that. If he’d let the president go berserk with all of his antics, it would have started to raise questions about, “Well, wait a minute, can this guy take on the Russians or the Chinese dictator if he can’t even take on this guy across the stage?”

Preet Bharara:

What about the laughing? What about the shouts [inaudible 00:20:20] and laughing?

Errol Louis:

I thought he should have done more of that. I thought he should have done more of that. I’m thinking back to 2012, the vice presidential debate. All he did basically was laugh at Paul Ryan, and he seemed genuinely amused.

Preet Bharara:

He was very effective in the debate against Paul Ryan. [inaudible 00:20:35] that.

Errol Louis:

It was the first time he tried out the word malarkey, I think, at least that I remember.

Paul Ryan:

Our adversaries are much more willing to test us. They’re more brazen in their attacks, and our allies are less willing to-

Joe Biden:

With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.

Speaker 9:

Why is that so?

Joe Biden:

Because not a single thing he said is accurate.

Errol Louis:

He’s throwing these haymakers. He’s sitting there. He’s laughing at the kid, and it made Ryan visibly angry to be ridiculed. We know from the emotional makeup of the commander in chief, it would have driven Trump absolutely nuts if he just laughed at him. I thought that there’d be a moment where Biden would try and do what Reagan did in 1980 against Jimmy Carter and say, “There you go again,” which is all you need is a mnemonic just to remind everybody. As it turns out, what Biden said was everybody knows this guy lies all the time.

Preet Bharara:

It’s a given. Was any mind in America changed by the debate? It would seem to me that one strategy for Trump and Biden, and especially for Trump, who’s losing in most of the polls, including in battleground states, that he would want to get some people who are on the fence to come to his side. Did any mind changing happened last night?

Errol Louis:

I think it did, but not in the sense that you or I would use the phrase changing minds. I think, unfortunately, negative ugly campaigning, and negative ugly debates are part of negative campaigning have a suppressive effect. There’s actually some political science literature on this, that nasty, negative campaigning is not intended to change minds, but intended to change minds in the sense that people decide not to vote at all.

Preet Bharara:

Turn people off.

Errol Louis:

Just turn people off. It’s a rigged game. I hate these politicians. They behave worse than a kindergarten class. I’m just not going to have anything to do with it. That, I think, was a conscious strategy, again, going back to, “I’ll flip the board over if it looks like you’re moving to a checkmate. We’ll just end the game right here.”

Preet Bharara:

Who does that hurt more? Does that hurt Biden more in the estimation of Trump?

Errol Louis:

I think it’s more of… There’s a great phrase. I think it was in the New York Times where they said, “Trump acted like somebody who wanted to pull the pin on the grenade hoping that it would damage the other person more.” Well, look, on the face of it, just to follow your line of questioning, I think you’re exactly right, because one of the things I was slightly mystified by as I’m listening to the debate last night is I’m thinking, “Okay, Trump needs suburban women. We know he needs suburban women.” Not just the pollsters and the pundits say that, Trump pretty much has said as much himself.

Errol Louis:

Yet, with all of those antics and the interrupting and the vulgarity and all of this stuff, one thing I know about suburban women… I was raised in the suburbs like you. One thing women don’t like is to be interrupted, right? He’s turning them off every time he opens his mouth, and yet he chooses to do it.

Preet Bharara:

I watched with a suburban woman last night.

Errol Louis:

I bet she loved it.

Preet Bharara:

She does not feel better about Donald Trump than she did before. I will tell you that right now. There was a moment of debate. I know you commented on it last night. Maybe this was the worst moment in the debate. I don’t know. When Donald Trump was asked about a white supremacist group known as the Proud Boys, and he gave a bizarre response…

Trump:

Who would you like me to condemn?

Chris Wallace:

White supremacists and right-wing militia.

Joe Biden:

Proud Boys.

Trump:

Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.

Paul Ryan:

There were reports that people who are members of that group were overjoyed by that acknowledgement. What was your reaction to that?

Errol Louis:

I mean, it speaks for itself. I mean, it’s breathtaking. It’s Charlottesville all over again. I mean, this is not somebody who telegraphs what he wants to do. It’s not a dog whistle. It’s a foghorn. In this case, it was literally a call to arms to people to go into polling sites, disrupt the elections any which way they can. I mean, even Trump has laid out what his strategy is. He wants to disrupt the elections any way he can. Think of it as like a 90-day version of what we saw last night. Disrupt the proceedings if you think you can’t win.

Errol Louis:

He wants to throw so much doubt and fury and frenzy into the voting process that what we’ll end up with is a count that, under this scenario, would have to either be given to the Supreme Court to figure it out the way they did in 2000 to make some legalistic rulings that would essentially determine the outcome of the election, if it should come down to that, or have it go to the House of Representatives, in which case, unbeknownst to most people, it’s one vote per state, not by the size of the delegation of the state, but just the state. California gets the same vote as Vermont, and there you go.

Errol Louis:

Under both scenarios, he has a much better chance of winning than what it looks like the polls are suggesting right now. I was taken aback because you never dreamed that you’re going to be part of what we’ve all read about in history books that this was the moment when, I don’t know, Weimar Germany collapsed, or this was the moment when democracy failed, and the Civil War began in the 1860s. You never think that you’re going to see something like that, but it was one of those moments.

Errol Louis:

I would link it up with a moment I experienced in Cleveland four years ago at the republican convention when they started chanting, “Lock her up,” where you think to yourself, it’s like, “Oh, man, we just crossed a line here, and I don’t know that there’s any going back,” so the President basically signaled to a bunch of racist ruffians, “Standby, I may need to activate you, because there’s some stuff going on out there related to the selection.” Nobody knows exactly what he means or how far he’s going to go. That happened on national television last night.

Paul Ryan:

How do suburban women feel about that?

Errol Louis:

I don’t think they like the Proud Boys. I don’t think they like the Proud Boys.

Paul Ryan:

I don’t think so.

Errol Louis:

I don’t think most people… There were a couple of broadcasters last week who were saying to their audiences, “This is that moment. This is the moment.” Everybody may have thought about in their mind at some point, “Well, look, if I show up at the polls, and there’s a bunch of people with swastikas on and bayonets saying go away, we know there’s going to be no vote today.” Most of us would understand something significant happened, and that we would have to do something about it. What a number of broadcasters were saying was like, “This is that moment.”

Errol Louis:

It’s just that bad that we are being told that the election is going to be distorted, denied, and you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do about it. I would second that thought that people should not take this for granted, because just like in February and March, we were thinking, “Oh, there’s this disease out there. It’s like the flu, but maybe worse. I don’t really need to take any steps because nobody I know has gotten sick yet,” and then the next thing you know, within a matter of weeks, everybody you know has to deal with this, and the entire world changes because of it, literally in this case.

Paul Ryan:

What about some of the things that Joe Biden was asked about? Were you surprised at all? I think some people expressed surprise, and maybe they should not have. When pressed on an issue with respect to the environment, Joe Biden looked into the camera said, “I am not for a Green New Deal.” On a couple of occasions, that was one and then there was another one, where Trump seemed to be trying to put a wedge between Biden and the liberal left. What do you make of that?

Errol Louis:

Well, the latter one, I think, was just laughable, where Trump was saying, “Oh, you just lost the socialist left and so forth.” I don’t know if the socialist left is taking their cues from Donald Trump for one thing. I also think that to the extent that there’s a legitimate question there, there are divisions within the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is a fractious coalition. There are a lot of different people coming from a lot of different places, even on the same issues, or whether it’s the environment and climate change, or whether it’s law enforcement and racial justice. That’s there.

Errol Louis:

Biden I thought was very forceful and very savvy to say, “I’m the Democratic Party. Whatever it is you think Democrats stand for, I’m it now. I’ve got that role. I’ve got that power. I’ve got that influence.” Implied in that, of course, is that if you really, really, really don’t like it, either don’t vote or vote for Donald Trump. That’s what he’s basically saying to those in the democratic coalition who are going to be upset by him disavowing the Green New Deal. By the way, the Green New Deal is more a set of concepts than an actual program.

Errol Louis:

I mean, there is some legislation that’s out there, but if you read the legislation, even that is 80% aspirational. It’s not like they’re saying, “We’re going to cut fuel standards by this much next year.” What they’re saying is, “We have to do away with all fossil fuels, with all immediate speed.” What Biden is saying is like, “Well, no, that’s not how we’re going to do it. I’ve got a different path to get there, but we’re not going to do it that way.” As Biden pointed out last night, this was in fact litigated in the Democratic primary, and people had their choice of many, many left of center candidates to choose from.

Errol Louis:

They had Elizabeth Warren, and they had Beto O’Rourke, and they chose Joe Biden. That’s the answer for now. Maybe it’s not as aggressive on climate change as you or I would like, but you support the candidate you have, not the candidate you wish you had,” like Donald Rumsfeld would say. There you go.

Paul Ryan:

You go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had. Not to vote Donald Rumsfeld on the show. I apologize for that, to my listeners, first time. it won’t happen again. I want ask one last question about this debate, and then I want to talk about the future. I never understood the strategy of making it sound like Biden basically was incapable of coherent speech, going into the debate, lowering expectations so much for Biden, that just being able to show up and withstand attacks by Trump and completing sentences would cause him to exceed expectations and when.

Paul Ryan:

Do you get that, because Trump is a lot of things? He is smart tactically, sometimes, but what was that about?

Errol Louis:

No, it totally backfired. I mean, it just totally backfired. It’s an easy mistake to make. The first election I ever voted in was in 1980. I remember in the run up to it, the Jimmy Carter people, the democrats, had said that Ronald Reagan is a crazy warmonger. He’s just like Barry Goldwater. He’s going to blow up the world. He can’t be trusted with the nuclear and on and on and on and on, and then who shows up for the one and only debate they had in 1980? It’s a perfectly reasonable, sharp guy who’s not senile, not crazy, not bloodthirsty, not a warmonger.

Errol Louis:

I mean, I still didn’t vote for him, but they blew the expectations.

Paul Ryan:

A lot of people did.

Errol Louis:

Yeah. Well, please, he won New York twice. I mean, he won New York State twice. They played this expectations game exactly wrong, and they so overdid it, that the minute he came in and just had subject-verb agreement, he would have defeated expectations. The other thing is this is a guy who has been in politics for 47 years. They try and hang that around his neck like a millstone. What I’m thinking is, “If you woke Mike Tyson up in the middle of the night, and he was hung over or actively drunk, he’d still box pretty well just from muscle memory.”

Errol Louis:

It’s like you could wake up Joe Biden in the middle of the night, and he would have great debate reflexes because he’s literally been doing it his entire adult life.

Paul Ryan:

Do you think that part of the reason for Biden doing well last night was the enormous amount of performance enhancing drugs that he must have taken? We forgot to talk about that.

Errol Louis:

Well, I’ll you what-

Paul Ryan:

Have you seen some of these conspiracy theories? There are people showing pictures. There’s a picture that suggests he had a wire that was coming up from his jacket, that he had an ivy port in wrist. I mean, what is… I don’t even know what to say about that.

Errol Louis:

Oh my God. Oh my God. Well, look, he had the ultimate drug, which is ambition. I mean, let’s put it that way. This is a guy who’s… This is what he’s wanted his entire life. Everything he’s ever done as an adult was leading up to this moment, and he rose to the occasion. I mean, on some human level, you actually want to celebrate that a little bit, right? It’s like, “Well, geez, the guy’s been trying since he was 29 to do this.”

Paul Ryan:

I was in college. I remember thinking about supporting his campaign in 1988 when I was in college before he dropped out.

Errol Louis:

Oh, is that right? Interesting. Interesting.

Paul Ryan:

He’s been running for president for a very, very long time. What happens? The next debate, mercifully, is not until October 15th. What’s your advice to Trump, to Biden, and to the moderator, Steve Scully of C-SPAN for that? I understand it’s going to be a town hall format, so maybe that alleviates some of the problems we had from last night. I mean, is everyone going to approach this the same way, or will there be some lessons learned?

Errol Louis:

I don’t think there are going to be lessons learned. I don’t think the playing field changes that much. I mean, unless the stock market crashes or booms, or unless the vaccines miraculously appears on the resolute desk in the Oval Office or something, I mean, unless something serious changes, their positions are fixed, and their needs and their objectives and their tactics are not necessarily going to change. Now, what will happen in a town hall format is, there’ll be antics, but there’ll be different antics, and then there might be worse coming from President Trump because as we know, the Biden brand is to connect, to empathize, and in the town hall format, just as was true for Bill Clinton a generation ago, he’s going to excel. He’s going to absolutely excel.

Errol Louis:

I mean, he hugs people. He asks about their struggles. He talks about his own and on and on and on and on. Donald Trump is not going to just stand there and watch that happen. He’s going to do some of the stuff that he did in 2016 when he was looming behind Hillary Clinton, interrupting saying, “Wrong, wrong,” threatening to have her jailed and all kinds of crazy stuff. I just think it might be a little bit more frantic, a little bit more off putting, I guess, for the audience. But there’s no way he’s going to let that happen, because he can’t.

Errol Louis:

Can you imagine? I mean, we’ve seen him in town hall formats. Can you imagine Donald Trump in a town hall setting? He’s not at the podium with a bunch of screaming fans at an airport hangar. Now, he’s there on the same level as everybody. They expect him to look you in the eye. They expect him to be somewhat truthful. It’s one thing to lie to a politician or to a camera. It’s another thing to lie to a family or somebody who’s right in front of you saying I lost my son.

Paul Ryan:

Well, he also has to be cordial to them. It’s one thing to yell at a moderator, and to demean and belittle your opponent. I saw that in the last town hall. As you mentioned, an ordinary American asks Donald Trump a question that he hates, and doesn’t like the premise of the question. He has no choice but to be civil and cordial in response.

Errol Louis:

Well, this is true. Even as he quickly as possible will pivot away and talk about himself or talk about those mystical, “A lot of people out there say Trump did the best,” or this kind of thing. It’s going to provide another opportunity for Biden to make inroads. The weird thing in all of this stuff, Preet, is that the incumbent president of the United States has to run like a challenger. He’s behind in all of the polls, including in many of the key swing states. Every which way you look at this by any kind of objective measure, he either isn’t making progress or is falling behind.

Errol Louis:

He’s got to do something. He’s got to be the moving party. In a town hall format to which he is spectacularly not suited for reasons we just discussed, it’s going to be really, really hard to change the narrative.

Paul Ryan:

Do you think that the substantive format of debates needs to change? Is it really possible to cover six, seven, eight different issues and topics in the space of 90 minutes? Some people suggested… I saw one suggestion that given the time we’re living in, there should have been an entire debate devoted just to the pandemic to get an idea of what people’s plans are and what their thoughts are. Does that make any sense, or does that then give short shrift to some other issues?

Errol Louis:

No, no, that’s exactly right. It would give short shrift to the other issues, but the theory would be that if you’ve got three debates, let’s use the time a little bit more wisely, and let’s get thematic on them so that you can get more depth. As with many things in life, you have to sacrifice breath for depth, but this is one of those cases where depth is really called for. To me, I would say one on climate change, one on national security, and by force of reality, one on the pandemic, and then make the argument that we shouldn’t do that. You know what I mean?

Errol Louis:

Let’s make the argument that we shouldn’t do that, or you could split the baby, right? You could say, “For this next 90-minute debate, at least one hour of it is going to be devoted to the pandemic, and then in the remaining half hour, we’ll throw, I don’t know, in some other extremely important issues like housing or immigration or racial justice.” I think that’s probably the right way to do it. You know what I mean? If you had a cluster of foreign policy related ones for the role of the president as commander in chief, that would make sense.

Errol Louis:

Maybe you’d throw trade in with foreign policy. Again, confine it to 60 out of 80 minutes or 60 out of 90 minutes. There are a lot of different ways to do it, but anything that could get us to more depth, meaning not just an exchange of insults and talking points, would be not only preferable, but I think necessary, because the pandemic, I mean, the facts keep shifting. How can you talk about it in two minutes? I mean, literally, the information changes every week.

Paul Ryan:

Well, it also allows Donald Trump to get away with having a super shallow understanding of any issue.

Errol Louis:

Very true. You know what I mean?

Paul Ryan:

I can talk for two minutes about pretty much anything before people find out what an ignorant idiot I am.

Errol Louis:

No, no, not at all. Look, check out something he did last night. He didn’t say we got lots of ventilators and other protective equipment to everybody in a timely way. He says, “A lot of governors, including some who don’t like me say that I did it.” It’s like, “Well, they said that, but maybe they’re lying. Maybe they’re wrong. Maybe they’re trying to curry favor.”

Paul Ryan:

They’re playing a game.

Errol Louis:

Maybe they’re currying favor with you because of your fragile ego. In any event, those people aren’t in the room and don’t matter. Tell us what you did. We’re going to see a lot more of that, unfortunately.

Paul Ryan:

We’re in the middle of the election. I stopped saying that the election is coming up. The election is on November 3rd. The election is now. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people have already voted many millions to come. I the time I have left, let me ask you about how some things may impact the results of the election. First, people may not appreciate. I don’t know if you wear it on your sleeve. You are a lawyer by training, not just a journalist. I say that with great respect as a fellow lawyer.

Paul Ryan:

There was a nomination to the Supreme Court minutes ago, but it seems like it was a long time ago. How do you how do you think the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett will affect the outcome of the vote, people’s enthusiasm for voting either for Trump or for Biden? Do you think it makes any difference, or is it a wash?

Errol Louis:

No, it does make a difference. I would not have anticipated this. I was a little surprised, but that’s why I’m in the news business. I like being surprised. Stuff happens that you don’t anticipate. I thought that it would be a classic case of all of the republicans coming home. That is sometimes divided. Republican coalition often comes together around the idea of nominating conservative justices for a host of different reasons, some of them cultural, but the reality is they know that as a party that holds unpopular positions on abortion…

Errol Louis:

I mean, look at the polling. Most people want Roe versus Wade to stay as it is. Most people want some gun control in place. Most people want some regulation on big industry. Most people want a lot of things that the Republican Party is opposed to, so they resort to a minority strategy. I thought that it was all going to come together for them, and they’d all say, “Oh, even if we don’t like Trump, we’ve got to have the Supreme Court in order to advance the different parts of what the Republican Coalition wants.” Surprisingly enough, that doesn’t seem to have happened. All of the polling, both before and after the nomination, suggests that democrats are more energized by the nomination than republicans are.

Errol Louis:

Meaning, democrats are more frightened by what this could mean than republicans are energized by what this could mean. We look at every piece of the democratic coalition. If you’re an environmentalist, oh boy, this looks like there’s going to be looser regulation, and industry is going to run berserk. If you’re into voting rights, I mean, as an African-American, I turned into a single issue voter when it comes to voting rights. That doesn’t look too promising. On things like affirmative action, that have meant a lot to me, personally. That doesn’t look so great.

Errol Louis:

On and on down the line, including, of course, a woman’s right to choose, including pre-existing conditions and defending the Affordable Care Act, and generalized healthcare that’s affordable for most people, it just looks like she’s going to be a disaster. A lot of democrats woke up to that. It’s not normally a part of what holds democrats together, but it seems to be falling in place this time. Again, I’m surprised to see it, but I’ve seen enough polls, including from Fox News, to suggest that that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Errol Louis:

I think it’s going to be worse than a wash. I think it’s going to probably help democratic candidates and-

Paul Ryan:

Well, certainly financially, all the money that’s been pouring in since [inaudible 00:42:36].

Errol Louis:

Well, that’s another indicator, right? They said ActBlue broke records, not just the day of the nomination, but the hour of the nomination’s announcement. One of those basic political rules is don’t put wind in your opponent’s sails. Frankly, I think if the moderator hadn’t brought it up at the debate, I’m not sure President Trump even would have mentioned it. I don’t think it’s working out the way he had expected.

Paul Ryan:

How worried should we be? How worried are you about how the thing is going to play out on November 3rd and afterwards? There’s a lot of people expect, given the disparity in who’s voting by mail and who’s voting in person, democrat versus republican, Trump may be looking like he’s leading in many, many places, and nationally, that evening, will likely declare victory. How worried should we be about, I’ll use the phrase, a theft of the election?

Errol Louis:

I mean, I’m greatly worried. I am greatly, greatly worried. I mean, what he’s going to do, and he has signaled this and he’s already started the process. He’s going to convert incompetence in the public eye on malevolence and political bias, meaning, New York which has a crappy election system and a hopelessly inept board of elections. I know people and like people who work there, but I’ve got to tell the truth as I see it. For example, it’s breaking news as we’re talking that 100,000 absentee ballots were sent to the wrong addresses in Brooklyn.

Errol Louis:

Meaning, you get an absentee ballot in the mail, and it’s somebody else’s name on it. It’s your neighbor’s name on it, completely screwed up. They had a no bid contract to an incompetent vendor. It happens all the time. I’m sure if you keep pulling on the string, we’re going to find out that that incompetent vendor probably made some political contributions. It’s just a complete mess, but it’s not intended to swing the election in one direction or another, but that is how Trump is going to portray it. That is going to be how…

Errol Louis:

We just go state by state, because every state has some problems with mail and ballots. It’s hard to run an election when we demobilize every four years, and then have to re mobilize using, in many cases, volunteer labor or underpaid labor, or specialty seasonal labor that only comes around on election season. I’m greatly worried by it, because the only thing that will kill the election for sure is if people don’t think it was honest, if people don’t believe that it was honest. Genuine doubt, in a… We don’t know what it is, but in a certain proportion of the electorate will mean that the election minus will not have happened if people don’t believe that it was fair, and don’t believe that it was accurate.

Errol Louis:

Then, of course, it plays right into the strategy that Trump has already laid out, which is that convince a critical portion of the electorate that it wasn’t a fair election, and then throw it to the courts or throw it to the House of Representatives or some other forum under which he’s more likely to prevail.

Preet Bharara:

Do you expect this to be the highest turnout election in modern times?

Errol Louis:

Yes. Yes. I mean, that’s been-

Preet Bharara:

That’s good, right?

Errol Louis:

Kind of, sort of.

Preet Bharara:

Kind of, sort of?

Errol Louis:

It follows a trend. It follows a trend. I mean, on one level, it’s like, “Yes, it was probably going to happen anyway.” In the information age, it damn well ought to since we can all get messages out at the stroke of a key. I mean, a couple of clicks on your keyboard, and you could send out a message to 100,000 people. That’s a good thing. I think, if people are coming out for the wrong reasons armed with motives and narratives and information that is utterly false, and possibly manipulated by hostile foreign interests, then that’s not such a good thing.

Errol Louis:

I’m hoping for a record breaking honest turnout of actual citizens based on full information. Would you have to put all those caveats on it? It tells you that we’ve got a real problem.

Preet Bharara:

Can we talk about New York City for a moment-

Errol Louis:

Sure.

Preet Bharara:

… and how the city is doing in the midst of the pandemic? There’s this debate. Some people are saying, “Look, New York City is in trouble. A lot of people have left. There’s going to be a problem with revenue, because not as many taxes are going to be paid, and lots of businesses are shuttered, and once it gets cold, it’s not clear what’s going to happen with the restaurant industry, which is one of the lifeblood industries of New York.” Then there are others who say… By the way, at the same time, maybe this is absurd. Maybe it’s not the president and his administration had designated New York to be an anarchist city, which was both makes me laugh and gives me some sense of pride.

Preet Bharara:

But then there are others who say, “You’re being silly. New York is the most resilient place on Earth. Look at what happened after 9/11. The city is great.” You have a wonderful piece that you wrote recently, and you quote… I had not heard this quote before. You quote John Updike. I love this. You say, “You understand the fierce allegiance of people to New York who live in New York,” and you said, “The late writer John Updike was talking about folks like me when he famously noted, “The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be in some sense kidding.”

Errol Louis:

It’s true. It’s true.

Preet Bharara:

Is New York City in trouble, or is it not?

Errol Louis:

We are in trouble. We are in trouble. We are in trouble, because there are trend lines that are all going in the wrong direction. We are losing population. That’s what that column that you’re citing was really intended to try and flag for the city. We are losing population. Florida now has more people than New York. That’s likely to change even further in the wrong direction after this next census when the numbers are finally in. A lot of those people are New Yorkers. There are very tangible, logical, financial, and other reasons for people to do exactly that, and so we have an inhospitable culture.

Errol Louis:

Some would say it’s the business culture. Some would say it’s just the overall general living expenses. Some people would say it’s the quality of life because the streets are always dirty. Whatever it is, the problem that we can’t fix is the one that enables us to understand that these are problems and that we have to address them and that our leadership has to address them. What we do over and over and over, again, is fall into that kind of Updike attitude. Again, I understand it because I share it. I was born in Harlem. I grew up in New Rochelle, came back the first minute I could when I got out of college.

Errol Louis:

I have been here ever since. I don’t care what happens. I was here for 9/11. I was here for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. I’ve been here through floods and storms, and been mugged on the streets, had my car broken in two back in the battle days, raising my kid here and I literally couldn’t think of a place that I would rather be. We take that attitude, and we misuse it because we say, “Look, everybody feels that way. Everybody wants to be in New York.” It’s like, “Well, that’s not true. I mean, there’s a big chunk of time, centuries really where everybody wanted to be in London.”

Errol Louis:

Then that age came and went, and everybody wanted to be in New York. I mean, there’s nothing sadder to me than to go to a city that history has passed by. It’s because of the choices that people made collectively and definitely the leadership. I don’t know how many more clues you have to put in front of people to have them understand that we are bleeding people from the city. It’s our greatest natural resource, but it’s not infinite. It’s not inexhaustible, and it’s not endlessly renewable. You got to make this a place where people want to be.

Preet Bharara:

Who’s leaving?

Errol Louis:

Well, we’ll have the numbers, for sure, by the middle of this decade, so by 2025, it should be clear who has moved out and why. But as far as we can tell, the people who are moving to other states, because it’s one thing if you get relocated overseas. There’s nothing you can do about that. But the people who are moving to other states, the one thing I can tell you for sure is that I looked at the numbers for Florida, you will pay a lot less in the way of taxes if you just move to Florida. Here’s a comparison. If you’re starting a company, state business tax in New York State 7%. State business tax in Florida, I think, is 5% or 4%.

Errol Louis:

Income Tax in New York is whatever it is. I pay whatever they tell me to pay. In Florida, it’s zero, zero. I mean, it’s hard to compete with zero, and so in every other sphere of life, we would say, whether it’s a medical copay, which is just a small amount, or the amount that you pay on a parking meter, we say, “Look, even a small amount can induce a certain kind of behavior that we want to see.” Somehow when it comes to taxes, New York State’s attitude is it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that people can move to four or five adjacent states.

Errol Louis:

They can move in a heartbeat to New Jersey, which is the number two place that people move to. They either go to Florida, or they go across the river to New Jersey. It’s a short drive.

Preet Bharara:

You can still work in New York.

Errol Louis:

Yeah. It’s a short drive. I mean, I think the taxes have got to be really low over there, because it’s like, “You live in New Jersey?”

Preet Bharara:

Hey, I grew up in Jersey. Watch it.

Errol Louis:

I know. I know. It’s easy to get to Jersey. It’s easy to get to Vermont if you’re upstate. You can go to Canada. If you’re going northwest, stop there. You know what I mean? I don’t get the attitude, and I’m trying to wake up some of these people and say, “Look, this idea…” The other thing is, Preet, is that these politicians, I know them very, very well. I’ve been covering them for a long, long time. I know a lot of them personally. It is laziness and an excuse to say, “Oh well, you got to be tough to make it in New York.” I was like, “Well, wait, is that an excuse for you not picking up the damn garbage?”

Errol Louis:

I don’t want to hear this stuff about, “Oh, you got to be tough.” Okay, I gotta be tough. What if I don’t want to be tough? What if I want to pay my taxes that you’re charging me more than in most states? I actually expect you to keep the streets clean and safe, and have the schools actually educate my kid. Don’t tell me about grit and tough and some fable about New Yorkers putting up with crappy services and liking it. That’s not going to work. That’s not going to work. People are voting with their feet and their wallets.

Preet Bharara:

Can you explain to people how unpopular a Mayor Bill de Blasio is, and why?

Errol Louis:

They don’t like him. They don’t like him. [inaudible 00:53:23].

Preet Bharara:

I mean, no side. I mean, look, there’s no secret that there’s no love lost between me and Bill de Blasio, and that I think many people know that. But you [crosstalk 00:53:32].

Errol Louis:

Let’s make this crystal clear. You investigated him, and you came close to deciding, in my opinion, that he maybe should have been indicted, but you chose not to.

Preet Bharara:

I have no comment on that. I have no comment [inaudible 00:53:47]. The record speaks for… It’s my show.

Errol Louis:

No, no, no. I mean, look, you-

Preet Bharara:

Do I have to cut off your mic, young man? You gave me that idea. It never would have occurred to me before. All we have to do is exit the Zoom. It’s easier than ever.

Errol Louis:

All you have to do is [crosstalk 00:54:00]. You threaten it.

Preet Bharara:

Oh, hey, Errol Louis had to go. I don’t know what happened. He was going to go join an anti-tax protest. Answer my question. Why is he so unpopular?

Errol Louis:

I genuinely… On one level… Well, actually, I do know the answer. I’ve intimated this to the mayors, but this is the first time I’m laying it out. If somebody wants to explain this to the mayor, one of his aides can have him listen to this. The phenomenon that you’re describing, first of all, is that the mayor is less popular than his own policies, which is the opposite of normally what you would find. Normally, what you find is that people say, “I really don’t like this person’s policies. I really don’t like those policies, but the politician themselves, she’s a nice lady, nice guy. I like them.”

Errol Louis:

“They came to my church. They shake hands. I like the jokes that they tell, whatever it might be,” because most politicians are very good at being light. For some reason, this mayor has reversed it in a way that, again, I’ve never seen, where you ask people, “Do you like universal pre-K?” “Oh yeah, we like that.” “Do you like the affordable housing program?” “Yeah, we really like that.” “Do you like the ferry system? He’s building out new transportation modes.” “Yeah, we really like that.”

Errol Louis:

“Do you like his bike lanes? He’s put in hundreds of miles of bike lane.” “Yeah, we like that too.” “Do you like Bill de Blasio?” It’s like, “No, we hate that guy.”

Preet Bharara:

It’s a neat trick, right?

Errol Louis:

Well, it’s too bad in a way, and he himself has made jokes about it. We have this thing where the political reporters and the political class get together and tell jokes on each other. We call it the inner circle dinner. The mayor himself gets involved. He gets it. He’s in on the joke. He understands that. On the other hand, he doesn’t understand, and I brought it up with him so many times. I get to talk with him every week as you know. We have this segment called Mondays with the Mayor. He does not value what many, many leaders take for granted, which is leading by example. In mid March, on the very same day that he announced to New Yorkers all gyms would have to be closed down to defeat the pandemic, there he is at the YMCA working out.

Preet Bharara:

Explain to people why it’s such a big deal. Where is the gym that he works out at?

Errol Louis:

Just 15 miles away from his taxpayer-funded mansion, Gracie Mansion. He has a security detail drive him. I think it’s actually about 11 miles back to his home neighborhood of Park Slope so that he can work out at the YMCA. You would think that it’s like, “Oh, he’s at the Y because he wants to be around the people.” Well, sometimes people have tried to engage him on political issues, and the security detail shoos them away. It’s not clear what the hell he’s doing, but here’s the point. I’ve said this to him. I said it in almost exactly these words.

Errol Louis:

It’s like, “You know what, Mr. Mayor, you can go anywhere you want, and work out anywhere you want, and that’s fine. But don’t lecture the rest of us if we’re going to make similar choices about being exceptions to what everybody acknowledges would be the best rule. I think everybody acknowledges the best thing to do would be to try and be consistent. If you have to shut down the gym, shut it down for everybody. Don’t waste taxpayer resources going halfway across the city to the gym. But if you want to make an exception for yourself, that’s cool. Just don’t lecture me about when I make my exception to your rule.”

Errol Louis:

He just doesn’t get it. He just doesn’t get it. He would reap so many benefits by leading by example, which is one of the things by the way that Governor Cuomo does. There are a lot of people… It’s interesting. It’s just the adverse of the situation with de Blasio. There are a lot of people who really, really, really don’t like the governor. They don’t like his style. They suspect his politics. They don’t even like his policies, but they like the way he leads when he was doing those briefings. He said to first responders, for example, he said it publicly. I’ve seen him do this. I traveled with him to Puerto Rico after the hurricane.

Errol Louis:

I saw him say this to a bunch of first responders down there and workers. He says, “I’m not going to ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do personally, myself.” It’s a great thing to hear. Not enough leaders, I think, public or private sector say that. “I won’t ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. We’re in this together. Follow me. I’m going to take you where I myself am also willing to go.” We have a mayor who never says that, and in fact when called on it, gets dismissive and rude, and says, “This isn’t important, and this is trivia. I’m trying to run a great city. I’m not going to answer that.”

Errol Louis:

He says anything except what people want to hear. What people want to hear is, “I’m going to lead by example. I’ll do better next time.” That’s why he gets a bad rap. He gets a bad rap.

Preet Bharara:

I wanted to ask you about a couple other things. But before I do that, I did want to note for the record that you were the first guest to use the word adverse, which is so great, because I don’t really know. There’s all these words that seem to mean the same thing like, reverse, inverse, adverse-

Errol Louis:

Opposite, right.

Preet Bharara:

… contra positive. I have never spent the time, so I’m sure because you are a gentleman and a scholar used it correctly, but don’t think you just slip in adverse, and just go on talking about the mayor. I’m not going to both notice and make a comment on it.

Errol Louis:

Well, I got a 15-year-old who was studying for the AP English exam. We’re all in this together, Preet. We’re leading by example.

Preet Bharara:

That could also be on, I guess, on AP, on a math test too, calculus.

Errol Louis:

That’s true. That’s true.

Preet Bharara:

I feel like it’s a mathematical term.

Errol Louis:

That’s good. That’s good.

Preet Bharara:

Anyway. Errol Louis, thanks for coming on the show. It’s a real treat.

Errol Louis:

Anytime. Thank you.

Preet Bharara:

My conversation with Errol Louis continues for members of the CAFE insider community. Try out the membership free for two weeks at cafe.com/insider. You’ll get access to the full archive of exclusive content, including the weekly podcast I co-host with Anne Milgram, the Cyber Space podcast with John Carlin, the United Security podcast co hosted by Lisa Monaco and Ken Wainstein, Audio Essays by Elie Honig and me, and more. Again, that’s cafe.com/insider.

Preet Bharara:

I want to end the episode this week by talking about someone that we lost in the last number of days. That’s the newspaper and publishing giant, Sir Harold Evans, who was a personal friend and a source of journalistic passion and literary brilliance for millions of people over the course of his legendary career. In recent years, he became an unlikely supporter and mentor to me. Harry’s wife, the remarkable Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and the Daily Beast announced his passing in an email to friends and associates along with a stanza from Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth, act four, “A largess universal like the sun, his liberal eye doth give to everyone, thawing cold fear that mean and gentle all, behold, as may unworthiness define, a little touch of Harry in the night.”

Preet Bharara:

Harry as he was known to his friends hailed from Manchester and was raised in a working class family. After serving the Royal Air Force after World War Two, he became a business reporter. Back in 1967, Harry became editor of the London Sunday Times. In the early 1970s, he played an instrumental role in publicizing the thalidomide scandal. That’s the German tranquilizer that was responsible for birth malformations in 10,000 babies during the prior two decades. Harry defied an order from the British High Court, and pushed the story of corporate malfeasance into the public eye.

Preet Bharara:

He secured settlements for victims and helped shift free speech laws to make less risky the type of investigative reporting in which he engaged. In the early 1980s, after a contentious battle for control of the times with eventual Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, Harry and Tina headed to New York. Around the same time that Tina took over the New Yorker, Harry became president and publisher of Random House USA, where he dramatically shook up the literary world during the ’90s. During that time, and since Harry and Tina also became famous for their literary parties, which featured incredible collections of world luminaries.

Preet Bharara:

In 2004, Harry was knighted by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth. I got to know Harry and Tina during the time that I was a United States Attorney, when Harry asked me to do an interview with him for Reuters. Then after I was fired, and thought about writing a book, Harry and Tina offered me advice, welcomed me into their home. In a way, that remains touching to me to this day. Harry spent a lot of time asking me about the book, giving me advice about the book, and providing all sorts of counsel and support. Then when I sent them an early draft, Harry and Tina were kind enough to offer to throw me my launch book party in April 2019.

Preet Bharara:

He was a person who knew every literary figure in the country, if not the world, and he took the time in a way that meant a lot to me to support this first time author. Harry Evans was fiercely protective of journalistic integrity. Here, as a parting word, is Harry at the International Press Institute in 2010 in a ceremony honoring 60 heroes of the world press.

Speaker 11:

Every time a journalist invents a story, fabricates a quote, elevates a personal conviction over a professional curiosity, he betrays a dozen names on the roll. Every time a news organization puts excessive profit to excellence, he betrays every name we honor. Every time a journalist maliciously sets out to destroy a reputation, he dishonors all these heroes. Every time a journalist in a country with a free press, protected by law and tradition, abuses that freedom by personal vendetta or political manipulation or betrayal of something of national importance and security, he betrays all those around the world who struggle for half the freedoms and who seek to liberate from their terrorists by saying, “Look at these examples. Freedom works.”

Speaker 11:

They’re all betrayed when a journalist in a free country does not live to the highest examples.

Preet Bharara:

Harry was one of the best news men we’ve ever seen. We all should heed his warnings as we continue to forge through this difficult time. Rest in peace, the legendary, Sir Harold Evans.

Preet Bharara:

Well, that’s it for this episode of Stay Tuned. Thanks again to my guest, Errol Louis.

Preet Bharara:

If you like what we do, rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Every positive review helps new listeners find the show. Send me your questions about news, politics and justice. Tweet them to me at Preet Bharara with the hashtag AskPreet, or you can call and leave me a message at 669-247-7338. That’s 669-24PREET, or you can send an email to [email protected] Stay Tuned is presented by CAFE studios.

Preet Bharara:

Your host is Preet Bharara. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. Th senior producer is Adam Waller. The senior audio producer is David Tatasciore. The CAFE team is Matthew Billy, David Kurlander, Sam Ozer-Staton, Noa Azulai, Nat Weiner, Jake Kaplan, Calvin Lord, Geoff Isenman, Chris Boylan, Sean Walsh, and Margot Maley. Our music is by Andrew Dost.

Preet Bharara:

I’m Preet Bharara. Stay tuned