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April 13, 2023
What A Day
Poetic Justins

In This Episode

In a unanimous vote, county officials sent State Representative Justin Pearson back to his seat in Tennessee’s House of Representatives. His reinstatement comes less than a week after he and another Black Democratic colleague were expelled for leading a protest on gun reform.


And in headlines: California Senator Dianne Feinstein will temporarily give up her seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Donald Trump is suing his former lawyer Michael Cohen, and NPR has decided to ditch Twitter after the platform mislabeled the news organization.


Show Notes:


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For a transcript of this episode, please visit crooked.com/whataday 




Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, April 13th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where we’re still adjusting to HBO Max wanting us to just call it Max now. It’s not giving what I think they want. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s like if we decided to call our podcast A Day. [laughter] Like what? 


Juanita Tolliver: Flex. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Why? Stupid. We hate it. [music break] On today’s show, NPR has decided to ditch Twitter. Plus, Donald Trump is suing his former lawyer, Michael Cohen. The jokes just write themselves these days. 


Juanita Tolliver: You literally can’t make this shit up. But first, yesterday made me proud to have grown up in North Memphis because probably the fastest vote they’ve ever done, the Shelby County Commission voted to reinstate Justin Pearson to his seat as the state representative for the 86th District of Tennessee. And now both Representatives, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson are rightfully back in the Tennessee State House, where they belong. And when I tell you, the celebrations immediately after the vote gave me goosebumps. I’m not exaggerating. Take a listen to what newly reinstated Representative Pearson had to say after the commission’s unanimous vote. 


[clip of Justin Pearson] So the message for all the people in Nashville who decided to expel us, you can’t expel hope. [cheers] You can’t expel justice. You can’t expel our voice. 


[clip of crowd listening to Justin Pearson] No! 


[clip of Justin Pearson] And you sure can’t expel our fight. 


[clip of crowd listening to Justin Pearson] No! 


[clip of Justin Pearson] We look forward to continuing to fight– 


[clip of crowd listening to Justin Pearson] Yeah! 


[clip of Justin Pearson] –continuing to advocate. 


[clip of crowd listening to Justin Pearson] Yeah! 


[clip of Justin Pearson] Justice rolls down like water [?] like an ever flowing stream. 


[clip of crowd listening to Justin Pearson] Yeah. 


[clip of Justin Pearson] Let’s get back to work. 


[clip of crowd listening to Justin Pearson] Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: Come on. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m fired up right now. You’re fired up. But how fired up if he is your– 


Juanita Tolliver: C’mon. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –representative. How exciting. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right? 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s amazing. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, I feel inspired right now. 


Juanita Tolliver: Thoroughly inspired. But every time Representative Pearson steps to the mic, he drops knowledge. He delivers an entire sermon, and I’m here for it. But let’s be real. I wish he didn’t have to, because what’s not lost on this moment is the reason why we’re here in the first place. Remember, this all started because Tennessee Republicans got into their feelings because Representatives Jones, Pearson and Representative Gloria Johnson joined in with a few young people and their parents as they protested the mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville. And they spoke from the well of the state House. Based on that peaceful protest, the Republicans in the statehouse decided that they violated decorum rules and voted to expel two thirds of the Tennessee three. Of course, in keeping with the traditions of white supremacy and racism, that the state where the KKK was founded knows so intimately, only Representatives Jones and Pearson, two young Black men were expelled, while Representative Johnson, a white woman, was not. And throughout this ordeal, the Tennessee three have stuck together to cheer on Representative Jones when he was reinstated on Monday by the Metro Nashville Council and Representatives Jones and Johnson stood side by side with Representative Pearson on Wednesday in Memphis. And Priyanka the visual of the Tennessee three. Speaking to a crowd of hundreds of supporters at the Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum where Martin Luther King Jr was gunned down put the gravity of this moment into perspective. Take a listen to a bit of Representative Pearson’s speech before the march. 


[clip of Justin Pearson] This is the democracy [cheers] that is going to transform our nation. This is the democracy that’s going to lift up the victims of gun violence. Instead of supporting the NRA and the gun lobbiests. This is the democracy that they’re scared of, this is the democracy that they’re worried about, because this is the democracy that changes the status quo. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I think that’s the democracy that we here believe in and we get excited about. So take us in to the special hearing. What was the tone when the commission voted yesterday? 


Juanita Tolliver: Let me just put it this way. Representative Pearson got a fabulously warm welcome from the hundreds of people who were crammed into the hearing room, as well as from the commissioners. Look, before the hearing even started, Commissioner Mickell Lowery made it abundantly clear that every commissioner who was present was on Representative Pearson’s side. He said, quote, “We’re going to limit public comments because what you all see here is a vote. And what happens after this is a lot of paperwork that needs to get done and we need to get that to Nashville as soon as possible.” So there you had clue number one, like this is friendly. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Mm hmm. 


Juanita Tolliver: He added, quote, “As you can see here, you’ll be speaking to the choir because we’re all with you.” And with that, it was clear how this vote was gonna go down like plain as day. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Juanita Tolliver: Now, earlier I mentioned that this was a unanimous vote, but that comes with a bit of an asterisk because of the 13 commissioners currently serving, only seven were present at the special hearing. It was previously reported that two Democratic members are currently out of the country and thus unable to join. But that leaves the four Republican commissioners who chose to stay home yesterday. And I assure you that won’t go unnoticed by the voters in this county. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, those seem like some very glaring absences, not anything to be proud of. So what are the other hurdles that Representatives Pearson and Jones will face now that they’ve been reinstated? 


Juanita Tolliver: Well beyond the resentment of the racist Republicans in the state House, both representatives will have to run in special elections to retain their seats. But the dates of those special elections have not been announced yet. Of course, the voters in their districts will be highly engaged and highly mobilized, just as we saw over the past few weeks. And considering that they’re both from very blue pockets of Tennessee, it’s unlikely that they will have any GOP challengers. But you never know. So here’s to the voters of metro Nashville and Shelby County who’ve been showing up and showing out and who will most definitely do it again for them when these special elections happen. Thank you. Thank you. Like, literally, they wouldn’t be there without you. Now, looking beyond Tennessee, what’s the national response been so far? 


Priyanka Aribindi: So these expulsions sparked outrage across the country, both because of the racism as well as the extreme retaliatory partisanship on display here. I mean, not a lot to like about any of this. All of this is bad. And in less than a week, Representatives Jones and Pearson garnered national support for their reinstatement, as well as for the issue that, you know, brought us here in the first place. Demand for tougher gun control laws. Officials on the Shelby County Board of Commissioners said that they received thousands of calls and emails from people around the country asking for Representative Pearson to be reinstated. Papers in Tennessee have said that they’ve received letters from around the world– 


Juanita Tolliver: Wow. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –expressing their outrage over this situation. So a lot of eyes here on this. You mentioned the mood in the capital as these lawmakers returned. When Justin Jones returned to the state capital on Monday, he was met with cheers on the House floor. You know, a lot of people excited to see their colleagues back. But the mood isn’t just celebratory. You know, this expulsion was so extreme and anti-democratic. President Biden even said so himself, as you mentioned last week, it could prompt other states with GOP supermajorities like Tennessee to act in similar ways going forward, which is a huge problem and incredibly scary, especially when you consider the political climate that we live in now. Like it’s not a stretch of reality to imagine that happening. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Separately, five senators, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have called on the DOJ to investigate whether the civil rights of Representatives Jones, Pearson and or their constituents were violated in the process of this expulsion. So not just an episode that’s happening in isolation in Tennessee, a lot more people getting involved and wondering what went on here and was something actually very wrong? I mean, I think we can answer that for ourselves, but–


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: They want it officially. Obviously, we’ll keep you posted on what, if anything, comes of that. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. This is not just something that’s going to go away. You can’t sweep it under– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Juanita Tolliver: –any rug. And I appreciate Representative Jones emphasizing that these Tennessee Republicans are in the find out portion. So here we go. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. 


Juanita Tolliver: Let’s talk about their Republican colleagues, though. What are their reactions? What has that been like for them? 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s tough to say exactly how they’re feeling about the very same people that they tried to kick out of the state house returning in just days. Clearly, this didn’t work for them. If they could feel shame, I imagine that’s what it feels like. A lot of them uh haven’t been really talkative about their feelings. I understand why that would be. But in the wake of the gun control protests that Representatives Pearson and Jones’s expulsions amplified, as we said on yesterday’s show, Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee, signed an executive order to tighten background checks for purchasing guns in the state and to speed up the review process of criminal history and mental health information from the courts. You know, he is not particularly been on the side of people– 


Juanita Tolliver: At all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –calling for gun control in the past. I mean, like cool that he’s doing something now like the minimum, but I wouldn’t call this an ally. He also called on the state legislature to create an order of protection law that would prevent people deemed by a judge to be a danger to others or themselves from having access to firearms. He’s not calling it a red flag law. Apparently, conservatives, including some in his own state House, are not into ideas like that that can keep people safe. But that is effectively what it is. It’s very similar to those that are on the books in several other states. We’ll keep you posted if there’s any progress on this or other gun control laws in Tennessee. That is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]. 




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Juanita Tolliver: California Senator Dianne Feinstein said she will for now give up her seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a statement released right before we sat down to record the show Wednesday night, Feinstein asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to tap another Democrat to take her place on the panel. Feinstein, who is 89, has faced growing criticism within the party in recent days because she’s been unable to return to work at the Capitol. She was hospitalized for a bout of shingles early last month. She also hasn’t cast any vote since mid-February when she announced that she won’t run for reelection in 2024. And that’s holding up the confirmation process for President Biden’s judicial nominees. Earlier Wednesday, Representative Ro Khanna, another California Democrat, called for her to resign outright. And it was a pretty bold statement. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely bold statement. I mean, she is a trailblazer in her own right. But if there are calls, I think that’s something we should talk about. I think we probably will in the coming days. An enormous industrial fire is burning in the city of Richmond, Indiana, about 70 miles east of Indianapolis, forcing more than 2000 people living in the nearby area to evacuate their homes. Emergency officials say that the blaze started Tuesday afternoon at the site of a former plastic recycling plant, sending toxic fumes and other harmful particulates into the air. The property in question had been cited as a fire hazard and its owners were ordered to clean up the site. But the city’s mayor said that the property owner ignored those warnings until a local court stepped in. It’s not clear how the fire started, but so far the investigators don’t think that foul play was involved. Fire officials warn that the flames could burn for several more days and that the– 


Juanita Tolliver: Yikes. 


–evacuation zone could change depending on where the wind is pushing the massive plume of smoke. This is so scary. 


Juanita Tolliver: Scary and it sounds like it was preventable. So it’s a mess. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Juanita Tolliver: Former President Donald Trump is suing his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for at least $500 million dollars in damages. Trump’s lawyers filed the 32 page lawsuit yesterday, accusing Cohen of breaching a confidentiality agreement and spreading falsehoods with, quote, “malicious intent and to wholly self-serving ends.” Like what? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I don’t know. Like complying with being subpoenaed–


Juanita Tolliver: Oh! 


Priyanka Aribindi: Or like, going to court. Like what are you mad at him for? 


Juanita Tolliver: Something Trump fights with all of his might to avoid doing. But– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. 


Juanita Tolliver: Okay. Go off. File a lawsuit for 500 million. Okay. [laughing] Of course, this lawsuit comes after Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records related to hush money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. A key witness in that criminal trial is expected to be none other than Michael Cohen himself, who in 2017 told Fox News that he will, quote, “do anything to protect Mr. Trump,” but changed his tune a year later after he pleaded guilty in his role in the hush money scheme. So quite the turn of events here. Cohen’s attorney, Lanny J. Davis, said in a statement that Trump quote, “appears once again to be using and abusing the judicial system as a form of harassment and intimidation against Michael Cohen.” This is gonna be a mess of bravo proportions, and I can’t wait. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously, uh once again, need some more popcorn. And staying on the topic of lawsuits. E-cigarette company Juul Labs has agreed to pay $462 million dollars to six states and the District of Columbia. The settlement will resolve lawsuits across the country, claiming that the company marketed e-cigarettes as less addictive than regular tobacco cigarettes and targeted young people in their advertising. While Juul didn’t admit to any wrongdoing, the settlement will restrict the company from, among other things, marketing their products to people under 35 years of age and will impose purchasing limits to customers at retail shops and online orders. The agreement with New York, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and D.C. marks the company’s largest settlement yet. Bankrupt them for all I care, I hate this company. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: They’re awful. 


Juanita Tolliver: I was like, take it all. Take– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Take it all. 


Juanita Tolliver: –all their coins and then some. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Take it all. 


Juanita Tolliver: National Public Radio said Wednesday it will no longer be active on Twitter after the site labeled the news organization as quote unquote, “state affiliated media” on the platform last week. The phrase which Twitter later changed to government funded media is the same used to describe media outlets controlled or heavily influenced by authoritarian governments like those in Russia and China. That ain’t it y’all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Nope. Not it. 


Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] What? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Not at all equivalent. 


Juanita Tolliver: It turns out the updated language didn’t sit right with NPR either. In a statement yesterday, NPR said the platform was, quote, “taking actions that undermine our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent.” And we should note that NPR relies on the federal government for just a tiny fraction of its funding, less than 1% of its annual operating budget. NPR’s main Twitter account, which has been active since 2007, posted for the first time since April 4th yesterday with a thread listing all the other places online where you can find it’s journalism. For his part, Twitter CEO Elon Musk simply tweeted in response defund NPR. What an idiot. I hate this guy, but you know who’s backing him up? The worst of the worst in none other than Lauren Boebert like, come on. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly the dumbest people have flocked together. Congratulations. Hysteria has a segment on their show called Fuck That Guy and I have never wished that we– 


Juanita Tolliver: We have a [?].


Priyanka Aribindi: –had that segment more than today [laughter] because fuck that guy. He is terrible. 


Juanita Tolliver: Truly. 


Priyanka Aribindi: After months of will he, won’t he? Buckingham Palace confirmed yesterday that Prince Harry will be attending the May 6th coronation ceremony of his father, King Charles. Still sounds weird to say. Notably not attending wife and mother of Harry’s children, Meghan Markle, who will be staying stateside with the ex-royal couple’s two young children. This may come as no surprise to anybody who’s been paying attention since Harry and Meghan peaced out from the royal family back in January 2020. But there is a strong chance that she just got invited to a better party. The duke and duchess’s firstborn child, Prince Archie, happens to be turning four years old on the same day as the royal coronation. Feels like they could have scheduled that a little better. But anyways.


Juanita Tolliver: No effort was made at all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Juanita Tolliver: They know this boy’s birthday. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: According to People magazine, Meghan will be staying back to celebrate with the tiny prince and his princess sister. And hey, we get it. Only one of those parties is probably going to have a bounce house. And I think we all know which one is going to have the better food. 


Juanita Tolliver: Let’s be real. One, I love a bounce house. Two fuck colonizers. And three, it’s truly giving I hate my in-laws with a passion so I’m not surprised.


Priyanka Aribindi: Can’t fault you on any of that. Good for Meghan. You know what? I like this for her. I seems like healthy boundaries. Happy for her. And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, RSVP for your dad’s big day and tell all your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just your daily dose of state affiliated media like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And do less Elon Musk. 


Juanita Tolliver: Literally just disappear from our lives. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So much less. [laughter] So much less. Like why don’t you just offload a company or two? And I feel like the world would be a better place for it. [laughter] [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our producers are Itxy Quintanilla and Raven Yamamoto. Jocey Coffman is our head writer and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.