In This Episode
- After decades of allegations and investigations, a jury convicted R. Kelly, marking the end of a six-week federal trial. He was found guilty of all nine counts that he faced, including charges of sex trafficking and racketeering.
- Republicans who claim the 2020 presidential election was stolen suffered a humiliating defeat in Arizona. But instead of admitting they were wrong, the Stop the Steal movement is leaning even more into its false, outrageous, completely-made-up claims that Trump actually won.
- And in headlines: Pfizer tests an oral antiviral drug that could prevent COVID-19 infections, children today will live through three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents, and Facebook delays its plan to launch an Instagram for kids.
NY Times: “Goldman Sachs, Ozy Media and a $40 Million Conference Call Gone Wrong” – https://nyti.ms/3AZv35a
Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, September 28th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where our ability to deliver the news will never be affected by unprecedented global supply chain shortages.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, the takes on here are a renewable resource and they don’t need to be shipped anywhere because they come straight from us.
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s true. They’re not constrained by time, space . . .
Gideon Resnick: Or reason for that matter. On today’s show, audits of the 2020 election are spreading to several more states, plus a compelling story about a company called Ozy Media.
Josie Duffy Rice: But first, yesterday, a jury convicted R. Kelly of all nine counts that he faced in federal court, which included charges of sex trafficking and racketeering. Here’s Jacquelyn Kasulis, the acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, right outside the courthouse after the verdict was reached:
[clip of Jacquelyn Kasulis] Today’s guilty verdict forever brands R. Kelly as a predator who used his fame and fortune to prey on the young, the vulnerable, and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification.
Josie Duffy Rice: After decades of allegations and investigations, this was the end of a six-week trial. It included absolutely harrowing details and testimony of sexual abuse. We’re not going to delve into too much detail on today’s episode, but if this segment is difficult for you, skip ahead to the next, which will come up in just a few minutes.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, in terms of the verdict, the jury of seven men and five women found Kelly guilty after just about nine hours of deliberation. And as we’ve mentioned in previous episodes, the prosecution really set out to describe how Kelly, as well as a host of managers and various aides, all helped the singer meet women and underage girls and keep them under his control. These people worked on Kelly’s behalf to trap victims so he could prey on them. The prosecution was laying out how this was essentially an entire criminal enterprise, that it spanned other people beyond Kelly.
Josie Duffy Rice: So what were some of the takeaways from the trial itself?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there were about 45 witnesses called by the prosecution. And many of the accusers, including one man, testified that they were underage when they met Kelly. Additional testimony, as the AP notes, focused on Kelly’s prior relationship with the singer Aaliyah. He allegedly sexually abused her when she was a teenager and later lied about her age on a marriage license. There was also testimony that he had married her underage in order for her to have an abortion. It is all very, very horrific stuff.
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s hard to hear. What was the general reaction to the verdict? Is there any news on that?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so a lot of people have commented on the fact that the Black women who had been sounding the alarm about Kelly had been ignored for years and years until this moment.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Gideon Resnick: Jerhonda Pace, the first accuser to testify against Kelly during any criminal trial last month, wrote on Instagram yesterday, quote, “Today, my voice was heard.” And others have pointed to the consistent reporting from the few journalists who kept following this, like Jim DeRogatis, who started reporting on this story for the Chicago Sun-Times over 20 years ago. He’s among others who really refused to let this story go.
Josie Duffy Rice: So what do we know about a potential sentence here? What’s going to happen to R. Kelly next?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so Kelly could reportedly face anywhere from 10 years to life in prison. That’s given the racketeering count and the violations of the Mann Act, the anti sex trafficking law. And he is currently set to be sentenced on May 4th, 2022, so quite a bit of time before we find out. And while this marks the first criminal conviction for Kelly, remember in 2008 he was acquitted in a child pornography case. He also faces a number of other charges in Illinois and Minnesota for which he has pleaded not guilty. We’re going to dive into this story more in the days to come and also keep our eyes open for additional updates. But Josie, let’s shift gears now to a story that you’ve been watching. Republicans who claim the 2020 presidential election was stolen suffered a humiliating defeat recently. But instead of admitting that, it has only spurred them and others around the country to amp up their rhetoric. So Josie tell us a little bit more about where things stand on this.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, so another day, another story about the Big Lie. The Big Lie being that Trump actually won the 2020 election, which did not happen. As we mentioned yesterday, a, quote, “full forensic audit” of over two million ballots in Maricopa County, the most populous county in Arizona—an audit that cost taxpayers six million dollars—proved once again that Joe Biden was the decisive winner of the 2020 election and had, in fact, won by 360 more votes than previously thought. We knew that Biden had, in fact, won, of course, because there had already been two audits done in that county. But this result is notable because it was done by Trump devotees who had all the reason in the world to find wrongdoing and prove that Trump won, and they really still could not do that.
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. Foiled again. So this will definitely just put everything to rest, I assume.
Josie Duffy Rice: Um, you’d think that, but we both know that’s not the case. Instead of retreating with their tail between their legs and admitting they were wrong, we now see the Stop the Steal movement leaning even more into their false, outrageous, spurious, ridiculous, baseless, completely made-up claims that the 2020 election was stolen. For example, the Cyber Ninjas—true name—the group of Trump supporters that conducted the Arizona audit despite no previous experience in election audits, wouldn’t even believe their own results. They are still claiming corruption, a claim that is entirely unsubstantiated.
Gideon Resnick: And so the audits are also continuing or they’re starting in other parts of the country. Where are some of the examples of that?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, so it’s not just Arizona and Wisconsin. There are three investigations into the 2020 election happening right now. The highest profile one is being led by a conservative former state supreme court justice and has a budget of $700,000—again, all taxpayer funded. That audit began just days after Trump publicly criticized Republican leaders in the state for not supporting the Big Lie. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Republican state senators have subpoenaed personal information on all of the seven million voters in the state, including driver’s license information, a move seen by many as an alarming invasion of privacy. And funny enough, the audience aren’t only in states that Biden won. After Trump wrote an open letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott last Thursday demanding that the state also conduct an audit of the election, the Secretary of State’s office ordered an audit in Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin counties—despite the fact that Trump did, in fact, win Texas.
Gideon Resnick: Right. You find a couple of hundred votes here or there if you’d like. I think we’re still going to be talking about the same result.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: So Josie these audits aren’t even the most concerning thing that our listeners should watch for, really, as Republicans try to undermine the past election. Yeah?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So in Republican-led states across the country, laws restricting voting rights are being passed, I mean, left and right. In theory at least, the laws are to prevent voter fraud. That’s despite the fact that no remotely significant voter fraud has been proven to exist in this election or pretty much any other election. What they actually do, of course, is make it harder for more people to vote, since Republicans know that higher turnout typically hurts them and helps Democrats. These laws are wildly popular with Republican state leaders, and even those who have publicly rejected the Big Lie are using that lie to argue for more restrictions on voting rights. So Republicans are either claiming that the election was stolen so we need more voting rights restrictions, or they’re claiming that even though the election wasn’t stolen, we need more voting rights restrictions to ensure that there is trust in the system.
Gideon Resnick: So either way, this is a big problem, a scary one that we’re dealing with. So what is the scope of this right now?
Josie Duffy Rice: Well, Gideon, according to the Voting Rights Lab, almost 400 voter suppression laws have been introduced this year alone. 400. And it’s only going to get worse. Those few Republicans that have been willing to say publicly that Biden won fair and square are facing tough odds for reelection, meaning next time there might not be anyone willing to fight back against these lies. What’s more, Republican legislatures have not only passed voter suppression laws by the dozens, they’ve given themselves more power in the election certification process as well. In Arizona, in fact, one bill says explicitly that the legislature can revoke the certification of a presidential election.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s outrageous. There are also a number of bills that aim to allow criminal charges to be brought against local election officials for tiny technical infractions. So what we’re seeing is a full assault on voting rights in this country. And by the time we hit Election Day 2024, it could really be too late to stop it. So despite the seemingly positive results from these election audits, at the end of the day, Republicans are still winning this fight. They’re still winning on voting rights. And it’s important for all of our listeners out there to be involved in their own local politics and own state politics to stop these anti-democratic efforts on a grassroots local level. And that is the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It is Tuesday, WAD squad, and today we’re going to do a segment called WAD Recommends, where we share an under-the-radar news story, movie, book, or even a rude bumper sticker that caught our attention.
[dramatic voice] WAD Recommends.
Gideon Resnick: Yep, yep. It hits again.
Josie Duffy Rice: I will never tire, never tire of the intro sounds
Gideon Resnick: Josie you were talking about the story in our news meeting yesterday that combines these sort of high-tech fraud with low-tech voice modifiers. You want to try to make sense of this for people?
Josie Duffy Rice: Sure. I’ll give it my best shot. So this story was written by Ben Smith for The New York Times and it was published on Sunday. It’s about a media company called Ozy that has raised tons of money and valued itself at around $130 million dollars as of last year. They host events like Ozy Fest, which have featured big name speakers like Hillary Clinton, Trevor Noah. But how successful the company really is has always been somewhat questionable. Lots of online media companies exaggerate their traffic, and it’s not a very good way of measuring someone’s influence. But some of Ozy’s reported statistics seem too inflated to really even believe, like inflated by the tens of millions.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, if I have run across an Ozy article, video or podcast, it must have been by pure accident, and I do not remember it. And I am pathologically online.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right, exactly. So according to this article, Ozy was closing in on a $40 million investment from Goldman Sachs this past winter. And it came down to a Zoom meeting that Ozy arranged between the Goldman investors and executives at YouTube, who were supposed to talk about how well Ozy’s content did on their site. But then just before the meeting, a YouTube named Alex Piper says he can’t log into the Zoom. He suggested a conference call instead. And on the conference call, Piper talked up Ozy and the company’s CEO, but his voice didn’t really sound right. It sounded as if it were altered digitally. And so someone on the Goldman team followed up with Piper after the meeting, reaching him through his official YouTube email address. And Piper responded that he had no knowledge of the call. He didn’t even know what they were talking about.
Gideon Resnick: Ooooh. This is very odd. Like no one’s lived in that house for one hundred years vibes, but for lying to big-time investors. Wow.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right, right. Exactly. So YouTube launched a security investigation, and within days, Ozy’s CEO had apologized to Goldman, saying that the voice on the call was his co-founder, and explaining his actions by saying that he was experiencing a mental health crisis. Goldman didn’t pursue the investment further. YouTube is following up, though, with its parent company, Google. They’ve alerted the FBI since Ozy may have committed fraud by impersonating an executive to trick potential investors.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, the mistaken identities on Zoom that I had fun with and identified with was when that lawyer, for instance, had the cat filter on his face and he kept saying over and over, I am not a cat.
Josie Duffy Rice: Great one. Rob Ponton. Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: That’s, that’s the preferable outcome here, I think.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, exactly. This one is is on the list of the most yikes along with like Jeffrey Toobin and some others.
Gideon Resnick: Yep. Yep.
Josie Duffy Rice: But I will say if the whole plan of this was to make me interested in what’s going on on Ozy Media, it has worked on me. I may even sign up for their newsletter now.
Gideon Resnick: Yes.
Josie Duffy Rice: Got to find out what happened.
Gideon Resnick: I am intrigued. We’re going to link to that article in our show notes. There is even more like a detail about the company marketing a show as quote unquote, “Amazon Prime’s first talk show” just because it was viewable on Amazon Prime. It’s wild. That was WAD recommends.
[dramatic voice] WAD recommends.
Gideon Resnick: We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Pfizer is dominating COVID news once again—main character syndrome, much, if you ask me. Yesterday, the drug company announced that it is testing an oral antiviral drug that could prevent a COVID-19 infection after a person is exposed. The drug maker plans to enroll over 2,600 healthy individuals who each live with a person with a symptomatic COVID case. The drug is designed to block the main enzyme that is needed for the virus to multiply. During the trial, the healthy person will take this drug, which has the easy to remember name PF-07321332.
Josie Duffy Rice: Already memorized it.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, I have as well. That would be in conjunction with Ritonavir, a medication that’s widely used for treating HIV. And in more Pfizer news, the company’s Chairman and CEO told ABC News on Sunday that it plans to seek authorization of a vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old in a matter of quote, “days, not weeks.” Once the company submits its trial data, the FDA and CDC are expected to review it swiftly.
Josie Duffy Rice: The old people who had to walk nine miles in the snow to go to school have given way to young people for whom snow is just an idea. A new study published in the journal Science said that kids will live through three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents. Among the many depressing stats, the study said the average six year old will live through twice as many wildfires and 1.7 times as many tropical cyclones as someone born in 1960. It also found that these changes are especially dramatic in developing nations. For example, infants in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to live through at least 50 times as many heat waves as their ancestors born 150 years ago. Such disparities underscore how the worst effects of climate change will be experienced in places that contributed the least to global warming. This will happen if the planet continues to warm at its current trajectory. And the authors of the study are calling on world leaders to agree on more ambitious policies when they meet for the U.N. climate summit in Scotland next month.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, please, dear Lord.
Josie Duffy Rice: Seriously.
Gideon Resnick: After the world collectively said, “we hate that idea,” Facebook announced it will delay its plan to launch an Instagram for kids 13 and under. The planned app called Instagram Kids was meant to address Instagram’s past failures to identify underage users, and to protect them from predators and bullying. It would do all that while also teaching kids some valuable lessons, like how to scroll through pics of people smiling until their thumbs stop functioning. In a statement, Instagram’s top executive defended the project but said the company would hear the concerns of parents and experts before proceeding any further. And this is a rare change of heart from the company that has spent years treating young people as a sort of all-you-can-eat data buffet. It could be related to a congressional hearing that is happening this week, where Facebook will be grilled on its own internal research showing how negatively its products affected the mental health of teenage girls. Hopefully all this bad PR gives Facebook the chance to take a step back and develop some new ideas just as good as Instagram for Kids, like wine for babies, or knives for balloons.
Gideon Resnick: Lastly, a few updates on that treat beat. So be kind of the green apple Skittle fans in your life today, because Mars-Wrigley announced Monday the lime Skittles will officially and permanently reclaim the green Skiddle slot in the fall. If you haven’t been paying attention, lime Skittles have been MIA since 2013, when Obama was starting his second term and Corona was just something Dom and the family would drink after a long day of being fast and furious. Also in snacks, Pokemon has teamed up with Oreo, selling sleeves of the classic cookie with 16 different character designs randomly dispersed throughout each package. And it wouldn’t be Pokemon if fans didn’t interpret the game slogan “Got to catch them all” as a blood oath. Sellers on eBay are asking for prices as high as a $100,000 for the mythical Mew cookie, the rarest design. If you want to run out to the store to grab a package for way less than that, go for it. Nabisco, the company that makes Oreo cookies, reached a contract with the unions after weeks of striking earlier this month. So no matter which adorable Pokemon is printed on the cookie you eat, they’ll all have this subtle flavor of hourly wage increases and protected health insurance benefits. I really got to say Gideon, I don’t understand how you buy that cookie from someone on eBay and they ship it and it doesn’t break and you don’t lose $100,000. I don’t understand
Gideon Resnick: That cookie is flying first class, seat back, alone, with supervision next to it. That’s how I’m getting that.
Josie Duffy Rice: On a private jet. Yeah, you’re probably right.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. No one sit in 12G, you will crush the Mew cookie. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go, September is National Voter Registration Month, and VoteSaveAmerica is working to raise one and a half million through its No Off Years Fund.
Josie Duffy Rice: Donations will go to help voter registration efforts in places where reaching new voters will help make the difference in our ability to win next year and beyond, like Arizona, Florida and more. We know that’s a big goal, but the sooner we get new voters registered, the sooner organizers can start building relationships and expanding their work to reach every last voter.
Gideon Resnick: To chip in, head to VoteSaveAmerica dot com/donate and learn more. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, hoard green apple Skittles, and tell your friends to listen.
Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just the menu at an-all-you-can-eat data buffet like I am, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And enjoy your six figure Pokémon cookie!
Gideon Resnick: It took so much jet fuel to get that to you. So the planet is angry. I’m angry. But enjoy it.
Josie Duffy Rice: I hope nobody listening is now realizing they ate one of the Mew cookies.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer, with production help from Jocey Coffman. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.