In This Episode
- California Governor Gavin Newsom is facing a recall election, which could result in getting replaced by a right-wing candidate even if he defeats them by a landslide in vote totals. We spoke with Dan Pfeiffer, a co-host of Pod Save America, about the state of the election, and what voters in California need to know.
- The fallout from the shameful last act of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended to Time’s Up, the organization founded by some of Hollywood’s most powerful women with the aim of supporting victims of sexual harassment and assault. Now, former members of Time’s Up and some sexual abuse victims are criticizing the org, saying that it has strayed away from its mission and failed the women they were supposed to help.
- And in headlines: two House members take a secret trip to Kabul, Onlyfans reverses its stance on sexually explicit content, and Tony Hawk wants us to buy his blood.
- Since our recording Wednesday night, The Washington Post reports that Time’s Up’s Tina Tchen and Roberta Kaplan had an even greater role in coordinating with Cuomo’s team as far back as December – https://wapo.st/3zou4uI
- Dan Pfeiffer’s The Message Box: “Why Dems Have to Win the CA Recall” – https://bit.ly/3ygF780
- U.S. Department of Treasury: “Emergency Rental Assistance Program” – https://bit.ly/3zn8Ddt
Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, August 26. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day we were deleting all evidence of early art for this podcast that featured the naked Nirvana baby.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, the baby is a man now and he is suing the band. We do not want him to find out that at one point we had plans to use pictures of him in a swimming pool to advertise the news.
Tre’vell Anderson: I stand by that plan, though. It would have been amazing.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, how the departure of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo might have also upended the organization Time’s up. Plus, Tony Hawk wants to sell you some bloody skateboards.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first, California Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall and this guy could replace him:
[reporter] You’re on record as calling for the end to the minimum wage, saying, quote, “the correct minimum wage ought to be zero.”
[clip of Larry Elder] Right.
[reporter] How do you think California voters currently earning the minimum wage, which is $13, $14 an hour, would react to that?
[clip of Larry Elder] Well, given the indoctrination that people have about the minimum wage, they probably wouldn’t react to it well.
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, that was pro-Trump radio talk show host Larry Elder in a recent conversation with The Sacramento Bee. Elder is one of 46 candidates on the ballot to recall and replace Governor Newsom. According to current polling, Elder is in the lead. And last night, 4 more of those 46 had their first televised debate. Many people in the Golden State already got mail-in ballots to their inboxes and have until September 14th to decide. I have mine right here and when I tell you that everybody and their mother and their cousin Pookie is running—I don’t know what to do with this thing. But Gideon catch us up on how we got here.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that is really true. It is a significant ballot. So this all has to do with a recall process in the state that was spearheaded by conservatives last year. They blame Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who is now in the third year of his first term for mishandling the state’s response to the pandemic, the economy and more. Now, this is the process by which Arnold Schwarzenegger actually became the governor in 2003. But Tre’vell the way this is actually going is . . . nuts. There is a scenario in which Newsom could be recalled even while getting 48-49% of the vote, while someone like Larry Elder could get a single digit percentage of that vote and be the ultimate winner. We’re going to explain how that could happen in a moment. Dan Pfeiffer, a co-host of Pod Save America and the writer of the newsletter The Message Box, broached this very topic recently. And so earlier yesterday, I talked with Dan about this whole crazy situation, what it means for the most populous state in the country and, well, the country itself. And he started off by describing why the momentum to replace Newsom seems so big in such a blue state.
[Begin interview with Dan Pfeiffer]
Dan Pfeiffer: I think a large part of it is complacency, because Newsom is quite popular. There is a CBS News poll that has his approval rating at 57%, his handling of COVID is at 60%—and so this isn’t a case like in the 2003 recall where everyone has soured on the governor. It is just, there is this very enthusiastic minority who wants to take him down and the process rewards that sort of behavior because it’s this off-year election. I think part of the sense of complacency is, it’s California, how could we possibly lose this? But the polling is incredibly clear that we could very, very, very well lose this recall and end up with a Trumpy MAGA, insurrection-loving, COVID-thruthing governor in charge of California.
Gideon: And so for people that are getting their ballots right now or they might have them, how does the voting work in this situation with the two questions?
Dan Pfeiffer: The first question is yes or no on the recall. If you would like to keep Gavin Newsom as your governor, you vote no. The second question is a long list of people: reality TV stars, Republican politicians, people you’ve never heard of—who would, are running to replace Gavin Newsom if, yes on the first question gets the majority. That person could win with 7%, right? Like, that’s how insane this process is.
Gideon: And my understanding is that the Newsom folks are saying people should leave the second question blank. What’s the thinking there?
Dan Pfeiffer: I’ve been asked about that by more people than almost anything in politics, in years. Just friends, family members—
Gideon: A good sign of a healthy system.
Dan Pfeiffer: Yeah, it’s so counterintuitive, you know, especially for Democrats were like, voting is your political power and it is a sacred thing and we’re going to fight to expand voting rights, we’re going to expand voting rights and now someone’s going to give you a ballot and they’re going to get an opportunity to express a political power, and we’re saying: leave it blank. Like it just runs against everything progressives believe. The reason the Newsom campaign is recommending that is, in 2003, when Governor Gray Davis was in the same situation, he was facing a recall, the Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante was on the second ballot and the message was: no on question one, Bustamante on question two. That ended up being incredibly confusing and splitting the vote. So some people wanted Gray Davis to stay, so they voted no on the recall and then did not vote for Bustamante on the second question. Some people were mad at Gray Davis, but wanted to replace him with Bustamante so they voted yes on the recall, then voted for Bustamante. And you ended up splitting the vote and recall passed pretty easily and then Schwarzenegger won by 10 points over Bustamante. And so what the Newsome people are trying to do is say: the only two choices are Gavin Newsom is a Democratic governor of this state, or he is replaced by Republican, most likely Larry Elder—there is no other option.
Gideon: And so tell us a little bit about some of the recall candidates. There’s obviously a lot of headlines about Larry Elder. What is like the fast rundown of who some of these, quote unquote, “gadfly” and scarier types are?
Dan Pfeiffer: Well, there are three leading candidates if you will, on the recall side. One is John Cox, who is a wealthy Republican businessman who has run for office a gazillion times in this state. Another one is Kevin Faulkner, who is the mayor of San Diego. He is a moderate-ish Republican. And that is a very loaded term this day and age. And then there is Larry Elder, who is a very famous right-wing talk radio host here in California. He is well known. He is incredibly Trumpy. He has supported the Big Lie. On Larry Elder’s first day, he has claimed that he would get rid of the vaccine and mask mandates that Newsom put in place. And the reason I’m focusing on Larry Elder is because Larry Elder is almost certainly going to be the governor if it’s not Gavin Newsom. He is leading in the polls by, you know, 15, 20 points in some cases.
Dan Pfeiffer: It is quite a crew out there. But the three who have any chance of becoming governor are Cox, Faulkner, and Elder. And elder has by far the most chance of any of them.
Gideon: So I want to close with this: I think the implications in California have been made quite clear, but I want to know what are some of the national implications if Newsom is no longer governor.
Dan Pfeiffer: On the Democratic side, I think one of the real concerns is the amount of shock that will go the democratic system if we lose a reelection in California, will send shockwaves through Congress. I think it would have real, you know, the centrist Democrats who are already hesitant about supporting the bigger, bolder parts of the Biden agenda will have a context and a, to back away from that. You can already read Kyrsten Sinema’s statement right now about how they respond to it. We can’t afford to lose anyone in the house right now. And so I think it would bring the momentum for the Biden agenda in Congress to a halt. And so we absolutely cannot afford to lose this. I think it would be a devastating loss.
Gideon: It is so crazy. It’s so, it’s hard to wrap my head around. But thank you so much for the time and for the context there.
Dan Pfeiffer: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Gideon Resnick: We are going to keep following the story, and for the WAD squad that is in California, remember, your mail-in ballots must be sent in by September 14th.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.
Gideon Resnick: Yes! Go through that list. Look at it carefully, I guess, if that’s what you want to do. We’ll also get some more voices on the ground in the days and weeks to come. Now, across the country in New York State, where Governor Andrew Cuomo just resigned, there is so much fallout from the harassment allegations against him, namely for our focus today, with the organization Time’s Up. Tre’vell, tell us more about what’s happening there.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So Time’s Up, as listeners might remember, is the organization founded by some of Hollywood’s most powerful women with the aim of supporting victims of sexual harassment and assault. But just three years after its founding, the organization has been in the news because of the involvement of one of its founders and current CEO in the scandal that forced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign. Now, former members of Time’s Up and some sexual abuse victims are criticizing the org, saying the group has strayed away from its mission and failed the women they were supposed to help.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And so let’s walk back for a second and remind everyone how exactly Time’s Up was even involved in this Cuomo situation.
Tre’vell Anderson: So the organization was named in the New York Attorney General’s report against Cuomo. That report said that one of Time’s Up founders, Roberta Kaplan, who is also a prominent attorney, had participated in strategy sessions with Cuomo’s team after he was publicly accused of harassment. Kaplan was Times Up chairwoman at the time. The AG report also said that Kaplan consulted with Tina Tchen, the group’s current CEO, earlier this year, about how Cuomo should respond. It’s believed that they were consulted to help discredit the accusers. Since, both women have responded to the claims.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I am certainly interested to hear all of their responses. So what did they actually have to say?
Tre’vell Anderson: First up is CEO Tina Tchen, who said in a statement the day after the Attorney General’s report was released, quote, “I would never, nor have I ever, worked to discredit a survivor in any way. Secondly, I have never given advice to the Governor or his team.” Days later, Roberta Kaplan resigned from Time’s Up, writing in her resignation letter that she had, quote, “reluctantly come to the conclusion that an active litigation practice is no longer compatible with serving on the board of Time’s Up.”
Gideon Resnick: Wow. Yeah, this is all pretty stunning. I mean, Time’s Up had become such a powerhouse group.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. They were founded in the aftermath of all the news surfacing around the violences Harvey Weinstein committed at the height of the hashtag MeToo movement gaining mainstream support and attention. It started as just some women talent agents holding small meetings to talk about some of these issues and figure out solutions. But then it ballooned into a formal organization in January 2018 when Time’s Up’s founding leaders published an open letter signed by 300 women, particularly in entertainment, in The New York Times and in La Opinion. The signatories to the letter included Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes who helped with seed money, among others. Their main vehicle for supporting women, men, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and others who have less access was the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which has since reportedly raised over 24 million in donations and connected approximately 4,000 sexual harassment victims with legal counsel.
Gideon Resnick: OK, so all of this is obviously well and good, but in addition to the questionable participation of some of its leadership with Cuomo, there are some other folks who are now voicing other concerns here, yeah?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. My grandmother used to say where there is smoke, there is fire. And there seems to be some fire here. Starting a couple of weeks ago, former staffers and some sexual assault survivors who have had dealings with the organization, they’ve essentially said that the group has been corrupted by the very power it once pledged to check, and that their handling of the Cuomo scandal is proof of the org’s dead angles. Former staffers told The Daily Beast, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times that issues at the org run deep, with powerful executives and board members dictating policy rather than the needs of survivors. One former staffer said very directly, quote, “it was patriarchy with a dress on.” And in a story published yesterday, a survivor named Alison Turkos told the Los Angeles Times, quote, “they touted their power and how much money they had raised, and they said they were going to do all these great things. But where did it all go? We were ignored and had doors slammed in our face.”
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that statement is an indictment for sure. Wow.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And I also want to note the perspective of former music exec Drew Dixon, one of the lead voices of the HBO doc “On the Record.” That came out last year and features women who say hip hop mogul Russell Simmons harassed and assaulted them. She’s been very vocal on Twitter about Time’s Up’s role in attempts to silence victims and derail the film’s initial distribution prospects.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so this is a lot. So where does the organization actually stand now?
Tre’vell Anderson: Earlier this week, CEO Tina Tchen released a statement announcing the group would hire an outside independent expert to lead them in structuring an open and collaborative impact review process. She said, quote, “We’re committed to rebuilding trust and leading responsibly in ways that honor and center the very people we want to serve.” That said, hundreds of people, including Drew Dixon, feel as if Tina should resign as well. We’ll obviously keep an eye out on this story, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Representative Seth Moulton and Peter Meijer are in the doghouse for taking a secret trip to the Kabul airport on Tuesday to survey the evacuation efforts on the ground in Afghanistan—picking just about the worst conceivable time to have main character syndrome if you ask me. The two congressmen and veterans of the Iraq war were criticized by colleagues, House leadership, and Biden administration officials, including a Department of Defense spokesman who said during a briefing, quote, “they certainly took time away from what we had been planning to do that day.” That is indirect, but very direct. Just after Moulton and Meijer’s trip, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a letter urging lawmakers not to travel to the region. Bolton and Meijer, however, defended their visit, and in a joint statement yesterday, warned that based on what they saw, the evacuation effort will not be completed by the current August 31st deadline or even by September 11th. Now, the US, according to administration officials, has evacuated over 82,000 people from the Kabul airport since the Taliban took hold of the government. And the US embassy in Afghanistan warned Americans to stay away from the airport as of recording last night citing security threats.
Tre’vell Anderson: One of the four remaining web sites people still pay money to visit OnlyFans reversed his decision to ban sexually explicit content on its site yesterday. The subscription-based platform that gained popularity because of content made by sex workers announced that it made new agreements with banks that allow the site to continue hosting explicit content and paying creators for it. In a statement yesterday, OnlyFans claimed that its latest decision proves that the company stands for inclusion, but sex workers on the site have said otherwise. Many are questioning whether the site has a tangible plan for supporting them in the face of future issues with financial institutions. As an example from just last year, Visa and MasterCard banned the use of their cards on PornHub. A lot of creators have already taken down their pages on OnlyFans and moved on to sites with more protections in place.
Gideon Resnick: The Treasury Department released new data yesterday revealing that just 11% of the $46.5 billion dollars that Congress appropriated last year for rental assistance has been paid out. Astonishingly bad. States and localities are in charge of distributing the money to struggling tenants and landlords, but they are behind schedule—to say the least. And according to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, some 3.5 million people have said they face evictions in the next two months. To try to speed things up, the Treasury Department released additional guidance yesterday, including programs allowing tenants to self-assess their income and risk of becoming homeless. The actions come as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on a case that could strike down Biden’s eviction moratorium, which was put in place last month. We’re going to link to resources in our show notes if you or someone you know is in need of rental assistance.
Tre’vell Anderson: America’s skateboard dad, Tony Hawk, still knows the key to our hearts, which is blood. He just sold 100 skateboard decks in a collaboration with canned water company Liquid Death. And here’s what’s unique about them:
[clip of Tony Hawk] So they’re going to mix my blood into the paint and do a limited run of skateboards using my real blood in the graphics.
Tre’vell Anderson: The blood board sold out in just 20 minutes, and it took less time than that for people online to note that Hawk was pulling a Lil Nas X, who we’re legally obliged to mention every episode. Lil Nas X sold 666 pairs of modified Nike Air Max Satan Shoes earlier this year, which also contained the viral fashion liquid called blood. That product provoked a massive response from conservatives though, with people like South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem wringing their hands about the risks they pose to our children’s, quote, “God-given eternal souls.” Amen. Lil Nas X called this out yesterday, tweeting, quote, “now that Tony Hawk has released skateboards with his blood painted on them, and there was no public outrage, are y’all ready to admit y’all were never actually upset over the blood in the shoes? And maybe you were mad for some other reason?” Questions that need answers, Gideon.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. And the one person I don’t want to hear answer it is Kristi Noem. I’m just being totally candid here. And those are the headlines. OK, a couple of things before we go. First, thank you to everybody who purchased our first-ever vaccinated pool float. I didn’t know that pool floats could be unvaccinated, but this is a thing that I’m learning. And good news, we have a limited number back in stock and ready to ship. You can order them by this Saturday to have it in time for your Labor Day weekend. As always, a portion of every order in the Crooked store is donated to VoteRiders. You can shop now at Crooked.com/store.
Tre’vell Anderson: And second, WAD has a long weekend ahead ourselves, so we’re going to take some time off tomorrow. The pod will be back on Monday.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you’d like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, send us more Lil Nas X stories so we can fulfill our contractual obligation, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just directions on how to vote in the California special election like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And call our lawyers, Nirvana Baby!
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, it seems like he wants to cause trouble. I’m just being honest.
Tre’vell Anderson: He needs some money.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, um hm. We all do.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.