Brian Lehrer WNYC

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Brian Lehrer leads the conversation about what matters most now in local and national politics, our own communities and our lives.
Updated: 31 min 54 sec ago

Brian Lehrer Weekend: How to Plan for Nuclear War, Pence's Evangelicals, Being 'Complicit' in 2017

Fri, 2017-12-08 13:00

In case you missed them, hear three of our favorite segments from the week:

How to Plan for Nuclear War (First) | Pence's Evangelicals (Starts 26:30) | Being 'Complicit' in 2017 (Starts 56:00)

If you don't subscribe to the Brian Lehrer Show on iTunes, you can do that here.

Why So Many Millennials Are Leaving New Jersey

Fri, 2017-12-08 11:38

Alastair Boone, an editorial fellow at CityLab, and Tim Evans, director of research at New Jersey Future, discuss why so many millennials don’t want to live in New Jersey.

Exit Interview: Melissa Mark-Viverito

Fri, 2017-12-08 11:35

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito talks about where she will focus during her remaining weeks in office and reviews her accomplishments.

Al Franken is Resigning and Congress Keeps the Government Running (For Now)

Fri, 2017-12-08 10:32

Heather Caygle, a congressional reporter for POLITICO, discusses this tense week in Congress with Al Franken announcing his plan to resign and the scramble for votes on a bill to fund the government.

National Politics; The Speaker Wraps Up; Why Are Millennials Leaving New Jersey; Gift Guide

Fri, 2017-12-08 00:00

Coming up on today's show:

    Heather Caygle, a congressional reporter for POLITICO, discusses this tense week in congress with Al Franken announcing his plan to resign and a government shutdown looming as Republicans scramble for votes on funding bill.

    City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito talks about where she will focus during her remaining weeks in office and reviews her accomplishments.

    Alastair Boone, an editorial fellow at CityLab, and Tim Evans, director of research at New Jersey Future, discuss why so many millennials don’t want to live in New Jersey.

    Listeners share their favorite small business gift ideas.

President Trump Shifts U.S. Policy in Israel

Thu, 2017-12-07 15:08

President Trump announced that the United States will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and plans to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Nahal Toosi, foreign affairs correspondent at POLITICO, and Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of The Forward, discuss President Trump's announcement that upended decades of U.S. foreign policy. 

I agree with Ana on everything. Also how can Jared be an honest broker if he has real estate investments on West Bank?

— Linda Gottlieb (@linda_gottlieb) December 7, 2017

Most Palestinians recognize Israel, says @Jane_Eisner on @BrianLehrer

— Batya Ungar-Sargon (@bungarsargon) December 7, 2017

@BrianLehrer this destabilizing move by @realDonaldTrump is for the evangelical right and is BAD for Jews and BAD for Israel if it wants to survive. Ps I’m a Jew.

— bklynbad (@bklynbad) December 7, 2017

In Pence, Evangelicals Trust

Thu, 2017-12-07 15:05

McKay Coppins, staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party's Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House (Little Brown, 2015), talks about Vice President Mike Pence's political ambitions, and how they dovetail with his evangelical Christianity, which he wrote about in The Atlantic.

This is total madness. How can we have a rational debate with people who life in a fantasy world of magic and prophecy? If they believe that all of this madness is the work of God, there's no reason to even debate them.

— Ryan J (@pokemeintheeye) December 7, 2017

Pence wanted Trump off ticket, Mother despises him. Trump thinks Pence bringing pets to DC and not owning billions is embarrassing. Starting to see daylight between these guys.

— thesnarkenator (@thesnarkenator) December 7, 2017

The way @mckaycoppins is describing Pence's "servant" relationship to Trump on @BrianLehrer is pretty much the @PresidentShow's portrayal of the 2 men.

— Elaine Meyer (@emeyer5) December 7, 2017

@BrianLehrer Today's discussions re Jerusalem and Pence are a disturbingly stark reminder of the divisiveness of religion in general. Is separation of church and state dying a not-so-slow death?

— Virginia Rietz (@ginzinger) December 7, 2017

Al Franken Announces His Plan to Resign

Thu, 2017-12-07 13:55

Al Franken announced his plan to resign from the United States Senate in the coming weeks. Joan Walsh, The Nation’s National Affairs Correspondent, MSNBC political analyst and host of Sunday Calling, weighs in on the announcement. 

Saving the World With Science

Thu, 2017-12-07 12:15

Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, and author of Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (St. Martin's Press, 2013), talks about season two of his Netflix series, "Bill Nye Saves the World," where he'll delve into the science of marijuana, cybersecurity, super bugs, time travel and sleep studies.

Can We Still Avoid a Government Shutdown?

Thu, 2017-12-07 11:25

Nita Lowey, U.S. Representative (D-NY 17th district) representing the Lower Hudson Valley, talks about Friday's deadline to avoid a government shutdown and other news from the Hill.

President Trump Shifts U.S. Policy in Israel; In Pence, Evangelicals Trust; Saving the World With Science

Thu, 2017-12-07 00:00

Coming up on today's show:

    Nahal Toosi, foreign affairs correspondent at POLITICO, and Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of The Forward, discuss President Trump's announcement that upended decades of U.S. foreign policy: that the United States will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and plans to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. McKay Coppins, staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party's Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House (Little Brown, 2015), talks about Vice President Mike Pence's political ambitions, and how they dovetail with his evangelical Christianity. Nita Lowey, U.S. Representative (D-NY) representing the Lower Hudson Valley, talks about Friday's deadline to avoid a government shutdown and other news from the Hill. Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, and author of Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (St. Martin's Press, 2013), talks about season two of his Netflix series, "Bill Nye Saves the World," where he'll delve into the science of marijuana, cybersecurity, superbugs, time travel and sleep studies.

How to Plan for Nuclear War

Wed, 2017-12-06 13:59

As a consultant to the Department of Defense and the White House, Daniel Ellsberg, senior fellow of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and subject of the film “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”, drafted Secretary Robert McNamara's plans for nuclear war. He shares that story in his new book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury USA, 2017).

How Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Could Shake Up the Middle East

Wed, 2017-12-06 13:22

Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent and host of CNN's Amanpour, discusses the Trump administration's plan to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel to Jerusalem.

Militarized Police and the Psychological Impact on the Black Community

Wed, 2017-12-06 11:32

When community members protested the death of Alton Sterling, who was shot in close range by Baton Rouge Police Department officers, they were met with brutality from the police and long lasting trauma. As police forces all over the country grow increasingly militarized many in the black community all over the country are still dealing with the psychological trauma encounters with the police have left them, reports  Collier Meyerson, contributing writer at The Nation, investigative fellow at Reveal and a Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute.

TIME Person of the Year: The Silence Breakers

Wed, 2017-12-06 11:12

This year's TIME Person of the Year is "The Silence Breakers," the women (and men) who have come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and helped launch a movement. Stephanie Zacharek, TIME film critic and co-author of the Person of the Year story, and Kira Pollack, deputy editor at TIME who oversaw the photography for the issue, join us to talk about the choice and their stories.

Consequences of Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem; Time Person of the Year; Impact of Police Militarization in Black Communities; Planning for Nuclear War

Wed, 2017-12-06 00:00

Coming up on today's show:

    Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent and host of CNN's Amanpour, discusses the Trump administration's plan to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel to Jerusalem.

    This year's TIME Person of the Year is "The Silence Breakers," the women (and men) who have come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and helped launch a movement. Stephanie Zacharek, TIME film critic, and Kira Pollack, deputy editor at TIME who oversaw the photography for the issue, join us to talk about the choice and their stories.

    Collier Meyerson, contributing writer at The Nation and a Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute, explains how the militarization of police forces has given black Americans more to fear over the past two decades.

    As a consultant to the Department of Defense and the White House, Daniel Ellsberg, senior fellow of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and subject of the film “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”, drafted Secretary Robert McNamara's plans for nuclear war. He shares that story in his new book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury USA, 2017).

The City Never Sleeps... But Should the Subway?

Tue, 2017-12-05 16:31

Five years in the making, the Regional Plan Association released its fourth-ever (since its 1922 founding) plan for the metro area. Tom Prendergast, board member of the Regional Plan Association, former chairman and CEO for the MTA, currently executive vice president and chief strategy officer of STV, Inc., a transportation engineering firm, talks about the ideas for transit in the report, including its "modest proposal" to end 24-hour subway service.

Millennials and How They Got That Way

Tue, 2017-12-05 14:26

Malcolm Harris, a Philadelphia-based writer, editor at The New Inquiry and the author of Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials (Little, Brown and Company, 2017), examines the social and economic forces that shape his often-maligned generation to get beyond the stereotypes.

CEO Laura Walker Responds to Allegations Against John Hockenberry

Tue, 2017-12-05 14:25

Laura Walker, president and CEO of New York Public Radio (NYPR), discusses the station's response to sexual misconduct and bullying allegations against John Hockenberry, the former host of The Takeaway. 

Full transcript of the interview:

Brian Lehrer:  We continue now to cover the Me Too moment here at WNYC, the reckoning in our own house after reports of sexual misconduct plus bullying -- some of it racial -- against the former host of our program The Takeaway John Hockenberry. New York magazine on Saturday and a WNYC News investigation released yesterday documented inappropriate sexually oriented e-mails and G Chats to female producers and interns and to previous guests on the show. Two reports of unwanted surprise kissing of two producers. Plus  the show going through three successive African-American woman co-hosts. Two of whom spoke on the record alleging hostile and bullying behavior.

And one of them Farai Chideya who was there temporarily saying Hockenberry advised her not to seek her job permanently because she didn't want to be quote "a diversity hire" and then told her to lose some weight. Hockenberry, 61, who has gotten around in a wheelchair since a car accident when he was a teenager left him paralyzed from the chest down, hosted the takeaway from 2008 until his contract was not renewed this summer. With me now for her first interview on this is the president and CEO of WNYC Laura Walker. Hi Laura. Thank you for doing this.

Laura Walker: Thank you. 

BL: I have questions that I've written and questions proposed to me by various of our colleagues. Many people have questions. You've declined interviews for the two reports and all follow up stories on The Takeaway itself and elsewhere until now. Why was that? And what made you decide to speak publicly now?

LW: Well first of all I want to say thank you for inviting me here to talk with you. This is a difficult time and it's a really important conversation. So I'm here now to answer your questions as best I can.

BL: Our WNYC reporter Ilya Marritz was not able to ascertain whether John Hockenberry's contract was not renewed because of his behavior or because his on-air skills were declining, or a combination. Can you tell us the reasons and be specific?

LW: So there's a lot I can't discuss today with regards to specific allegations or actions we took. And let me just talk about this. It's a confidential personnel matter. And please understand this is not out of a lack of desire to understand- for you to understand the facts. We do not disclose confidential employment information. It is a policy we have to protect confidentiality and protect those who complain and share their stories. So I'm going to tell you as much as I can but I'm sure it's going to be frustrating because people will know more. Will want more.

So in terms of- we did not renew John's contract that is true. And that was a decision made by both PRI and New York Public Radio in consultation with each other. PRI is our co-producer. I can tell you right now that John was not fired for sexual misconduct. His contract was not renewed for a variety of reasons. And I'm not going to get into those specifically but those we always look at the end of a contract.

BL: And you can't say under the circumstances whether it had anything to do with his behavior or toward his colleagues.

LW: I can't get into the specific information about that. I will say that I knew about the many some of the behavior the media reports over the last few days have been deeply disturbing. Some of the behaviors described in the media were known to me and to New York Public Radio. I was made aware of Suki Kim's complaint which was investigated at the time and after consulting with our partner PRI we took action.

BL: Suki Kim the writer of the New York Magazine article who said after she was a guest on the show Hockenberry sent her many inappropriate sexually suggestive emails. 

LW: That's right. And they're very disturbing. We decided not to renew John's contract for a variety of reasons including some of what we knew about how people felt. I can tell you as I did that he was not terminated for sexual misconduct. We learned about other allegations. After he left some very disturbing ones and I learned about some of the kissing behavior and some other allegations in the New York magazine article and in the WNYC article. These are very serious and this behavior cannot and should not be tolerated. And it won't be tolerated. We need to do better. We need to do a lot better. I deeply regret that our culture and protocols did not work as they should. Such that the full extent of the allegations are just coming to light. This alleged behavior happened on my watch and I take responsibility.

BL: The question that most people asked me to ask you is if John got a settlement or severance of some kind. Did he. And if so how much.

LW: I cannot discuss any employment matters of that nature.

BL: You don't think you owe that accounting and that transparency to our listener members?

LW: I cannot discuss those kinds of that kind of information.

BL: And tell us why.

LW: Because there's confidential confidentiality for personnel matters and this falls into that category.

BL: Is that company policy, is that the law?

LW: It's company policy.

BL: Is it the right policy? Is it a policy that you're re revisiting?

LW: Well what I can tell you is that we are revisiting everything and I can tell you that our board and we are looking into at this point every new allegation that we get about John with the help of outside counsel. We are doing a review of, you know, what happened here with the help of outside counsel and we are also looking very, very carefully at our policies and our practices to make sure that they work way better because they need to work better. And I can talk about some of those specific things that we're doing.

BL: And we'll get to that.

But has the station paid money to accusers to settle any claims against John Hockenberry?

LW: I cannot talk about that. Same thing.

None of this means yes or no.

BL: Right. Does WNYC do non-disclosure agreements with people who bring claims? And if so, why and when are they appropriate?

LW: No I don't believe so. We do. But we do respect the confidentiality and most people who bring a claim or bring something to our attention do not want to be known. If they do want to be known. And also it's a tricky matter because you need to be able to also protect the confidentiality and with the person that is being accused. And it is a tough situation here because on one hand, you're always in a conundrum when somebody comes and brings a complaint to H.R. or to other or to their manager then H.R. does an investigation. And every single complaint that we got we did an investigation. We did an investigation and we took action. And not every action is apparent to the accuser or to the whole community at large.

BL: Why was John allowed to leave with public praise and the impression that it was his decision?

LW: PRI and we decided not to renew his contract. We did not fire him for sexual misconduct. We gave him the option, as is often the case, to characterize this as his decision. 

BL: ... Despite what you knew about the Suki Kim claims and some of these other things from over the years that have now become public.

LW: I did not know a lot about a lot of those allegations now.

BL: Well let's talk about what was known in the case of temporary co-host Farai Chideya. She says she spoke to you after Hockenberry said she shouldn't want to stay as a "diversity hire" and told her to go lose weight. If you confirm she said those things, why wasn't that a firing offense and what action was taken?

LW: Again I can't comment on what action was taken but it was taken seriously and we did take some action. Look, everyday for the last several weeks I have asked myself whether we took enough action and whether we should really look at our protocols. I apologize to Farai to Kristen to the women who came forward. I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for these women for coming forward at this time and I apologize that our our protocols were not there and our policies were not there.

BL: One more specific. You wrote in an email to staff that the station promptly investigates every complaint we receive and takes any action remedial action warranted, including mandatory training, referring to counsel etc. The only training reported in all of this was to have co-host Celeste Headlee radio personality training after she complained about John repeatedly undermining her on the air. Why was it Celeste and not John to get the training?

LW: I believe that they both got training. I have to check that out. But this was about helping everyone. There are a lot of people here who get training from Lorna Osmin and other radio coaches and so I believe that we've coached and John and Celeste got coached and everyone got coached almost every day by the executive producer of the show and by others. And so I don't even know. Have you worked with Lorna Osmin?

BL: No.

LW: No. So many people have here.

BL: Coming and going of Adora Udoji, Farai Chideya or Celeste Headlee makes three African-American women sharing the air with John all leaving while he persisted. You see the impression that leaves.

LW: Yes. And I can't comment on the specifics of these. However, I want. As you may recall Brian, in 2012 The Takeaway went from a 4-hour drive time show with two hosts to a one hour show with one. Look, we are an organization that not only values diversity but has championed the importance of respecting people of color at this difficult time in our country's history.

So these racial comments are especially painful to me. I regret that women and especially women of color felt disrespected and I apologize to them. I too have been a victim of sexual harassment and I know how it feels. I know how it feels. I do not know how it feels as a white woman. But we must do. I do not know what racial comments feel like as a white woman.

We must do better. We must start here. How we live each day off the air we need to have a conversation about systemic racism about, what equity and inclusion means, how we treat each other. We have to each look at our own blindspots our prejudices. We now have an opportunity for The Takeaway to live up to its aspirations and goals to lead the American conversation about a changing America. It is now headed by Arwa Gunja a woman of color as the executive producer and I believe more staff. The majority of the staff is women.

BL: The editorial power structure does remain largely white. Are there specific plans to adjust that?

LW: We are looking at that very carefully and we will be looking at bringing in even more people in power of diverse backgrounds. Yes and we need to be a leader in convening tough conversations like what you do here on your show. It's what we do every day that there was a great two-way the other day that Jami Floyd of ATC and Rebecca Carroll did on the undeniable role of race in the Me Too era. We did, Rebecca Carroll did a great award-winning Dear President. The Takeaway has done a lot of coverage of racism uncomfortable truths, confronting racism in America over the past year. We have podcasts, 2 Dope Queens with Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson. We have an LGBTQ podcast with Nancy called Nancy with Tobin Lowe and Kathy Tu. We have made a lot of progress in bringing more voices of diverse backgrounds on the air. We have to do better and continue. We have made a lot of progress also in reaching diverse audiences. I think when I came the audience was about 6 percent African-American and Hispanic. It is now in the high 20s. We have more people of color in upper management. We need to do better. We need to have more people of color in the reporting and and in editorial structure.

BL: So looking forward you wrote in an email that a conundrum you face is how to reassure employees that complaints are taken seriously while at the same time protecting confidentiality for all parties involved. It's a paradox we're attempting to address you wrote as we work to make it less daunting to come forward. Can you describe a solution or a rebalancing that you're developing for that?

LW: Yeah well let let me say you know it it's a conundrum that every every company faces, everybody in this that is dealing with complaint.

BL: And it applies to your answers here this morning.

LW: Yes, it really does.

And I think what I've heard in the last several weeks is that it is really important that we look at how our how everyone managers the H.R. department deal with these complaints and deal with them in a way that is that makes the people that come forward feel comfortable.

And we need to provide multiple ways. We are providing multiple ways to report harassment or other inappropriate conduct. Speaking to a manager, speaking to H.R., leaving a message on a confidential hotline. Union members can reach out to the union. We also have put in an outside adviser. We have to do a better job of supporting those who come forward as somebody again who has experience sexual harassment and did not report it. I know how hard it is to come forward and I'm going to make sure that we ask ourselves all the time are we treating people with as much respect and as much.. Getting back to them with as much information. So we are doing a full review of our policies and procedures with an outside adviser to identify areas where we can be best in class. We will hold mandatory in-person training about harassment and discrimination. We've done online training but now we're going to do in-person training for all people who have oversight and decision-making authority and we're providing bystander training to every every staff member. I am also holding small group meetings throughout the organization, starting yesterday I had my first one and for the next several weeks.

BL: So open mic as we conclude this to say anything to our listeners additionally that you want to say.

LW: Well I guess I just want to repeat that I deeply regret that this happened on my watch and I take responsibility and I pledge that we will be better and we will do better internally. We will look at ourselves and we will do that in a way that is as transparent as we can and it's going to take everyone to do that and that we will have these conversations and continue to have these conversations on the air with our listeners about us but also about this incredibly difficult time that we are in.

BL: WNYC president and CEO Laura Walker thank you so much. Thank you.

The Travel Ban, Wedding Cakes and SCOTUS

Tue, 2017-12-05 11:05

Emily Bazelon, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, co-host of Slate's "Political Gabfest" podcast and the Truman Capote fellow for creative writing and law at Yale Law School, discusses the Supreme Court's travel ban ruling and the wedding cake case that will go before the Court today.

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