Share This Episode
Sunday Morning Jane Pauley Logo

CBS Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
The Truth Network Radio
May 16, 2021 1:17 pm

CBS Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 299 podcast archives available on-demand.

May 16, 2021 1:17 pm

In our cover story, David Pogue looks at the increased attention being paid to the investigation of UFOs. Tracy Smith sits down with actor Ewan McGregor, star of the Netflix series "Halston". Mo Rocca visits a Kentucky home for retired racehorses. Ted Koppel talks with attorney Ben Crump about his defense of victims of civil rights abuses and police brutality. Jim Axelrod examines recent controversies involving the U.S. Secret Service; Steve Hartman reports on a war of signs; and Chip Reid talks with entomologists about the once-every-17-years emergence of cicadas, and how their protein can satiate the appetites of predators (and cookie lovers).

See Privacy Policy at and California Privacy Notice at


Our CBS Sunday morning podcast is sponsored by Edward Jones. College tours with your oldest daughter. Updating the kitchen to the appropriate decade.

Retiring on the coast. Life is full of moments that matter, and Edward Jones helps you make the most of them. That's why every Edward Jones financial advisor works with you to build personalized strategies for now and down the road. So when your next moment arrives, big or small, you're ready for it. Life is for living.

Let's partner for all of it. Learn more at Good morning.

I'm Jane Pauley, and this is Sunday Morning. Day after day, year after year, Americans from all walks of life claim to be seeing things. And what they say they're seeing are UFOs, unidentified flying objects. And the reports are so persistent that even the US government is searching for explanations. This morning, our David Pogue joins the UFO hunt. Used to be, if you believed that aliens are visiting our planet, you might be called a crackpot. I just can't believe that if we're really being visited that it would be so hard to prove that. But recently, you might be surprised at who's taking UFOs seriously.

The Department of Defense is involved with the Navy's involved with it. So I feel like that's really been a change. Coming up on Sunday morning, new signs that we might not be alone and new people believe in them. We're in conversation this morning with Ewan McGregor, the versatile movie actor who's adding a legendary fashion designer to his roster of roles, as he'll be telling our Tracy Smith. In a new TV series, Ewan McGregor brings the designer Halston back to life. And what a life it was.

Halston liked being famous. Yeah. Do you? Yeah. Yeah. I do. Yeah. I love that. It's a very honest answer. Yeah.

But he can't be honest about everything. We'll explain later on Sunday morning. We could use some rain. Where do retired racehorses go to enjoy their golden years?

If they're lucky, to the place Mo Rocca has been visiting. Come on. Running a retirement home for Thoroughbreds might seem like an odd career for a retired film critic. Hi, buddy. But don't tell that to Michael Blowen. I'm here in Kentucky and I'm surrounded by all these amazing animals and these great athletes.

I mean, it's like watching the movie stars and then meeting them. Ahead on Sunday morning, life after the races. Here you go.

You earned it. Ted Koppel talks with civil rights attorney Benjamin Krump. Jim Axelrod looks into alleged security lapses at the United States secret service and more on this Sunday morning, the 16th of May, 2021. And we'll be back after this. For decades, UFOs have been the stuff of science fiction. Could they also possibly be the stuff of reality? Our David Pogue is in hot pursuit of an answer. We've always been fascinated by aliens.

We have come to visit you in peace and with good will. And that's putting it mildly. And mathematically speaking, aliens should exist. There are two trillion other galaxies we can see. Each with a hundred billion Earth-like worlds. A hundred billion.

Okay. It's hard to believe they're all sterile. Seth Shostak is the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. I happen to know that this is sort of a trick question when people say, do UFOs exist? I mean, obviously UFOs exist because that just means unidentified flying objects. But the, the real issue here is not that you see things in the sky. It's what you claim they might be. You just can't assume if you see something in the sky that looks a little weird, that it's some kind of alien thing, which is what a lot of people assume.

Author and investigative journalist, Leslie Kane. Most sightings that people have, oh, I see something in the sky. Those kinds of sightings can usually be explained. The planet Venus, airplanes, comets, you know, shooting stars, birds, you know, let's say five to 10% are the cases that any conventional explanation can be ruled out.

Those are the cases that are of interest. In 2017, Kane co-authored a New York Times story that revealed the existence of, believe it or not, a secret Pentagon program devoted to studying UFO sightings. It was a huge revolution, revelation to know that the government took it that seriously. There's really been a sea change of attitude towards this topic.

It's not to say that there's no more ridicule, but it's way less. And sure enough, in a CBS news poll, two thirds of Americans say they believe that there's intelligent life on other planets, up 10% from 2017. The Times story included links to three videos captured by Navy fighter jet pilots in 2004 and 2015 with infrared sensors. The Navy and the Department of Defense have not been able to explain what this thing was with all the work they've done on it. The Pentagon declined our request for an interview, but offered a statement that said, in part, the Department of Defense takes any incursions by unauthorized aircraft very seriously and examines each report.

As we collect additional data, we expect to close the gap between the identified and unidentified to avoid possible strategic surprise. That's always the biggest question. Is it Chinese? Is it Russian? Could it be their technology? And if it is, we're in trouble because they're way ahead of us. I don't think I've ever spoken to anyone who has seen more reports, paperwork, photographs, interviews as you on this topic. Has there ever been a confirmed extraterrestrial ship? We'd have to say no. We'd have to say what's confirmed is that we don't know what this let's call it a ship or an object. We don't know what it is. We can just say what it isn't.

And you know, you can ask yourself, well, then what? And of course, the what we call the extraterrestrial hypothesis isn't is a valid one. I mean, maybe it is from some other place in the universe. Now, the military secret program was only one 2017 surprise. Amu Amua was another. Amu Amua, which means scout in Hawaiian, is something that a Hawaiian telescope glimpsed in 2017 just as it was leaving the solar system.

We cannot really chase it. It's moving faster than any rocket that we can produce. Avi Loeb teaches astrophysics at Harvard.

Until last year, he was the chair of Harvard's astronomy department. Prior to the discovery, prior to the discovery of Amu Amua, we have never seen an object from outside the solar system. It's the first interstellar object and that by itself surprised me.

Loeb identified three other strange characteristics of Amu Amua. First, it seemed to be flat like a pancake. Second, it had no tail as a comet does. Finally, it was accelerating away from the sun as though being pushed.

And in order for that to happen, the object had to be very thin, sort of like a sail reflecting light instead of reflecting the wind as you find on a sailboat. A pair of Harvard scientists say a massive fast-moving visitor to our solar system may have been a probe sent by an advanced alien civilization. So we suggested that perhaps this object is a technological relic. In fact, a sail produced by another civilization and the first indication that such a civilization exists. Loeb's theory didn't win him any friends among other scientists, especially when he turned it into a best-selling book.

All right, Jill next. So Avi, I get a little bit pissed off when you throw the entire scientific culture under the bus because some of us have been thinking about and building instruments to find anomalies for a very long time. My colleagues responded very negatively. I am not convinced that Avi's right about this. You know, there are a lot of people here who know a lot more about asteroids than I do and they say, look, you know, it looks like an asteroid, it quacks like an asteroid, it has all the characteristics of an asteroid.

Sadi's Seth Shostak wasn't persuaded by the Navy videos either. Think about the fact that there are 750 or so satellites up there whirling around the Earth, you know, making those photos you find on Google Earth. Don't you think they would have found some of these saucers if they were really around? You sound like a skeptic about there being extraterrestrial intelligence and yet you work for SETI whose mission supposedly is to find it. Yeah, I have no doubt that there's extraterrestrial intelligence, but it's a different thing to say.

And not only are they out there, but they've come to visit. But the evidence to my mind is not good. Loeb, Kane and Shostak all agree on one thing, that the government and the scientific community should spend more effort and money on the search for alien life. The scientific community refuses to discuss it. I think this should be a mainstream activity. Just like we are doing archaeology on Earth, we can explore archaeology in space in search for past cultures that are not around anymore.

Next month, if all goes well, the Pentagon's UFO research group, now called the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, will finally go public with a report requested by Congress. But no matter what that report winds up saying, Seth Shostak doubts it will change anyone's mind. Is there anything wrong with people believing whatever they want to believe? I don't see too much harm in it, to be really honest about it. I mean, the aliens, if they are here, they don't do much, right? They don't address the national debt, they don't cure any disease, they don't do anything, except occasionally appear to people in their cell phone videos. So, live and let live.

Yes, yeah, maybe that's the right attitude. As you've seen, the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, was run yesterday to great fanfare. But what happens to the horses when their racing days are over? Maraca has found a retirement home for champions.

Can I have a kiss? Thank you. It's not often a grown man goes all goo-goo-eyed over a horse. But that's just the effect Silver Charm has on Michael Blowen. Silver Charm is without a doubt my favorite. Blowen's infatuation dates back to 1997, when he watched Silver Charm win the Kentucky Derby. But it wasn't until the stallion retired 17 years later that Blowen finally met his equine idol. I can't imagine a happier person on the planet Earth because I get to wake up every morning and see Silver Charm.

You look great every day, every day. In 2003, Blowen started Old Friends, a retirement home for thoroughbred racehorses. We have about 275 acres now. Most of the more than 240 horses are donated and live on this sprawling Georgetown, Kentucky farm.

It's a place where Blowen says they can return to being themselves. What do the horses do all day? Whatever they want, whatever they want. All residents are treated equally here, from those that never made it inside the winner's circle to some of racing's most celebrated steeds. Breeders' Cup winner, Alphabet Soup, spends all his time with a donkey named Gorgeous George. Former star sprinter, Green Mask, now likes to nip at people. Be nice. Hey, baby. Come on. We're saying nice things about you.

Come on. Little Silver Charm likes to hang out with Blowen. He's Old Friends' unofficial mascot. You the champ. That's what you are.

That's what you are. Old Friends draws human champions, too. Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron has ridden several of the horses here, but he's got a soft spot for Touch Gold.

Good boy. Silver Charm's quest for the Triple Crown. McCarron rode Touch Gold in the 1997 Belmont Stakes, spoiling Silver Charm's shot at the Triple Crown. Touch Gold will deny him the crown. I just get the biggest kick out of the fact that Touch Gold and Silver Charm are just a paddock away from each other. I wonder if they ever reminisce here. I think the only competition now is going after Michael's Carrots.

In all, residents here have earned more than $241 million on the track, plus, Blowen says, hundreds of millions more from stud duties. The monetary value of a horse disappears the last time it crosses a finish line, right? That's right.

Or the last time he walks out of the breeding shed. Yeah. Yeah.

That's true. But not for you. No. In fact, to me, that's where life begins. Look at you.

But the 74-year-old wasn't always this doting. Have you always loved horses? No. I was afraid of them.

I only like horses because I like to drink and gamble. Blowen was a movie critic for the Boston Globe when a colleague invited him to a local track. Eventually, he started moonlighting there. I never got paid. I did stalls and I took care of the horses. Were you leading a double life?

Yes. I would get to the track around quarter of six. I got to the Globe by 9.30, then I changed my clothes and took a shower. And it was like Clark Kent and Superman. After more than two decades at the paper, it was time for Blowen's second act.

He and his wife, Diane White, a celebrated Globe columnist, took buyouts and headed south. By this time, I'd fall in love with the horses at the track because they try so hard, even the ones that aren't very successful. And sometimes at the end of their lives, they're not treated as well as they should be. The dark side of racing made headlines around the time Old Friends was starting. In 2002, Ferdinand, the winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby, was reportedly sent to slaughter. The idea that you could just toss them away like that was really grotesque.

Ferdinand's story brought attention to Old Friends' mission. But Blowen says it was still a rough start. Do you think in the beginning, a lot of people that you went to with this idea looked at you like, oh, poor guy doesn't know what he's doing? Yeah. I would hear people. I would walk away and I could hear them in the background making fun of me.

These days, no one's laughing. About 20,000 pay to visit each year. The horses. I want to see the horses. I mean, I've seen them run. They're my idols.

Volunteers help the staff with everything from leading tours to providing medical care. For the past eight years, veterinarian Brian Waldridge has helped take care of these elderly equines. Alphabet Soup just turned 30. How's he doing? He's doing good.

You know, these older horses, they lose body condition and, you know, it was kind of a little bit of loss of their energy. But I'm really happy with them. I have it on good authority that you've never presented this place with a bill. Why not?

I just don't think you should. You know, I think it's Muhammad Ali that said the price for living on this earth is doing good deeds. And, you know, I just owe it to these horses. Michael Blowen says he owes these horses too, even after they're gone. There's 112 graves here.

I remember each horse individually and what made each of them unique. Do you still gamble? Oh, yeah.

Can't wait. Sundays I tell people I'm going to the chapel. Don't bother me. But for Michael Blowen, old friends has paid out in more ways than he could have imagined. You are doing what you love.

How many people in the United States of America can wake up every morning and say, this is great. The horses tell you to relax. Just take it easy.

Don't worry about it. Things will work out. And so far, so good.

And you can still drink and gamble. Yes. And on Sundays, he rested.

And on Sunday, he rested and hopefully came out of heaven. Right. That's exactly right. The Secret Service can't afford to fail even once in its mission to protect the President and other top officials, which means there's no ignoring some of the charges in our next story, reported by Jim Axelrod. It was all there plain to see on January 6th, the valor of the Secret Service agents protecting Vice President Mike Pence. So the bravery is pretty amazing when they find a way to surreptitiously leave as people are tromping through the building rioters in various amounts of war gear.

But as Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post reporter Carol Lennox spells out in her new book about the Secret Service, Zero Fail, there was another darker side to the agency on display that day as well. There are a lot of members of the Secret Service presidential protection division who cheer on that riot on the Capitol grounds. How do we know that?

How do we know that? In social media posts, many of these people shared their views explaining that the election was rigged. Donald Trump has been denied his fair and rightful second term. This dualism, says Lenig, heroism on one hand, scandal on the other, has been the story of a deeply troubled agency during the last decade. Time and time again, the Secret Service has chosen to cover up a problem rather than fix it. This is a great agency with unbelievable patriots, but it needs a house cleaning.

It needs help. The modern Secret Service is less than 60 years old. Consider that in August of 1962, President Kennedy could sneak away from his detail during a weekend in Santa Monica and go for a dip on a crowded beach. In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas.

Dallas changed everything. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time. JFK's death was a gut punch to the country like no other. But if you think it was bad for the country, you have no idea how bad it was for the Secret Service. They rebuilt that agency.

They made it so rigorous as a result of that tragedy. The training and protocols of the post-Dallas Secret Service saved President Ford from not one, but two assassination attempts in 1975. My God, there's been a shot.

There's been a shot. Mr. President, and prepared agent Tim McCarthy to take a bullet meant for President Reagan in 1981. There's no more heroic image of that than Tim McCarthy on the day outside the Hilton when John Hinckley shoots at Ronald Reagan. And Tim McCarthy, what does he do?

He throws up his chest to take it. But critics say that urgency has been eroded by insufficient budgets ever since the Secret Service was absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. So the Secret Service hires phenomenal people. They need to hire more of them. Former agent Jonathan Wackrow was with the Secret Service for 14 years.

They're the redheaded stepchildren, right? Get them more money. Give them every tool to be successful. Do more with more.

Don't do more with less. From 2009 to 2014, Wackrow served on the details protecting President and Mrs. Obama, which gives him insight into another problem plaguing the Secret Service that more money can't address a culture lacking transparency and accountability. On November 11, 2011, a man fired a rifle at the White House, striking the building seven times. The Obamas weren't home, but their daughters were.

Despite agents reporting gunfire, Lenig writes they were told by superiors to stand down. Secret Service leadership initially told no one, not their agents, not the public, not even President and Mrs. Obama. Thankfully, didn't have a tragic outcome. But afterwards, nothing. There was no, hey, let's get everybody together and let's review what happened.

But how could there not be? The Secret Service is the best organization in the world in crisis management, yet they can't manage themselves. It's an embarrassment, but you have to learn from it. The embarrassments continued. The next year, 12 Secret Service agents were sent home from Cartagena, Colombia, where they were doing advance work for a presidential trip.

They were drunk. Some had prostitutes in their room, where agents had plans for Mr. Obama's visit, a huge security risk. That was very troubling to me. The idea that agents, particularly overseas, would put themselves in positions of being compromised, led me to really have questions about the leadership of the agency. Michael Chertoff oversaw the Secret Service as secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

He was out of government when Cartagena took place, but still found it painful. Not only is it embarrassing to have them engaged in this kind of illicit activity, but to do it in a foreign country is really risking operational security. It did seem to me to be a wake-up call. This wake-up call would also go unanswered.

Two years later, in 2014, a man with a limp, wearing Crocs, and armed with a knife was jumped a White House fence and made it all the way to the foot of the stairs leading to the private residence, an alarming and dangerous breach with deficient follow-up. There should be what we call a hot wash after an incident like this to see what are the lessons learned. Because three years later, it happened again. You have the second jumper, so where was the hot wash? Well, that's a good question.

I don't know if there was a hot wash or whether they just assumed since nobody got hurt, no big deal. But that's really tempting fate, and I think that that's a big mistake. Many of the agents told me we are succeeding by luck. We have great energy, great dedication, but we're lucky that this hasn't happened. And luck can't be a policy.

That's right, absolutely. The idea that the men and women of the Secret Service are not given the support, resources, or leadership to do their jobs effectively, that the Secret Service is an agency in trouble, unwilling to examine its own issues, is an alarming set of allegations. We made multiple requests here at Secret Service headquarters for the agency to respond.

They declined our request for an interview. Instead, they provided a statement. The U.S. Secret Service is aware of a newly released book which rehashes past challenges the agency overcame and evolved from.

The agency's skilled workforce is dedicated to the successful execution of its critical missions. That statement, in your view, needs one more sentence. Needs one more sentence. It says, however, we are going to undertake a mission reassurance review. That's what's going to make you do something better.

It's the after action. The leadership became more frightened of letting people know how bad it was behind the curtain. The agency has demonstrated remarkable valor and bravery, but it hasn't demonstrated transparency.

No, it doesn't really like that word. But without it, Lenning says, the Secret Service will continue to function with a capacity inadequate to meet its mission and its duty, shielding itself with the fact that since Dallas, they've been successful in the only way that matters. I don't criticize the men and women who are dedicating their lives to this. And we have to be able to look closely at how they're being shortchanged, the way in which we're not really letting them be able to do their job and deliver on the promise they've made.

In your book, are you detailing the exceptions or the rules? They are symptoms of something larger going on behind the scenes. And if these failures can happen, it's just a matter of time. Shouldn't we pay attention before that happens?

Shouldn't we do something before that happens? Major Garrett on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Here again is Jane Pauley. Ewan McGregor won raves for his role in the 2001 film, Moulin Rouge. Now in his latest role, he's playing a legendary and most fashionable man about town, as he explains in conversation with our Tracey Smith. If you were alive in the last century, you very likely saw, touched or wore something from Halston. Roy Halston Froehlich was the New York hat maker who designed the pill box Jackie Kennedy wore to her husband's inauguration and went on to build an international fashion brand. Halston with friends like Andy Warhol and Liza Minnelli sort of embodied what it was like to be rich and famous in disco era New York City. I have a vision.

I'm going to change the face of American fashion. If only he'd lived to see this. I've been an outsider my whole life. His story with all of the dazzle and drugs and debauchery in a five-part Netflix series. Do you ever feel like everything you have could disappear in an instant?

With Ewan McGregor in the title role. So you're a U.S. citizen now? Yeah.

Live here? The 50-year-old Scottish-born actor says playing Halston required a lot more homework than usual. So you did all of this kind of delving into the archives but you also, you learned how to drape fabric? To an extent, yeah. A little bit. I mean it's quite, that's a great art. He would take a single piece of cloth and turn it into a beautiful dress.

That's a Halston. Oh my god. I just was worried that if my hands didn't look like they knew what they were doing it would sort of give me away, you know, so I would practice and practice and practice and I'd prick myself and try not to prick the person I was draping and, you know. McGregor seems born to the role but this one was something of a struggle.

In fact, he says every acting job gives him the shakes. At the beginning of every project you were very nervous and, you know, for the last two weeks before you start something I'm always a wreck, like just thinking this is the one I can't do this, I won't be able to do it. I always go through a period of great fear before something. Seriously? Seriously, yeah. Every time.

The fear is unbelievable. But the night before I'm not at home going, practicing how am I going to do it. I don't do that.

I want it to happen in front of the camera because I don't, that's how I've always been really. Just lazy. It's not lazy. Well, it might be. It's just laziness and I've made it work.

Choose life, choose a job, choose a career. He's made a few things work. In 1996, his turn as a heroin addict in the film Trainspotting made him a star. And the films that followed, like 2001's Moulin Rouge, showed his impressive range. His career came full circle in 2017 with a Trainspotting sequel. I did an accounting course.

I worked for a small business. It was just fantastic to be back with them again, you know, 20 years later. But it's a really thoughtful, beautiful film in its own way, too. So there's another character that you've had a chance to return to. What did it feel like? Nicely done. That was nice. Thank you. It was good.

McGregor is reprising his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars saga, this time for a TV series. He can't say much about it yet, but hey, it never hurts to ask. What did it feel like to grow out the beard again? Put on the cloaks again?

I always have a beard if I'm not working because I just like to be, I don't much enjoy shaving. But it's great. It's been great to come back to it. It's been really exciting.

What did it feel like? Seriously, what did it feel like to put on the cloaks? There might not be cloaks. You can't even say that.

There may or may not be cloaks. I'm not saying anything, but to come back to play him again, Obi-Wan Kenobi has been absolutely brilliant. I'm really enjoying it. But it's not always easy to live in the Star Wars universe where the fans can be a little intense and even the most innocuous comment can set off an avalanche of speculation about what comes next. I mean, what's interesting is that for a while you had to sit on even saying that you were coming back. I mean, people have been asking you about this for almost two decades. That was annoying.

That was annoying. Every interview I ever did for years, people would say, well, are the rumors true? And I'd have to sort of, I'd have to lie. I'd have to say, well, you know, I don't know. I'd be happy to play him one day again. I'd have to just keep saying, it started looking like I was sort of asking Disney for a job. Like every interview I was asked, I'd go, well, I'd be happy to play him again. You know, and it was just a way of like trying not to be dishonest, but at the same time, not telling the truth, I don't know. So it's got to be quite a relief now. It's nice. Right?

The cat is out the bag. For McGregor, playing Halston was another kind of challenge. For much of his adult life, Halston was battling different kinds of demons, like addiction.

And that's one that you and McGregor once faced down himself. Last time we spoke, you spoke about your sobriety, and I'm wondering, watching Halston too, do you think that your sobriety has helped you see these people who are struggling with drug use in a different way, understand them a little bit more? I understand them, yeah. I understand it. I understand it, addiction. And I'm not judgmental about it, you know?

Because I've walked that path for so many years. And it's very cunning, and you will absolutely live in denial. You know, people can't see it. So there's Halston going to Studio 54 every night and doing coke, and his business is in terrible trouble. And yet he's still going, I don't have a problem.

I could stop anytime I like. You know, I understand that, yeah. For all his complexities, Halston clearly loved being Halston. And McGregor loved being Halston. But he seems to love being Ewan McGregor too.

Halston liked being famous. Yeah. Do you? Yeah. Yeah? I do, yeah.

I love that. It's a very honest answer, yeah. Yeah. You live and learn.

And, you know, you deal with it, you know, when I was 25 years old, post-train spotting, dealt with it very differently than I do now. How so? Oh, come on. You're very good.

You're very good. Well, just I think you can become carried away with it, you know? But how did you get carried away with it? I don't know what you mean. I really don't. Well, because if you're focusing on fame, if you think fame is great and you want that, then it doesn't really lead you anywhere. It's a road to nowhere, you know? You'll never wake up and be famous enough. You'll never, you know what I mean? You won't, if that's what you're striving after.

I don't know. I'm very satisfied. I like it. I like it. So in that side of things, you learn that that's actually what makes you happy, is striving to do the best job you can at work and not feeling like you're sort of dogging it or folding it in.

And then that feels pretty good. Benjamin Crump is a civil rights attorney who's at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement. He talks this morning with our senior contributor, Ted Koppel. There is nothing shy or retiring about attorney Ben Crump. He thrives on media attention.

It is, he acknowledges, an essential weapon in his toolbox. I believe when you're representing a marginalized minority in America, especially a black citizen, that you have to fight in two courts. You have to first fight in the court of public opinion. And then if you win there, then maybe, just maybe, you might get to fight in the court of law. When it's black people in America, they engage in the most useful force and it ends up with deadly consequences.

And so the picture of Ben Crump surrounded by cameras has become a familiar and recurring image. They have not been responsive to this family's plea for justice. No justice! It's an image that began taking hold in 2012. No justice!

No peace! When he sought compensation for the family of an unarmed 17-year-old high school student who was visiting his father when he was shot and killed walking through his dad's neighborhood. Once again, law enforcement is attempting to demonize and blame the victim. Crump seared an image into the national consciousness of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie, carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. After Trayvon Martin, it was Michael Brown and Ferguson.

Hands up, don't shoot. Corey Jones. Marquise McLoughton. Terence Crutcher. Botham Jones. Stephon Clark.

Alicia Thomas. And then we come to 2020, which during a pandemic where everything is shut down, except, except implicit bias and police brutality in America. You see Ahmaud Arbery lynched for Jogging While Black. Then Breonna Taylor is killed in the sanctity of her own home. Then George Floyd is tortured to death. Right after George Floyd, Treford Pellerin, Dijon Kenzie, Jacob Blake Jr., Anthony McClain, a black man who literally ran out of his shoes when you look at the police body cam video.

Andre Hill. They continue to kill unarmed black people over and over again. In each of these cases, Crump and his associates negotiate or litigate a financial settlement for the victim, or, as is more often the case, the surviving relatives.

The pain in his father, can you imagine? This is real. You show up in a city and I can almost hear the city manager and the sheriff and the police chief and they're saying, oh, blank. Ben Crump just showed up. You've got that kind of a reputation now. We are undefeated for every case that we have represented our family in a police brutality matter.

We've either gotten a verdict or a settlement. Unfortunately, unfortunately, hardly any of these police ever go to prison. At age 51, Ben Crump is in his prime. Long before he achieved national prominence, Crump looked for clients wherever he could find them. People have to get into the chosen lane of their profession, sometimes by doing things that they're not as happy about when you start it. Folks would have used terms like ambulance chaser, right? Certainly. It's not a term I expect you to like very much. I think people say a lot of things even to this day, but I'm a person of faith and I know who I am and whose I am. And no matter what people strive to me, I'm okay with it because I am fully focused on what my mission is.

Tell me the mission. It's very simple, I'm an unapologetic defender of black life, black liberty, and black humanity. And that's why I am proud to call myself a civil rights lawyer who believes that it's about these romantic notions of liberty and justice for all. This verdict today is for them. Ben, you can handle yourself in a clinch, I suspect, so you're not going to be offended if I ask you a few tough ones.

Not at all. That might be more impressive, what you just said, if you were doing a pro bono, if you weren't making a lot of money on this. And I know you're not making the money off the people you represent, but when, what was it, the city of Louisville ended up paying, was it $12 million? $12 million for the death of Breonna Taylor. And you got 30 percent of that.

We get about a third of it, me and my co-counselors, yes. That's a whole lot of cash. Well, I will tell you, Ted, the police brutality division of my law firm is the least profitable of all the divisions in my law firm. For every Breonna Taylor, there is 100 black people and brown people who have been killed by the police unjustifiably that you don't make a penny on, but you take the case because it's the right thing to do.

We do not believe— One-third of the settlement, it should be pointed out, is the industry standard in such cases. This is clearly a case of excessive force. Krump projects more than a hint of the late Johnnie Cochran, who famously won O.J. Simpson's acquittal. If it doesn't fit, you must acquit. If I said you're kind of the latter-day Johnnie Cochran, would you consider that a compliment or a bit of a hint?

No, certainly a compliment. Johnnie Cochran was one of the giants of the legal profession, especially amongst African Americans. However, I would be more fond of the notion of my personal hero and my North Star, who is Thurgood Marshall.

I've tried to follow the trail that he blazed as much as possible. Thurgood Marshall, a dazzlingly bright North Star appointed as the first African American associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and yet somehow Ben Krump leaves an impression of harboring an even more ambitious goal. He wants to end what he calls the legalized genocide of colored people in this country. Genocide is a very particular legal term with a very particular legal definition. You're a lawyer. You understand the power of words, Ben, and when you accuse the United States in the 21st century of genocide, that has a lot of weight. Exactly. When you think about what black people have been suffering for 400 years in America, since 1619, when the first enslaved Africans were brought to America, I would argue that legalized genocide, when you think about how the very laws that are supposed to protect us are being used to kill us.

When you think about what happened in every city, in every state, in every courtroom in America, every day, they're killing African Americans, they're killing marginalized people of color using the law, whether it's killing them physically or it's killing them legally with these trumped up felony convictions. Sorting through the accumulation of mail at his Tallahassee headquarters, Crump continues to convey the impression of a man in constant motion. When he goes to visit an old fraternity brother, he brings his young daughter.

When her daddy's in town, we always pick her up from school because she says, Daddy, you're out of town too much. George Clinton, familiar to an older generation as the father of funk rock and the leader of the band, Parliament Funkadelic, is an unabashed admirer. You are an attorney general. I'm not only black Americans attorney general, but I'm also the attorney for my frat brother, George Clinton. He's been painting a tribute to giants of the civil rights movement. And there's Ben Crump. You got Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and you got Ben Crump.

I love you, friend. One nation. One nation.

One nation. Enough is enough, America. Ben Crump is afraid of running out of time. That's my recurring nightmare, that I'm running out of time.

I can't keep up with the hashtags. I mean, it's just happening too quickly. Do you worry about surviving? Are you worried about your security? I never take the death threats for granted.

When we get them, we report them to the FBI. A lot of them? More than I would like.

More than I would like. I know that some people could do extreme things because they don't think that we should have equal rights, the enemies of equality, as I call them. I believe God has a purpose for me. And if I die fulfilling that purpose, then my life would not have been in vain. I do believe there has to be some things that a man is worth dying for. And the future of our children, to me, is worth dying for. Thank you for listening. Please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. The good fight, the final season, now streaming exclusively on Paramount Plus.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-29 03:33:05 / 2023-01-29 03:50:30 / 17

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime