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Left, Right and Center from KCRW logo
Left, Right & Center
Saturdays at 6am

Left Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture, a conversation that is needed more than ever… not just in your feed, but on public radio, available to all. That’s a powerful combination. With a rotating cast of left and right panelists bringing you a wider spectrum of viewpoints, some of these voices will be familiar to many political observers, podcast listeners, and public radio audiences... some may be brand new to you.

For more information on what you heard this week on Left, Right & Center, click here.

  • The debate over abortion rights has entered a new phase. Last year’s Supreme Court decision to strike down the federal right to the health procedure and leave it up to states is now playing out with private companies. The country’s second-largest pharmacy chain, Walgreens, is facing criticism from both sides of the aisle after announcing it would not ship or sell mifepristone in 21 states. The medication is used to terminate a pregnancy or treat a miscarriage. This came after Republican attorneys general threatened legal action if the pharmacy didn’t stop selling the medication. However, abortion is still legal in a few of the states on that list such as Alaska, Kansas and Montana. Then, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state was cutting ties with Walgreens and its $54 million contract. He claimed the pharmacy caved to pressure from the right. Can big companies no longer stay out of these polarizing debates? Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, and Sarah Isgur, senior editor at The Dispatch. Plus, while the Supreme Court was once considered a major polarizing force, its perception with Americans is improving. A Marquette Law School poll from January found that 47% of respondents approve of the Supreme Court, up from 38% last July when the court struck down Roe v Wade. And surprisingly, the rise is mostly among Democrats. Can the court continue boosting its standing? Special guest Charles Franklin, pollster and director of the Marquette Law School, weighs in on restoring faith in the High Court. And Stanford Law School’s invitation to a controversial federal judge ended up a complete mess. Before he could start his speech, hecklers interrupted the event and even a school administrator questioned if allowing his talk was worth it. How can universities ensure a public speaker and dissenters can have their voices heard? And where do we draw the line between free speech and hate speech?
  • Dozens of incriminating texts and email chains between leadership and top anchors at Fox News were revealed this week as part of the defamation lawsuit Dominion Voting Systems brought against the news station. The filings show that Fox hosts and executives knew former President Donald Trump had lost the 2020 election and that claims of voter fraud were false. But they promoted this narrative on-air because it was what their audience wanted and it was good for ratings. This is a rare case because of the implications it could have on the journalism world. Prior to this, the Supreme Court’s 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan ruling established a high baseline to win libel and defamation cases. They said the prosecution has to show that the news station or journalist deliberately made false statements with a reckless disregard for the truth. Or actual malice. The scope of Dominion’s lawsuit shows that Fox News kept repeating conspiracies they knew were false over an extended period of time. But was it actual malice? Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, and Sarah Isgur, senior editor at The Dispatch. And special guest RonNell Andersen Jones, professor of law at the University of Utah and an affiliated fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project, weighs in on the arguments from both sides. Plus, a middle school girl in Lewisville, Texas, was punished for how she processed her fear of a potential school shooting. She heard a classmate say, “Don’t come to school tomorrow,” and texted her friends out of concern. Twenty minutes later, she told her mother. When school officials looked into the situation, they determined there were no threats to the school. But they also decided that the student who texted her friends made false accusations about school safety. They punished her with a three-day suspension, and said she would finish eighth grade at an alternative disciplinary school. Though that punishment was later scaled back. Was this a rumor or just a frightened teenager? And, in an era where school shootings have become more common, how should students and school officials handle moments like this? Special guests Talia Richman, staff writer at the Dallas Morning News, discusses her recent article about the incident, “How a Texas girl scared of school shootings was punished,” alongside Lisa Youngblood, the student’s mother.
  • It’s been three years since the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread and completely shut down most of the world. But there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the virus, including where did COVID actually come from? The argument over the virus’ origins almost instantly became political. Democrats and many scientists suggested it likely emerged from nature. But Republicans insisted it emerged from a lab in Wuhan, China, which was labeled misinformation by the left. But this week, that debate came back into view. The U.S. Energy Department said they had “low confidence” that a lab accident was the most likely origin. Can Republicans say, “Told you so?” This ignited a storm of finger-pointing from both sides. And it adds a new facet to the conversation regarding how social media and internet platforms should define or handle misinformation. Was it fair to take down content suggesting a lab leak? And if Democrats hadn’t dismissed that claim, would we be closer to understanding COVID’s origins? Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, and Sarah Isgur, senior editor at The Dispatch. Plus, Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot became the city’s first incumbent mayor in 40 years to lose reelection. This week, she failed to make the runoff. Lightfoot served during a tough time in Chicago – she led the city through the pandemic and civil unrest, and tried to fight rampant crime. But 63% of Chicagoans say they don’t feel safe, according to a recent poll. So, what did Lightfoot get wrong? And what does this election say about the politics of the nation’s other big cities? And why do our politics feel so reactionary? Political comedy writer Jeff Maurer discusses his article, “‘Omg Stop Freaking Out!!!’ Is a Bad Response to Right Wing Freakouts” from his Substack blog “I Might Be Wrong.” He weighs in on neverending freakouts from all sides and the evolving political news landscape.
  • Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, and Sarah Isgur, senior editor at The Dispatch. And special guest Evelyn Farkas, executive director of the McCain Institute and former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Defense, shares her thoughts on the future implications of Biden’s Europe trip. Plus, the Supreme Court is weighing a case that could have major implications for online platforms. The law in question is the Communications Decency Act from 1996, which shields technology companies from being held accountable for the content on its platforms. Changing this law could transform the very basis for how the internet works, but technology can be very complex. And both political parties have different ideas on where to draw the line. Who should decide what counts as political speech or misinformation? Special guest Katie Harbath, fellow at Bipartisan Policy Center and expert on technology and democracy, explains what effective social media reform would require. And a four-day work week once seemed like a pipe dream, but is now gaining traction. Who would benefit from working fewer hours for the same pay? And would it even be practical for many industries?
  • The Fulton County, Georgia special grand jury investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn the 2020 election released a portion of its final report this week. The grand jury interviewed 75 witnesses as part of its investigation and said it found no evidence of election fraud. The report also recommended prosecutors pursue indictments against witnesses they believe committed perjury during their testimonies. Though, the report did not list any names of the people they believe lied under oath. Much of the report was redacted, and the rest of the grand jury’s findings are still sealed. But could accusations of perjury lead to criminal charges? And how does this probe fit into the larger content of other investigations around Trump or his 2024 presidential bid? Special guest Holly Bailey, national correspondent at the Washington Post, weighs in on how serious the charges might be. Plus, it’s been a year since Russia began its full invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. has provided billions of dollars in aid, weapons, and support to Ukraine, but all that assistance could be waning. A new Associated Press Norc Center poll showed the number of American adults who support sending weapons to Ukraine has dropped 12% since last summer. How should President Biden prioritize numerous global crises? And how should he measure the strategic interest in Ukraine going forward? Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, and Sarah Isgur, senior editor at The Dispatch. And, HBO’s new hit show about a brain-eating fungus, “The Last of Us,” offers a picture of a totally incompetent and cruel government. Is that narrative dangerous in pop culture?
  • A 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey and Syria this week, leaving at least 20,000 people dead and tens of thousands injured or stuck under rubble. It was particularly devastating because many buildings were not built to withstand this level of disaster, and it hit a region already torn apart by war. It left millions of Syrians, who are already displaced by the war and neglected by the Assad regime, suffering with little way to access help. The Syrian regime’s relationship with countries like the U.S. is frozen. So, even gaining access into rebel-held regions for non-governmental organizations may be difficult. How can the world help? And are geopolitical tensions forcing millions of people to suffer? Special guest Kemal Kirişci, non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, weighs in on the conditions in Turkey and Syria on the ground, and how the ongoing war is affecting recovery efforts. Plus, this week President Biden delivered his State of the Union, the annual speech given to a joint session of Congress at the beginning of the year. Biden touted many of his accomplishments and avoided pointing fingers at “MAGA Republicans,” as he’s done in previous speeches. But the president did call out some Republicans for threatening Social Security and Medicare, which was met with boos and shouts from conservatives. Was Biden setting the stage for a 2024 presidential run? And did he break through to the American public Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, and Sarah Isgur, senior editor at The Dispatch. And the Super Bowl this weekend is resurfacing calls for the Kansas City Chiefs to abandon some of their traditions that Native communities consider racist and offensive. Why are the Chiefs resistant to change? Special guest Lawrence Brooks IV, race and culture reporter for KCUR, discusses his article, “As Kansas City Chiefs Head to the Super Bowl, Their Violent Traditions Alienate Even Some Local Fans” and why Kansas City fans haven’t abandoned their celebrations.