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March 12, 2014

Science celebrity and accomplished astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is making waves with his reboot of Cosmos, the celebrated TV series originally hosted by Carl Sagan. Tyson went on The Colbert Report to discuss the new Cosmos, and why he felt the need to reprise the series, but their discussion turned into a trial of science. Stephen Colbert asked Tyson why he argues that we don't have to present both sides of every scientific theory — "Don't you want to be fair and balanced?" he asked. "That would be a waste of everyone's time," Tyson responded:

When different experiments give you the same result, it is no longer subject to your opinion. That's the good thing about science: It's true whether or not you believe in it. [Colbert Report]

The audience cheered, and so did thousands of science teachers. Then they laughed, because Colbert's retort is, predictably, spot-on perfect. --Peter Weber

10:34 a.m. ET

The mother of a Green Beret killed in Niger this month told The Washington Post on Wednesday: "President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband." Cowanda Jones-Johnson, the mother of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, made her comments after Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) claimed Trump made Johnson's widow, Myeshia, cry.

"She was crying the whole time, and when she hung up the phone, she looked at me and said, 'He didn't even remember his name,'" said Wilson, who was in the car with Myeshia Johnson and Cowanda Jones-Johnson at the time of the call. "That's the hurting part."

Trump denied the allegations on Wednesday. "Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!" he tweeted.

Jones-Johnson did not elaborate to the Post about how Trump disrespected her family, but she confirmed that Wilson's account of the conversation between the president and her daughter-in-law was accurate.

When asked for a comment about the phone call to Johnson, the White House said: "The president's conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private." Jeva Lange

10:01 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ford is recalling 1.3 million trucks due to issues with their side door latches, the company announced Wednesday.

Right now, doors on 2015-2017 models of F-150 trucks, as well as doors on 2017 Super Duty pickups, may not latch all the way even if the door appears to be closed. That means they might swing open while driving or get stuck when drivers try to open them, though Ford hasn’t heard any reports of this happening.

Ford will install water shields over the latches to prevent freezing and inspect latch cables for free to repair the issue.

Just one day earlier, the Center for Auto Safety urged Ford to recall another 1.3 million Explorer SUVs over carbon monoxide poisoning concerns. But the company has insisted time and time again that these vehicles are safe, making the trucks Ford's only recall of the day. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:54 a.m. ET

Gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, 21, joined the #MeToo movement on Wednesday to allege that she had been molested by the team doctor for the U.S. Women's National Gymnastics Team and Olympic Team beginning when she was 13 years old. "It didn't end until I left the sport," she wrote in a letter about the "unnecessary" and "disgusting" abuse she allegedly endured.

Dr. Larry Nassar, named by Maroney in her letter, pleaded guilty to child pornography charges earlier this year, The Washington Post reports. He has been accused of assaulting more than 100 women and girls during his time with the U.S. gymnastics team.

From Maroney's letter:

It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was "treated." It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver. For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo. He'd given me a sleeping pill for the flight and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a "treatment." I thought I was going to die that night. [McKayla Maroney via Twitter]

Maroney emphasized that while the #MeToo movement grew out of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, "people should know that this is not just happening in Hollywood."

"Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it's time to take our power back," Maroney wrote. "And remember, it's never too late to speak up." Read her full letter below. Jeva Lange

9:19 a.m. ET
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump invited scrutiny of his condolences after erroneously claiming Monday that presidents before him did not call the bereaved families of fallen troops. "I think I've called every family of someone who's died," Trump said, although The Associated Press found that isn't true.

Critics reacted to Trump's statements as going a step too far, especially after the president reignited the controversy Tuesday by telling Fox News: "You could ask General [John] Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?"

"I just wish that this commander in chief would stop using Gold Star families as pawns in whatever sick game he's trying to play here," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran.

Trump has also been criticized for how he's handled phone calls to grieving families, with a Democratic congresswoman reporting Wednesday that the president made the widow of a slain Green Beret break down in tears. The wife, Myeshia Johnson, reportedly told Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) that Trump "didn't even know" her husband's name. Jeva Lange

8:44 a.m. ET

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) stood by her claim that President Trump made the widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger break down in tears, even after the commander in chief denied the allegations on Twitter on Wednesday morning:

"I don't know what kind of proof he could be talking about," said Wilson, who was in the car with the grieving wife when she received Trump's phone call. Wilson added: "This man is a sick man. He's cold-hearted, and he feels no pity or sympathy for anyone."

Wilson added that the widow, Myeshia Johnson, told her that Trump "didn't even know" her husband's name.

"This might wind up to be Mr. Trump's Benghazi," Wilson said. Jeva Lange

8:08 a.m. ET

President Trump went on a wide-ranging Twitter rant on Wednesday morning, touching on subjects as disparate as Hillary Clinton, taxes, the NFL, and reports that he made the widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger cry:

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) claims that when Trump called Myeshia Johnson, he told her that her husband, Army Sgt. La David Johnson, "knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurts." Wilson said she was in the car at the time and overheard the comments on speakerphone. "It's so insensitive," Wilson said.

Trump had begun his morning with tweets about the FBI's release of a document that apparently indicates former Director James Comey began his draft of a controversial statement about Hillary Clinton's private email server months before he ultimately delivered it in July 2016:

Trump fired Comey earlier this year, ostensibly over the director's unfair treatment of Clinton. Trump briefly interrupted his tweets about the FBI to add that "the Democrats will only vote for tax increases."

Trump also lashed out at the NFL: "The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our national anthem," he tweeted. "Total disrespect for our great country!" Jeva Lange

7:35 a.m. ET

Two new reports suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top associates were directly involved with attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election, including an interview with exiled former oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Putin jailed on iffy charges for a decade. "I am almost convinced that Putin's people have tried to influence the U.S. election in some way," Khodorkovsky told MSNBC's Ari Melber, and the likelihood that Putin "personally" tried to cooperate with President Trump's campaign is a "9 out of 10," he said, adding: "Whether or not that proposal was accepted, I would let the people responsible for investigating the matter answer that question."

When he ran Russian oil giant Yukos, Khodorkovsky's human resources chief was Sergey Gorkov, now the head of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), who met with Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner in December — the White House says it was a diplomatic nicety, VEB says it was Kushner family business. Khodorkovsky described Gorkov as a "fine employee" who "carries out orders," saying of the Kushner meeting, "I have no doubt that he wouldn't do anything on his own behalf." He said Gorkov was likely ordered to meet with Kushner by either Andrey Kostin or Herman Gref, Kremlin-backed bank chiefs with close ties to Putin.

Separately, CNN reported Tuesday night that Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian catering magnate dubbed Putin's "chef" in the Russia press, is believed by U.S. intelligence to have financed a Russian "troll factory," the Internet Research Agency (IRA), that used social media to spread fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Prigozhin appears to be the unidentified "close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence" an unclassified U.S. intelligence assessment called the "likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg," CNN says. Peter Weber

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