Return to Transcripts main page


New Video of Arrest of Student Allegedly Shows Her Resisting, Punching Officer; Carson Leads GOP Field in Latest National Poll. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 27, 2015 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT SHOW HOST: This is a viral video that's really outraged America right now and what we're learning about what else happened.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Another video of the violent arrest of a South Carolina high school student right in her classroom allegedly shows her resisting and punching the officer. But the Richland County sheriff says while he believes the student bears some responsibility, that doesn't justify the officer's actions. I'm going to talk to the sheriff in just a moment.


BEN FIELDS, OFFICER ARRESTED AT SOUTH CAROLINA HIGH SCHOOL: Hands behind your bag. Give me your hands. Give me your hand.


LEMON: Niya Kenny is a classmate of the teenager who was arrested, she's also charged with disturbing schools. Niya is here with her mother Doris Kenny and her attorney Simone Martin. Thank you, ladies, so much for joining us this evening. I appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for having us.


LEMON: Niya, first of all, how are you doing? I know you were arrested as well. How are you doing?

NIYA KENNY, CLASSMATE ALSO CHARGE WITH DISTURBING SCHOOLS: As the day's been going on, I've been a little better but last night I was really unable to sleep. You know, it was a really traumatizing situation.

LEMON: How so? Tell me.

KENNY: I mean, just seeing her being thrown across the classroom like that was really traumatizing. I've never seen anything like that in my life and it just really broke my heart to watch it.

LEMON: Tell us what -- tell us about what happened yesterday. Take us through it.

KENNY: Our teacher, our math teacher actually picked up her phone first.


KENNY: And when she refused, he tried to kick her out of class.

LEMON: So, the teacher asks her to give up the phone. She says, no. And he asks her once, right? Or did he ask her more?

KENNY: I'm not sure how many times he asked her, but I know he did ask for it.

LEMON: And she said, no? And then what happened?

KENNY: And then usually that's his classroom procedure. You're not going to give up your phone. Then he's going to write you up and kick you out. But when she refused to leave, that's when he called an administrator in there and of course, she refused to leave again. Then that's when he called Deputy Fields.

LEMON: And then Deputy Fields comes in and then what happened then, Niya?

KENNY: Then like I said he comes toward her and he asks her are are you going to leave with me? And then he moves the desk of the side, moves her laptop from off of her desk. And he grabs her arm and he puts his arm around her neck at first, and so, that's why you actually see her, if you get the right video, you'll see her, like, trying to swing at him, and at that point, then he just flipped the desk back and grabbed her out of it and threw her and that's when you see her rolling across the floor.

LEMON: Why did you -- why did you start -- decide to start filming?

KENNY: Because I -- because, like, we've heard about his reputation. We've heard that he's a really (muted). I don't want, yes, I can say dangerous man, to get involved with. You know, on that level.

So, when he came in the classroom, I immediately told my classmates, get your phones out, get your phones out. I think this is going to go downhill. And it did.

LEMON: Yes. You said that he's a very dangerous man. Go ahead, Simone.

SIMONE MARTIN, ATTORNEY: I was going to say if I may interject, I've been told by a number of students that he is referred to as Officer Slam as opposed to Officer Fields. And that's telling.

LEMON: Yes. SIMONE: Very telling.

LEMON: So, what did Officer Fields say to you, Niya, when you were filming?

KENNY: Well, I was screaming in the classroom. You know, screaming and crying. I'm just like what's going on? What, you know, what the, what the? And he -- as he's on top of her he turned around to me and he was like, since you have so much to say, you're next.

So, then they escort her out of the classroom. Then he comes back. He said you got so much, you got something you want to say, you got something you want to say? You want some of this, too? And I was just like, no, and I just put my hands behind my back.

LEMON: Did you know -- did you know the student well who -- the one who was assaulted? Appears to be assaulted?

KENNY: I didn't even know her name. And we've been in class for a few months together. That's how quiet she is. She doesn't talk to anyone.

LEMON: She's a very quiet student?

KENNY: Yes, sir.

LEMON: Yes. And never had any altercation with anyone that you know of in the class with the teacher or anything?

KENNY: No, sir.

LEMON: You said that...


MARTIN: That would have made the officer's actions justifiable?

LEMON: No, no, we're not saying that.

MARTIN: Regardless.

LEMON: Yes, I agree with you. We're just wondering what she was like, her demeanor. Because by all accounts, everyone says she was a pretty quiet student, even during the altercation she didn't say much to the officer.

You know, Mrs. Kenny, I want to ask you about your reaction. When you heard that your daughter had been arrested.

[22:05:05] DORIS BALLARD-KENNY, NIYA KENNY'S MOTHER: Initially, when I heard she was arrested, I was not given the details surrounding her arrest. I was just told that there was an incident in the classroom that Niya didn't have anything to do with Niya and she took a part of it and for that, she was going to be charged with disturbing the school and was going to be arrested and transported to the detention center. LEMON: When you first saw the video, what did you think?

BALLARD-KENNY: Oh, my God, I was absolutely -- I was blown away (muted) by the treatment of the young girl by the deputy. It was just, to me, my personal, you know, it was just inhumane almost.

You know, I just couldn't understand why this deputy would throw this girl around in the classroom like that. Like, I was very disturbed by it. And at that point I was like, I don't blame my daughter, you know, for saying something or speaking out against what was actually going on because given, if I was in the same situation I feel like I probably would have done the same thing.

LEMON: And what do you want to happen to this officer, Niya? What do you think should happen?

KELLY: Honestly I'm just going to say it, I really think he should lose his job because I feel like not even the officer, like, no man should put his hands on a child like that. She's 16 years old. This man is huge. I feel like he needs to lose his job.

MARTIN: It really is sad and it's devastating and infuriating that a 300-pound weight lifting, muscle bound man would assault a child the way that he did. And I feel as if a public apology is appropriate in this case, as well as termination.

Honestly, this is a horrible situation to have taken place in our schools and someone has to pay. Someone has to be accountable for those inhumane and barbaric actions.

LEMON: Well, best of luck. And we're thankful that you came in to tell us your side of the story. And we wish you all the best. Please keep us informed on the progress of this, OK?


MARTIN: Thank you very having us.

BALLARD-KENNY: Thank you very having us.

LEMON: Thank you.

And when we come right back here, the man who will decide whether Deputy Ben Fields keeps his job. That's Sheriff Leon Lott.

Plus Donald Trump on the offensive. He is losing ground to Ben Carson in the latest national poll, but not backing down in Iowa tonight.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody said without question, in every poll, this isn't just here, that the people that are with Trump are with Trump. They don't go anywhere. They're staying. It's true. I see it. I see it.



LEMON: Welcome back. We're talking about the horrible incident that happened in Columbia in South Carolina at a high school there. A high school student arrested, pulled out of her seat and assaulted by a police officer.

The police officer's fate, the sheriff deputy's fate school resource officer's fate now soon in the hands of -- will soon be in the hands of the FBI and now in the hands of internal affairs down there.

Let's bring in CNN's contributor Bakari Sellers, a contributor here on CNN and also a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and an attorney as well. You heard the interview I did with Niya, with Niya Kelly. What do you make of what she said about what happened in that classroom, Bakari?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first, kudos to Niya for being a strong woman. Kudos to her attorney, Simone Martin and her mother for raising such a courageous black female who stood in the situation where everyone else in the classroom sat down. So, I'm glad that that young lady who was assaulted had a protector.

But it's outrageous. It's frustrating, it's every other adjective you can possibly think of. And the criminal justice system in this country is simply jacked up. And right now, it sucks for people of color to have to go through the system, be persecuted by the media, we see a lot of victim blaming and shaming right now, and then my sheriff who I respect in Richland County has to make a decision.

I hope he makes the right one and terminates this individual for his abuse and lack of judgment. But we're going to now just send this to the FBI where even yesterday, you and I had a discussion about the director of the FBI having this Ferguson effect.

And you know, it's just a really, really bad place to be right now with our criminal justice system. And this video, this issue is not going to rest. I'm not going to let it die. And no one is.

LEMON: I want you to stand by because I want to bring in that sheriff now that you mentioned, Bakari, and we'll get right back to you. Deputy Ben Fields, the officer in this violent arrest in South Carolina, classroom, may find out in the next 24 hours whether he will keep his job or he's going to lose his job.

The man who's going to decide that is Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County, South Carolina. The sheriff says the student also bears some responsibility for what happened and the sheriff joins us now.

Sheriff, thank you very much. When you watch this video, what is the student doing wrong in your estimation?

LEON LOTT, RICHMOND COUNTY SHERIFF: Well, initially what our officer was called there is because the student was disrupting the class, and wouldn't follow the guidance and the rules and directions of the teacher and also the school administrator. And the school administrator asked our deputy to remove her from the class.

LEMON: According to the other student who was there, Niya, who was the other student who was arrested, that she was asked several times by the teacher and then she refused and then the administrator was brought in and then she refused and then the officer was brought in.

But even in all of that, do you think that his actions match up to just her having a cell phone and not wanting to relinquish that cell phone?

LOTT: Well, it's just more than the cell phone, but, again, what we're looking at is his actions. Not so much what her actions are. What he did, how did he do it, the force that he used?

[22:15:02] That's what I'm looking at. My decision is going to be based on that. Not anything that she did. It's entirely what the officer did.

LEMON: So, you said you'll have within the next 24 hours, but you have not reached a decision yet, correct?

LOTT: Well, I'm waiting until the final report's submitted to me. It's about 99 percent finished. Tomorrow morning it will be completed and I'll review it and make my decision at that time and then I'll go public with it.

This is something that not only the people of Richland County but the world wants to know what's going to happen to him, is he going to be able still be employed here or is he going to be terminated? And it think I owe it to everybody to make a very quick decision, but also I wanted to be fair and do a thorough investigation and that's what we've done.

LEMON: Can you tell us, sheriff, which way you're leaning?

LOTT: No. Really I don't think that's proper for me to describe which way I'm leaning at this point. I think the video is very explicit. That's probably pretty much speaks for itself.

LEMON: The video speaks for itself. Which may say -- I want to compare this to this video, to the incident report. You're looking at the video right now. Here is what the incident report says, OK.

Sheriff, it says "R.O., the resource officer then used mustling techniques to get the student out of her chair. The student began to push and pull away from R.O., then she hit R.O. in the chest with a closed fist and the student continued to resist and pull away." Is that what you see in this vide video, sheriff?

LOTT: Well, I see a combination of that. I see what the officer's doing, and I see what she's doing. And, again, I'm going to look at what the officer did. Did he use proper techniques? Did he follow the procedures and policies that we have and the training that we have? And he didn't follow those, then that's the decision I'll make that he didn't follow those and I'll act accordingly.

LEMON: Should the school be using resource officers to discipline kids? Students?

LOTT: No. I'm totally against that. And I think that's one of the problems that we've got is when we have a child that's not following the rules our deputies are getting called in to handle that. And that's really not our role in the school.

And I think sometimes the teachers and administrators should be handling things like this, but when they call a deputy and they say remove the student from the room, the deputy's going the follow the directions of the school administrator. That's what happened.

Now, what we're going to examine is, should a deputy have ever been called in the first place? Is that the school's responsibility to handle that situation instead of us getting involved?

LEMON: What's the role of a resource officer? What should the role of a resource officer be in the school?

LOTT: Well, he's got quite a few roles. He's a teacher. He's a mentor. He provides security in a safe environment. He wears different hats. And, you know, that's why it's called a resource officer because he provides many resources. He shouldn't be a disciplinarian. That should not be his role. That's the role of the school and the teachers to do that.

LEMON: You said that there is another video where she is seen resisting. When will that video be released? Will it be released?

LOTT: Well, it's already been released. It was put on Facebook and local stations have publicized it. But, again, these videos are just snapshots of what happened. What we need to do is put all these videos together and take statements from everybody and that gives us the full picture.

But again, what I'm looking at is what did my officer do? Once he used force did he use the proper force? And I'll make my decision based on that. Not anything that the student did or what a witness did. It's entirely what my officer did.

LEMON: OK. So, this officer was suspended without pay. And again, you're going to decide within 24 hours and give...

LOTT: Correct.

LEMON: What do you -- so you take into consideration, you said his actions, not necessarily the student's actions. So, even if the video shows her in your estimation resisting, you're not going to take that into account?

LOTT: Well, we'll take it into account, but, again, it's the techniques that he used. Did he escalate the situation? Or did he deescalate the situation? I mean, if you got a fire, you don't want to put gasoline on it. You want to do something to put the fire out. And that's what our officers are trained to do. We'll look and see if he used those techniques. LEMON: Sheriff Lott, today, you said that in the future that you

might ask all of the other students to leave first. Given what's in this video, do you think that is a safe idea? Because it could have been a lot worse had there not been witnesses and maybe no videotape.

LOTT: Well, you know, it's kind of a two-edged sword. You know, we had the videotape which has helped us tremendously, but, again, we have some students that are traumatized by what they saw. You know, we have to weigh that. And that's a decision the school's going to have to make, not us.

[22:19:55] Do they want the students to remain in the class when something like this may occur or do they want them removed? It's just further disrupting the school. It's further disrupting the education that's supposed to be going on.

Now, that's something the schools got to have. You know, a big site for us to weigh in. This is a partnership between us and the schools. And we rely on each other and I think we need to reexamine that and maybe, you know, make some changes.

LEMON: Well, Sheriff Leon Lott, we'll be looking to you for that decision tomorrow. We know it's been a long day for you. We appreciate you coming on. Thank you.

LOTT: Thank you. My pleasure.

LEMON: So how does the use of a cell phone by a student in the classroom rise to the level of a crime and escalate into a horrible incident? We're going to talk about that next.


LEMON: Federal authorities including the FBI and the Justice Department are investigating a violent classroom arrest in South Carolina.

Bakari Sellers is back with me, he's a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, a contributor now here on CNN. And we're joined by Monica Elkins Johnson, who is a Richland School District Two board member. Mo Canady of the National Association of School Resource Officers. And Stephen Gilchrist from the Richland School District Two Black Parents Association.

[22:25:01] I'm so glad to have all of you on here. Stephen, I want to begin with you. You know, you just came from the school board meeting. What went on there? What was discussed?

STEPHEN GILCHRIST, RICHLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT TWO BLACK PARENTS' ASSOCIATION: Well, you know, Don, there were a number of parents that showed up tonight expressing not only their frustration, but their concern that the district has not done what it needs to do in order to protect students from this horrible situation that has occurred in our district.

And I'm very pleased to know that we had a number of parents who expressed very vehemently their concern about what we need to do as a district to continue to move forward and at the same time, address some of these issues. So, it was a great turnout of parents and I was very pleased that they were very vocal about their concern.

LEMON: So take us inside. Were people upset? You said they were vocal. Who were they vocal with, toward, what were they saying?

GILCHRIST: Yes. I mean, some parents were very upset. You know, many parents wanted to make it very clear that this did, in fact, have some racial tones to it. And there were some parents who objected to that premise.

But on the surface, people were concerned that this certainly may have had racial tones to it and something they felt very strongly the district needed to take into consideration.

LEMON: Mo, do you believe that this had racial tones to it, as he said, as parents, we know obviously the officer's white, the student is black. But the school is not -- it's not an all-black school, and they said this officer's known as 'Officer Slam' to many students there. Not just the black student.

MO CANADY, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS: Well, one of the things that I think I have to make very clear is South Carolina is one of the very few states where we're not allowed to conduct training because the state has decided to train SROs themselves.

So, first of all, I want to say I'm not totally sure how those officers are trained because I don't know the curriculum. So, you know, I'm not sure it would be a racially motivated incident, in looking at it, one of the big things that I noted earlier today was it's going it be very important once we found out what happened that led up to what we're seeing on camera.

And it sounds like we're beginning to get some of those details and more will come tomorrow. But I think that's going to be the key. What we see on the video, of course, is very short snippet. But we don't know completely what led up to it.

LEMON: Well, the sheriff said he doesn't think resource officers should even be in school, shouldn't -- well, it's not the role of a resource officer to discipline students. So, then do you think resource officers should be in the school disciplining students? And what then would you have trained them to do?

CANADY: Don, the way we train the rest of and many of the states we train, we're very specific about this that the role of school discipline is for the school administrators. School resource officers have a variety of hats that they wear as I heard the sheriff describe, and that is they have a law enforcement role but they also have an educational role and informal counseling role.

But in no way does that play into come in into a classroom and dealing with minor issues of discipline. LEMON: Monica, you know, I just spoke with Niya Kenny. I hope you

have a chance to see it. And she was arrested for disturbing school as well. She says this was all over a cell phone.

Why would a dispute over a phone, over a cell phone, ever lead to an altercation like this? I imagine it is commonplace for students to break rules about cell phones. There are so many of them right now.

MONICA ELKINS JOHNSON, RICHLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT TWO BOARD MEMBER: Don, that is a very good point, and that should have never occurred. Cell phones is a very tech -- very great use of technology if used correctly. However, teachers have been trained through our professional development on how to discipline students.

That was not a case that should have been called for a resource officer nor a school resource officer. That's a math teacher in there. He should have been teaching math. The young lady was not doing anything that was disruptive. She was doing something that was disrespectful to the teacher.

She was asked to put the cell phone away. She refused. A trained teacher, a teacher who understands how to work with his students, and how to conduct a lesson would have continued on with the lesson...


LEMON: So, Monica...

JOHNSON: ... and would have dealt with that student privately.

LEMON: Do you think this is the fault of the teacher then? You said the school never should have called the administrator and then the resource officer? Because speaking with Niya, she says this is that teacher's thing, he does not like people using cell phones in the class.

He will take them away. Sometimes he'll give them back right away, sometimes you have to go through a whole rigmarole to get it back but it never escalated to this point.

[22:30:00] JOHNSON: I understand what you're saying. And I'm not solely blaming the teacher. However, my comment is the teacher should have continued the lesson with the students and could have dealt with the cell phone issue later and privately.

LEMON: Bakari, you know, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has called and the FBI, the Department of Justice to investigate this. What questions, Bakari, do you want answered at this point?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first, I mean, there are a load of questions. I was recently married and I have a 10-year-old stepdaughter and she was asking a lot of questions such as why was Niya even arrested? What did she do wrong? Why was this young lady, that Niya was videotaping, why was she tossed around? It was just the basic questions that we have. And then the more complex questions we have are why aren't officers in

schools, why don't they understand how to deescalate situations? Why didn't they remove the rest of the children from the classroom and deal with this young lady individually?

There are a ton of questions that have to be asked. I can also say that after the recent remarks by the director of the FBI, I'm not sure I have faith in him to be able to adequately and accurately discuss this situation either with his bias toward social media and the way that bystanders are interacting with police. So, that...


LEMON: Do you think -- Bakari, do you think this is a bigger issue when you said that officers should be trained, it's a bigger issue with this school resource officers and this isn't one person who happened to do wrong thing out of many?

SELLERS: This -- yes, I do. I think that the setting is very important in this situation. We are talking about a school where the resource officer's job is to protect the student. I said it earlier and I'll say it again, he's not dealing with Sammy, the neighborhood drunk in front of the local pool hall that's disrupting traffic. He's actually dealing with student.

And who knows what that young lady, 15 or 16 years old, could have been going through that day. I mean, if you live in a household with a young girl and she hasn't slammed a door or talked back once or twice, then I don't really know where you're living.

That's just the nature of young girls. But I know one lesson that I've learned from this situation is that little brown girls are going to make sure they know we love them and they're valuable in society.

LEMON: Yes. All teenagers. When I was a teenager, my goodness. I mean, -- my parents did not know what to do with me. Mo, I'm going to ask you that same question. Do you think that this is pervasive or it's just an incident with that officer, who, an officer who is out of control?

MO CANADY, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS: Don, I don't believe it's pervasive and I think there are three things that have to happen. You've got to have collaboration between the school districts and law enforcement agency, you've got to properly select the officers.

These are going to become the most high-profile officers in your department and they have to be carefully and highly trained. That's what we've done for 25 years, and I guess the shame of it is that not everyone comes through our training, because I know how we're training officers.

And, you know, one of the things, well not one of the things but the number one goal that we train SROs in is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and youth. And I see that happening with many of our members. And I'm really proud of the way we're able to do that.

LEMON: Stephen, I'm wondering a day after, you know, Niya said that she -- she's expelled as of now unless something changes. I'm wondering how the students are reacting. Your son is at this school now. What are he and his friends saying about this one day later?

STEPHEN GILCHRIST, RICHLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT TWO BLACK PARENTS' ASSOCIATION: That's correct. Well, you know, actually my son wanted to come on CNN Tonight to talk about exactly not only his concern going forward, but just how his fellow classmates are feeling about this whole issue. And I must say to you...


LEMON: You should bring him on.

GILCHRIST: ... that children are afraid because they're not sure...

LEMON: I'm serious.

GILCHRIST: I certainly will do that.


GILCHRIST: But we would make sure we have do that. But, you know, Philip is concerned that we're not sure what the future holds for this, and Don, let me make one comment about the meeting tonight, that I thought was very interesting. And I haven't heard this talked about a lot at all.

We don't have female resource officers in our schools to any large degree, and this young child may have been 120, 130 pounds. This 300- pound-plus guy throwing this child around in this classroom, and it begs the question whether or not we need to strongly consider having female resource officers in these schools.

And this is something that came out tonight at this meeting that the school district had with parents, and I would hope that this is something that our board and our sheriff would take into consideration as we move forward with this investigation.

LEMON: All right. Something to consider. Thank you, panel. I appreciate it. Great conversation.


LEMON: If you can do it really quickly because I got to get to a break.

JOHNSON: I most definitely will. I want to correct Stephen. We do have female school resource officers. Resource officers are assigned to the school by the sheriff department so we do have female school resource officers.

[22:35:07] LEMON: We just need to make sure that they are assigning female officers to schools. Thank you very much.

Coming up, Donald Trump finds himself in an unusual position. Second place. Wait until you hear how he reacts to that.


LEMON: On the eve of the third republican presidential debate, Ben Carson now leads Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP field in the latest national poll. At a campaign rally in Iowa tonight, Trump says this.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you get the numbers up, Iowa, please? This is ridiculous. I mean, why does my competition...


TRUMP: ... in all fairness, what is my competition? Do you think these guys -- I'm not going to say Carson, I'm not going to say Rubio who really is way down. I mean, I am second. It's not, like, terrible, but I don't like being second. Second is terrible to me.


Joining me now is Sean Spicer, chief strategist and communications director for the Republican National Committee. He is in Boulder, Colorado. I'm sure it's kind of chilly out there.

[22:40:05] Sean, you know, the latest national polls by The New York Times and CBS News it shows Carson is in the top spot 26 percent to Donald Trump's 22 percent. It's within the margin of error. But when you combine this with the polls in Iowa, where he also leads, does this race have a new front-runner?

SEAN SPICER, RNC CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think there's going to be a lot of volatility in this race between now and the next 95 days or so before Iowans go to their caucus. That's traditionally what happens. There is a bunch of up and down that will occur and I expect there will be more between now and then.

LEMON: Donald Trump says, Sean, that he still has big leads and the biggest crowds, but is he -- do you think he's sort of losing his grip a little bit when it comes to what's actually going on?

SPICER: You know as well as I do, Don, I'm not going to get in there and start handicapping each of these candidates is going to run their own race. We're going to have 14 of them here tomorrow in Boulder to talk about their vision for America, and we'll see where things shake out after the debate.

But in the next 15 days we're going to have two debates. We'll give each of these candidates more opportunities to talk about who they are, why they're running and the vision that they have, and, again, these voters will ultimately decide. But there's going to be a lot of volatility before, you know, Iowa

votes, and then you've got New Hampshire a week after that. So, I don't -- I think, you know, this is just how the process works.

LEMON: Still, though, Sean, when you look at this new poll which is 70 percent of people say it is too early to make up their minds for sure, is that a window for the establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and maybe a Marco Rubio?

SPICER: Well, as I said, I mean, you're right, there's going it be a lot of volatility. I think at this point people are tuning in, they're paying attention to these debates. They are being frankly introduced to people that they may not know in the past.

A lot of names on our side are new. Some of them are they're getting to know for the, you know, for the first time. So, we've got plenty of time. I think there's going to be a lot of up and down. We've already seen it since that first debate.

We've had two governors that people expected to go pretty far drop out. I don't know where things are going to go from now, but I know there's going to be a lot of ups and downs between now and then.

LEMON: OK, all right. So, it's going it be volatile. Let's talk about Jeb Bush now. He's getting lean and mean in this race. Is it do or die time for him in your party's third debate tomorrow?

SPICER: Well, I don't think so. I think each of these candidates has their own game plan. They have to talk about, they have to figure out how many resources they have, what their key groups are, what their plan is. Are they going all in on Iowa, or a New Hampshire strategy, are they looking at taking a lot of states on March 1st?

But it's far based from me to make those decisions for each campaign. They'll make them on their own, not just Jeb Bush but everyone down the road, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Donald Trump, and Carson, and Carly Fiorina. Each one is trying to game plan what they need to do to come out victorious.

LEMON: Let's talk about those guys, let's talks some of the lower tier candidates. They may have a shining moment. But for the most part, a big group has been at the bottom now. Do you think the GOP is going to urge those, will you urge those candidates to drop out after tomorrow?

SPICER: Absolutely not. It's not our place. I don't think anybody in Washington wants the RNC or anyone in Washington deciding who their nominee will or won't be. Each of these candidates will make a decision on their own based on their resources, and level of support, when they think their campaign should fold or continue to go.

LEMON: Sean Spicer, thanks.

And tomorrow's debate will focus on the state of the economy, jobs, and taxes. So, will Carson, a trained surgeon, struggle? Who will come out on top? That's next. [22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Ben Carson will take center stage in tomorrow night's debate as a new republican front-runner. The front runner, just imagine how Donald Trump is going to react to that.

Let's talk about it with Bob Beckel, CNN political commentator an author of should I -- "I Should Be Dead: My Life Surviving Politics, TV and Addiction." our republican strategist Ana Navarro, who is supporter of Jeb Bush and adviser to other GOP candidates and Carl Higbie, author and former Navy SEAL, he is a Trump supporter.

Mr. Beckel, can I just say, welcome to CNN, and I was on vacation, people were e-mailing me and texting me, who is Bob Beckel, did you have anything to do with him getting hired? Take care of my friend. So, welcome.

BOB BECKEL, "I SHOULD BE DEAD" AUTHOR: And you said, no, not me.

LEMON: I said no way.

BECKEL: Nothing, not me.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Bob, darling, as a CNN veteran, let me just tell you you're going to have to add a line to the book, which is surviving politics, addiction, and CNN.

BECKEL: Yes. There you go.

LEMON: That's a good thing.

CARL HIGBIE, AUTHOR & FORMER NAVY SEAL: Your views are a little bit more welcomed here.

NAVARRO: Welcome to the family.


LEMON: All right. We want you to feel the love so I'm going it give you the first question. So, as I just mentioned, Ben Carson has knocked Donald Trump from the top spot in the latest Iowa and national poll -- national polls. He said something interesting about that this morning when the polls first came out. Listen to this and then we'll talk about it.


TRUMP: The thing with these polls, they're all so different, they're coming from all over the lot. Where one guy is up here, and somebody else is up there. Swings of 10 and 12 points, and you know, like, immediately even the same day. So, right now it's not very scientific.


LEMON: So, he says these things aren't very scientific. That's when he's not in the top though, right? HIGBIE: Yes. He's been using the polls as his jumping stone,

rightfully so because he's been at the top. Now two more polls came out by OAN and morning counsel, they were also put him at 35 percent well above Carson.

So, you know, in regardless of what happens with the polling here, I think Carson even if he does surge like he has surged in this New York Times poll he doesn't have the political staying power or the public eye experience to maintain this number.

LEMON: All right. That was him -- that was him when he's not at the top. Here he is when he's winning, though.


TRUMP: But we're really winning, we're winning everything. Everything. Every state. We're winning everything. We're leading every poll. Leading every state. I'm not going anywhere. Today is the 100th day that we've been number one in every single poll. You know we're winning very importantly in Iowa, we're winning and we're winning big.



LEMON: So, I mean, what's the deal, Carl?

[22:49:58] HIGBIE: Yes, I mean, look, he was winning every single poll. He's still up, you know, 35 percent in many other polls. This is one poll. The first poll we've seen him drop below someone. And of the 595 people that were polled, 70 percent were undecided. So, I don't know how accurate this poll is yet. I want to wait to see a couple more then we'll talk more about it, Don.

LEMON: All right. And here's what you tweeted, you said, "Carson leads Trump in national polls, this is huge." So, I mean, probably too soon to gloat, though, Anna. Tomorrow is a big night.

NAVARRO: Well, I'm not, listen, I'm not gloating. And frankly, if Donald Trump was a seasoned political person he wouldn't have been gloating for the last six months either. He would have talked about them but not put so much emphasis on them.

The bottom line is that it's not one poll, it's now a trend line. This is, I think, the third poll in Iowa where he's dropped and I think you're going to see a Donald Trump react to that. This is a new thing for him. He doesn't know what to do. You know, we might be seeing the first crack in the armor. A little bit of that hot air coming out of that balloon.

LEMON: All right. Mr. Beckel?

BECKEL: Hot air's got air appropriate. The -- let me say this. It's right. I mean, he has been falling off about a point, point and a half for the last two or three weeks, and so I'm not -- look, if you play it by the polls and use them for your excuse to be number one, then you die by the polls when you fall down.

The idea of -- I didn't see a candidate in all of my career, 100 and some campaigns who actually asked people to go and tell pollsters to increase his numbers.

I mean, so I think now is the time -- some of this has to do with Trump finally being focused on by people, and now the real problem for Carson is the light shines on him. And is he ready? Is he ready to talk about substance? I mean, this is a guy that said he wanted to do away with Medicare and Medicaid. That is a big step for a politician. And a very dangerous one. He's got to explain that. Now he's starting to backpedal a little bit. He should take lessons from Donald Trump.

HIGBIE: And I think it is Roe V. Wade comment is going to hit him hard.

BECKEL: Yes. Exactly right.


BECKEL: Well, you know, the other thing, though, that Trump is the biggest problem, I think was that Iowa statement he said an intern made about (Inaudible) Chemicals in the corn forcing people to think crazy. I mean, that's not the kind of thing you say in Iowa.

NAVARRO: Well, listen, but, Bob, he has...

LEMON: There's lots of corn in Iowa.

NAVARRO: He's been saying a bunch of the types of things you don't say in Iowa for six months. I consider it a small miracle that he stayed on top all that time. He has insulted war heroes, he's insulted POWs. You know, he couldn't quote the bible, he is -- I mean, you know, he's insulted Megyn Kelly.

I mean, really, what more can you insult and still pass Iowa nice muster? So, it's been a miracle he has stayed on top. Look, he's a one-trick pony. How many times do you go see, watch a cirque du solei show before you start getting a little tired of all the acrobatics and the lights and show?

BECKEL: That's one way to look at it. But I tell you. Look at the history of the Republican Party. Newt Gingrich was number one in Iowa about this time. Michele Bachmann was number one for some time in September. Iowans do that. They do take anti-establishment candidates and they flirt with them and they have fun with them in the preseason, but then it gets serious, and they're serious voters. And I think they're going...


HIGBIE: Right.

LEMON: And then the pre-season, it was Donald Trump and now it's Ben Carson. But Carl, I want you to take a listen to this. I want to talk about John Kasich. HIGBIE: Sure.

LEMON: He's clearly fed up with the current front-runners. Here it is.


JOHN KASICH, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got one person saying we ought to have a 10 percent flat tax that will drive up the deficit in this country by trillions of dollars that my daughters will spend the rest of their lives having to pay off.

We got one guy that says we ought to take 10 million or 11 million people and pick them up -- I don't know where we're going to go, in their homes, their apartments. We're going to pick them up, we're going to take them to the border and scream at them to get out of our country?

That's just crazy. That is just crazy. We got people proposing health care reform that's going to leave, I believe, millions of people without adequate health insurance. What has happened to our party? What has happened to the conservative movement?


LEMON: Carl, are there a lot of conservatives who agree with him? Or does he sound more like a democrat there?

HIGBIE: He sounds more like a democrat and he sounds even more like Jeb Bush throwing in the towel. The issue is he's at the bottom of the polls. One thing to look at here is the two guys that are leading the polls right now are Bush -- excuse me, Carson and Trump. And they're both non-establishment --

NAVARRO: I like that Freudian slip, Carl.

HIGBIE: yes. They're not republican establishment guys. They are absolutely just plain old guys that have been in the business world that have been in the real world not in politics and they're over 50 percent of the polls in like a dozen-people plus race.

LEMON: Yes. I got to go, guys. Thank you.

BECKEL: Can I say one thing about Kasich quickly? You know, we got the next vice presidential candidate.

LEMON: All right, Bob. You got your way. Thank you. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Now we want you to meet another of this year's top ten CNN heroes. Kim Carter turned her life around after spending more than a decade cycling in and out of incarceration and homelessness. So, she knows firsthand how hard it is for women in similar circumstances to reclaim their lives. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMM CARTER, TOP TEN CNN HEROES: What option does a woman with nothing have to start over? You have no money. You have no I.D. You have no family. You have no friends. And you're just out there walking the streets lonely with nothing.


[22:59:56] LEMON: So how does she help other women beat life on the streets? It's an amazing story, and you'll find out at And while you're there, you should check out all of our top 10 CNN Heroes and vote once a day, every day for your favorite at CNN hero of the year.

Again, that's at That's it for us tonight. Thank you so much for watching.