Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Compares Rival Ben Carson's Self-Described Pathological Temper to the Sickness of a Child Molester; Can a White Actor Play Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?; U.S. Forces Have Conducted an Air Strike in Raqqah, Syria, Targeting the Infamous ISIS Executioner Known as Jihadi John. Aired 10-11:00p ET

Aired November 12, 2015 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT SHOW HOST: Donald Trump compares rival Ben Carson's self-described pathological temper to the sickness of a child molester.

This is CNN Tonight, and I'm Don Lemon.

Trump doubling down in front of a crowd in Iowa tonight.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you are pathological, there's no cure for that, folks.


LEMON: Plus, the issue that got the candidates really fired up the battle over free speech on campus and who's to blame for the turmoil.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president has created a greater racial divide in this country than existed before he became president.

BEN CARSON, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To say I have the right to violate your civil rights because you're offending me is un- American.

MARCO RUBIO, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Freedom of speech on campus it seems to be under assault in some of the supposedly finest institutions in this country.


LEMON: But the story might not be as black and white as you might think. Tonight, I'm going to Nick Kristof about that.

Plus, can a white actor play Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? I'm going to talk to that black director who cast him. There's a whole lot to get to tonight. But I want to begin with the extraordinary moment from Donald Trump in Iowa tonight.

CNN's Athena Jones joins me with that. Athena, you know, Donald Trump just finishing up speaking in Iowa. And his first night of having secret service assigned to him, he did something that they -- they might not like, they might -- you -- can you describe what happened?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don. That's right. It was bizarre, I mean, it was jaw dropping. We sat here watching him walk away from the podium do this demonstration which really got the attention of the secret service agents on either side of the stage.

Watch as he demonstrates his doubts about a story that Ben Carson has hold about trying to stab a close friend and relative as a teenager. Watch and we'll talk about it on the other side.


TRUMP: He took a knife and he went after a friend and he lunged. He luggage that knife into the stomach of his friends. But low and behold, it hit the belt. It hit the belt and the knife broke. Give me a break. Give me a break. Give me a break. The knife broke.

Let me tell you, I'm pretty good at this stuff. So, I have a belt. Somebody hits me with a belt, it's going in because the belt moves this way, it moves this way. It moves that way. He hit the belt buckle.

Anybody -- anybody have a knife and want to try it on me?


TRUMP: Believe me, it is not going to work. You're not going to be successful. But he took the knife and went like this and plunged it into the belt and amazingly the belt stayed totally flat and the knife broke. How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?


JONES: So, really remarkable watching him steps away from the podium like that. You can hear the audience seemed to be going along, seemed to be enjoying it but it certainly it wasn't something that secret service agents spent all this time, sending people to the man of commanders, explaining them for weapons, it's not the kind of thing they want to hear a candidate say or expect to hear a candidate say.

And, Don, this was the most animated we've heard from -- be and the toughest -- from the toughest words we've heard him used against Ben Carson. He didn't of course just attack Ben Carson. He talked about Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, and he also said of Hillary Clinton, the woman thing is the only thing she has going for her. So, it was a very big, animated night, a lot of tough words for Trump's critics, from Donald Trump, tonight. LEMON: Athena Jones, listen, thank you, but we need you to rest your

voice. OK. We can hear that you're losing it. You are working off it hard out there. Athena Jones reporting from Iowa tonight.

I want to bring in Bob Beckel, CNN political commentator and author of "I Should Be Dead. My Life Surviving Politics, TV, and Addiction." Also, democratic strategist, Angela Rye, former executive director of The Congressional Black Caucus, and author of -- author and former -- and former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie is here. He is a Trump supporter. And CNN political commentator, Buck Sexton joins me as well.

So, we're going to get to the Donald Trump story. But, Bob, we have this -- I talk to you about this. Are we going to go to this? OK. Pardon me, folks at home, we have some breaking news I'm being told. My producer and it's some pretty big breaking news.

We'll get back to our political panel in a moment. I need to get to the Pentagon tonight. Our Pentagon reporters are reporting this information. We'll get to Barbara Starr in just a moment.

A senior U.S. official says U.S. Forces have conducted an air strike in Raqqah, Syria targeting the infamous ISIS executioner known as Jihadi John.

Again, and you're getting this information just as we're going on the air tonight, I'm hearing it just as you're hearing. I'm reading it and I'm getting it in real-time right now.

[22:05:07] So, he is a British citizen, Mohammed Emwazi seen in the video showing the murders of numerous hostages including U.S. Steven Sotloff and James Foley and U.S. aid worker Abdul Rahman Kassig.

Barbara Starr has more now. Barbara, go on. What do you know?


This information just into CNN first just a moment ago. A senior administration official has now told me that the U.S. has conducted an air strike in Raqqah, Syria, earlier today, targeting the man known to the world as Jihadi John, the absolute notorious murderer of several American, Japanese, British, other hostages of an -- someone who has had hostages under his control. And of course, we saw those terrible beheading videos.

Let me be very precise with what we do know and what we do not know at this hour. What we do know is that U.S. Forces conducted this air strike. We do believe at this hour it was a drone but that has not been officially confirmed.

Jihadi John, his name actually is Mohammad Emwazi. He is a Kuwaiti- born Brit. He is someone that the United States, Britain, and Japan wanted to get very badly for many months their hostages were killed at his hand.

He has caused utter misery, of course, and horror and grief to the families of the hostages in so many countries. Those families getting family notification this evening, we are told.

Now, this is going to be a very interesting several hours ahead of us. The U.S., the administration believes when it took the strike it did get him, that it did kill Mohammad Emwazi, Jihadi John. But that is not absolutely confirmed of course, at this hour.

Because there are no U.S. troops, no military or intelligence personnel on the ground in Raqqah, Syria where this tooks place. So, in the coming hours, while they believe they got him, no absolute confirmation, they will be doing what they typically in these cases, they will be looking at social media accounts, they will be monitoring communications around the world of various ISIS elements to see what they have to say about this.

They will be trying to do everything they can to get absolute confirmation. But what we do know is earlier this evening, the families were notified that the United States conducted an air strike, they do believe at this hour they killed Jihadi John, they are hoping very much for that absolute confirmation.

LEMON: Absolutely, Barbara. I want you to stand by. I want to bring in now Buck Sexton, Buck, to talk about this, what this means to the war on terror here.

BUCK SEXTON, THE BLAZE NATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, look, it's an emotional victory, it's a psychological victory. But it's not going to in any substance of way change the reality on the ground in Syria in Raqqa.

So, this is the sort of thing that is obviously, it's a victory but it's not going to really have the sort of impact that you would see if perhaps you got the top leadership, you got Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

And even then, quite honestly, when you look at the past of insurgencies in Iraq, for example, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed, that was considered a great victory at that time and it certainly was, but the insurgencies actually got worse afterwards.

So, if you're looking at this as we needed to get this guy because he was on our most wanted list he had American blood on his hands, he was a brutal sadist and an executioner, absolutely. This is -- this is a big victory from that standpoint.

From the case of what happens now with the war against ISIS, with the Kurds, fighting them against all of that, it's more complicated. I mean, they have plenty of fighters, they have many thousands of fighters, and unfortunately, he is just one of them.

LEMON: Barbara is getting more information -- new information, Barbara. But what do you know about the recent movement, his recent movements?

STARR: Well, I just want to jump in on this point because he's absolutely right. You know, we -- we've asked, we ask every day, if not every week, about Jihadi John for months now. Because he is so notorious and someone, you know, so much that the U.S. wanted to get to.

So, is he really a so-called high value target? You know, in the league of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of Osama Bin Laden of Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, the top leaders of this terror organizations? What U.S. officials have said very privately is no, he is not a high-value target in terms of making a substantive difference on the war against ISIS.

He is an evil killer that they want to bring to justice and that's how they did it they hope this evening. So, it is absolutely right. These are essentially two entirely different things. This, if it was a drone strike, let me explain about what we know about how these drone strikes are conducted.

It is the Joint Special Operations Command headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Joint -- this is the command that has been gathering for months, intelligence, very precise bits of intelligence on all the top ISIS operatives.

[22:10:05] The people that they want to get. They operate a very quietly very much under the table, a series of drones. And many of the drone strikes you've seen that have taken some ISIS leaders actually been conducted by this military organization.

They have very strict rules of engagement. They do everything to avoid civilian casualties. So, what they do is they try to get a bead essentially on where someone is, follow them around, keep surveillance on them overhead and then essentially, quite frankly, take the shot when this person is either out in the open or not surrounded by civilians.

It's very pain-staking work and it is why there have been so few of these and why they are so difficult to do. But clearly, for the last 48 hours or so, they had a good idea where Jihadi John was. Let me just jump in and also add, all of the information we had -- have been told is that after all of these terrible beheading videos, there are some elements of ISIS that have pushed Jihadi John to the side.

They perhaps did not want as much to do with him as before. Because he is bringing a lot of heat on the organization. So, what we don't know tonight is how much Jihadi John had been forced to move around. Because when they move around that is when the U.S. can try and spot them.

LEMON: And then, let's talk a little bit more about that, Barbara, because he essentially -- and correct me if I wrong -- if I'm wrong -- he had become the face of ISIS, what people, you know, related to ISIS most. Those terrible beheading videos that we had to, you know, edit to make sure that we don't show how -- just horrific they are. It is horrific. He had become the face, but you said recently, they wanted to put him to the side because they were concerned about him?

STARR: Well, I will tell you, we had to hear at CNN, we had some reporting from U.S. officials indicating that that is what they thought was going on inside ISIS. Now, of course, the U.S. has a limited vision at times into the ISIS organization. I don't think it's anything other than evident to the public that the

way that the U.S. tries to track ISIS the most is by conducting overhead surveillance with aircraft and drones over Syria and Iraq and also of course, monitoring the electronic communications.

This is something that has gone on now with Al Qaeda, all major terrorist organizations around the world including ISIS, this eve dropping, intercepting, monitoring their communications on the dark web, monitoring their communications in what they believe are secure chat rooms.

This is well understood very much in the open media that this is what the U.S. government does. So, we are not revealing any extremely sensitive information here. This is a very open matter.

LEMON: Barbara, I want to ask you a question before we get to break. Considering, as you say, they were trying to marginalize him, what does this mean for ISIS, what sort of a blow is this for ISIS?

STARR: What this is, I think every U.S. official will tell you come tomorrow, they want this to be a message to ISIS, we will find you, we will kill you. But still, let's remember, they have to absolutely confirm that they got him.

That may be a very difficult thing to do. They believe that they do. They are telling us tonight that they believe they got -- they got him. But very clearly. They are waiting for that final confirmation but the message to ISIS in Syria, in Raqqah, their self-declared capital is, to use that phrase, you can run but you can't hide.

LEMON: All right. Barbara Starr, stand by, our Pentagon corresponded, and also Buck Sexton, CNN political reporter. Jihadi John, the man behind those beheading videos, it is believed that he has been killed in a drone strike in Raqqah, Syria. Drone strike ordered by the U.S.

We'll continue with our breaking news right after this break.


LEMON: OK. Let's turn now back to the day in politics. And it has been quite a day.

Joining me now is Bob Beckel, CNN political commentator and author of "I Should Be Dead. My Life Surviving Politics, TV, and Addiction." Grand hog's day, I thought I read that earlier. Democratic strategist, Angela Rye is here, former executive director of the Congressional Caucus, and author and former Navy SEAL, Carl Higbie, he is a Trump supporter. And also, CNN political commentator Buck Sexton, who, by the way, is former CIA and a former Navy SEAL, happen to me sitting to me when we had that bit of breaking news earlier.

So, Buck, I'm just going to -- how is this going to affect the race do you think?

SEXTON: What, Missouri?

LEMON: No, Trump.

SEXTON: Where are we, we were jumped in from CIA to SEAL to how is it going to affect the race.

LEMON: Jihadi John. How is this going to affect the race? How is this -- people are going to...


SEXTON: How is Jihadi John going to affect the race?


SEXTON: I don't think it's going to affect the race very much at all.


LEMON: They are going to have to hear it. I think anybody talk about foreign policy and talk about...

SEXTON: They're going to talk about foreign policy. But anybody who knows what the situation was going after HVTs in Iraq, and you've got people here who used to do that. We can tell you that the reality is that there will be someone to take Jihadi John's place.

He wasn't the only executioner. There will be another executioner tomorrow who is going to do some of the same things. And the much more important circumstantial to do with is that ISIS is in control of large swaths of territory.

There are a few million people that are currently in what you have to call the Islamic state because it does operate as a state. And beating that back not just pushing them out town, is they're trying to do in Sinjar, they're currently trying to do in other areas but also the whole of that territory and then bringing government services. That's kind of insurgency that is slow and difficult.

LEMON: OK. Now let's talk about this Trump thing. Put the video up of Donald Trump. This is the first day with secret service, Bob, as Athena Jones reported earlier; he did something that really caught him off guard. What do you think of this belt buckle thing, Bob? Bob Beckel, to you first?

BOB BECKEL, "I SHOULD BE DEAD" AUTHOR: I just, I mean, first of all, think about this, how lucky can Trump get? That's a big story right there. He called one of his opponents a pathological liar, he stepped out in front of a crowd and said, go ahead, and knife me. And what happens you get this news about this drone attack.

[00:04:59] And so, it will probably cover it up a little bit. But it's just, you know, Trump has been in summer play stuck for the summer, he's now moved off Broadway and he is getting more serious and it's about to set the big lights.

And he can't play, he just, I mean, you can't say things like this over and over and get away with it. And so far, he has, but I'm not one of these people who buy the fact that he can make it to a convention.

LEMON: Yes. So, Mr. Higbie, so, he is your guy, that make you uncomfortable when he did that?

CARL HIGBIE, AUTHOR & FORMER NAVY SEAL: No, I don't think so at all. It shows -- you know, what people are looking for is strength in a leader. And it's been so long, we got eight years or seven of a guy who has not shown strength as our leader, and he stepped out and he said, you know what, try it. Try it.

Look at me. And he called it for what it is. He said, look, this is -- this is a pathological syndrome and I don't think it happened. So, you know, don't -- don't be fooled. And he stood up for what he thought was right, and that's what Trump -- that's what attracts people to Trump is that people like what he has to say because it's real.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about this video reporting that's in The Washington Post tonight. This is Robert Costa, Philip Rucker from The Washington Post, they are reporting tonight that the republican establishment worried that Trump or Carson might win and that some on the right are contemplating drafting Mitt Romney. What is your -- what's your reaction to that, Angela?

ANGELA RYE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Six million votes. That's how many he lost by last time. That would be a terrible decision to draft Mitt Romney. I so understand why the establishment is very afraid right now.

Donald Trump and certainly not Ben Carson do not have what it takes to win the -- to win the general election. And so, I understand the fact that they're frazzled, their golden guy, I won't call him the golden boy because of course, of course we now know that name belongs to Marco Rubio.

But their golden guy, Jeb Bush has not done what they thought he would do. Don, Jeb Bush has been a whap, a flop in everything in between at every single debate. He shook up his campaign and that didn't do anything but shake him up. I think literally...


LEMON: But that's the reason, that's the reason for this...

RYE: ... is compare that they were all over its place.

LEMON: That's one of the reasons for the reporting o this Washington Post reporting.

RYE: I get it. And I didn't think that but -- I get it. Don, you're right. The problem is that they are -- they -- I don't know. You tell me.


SEXTON: Ben Carson definitely has what it takes. Because Ben Carson has been beating Hillary Clinton in national polls in recent weeks. He is one of several...


BECKEL: That's just he's done, please.

SEXTON: ... he is one of several candidates that the republicans have.

RYE: Yes. No, good luck with that. But what I was -- what I was getting...


SEXTON: Angela, just with one sentence and then you can tell it.

RYE: Yes.

SEXTON: There are several candidates on the republican side that are beating Hillary at the national level in polls in recent weeks. Now, Trump hasn't happen to be one of them recently.


BECKEL: It's Halloween, man, the year before. What are you talking about?

RYE: Can I finish my sentence? Let me just finish my sentence.

LEMON: Go ahead, Angela. Go ahead. Finish up.

RYE: I was getting ready to tell all of you is that the problem is, electorate is very, very different than what it was in 2012. You have frustrated republicans. Joel Walker (ph) around here angry, all of you even eager to jump in tonight. And the reason for that is establishment just won't do.

So, they are blocking to Donald Trump and to Ben Carson but the rest of the country is not going to be there with you. So, they are very...


LEMON: All right. Let Bob in here. Go ahead, Bob.

BECKEL: Listen, listen.

RYE: They won't be Hillary Clinton. They won't.

BECKEL: Before -- before we get carried away here, let's remember that the rules of nominating a president at the convention are very, very tough for the republicans. If the establishment who does control all super delegates, it does control when it takes all states, if they decide want to get in and encourage, say, favored sons to run in certain states to take votes away from Carson or Trump, if they really get real they could stop him.

I mean, I could sit down right now and figure out a way to deny them a majority of the delegates in the convention even if they win Iowa and New Hampshire.

HIGBIE: Yes, but, Bob, you know, you won't have someone like Donald Trump, even though he signed that pledge as an independent the Republican Party knows darn well that if they push him out unfairly on this that he could run as an independent. He actually has the resources to win.

Stop, everybody. I want you to listen to this, Donald Trump talking about Romney tonight. Listen.

LEMON: OK. Stop everybody. Stop. I want you guys to listen to this. Donald Trump talking about Romney tonight. Listen.


TRUMP: Something happened to Romney. He choked. I always said he choked. For a month and a half before the election you didn't see him. Say what you want about Obama. He was on Jay Leno, he was on David Letterman. He was all over the place.

And I said to these people, I was backing Romney. I said, when are you going to go on television? Then he announces he is building a 12-car garage in Malibu, California. Remember that fiasco. This is not what people and the horses. His wife has horses. Anyway, he loses. We should have won.


LEMON: Well, he certainly doesn't seem worried, Bob Beckel.

BECKEL: Yes, but it's Donald Trump. I mean, I can't believe -- we'll talk about this seriously all you want and we'll do that. He's got a lot of money, he's got a lot of presence.

But, when they decide, they, the establishment that everybody is revolting against. And by the way, it's a slim percentage of the Republican Party we're talking about here. But leave that aside. If they push Trump out, if Trump runs as an independent he may get 15 percent of the vote and all of the republicans, and I'll be happy to see him do it. In fact, I'll contribute to it.

[22:25:02] HIGBIE: I think there is a sentiment, Bob. I think More than 15 percent above it. I think we'll get more in 33 percentage poll.


RYE: The establishment to get beat in every poll.

SEXTON: The conventional wisdom among people that are paying close attention to the republican race is that it's going to be Cruz and Rubio in the end. So, people are turning away from this notion that it's going based.

I know we see all the polls, we see that it's Trump and Carson at the top right now. But people are saying you keep mentioning the establishment. Rubio happens to be somebody who came in as a Tea Party guy; obviously he made some missteps, has sort of done his penance and is now acceptable to both the establishment and to real conservatives.

And Ted Cruz is certainly acceptable to conservatives, and I think the establishment will come around to him. So, and they are just a few of the candidates, by the way. All of this focus on Trump all the time is wrong-headed.

LEMON: OK. Let's focus on Carly Fiorina because she just posted this on Facebook. Donald -- "Donald, sorry, I've got to interrupt again. You would know something about path -- pathological. How was that meeting with Putin or Wharton or your self-funded campaign. Anyone can turn a multimillion dollar inheritance into more money. But all the money in the world won't make you as smart as Ben Carson." Wow. Angela?

SEXTON: Carly burn there.

RYE: I just -- I just have two words for you, Don. Epic shade. That was horrible. But she got him. That was good. She got him.


RYE: Slice.

HIGBIE: Carly has great talking points. Whoever her debate coaches, give them a raise. But the fact to the matter, she is still not beating the Donald, not you, Don, sorry.

LEMON: Well, I'm just Don. There's no Donald there. But, listen, before Trump went to Iowa, he sat down with our very own Erin Burnett and he said this. But without the demonstration he led in Iowa. Listen to this.


TRUMP: When he says he went after his mother and wanted to hit her in the head with a hammer, that bothers me. I mean, that's pretty bad. When he says he's pathological and he says that in the book, I don't say that. And again, I'm not saying anything, I'm not saying anything other than pathological is a very serious disease and he says he said he is pathological.

Somebody said he had some pathological disease. Other -- other people said he said in the book, and I haven't seen. I know it's in the book, that he's got a pathological temper or temperament. That's a big problem because you don't cure that.

That's like, you know, I could say -- they say you don't cure -- as an example -- child molester. You don't cure these people. You don't cure a child molester. There's no cure for it. Pathological, there's no cure for that. Now, I didn't say that. He said it in his book.


LEMON: So, Buck, what's your reaction what Trump said about Dr. Ben Carson?

SEXTON: It's highly unhelpful. I think that it comes on the heels of a lot of attacks that we've seen that certainly aren't attacks you would see on democrat candidates, and certainly on attacks that you saw on, for example, Barack Obama, when the media was looking to his record when he was running the first time around, throwing to every little detail of his life asking people what happened 50 years ago.

Let's go talk to his third grade classmate. Was he mean, did he steal your eraser one day. I mean, the things they've been asking him are frankly crazy. And it just shows that they're desperate not to just take Ben Carson down a peg, but to completely discredit him because he is problematic for a whole bunch of narratives the Democratic Party relies on to get votes out and to try to achieve power.

So, I think what Donald Trump is doing is really helpful but what he does is says things that aren't unhelpful a lot of time to republicans, to other republicans. It's part of, I guess his charm if you like him.


LEMON: You are sitting next to a Trump supporter, you know that.

SEXTON: You think this is an outer body experience you can't believe he is still doing so well in the polls. And you wonder what he's going to realize that he shouldn't be moonlighting as a psychologist.


HIGBIE: This is a lot of things that you think are unhelpful, Bob. But to be honest, the American people overwhelmingly support him. They just want to hear it.

SEXTON: Twenty five percent of them right now, republicans.

LEMON: All right, everyone.

BECKEL: Be careful with that overwhelming. And the other thing is, does anybody here really believe the polls today show Ben Carson beating Hillary Clinton by 6 points. Does anybody really honestly be going to put your political chances on the table and say you buy that?

SEXTON: You got to make a bet. The Rubio poll I believe that poll against Hillary Clinton 100 percent. And I know you do, too.

LEMON: And when we come right back, a new man at the top of the University of Missouri tonight, at the campus moves quickly to address protests over racism. But is freedom of speech under fire in American -- at American colleges?

I'm going to talk about that next with Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.

[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) [22:30:00] LEMON: Breaking news tonight. I want to update you now, it's from the Pentagon. A senior U.S. official is telling CNN that U.S. Forces have targeted Jihadi John in an air strike in Raqqah, Syria.

It is not yet clear whether the strike was successful. Jihadi John who Western officials have identified as Mohammad Emwazi has appeared in a series of brutal ISIS execution videos talking Western leaders in a British accent.

We'll continue to update you on that.

Now, I want to turn to the battle over free speech on America's college campuses. The University of Missouri appointed an interim president who immediately acknowledge over racism on campus.

There you see him there, is CNN's Ryan Young. He is our national correspondent; he is there for us tonight. So, bring us up to date on the latest on campus, Ryan.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, Michael Middleton was made interim president here. Obviously, he is a black man. He was the third black student to graduate from the law school. He went to be civil rights attorney and a professor at the university. He understands part of this university or maybe somebody else would. But he talked about the safe places around campus for students.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What role do you think that safe spaces have here?

MICHAEL MIDDLETON, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI INTERIM PRESIDENT: I think safe spaces are critical. I think students need spaces where they can feel comfortable, where they can interact without fear. But I think if you're asking in the context of the First Amendment and free speech issues, that's a very delicate balance. Both are essential to our way of life in this country.

[22:35:00] YOUNG: And of course, Don, as we walked around the campus this evening, a larger conversation is going on just about what is the next step. A lot of students say, look, it looks like it's returned to normal but there have been internet rumors that have scared a lot of students around here, and that kept some of them away this afternoon.

You can obviously understand that there will be a lot more healing before everyone gets over this. Of course, there will be a large conversation going on. The quad behind this is now clear, Don.

LEMON: You said not quite back to normal. What's the mood tonight?

YOUNG: Well, you know what, talking to several students as they walked along here, the intramural fields are just near us. And ask walking -- some students talking to them. One said, look, they are scared. They grew up in the era of campus shootings. So, one someone all aligned threatening them they took it seriously. They were other student who said they would like to have a

conversation, maybe at Town Hall meetings so that they could discuss some of the issues that are going on here. The president for his part now says that he plans to sit down with several students to have a bigger conversation.

LEMON: Ryan Young, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Joining me now, Nicholas Kristof from The New York Times who writes about what's going on at Mizzou and other campuses. It's in his latest column, I encourage everyone to read it. I was fascinated by it,

You heard the interim chancellor talking about safe spaces. What's your reaction?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Well, I mean, I don't know that it's going to resolve of people there. One of the things he emphasized was the importance of conversation of discussing this. And I think he's absolutely right.

They are one of the broader problems we -- we need to have is more conversations about race. This is something that blacks talk about a lot. It's something that whites are often uncomfortable talking about.

One of the things that I worry about is that these are people actually makes whites more nervous about wading into what they perceive as a mine field, nursing grievances and that make it harder to actually have kind of open talk about issues that we need to talk about.

LEMON: It's tough, right? even sitting here to talk -- everyone couches their words and measures their words. but we need to come to a place where we don't have to do. And that's the concern about free speech that you wrote about free speech. That's the concern about these safe spaces that's we've been talking about.

KRISTOF: That's right. And a broader issue on American campuses that they have this leftward tilt that are often not congenial to conservative voices.

LEMON: OK. So, let's talk about a little bit more about this. All right. Because they have separate places for -- we're seeing that separate spaces for black and white students. I want you to look at these tweets, OK.

This is from concerned students 1950, "Dividing into seven groups. They are asking white allies to leave." And then the hash tag concerned student 1950. And then "Black-only healing space for the students to share, decompress, be vulnerable and real."

So, asking allies to leave black healing spaces, it's kind of like -- it seems like segregate -- segregation.

KRISTOF: I mean, I flinch at that. You know, I'm not there and I think it's also worth pointing out that students throughout the history of the world have always done kind of pretty stupid things sometimes. But, yes, I mean, I would argue that that's not the direction to go. On the other hand, I mean, I also think it's important to point that, you know, there are real issues there. I mean, there have been death threats that are terrifying a lot of people.

LEMON: Two separate issues, though, I think.

KRISTOF: Yes, absolutely. And I don't think this is the right way to address that. Absolutely.

LEMON: OK. All right. I want you to stick with me, Nick Kristof. We're going to talk more about this, when we come back, I'm going to ask you about how this is impacting the race.


LEMON: We're back talking about the war of political correctness being waged on college campuses across the country.

Now I'm back with Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Almost every major republican candidates today, all of them talked about political correctness on college campus. They're making it part of their platform. Marco Rubio today, listen to this.


MARCO RUBIO, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am concerned about a broader issue and that is, maybe this is not related to Missouri but, you know, the freedom of speech on campuses seems to be under assault in some of the supposedly finest institutions in this country.

In the case of Missouri, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what it is that got the president fired. What exactly did he do or say that was the reason why he should have resigned. But I just don't know enough about that situation to give you a concrete comment other than to say that I still haven't been able to find out what exactly he did that was so outrageous that merited him to step down.


LEMON: This issue a made for republican moment do you think, that the issue of free speech and political correctness?

KRISTOF: Yes. I mean, I think it is. I think that there has been a long-time concern about universities drifting leftward. I mean, when Condoleeza Rice can't be a commencement speaker or director at university, then, I mean, there is a real genuine problem there.

And I think that, I guess my fear is that yet, there are people compound that resentment, compound that sense of grievance makes it hard to talk about and create a platform for people to demagogue that -- that grievance.

I mean, in a country where a majority of white Americans believe that the big racial discrimination problem is against whites, not blacks.

LEMON: Carly Fiorina now. Let's listen.


CARLY FIORINA, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things that you see going on so many college campuses now is kids are taught that you know, if anything offends their sensibilities that they should can't stand up and say, oh, don't talk to me about that. They're called trigger warnings now. It's just, this does not help our young people prepare for a lifetime in the real world.


LEMON: Is she right? Do you think real civil rights struggles are being marginalized? That these are not sort of real world problems that the students are dealing with?

KRISTOF: I mean, I think there is a legitimate problem with too much political correctness and too much leftward kids on American campuses. But I also think that if you look at American educational problems...


KRISTOF: ... and does anybody really think that political correctness on some campuses is greater a problem than K through 12 education that is often dysfunctional that, you know, high school graduation rates that are number 17th in the industrialized world. We have plenty of problems. And I do think political correctness is real. I do think it's -- say not in the top 25.

[22:44:55] LEMON: We have a quote from you. I don't know if we can get it up here. But this is what you said. You said, "This sensitivity that's also intolerance, you write this, and you said, and it's just proportionately an instinct on the left," according to you, "I am pro- choice liberal who has been invited to infect the Evangelical Christian universities with progressive thoughts and to address Catholic universities where I've praised condoms and birth control programs. I'm sure I discomfited many students on these conservative campuses but it's a tribute to them that they were willing to be challenged. In the same spirit liberal universities should seek out pro-life social conservatives to speak."

Why did you think that conservative voices are more welcome -- liberal voices are more welcome in some conservative universities?

KRISTOF: You know, I don't know but I do think that there is a real problem when many universities have become kind of a vacuum chamber, a liberal echo chamber. And I think that's a real problem especially in the social sciences.

LEMON: So, what do we do?

KRISTOF: I think that we have to think about diversity on campuses, not only in terms of race which benefits everybody, but also diversity of political belief and that presents real problems, obviously. But I think that we need to -- I think we all be better off if universities were more welcoming to social conservatives.

LEMON: Thank you. KRISTOF: Good to be with you.

LEMON: Always a pleasure. Always a pleasure.

Coming up, can a white actor play Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? I'm going to talk to the director who made that controversial casting decision and got some people pretty upset. There he is, he'll join us live.


LEMON: When did Dr. Martin Luther King think of being played by a white actor. That controversial casting decision has some people up in arms over a production of the play "The Mountaintop."

And director Michael Oatman joins us now. Good evening, sir. Thank you for joining us. You actually cast two actors in this role. You cast a black...


LEMON: ... and a white Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Why did you do that?

OATMAN: I really wanted to explore the idea of could -- could actors of different racial persuasions play the same character? Could a -- could a African -- could a white actor who was American play a prominent American and have ownership in that legacy? Oddly enough, that we end up not going with the black actor. The black actor had to drop out because of a family issue. And we had to go with the white actor.

LEMON: Well, some people might say that this is a great social experiment, you know, content of character not the color of skin. But Katori Hall, who wrote the play found out about this and is outraged. Here is what she wrote in The Root.

She said, "The casting of a white king is committing yet another erasure of the black body. Sure it might be in the world of pretend, but it is disrespectful nonetheless, especially to a community that has a rare moment of witnessing itself, both creatively and literally in the world." She couldn't join us tonight, Michael, when we ask her. I'd like to get your response to that, though.

OATMAN: You know, I think there is fair response. I think as an artist I think sometimes we become too sensitive when people respond to our work in a way in which we may not like or agree with. But I think Katori Hall is very intelligent. She had a fair reaction. And I think that is the -- that is the nature of art.

We -- we are here to provoke. We are here to inspire, we're here to make people think. And if that's what she came to, I think that's fair. I think people should be able to react in any way they want to react. So, I don't get upset when people who watch my work find themselves in a certain emotional space. It's my job as the artist to make you feel something, to make you react. And I think that's a good thing.

LEMON: That's a very mature and a good way of respecting other people's opinion. So, thank you for that. You know, Dr. Martin Luther King -- but he's not just any black man, Michael. You know that. He is a sacred figure to many people of all races.

OATMAN: Absolutely.

LEMON: But particularly for people of color. So, how did the audience react?

OATMAN: Various ways. We had some people who got up and walked out. We had a couple people walk out. We had a couple people who wanted to walk out in the beginning but as they watched the actor became and ruptured in the performance they couldn't believe that they were being won over by this actor.

Because at a certain point, once they got past the fact of skin color, what you're left is, is a stage and an actor who is trying to honestly embody this legendary figure. And because we took it so seriously, we won some people over.

LEMON: What does -- what does that say -- because, you know, Hamilton is on Broadway, one of the hottest shows in Broadway; it's a black and Hispanic actors playing the White Founding Fathers.


LEMON: But what do you think it says about our society that people reacted, some people reacted the way they did to this experiment that you're doing?

OATMAN: I think race runs deep within our -- within our culture because of the tragedies that have grown out of it and I think it should be that. I think there's a reason why people react so strongly to anything that deals with race because race has been such a strategy, particularly today.

So, when I reach certain people who are very sensitive very angry by it, I know where that anger comes from and understand it.

LEMON: OK. Michael, thank you. I appreciate it.

OATMAN: Thank you for having me, sir.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: Breaking now on our breaking news from the Pentagon. A senior U.S. official tells CNN that U.S. Forces have targeted Jihadi John in an air strike in Raqqah, Syria.

Barbara Starr, our Pentagon reporter here with new details.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Don, U.S. officials are now telling us, yes, that it was a drone strike that the U.S. conducted over Raqqah, Syria, targeting Jihadi John. And that he was in a vehicle at the time. This is interesting information because we know they were conducting surveillance over him for at least a day or more as they tracked him around

They had gotten eyes on him, so to speak, and were tracking him. They have very strict rules. They can only take that drone shot with a missile from the drone when they are certain of who they are hitting and when they are certain that are -- there is very little likelihood that civilians will be hurt.

They wait for these targets, for these high value targets to be free and clear of any civilians that they may try and essentially use as human shields to, you know, hide themselves.

So, we know that he must have been somewhat out in the open and that they were convinced this was their best opportunity. What we do want to say again now is the Pentagon in announcing this tonight, still saying they are waiting final confirmation.

LEMON: For final confirmation. He's the man that had been becomes the face of ISIS in those beheading videos.

[22:59:57] Thank you, Barbara Starr. I appreciate that. That is it for us tonight. I'll see you right back here tomorrow night. You make sure you stick with CNN for the breaking news. AC360 starts right now.