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Lindsey Graham Drops Out of Presidential Race; Trump Blasts Hillary. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 21, 2015 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT SHOW HOST: The GOP field narrows. One candidate drops out of the race, but front-runner Donald Trump at a rally that just wrapped up tonight sets his sights on his democratic rival.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Trump blasting Hillary Clinton, mocking her claim at the democratic debate that ISIS is using his words about Muslims as a recruiting tool.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's terrible. Donald Trump is on video and ISIS is using him on the video to recruit. And it turned out to be a lie. She's a liar.


He is demanding that Clinton apologize. You're going to hear her campaign's response to that and outrage over some of the other comments he made about the democratic front-runner tonight. We'll have the very latest for you on that.

A lot to get to this hour but we want to begin with the day in Trump.

Hillary Clinton was not the only object of Trump's wrath tonight, though, she was the recipient of some pretty off-color attacks. We'll get to that in a moment. He also had some choice words for reporters in the audience while talking about his new fan, President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Listen.


TRUMP: No, no, think of it. You know, it's Russia, after all. Somebody says, are you at all offended that he said nice things about you? I said no, no. And they said, oh, Trump should have been much nastier. That's terrible. And then they said, you know, he's killed reporters. And I don't like that. I'm totally against that.

I -- by the way, I hate some of these people, but I'd never kill them. I hate them. No, I think, no, these people, honestly -- I'll be honest. I'll be honest. I would never kill them. I would never do that. Let's see. No, I wouldn't. I would never kill them. But I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It's true.


LEMON: All right. Let's discuss all of this now. Bob Beckel, author of "I Should Be Dead, My Life Surviving Politics, TV, and Addiction," Katrina Pierson, the national spokesperson for Trump's campaign; and republican strategist, Rick Wilson. I think this is going to get our Monday off to a bank, so to speak.

Rick, Donald Trump was pretty bombastic tonight, even though he was campaigning behind a Merry Christmas Trump podium. He play Christmas carols at the event. How does this race stay heading into this holiday season?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's the first time we've had a 12-year-old boy who's just learned some dirty words and finds them transgressive running for president. I mean, the guy is obviously playing this crowd dynamic that the more bombastic and the more lunatic he sounds, the more they enjoy it.

And the fact of the matter is, you know, this is a guy who is a great showman and he's having a ball doing this. But, you know, to the 75 percent of the republicans who look at this and think, dear God, how is this guy -- how is this ahead? They're mortified by the fact that it's not presidential and that -- and that he is a guy who, you know, takes the first thing in his mind and it comes out. The guy is verbally incontinent. We've had this before.

But he has no filter and he has no break and at some point, you want to be somebody who is not just the guy who is saying whatever the hell you want to say off the top of your head. But, you know, he's a -- like I said, he's basically a 12-year-old boy running for president right now.

LEMON: Katrina, Rick is, I'm sure is referring to Trump saying this at the moment at Saturday night's debate where Hillary Clinton didn't make it back to the stage on time after a commercial break. Here it is.


TRUMP: I know where she went. It's disgusting. I don't want to talk about it. No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it. It's disgusting. We want to be very, very straight up, OK? But I thought that was -- wasn't that a weird deal? We're ready to start they were looking, they gave her every benefit of the doubt because, you know, it's ABC and she practically owns ABC. She really does.


LEMON: So, Katrina, why even say something like that? I mean, to Rick's point, shouldn't he have some sort of filter when it comes to that thing? You're talking about someone going to the rest room.

KATRINA PIERSON, TEA PARTY LEADERSHIP FUND SPOKESPERSON: Well, I think I've said this before, too. And Mr. Trump is with his supporters. He is with them as he is one-on-one. He is very personable with them. When they're meeting with Mr. Trump and he's at these rallies, he's talking to them like he's sitting across from the kitchen table.

But let's compare that to the republican establishment if we could. The republicans that really don't say anything that don't stand up for themselves, that really capitulate every time a democrat says boo. So, we do have a start contrast than this race. And there is a reason that Donald Trump has been winning this election cycle. It's because he's not the establishment that...


LEMON: Katrina, let's get back -- let's get back to the comment. Get back to the comment. Stand by. I don't know anyone and I'll ask any of you and let's be honest, do you guys talk that way at the kitchen table? My mom would smack the, you know what out of me. Does anybody else...

WILSON: Yes, for sure.

LEMON: ... does anybody else that way. Or if I was on a date with someone I would never speak someone...

[22:05:00] PIERSON: Nobody is going to admit it. Nobody is going to admit it, Don.

LEMON: Do you -- well, do you?

PIERSON: We've had some pretty intense conversations at my house, so, yes.

LEMON: OK. OK. So, this one, here is another one. He also said that she got, "schlonged," quote, "schlonged" by Obama in 2008. Let's listen to this.


TRUMP: Let me just tell you. I may win, I may not win. Hillary, that's not a president. That's not -- she's not taking us -- everything that's been involved in Hillary has been loss. You take a look, even a race to Obama, she was going to beat Obama. I don't know who would be worse. I don't know. How does it get worse? But she was going to beat -- she was favored to win and she got schlonged.

She lost. I mean, but I watched her the other night. It was hard. It was really hard because there were a lot of other things on better including reading books and reading financial papers, which I actually enjoy reading.


LEMON: Do you think that was -- Katrina, was that off the cuff? Because schlonged usually means, you know, something else.

PIERSON: Well, I think he was meaning like schlonged to the ground, schlonged around, I mean, are we really talking about the definition of a word of Hillary Clinton?

WILSON: Oh, he did not, Katrina. Come on, don't even try that.

PIERSON: What is -- what is schlonged in, Rick? Why don't you tell me what schlong means.

WILSON: Katrina, you know what, Donald Trump's use of the word schlonged is once again proof that he's a 12-year-old boy. That he's a man child disguised as a candidate. This is a guy who's making...


PIERSON: A man child that's beating all of your candidates.

WILSON: ... that Borscht Belt -- Borscht Belt insult comic routine disguise as a presidential candidate. And look, I know, Katrina, that you're uncomfortable with the fact that you guys are, you know, are playing defense on this today. But here is the thing. I know you're probably happy talking about this than you are talking about the use of the nuclear weapons and a tactical bases, which was a moment of truth...


PIERSON: I would love to talk about that, actually. Can we talk about that?

WILSON: ... Trump is ingenious from last week.


WILSON: Would you like to talk about...

LEMON: Not quite...

WILSON: ... and the use of nuclear weapons, Katrina?

LEMON: Listen.

WILSON: That's fascinated...

LEMON: All right. So, listen, hang on. Guys -- guys, I control where the conversation goes here, so let's hang on a bit. We'll talk about nuclear weapons when its -- when we're ready to talk about it. Right now, I want to discuss the comments made.

Bob, here is the interesting thing. You're sitting back with your arms crossed looking at, you know, two conservative saying, well, is that what democrats are doing? Well, here we go, we just have to sit back, Hillary Clinton saying we don't have to say anything, just let them fight amongst themselves.

BOB BECKEL, "I SHOULD BE DEAD" AUTHOR: Well, this actually breaks my heart. I'm going to have to pick up the broken pieces of my heart and carry on watching these republicans beat each other up. But look, here is the reality of the situation. You're going to be in Iowa now, we've got about five weeks till Iowa.

Trump's support in Iowa -- and I was out there for three days, Trump support in Iowa is -- he's got a lot of support, but there are people that don't normally go to caucuses, one. And two, he doesn't have an organization. He says he does, his people says he does but he doesn't. And there are almost 1900 precincts out there that need precincts captain. He had any close to that.

Now Cruz does and Cruz's support is rock solid. So, I think there may be a surprise in store for Trump. Now, maybe that he defies it again, and maybe that he can get people who don't normally go to caucuses to come out at that night at 7 o'clock or 8 o'clock and go to a precinct and sit there and wait to cast their votes.

But my experience, and I've been out there six different presidential campaigns, I've never seen anything like it. Maybe he can pull it off, but I doubt it.

LEMON: Hey, you know what, Katrina, let's talk about that, OK, because that's important. I'm sure you read the New York Times report about that Donald Trump not having the ground game in Iowa, that he needs to get it together.

Here is what the Time says, it says "Mr. Trump's Iowa predicted that he would recruit a leader for each of the state's 1681 republican precincts by Thanksgiving. But instead, the first major training session four precinct leaders drew only about 80 people to West Des Moines last weekend, with about 50 participating online."

So is -- I mean, Katrina, what does this say? Do you think that the Trump campaign can get it together in Iowa? And what's going on there?

PIERSON: Oh, absolutely. There is a precinct captain in all 99 precincts and they are working very hard. And Bob is right, there are a lot of new caucus goers that will be showing up to caucus for Mr. Trump specifically. I'm not really going to use the New York Times as our source of campaign Intel, but I can tell you that there is an organization in Iowa and it is very strong.

LEMON: For people who don't know, Bob or Rick, for people who don't know really how important this is, give us an idea about having, you know, precinct leaders or captains in Iowa, what this contest means this caucus.

BECKEL: Well, and I'll give...


WILSON: And I particularly...

BECKEL: I'll give you a shot. First of all, there are 99 counties in Iowa. There are almost 1700, I guess, precincts...


BECKEL: ... which -- and if you don't have somebody who is in charge of that precinct, who is going to be there when these voters show up, who is going to organize people to get them there, these are -- this is not like a primary where the polls are open from 7 in the morning until 8 at night.


BECKEL: This is going at a particular hour at a particular time and you get in there and you take your vote. Now if you're not used to doing that and you don't have a history of being a caucus goer, that makes it much more difficult to identify him and get him to a precinct.

[22:10:05] Now, maybe the Trump organization, I just missed it when I was out there. But I would tell you, I had a lot of experience doing this and I couldn't find it. Now maybe in the next five weeks, you'll be able to put it together. But that's an awfully short period of time to cover 1700 places, and that's what we're talking about here, 1700 caucus places.

LEMON: OK. Rick Wilson, you know, not so fast to that. So, that's what Bloomberg news followed up with more than 100 people attending a Trump event weekend in Iowa this weekend and found that half of them have caucus before, figuring if they've caucused before, then they're more likely to do it again. Does that mean that Donald Trump do you think can still pull this off?

WILSON: Well, I still think there is a big question of whether or not the infrastructure is in place from the Trump folks to do this. And it's kind of a black box because Donald Trump's campaign is primarily driven by earned media. In fact, it's almost exclusively driven by earned media.

We haven't seen in the campaign finance reports a lot of indicators or signals that they're investing the money on the ground in Iowa. So, it's really like I said, it's sort of a black box at the moment as to whether or not there is something real there, or whether or not this is another earned media stunt by the Trump campaign that's not backed up by the actual boots on the ground.

By all the reports I've heard from folks I know in Iowa, they feel like the Trump -- that the Cruz organization is really working very hard on the ground and has a pretty deep bench of folks in the 99 counties and in the precincts. But I don't think that you've seen the same sort of commitment in those counties from the Trump folks, anecdotally or otherwise, that indicates a real depth of organization there. And you're not seeing it in the campaign finance reports so far, either, of them investing the actual time and money there.

LEMON: All right. I want all of you to stick around, because I want to talk about this. Coming up, why Donald Trump is saying Hillary Clinton owes him an apology. We're going to discuss that, and maybe he's right.

Plus, President Obama slams from accusing him that makes exploiting the anger felt by many blue collar workers.

Also ahead, international embarrassment, the wrong contestant is crowned Miss Universe 2015 on live television. Oh, my gosh!


LEMON: President Barack Obama not holding back on Trump. The GOP and ISIS. Steve Inskeep joins me now as NPR correspondent and host of Morning Edition. Hello, Steve. How are you?

STEVE INSKEEP, NPR CORRESPONDENT: It's great to be here, Don. Thanks.

LEMON: It's good to have you. Thank you so much for coming on. You had a wide ranging interview with President Obama and he spoke directly about Donald Trump. He believes Trump is exploiting the anger felt by among blue -- among blue collar workers. Here is what the president says.


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: Blue collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy where they're no longer getting the same bargain that they got when they were going to a factory able to support their families on a single paycheck.

You combine those things and it means that there is going to be a potential anger, frustration, fear. Some of it justified, but just misdirected. And, you know, I think somebody like Mr. Trump is taking advantage of that. I mean, that's what he's exploiting during the course of his campaign.


LEMON: Steve, your question that prompted that response was not about Donald Trump. Were you surprised to hear the president take it there?

INSKEEP: I didn't really want to push him in that direction. I wanted him to talk in his own terms about what he thought was happening in America that cause questions of national identity that come up in so many different ways. There are so many issues we could think about whether it's immigration, whether its letting Syria and refugees into the country or Muslims into the country.

Donald Trump of course has touched upon many of those issues or triggered some of those issues in fact, so I wasn't entirely surprised to hear the president go there. But I did want him to address it in his own way rather than ask a close-ended question, if you will.

LEMON: Did he remind you sort of, do you remember the claim to the religion and guns comments?

INSKEEP: Oh, it totally did remind me of that. That was on my mind as we were preparing for this interview because before President Obama was President Obama, he was recorded making this remark about people struggling and struggling with the changing economy and clinging to guns and religion. That was the phrase that he used that was considered extremely embarrassing.

But in a broader context, he was trying, however, awkwardly to understand what it is that it's on people's mind, what their concerns were. And I went back to that topic, partly because I wanted to know if after seven in office he felt that he had a better insight on that.

LEMON: You know, Steve, president also talked about that part of the GOP that view him as different, other, so to speak. He even brought up the birther movement which was led by Donald Trump back in 2011. Here is the president in your interview.


OBAMA: Specific strains in the Republican Party that suggest that somehow I'm different, I'm Muslim, I'm disloyal to the country, et cetera, you know, which unfortunately, is pretty far out there and get some traction in certain pockets of the Republican Party. And that have been articulated by some of their elected officials. What I'd say there is that, you know, that's part pretty specific to me, and who I am and my background that in some ways I may represent change that worries them.


LEMON: So, Steve, is that the Trump base he's talking about? Because I talk to a lot of people who like Trump for a lot of different reasons.

INSKEEP: There are people who like Trump for a lot of different reasons. It's clearly part of what the president meant. And there's some support in polls that we're talking about some of the same people. If the president refers to blue collar men, for example, there are surveys suggesting that Trump gets more support among non-college educated men than some other voter groups.

Although, he had widespread voter support. So, there is some kind of overlap there. We could argue over whether they're exactly the same people. We could certainly argue about whether Trump's support is all about race. And I don't think that the president was arguing that Trump's support was all about race.

But he does argue that there are people, specifically element in the Republican Party, these are his words, who are whipping up sentiments against him on issues about his religion, for example, or what his purported religion is or about his birth certificate, other things that have been raised over the years.

And it was his statement that this is about race. This is something he spoken about very carefully if he's been willing to speak about it all over the years, Don.

[22:20:02] It's something that he clearly knows will trigger a reaction if he raises it at all. And even in this case, either because he was being cautious or because he's thinking about the dignity of his office. He didn't say people hate me because they're racist.


INSKEEP: He didn't say anything like that. He was talking about my unique demographic, I believe is one of the phrases that he used to refer to the fact that he's an African-American.

LEMON: Let's talk about security now and about foreign policy. You also asked the president about his ISIS strategy and he says it's important for Americans to, quote, "keep things in perspective." He also took a swipe at us, the news media. Watch this.


INSKEEP: What is the public missing about your strategy? And I say that simply because according to polls, you don't have very much approval for it.

OBAMA: Well, I think that what's fair is that post Paris, you had a saturation of news about the horrible attack there. And, you know, ISIL combines viciousness with very savvy media operations.

And as a consequence, if you've been watching television for the last month, all you've been seeing, all you've been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who were potentially coming to get you.


LEMON: So, Steve, people will say that usually blaming the media, right? It happens a lot, you know, the liberal media on the conservative side, but this is a democrat and a liberal. He says the media public -- the media coverage is raising public fears and he says that media pursuing ratings. What do you think about that?

INSKEEP: Well, let's remember what he's actually saying is the media are overcoming - over covering a story, covering it too much. And we're on CNN, Don, so we know this happens from time to time. It even happens on NPR from time to time. We have says over something that maybe blows it out of proportion. And some time passes and you realize it's not so important.

So, it's not a very outlandish idea that he's putting out there. Now where he can be criticized is by saying that the media are covering the story in the wrong way and by saying that I, the President of the United States have not done a good enough job in explaining my side, he is sidestepping, this is what his critics can say, substantive complaints about his policy and whether it's working.

He is essentially saying I have a strategy, my strategy is going to work. I can tell the public doesn't buy it at this time, but that's because of a failure to explain it quite well enough and that's what I want to do a little better.

In fairness also to the president, I want to say he's trying to make a complicated point. He is arguing this is a dangerous threat, but that there are many, many threats that the world faces and that the United States faces and you don't want to miss everything else just because you're emphasizing that one thing a little much.

LEMON: He also spoke to you about political correctness, and we'll touch on that a little bit later on this broadcast. Thank you. I appreciate it Steve Inskeep, NPR.

INSKEEP: Oh, anytime Don Lemon asks, I have to come.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Merry Christmas to you.

Up next, is Donald Trump exploiting the electorate or channeling a public frustrated with being left behind by their leaders? It depends on who you talk to. My panel weighs in and that's next.


LEMON: President Obama speaks out on how he sees Donald Trump's campaign as Donald Trump goes on an attack tonight against Hillary Clinton.

Back again with me, Bob Beckel, Katrina Pierson, and Rick Wilson.

OK. Katrina, you first, I want your reaction to what the president told Steve Inskeep about Donald Trump exploiting the anger of blue collar workers. What did you think when you hear that?

PIERSON: Well, I thought that was rich considering that the president when he first ran for office pretty much sectioned off everyone and placated to their victimhood and now he's playing the victim himself. Well, we have to look at over the last seven years, Don.

We have this president who actually argued to issue drone strikes on U.S. citizens on U.S. soil without due process, not to mention the IRS targeting, all the things that he promised he couldn't deliver and guess what? Your health care premiums did go up. If Americans are afraid, if there is fear out there, it is not because of Donald Trump.

LEMON: Rick, you're no fan of Donald Trump as you've made quite clear on the show and just about everywhere else. Where do you stand on this?

WILSON: Well, look, the president has always been a product more of the most elite segment of society than he would like to admit. And, you know, he's a guy who came through elite prep schools and was treated very -- there with kid gloves since his entire life.

And so, I don't think he's ever had a real connection to what's actually going on in America. I think the bitter clinger's remark as you reviewed with Steve Inskeep earlier in the theme was a very telling moment for President Obama.

He is a guy who has never gotten what's happening in America. He's complaining about our fear of ISIS when he's more worried about the weather than about a terrorist group that he wants to call...


LEMON: Rick, I don't remember Barack Obama growing up with a silver spoon. I mean, you know, a single mother and, you know.

WILSON: He went to -- he went to one of the best prep school, one of the best prep schools in the country. He went to the Ivy League University. This is a guy who had a pretty easy skate in his lifetime. This was not -- this is not a guy living hand to mouth who dragged himself up out of the gutter.

LEMON: Bob, do you -- I mean, the guy gets good grades and he gets to go to an elite prep school. I mean...


BECKEL: Yes, I'm not sure I misread the American dreamers there. I mean, obviously, he didn't come out of money. His mother and his father were divorced. He was living with his grandmother. I mean, but leaving that aside...


WILSON: The guy -- the guy never -- the guy went through life as a fairly privileged guy from the moment he went to prep school...

BECKEL: Well, I mean, I suppose you could say that about anybody that graduates from an Ivy League School. But let's get back to the point here. Is there anger in this country among blue collar workers known as the Reagan democrats? Yes. Is it over the economy? Yes, it is. Is Donald Trump tapping into that? Yes, he is.

LEMON: The only person who has ever -- the only democrat, Bob, and I'll let you finish who has ever been able to sort of capitalize on that is Bill Clinton. How do you think Hillary Clinton is going to do with that? Can she make headway?

BECKEL: Well, I don't know. I mean, I think that group is pretty tough for the democrats to get back, frankly. I mean, we don't do well with white men, you know, somewhere around the upper 30s or 40 percent. But, so, I don't think she's going to do that well with it.

But Trump is most populist who comes along and that goes along. You know, populist is not new. It comes back to Wayne John Bryant, you know, and all way up to Ross Perot. And it's, you know, it's something that when you know how to tap into it, and Trump is good at doing that, you can get a lot of support in the polls.

[22:30:02] The question I've got is when you get into presidential politics, it becomes an Election Day issue. Can you deliver your voters to the polls? And some can and some can't. Some overdo their polls, some underweight their polls.

So, I am very suspicious about whether Trump can convert this or not. But as I said, you know, I'm one of those people that from the beginning just like you, Don, let's not write this guy off. I mean, this is a strange year and people are angry.

LEMON: If someone tell you they are going to run for president that, you know, I take them serioulsy. All right. Katrina, this one is for you, and probably a home run for you. Donald Trump tonight also took on Hillary's claim at the debate that ISIS is showing videos of Donald Trump to recruit. Here is how Trump responded. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And you see Hillary, did you watch that -- what happened to her? No, she's terrible. She's terrible. Donald Trump is on video and ISIS is using him on the video to recruit. And it turned out to be a lie. She's a liar. No, it turned out to be a lie. It turned out to be a lie. And the last person that she wants to run against is me, believe me. Believe me.


LEMON: OK. So, Katrina, just as there was no evidence of thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating, there is no evidence that ISIS is using Donald Trump videos or sending them out to recruit. Is this Trump getting a dose of his own medicine and Hillary Clinton getting a dose of her own medicine saying, hey, listen, Donald Trump is doing these terrible things because she was upset when he said that.

KATRINA PIERSON, TEA PARTY LEADERSHIP FUND SPOKESPERSON: No, this is not the same thing. I mean, this was an actual observation that Mr. Trump from 14 years ago. He actually made this up on this stuff.


LEMON: But there's no evidence. We're saying there is no evidence of it. There's no evidence of either situation.

PIERSON: And I understand.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It never happened, Katrina. It never happened. You are not being truthful.

PIERSON: It did happen. There was another report that came out today in New Jersey talking about the exact same thing.

WILSON: It never -- it never -- did it say -- did it say thousands and thousands? No, it did not. I know you want this particular line of BS.


PIERSON: Did it happen or did it not? Rick, did it happen...

WILSON: Stop, you're embarrassing.

PIERSON: Rick, did it happen?

WILSON: More than thousand -- he said he saw thousands and thousands on television. That is the key fact, Katrina. Thousands and thousands did not happen.

PIERSON: That is the key fact which is exactly what I said, Rick. This is something that he recalled. Hillary Clinton made up -- she said that there is a video.

WILSON: Yes. It's not the first time -- but, hey, Katrina, it's not the first time.

PIERSON: But Donald Trump in it going around when it's not Donald Trump. I'm sorry, this was my question. Don, can I answer your question?

LEMON: One at a time. One at a time.

PIERSON: Don, can I answer your question?

WILSON: It's the first time Hillary Clinton has made something up.

LEMON: Let her -- let her say her piece. Again, Rick, you shouldn't respond.

PIERSON: It's not the first time, but that's my whole point, Rick. That's my whole point.

WILSON: That's what I'm saying.

PIERSON: Hillary Clinton made up the video about Benghazi and didn't even bother to tell the American people about it until after it came out on its own. So, yes, Mr. Trump is asking for an apology because that is something that she didn't recall. She just sat there and made it up, but she should definitely apologize especially to family members who lost their lives during Benghazi.

WILSON: Oh, my God! I guess -- I guess...


LEMON: OK. Now let him respond. Rick, I've got to go but I'll give you the last word. And Bob, we'll sit here and eat popcorn and watch. Go ahead.

WILSON: Well, listen, I think that the only thing you can really say here is that Hillary Clinton "schlonged" him on that video tonight. So, he can respond in kind and expect the apology but Hillary will never did not.


PIERSON: I'll go make up a video tonight just to say I told you so.

LEMON: Oh, boy. Boy, oh boy, oh boy.

PIERSON: I'll go make up a video tonight just to say I told you so.

LEMON: All right. This is really going -- all right. Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.

Coming up, Donald Trump claims he doesn't care about being politically correct, and now President Obama is weighing on the PC culture. Is this something these two agree on? That's next.

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Some breaking news into CNN right now. A Texas grand jury has decided not to return any indictments in the deaths of Sandra Bland, who is found hanging from a noose made from a plastic bag in her cell at a county jail. Bland was arrested after allegedly assaulting an officer during a traffic stop in July. Police say she submitted suicide, but Bland's family disputes that.

You know, the news now college campuses used to be the last bastions of free speech where conflicting points of were accepted in open dialogue for intellectual debate.

Well, today, in the age of political correctness, many believe that is no longer the case. Here is what President Barack Obama told Steve Inskeep of NPR.


BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: I do think that there have been times on college campuses where I get concerned that the unwillingness to hear other points of view can be as unhealthy on the left as on the right. Feel free to disagree with somebody, but don't try to just shut them up.


LEMON: Joining me now is John McWhorter, where a linguistics professor at Columbia University and author of "The Language Folks." Good to see you. So, this is the first time that the president has spoken out about this. He doesn't -- he's not such a fan of political correctness on college campuses. And you and I have talk about it.

So, what is this that is going on? Isn't it better, rather than shutting someone down, to listen what they have to say so then you learn how to argue against it?

JOHN MCWORTHER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY LINGUISTICS PROFESSOR: Oh, no, Don, not when it comes to racism is what these people are thinking. They're thinking that there are certain things that are off the table. And you know, let's admit it, there are things that are off the table even if you're going to talk about free speech.

We're not going to have a discussion about whether or not women should vote. We're not going to have a discussion about whether genocide is good. These people are proposing that racism, and that which offends me, is the same sort of thing, that all of a sudden free speech doesn't matter because we're talking about something where all the talking has already been done and, therefore, they feel like they're in the right to shut down any kind of discussion.

LEMON: Where does this come from?

MCWORTHER: This starts, I think, with the interest in what's called micro aggressions. And so, what we used to call it's the little things, the kind of racism that's just little text little things that are annoying. That started being discussed extensively on college campuses about four years ago. Add to that, Black Lives Matter and the protest model and you have a

combination that makes a lot of students feel that what their job is - is to show that the campus is a very racist place and to show it in extremely uncompromising terms, as if there were the same thing as people walking across a bridge in Selma.

[22:39:56] LEMON: All right. And you write about this, you said this is last month in your article called closed minds on campus talking about microaggressions and all these protected safe spaces. Where you said "Too often the definition of microaggressions is so broad as to condemn almost anything a white person says or does."

"It is forbidden to associate someone's color with any particular tree because it is stereotyping. But then it is also forbidden to say that one who doesn't see color at all and to question a person of color's claim of being discriminated against, what begins as a plea for compassion becomes a kind of bullying."

MCWORTHER: Yes. Unfortunately, we have the kind of thing where it begin with sense. There is a such thing as a micro aggression. I've felt them, I'm sure you have. But when you get to the point that you can define just about anything a white person says or does as a microaggression, what you're really doing is bullying out of a sense that somehow white people deserve this after all of these years of racism.

And the problem is, it's not constructive. And it essentially just creates strife because even the best minded of white people are going to push back against that.

LEMON: Is it, but do you think that we're creating that somehow -- she said we're creating a whole generation of whiners are being raised and where other opinions don't count except for your own? Your own opinions are the only one that are protected. But other's people opinions are not protected. So, every little offense -- every little thing offends you?

MCWORTHER: Now I don't know if it's a whole generation. But in a way what we're seeing is a little bit more disturbing because I think a great many people; probably the majority of people of color on a college campus are watching a lot of these things.

Some of them feel it's overblown. Some of them aren't interested. But one is not to talk about that kind of thing, especially if one is a person of color. So, the idea is that this way of approaching these things has a place at the table and that's a problem because this place at the table is one from which people feel like they're being enlightened to tell everybody to shut up.

LEMON: Yes. You write in the piece and you talk about James Meredith, you said none of these people has gone through some, you know, an experience like a James Meredith and certainly an experience when you -- I was in the college in the 80s.


LEMON: And you know, you would hear things.

MCWORTHER: Stuff happens.

LEMON: Right. But it also gave you a backbone.

MCWORTHER: Yes. I mean, I always kind of felt, boy, they sure are backwards.


MCWORTHER: Once I was at a bar, and it was an open mike night and a white woman got up and told a joke. She said what do you call 150 black people at the bottom of the ocean? A good start. And there were some scattered laughs. Even in 1984, that was pretty tacky, but I didn't walk out crying. I didn't write an editorial in the paper. I thought, boy, I am better than her and I still feel it now. And I think all of us could benefit from some of that.

Now, Don, I want to say not if it's a party where somebody is standing in the door saying only white girls can come in. Yes, you have to fight against that. But some of these little of things, I think the idea that a healthy human being learns to walk on, even if it has to do with racism. Racism isn't different in that way.

LEMON: Yes. Point taken. Point taken of that. Let's talk about these place mats. I don't know if you've seen, this is a Harvard issue. And here's the thing. It's telling students how to talk about issues like Black Lives Matter, Syrian refugees. I mean, does this sound like, when you look at it, and we have gone through it on this program. I have not -- from the liberalists of liberals on the show to the most conservative, it all said this is ridiculous. It sounds like indoctrination to them. What about you?

MCWORTHER: Yes. It's very simple. With those place mats, if the idea is here is what you say that will transform a person's mind and show them that you're right, hopeless. That's now how these things work. The issues of racism, issues of discrimination, and issues of Donald Trump are too complicated to yield to them.

It seems like these place mats are designed for you to have this, quote on quote, "conversation" with this racist uncle that we see all over Facebook, and then the racist uncle doesn't uncle doesn't understand and fulminate and then you get to feel superior because he's one of the people out there who just doesn't understand.

These things are about dialogue. We're not going to have a dialogue about whether or not women can vote. We have gotten past that. Race, however, is more complicated than that in many ways and the conversation will continue.

LEMON: This goes beyond black and white. Oberlin, the number of Asian students complains about inauthentic cafeteria Vietnamese and Chinese food calling cultural appropriation on the part of the dining hall. How does that fit into this?

MCWORTHER: Oh, God, it's this as simple as this. You have to basically talk about a conversation. So, sir, how does it hurt that this bun mi wasn't made in the proper way? It's a different kind of bread and that's an insult to you because what, well, the bread is different and that means that they are purveying an inauthentic version of my food.

And then you say, well, why can't you just tell people what the proper way is, and why won't people realize what the good version is when they are not in a cafeteria whose food is never good in the first place.

You can just box somebody into a corner. They're seeking to be upset in this case because they feel like it's what make them lies people.

LEMON: Cornell put out a list of approved holiday decorations where students are basically only snowflakes make the cut. So, if you want to put up some holly with or reek with a bow you need to talk it over first with either floor mates or your roommates.

MCWORTHER: Well, you know, I think that holiday celebrations all of them should have their decorations. The idea is being offended at tensile is frankly, we live in a very difficult world...

[22:45:07] LEMON: Yes.

MCWORTHER: ... life is really hard. I don't think that Santa Claus and tensile should be categorized, that offenses.

LEMON: The concern I think for many is that, you know, you sit here in the little bit, it's a little tongue and cheek, right? But and I know that your work is very genuine and serious, but I think the concern is that when you look at so many small things and you take a tensile so many small things that the big things people start to say, you know, they start to be overshadowed by all this little stuff that really doesn't matter.

MCWORTHER: Oh, yes. For example, there is racism on college campus.

LEMON: Exactly.

MCWORTHER: As you and I felt that it didn't go away some time in the '90s. And I've taken some heat for this. I do think that Woodrow Wilson's name and face should be suppressed at Princeton. Woodrow Wilson on race was a terrible man and more terrible than he needed to be even as a southerner at that time.

He really did destroy a lot of black lives. I get it, that's a reasonable demand. I wouldn't say something off about it. But it's so hard to see some of the reasonable demands in these slates, and I haven't seen any of these slates where there weren't a few things that made sense because of what looks like a melodrama to everybody else, where the students are fine to take off the table something as complex as what racism and discrimination is.

And so, they end up shooting themselves in the foot. They start out sensible and then they end up doing something that hurts their cause and doesn't create anything except endless dissension. LEMON: Yes. John McWorther, thank you.

MCWORTHER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it. Merry Christmas. Happy holidays.

MCWORTHER: You, too.

LEMON: Happy holidays. Happy Hanukah.

MCWORTHER: I don't celebrate Kwanzaa but just in case you do.

LEMON: I appreciate it. Thank you, John.

MCWORTHER: Thank you.

LEMON: Up next, you expect to see tears at the end of a beauty pageant but not for this reason.


STEVE HARVEY, MISS UNIVERSE HOST: To both of you, Miss Universe...



LEMON: An international incident in Las Vegas last night. A glittery faux pas for the ages. The comedian Steve Harvey who was hosting crowned the wrong contestant as the winner. Here it is.


HARVEY: Miss Universe 2015 is...


HARVEY: ... Columbia! I have to apologize. The first runner up is Columbia. Miss Universe 2015 is Philippines. Listen, folks, let me just take control of this. This is exactly what's on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake. It was on the card. Horrible mistake, but the right thing I can show it to you right here, the first runner up is Columbia. It is my mistake. Still a great night. Please don't hold it against the ladies.


LEMON: Oh, my goodness. Jim Moret is here, he's a correspondent for Inside Edition. Jim, every time is like the first time, I am just as horrified every time I see it.

JIM MORET, INSIDE EDITION CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Don, you are generous because it is actually two minutes between Miss Colombia's name being announced and that apology and edit. You know, I saw it with my -- with one of my daughters and my 18-year-old son tonight, before I came here. And I've seen it several times and I thought it would be easier to watch. It was harder to watch. And neither of them had seen it because they were cringing knowing what was coming. It's tough. It is so hard to watch.

LEMON: Did they had to take the crown off her? I mean, I don't know.

MORET: You know what, yes, because you're looking and you're thinking, is the director, is he going to cut to that poor girl having the crown taken from her? You know, a lot of people are saying they should share the crown, that in the spirit of the pageant, perhaps both women should share.

And I have to say, both of those women showed dignity and class and grace on how they handled this. And my heart breaks for Steve Harvey. I mean, look, he's a host. He has a lot of experience. But wow, wow, what a mistake.

LEMON: hey, let's put up. Speaking of Steve Harvey, OK. This is the image. We'll put the image of Harvey's card up for you, Jim, which says Miss Universe 2015 Philippines. But, you know, in a Miss Universe, Snap Chat, if you look at it, Steve Harvey says that the teleprompter had it wrong, that the prompter said Colombia. But what do you think happened?

MORET: You know, you wonder if he went through rehearsal. Because that card is very clear. Well, everybody...


LEMON: Did you see the reports that say...

MORET: I did see it. I did see a report that says he was not -- look, I don't want to blast the guy. He's a professional.

[22:55:01] LEMON: He's a very nice guy. Yes.

MORET: He's a very likable guy. I do think he needs to get in front of this, though, and come and talk on a show live and maybe the even be self-effacing. Look, he's taken responsibility.


MORET: He clearly has done that. He almost has to make a joke of it himself because this really destroyed the night for these two women. This was their dream. It's not the most important thing in the world, but it's pretty big in their world. And it was a big telecast. I don't know. I cannot imagine -- I don't believe the conspiracy theorists. I think it was a horrible mistake.

LEMON: I agree. He said it was a human mistake. And I mean, you couldn't pay, I don't think, Steve enough money to do that.


LEMON: And listen, here is the thing. You and I have both been on live television before. We -- that before, that's the perils of life television. MORET: yes.

LEMON: This isn't to tease up people, sometimes you say, sometimes I can't get out from in front of my own self or my own tamer, whatever, on some nights. And there are things just happen live. And so, I feel bad for everybody involved, but, you know, they'll be OK. I think they'll probably end up being more famous and making more money because of it.

MORET: I think you're right. I think you're right.

LEMON: Let's hopeful -- hope so. Thank you. We'll see you. We'll be right back, everyone.


LEMON: I want to report to you again, the breaking news here on CNN. A Texas grand jury decides not to return indictments in the Sandra Bland case, the death of Sandra Bland who was found hanging in a county jail cell.

[23:00:00] Bland was arrested after allegedly assaulting an officer during a traffic stop in July. Police says she committed suicide. Tomorrow night I'm going to speak with her sister and a family attorney.

That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. See you back here tomorrow. AC360 starts right now.