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Interview With Ben Carson; Trump Surging. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 23, 2015 - 22:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN "TONIGHT" HOST: Guess what, it's a very Merry Christmas for Donald Trump towering over his Republican rivals in CNN's new poll. This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Trump's support among voters is more than double that of his nearest competitor and that is Ted Cruz but poll show Ben Carson tied for third with Marco Rubio. So, how does Ben Carson feel about that?

I'm going to ask him when he joins me live. There he is. He's going to join me just a moment.

Also, a Muslim family stopped at the border blocked from boarding a plane from London to the U.S. Their destination was Disneyland. The family claims it is because of their religion. We'll get to all of these stories this hour. It's a very busy hour.

But I want to begin, of course with politics. CNN's new poll showing Donald Trump with a 21 point lead over Ted Cruz who is in second place. Reports of a shakeup in the Carson campaign. So, joining me now tonight is Dr. Ben Carson.

Dr. Carson thank you so much for joining us. Are you doing okay?

BEN CARSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm doing well. Nice to be with you.

LEMON: OK. And listen, let's talk about the polls that we just discussed. CNN's new poll. You are now tied with Marco Rubio for third place behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. You are down four points since the last CNN poll in November. You have lost some ground. What is your reaction to that?

CARSON: Polls go up and down. And I suspect there probably a fair amount of movement, particularly into that last few weeks before the Iowa caucus. But you know, you have to be steady. You have to keep on message. And help people to recognize that, you know, our nation needs real answers. We don't need, you know, rhetoric. We don't need personalities, we need real answers. And as we get closer, I hope people will listen very carefully not only to me but to all the candidates. Really listen to the substance of what's being said.

LEMON: OK. So, you said polls go up and down. But clearly there must be some concern about it. Because you told the "Washington press -- Washington Post" today that you were shaking up your campaign. And here's what the post quote you were saying. "I am looking at every aspect of the campaign right now. Everything is on the table, every job is on the table."

And there could be some changes as soon as tomorrow, you said. So, that made some waves but in your campaign told CNN that you have 100 percent confidence in your team and that the senior team will stay in place. So clarify, what is going on here?

CARSON: Well, I think the "Washington Post" quite frankly had their story already written before they talked to me. And they were convinced that I was going to fire everybody and we were going to just go in a completely different direction. And that's absolutely not true.

I said, you know, we are constantly looking at everything. And we're going to continue to look at everything. No one is ever a 100 percent guaranteed that they are always going to be there. And that as the organization grows and as our responsibilities grow, you know, some things may have to change. And we have to add some people, we may have to change and we have to add some people. We may have to change some people.

The keyword there is "may" were always going to be look at. We're always going to be evaluating how people are performing. But keep in mind, you know, having a team like the one that I have that went from no place in March with no organization, no lists, no donors, no nothing, to this place is really quite spectacular.

And, you know, people say, what about the finances? Well, remember, with no startup organization like senators and governors and other people have it is very expensive to get up and running.


CARSON: Once you get up and running, the expenses go down in which they are starting to do.

LEMON: OK. So let's discuss then about some of the quotes. That you were saying that, do you think that their story was already written but you did -- did you not indeed tell them that I'm looking at every aspect of the campaign right now. Everything is on the table. Every job is on the table and were going to analyze it very carefully. It is not perfect then were going to work on it. Then you said you wanted more efficiency in terms of...

CARSON: Yeah, absolutely.

LEMON: ... of the money that is utilized and you're frustrated because the campaign was being described by critics as a rat hole for small dollar donations. So you did tell them that?

CARSON: I did tell them that. And I just explained it to you that it is not a rat hole and that any organization that's going to run a national campaign from scratch with no donor list is going to have high expenses early on. Anybody knows that. I think the people who wrote that in the "Wall Street Journal" knew that.

But they're always looking for sensationalism. They are always looking for a way to say you're doing something wrong when in fact that would be standard and actually I think we're probably ahead of the curve.

LEMON: Did you speak to the "Washington Post" without your campaign's knowledge of the campaign, manager's knowledge?

CARSON: I -- they knew that I had an interview but they were not there. No.

LEMON: Okay. So, here is what your press secretary Deana Bass and your friend, business manager Armstrong Williams both quoted.

[22:05:04] This is quotes from them on this article saying that Dr. Carson is back in charge. So are you taking a more active role in this campaign in the strategy to show people that you are becoming -- that you are more of a leader than the conception that may be out there?

CARSON: As things have gone on and as we've gotten bigger, and as there are more challenges, I've had to become more involved. There's no question about that.

LEMON: Do you think you have the right people around you at this point, Dr. Carson?

CARSON: I think the people that I have are spectacular. I would wonder who else could, you know, get someone who is an outsider, with no organization to disappoint this quickly.

LEMON: The reason I ask you is because, you know, you were doing well as of a few months ago. But just because you had the right team around you six months ago, does that necessarily mean they are the right team around you now? Because six months ago, foreign policy wasn't an issue, terrorism wasn't on the table.

So I ask you again, do you think you have the right people to deal with those issues because many people say that's why you faltered in the polls because of your response specifically to national security and to terrorism.

CARSON: I think the people that I have around me are excellent individuals. Will we, over the course of time add more people? Will we make some changes and alterations? Of course we will, because we always are going to adjust with the circumstances.

LEMON: Are you asking members of your team to take pay cuts?

CARSON: I am asking members of my team to make sure that all of our salaries are in alignment with what would be normal for the job functions they have.

LEMON: So according to -- and this is in the "Washington Post" and on background, we have heard that there are stories of concern from your team members in Iowa and South Carolina from staff persons that they're not happy. And that you are hearing the cries from those folks because that is a direct reflection of what is happening in your national team which controls everything. They are concerned that your national team does not understand what's going on in those places and there needs to be some rejiggering.

CARSON: As I said, as organizations grow and they become more complex, sometimes you have to reorganize or make changes. Those are things that I'm looking at very carefully right now.

LEMON: Have you spoken to your team today? As I understand, according to the "Washington Post" you had a conference call and on background I also hear it was a long conference call where there was sort of a "come to Jesus moment" because you are quoted as saying there could be changes as soon as tomorrow and then they sent us a statement clarifying that there won't be any changes you said with your main team. So what happened?

CARSON: Well, we discussed all the things that are going on, what things need to be going on, what things need to change. I think we're all in alignment on that page. And we will continue and we will continue to assess the situation as we go on.

LEMON: Were you ready...

CARSON: It's a dynamic process.

LEMON: I have to ask you, though, so in the interviews that you gave this morning and then after this conference call at 3:30, it seems to be, and quite honestly, Dr. Carson, a sort of, change in tone and a change in approach. Before this call, were you ready to change teams or dump members of your team?

CARSON: Not at all. As I said, I believe that the "Washington Post" already had the story written that they wanted to do. And I actually found it kind of surprising because, you know, Mr. Costas had done a story some months ago about how our campaign was in total shambles and about to disappear. And then, you know, I saw him not too long ago and he said, you know, I was wrong about that and would publicly admit that. So I thought he would be more adjacent in the way that he reported this time, but apparently not.


CARSON: I guess, a leopard doesn't change his spots.

LEMON: So, let's talk about the other people who are in the race, specifically now Donald Trump dominating this race. You appeal to a lot of people as a kind of antidote to his bluster.

Do you believe you still have that appeal, that same kind of appeal to people?

CARSON: I believe that as time goes on and particularly as we get closer and people begin to be very serious about the kind of leadership that we're going to have in this country, that they will be taking a second and a third look. And that's why we have elongated primary process. That's why it isn't just a couple of months.

LEMON: So at one point you were leading the race. Are you at all worried that you may have lost some of your supporters to Ted Cruz?

[22:10:00] I mean, he predicted a fundraiser earlier this month that gravity would take its toll on your campaign and your supporters would go to him. Are concerned that you had lost your supporters to Ted Cruz?

CARSON: I'm sure there are many people who are very, very carefully considering where their vote should go. They're in flux. And you know, as I used to always say as a surgeon, when people would ask what was going to happen, I would say why guess when soon you'll know.

LEMON: Yeah. What do you see as the path to victory for you now? I mean, do you feel like you have to win in Iowa?

CARSON: I would certainly like to win in Iowa. And you know, I was in Iowa this weekend before a number of different audiences. And I was very encouraged as I talked to the people in the rope line afterwards and so many of them said, you know what, I was on the fence but I'm with you now. Because when I hear you in person it's so different than the little snippet on things that we get on the debates.

LEMON: So, you know, as we wrap this up, I want to know -- I want you to tell the viewers, because people are, you know, people are watching and they maybe at one time where your supporters are still are because of the stories that have happened today because what happened at the interviews and that what happened this morning and then the clarification. I'm sure people are concerned or wondering where your campaign is going.

Do you want to reassure the American people? What do you have to say to American people about your campaign and how you're going to continue on with it?

CARSON: Well, I would say that there are a lot of people who are very concerned about my campaign because, you know, I'm a Maverick. I'm not a politician. And I believe in the constitution. I believe at this country is up for and by the people. I'm not going to play the games. I'm not going to get involved with special interest groups.

And you know, if that's the kind of thing that people want and somebody who has a history of tremendous accomplishments and not a history of talking a lot. Then they will choose me. And if not they will choose somebody else, a politician and that will be fine too if that's what they want.

LEMON: And you are back on the campaign trail after the Holidays?

CARSON: I am definitely going to be back, yes.

LEMON: Thank you, Dr. Carson. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

CARSON: Always a pleasure.

LEMON: Thank you. CARSON: Thank you. Merry Christmas to you.

LEMON: Up next, Donald Trump surging in CNN's new poll. GOP voters say he is the best candidate to handle the economy, ISIS and illegal immigration. Is he unbeatable?

And stopped at the airport gate, a Muslim family in Britain barred from a flight to Los Angeles. They claim it's because of their religion.



LEMON: Less than six weeks from the Iowa caucuses and there is no doubt tonight about Donald Trump's status as a GOP front runner. CNN's new poll gives in the 21 point lead over Ted Cruz, that's his nearest competitor. I want to talk about that with Hugh Hewitt, the host of the Hugh Hewitt Show. Shouldn't you be at home like cooking a, you know, big part of turkey, stew or something and getting ready for Christmas?

HUGH HEWITT, HUGH HEWITT HOST: I've already have dinner, West Cost time, we had ham tonight, Don. It's like I'm pleased to be back in California and I'm early, you're late.

LEMON: All righty, all righty. So, Hugh Hewitt, and as they call them that Donald leading with 39 percent in CNN's a brand new poll more than twice as support of Ted Cruz. Is he running away with the nomination? Is that fair to say?

HEWITT: I don't think he is running away with the nomination, he's running away with the polling. And if anyone tells you that they predicted this, they are lying. No one saw this, Donald Trump not only has an enormous lead, he has an enormously 39 to 18 percent.

In fact, the more interesting thing beyond that is if you add up Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Dr. Carson, you've got 67 percent of the Republicans in the CNN poll voting for a deeply conservative alternative to the next, you know, everyone is elected, Marco Rubio has 10 percent as well and Chris Christie in the first tier as well.

But, I think what you see with two out of every three Republican voters saying, "We want a more conservative republican clear choice to Hillary Clinton." They definitely do not want to run center right candidate at this point in the campaign and Donald Trump is benefiting from that.

LEMON: OK. So, I'm glad you mentioned Dr. Ben Carson in that because just an interview with him, you heard about this so-called shake up in his campaign today, I am sure, what did you think of his interview and the answers he gave me?

HEWITT: It was fascinating. Dr. Carson is probably the most admired man on either side of the aisle by the most number of people. Everyone respects his integrity, his professionalism, his experience. They also realize that he is a new comer to the political arena. So, there'll going to be ups and downs and bumps along the way as he organizes.

He got to some brilliant people like Armstrong Williams is his friend. He's got a very good campaign staff. But, what you've seen with the rise of ISIS is a concern over foreign affairs expertise. I spoke for two today on my radio show and going with "Washington post" reporter Joby Warrick who has a new book out called "Black Flags", "The rise of ISIS" and you have to be blind not to see that the world is facing an imminent and a very dangerous threat from those ISIS and a cheating Iran.

And so, those candidates who project less forceful personalities on matters of foreign affairs have been slipping in the polls are also add that Ted Cruz has stayed very steady and in some places ahead of Donald Trump like the Iowa poll that they more registered poll. Because he's as conservative as Dr. Carson but he also has I think more credibility among people who wonder about capacity. On that one thing about your interview which is very good, very interesting Don. Robert Costa may be the best political reporter in Washington, D.C., there are some that are equal.

And so, he didn't get it wrong. I just sometimes think that Dr. Carson doesn't fully anticipate how the Washington press who are always looks for the bottom line. They're not nuance based, right. They're looking for stories and Robert Costa particularly, has built his reputation over the years as being among the best at digging out breaking news. And so, I a little surprise here and -- weren't you a little bit surprised about it was on that?

LEMON: I was a little bit surprised. And listen, and I hate criticizing other reporters because you don't know you're not there. But, I wanted to give him a chance to respond to it. You know, I asked him a couple of times, he said, "You know, I think they already had the story written us." But, didn't you say these things? He is quoting you and you know, the quote is the best thing because you said it. So, yeah.

HEWITT: And he confirmed the quote. He also said my campaign is not a rat hole. Now, that is generally not a good way to have your campaign described even in the negative. And so, there are some basic communication tactics that I think Dr. Carson is used to the straight forward talk of a surgery room where life is on the line.

[22:20:07] He's still getting the hang of the game.

LEMON: Here's what I think, I think that he probably needed to get the attention of folks in this campaign and he did and I'll leave it at that. So then, you know, let's start...

HEWITT: Very well said.

LEMON: ... as you mentioned, Trump also dominates on the issues that are important to voters on handling the economy.

HEWITT: Yeah. LEMON: You mentioned Foreign Affairs, handling the economy, 57 percent. Say, Trump is the best, the nearest competitor is Ted Cruz which is eight percent on illegal immigration. 55 percent trust Trump. And again, Cruz is second with 15 percent on handling ISIS, 47 percent goes to Trump and 21 for Cruz. Those are huge numbers.

HEWITT: They are. We tend in America to elect the person who is least like the president occupant of the office. That's why President Obama with his sort of one worldish passivism succeeded the very war- like George W. Bush.

Now, people have realize that President Obama brought about this collapse in the Middle East and it getting it back to war but the Syrian Civil War, the Red Line that faded, the collapse of the president's will, his wobbly knees, whatever that is.

The opposite of President Obama is Donald Trump. The opposite of President Obama is Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie. That's why you saw during our CNN Salem Media Group debate, so much very focused talk about how to fight back against ISIS and the Iranian Hezbollah Assad axis.

And I don't think that's after Carson strength. And if we were talking about ObamaCare in the premiums skyrocketing, he'd be in a much better position right now. But I don't see the new changing much. I know you're going to cover the story of the British family that was excluded today from the United States. Well, that's again a reflection of the issue set that concerns us in the battle for Ramadi.

All these talk of war and the rumors of war are assisting a handful of Republicans and they're Cruz and Trump, Rubio and Christie. And those are the four who are probably position right now to talk to those fears in the American public.

LEMON: So, when you're talking about kitchen table, talk of dinning room table or wherever you had your meal or prepare your meal, I think people are going to go into this holiday where they'll be talking about Trump, they'll be talking about Hillary Clinton, Carson and Ted Cruz and, you know, the kids and the cartoon and all that.

But the front runner, who is Donald Trump has -- a lot of people even prominent conservatives calling him vulgar for his some his remarks. I see some of his remarks about Hillary Clinton lately, the bathroom visit and all of that and using the remark slong, I never thought I'd say that term on television so much. Were those remarks you think over the line?

HEWITT: Well, in the modern media, nothing is really over the line. I mean, a lot of times I'll turn on television I see Bill Maher still frequently featured on regular news shows and he's using most vulgar and obscene comments about former Governor Palin that I've ever seen. I won't go in a show because...

LEMON: But he's not running for president of the United State.

HEWITT: I know he's not running he's not running for president but the television -- there isn't really a line that a candidate can cross.

I'm much more offended that Hillary Clinton made up a lie about Donald Trump being in an ISIS video than I am by Donald Trump's use of colloquialisms that I don't use and you don't use.

I think, our priorities ought to be, Hillary Clinton was lying on Saturday night when she invented this second time. She used a video narrative. First time her video narrative to destroy the truth about Benghazi. The second time it was about Donald Trump. That's a little pathological. And I think people ought to be more concerned about that than they ought to be about Donald Trump.

LEMON: OK. Here's what I have to say and there is no proof of what she's saying is true, right? There is no proof but...

HEWITT: She lied. It's not about not being true, she lied.

LEMON: All right. Someone -- so, I'll give you that, she lied. You're saying she lied in your words so I'll give you that. But I asked you the same question about thousands and thousands of Muslims for Donald Trump. You didn't say it was a lie, you said that's what he recalled. So how is that...

HEWITT: And there's an objective difference between those two things. In the one case, there is -- now, it was fact checked by "The Washington Post" and the "New York Times" the very next day that Hillary Clinton lied about that video. She said the video existed, the video doesn't exist.

Donald Trump exaggerated, which is a huge difference between an outright fabrication having to do with someone being a pawn or propagandas in the pursuit of absolute fanatical evil. And Donald Trump commenting on what was concerning to him in New Jersey on 9/11 about which he and I don't agree. I don't think, there's any evidence for that but memory can't be fact checked whereas Hillary Clinton's claim of a video was and can be completely.

So I think, Donald Trump...

LEMON: But Hillary Clinton...


LEMON: OK. So you're doing nuance here. Hillary Clinton -- and listen to that and I'm not making an excuse --

HEWITT: Oh, yeah, that's what I do.

LEMON: Let me finish, let me finish and you can go with. I'm not making excuse for Hillary Clinton. I don't think it was the truth. But what her campaign said was, she's talking about overall people online and they're showing it on Arabic speaking media around the world. You're saying Donald Trump so, why is it a flat out lie for Hillary Clinton and not a flat out lie for Donald trump when there is no evidence that there were thousands and thousands of people? No evidence, no video, no nothing. Every... [22:25:00]

HEWITT: Because he said that's what he recalled.

LEMON: And said it's not true as well.

HEWITT: Don, this is not nuanced. When Donald Trump talked about what he remembers, you cannot fact check memory. I spent a lot of time going over this on the air with a lot of people. That's what he recalls. You know, you can put him on a polygraph and find out if he's making that up or not. I don't think it happen. I don't believe it happen. There were a maybe -- I think Ruddy Giuliani said on CNN a couple of incidents and we had a couple other people confirm a handful here and a handful there, so he's wrong but that's different from a cold-blooded lie about a video that does not exist.

And here's what the most important thing is. The most important thing is that Hillary Clinton presided over the collapse of American foreign policy which led to the rise of ISIS which led to the destruction of Syria and Iraq and the ruining of the piece.

President Obama and Hillary Clinton have a record from which they are running all of the Republicans, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, all of the Republican's Carly Fiorina, they want to run on those issues.

So, I hope at Christmas time dinner, people sit around and talking about the threats to the United States and that they've come up with two things. Two resolutions that they will vote for the Republican nominee whoever that is and that number two, the next time that the CNN Quiz Show happens that they partner Don Lemon with Kurt Schleicher. That's what I wanted to you, Don.

LEMON: I don't -- I had no idea...

HEWITT: Colonel Kurt is a good friend of mine. He's a good man.

LEMON: Oh OK. My producer just reminded. Yeah. I forgot, the guy of yesterday with. So, but listen, we'll have to agree -- I forgot who it was. I don't even remember the guy's name.

But we'll have to agree...

HEWITT: You'll love him.

LEMON: ... to disagree on the -- I think if you flat out tell an untruth that's what it is. I hate calling people liars. I -- you know, I misremembered, you know, whatever. It is what it is. So thank you. Merry Christmas.

HEWITT: Making up a video. Come on, I would never do that to you, I would never do that to Don.

LEMON: I'm surprise you didn't bring the t-shirt. I was ready for the t-shirt.

HEWITT: I didn't -- I've got it in a package. I got to get your home address and Merry Christmas for you.

LEMON: I has one for you. I was going to tell you Merry Christmas with this t-shirt. Do you see that?

HEWITT: Oh good.

LEMON: It's a Merry Christmas. It's my black Santa Claus. Thank you. I appreciate.

HEWITT: Oh, wonderful. Thank you. We'll trade t-shirt. It's a t- shirt gift exchange.

LEMON: Just ahead here on CNN. You get out of here.

Can Donald Trump be knocked out of the lead? We've heard from Dr. Ben Carson about his strategy. So, what about other candidates like Bush and Christie who are trailing far behind? And which candidate is celebrating Festivus?

Find out next.


LEMON: It's a Happy Holiday Season for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz but not so much for some other Republican candidates. Joining me now Marc Lamont Hill's CNN Political Commentator, Republicans Strategist Kayleigh McEnany and Brett O'Donell. First I want to start by getting reaction to Doctor Ben Carson at the top of the show. Marc, did you get a chance to hear him?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As much as I can ever hear Ben Carson when he talks. I thought that he gave the right kind of -- I couldn't resist -- he gave the right kind of answer though. He said that his campaign is stable, you know, he blasted the media. He doesn't think Carson does never use compare with anything. But I think the real question isn't whether his campaign infrastructure is stable. The question really is can he catch up with Donald Trump and not continue to bleed supporters and giving them to Ted Cruz.

LEMON: The question is can he do that Brett? Because in the new poll Donald Trump surging past the rest of the GOP field. You saw Lindsey Graham he had to drop out recently. And I'm curious is, you think there still an opportunity for someone like a, you know, Dr. Carson to establish, I don't know, some sort of momentum or at least gain his momentum back in his race?

BRETT O'DONELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think Dr. Carson's opportunity may have passed him by. He got his look and I agree with Hugh Hewitt. He got his look and unfortunately the issue set changed for him. And so that's focus is on foreign policy. And Dr. Carson hasn't measured up. He spend is interview with you talking about process rather than about message. And I think that's a very telling sign when candidates -- when campaigns falter it's really because the candidate is faltering not because the campaign is faltering.

LEMON: Is that the first thing you do? Do you know let's say -- do you -- I was going to say this news was you get rid of the talent and blah blah blah that's the first thing you going to do. So do you do the same thing, the person running, you know, says oh my campaign is the reason that I'm faltering and not me?

O'DONELL: Well, I think you can cast blame but what you really need to do is look at your own performance and improve your own performance and clearly, Dr. Carson failed the foreign policy test in both debates really where foreign policy has been the focus. Dr. Carson hasn't been able to show the strength that's necessary that Republican primary voters want in their candidate, the person that's necessary to keep us safe and secure.

LEMON: OK. I asked him if he had the right people around him. Because if you know, just because six months ago, the right people doesn't mean that they are right now, he may have outgrown them. And that was my question to him but Kayleigh moving on New York Times does it Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are turning to, you know, a guilt in New Hampshire to get voters to take a second look at them basically telling them, "Hey don't screw this up". Do you think that's going to work?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't and you know Jeb Bush, his strategy of attack Donald Trump, I mean that's failing and that's pretty clear. You know people extol him as having high and excellent debate night but then only 1 percent thought he won the debate. So he's strategy is not working. I think his campaign is basically over.

And as to Chris Christie, he is doing all the right things, he's saying all the right things but his systemic problem and his problem is this, conservatives do not trust Chris Christie. And he's currently fourth in New Hampshire. You know, he's a long way from first. Donald trump has a commanding lead there. He's not going to have a shot. When voters look at his record, this is the conservative election, people want a conservative candidate, Chris Christie is not that.

LEMON: Why don't people trust Chris Christie yet they trust Donald Trump? I mean Chris Christie is someone who is managed an entire state. He is a governor. He knows how to legislate. Why would you trust him and not trust senate and trust Donald Trump?

MCENANY: You know, Donald Trump changed -- yes, he did at times of -- he did a times in his past support Democrats. He did espouse democratic policies at one point. But he made a designative change. Chris Christie while governor of New Jersey embraced Barack Obama days before the 2012 election.

He has a bad record on the social issues. He accepted medicaid funding in his state. He has a whole gamut at things when he was purported a Republican that were very liberal in nature. Republicans don't trust him for a good reason. So all of the great words and great rhetoric don't go far when you don't have the conservative record to back it when you were in governing at a purported Republican.


LEMON: He could never live down that race and...

O'DOWELL: But Don...

LEMON: ... can he?

O'DOWELL: I think you are asking the wrong question, though, Don. I don't think it's about trust as much as it is about persona.

And in this election, I think Republican primary voters right now are looking for that person who is not Washington, not government, not an insider, not establishment. And to them, their symbols become Donald Trump.

HILL: But also not substitute.

O'DONNELL: They had, Marc.

HILL: But see that's where it gets tricky. And why I disagree with your point about, you know, Ben Carson not measuring up on the foreign policy front. I agree with you that he doesn't measure up. I just don't think that's the point.

Donald Trump had said nothing of substance on the foreign policy front. He simply offered, blustered and bombast but again, he's projected a certain image and that's what people cared about.

Chris Christie is the same thing. Chris Christie has projected a certain image but to your point he not only hasn't demonstrates that he's a legitimate conservative, he also doesn't have basic trust from voters because of the bridgegate.

But again, Donald Trump also is not a traditional conservative. Donald Trump has done nothing over the last 20 years to suggest that he had dived in the more conservative. But again, he has the right P.R, he has the right projection and sadly, Republicans are going to get the candidate that they are asking for.

LEMON: OK listen. I like an answer, yes or no. Brett, are we going to see Jeb Bush on the main stage next time?

O'DONNELL: Questionable, but probably, yes. Marc?

HILL: Only if he's work the A.V equipment.

O'DONNELL: And Kayleigh?

MCENANY: Yeah, I think you'll see him on the main stage.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, guys, enjoy your holidays, appreciate it.

HILL: Merry Christmas.

MCENANY: Thanks. LEMON: Bernie Sanders is a guest tomorrow morning on CNN's New Day. Bernie Sanders. Make sure you tune in. And coming up, a Muslim family banned from flying to the U.S for their Disneyland vacation. What happened? That's next.



LEMON: Tonight, U.S. officials deny religion had any part in stopping a British Muslim family from boarding a flight to the United States. A family was headed to Disneyland. Here's CNN's, Rene Marsh. Rene, what do we know?

RENE MARSH, CNN REPORTER: Don, nine members of a British Muslim family were at the gate when they were denied boarding for a flight to California.

The reason airline says, it was at the instruction of U.S. Homeland Security. But the family says they haven't been told why and that's fueling frustration overseas.

SADAF MAHMOOD, FAMILY DENIED BOARDING: My 10-year-old daughter said to my husband, "Is it because we're Muslim?" and my husband said, "Why would you say that?" She goes on, "Because we are the only Muslim people in that line."

MARSH: The family including seven children says they had valid U.S. immigration documents and have been planning and saving for a trip to Disneyland for months. The more than $13,000 they say they spent will not be refunded.

And a U.S. customs and border protection told CNN quote, "The religions, faith or spiritual beliefs of an international traveler are not determining factors." Now, CNN has also learned some members of this family had duel citizenship in the U.K. and Pakistan and it's believed a family member's e-mail address could be associated with a suspicious Facebook page that mentions Al-Qaeda but the family denies that.

Now, we don't know if any of that had anything to do with why they were not cleared to board. Meantime, CARE, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights organization is asking the Department of Homeland Security to prove whether an informal Muslim ban is in effect. Don?

LEMON: Rene Marsh, thank you very much for that. Joining me now, Dean Obeidallah, columnist for "The Daily Beast". OK. Do you think this family -- how are you by the way?


LEMON: You're good to see. Do you think this family was pulled off this flight because they are Muslim?

OBEIDALLAH: I think if they weren't Muslim, they are at Disneyland now, they're on the Pirates of the Caribbean line to paying over place. Food...

LEMON: Are you a politician, so, answer my question. Yes, you think yes.

OBEIDALLAH: I think it plays a rule, I don't think we're banning Muslims, I do not think that at all. What I do think is the analysis if your name is Mohamed and the family of Muslims and you're from Pakistan originally and traveling to America, there's a heightened amount of scrutiny and if there's a question about illegal, just ban.

LEMON: But U.S. officials say categorically denied that religion was behind it. We don't know yet why DHS move this family.

OBEIDALLAH: Did they wink when they said it? They're going to wink, sure.

LEMON: Why they remove this family? There's a Facebook page claiming right, that there are some sort of links to the Taliban and to Al Qaeda. The family says it's not the case. Is it possible that this was a real red flag and that they were just doing their job and that it worked out the way that it was supposed to?

OBEIDALLAH: Look, if there is a credible objective evidence if someone might be a threat, I don't care if they're Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, whatever, don't let them in the country. The fact is CNN found that Facebook page from what I've seen. There's a Homeland Security has not revealed any information why they are banning it.

LEMON: That's right.

OBEIDALLAH: And this Facebook's page said things like the guys he said and like, "I'm the supervisor in Al Qaeda," was that a joke facebook page. But the family said that's not even their son. You know, there was a link to a Facebook page, but Al Qaeda, sure, I would pause as well. Homeland Security doesn't even tell American citizens why there are no fly lists until there were two loses. And finally, in April of this year, Homeland Securities have able to tell Americans.

LEMON: You wrote about that.

OBEIDALLAH: Yeah, I did for the Daily Beast, yes I did. In 2014, there was a lawsuit in federal court by American citizens who were Muslims saying we are on the no fly list and you won't even tell us, we're Americans. Homeland Security may never tell this family why they were banned, that's the problem.

LEMON: OK. So, you know what's going on here in the perception in overseas when we talk about or about America when it comes to Muslims. U.K. officials included David Cameron making a really big deal out of this. Do you think it makes the United States seem-homophobic?

And then, people - homophobic, excuse, Islamaphobic. So, we do that lots of conversations here. Do you think it makes the United States look Islamaphobic? And there are many people who would say who cares, you know, this is what we need to do during these times?

OBEIDALLAH: No, I think at some level, it's sending a message between Donald Trump's words in this kind of action that America is saying Muslims need not apply to come to this country. You're not welcome, you're not be the one, and you're part of this nation. And that's a scary message.

I mean, this family go into Disneyland, little kid dressed up dreaming of a fantasy vacation, eight, nine years old crying, understandably being taken off of a plane in front of everyone simply because you're Muslim to me, is upsetting and it's wrong and we know it's wrong.

It's no different than racial profiling of African-Americans or Latinos doing stop and frisk or pointing them over because the race or their ethnicity. It's the same thing here.

LEMONL: Did you say, simply because they're Muslim and that each of them saying no.

OBEIDALLAH: They can answer, they can resolve that we're speculating, it's true. Just come forward Homeland Security, tell us why.

[22:45:01] If you made a mistake, just compensate them for the lost ticket flights.

LEMON: All right. I want to get to this story, it's more positive story and it's called "I Will Protect You", right it's a social media campaign by U.S. service members and veterans to show support for an eight-year-old girl. It all started when a Facebook post by her mother, a Muslim-American went viral. The mom wrote this and she said, she said sad day in America when I have to comfort my eight-year old child who heard that someone with yellow hair named Trump wanted to kick all Muslims out of America.

The family was deluged with, you know, messages of support. Military members from all walks of life saying things like people like Sophia are the ones I've committed to serve. Does this make you any feel better about you know, how people really feel about Muslims in America or American Muslims?

OBEIDALLAH: Sure, now this is a beautiful silver lining to the Trump story. I'm going to be blunt. I've never felt more concerned that my family who are Muslim or friends who are Muslim than right now in the last few weeks since San Bernardino attack and Donald Trump ratcheting up the hate rhetoric and stoking the flames of hate against Muslims and I mean talk -- actually fear for hate crimes or attacks. So this is a great counter balance to that.

LEMON: Happy holidays to you.

OBEIDALLAH: You too my friend.

LEMON: It's good to seeing you, Dean Obeidallah. Coming up, for a lot of people the holidays are a time for food, family, and football. A big Hollywood movie opening on Friday may have them asking if the game is too dangerous even deadly. That's up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


LEMON: Football is more popular than ever but after seeing the new film "Concussion", parents might think twice about letting their kids play the game. The movie starring Will Smith. Chronicles of life Dr. Bennet Omalu who battle to uncover the truth about brain damage in an NFL football players who suffer concussions.

Take a look.


WILL SMITH, ACTOR: I found a disease that no one has ever seen. Repetitive head trauma chokes the brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NFL does not want to talk to you. You've turned on the lights and gave their biggest boogieman a name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to war with corporation that owns a day of the week.


LEMON: Joining me now is the Dr. Julian Bailes the Chairman of Neurosurgery at NorthShore University HealthSystem who is depicted by Alec Baldwin in that film. And the Merrill Hoge at ESPN Analyst and former NFL player and Rachel Nichols, CNN and Turner Sports Anchor. Good to have all of you. This is a very important discussion and I can't wait to talk to you about it.

Rachelle, I'm going to start with you now. Focuses on football, the holiday, the games, the playoffs, but instead we are talk about concussions.

And again, Will Smith's "Concussion" movie comes out Friday and now reports that the NFL backing away from a big brain study. What can you tell us?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN TURNER SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah. Well, the study is the study of CTE. And up to now, the study of CTE has been in players who have passed away.

The study is to try to find a way to diagnose it in people who are alive, because if you can do that, then you can treat it. That would be a huge step forward. The bad press the NFL got was an ESPN report saying that they had pulled some of the money that they have previously donated to NIH from that study.

The NFL of course came out and said that that bad press wasn't true. NIH came out with sort of a middling statement. The truth is, this is not the big bad wolf that is going to come for the NFL this Christmas day.

LEMON: Right. NICHOLS: It is this movie, "Concussion" because I've seen the movie and I have to tell you, as I sit up here and talk about studies and funding, nobody's interested in that. But they're interested in Will Smith in a very well done narrative and human emotion that comes in this story. I think, it's going to be very interesting reverberations.

LEMON: Yeah. And Dr. Bailes, I want to talk to you about that because in this movie that Rachel's talking about concussion, you are played by Alec Baldwin. Give us a low down on how extensive the problem is and whether football, whether you think it can be fixed.

DR. JULIAN BAILES, NEUROSURGERY NORTHSHORE UNIVERSITY HEALTHSYSTEM CHAIRMAN: Well, it has been a problem. And this movie, I think does a good job of depicting how we brought the science forward from Bennet Omalu's discovery. And then finally, the acceptance of that.

And it shows the process of taking science and I think in the end, that they were in a good place. So, I think we know now that this can happen. We didn't think before that you could be in a helmeted sport and then later have problems like brain degeneration. So I think it's a good movie. I think it depicts how the problem transpired. And hopefully, it helps us make this a solution.

LEMON: Merrill, you've been through this. You retired from the NFL after a traumatic concussion. Tell us what happened.

MERRIL HOGE, ESPN ANALYST: Well, really what happened to me is, I was improperly cared after a hell of a major concussion on a Monday night game. I resumed back to play without ever seeing a neurological doctor or being evaluated. I was cleared over the phone to get back on the field.

So, that in lies what the biggest problem was in 1994 when my career ended is that, we weren't caring for the injury. We weren't addressing the injury. Now, 1994, the only team that had cognitive testing was actually the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And what this movie actually is going to give us an opportunity to do, is empower parents, empower people with the correct information and eliminate a lot of that hearsay and scare tactics that have been going around.

You think about concussions the thing that this movie will depict is what happened years ago. You know, some 12 or 13 years ago. Where are we in 2016?

When you talked about Youth Sports, it's safer now that it's ever been for one reason alone, we now address head trauma, we remove those player from that environment and any environment that they're in because concussions could happened in any activity our kids get involved in.

LEMON: Dr. Bailes, I know people who used to love football and who say after all this news, it's hard for them to enjoy the game the same way they used to knowing that the hurt players could be in for, you know, for a down line.

What do you say to them?

BAILES: Well, I say that is, as Merrill allude to, I think, it's a different game now and I think there have been so many changes made and an appreciation of what a concussion is and that you can have problems later.

So, I think it's a safer game. I think, we've taken unnecessary gratuitous head contact out of practice. I think we are enforcing rules. I think, the education is let everyone know what the symptoms are and the important of not playing if you got a concussion.

LEMON: Rachelle, you interviewed Will Smith about this movie and I'm sure that was an interesting interview.


NICHOLS: Yeah, absolutely. And look, Will Smith is a Philadelphia Eagles fan. His son Trey played football. And he wasn't just a football dad, he was a football dad.

He was making a movie in China. He would fly back to Los Angeles every week...


NICHOLS: ... to be on the sideline for Trey's Friday night football games and then fly back to China. He loved it. And then he told me, "I did not want to be the person to bring this bad news to the public". But as he got educated, he felt he had to. And then of course, I asked him the million-dollar question. Take a listen.


NICHOLS: Now that you know what you know, you said educating parents.

SMITH: Absolutely.

NICHOLS: Would you let Trey play football now? If he came to you now and said, "Hey dad, I want to play high school football". What would you say?

SMITH: I think, I would say, "Son, listen, I love you and you know if there were up to me, you could play, but your mother said no".


NICHOLS: Best line ever, right? Best way to go.

LEMON: Before I have to go, what do you think football is going to look like in 10 years?

NICHOLS: I think there will be changes. The guys were talking about the rules changes in football. I think we will see more. And I think, we will see more parents pulling their kids out of the game. We'll see if that has reverberations to the NFL. And certainly the Friday night lights on the small towns built around the sport if that start to shifts as well.

LEMON: Merrill what do think of football be in 10 years? What it will be like?

HOGE: Well, I actually think it will grow. And quite also, this is not just a football issue. You know, NCAA brought out a diagram of all of the concussions that happen in all the sports, every sport was represented. I mean, it could happen anywhere.

The most dangerous area a kid could have once they could start age 15 is ride a bike or wheeled sports especially without a helmet. So concussions could happen at any environment.

We are much better to empower parents and people what do you do when somebody does have a concussion no matter what environment. Remove them. Get them evaluated. Get them cleared before they return back to that activity. That right there will create a safer environment no matter what activity we get our kids involved in.

LEMON: Merril, thank you. Dr. Bailes, thank you. Rachelle Nichols, thank you as well. Happy Holidays to all of you.

BAILES: Thank you.

LEMON: I appreciate them. Important discussion.

BAILES: Thank you.

HOGE: Same to you.

LEMON: That's it for us tonight. And we're off until Monday so I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

"AC360" starts in just a few moments.