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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
In Off The Rails News Conference Trump Defends Racist Protesters, Blames Violence On "Both Sides"; Community Leader: We Did Not Have Issues On Both Sides. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 15, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: -- condemned many different, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.
Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee. So this week, it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you all -- you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) about race relations in America and do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?
TRUMP: I think they've gotten better or the same. Look, they've been frayed for a long time and you can ask President Obama about that, because he'd make speeches about it. But, I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs -- you see where companies are moving back into our country. I think that's going to have a tremendous, positive impact on race relations.
What I'm saying is this. You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch.
But there is another side. There was a group on this side. You can call them the left, you just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that's the way it is.
Well, I do think there's blame. Yes, I think there's blame on both sides. If you look at both sides, I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don't have any doubt about it either. You're changing history. You're changing culture and you had people. And I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.
But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group, also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats.
There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before, if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I'm sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.
But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest because, you know, I don't know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn't have a permit. So I only tell you this, there are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: By the way, the President -- the people the President was speaking about who were quietly protesting on Friday night that taking on the Robert E. Lee statue, those were the hundreds of people carrying torches chanting "Jews will not replace us." Chanting "blood and soil," calling the handful of counter protesters who are there faggots and other things.
Reaction has been sharpening from top Republicans. House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted this. "We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity."
And this from former GOP Presidential Candidate John Kasich, "Let's get real. There is no moral equivalency to Nazi sympathizers. There can be no room in American or Republican Party for racism, anti- Semitism, hate, or white nationalism. Period."
Joining us in the panel, Sara Sidner, Paris Dennard, Bakari Sellers, Symone Sanders and Joseph Pinion. Does it make sense to -- Sara, to you that the President of the United States is praising a bunch of good people who are out there on Friday night who are those people with tiki torches chanting those horrible things saying that, you know, it was -- there were some bad ones the next day, but on Friday night, those were the good ones when we saw what they were chanting?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The answer to that is no. Who are these good people he's talking about? Who in that crowd said good unifying things? They went after gays. They went after blacks. They went after Jews. They said horrible things. They chanted horrible things.
They scared the hell out of people to be perfectly on it both in Charlottesville and anyone who is watching that. People were tweeting that they were scared. People who have been through this before are terrified and their children are now afraid, so no.
COOPER: Scott Jennings was saying it on the last hour, if you were a good person who just happened to go out there because you were really concerned about the tearing down of the Robert E. Lee monument and you show up and there's hundreds of people with torches chanting against Jews, if you're a good person, wouldn't you turn around and go home? I mean --
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One could hope you would go home. But I guess I want to -- the good people that were just upset about the statue coming down, Robert E Lee was a general of the confederacy. And earlier today, the President involved the name of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Let's be clear, George Washington 00 0:04:59.4 enslaved. He also took up arms against the British to fight to hold (ph) enslaved people, but he also freed his slaves at the end.
[21:05:06] And Robert E. Lee was fighting, if you will, to preserve the America that George Washington, his founding fathers had created. Now, by the time Robert E. Lee and the general of the confederacy popped up, it was no longer socially acceptable. Slavery wasn't. America had decided who we wanted to be.
We fought the civil war. The union won. I think we also decide who had we wanted. There have been deciding moments where America decided who we wanted to be. The civil rights movements, America decided who we want to be, marriage equality on down the line.
And so I thought we knew who we wanted to be. We could definitely go back, make America great again. But I think there are people out there who will tell you that this is not your grandmother's civil rights movement.
And so I just want to be really, really clear that folks were protesting taking down the statue of a general of the confederacy, a statue that involves hate to some people, involves terror, a statue that embodies the worst of the American people. And if you're one of those really good folks that just came out because you believe in monuments of the confederacy.
In Germany, kids don't attend schools named after Nazi generals. They don't walk down streets named after Nazi general, play in parks. But in the United States of America, our kids walk down streets, play in parks, go to schools who's named after generals of the confederacy every single day. That's not normal. We have yet to recon with our white supremacy past and because the outlet, this is where we are today.
SIDNER: It's illegal, by the way, in Germany to have a statue of Hitler or any Nazi symbolism anywhere on display. It's illegal.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But, I -- I mean, I think we have to say a couple of things. The first is that the past that you're talking about, this type of hate that we see, this vitriol, this white supremacy that is now shocking the conscience of the American people, some of them -- yeah. You realize that that was way before Donald Trump. I mean, you understand his father was arrested in a KKK rally. I mean, this goes back generations and generations.
COOPER: Madison Square Garden was filled with Nazi sympathizer at 1939.
SELLERS: Correct. So this is not a new phenomenon with this country. But for many of us, we thought that we crossed some bridge. Now, we understand that when Barack Obama got elected, the great messiah didn't come to lead us to the Promised Land, but we did think that we had made some progress. We understood we had yet ways to go, but we believe that we made progress in this country.
You know, there are many of us who are sitting here whose parents, whose fathers or mothers, you know, they had to go to segregated schools that they fought for the success and progress that we have today. My father used to carry around a picture of Emmett Till in his wallet. And so you went through all of those things and you thought that we had made it to a place where we maybe could turn the page.
Donald Trump is a morally bankrupt individual. I think we all knew that. I think individuals who supported him knew that. And so you can't expect moral clarity from someone who lacks that ethics (ph).
But even more importantly, and this is where the trouble comes in with my Republican friends, black and white, business people, those good people who still support Donald Trump is that at the end of this people will not remember the words of our enemies, but they will remember the silence of our friends.
And until people, good people, begin to stand up against this type of hate, and bigotry and rebuke the President, what you saw from Paul Ryan, that wasn't a strong statement. He didn't even evoke Donald Trump's name. We need people to have some fortitude who really understand what this country is about. Donald Trump doesn't represent that.
COOPER: Paris, obviously, you're supporter of the President and yesterday you were, you know, saying it was good that the President made the statement he did. I'm wondering today when you heard him essentially revert back to what he said Saturday, what did you think?
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, I didn't think what he said Saturday was wrong. I think what he said Saturday was appropriate. I think what he said Saturday denounced hatred, bigotry, and violence which was appropriate. It was the appropriate response that he gave.
And it was similar to the appropriate response that President Obama gave after the white supremacists clearly bigoted Dylan Roof shot up the people in Charleston. And so when he reverted back to that, I thought it was appropriate. The thing that I --
COOPER: But doesn't -- I mean, just saying generalized hatred and bigotry clearly in Donald Trump's mind that he was talking also about counter protester.
DENNARD: But there's no -- I think if you listen to what he said today, he was talking about the violence.
COOPER: Right. And he's saying there was violence on both sides.
SANDERS: Only one side killed someone.
DENNARD: But this is -- he wasn't --
SELLERS: This is the problem, though. But this is the problem, Paris. And I want to show you respect, and I apologize.
DENNARD: No, you're not when you cut me off (INAUDIBLE). Well, go ahead and continue.
SELLERS: I will, though, because this is an important comment, because we're having an amazing discussion in an amazing platform in front of the world. And we -- I cannot allow you to remark that there is some moral equivalence between those people who believe in xenophobia and bigotry and those people who believe in injustice and those people who believe in justice and equality.
DENNARD: So I didn't say there was a moral equivalency to those people. What I am saying is what I believe the President was saying when he said many sides referring to the violence that he saw on both sides.
[21:10:05] Meaning, I -- I haven't seen two racists fight each other. If you're a racist and I'm a racist, we have no reason to fight each other. We have no reason to curse each other out.
SANDERS: I don't know.
SELLERS: I have no idea about that.
SANDERS: How about -- let's -- how about the alt-right, though?
DENNARD: Go ahead. No, go ahead.
SANDERS: I'm just asking you, Paris. So the President asked a reporter. The reporters asked him about the alt-right supremacy and he said, what is the alt-right? How about you define it? So I am concerned that the President looks like a white supremacist sympathizer up there in that podium today.
DENNARD: No, I think --
SANDERS: You don't think he look like that?
DENNARD: No, I don't. But I actually asked someone today to define what the alt-right was.
SANDERS: White supremacy in khakis is my definition.
DENNARD: OK, that's -- well, that's your definition, but I don't think that's a very broad, Symone, definition.
SELLERS: But why don't -- why can't I tackle white supremacy? I mean, why can't we -- I mean, because you understand -- you do understand that the remnants of white supremacy permeates itself into the systems of oppression in this country. And so we're not just talking about --
(CROSSTALK) DENNARD: And they predate Donald J. Trump.
SELLERS: That's fine.
DENNARD: They predate Barack Obama. They predate George W. Bush. They have been in this country for a very long time.
SIDNER: Right. But, Paris, aren't we supposed to be getting better? Aren't we supposed to be evolving away from that, not encouraging it? I want to speak to something you said about the fact that you thought that his comments on Saturday were fine. You may have and I think that's your absolute right and there were other people who also felt that it was fine what he said even though he did not specifically disavow --let me finish.
DENNARD: No, you let me finish. So it was President Obama's remarks after Charleston were you think they were fine?
SIDNER: Here's my question to you. Why do you keep going back because we have a new president? Are you not proud of your new president?
DENNARD: I am proud of our president.
SIDNER: He is now in power. He is now in power.
DENNARD: But its funny how I can't go backwards, but you can backwards.
SIDNER: I'm not going back.
DENNARD: You can go back on past things. You can bring up things from --
SELLERS: No, no, I'll go backwards with you.
DENNARD: You can bring up things from Madison Square Garden.
SELLERS: No, no, I'll go backwards with you.
DENNARD: You can go back to George Washington. You can go back to Thomas Jefferson.
SELLER: Let's talk about Charleston, because you know what Barack Obama did do? He picked up the phone and called the victims and the victims' families. Donald Trump hasn't even called the mother of the young lady who was run over. You want to go backwards? Amazing grace. You want to go backwards? We can talk about what Barack Obama did. Show me what Donald Trump is doing to heal the country?
DENNARD: Bakari, let's go backwards and talk about President Obama's response --
SELLERS: I just did.
DENNARD: -- just after Charleston, not at the funeral which I thought was great.
SANDERS: I'm not going to allow you to create equivalency between what President Obama did for Charleston and what Donald Trump did Saturday and today.
DENNARD: I'm not saying what he did. I'm saying --
SANDERS: That is what you're saying. You're saying how is it different? And it is different because Donald Trump, he literally stood up there in front of the world today and let us know exactly where he stood. He's still the person that started the racist birther movement. He still --
DENNARD: He cannot start the race.
COOPER: But, Paris, just for me verbal standpoint, did not the President today basically show that the statement he made yesterday was just a lie, was just something that was written for him.
DENNARD: No, Anderson, because if you read -- if listen and if you read it, he said, I -- he disavowed them. He said it repeatedly.
COOPER: He said neo-Nazi, KKK, and white supremacists, but today --
DENNARD: Isn't that what you wanted him to say?
COOPER: But today he reversed and went back to moral equivalence that there was violence.
COOPER: We haven't heard from Joseph.
JOSEPH PINION, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think we're going down the wrong path here and I think and it's easy for us to sit here and try to go about and parse things for the purposes of this conversation. What happened or didn't happen with Barack Obama is irrelevant. I'm a member of the Republican Party because I believe that we were supposed to be the party of personal accountability.
DENNARD: We are.
PINION: And so from that standpoint, we are not the party that they started it or they did a worst job. Whether it's true or not true, we're not supposed to be silting here and making those comparisons in my opinion. And so again, you know, when we look at this, I look at it from a standpoint of tomorrow. I'm supposed to take my goddaughter to (INAUDIBLE). I've got to look this little girl in the face and try to explain to her what is happening in this country, you know. And from a standpoint, I think that it's all resulting from the fact that we've been having a very misguided conversation on race for a very long time.
SANDERS: So what's you're talking about?
COOPER: We have to take -- I have to get a break in.
By the way, John McCain just tweeted -- we continue this because I think John McCain just tweeted saying, "There's no moral equivalency between racist and Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry. The President of the United States should say so."
Plenty more to talk about, including the President's claim that he's all about waiting for the facts before he actually speaks. And later, the thoughts of the Gold Star father who lives in Charlottesville who candidate Trump went out of his way to disparage. Khizr Khan joins us ahead.
[21:18:00] COOPER: More on the President's off the rails press conference this afternoon who define President Trump returning to blaming both so-called sides for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. He insisted, "There are two sides to every story and argue that alt left protesters, in his words, came charging at the alt-right protesters."
And by the way, he kept repeating that they didn't have a permit even though the alt-right protesters who did have a permit violated the terms of their permit. The President also said that some very fine people were at the white supremacists rally. And so why he waited until Monday to denounce the hate groups by name. Here's what he said this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I did wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don't make statements that direct unless you know the fact. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don't know the facts. And it's a very, very important process to me. And it's a very important statement. So I don't want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making the political statement. I want to know the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Back now with the panel. The idea that President Trump wants to know facts before he speaks, I mean, let's just be real here. That is absolute --
COOPER: -- bull. And that is just bunk. Paris, you cannot say that this President -- this man lies more than any president in modern history. OK, Paris, remember the terrorist attack in Manila that wasn't a terrorist attack?
DENNARD: There's a difference, Anderson. What -- years after --
COOPER: Did he not call out a terrorist attack in the Philippines that turned out not to be a terrorist attack? So when you want to be a specific about something where there is violence, don't you think you want to wait for facts? But apparently, not in this case, but somehow in this case he was waiting for the fact.
DENNARD: This case is different, Anderson.
SANDERS: How so?
SELLERS: I agree with Paris.
SELLERS: Because I think --
SELLERS: I think this is -- I actually agree with Paris. I think this is much more plain and simple. I think this is about the country who the United States of America is. This is about hate and bigotry versus what we want to be as a country.
[21:20:03] This is about white supremacy versus the rest of us. This is about oppression versus those of us who love the fact that people died and gave up so much so that we can have these freedoms. So I actually do think it's a lot more simple than that.
I actually do think that it was very easy for the President of the United States to actually be on the right side of history. I don't understand why that's so difficult to be on the right side of history, Paris. That's all I want from any of us.
SIDNER: I think today he said exactly what he felt and we all saw it.
COOPER: Yeah --
SIDNER: The day before --.
COOPER: -- is so fascinating.
SIDNER: Right. The day before it was a wooden, very scripted, very stiff, no emotion. Today the emotions were out.
COOPER: You know, someone on Twitter called it a hostage video yesterday.
SIDNER: I mean, that's what it looked like. It looks like he was force. And guest what, take a look at what some of the neo-Nazis are saying about his speech. One of them just put a new statement out that I just saw -- just came into my e-mail.
He said, "Trump defends Charlottesville's Nazis against Jew medialite (ph) condemns Antifa terrorist. He will not be blackmailed into condemning his base." So there you go. That's how neo-Nazis see President Trump. They are clapping for him and saying, "He's giving us thumbs up you, we're good."
DENNARD: But actually they're clapping for you because you're buying into what they're trying to do.
SIDNER: They are not clapping for Sara Sidner. You better take that back.
DENNARD: No, I won't take it back because what they're doing is just gave them a platform. You just read their entire message --
SIDNER: No, I didn't. You should see their message. Their message is really strong and their message goes out to hundreds of thousands of people. So I'm not giving them a platform. Their platform exists --
DENNARD: Actually, you just gave --
SANDERS: That idea that --
COOPER: For the record, she didn't say the person's name or the Twitter account.
SIDNER: I didn't say the person's name and I didn't give their account, but I am telling you that this is how white supremacists and neo-Nazis are reading the President's comments?
DENNARD: No, it's not. It's how they're --
SIDNER: How do you know? Do you read their comments?
DENNARD: I don't.
SIDNER: Have you talk to them?
DENNARD: I don't. No, I haven't.
SIDNER: I've spent time with them.
DENNARD: Well, congratulations.
SIDNER: This past week, I've spent time with them.
DENNARD: I'm glad you spent time with racists. But let me tell you --
SIDNER: I have spent time with them and talk to them because I'm interested.
DENNARD: Hey, Anderson, I'd like to comment here.
SIDNER: I'm interested in actually what they think and what they're saying so that we can learn how to try and change minds and bring people together.
DENNARD: That's great.
DENNARD: I'm proud that you talked to racists.
DENNARD: But, Anderson, this is the point that I've been trying to make, which I haven't able to make because nobody lets me talk on this show or this panel. The point is this is different. When you are talking about something as so divisive as the racial issues that we have in this country, the President wanted to take the time to make sure you had all of the facts, because every single word mattered.
COOPER: You are actually saying with a straight face that this President cares about getting the facts right before speaking, before tweeting about something?
DENNARD: Anderson, what I'm talking about --
COOPER: About wiretapping in the Trump Tower?
DENNARD: Those things are different.
COOPER: That doesn't matter, really, accusing the former president of wiretapping.
DENNARD: What I'm saying is this is a different issue. It's a racial issue. You know what, everyone talked about the Merck CEO, the Merck CEO resigning. Every time they said that, who happens to be African- American, that Merck CEO, who happens to be African-American. But when the rest of the CEOs resigned, I didn't hear people say, who happens to be white.
SELLERS: But how many of them (INAUDIBLE)?
COOPER: How many of them actually did he attack by name?
SELLERS: Did he attack the black one or the rest of them?
DENNARD: He attacks the first one. Actually, he talks about the fact that it was reducing prescription drug prices.
COOPER: He did go after the manufacturer --
SANDERS: Because (INAUDIBLE) by name and the fact that he was African-American we cannot deny. Look, my question really is, one, I was wondering earlier how Trump supporters are going to spin this to say --
DENNARD: It's not a spin.
SANDERS: -- and it is. I do this.
DENNARD: Do you think his a racist?
SANDERS: I think Donald Trump --.
DENNARD: Yes or no.
SANDERS: I'm answering the question.
DENNARD: Yes or no. Yes or no.
SANDERS: I think Donald Trump's --
DENNARD: Yes or no. Symone, Symone --
SELLERS: I think Donald Trump is a white supremacist.
DENNARD: No, no. Symone, Symone --
SANDERS: I think he led racist versus movement.
DENNARD: Symone, Symone, very simple, yes or no.
SELLERS: I think Donald Trump is a white supremacist.
DENNARD: Do you think -- Symone, yes or no. Do you think Donald Trump is a racist?
SANDERS: Well, today -- before --
DENNARD: Symone, Symone, do you think Donald Trump is a racist?
SANDERS: Do you think I'm scared of Donald Trump? I think Donald Trump track is a bigotry and racist.
DENNARD: Do you think he's a racist?
SANDERS: I think he's a white supremacist.
DENNARD: Do you think he's a racist, yes or no.
SANDERS: I don't know what's in his heart. But he looks as though -- DENNARD: Symone because in the green room when I asked you about this two days ago, you said Donald Trump is not a racist, and you said you can quote me on it and you can ask me it on camera.
SANDERS: Oh, my god. I said I think Donald -- I said I don't think -- I said I don't know what in Donald Trump's heart. And I don't think he's a racist.
DENNARD: That's not what you said to me. This is the hypocrisy that I'm talking about. We know that the man is not a racist.
COOPER: Wait, how do you know what's in his heart?
COOPER: I'm not saying I know what's in his heart. Wait, one at a time.
COOPER: I'm not saying I know what's in his heart. I'm not claiming to know what's in his heart. I know what comes out of his mouth, and more lies come out of this guy now than any president in modern history.
DENNARD: Well, I think that's a very large statement to make. I don't know who's cataloged all of the modern president in the lies that they made.
COOPER: Well, I can tell you here at time and --
DENNARD: But, listen --
COOPER: Well, a number of fact checkers, non-partisan ones, have cataloged the President's unfactual statement. You can't deny that.
SELLERS: You cannot -- can I speak here for one second --
SELLERS: -- because I made a statement that I think I need to back it up a little bit because for a long period of time, I actually said what Symone said, which is that Donald Trump recognize that a portion of his base partnered (ph) in bigotry and racism and I think that he understood that was a part of his base.
[21:25:09] So politically it made sense. It made sense. I firmly believe now after watching this President and especially watching his behavior today and defending and going out of his way to defend and the way he defended today was by bringing this false moral equivalence between people like Black Lives Matter and neo-Nazis. There is no moral equivalence. DENNARD: That's true.
SELLERS: It absolutely is no moral equivalence. And so when you look at his history, the totality of his history, the discrimination and complaints against, not only the deals in Atlantic City, but the Department of Justice and his housing, when you look at the fact, you know, the Central Park Five, then you can go on and on and on, my African-American.
You can look at the way that Donald Trump interacts and yes, and yes, I firmly believe wholeheartedly that Donald Trump is a white supremacist in chief. If I get in trouble at Florida, blow back, so be it. But somebody needs to tell the truth about what he is, and that is what he is.
COOPER: We have to take -- I'm sorry. We have to take a break. Up next, we're going to hear what a Republican senator said today about the racist protesters, a tone that the President is unwilling to take. I'll also speak with Gold Star father, Khizr Khan, who lives in Charlottesville.
COOPER: Today's comments by the President are in direct opposition to what seems to be the ultimate no brain or denouncing racists with no equivocation. The President refuses to do it, but other Republicans have. Here's what Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado said at a town hall yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[21:30:06] SEN. CORY GARDNER, (R) COLORADO: This past weekend was a tragedy. When we witness people with KKK signs, and white supremacist signs, and neo-Nazi signs, I will tell you this, those assholes can go back to their cave, we don't want them in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Khizr Khan lives in Charlottesville and his son was killed while serving as a U.S. Army captain in Iraq. Then candidate Trump belittled the Kahn family after their appearance in the Democratic National Convention. Khizr Khan joins me now.
Mr. Khan, you've lived in Charlottesville with your family since 2005. I wonder what your reaction was when you witnessed firsthand the march going through your city.
KHIZR KHAN, GOLD STAR FATHER, CHARLOTTESVILLE RESIDENT: Anderson, we live in one of the most beautiful, wonderful, peaceful city of United States. When we saw on Friday, I think it's worth making a note. Emancipation Park where they were to protest is mile and a half from University of Virginia's sacred grounds.
These Nazi thugs, they attacked University of Virginia's sacred ground a mile and a half through this town. I witnessed something that I could not imagine. There was a Nazi flag carried by one person, and flag of United States carried by another person in the same group.
I thought of thousands of my sons and daughters that died defending that flag, how dare they carry the Nazi flag alongside American flag. And their chants, and their slogans, all reflect that these Nazis will not be accepted.
This is what this city has decided to do. And I urge all cities decide to do. This was the first nail in the coffin of racism. Racism ended here. It will never rise again. The only work that needs to be done is all communities throughout this country to rise up against this -- probably against this Nazi un-American hatred, un- American KKK. Yes?
COOPER: I wondered when you heard the President today, basically go back to the same remarks he made last Saturday saying there was sort of moral equivalence between members of both groups saying that there was violence on both sides, that there were good people on both sides.
Good people, including -- he was talking about good people marching on Friday night with torches to a Robert E. Lee statue, many of whom were chanting, you know, "Jews will not replace us," and other Nazi slogans. What did you think when you heard the President say that?
KHAN: Look, America is discovering the morally compromised Donald Trump. America is discovering this President will embarrass this great nation again and again and again. The reason is, this President is unfit morally and legally to lead this great nation.
It is that lack of moral compass, lack of moral leadership that this President continues to utter, and you will see that. You have -- we have seen that for the last six months, his failure after failure after failure embarrassing this nation throughout the world.
I was hoping that maybe once he's elected, once he's in office, that will encourage him, give him some moral compass to stand up and lead this nation and unite us but he has -- one more time, he has embarrassed us and he has failed us.
COOPER: Khizr Khan, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.
Back now with the panel. Joseph, were you -- as a supporter of the President, were you OK with what he said today?
PINION: No. I think that what happened today was an American abomination. And I think that what happened today was ultimately worse than what happened on Saturday.
I think when you look at it from the perspective of an individual who as we all realize, again, is really circumspect, someone who is perpetually leaping at conclusions. And then again, now you fast forward to someone who, again, is effectively saying that people who stood up against Nazis in America are somehow culpable for Nazis killing somebody. [21:35:02] Let's not -- at the heart of this is the fact that people died. And I think that it's irresponsible, you know, as a nation. Right now we have a great, great moral dilemma. And it's because, again, I think for the first time in the history of this nation, we have an occupant in the Oval Office that is impervious to shame.
And the reality is that in this nation, progress always comes from either overwhelming conviction or actually just the grand ball that leads to just, you know, kind of obliterating shame. And the only way that ever happens is when that shame or that conviction overcomes our shared apathy, right, because again to me, apathy is America's original sin, not slavery.
SANDERS: Well, the Republican is going to stop supporting the President's agenda. Right now, the NRCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out an e-mail raising money saying, "The radical left is trying to undermine our President through protests and delay tactics. When our President succeeds, our country succeeds. But all the critics of our President know you support our President. Get your sticker here, order now. Thank you."
Lip service. The Republican Party is currently paying to this country for all the Republicans to stand up and say this is morally corrupt. I denounce what the President is saying. We have to stand up to white supremacy. I need them to put some actions behind these things.
SELLERS: I won't even take it -- I mean, I love my friend, Symone, but I even want to take the labels off of it, because I think we are having this crisis of conscience. And I don't think that this is a Democrat or Republican idea.
I think that they're my brothers and sisters who are gay, bisexual, transgender, they're African-Americans, they're Hispanics, they're all these people who are suffering under this thumb of oppression for a very long period of time. And now you have the person who exemplifies that most, the manifestation of David Duke winning the majority of white vote in Louisiana is now in the White House. And so --
SANDERS: And the Republicans put him there Bakari.
SELLERS: No, I get that. I get that wholeheartedly. But what I'm saying is that there are a lot of people in this country and I'm going to give the Republicans pure hell, trust me.
But I want people regardless of party. Like people confuse prejudice and patriotism in this country. It's the most troublesome thing. I want people to set aside those prejudices and actually understand what it means to be a patriot.
And that young lady who died, those people who are out there protesting against Nazism in America? That's patriotism. Equality, justice, freedom, peace, love, that's patriotism. The stuff that we see, that this Nazism, this white supremacy, that's prejudice. That's not --
PINION: I definitely agree with you on that because, again, the reality that we face right now is that patriotism has been, you know, coupled together with this what I call toxic masculinity. And again, we face a fundamental challenge to try to get people to understand that patriotism is not a blind acquiescence to the status quo. That is not what it means.
And so when we sit here as a nation trying to grapple with what this is actually supposed to mean, right? You know, my mother always said, "You know, I love you unconditionally, but I won't be proud of everything that you do." All right, and to me patriotism is a mother's love. That to me is what patriotism means.
It means that you're going to be able to go out there and say that, you know what, you know, we have this thing called slavery and it is wrong, but I'm going to love you through it. You know, we have this thing that we're talking about with individuals being hated because of the color of their skin and that's wrong, but I'm going to love you through it.
You know, America is rooted in our ability to say that, you know what, we are going to fundamentally always be striving to be better and there are going to be things that are not going well, but we are going to love ourselves through it.
SANDERS: So just to be clear, you're asking me to love white supremacists through what happened this weekend?
PINION: No, absolutely not. I don't know how that could be the takeaway.
SELLERS: Well, actually -- no, no. And this is an interesting discussion, because I say that the hardest thing that we have to do in this country is love our neighbors even when they don't love us. I mean, that's what I took from the civil rights movement. That's what I took from our forefathers, is the fact that they were able to love these individuals even when they didn't love us. That doesn't mean that you get punched and you turn the other cheek.
SELLERS: Exactly. But what it does mean is that I love this country, and I'll be dammed if I let some white supremacists (INAUDIBLE) in a tiki torch --
SANDERS: Wear some khaki.
SELLERS: And some khaki, we're not here and pervert what I love.
SIDNER: But I think what you brought up is really important. When you talk about the khakis because I know -- we're smiling about it, but it's not funny. It's not funny because the white supremacists are using this as a platform to recruit young people, and they're doing it in a way that they've never been able to do it before.
They're taking to social media. They are putting fliers up on college campuses more than they've ever done before. And to a lot of people they think, oh, well, you know, the white supremacists that they're older there and they have this picture in their head. They aren't.
COOPER: They're normalizing that.
SIDNER: They're trying to normalize it and they're doing a damn good job of it unfortunately. More and more people are joining up and that's what they want from all of that.
COOPER: We're going to continue the conversation. Next, let's have more on the President's opinion that if confederate statues come down next, it will be the founding fathers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know, you all -- you really do have to ask yourself where it stops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[21:43:52] COOPER: Again, this afternoon, the President defended some of the protesters in Charlottesville, blamed the violence on both so- called sides.
Right now, I want you to hear from one of the racist protesters, a white nationalist leader. This -- his critics will say this is who the President is defending, someone who is deep patriot for the President's Jewish daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, though the President did speak out against the KKK on Sunday and obviously against white supremacists as well. This video is from the Vice Media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL, WHITE NATIONALIST LEADER, CHARLOTTESVILLE PROTESTER: I'm here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that. Somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew.
ELLE REEVE, VICE NEWS TONIGHT CORRESPONDENT: So Donald Trump felt like more racist.
CATNTWELL: And lot more racist than Donald Trump. I don't think that you could feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner pass or walk around with that beautiful girl, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Back now with the panel. I mean, how much of this, and I don't know the answer to this, is about politics just in terms of the President trying to keep as much of his base as possible. And, you know, and literally a small part of his base, but an enthusiastic part of his base according to "New York Times" is, you know, this alt- right.
[21:45:03] DENNARD: Anderson, look, I just -- and I know that no one believes anything that I say, but it's fine. Eight percent of African-Americans voted for this president and almost double digits were millennial African-American men. So I think it's just not true to give the impression that white supremacists or Nazis are only in the Republican Party.
COOPER: I didn't say that at all. I said a very small part of the President's base.
DENNARD: Right. I'm just -- but for the audience. I think it's also not fair to say that this is only -- that these people only on the Republican side and they're only with Donald Trump. And so to say that this is part of the base, I just think that is -- he's not doing this or doing anything to appease these people.
COOPER: Well, David Duke is part of his base. Clearly David Duke is happy with that.
DENNARD: David Duke is an opportunist. And this is the problem that I have with giving these white supremacists the platform. I don't go to these websites that have been splattered around on the media talking about whatever these white supremacists platforms. I don't talk to them. I know you do and I'm not degrading you --
SIDNER: I'm a reporter. It is my job to understand and know what's going on in this country. I think it's important to know what they're saying actually so we can combat it.
DENNARD: I don't talk about them. I don't put them out there. I don't give them the platform. I think these are actually smart people. They know that if they just align themselves with Donald Trump or the Republican Party, they will get press, they will get ink. And I think that's what they're doing.
COOPER: You don't think there is any ideological agreement between some of these people and the issues of Donald Trump building a wall or something else?
DENNARD: Well, listen, if I say that I'm for smaller government and I'm for state -- having more local control --
COOPER: If you say that, you know, Mexicans coming across the border, that some of them are rapists, and that you want to crack down on immigration, and you want to build a wall, that obviously are all -- those are all things which might have agree, you know --
DENNARD: They would agree with. And when Democrats say that they want to get immigration reform under control, when they tried it, they would agree with that too. So I just think the problem that we have --
COOPER: Let him finish. Let him finish.
DENNARD: I think the problem that we have is we're not understanding that these people are smart, they're savvy, and they're using this as an opportunity to drive up their numbers. COOPER: Right. But Steve Bannon who has said, and I'm not saying he's racist, I don't know Steve Bannon, I don't know what's in his heart, but he has said he wanted Breitbart to be, you know, the publication for the alt-right.
DENNARD: Well, all I know is that I know several people who work for Breitbart. And the ones that I know that work for Breitbart, two are black, one is Jewish, and others are Hispanic. And I know that Steve Bannon founded Breitbart in Israel, the Israel publication there.
And so, I just -- I know some of the people that work there. And so I take this -- and I know that the people that work there are not racist. I know that these are minorities who care about this country, who want to make this country a better place for their children, for their families. And so --
COOPER: So you don't think there's any politics involved in the President's thinking about how to respond to this instance in Charlottesville? The reason he's saying there's good people there who are for the Robert E. Lee statue and there's good people who are carrying those tiki torches.
DENNARD: And I think if I may, if I can just try to speak Trump here, the issue I believe the President has is the violence. If you go back to the park, the Central Park issue, it was -- he's always been about law and order. So in his response --
COOPER: By the way, that was not law and order. That was --
SANDERS: Central Park Five?
DENNARD: No, no, his response. I'm talking about his response.
SANDERS: His response was incorrect.
SELLERS: His response is not about violence. And the easiest way to point that out --
DENNARD: His response is about law. It's always about law and order.
PINION: He's not driven by a response in my opinion on violence. Donald Trump is perpetually driven by a -- almost constitutional inability to emit fault. To be like -- to say that you know what, maybe I got something wrong. That the buck stops with me. There was a mistake -- mistakes were made and let's move forward and do something differently.
I think that that is at the root of what we're seeing right now. And so, you know, I think, again, we're getting kind of off the mark. I think that for this purpose, Steve Bannon is a cosmetic issue that reinforces the fears in people's minds, but Steve Bannon is not the problem because we have seen now that there is zero evidence that anybody can get Donald Trump to do anything that Donald Trump does not himself want to do.
And so, we need to really, I think, focus on the core issue which is that we are a deceived people as a nation. All people, people of color, white people, we have been led astray when it comes to talking about the issue of race. When it comes to being here --
SANDERS: How so?
PINION: How was it?
SANDERS: Yes, because I don't feel led astray at all. I feel I'm very clear, so I'd like to know how you think the world, America --
PINION: I'm not talking about you personally. but I think collectively we are led astray. When we have individuals that were out here saying that we are going to be a post-racial nation, I think that that was a misguided approach because I think that, again, we're talking about the fact that that means that I have to be less of who I am to be American.
[21:50:07] I think there is something fundamentally un-American with that. I think that we were misguided when people came out there and said that we are going to be post-racist. I think that was also misguided. We are not going to be post-racist.
Racism is ingrained in -- there were constant (ph) spirit of humanity. I think that's just something we have to deal with. But what we can be is less racist. What we can do or say that racism will no longer affect my outcomes, my educational outcomes, my social outcomes. But that also has to be rooted in a concerted effort by all people to be honest with one another and be able to put themselves in the shoes of somebody else.
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. Up next, we're going to get reaction to the President's words from today from Charlottesville, including from the pastor who will be giving Heather Heyer's eulogy tomorrow.
[21:55:02] COOPER: Before we get back to what the President said today blaming both so-called sides for the violence of a white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville and saying there were "fine" people on both, perceived both sides, let's just get another reminder of what was actually happening in that town when racists came to rally. This video comes from Vice Media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: You will not replace us. You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jews will not replace us they chanted among other things. Just before air, I spoke with two gentlemen who are pretty aware of what happened in Charlottesville. Don Gathers has led the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials and Public Spaces, and Reverend Alvin Edwards of the Mount Zion First African Baptist Church in Charlottesville.
COOPER: Don, I was wondering what you make of the President's new comments today saying that there was responsibility to be shared for the violence on both sides of the President, talking about that there were good people amidst the neo-Nazis out there on Friday night at that torched lit rally. I understand, Don, you were there. You watch as Heather Heyer was struck by a car. Did the President's words square with reality?
DON GATHERS, LED CHARLOTTESVILLE COMMISSION ON RACE, MEMORIALS AND PUBLIC SPACES: Absolutely not. The words that he doubled down on from Saturday are sickening and repugnant. He was not here. You did not have issues on both sides with, as he says bad people.
These folks descended on our town with AK-47s, with AR-15s. They had their machetes. They had their pipes and baseball bats. They had their sticks. They even brought in bottles full of urine (ph) and cans full of concrete. They were determined to just inflict as much damage as they possibly could. It's sad that the leader of our country, the elected leader of our country doesn't possess the gene of empathy.
COOPER: You know, Pastor Edwards, yesterday the President made what a lot of people thought was the statement he should have made on Saturday, a statement condemning neo-Nazis, white supremacists, KKK. And then going back on it today, essentially to his statement saying that both sides were at fault, I'm wondering what you make of that, Pastor?
REV. ALVIN EDWARDS, PASTOR, MOUNT ZION FIRST AFRICAN BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, he sounds like he's schizophrenic and he's not sure what to say or when to say to it. But if he had any genuine concern for people and the lives that were lost as a result of the neo-Nazis and the KKK, and the white supremacists coming here, he wouldn't say some of those things he said. If that had been a family member of his, he would not be saying the kind of things he's saying right now.
COOPER: Pastor, I know you're looking for a way to try to have the community heal after the violence. I'm wondering if you feel like the President's words today make that more difficult.
EDWARDS: Well, I believe it makes it difficult, but since this town did not vote for him, I guess it's not a big issue for me because this town has values that make a difference in the life of people and not for just a select few.
And so, I believe that we're going to bounce back. We're going to be stronger as a result of what has happened in our city, because this city has strong values, values of being a good, strong community. COOPER: I understand that you're going to give the eulogy tomorrow for Heather Heyer who was slaughtered, who was killed by that man driving the vehicle. I'm wondering, can you give us a sense of what you're going to say? How do you approach something like this?
EDWARDS: Well, one of the things I'm going to try to emphasize tomorrow is learning to make each day you live count. And the way you make each day count that you live is that you don't count the days, but you live the day to the fullest.
You live up to your values and your beliefs and you practice them wherever you go. And I want to suggest that that's what Heather did. She lived her life doing what she believed.
COOPER: You know, Pastor Edwards, I talked to Heather's mom yesterday. And Heather was 32 years old and throughout her life had stood up for people, stood up against injustice, stood up for people she didn't even know but people who she felt injustice were being perpetrated against.
And I'm wondering based on what the President said today, basically making comparisons between counter protesters and neo-Nazis, is that an insult to Heather Heyer?
EDWARDS: Well, I believe it is. If he was at all concerned about -- not only her, but the two troopers who lost their life as a result of that group coming here, you know, if they had not been here, no lives would have been lost. But because she stood up for what she believed, she lived a life of significance and not a life of success. The President has a successful life, but not a significant life because I don't know anybody he's made a difference in their life like she has.
COOPER: Pastor Edwards, I appreciate your time and Don Gathers as well. Thank you so much.
GATHERS: Thank you, Sir.
EDWARDS: Thank you, Mr. Cooper.
COOPER: And thank you for watching tonight. "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now. See you tomorrow night.
[22:00:04] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Did you ever think you'd see the day that the President of the United States would actively and openly defend neo-Nazis and white supremacists? I know I didn't.