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Trump Voters Sound Off on Charlottesville Attack; Trump Denies Equivocating Hate Groups & Protesters; Late-Night Comics Get Serious About Trump. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 17, 2017 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:05] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump's supporters sounding off on his latest remarks following the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Nearly everyone we spoke with says the president is right to blame both sides.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has more from Kentucky.


EDDIE PLATT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: In every action, there is a reaction.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trump supporter Eddie Platt agrees with the president. Both sides are to blame for the deadly unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

PLATT: There is no clear thing on who was the first provocation.

GINGRAS: His view is not unique in Paris, Kentucky, just 14 miles outside of Lexington.

JEROME HARNEY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Two wrongs don't make a right. You got the left and the right in the country. Well, I don't -- whatever happened to the middle?

MIKE SEXTON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: There was fault on both sides, but --

GINGRAS (on camera): But both sides, right? One side, he calls the alt left.

SEXTON: Right.

GINGRAS: Those people are fighting for equality. The alt-right fighting for white supremacy to take over the country as a white-only America.

SEXTON: I think they have a right to protest the white supremacists.

GINGRAS: Even with carrying torches and shields. What do you think about that?

SEXTON: Whatever they carry. I mean, they have a right to protest.

KIMBERLY HOWARD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: How can you hold one person responsible for all the fighting? It's what people -- I think it's just what people believe in and that's what they're taught.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Here in Bourbon County, voters overwhelmingly supported Trump in last year's election. They are concerned about racism in this country, but they don't think the president is at fault for any of the divisiveness.

HARNEY: Some of the best friends I've got are black people. I served on the city commissioner for 17 years, the black people here elected me.

GINGRAS (on camera): But you say -- you say some of the people -- closest friends are black people, right? But there are people in Virginia marching saying that black people can't replace them. Jewish people can't replace them.

HARNEY: The ones that can't get their thirsts quench are making the black people look bad. Those white people that put swastika on their arm and marched are (INAUDIBLE), they're making a white man look bad.

HOWARD: There's going -- can turn into a war between the blacks and the whites and --

GINGRAS: You think a civil war could happen.

HOWARD: I mean, honestly, I thought that.

GINGRAS (voice-over): As for white supremacy --

(on camera): Do you think the president has given them more of a voice?

SEXTON: I don't think so. I don't think so. I think the president is in a tough position.

HARNEY: If they put people back to work, that alone will solve a lot of problems. Poverty breeds a lot of trouble.

PLATT: He needs to stand up and call these people out by what they are. He needs to say this is not going to be tolerated in the United States.

GINGRAS: Is there anything the president could do where you draw the line?

SEXTON: You know, again, if he would -- if he would come in and say, hey, I'm not letting you protest. I'm not letting you -- you white supremacists, this is not going to happen anymore. Or I'm going to not let you people that are protesting for equality, I'm not letting that happen anymore. What would that do for our rights as the United States in this country?

This is a melting pot. This is the United States of America. We all need to come together.

GINGRAS: These people say they love their country and that's why they support the presidency. Seven months into this administration, they say they need some problems, but not enough to sway the support.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, Paris, Kentucky.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Brynn, that is eye-opening. Thank you for the reporting.

Meantime, hundreds of people coming together last night in Charlottesville to unite against hate.

They gathered with candlelight at University of Virginia making it clear that love always overcoming evil. Earlier in the day, an emotional memorial for 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Her parents describing what their daughter stood for and what her legacy would be.


MARK HEYER, HEATHER HEYER'S FATHER: She loved people. She wanted equality, and in this issue of the day of her passing, she wanted to put down hate. And for my part, we just need to stop all this stuff and forgive each other.

SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a cord is because we know that what she did is achievable. We don't all have to die. We don't all have to sacrifice our lives.

They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Guess what? You just magnified her.

Remember in your heart, if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention. I want you to pay attention, find what's wrong, don't ignore it, don't look the other way. You make a point to look at it and say to yourself what can I do to make a difference?

[06:35:06] And that's how you're going to make my child's death worthwhile. I'd rather have my child. But by golly, if I've got to give her up, we're going to make it count.



CUOMO: Look, it's a horrible price that that mom and dad and all her friends had to pay, but they are trying to make the most of this opportunity, and in that line, if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention, you get to the crux of the matter.

The president of the United States is doubling down. He says there is no regret. He's saying the media and those who are criticizing him are misrepresenting what he said. You just heard it in the words of that mother. Either you see those who breed hate as less than those who are opposing them or you do not.

The question is now, while the president's base is with him, is he further dividing this nation? We have a panel taking a closer look, next.


CUOMO: President Trump waking up and taking to Twitter, slamming Senator Lindsey Graham and falsely saying that he did not morally equivocate between hate groups and those protesting against them in Charlottesville.

[06:40:07] He went on to tweet this: The public is learning even more so how dishonest the fake news is. They totally misrepresent what I say about hate, bigotry, and shame.

If that's true, why are world leaders, CEOs, and even some GOP elected officials coming out and saying exactly what we report?

Let's bring in our CNN political commentators Ben Ferguson and Nina Turner.

It's good to have you both there.


CUOMO: Nina, is everybody getting it wrong in terms of what the president said about mistakes and wrongdoing on both sides?

NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The president, Chris, has gotten it wrong. He's trying to get the American people not to believe their lying eyes or their lying ears. I mean, he had really a great opportunity to try to bring people together in this country using the moral authority and the political authority of the office of the presidency, and he absolutely failed.

And none of us should be surprised, when I think back during the campaign, I believe he was asked the question about whether or not he's ever had to ask for forgiveness for something, or he made a statement that he's never done anything in his life, and I'm paraphrasing, that required him to ask God for forgiveness. That's a heavy statement.

And so, this moment that we're feeling right now with a president that refuses to call out hate, just point blank -- there is no both sides on this. You can't compare people who are fighting for freedom and justice with Nazis. You can't compare people who believe in equality for all with white supremacists. You just cannot.

And the fact that he is not mature enough to understand that, to get that, it is something wrong with him.

CUOMO: Ben, look, I get the argument that the president did say it, he did say he rejects bigotry. It's about how, Ben.


CUOMO: You know if you were in that position, not as president, but you have your own following, people come to you, they listen to your show, you're a moral agent for a lot of your listeners. You would have said, the KKK and all those groups like, they're despicable, they went down there to provoke, that's why they were cited for unlawful assembly, this is who they are and what they're about.

And at the same time, anybody who took criminal action down there, they're going to have to be policed. That's the law. We have to respect the law.

But you would not equate those who do nothing but sell hate with those who go to oppose them in Charlottesville or anywhere else.

FERGUSON: There's two different conversations people have. There's the water cooler conversation people have when they saw the videos of the fighting between two groups of people. I mean, it was very clear when you're watching the TV. That's the conversation a lot of people make saying the next morning, did you see how awful the violence was last night, I can't believe that happened, it's terrible.

There's also a leadership conversation, and this is where the president has to make it very clear every time that something like this happens, that you come out, condemn a group and there's not that water cooler conversation with it. I think many Americans saw there are real issues with a race war that people want to have and they want to divide and they want to fight and they want to cause violence, and there are extremes on both ends.

But when you're the president of the United States of America, and something like this happens, you have to always get it right with a clear and concise message that you condemn these racists. And then you can have the other conversation maybe later down the road --

CUOMO: Oh, I don't even see the extremes on both ends. Even if you take the antifa people at their worst --


CUOMO: If you take anarchists at their worst, do you have malefactors, do you have criminals in their ranks, do you have people who do violent things? Yes, yes, yes.

That is not a moral equivalency to the KKK, Ben. That's all they're about is hate. Two out of three people on this panel, they don't want them to exist. You know, that's different than having a group, weather it's Black Lives Matter or any other symbol that the right wants to throw up, this new alt left which, you know, I think is a manufactured term, not a equivalent to what we see on the right.

Just look at the stats, the number one domestic terror threat in the United States is the extreme right. There is not even a close second. But putting the facts to the side, when you say extremes on both sides, Ben, it sounds like you, too, are saying the KKK has a functional equivalent on the other side.

FERGUSON: No, no. What I'm saying is there are individuals in this country, OK, human beings in this country that want a race war and want to cause violence and pain and death.

CUOMO: They're called KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. That's who they are.

FERGUSON: Chris, let me finish -- let me finish the point. And this is where I think people are so hyper-focused on one issue only, that they're completely missing the point that many Americans understand. There is no doubt that the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis are disgusting and vile, despicable human beings.

[06:45:03] That should be able to be a statement that is stand alone on its own.

Now, can we have a second conversation, OK? Let's say that one is very clear, and I think that's what the president has to be very clear on.

Now, is it reality that can have a second conversation? It's not about comparing the two. It's another conversation that there are violent people out there that when they see an opportunity to become violent, see an opportunity to become a race war, they do show up everywhere and travel around the country to try to have a race war? There are people that want to do that.


CUOMO: When the first group just killed somebody in a terrorist act, it's going to make people upset, is it not?


FERGUSON: That's why I say it goes back to timing.

CUOMO: I think it's more than timing. But, Nina, go ahead.

TURNER: There is no other conversation to have at this moment in time, none. There is no other side when it comes to a group of neo- Nazis, white supremacists, who decided to go down to Charlottesville, Virginia, at night, like cowards with Tiki lamps or holding those things they were holding in their hands, there is no equivalency to that, shouting --

FERGUSON: I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm not disagreeing with you.

TURNER: Our Jewish brothers and sisters, our African-American brothers and sisters, putting that overt hate out there, there is no other side to this. They were wrong. They are white supremacists. They want only white people to exist. They're wrong.


FERGUSON: I agree with you. That's why I said earlier -- look at my original statement.

TURNER: There is no other conversation to have.

FERGUSON: When you're the president of the United States of America, when you're the president of the United States of America, I said this a moment ago, there is a leadership conversation you have to have when you come out. And literally, the conversation you have at that moment is to condemn the people that just killed somebody. That is something I agree with. Messaging is vitally important.

Now, this is something else that people don't want to deal with the reality. There has been a bigger conversation about the extremism on both sides of this, and people say, you cannot ever talk about that. We have to be able to talk about that.

TURNER: It's a false equivalency, Ben.

FERGUSON: Otherwise, we're going to always have a race war here that goes on.


TURNER: There's only one side that's trying to start a race war and it is the neo-Nazis, fascist, racist, KKK-inspired folks. One side.

CUOMO: Let's leave it there. For those at home following this, this winds up being the synthesis. There's a difference between a group that's about nothing but hate and the group where you'll have malefactors within it who go too far and create crimes and do other things. It's a sum versus an all proposition. That's what has people worried about false equivalency here.

But, Ben, thank you very much for making the case. Nina, as always. Appreciate it.


HARLOW: All right. So, if you're up late, you're a fan of late night, not much to laugh about. The jokes replaced by outrage after the president's response to Charlottesville. That's next.


[06:51:58] HARLOW: After President Trump's response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, the tone of late night has shifted dramatically to outrage and condemnation. Watch.


JIMMY FALLON, LATE-NIGHT HOST: We all need to stand against what is wrong, acknowledge that racism exists and stand up for what is right and civil and kind.

SETH MEYER, LATE-NIGHT HOST: President Trump this afternoon gave a press conference that can only be described as clinically insane.

JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE-NIGHT HOST: It started -- supposed to be a press conference about infrastructure, and it ended with our president making an angry and passionate defense of white supremacists.

The president, I feel like I can say this is reasonable certainty, the president is completely unhinged. STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE-NIGHT HOST: I'm still recovering personally,

still recovering from President Trump's kamikaze press conference yesterday where Donald let Donald be Donald. The consequences and our country be damned. And it was truly one for our ages, specifically 1931 to 1945. Let me just (INAUDIBLE) right, '36 --


HARLOW: Joining us now, CNN media analyst Bill Carter.

Bill, some laughs there, but, you know, what they're saying rings so true and it's unbelievable what's happening. You have a new column on it this morning. You talk about what is the new normal, comedy outrage.

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yes, it seems like they're not just for laughs. They're definitely putting a point of view out there, and it's angry. I mean, it's truly angry and outraged that the president could possibly be taking these positions.

It's very unusual. I mean, late night people, they really want people to have fun when they go to bed, and they're being challenged now, coming right in their face and saying this is something we've never seen before.

CUOMO: What do you make of the president's response, which is this kind of dual prong, one is I said it, I own it, I won't back off. But then, he is backing off. He's saying Lindsey Graham got it wrong. He didn't state a moral equivalency between the KKK and people like Ms. Heyer. Yes, he did. And then he says it's fake news misrepresenting. It's his own words. Just go look at the transcript.

CARTER: And that's the thing, that's the thing. We're seeing it all over everywhere on TV. It's him saying it. The media is not twisting it or presenting it in a different way. They're just covering what he says.

HARLOW: So, but how big of an impact does late night have? Because you interviewed Seth Meyers and he had an interesting take on the change he thinks he can or can't effect.

CARTER: Exactly. He knows he's preaching to the choir. People have already self-elected. They're not going to support these shows if they really support President Trump. They know he's going to get hammered every night.

But I think there's a cumulative effect going on. It's all over the place now. People are playing these clips. A lot of these comments are funny but also really pointed and effective. I do think this is a sense that this is not like anything we've seen in late night before.

They took on George Bush after Katrina, especially Jon Stewart. But it wasn't personal. Two late night guys, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers said, we've got to get this guy out.

[06:55:00] They basically called for him to be out of office. CUOMO: But they've never had an opportunity like this. We've never

seen that you don't have to exaggerate reality to create parody.


CUOMO: They've never been in this situation. We've never heard of anyone of any standing, let alone the president, saying the KKK, the Nazis, they're terrible, but they're not the only terrible ones. We've never heard that before.

CARTER: Yes, it's mindboggling and some of the lines -- they write themselves. When you say, well, there's not many side, there's only one side and that side has Nazis on them.

CUOMO: Right.

CARTER: It's very easy to sort of pick that out. The joke comes very easily. I think the late night hosts are saying can we do something else? They're overwhelmed by Trump. He overwhelms everything about comedy now.

HARLOW: Fallon, Jimmy Fallon with that monologue that got so much attention early this week. Now, he faced so much criticism during the campaign, going light on then candidate Trump, tussling hair, et cetera. This was a 180, credibility?

CARTER: I think Jimmy has realized and the show realized they're out of tone here. Most of the comedy community has one particular point of view on this.

Jimmy is not a political comic. To his credit, he has his thing and he should stick to it. But I think even looked at this and said I have to address this. This is over the top. And he did it in an interesting way, talking about his own kids.

And he basically said what the president did was shameful. He used the word shameful. That was really a pretty strong statement for him.

HARLOW: Nice to have you.

CUOMO: Bill Carter, and so it goes.

CARTER: We'll see it more every night I'm sure.

HARLOW: Great column. Go to You can see it morning. We appreciate it. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So, the president decided to fight back, kind of. He says he owns what he said but now he's saying people are taking him the wrong way. We'll give you what his defense is. We have it all covered, next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a president who lives in the world of no regret because he never admits he make a mistake.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It speaks for itself. The bigots that were in Charlottesville, they want to tear us apart.