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Trump Supporters On President's Charlottesville Response; How A Charlottesville Conspiracy Theory Was Born; White House Halts Study Of Coal Mining's Health Effects. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 23, 2017 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:30:55] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, President Trump, again, attacked the press last night trying to blame the media for his own controversial comments on Charlottesville.

As you are about to hear from many of his most die-hard supporters, those attacks on the press are making a lasting impression.

On Monday, I sat down with a group of Trump voters from Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia to get their take, and they have very strong opinions about who was to blame for violence in Charlottesville and where they go to get their information.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: How many of you -- show of hands -- were troubled by the president's response to the violence in Charlottesville? None of you minded how President Trump responded?

BOBBY VIERA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No.

ROBERT MCCARTHY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: No.

VIERA: No. I didn't see anything wrong with it. I mean, he addressed the problem. I mean, let's face reality. There are problems on both sides.

CAMEROTA: Do you think that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are the same as those who are protesting them?

VIERA: I think it's ridiculous to have me choose between Hitler and Stalin, which is what I consider both groups are.

CAMEROTA: And why are the people who turned out to protest Nazis?

VIERA: Not all of them.

CAMEROTA: Why are they Stalin to you?

VIERA: The Antifa group, to me, is totally a very Stalin-ish kind of group.

CAMEROTA: How so? VIERA: If you want to set fires and burn places to the ground, that doesn't sound like a very peaceful group to me.

CAMEROTA: But they didn't --

VIERA: They're both the same evil.

CAMEROTA: They didn't use those tactics in Charlottesville.

DAPHNE GOGGINS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: So then, I blame the government.

CAMEROTA: Who do you blame the governor -- or, the government for a white supremacist mowing down a crowd of people and killing someone?

GOGGINS: Because they didn't protect the people that day.

CAMEROTA: The people who were marching with the signs, do you see them as neo-Nazis and white supremacists?

GOGGINS: I mean, it hasn't been investigated so we really don't know who was out there. But I'm telling you, I've seen videos of other people who were out there who were not neo-Nazis.

CAMEROTA: You believe that there were very fine people protesting?

GOGGINS: Yes, I do.

CAMEROTA: How do you know that?

GOGGINS: I'm only telling you from videos that I've seen of people.

CAMEROTA: But what's the source of your videos? Where are you seeing them?

GOGGINS: Facebook. And then, when I tried to repost those videos they wouldn't allow me.

CAMEROTA: Is it possible they're not credible?

GOGGINS: It could be. But like I said, they need to investigate and find out exactly what was going on out there.

CAMEROTA: "VICE" did an investigation of the people who went there with a purpose to march for neo-Nazis, so let me just play a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil. Blood and soil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: So, blood and soil was a Nazi slogan and you heard them saying Jews will not replace us. Is it possible that very fine people were in that crowd?

GOGGINS: Not in that crew, no. Those very -- those crazy -- I don't know what else to call them. I'm not -- I probably can't say it on T.V., but they still had the right to say those crazy things.

MCCARTHY: That's the night before the clash happened. The Antifa people, the protesters, they didn't show up Friday night, they showed up Saturday.

These protesters showed up the second day. They came there to do battle with them. They showed up with helmets, body armor, clubs. They showed up with balloons filled with urine.

CAMEROTA: And these guys -- and these guys showed up with semi- automatic weapons.

MCCARTHY: In the state of Virginia, open carry is legal.

CAMEROTA: I'm -- but again --

MCCARTHY: You could walk down the street --

CAMEROTA: Yes. It seems to me that you're giving these guys a green light, the white supremacists.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: Why do you seem more angry at Antifa than at the neo-Nazis and white supremacists?

MCCARTHY: I'm not more angry, it's equal. The media is not covering it. They're only focused on making neo-Nazis and white supremacists out to be Trump supporters and they're the issue of the problem.

The reality is of what Trump said is there were two sides. There are two parties that participated.

VIERA: He said there was trouble on both sides. Was there not trouble on both sides? I saw bats on both sides.

CAMEROTA: And I'm sure you've heard the argument there was violence on both sides of World War II also --

VIERA: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- but we were on the right side.

VIERA: Yes, but --

CAMEROTA: There's a right side and a wrong side.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: If there were some people in Antifa, OK, but most of them were students, including Heather Heyer, who was killed. [07:35:02] So, why aren't --

GOGGINS: She got killed because they didn't protect her.

CAMEROTA: Who killed her?

GOGGINS: To be honest with you, I don't know because it hasn't been investigated yet. We haven't heard anything --

CAMEROTA: But we know who the suspect is.

GOGGINS: Listen, I don't trust anything that the news media says anymore. And the fact of the matter is we haven't heard from this young man.

Like, when I first heard this -- me, myself -- I'm going to tell you what I thought. Some stuff ran through my mind. I'm like maybe he had a panic attack.

CAMEROTA: Why are you giving him a pass?

GOGGINS: I'm not giving him a pass. If that's what -- he was 20 years old.

CAMEROTA: But why are thinking that the white supremacist might have had a panic attack?

GOGGINS: How could he be a supremacist of anything? He's 20 years old. He's being bad. He's a boy.

CAMEROTA: We saw that with Dylann Roof. We see all this with other young white men --

GOGGINS: They're being led by --

CAMEROTA: -- and sometimes they're white supremacists.

GOGGINS: They're being led by devils.

AMANDA DELEKTA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think we're moving kind of further away from the point of what --

GOGGINS: Yes.

DELEKTA: -- this conversation should be.

What happened that day was a tragedy and it should never have happened to begin with.

No one here is supporting the neo-Nazis or the white supremacists and that narrative is really negative. But what we are talking about is President Trump's response and he stood in front of America and he condemned the violence that occurred that day.

JIMMY DOZIER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: You're talking about 300 or 400 people in Charlottesville that -- CAMEROTA: Meaning the neo-Nazis?

DOZIER: Yes. There are 60 million people who voted for President Trump. Why don't we get a say? Those people aren't nothing.

You all -- Democrats have idiots, Republicans have idiots. But we're talking about us, the 60 million that was for Trump. We don't do stuff like that.

CAMEROTA: Why isn't it the easiest thing in the world for the president to say neo-Nazis have no place in this country?

DOZIER: He said --

DELEKTA: He did.

DOZIER: He did.

DELEKTA: He condemned them.

DOZIER: He said it Monday, he didn't know the facts.

(CROSSTALK)

VIERA: Because it just came out on T.V. It just happened.

L.A. KEY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think a great portion of it is a conspiracy. I think it was a set-up.

CAMEROTA: From whom?

KEY: From whom? I think people who want to derail our president.

There were buses coming in with lots of young people --

CAMEROTA: Protesters.

KEY: -- and off -- protesters coming off the same bus with some wearing Black Lives Matter and some wearing the KKK shirts. They were brought in to cause a controversy, right?

CAMEROTA: Where are you getting your evidence?

KEY: A lot of it on Facebook.

CAMEROTA: You saw something on Facebook?

KEY: Yes.

MCCARTHY: Yes.

KEY: Yes.

MCCARTHY: The protesters, the Antifa people had an ad on Craig's List recruiting people for $25 an hour to show up for the protest in Charlottesville. CAMEROTA: Yes.

MCCARTHY: It's all over the place. You can read the ad.

CAMEROTA: And you trust Facebook more than news organizations?

VIERA: Oh, yes. I trust a lot of video from people who shot it that were present -- yes.

CAMEROTA: You trust your Facebook feed even though you don't know the origin?

GOGGINS: No. The people are our friends.

CAMEROTA: Even though you can't tell me the source of these videos?

MCCARTHY: I can pull them up off of Facebook and you can see 30 people with the same videos.

CAMEROTA: OK, let me just -- let me see that. Show me what you found on your phone -- the videos.

MCCARTHY: I deleted it off. I'm sorry.

There's videos on YouTube that are on Facebook. There are videos that -- if you just Google Charlottesville, Virginia protesters videos, they start -- they all start popping up into the feed on Facebook.

GOGGINS: And somebody -- I also have a young man who said that they saw these people -- the six buses lined up -- someone that lives in Charlottesville -- that the six buses were lined up and people were getting off the bus with KKK shirts on and BLM shirts. I'm like, what?

DELEKTA: They were on the same bus.

GOGGINS: Now, that may not sound credible -- while it may not sound credible to a lot of people, to us who don't trust the news media that could be very credible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: Well, that last claim of actors on buses showing up in Charlottesville, it raised alarm bells for us. We wanted to find out the facts.

Up next, we'll show you how this Charlottesville conspiracy theory was born.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:42:40] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOGGINS: I also have a young man who said that they saw these people -- the six buses lined up -- someone that lives in Charlottesville -- that the six buses were lined up and people were getting off the bus with KKK shirts on and BLM shirts. I'm like, what?

DELEKTA: They were on the same bus.

GOGGINS: Now, that may not sound credible -- while it may not sound credible to a lot of people, to us who don't trust the news media that could be very credible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK. So that was a moment from our latest Trump voter panel and what they were saying there if it -- they believe that many of the protesters in Charlottesville were paid actors bused in to cause trouble.

I asked them to show me the evidence. So after our taping, they sent us this video that they saw on YouTube.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was all set up, you understand? The whole thing.

First of all, you're not going to have on a KKK t-shirt and you're not going the have on Black Lives Matter t-shirt getting off the same brand of buses parked back-to-back. We're talking about bumper-to- bumper. Not in the same area, bumper-to-bumper.

I'm glad that the woman who told me this is OK because she was in that alley. It was not on the street where those people got hit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: In other words, their source of this theory is some guy in a car whose friend told him she saw buses in an alley arriving.

That video that I just showed you has been viewed more than 840,000 times.

He, that guy there, also linked to an ad from a P.R. company looking, apparently, for actors to appear at celebrity events and yes, rallies and protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, not Charlottesville, Virginia. Still, that's interesting.

So we chased that thread, as reporters do, and we found out that the owner of that P.R. company says he had nothing to do with Charlottesville.

Our reporters on the ground in Charlottesville saw nothing of any buses or what that guy in his car describes. The organizers of the rally say that they did not hire any actors. And, "PolitiFact" looked into this and rated this entire conspiracy theory as false.

Let's discuss it with CNN political commentator and host of "SMERCONISH," Michael Smerconish. And, Salena Zito, CNN contributor and reporter at "Washington Examiner." [07:45:00] Guys -- Michael, this is the birth of a conspiracy theory.

You see how it starts. They see something on their Facebook feed and it sort of resonates with them and then it becomes fact.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH", HOST, SIRIUS XM "THE MICHAEL SMERCONISH PROGRAM": There's nothing new about urban legend.

I remember growing up and being told about the guy who had a hook for an arm who used to terrorize couples on Lover's Lane.

CAMEROTA: I remember that one.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, REPORTER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Gosh, me too.

SMERCONISH: What's changed is the --

CAMEROTA: That was scary.

SMERCONISH: What's changed is the Internet world in which we live, which rewards the provocateurs among us. And now, news dissemination -- quote unquote "news dissemination" is all about attracting eyes and ears and mouse clicks.

And please, Alisyn, don't bore me with "snopes.com" or "PolitiFact" when I can go to Alex Jones and be told a very entertaining story that might be fallacious.

That panel was frightening to me. They are redeemable.

You know, the Nazis are irredeemable. There's nothing we can do to bring them back into the fold of the country and, frankly, I don't care to.

But in a nutshell, you have just exhibited, I think, the greatest problem that this country faces because it's going to long outlast this president. Whenever he may leave, this division based on false information is going to remain.

CAMEROTA: Salena, it's so disheartening -- it's so disheartening to hear these folks who are nice people. I mean, believe me, I interact with them all the time and do these voter panels, as do you. But to hear them say we do not trust the news media at all --

ZITO: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- we don't go to news organizations for our information.

It's so disheartening that they think that they're getting information -- better information on Facebook. And I know you confront this all the time.

ZITO: Sure. You know, when the -- I do a lot of like on-the-ground reporting and, you now, go to people's towns, to their homes, to their communities, to their churches and talk to them, and it takes a long time to win over their trust.

We really have a problem that we need to address that has been happening over time as the Internet has grown and widened its scope and there's more connectivity.

CAMEROTA: But what is the answer, Salena? I mean, when you talk to them what is the answer to convincing them that the news of the press -- actually, we are doing fact-checking, we are chasing sources, we are double-checking and making sure all of our sources are credible. This is our job. This is what we're tasked with.

How do you convince them to come to trust us again?

ZITO: Well, here's the problem. It's not that they don't always believe everything that we report. They don't believe that they see the whole story.

So I was with some Trump supporters last night who were watching the show with me -- watching the speech with me and they were disheartened because when we were switching channels and what they saw was a focus on the protests and a focus on what he could do wrong.

And they were really looking to hear from someone in the crowd saying hey, this is why I came --

CAMEROTA: Right.

ZITO: -- and this is why I like coming.

CAMEROTA: Right. I hear that several times, Salena. I hear it all the time. Why do you guys talk about the negative? Why can't you just tell us positive things about the president?

Michael, that's not our job.

SMERCONISH: Well, I think our job is to be fiercely independent and sometimes we fall down on that job.

Last night was particularly indicative of the problem as it relates to the president because I was watching on CNN and I thought this is extremely compelling the way that he's reached into his coat pocket, pulled out those prior statements and read them aloud. Of course, I sat there and kept waiting and waiting and waiting for him to repeat that which got him into trouble, and that never came.

And, Alisyn, I said to myself to the 20,000 people in Phoenix, even though that he was deceitful by omission or are they going to go home and tune into "FOX NEWS," listen to A.M. talk radio and never be told that fact and, therefore, be none the wiser.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I just don't -- look, obviously it's not our job to focus on the negative, it's not our job to focus on the positive. It's our job to report what happens. It's our job to get the facts right.

But somehow, Salena, we're just in this media world where it seems as though these -- I mean, these are the die-hard Trump supporters but they're not a fringe element. They're not a small portion of our country.

I mean, let me play -- let me show you the latest -- the latest poll. This is a Monmouth poll from just last week.

Is there anything that would make you disapprove of Trump? Among Trump supporters -- no, 61 percent.

In other words, there's no information that anyone could ever present that would make them feel less strongly about the president, and he's the person who said I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue.

ZITO: I think -- I think what we're missing -- because Trump is president and he's so, you know, combative, that we're missing that this is across the board, this distrust in media. We're not seeing it as much with the Democrats because they're not the party in power, but I see it all the time.

[07:50:06] And it is a problem -- I see it on Twitter, I see it on Facebook, I see it on the e-mails that I get and the interaction that I have with people.

You know, there is a willingness to be so distrustful of the media, big Hollywood, big sports, big companies. That's what populism is, it's a pushback of all things big.

And it's not just Republicans that have these sentiments. These sentiments are across the board and it is a problem that began right at the beginning of the -- or right in the middle of the Vietnam War. If you look at stats, there were 74 percent of people had trust in government, had trust in the media. It's now the opposite, you know. There's only like 20 percent.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, look -- obviously, we're all doing soul- searching in the press to make sure -- to redouble our efforts every day to be fact-based, to get our facts absolutely right. We're doing that and somehow, guys, we're going to win people back over.

Michael, Salena, thank you very much for analyzing all of this with us -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

On the policy side, President Trump is promising to lead the charge for an economic rebirth in coal country. But there is a decision to tell you about from his administration that could produce an even graver concern.

We're going to break down the conflicting actions, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:55:32] CUOMO: It has been sultry out there for too many in the Northeast but relief is on the way for all of us who have been sweating through the heat and humidity in the Northeast and Midwest. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the forecast. Where is the relief?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's a cold front that came through last night. You probably saw it in the form of lightning and thunder -- or heard the thunder. It was a big storm through the New York City area yesterday.

This weather is brought to you by Xyzal, the allergy medicine for continuous 24-hour allergy relief.

Your allergies should be better today as that front pushed all of that muck away. It will be 15 to 20 degrees cooler today than yesterday, the humidity feeling nice as well.

But there's something else brewing in our forecast and it is a major event for Friday, Saturday for Texas. This will be the new Harvey. You know, Harvey was, Harvey died, Harvey will be back.

It's the same low-pressure center here in Texas. There could be areas, Alisyn, with a 100 percent chance of development here that pick up 15 inches of rainfall. Now, it could be centered over Houston, Corpus Christie -- anywhere over south Texas.

They don't need and can't use 15 inches of rain without flooding. That is a major concern. We'll be here all weekend.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you for keeping an eye on that for us, Chad.

Meanwhile, President Trump promised a rebirth for the coal industry during his campaign but his administration's latest move could put the health of some people who live in coal country at risk.

CNN's Rene Marsh is live in Washington with more. What have you learned, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, Alisyn.

President Trump has promised to bring coal back. He's eliminated environmental rules that the industry calls burdensome and now, the administration just shut down an independent study into whether certain coal mining techniques are directly correlated to increased rates of cancer and other serious diseases for people who live near these coal mining sites.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): Donald Trump has branded himself as the pro-coal president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And for those miners, get ready because you're going to be working your asses off, all right?

MARSH: Scientists are warning the administration's latest move may hurt more than help his base in coal country. A letter from the Interior Department has directed the National Academies of Sciences, Energy, and Medicine to cease all activities on a study to determine whether people living near mountaintop coal mining sites in central Appalachia are more prone to certain diseases, like cancer.

BILL PRICE, SIERRA CLUB, WEST VIRGINIA: The evidence that we have seen so far in over two dozen articles and studies have shown higher cancer rates, higher rates of heart and cardiovascular disease.

MARSH: The agency said it put a hold on $1 million in funding for this study because of its changing budget situation. The study focused on four states -- West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, where mountaintop coal mining is most prevalent.

Instead of drilling, explosive blasts blow up mountains to get at the layers of coal inside. The waste from the process is dumped into streams and valleys nearby.

PRICE: President Trump is showing that he is looking out for the coal industry and the coal executives, and not the people of Appalachia.

MARSH: Since taking office, Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement, issued an executive order reopening federal lands to new coal leases, and rolled back environmental rules, including ones aimed at requiring the coal industry to monitor and report toxic mining waste in waterways.

ANDREW ROSENBERG, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: They stopped the requirements for companies to report. Now, they've halted a study that would investigate whether there are any public health impacts for communities that are in the vicinity of mountaintop removal mining. And that fits into an overall pattern in this administration of setting science aside.

MARSH: The National Mining Association, which represents coal miners, pointed to a July study that said there's no conclusive evidence connecting mountaintop mining with health hazards, and questioned whether studying the health impacts if even necessary, saying quote, "These mining practices today account for less than one percent of total U.S. coal production."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: And coal mining advocates say studies that show a link between things like cancer and mining don't take into account other lifestyle factors.

It's also worth pointing out officials in West Virginia actually asked for this study to be done -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right. That's an important point.

Thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting there.

We're following a lot of news. What do you say? Let's get after it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If you want to discover the source of the division --