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Polls Opening for Alabama Special Election; Man who Opposes Roy Moore and Whose Gay Daughter Committed Suicide Interviewed. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired December 12, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, December 12th, 8:00 in the east. And polls are now open in Alabama's high stakes special Senate election. Will voters elect the Republican who is accused of child molestation, Roy Moore, who has been endorsed by President Trump, or will they elect Doug Jones who hopes to become the first Alabama Democratic elected to the U.S. Senate in 25 years.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Sexual assault allegations are not only dogging Roy Moore. More than 50 Democratic lawmakers are asking for an investigation into claims against President Trump. The president tweeting this morning saying he doesn't know or never met any of the women making accusations, calling their stories fabricated. We have it all covered. Let's being with CNN's Alex Marquardt live in Mountain Brook, Alabama. That's where Doug Jones is expected to vote this hour.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is, Chris. He's expected to vote just about half an hour's time. All of a sudden there is a flurry of activity. All these polls opening and Alabamians eager to come out and vote. I was just inside, the poll workers very quickly trying to finalize everything and everything up and running, a long line of voters waiting to vote.

Doug Jones has a very big task today. He needs as many votes as he can get. This was already a competitive race. But then those allegations came out against Roy Moore and it made it all the more tighter. The reason I say that the onus is on Doug Jones is because Roy Moore really has this built in base of support, a core base of passionate voters who were not turned off by these allegations, who will turn out no matter what, even if it's a cold, chilly December morning in an off year for a special election.

So the big question this morning is the turnout. That's what we are going to be watching closely. The secretary of state of Alabama says the turn out should be 20 and 25 percent. That might sound a little bit low but it's actually higher than they had initially expected. So that is the name of the game today, the turnout.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones making their final pitches to voters ahead of one of the most unpredictable elections in Alabama's history. DOUG JONES, (D) SENATE CANDIDATE: It is time that we put our decency

and our state before political party.

ROY MOORE, (R) SENATE CANDIDATE: I will tell you, if you don't believe in my character, don't vote for me.

MARQUARDT: Moore bringing in a number of out of state conservatives, including the president's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who riled up the crowd by attacking Republicans who have been critical of the accused child molester, even appearing to take a shot at the president's daughter who told the A.P. last month there's a special play in hell for people who prey on children.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: There's a special place in hell for Republicans who should know better.

MARQUARDT: And in also naming names, calling out the state's most prominent Republican, Senator Richard Shelby, who told CNN on Sunday he did not vote for Moore.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R) ALABAMA: The state of Alabama deserves better.

MARQUARDT: And former secretary of state and native Alabamian Condoleezza Rice who released a statement Monday urging voters to, quote, "reject bigotry, sexism, and intolerance," but did not mention either candidate. Kayla Moore insisting her husband is not a bigot.

KAYLA MOORE, ROY MOORE'S WIFE: Fake news would tell you we don't care for Jews. One of our attorneys is a Jew.

MARQUARDT: While Doug Jones, who has been working to shore up much- needed support from African-American voters, teamed up on election even with basketball hall of famer Charles Barkley who had this message for his home state.

CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: At some point we have got to draw a line in the stand so we are not a bunch of damn idiots.

MARQUARDT: Jones also getting a boost from former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden who both recorded robo-calls for his campaign in the final hours after President Trump did the same for Moore.

Moore, who denies the allegations against him, letting the president do much of his talking for him in the past few days alongside very few select interviews, shunning the media and instead appearing in a political action committee ad, interviewed by a 12-year-old girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what do you think are the characteristics of a really, really good senator?

MOORE: Following the constitution, just adhering to principle.

MARQUARDT: Moore defending his near total absence from the campaign trail in the final week of this heated race, saying he was visiting West Point, his alma mater, with his wife.

JONES: Here I am once again surrounded by the gaggle of media which I have come to love and enjoy, while Roy Moore was not even in the state of Alabama over the weekend.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Now, after Doug Jones votes here he does have a busy day ahead of him. He will stopping at a number of polling stations, five to be exact, to greet voters as they go vote. Roy Moore has a much lighter day. The only thing on his schedule before tonight is voting. He will be voting with his wife at the fire station in their hometown. Now, Moore family tradition dictates that they do that on horseback. And the name of his trusty steed is, wait for it, Sassy.

[08:05:00] CAMEROTA: Thank you, Alex very much. That will be quite a sight to watch Roy Moore vote. Thank you very much for that.

So there was this powerful moment at Roy Moore's final campaign rally last night, and it involved a father named Nathan Mathis who was holding a sign with a picture of his daughter who he says was a lesbian who committed suicide when she was 23 years old. Mathis is a peanut farmer and he is condemning Roy Moore's past comments on homosexually.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATHAN MATHIS, FATHER WHO LOST DAUGHTER TO SUICIDE: You are supposed to hold up the constitution. The constitution said all men are created equal. But hos is my daughter a pervert just because she was gay. I was anti-gay myself, I said bad things to my daughter myself, which I regret. He said all gay people are perverts, abominations. That's not true. We don't need a person like that representing us in Washington.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: And that dad, Nathan Mathis, joins us now. Mr. Mathis, thank you very much for joining us via Face time as you are. Can you tell us why you felt so strongly that you wanted to go to Roy Moore campaign stop last and deliver that message?

NATHAN MATHIS, FATHER WHO LOST DAUGHTER TO SUICIDE: Well, I feel guilty about my daughter taking her own life what I see it. But a man would go to Washington and say my daughter is a pervert just because she's gay, he didn't know my daughter. And for him to be charged -- well, not charged but accused, these women are accusing him of going out with them when they were young teenage girls, 14 to 17 year old. If I daughter was a pervert, he is worse than a sorry pervert. He doesn't need to be in Washington, D.C.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Mathis, let me just read for our viewers what you are referring to. So this was a decision that Judge Roy Moore made when he was the chief justice in Alabama about homosexually. Let me just read the opinion that he wrote. "Homosexual conduct is and has been considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature's God upon which this nation and our laws are predicated. The common law adopted in this state and upon which our 2laws are premised likewise declares homosexuality to be detestable and an abominable sin." How do you hear those words now?

MATHIS: I grew up going to the church of Christ. I was there every time the door was open. I heard that from the pulpit numerous times, and I believed that myself. But after having the experience of my daughter and seeing life like it really is I realize how wrong it was. My daughter was a good person. My daughter was not no damn pervert, as Roy Moore by called her. And Roy Moore by going out those teenage girls, he does not deserve to be in the United States Senate. It's just that simple. The man needs to be in a sick ward somewhere with a psychiatrist trying to help him get better.

CAMEROTA: And Mr. Mathis, I hear your regret about even how you treated your daughter and the things you've said to her and how you've changed and how your perspective about homosexually has changed. Can you tell a little bit us more about what happened with your daughter, Patty Sue.

MATHIS: Patty came to me after the altercation, and she cried and said daddy, I don't want to be gay. Can you get me help? So I took her to UAV hospital and the doctors did tests all day long. Finally they called us in there with her mother about 4:30 in the afternoon. The said young lady you can't help the way you are. There's not a thing we can do for you. I said, man, this doctor is crazy as a bat. So then we went to other doctors and psychiatrists. Every one told my daughter the same thing, we can't do a thing about the way you are and you can't do anything about the way you are.

CAMEROTA: And then she was despondent after that? What happen to her to get to the point to take her life?

MATHIS: She was not kidding herself that day because she had filled her car up with gas about 12 and the man at the gas station, she charged the gas to me, said she was going up to Panama City later that day. But then that afternoon one of the neighbors saw her in the yard talking to a girl, and my daughter liked to put clothes on that she was going to grass in with the riding lawnmower. She never cut any grass, and something, whatever happened between her and that girl I guess is what triggered it. I found her dead in the house where she had shot herself.

[08:10:02] And it's been a terrible experience and I have guilty feelings about it every day. But what happened to me could happen to you, it could happen to anybody just watching this program, it could be your child, your great grandchild. Are you going to vote for a man that called your child or grandchild a pervert just because they are born gay? There's something wrong with this picture. Roy Moore does not deserve to be in the United States Senate.

CAMEROTA: Nathan Mathis, we appreciate your candor, we appreciate you sharing with us how you've worked your way around to acceptance and the message that you want to send out to Alabama voters. We're sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for joining us on NEW DAY. MATHIS: Thank you all. Have a good day.

CAMEROTA: You, too. Chris.

CUOMO: Obviously very personal for that man and projects onto an issue that voters are going to have to weigh in on today. We will be watching that Alabama race very carefully.

Let's talk about what the stakes are here with CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza. David, as I was just saying, this is an intensely personal issue for this man and that's why he is projecting it onto the race. That is not so dissimilar from what we expect from a lot of voters today. There's something very personal about this election. The idea of reproductive rights of the role of faith in society and our culture, those are big issues for people down there, and Roy Moore is banking on them, yes?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, no question about it. And I think he's banking on a sense that voters in the state might feel that many around the country and in the news media and in the establishment in Washington are looking down their nose and saying Roy Moore is not fit to be in this institution of the Senate, that he has done things and believes things that disqualify him.

And people may not look at the substance of those things. They may want to discredit the women that accused Roy Moore of misconduct or, you know, look aside as his wife uses textbook anti-Semitism to defend their views about Jews and say, no, we are just going to vote on the fact that this is a strong conservative who is against abortion rights and is a Christian whom we can really put our faith in.

What is true about the stakes in the election is it has become a proxy fight in the country writ large. It's almost as if this is a president election. Every major political figure from both parties is involved in trying to get out the vote in this state in what is going to be a low turn-out election, one that is absolutely going to favor Roy Moore. But the Republican Party is torn apart over this race, and that's one of the reasons the stakes are very high in a close divided Senate.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Chris, about 74 year old Nathan Mathis who was just on with us, if he can work his way around to feeling so different because of his own personal experience with his gay daughter, is there any chance that times are changing and that Roy Moore's positions on homosexually, on blacks, on women, on Jews, these are things that he has said that maybe times have changed in Alabama.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: I do think tonight will give us some indication of that, Alisyn, but David makes a really important point, which is this is a December 12th special election. It's two weeks before Christmas. This is not a standard issue vote. Most voters are not used to voting at this time.

So what's difficult, I think, is that -- this is not -- I don't think we should necessarily, though people will, take of whatever happens that this is somehow indicative of what Alabama thinks. It's indicative of what the people paying attention to this election are willing to turn out at this time think. The higher the turnout, the better for Doug Jones, the Democrat. The lower the better for Roy Moore.

I am a little bit surprised that Moore is still where he is in polling. Polling is a little bit all over the map. I think if you had to you give Roy Moore a little bit of an edge today. I think that says something about a certain segment of the population in Alabama. And how they view the news media and how they view both parties, and how they view who represents them. But again, I just would caution not to draw too many big conclusions because we are going to get a couple hundred thousand, maybe 500,000, 600,000 people voting. It's not a tiny amount but it's not the state.

CAMEROTA: The state officials say 20 to 25 percent voting.

CILLIZZA: Right. And that's of voters, right.

GREGORY: So I am a little conflicted on this because I do think Chris is right and I think we are making a similar point about why as a proxy fight this is difficult to extrapolate from whatever the result is going to be.

[08:15:05] And I think, you know, it's unfair to Alabama, who, you know, folks don't want to be caricatured for views that may have defined the state decades ago. And, unfortunately, and Roy Moore, given the things he said that caricature is applying to him and to his wife given to some of the things they said publicly, and we can go through that.

But I do think, with all of this energy in the country, in the Democratic Party, anti-Trump and so forth, it is a test of how Democrats can mobilize. This is a big deal election in the Senate, and all the national leaders have been focused on it. So, I do think it's going to be hard because it's a special election, because Democrats are not used to turning out in big numbers. They haven't had a close race like this.

It is going to be something of a measure of how Democrats can rally --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: But there's no real indication they put in place great infrastructure down there.

GREGORY: Yes, that's true. That's true.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, Chris, remember, too, this is to David's point, but this is a state that has been Republican and pretty heavily so for at least a decade.

CUOMO: Richard Shelby was the Democrat voted in '92, and he switched -- two years later, he switched in '94.

CILLIZZA: Yes. And basically since then, it has been very hard to win as a candidate, and candidly, if Roy Moore didn't have the problems and the views he had, Doug Jones wouldn't have any chance. CUOMO: He has been rewarded for the views in the past, just so people remember that.

CILLIZZA: Yes, they elected --

CUOMO: He was thrown off the court. He ran again statewide for the court and won. Got thrown off again, but still.

CILLIZZA: So, the only thing I tell you, I do think that's what hard is when you don't ever win races in a state, it's hard to have an infrastructure that exists. State parties get demoralized. You don't raise as much money. You don't have the volunteers and the get out the vote effort.

Republicans have that because they have won a lot. Democrats really don't, so Doug Jones is sort of building it from the start. Now, he's heavily out spending Moore on television, but this is not necessarily that.

I still think Republicans have the edge in terms of turnout. The question is, will enough Republicans who have questions about Roy Moore, doubts about him, vote for him. That's what the Trump rally in Pensacola was all about. The Mobile -- that Mobile area is critical. It's filled with Republicans who are sort of business-minded as opposed to socially conservative and Roy Moore needs those people.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We'll have the answer for you in 12 hours. So, stay tuned. Chris Cillizza, David Gregory, thank you very much.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: President Trump issuing fresh criticism at his accusers on Twitter this morning, as a growing number of lawmakers calls for a congressional investigation into the president's alleged sexual misconduct. What happens next? We'll talk about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:21:21] CAMEROTA: President Trump tweeting a denial this morning, calling the accusations of at least 15 women false accusations and fabricated stories of women I don't know and/or have never met.

This, as more than 50 Democratic congresswomen are calling on a House panel to investigate the claims against President Trump.

So, joining us now is CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro and Ben Ferguson.

Guys, great to have you here.

So, Ana, let me just start with you.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: These 56 female lawmakers are calling for President Trump now to be investigated for the accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against him, is there any traction that this could get? Is this all an exercise in futility? Does this go anywhere?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I don't think it's going to get any traction unless Republicans, unless Republican women, get involved. The way we saw last week, the Democrat women and Democrat senators coming out of against Al Franken, it made a difference.

It will not be until people with gravitas within the Republican Party, Republican lawmakers, Republican elected officials, go out there and really, you know, realize what is going on in this country and that you can't leave Donald Trump out of this conversation. It takes Republicans to really lead the effort, and what the Democratic women are doing is symbolic, it's significant, but it's not going to go anywhere.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Ben, is it time to revisit these accusations against President Trump?

FERGUSON: Look, I think any woman that has accusations has a right to tell their story for as long as they want to. I think that the problem here is it looks extremely politically motivated. This coming after Democrats try to start impeachment hearings because they don't like the president on the floor of the House just a couple of weeks ago.

And when you have already had this very much litigated, talked about and exposed before election day --

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: But I just want to talk to challenge you on that one, because this does feel different.

FERGUSON: Sure.

CAMEROTA: This is post-Harvey Weinstein. This is the me-too moment. This is the me-too movement. That didn't exist before election day.

So, I'm not sure that if you asked every sort of standard, a cross section of Americans, they would know how many women have accused President Trump, what they are accusing him of, I don't think it's in the national sort of consciousness the way accusations are today.

FERGUSON: I think it is, I think it is a lot more, because I -- look, I know how many hours on my show we had this conversation during the primaries and then during the general election. I think a lot of people know about the accusations that have been extremely well- publicized against Donald Trump, the exclusive interviews, the sit- downs, I mean, this was a massive campaign issue that was talked about for hours on end, and not just across the country, but in the conservative voting community as well.

This was something that was talked about to the point where I was exhausted having every show be about it for days on end because you want to move on.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I remember "Access Hollywood" being talked about on that degree, but I don't remember hearing from all of the 16, at least 15 accusers. Yesterday they had a press conference and that's the first time we saw the face of three of them.

FERGUSON: Sure. And here's what I will say. If you have a story to tell, you have a right to tell that story for as long as you want to tell that story. I also think, though, that it doesn't do you a lot of good if you are coming out, and telling your story while there's a backdrop of the movie premier.

2I think the optics of that were incredibly I think dumb. I mean, if you are going to tell your story for the right reason, then don't make it looks it's a PR stunt, don't make it look like you are promoting a movie with a backdrop behind like it's, you know, opening night at the theater.

[08:25:01] And I think people also look at that and say, is this really about these new accusations or revisiting them, or is this about promoting a movie?

CAMEROTA: Hey, Ana, there are four female Democratic senators calling for President Trump to resign. Chances of that seem to be nil. But one of them is Gillibrand, who, of course, has been the leading the charge against sexual harassment and lots of different arenas.

Here's what President Trump just tweeted about Kirsten Gillibrand: Lightweight senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office begging, in quotation marks, for campaign contributions not so long ago, and would do anything for them is now in the ring fighting against Trump, very disloyal to Bill, crooked, used.

Would do anything for them? Is this any sort of sexual reference or slur?

NAVARRO: I have no idea.

CAMEROTA: How else to see it? How else can we see it? Will do anything for them?

NAVARRO: I have no idea what kind of reference it is, but it certainly is demeaning. It certainly is condescending. It certainly is inappropriate. The vocabulary used is horrible.

It's horrible coming from the president of the United States. It's horrible coming from the president of the United States against a U.S. senator. It's horrible coming from the president of the United States against a sitting woman senator.

The entire tone of that tweet is, you know, is this disgusting, inappropriate, unpresidential, horrible, childish, infantile, misogynistic tweets that Trump keeps doing over and over again despite having been elected now for over a year. It is just -- you know, and we can't -- you know what we can't do? And I'm glad you are bringing up this tweet, we cannot numb ourselves to the fact that the president of the United States is a pretty disgusting guy.

CAMEROTA: Look, I don't generally think that all of the tweets are newsworthy or worth reading, but this one, Ben, how do you interpret and would do anything for them?

FERGUSON: Yes, look, I don't know if he's talking about she'll give you whatever you need politically, if you give a donation. There's a lot of people in politics unfortunately that if you write them a check --

CAMEROTA: Or give you anything you need in another way.

FERGUSON: That will do anything that you need, it could be for land deals, it could be for taxes, it could be for a multitude of special interests, we know how Washington works. We know why the American people hate Washington. I think the president is the only one that can tell you exactly what the context of that is. I would not put the wording that way.

CAMEROTA: You don't hear it in a sexual context?

FERGUSON: Look, I'll say it again, in politics there are people clearly that when they say they come to you for money, they say, look, you tell me what you need. Whatever you need, you let me know because you just wrote them a big check. That is a very normal conversation in politics that unfortunately is a reason why the people hate politics.

But it's the truth. There are people in politics, men and women alike, where they will say, thanks for coming in my event, thank you for the check, you need anything, whatever you need, you let me and my office know and we'll take care of it. That's a very normal political conversation.

CAMEROTA: I hear you.

NAVARRO: And it's also a good reminder that Donald Trump who pretends not to be part of this game, who pretends not to be part of the establishment, not to be part of the swamp, was a player in the swamp, was very much part of a swamp thing going on.

He gave a lot of Democrats a lot of money because he needed things done. People like Nancy Pelosi, people like Hillary Clinton, people like Kirsten Gillibrand, people who Republicans really don't like. Let's remember that Donald Trump was one of their biggest supporters.

CAMEROTA: All right. Ana Navarro, Ben Ferguson, I just have to tell you, in this me-too moment, it's hard not to see things through a certain lens.

NAVARRO: The tone deafness is astounding.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

OK. Ana Navarro, Ben Ferguson, thank you very much for the debate this morning. Chris?

CUOMO: What can they really do about it other than complain? We'll stay on that story and see if anything comes of it.

So, Republican Roy Moore's campaign for Alabama Senate seat seemed in trouble after several women came forward, accusing him of sexual abuse. But then, President Trump stepped in and endorsed him, says he denies them and that's good enough for me. Is that enough to give Moore a Senate seat? A Trump confidant joins us next, live.

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