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Immigration Talks Turned into Denigration; Trump Cancelled London Visit; America One Universe but Different Planets. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired January 12, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: No surprise, trying to deny that he used those words. But there's no denying it. He said it. Senator Dick Durbin who was in the room confirms it, Senator Lindsey Graham who was also in the meeting says he stood up to the president after those comments. Senator Tim Scott says that Graham told him the reported comments are basically accurate.
We all know the president meant what he said. Now sources telling CNN the president called friends to do a victory lap. So it's painfully ironic or for some just painful that today the president sought to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That is what Reverend King preached all of his life, love. Love for each other, for neighbors and for our fellow Americans.
Dr. King's faith and his love for humanity led him and so many other heroes to courageously stand up for civil rights of African-Americans. Today we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth we are all created equal by God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So that's what he said today in front of the cameras. But remember behind the cameras this is what the president just said yesterday. And I quote, "why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Kind of make your skin crawl to hear him talk about Dr. Martin Luther King's values.
And more than that, it whitewashes Dr. King. His real message the one he fought and died for is just as powerful today as it was 50 years ago. And it's not about some warm and fuzzy kumbaya America.
Listen to this. This is his 1967 book "Where Do We Go From Here." And I quote, "Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear. But for the Negro there is credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance. The population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward a sense and ever present tendency to backlash." Those words ring true today. My friend Van Jones took a lot of heat calling the election of President Trump a white lash. But Donald Trump has proved over and over with his words and actions that his presidency is a step backwards for race relations in America, a step backwards from the real ideals of Dr. King, racial and economic justice.
Quote, "The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both and white, both here and abroad."
Contrast that with President Trump asking "why we can't have more immigrants from countries like Norway," forgetting that it was people from what he calls shithole countries who built this country who built the White House. Nothing that Donald Trump says can change that.
I want to bring in now CNN political commentator David Swerdlick and CNN political analyst April Ryan. Good evening to both of you.
DAVID SWERDLICK, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Hi, Don.
LEMON: Thanks for joining us. April, you know, you tried to get the president on the record today during that Martin Luther King ceremony. Let's take it look at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, will you give an apology for the statement yesterday?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did you (Inaudible) --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you a racist? Mr. President, will you respond to these serious questions about your statement, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. The answer is no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are talking to the president, not yu, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm talking to you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you a racist?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Wow. The president ignored your question. So April, talk to me -- talk to me about this ceremony. It was a day after he said all of these things. And those were pretty pressing questions that needed to be answered today.
APRIL RYAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, the ceremony, it was all the pomp and circumstance for this proclamation. Vast majority African-American republican leaders who were in the room from clergy to politics to Heritage Foundation, the new head of the Heritage Foundation Kay Coles was there.
You had so many different people there. But that was really the pink elephant in the room what was said yesterday. But many of those there were there in total support of the president. And he made a statement and then Dr. Ben Carson came and read words and spoke of unity and Dr. King.
And then after that Dr. King's nephew spoke.
[22:04:57] And then, the president moved from the podium and then he sat down and signed the proclamation designating the King site, historic site, as the King National Historic Park. Bringing in some of the buildings, the Masonic temple in that area that was the first building of the SCLC where it was founded.
So, and then after that, right after that the president started getting up to shake hands. And the reporters started asking questions, and I was one of them. And while I was asking questions, one of the supporters of the president decided to basically try to shut me down while I was asking the question. And he persisted, being very loyal to the president, I guess you would say, a black gentlemen, an African- American person.
LEMON: You don't want to name him?
RYAN: Darrell Scott. Darrell Scott.
RYAN: And you can see it. It's on camera and everything.
RYAN: And that was my first amendment right to ask.
LEMON: What was he telling you, what was he saying to you? Why was he trying to shut you down? What did he say?
RYAN: Because he's loyal to this president and he did not want me asking -- he said to me that it was rude later on when I was trying to leave the White House to go to lunch. He was taunting me in the driveway and saying that it was rude. And I said, no, it's my first amendment right. And you know, this pastor was not happy with the fact that he says that I smeared Dr. King's memory by asking this question on this day. But when you have --
LEMON: Well, Dr. King didn't say shitholes --
LEMON: Right? It has nothing to do with Dr. King.
RYAN: And not -- he did not, not only that -- right. And with all of that looming from the day before and all the other things, the litany of issues that, you know, from Pocahontas to this, to that to the other thing, it just kept building. To the Muslim ban, I'm hearing about Nigerians to the Haitians, you know, recently.
And then this, the s houses or s-holes, whatever he said, the question was there, it was looming. And people were saying racist. And I went and asked the NAACP yesterday what is the definition of racist. They said when racial prejudice and power meet, and it begs the question because all of this is happening.
And that is the ultimate seat of power. So --
RYAN: And not only that from what I'm told -- from what I'm told, from what I'm told Darrell Scott -- because I was walking into the room, he was jumping on the reporters talking about you're vultures, you're vultures before I walk. Because I could hear him as I was walking into the room. And when I came in, it kind of stopped. But he was determined to chastise someone.
LEMON: Well, that's -- well, it's you can see its ignorance and it's people who don't know where they are.
RYAN: He is ignorant. He's very ignorant.
LEMON: Yes, he's very ignorant and people don't -- you're in the White House, the press is there --
RYAN: And he is a guest I'm doing my job.
LEMON: Thank you very much. This is your house.
LEMON: David, go on, what did want to say?
SWERDLICK: Yes, I was just going to say a couple of things, Don. First of all, my hats off to April. Those questions were heard loud and clear. There was no hesitation. You could hear it above all that chatter. You tried to get to the heart of the matter, April, and the president just turned his back.
I do think it has something to do with Dr. King, contra -- the gentleman you said it was Darrell.
SWERDLICK: It was Pastor Darrell Scott. Because if anything, Dr. King was about getting to the heart of things. April, you were trying to get to the heart of the matter for what we've been talking about for the last two days. I would just add on the note of Dr. King since it is King's weekend.
That if king had been there with regard to this whole issue of immigration and where people come from, he might have said to the president and everybody there to check your old testament. Deuteronomy, chapter 10, verse 19 says "love the foreigner because we were once foreigners in the land of Egypt." And all that message has been forgotten by the president --
SWERDLICK: -- and republicans on this issue. They've gotten so far away from that.
RYAN: But it's not been forgotten by the president.
SWERDLICK: To the point -- yes.
RYAN: He does not go to church.
SWERDLICK: OK. Well --
RYAN: It is not forgotten by the president.
SWERDLICK: Or not known. Either forgotten or not known, but other republicans have lost the thread of that from this immigration discussion. I think that, look, the president had to go through with that ceremony today, Don, I guess.
LEMON: Did he have to go through with it?
SWERDLICK: Look, well, I'm sure he thought he had to go through with it. Look, as you and April were saying, we saw people that we all know there in that shot, right. Our colleague Paris Dennard, my friend Katrina Pierson, people were there, you know, that we've been on-air with.
But, you know, what was that all about when you look at the bigger picture of what was reported by my Washington Post colleague yesterday. The s-hole comments, the whole discussion about the DREAMers and this idea that the president was so willing -- it's weird, Don -- not weird. Weird is too cute of a word at this point in time.
[22:10:02] It's really striking and unfortunate how the president, if you looked at this clip you played, he needs notes and teleprompters when he's trying to say something decent and constructive. But when he's saying something acid or torque or rude or offensive or racist, it rolls off the tongue. And I think that's really where we are in this discussion.
LEMON: I just can't imagine looking back at that picture if I'm in it in history.
SWERDLICK: Well, no, look, it's -- (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: It's going to be -- I don't know.
SWERDLICK: People are there because they want to honor Dr. King. But the small event in contrast to the big discussion we're having I think is an odd mismatch.
LEMON: Thank you, both. I appreciate it. Have a great weekend.
SWERDLICK: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Thank you. When we come back, has the president ruined America's standing in the world with the racist trash talk? Can the U.S. continue to be a moral authority under President Trump? We'll talk about that.
LEMON: We have never before heard anything like this from a President of the United States. Donald Trump calling African nations shithole countries, asking why the U.S. needs more Haitian immigrants, and wanting to know why we don't have more immigrants from countries like Norway.
All of this in the middle of an Oval Office meeting just one day ago on immigration. Let's discuss now. CNN's Fareed Zakaria is here. Fareed, thank you. And the perfect person to talk to because you're an immigrant yourself and American citizen. What was your reaction when you heard the president called, you know, African nations shithole?
[22:15:02] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Well, I think that, you know, I assume that I actually fit into the same category because it's not clear what he meant by shithole countries. I come -- I grew up in India. I don't know whether India would qualify. I think it does because his basic criteria seems to be brown and poor or black and poor. So India would probably fit somewhere on that spectrum.
I think other than the vulgarity and you know, this kind of just -- the kind of just offensive way to talk in general, I think there's something bigger here. Actually misunderstands something very crucial about America and about the American experiment, which is America has always understood that people who come from screwed up countries are themselves bright, talented hardworking people.
The reason they're not able to perform to their potential is because those countries are screwed up. The political and economic systems are screwed up. So you take people from late countries that were considered shitholes in the 19th century, Ireland and Italy, particularly southern Italy, one of the poorest parts of the world at the time, and you and get them to America in a new system the same people performed brilliantly.
Take the Cambodian, Vietnamese both people who came out of, you know, this, horrible situation and those people in America who thrive and prosper. You look at Nigerians, Nigeria for a long time been really screwed up country, they come to America and they have an incredibly high achievement.
Indian-Americans today have I think the highest per capita GDP than almost, I think they have actually the highest per capita GDP of any American ethnic group. So, you know, that's the American experiment, which is that we understand it's not the human being who is the problem, it was the political economic system. And once they're in America they're going to do great, whether they're Haitian or anything else.
LEMON: Yes, but you just debunked all of the arguments about, you know, people being uneducated and don't we only one high earners. Because people in Norway their median income is $97,000 and the median income is $8 or what have you, or $80 or whatever it is in Haiti. And it's like -- so that's more of a reason to want to come to America because people from Norway don't want to come here.
ZAKARIA: And by the way, that's always been true. We never got the French bankers and the English earls.
LEMON: Why would they?
ZAKARIA: Right, exactly. We always got the poor Irish, the poor Italians. We always got people from southern Italy, the poorest of Italy which is by far the poorest part of Europe. And those people have drive. They have -- and I tell you, you know, when somebody comes here and they're going through unimaginable barriers and incredible difficulty and they're coming at pain of death sometimes, crossing the Rio Grande to wash your dishes, to look after your baby for 18 hours a day, 16 hours a day from, you know, a terrible wage, those people have drive. They have initiative.
And the whole American experiment has been that that's what we've been able to do. The rest of the world has always marveled at that.
ZAKARIA: That we can take all these people from everywhere and they become productive Americans.
LEMON: I want to know what this means -- what this means for the world. And it's not just us here in the United States who are, you know, we're sort of talking about it here. But I'm wondering what this means for the rest of the world. Because the African nation of Botswana asked its U.S. ambassador to seek clarification on Trump's remark, they want to know if they're a shithole nation. What does this mean? What are other people saying?
ZAKARIA: Well, look, everybody is stunned and startled. I think to a large extent, you know, you're getting the biggest reaction from African countries. But every country in I think in the world is wondering where they stand, how people think of them.
And by the way, European nations don't like this idea because they understand that the implication is that they're good because they're white and rich and all the people are bad or inferior in some way because they're black or poor. LEMON: That's exactly what he said.
ZAKARIA: And they have, you know, they want don't to embrace that kind of language and yet, this is the United States, you know, supposed to be the leader of the free world.
ZAKARIA: So, I find that -- I was surprised that the number of people who have been very diplomatic to me in the past, you know, people in government, in foreign ministries who are unwilling to criticize Trump because he's the President of the United States, they were openly critical today.
LEMON: Yes. As well they should, because there's no excuse for what he said.
I want to switch gears now and talk about something else. The president was planning to go to London to open the new U.S. embassy there, but just last night he canceled his trip and he explained why. He said on Twitter. He said, "The reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama administration having saw perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for peanuts only to build a new one in off location for $1.2 billion. Bad deal, wanted me -- wanted me to cut ribbon, no."
First, why does he always feel the need to blame the black guy for everything, and all of this is not true. Is any of this true?
[22:20:01] ZAKARIA: No.
LEMON: None of it.
ZAKARIA: In fact none of it is true. The Bush administration --
LEMON: Well, first, why does he -- why does he aim -- why does he blame the black guy all the time?
ZAKARIA: You know, it's fascinating. The Bush administration made the decision. The embassy in London if he has ever seen it is an architectural monstrosity, the old embassy. It was this 1950's clunky concrete building that actually one of the reasons it sold for I mean -- a decent but not extraordinary price because the estimate was that the renovation costs were going to be so great.
ZAKARIA: The new embassy is actually closer to Downing Street than the old embassy.
LEMON: It's more secure, the new embassy.
ZAKARIA: Look, I share some the sympathy with the idea that new American embassies tend to be, you know, unnecessarily guarded, fortress-like. But that's a decision that, you know, it's a bipartisan decision that people have made that they don't to be putting American diplomats in harm's way.
So, they all look a little fortress-like. This one is actually cool if you look at the design, and certainly, the old embassy, I mean, I think Trump may not have actually seen it because it's really not an architectural --
LEMON: May not have?
LEMON: So, OK. Number one, it didn't happen. It wasn't Obama. It was Bush.
LEMON: The new one is safer, more secure, better looking.
ZAKARIA: By the way, his ambassador gave us -- has given lavish praise to this new embassy.
LEMON: None of this is true. Not one word that he tweeted is true. Do you guys get that? What's the real reason he's not going?
ZAKARIA: The real reason he's not going is he's wildly unpopular in Britain. It's bipartisan, both parties. I think he was expecting and probably correctly that there would have been hundreds of thousands of people on the street, and it would put him an awkward position. He doesn't like that.
I think it would actually put the queen in an awkward position. She's hosting a state dinner for a guy and like 200 people outside Buckingham Palace protesting. So I think he made the right call. The rationale is entirely suspicions.
LEMON: He'd say they were there to see him and celebrate him.
ZAKARIA: If you look carefully, they were actually cheering.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Fareed. I appreciate it. Don't miss Fareed Zakaria GPS Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern. Again, my thanks to Fareed Zarakia.
When we come back, using the word shithole to describe an entire continent isn't exactly presidential. To break down the President Trump's -- President Trump's frankly derogatory language we're going to have a professor of linguistics join us next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump denying that he called certain nations shithole countries during a meeting with lawmakers about immigration. But one of those in attendance Illinois Senator Dick Durbin says the president did in fact use those words. And Senator Lindsey Graham who was also in the meeting says he stood up to the president after those comments.
Here to discuss John McWhorter, he's a professor of linguistics at Columbia University. And we're glad to have you because we're talking about language here and the language the president --
JOHN MCWORTHER, PROFESSOR OF LINGUISTICS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Thank you for having me.
LEMON: Absolutely. So, in addition to the president's shithole comments yesterday a few more, the other racially charged things he said, he called Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas, according to the New York Times he said Nigerians will never go back to their hunts, Haitian immigrants all have AIDS.
Your take on -- before I get on his continued use of derogatory use of the language, is there any other way to read this comment --
MCWORTHER: Absolutely not.
LEMON: -- than being a racist comment.
MCWORTHER: No. I mean, given the various things you mentioned and there's a large collection beyond it. It's quite clear that he sees black people as lesser. It's a combination of these things.
Now, let's face it, when he calls Haiti and El Salvador and Africa shithole places, a canny person usually from the right wing might say he could have said that about a place like Moldova. But it doesn't matter because we've listened to this man over the past couple of years, and it's clear that he has what's called a racist bias. And this is the sad thing about it.
It's one thing for him to feel that way and to say things like that over say, Thanksgiving dinner. But to imagine that somebody would feel that way about places like Haiti or Africa that have been through so much, even if you're thinking about history rather than a president as if he were some sort of butterfly or amoeba, then even if you're thinking it, you're not going to say it.
The lack of control in this person who considers himself the person with the bigger button, et cetera, is truly alarming. My younger daughter is going to turn 3 tomorrow. She literally has more forethought than the commander in chief, as does my cat, and as do several of my forks, knives, and spoons. It's alarming. Yes, he's a racist, but couldn't he hide it? We have a child, a lower mammal running the United States.
LEMON: And you're listening -- just from listening to his language, you can discern all of that. Because if you look at -- put the full screen back up, if you look at all of the things that he said, and I said , you know, is there any other way for that comment yesterday, but those are the words and your book is called, what, "Words on the Move?"
MCWORTHER: "Words on the Move," yes.
LEMON: Those are the words. And if you read those words, what does it say to you?
MCWORTHER: Well, frankly, the words that we're talking about say that this is somebody who thinks that white people are better than other people. It's not just one statement, all of the canny sorts of things that his supporters are going to say about how you might possibly interpret the things that he said yesterday don't matter because it's at the point where we have an aggregation of insights from this man.
And what alarms me even more than his basic lack of forethought is his historic ignorance. And so, for example, let's say that you think black people are lesser and let's say that you're also going to talk about it in public, one thing that might hold you back from that is knowing about the history.
And so, for example, Haiti and Africa, they have had many problems. Haiti had a little thing called an earthquake, for example.
[22:29:59] Immigration, so why are we taking all these people from wherever, well, immigration is what America is based on. And generally when people emigrate they immigrate is because the place where they came had some problems.
His grandfather came from being in the Palatinate in Germany. I assume that he didn't like in the Palatinate from what I've heard nobody goes there as a tourist now.
Or another example, you're an immigrant country because when people come here there's an argument that maybe the United States has done some things in the past that we're not crazy, that doesn't me not a patriot, have done some things that we're not crazy about.
And so there's an idea that maybe there's a reparation, that we bring Haitians here because of certain things that the United States did in Haiti, particularly in the early 20th century. I guess this man hasn't read any of the briefing appears about that. Or there's an argument about Africa. And how Europe and the United States had certain effects there.
These things are debated but one would expect that the commander in chief would at least know that there had been a debate. And nevertheless, what he has to say is that all of these places are shitholes and, why in the world are we taking people from them. This is a leader, this is a large person.
LEMON: This is -- that's what limited knowledge does.
So why are we taking all these people from wherever, well, immigration is what America is based on. And generally when people emigrate they immigrate is because the place where they came had some problems.
LEMON: Seriously, if you don't know those things and you can come to some sort of fast conclusion, yes, he's right those countries are that way. But why do you think they are that way? Have you ever thought about that? And that's what -- that's what research, reading, history, instead of sitting in front of the television and getting your news from one single source or reading only or listening to the radio from one single source and --
MCWORTHER: And he's supposed to reflect.
MCWORTHER: He's supposed to think, he's supposed to protect. Dumb as a box of hair. Son, you know what? This is -- this is what I think. As of that comment yesterday, we must bond this country. And in 2020 we must make it so that this racist -- yes, he is -- dimwitted, mean- spirited troglodyte goes back to the shithole life that he was leading before. This will not do.
LEMON: Wow, OK. Your words. Listen, I have to say that the president does acknowledge tough language. He's acknowledging that he swore. But as reaction has poured into these comments, have you been struck by people who aren't really upset by the obscenity and the underlying message that's so dark against the ideals against the country of which this country was built on?
MCWORTHER: Well, you know, I haven't been struck. Because I know that for many of these people it's an issue of priority. And so as long as Trump is going to bring America back to this wonderful thing it supposedly was, as long as he's going to keep certain immigrants out, he's going to build a wall and he's going to give poor white people jobs in Ohio, as long as that is all in there, then anything that he says is just kind of impolite.
I understand that issue of priority, but frankly, those people are wrong. We have a responsibility in this world. Humanity does progress. And I'm afraid that this person goes against anything that we would call progress.
This person shouldn't be president, and his defenders are looking weaker by the day in their sense that anything that he does in terms of impoliteness and stupidity and nastiness and even possibly blowing this planet up is OK because he wants to bring an America back that most of them never lived in and know-nothing about it.
LEMON: John McWhorter, thank you.
MCWORTHER: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: I appreciate it.
When we come back, many republicans still haven't spoken out about the president's shithole countries remark. Why aren't they all condemning the comments? Well, don't they have a responsibility as representative of a country of immigrants to speak out? We'll talk about that.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: President Trump claiming that he did not call certain nations shithole countries, but saying that he used tough language in a meeting about protecting DREAMers.
I want to bring in now CNN political commentators Van Jones and Tara Setmayer, and also Ayshia Connors, a former deputy director of African-American engagement for the Republican National Committee. So thank you, all for joining us. Happy Friday. I appreciate you being on the show.
Van, the president trying to cast doubts now on reports that he called countries in Africa - shitholes. Do you think anyone is buying his denial?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Maybe some are. I understand what he actually said was shit house, and so he didn't say shithole. And so, therefore, all is this fake news.
This is -- this is where we are now and it's unfortunate. One thing I always want to point out is that it's not just the comments are racist but that they are actually inaccurate. About a third -- about 30 percent of Americans have college degrees, 43 percent of African immigrants have college degrees, 43 percent. Only 11 percent of white Americans have advanced degrees. You know masters and Ph.D.'s.
Twenty five percent of Nigerian-American have advanced degrees. So literally, one out of ten white American, one out of four Nigerian Americans. So when you begin to say that, you know, all these people are so terrible, it's not only that it's racist, it's also just factually wrong.
And we have African and Haitian immigrants who are creating businesses, extraordinary race, bringing crime down and learning up in communities across the country. I think the president doesn't know that because he's dealing in stereotypes.
So, you know, I just want to give a big shout out to our African and Haitian and El Salvadoran immigrants who are trying to make America great. I wish the president would follow their lead.
LEMON: And as we all sit here, and look, we're all immigrants. I just realized, when have we realized in the break that our show has been all African-Americans. It's been -- it's been people of color. It's not that we planned it that way but just the best voices on this. And I think in this King weekend Dr. King would be very proud of that. Very proud of that.
JONES: I'm proud of you, Don.
LEMON: Yes. And proud of all of you and everyone who has come on, Fareed and everyone.
[22:39:55] So, listen, Ayshia, in response to the President Trump's comments we saw republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue say that they do not recall the remarks. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart confirmed he was at the meeting but said nothing else about it. Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Bob Goodlatte haven't said a word about it.
If you were in the room and the president called these countries shitholes do you think that you'd remember a less than a day later?
AYSHIA CONNORS, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, RNC AFRICAN-AMERICAN ENGAGEMENT: Yes. I mean, this is beyond parties. This is beyond politics. These alleged comments are very damaging and hurtful. If the president did say them, he needs to apologize and completely retract it.
And I do appreciate the members of Congress that we have seen and other GOP leaders that have come out and said if these comments are true, you have to say something about it, Mr. President, this isn't right.
And if we don't -- if we don't show that we are for the immigrants and we act anti-immigrant and we don't speak out and hold the president accountable on these things, we're going to feel it in November. We're going to lose the trust of the American people, and it's a big concern.
LEMON: Listen, I'm so glad that you are honest about that, because you have come on, Ayshia, you have defended the president before, correct? And this time you don't think that his words can be defended?
CONNORS: I don't. These alleged comments, they're not defendable.
LEMON: Yes. OK, Tara, the only republican that was present at the meeting to push back against the president and that was Lindsey Graham, who says he said his piece to the president directly at the meeting. What's going to take for our republicans to grow a spine when it comes to President Trump?
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's going to take a shellacking in November. It's going to take a massive course correction from the voters I think for republicans to finally realize that they can no longer hitch their wagon to this Trump train because it's going off the rails.
There were -- Kevin McCarthy is in leadership. He was in that room. He was there. And if Senator Graham which I believe pushed back on these comments, you're telling me that nobody remembered that, that that wasn't a moment where people went, OK, Senator Graham. I mean, come on.
Purdue and Cotton, they did the perfect political CYA. I don't recall him saying that. It wasn't a flat out denial. And they waited how many hours until after the fact to say this. If the president didn't say this at all, if this was something that was just completely made up, don't you think that the republicans in the room would have gotten together and immediately come out and defended him and say we were all there.
SETMAYER: And he absolutely did not say this. That's not what happened. So, and all of us who have watched Donald Trump over the entire ark of his career know good and damn well that's what he said. He's made no apology for saying things that are racially insensitive in the past all the way back to this housing discrimination lawsuit the Justice Department brought in the 70's.
The times where he was sued for racial discrimination, the workplace in his casinos for black dealers and female dealers, in Atlantic City. I mean, the Central Park. And the list is long. And we -- and CNN has done a good job of reminding people of the list of things that Donald Trump has done that have been racially insensitive, bigoted and racist.
Paul Ryan admitted that it was textbook racism when Donald Trump made the comment about Judge Curiel --
LEMON: Judge Curiel, yes.
SETMAYER: -- in 2016, you know, that he's of Mexican heritage. So, what are we, all idiots? I don't think so.
LEMON: And listen, we have been saying this for a couple of years now.
LEMON: Not that anybody, you know, had a dog in the hunt for the election, but when the evidence is there, you point it out to people. And then when you're point it out to people you're called a racist yourself or a race baiter just for pointing out exactly what the evidence showed, what he said.
SETMAYER: His own words and actions, right?
LEMON: His own words and his own actions, but yet it's unbelievable. Van, this moment stuck out to me and I couldn't wait to talk about it. This is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s nephew in Washington today asked about the President Trump's comments and whether he thought the president was a racist. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISAAC NEWTON FARRIS, JR., MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.'S NEPHEW: I don't think that President Trump is a racist in the traditional sense as we know in this country. I think President Trump is racially ignorant or racially uninformed. But I don't think that he's a racist in the traditional sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
JONES: I'm sorry, go ahead.
LEMON: What is he talking about? Racism in the traditional sense. What does that mean?
JONES: First of all -- first of all, he's saving the guy by saying he's racially ignorant and uninformed. That's by basically saving someone on fire by throwing gasoline on them. I mean, that's not -- it's not a high praise for the commander in chief. But when you're climbing up to racially ignorant and uninformed, when that -- that's your salvation. You're in trouble.
SETMAYER: None of it is good.
LEMON: I don't -- I didn't understand. I mean, listen, he's a nice guy. I know him. But I mean, can we -- and also, I just want you, can you guys look at this? Put up the video from today. I mean --
[22:45:09] SETMAYER: Well, I mean -- you know --
JONES: Let me just say something. I'm actually close to members of the King family who are King's children who are raised by Dr. King and more importantly, by Coretta Scott King. You don't see Dexter or Marty or any of them doing this. These are relatives but they're not people who --
JONES: Yes, Bernice. They're not -- these are not the three surviving children who are doing this. These are relatives. And I think it's unfortunate that the media keeps falling for this. If Dexter and Bernice and Marty are not on TV saying it, I don't think it's fair to put Dr. King's name into it.
LEMON: Yes. Ayshia, republicans trying to distance themselves from the president's remarks but not the president himself. How long can that go on if the president continues to say these racist things. If this isn't a red line, then what is?
CONNORS: Yes. I mean, I'm grateful, like I said, that there are members speaking out. If the president did make these remarks I hope more members will speak out about it. The problem is, too, it's a distraction, right? We're seeing where we have a tax bill, there's been some positive effects. But we're not hearing about it because we're overshadowed by this. We're covering Martin Luther King --
LEMON: Can I ask you something, Ayshia?
CONNORS: Yes, of course.
LEMON: Can I ask you something?
CONNORS: Sure. LEMON: So, this is -- this is the sentiment I have been getting from most of the people, my African-American friends. They say I understand being a republican. You can be a republican all day long, you can be conservative, but I don't understand, especially people of color coming on television and defending this president every single time with the worst behavior. Do you understand that?
CONNORS: Yes, definitely. I understand. And I think we should hold the president accountable no matter who is the president, when he says or does something that isn't America and isn't presidential. Absolutely, I agree with that.
LEMON: Yes. All right. Stick around, everyone. When we come back, President Trump -- or the former President Obama speaking out, I should say. We're going to show you what he's saying about the Russian interference in the election. That's next.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: He has mostly stayed out of the spotlight this past year but that doesn't mean Barack Obama has nothing to say.
Back with me now, Van Jones, Tara Setmayer, and Ayshia Connors. So Tara, President Obama spoke to David Letterman's for the comedian's new show, it's on Netflix, and was asked about the Russia exploited -- how Russia exploited the tribalism plaguing modern America.
Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What the Russian exploited but it was already here, is we are operating in completely different information universes. If you watch Fox News you are living on a different planet.
Then you are if you are listening to NPR.
If you are getting all your information off algorithms being sent through your phone and it is just reinforcing whatever biases you have. That's what's happening on these Facebook pages where more and more people are getting their news from. In a certain point you just live in a bubble and that's part of why our politics is so polarized right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, what do you make of President Obama's comments and do you think that we're seeing American tribalism playing out in reaction to President Trump's shithole comment?
SETMAYER: I think that tribalism started way before this. It started as an over correction --
LEMON: No, no. Is it playing out with this or do you think people who are watching only, you know, the Trump channel.
LEMON: They only see one thing and then people watching other networks. Yes.
SETMAYER: Yes, no question about it. I mean, I have friends over at Fox News, but I mean, you turn on Fox and juxtapose it to headlines and the breaking news stories on other network it is like another planet. I mean, they are talking about what Hillary Clinton ate for dinner and how that, you know, it should be illegal or something and the FBI is in a conspiracy theory about this while we're all talking about what's happening now with the person who actually got elected president.
So, President Obama makes a fair point on that, that people are really retreating to their own echo chambers and I think that's very dangerous. I mean, even from a -- you know, I can tell you like my mom and I have been going rounds on Facebook with people who we thought were friends that we went to church with that we've known for a long time, Evangelicals and just listening and watching the vitriol coming out of people who are supposed to be in the church defending Donald Trump's actions have been --
LEMON: Sometimes they are the worse culprits.
SETMAYER: I'm telling you and it's just been a real -- it's been an eye opener just watching how so many people have divulge into this cult-like malaise almost with Donald Trump in office. And it is nothing more than tribalism at his point. And that is not good for the country and why it's so important for people to stand up and tell the truth, and call it the way they see it, and stop -- and stop with this fake news stuff and all of that because all that's doing it's like -- it's like a Nazi-era propaganda tool so that people never know what's really true or not, so they just continue --
SETMAYER: -- to mark lockstep in with their cult leader.
LEMON: I'm glad -- I'm glad you said that. And listen, people have to -- people call me up or text me and tell me, did you realize such and such was on your -- I don't go -- I try not to go on the social media --
SETMAYER: Yes, it's hard, it's hard not to.
LEMON: I click to the Twitter -- but I don't Facebook, and whatever. I will do Instagram. But it's just -- it's unbelievable.
Van, I used this to my open to the show today -- tonight. You famously called the election of Donald Trump a white lash. Is the defense President Trump getting from conservative media a continuation of the white lash?
JONES: You know, I was referring to that section of the Donald Trump base that seem to have been motivated by the racial appeals. They weren't offended by the racial appeal, they weren't holding their nose about those racial appeals. That was in fact why they were enthusiastic.
[22:55:00] And I think those forces have gotten bigger, stronger and felt more validated by some of the president's behaviors, unfortunately. And that is very, very dangerous, you know.
You know, democracies can fail, in fact, democracies usually fail. The fact we have in many different kinds of people in one country that we mostly get along. Most days we get along with doing commerce, with educating our kids, it's a miracle in human history.
JONES: But it can't be taken for granted. And if you -- if you --
SETMAYER: John Adams said every democracy eventually commits suicide.
JONES: Yes. And so, you know --
SETMAYER: We're like one step off the ledge.
JONES: So, yes. So the great thing about this country is that we've been able to continue to expand the meaning of democracy who is included and we're taking real risks now.
And when you take something for granted, a relationship, a country, you tend to lose it. And so, I think it's very important that people say you get historical, you liberal snowflakes, you republican traitors, no, there are some things more important. And having a country that can have this many people working together and disagreeing passionately but still constructively that is precious in this world and it's worth defending.
LEMON: I just want to -- I don't want to get your reaction to that. I just want everyone to see. Put up the cover of The New Yorker. This is the new cover of the New Yorker and it's showing the president trying to dig himself out of a hole. So.
JONES: Maybe a shithole.
SETMAYER: Yes, he's got to -- yes, you took the words, like you got it first, Van. LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it. Have a great weekend.
CONNORS: Thanks, Don.
SETMAYER: Have a great weekend.
LEMON: When we come back, what does the chair of the congressional black caucus think of the president calling African nations shithole countries. I'm going to ask him, next.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)