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Students Honor Hero Teacher; GOP Candidate Holding AR-15 Giveaway; Trump Ranks Last in Greatness. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired February 20, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:31:35] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Students in Parkland, Florida, honoring their geography teacher and cross country coach with a memorial run today. Thirty-five-year-old Scott Beigel was shot and killed after opening his classroom door to students fleeing the gunman. On Thursday, we spoke with a student, Kelsey Friend, who said Mr. Beigel saved her life.


KELSEY FRIEND, FLORIDA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Mr. Beigel was my hero and he still will forever be my hero. I will never forget the actions that he took for me and for fellow students in the classroom. And if his family is watching this, please know your son or your brother was an amazing person and I am alive today because of him.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Scott Beigel's mother, Linda Beigel Schulman.

Mrs. Schulman, thank you so much for being here. We're so sorry for your loss.


CAMEROTA: What's it like to hear Kelsey, his student, talk about how your son save her life?

SCHULMAN: It's pretty amazing, but it doesn't surprise me.

CAMEROTA: Why doesn't it surprise you?

SCHULMAN: Because that was Scott Beigel. My son was -- that was my son. That was the right thing to do. That's something he would do. Those were, you know, his life rules. You take care of the people around you. And it just doesn't surprise me. It doesn't surprise me that he would be thinking of taking care of his students because he was a teacher and that's what he did. He made sure that his students were safe. He made sure his students understood what he taught. And if they didn't understand what he taught, he'd find another way to teach them. That was his job and that was his way of life.

CAMEROTA: You know, she -- we -- I interviewed Kelsey there, and she didn't just love him for saving her life, she loved him as a geography teacher. She thought he was wonderful. I mean she just had so much to say about how he improved her life every day, not just at the end there. So I know it was only his first year at this high school. Tell us about him and what kind of son and teacher he was.

SCHULMAN: Alisyn, everybody loved him. If you got to know him, OK, after probably a minute, you loved him. He enjoyed -- he enjoyed -- his goal in life, without ever saying this is my goal in life, his goal in life was to make anybody that he knew feel better about themselves.

When Scott was younger, you know, he -- it was -- there were times where like he would go to school and if he didn't understand something, you know, this is the way they taught. But that's not who he was. He always said to me, mom, I have to teach the way I was able to learn. I have to make them understand why.

When he went to camp, he -- it was the same thing with the children. If there was a child that maybe was not within the group or had a little bit of a hard time in the beginning of the summer, he would make sure that that child was able to be part of the group and felt good about themselves, and just was happy to be wherever they were. He wanted those -- he wanted the students to enjoy his class and to understand the geography, not just to memorize it and regurgitate it on a test. That was Scott.

[08:35:14] CAMEROTA: Well, he accomplished that. I mean we heard how engaging he was. She loved her geography class. You know, how many high school students say that?

Is it -- is it true that your son had seen so many news reports of these horrific school shootings that it occurred to him that this could, at some point, happened to him. And so much so that he gave his fiance instructions for what to do if he were ever the victim of a school shooting?

SCHULMAN: You know, I think this story has been told -- has been taken out of context. What happened was, when there was a school shooting -- Scott was really unhappy -- actually really angry about it. We had spoken about it many times. And, of course, I wasn't there when he had the conversation. But it probably was much more that he had seen the school shooting, because he actually discussed it with me as well.

You know, he would see a school shooting. It would anger him immensely. We would talk about it. And I'm sure it was more like going, you know, if this ever happened to me, do you see how they're sensationalizing one person and what's going on, and instead of doing something about it, they -- the media would be talking -- sensationalizing it. All the different networks would take -- put their take on what was going on. And he was actually saying, if this ever happened to me, OK, and they took my name -- because, you have to understand, Scott was a really private person, and they took my name and plastered it all over the world, OK, like they're doing now. He's probably looking down freaking out, OK. Please make sure that you don't stand up there and tell everybody that I was the greatest person in the whole world. Just tell them I was a real jerk. But that was Scott's personality. That really was. When I left the

house today, I have the picture that we had at the funeral on and I looked at him and I -- really my answer to him, knowing my son so well was, so now you're getting me back because the whole world is, you know, singing your praises and now you're putting me in front of everybody to talk about you. That's just the way we were.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, I mean he said, don't remember me as a hero, tell them what a jerk I really was.

But, of course, that's impossible. And as when his girlfriend said, no, I am going to tell people the truth about how wonderful you were, and his students are doing the same. And that's -- it's just impossible to get around. He was a wonderful person. And now that you have lost your son, what is your message to lawmakers who are listening, to the president? What do you want to see done?

SCHULMAN: I would like the lawmakers and the president to erase their minds for one moment, to forget that they're politicians, to forget that they have to be re-elected and to take a deep breath and think about the fact that if they watched TV and it was one of their children -- and I'm not talking about a cousin or a friend's child, their own child, OK, what would they want to do? What would they want to have done? Bring it home for a change. Bring it into your own life. Think for one moment of what it would be like if it was your child, if it was your child at school and your child was murdered senselessly.

CAMEROTA: That would be a valuable lesson for all of the lawmakers to do.

Linda Beigel Schulman, thank you very much for sharing some of your son with us.

SCHULMAN: And thank you for being so honest about my son.

CAMEROTA: It's only repeating all of the stuff that we heard from the kids about how special he was. And we are happy to remember him in that way.

Linda, take care of yourself. We'll talk again.

SCHULMAN: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: If you would like to help the families of the victims of the Florida massacre, a GoFundMe page has been set up by the Broward Education Foundation. It has been verified by CNN. So you can donate by going to

And tomorrow night CNN hosts the live town hall with all of these students that you have been hearing from, as well as many of these parents that you've heard from, all from Parkland, Florida, and there will be several lawmakers there. What do they want to do? "Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action" airs tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a congressional candidate in Kansas is still moving forward with his AR-15 giveaway. This was planned before the massacre in Parkland. He thought about it and he decided to do it anyway. We'll talk to him about it, next.


[08:42:37] CUOMO: All right, so the day before a gunman used an AR-15- style rifle to kill 17 people in a Florida high school, a congressional candidate in Kansas announced a contest to give away an AR-15. So then the massacre happens. You figure, well, that would go away. That's insensitive at a minimum, right? No. The candidate says he's going ahead with the raffle.

That candidate is Kansas Congressional Candidate Republican Tyler Tannahill.

Mr. Tannahill, thank you for taking the opportunity.

TYLER TANNAHILL (R), KANSAS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Appreciated it, Chris. Thanks for having me on today.

CUOMO: All right, so help me understand, brother, why after something like this would you want to give away the same weapon that was used to kill all those kids?

TANNAHILL: Yes, so, when we sat down with my staff and we talked about it, you know, we had two options, we could take the typical Republican response was, let's hide in our hole, let's say thoughts and prayers and move on with it, or we could get out in front of this issue and actually have a meaningful discussion, dialogue, to say, we do have a problem. We have to protect our students. We have to protect our teachers. How are we going to do that?

We have a Second Amendment that I fully believe in, but there's a solution out there that upholds the Second Amendment and as well protects our schools, protects our churches and protects people going to concerts. So that's why we went forward with it.

CUOMO: I don't get that, though, as a natural consequence of that thought process. If you wanted to figure out, how do you stop the school shootings, someone like this gunman getting access to that kind of weapon has to be part of the conversation. How does giving away the same kind of weapon show any kind of resolve to make it less likely to happen again?

TANNAHILL: Look, the whole point of it is this. We have to have the discussion, which we are right now. Like, we've put forward a solution to the table. Not a lot of candidates, not a lot of my people in the Republican Party are doing that. A lot of people are shying away from it.

And I understand what you're getting at. But we are here. We're talking about it. We've put forward a solution called the Faster Saves Lives Program. We need to look at their data. They've looked -- they've trained over 1,100 teachers to conceal carry in the classroom. Is it the solution? I don't know. But it's something to look at. CUOMO: But you really believe that teachers -- you really believe that teachers are supposed to be in the business of taking on gunfire and knowing how to lead a tactical assault against somebody who's trying to kill kids in the school?

TANNAHILL: If the teacher so chooses to, they should have the option.

CUOMO: That's the job now?

TANNAHILL: If they so choose to, they should have that option.

But we also have to look at, do we have the proper funding and training for teachers, nurses, counselors, to look at these students and find those students who need help, need mental health care access, need special attention. Those are things we all have to talk about. And, you know, all these people on the FaceBook page and are calling me, threatening myself, my family, that's not part of the solution. And that's why I'm here. I'm not running for office --

[08:45:19] CUOMO: No, but you're provoking them, though. But you're provoking them.

Look, I get it. I get it. The two sides, they --

TANNAHILL: I'm not -- look, sir, I'm not running for office to deal with the easy issues. This is a tough issue to tackle. That's why I'm running to get to D.C.

CUOMO: Right, but how you deal with it -- how you deal with it matters. And let me point out two things on it. I think one of them is personal. One of them is policy, OK. The personal one really should be obvious. I mean unless you were just looking to provoke a situation to get some attention, you're going to get it and I'm not sure you're going to like it because God forbid you knew somebody who was in that school. And then, right on the heels of it, when you're trying to get your mind around this madness, there's a guy giving away the same damn weapon that just took your loved one's life. You think that that would be seen as a constructive step forward in a conversation about how to stop it or a slap in the face and somebody just shaming you with what you just had to live through?

TANNAHILL: Well, Chris, look -- look, I am a Republican candidate. I do support the Second Amendment, in the hard times and the bad. What I'm saying here today though is, we can have a constructive dialogue to find a solution. I don't want any more school shootings to happen, just as much as you don't. So let's have a conversation moving forward with realistic possibilities on how we can stop those and prevent those.

And we have this Second Amendment. We have a 2008 Supreme Court case that backs up that citizens have a right to own firearms. So, moving forward, the solution isn't to take away the AR-15. The gun isn't the issue. I firmly believe that. We have a deeper issue that we have to deal with in this society. And my colleagues up in -- I'm sorry, the Republicans up in D.C. aren't doing that. So I am the Republican candidate putting my name out there to say, let's find the solution. CUOMO: But why isn't it both? The only -- well, look, look, I applaud

the idea of looking for a solution. Your leadership and your party down there hasn't even asked the fundamental question of what we can do to stop these school shootings. So that's a necessary step.

But if you look at it, OK, the data leads you to a very simple and troubling conclusion. The only thing that we have that's different than other places in the world is more weapons. That's why we have more school shootings. We have the same mental health issues. We have the same types of demographics in terms of where these happen and why they happen. It's the guns that you have to look at.

And I'm not saying to take guns away from everybody. And, please, don't deceive anybody who's thinking of voting for you to think that this is about controlling people not controlling guns. It's B.S. and it's counterproductive.

But look at your own state, Kansas. You're going to give away this weapon. You say, well the person has to meet the federal background checks. Irrelevant. In your state, they don't have checks for person- to-person sales and you know this. So God forbid someone who wins this AR-15 winds up transferring it somebody else who's mentally unstable and they don't know and they go out and use it. How would you feel then?

TANNAHILL: And, Chris, I'm here to have this discussion.

CUOMO: But you're giving away the gun.

TANNAHILL: Do we need to look into that?

CUOMO: You're giving away the gun in a state where you can have private transfers.

TANNAHILL: Let's put it on the table. Do we have a problem with looking at who can own guns or not. Let's talk about it.

CUOMO: But why would you pay (ph) for a weapon --

TANNAHILL: Like, I understand (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Hold on. Hold on.

TANNAHILL: I'm here trying to find the solution, Chris.

CUOMO: But you -- right, but you can't want to talk about a solution while you're also exhibiting the problem. If you were going to give away a weapon in a state where you don't have to have a background check on a person-to-person transfer, how do you know where that weapon's going to wind up? You don't. Am I wrong?

TANNAHILL: Look, we're not giving the gun away person to person. That individual has to go to the gun store and pass all legal background checks that you have to do to own a gun legally in the state of Kansas.

CUOMO: And then what? And then what? And then who can they -- they can give it to anyone they want without a background check.

TANNAHILL: Well, look, Chris, you're just trying to make a point, and your point is that. OK, fine. That's not helping us get to the solution. We need to protect our students. We need to protect our teachers. There's a sticker on the window that says "no guns allow." Is it a tag line? Yes. Is it working? No. It's proven.

So how do we go forward? Do we need metal detectors in school rooms? I don't know. Let's put it on the table and talk about it.

Do we need to look at how things -- how people are reported to the authorities to possibly not be able to own a firearm? Yes, let's put it on the table and talk about it. Why is there always looking back when an unfortunate event like this happens, some moment that says, well, somebody dropped the ball. How are they dropping the ball? Why? Let's fix it.

And, you know, Chris, I do -- I appreciate you having me on because I truly do want to fix this. This is a tough issue. We have to uphold the Second Amendment and we have to keep our children safe. And what is the -- what is the answer? Let's find it out. Let's have that dialogue and let's protect these students and teachers and move forward.

CUOMO: Well, Mr. Tannahill, then at least do this. If you're going to give away a weapon in a state that allows person to person transfers without a check, you better follow up and know where that weapon is, know where it winds up and make sure you understand who the end user is. If you want a solution, your state is a good place to start. You've got to have checks on all of these different kinds of transfers or you just don't know what happens. But I do appreciate you taking the opportunity. It's a conversation worth having.

TANNAHILL: Hey, again, thank you, Chris, for having me on. I do appreciate it.

CUOMO: All right.


CAMEROTA: All right, President Trump vowed to make America great again, but how great is he as a president? We'll tell you where he stands in a new presidential rankings survey. That's next.


[08:52:14] CAMEROTA: President Trump, as you know, is quick to tout his greatness. But a new survey says otherwise. In fact, presidential historians and political scientists rank him dead last. Well, these are the great ones right here.

CUOMO: Whoa.

CAMEROTA: Oh, OK. So, hang on. OK, there you go. In terms of their assessment of the greatness of American presidents.

So joining us now is Justin Vaughn, co-director of this survey, an associate professor of political science at Boise State University.

Professor, thank you very much for being here.

So what metrics did you and the 170 political scientists who ranked this use to determine who was last?

JUSTIN VAUGHN, CONCLUDED "PRESIDENTIAL GREATNESS" SURVEY: Yes, I think each expert uses their own judgement on what kind of a factor, a shape, whether they think a president was great or not. What we did was we gave each respondent an opportunity to rate every president on a scale of zero to 100, and we averaged those ratings and put them in a rank order so that you see someone like Abraham Lincoln at the top and our current president, Donald Trump, at the bottom.

CUOMO: Now, in the -- I -- let me just make sure he's not saying it for himself. No, the president hasn't said anything about this survey yet. But I can anticipate that he will say this is --

CAMEROTA: Fake news.

CUOMO: Fake -- fake news. Fake survey. And that these are all lefties.

But you did have a party breakdown in terms of the leanings of the analysts and how did it -- how did it shake out?

VAUGHN: Yes. So we thought that that would be a reasonable critique, if you're going to only serve Democrats is a fair argument to make. And so we gave our respondents the opportunity to say if they were Republicans or Democrats or independents and then we calculated separate ratings and rankings for each of those group. And Republicans, when it comes to President Trump, were more favorable to him than Democrats were, but they still had him in the bottom five.

CAMEROTA: So he was 40th on the Republican list and 44th on the total list. Is that right?

VAUGHN: That's right, yes. Yes.

CAMEROTA: And what are -- I mean I know you say they're all different factors, but what are some of the factors? How can you ever determine who's the best president and who's the worst?

VAUGHN: Sure. Some of the factors that have historically gone into explaining why some presidents are better than others, greater than others, are the -- whether or not they won a war while they were in office, how the economy performed while they were in office, whether they had scandals that, you know, cursed their administrations while they were in office, how popular they were or how productive they were. And so a lot of those factors all kind of worked together to determine, you know, the historical memory of a president.

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting, the president is -- just tweeted a few minutes ago, I've been much tougher on Russia than Obama. Just look at the facts. Total fake news.

Do you think he's calling his statement about the fact showing he's tougher on Russia than Obama is fake news? But --

CAMEROTA: Fake news is used so often, I've lost track of what it actually is.

[08:55:01] CUOMO: Right. Now, look, I wonder if this is the kind of dynamic that played into the selectivity by your experts, because now this is demonstrably false. So is this the kind of thing that weighed in on how they would assess the president? And, by the way, where is Obama on the list?

VAUGHN: Obama came in eighth. When we did the same survey in 2014, he was 18th. So his ranking has jumped pretty significantly in the same -- in the last few years.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I don't understand, actually, the ranking of Donald Trump as last because if the factors, as you describe them as what went into the thinking, the economy is doing really well, so that should bump him up from last. And --

CUOMO: But it's about why it's doing well, too, right? It was doing well when he came in. And that Wall Street was doing well.

CAMEROTA: It was doing better. It was on -- it was on the rebound. But now it's like -- you know, obviously, the stock market has had some ups and downs, but the economy is pretty much gangbusters. So that should bump him up from 44th. And then in terms of winning a war, ISIS, you know, the war against ISIS has also gone better lately on his watch. So why didn't those two factors weigh more heavily?

CUOMO: With Republicans, too.

VAUGHN: I -- yes, right. I think that those are great observations. And I think that just underscores just how overwhelming experts reject Trump's kind of personal approach to being president and his demeanor in office and his way he's reacted to other institutions of American democracy, the way he's treated the media, the way he's engaged in international affairs.

Certainly, if we look at the limited number of significant achievements, he's got some positive markers in his administration from the tax cut bill success to those successes that you mentioned before.

CUOMO: Right.

VAUGHN: But I think that we're still -- still seeing an overall negative response largely based on his personal approach.

CUOMO: I get it. I mean the markers that you're pointing out is a little too soon to tell how it will all shake out, but it's not too soon to tell about his style and his approach. So it probably gave him an imbalance. And, again, Republicans and Democrats didn't do well. But maybe he'll do better down the line the way other presidents did.

CAMEROTA: We'll have you back.

Justin Vaughn, thank you very much for sharing the findings with us.

CUOMO: All right, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Mr. John Berman is right after this break.