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Report: Carson Acknowledges No West Point Offer; Carson slams CNN's Reporting As A "Bunch Of Lies"; Christie Demoted For Next Round Of Debates; Christie's Addiction Plea Goes Viral; Senator To Colleagues: "The People Despise Us All"; A Sneak Peek At "The Peanuts Movie" Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 6, 2015 - 16:30   ET



[16:30:33] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time now for the Politics Lead, a fresh controversy circling one of the frontrunners, who turned the Republican race on its head, Dr. Ben Carson acknowledged today that he was never officially offered admission to West Point, despite suggestions he's made for years to the contrary.

Carson told the "New York Times" this afternoon that as an ROTC high school student he was, quote, "told that someone like me could get a scholarship to West Point, it was, you know, an informal, with a record like yours we could easily get you a scholarship to West Point," unquote.

Now that is different from what Carson wrote in his recent book about having, quote, "The scholarship offer from West Point as a result of my ROTC achievements."

Carson's acknowledgment comes right as our new CNN poll taking the temperature of Republicans in Iowa shows Trump number one and Carson right behind him, within the margin of error.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida where Carson is going to speak in just a few hours. Now Sunlen, this story about West Point started with a report in "Politico" that claimed Carson's campaign had acknowledged, quote, "fabricating the story." But the campaign is pushing back hard on any notion of fabrication.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They're specifically really pushing hard on that exact point, Jake, this connection that "Politico" makes in their story that this acknowledgement that he never applied to West Point really is an admission in the story that he fabricated the story line.

The campaign says that's not true, that he never claimed officially to have been accepted or applied to West Point. But certainly Ben Carson has touted many times on the campaign trail the scholarship offer.

It definitely is notable, especially given all of the other questions about other claims Carson has made about his past.


SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight Ben Carson's past becoming a central topic in the campaign.

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): I'm not proud of the fact that I had these rage episodes. But I am proud of the fact that I was able to get over them.

SERFATY: The retired neurosurgeon facing mounting scrutiny over acts of violence as a child.

CARSON: It's a bunch of lies, attempting to say that I'm lying about my history.

[16:35:08]I think it's pathetic and basically what the media does is they try to get you distracted.

SERFATY: And Carson is now lashing out, trying to redirect the fire at the media, blasting CNN's investigation, which found no one from the candidate's past to corroborate the incidents.

CARSON: Some of victims were members of my family. I understand that. I will not let them be victimized again by the media and if you choose to believe that I'm incapable of these acts, I guess that's kind of a compliment."

SERFATY: Sensing an opening, Donald Trump unleashing a series of tweets about his rival's background, writing, quote, "The Carson story is either a total fabrication or, if true, even worse, trying to hit mother over the head with a hammer or stabbing friend."

This comes as a new CNN/ORC poll shows the two leading GOP contenders solidifying their top tier status in Iowa, Trump at 25 percent, Carson at 23 with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz battling it out for third. The rest of the field all trailing well behind in single digits.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No national polls are going to determine who the next president of the United States is going to be.

SERFATY: Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, learning they will be excluded from the stage at next week's Fox Business debate because of their low national poll numbers.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maybe I'll actually get some time to talk. If I had had as much time to talk in the first three debates, as the other candidates, I would probably still be on that stage.


SERFATY: Back on West Point, the university telling CNN tonight that there would be no records about Carson's interaction with their school unless he was actually enrolled -- Jake.

TAPPER: Sunlen Serfaty, thank you. Joining me now from Concord, New Hampshire, where he just filed his papers to get on the ballot in the New Hampshire Republican primary is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Governor, welcome back to THE LEAD.

CHRISTIE: Happy to be back, Jake. Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: So Governor, I have to ask you about this big story breaking this afternoon. Donald Trump tweeting that Ben Carson's tale about being offered a slot at West Point is, quote, "one of many lies." Do you have a response?

CHRISTIE: I really don't, Jake. I don't know enough about the story to respond. I'll just say this. Everybody is responsible for their own personal story. You put your personal story out there to folks and you have to be responsible for that.

So, you know, I'm sure Dr. Carson will answer any questions that anyone might have about his personal story and the voters will decide whether that answer is good enough or not.

TAPPER: I know you've said that you'll show up anywhere they put up a podium and debate anyone. But the decision by Fox Business Network to demote you and Governor Huckabee to the undercard debate comes as you're showing signs of gaining traction in New Hampshire, in the polls. This must come as a big blow. Your performance in debates seems rather important to your campaign.

CHRISTIE: Jake, I don't see it as a big blow at all and I don't see it as a demotion. I see it as a transfer. The fact is we'll be on the stage, we'll be debating, people will be watching. Most importantly, Jake, you will be watching.

If I do really well, you'll report on it, the same way you've reported on it in debates one, two, and three. I mean, that's what really matter. We in the Christie campaign are not whiners or complainers.

I show up and do my job. That's what I'll do Tuesday night in Milwaukee no matter which stage I'm on, and we'll go from there.

TAPPER: You and I have spoken about addiction before. It's something that you've been talking about for years. There was a moment at a town hall earlier this week in which you talk about it. The moment has gone viral. Millions of people have seen it.

You talk about addiction in the context of your mother's struggle to quit smoking, her eventual cancer diagnosis. I want to play you a little bit of this video and talk to you on the back end.


CHRISTIE: After we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it. Nobody said to me, she's getting what she deserves. No one said that. Yet somehow, if it's heroin or cocaine or alcohol, we say, well, they decided, they're getting what they deserved.


TAPPER: How do you respond to people out there, because I'm sure you have encountered these individuals, who think heroin addicts, cocaine addicts, alcoholics, do deserve what they get?

CHRISTIE: What I say is there but for the grace of God go I and every person should say that, because it could happen to anyone. That's why the second story on that video is about my friend who went to law school, great job, a lot of money, great house, who got addicted to prescription pain killers and then alcohol.

[16:40:00]And ten years after the addiction began, he was found dead in a motel room by himself, divorced, not being able to see his children anymore, lost his law license, lost his driver's license, with an empty bottle of Percocet and an empty bottle of vodka. It can happen to anyone.

We need to start to acknowledge that and say, yes, it was a bad choice to use drugs, we'll continue to tell our kids and everyone not to use them. It's a bad choice. But haven't all of us made bad choices in our life?

And we're fortunate it didn't involve an addiction to drugs or alcohol. It's a disease and we need to treat it. I'm going to continue to work on this issue because every life is precious. If you're pro-life, you should be pro-life for the whole life, not just in the womb.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about the jobs report that came out this morning showing the lowest unemployment rate in seven years, 5 percent, what economists say is essentially full employment, 1.2 million Americans transitioning from part-time to full-time work last year. As the economy does better, don't the Republicans lose ammunition against the Democrats for 2016?

CHRISTIE: I don't know if people who I've run into campaigning around the country don't feel like the economy is better. Jake, GDP growth is 1.5 percent last quarter, that's anemic. The unemployment rate is a mirage.

They don't count people who have stopped looking for work. There's an incredible unemployment problem in this country. There's a wage problem. This president complains about income inequality. Middle class wages are stagnant.

I spoke to a woman this week up here in New Hampshire. I said, what's the biggest issue to you? She said to me, every month when my bills come in, I'm filled with anxiety that I'm not going to have enough money to them.

That's what's going on in real America, Jake, not in the Francis Perkins Building and the Labor Department in Washington, D.C. where they cook up these numbers that don't have any relation to what's really going on in this country.

TAPPER: Of course, Governor, the real reason I had you on this show is to talk about this weekend, my Eagles, your Cowboys, I just want to offer you my condolences in advance.

CHRISTIE: Jake, listen, why don't we talk on Monday about that. We'll see. We know when we had our quarterback we beat you on your field. We don't have our quarterback now. But the Cowboys are like the Christie campaign they don't whine and make excuses. We'll show up on Sunday and see how it goes for the Eagles.

TAPPER: All right, Governor Christie, thanks so much. We'll see you out there on the campaign trail.

CHRISTIE: Thank you very much, Jake.

TAPPER: The freshman senator who used his maiden speech to blast his colleagues will join me next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We'll stay with politics because of an interesting story that happened this week. It's not new to say that Washington, D.C. is broken.

But to use your first ever speech on the Senate floor to attack your new home, that's an unusual. Although that is exactly what Senator Ben Sasse did this week.


SENATOR BENJAMIN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: I don't think anyone in this body truly believes that we are laser focused on the greatest challenges the nation faces, no one. What I hear every weekend is I think what you all hear every weekend, some version of this: a pox on both parties and on all your houses. We don't believe that the politicians are really even trying to solve the great problems. The people despise us all.


TAPPER: Here with me now, freshman senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. That's quite a way to make your debut on the Senate floor. The people despise us all, a rather sobering critique of your colleagues. I guess the question is how do you get Americans to not despise Congress?

SASSE: By doing big things. I think at the end of the day the U.S. Senate should be a venue for debating the most important generational challenges we face. We're not doing it right now and the people have a right to be frustrated about it.

TAPPER: In your speech you noted, quote, "To the grandstanders who use this institution as a platform for outside per suits, few believe the country's needs are as important to you as your ambitions. You seem to be talking about those who are running for president, no?

SASSE: Jake, you've been around this place for a long time. The term "grandstander" on any given day could apply to somewhere between 80 and 95 of the senators around here.

What I'm decrying is the short-termist impulse that I think is present among those of both political parties who try to reduce everything to some sort of immediate good versus evil fight about short term issues.

We're going from five-month to three-year highway bills around here. We should be doing ten-plus year infrastructure planning. And we have these uncertainties between the two political parties, that my side is right and your side is totally wrong and stupid and evil.

Nobody really believes that stuff. The American people don't believe it and the people in this body don't believe it. This place should be a protected environment to focus on the long term issues. All of us should get beyond grandstanding.

TAPPER: It seems to me from my purview that I've talked to many people like you who come to Washington, to the Senate specifically, and are just so dismayed by what they see.

And what they say, entirely off the record, is that the Senate majority leader and the Senate minority leader don't talk, are so entrenched and so determined to have their party get the advantage.

That they discourage reaching across the aisle, they discourage trying to tackle the big things. Is that fair? Is that accurate, that it's really the fault of the people that nobody wants to offend?

SASSE: I think there are many, many causes and sources of the blame and the turmoil and some of the things that you talk about are important. But I think this problem is longer than that. I think we're in a decades-long decline of the U.S. Senate.

[16:50:05]This place has called itself for a long time, 240 years, the greatest deliberative body in the world, and at times in its history, the Senate has been a really great deliberative body.

Today the U.S. Senate would not be one of the five great deliberative bodies in Nebraska. I'm not kidding, not for profits that small businesses in my town and in my county they deliberate more reasonably about what problem are we trying to solve before we start bickering about competing solution a, b, and c.

If this is going to be a great deliberative body again, we need to have shared understanding of those big generational problems. We don't have a national security strategy for the age of cyber and the age of jihad.

We don't have plans to come clean about how all our entitlement budgets are fake. We're entering an era of job change and work disruption than any other point in human history.

These problems are much bigger than any particular leaders or either political party. This body should be serving the American people and particularly looking to the next generation, not to a 24-month election cycle or a 24-hour news cycle.

TAPPER: All right. Senator Sasse, thanks so much.

SASSE: Thanks for having me.


TAPPER: Having a rough day, we can help. Join me Scooby and Charlie Brown as we take you behind the scenes of the new Peanuts movie, coming up on THE LEAD.




TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. A little lighter affair now with our Pop Culture Lead about perhaps the best comic strip ever, "Peanuts." Its creator Charles Schultz died more than 15 years ago, but his widow, children, and grandchildren have been hard at work, keeping alive the legacy of the gang, Lioness and Lucy, Snoopy and Woodstock and of course, good old Charlie Brown.

But as newspapers and their comics pages continue to die off and animation ventures into other dimensions, the "Peanuts" crew faced a challenge, how to introduce the comic strip and the characters to a new generation.

Well, "The Peanuts Movie" opens today and the LEAD was the only show allowed the behind the scenes at Blue Skies Studios where we got the scoop on Snoopy's new look from the head animators and the director himself.


TAPPER (voice-over): The animators behind the new "Peanuts Movie" were not starting with a clean state. But like Charlie Brown, they were also tasked with making things different.

The challenge, to lure today's audiences, which are used to over the top special effects and characters, with the deceivingly simple smile and relatable characters from "Peanuts." Beloved by audiences enamored of Charles Schultz's comic strip and TV specials for more than 65 years. What a task.

(on camera): You could develop some serious neuroses trying to bring a classic two-dimensional comic strip into the modern 3D CGI era. Luckily the team here at Blue Sky Studios rose to the challenge.

(on camera): They even decorated their offices accordingly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they announced it, we were elated but we were terrified at the same time.

TAPPER (voice-over): Scott Carroll and Nick Bruno, the film's animation supervisors explained to me just how daunting this job was.

NICK BRUNO, ANIMATION SUPERVISOR, BLUE SKY STUDIOS: It seems like the easiest thing to draw until you start to draw it.

SCOTT CARROLL, ANIMATION SUPERVISO, BLUE SKY STUDIOS: We trying to figure out what can we get away with that looks right in 3D but still looks like what Charles Schulz tried to do.

TAPPER: Back at their desks, the animators explained one of the many challenges those ink dot eyes.

BRUNO: It's hard enough to get those dots to look down or to the right.

CARROLL: We can change the shape of the eyes themselves to help create a certain emotion. The periwinkles are hugely hopeful.

TAPPER: Periwinkles are those emotive lines to the side.

(on camera): Did you try different kinds of eyes?

BRUNO: We actually tried at one point just 3D eyes and we were all horrified.

TAPPER (voice-over): Perhaps the biggest challenge is that Schultz never planned for these "Peanut" characters to be seen in three dimensions.

BRUNO: If we built a character from all angles, it didn't look true to Charlie Brown. We drew several poses that they looked good at.

TAPPER: Six poses, to be exact.

BRUNO: So we have a profile left, profile right, looking down like when he's writing. That's it.

CARROLL: Snoopy is the most complicated character we have ever built here at Blue Sky.

TAPPER: It's like animating Picasso, really?

CARROLL: It really is.

TAPPER: For Director Steve Martino and his team having Charles Schulz's son and grandson as writers on the film made staying true to the characters easier. Schultz's son was particularly influential for this scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Craig Schultz is a pilot and he owns a biplane that's a lot like the Red Barron's. He said, I want to show you what it's like to do dog fight maneuvers. Everything up and he did stalls, loop the loops. It was really informative to me.

TAPPER: Being humble and open to new ideas is a trait the team here picked up in part from a familiar friend -- Charlie Brown.

(on camera): He represents what we all feel and never talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. We want to feel like we're all buttoned up and together. Charlie Brown lays it all out there. But we have to celebrate his attributes of kindness, honesty, and that never give up spirit that he's always had.

TAPPER (voice-over): It's a spirit that remains intact and still loveably insecure, even in spectacular 3D.


TAPPER: That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I'm turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."