Return to Transcripts main page


Deadly Tornadoes Across South Destroy Homes, Flips Cars; Forty Five Million Americans in Path of Rare, Deadly Storm; Trump Warns Clinton: "Be Careful"; Cruz Gains Ground in New CNN Poll. Aired 7- 8:00p ET

Aired December 23, 2015 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:02] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Next, breaking news, a deadly tornado in December. Just days before Christmas. Warnings across the South tonight. One person dead. The death toll is expected to rise.

Plus, a new warning from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, why is he telling her to, quote, "be careful?"

And a Muslim family barred from entering the United States. They wanted, they say, to visit Disneyland. Why they are blaming then Donald Trump tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BOLDUAN Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan in for Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. A rare and deadly twister in December if you can believe it. A large, extremely dangerous storm system fueling multiple tornadoes, it's on the move tonight with 45 million Americans in its path from Mississippi all the way through the Ohio Valley. A huge tornado touched down in Clarksdale. Just look at this video. This is Clarksdale, Mississippi, this was earlier today with reports of some major damage in the surrounding area. A tornado emergency meaning significant damage and a high likelihood of fatalities. This was issued for the town of Holly Springs, Mississippi, the next town in its path.

Now, in Arkansas, the same system took the life of an 18-year-old woman. A large tree was uprooted and crashed to the roof, killing her also injuring an 18-month-old child who was in the house as well. The tornado watchers called it a particularly dangerous situation was issued for parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. So, let's get kind of a whole picture of what this looks like right now.

Let's go over to Jennifer Gray. She's in CNN (audio gap). So, Jennifer, where is this storm? Where is all of the focus? Where is the storm headed right now?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the focus has really been Mississippi. As you have been mentioning, that's where we've seen the most powerful storms and that's where we've seen the storms producing the most tornadoes. In fact, we still have tornado warnings in northern portions of Mississippi. This one looks like it's going to pass just to the south of Ripley. This is in effect for the next 15 minutes or so. The wider view, look at this, all of the red boxes are tornado watches and, in fact, they go on until about 8:00 Central Time tonight.

And zooming in, the one that you were talking about, the particularly dangerous situation, that is this red box right here, it's in effect until 8:00 Central Time. Where we saw that tornado warning, the tornado in Mississippi was right in the middle of that box. So the storm prediction center was spot on when they issued that particularly dangerous situation. Here's the path of it and you can see how far it traveled, not certain, because we haven't been out there to -- the forecasters go out there and they assess the damage but it looks like it could have been on the ground for about 100 miles or so, give or take. We've had ten tornado reports so far tonight.

One hundred nineteen wind reports and 26 hail reports. We've had reports of hail the size of golf balls, even bigger for tonight. So, it has been really dangerous and is going to continue to stay that way for the next couple of hours. We have very warm and humid air in place, cold and dry air to the west. We have the perfect ingredients in place for damaging storms. And the bulls-eye right there in the red, that's what we're going to expect, the largest number of tornado, some of those strong as we've already see damaging winds and also that large hail in place. So, some wild weather is going to continue throughout the early evening hours and we are going to see that line develop even through Atlanta in the next 12 hours or so.

So, this is going to continue. We're also going to see major delays at the airports, Kate. We've already seen it. All the way from the northeast and even Atlanta included in that. And I imagine some of those delays, we'll have a domino effect into tomorrow, a lot of people are trying to travel not only on the road but in the skies, this affects everything.

BOLDUAN: And this is one of the situations this couldn't come at a worst time, just two days before Christmas, this is one post everyone is travelling. And remember, again, two days before Christmas, we're in December. I don't remember a tornado hitting in December. It must be extremely rare.

GRAY: It is pretty rare. There's about a 20 percent chance of seeing severe weather outbreak during this week of the year, for any given year. So, it's not unheard of but it is definitely rare. We have more of a springtime pattern in place right now with temperatures running 20 and 30 degrees above normal, especially for the east, the west, as we've noticed completely different story they're getting, the cold temperature, a lot of snow, but we're also going to see troubled travel coming home from the holidays on Sunday. We're looking at a snow system impacting portions of Oklahoma, even Texas as we go into the latter part of the weekend. So, after today, it's really not over.

BOLDUAN: And there's still in the middle of it, and we're looking at this very dangerous storm system right now. They're still in the middle of it right now.

GRAY: Right.

BOLDUAN: Jennifer, thank you so much.

GRAY: Uh-huh.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT with us now is Mike Prendergast, he's a storm chaser who has been on the ground following this rare and deadly storm system. Mike, are you there?


BOLDUAN: Well, thank you so much for getting on the phone with us. I want to show our viewers, while we talk some video that you shot, I want to show some video that you shot today. This is a tornado that you were able to capture. It looks enormous. Can you describe what you saw?

PRENDERGAST: It was pretty impressive. It was very large, very violent, like I said earlier, it was on the ground for a very long time. We were on it for at least 30 minutes and we could see it, see some debris and actually hear it. We were close enough to hear it as well. So, yes, I was just say, it was pretty extraordinary thing to see.

BOLDUAN: Mike, what is that sound like when you're that closed?

PRENDERGAST: A lot of wind. There is a lot of rushing wind, just kind of almost like a waterfall-type sound.

BOLDUAN: It looks like it was moving quite fast. Could you get any sense of how fast the tornado was moving?

PRENDERGAST: (INAUDIBLE) It was actually coming right at us and when it's doing that, it doesn't look like it's moving at all because it's just getting close to you and then when it gets closer, you move at the right and we can really see how fast it was going as it was paralleling our location and I guess it was 40, 50 miles per hour.

BOLDUAN: Wow. And so this is all in Mississippi. That's kind of where the big focus is. This is this big tornado. Did you see damage? Are you seeing damage where you are right now?

PRENDERGAST: We're actually heading back to the town of Clarksdale where we initially saw that. We did not cross the damage path ourselves. We stayed just ahead of it. It finally outran us. So, we're actually heading back now and we're going into Clarksdale to see if we can help out.

BOLDUAN: I was talking about it with Jennifer just a second ago, our meteorologist. But how often you've been chasing storms for years? How often are you chasing them in December?

PRENDERGAST: Not very often in December but it's certainly not unheard of. We were out here in this part -- the first week of January this year, so it's certainly not unheard of. BOLDUAN: Not unheard of. Scary nonetheless. And this is a very

scary, a very dangerous storm and they are still in the middle of it. A lot of these warnings not expiring until about 9:00 eastern. We're going to be watching this. And Mike, you're on the ground there. Stay safe. Thanks so much for calling in.

Let's go OUTFRONT now. Let's bring in Brett Carr, he's in the Mississippi Emergency Management, this is where all of the focus really is been. And Mississippi where a lot of the damage is being seen. So, Bret, tell me, where is all of your focus throughout this state but where is all of your focus right now in Mississippi?

BRETT CARR, MISSISSIPPI EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (on the phone): Yes. That's a great question. Right now we are sending staff up to Marshall County near Holly Springs. We also have confirmed damage in Coahoma County where the video you saw less earlier today, so we are sending stuff that way, really everywhere that we're getting damage reports, we're trying to get boots on the ground to see what the state can come in and offer, what kind of assistance is needed in that area and to help out with damage assessments. Of course now it's getting dark here.


CARR: So damage assessments will be hampered but we'll start doing that first thing in the morning.

BOLDUAN: What kind of damage reports are you getting in right now? Again, it's getting dark but you're not in the clear yet. These warnings and watches are still in place. What kind of damage are you hearing about and also what kind of injuries?

CARR: That's right. So, we still do have active tornado warnings in Mississippi. So, we're trying to remind people that they are not out of the woods yet. There are still storms that are coming through, there are still severe storms. But as far as damage goes, we know that there is damage to homes in several counties, some businesses, cars have been pushed of the road. Our number one priority is like safety right now. So, we're trying to make sure that everyone is accounted for and that we can get out and make sure that there's no one that has any needs. If there's a shelter that needs to be open, we're working with the Department of Human Services to get those open. So, right now, the number one priority is life safety. We want to make sure that everyone is accounted for and then we can move forward and start cleaning up the mess.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. That is for sure. I mean, this storm came with quite a bit of a warning. The storm system was huge. I mean, there are 45 million people in the path that could be affected by the storm. What do folks in Mississippi really need to know tonight?

CARR: Well, that's right. The big thing is, we're not out of the woods yet. But this is not that's something new to Mississippi. Just one year ago today we had a tornado that went through the small town of Columbia and into Lowell, Mississippi, and actually killed five people. That was just one year ago today in December. So, unfortunately, Mississippi is getting used to this kind of weather in December and around the Christmas holidays. But we want people to know that there are still storms, there is still active storms, there could be flash flooding and they are not out of the woods yet. So, everyone needs to be weather aware. Keep a close eye on the weather in your area and know how you're going to get an alert. That's the big thing. How are you going to know that there is severe weather in your area even after you've gone to bed? So, make sure you have a message to receive that alert throughout the evening.

BOLDUAN: As you've well said, they're not in the clear yet, when do you think your state will be in the clear?

CARR: We sure hope it's sooner than later. But it looks like we still got some pretty strong storms that have just come over the Mississippi River and are moving across the state now. So it's going to be several more hours. Hopefully none of these are as severe as what we've seen throughout the day today and just more of a rain event. But with that brings flash flooding and brings lots of other issues, especially if people's homes were damaged.


CARR: So, it's not something that people need to take lightly and they need to remain vigilant and keep an eye on the weather overnight.

[19:10:31] BOLDUAN: Absolutely not. Especially when you see those images of that tornado and how big that tornado is just barreling through. Brett Carr, thanks so much for jumping on the phone. We appreciate and good luck tonight.

CARR: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, Donald Trump's warning to Hillary Clinton after calling him out for bigotry and bullying.

Plus, Trump with a huge lead in the latest CNN poll as more Republicans are now saying he's the party's best chance to win in 2016.

And more breaking news tonight on a Muslim family barred from entering the United States. They say they were headed to Disneyland. Why did U.S. officials then stop them just before they boarded their flight?


[19:14:38] BOLDUAN: Tonight, Donald Trump warning Hillary Clinton in a tweet posted just this evening. Trump writes this -- "Hillary, when you complain about a pension for sexism, who are you referring to? I have great respect for women. Be careful." And this is the second warning from Trump just today towards Clinton after Clinton called him out for sexism, bigotry and hateful speech.

Dana Bash has the latest in this growing back and forth. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win so much in so many different ways that you're going to get tired.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a candidate who loves winning, this will be a very Merry Christmas.

TRUMP: I'm only kidding, we'll never get tired of winning, right?

BASH: Donald Trump is so far ahead in CNN/ORC's new national poll, he has more support than the next three GOP candidates combined, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio. His leads are even bigger on the question of voter's confidence in him to deal with key issues, the economy, fighting ISIS and illegal immigration. But the best news for Trump may be that Republicans are settling into the idea of him as a formidable candidate to take the White House. Forty six percent say they think Republican chances are better with Trump at the top of the ticket of eight point since August.

TRUMP: I know where she went, it's disgusting, I don't want to talk about. Now, it's too disgusting.

BASH: That is Trump's war of words with the Democrats frontrunner is getting harder. Hillary Clinton told the Des Moines Register that Trump has a quote, "Penchant for sexism."

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really deplore the tone of his campaign and the inflammatory rhetoric that he's using to divide people. His bigotry, his bluster, his bullying have become his campaign.

BASH: Trump responded, Trump style on Twitter saying, be careful Hillary as you play the war on women or women being degraded card. And on his use of a Yiddish word for a certain part of the male anatomy to describe Clinton's 2008 loss to Barack Obama --

TRUMP: She got schlonged. She lost.

BASH: Trump pushed back from the idea that he meant anything vulgar, insisting "schlonged" is a common political term tweeting, "When I said that Hillary Clinton got schlonged by Obama, it meant got beaten badly. The media knows this, often used word in politics."


BASH: I've been covering politics for a long time now. I can't recall hearing that word in any political context. But Kate, maybe I missed it. Regardless, this fact between Trump and Clinton, it only helps each other's constituencies because they need them at this age that they gain as parties basis. They are the ones who are going to start voting in Iowa in just about a month and a half.

BOLDUAN: It does seem that now there is a new word added to our political dictionary. Thank you very, very much. BASH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Dana, it's great to see you. Thanks.

OUTFRONT tonight, Donald Trump's campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson and the founder of the pro-Clinton Super PAC "Correct the Record," David Brock. Guys, it's great to see you. Thanks so much.



BOLDUAN: Nice to see you. Katrina, two tweets now -- not just one, two tweets coming from Trump today, both of them warning Clinton in a various ways but he says, both times, be careful. What is Donald Trump warning Hillary Clinton about?

PIERSON: Well, I think it's pretty obvious by now that Donald Trump will be the only Republican candidate that would be willing to take Hillary on, head-on. And what he's referring to is very simple. You know, no one really complained in 2011 when he used the exact same exact word to describe a woman winning an election cycle, with a Congressional race actually. And so, all of a sudden it's horrible. But Hillary Clinton has some nerve to talk about the war on women and the bigotry towards women when she has a serious problem in her husband.

BOLDUAN: David Brock, Bill Clinton, he's being brought in.

BROCK: Look, let's just start by saying, you know, let's not talk about Hillary Clinton for a minute. What are the Republican say about Donald Trump? Unhinged proto-fascist. The "Wall Street Journal" editorial page today says, he has a pathology and narcissistic personality. That's why he admires Putin who is also a narcissistic strong men. So, I think the question is, what kind of a man -- let's forget the pardonship -- what kind of man insults, threatens, and degrades women not just Hillary, Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina. I'll tell you what kind of a man that is? That is somebody who is frightened, who is insecure and is a woos who has to act like a bully to make him feel like he's a big man. And I'll tell you what we're not going to be bullied in this campaign.

BOLDUAN: Katrina?

[19:14:18] PIERSON: Well, let's distinguish between the people he's talking about, the quote-unquote, "Republican establishment" who happens to be losing handedly right now. And what's interesting about this, this notion of being bullied is, I mean, I can think of quite a few women that have been bullied by Hillary Clinton to hide her husband's misogynist sexist secret. So we can actually go there but the thing about Hillary is, she does need to be very careful. Because in the new CNN poll, it shows that not only Donald Trump, but Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are statistically tied with women. This is a campaign that was not going to run on the issues. Hillary was going to try to run this way on being a woman and it's failing. BOLDUAN: David, I want to tell you, I know you lost audio for

just a second there, David. But again and again, this is the warning, the be careful that's coming from Donald Trump, we're hearing it from Katrina. They are going to take on Bill Clinton.

BROCK: Right. Let them take on Bill Clinton. Look, this is not a democratic problem. It's a Republican problem. You have a Republican, front-runner, it is sad and pathetic, who not only insults women, is a racist who talks about Mexican immigrants as rapists, who is stoking Islamophobia which is helping the terrorists who want to kill us. This is a really dangerous situation and it's a terrible problem for the Republican Party. Because Donald Trump, at the end of the day, is an opportunist, he doesn't care about the Republican Party. To him, it's just a casino.

BOLDUAN: Actually, a Liberal problem, Erin. Because what you have on Hillary Clinton's side are a bunch of people including women, liberal women who want to run around talking about the war on women, they want to burn their bras, they complain about equal pay and being treated as men, and the second thing they get criticized for anything, they start acting like nine-year-old little girls. So, let's be serious.

BROCK: It's terrible to advocate for equal pay, isn't it?

BOLDUAN: Here's the one thing guys --

PIERSON: It's about policy instead of going around trying to call somebody, sexist, racism, misogynist.

BROCK: We're not calling. It's what it is.

BOLDUAN: I actually want to ask you something.

BROCK: Don't tell me it's politically correct. It's just decent not to walk around saying racist and sexists things.

BOLDUAN: David, you're doing a very good job speaking for Hillary Clinton. But let me ask you about this --

BROCK: Sure.

BOLDUAN: In your response coming from Hillary Clinton --


BOLDUAN: First, you had the campaign was silent. Then you have the Clinton campaign official who sent out a tweet saying, we're not going to respond. Fast forward no time at all, almost the same day. Hillary Clinton did respond in that very emotional way. What is the change? What is the decision behind that strategy if she's not afraid to take Bill -- Bill Clinton, pardon me -- if she's not afraid to take Donald Trump on, what was behind that strategy towards the response?

BROCK: Honestly, I don't know. But I'll just say that the things that were said the other night, I was watching live. They were so shocking that the first thing you would say is, I'm not going to dignify it. But then, look, he's the Republican front-runner. Your own poll shows that today. He's surging on the basis of a radicalized Republican base and he is giving voice to their bigotry. And so someone needs to call that out. And I'm glad Hillary Clinton is doing it and we're going to continue to do it because certainly the Republicans, who are his opponents, are too weak to really do the job.

BOLDUAN: Here's the thing to both of you. Neither Hillary Clinton among her base of women -- she doesn't have a problem with women in her base. Donald Trump also doing very well with women in the Republican base. So in terms of the primary, this doesn't hurt either of these candidates. But what about if they make it to the General, Katrina? You can see the war on women that has been a somewhat successful charge in the past against Republicans. Is that a problem for the Trump campaign and in the general?

PIERSON: Well, Kate, I think you're right. This was a problem in the past mainly because any other Republican would be the quiet, soft person and not want to push back against the Liberals or even the media, for that matter. That's why this is very different. And just like I stated in the CNN poll, they are statistically tied right now with women. So, I don't think this is going to be an issue for Mr. Trump and, and more importantly, when we're looking at Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, we have very big policy differences, number one. Number two, we're talking about moving forward. We're not going to be stuck in the '60s. Every time a Republican says anything Kate, it's either racist or bigoted if they don't like it and it's not just going to work on the Trump campaign.

BOLDUAN: David, are you guys outdated?

BROCK: Certainly not. In fact, the retrograde misogyny that we see from Donald Trump shows who really is outdated here. So, look, you know, this is a Republican fight. You know, we don't have any say over who the Republicans nominee. If they want to nominate Donald trump, go right ahead and do it. But they are going to alienate that he already has alienated substantial parts of the country. He's put our country in danger which, in my mind, is a disqualifier for being a commander-in-chief. But if the Republicans wanted to go down that road, if they really hate their leadership and their establishment and what the party stands for, don't talk to me about policy for instance. Donald Trump has repudiated Republican ideology on foreign policy.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

BROCK: And on economic policy. So we're seeing an implosion of the Republican Party right before our eyes.

BOLDUAN: I'll tell you guys, listen, this ends up --

PIERSON: Donald Trump's policies are very different and Hillary Clinton oversaw the growth of ISIS and she also armed ISIS. She's the one who put the country in danger.

BROCK: Yes, he's a real, big, tough man with ISIS.

BOLDUAN: Let me point just this out.


[19:24:28] BOLDUAN: If this does become a general election matchup between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I think this is a perfect example of how just lively that debate is going to be. Katrina, David, thanks so much. Great to see you, guys. Thank you.

BROCK: Look forward to it, Kate. Thank you.

PIERSON: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, Ted Cruz is slamming the media for a cartoon about his daughters. So why is he using the very same image then to raise money?

Also this ahead, more breaking news, new information about the two Muslim families barred from boarding a flight for their U.S. vacation. Was it profiling? We'll be right back.


[19:28:26] BOLDUAN: Tonight, Ted Cruz is gaining ground. A new CNN poll showing the Republican candidate, he is making a move. Listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, a few days ago Donald Trump said publicly that he could see this race coming down to a two-person race and I think that's entirely possible.


BOLDUAN: So is this now a two-man race on the Republican side?

Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT. So, Sunlen, you've been on the road with the Cruz campaign this week. It almost seems like Ted Cruz is wishing that it has become a two-man race but is that now where they are also focusing their campaign strategy?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, I think for the Cruz campaign, framing this race as this two-man showdown really plays into the certain narrative that they really want right now, especially as they try to consolidate Conservatives and Evangelical Republicans. What it does is it presents Cruz as alternatives to Trump and it outplays Rubio's positioning the race and that really is the key here. Rubio is a candidate the Cruz campaign has always been really focused on and they still very much are but this declaration that it's a two- person race really allows them to project all of that without really having a say at all.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. That's exactly what those campaigns are about. Cruz is clearly happy about the polls, CNN polls out but also he is furious about a very different issue on the campaign right now. A campaign trail. A Washington Post cartoon mocking Cruz for using his daughters as political props. There is the cartoon right there. How has Cruz responded?

SERFATY: That's right. Well, he's been out on the campaign trail all day today in Oklahoma really blasting "The Washington Post" bringing it up multiple times, this cartoon depicting his children as monkeys and you hear him saying that, he keeps saying that kids are usually off limits on campaigns and election cycles and many candidates coming to his defense today. And he just point blank said, keep my kids out of it. Now, "The Washington Post" they have pulled down that cartoon in an editorial posting acknowledging really that they should have never posted it in the first place. But, interestingly enough, Ted Cruz is now fundraising off of this controversy, including having an image. You see it right there on the screen. That's his fundraising e-mail. Using the cartoon and saying in that pitch, the liberal media has hit a new low with the tasteless attack on his kids and their goal, Kate, is to raise $1 million in the next 24 hours.

BOLDUAN: We'll see how that turns out. Sunlen, great to see you. Thanks so much.

SERFATY: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk much more about that.

OUTFRONT tonight, Eric Fehrnstrom, he was a senior adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, and Amanda Carpenter, she's a former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz.

Eric, it's great to see you. I want to get to that cartoon in just a bit. But first, we have to talk about the polls out today. Yes, Cruz is on the rise but you cannot deny that Mr. Trump has a huge lead here. Just look at these numbers. More than double Cruz.

But do you think the poll -- you actually think the polls are under-representing Trump's support right now? Explain, please.

ERIC FEHRNSTROM, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, 2012 ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, it's true, Kate. As amazing as it sounds, Trump's commanding lead. It's possible that we're still undercounting his support.

And the reason for that is, there are two factors. One is something that the statisticians call it social desirability bias. And that's simply a recognition that people lie. And the more uncomfortable they are with the question being asked, the more likely they are to lie in response and we have evidence out of Europe that shows anti-immigration candidates doing much better in the more anonymous online and automated polling than they do in the live interviewing and polling.

And I think the second factor that may be under-representing Trump's support is that he's bringing a lot of new voters into the Republican Party -- voters who haven't previously participated in the primary or caucus system.

BOLDUAN: Uh-huh. FEHRNSTROM: And because of that, they are being excluded from

these likely voter screens that pollsters use. Now, it's possible these voters won't show up on a cold, snowy day.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. In Iowa for a long caucus. That's right.

FEHRNSTROM: But I think it's also true that they are being undercounted.

BOLDUAN: Very interesting. Amanda, you and I have talked about this concept of not believing in the polls right now. If this is true, does that spell trouble for Ted Cruz?

AMANDA CARPETNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, I agree and disagree with Eric. In a sense, I think that Trump's support is definitely being overcounted. I think he has complete control, you know, of the Twitter and the TV media in a way that gives him a lot more standing nationally.

I also agree with Eric that he is speaking to a different type of voter. When he goes to Michigan, I don't think he's speaking to traditional Republican audiences. I think he's addressing blue collar workers who have been abandoned by the Democratic Party.

All that said, I don't think his support translates into winning Iowa, to winning New Hampshire, to winning South Carolina. So, I think he's going to have trouble in that three-state stampede but that doesn't mean he doesn't have national attention from a new type of voter like Eric mentioned.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And is this really the two-man race that Ted Cruz really wants it to be right now? That's to be debated but there's still lots of time to go for that to change.

I do want to ask you, though, Eric -- we got late news this evening that the Carson campaign -- Ben Carson's campaign is actually considering a staff shakeup in light of his falling poll numbers. He's now tied in our latest poll, a distant third at 10 percent. The campaign says they are not letting anyone go, but you have been around this before.

What does this tell you?

FEHRNSTROM: Well, Ben Carson has been doing the slow fade in the polling ever since Paris and San Bernardino and the resulting doubts about his ability to handle our nation's foreign policy. That's not only a problem for him, by the way. It's a problem for the establishment candidates because they needed two things to happen in this race for them to make a credible challenge to Donald Trump. One is the field needed to thin out and the second was Carson needed to remain strong so he could divide that outsider vote. Neither has happened.

And so I can only imagine the panic that they must be feeling in the Ben Carson campaign as they try to right this ship. They thought maybe sending him on a world tour to Israel and Africa would fix it, but that's been canceled. They seem a little bit adrift right now. They only have 40 days to get their act together before Iowa caucus.


FEHRNSTROM: So, every moment counts.

BOLDUAN: Jeb Bush, though, would be happy to take over that 10 percent right now in these national polls.

[19:35:02] That's for sure.

Amanda, I have to get your take, though, on what is going on with -- as Sunlen was explaining with this cartoon, back to this cartoon, mocking Ted Cruz for using his daughters as political props. That's the cartoon. We all know that kids are off limits and that cuts across party lines, young children in campaigns.

But Ted Cruz, he's now fundraising off of it. He's even putting that cartoon that he called sickening in the fundraising e-mail. Does he, on some level, I don't know, lose the moral high ground for trying to raise money off of it?

CARPENTER: I don't think so. I think when something like this happens and it's so outrageous, you have every right to tell your supporters, this is what my campaign is dealing with, this is why I need more resources. And, listen, fundraising e-mails are one of the best forms of communication that a candidate has.

Frankly, I think it would be a little bit weird if he didn't talk to his supporters about it because it was such a firestorm overnight last night I was sitting on Twitter, and the feed was completely in favor of Cruz.

So, I think he needed to talk about it. He needs to say, this is what I'm up against, and, hey, he won this. He had a tweet that I think was very civil, very restrained and he was in the right. He won, took it down.

So, yes, I would think it's OK to talk to your supporters about that.

BOLDUAN: Yes, no other candidates going to be on the other side of that argument, putting kids on the campaign and taking them on.

Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.


FEHRNSTROM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Tomorrow, big programming note: Bernie Sanders, he's going to be on NEW DAY to weigh in on Hillary Clinton. That starts, of course, at 6:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

OUTFRONT still, breaking news. Authorities stop the Muslim family from boarding a plane to the United States. Tonight, we have no information about why officials stopped them and new details about one of the deadliest attacks against U.S. troops in years.


[19:40:34] BOLDUAN: Breaking news, U.S. officials tonight, quote, "categorically deny claims that a Muslim family was barred from flying to the United States to visit Disneyland because of their religion." Officials say some family members were blocked after one of their e-mail addresses was believed to be linked to a suspicious Facebook page. The family is not only upset, they are also blaming Donald Trump.


MOHAMMAD TARIQ MAHMOOD, BLOCKED FROM BOARDING FIGHT TO U.S.: I think Donald Trump's theory played a part in it because otherwise, why wasn't anyone else held up on that flight? Just one Muslim family.



So, Rene, what more are you learning about why that family was actually barred from getting on that flight? What are you hearing?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we know that nine of the 11 people within this family, this British Muslim family, they were at the gate when they were denied boarding for a flight to California. The airline, Norwegian Airlines, says it was at the instruction of U.S. homeland security.

Now, there are a wide range of reasons beyond terrorism why someone would be denied boarding from open criminal cases to full -- to not fully disclosing past travel, to incomplete travel documents, even health-related issues.

Now, the family says they haven't been told why and that's what's fueling the frustration overseas. We know that this family includes seven children. They say they all had valid U.S. immigration documents and they had been planning this trip and saving for this trip to Disneyland for months. They also say that more than $13,000 that they shelled out, it will not be refunded.

Now, we reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is under Department of Homeland Security and told CNN, quote, "the religion, the faith or spiritual beliefs of an international traveler are not, are not determining factors," Kate.

BOLDUAN: You wonder if they will ever figure out what caused them to not be able to get on that flight.

Rene, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

MARSH: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Let's discuss this. OUTFRONT with us now, Jim Arkedis. He's a former counterterrorism analyst at the Defense Department, and Carl Higbie, he's a Donald Trump supporter and a former Navy SEAL.

Gentlemen, thank you so much.

Jim, first to you. With all of this background, as Rene was laying it out, you think this is an overreaction. Why?

JIM ARKEDIS, FORMER DEPT. OF DEFENSE COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, yes, I mean, basically, what happened is a couple days ago the president signed a spending bill. In it, there was a provision that said individuals who travel to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan could endure additional scrutiny while they're entering the country. This might have something to do with why the family was denied boarding.

I mean, basically, it boils down to overheated rhetoric and when we get to a season like campaign season, all of a sudden, we're talking about barring Muslims and all of these other things, we have to be conscious about what this does to American moral authority. The idea that we were founded to be this great country, this cultural melting pot of heritage that celebrates freedom and openness and all of these things, we have to take into account that when there is overheated rhetoric, that yanks our policy-making and ultimately our laws, a little bit in the direction of intolerance. And so --

BOLDUAN: Jim, you blame Trump, too?

ARKEDIS: Yes, absolutely. I mean, let's call Donald Trump what he is. He's a racist, he's a sexist and he's a bigot. When we fail to call out this type of language, we're only encouraging it to continue.

So, it's partially Donald Trump's fault, of course. But it's also the rest of the Republican field who has not done a good job of standing up to intolerance and saying, we can't talk like this because American's values are too much to throw by the wayside this way.

BOLDUAN: So, Carl, I want you to weigh in. But Jim is not alone. As we heard this family, they partially blamed Donald Trump at least, and there are even British lawmakers who have weighed in blaming Donald Trump saying that he's to blame as well.

Why are they all wrong?

CARL HIGBIE, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, anybody can weigh in and say that this is Donald Trump's fault. But the fact of the matter is, Donald Trump has absolutely no effect on policy right now, and anybody who says this is Donald Trump's fault or he had any say in this whatsoever is completely ignorant to the process.

What we need to look at, too, is look at the people who are in the White House right now. They have more effect on this than anything that Donald Trump would say. This is not fueled by American populist and how -- this is fueled by the U.S. government and their policies that are affected by the people in power right now.

BOLDUAN: Jim, to Carl's point, I mean, this is all coming after the attacks in Paris, the attacks in San Bernardino. Isn't this larger than Donald Trump?

[19:45:01] ARKEDIS: Look, we're in a time of increased vigilance. Everybody understands that. We have to continue to be vigilant and do our best to keep the country safe.

But when we let people like Donald Trump use inflammatory rhetoric and we fail to say that it's wrong and we fail to say that it's not what America stands for and what we strive to be as a nation, we lose a little bit of that moral high ground to be able to stand up to the agents of intolerance. We have to understand that when we use inflammatory rhetoric, we get yanked further and further to the right, towards the xenophobic rhetoric that people like Donald Trump use and that stands in our policy debates and in our legal debates that ultimately form laws and that is a really dangerous thing to be playing with.

So, we have to absolutely be vigilant. We have to understand that there is an existing threat. But we also have to understand what the costs are to America's moral authority when we use insensitive and intolerant language like this.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Carl.

HIGBIE: But you're sitting there saying that this is not the tradition -- not the American values and we can't let Donald Trump -- the American values rest in our Constitution where we can say whatever we want and it might be offensive, but you can't say fire in a crowded theater, but we do have those values that allow people.

ARKEDIS: I fully support Donald Trump's right to say whatever he would like --


HIGBIE: Do you not want to let people say stuff?

ARKEDIS: No, that's a false argument. I fundamentally support Donald Trump's right to say everything that he wants to say in -- that messes with the First Amendment to our Constitution. However, it is my job to call out his intolerance and to make a better argument that the United States is a worse place when we let Donald Trump say the types of intolerant things that he's going to say and we don't call him out on it.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this, Carl. There's a lot not known about this situation, of course, but do you think this is the system working or does it seem like it's exposing more flaws in this system that already exists?

HIGBIE: I think -- I mean, the government obviously is not actually any type of beacon of success or, you know, smooth running machinery. This happens to normal every day, even Americans this happens to. They can't travel all around the country, because they get on a no fly list for no reason.

This just happened to a Muslim family that was coming over here to Disneyworld. They made the great sound bite, they blamed it on Donald Trump, it made sense for the liberal left to spin it however they wanted to. And the fact of the matter is, this is one of many instances that has happened to many, many people, and it means that someone is doing their job to do something.

I mean, there's some reason why. We just don't know what it is yet. To speculate that it's Donald Trump is completely ridiculous.

BOLDUAN: This debate is definitely not over. And I still wonder if that family will ever find out why they were barred from coming in.

Carl, Jim, thank you very, very much. I appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: New details about the attack that killed six American soldiers in Afghanistan on the deadliest day for U.S. troops there in more than three years.

Plus, Miss Colombia, she breaks her silence about the crown that she did not win.


[19:51:52] BOLDUAN: Tonight, a somber ceremony at New Castle Air National Guard base in Delaware as the remains of six U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan arrived home.

This as we're learning disturbing new information about how that attack happened.

Barbara Starr is OUTFRONT.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Fellow troops mourn the lives of six U.S. Air Force members killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. The devastating attack happened on a security patrol outside of Bagram air field. Their mission: to talk to local Afghans in nearby villages looking for any signs of the Taliban.

A U.S. official tells CNN the suicide bomber used an old motorcycle instead of a suicide vest packing the internal spaces of the bike full of explosives. The motorcycle detonating as the troops were on a narrow path where surrounding walls confined the blast and made it even more powerful.

The Taliban taking credit as the group makes a resurgence in the southern part of the country. In Helmand Province where U.S. forces fought for years, Afghan security forces are now locked in an intense battle with Taliban fighters. Afghan reinforcements have been sent to help.

MASOOM STANEKZAI, ACTING AFGHAN DEFENSE MINISTER: Building an army is not the work of two years, three years or four years. It is a young army. It need maturity. It need enablers. STARR: Years of U.S. military training still may not be enough.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's one of those areas where during the daytime, the government controls territory. During the nighttime, a lot of that same territory is actually being controlled by either the Taliban or in some cases potentially even ISIS.

STARR: ISIS has been making radio broadcasts as a recruitment tool. And some in Afghanistan are listening.

ISIS also has Russian President Vladimir Putin's attention. Moscow says it will share intelligence, but not weapons, with the Taliban to counter ISIS.


STARR: So, is this the new Putin agenda, back in Afghanistan, nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union pulled its troops out after a devastating nine-year war there -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Barbara Starr, thank you.

OUTFRONT next, after making the biggest mistake in Miss University's history, why is Steve Harvey reportedly hosting the pageant again.

Be right back.


[19:57:38] BURNETT: Tonight, we are finally hearing up from the runner up in the Miss Universe coronation that was not.

Brian Stelter is OUTFRONT.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Miss Colombia speaking out about that mistake heard around the world.

STEVE HARVEY, MISS UNIVERSE HOST: Miss Universe 2015 is Colombia.


STELTER: Ariana Gutierrez posted a lengthy message on Instagram saying, "Life continues and in the future we will find out why things happen the way they happen."

The 21-year-old congratulating the real winner, Miss Philippines, while showing grace under the pageant lights and saying nothing about the humiliated host Steve Harvey.

HARVEY: The first runner up is Colombia.


HARVEY: Miss Universe 2015 is Philippines.

STELTER: It is a moment that will live in TV infamy, the host of "Family Feud" mistakenly reading the first runner up's name and corrected himself with the whole universe watching. You can see his discomfort.

Moment after the gaffe, Harvey appears to complain to producers that the teleprompter had the wrong name and Miss Colombia was the winner but seconds later, Harvey publicly took the blame.

HARVEY: This is exactly what's on the card. I will take responsibility for this. It was my mistake. It was on the card.

STELTER: The real winner, Miss Philippines, printed in small type on the card, showing the perils of live television.

Harvey tweeted an apology saying, "I feel terrible", and suddenly, Miss Universe was trending like never before -- and maybe that's why Harvey will be back.

Entertainment Tonight reporting Harvey signed a multi-year contract just a few days before Sunday's contest. The company is not ruling out his return next year saying only, "We do not disclose any information on our contracts."

Now picture yourself in Harvey's shoes, would you want a shot at redemption?


STELTER: I think if I were Steve Harvey, I would want another chance. You know, keep in mind the synergy here -- Donald Trump sold this pageant to WME/IMG a few months ago. That's a giant Hollywood talent agency and one of the many celebrities it represents is Steve Harvey.

So, it will make sense for them to remain in business together. But my sense is no final announcement about next year's host will be made for a long time. They do have almost 12 months to decide.

Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Brian.

And thank you all for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.