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CUOMO PRIME TIME

White House Defends Trump's Rhetoric after Domestic Terror Attacks; Trump's Pattern from Charlottesville to PA Synagogue; Supermarket Shooting Investigation as Hate Crime. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired October 29, 2018 - 21:00   ET

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


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. Thank you, Anderson. And thank you for being there.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Pittsburgh in 2018. I could never imagine that that place and time would mark the largest murder targeting Jewish people on American soil ever. Eleven people slaughtered because they were Jewish in America in this day and age.

Jews, blacks, media, migrants, three of these groups have been the target of domestic terror in just the last week, all are cast as others in our current toxic politics. And it's done in a way that baits hate and those who feed on it.

How do we stop this? That's our focus tonight, tomorrow, as long as it takes.

Here's what we know: What you give attention to, you fuel. And our president is setting all kinds of fires with more talk of invaders and enemies of the people with the help of the Trump triad at Fox. We're going to dive into all of it with some of America's most insightful voices. We're going to look back to history as a reminder of the roads that we should never go down again.

My friends, let's get after it.

(MUSIC)

CUOMO: Let's just remind ourselves where we are, shootings, bombs, blame. That's the state of play. The synagogue attack, historic and horrific. The question, is this the bottom? And the answer is no, if we don't stop seeding hate.

President Trump condemned the synagogue massacre but I argue that's the minimum to be done. To be clear: the president did not commit the crimes, nor did he direct others to do so explicitly. Saying otherwise is untrue and unhelpful. And, by the way, the truth is equally damning.

The president is responsible more than anyone else for fixing the problem of division in this country. He should tell us. He should us how to be better and he is not trying, not even a little. Proof: Look at how little he says about how to be better and how much

he spends on whom to blame. We know our politics are poisoning us. There can be no debate about that. We know those on the left and some on the right have been struggling with how to counter or unable to do better or worse especially on the right, they decide to be silent.

Even after the historic murder of our Jewish brothers and sisters, Trump and his proxies in politics and the media feed the division. The proof is in the preference. Trump chooses to talk more about the media than the murders.

Fake news he says is the cause of our problems. The fake news media is the true enemy of the people. Then he tries to clean it up with this nonsense, tweeting there's difference between him calling out the media and the fake news media.

Please? Please? Don't insult our intelligence on top of all of the things that we're supposed to value with diversity and tolerance in our society. You use them interchangeably. We know it, you know it. Don't hide, just own it.

The kind of message that Trump is giving out is too often the kind that you see hooted and hollered about at the rallies, including the bomber who was at the rallies hooting and hollering about exactly those messages.

But it's not just Trump. The state of play is broader. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy posted this now deleted tweet, suggesting that Democratic donors named Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg were attempting to buy the midterm elections. Untrue, but it plays nicely into some tasty bigotries.

Then, earlier this month, Iowa Congressman Steve King endorsed Faith Goldie, a white nationalist for mayor, in Toronto.

And, look, the left does have its own words and actions to own. The thugs from Antifa, the meetings with Farrakhan by march organizers and even members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Big named Democrats like Clinton, Holder and Waters adopting the aggression of their adversaries.

None of it helps. And when you have this kind of rhetoric on the left and right even if for the sake of the argument it were an even blame share between left and right, and I would argue to you it isn't, not even close. But even if it were, the nation would still turn to the man at the top.

But the captain in this case likes to steer as close as he can get to the rocks. So, o what are we going to do?

Listen to what the president says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? I think there's blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it and you don't have any doubt about it either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: We have no doubt about where it's leading us. We have plenty of doubt about it then. Moral equivalence puts a bad taste in your mouth when you're dealing with white nationalists. But touting fear about migrants at the border, it all feeds to same appetite for the ugly, and it's not just Trump. Remember, he's got favorite mouthpieces.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: This invading horde is -- you know, calling it a caravan is misnomer and frankly sickening.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I don't want to see anybody hurt here, but nor do I want to see our country invaded by 14,000 people, none of who have been vetted.

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: You can tell the Democrats, George Soros, and the angry mob that's coming here, you either come the right way like everyone else, or be ready to face the military.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Twenty-two million, all of them again using fake federal documents here illegally. Why would it not be an invasion?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Look, the talk is intentional. They want to divide. They want us versus them.

If pushed about it, they'll say, well, we're just enforcing the law. Nobody wants for people to come in and flout the laws. Everyone thinks the system has to be fixed.

But that's not what's going on. This conspiracy of invasion is made worse by the notion that immigrants, this is the new one, they're not like you and me. They'll bring disease.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN BONGINO, HOST, "THE DAN BONGINO SHOW": What about diseases? I mean, there's a reason why you can't bring a kid to school unless he is inoculated. Is it too much to say that we just can't have countries, entire populations come in here with being looked at as hard hearted?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Hey, I'm not a doctor, but I had an Uncle John once. What does that mean? What are they, a different species? You believe that these people have some type of biological agent that we don't know how to deal with we've never seen?

That's what they said about our families not too long ago, the delousing treatments, that there were something inherent about the Italians and the ethics coming over here. They were unclean. We've seen this move. It's an ugly movie. It ends badly.

The terms nationalists, Make America Great Again, America first, enemy of the people -- they didn't even create any of them. They are all replays, redos, harkening back to the days of division and ugly acts in the name of us versus them.

Take this: one of Uncle Sam's watching rats arrived on the American shore, from the slums of Europe. These are my people. The writing on their hats, socialist, anarchy, mafia as they wear bandannas, masks and knives.

You know, I mean, when you get to be older, you know that it's happened before. This image, America as the fool pied piper leading the rats of the Black Hand out of Europe. Sounds familiar, right? Because it's all retreads. The "us versus them", the scare tactics, all a distraction from reality.

So, if those are the facts, where do we go from here in the state of play? We hope things would be getting better after Charlottesville. But one could argue they have gotten worse.

I want to bring in the man who led Virginia through that dark period in our history, former Governor Terry McAuliffe. What happened then, what should have been learned and what has yet to be learned, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Now, there's a lot of energy being spent on blaming the president, giving him responsibility. Listen, figure out the fix. The president has more responsibility than anyone to figure out the fix. And we are still waiting for our president and our other leaders to figure out how we get away from the polarized reality, all right?

You could make the argument, I got you, that Donald Trump is in the about unity, that division is what he does most and best. We have seen a pattern that has emerged, a scripted perfunctory statement, we must unify, I condemn. But then, full gusto, big eyes, no more teleprompter as he goes on Twitter and his rallies, and he goes after with those he likes the least.

This was clear after Charlottesville. The president went off script with that both sides nonsense. That wasn't what was written for him. It continues as the latest attackers were quickly followed by blame for those he sees as enemies.

My next guest was the governor of Virginia, when the Nazis marched there. His name is Terry McAuliffe. You know him well.

It's good to have you on the show again.

TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: It's great to be with you, sir.

CUOMO: Gov, thank you very much. MCAULIFFE: OK.

CUOMO: When that happened, I remember the pain in your voice, and rightly so. You know, you are the proxy for the people in that moment. And there was a feeling that, all right, we know this is wrong. We know this is bad. We can all condemn this but then that didn't happen.

MCAULIFFE: Well, let me tell you that day, Chris. I have never seen anything like it. Several thousand people marching down Charlottesville, screaming the worst obscenities I had ever heard in my life against members of the African-American community, members of the Jewish faith, pointing to the synagogue saying they were going to burn it down like we did in Auschwitz.

You know, people in our country used to wear hoods because they were embarrassed to say and do the things in public. They didn't feel like they needed hoods anymore in Charlottesville, Virginia, or in our nation.

And I talked to the president that afternoon. Listen, I was his toughest critic. I fought him as chairman of the National Governors Association, on health care, on immigration policy. You know, they deported a woman who had a broken taillight in Virginia and was pulled away from his two children. So, I was a harsh critic.

But I was impressed. He called me that day, that Saturday, and I explained what I had seen, what I had heard and who these people were -- alt-right and neo-Nazis and white supremacists. We had a good conversation. The president was going to do his press conference, was going to do the right thing and condemn this hatred that occurred in Virginia.

Press conference got delayed an hour, and, Chris, I don't know what happened. He came out and he blamed both sides. Now, I can tell you this. Heather Heyer was a 32-year-old woman killed that day, some maniac weaponized his car, a 20-year from Ohio, injured 19 people and killed Heather Heyer. I lost two of my state troopers, my pilot and a person who had been on my executive protection unit.

It wasn't both sides, Chris. It was neo-Nazis with Adolf Hitler T- shirts and white supremacists spewing hatred and I told them the right thing, to get the heck out of Virginia, to get the heck out of our country.

You pretend you're patriots or marched around with the flag. They're not patriots. They are cowards.

CUOMO: Do you believe that the white supremacists have an equal opposite on the left in the form of Antifa thugs?

MCAULIFFE: No, not what I saw that day. And I have seen it in my years of politics. I have never heard or seen what I saw that day. It was a disgrace to our nation.

We are the greatest nation on earth. And they just came spewing their hatred. Supposed that they came to protest against a Robert E. Lee statue. Half of them didn't even know who Robert E. Lee was. This was an avenue for them to come and to spew hatred and to prance around many of them with weapons.

CUOMO: The defense of the president is he didn't mean both sides that there were good people marching along with the neo-Nazis. He meant on either side of the debate over the confederacy statues. Do you believe that?

MCAULIFFE: No. I don't believe that at all. I think he was going back to his base. There is no way that as a moral leader of our country, as the president of the United States, you have circumstances when you're president.

As you know, we saw with President Obama, we saw it with President Clinton, we saw it with President Bush. When tragedies occur, let it be Oklahoma City or what happened in Charleston or after 9/11, presidents rose to that occasion to bring people together.

This president saw the most vile reactionary acts by individuals and he basically in my mind praised them and basically dissed the people who were protesting against hatred.

CUOMO: Are you surprised at how mild the reaction has been to the synagogue murders? It is the largest murder of Jews on American soil with them being targeted.

MCAULIFFE: Absolutely.

CUOMO: And we are covering it. People are there. You saw Anderson is there tonight, doing the best job as only he does. But the country is not on its knees.

And I'm shocked by that. Maybe it's too close to me. Maybe I have so many Jewish people in my family who are my best friends who my kids' godparents that I can't see clear to anything else. But I feel like we are not devastated by this, what's going on.

Like, what do we -- do we expect it? Is it like we're not shocked by anything anymore? What is it?

MCAULIFFE: Listen, I agree with you, I think the outrage is much more than it is. Obviously, so many people were impacted. But you know, we hit the pipe drums 48 hours before that.

CUOMO: Yes.

MCAULIFFE: It's all of this going on in our country today.

CUOMO: The guy at Kroger's who tried to get in to a black church down in Kentucky, we were barely really covering it because you had the bombs, but that's three in one week.

MCAULIFFE: Now, listen, you're not going to blame the president for specific acts, but you are going to blame him for the platform, the rhetoric, the divisiveness that's going on in our country today. This is a deliberate political tactic to try to get his base out in the midterm elections.

Chris, he cannot talk about health care. People's premiums have gone up. The work that they've done to take away, you know, the individual mandate, the cost-sharing subsidies, premiums were up for health care.

He can't talk about the tax cut. That hasn't gone onto help any of the working families in our country. He can't talk about infrastructure, because he didn't do it. And an immigration mess he's created in our country.

So, he can't talk about policy and accomplishments. All he can do is double down on this fear and divisiveness that he has created in our country.

CUOMO: Look, I would argue he could have made it all the way through just talking about the tax cut, given the state of the economy, went the markets giving back the gains for this year over the past week --

MCAULIFFE: Right.

CUOMO: -- but he chooses the immigration. He chose that caravan. He says this is perfect for us, even though there's nothing imminent about it. I mean, you have many days and weeks.

MCAULIFFE: Chris, they're a thousand miles away. They're going three miles an hour. And it's several weeks.

And by the time they get here -- and here's the point. He did his big show today to deploy the army down there. What a disgrace. This man has now politicized the military. And he is using our military for political purposes.

It's wrong. I have a son in the Marines today. I can tell you as parents of children who are wearing the cloth of our country to protect our country, the president should not politicize them. The border patrol deals with this every day.

CUOMO: Very well.

MCAULIFFE: There is nothing unique about what is happening with this particular caravan and by the time they get there.

Why is he doing this right before the midterms? He is politicizing our military and it is a disgrace. He is the commander in chief of the United States of America.

MCAULIFFE: It's a show of strength. My last question for you is this on this. What makes it better?

And let's -- look, we know what the president is supposed to do and we know what he is chosen to do. He will be judged. His party will be judged.

On the left, what should they do? Because as you know, I do say it's on both sides. One, I think the way that the left decides to interact with the president, what they try to work on and not, how they try to work with him in terms of their level of rhetoric, it helps contribute to this. He is still the president. Meetings with Farrakhan, the Antifa thugs, it's not good for you guys.

Who steps up on that side? And what is the message?

MCAULIFFE: There is one answer to your question. We have a midterm now in seven days.

CUOMO: Right.

MCAULIFFE: The answer is, people got to get out and vote. We've got to win the House and the Senate and pick up eight, nine governorships. That is the future of our party is on the line in about seven days.

CUOMO: And why should people give you that mandate?

MCAULIFFE: Number one is a check on Trump. Number two, to get out -- and listen, we're going to deal with healthcare. We're going to protect preexisting conditions. We're going to go for infrastructure.

You vote for Democrats like in Virginia, we're a different state today. We had tremendous success, growing our economy, making Virginia number one state for cyber security, protecting individual rights.

Democrats do this while we're in office. You know, we have to go in and clean up the deficits. When I became governor, I inherited a huge deficit, left a huge surplus. That's what Democrats do.

People got to come out and vote. Ninety-two million Americans, Chris, did not vote in the 2016 election. They woke up the next day and said, holy cow, how did this happen?

It happened because they didn't think their vote mattered. They didn't think it counts or they were just plain lazy. I can't give you the answer to that. But there is a big percentage of those people who are coming out this year.

You saw it in Virginia last year. We won 15 House of Delegate elections. That's the most since 1880.

There's a reason to come out and vote and we got to get folks out there. Ninety-two million, there's a big percentage says I've got to get out there and vote. That's the answer to your question.

Get out there, make sure you vote, do your early vote and let's send the message to Trump, we're not going to tolerate this anymore and let's get the Congress to have a check on his -- the actions that he's done. It is time for people to stand up and take our country back. We've had enough of it.

CUOMO: Governor McAuliffe, we'll all be watching.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you.

CUOMO: Nobody will be covering it more closely than we will. MCAULIFFE: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Thank you for coming on us. Appreciate it.

All right. We're going to more voices tonight to kind of make sense of what this means. You know, I can't get past what happened in Pittsburgh this weekend. Not only is it historic but, man, does it hit to the core of who we are and what we say we're supposed to protect.

Now, the two people we're going to have on, one shares a personal story of his family's own persecution for their faith. You know David Axelrod. You know Bill Kristol. They are worth listening to tonight, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: In the wake of a hate crime that killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the president called out the media on Twitter today, once more using the label "the true enemy of the people". This as he asked people across the country to unify and come together.

How can he call for unification on one end and separation and division on the other? Only one can be his true message.

Let's get some perspective from some of our true elders in this area. David Axelrod and Bill Kristol.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining me.

I wish we were talking about anything else than what we really must address tonight. I just -- I can't get over that in 2018 we have this kind of mass murder of Jewish people in America. I just, I can't believe it.

David, what does this mean to you about where we really are versus where we thought we were?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, first of all, let me say it means a lot to me and a lot of other families like mine because my parents and his parents came here from Eastern Europe during the pogroms, fleeing this kind of stuff. Their home was blown up. They were the subject of persecution and violence.

And they came to America because America was a refuge from that and where you could worship freely and be who you were. And so, this is a stunning thing when events like this happen. You think -- that was almost 100 years ago.

CUOMO: Yes.

AXELROD: And you would think we would not be where we are. But, you know, this -- particularly at a time when people are kind of hunkering down and there's all of this talk of the other, you know, these kinds of things activate lunatics in our society to do what we have seen. And it's deeply, deeply distressing especially because we have seen these incidents of anti-Semitism on the rise for the last coup couple of years.

CUOMO: Bill, you know, I just don't know where we go with this. I have to tell you, I'm a little shocked by the lack of shock by people. It is getting attention but not the kind of attention I would have expected in this situation, even from the president.

Is he saying the right things? Yes. But in perfunctory manner, he is largely reading somebody else's words when he is talking about unity or at least they sound that way.

And then he goes right back onto message. The media is the real enemy. My opponents are the real bad guys, us and them, invaders on the march coming from the south. He goes to it like a beat later after what we just suffered this trauma of historic proportion.

How do you make sense of it?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I mean, the president is more part of the problem than part of the solution unfortunately. You see that especially less on the anti-Semitism front, this guy was an anti-Semite and unfortunately was able to murder 11 people.

You really see it on the refugees where he and his allies on the media have been unbelievably demagogic, dehumanizing these people, referring to the invaders and using animal terminology to refer to them and whipping up fears and frenzy about a few thousand people 2,000 miles away who would presumably come and apply for refugee status and get it or not get it. Most of them probably might not get it. But it is not a crisis for this country, totally cynical attempt to use the issue for the election.

But that for me is really reprehensible. You tie it together with the anti-Semitism that's around and it is the classic sort of demagogue's message, right? They are these clever -- this is clever Zionist conspiracy of the Jews who were manipulating everything.

And Trump has dabbled on those waters in 2016 with the globalists and Hillary Clinton and talking about international finance, and so forth. So, that's the kind of clever people behind the scenes you have to fear and then there were those hordes of invaders coming in --

CUOMO: Right.

KRISTOL: -- who happened to be dark-skinned --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: His friend who were on Fox today were saying, hey, you know, we bring diseases with them that we've never even heard of.

KRISTOL: That's today. Think about that, Chris.

CUOMO: On this day, two days --

KRISTOL: Not last week when you could be glib and irresponsible in your rhetoric and you think no one's going to really going to pay a price for it. But that's today. For me, that is really terrible and it's also why what President Trump has said since the murder in Pittsburgh is so terrible.

CUOMO: Even Matt Drudge called him out for what they were doing today, Axe. You know, that's something for the right to think about.

Now, here is the bigger consideration: what do we do? What do we do and who needs to do it, Axe, in an environment like this? The need is real. The anger is real, so is the need.

Who steps up on the right? Who steps up on the left? What makes this better?

AXELROD: Well, look. First of all, we should really step back and ask why -- why is the president, why are his allies doing what they are doing? The president told us in a tweet a week or two ago that he thought this caravan issue was a great issue for Republicans. A great issue.

And so, he stepped up the rhetoric, his amen corner in the right have amplified this message and, you know, this -- we should note that this is exactly what Bowers the shooter in Pittsburgh was railing about online, about the invaders, about this caravan that was heading our way, and the Jewish refugee organization that was aiding and abetting them. This goes along with this trope on the right that somehow George Soros was funding all of this.

CUOMO: Yes.

AXELROD: But it's being done because they feel there's political reward in this, that if they push this issue, they will arouse their base and they will win. And, you know, I mean, my old fashion view is in the first instance, the thing to do is to not reward that behavior by supporting those who propagate it. And we'll see next Tuesday what happens with that. But in a larger sense, everyone needs to take a step back, every leader and say those on the Republican side and those on the right and say do we want to associate ourselves with this, knowing where it leads. And those on the left who have an impulse, not the same impulse but to react angrily, bitterly to this and it becomes a mad cycle of hatred.

CUOMO: And in truth, Bill, you're hearing Axe talk more about Trump's connections to Judaism than he is.

KRISTOL: Yes.

CUOMO: You know, you would think, especially a guy who's self- focused, I can barely get past the consanguinity in this. You know, I have brothers in law, I have nieces that have Jewish blood in their veins. I can barely get past it.

He's got a daughter who converted. He's got a son-in-law that he loves like one of his own. He's got grandchildren. You'd think that's all he would be talking about, is that these people are my people. And, by the way, even if they weren't my people, they are my people

because this is America and we will be better and here's how, here's what I will do. Here are acts big and small. Here are the words that you need to hear. Here is me owning my own card in this, I will be better therefore you must.

I don't hear any of it.

KRISTOL: Look, you know, it's not that hard. I mean, you just eloquently outlined what such a set of remarks would look like. And other presidents have made those remarks from both parties.

He is not going to. He wins. He thinks he wins by dividing. And he's got a ruthless and reckless and irresponsible in his willingness to divide in a way that I think no other president in modern times has been. I think it puts a burden on everyone else honestly to try to step up and say what he is not saying.

You know, in 1996, Pat Buchanan won New Hampshire, got some votes in the early primaries. He was running on anti-Semitic in my view, and pretty bigoted kind of campaign. He had a few delegates still at the Republican convention. Bob Dole, the nominee, stood up and didn't just say -- he didn't just not sound like Pat Buchanan. He said, if there are any bigots in this room, I don't want their votes. I don't want the support of those people.

That's what other Republicans, seems to me, need to say. It's not enough to not sound like Donald Trump. They need to repudiate this rhetoric and this kind of thinking, this kind of prejudice and this kind of bigotry.

CUOMO: Right.

KRISTOL: And other than civic leaders, I do think on the positive side, as you can say that after this terrible murder, the degree to which, you know, civic and community leaders, religious leaders would come together does show that this is a decent country. I think Donald Trump has done some damage. But thank God maybe not too much damage yet.

But, again, people do need to step -- we have to stop expecting or hoping that the president is going to change and take responsibility to all of us really.

CUOMO: Bill, David, thank you very much. I appreciate you being with us tonight.

AXELROD: Thanks, Chris.

KRISTOL: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: So, when you talk about anti-Semitism in America, one of the first people who comes to mind is Louis Farrakhan. Now, many on the left have come under fire for giving him a pass. Some sit in Congress. We're going to bring there one Democrat who did recently denounce him, Congressman Gregory Meeks. Does this fit into our understanding of what needs to change? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. Here is something that we have learned in real time: there is hate and it lurks in political extremes. Neither party can truthfully claim clean hands there.

I know you don't like when I say this -- my job not to say things that you like, all right? There are show that cater only to that. This is not one of them.

The unwillingness to outright denounce those who peddle anti-Semitism works on both sides. It's a window for the what-aboutism that corrodes our ability to discuss anything of substance. Now, for Democrats, thugs often claiming the mantle of Antifa, meetings with Louis Farrakhan, these are problems. They are.

New York Congressman Gregory Meeks knows the political calculus at play here. And he joins us on PRIME TIME.

It's good to have you.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Good to be with you.

CUOMO: Let's talk apples to apples here for a second. What we're dealing with in the country, I understand that the president is at the front of the hate parade. I feel the animus, I know what he is about. I know what he is betting on. Can't get half the country to back him on it, but I get his calculus.

What do you think needs to change overall to make the dialogue decent again, to give you guys a shot at working with the other side to do something for the rest of us?

MEEKS: I think that politically, we need to come together. I wish we were in session so that a group of us, Democrats and Republicans, could hold a joint press conference not about politics, not about elections but about the fact that we do not want hate in this country. What makes America the country that it is today that we overcome a lot of individuals, no matter what your ethnicity, no matter what your religion, no matter what your background is, to try to move forward, to become a more perfect union.

We're not there yet but we've got to say collectively that's where we want to be and acknowledge that we're not there yet, and we've got to make sure that we speak out against those that want to prevent us from being there.

CUOMO: How do you take that step of, though, saying and doing the things to reduce the heat, reduce the tension and increase the peace among the different parties and factions and get something done?

MEEKS: Let me tell you -- I would admit that it's hard to do with this president. If George Bush was the president, I think we could get it done. I could think of almost any other past president we could get it done.

So, for some of my colleagues who are Republicans, I think that they need to not think of this in political circles, because they're thinking about, we need to get the Supreme Court or we need to make sure we maintain the majority. But what's at stake now is bigger than that. It is the moral standing of our country in trying to work together so that we don't go back to some of the ugly times we've had that we try to become a more perfect union.

CUOMO: Now, full disclosure -- I have known Congressman Meeks most of my adult life. So, I know you're going to be straight with me.

I am not saying the left owns equal blame for the level of hate in our political discourse. I don't believe that. I attack false equivalencies all the time.

However, I can't get past what happened in Pittsburgh. And I do believe that we have our eyes open now to the fact that anti-Semitism is not gone. We've always known that. We know that there was an increase.

But to have the largest taking of Jewish life on American soil ever, just happened this Saturday when we thought there'd been progress, I think you've got to rethink everything. And on that level of how you gain advantage here on the left, you stepped away from Farrakhan. You said, I get the political calculus, I get that the African-Americans, that he's got a big constituency. I don't want any -- even if there's a cost. It took you a while, but you did it.

Others on the Congressional Black Caucus have not done it. The organizers, some of them, of the Women's March, met with Farrakhan. Why? The man is an anti-Semite ad that's just the truth.

MEEKS: Well, clearly, he's made anti-Semitic statements. Clearly, those statements need to be denounced. Clearly, though, you could not have the moral equivalency of what, for example, I get on my telephone in my office when I get off this show of individuals who are threatening my life, my family's life and others as what happened with the pipe bomb and clearly what took place in Pittsburgh.

So, it is talking about issues on one side and -- but talking about violence on another side. And we cannot condemn individuals who are talking about violent acts. I mean, it's hard to deal with this president when he was just a few days ago saying that it was good that a reporter was slammed by now a member of Congress.

CUOMO: Right. But I'm saying, I just -- I'm talking about in terms of high ground and leverage. The president couldn't make it any easier for you in terms of creating a chance for leverage when it comes to being decent, right? He makes that pretty easy.

We know who he's playing to. I'm not wrong when I say that Farrakhan, we make a distinction here in terms. I say he's an anti-Semite. You say he says anti-Semitic things.

You know, where you and I grew up -- MEEKS: Yes.

CUOMO: -- there's not difference between the two things (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

MEEKS: That's right.

CUOMO: You know, you are what you say to me and what you show me.

MEEKS: That's right.

CUOMO: In fact, we grew up in a time where we really didn't care what you called us, as long as you treated us the right way.

MEEKS: That's right.

CUOMO: We used to forgive a lot. Now we don't, and that's OK>

But they have not denounced Farrakhan in a way. And I'm not making what happened on Saturday about the Democrats and Farrakhan. I'm just saying, I don't know how you get the upper hand and step up and say, we're going to lead because we're not like him when you got people who meet with him, when you got the Antifa thugs that are out there that haven't really been denounced the way I would have thought, even Antifa would have want to cast those people out.

How do you claim high ground if you don't do those first steps?

MEEKS: What I claim is that, by and large, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, if you're talking about them, they have said that the statements by Farrakhan is statements that we cannot condone. They have said and moved in that direction. I agree with you that, one, you are what you say.

I say that about the president. You know, we hear what he says, you know, and he gives certain signals to certain folks. And we have got to make sure that we stand up and still same signals not given on the other side.

The only thing I keep saying is, though, I don't see the moral equivalency.

CUOMO: I haven't (ph).

MEEKS: We got to talk about that because I don't see the moral equivalency where you are talking about actually harming someone as the individuals who, as the individual who shot up the synagogue.

CUOMO: I can't fight -- I'm not fighting you on that. I'm not fighting you on that.

MEEKS: And I just don't think that you can make that equivalent. It's different. I still agree with you, that your voices have to be heard and I know that at the time there were various statements. I know several members of the Congressional Black Caucus that did stand up and make those statements against, you know, because some -- here's why you have to do it. Even though you know there are going to be some in your congressional district that's going to be upset about t.

CUOMO: Yes, they will.

MEEKS: You got to, though, stand up for what's right.

CUOMO: Yes.

MEEKS: You know, I always say that Dr. King, you know, his statement was when someone is doing something wrong, the silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people. And so, if you're a leader, in a position, then you got to step up. I think that that's what we have to do both Democrats and Republicans, left and right.

We should have the political debate because the political debate is, you know, you have different issues. But it should just be the political debate and not overstep the boundaries.

CUOMO: I hear you, and that's where I'm coming from on it. It's not about, you know, putting rocks on different parts of a scale and see which part is higher. I think it's all got to go, otherwise, we're never going to move past the place that we're in right now.

This shook me this weekend. And, look, I've seen a lot of things, Gregory, I mean, Congressman. I spent most of my time going around this world to the worst situations that humanity has to offer. I did not expect that in America in this day and age. And I don't think it's because of, you know, the death penalty, which exists on the federal level. I don't know why the president said that.

But I'm just shook. I think a lot of people are shook. We want to see better from our leaders, so I'm just talking about what can be done on both sides.

And I understand what you're saying as well. And I appreciate you coming here to have the conversation.

MEEKS: Thank you, Chris. Good being with you.

CUOMO: All right. I'll see you again, Congressman Greg Meeks.

All right. We are going to turn to another apparent hate crime in America that got less attention. We were so distracted with one extremist that there was another one that was doing horrible things and it's a story everybody should know, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: It's not just Pittsburgh. It's not just the bomber. There was another hate-filled criminal just last week in Kentucky. Another white man, history of violence, custody for shooting and killing two African-Americans at a grocery store, Kroger's.

But what he tried to do was barge into a predominantly black church and failed. And then he picked a secondary target. It's being investigated for hate crimes.

Don Lemon is here right now.

We barely had time to cover it because we were distracted by another extremist that was doing bad things in the name of hate.

LEMON: Yes, and then, now, another one. And then you have all of them in a row.

And, you know, we talked -- we messaged about it a little bit this weekend. I keep trying to point out to people and not to demonize any one group or any one ethnicity. But we keep thinking that the biggest terror threat is something else, someone people who are marching, you know, towards the border, like it's imminent.

And the last time they did this, a couple hundred people came and they -- you know, most of them did get into the country, most of them tired (ph)-- you know, got tuckered out before they made it to the border.

So, we have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them. There is no travel ban on them. There is no ban on -- you know, they had the Muslim ban. There is no white guy ban.

So, what do we do about that? And first of all, let me just say this. Maurice Stollard (ph) is the name and Vicki Jones (ph). And they have been lost in all of this. Two people who were killed on Wednesday that you talked about.

They have been lost in this, and I know that people feel that this story has not gotten enough coverage, and we will honor them tonight in our program.

But, go on, Chris. Sorry.

CUOMO: Good. No, no, no. I'm going to do it in the closing. You're making the right point, you're covering the right story and I appreciate you for that.

LEMON: All right. See you soon.

CUOMO: All right. I found something that I want you to look, and I'm going to show it to you after the break, all right? It is a point of historical comparison, but it is frighteningly familiar. And then I've got an argument for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Friends, I'm just an average American, but I'm an American American. And some of the things I see in this country of ours make my blood boil. I see people with foreign accents making all the money. I see Negroes holding jobs that belong to me and you.

I'll ask you, if we allow this thing to go on, what's going to become of us real Americans?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've heard this kind of talk before, but I never expected to hear it in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fellow seems to know what he's talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he knows all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without negroes, without any foreigners, without Catholics, without free masons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's wrong with the masons? I'm a mason.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, that fella is talking about me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that makes a difference, doesn't it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: "Don't Be a Sucker", that's the title of that movie made by the United States government in 1943.

Uncle Sam was so worried about the spread of hate for purposes of political division that they made a movie about it. Seventy-five years later today, doesn't that sound way too familiar?

We are in a bad place, and unlike other tragedies that I've lived through, it's not clear whether we will fight the actual problem. Anyway you look at it, this is really a bad time. Have you processed yet what it means that today, 2018, someone feeding off false talk about migrant invaders murdered the most Jewish people on American soil ever? What does that tell us?

The anger is real. Freedom is fragile. Unity is hard won and easily lost.

Three attacks in one week against three of the groups that Trump targets. Coincidence? Nope. Is he responsible for the crimes? No.

The men who did it own it. But he owns the fix as president, and clearly our president has no interest in that occupation.

A guy hunting Jews, another hunting blacks, the president targeting us at the same time one of his devotees sends us bombs. He never apologizes to us. He never reaches out, not once.

And this isn't ego. This isn't about us. The media is a representative of you and the president's respect for the institutions that support your democracy. He thinks the weaker everything is, the stronger he is.

He is wrong. Two reasons. One, we've always had hateful people here. When all are welcome, you get all times. Yet, today, they do seem to be newly emboldened. Three attacks in one week shows us this.

And then there's what may be contributing to their temerity -- the increase in ugliness in how our leaders speak. And, yes, I mean all of them. But more so and mainly Trump and those around him encouraging extremism, xenophobia, division, nationalism, and jingoism, which is what it really all is at its core.

He has almost an entire cable outlet committed to parroting poison about others. Today, Fox folk warning that migrants bring diseases like they were another species. They pound his message and they pound on those of us that call it out and correct it.

They get huge ratings relatively, but they should know for all their efforts, they still can't get even half the country behind them. And here's why -- MAGA, America first, enemy of the people, I am a nationalist, Trump created none of them. They all hearken back to poison that Trump is trying to remake.

It's not new. None of it is. He is trying to return to a time that passed and should stay passed. These attacks are a good reminder of what we escaped once, and we did it together, and it's a point right now that we have to gather and understand that we must ensure we never return.

And the best proof of the president's intentions is his solid resistance to doing what every other president has done in positions like this. All Pittsburgh, all the time, bringing the Jewish community close, talking about his own family that is Jewish, making gestures to opponents and supporters to be better, specifically pointing out his own role and regrets, charting a better path by initiating acts big and small to reinforce the rightness of taking this country back toward decency.

But not Trump. Not Trump. More unity. More guns. More death penalty.

FYI, the feds are prosecuting this case. There is a federal death penalty. There is nothing to bring back.

How does he not know this? It's embarrassing. In fact, all of this is.

Those Jewish people in Pittsburgh, they weren't young. Now, some say that's one reason it's not getting covered as much. There are no kids to kind of grab on everybody's heartstrings about a forfeited (ph) future.

I say losing that generation hurts worse. These are people who knew the sting of bigotry. Their families fled here. I've heard their stories my entire life.

America was seen as the safest place to be, and now, you have to wonder and they are wondering, is that still true after Saturday? It is only if we are all about keeping that promise to fight hate everywhere we see it, like the film said. Don't be a sucker. Don't forget who we are. Don't be a sucker.

Thank you for watching.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.