Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Utah Congresswoman Mia Love; Mississippi Senate Race. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 26, 2018 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with our politics lead and the scab of a state's ugly racist past being picked at before tomorrow Senate's runoff election.

This morning, outside the Mississippi state capitol in Jackson, two nooses evoking the state's horrific history of lynching were discovered hanging from trees, along with several signs, one of which said voters should elect a senator who will -- quote -- "respect lynched victims."

That's a clear reference to this video from a campaign event where the incumbent Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith said she liked one of her supporters so much -- quote -- "If he invited me to a public hanging, I would be on the front row."

Such comments have her race against former Democratic Congressman Mike Espy more competitive than expected, but President Trump dismissed the controversy as he headed to rally in the reliably red state he won by nearly 18 points.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live at the state capitol in Jackson.

And, Martin, you have been speaking to voters in Mississippi. What are they saying about it all?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends on who you talk to, of course.

This should have been a very easy race for Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in a state as red as Mississippi. But she's run into an unexpected problem, her own words.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): The race for Mississippi said wasn't supposed to be closed and it certainly wasn't supposed to be controversial.

But Republicans are now worried, as new reporting reveals more and more about Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith's past. She supported at least two efforts to elevate Mississippi's Confederate history. CNN's KFILE investigative team found she once co-sponsored a resolution that appeared to glorify the Confederate cause. And according to "The Washington Post," she backed a resolution in 2001 to rename a Mississippi highway after the president of the Confederacy, this as 2014 images emerged showing Hyde-Smith posing in a Confederate hat and holding a rifle.

During Hyde-Smith's campaigns, she remarked she would attend a public hanging if invited by a supporter.

SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI: If he invited me to a public hanging, I would be on the front row.

SAVIDGE: And seemingly endorsed voter suppression of what she called liberal college campuses.

HYDE-SMITH: So, I think that's a great idea.

SAVIDGE: She offered a partial apology for the public hanging remark.

HYDE-SMITH: For anyone that was offended for my by my comments, I certainly apologize.

SAVIDGE: But quickly added:

HYDE-SMITH: I also recognize that this comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me.

SAVIDGE: It hasn't gone over well in a state that has a history of both.

MIKE ESPY (D), MISSISSIPPI SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Someone told me that was the gift that keeps on giving.

SAVIDGE: Especially when her Democratic opponent, Mike Espy, is African-American.

Her opponent is using all of this to his advantage in television ads.

NARRATOR: So embarrassing, she'd be a disaster for Mississippi.

SAVIDGE: Companies, including Wal-Mart and Major League Baseball, have requested refunds for their contributions to the Hyde-Smith campaign, a move Espy suggests says she's bad for business.

If he wins, Espy would become Mississippi's first African-American senator since the end of the Civil War.

ESPY: I know I can't win only black votes. I tell everyone I need Republicans, I need independents, I need those who never voted before.

SAVIDGE: But Hyde-Smith is hopeful a visit from President Donald Trump is a welcome distraction as she struggles to put a series of racially charged controversies behind her.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know she apologized. And she misspoke. But I will tell you this. I have known her for a period of time now as a senator. She's been an excellent senator. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: Mike Espy is still considered to be the underdog in this race. Let's face it. It is still Mississippi, still conservative.

But even some Republicans say he could win if everything breaks his way tomorrow -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Martin Savidge, thanks so much.

I want to get your reaction, Symone, to the latest defense by the Trump team. Take a listen to Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in- law.


LARA TRUMP, DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: This is nothing new. The Democrats always scream racism at a Republican contender in any field across the country.

So this is nothing new. Listen, Cindy Hyde-Smith apologized for these remarks. And I think if you actually watch the way it happened, I think a lot was taken out of context and really blown up out of proportion.


SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one, I didn't know where Lara Trump was now moonlighting as a strategist, so welcome.


TAPPER: She works for the president's reelection.

SANDERS: Yes, interesting.

Look, I think the facts are here that the -- we have a tape. And I know that there are many folks in the Trump orbit that like to deny things that are literally on tape, but we have a tape of the current senator saying what she said about public hangings.

What we also have is her track record, where she has voted. She literally supported policies against protecting those of preexisting conditions that would really hurt people in Mississippi. So I think this defense saying that all Democrats want to do is cry racism is just not true.


These are the facts, that what she said was not just racially insensitive, as some people would like to paint it as, but it's racist. She said her daughter and she herself attended a segregationist high school that was created literally for folks who did not want their children to go to school with the black people. Those are just the facts. Sorry. TAPPER: A business owner who grew up in Mississippi wrote an op-ed in "The Jackson Free Press" describing Hyde-Smith this way -- quote -- "I don't think she is a racist in a white nationalist sense of the word. In a way, she's something worse. She's oblivious to the real-life issues of the average Mississippian and unrepentant in her ignorance."

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, "THE ATLANTIC": This election has really come down to race.

I mean, on top these comments coming from Hyde-Smith about the lynching, and then you have Democrats latching on to that and saying that they're going to bring diversity and inclusion. And that's really where this race is headed now, is looking at that as a core issue or the core point is race.

TAPPER: And, David, Mississippi hasn't elected a Democrat since '82.

Henry Barbour, who is the Republican National Committee man from his simply, put it bluntly to Politico. He said -- quote -- "We don't want to have an Alabama" -- obviously referring to Doug Jones beating Roy Moore."

Are Republicans genuinely worried about this?


There's two ways to run a race, unopposed or scared, right? That's kind of the old adage. So you got to run through the finish line no matter who you're running against. I think Senator Hyde-Smith comments are unfortunate. They were plain out dumb, right?

You don't say those things. It is not -- racially insensitive is a mild statement. But I don't think she's a racist. I think she said really some bad things that she's apologized for them. I think Symone's point, we have discussed this earlier on different shows, there have been so many charges of racism throughout the campaign and different campaigns, some justified, some warranted, some not, that it kind of -- in Republicans' ears, it kind of -- they become deaf almost a certain point, right?

In certain instances, where it may be a cry of racism or may be true racism, it's going to fall away because so many times it's been brought up in the past.


SANDERS: Can I just say something about that? The fact of the matter is that people of color in this country deal with these real realities every single day. Black and brown people...


URBAN: I'm not saying they're not.


SANDERS: But black and brown people that run campaigns, they deal with these issues. And largely they have previously been overlooked.

And so the fact that things are now coming to light, that people are willing to call a spade a spade and speak on it, I don't think Republicans get to feel some type of way because folks are pointing out the truth. I think we need to have more poignant and real conversations.

I can call out racism, but also talk about the economy and trade.


URBAN: Listen, and I agree with your point. And you're not going over the top saying she's a racist. You're saying, look, she should talk about health care, things that really matter.

And those are the things that, you know, win races, not cries of -- you know, cries of racism. The things we talk about issues, I think those sway voters much more, especially in this instance, where there are big issues on the ballot.

SANDERS: But racism, I just want to say, is an issue for some people. She's endorsed voter suppression.


URBAN: But I think you win more voters if you talk about...


SANDERS: Which voters are you trying to win, is the question.


TAPPER: Isn't the fact that Espy has been reacting a certain way, that he wouldn't be reacting if he was running for office in New York or in Pennsylvania? He'd be acting differently.


SANDERS: And I also think he is a real moderate. Espy is different than Andrew Gillum. Espy is an actual moderate, who, frankly, I don't think, has run the best campaign. I think that they have missed the opportunity to capitalize...


URBAN: When charges of racism burst onto the scene there, Andrew Gillum kind of took it back to the center, said, let's talk about issues. Very smartly played by him, I would say.

TAPPER: The thing is, though, if this does come down to race, as Priscilla said, there are more white people than black people in Mississippi.

URBAN: There are more Republicans than Democrats.


TAPPER: But it is a very racially polarized state. And blacks tend to vote Democrat and whites tend to vote Republican more starkly than in other states.


And we don't really have a good sense of what the outcome will be because Mississippi isn't a state where there's a whole lot of polling. That said, it's a red state, which is why you see someone like Lindsey Graham who just tweeted a little bit ago that Hyde-Smith is good on the military, borders, conservative judges.

He basically said, vote Republican.

TAPPER: Vote Republican, indeed.

Everyone, stick around. President Trump said that Mia Love gave him no love. But after bowing out of her midterm race earlier today, Congressman Mia Love, the first black female Republican in Congress, says she's now unleashed, untethered, unshackled.

She's going to join me next live here on THE LEAD. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Just one race is left to call to determine the final balance of power in the House of Representatives, with a race in New Mexico the last holdout.

This afternoon in Utah, incumbent Republican Congresswoman Mia Love conceded in a tightly contended House race in that deep red state. Democrat Ben McAdams won by just 700 votes, meaning Democrats have now officially picked up 38 seats in the House.

And joining me now is Republican Congresswoman Mia Love from Utah.

Congresswoman, it's great to see you again. Sorry it's under these circumstances.

I want you to take a listen to a comment President Trump made the day after the election about your race, which at the time had not even been called. Take a listen.

REP. MIA LOVE (R), UTAH: Right. Right.


TRUMP: No love. And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.


TAPPER: What did you think about that when he said that? LOVE: You know, I guess I was surprised at first, but I started

thinking about what would start that, what would spur that, the thought to make that comment.

And I guess it's what it -- it reminded me of the problem that we, as Republicans, have in terms of making sure that we're not transactional with people, that we actually build relationships.

Our policies -- the reason why I'm a Republican and Conservative is because I know these policies work. My parents came from a country where it was one dictator after another. They taught me the value of personal responsibility, fiscal discipline, limited government, they -- I mean, I got a front-row seat to seeing that actually work. And I am the first-generation American and also a member of Congress. They've gone way above and beyond their American dream.

And so, this -- you know, when we talk about policies and implementing policies, the problem that I see with Republicans and why we lose is because we've truly never take anyone home. We never -- we never take them into our hearts and that was an example of the problem there. You have -- if you think about this, my parents who are big Trump supporters, right, supported him, first, they got -- they heard the comment you know, the S-hole comment.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: When he called -- when he called Haiti a poop hole. Well, your parents are from Haiti.

LOVE: Right. Well, my parents are from Haiti. If -- I mean, you can dismiss that and say you know what, that's not -- but then, you know, here is -- you know, you've got a daughter, their daughter who is a Republican and very, very conservative and unapologetically pro-life for this comment to come out of nowhere I think is just -- we can do better than that. And that's what I was that's what I'm trying to say is that as Republicans we need to honestly help people feel like they can trust us. Be sincere, build relationships, making sure that that policies aren't just about transactions and winning a vote. It's about really doing what's right instead of what's expedient.

TAPPER: You gave a very pointed speech today. You said that come January, you're going to be unleashed, untethered, and unshackled. Do you wish that you were more outspoken during your tenure especially about President Trump? Do you think that maybe if you had been more outspoken maybe you would have won?

LOVE: Look, I -- no, I don't have any regrets. As the House of Representatives, the branch of government that's closest of people, I have people that I represent from all ends of the spectrum and it's important for me to make sure that I am considerate of their needs and their thoughts. But I believe that we have a lot of work to do as conservatives. Like I said, these policies work. They're good for people. And we want to make sure that we give people a home or make people feel like they have a home because Republicans are compassionate. I am.

The policies it's one thing, but to apply that and be engaging to where people live and where their thoughts are and what really affects their families, that to me is building a personal relationship where people can trust Republicans, they can trust and then trust the policies. And so that's where I want to get to. I want to get to the point where we actually talk about real things and let's put it out in the open. Let's be open, frank, and honest about how we feel and about the policies and how they work for people and how they don't work.

TAPPER: And one of the things you're talking about -- because I heard your speech earlier is you're talking about how -- there doesn't seem to be a home in the Republican Party right now for minority voters. Republicans are not taking minority voters into their hearts and homes. This is not obviously a new criticism of the Republican Party. It's obviously one that yeah that you and Tim Scott and Will Hurd and others don't subscribe to but do you think it's gotten worse under President Trump?

LOVE: I think -- I think we can do -- I think we can do better. It certainly doesn't help to have the president attack somebody who is you know, a member of the same party especially you know, we worked really well together in bringing Joshua Holt home and I was proud of that. That was something I can actually say thank you and work towards -- and continue to work on other things. But I think that it's still a problem. I --

TAPPER: Can I just say something. I'm sorry -- I'm sorry to interrupt but just want to --

LOVE: Yes.

TAPPER: Because you bring up Joshua Holt. Joshua Holt had been held hostage, and when President Trump did that whole thing about Mia Love, she showed me no love, bye, bye Mia or whatever. He mentioned how you had worked together on a hostage, but it was almost as though they thought I helped her with a hostage, an American hostage, therefore, she should have done X, Y, or Z or shown me more appreciation which I thought was so bizarre just because it's his job and your job to help save Americans.

LOVE: Well, I know what my job is and I have to tell you that I have no regrets. I have no regrets because Joshua is home. And I think every American out there should know that not just their president but their representative also will not forget them, will not leave them abandoned and that is -- that is my job. I wasn't looking for thank you from the whole family. I was doing what I felt I would want a representative to do if that were my child. And you see that's the difference there. I think that we could do a lot better. If we honestly take people -- take them into our hearts and make it personal.

This is not just about politics as usual. We need to turn it around and make it personal because it's certainly personal for all of the people that we represent. So I can't wait to actually get out there and talk about how we could be doing better, how to move the conservative policies forward, how to go ahead and do everything that we possibly can to make lives better for people. [16:50:24] TAPPER: So let me just ask you. This will obviously not

be your last time on the show but I want to know there are a lot of people out there who wonder what's next for you. You're still young. I mean, losing one race is not I mean, Abraham Lincoln lost a House race. I mean, like it happens. I mean, what -- are you going to run for office again or are there other things you're thinking about doing next?

LOVE: You know, I'm a very faithful person. That is going to be between you know, Heavenly Father, my family, and I'm leaving all options open. I'm just going to you know, allow myself to be -- to be a servant and to do everything I can and be an example to my kids because this has been a great experience for my children. They have seen that the world doesn't revolve around them, that they have to use their gifts and talents for the betterment of society. So that is that is part of me being an example to my children and I'm going to do everything I can to continue to serve this great country that we live in.

TAPPER: All right, well, we'll have you on again soon. Congresswoman Mia Love, Republican of Utah, thank you so much. I appreciate your being here.

LOVE: Thank you, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: Turning to our "MONEY LEAD." President Trump sending a message to General Motors after the automaker announced it was slashing its workforce in North America by 15 percent.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This country has done a lot for General Motors. You better get back in there soon. That's Ohio and you better get back in there soon. So we have a lot of pressure on them. You have senators, you have a lot of other people, a lot of pressure.


TAPPER: G.M. is also shutting down five facilities in Ontario, Canada, Michigan, Maryland, and Ohio where just last year Trump promised he would bring back those manufacturing jobs.


TRUMP: I said, those jobs have left Ohio. They're all coming back. They're all coming back. Don't move. Don't sell your house.


TAPPER: Democratic congressman Tim Ryan who represents that district released a statement today saying, "so far President Trump has been asleep at the switch and owes this community an explanation. General Motors' Mary Barra was at the White House today meeting with the President's top economic advisors they say for a previously scheduled appointment. President Trump once blamed then President Obama for Russia's

aggression in Ukraine, but with Moscow firing new shots, is the Trump approach working any better? Stay with us.


[16:55:00] TAPPER: We have breaking news in our "WORLD LEAD." Just moment ago, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the Russian aggression and called on the Kremlin to return three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors who were detained this weekend in the Kerch Strait off of Crimea. U.S. Ambassador to The United Nations Nikki Haley called the seizure an outrageous violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. But that assertiveness and outrage was not matched by the Commander in Chief. When asked this afternoon, President Trump seemed to suggest that either side could be to blame.


TRUMP: We do not like what's happening. Either way, we don't like what's happening and hopefully, it will get straightened out.


TAPPER: The Ukrainian government released this video showing what it claims is a Russian ship intentionally ramming a Ukrainian boat. CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon. And Barbara, these two countries have been in conflict since 2014 because of Russian aggression, I think it's pretty much agreed. What sparked the latest confrontation?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the timing of this over the weekend, Jake, could not be more interesting because, of course, Mr. Trump is expected perhaps to meet Vladimir Putin at the upcoming G20 Economic Summit in Buenos Aires within the coming days. This puts the two leaders back in touch and pretty much in the same place. Will President Trump directly condemn this action to Vladimir Putin, will the U.S. do anything to hold Russia accountable? Throughout the day we have seen Nikki Haley, the U.N. Ambassador, take a tough line, the Secretary of State now take a tough line, and in Europe, both the E.U. and NATO taking a very tough line on this.

And why they are doing that, this is a big concern in Eastern Europe. The Russians are expert at stirring up trouble just short of conflict really. They stir up trouble, they deescalate a situation, they upset everybody, then they withdraw. But yet they gain ground as they have in Crimea. Don't forget, it was President Trump who so strongly criticized President Obama for not doing anything when the Russians went into Crimea which is the neighborhood we're talking about. So now the ball is in Mr. Trump's court. The Russians have made their move again, and now what will the President of the United States do. Jake?

TAPPER: Barbara, quickly if you could. Could there be additional action besides the reconnaissance flights that have been proposed?

STARR: We are seeing those reconnaissance flights by the navy and air force. They're collecting intelligence, trying to determine what both sides are up to. But we are told that's about as far as it's going to go right now. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks so much. You can follow me on Facebook or at Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.