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One Killed In Shooting At California Synagogue, 19-Year-Old In Custody; Trump Defends Charlottesville Remarks: Robert E. Lee "Great"; Obama Speaks At Mandela Event In Rare Public Remarks. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 27, 2019 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: We do have breaking news out of California for you. Today is the last day of Passover and, at the same time, shortly before noon local time, just north of San Diego, police say a 19-year-old man entered the congregation Chabad Synagogue and began shooting. Police confirm one person was killed, three others are injured in what the mayor there is calling a hate crime. The suspect, himself, then called 911. He identified himself to police and he surrendered. The mayor of Poway, where this happened, said that, despite the horror, his town will stay strong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR STEVE VAUS, POWAY, CALIFORNIA: I want you to know, this is not Poway. The Poway I know comes together, as we did just a few weeks ago at an interfaith event. We always walk with our arms around each other, and we will walk through this tragedy with our arms around each other.

We have deep appreciation for those who showed courage at the Chabad, deep appreciation for the law enforcement agencies that responded so quickly. We will get through this. Our thoughts and prayers will be with the families and those who are investigating. Poway will stay strong. And we will always be a community that cares for one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And Alisyn and I are here in Washington, D.C. for the White House Correspondents' dinner. And there's been lots of reaction here from politicians as well as across the country. And we'll get to some of that a little bit later on.

But right now, we want to get to our Sara Sidner, our National Correspondent who is on the scene. Sara, we spoke to you just a short time ago. What else can you tell us about what happened?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, we were talking to neighbors here in this neighborhood. And just over my right shoulder, you will see the Chabad Community Center here in this community, in Poway. And that is where the synagogue is. Just next to that, there are churches, one after the other. This is a community, and you heard the mayor talking there, that has quite a number of different people from different faiths all living in one place, having interfaith meetings. People here accept one another. And that was one of the things that the neighbors wanted us to get across to those who don't know anything about Poway, California.

We should also mention that this was the last day of Passover and on this day, a day of prayer, memorial prayer, called Usecore (ph), they're recited for departed relatives. And that's why this particular synagogue, and many others, would've been filled with people to celebrate and commemorate and honor their fallen relatives. Relatives who had passed away and the prayers are for them.

And it is just so horrible that on this day, the 19-year-old suspect came into the synagogue and began shooting. He killed one woman. He injured three other people. One of them a girl, two adult males.

I'll give you a look at the scene at this time and you will see there the Chabad Community Center. As we -- as we talk here, you know, there are people that have been coming up with bouquets. There are neighbors coming up wondering what happened. There are other neighbors saying they heard shot after shot after shot, at least a dozen shots, according to one of the neighbors who was here.

We should also mention how this all ended and ended fairly quickly. There was an off-duty officer who was -- who was inside of the synagogue. That U.S. border patrol agent had his weapon with him. He engaged the shooter and was able to hit the shooter's car. The shooter began to run, got in the vehicle. And the vehicle and the description was all given out to law enforcement. And, low and behold, a San Diego police officer was able to capture him. There was no incident.

And when he got there, he says he saw the bullet hole, according to the sheriff, in the front of the vehicle and he saw an assault-style rifle sitting on the front seat next to him.

[20:05:07] Of course, police are saying they believe that is likely the weapon that was used to gun down people as they prayed. What is so difficult for so many people here is, one, it's kind of created a state of shock.

This is not something they could have imagined would have happened in their community. But this also has happened six months to the day that the worst anti-Semitic attack on American soil happened, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the Tree of Life Synagogue. I was there that day. I was there in the aftermath, to watch people have to bury their loved ones after that tragedy.

And now, here we are, all the way across the coast, in California. And there is another similar tragedy. And it's on the last day of Passover. So much pain here. So many people trying to come together and figure out what to do, how to help one another.

But, in the end, this has happened, yet again, and people just want it to stop -- Don.

LEMON: We've been talking about the rash of incidents and how -- what the statistics show about how it's increasing from 2016 to 2017. So, let's talk -- let's continue to talk about this. Because just within the past six months, Sara, these are some of the places of worship --

SIDNER: Yes, I mean --

LEMON: -- that where -- where it's happened. Let me just name them, and then you can jump here. You mentioned the Tree of Life Synagogue. That was in Pittsburgh. Shootings at the mosque, at Christ Church in New Zealand, the attacks at Christians in Sri Lanka, the burning of the black churches in Louisiana which, really, did not get enough national attention and attention from our politicians, including the president of the United States, churches set fire in Pennsylvania. It is just really unbelievable what is happening. How is this community reacting there?

SIDNER: They're stunned. I mean, even though, you know, the numbers bear out. They have seen the numbers. A lot of folks know that the FBI statistics have shown that hate crimes have spiked 17 percent. And when it comes to anti-Sematic crimes, those have spikes 37 percent, according to the FBI, the latest numbers coming out. That's between 2016 and 2017.

So, as you might imagine, when you have a spike in numbers, you have more incidents. That's just the way statistics work.

But the bottom line is, no one ever thinks it's going to happen to them, A. And, B, when it does, the devastation is felt so deeply and there's -- it's so shocking, so painful that, a lot of times, they just don't know what to do.

LEMON: Sara, I'm sorry to cut you off. We've got to get to the press conference that's starting now. Let's listen in.

SIDNER: Sure. Sure.

SHERIFF WILLIAM GORE, SAN DIEGO COUNTY (live): The suspect has been widely reported and we identified the suspect as John Earnest. Date of birth 6-8-1999. Age 19. He's a San Diego resident. And, as best we can tell, he had no prior arrest records in San Diego.

We're currently preparing search warrants, which is a timely process, for the residence, Earnest residence, for the vehicle, and for the mosque in Poway. Pardon me, for the synagogue in Poway. We are collecting digital evidence, and we're aware of his manifesto, which we're in the process of reviewing to determine its validity and authenticity.

As you know, one person tragically died in the shooting today. And an update on the other victims. One has currently gone into surgery. The adult male, one adult male, is in stable condition at the -- at the hospital. And the juvenile has been in stable condition, is being -- she's been transported to Rady Children's Hospital. We're currently working with the Escondido Police Department and the FBI to determine Earnest's possible involvement in the arson at the mosque in Escondido about a month ago. And the additional -- the San Diego Sheriffs Department and the San Diego Police Department are conducting additional patrols at houses of worship throughout San Diego County.

As I stated before, the Antidefamation League is offering crisis trauma counseling at Poway High School. And there's also a county crisis line that's available to anybody that needs their services. That's 888-724-7240. That's 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We urge everyone to stay vigilant and report any unusual circumstances to 911. And I guarantee you they will be promptly investigated and responded to.

We're lucky, in San Diego County, to have the coop -- kind of cooperation we do. Just a few of the agencies that have been working on this case so far, the -- with the Sheriff's Department, the San Diego Police Department, San Diego Fire, San Diego FBI, California Highway Patrol, Escondido Police Department, ATF, California Office of Emergency Services, and the U.S. Border Patrol.

[20:10:12] Also with me today, again, is Mayor Steve Vaus of Poway and the acting special agent in charge of the FBI locally, Susannah Turner, and, behind me, Congressman Scott Peters. We'd be happy to answer any questions you have at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, could you identify him, again, please, for us?

GORE: His name is John Earnest. Date of birth 6-8-1999. He's 19 years old. And, as far as we can tell, he's had no prior contact with law enforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it looks like you said that he could be behind this mosque burning at the --

GORE: We're looking at the possibility of his involvement in the mosque burning in Escondido back a month ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What (INAUDIBLE) is that?

GORE: Well, some of the digital evidence that we're reviewing right now. I can't go into any more detail on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know what kind of a gun or rifle or anything that was used in it?

GORE: As far as I can tell right now, it's an assault-type rifle, AR- 15 type rifle. I don't have the specifics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, insisting (?) that that's stated as a hate crime, at this point?

GORE: Well, it's -- clearly, it's being investigated as a homicide. But we're also looking at the hate crime possible violation as well as federal civil rights violations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he say anything while he was arrested?

GORE: I'm not going to go into that now. He'll be -- he's being thoroughly interviewed by homicide detectives and FBI agents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there any leads (INAUDIBLE)?

GORE: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there any leads on what (INAUDIBLE)?

GORE: We don't, right now, have any connection between Mr. Earnest to any white supremacist groups.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he have any run-ins with the police prior to today?

GORE: We have no record of police contact prior to today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a report that someone had saw his (INAUDIBLE) in contact with the FBI. Can you address that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether the FBI was contacted by anyone. I saw something (INAUDIBLE.)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prior to? I'm not aware of any, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're also hearing that he attempted to live stream the attack but something happened. Can you confirm that may have happened?

GORE: I can't confirm that right now, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, do you know if any explosives were found inside?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, do you have the last (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know if any explosives were found inside?

GORE: To this point, no explosives have been found at the synagogue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And are dozens still inside Chabad right now and being questioned?

GORE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the rifle the only weapon confiscated?

GORE: As far as I know, yes, that's correct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was there any exchange of gunfire during his arrest? GORE: No, there was not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, earlier, you were mentioning there were about 100 people that investigators still intend to talk to.

GORE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have they been spoken to or what's the status (INAUDIBLE)?

GORE: No, the status of the witnesses, they are still at the -- my understanding is they are at the rabbi's house behind the synagogue, waiting to be contacted by FBI agents and deputy sheriffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you like to say to this congregation. Since tomorrow is Sunday, typically, there is Hebrew school at most synagogues. Is that going to go on tomorrow or should people stay away from the area (INAUDIBLE)?

GORE: I would refer that to the synagogue. I don't know what their immediate plans will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, --

GORE: As far as -- we will have extra patrols in the area, as will San Diego Police Department, around most of our house of worship in San Diego County. Hopefully nobody will try to copycat this tragic event here that took place in Poway today.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- during the incident?

GORE: Yes. My understanding is that the rabbi was one of the individuals that was injured in this shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, can you -- sorry. Can you elaborate, please, on whatever interventions happened which may have saved lives by our (ph) assault process?

GORE: Well, as I stated before, there was a border patrol officer off-duty at the -- at the synagogue. And as the -- Earnest was leaving the facility, he obtained a weapon and engaged in gunfire and shot at Earnest. Did not hit him. But there was -- it appears that he did make -- did put some bullet holes in the car that Earnest was driving.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And at what capacity? Was he here as a congregant or as security?

GORE: As a security guard, I believe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sheriff, what can you tell us about the (INAUDIBLE) of how many shots did (INAUDIBLE)?

GORE: I don't have those details. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, last question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, as far as the way this ended, you know, the fact that he left, at some point. Did he leave because of the response from the CPB officer saw him (INAUDIBLE)?

GORE: We're not sure. A lot of this will be developed during the investigation. There's indications that his gun may have malfunctioned after firing numerous rounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff, what can you tell the community about this sense of fear at this moment in the whole county?

[20:15:00] GORE: Well, I think we've seen these tragic events all over the United States. And all I can tell the people out there that see this on their T.V. is that your law enforcement agencies, federal, state and local and San Diego County, are vigilant. And we will provide the type of security, hopefully, that will prevent this from happening in the future.

But, sadly, we're seeing this happen all too often around our country. And it's tragic, especially when it happens here in our own backyard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, do you have any other. Well, we're putting updates through the Sheriff's communication center and through a media release if anything else breaks during this investigation. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, to recap, this was the press conference that we have been waiting for for hours, frankly, to hear where the investigation is in Poway, California, after the shooting there at the Chabad Synagogue.

So, that was the sheriff there. And he was just talking about the suspect, 19 years old, a white man. He -- there was a reporting earlier that there was an open letter, perhaps online. But what that, the sheriff just called it, was a manifesto.

We've seen this before from homicidal maniacs. They put out these manifestos on their belief system. Obviously, we'll talk to our law enforcement analyst about how helpful those things are or if they're just the rantings of lunatics.

But they also talked about how that security guard, who was there, --

LEMON: Off duty.

CAMEROTA: -- who was also an off-duty border patrol, was able to stop him by shooting at his getaway car.

LEMON: That was Sheriff William Gore of the San Diego Sheriff's Department. Again, he said that what they're working on, they're trying to collect digital evidence. And also, they have gotten search warrants for his home, for his vehicle, I should say, and for the synagogue. And they were preparing for that.

He said there was one person who died. We knew about that earlier. One person is still in surgery. There is a male person who is in stable condition, the juvenile who's also a --

CAMEROTA: Possibly the rabbi.

LEMON: Yes, possibly the rabbi in stable condition.

There are witnesses who are still at the rabbi's house behind the synagogue. They're awaiting word from, we've heard, FBI agents and other people to interview, so that they can get their witness accounts of what's going on.

But, again, he said that they engaged -- he believes that somehow, or maybe he had the weapon on him, the off-duty border patrol agent who was working, according to the sheriff, as a -- as a security guard, got ahold of a gun. They exchanged gunfire. Did not hit the suspect. But was able to put bullet holes in the -- in the car. And I would imagine in his vehicle, slow him down, in some way. Also -- because this could have been much worse. They also believe his gun malfunctioned during this.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, with all of this new information, we want to bring in now Josh Campbell. He, of course, is a former FBI supervisory special agent, and our CNN Law Enforcement Analyst.

LEMON: One thing -- one thing which is very important, too, before we get to Josh. They said that they believe that he may have been responsible for a mosque burning one month ago --

CAMEROTA: Yes. That was an important development, right.

LEMON: -- in the community. Sorry to interrupt.

CAMEROTA: So, Josh, what jumped at you from what the sheriff just said?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. So, I'll start with that. There was a mosque (ph) there in Escondido that was the subject of what authorities call are -- of what they believe to be arson. That was just about a month ago.

So, it's interesting that the sheriff there alluded to some type of digital piece of evidence that, may in their mind, allowed -- lead them to or continue to investigate to see if there's an investigation there. That -- according to our reporting, at that point, that had to do with someone who was referencing the previous New Zealand mosque shootings which we know that we've reported on. And so, we'll have to wait and see whether there is actually a connection here.

A couple of things stood out from that press conference, the first of which being one the question we always have after these incidents, is this someone who was previously known to law enforcement? Did they have a prior conviction record? Were they on the radar? We're told from authorities, that both the sheriff and the FBI assistant special agent in charge are saying that they weren't -- there were no priors. So, that is -- that is of interest.

What we still don't yet know is the circumstance surrounding why the person actually fled. Now, we know that the border patrol officer fired on the subject. It will be interesting for us to find out whether or not, as the sheriff alluded to there, perhaps the subject's gun had jammed and then he made his exit.

What I have to say is very surprising, and we've been covering this for several hours now, was that we've seen different conclusions to these types of incidents. Where a subject is either engaged by law enforcement or turns the weapon on himself. The fact that this person surrendered, essentially, and was allowed -- allowed himself to be taken into custody is a good conclusion. And now, we'll have to wait and see what information he actually provides to law enforcement as they try to dig into his motive.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And, Josh, when you heard the sheriff say that they found this manifesto, is that helpful to you, as law enforcement? When you hear the rantings or read the rantings of somebody, how does that further your investigation?

CAMPBELL: Yes, it's helpful for all of us. First, to get into the mindset of this person to try to figure out what is making this person tick? What is it about this person that we can see and compare to other incidents in the past? And, again, the goal is always to try to figure out, how do we stop these from happening again? And one key way to do that is to help get in that mindset.

Now, from a legal standpoint, this will help build the case for prosecutors, as far as whether they make the decision to actually charge him with a hate crime, based on his previous rantings and musings.

[20:20:07] Again, trying to get in his state of mind. Did he go there with the intent to cause hate? Which it appears that, you know, that's the case based on the location and what's in this manifesto. But that will be for prosecutors to actually use in a court of law to try to charge him, under a federal hate crime statute, if that's what they end up doing.

LEMON: Sara Sidner is joining us now from the scene there. Sara, the sheriff mentioned all the different law enforcement agencies who are there. And I want to say this because I just want to get a sense of what's going on in the community. Also, saying that there would be extra patrols in the San Diego areas for synagogues and mosques and so on. Saying that the ADL is offering help. They've offered a hotline. These -- they're asking people to stay vigilant and to report anything that they think is unusual.

SIDNER: Yes. I mean, you know, the ADL has been warning, for a very long time, that that they have been watching so many of these incidents, not just hate crimes, but other kind of anti-Semitic incidents happening. Where people are doing things, like scribbling all kinds of anti-Semitic things on synagogues or even on playgrounds.

And this is just another terrible number that goes into those statistics. The FBI saying that hate crimes up, for anti-Semitic hate crimes, 37 percent, overall 17 percent rise in hate crimes. Those are the latest numbers. This is another devastating, deadly attack on people who were worshipping.

We keep seeing this, again and again and again and again. It is one of those things, I think, that communities can't fathom until it happens to them. But they see it and they suffer, watching it happen in other communities. And then, when it happens in their own, there is always a sense of feeling stunned, of feeling shocked, of feeling like they don't know what to do. And that is exactly what is happening here.

One thing they do know is they want to come together. They want to honor the person who died. They want to be here for those who suffered inside of that synagogue. You have both those who have physical wounds and those who have emotional wounds.

I think it is significant that we -- because of the quick action of an off-duty border patrol agent, who had -- happened to be armed there in the synagogue. He engaged the shooter. The shooter fled. Got into his car. And then, he was quickly caught onto by a San Diego Police Department officer, who was able to apprehend him, peacefully.

He noticed what he said was an assault-style rifle that was in his car, on the front seat of his car. But he was able to apprehend this 19-year-old. They have named him. I am not going to say his name because what is more important is when we learn the names of the victims who have suffered so needlessly as they tried to pray.

I should also mention that this was the last day of Passover and one of the reasons why the synagogue may have been filled with people. They were there to honor their relatives who had died. It is a specific day set aside for that very thing.

And here they are, honoring those and remembering those and mourning those who have died and celebrating those who have died. And then, someone in their midst, while they're doing that, ends up being killed at the hands of someone who appeared to be filled with hatred. It is hard to take, Don.

I was in Pittsburgh the day that it happened. And seeing this again in this community is just -- it leaves an even larger hole in my heart. And I can't imagine what these families are going through on this last day of Passover -- Don.

LEMON: Very well-said. And, you know, listen, as you were speaking there, Sara, we saw the makeshift memorials that people are setting up, sending, putting -- placing cards and flowers near the synagogue. And one of them is a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the saying, darkness cannot drive out darkness. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.

And we certainly could use a lot of love in this country right now and unity. And those live pictures, or those pictures I should say, are up now. And I would imagine that people are reaching out in this community, as you were there watching. This is horrific. Tell us about that.

SIDNER: People are coming up, they have arms full of flowers. Somebody had what looked like something that you would use for a funeral. They went to get it. It was a huge heart made of flowers. There is a sense that there is something that you can do.

And if it's one small offering, bringing a card, calling a neighbor, talking to someone on the street, that's what's happening here in this community of Poway. A lot of people trying to figure out what they can do to try and start the healing process, even so soon after all of this has happened.

We also know that in the Jewish faith that burial is supposed to come within 24 hours of a death. And, oftentimes, one of the things that makes this so difficult is that often can't happen because you have -- law enforcement has to be involved and they often have to do autopsies. And they have to try and make sure that they have all the evidence they need, especially in a case where they have captured a suspect alive. And that there will be a trial, and there needs to be evidence.

[20:25:10] So, all of this making this even harder for the Jewish faithful, and for their neighbors, and for their friends, and for their family members. And there are so many people. You know, it's like you drop a pebble in the water and you see all those waves. That's the effect this has for each and every person that was inside that synagogue.

Someone else is going to be feeling grief today. There were some 100 or so people inside the synagogue. We know that they are being interviewed by investigators and having to tell what they saw, and tell what they witnessed, and relive that horror. And they'll have to do it again and again.

LEMON: Sara, we have to get to the president.

SIDNER: And knowing crime scenes, this is devastating.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (live): Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded, and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate which must be defeated. It just happened. Must be defeated.

And we are grateful to the law enforcement personnel for their courageous response. Incredible response today by law enforcement. And I especially want to recognize a certain off-duty border patrol agent who bravely returned fire and helped disrupt the attack and saved so many lives. Border patrol.

And I also want to thank Mayor Steve Vaus. Had a great conversation. And Governor Gavin Newsom. Had a great conversation. And we stand together. We will all get to the bottom of it. We're going to get to the bottom of a lot of things happening in our country.

Together, we are building a new chapter of American greatness, one founded on the idea that all --

LEMON: That is the president speaking at Green Bay, Wisconsin at a planned rally that he had before this. Earlier speaking and sating that he -- that folks had been waiting so he felt committed and obligated to go on, even with what's happening in California at the synagogue. The president saying that he condemns anti-Semitism and hate and that it must be defeated. And he also praised law enforcement and the off-duty patrol agent who helped in this situation there. And saying that we're going to get to the bottom of this.

CAMEROTA: He said, we're going to get to a lot -- the bottom of a lot of things in this country. But he did begin the whole thing by saying we stand with the Jewish community. And, obviously, that -- those words are comforting to all of the people who are really struggling and suffering today.

You know, I just want to say, it's six months to the day since the Tree of life Synagogue massacre. And I just heard from Rabbi Jeffrey Myers who was there. And he said that he feels shaken, sick, and resolved to soldier on. And that is how so many of the people, I can tell you, in Squirrel Hill felt after the horror that they lived through there.

LEMON: Let's bring in some folks to help us out in this situation and as well as other news that we are covering here. And I'm going to start with Rick Wilson as he is a Republican Strategist. Rob Astorino is a member of Trump's 2020 reelect advisory council, a CNN Political Commentator. Mia Love is a CNN Political Commentator, and a former representative from Utah.

Also, CNN Political Commentator Ana Navarro, CNN Political Commentator, and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Miss Angela Rye. And also, CNN Political Commentator Mary Katharine Ham. And Lisa Lerer of "The New York Times," their National Political Reporter. Saved you for last to react to the situation that's going on there and the president's words.

LISA LERER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think the president is saying what people expect to hear from their president. But it is a little -- you have to take these words with a little bit of a grain of salt, because those who watched his presidential campaign remember how he played with the anti-Semitic tropes. I remember being on this very channel and talking about how he was ending his campaign with an ad that talked about bankers, rich bankers, which is a classic trope used by anti-Semites.

So, I do think, although the president is giving the words now that I think the country wants to hear, he hasn't always been in the right place when it comes to these issues.

LEMON: And he responded pretty quickly today to this issue. And I'm just wondering what was behind that? He doesn't usually respond that quickly, if at all, to issues of hate and terror in the country. But, today, he responded quickly. I'm not sure what is the reasoning behind that. But I'm -- we should discuss that.

[20:30:08] CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, Rob, your thoughts on what the president's words are and if they go far enough today. ROB ASTORINO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think we're all just learning about this, so we should let law enforcement do what they're going to do. Find out more about this person. This person doesn't represent any part of any party. This person represents the worst of humanity. And that's how we should look at this. But I do think, you know, Don, he did, when Pittsburgh happened, the President did speak.

He did visit Pittsburgh. And I do think it's appropriate, even though it's a political rally.

LEMON: It's a political rally.

ASTORINO: No. Even though he's at a political rally --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: He held a rally that one -- that time too.

ASTORINO: What's that?

LEMON: He held a rally that time.

ASTORINO: Well, I'm saying tonight, even though he's at his own political rally, I think it was important that he set the tone right off the bat and tell everyone that this unacceptable.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I wonder --

LEMON: Get in.

RYE: I just -- I wonder how much easier it would be for the President to set a tone if he just would maintain that tone. We talked already about Lisa, the way that he campaigned. And I think at a time like this, we of course want to be united, of course we desire to be hopeful and to be supportive of allies and friends that I'm sure many of us all have. But it is very, very tricky to follow the tone of someone who, you know, regularly traffics in racism and fear-mongering and anti-immigrant sentiment and all types of ways to further divide this country. So I hope that this moment is one that he uses to reset period, not just when tragedy strikes.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let me just -- so this is tough because you, you know, you have a death here and you have people who are injured. We could have had more deaths. We want to give -- on one hand you want to give the President his due. But when you consider the language that we have been discussing over the last a couple of days especially with Joe Biden getting into the race, what the President has said, making excuses, revisionist history about what happened in Charlottesville and on and on.

One has to wonder as a thinking, rational person, if he means those words and if they ring hollow to Americans who have been looking for him to say those things and stay the course as Angela has said, instead of trafficking in bigotry, in racism, in anti-semitism, in hate, and making excuses for us. I want to believe it. I want to believe it. But I sat in this very seat last night and gave a blow- by-blow explanation of why his revision of history -- raviolis history of what happened in Charlottesville and what he said afterwards, why it was a total lie.

So how do we reconcile that as Americans? I'm going to be real here, I'm not going to sit here and pretend, oh, what do you have to say? What do you have to say, oh, let's hear the President. I'm going to be real. How do you believe him? What should we believe?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You don't believe him. Look, and like everything right now, the people who support him are going to --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: No, we're not going to allow making excuses on this network for you.

NAVARRO: And the people who don't support him can hear through the hollowness of his words. Because we're not talking about two years ago or the campaign. We're talking about two days ago when he was relitigating Charlottesville.

LEMON: Yesterday.

NAVARRO: And we all saw neo-Nazis with tiki torches chanting, Jews will not replace us, Jews will not replace us. It was precisely about anti-semitism. We all saw and we all know that he didn't say a word about the black churches. We all know that he didn't say a word condemning Steve King, the congressman from Iowa. So it's time after time after time after time. No. We don't have to --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You want to believe it. You want to. You want to but --

RYE: We need to. But I don't know that we can.

LEMON: Yes.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I find this whole thing incredibly interesting because, on one hand, we -- these are times that we want to gather together as Americans and just hold each other up. You know, we -- this was an attack not just on the synagogue but against us and what we believe in as Americans. And you do want to believe those things. And I would -- I do have to say, I was actually in Nevada during the Republican-Jewish coalition where he was talking about anti-semitism and he was talking about, you know, making sure that we end that in this country.

But one of the things I would still like to hear him say is to condemn white supremacy. And even in this -- in this speech and in this rally, that would have been -- that would have been something else, to say, hey, we're going to stand against this but we're standing against all of these -- all of these -- the people that stand for hate. And so I think that for us to heal as a country, we have to not just say things but actually follow them up with action and then continue to do that and be able to learn to trust each other again and stand up with each other. And I think that that's what we're struggling with.

LEMON: Go ahead, Rick.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, I think this is one of those examples where as much as, you know, I'm known as being a smartass about Donald Trump, I'm just really sad, because this is a man who cannot hear the better angels.

[20:35:03] He cannot hear that steering voice that people get sometimes when they say, I've got to change the way that I've acted and that I behaved and that has led this country into this incredible stew of racial tension and animus that, you know, guys like this 19- year-old idiot go online and go on 8chan and they become indoctrinated. These guys are -- these guys are, you know, they're citronella ISIS.

They're out there, the same kind of radicalization is happening. It happens in part because there's a climate set at the top of unbelievable, constant lies and hostility and division in this country, not only as policy, but has -- with his affect. And like I said, so it's tempting for me to make, you know, some smart remark about the President. But there is -- there is no better version of Donald Trump.

We cannot hope for a better version of this man from what we've seen so far. He read words off a prompter tonight that Kellyanne Conway wrote. Those weren't Donald Trump's words. I can hear a speechwriter when Donald Trump is talking.

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: You know, I think -- I think that this feeding into it again though. I really do. I think that there's got to be some point where we say, hey, I'm not going to the President to decide how I'm going to behave.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But how awful it that and we can't look to our president to be the -- to be the leader. You know, but listen --

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: I don't want my children looking to the President. I want them looking -- but you know what, that's got to be a time where you sit there because if we are all setting our examples by one person, then I believe that we're going to be doomed. We cannot do that.

RYE: Our reality is that the President is the Commander-in-Chief. Unfortunately for us, that is a weighty title with a lot of responsibility. And the reality of it is, if you can't look to the person who was elected in this role as the highest executive in the land -- LOVE: We do look to leaders, let's be honest.

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: Let's be honest. We do like leaders, we're inspired by leaders. I think -- but whether it's the Dalai Lama or Donald Trump. I'm not saying he's my leader but there are people who look to him and I think we can look to all of the examples of hate crimes and hate incidents --

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: You're not looking to the President, you -- I know you're not looking not --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: But I say there are people who do.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, I am -- I'm looking to the President. I don't mean this president. But I am. I am. This is America. This is the -- this is the -- this is the highest job in the land. This is what people grow up aspiring me. When you ask young kids in school, what do you want to grow up to be, what do they say? I'm going to grow up to be president, or I'm going to grow up to be an astronaut. Most of the time they say I'm going to grow up to be president.

And so if that is something that's aspirational, then why shouldn't that person exhibit the best behavior of the society? Mary Katharine Ham -- listen, I'm being honest. Help me. Help me feel better about what the president said. He did say the right words but you have to wonder, does he mean those words? Is he going to stick to that? Is he going to be the leader that brings us together because we do need unity.

MARY KATHERINE HAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He doesn't often stick with one thing for very long. But look, this is an incredibly dark moment and it's a horrific attack that thankfully seems to have been cut short by somebody who was there and was ready to take action. And so I appreciate that. But we are -- we're talking about the words he said almost as if he said the wrong words. And in this moment, he did --

LEMON: No, he said the right words.

HAM: I know but we -- the way we're reacting to it is as if he said the wrong words. And I under -- I share the skepticism of Trump's motives and words with many of you. But in this moment I will appreciate the fact that he took the moment not to repeat one of his worst moments, post-Charlottesville which improbably compounded the pain of a terrible incident. And in this moment he did not do that. And so yes, sometimes we wish -- and that's okay.

(CROSSTALK) NAVARRO: He did it in the last 24 hours compounding the pain and the

division of Charlottesville. And he did it not only relitigating Charlottesville because of Joe Biden, he did it by tweeting at the number two NFL draft choice. I can't even believe I'm talking about the NFL draft, you know I know nothing about it. But I know enough to know that he said nothing about the number one choice who is a black man going to the Arizona Cardinals who had supported Kaepernick, and yet he found the time to tweet, congratulations to the number choice who follow white supremacist.

LEMON: Who is anti --

(CROSSTALK)

LERER: But I think Mary Katharine makes a good point where you do have to wonder what the President could possibly do. I mean, we all know what the right words are and we know that he said them. But he is so divisive. And we are seeing the polling that views around are fairly hardened on both parties, and even among independents at this point, two plus years in. And you have to wonder what it would take, what he would have to do.

RYE: Consistently.

LERER: Consistency but then there would be -- consistency does not feel like it's --

(CROSSTALK)

LERER: It's not his jam.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let me ask Rob Astorino because Rob, you're the supporter here and, you know, it's tough, you know, you sit here and you feel like you get, you know, whatever, but I mean, listen, this is just -- this is -- this is how the country feels.

[20:40:07] This is a group of very diverse people. You have Republicans, Democrats, Independents, all sitting here, almost saying the same thing like -- and you have me, and I criticize but it is my -- it is my job to criticize whoever is in -- whoever is in power. And I'm saying help me. And she's saying, what does the President have to do? And surely you cannot make excuses over the last years that President Trump or that Trump has been in the public sphere as a politician.

Some of the horrible things that he said and the tone deafness of what he said and the racist and all of that stuff. What would you like to see from him?

ASTORINO: I sat on your show one night, you asked me, I was -- I feel what the question was but I said there are nights, there are days when he makes me cringe, when he says things that I'm like, that is awful. And I don't think he thinks first. And the weight of his words, and he just says things, and that gets back to his prior career as an entertainer. And where he just wants to fill the void and, you know, be the center of attention and say outrageous things but he's got a different role now.

And there's a lot of us that -- a lot of supporters that feel that way. And so, you know, the Charlottesville thing, neither I nor anyone is going to sit there and try to paper that over. That was terrible.

LEMON: But there are lot of people who are. He even did it yesterday. And we know it's a lie. And you know how I know it was a lie? Because if he had actually meant that, he would have said it then. Yesterday was the first time he used that excuse because his apologists online and some of them who come on cable television, came up with this excuse about what it was, not realizing what the rally was intended for.

Who made the applications for the rally? What the history of Robert E. Lee is. To say that, OK, I didn't mean to say that. Use Robert E. Lee as an example of what is great about this country, when Robert E. Lee was a traitor, Robert E. Lee was going against this country. And he said he liked heroes who were not captured. Robert E. Lee was captured. Go on.

ASTORINO: No, what Ana was talking about, Kaepernick, that's a whole other subject that people can have an honest disagreement about Kaepernick. I don't disagree with his right to speak up. I disagree with where and how he did it at a football game at his place of employment. He did it outside the stadium. So, you know, I don't want this nexus to be, because yesterday, the guy who was the second- round pick from Ohio State was a Trump supporter. He was a trump supporter. Outward.

And then he had to scrub his stuff because he was going to San Francisco and he was afraid to get backlash.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: I don't think we should make it seem like he's a victim. Not only does he follow white supremacists.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: No, yes, he did because he liked tweets that included the N word.

LEMON: No, no, I'm saying Trump probably didn't --

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: It doesn't matter because the coincidences are consistent, going back to a word that should apply in a different complex about someone demonstrating leadership capabilities and capacities somehow. What he -- where he is consistent is in supporting racists. Where he is consistent is in supporting bigotry. Where he's consistent is saying he wants to win and we're number one but skipping right over the number one black draft pick to go to the number two one who happened to be going to the San Francisco 49ers, who happened not to renew Colin Kaepernick's contract who happened to be protesting because black lives matter should matter in this country.

This is not a matter of where he chose to protest and how. This is about the fact that black lives should matter at work, they should matter at school, they should matter at our churches, they should matter on this network. I can't even believe this is a real conversation about disagreement about Colin Kaepernick. The guy is a bigot.

(CROSSTALK)

ASTORINO: The point I'm making is, when Trump said don't back down, it was, if you have your beliefs -- not the white supremacist stuff, he didn't know that, I didn't know that. You think San Francisco knew that too? They wouldn't have -- I don't think San Francisco would have know that as a President.

(CROSSTALK)

ASTORINO: 49ers wouldn't have drafted that they thought was a white supremacist.

RYE: Are you kidding? They didn't renew a contract for someone who wanted to support the lives of black people in this country.

ASTORINO: The 49ers would not have taken the number one -- the number two pick out of Ohio state if they thought he was a white supremacist.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Yes, they would.

(CROSSTALK)

RYE: You don't think there was a thumb in the eye to Collin to sign this guy? Are you kidding?

(CROSSTALK)

ASTORINO: He's saying, don't back down, and what he's talking to Americans, if you have a belief, don't back down. This gets into P.C. play.

RYE: But if you have a belief that that's dangerous, if you have a believe that it's violent --

(CROSSTALK)

ASTORINO: Not the white supremacist stuff. Nobody is -- I'm not saying that.

LEMON: You guys stand by. Listen, we -- the -- we want to focus on what happened at the synagogue.

[20:45:04] There's a person who's dead. Those other conversations we'll get to, when it comes to the draft picks. But, for now, let's discuss what happened at the synagogue.

CAMEROTA: We'll stick around guys, for a second, because we also want to bring in somebody who knows what would be happening in the White House during this. We want to bring in Cliff Sims, he's the former White House Communications Aide under President Trump. He's the author of the book Team of Vipers.

And Cliff, you served in the White House during and after Charlottesville, and so, just bring us back to that time, just explain to us what was happening around the time that the President has said what has become so -- what was controversial then, and the reverberations of it, are being talked about this week when he said, you know, there were good people on both sides.

So, what was happening behind the scenes when that went on?

CLIFF SIMS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS AIDE: Well, the President was in Bedminster that weekend, and then, New York as well. I was actually back at the White House, I didn't travel with him that weekend, so I can't really say what was, you know, happening in the room, you know, with the President himself, in that moment.

But I think back at the White House, much like the rest of the country, we were watching this unfold on television, much like we are right now with what, you know, just happened today out in California. And, you know, I think people forget that when you're working in the White House, that there's a human element.

Now, we react to these things the same way that you do, when people watch this on T.V. and our hearts break. And, you know, it's tough.

CAMEROTA: Meaning, you were horrified? What was your -- like when you heard the President say that, what was your human reaction?

SIMS: Well, I've written this in my book that this was an opportunity that I felt like was missed, to lead on the issue of race and racial reconciliation, which I think is so important. I mean, those wounds are generations-deep.

And so, the President, I think it is, you know, entirely reasonable to expect that the President will step up and lead on that issue. And I don't think he's capitalized on those opportunities the way that he should have.

But, you know, I'll also say, Alisyn, that I think that it is just -- it's ridiculous, though, to -- you know, I'm sitting here, listening to panelists call the President a white supremacist, I'm listening to people say, you know, suggested he's anti-Sematic when, I think, by any reasonable measure from a policy perspective and the most pro- Israel president in history.

And so, we're in this weird moment, Alisyn, where I feel like--

CAMEROTA: I mean, the problem is that the --

SIMS: Go ahead. CAMEROTA: Well, I think the reason people struggle with this, is because the President's rhetoric doesn't always match his policy, and it doesn't always match the direction -- the action, that the White House takes. And so, it's confounding for people when they hear the President say things like, well, there were good people on both sides.

And just now, when the President spoke, he said all of the right things, he said we stand with the Jewish community, he said we have to forcefully condemn anti-Semitism, it must be defeated. Those are all wonderful words.

And then, he quickly pivots to, there's a lot of things we need to looking at in, you know, into -- in this country, which everyone knows is code, for him, feeling as though what he's just endured is a hoax, et cetera, et cetera, about the Mueller report.

And so, it's just hard to reconcile, sometimes, his words with what you're talking about, in terms of the policies.

SIMS: Well, I think we are at a moment here, Alisyn, where all of us, as Americans, are watching the same movie and yet, somehow, we're seeing dramatically different things play out on the screen, even well-meaning people.

I mean, I don't know Don, but when I hear Don talk about the way he felt about Charlottesville and what the President said, it's diametrically opposed to what a lot of people, I would say myself included, watched happen. I mean, the President did --

LEMON: Then you're delusional. Then you're delusional, Cliff. Then you are delusional because that's not what a lot of people say (INAUDIBLE)

SIMS: You know, I'm from -- I'm from Alabama, and so this is an argument that I feel like we've had for years and years --

LEMON: Here's what you're saying, you're saying because the President says words that are hollow -- if you -- because the President said, oh, we should come together --

SIMS: I couldn't hear anything you just said, Don.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let me finish.

SIMS: I really don't know what you're saying right now.

LEMON: If you stop talking, then we won't be talking over each other, and I will let you respond. So, you're saying --

(CROSSTALK)

SIMS: you ask me to come on your program, so give me a (INAUDIBLE)

LEMON: -- the President's words -- the President's words don't matter. If I sit here in an office with a bunch of ladies --

SIMS: That's not what I'm saying, Don, I literally --

LEMON: Hold on.

SIMS: just said that the President should step up and lead on issues of racial reconciliation.

LEMON: Listen.

SIMS: I literally just said that on your show, right now.

LEMON: You're talking about words and policies, OK? So, if I sat here, this is what --

SIMS: You just said I said the President's words shouldn't matter.

LEMON: You're not letting me get -- let me get it out and then you can respond, OK?

SIMS: Because what you're saying is not true, Don.

LEMON: OK. You're not listening. How do you know -- you don't know what -- it's not -- you don't know if it's not true if you don't hear me out.

SIMS: Because you just said that I said the President's words don't matter and I did not say that. Could you admit --

LEMON: OK. OK. So you're saying -- so you're saying -- you're saying the President said something right, but his policies are better, so we shouldn't call him a racist or that panelists shouldn't call him an anti-Semite or a -- shouldn't call him a white --

CAMEROTA: White supremacist.

LEMON: A white supremacist. OK. So --

SIMS: Could you give me an example of the President being a white supremacist, Don, because you insist that he's a white supremacist, give me an example --

01:50:03] LEMON: Will you let me ask the question and then you can respond, please, OK? So, you say it doesn't matter. That's my interpretation. The President's policies should speak rather than his rhetoric. OK.

So, if I sit here on this panel and I tell these women that I want to grab them by the you know what, but I am a supporter of women and women's rights and I stand up for you. How does that -- so -- then, what should I believe? Should I be able to do that? Do my words matter more? Do my actions matter more? All of it.

SIMS: I think all of it matters. I think both of them matters.

LEMON: All of it is encompassing upon me, so you cannot say that the President's words don't matter and we should judge him on his policies rather than his words because --

SIMS: You're right. I didn't say that.

LEMON: -- all of it matters.

SIMS: Well, fortunately, that's not what I said, Don.

LEMON: That is exactly what you said. You said the President's policy --

SIMS: I feel like --

LEMON: You talked about his policies. You talked about his policies. You said his policies are what matters.

SIMS: I said that his words and his policies matter, Don. I said the President should step up and lead on the issue of race, that I don't feel like he's done a great job in that, but also, I think he gets unfairly criticized at times, and you take it a step too far. You couldn't name a single example of the President being a white supremacist. And yet, you prefer --

LEMON: I never called the President a white supremacist.

SIMS; night after night.

LEMON: I never called the white -- I never called the President a white supremacist. So, if you -- if you're watching the wrong program or you're not hearing what I'm saying, what I have called the President is racist.

When you call a nation's shithole countries, when you call African- American players, sons of bitches, when you say that they are fine people on both sides, when you lie about it afterwards, that is when you -- SIMS: Well, let's talk --

LEMON: When you red line black people from housing --

SIMS: Let's talk about the people on both sides.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That is evidence of a racist behavior.

SIMS: Don, I'm not just going to sit here and let you just yell at me. I mean, if you want to interview me, I'm happy to talk to you, but if you're just going to sit there--

LEMON: I'm trying to interview you but you're talking over me.

SIMS: Why don't -- let's talk about something very specific, let's talk about the fine people on both sides, because I think this is an important conversation to have. So, I think if you -- if you think the President is a racist, you hear that and you hear the President saying there are fine white supremacists and there are fine anti-white supremacists.

Now, I'm from Alabama, so I've been a part of this kind of the argument over the monuments and things like that, for years and years. I've seen this play out here in our state.

LEMON: And I'm from Louisiana, by the way, so I've seen it play out, but go on.

SIMS: And you think that he is a -- is not a racist, when you hear him say that, what you hear him say is, you know what? There are good people who think we need to get rid of these statues because they are monuments to slavery.

LEMON: That's not what he said. That's not what he said.

SIMS: And there are also good people on the other side --

LEMON: That's not what he said.

SIMS: -- who don't want to get rid of those because they feel like --

LEMON: That's not what happened.

SIMS: This is our history, even if it's an ugly part of history.

LEMON: That's not --

SIMS: Then, you know, you should preserve these --

LEMON: -- what he said.

SIMS: But Don, if you read the entire transcript. He was very clear in saying --

LEMON: I read the entire transcript.

SIMS: -- that he condemn white supremacy. Well, then, pull it up. Pull it up. I think you're lying to your audience, Don.

LEMON: I've read the entire transcript.

SIMS: because you said that.

LEMON: I've read the entire transcript. I also know --

SIMS: I'm trying to explain to you something bigger here, Don. That we are in a moment in American history where, again, we are watching the same movie on television and we're seeing dramatically different things. I don't think you're insincere. I think you truly believe that. And I'm just telling you that there's a wide swath of this country that heard something dramatically different in that moment.

And frankly, I don't think it's good for the country that we're sitting here relitigating this, over and over and over again. All this does is stoke division. I came on here to talk about the White House -- LEMON: Because it does not fit your narrative that you want to spread

here.

SIMS: And we just, you know, relitigate this over and over. And you are -- you are contributing to this moment in history where we're extraordinarily divided. And I don't --

LEMON: OK, Cliff. I'm not the person who said there were fine people on both sides. I'm not the person who said there were fine people on both sides. I'm not the person who called countries shithole countries. I'm not the person who called people, sons of bitches.

SIMS: You actually don't even know if he said that --

LEMON: I'm not the person --

SIMS: -- because that's another one of those who's based off of anonymous sources and people in the room say the blah, blah, blah. You actually don't know if he said that.

LEMON: OK. Yes, I do know -- I do know that he said that. And it's not blah, blah, blah. And so -- and the fact that you have this attitude that you have about this, and that you say that I am somehow contributing to have a conversation to actually tell the truth, to actually call people on the --

SIMS: I don't think we're having a conversation.

LEMON: -- to hold him accountable for the words --

SIMS: I don't think we're having a conversation. You're just ranting.

LEMON: -- and their actions all at the same time. I'm still talking and you're talking over me. You can't have a conversation that way. You have to listen. So, I sat here and I let you say what you had to say and now, it's my turn to say what I have to say.

SIMS: Actually, no, you didn't. You interrupted me like a thousand times.

LEMON: No, I haven't --

SIMS: This is pointless.

LEMON: We haven't been on-air long enough to do a thousand times.

SIMS: What else you got? Give me anymore questions you got. I'm happy to answer them. Lay them on me.

[01:55:00] LEMON: Well, listen, I would love to continue with you, but I'm going to get to something that is better and someone who actually tried to bring this country together, and that is the former President of the United States, Barack Obama --

SIMS: And that's you, Don, you're very good -- LEMON: -- who is speaking about Mandela, and he is at the African-

American Museum here, in Washington, we will listen in. Cliff, thanks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- situation and temporary. And I changed my mind all the time, based on facts and evidence. And --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

OBAMA: You know, I've said this before. The challenge we have in our politics, in every country, is when people start conforming facts to their opinions and biases, as opposed to trying to shape their opinions and biases based on the facts.

Because if you -- if you are -- if you're starting off based on facts, then we can have a discussion. We can have an argument. And you can change my mind, because you can prove to me that well, actually, I may think that the moon is made of cheese, but then (INAUDIBLE) will present to me, facts. The astronauts went there. They -- and there was soil and -- yes, footprints.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

OBAMA: And they came back, and we have photos, and so -- and I may change my mind. I can't do that if I -- if I deny facts. So that would be point number one.

There are times where changing your mind also requires listening to other people. And I'll give actually a specific example of this.

Throughout my young adulthood and my early political career, I had always believed that members of the LGBT community, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, et cetera, should be treated equally under the law like everyone else, as someone who has been -- as somebody who is a member of a group that's been discriminated against, it violated my core principles to think that the state would discriminate against somebody else.

But, I would say early in my political career, my general view was when it came to same sex marriage, that -- well, you can just have a civil union with all the legal rights associated with it, you don't have to call it a marriage. It doesn't create as much conflict with respect to people's religious predispositions. It will be fine. But, of course, it wasn't my place to say it was going to be fine, right?

And so, when I have close gay friends tell me, you know what, this does not make me feel fine, because this is not simply an issue of contracts and, you know, me being able to visit my partner in the hospital. This has to do with the stigma that I feel that I am not the same, being able to join together with somebody I love, in the eyes of the state, right?

Particular religious institutions have the right to make their own rules, but this is a state recognized marriage. Listening to the pain they felt in not feeling that recognized, it allowed me to say, you know what? That makes sense. I get that.

So, you know, one of the things I think I may have mentioned to the Obama fellows when I met them, because I say this whenever I talk to young people who want to change the world, the first thing to do if you want to change the world is shut up and listen, because we always assume we know what's best.

But before you can actually lead people, you need to know what do they feel and where are they coming from? What's their perspective? What's their story? And I think that the challenge we have in our politics is that similar to people wanting to block out facts, we don't -- we want to block out other people's stories because it may contradict our predispositions and biases.

And openness to other people's experience and new facts, requires a certain kind of courage.

[21:00:00]