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CNN TONIGHT

President Trump Visits Families And First Responders; Fox On The Rescue For The President; Democrats Points The Blame At President Trump; Renewed Attention To White Nationalist Conspiracy Theory; Hate In America; Toni Morrison, Author And Nobel Laureate, Dies At 88. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 6, 2019 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

President Trump visits Dayton and El Paso tomorrow to meet with family members of the victims and with first responders.

Investigators in El Paso say the suspected shooter posted a white nationalist racist diatribe moments before he opened fire killing 22 people.

Tonight, incredibly, in the wake of those murders, Fox News Host, Tucker Carlson said this about white supremacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: But the whole thing is a lie. If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns of problems this country faces, where would white supremacy be on the list? Right up there with Russia, probably. It's actually not a real problem in America.

The combined membership of every white supremacist organization in this country was able to fit inside a college football stadium. I mean, seriously. This is a country where the average person is getting poorer, where the suicide rate is spiking. White supremacy, that's the problem. This is a hoax. Just like the Russia hoax.

It's a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power. That's exactly what's going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Catherine Rampell is going to join me a little bit later. But, that's OK. Hold on a second. Was that not the dumbest thing you've ever heard is.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I was going to say, it really takes some nerve to complain that the people who are complaining about white supremacists are the ones who are just trying to divide the country. LEMON: It's crazy. Listen, I don't know how anybody could say that

considering what happened this week. I want to look at the facts now, and his statement directly contradicts what the FBI director said. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Just in the first three quarters of this year, we've had more domestic terrorism arrests than the prior year and it's about the same number of arrests as we have on the international terrorism side.

A majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we've investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The FBI director. Maybe facts just don't matter over there. Not maybe, I guess they just don't.

President Trump reading off the teleprompter said this when speaking out against the mass shootings at the White House yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate.

In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Yet, Tucker Carlson of Fox News is saying white supremacy is not a real problem in America. I wonder how the families of the victims in El Paso feel about his statement.

I want to talk about this now, Juliette Kayyem is here. Nate Snyder is here as well. Good evening to both of you. Juliette, you know, it's -- we have some new details to get to, but first, I just want to get your response to what Tucker Carlson said about white supremacy in this country, that it's a hoax?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. I mean, generally, racist hate being called racist and they hate that their ideology that they promote on a primetime show promotes violence, and it's clear this is what we've all been talking about, the atmospherics, the community that is built by Trump and his -- you know, and hosts on Fox, at least primetime Fox, is one that gives white supremacy and racism and violence a sense of comfort and community, a sense that they are not shamed.

It's a come-hither. It's a flirtation that's being done by people like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump that makes it sort of I call it, you know, it makes it hard to call it out because, you know, they can feign outrage if you say, wait, you're a racist, what you're doing is actually promoting white supremacy, they can sort of feign all of this outrage as you saw today with Tucker Carlson.

It's a playbook used by people like this to promote white supremacy with a wink and a nod. Not saying they condone the violence, but boy, they don't say much about it until after there's a shooting.

LEMON: It's just amazing that people are watching it, and maybe, maybe they believe it, I don't know.

[23:04:58] But, listen, I want to bring you in here, Mr. Snyder. Because I'm just going to give, just quickly, FBI assessment released last year found that there was a 17 percent spike in reports of hate crime incidents between 2017 compared to 2016.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says there's a dramatic increase in numbers of white nationalist groups in the U.S. from 100 chapters in 2017 to 148.

And it then it just goes on to talk about 73.3 percent of the U.S. -- of extremist-related murders in the past decade were committed by right-wing extremists. And there are other numbers in here that go along with what the FBI director was saying.

To hear someone say that, to promote that on a national news channel, is just astounding.

NATE SNYDER, FORMER SENIOR COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: It is astounding. It's unconscionable. Just one thing that I think will go directly into what your previous guest mentioned and also what Juliette talked about, as well as something we say within the counterterrorism community.

It's something that I actually worked with Juliette on while we were at DHS, is that words and narratives matter, they have consequences.

And there's a great op-ed in "The Washington Post" by Latino leaders, many who were in the past administration, including myself, that essentially say that domestic terrorist tropes that this president is citing and lobbying at the Latino community is inspiring attacks. It's inspiring violence.

And I think, I also take this quite personally, one, being Latino myself, also being an immigrant, I also happen to be a former counterterrorism official at DHS. I also swore an oath like the president to defend and protect this country.

And I think by speaking out, many -- or as many are, we're working to push back, but this rhetoric has consequences, especially when it's validating and providing comfort for these domestic terrorist groups who are looking for that validation for action.

LEMON: OK. So, I'm glad we have the facts out there. So, let's -- Juliette, I want to talk about this new video that CNN obtained exclusively. It's of the Dayton shooter.

KAYYEM: Yes.

LEMON: Entering a local bar around 11.09 p.m. Eastern with two people. One appears to be his sister. The other identified as an acquaintance who ended up -- who ended up wounded in the shooting.

About an hour later, the gunman is seen pausing by the entrance speaking to staff and then leaves. Does anything stand out to you here as you look at this?

KAYYEM: Well, I mean, I think the thing that I think we're all -- what I know that investigators will be looking at is sort of what was that last interaction between the three of them? How did a potentially a family fight or a sibling issue become a mass murder as we're seeing? And was any of it triggered by some ideology held by the gunman?

We're hearing lots of stuff about things that he posted and retweeted. We just don't know yet. And I just want to be clear here, El Paso is clearly a white supremacist. We don't know what this case is, and so we can separate them. We have the capacity to do that.

And so that's what I would look at as an investigator, and then also it seems just in terms of the timing that he brought this weaponry and all this gear with him, unless he had time to go back and load the car.

And so, you're just looking at what was his state of mind going into that? I've also been saying I'm just sort of curious about the relationship between the sister and her companion, how did the brother feel about that, who was he? Those are the questions I would be asking at this stage, but a family squabble often turns violent. It does not often turn into a mass murder like this. Not regularly.

And so that's the triggering thing I would look at as an investigator.

LEMON: So, Nate, here's the FBI Director, Christopher Wray, testifying about domestic terrorism last month. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WRAY: We, the FBI, don't investigate ideology no matter how repugnant. We investigate violence. And any extremist ideology when it turns to violence, we're all over it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So now the FBI has two domestic terror investigations where ideology has turned violent.

KAYYEM: Yes.

LEMON: How does the FBI handle a mass shooter's manifesto like in El Paso, in Gilroy, when it echoes the president's ideology? SNYDER: Well, I think to be clear, when the FBI or when the

intelligence community sees a threat or gain intelligence or information of a trend that is imminent, by the time that happens and they learn about it, frankly, it's too late.

And so, the FBI is very good at responding. They do great investigative work. They have great analysts and intervene when necessary. They're the best in the world.

However, what we're seeing with this is a lot needs to be done in the prevention space, and, frankly, that has been atrophied, it has been neglected under this administration and the offices and government entities that focus on this type of preventative work have been stymied.

[23:10:01] So the FBI will continue what they're doing, but, frankly, by the time they hear those -- and see those kinds of signals, it's too late to act.

LEMON: Nate, Juliette, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

The president and Mrs. Trump appearing to meet with grieving family members tomorrow as they visit Dayton in the morning, El Paso in the afternoon.

It's a role that has traditionally been viewed as the president serving as consoler in chief but there have been concerns raised, and in some cases spoken out loud that this president and his heated and often divisive rhetoric may not be the medicine needed in these communities right now.

I want to bring in Frank Bruni, Catherine Rampell, and Michael D'Antonio. Michael is the author of "The Truth About Trump." Catherine came in early because, I mean, it was astounding. It's so astounding to hear someone actually --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: I guess, can't hold back.

LEMON: It's unbelievable. But let's talk about this. And, good evening. Frank, you know, it's not a great time for President Trump to be traveling, right? But he is going. Considering -- if anyone has paid any attention to the news today --

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

LEMON: -- they've heard people saying, you know what, I'm not sure it's the right time, but if he comes, I will welcome him and I will meet with him. That's what most of the leaders. But there are many people on the ground saying, don't do it. But presidents are expected to do that in times of tragedy. These visits will be ten

BRUI: Well, he's expected to do it but he's nullified his effectiveness by everything he's done to date. I mean, it just -- it doesn't pass the laugh test. And there's something obscene when he stands up on Monday at the White

House and decries racism and bigotry and white supremacy and says we got to fight against these things when his words from the moment he came down that escalator at Trump tower to right now have fomented this. I mean, he tries to profit from it.

And so, I think it's really difficult for him now to go into these communities because there are a lot of people there who rightly feel that it's fair to ask the question, at least in El Paso, about whether his words were complicit in this.

If you remember, if you go back to the shootings in Pittsburgh, there are lot of people there who did not want him there, there are local leaders, I believe who refused to meet with him. I don't think that was about pettiness, that was about holding him accountable for the way he's behaved in office and for the possible effects it's had on this country.

LEMON: Imagine, though, Michael, being, you know, one of the people in El Paso and then you've had, you've heard what the president has been saying about immigrants and on and on and on. He's coming into a majority Hispanic community. Does this -- has this diminished his authority in --

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, of course. As Frank says, it's obscene. He's the most profane figure in the White House since Andrew Jackson.

So, for this man to go and pretend to comfort people, can you imagine being comforted by Donald Trump if you were a family member of a person who was killed at that Walmart? This is a man who cannot relate to their pain. He is responsible for a lot of their pain. And he lacks the courage to say, I was wrong. He lacks the authority to lead this country to a better place because --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: How does he --

D'ANTONIO: -- he's led us to where we are now.

LEMON: Why does this man and his -- and his apologists always want people to respect him? You have to respect the president. You have to respect. When he has respect for no one but himself. Well, not even that. He has no respect for anyone. He will say anything about anyone but then gets all in a huff when someone criticizes him or does not respect him.

D'ANTONIO: Well --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Deservedly so. If you said things like that, would you respect someone who said negative things about you?

D'ANTONIO: I think one of the things that he resents is he's not going to be the victim in this scenario. This is a man who's made a life's work out of being a victim. About complaining.

He said to me directly, and I know we've discussed this, I don't respect most people because they don't deserve respect. This is -- he's honest about who he is. He's shown us who he is for the last three years between the campaign and his time in office. And he's a horrible human being. I don't think there's any other way to just --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Listen -- we have a much longer section coming up. I just wonder, some Democrats are asking the president not to come. I think the Republican as well. But can he do more harm than good, you think, in this situation? Or do you think the people on the ground will be able to relate to him?

RAMPELL: I think he should do whatever the victims want. I don't think he should be listening to what members of Congress want him to do or, frankly, what pundits want him to do.

If there is a groundswell of support from members of the community, and I don't know that there is, but I don't know that there isn't, as I recall, the rabbi in the Poway hate attack, the synagogue attack, I think liked having heard from the president in that situation.

So, I think he should respect the wishes of the victims and their families. That said, I think he also is bound to respect the wishes of other members of communities that feel that they have a target on their backs right now as well.

[23:15:00] LEMON: Yes.

RAMPELL: And the best thing he can do in the long run is to pare back on all of this racially insensitive racist inflammatory xenophobic rhetoric so that other immigrants, other people of color don't feel like they have to walk around watching their backs as well.

LEMON: This is interesting, I can't imagine -- I don't remember any -- any leader, any president, where people are saying we don't want you here.

BRUNI: But can we be really clear, he's not going to stop the rhetoric. This is such a --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: No, obviously. Obviously.

BRUNI: No, I mean, that's what's so crazy here, this is such a fundamental part of his political identity. He so stakes -- his political strategy is entirely formulated around this so he's going to say a couple nice words Monday, hopefully when he goes to El Paso, he'll say nice words and then back to his old tricks and tweets.

LEMON: Just ahead, Democrats dropping their cautious rhetoric on the gun debate and calling out President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Democrats calling out President Trump in the wake of the massacres in El Paso and Dayton.

[23:19:59] Back with me now, Frank Bruni, Catherine Rampell, Michael D'Antonio. So, Frank, Democrats are dropping their cautious rhetoric on the gun debate but also pointing a finger directly at President Trump and the language that he uses.

This is presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke that I want to play. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Calling Mexican immigrants, rapists and criminals. Warning of an invasion at our border. Seeking to ban all people of one religion. Folks are responding to this.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you think President Trump is a white nationalist?

O'ROURKE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I highlight O'Rourke because he is from El Paso. Why do you think Democrats are speaking so forcefully about this now?

BRUNI: Because it's what they must do and because it's the truth and because if we're all honest, we have to recognize that from the beginning of this campaign for the presidency to this moment, Donald Trump has vilified and demonized classes of people like those people that the gunman went after in the Walmart in El Paso, and you can't not acknowledge that. You can't dance around that.

And that's what Beto O'Rourke is doing right there, he's looking at it straight in the face. I think his words were important. I think they were important. I think they're widely heard, and I'm really glad he said it.

LEMON: You made a very important point that I didn't let you made on the air, in the break, you said the very people that he demonized.

BRUNI: Yes. Well, he -- I mean --

LEMON: He's going to console.

BRUNI: Well, I mean, he has demonized and vilified dark-skin people from south of the border who come over here and even recent arrivals. Right? And that's who the gunman was going after.

So, he's now going to go down there to El Paso and he's going to console a community that has a target on its back because of the words that he's spoken. It's grotesque, it's obscene. LEMON: Yes. Ross Douthat, Michael, over at the New York Times has a

new op-ped where he thinks that Trump is deeply connected to both mass shootings. And here's what he writes.

He says, "The connection between the president and the young men with guns extends beyond Trump's race baiting to encompass a moral essential feature of his public self, which is not the rhetoric or ideology that he deploys but the obvious moral vacuum, the profound spiritual black hole that lies beneath his persona and career." It's a tough assessment, though, but what do you think?

D'ANTONIO: Well, there is a spiritual black hole there. If your frame of reference is more secular, you'd say that there's this deep pit of psychological need that he has. He's a disturbed human being, and he doesn't -- at every stage of his life, he's exhibited the me generation, narcissistic baby boomer at his worst.

So, he elevated money, he elevated sex, he elevated his peacock image above all other things. So, he's not a multidimensional person. He's a single dimension. And it's a single dimension of me. And I think that makes him a failure as a human being. A failure as a president. And certainly, the last person anyone should want to meet in their moment of grief.

LEMON: Listen, there's a lot, but he refuses to take on this issue of gun control, but there's so much going on. There's Iran. There's North Korea. The trade war with China that seems there's no end in sight for that. And that is a short list. Does the president have enough to handle on his plate right now? Can he handle it all?

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: I mean, there are certainly plenty of crises of his own making and some crises that are not entirely of his making but that he may have contributed to.

I think what's striking here is that for a guy who has based his entire campaign on fear, when it comes to the actual moral threats that Americans face, he brushes them off, right?

I'm talking about the uniquely American epidemic of gun violence, as well as white nationalism, white supremacy, not to mention other, you know, arguably existential threats like climate change.

But the things people are actually afraid of, not being able to pay for life-saving health treatments, health care, for example, those kinds of things he does not have answers to.

He invents, you know, fake crises. Fake emergencies. Fake things that we should be afraid of. Asylum seekers, you know, they're so terrifying that we need to strip babies from their mothers while they're nursing. Socialism, yes, that's a thing that Americans are really afraid of.

No, they're afraid of being gunned down at their place of worship, at the food festival, at the nightclub, you know, at school. And these are the things that Americans are terrified of and that he and his party just have no answers to and don't even attempt answers for.

LEMON: Michael, you wrote a piece on cnn.com this weekend and you referenced this moment, it's from Trump's 2016 RNC speech. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Nobody knows the system better than me.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Which is why I, alone, can fix it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He says "I alone can fix it," but, I mean, you can see what's happening now. Is his experience, lack of experience coming home to roost?

[23:24:56] D'ANTONIO: Absolutely. We've been headed toward this moment from the day he declared for president. We could have all predicted that this kind of mass shooting would have occurred, that it would have been racially and ethnically motivated and that it would have been a white nationalist who carried it out. This is where he was headed all along and that's what's most tragic about this.

RAMPELL: And so, I would disagree with the premise a little bit.

LEMON: I've got -- I'm over. I'm sorry. But I do have to say, before we go, I have seen people compare this -- because mass shootings have

happened under many presidents -- but compare this to other presidents.

No other president in the history, at least in my lifetime, no other president has demonized people in the way that this president has. And to make that comparison is disingenuous and just a flat-out lie.

Everyone wants to blame Trump on this. No one is blaming him for it. They're blaming him for the climate that he is exploiting. That other presidents didn't do when they were president of the United States. It's apples and oranges. I don't think anyone could have predicted that this would happen, but still, the climate is there. He exploits it for political purposes.

BRUNI: Amen.

D'ANTONIO: Well, there was a global white nationalist problem before he took office.

LEMON: Yes.

D'ANTONIO: I don't think this was hard to predict.

LEMON: Yes.

D'ANTONIO: I really don't. LEMON: Thank you, all. We'll be right back.

[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: In the wake of the El Paso shooting, renewed attention is being paid to the white nationalist conspiracy theory that white people are being replaced by people of color. This is leading some to believe that President Trump's words on immigrants and the border crisis are lending legitimacy to the racist narrative.

Joining me now to discuss are Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of history at NYU, and CNN Presidential Historian, Doug Brinkley. I am so glad to have both of you on. Thank you so much.

Ruth, I'm going to start with you, because you said the president's racially charged rhetoric is strategic, telling The Washington Post "This is a concerted attempt to construct and legitimize an ideology of hatred against nonwhite people and the idea that whites will be replaced by others. When you have a racist in power who incites violence through his speeches, his tweets, and you add in this volatile situation of very laxly regulated arms, this is uncharted territory."

Are we seeing the real-world consequences of this kind of racial division and rhetoric, you think?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Absolutely.

LEMON: Sorry.

BEN-GHIAT: Absolutely. The El Paso shooting was clearly an example of that with rhetoric that closely matched Donald Trump's rhetoric. I want to stress that this idea of white racial replacement where -- and it fits with his invasion rhetoric because there's this fear that, you know, people of color will come in and populate.

But this is a very old thing that goes all the way back to fascism. It's 100 years old and the right has used it, from Mussolini who talked about the white race dying and yellow and brown people at the doors, to Hitler. And it's also a talking point of the New Right all over the world and in Europe, which is funded by Putin.

So what Trump is doing with his rhetoric of invasion and racial division is not just about America's changing demographics, it's a right-wing talking point.

LEMON: So for you to see this happening now, is it shocking to you? What are you thinking when you see this?

BEN-GHIAT: I think that Donald Trump is in power now to take America out of the realm of democracy and align it with authoritarian regimes like Putin's, like Orban's that are founded on a kind of white nationalism.

LEMON: Douglas, I want to bring you in. I want you to weigh in on what Ruth is saying here. But, you know, this whole idea, you know, white people are going to somehow be replaced is not new. I mean, Ruth just mentioned some examples. Do you know of others?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, you know, today, Toni Morrison died, our great novelist, a Nobel Prize winner, wrote incredible epic books like "Beloved" and "Song of Solomon." And when Donald Trump was elected, she wrote an essay in The New Yorker in November 2016 called "Mourning for Whiteness."

And what she argued was that this fear of white genocide is what motivated the election of Donald Trump. This thought that America will be only 40 percent Caucasian and that he was a backlash figure, larger than George Wallace. It was all about white privilege on decline.

Alas, I'm afraid Toni Morrison's essay is turning prophetic as we go through all of the things that Donald Trump has done to earn this sort of credential as our most racist president of modern times.

LEMON: Ruth, you know, Trump consistently uses a very loaded word when talking about the southern border. I want you to listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I declared a national emergency, which is what it is. This is an invasion. When you see these caravans starting out with 20,000 people, that's an invasion. I was badly criticized for using the word "invasion." It's an invasion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Two things. I've heard people say, well, that's not, you know, racist or to say that it's not wrong to say that. And also what does that word invoke?

BEN-GHIAT: This is stoking primitive fears that have been part of right-wing rhetoric from the fascists through Pinochet in Chile up to today of being submerged, of being in a battle situation, and right- wing leaders often use them to justify states of emergency, like the forever wars at the borders.

But one thing I want to stress is one way we are in uncharted territory is that there's been white nationalists in power before and they've ruined democracy, but there's never been one in power when there are 400-million-plus guns in the hands of private citizens. Some of them having arsenals that normally you see only in mercenaries or guerrilla leaders.

So, this combination which we saw in a lone wolf in El Paso, a white nationalist stoking from the White House hatred with availability of arms is something that is uncharted territory.

[23:35:07] LEMON: Douglas, I have to -- you know, I got to ask you. Is there any way to turn this around? What does a president need to do here?

BRINKLEY: Well, since he is going to Dayton and El Paso, I think particularly in El Paso, he has to talk about comprehensive background checks and turn on that, and demand that semiautomatic weapons, categories of them, are banned. No more high-capacity magazines. He needs to do a massive gun control speech.

It's remote that he'll do that, but that -- he needs to be a leader on this issue. He also has to show heart and compassion. You were just talking about when you have that kind of narcissistic personality, you have no empathy and compassion, and people can tell whether you have empathy.

The way you and Chris Cuomo have been talking about El Paso, you can feel just watching you guys the empathy. When I saw Donald Trump read from the teleprompter about El Paso, there was no empathy there. It was something he had to dial in and get behind him. And so this is his Oklahoma City bombing moment when Bill Clinton gave that remarkable speech.

LEMON: Yeah.

BRINKLEY: He needs to deliver something here or otherwise it's just a wasted opportunity to heal our country.

LEMON: Douglas, Ruth, thank you both. We'll be right back.

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump taking to Twitter today to claim that he is "the least racist person." It's a claim that he has been making for years. He even said it to me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Are you racist?

TRUMP: I am the least racist person that you have ever met. I am the least racist person.

LEMON (on camera): Are you bigoted in any way?

TRUMP: I don't think so. No, I don't think so.

LEMON (on camera): Islamophobic?

TRUMP: I'm a person -- no, not at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Since then, the president has done and said a lot of racist things like when he called African-American nations S-holes or when his campaign aired a racist ad in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections. "Very fine people on both sides." You know the list by now.

The same tweet from this morning, the president cited low unemployment rates for minorities to back up his claim that he is the least racist person. So he likes to talk about that, too. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Unemployment for African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Asian-Americans have all reached the lowest rates ever recorded.

Another all-time record low African-American unemployment. Hispanic unemployment at an all-time low in history.

African-American unemployment has reached its lowest rate ever recorded. Ever.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Ever. Remember, what do you have to lose? What do you have to lose?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: What does that have to do with anything? Think about this. Come on, everybody, use your brains. Because the issue is with the president's tweet from this morning is that the president can be racist and there can be low African-American unemployment at the same time. Both those things can be true, OK, case in point.

Just a few weeks ago, the president tweeted this racist attacks on four congresswomen of color, telling them to go back to where they came from, and black unemployment is currently at six percent. See, both can exist at the same time.

And facts first. President Trump is correct that the African-American unemployment rate has fallen to a record low of 5.9 percent during his tenure. But here's the full picture, OK, the big picture. Black unemployment reached a high of 16.8 percent during President Obama's first term at the height of the great recession. From there, it dropped to 7.9 percent by the end of his last year in office.

The low African-American unemployment rate today is a continuation of the trend that started under President Obama. And the African-American unemployment rate has hovered at or above six percent since May of 2018. It's still about double the white unemployment rate. And when it comes to black voters, they are not buying Trump's pitch on the economy or his least racist person refrain.

A recent Fox News poll found that 64 percent of black voters say they disapprove of Trump's handling of the economy. Overall, 75 percent of black voters disapprove of President Trump. And when it comes to Trump's handling of race relations, 83 percent of black voters disapprove. It was only last week the president said that African- Americans are happy with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The African-American people have been calling the White House. They have never been so happy as what a president has done. They are happy as hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Not according to the facts. David Swerdlick is here.

Hello, David.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey, Don. How are you?

LEMON: Facts are stubborn things, aren't they?

SWERDLICK: Facts are stubborn things. You almost don't know where to start with this so I'll start with him saying "The African-American people," like he says the Muslims, the gays, the women, the Hispanics, the Asians. They're "the." They're someone else. They're not us in his framing.

[23:44:54] As you said, Don, you can be someone who makes racist statements, white supremacist statements, hateful divisive statements, and also have a good economy and also have good jobs numbers for African-Americans. Those two things can happen at the same time.

LEMON: Yeah.

SWERDLICK: But as you noted with that chart there, the other thing is it's not even a good argument if it was a real argument because the numbers for President Obama were better. Under President Obama, from the day Obama took office until the day he left, the black unemployment went from 12.7 percent to 7.8 percent. Overall unemployment went from 7.8 percent to 4.8 percent.

Even President Trump's favorite stat, the stock market, on this day in President Obama's first term, August 6th, 2011, the stock market was up 44 percent from inauguration day. From Trump's inauguration day until today, it's only up about 31, 32 percent. So this argument is A, logically, you know, doesn't make sense, and B, even if it did make sense, it's weak.

LEMON: Why does he keep -- just have a couple seconds left. Why is he so anxious to prove he's not racist?

SWERDLICK: Because people know and he has a sense that being called racist is one of the worst things you can be called in our society in current --

LEMON: Got it.

SWERDLICK: -- in present day, but the problem is that people who are racists or who exhibit racism --

LEMON: Yeah.

SWERDLICK: -- frequently don't admit that they're racists.

LEMON: David, thank you so much.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it. Remembering Toni Morrison, next.

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LEMON: At a time of racial division that shakes the confidence of the country to its core, we have lost one of the greatest authors whose work gave us all a better understanding of the black experience in America.

Toni Morrison died last night at the age of 88. Her novels, "Song of Solomon," "The Bluest Eye" and "Beloved," among those works of prose that spoke to generations and earned her the distinction of being the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature, as well as Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Stephanie Elam has more on the life and legacy of Toni Morrison.

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STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Toni Morrison, one of the world's most celebrated writers.

TONI MORRISON, NOVELIST: The point of writing is take what's common and estrange it, make it new again, and to take what's strange and familiarize it.

ELAM (voice-over): Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931, Morrison had an interest in storytelling at a very young age. Her father often told her African-American folktales, something she would later weave into her work. Morrison attended both Howard and Cornell universities. She began teaching at the height of the civil rights movement.

It was then Chloe became known as Toni Morrison, Toni, a nickname, and Morrison, the last name of her ex-husband. During her time teaching, she began sharing stories with the campus writing group. One of those stories became her first book, "The Bluest Eye," released in 1970. The novel was praised for its in-depth look at race and American beauty standards but criticized for its explicit nature.

Morrison became more widely known in 1977 with "Song of Solomon." The book was a feature selection for the "Book of the Month Club," the first written by an African-American in nearly 40 years. Morrison became known for characters who challenge views on race and gender.

MORRISON: I don't describe any of my characters. A little bit, you know, this tall and short man, woman, but nobody knows what they look like. And the reason is deliberate, because I want you to do that.

ELAM (voice-over): No novel had greater impact than "Beloved," loosely based on a true story of a run-away slave. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A decade later, Oprah Winfrey took the story to the silver screen. But the film tanked at the box office.

Morrison's prolific storytelling was acknowledged internationally. In 1993, she became the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. The same year, she nearly lost it all in a fire on Christmas Day. Only a portion of her manuscript survived. But tragedy struck again Christmas of 2010. Her son, S1ade, died of pancreatic cancer. The death weighed heavily on Morrison, and she didn't write a sentence for months.

Toni Morrison left an indelible mark on literature, spanning own five decades. While presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Obama said this.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Toni Morrison's prose brings us the kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Oprah Winfrey today remembering Toni Morrison as a magician with language who understood the power of words.

So here is Toni Morrison in her own words. "It's important, therefore, to know who the real enemy is, and to know the function, the very serious function of racism, which is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again, your reason for being.

Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving you do. Somebody says your head isn't shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing."

[23:55:08] In light of what has happened in the last few days, we could certainly use some Toni Morrison's magic right now.

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