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CNN TONIGHT

President Trump Always Lifting His Own Chair; Possible Copycat Attack Prevented By Police; Billionaire Stephen Ross Facing Harsh Criticism For Hosting A Fundraiser For President Donald Trump. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 8, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00] MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: We are great city and I'm never going to let anybody, including a president, diminish the greatness of Chicago.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Mayor Lightfoot, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

LIGHTFOOT: Thank you.

COOPER: That's it for us. The news continues. I want to turn things over to Don Lemon for "CNN TONIGHT."

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

You know, the video doesn't lie. President Trump, who is supposed to be showing empathy for the victims of mass shootings, shows that he cares only about himself and it's caught on tape.

While the hospital in El Paso -- while in the hospital in El Paso yesterday, meeting with some shooting victims and first responders, President Trump begins by thanking the medical staff and then he brags about the size of the crowd at his political rally in El Paso back in February.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The job you've done is incredible. And they're talking about you all over the world. And the doctor, what you've done is -- I also -- I feel I know him. I've seen him now. And you did a fantastic job, your whole group.

And, you know, Senator Cornyn -- Senator Cornyn, the job you've done -- and they're talking about it all over the world and it's an honor to be with you. Look at this group of people. Could you believe this? Good group of people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're fantastic.

TRUMP: I was here three months ago we made a speech. And we had a -- what was the name of the arena? That place was packed, right?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Right. The judge is a respected guy. What was the name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was from (Inaudible).

TRUMP: Good. Come here, man. That was some -- that was some crowd.

(CROSSTALK)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for what you do. Thank you.

D. TRUMP: We had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had, like, 400 people in a parking lot. They said his crowd was wonderful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: This while he's visiting victims of a mass shooting by a man who set out to kill Hispanics, whom the gunman called invaders, just like the president does. What message did the people of El Paso hear at that rally? The one with the crowds he is bragging about. In a border city filled with immigrants and their children.

His message that night, undocumented immigrants are criminals. Despite the fact that many are seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape deadly violence in their home countries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. TRUMP: We are cutting loose dangerous criminals into our country. Murders. Murders. Murders. Killings. Murders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: But yesterday it was all about the size of the crowd at his February rally. Not about the shooting victims. And as we showed you last night, he also talked about how enamored people at the hospitals in El Paso and Dayton were with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. TRUMP: As you know, we left Ohio and the love, the respect toward the Office of the Presidency, it was -- I wish you could have been in there to see it. I wish you could have been in there. And it was no different here. We went to the hospital, just came from the hospital. We were there a lot longer than we were anticipated to be. It was supposed to be just a fairly quick -- we met with numerous people.

We met with also the doctors, the nurses, the medical staff. They have done an incredible job, both places just incredible. And the enthusiasm, the love, the respect --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It's what we have come to expect of this president. It's all about him. One official at the El Paso hospital tells CNN that eight of the patients did not want to meet with Trump. And many on staff who interacted with him found he was lacking in empathy for the victims.

All about him and the importance of the size of the crowd. It's been that way since day one. As we know. It's an obsession with this president. Remember when Trump's first press secretary Sean Spicer said this about the size of the crowd at Trump's inauguration?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That is completely false. Let's take a look at the evidence. CNN reported that the crowd at Barack Obama's first inauguration in 2009 was estimated at about 1.8 million people. As we can see, because we all have eyes, and so it's totally obvious to anyone looking at this the turnout for President Trump was far, far smaller.

That certainly must have bugged the daylights out of Trump, Obama getting more people. Even all the way back then, we knew it was ridiculous, that the White House would fixate on a dispute over crowd size on day one of doing the people's business, but being so obsessed with the number of your fans that you'd bring crowd size up during a hospital visit after a mass murder, could we have ever guessed that?

[22:04:53] That same day President Trump visited CIA headquarters to meet with employees, and while standing in front of a memorial wall, a wall that honors CIA officers who have fallen in the line of duty, the president did as he always does, he talked about himself and the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. TRUMP: We did a -- we did a thing yesterday, the speech. Did everybody like the speech? You had to like --

(APPLAUSE)

D. TRUMP: I've been given good reviews, but -- but we had a massive field of people. You saw that, packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I said, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out, the field was -- it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there.

It looked -- honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument. And I turn on the thing and by mistake I get this network. And it showed an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that's not bad. But it's a lie.

We had 250,000 people literally around, you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the, you know, 20-block area all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I still can't believe that happened. Many in the CIA were outraged that he stood in front of the memorial wall, talked about himself, lied in the process.

And, remember, this was all happening while a giant crowd of protesters was marching in the streets objecting to this president. That was a big crowd, too. So that was day one.

Yesterday was day 929, and still fixated on the crowd size. In all the days between Trump never misses an opportunity to puff up his own chest -- chest or trash his perceived opponents. Prime example, Hillary Clinton. He beat her more than two and a half years ago and still repeats her name at his political rallies to this day.

Guaranteed boos, of course. Rile up the base, the Hillary haters. But there is one example from 2016 that didn't quite work out the way that he had it in mind. Trump while trying to court black voters in Flint, Michigan addressed a black church to supposedly talk about the water crisis in the city. But he didn't do that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. TRUMP: Hillary failed on the economy. Just like she's failed on foreign policy. Everything she touched didn't work out. Nothing. Now Hillary Clinton --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump --

D. TRUMP: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I invited you here to thank us for what we're done to Flint --

D. TRUMP: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- not give a political speech.

D. TRUMP: OK. That's good. Then I'm going to go back -- OK. OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: We need her. We need her. We need her. Can we play that again, please?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. TRUMP: Hillary failed on the economy. Just like she's failed on foreign policy. Everything she touched didn't work out. Nothing. Now Hillary Clinton -

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump --

D. TRUMP: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I invited you here to thank us for what we had done in Flint --

D. TRUMP: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- not to give a political speech.

D. TRUMP: OK. That's good. Then I'm going to go back -- OK. OK.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Good for her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. TRUMP: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He was completely disrespectful. But at least he had the courtesy to listen to the pastor when she shut him down, saying that's not why I invited you here.

However, he's not always courteous in sacred places and very often steps on his own message.

In Normandy this past June for ceremonies remembering D-Day, the president's official address was well-received. He acted presidential, likely reading from a prepared text, but afterward he sat down with a Fox News anchor to trash a political opponent, this time the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, using extremely nasty language to describe her. And the venue where the interview took place next to a cemetery where American serviceman killed on D-Day are laid to rest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. TRUMP: I think she's a disgrace. I actually don't think she's a talented person. I've tried to be nice to her because I would have liked to have gotten some deals done. She's incapable of doing deals. She's a nasty, vindictive, horrible person. The Mueller report came out. It was a disaster for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Did you see the crosses behind him? Graves and he's speaking like that.

Listen, I don't know if this is the point. The bigger fault is with us for expecting more maybe, expecting better from this president. But I do know that President Trump just doesn't get it.

There's a time and a place to trash opponents or brag about the size of crowds at rallies and events. There is also a time to be presidential.

[22:10:01] The president's top aides do not think his trips to Dayton and El Paso were successful. Lots to discuss. Frank Bruni, Michael D'Antonio and Rick Wilson, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: White House officials behind the scenes think President Trump's visits to Dayton and El Paso were not successful.

I want to talk about this now with Frank Bruni, Michael D'Antonio. Michael is the author of "The Truth About Trump," and Rick Wilson is here as well. He is the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies." He's here. He's on your screen. He's not here in the studio with us.

Good evening one and all. I'm going to start with you because you're not in the studio. Let's do that. The president's trip was a disaster. His own aides are conceding that, you know -- you saw the video. He's there after a mass shooting. He's bragging about his crowd size several months earlier. I mean, there are no words for this, Rick.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I say this a lot. There is no better version of Donald Trump. There is no -- there is no thoughtful Donald Trump. There is no empathetic Donald Trump. What you see is exactly what you get. When he reads from a teleprompter, that's the lie. When he talks like he did there, that's who he is.

This is a man with no empathy, with a low character, he is a person who does not have any recognition of the suffering of other people or of the role he is supposed to play as the American president in terms of bringing the nation together, consoling people and putting other people before his own gigantic roaring vacuum of ego.

[22:15:03] LEMON: You know, Michael, look, this is a -- we don't expect this from a president. We don't expect a president to behave -- but this goes beyond a president. We don't expect any person to behave --

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No.

LEMON: -- like this, right? It doesn't matter. If you're a news anchor, if you're a photographer, if you're an attorney, whoever you are, you're not expected to behave this way. What does this say about Trump?

D'ANTONIO: Well, this says that when he told me that he's the same person he was when he was six years old, he was right. He was honest about that. He is precisely what you'd expect from a child, and I think what's astounding about the president is he has no interest in other human beings.

People do not -- he's not curious about people. He's curious about what's going on in his own head, and in his head, there is this screaming voice that says I have to win this. Whatever I'm in in this moment, I have to win.

So, in this crowd at the hospital, you know, I think he might have been upset that the people who were wounded and the people who treated them were getting attention. And he wasn't getting attention.

LEMON: Is that in his head?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes, because we haven't paid as much attention to this other aspect, but when he was at the El Paso hospital, he projected his corrupt values on to everybody else. And he said to the workers there, you know, everybody in the world is talking about you.

LEMON: Yes.

BRUNI: He said it like three different times as if what they care about in the aftermath of this horrific event is what their press is like out there. He thinks everybody is like that because he can't envision being a different way.

LEMON: It's interesting. I never thought of that. But he did, I kept wondering why he was saying everybody is talking about.

BRUNI: The whole word is talking about it.

LEMON: Of course -- of course the whole world is talking about it.

(CROSSTALK)

BRUNI: Because he envied it. He envied it.

LEMON: That something horrible happened in their community.

D'ANTONIO: That's right.

LEMON: The whole world is just flabbergasted and they feel sorry for them.

D'ANTONIO: He told one guy that he had a future in the movies.

LEMON: Wow.

BRUNI: Donald Trump is to another narcissist like Everest is to an ant hill. I mean, it's unfathomable the dimensions of his narcissism.

LEMON: Rick, let's talk about this highly edited campaign-style video that the White House put out of Trump's visit --

WILSON: Right.

LEMON: -- to the hospital in Dayton. Every shot either includes President Trump or someone taking pictures of him. And it's pinned to the top of his Twitter feed. He's incapable of putting himself to the side. What kind of narcissism is this? WILSON: Right. Don, this is Olympic-grade, weapons-grade narcissism.

This is somebody who doesn't understand that there are proprieties and there are rules and there are basic norms in our culture that not only do you not turn a tragic event like this if you're the national leader all about you, then you don't have your former golf caddie turned videographer Dan Scavino rip out a campaign video that is almost exclusively political --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Hey, Rick, --

WILSON: -- in its release in its nature --

LEMON: I got to say --

WILSON: -- because he doesn't honor the people there or comfort them.

LEMON: I got to say that was to me, that was the most egregious thing, was that video that they -- I was like who signed off on that?

WILSON: It is.

LEMON: Why would they ever put something -- even if it was signed off on, wouldn't you say, are you sure you want to do this? Go on, Rick. Sorry.

WILSON: Don -- Don, I've made a lot of political ads in my career and done a lot of things that are pretty much out there on the borderline of should we do this or not. This is one of them where I would have said, no, bro. No. Stop.

LEMON: Well --

WILSON: I mean, this is a guy who would make a video of himself doing the thumbs up at 9/11. It's just disgusting.

LEMON: Because, you know, I thought it was, like, well, you know, he shouldn't be talking about crowd sizes. Made he's bad at small talk. Maybe he was uncomfortable doing it. He's not -- but then when the video came out it's like jeezum. And who is -- who is working for him and telling him that this is OK? I don't understand it.

Eight patients, Michael, did not want to meet with the president. Official cautioned some just didn't want to meet with anybody. And two patients he did meet with, one was a baby. We don't know what the president knew, but, I mean, I don't know. Could that be why he's so defensive and why he's coming out saying, they loved me. You should have seen it in there.

D'ANTONIO: Sure.

LEMON: They treated me like a rock star or whatever.

D'ANTONIO: He's aware of this. He's aware on some level about how he comes off. But, you know, those people who said they didn't want to meet him understood that for Donald Trump human beings are props. So, everybody is an object to be moved around.

And, you know, I actually think that he considers himself an object -- I don't think he has empathy for his own inner experience. He is the king on the chess board or the queen and he's going to move around with great authority and power, but he doesn't view himself with self- empathy or humanity because this is not his frame of reference. Everything is a move that he's going to make.

[22:19:56] LEMON: And Frank, then Biden gave that scathing rebuke of Trump yesterday, saying that he embraces a political strategy. He called it of hate, racism and division.

And how did Trump respond on his way to El Paso? Well, he said, not taking issue with the racism charge or how Biden said he fans the flames of white supremacy, he's focused on name-calling and ratings.

Look at that. This is what he said, watching sleeping Joe.

BRUNI: Sure. And he talked about crazy Beto who doesn't have any ratings either. Like, if you don't have ratings, you're not worth anything. It doesn't matter if you're saying something that people need to hear.

And if you're eloquent and if you're pushing back at him in exactly the right way -- I mean, this has given Democrats a moment to define how their party and how these candidates are different from him and they're all finding different language and it's an important moment in the Democratic campaign and I think Biden said all the right words.

LEMON: But also speaking of ratings, he said -- his reference about the media, will die in the ratings. That's not the best choice of words when you're going to meet someone who has, you know, been the victim of a mass shooting.

BRUNI: Word choice right now is the least of Donald Trump's sin.

LEMON: Rick? Sorry.

WILSON: Yes.

LEMON: You --

(CROSSTALK)

WILSON: The whole president prop situation where he's -- go ahead.

LEMON: Rick, you saw what he did in Flint, Michigan, right, or his campaign-style speech in front of the CIA memorial wall. I played it at the beginning of the show or attacking Nancy Pelosi at Normandy. I mean, these controversial hospital visits aren't just one-offs. This is a pattern.

WILSON: No, Donald Trump has no ability to understand and empathize with the people in any environment he is in. This is a guy who, you know, and I'm just an amateur psychiatrist, but all this adds up to being a narcissistic sociopath in a whole variety of ways, and he proves it over and over and over again.

And his supporters always have to do this, like, these gymnastics, like, well, he tweeted later he felt bad about so and so being hurt or he did this. Those are Kellyanne Conway. That's like her with her finger or her hand up his, you know, moving his mouth.

The real Donald Trump is the real Donald Trump. He is unempathetic. He is a cruel person. He is devoted only to the satisfaction of his own desires and his own needs. And the things that are required of a president at a moment like this, I mean, this is a guy -- like I said, you imagine Donald Trump in other situations.

You know, after Pearl Harbor, maybe he'd make a joke about building a new tower there or something. It's just that he doesn't understand the correct set of behaviors that normal human beings engage in, especially the ones who have the honor of carrying what they call the glorious burden of the presidency.

LEMON: It's interesting because I think the -- the supporters, the apologists, the people, you know, who love him no matter what, if someone did that in their own community, if someone went to a funeral and came back and did that, they would be at their house in the living room or the kitchen table says, can you believe what Jimmy did? Can you believe what Margaret did?

But if this president does it, it's OK. Think about that. Why is that? It's not OK. Gentlemen, thank you. I appreciate it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he is putting background checks legislation and red flag laws front and center when the Senate reconvenes. But is he making empty promises?

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: More evidence tonight of a nation on edge after a spate of mass shootings. Police in Springfield, Missouri say they've arrested an armed man in his 20s after responding to a call of an active shooter at a Walmart. No shots were fired and no one was injured, but panic erupted inside the store.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE LUCAS, LIEUTENANT, MISSOURI POLICE DEPARTMENT: His intent was not to cause peace or comfort to anybody that was in the business here. In fact, he's lucky he's alive still, to be honest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Joining me now, Juliette Kayyem and Philip Mudd.

Good evening to both of you. Phil, police in Springfield say that the man who entered a Walmart was wearing body armor and carrying tactical weapons. Give me your reaction to this story. What do you have?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think the conversation nationally about how you have red flags I think is critical. The question I'd have in this case is who is the individual and did he order those things when federal officers knew that perhaps there was something in his background that indicated -- this also relates to background checks -- that indicated that there was a reason they should be concerned about him.

Any time I see one of these, Don, my first question is, was there an indicator that would have helped federal or local officers to stop this kind of thing and should there be a law that says if someone has an issue in their background that would -- that should prevent them from acquiring things like gear that -- that is tactically related to preventing a bullet from hitting you or gear that relates to an automatic weapon, should that person not have access to that stuff? We don't know the background yet, but that's what I would ask.

LEMON: Well, Juliette, in the wake of El Paso and Dayton, the FBI warned about possible copycat shootings. I mean, we don't know if this is a copycat, but it is a real and present danger, right?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It absolutely is. I mean, in two ways. One is, of course, because of the ideology that we're seeing that ties a lot of these mass attacks, the white supremacist ideology, they will feel emboldened by the press around it, by the misery, by the focus on it.

They also may be feeling a little bit defensive, which always makes someone in law enforcement nervous, a tendency to lash out.

So, for example, when 8chan, the network or the web site that they all communicate on went down, lost its platform, I did worry about the possibility that someone would feel so defensive that they would lash out.

And then I think the other piece to it that Phil was talking about is you also have a nation on edge that is likely to react in ways, to a noise, to someone else that are certainly not healthy but also may lead to unintended violence or deaths.

LEMON: You know, Phil, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate is going to discuss --

MUDD: Yes.

LEMON: -- a background check legislation when it comes back from the summer recess. Is he just stalling or is he hoping the pressure to act will have subsided by then?

[22:30:02] MUDD: Boy, I -- count me a little bit skeptical. Remember, we had horrific incidents in Dayton and down in El Paso. I was down there to talk to some of the residents down there. But remember, in Las Vegas we lost more than 50 American citizens.

LEMON: Right.

MUDD: And very little happened.

LEMON: Yeah. MUDD: You know, let me be the skeptic. I have a very simple litmus

test. We had two conservative Supreme Court justices nominated by the president. I suspect that's partly because he knows that people vote on abortion. People want conservative justices. They'll look at what the president did and say the president supports me.

It's not clear to me yet that either the president or Mitch McConnell really thinks that people will vote on things like whether or not you pass a red flag law. I am just skeptical. I don't think people see it yet, despite what we saw in El Paso and Dayton.

LEMON: Juliette, you know, Congressman Chris Stewart held a town hall Wednesday night, and it erupted in anger over mass shootings. Benjamin Wood of the Salt Lake Tribune posted this audio on Twitter. Take a listen and we'll talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) but especially when you're the president of the United States, especially then (Inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the president of the United States, as far as I know, hasn't shot anyone. He's not (Inaudible).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Wow, I mean the shootings have put the nation on edge.

KAYYEM: Right.

LEMON: There is a lot of fear and anger out there. You know, the question is can gun control advocates keep the pressure -- by the way, he's a Republican, and I imagine all of these folks when they go home, they're going to be hearing this stuff. But is the pressure -- to keep the pressure up even after they come back?

KAYYEM: I think -- I don't have much confidence in Mitch McConnell. I mean, he said -- look, I mean he said I am going to put it front and center. There is already a House bill that's been passed. There is no more deliberating. We know what's needed in terms of the background checks and the red flag issues. Front and center, I think in Russia they say nyet (ph), right? I think this is just a stall tactic.

This is Mitch McConnell after all. And I think just what Phil was saying was, you know, the -- you know, they have survived other massacres before without taking on the NRA. And so I just -- I don't have much optimism. Let me give some optimism, though. We have seen tremendous movement in the local and state levels. Now, that's not ideal because you would want federal standards and national standards for gun control.

And I think that's important, because when people are feeling frustrated and the polling is showing that frustration, they can definitely show it when they vote in 2020. But also before that, you know, the activity that's being done on the state and local level is actually promising, because I think those people, those leaders, have to be much more responsive to the demands of their populations, especially in many of the cities.

LEMON: Juliette, Phil, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

MUDD: Thank you.

LEMON: Equinox, SoulCycle, facing boycotts after it was announced that their owner is holding a big money fundraiser for President Trump. And that's not the only big business he owns and could be facing some backlash. We're going to talk about that next.

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Billionaire Stephen Ross is facing criticism for hosting a big money fundraiser for President Trump tomorrow night. Ross is the owner of the NFL's Miami Dolphins and related companies which owns the high-end fitness chains Equinox and SoulCycle, which bill themselves as LGBTQ-friendly businesses. Now, there are calls for a boycott and #cancelSoulCycle and boycott Equinox trending on Twitter.

Ross defended the fundraiser in a statement saying in part, I've always been an active participant in the Democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about. Joining me now to discuss is Donte Stallworth, LZ Granderson, and Doug Heye.

I should also say they also own the building that we are in now -- broadcasting from. Good evening, gentlemen. LZ, it is one thing for a rich guy to host a six figure fundraiser for Trump, but the industries that Ross is in, like, you know, the NFL, fitness clubs that court LGBTQ members. They've both been targeted specifically by this president.

In your new column, you say that Ross is trying to have it both ways with Trump support. And you write at the end of the day, it's all about where the rich white men who own teams full of black and brown men choose to draw their line. Ross has every right to host a fundraiser for Trump, but he doesn't get to sidestep the negativity attached to it because he thinks playing both sides gives him cover. When you draw a line, you have to own it. Can he have it both ways in this era of Trump?

LZ GRANDERSON, CNN OPINION WRITER: No, no, no, you can't. Now, I understand when you make a certain amount of money, playing both sides of the aisle is advantageous. And again, I don't discourage that. I would like to one day have that kind of money, which I feel as if I have that sort of freedom. I do not. I am a minority. I am a black man. I am an openly gay man.

I don't have the luxury of looking at money over my identity because policies impact me in a much deeper way. Impact my communities in a much deeper way. Ross is in a different category. He, I am assuming, is heterosexual. He certainly is white. And perhaps he feels somewhat insular because of his money. Most Americans don't have that luxury. So no, you don't get to play both ends and pretend as if you don't get any much (Inaudible) when you do so.

[22:39:53] LEMON: Dante, the Dolphins player, Kenny Stills, is actually speaking out. And he -- this is what he tweeted. He says you can't have a nonprofit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump, the mission statement for Ross' nonprofit talks about eliminating racial discrimination, championing social justice, and improving race relations. Is Ross being two-faced here?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I think that's the point that Kenny's making. He's calling him a hypocrite, or at the very least, he's questioning how can you support both of these issues? I have worked with the Rise organization. I have done some great work with them. They've done some great work. We've brought numbers of people together from all over the country.

Former NFL players, professors from Morehouse, we actually met -- we had our meetings at Morehouse. And there were, you know, a number of things that we were getting done and trying -- issues we were trying to move forward. But I did become displeased personally when I heard that Stephen Ross wanted the NFL players to stand, or he -- I think he threatened to suspend or release players, cut from the NFL teams that wouldn't stand for the national anthem.

So I was kind of perplexed about how he could do both of these things, and then when I see this today, you know, with Kenny stepping up to, you know, call out your boss, not just your boss but the person who writes your checks. That's huge. And I think, you know, it's important for players to understand at the end of the day, hey, you know, it doesn't matter if it's my owner.

It doesn't matter if it's -- or the owner of my team. It doesn't matter if it's my head coach. I am going to speak about the things that I feel that are important and things that are important to my community. And he did that. And that's important to, you know, we can't underestimate -- players don't do that, whether if it's in the NFL or any professional sports league.

They don't call out the owner of their team. And Kenny Stills did that. So I think that that's important to understand that he's taking the stand right as we're starting the NFL season.

LEMON: So Doug, why do you say this is all about political correctness and it's an outrage culture that plays into Trump's hands?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think it's all about that. I think people are approaching this seriously. And I'll tell you, I had my mind changed on some of this a little bit earlier tonight. I was at a birthday party for a friend, which included some friends that were gay -- happy birthday, Matt Dornic, by the way. And they told me look. This is how this impacts us if we go to Equinox gym, and I understand that issue with hypocrisy.

But I'd say at the same time there is political correctness that certainly goes into this issue that makes it very difficult. You mentioned Hudson Yards. So if you want to boycott Hudson Yards that also means you're boycotting Jose Andres' restaurant, Little Spain. And there's been nobody that's been a fiercer advocate for immigrants in America than Jose Andres.

So this is where it comes into question. But also, this is the conversation that Donald Trump I think wants us to have. He wants to divide us on cultural issues. He wants this to be an election that's about plastic straws and Colin Kaepernick. And if he has that as the conversation, he feels that's a big path to victory for him.

LEMON: Go ahead, LZ. I know you want to get in.

GRANDERSON: Don, this is not just about political correctness, and this is why. When he was then candidate Trump, and I was covering 2016 for ABC, he talked about how a federal judge was not qualified to look over his case of Trump University for one reason only, because he was Latino. He kept referring to him as Mexican, even though he was born in Indiana, because he's Latino.

It's not just political correctness, because if you look now, he's appointed about 150 judges. More than 70 percent of them are white men, very, very few Latinos. There seems to be a consistency here between his rhetoric and his policies. That's the reason why it's not just political correctness. This is about the president of the United States enacting his beliefs on his world view.

HEYE: Well, sure. And I think if we want to focus on policies. That's a better way to have the conversation as a whole. I remember the day that Trump spoke out of -- a very ugly manner against Judge Curiel. I was a Republican that said this is terrible, and Trump -- candidate Trump shouldn't say that. But again, I would say these are the conversations that Donald Trump wants us to have, to divide us on issues of culture or even pop culture.

And where we get separated on these things is where Donald Trump feels that he's at an advantage. He may be right. He may be wrong. But certainly, that was the bet that he made in 2016.

LEMON: We're going to continue this on the other side of the break. Don't go anywhere.

[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So back with me now are Donte Stallworth, LZ Granderson, and Doug Heye.

So LZ, let's talk the big picture here. So Ross is a private citizen. He can support anyone he wants. But there are also a lot of places that you can work out, right? People can choose not to work out at Equinox if they don't like it. I actually called about my membership to get some clarification.

And I am not sure what I am going to do about it. But that is a right that you have as a citizen, especially as a person of color and a gay person. You know, it feels different. And you talked about that, but go on. But he is a private citizen. But, you know, I think inviting someone into your home and making millions of dollars for someone who is -- has been oppressive to certain groups of Americans. That's a whole different story.

GRANDERSON: Yeah. You know, for me, I draw the line between supporting a politician whose views that I don't agree with, versus actively fundraising and trying to get them reelected. To me, that's a little bit more assertive. To me, that is more reflective that you're more in line with what you see that they've been doing thus far than you maybe supporting a particular party.

I am not encouraging people to boycott. I am encouraging people to follow their hearts. And if your heart says you're OK with going to Equinox, then go to Equinox. If your heart is saying you feel weird about it, then don't go to Equinox or change gym memberships. I am only speaking in terms of Mr. Ross and how he tries to play both sides and his political donations in thinking that it gives him cover in both scenarios.

[22:50:05] And there comes a point, Don, in which there are issues that are way more pertinent than whether or not you can make more money than a tax cut. And as a person of color, I don't have the luxury of looking at tax cuts and deciding whether or not I want to vote that way. I have to look at a much larger picture. He doesn't have to do that. And I understand that.

LEMON: Listen. I called some people -- I reached to some people who worked there. And they said for them canceling their membership, there was not even a second thought. They just did it because they work there. They know him. I don't know why. I didn't pry. But they said it wasn't even a second thought. He did issue a statement here.

And he says I have known Donald Trump for 40 years. And while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others. And I have been bashful about expressing my opinions. I have been and will continue to be an out spoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, adversity, public education, and environmental sustainability. And I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.

So listen, Donte. First of all, the president has made openly racist statements, a lot of them. He's trying to carve out racism as just another issue here. And there's no one -- and listen, when people say that's an opinion. That's not an opinion. The evidence is there. The president has made racist statements. It's not an opinion. It's a fact, so -- but go on.

STALLWORTH: Yeah, I think it's troubling. And, you know, just -- it is much more important, I would say, than just another issue. There are many things that we are not really discussing when we're talking about racism, is that people in this country don't want to speak about racism. They don't want to delve into the conversation that were the founding principles of this country started in white nationalism.

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: It's also that they don't prioritize. What LZ is getting to, and I think what Doug -- you understood when you spoke with a, you know, the person who's been affected by this in a way that you're not, is that people don't prioritize racism. They'll prioritize, as LZ said, a tax break or they'll prioritize some other financial aspect, something that has to do with the economy. But why don't you prioritize racism?

Is it because you -- it doesn't affect you or is it because maybe there's something there that you don't want to admit, but go on.

STALLWORTH: Yeah, no. It doesn't affect them, Don. And I have lived in Washington, D.C. I've been living there for five years. I've been working in politics. I have friends in the Pentagon. I used to have friends in the White House, not so much anymore. But State Department, you know, and I have friends all through the government here, right?

And I, you know, speak to people all the time, Trump supporters, people who don't like Trump. And Trump supporters that I have spoken to, it's all about -- for them, it's all about the economy. And for them, they say that they don't agree with his racist policies and his racist rhetoric and his rhetoric towards the media. But yet, for them, it's not affecting them personally, like you see these children, children that are being held in these camps, these children that are crying for their parents.

That's not what America is supposed to be about. It's not what we think of when we think about America. But when we look at the history of America and understand America has been pulling children from their parents since the slavery days. And this is not something that Donald Trump started. But this is something hat has obviously gotten worse under Donald Trump.

And the rhetoric is getting worse from the president of the United States. And it's not just reverberating around the country, Don. It's reverberating around the whole globe. And we see that with the rise in authoritarianism around the world. And so what the president does set precedent and it reverberates throughout the world. And that's what Donald Trump is doing.

LEMON: So Doug, I have to ask you because, you know, he mentions -- he says environmental sustainability. I mean, the administration pulled out of the Climate Accord, dismantling regulations left and right. And, you know, if all of that is true, why is Trump his candidate? Number one, he says diversity and inclusion, OK, so the racist comments.

And then he says, you know, the environmental sustainability, the Climate Accord, removing all the regulations that Obama did for climate change, so then what gives here? What is it? Is it just dollars?

HEYE: Yeah. I am not sure where that comes from. Maybe it's about wind farms offshore in the Northeast that he's looking at, which doesn't get a lot of attention. I don't know. But what I would tell you, Don, what ultimately concerns me, and I agree with a lot of what LZ said, and really appreciate his perspective on this. And I would say people, of course, have to make a decision they want to make that is in their heart.

What worries me, and this is where political correctness comes in, is we're divided on party lines, we're divided within parties. We're divided on race. We're divided by religion. And now we're looking at it at business and - business by business. So we're divided on Chick- fil-A. We're divided on the NFL. We're divided on Equinox.

[22:55:00] We're divided on business after business. And it makes it harder for Americans to find any place where they can come together. And I think those divisions again...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Doug, I appreciate what you're saying, but political correctness is shorthand for what is life and death to many people. It's not political correctness when you are being discriminated against, if you're not allowed as a gay person to be able to marry, if you don't have the same rights under the Constitution.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I know that. But sometimes, people use that political correct term. And it's shorthand for really just discrimination and for people who don't want to be discriminated against. Listen, I have got to run. I'm a little bit over here. But I have to say, I want you to weigh in on this, LZ. For people who say that there are Trump supporters who prioritize the economy over racism, what about the people who are maybe LGBT, maybe black, maybe Hispanic, who prioritize vanity or convenience over the rights as well.

They may continue their membership to Equinox or to SoulCycle. It's their right. But isn't that the same thing happening? They're prioritizing one over the other.

GRANDERSON: You know when I learned that -- to answer your question, when I learned that Chick-fil-A was funding anti-LGBT organizations, I stopped eating those sandwiches. But I know plenty of LGBT people who can't quit those little chicken sandwiches. And I have to give them their space to let them live their lives. I'm not the -- you know, I think we get ourselves in trouble, Don, when we try to police the way that people express and live their lives. All we can do is give them the information and hope they make sound decisions.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all. I enjoyed the conversation. Thank you. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)