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Don Lemon Tonight
Michael Fanone Keep Recorded Conversation; Herschel Walker Dragged By More Controversies; President Biden Makes Alarming Statement; U.S. Will Not Respond With Nuclear Weapons; Don Lemon's Primetime Show Ends. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired October 07, 2022 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: This is weird. This is the final time I will say this. The news continues right now with DON LEMON TONIGHT. Don.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Wow.
LEMON: How are you feeling about that?
COOPER: I'm of mixed emotions. I want you, I want to communicate with you, and yet I think he'll be great in the morning, so I, you know.
LEMON: I appreciate that.
COOPER: You could do both really.
LEMON: I could do both. If I wake up at like 8 p.m. and then --
COOPER: If you want to have no life?
LEMON: You act like I have a life now. I don't really have a life. But I do have to say thank you, Anderson. I get so -- it's weird when people say, I grew up watching you, right? Because it makes me feel old. I didn't grow up watching you, but when I was working for another other networks and I would see you and I would -- you're just a great journalist and you've been a really good friend and an excellent co- worker.
And I asked you the other day, I said, Anderson, Am I crazy for doing this? And you said No. I actually think that you're very smart for what you do.
LEMON: I appreciate that.
COOPER: Yes. Yes. It's going to be great. And I look forward to it. And yes. I'll be watching.
LEMON: I'm not leaving. Right? Like I'm leaving. I'm going to see you.
COOPER: I know. I'm going to see you in the morning.
LEMON: Yes, maybe you'll be -- you'll be with the kids. You have to get up early so you'll see me.
COOPER: Yes. That's right. Yes.
LEMON: Thank you, Anderson. Be well.
COOPER: All right.
LEMON: Talk to you soon.
This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. And he what Anderson said that this is the last time that I'll be saying that. This is my final show here at 10 p.m. And we've got some surprises ahead. So, make sure you stay tuned for that.
Tonight, we have brought together some of our regulars. Our DON LEMON TONIGHT friends and family as we sit down here like we do every single night to talk about the news of the day, no holds barred. It's always no holds barred on here.
So, if you're going to be on this show or if you're going to watch it, don't be offended because we have real conversations here that people have at home. And it's not the fake, like, you're offending me by saying. We don't do that here. We haven't done that for eight and a half years. And I don't, I'm not going to do that in the morning either.
These are the folks that I've gotten to know really well over the years, and my first guest has become a good friend to me. And I'm so happy to have him on as my last first guest.
And he is a former D.C. metropolitan police officer, Michael Fanone who defended the United States Capitol on January 6th. This is his first interview for his new. It is out next week and it's titled "Hold the Line: The Insurrection and One Cop's Battle for America's Soul."
Thank you for joining. How you doing?
MICHAEL FANONE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Thanks for having me. The last episode.
LEMON: I know, the last episode. This is, but this is not our last episode. But listen, thank you. I'm going to get to the book and we'll talk about our relationship and how life has changed for you. But I've got to get your reaction to the prosecutor's presenting evidence today that the Oath Keepers leader called for a, quote, "bloody civil war" to keep Trump in office after his 2020 loss.
Are those people you think going to be held accountable, Mike? FANONE: I mean, it looks like they're in the process of being held
accountable now. And I think it's statements like that, that, you know, justified the DOJ bringing seditious conspiracy charges against, Stewart Rhodes and members of the Oath Keepers. And evidence like that is just, you know, proof positive of what their intentions were, which was to start a civil war.
LEMON: It's been 21 months since you were brutally assaulted defending our capitol, and we spoke just days after that happened. Just days later. Everything has changed for you since then. What stands out to you the most?
FANONE: Well, I mean, probably the biggest thing is the career change going from 20 years as a D.C. police officer to, I guess, kind of being employed, but not really being employed. Other than that, I mean, I just, I don't know. I'm just completely focused on accountability for January 6th.
And unfortunately, I think a lot of the problems that I've been fighting against will not be solved in my lifetime. So, I'm looking for some changes that my children will be able to enjoy.
LEMON: Yes, and you are committed to that. I mean, I speak to you often and you are committed to that and you get a lot of guff for it, but I'm appreciative of it and I think most people in America are appreciative of it.
In this book, let's talk about what's in the book. You revealed that you recorded your meeting with Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. What did he say? Because you write that you left feeling you said disillusioned and depressed. As disillusioned and depressed as ever.
FANONE: Well, I mean, I think it was more what he did not say. He didn't really say a whole lot of anything.
There wasn't a lot of substance to the conversation outside of the fact that, you know, I asked for some specific things and one of them being that, you know, he would denounce members of the party that were talking about or downplaying, or denying the reality of January 6th, the reality of Donald Trump's involvement in January 6th.
And he wouldn't agree to do so. And even more so, he said that he couldn't control these fringe members of his party, which I thought was pretty shocking coming from somebody who, you know, calls himself leader McCarthy, being the leader of the House GOP.
But also, the -- just to the indifference. You know, the fact that I sat there in a room, having been a victim of the violence that day. Sitting next to the mother of a dead police officer, that being Brian Sicknick. And you know, seeing a person who chose his political future and what he thought would be best for his party, rather than to show some level of compassion or empathy for, you know, the people that he -- that were sitting in front of him. I mean, to him we were an inconvenience. LEMON: You also recorded, and I want to say this is, it's legal for you to record in D.C. You also recorded meetings with the National Fraternal Order of Police president and other local police officers. Why did you want to get these conversations on tape?
FANONE: Well, like you said, it is legal in D.C. We have one party consent, and I was the party that consented. That being said, I knew that the things that I was asking for in these conversations, most likely I would be given a very different response privately than they might say publicly.
And so, I wanted to make sure that the record reflected the conversations that they had. And that they could be held accountable if they decided to say something different in public, which all of them have.
LEMON: That happens a lot. Even, I mean, especially since I've been covering Trump over these years. People will come on and they will say one thing in the green room or off camera about Trump, and then when the lights go on, they become a completely different person. They become sycophants. And I've watched it happen over and over, over the past seven years.
You also write about a meeting with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. You write in part, at one point, as I was describing the assault in the tunnel, noting that we were vastly outnumbered, Graham interrupted, you guys should have shot them all in the head, Graham said. We gave you, guys, guns and you should have used them. I don't understand why that didn't happen. Why? I mean, how did you respond to that.
FANONE: I mean, I told him that I appreciated his enthusiasm, but unfortunately, as law enforcement officers, we have very strict guidelines that dictate how we can use force, when we can use force. And in the situations, it would not have been appropriate just to open fire on a group of Americans. Some of whom were committing crimes, some of those crimes may have risen to the level of using deadly force to protect life or protect the officers. But many would not.
And, you know, shooting into a crowd like that, you would've had, individuals who would've most likely been killed or injured that did not deserve to be.
LEMON: Were you surprised, because you write in the book you said that he, Graham snapped at the mother of fallen capitol police officer Brian Sicknick who suffered two strokes hours after defending the capitol.
FANONE: Yes. I mean, that was pretty shocking. I've never, first of all, the fact that you would, yell at a woman who had suffered so much loss, her son died as a result of defending the capitol on January 6th. And all she was saying in the meeting was that she felt like Donald Trump was responsible.
I've never -- I had never witnessed somebody so vehemently defend Donald in public or in front of me. And I mean, I thought that behavior from a senator was disturbing. And again, it goes back to the indifference that these people showed, you know, myself and other officers that day.
And you know, I didn't talk about it much in the book, but I'd be lost to, you know, not to mention Mitch McConnell. You know, while myself and Harry Dunn and Mrs. Sicknick were, you know, going from office-to- office meeting with all these senators that, you know, could barely span -- spare five minutes to meet with us, Mitch McConnell couldn't meet with us.
He was too busy. He offered to send a junior staffer to meet with the mother of a fallen police officer. And then he made phone calls to all of these senators asking for favors that they vote against the January 6th committee, or, I'm sorry, bipartisan commission.
LEMON: I mean, I --
LEMON: Yes. Yes. It's hard to even fathom.
FANONE: I mean, I have words but I can't say them on TV.
LEMON: Please don't. But I think people know.
LEMON: I think people have heard.
FANONE: Use your imagination.
LEMON: But let me tell you, the book is fascinating. You talk about how differently you've been treated since the insurrection in your book. You also talk about more than just January 6th. You talk about policing in America, you talk about politics. You talk about our relationship.
I'm -- I'm very proud of you. And I hope this is like a number one best seller. Everyone should go out and buy this book. It is called "Hold a Line: It's by the Insurrection and One Cop's Battle for America's Soul," and it's by Michael Fanone. Thank you, buddy.
FANONE: Thank you.
LEMON: I appreciate it.
FANONE: Yes, man. I appreciate it.
LEMON: It's just one scandal after another for Herschel Walker who has said that he supports abortion bans with no exceptions, which looks like a whole lot of hypocrisy in the face of new reporting that the woman who said that he paid for her abortion, also wanted her to have a second abortion two years later. We're going to discuss that, next.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: New developments tonight in the growing Herschel Walker scandal with just weeks until voters go to the polls in the Georgia Senate race. The New York Times reporting the ex-girlfriend who says Walker paid her for -- paid for her abortion in 2009 now also says he allegedly urged her to have a second abortion two years later. She says she refused and her relationship with the new GOP Senate nominee ended. Her son is now 10 years old.
So, let's discuss. CNN in political commentators Charlie Dent, Alice Stewart, and Maria Cardona.
Hello, one and all. The hits just keep on coming.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
LEMON: I mean, you've got to be honest. So, this latest New York Times reporting Herschel Walker urging this woman terminate a second pregnancy. She did not. It's a major development. He wanted this woman to have two abortions, not just one. Are Republicans going to continue to look past this, Alice?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: From what I'm hearing, yes, many of them are, and they continue to throw their support behind him and also their money behind him. And from what I'm hearing with some of the top Republican officials, some are still planning to go down to Georgia and campaign for him and encourage him to run, because, or to stay in the race and to win.
Because they're looking at this through the political lens. And as we've talked about this before, the value and the importance in the state of Georgia to have the policies that he would represent from a political standpoint with regards to inflation and the economy and crime and the border, they're supporting what policies he would bring to the future.
They are frustrated and they're more and more -- every, every time we hear a new revelation, they are more frustrated and discouraged.
LEMON: And there's more to come.
STEWART: And they're --
LEMON: There's more to come.
STEWART: I don't doubt that.
STEWART: But they're looking at --
LEMON: There's reporting out there that needs to be confirmed --
STEWART: Yes, yes.
LEMON: -- that we're not reporting. But listen, let me just say, how can Republicans continue -- how can they continue to assert that he is anti-abortion?
STEWART: It's difficult, it's -- if not impossible to do so. And I clearly 100 percent understand the appearance of hypocrisy here. What is good for thee is not good for me. In terms of if he did pay for an abortion and if he did encourage another, and then saying that I support abortion bans. The hypocrisy is through the roof.
But again, from a political standpoint, Republicans and social conservatives are supporting him because he plans to go to Washington, D.C. and support the pro-life agenda.
LEMON: I know. I know. Alice is, look, Alice, everyone is like, and look, again, you know, I'm not attacking you, but I mean, you've got moxi to sit here and you're -- because you're giving a political, the -- you're talking about the political landscape.
STEWART: And I'm talking --
LEMON: Everyone is sitting here going --
STEWART: But what I am telling you is not just me.
CARDONA: The strategy.
LEMON: No, you're talking --
STEWART: I'm talking about --
LEMON: You're talking strategy. We get that. Yes, we get.
STEWART: This is what Republicans writ large are feeling.
LEMON: Charlie, hold on. And I'm going to, because Charlie sitting, you are, you're still a Republican, are you?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
DENT: And Herschel. I mean, look. Look, all I know is that many of these groups like the Family Research Council, for one, and others, would excoriate me because I was pro-abortion rights pro-choice, and I was pro LGBT rights. How could I be a Republican and have those types of values? I would be lectured piously by these people.
Now, Herschel Walker may have paid for abortions. You know, if he were pro-choice, I don't think this would be a very big story, but because he's taken this very hard position on abortion, you know, the hypocrisy is just so stunning.
And, but that, so we're all those people, they're all so transactional. They're also transactional. These pious people who are out there judging people like me and other Republicans who didn't, you know, meet the litmus tests. We were somehow impure that this is OK.
So, but a lot of swing voters watching this saying, hey, you know what, this doesn't pass the smell test.
CARDONA: And I think that is where you're going to see Herschel Walker in trouble. Clearly, the base is going to support him, but I still think that there are some true Evangelicals that actually have values who will see this and say, that's a bridge too far. I can't support this man.
Because if I believe life is sacrosanct, I cannot vote for somebody who so easily forced his girlfriend to have an abortion and wanted her to have another one. And now is saying that he wants to ban abortions for all women. Right? Just again, the hypocrisy, but also the values part.
I don't know if there will be many, but there will be some who will stay home. The swing voters, suburban, moderate women, this is disgusting for them. Because they see this man who is saying, I support an abortion ban for every woman and under every single circumstance.
Yet, I'm better than you because when I wanted my girlfriend to have one, it's OK. No, it doesn't work that way, Don.
LEMON: And I'd have to say he has denied it.
LEMON: But the evidence --
LEMON: -- there's overwhelming evidence.
CARDONA: And I -- I think, right, and I think there will be more. And so, I think what you're also going to see is not just the moderate suburban women, but men as well, independents who are going to see this choice, because that's what this election is about. It's a choice. It's not a referendum.
It is a choice between a candidate who has been a lifelong public servant, Reverend pastor Warnock, and a candidate who has now demonstrated the height of hypocrisy, who is an alleged abuser of woman -- women who held a gun to his ex-wife, who his own kid has come out to excoriate him about how he does not represent family values.
And they're going to say, you know, this choice is kind of --
LEMON: Let me just get, I got to get this in. Let me ask you, because you have led campaigns. You've run before. Herschel Walker firing his political director campaign -- firing the political director. What is that spelled? Does that say anything to you?
DENT: Well, there's obviously trouble within the campaign. I've read some reasons as to why this guy was fired. But they've obviously are in a damage control mode. I can't speak to the exact reason why they fired him, but look, there are going to be a lot of Kemp/Warnock voters.
DENT: In Georgia. There's going to be a lot of Shapiro/Oz voters in Pennsylvania.
LEMON: I mean, this is a month before the election, to fire your campaign, your political director is a -- it's a deal.
STEWART: It's not a good sign.
STEWART: And, you know, look, when you're taking on water like this, whether you believe you're a candidate or not, it is hard. It's hard enough as it is this stretch to the home stretch at the end. But when there's this type of incoming fire, it's all but impossible to do your job.
And there could be, you know, based on what we're hearing and what we're reading, some concerns that people may not believe what he's saying. And it's really hard --
CARDONA: Do you think?
STEWART: It's really -- it's hard to -- it's hard when you're on a campaign, you know?
STEWART: You're working 24/7. You're working extremely hard and it's really hard to put your name on the line and your reputation on the line for someone that --
DENT: It's easier to fire the consultant than it is candidate.
CARDONA: You know, this is actually, this is actually a really good point because, you know, we've all worked on campaigns and you are working 24/7. You put your heart on the line. You want to believe in this candidate that you are working your butt off for. And if you don't, then that is going to be where the --
LEMON: So, he just come clean and you think that he owes it to, I mean, he owes it to the people of Georgia, but you think he owes it for working with him.
CARDONA: Of course, Don. Yes, but he's not going to.
LEMON: It's -- he keeps digging himself.
CARDONA: He doesn't have that character.
LEMON: Thank you. Well, good to see you guys.
STEWART: Don, we want to say, we want to say, Don.
DENT: Yes, thank you.
STEWART: You're the pride of Baton Rouge.
STEWART: You are the pride of late night. You will be the joy in the morning. And it has been a blessing to be on your evening show with you. And we look forward to being on the morning show and we're blessed that you're a friend and a colleague. And best -- bets of luck.
LEMON: Thank you so much. Can just say this. So, because people think, look, we -- a lot of people sit in these seats with a lot of beliefs and political leanings or what have you. You and I have gotten into it.
LEMON: Like, I mean, like really gotten into it.
LEMON: You and I have gotten, you and I not so much because you --
LEMON: But --
CARDONA: Yes. LEMON: We all like each other.
STEWART: We do.
LEMON: But it's not personal.
LEMON: You'll get mad at me and say, I can't believe you said that on the air. Right. And I'll, you know, after you and I will have a conversation. I'm like, that's not what I meant. And then it's over.
LEMON: And this is the thing. No one ever wins a cable news argument. And guess what? It continues the next day if there's an issue.
CARDONA: It's the discussion, Don. And I want to say that you have brought so many important discussions.
LEMON: Thank you.
CARDONA: Not just to this table, but to tables and kitchen tables all around the country. And they have been game changers and how people really understand politics. So, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
LEMON: Thank you.
CARDONA: You had my children on, I remember. And they still remember that to this day. They talk about it at school all the time. So, thank you so much for --
LEMON: We were at a -- we were at a, is that a convention or something. It was a political event.
CARDONA: It was, no, it was after the Women's march.
LEMON: The hurricane. The women's march.
CARDONA: The women's march.
LEMON: The women's march. It was a women's march in Washington.
CARDONA: In Washington.
LEMON: You guys in Washington.
CARDONA: We were on the -- we were like on the top of the building for CNN.
LEMON: Didn't we have family members of yours in hurricane?
CARDONA: No. Yes. You had my brother on in his wife, and it was the first time I got to talk to them.
STEWART: And I was fortunate to have my dog came here backstage. My dog got her picture taken with Don.
LEMON: Well, your dogs. No, they're not going to meet my dogs. My dogs are in daycare, so there's a --
LEMON: We were having a little party afterwards. And Alice was one of the first people I invited. Right?
LEMON: I think people think like, my God, you hate Alice. Not at all.
STEWART: I was so excited.
LEMON: So, she's going to be. That's why she's all dressed up tonight. And Charlie is coming too, and Maria's coming as well.
CARDONA: Yes, I'm there.
LEMON: So, thank you, guys. I love all of you.
STEWART: Thank you, Don.
CARDONA: And we love you.
LEMON: I don't always agree with you, but I love you.
STEWART: We love you. You as well.
LEMON: Coming up, someone who has been on the show to talk about the kinds of things over the years. But tonight, we're going to be talking about Biden White House and some secret writings from former President Obama that have just been revealed. Former senior advisor, David Axelrod is on the show. He's next.
LEMON: So, a busy week for President Biden on the international front. Biden with a stark warning on the extreme dangers behind Russian President Vladimir Putin's nuclear threats
For more, I want to bring in now CNN senior political commentator, Mr. David Axelrod.
David, good evening to you. There has been so much going on.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to be with you, Don.
LEMON: Just this week with the Biden White House, the President saying last night I don't think there's any such thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.
In the past, the White House has walked back these kinds of direct remarks from Biden, but not this one. What's the thinking here?
AXELROD: Well, they did. They were careful to re -- to restate that they haven't changed their posture, that the nuclear -- their footing hasn't changed. They don't see anything in the recent days that would change their view of the situation to the worst.
But obviously, this is very dangerous. I mean, we, you know, Putin is backed in a corner. He's clearly losing. He's on the run, and there's a lot of domestic pressure on him to turn this around.
And so, it's a natural thing to worry about his, and since he's already suggested that he might use these weapons, I mean, that's a natural concern. And I'm sure there's an awful lot of strategizing going on around that and signals have been sent.
I think what happened last night though, you know, my reaction to it was, as a former presidential advisor and campaign advisor is, I wish that there were never closed-door fundraisers. Because there's something about closed door fundraisers. It's like you inject truth serum into these political figures.
LEMON: They think no one is listening or watching, or will hear it.
AXELROD: Yes. They think they're having an intimate discussion with friends. I mean, and there were reporters in that room, even though it was, you know, close to. So, you know, I think, he got a little bit out over his skis probably from the -- from the perspective of his advisors. But the concern is very real.
And even, you know, it may not be what we saw. I mean, I'm old enough, Don, to remember as a little kid the Cuban missile crisis and you know, the real fear that American cities might be annihilated. That's not where we are now. But it's still a very serious situation.
LEMON: I want to get this in before we run out of time here. And a new piece for the New York Times historian and author Timothy Shank, writes about a secret lost manuscript former President Obama worked on in the early 1990s. Now, this is how Shank describes that manuscript.
Writing quote, "speaking with a candor that he would soon be unable to afford, Mr. Obama directed his fire across the entire political spectrum. He denounced a broken status quo in which cynical Republicans outmaneuvered factless Democrats in a radicalized culture war, leaving most Americans trapped in a system that gave them no real control over their lives."
Isn't this exactly where we ended?
AXELROD: Yes. And, you know, I read that piece. First of all, I was wondering why I never saw that, why our opposition research people didn't find that and hand that to us in 2008, but that's a different story.
No, I think it was, in many ways it was a very, very, astute, analysis. And you know, you, you'll remember, Don, the 2008 campaign we very much emphasized economics. And Barack Obama. People forget this. Barack Obama was the last Democratic candidate, the only democratic candidate since 1964 to carry the state of Indiana.
He won Iowa twice. He won North Carolina twice. And he did it by stressing economics and the common interests of working, people across the country. And I think there's a lesson to be learned in that.
I do worry that the Democratic Party has arrived at that point that he was a warning of, that it's become, you know, more a party of very comfortable urban and suburban college educated voters and have -- has lost connection with working -- working people across the country. And that is dangerous for the Democratic Party in the long run.
LEMON: Yes. David, thank you. I appreciate it. I'll see you in the morning.
AXELROD: Hey, Don.
LEMON: Yes, sir.
AXELROD: Best of luck.
LEMON: Thank you.
AXELROD: OK, great to be with you as always. See you.
LEMON: I got to get my sleep now.
AXELROD: Yes. Here. Here. I got this for you here. Get one of these, Don. I want you to have one of these. You're going to need it.
LEMON: I'll need like eight of them.
AXELROD: We'll see in the mornings.
LEMON: Thank you, David. Be well. It's a real pleasure.
AXELROD: All right. Great to be with you.
LEMON: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy warning Putin is preparing the Russian people for a possible nuclear war is an off-ramp in sight. That's a question for former defense secretary William Cohen. He's next.
LEMON: Top Biden administration officials saying today President Biden's warning of the prospect of nuclear Armageddon is an indication of how seriously the U.S. government takes Vladimir Putin's threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and is not based on new intelligence.
But the Pentagon reaffirming today it sees no indication Putin has made a decision to use nuclear weapons at this time.
A lot to discuss with the former defense secretary William Cohen. Secretary, good evening to you.
President Biden made these unscripted comments last night at a Democratic fundraiser. What's your reaction?
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, many times President Biden is accused of engaging or making a gaffe. Telling the truth when he didn't intend to tell it. This is no gaffe, as Joe Biden would say it's no joke. And I think that he was right in raising the issue. I think a lot of people have been concerned about the, not loose talk, but persistent talk on the part of the Russians about, well, if you don't make concessions, if you don't surrender, we can always use our nuclear weapons.
And as we've said in the past, they have guns. They have oil, gas, and then guns and nothing beyond that. So, they'll cut off the oil or they'll use their guns.
This is important for President Biden to raise this issue. Too much loose talk about the ability to use nuclear weapons, whether it's one kiloton or two kilotons. Is it coming by air, land, or sea? And I think President Biden was
absolutely correct by saying, we better put this in perspective. It's very easy. You start down this path and it's very hard to get off at once you start.
For example, we've had one of our leading former generals, General Petraeus say if there's a nuclear weapon use, the United States might just sink every Russian ship in the Black Sea for openness. So now you have to say, well, what would the Russians do in response to that? And then what we do in response to that. So, you're getting in this climbing of the ladder, climbing up or being carried up the escalator. And what President Biden said is, we got to stop this and we need -- we need to alert the world. Not only the Russian people the world that this is a danger that they will be impacted with on a -- on a global basis if there's a nuclear change.
LEMON: As I said in the introduction to you, the administration says nothing changed in terms of the intel to suggest that Russia is planning to use a nuclear weapon imminently. What is -- what is our strategic interest here and why -- and why are the stakes so high now?
COHEN: Well because President Putin has made them high because it's not only Ukraine that's at state. All of the former states that were part of the Soviet Union, he wants them back. And if he can get away with threatening the use of a nuclear weapon, if you resist him, then you can see a very vast change in Europe and certainly, your position in world affairs as well as ours.
So, if you can threaten us with oil or nuclear weapons, then you're really conceding the future to dictatorships, such as that being run by President Putin. So, we have a lot at stake here. Democracy is at stake here.
And I have, there are some people on Capitol Hill, some Republicans, some in the media who are suggesting we should be on the side of the Russian. No, we should be on the side of freedom and democracy and Ukraine, not the Russians.
LEMON: I'm glad you mentioned that because you and I have had so many conversations about the future of democracy with what's happening here in the United States. And we have election deniers and conspiracy theorists on the ballot, Secretary. What does that all mean for our future?
COHEN: I think it's, problematic for us. Frankly, I worry about it. I remember seeing a t-shirt worn by somebody who said, I'd rather be Russian than a Democrat. What's happened in our politics has become so poisonous. It's not about philosophy. It's not about ideology. It's simply about identity. It's about hate. It's about division. It's about exploiting those divisions, whether it's race, religion, culture.
Whatever it is, they are looking to exploit it based upon division and hatred, and that is very dangerous going forward. So, we have a lot at stake in this election coming up in 2024, in terms of whether we're going to come out on the side of democracy, rule of law.
And this is where Republicans I think have lost our way that we no longer believe in the rule of law, simply winning at all costs, no matter how hypocritical, no matter how lying we are about the reality what's going on. We just want to win. That's not a good story to tell for our children and grandchildren.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, that not all Republicans, when I'm talking about the MAGA, the cultist element in the MAGA party, the biggest purveyors of identity politics and they tend to, they want to call other people out for it, but they're the biggest purveyors of it.
I've got to go, Secretary. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
COHEN: Don, Janet and I met you 20 years ago at CNN in Atlanta, and we've enjoyed the relationship with us. Congratulations. You look very relaxed tonight for someone who just lost a job. But congratulations. I look forward to seeing you in the morning.
LEMON: I haven't lost my job. It's a -- it's a tequila before the show. I'm kidding. I'm not kidding.
LEMON: Thank you. I appreciate it.
COHEN: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: But we'll be later though. Thank you. It's good to see you.
So, it is the last DON LEMON TONIGHT after a run of eight and a half years. Some of the incredible moments and stories we covered, that's next.
LEMON: It is not goodbye, but it is certainly the end of an era as we sign off this last broadcast of DON LEMON TONIGHT. More than eight years, thousands of hours of live TV, historic moments, and tough conversations. A lot happened between 10 and midnight or later. Just a few moments.
LEMON: Good evening. This is the Don Lemon show.
Tonight, into thin air, how does a plane simply disappear?
If you can conceive it in your mind.
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: If you can think of it, you can do. That's a human condition.
MIKE TYSON, PROFESSIONAL BOXER: Hey, Don Lemon.
LEMON: Undisputed truth.
TYSON: Remember the lemon had candies?
LEMON: Which is that, yes.
UNKNOWN: You're killing the game. I'd have to tell you that, you're killing it.
LEMON: I'm just being me and I'm being honest. Look around us. This is not a war zone. These are people who have
gathered here peacefully. They want some tough questions answered.
Live from the streets of Baltimore under a mandatory curfew now for the third night in a row.
It's 10 p.m. here in Charleston on an extraordinary day for America.
Manhunt. Escape prisoner Richard Matt is dead.
This on a day the Supreme Court changed the lives of millions of gay Americans ruling same sex couples can be legally married in every one of the 50 states. This is also the day that President Obama came here to Charleston to deliver a eulogy that turned into a moving sermon on race and the power of faith.
Are you racist?
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I am the least racist person that you have ever met.
LEMON: We are live in Las Vegas. Here's our breaking news. Investigators piecing together clues to the worst massacre in modern American history.
Today, 17 lives are over, 17 families are torn apart.
Every single one of us is just playing the odds at this point. Are you really willing to keep playing those odds?
The racist white supremacist cowards this weekend evidently feel they have no reason to hide. They boldly showed their faces. Perhaps they feel emboldened or even legitimized for some reason.
LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: This race thing is taken over, you know, and because, one, because I believe our president is kind of trying to divide us. But I think --
LEMON: Kind of?
JAMES: Yes. He is.
LEMON: You have black folks back, is that what you're saying?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: They've had my back my whole career and I hope I have the back of everybody.
LEMON: Sara, can you do me a favor? Can you get the chief?
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, the Floyd family has asked if you are going to get justice for George Floyd?
MEDARIA ARRADONDO, CHIEF, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: To the Floyd family, being silent who are not intervening to me, you're complicit. LEMON: The nation's capital is under curfew tonight. Lawmakers are to
reconvene to count electoral college votes on one of the darkest days in American history. Domestic terrorists. That's what -- that's what you are. Domestic terrorists who are goaded on by the president into an attack on our very own capitol. I want you to let that sink.
Here in Lviv, there are now at least 200,000 refugees.
JOSE ANDRES, CHEF & FOUNDER, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: The best of humanity unfortunately shows up --
ANDRES: -- in the worst moments of humanity.
LEMON: This country has lost one of our greatest treasures. Aretha Franklin. baby, you thrill, honest you do, honest you do, honest you do.
This is very personal for me as you can probably tell.
UNKNOWN: This is CNN breaking news.
LEMON: What's that all about?
LEMON: Wait, wait, wait, wait. What is this for? My gosh. I hate surprises.
I'm actually in a mobile, weather vehicle now.
UNKNOWN: Little miniature kangaroo are in danger because of that.
LEMON: How do you keep a healthy lifestyle when you eat cookies all the time?
UNKNOWN: Thanks for coming in. The Lama.
Wolf. I cannot believe this happened. OK. Where were we?
LEMON: And that's where were we, right? That was before our country went to hell in hand basket. Well, you know, look, this is it. The final DON LEMON TONIGHT is bittersweet moment for me, but it is not going to be a sad moment. I'm not going to be sad about it. I'm just going to miss working with all of the great people who really work their butts off every single day to put this show on the air.
So, tonight is, this isn't about me. This is about you guys who in the control room and in the studio. This is about you. Ten hours of live television a week with honestly not a lot of resources. That's quite a feat. Everyone is in bed. The like giant apparatus of a network. Most people are sleeping even though we're a 24-hour news organization. So, but we're on our own a lot here. I want to thank all of the people, all of you guys for making me look good. I'm talking about the people in the control room, the people who put on this show for having my back, for missing dinners and PTA meetings and birthdays and ball games, and spelling bees and doctor's appointments.
All of it while getting home back to your families after midnight. While the kids and the husbands and the wives and the pets were all sleeping, all because you believed in me and you were committed to putting a show on the air that bears my name. I am immensely grateful to all of you.
You will always be my family. We were all in this together. When the critics attacked me, you had my back. When conservatives attacked me, you had my back. When liberals attacked me, you had my back. When racists attacked, you had my back.
And speaking of when the former president sent armies of bigots and people who threatened my life after me, you had my back as well.
Our lives changed together in both good and unfortunate ways. We celebrated the birth of New DON LEMON TONIGHT family members, and sadly, we saw the deaths of close friends and dear loved ones. I will never forget all of you for caring me when I could barely stand.
After I walked into work just a few years ago and I got a call that my sister had died suddenly, in that moment, I could have never arranged a car or a flight. I couldn't even have found my way to the elevator or to the entrance
of this building if you hadn't literally held my hand and walked me out of the building.
So, thank you, Jeff. And Maria and Flip, and Alyssa and Rachel and Shanik (Ph) and Zach and Mel and Susan, and everyone on this team. Every single person on this team, if I did not mention your name, it is for the sake of time.
I don't want to go over. And it's not because I'm not appreciative for every, all of you gentlemen in the studio who kept me sane, who made me laugh, and ladies and made me laugh and got me in trouble many times because I was reacting to what you were doing.
I -- I am eternally grateful to all of you. I want to thank you the loyal viewers who sent me masks during COVID, cards and letters of condolences and inspiration, Christmas cards, so many, many gifts and presents over the years.
So, thank you. Thank you, thank you. Thank you. Even sending me food. I, you know, I'm not going to miss the brain fog from these hours from getting off at midnight, nor the late-night meals, which gave me dad vibe and all of us, we gained and lost so much weight together. Right? Am I lying? It's true.
So, listen, the viewers at home, I know I was not always perfect. Because no one is perfect. Because there are immense pressures that
come with this job, and in particular this time slot at 10 o'clock when people are going to bed.
So sometimes all I could do, I'm going to be honest with you, is just smile and just get to the commercial break sometimes. It's just, it -- sometimes it was exhausting. Because some of the things that we discuss here are so personal and so consuming, all consuming.
So, I hope I made you proud. And I thank you for tuning in all these years, and I hope that you're going to join me in the morning. So, I will simply say good night, and I will see you soon.
All right. So, I'm going to leave and I'm going to go upstairs. Bye. Yes.
UNKNOWN: Me too.