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CNN Live Event/Special
Town Hall with Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Aired 10-11p ET
Aired February 26, 2020 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEMON: We are back live from Charleston, South Carolina, for a CNN presidential town hall event. I am Don Lemon from the Memminger Auditorium.
And we heard from President Trump tonight. He's addressing the administration's response to the coronavirus, as well as discussing the latest on the shooting in Molson Coors complex in Milwaukee. Information is still coming in. As of now, authorities say there are multiple fatalities and the alleged shooter is also dead.
We're going to continue to bring you any updates throughout the evening as we learn more. And we're going to be discussing the coronavirus, as well as gun violence, tonight with Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren.
In just a few days, though, voters will have their say in choosing the Democratic nominee. But first, the top candidates are here. They are taking questions from voters. Tonight, we have heard from Mike Bloomberg, we've heard from the former Vice President Joe Biden, we've heard from Senator Amy Klobuchar. Now please welcome Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Wow, do you hear that?
WARREN: I heard, I heard.
LEMON: I hope they can pick up on that at home.
WARREN: You guys are great. Wow.
LEMON: That is a very enthusiastic crowd.
LEMON: How's the voice? I heard you're a little hoarse.
WARREN: I'm doing great. I'm enthusiastic, too. So let's do this. [22:00:00]
LEMON: So, listen, I want to talk to you about -- about this, because, just tonight, the president, President Trump, detailed the administration's response to the spread of the Coronavirus.
And I want to tell you what it includes. It includes stopping non- U.S. citizens from coming to the U.S. from China; screening people coming into the country from infected areas; quarantining those infected; and developing a vaccine.
Do you think that response is sufficient, Senator?
WARREN: No. But -- but let's start -- because, I mean, this really is serious. And we have a lot to talk about here. We know that, with any virus that develops, the most vulnerable will be our children, seniors, people with compromised immune systems, who are undergoing treatment. So this one -- this one is tough.
So the way I think about this is first we think about allocation, kind of, our overall approach. I'm going to be introducing a plan tomorrow to take every dime that the president is now spending on his racist wall at our southern border and divert it to work on the Coronavirus.
We also need someone in the White House who is coordinating all of the work and all of the messaging and all of the information. And we need someone who is not actively disqualified from doing that, the way the vice president is.
Do keep in mind that this vice president has dealt with a public health emergency before, in Indiana. And what was his approach? It was to put politics over science and let a serious virus expand in his state and cost people lives. He is not the person who should be in charge.
And the third part...
... is that we should be working right now on the economic fallout from this crisis. Understand this, supply lines are being disrupted as we sit here. Manufacturers right here in South Carolina are going to start running out of the parts they need, the ones that come from China, or come from other nations that are affected.
You don't wait until the factory is shut down before you start responding to that. We need to be working right now on those supply lines.
Look, this is what it means to either have a president who's all about politics and all about himself or a president like I want to be, and that is a president who gets the job done for the American people. That's why I'm here.
LEMON: Let's get to the audience now. I want to bring in Reverend Eric Manning, who is a pastor at Mother Emanuel AME Church. And as a pastor, he will not endorse a candidate. But we want to note that -- however, that his son works as a field organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
WARREN: Reverend Manning.
QUESTION: Senator Warren, always good to see you.
WARREN: It's good to see you, sir.
QUESTION: This evening, of course, we have some friends who are with us, Reverend Anthony Thompson and Malcolm Graham. So, on June 17, 2015, a white supremacist walked into Mother Emanuel AME Church and, after spending about 45 minutes, he killed nine innocent people.
In a world where there's so much negative and hateful rhetoric, and we would pray that this violence would never happen again, I'm curious, Senator, what would be your response to the families, to the survivors of those who suffer at the hands of so much hatred and evil and racists -- racism?
WARREN: So, let me start by saying again, to the whole Mother Emanuel family, how sorry I am for what happened, just as another human being. I'm sorry that there is this kind of ugliness and hate in the world. And I understand that the best way we overcome this is with love, with prayer, with an open heart.
But I also understand that we are called on to act, that a pure heart by itself is not enough, that we are called on to put action behind that -- "Faith without deeds."
And so I think of this as the place we need to start, is that we need a Justice Department and president who treat white supremacy as the domestic terrorism that it is, that threatens this United States...
... every bit as much as terrorism abroad...
... and that we commit as a people, as a government, that we will -
we will aggressively pursue white -- white supremacists, and that we will bring them to justice.
I also believe that we have to redouble our efforts on gun violence. And as you know more than anyone, gun violence is an issue of mass shootings. We have just seen another one. We're talking about the information is unfolding right now in Milwaukee. And mass shootings terrify all of us. It's about our children in public schools; it's people worshiping in church; it's about people in movie theaters, people at concerts.
But gun violence is more than that. Gun violence is also the fact that our children are gunned down on street corners and playgrounds, on sidewalks, most often in communities of color so hard hit they don't get headlines, but they are lost to us.
Gun violence is also about suicides and the increased lethality of suicides because of the ready availability of guns. These are our beloved brothers and sisters who die.
Gun violence is also about domestic violence and the increased odds that a woman will die if she is in a house where there is both an abuser and a gun.
So I see this problem as a multiple facet problem, that we're not going to have just one and done -- you know, one bill that gets passed, two plans that get passed.
We have to think of it the way we thought about auto violence decades ago, the fact that people were killed on our highways. And we were describing it as "carnage" because so many people were dying on the highways. So we made a commitment as a nation that we were going to bring down the death rate. Some of it was obvious, seat belts, safety glass. Some of it had never been used in automobiles before, like automatic braking systems and air bags.
But the point is, we tried; we studied; we collected data; and then we tried some more. Things that didn't work, we abandoned, and things that did, we doubled down on. And we brought down death by auto but more than 80 percent.
That's what I want to see us do on guns. I want to see us do the things that are obvious, the background checks, get assault weapons off our streets. But I want us to treat this as the public health emergency that it is.
LEMON: You would sign an executive order on gun violence, right?
LEMON: What's the first executive order you would sign to address gun violence?
WARREN: Actually, the first thing I would do would be to enforce the current laws about gun dealers. We have let so many loopholes slip through. And it turns out that most of the data suggests it's a handful of dealers and gun show -- people who show up at gun shows -- who are getting most of the guns into circulation.
You know, I want to say one other thing now, because this is a point about democracy and about corruption. Think about the fact that more than 90 percent of Americans -- that includes Democrats and Republicans; it includes non-gun-owners and gun owners -- want to see us take a couple of basic steps, background checks and get weapons of war off our streets. It's widespread.
We live in a democracy. And Mitch McConnell will not let us have a vote in the Senate to do either of those things. Why not? In a democracy, when 90 percent-plus of people want to get something done and it doesn't get done, understand what that means. It is corruption. It is the gun industry and the NRA that are calling the shots right now in Washington...
... instead of the American people.
Corruption, top of my agenda.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, Senator.
WARREN: Thank you.
LEMON Let's bring in Chris Middleton, a construction consultant, Navy veteran, from Mount Pleasant. He is currently undecided and he's leaning toward supporting Mayor Buttigieg.
WARREN: Hi, Chris.
QUESTION: Thank you, Don.
And good evening to you, Senator Warren. Welcome to the Low Country.
I would like you to justify the fairness of your proposed policy to cancel student loan debt.
WARREN: You bet.
QUESTION: Nobody forced these students to take out a loan, so should it not be their responsibility to pay them back?
Why am I, a taxpayer who joined the military to pay for my college education, start paying for other peoples college education? And to that extent, should you cancel my mortgage debt?
WARREN: So there are so many pieces to this. But let me at least take a couple.
First is, when I put a plan out like this, the first thing I did is how I'm going to pay for it. That's where I started. And the way I start is by saying we need to put a wealth tax in America. And this is a two cent tax on fortunes above $50 million.
So your first $50 million is free and clear, but your 50 millionth and first dollar, you've got to pitch in two cents, and two cents on every dollar after that. You hit a billion, and you've got to pitch in a couple of pennies more.
So unless you have more than $50 million in assets, I'm not asking you to pay for anything. But I do think the top one tenth of 1 percent can afford to pay a little bit more.
LEMON: But what about Chris's question when it comes to fairness?
WARREN: I will. I will. But let me also just make one pitch about that top one-tenth of 1 percent. If you're in the 99 percent, last year you paid about 7.2 percent of your total wealth in taxes.
That top one-tenth of 1 percent that I'd just like them to pay a two cent wealth tax on, that top one-tenth of 1 percent paid less than half as much, 3.2 percent.
So my view is, right off the top, they can pay an extra two cents and then still be getting a great deal.
You make it big in America, good for you, but pitch in two cents so everybody else gets a chance.
Now, let's talk about two parts about your college. I just want to say, I grew up in a family that didn't have anything. My daddy ended up as a janitor. My mom taught -- worked a minimum wage job at Sears.
I had a dream from the time I was in second grade I wanted to be a public school teacher. Can we just hear it for our public school teachers?
My family didn't have the money for a college application, much less to send me off to four years at university. And my story has a lot of twists and turns and bumps and dropping out and getting married and all kinds of things.
But the door that opened for me was a commuter college that cost $50 a semester. And for a price I could pay for on a part-time waitressing job, I finished my four-year diploma and I became a special education teacher. That opportunity is not out there in America today. Taxpayers -- taxpayers like you supported that opportunity two generations ago. They made it possible for any kid who wanted to get out there and do the work to actually get out there and get a college diploma, or a two-year degree or a technical school. But that isn't there anymore. Instead, our kids have been crushed by
a trillion and a half dollars in student loan debt, all to just try to get an education.
But here's the point I really want to make to you. Even if you don't have student loan debt; even if you don't like student loan debt; even if you love student loan debt, why should you be in favor of canceling student loan debt for 43 million Americans?
And the answer is pure old economics.
That's how this one works.
Look, we've had 40 years of trickle-down economics, which basically means cut taxes for those at the top and then hope that that money is going to trickle down on anyone else. Help the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful. It has been a complete failure for everyone who is isn't rich.
So what do we need to do? We need to build an economy from the grass roots up. We need an economy that works from people. We need an economy that's about prosperity and opportunity for everyone.
How do we do that? You cancel student loan debt for 43 million Americans, and all of a sudden they've got 600 bucks a month that they can spend locally...
... that they can spend in restaurants right here in Charleston, that they can spend buying clothes, they can spend on a car, they can spend to save up and buy a house, they can spend to start a business.
If you want to find a way to make this economy grow and make it grow in a solid way that works not just for a thin slice of the top but works for everyone, then what you want to do is you want to get those young people have enough income that they can spend; they can start businesses; they can take risks; they can build the America of tomorrow. And that's where we start.
Kathryn Pearson has been standing by patiently. She is a director of marketing for a natural foods company and is trying to decide between you and Vice President Biden.
WARREN: Hi, Kathryn.
QUESTION: Hi. Nice -- Senator Warren, with Senator Sanders having taken the lead in early primaries, do you plan to start drawing more firm contrasts between yourself and him?
WARREN: OK. So it's a good question. You know, here's how I see what's happening right now. I think it's becoming really clear that the
[22:15:00] Democratic Party is a progressive party and that progressive ideas are popular. That's why Senator Sanders, I think, is doing very well.
It's what I like to think is at least the support I get. Because we make these investments in growing a future together for all of us.
But, we're going get just one chance at this, one chance to make transformative change in the country. The fact that Donald Trump is president right now, God, I know the bad news around this. But think about the good news. It has brought a lot of people off the sidelines. It has gotten a lot of people into this fight. It has made a lot of people say 2020 is the year I show up and I'm in this.
WARREN: So what had we better do with this one shot? We better have somebody who has a proven track record for getting things done.
WARREN: Let me give you one, one fact around that, just one. Bernie and I both wanted to rein in Wall Street, saw that it was a real problem. 2008 was the financial crash, and frankly the big chance now, what are we going to do about Wall Street. And I was the one who dug in, came up with the good ideas, fought the banks, fought Wall Street, built the coalitions, and with President Obama got the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau passed into law.
WARREN: That's a hard fight against the other side that was spending at one point more than a million dollars a day. People said it could not be done. And yet you dig deep in the fight, you're willing to stand up, you're willing to build the coalitions, willing sometimes to have to compromise on some of the pieces around it. But get it done. And that little agency has now forced the banks to return more than $12 billion directly to people they cheated. We can make government work for people.
LEMON: Let's talk a little bit more about that.
LEMON: Because on that stage last night, you said that your Medicare for All plan was...
LEMON: ... better than Senator Sanders's. And then -- but you said, quote, "I dug in," which you just mentioned, "I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie's team trashed me for it." And you -- so how exactly did Senator -- did the senator's team trash you?
WARREN: They wanted to just say, no, no, no, we can't do that. Tear it apart. Not right. Didn't like any part of it. You know, this is part of the problem. And I said it last night, Bernie has put forward a Medicare for All plan. It is a great central idea. We do need universal healthcare in the country. No one should go broke just because they get sick. Health care is a basic human right.
But getting from here to there, that's going to be hard. It's going to be hard. And Bernie's plan doesn't explain how you get from here to there. It doesn't explain how we bring in the extra allies that we're going to need, how we build the coalitions that we need. And it doesn't explain how we're going to pay for it.
I did all of those things because, for me, if you really want to get something done, you better have a plan, you better show your work, and then you better get out there and fight for it.
LEMON: Here's Jason Pietramala, an account manager for a software company here in Charleston. He is currently supporting Senator Sanders.
WARREN: Hi, Jason.
JASON PIETRAMALA, ACCOUNT MANAGER FOR SOFTWARE COMPANY: Hey now, Senator Warren, welcome to Charleston.
WARREN: Thank you.
PIETRAMALA: During the Nevada debate, you and every other candidate on the stage, except for Bernie, hello somebody, indicated that the candidate with the plurality of delegates should not necessarily be the nominee.
PIETRAMALA: This essentially means the will of the voters could be denied by the super delegates and the DNC, which is basically undemocratic, and in my opinion is a bunch of, bababooey (ph), to put it politely. Can you explain why the will of the voters should not matter if no candidate reaches a majority of delegates?
WARREN: So you do know that was Bernie's position in 2016?
(APPLAUSE) PIETRAMALA: Not necessarily, no.
PIETRAMALA: He won 22 states, so he went to the convention for voters.
WARREN: No, that was Bernie's position in 2016, that it should not go to the person who had a plurality. So -- and remember, his last play was to super delegates.
So, the way I see this is you write the rules before you know where everybody stands, and then you stick with those rules. So, for me, Bernie had a big hand in writing these rules. I didn't write them. But Bernie did. When we were putting -- they were putting together the 2016 platform for the Democratic Convention, those are the rules that he wanted to write and others wanted to write. Everybody got in the race thinking that was the set of rules.
I don't see how come you get to change it just because he now thinks there is an advantage to him for doing that.
LEMON: I've got to follow that. But I got the Howard reference and hey now, by the way, Jason.
So listen, Senator Warren, to be clear, would you continue your fight for the Democratic nomination even if another candidate arrived at the convention ahead of you in the delegate count?
LEMON: You would continue, why?
WARREN: Because a lot of people made $5 contributions to my campaign to keep me in it. In fact, after that last Democratic debate, a quarter of a million people came to elizabethwarren.com and said, we want you in this race. We raised $9 million in three days from just folks who said, I'll pitch in $5 or $25. They are the heart and soul of this race.
I made the decision when I got in, I was not going to spend 70 percent of my time raising money from billionaires and corporate executives and lobbyists. I was going to spend 100 percent of my time with folks. And I make my phone calls and phone calls, as other candidates do, and phone calls I make are to people who have pitched in $5 or $25.
And as long as they want me to stay in this race, I'm staying in this race. That and I have done pinky promises out there, so I have got to stay in this. I've told little girls we persist.
(APPLAUSE) LEMON: Dana Lang, she is an attorney from Charleston who is currently undecided but leaning toward supporting former Vice President Joe Biden. Dana?
WARREN: Hi, Dana.
DANA LANG, ATTORNEY: Hi, Senator Warren. I have a son with autism. And he is about to graduate from high school. My dream for him the day that he was born was for him to grow to be kind, happy, healthy, and independent.
LANG: And those goals did not change for me one bit the day we got his diagnosis. What role do you see the federal government playing in integrating this generation of young adults with autism who are aging out of the school system? And what commitment can you make to ensure that they have meaningful lives in the community?
WARREN: So thank you so much for the question. I was a special education teacher. And I just want to say to all of you, I love that work. And if you ever want to know anything about me, all you've got to know is I'm a special education teacher. Because I'll tell you something about us, we never give up. We see the worth of every human being and we never give up.
So, let me tell you how I see this. I think of it as we have to think about how we let every human being in this country have an opportunity to be all they can be. Can I mention a couple of them here? And you may think of more. Housing, for example. There are a lot of people who face challenges who want to be able to live independently.
But we have a problem in America right now. We just don't have enough housing, period. And we sure don't have enough housing for people who have special requirements on housing. Maybe group housing, maybe somewhat more supervised housing. Different ways in supportive housing.
So, I think of this as, what kind of nation do we want to be? What kind of a people do we want to be? And, for me, I have a plan on this. And that is to build about 3.2 million new housing units across America. Now what that will mean is housing for middle class families, housing for working class families, housing for the working poor, housing for the poor-poor, housing for homeless, housing for people with disabilities, housing for seniors who want to age in place, housing for people who have been incarcerated and are making it back into their communities.
We need to treat housing like a basic human right, and safe, accessible housing for everyone. And acknowledging the different needs for everyone is a central part of that.
One other thing I just want to mention quick, I know you want to go, is employment. We need an expanded view on what it means to have equal employment opportunity. There should be no sub-minimum wage for anyone in this country. If you're doing the work, you should be paid at least a minimum wage.
LEMON: Just, the commitment to Dana's son, so they can have meaningful lives.
WARREN: So, but this is the point. It's you have got to build the infrastructure around it. We need housing opportunities. We need employment opportunities, have to be a part of this. This is about valuing each person and making our investments as a nation in creating those opportunities, opportunities for prosperity, opportunities for growth.
We have for decades now run this country to improve the lives of the very wealthiest. We have run it to make it easier for corporations so that they can move jobs overseas and improve their profitability and return more to their shareholders. It's time to say we have got to rebalance this economy. We have got to say those at the top have to pay a little more so we can build that basic infrastructure: housing education, transportation, health care coverage, those are the basic pieces that give everybody a chance in this life.
LEMON: All right.
WARREN: Including your son. Thank you, thank you.
LEMON: Thank you, Senator. We're right back right after a quick break.
LEMON: We are live from Charleston, South Carolina, with Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Do you mind sitting down for this one?
LEMON: I want to sit down and talk to you for this...
WARREN: You worried it's going to knock you over here or what? OK.
LEMON: No, this is like our fireside chat.
WARREN: Oh, OK.
LEMON: The reason I want to talk to you about this is because this is more personal and because you gave an interview to NBC News and you were talking about the challenges of running for president. And you said it was lonely. You compared it to a movie. What can you tell us about that?
WARREN: Well, there's nobody else who is out on stage with you except a guy who wants to ask you hard questions.
WARREN: And it is. I do selfie lines, and I love the selfie lines. I totally love them. They keep me grounded. People tell me why they're enthusiastic. They tell me why this race matters to them. But they also tell me why they've got to have health care coverage. They tell me about the little girl that we just took pinkie promises with and who has Stage 3 brain cancer. And they tell me about how they're getting crushed by student loan debt and, literally, if I don't make it and cancel student loan debt, they see no future for decades.
And the reason I say that's lonely, every one of those, it's like it comes in between your ribs. You know, you're smiling and it's all great, and then someone tells you a story about how desperately they need a government on their side and how long it has been since it has felt like the American government was working for them. And for some people, it has never worked for them, people who have been left behind and not listened to and no power.
And like I said, 2020 is our chance, and that's what fills my heart with hope, but it also tells me this is it, it all hangs in the balance here.
LEMON: But I want to know how it's changed you, and if this is -- what has this experience been like for you? And if this is like a movie, what's the movie?
WARREN: It's my life's work. I've spent my whole life on this fundamental question about what's happening to working families in America, why America's middle class has been hollowed out, why it is that people who work every bit as hard as my mom and dad worked two generations ago today find the path so much rockier and so much steeper, and for people of color, even rockier and even steeper.
It has been -- that has been the work of my life, is to keep seeing these pieces unfold. In the late -- in the late 1990s, early 2000s, I could see the financial crash. I could see what was happening on mortgages. I saw how communities of color were being targeted. And I rang every alarm bell that I could ring, and no one wanted to hear it. No one wanted to hear it. The banks were making money, the regulators were looking the other way, and nobody wanted to hear it.
And so this has been the fight I've been in. The difference is now, you run for president, at least people listen to your ideas. You know, you got a chance to be in the fight and get them in it.
I love it. LEMON: Thank you. If you want to, you can stand up whenever you
want, but this guy is standing up and he's waiting.
WARREN: Oh, good.
LEMON: Antonio Robinson is the director of Upward Bound Math and Science, and he's mentor chair for 100 black men of Charleston. He is currently undecided. Antonio?
WARREN: Hello, Antonio.
QUESTION: Good evening, Senator Warren, how are you?
WARREN: I'm good, thank you.
QUESTION: You are my daughter's favorite candidate.
WARREN: There we go.
You better listen to your daughter.
QUESTION: I will. I will.
WARREN: That's my view on this.
QUESTION: So climate change disproportionately impacts poor African- American and minority communities.
QUESTION: The heat alone in the Carolina summers poses a real threat to those living in deplorable housing conditions or faulty wiring and old non-energy-efficient infrastructures are the norm. What is your climate change plan specifically for the disenfranchised?
WARREN: So I very much appreciate your raising this, because climate justice is right at the heart of my climate plan. And...
And let me tell you why. You are right, but think about why it has happened. Our government, federal government, state government, local government, has permitted for decades and decades and decades polluting factories to be located in or near communities of color, toxic waste dumps to be located in or near communities of color, and we now measure the effects on health of babies in these communities, African-American babies, that are more likely to have asthma than white babies, right, because of the conditions around them.
Seniors, who are more compromised, and the economic effects. Who wants to move into a neighborhood if the air smells bad, if you can't drink the water? So the way I think about this is you can't just be like some folks are and say I've got this big climate plan.
Oh, yeah, I'm going to glue on this part and say something about climate justice. Not for me.
At the heart of what we are doing in the attack on global climate change is we must start by remedying the problem that our own government helped occur, and that is to damage the communities of color, their environment. I have committed a trillion dollars to cleaning up the mistakes that America made over past generations.
So, economic, get it cleaned up. We got to do that. Thank you. I appreciate the question.
LEMON: To your right here is Kiana Eaddy, a student at Claflin University in Orangeburg. She is trying to decide between you and Senator Sanders. Kiana?
WARREN: OK, Kiana.
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Warren.
WARREN: How are you doing?
QUESTION: I just want to say that I am majoring in middle level education, so I have hopes of being a teacher.
QUESTION: And the community that I will more than likely serve is people who look like me. And the issues that we face is one of police brutality.
QUESTION: So my question is, what actions do you have that will possibly eliminate police brutality?
WARREN: All right. Good question. And I believe that our president...
... has a real responsibility on this. So let's think about what the tools are that are available. First one is through the Justice Department. How about if we have a Justice Department and an attorney general that believe in enforcing our civil rights laws? That will help balance things out a little bit.
And the second is to acknowledge, police departments all across this country want access to federal money. And they want access to the federal equipment that is provided. And I understand that. But that means we now have an opportunity here. And that opportunity is we need to develop best practices for policing across this nation. And to say to police departments, if you want access to federal government money, then you need to be following best practices in your community. And we're going to collect data on that and you're going to have to show that's what you're doing. That's how we make real change. Hold them accountable. Good. Thank you, Kiana.
LEMON: Tracy Smith is a professor in addiction sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina. She's undecided. Tracy?
WARREN: Hi, Tracy.
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Warren. Thank you so much for being here tonight.
WARREN: I'm glad to be here.
QUESTION: So I'm a researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina, and I do research in tobacco control policies. Unfortunately, cigarette smoking still kills 50 percent of long-term users and it's still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and worldwide.
Unfortunately, a lot of our tobacco control policies have failed because of tobacco industry influence in Washington. Senator Warren, you have plan for everything. What will you do as president to help end cigarette addiction and the disease burden of tobacco in this country?
WARREN: Oh, that's a great question. Can I just start with one word? You have to diagnose the problem the right way. And the problem is corruption. The problem is a tobacco industry...
... that's still calling the shots too often in Washington and that leans on the FDA to stay out of doing science-based, health-based regulations.
So, this is my commitment, because it's my commitment across the board. I don't owe anything to the tobacco industry, by the way, or the drug industry or the prison industrial complex. We can just kind of go through the whole list.
But on yours specifically, I want to see an FDA that is science-based, that is research-based, and they make recommendations and they make regulations that are based on that science and nothing else. I will have a head of the FDA who believes in science, and then I will back that person up 100 percent.
I don't care about the political pressure from the outside. I don't care about the economic pressure from the outside. I want them to get to what is the right answer. The right answer to protect our brothers, our sisters, our children, our parents. For me, that's what this is all about. This is the reason I'm running for president of the United States.
LEMON: Senator Warren, earlier this month, the Trump administration's policy that banned many flavored e-cigarettes went into effect. Does President Trump deserve some credit for that?
WARREN: Actually, yes. And the head of FDA who did this, I spoke to him many times and said I would support him if he did this. Look, when we see movement in the right direction, we have to be willing to stand up and say, "Good." Because it is good.
LEMON: Let's turn now to...
WARREN: And then we have to do more.
LEMON: Let's turn now to Matthew Carrington. He is an elementary schoolteacher and plans to cast his ballot for you on Saturday.
WARREN: Hello, Matthew, all right.
QUESTION: Good evening, Senator.
WARREN: Good to see you, Matthew.
QUESTION: I'm a fourth grade teacher here at a public school in Charleston. And I'm a man in a job traditionally viewed as being more appropriate for women. You are a woman running for a job that has traditionally been viewed as being more appropriate for men.
WARREN: I've heard that.
QUESTION: So I have two questions. First of all, how can we get more men into the teaching profession? And how can we get more women into the presidential profession?
WARREN: Ah, great question.
So one way we can more men into the teaching profession is we can pay better.
I'm serious about this. Look, we've known this for a long time, that jobs that are predominantly held by women just don't simply pay as much as jobs that are predominantly held by men. And this is a part of the inherent racism in the -- sorry, sexism in the system. And we have an obligation to treat our teachers better.
And, frankly, no offense, not just so we can have more men, but so that we can have more people as teachers. I talked to someone today, I did a telephone town hall for people who can't make it to a town hall. And person said they had trained as a lawyer, they'd spent years as a lawyer, but now they were ready, they were going to make a transition into a teaching program. Really wanted to do this, truly moved to do it. Sounded like somebody who was going to make a great teacher.
Problem? Looked at the pay scales and said you've got to be kidding. Who can live on that? I meet public school teachers who are working second and third jobs just to try to hold it together.
And, look, I understand, teaching is a calling. But on the other hand, if you treat people with respect, that means you pay them commensurate with the education that they have. So that's part one.
How do we get more women into the presidential business?
LEMON: Yeah, we all want to hear that part.
WARREN: How about we elect one for president?
I'm ready. That's a start.
LEMON: Should we (inaudible) for the president part?
WARREN: No, no, no, I'm fine. Just elect one.
LEMON: Thank you, Senator.
WARREN: It's time.
LEMON: We're going to be right back. More with Senator Elizabeth Warren.
WARREN: All right.
LEMON: Welcome back to our presidential town hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren. I want to get right to our voter questions right now. Let's bring in Jeffrey Korte, an associate professor at Medical University of South Carolina. He is currently leaning towards supporting you, Senator. Jeffrey?
WARREN: Keep leaning. OK, Jeffrey.
QUESTION: That's right. Thank you. Welcome to Charleston.
WARREN: Thank you. It's good to be here. QUESTION: My question is about the general election campaign. Donald
Trump has his racist nickname for you. I believe that if you're the nominee, he would continue to personally insult you, in addition to numerous other false statements. How will you deal with this? What is your strategy for responding to him, while at the same time doing more to push your own message?
WARREN: So, do remember that whoever our nominee is, Donald Trump is going to have ugly names, tell lies, and make it as personal and nasty as he can. So we're just there. That's what's going to happen.
But I see this two parts. The first one is, you never back down from a bully. You just can't. I won't let him get behind me on a debate stage. But I'm not going to take anything off him.
But here's what I think is the key. I think the way we're going to beat Donald Trump is by making this election not just about Donald Trump. I think the way we're going to do it is by talking about our vision for America. The way we're going to do it is to talk about what is possible in this country if we just decide to make it happen, about the prosperity we can build from the ground up, about the opportunity we can build from the ground up.
The things I talk about are just basic pieces: education, housing, health care, transportation, just the key stuff we need, fighting back on climate. These are things that the American people want to see us do. They want to see some competence and they want to see some opportunity.
And so I think, as a candidate, the best way to beat Donald Trump is not to let Donald Trump run the whole sideshow. It's -- look, I think people are getting tired of Donald Trump. They're ready to change the channel.
Let's give them a much more uplifting channel to turn to, something that's about their families, something that's about their future, something that's about how we make America a place that doesn't just work for a handful of folks, but an America that works for everyone. That's why I'm here.
LEMON: Next question is Elaine Worzala. She is a professor of real estate at the College of Charleston. And this is second in a row. You're in luck. She's a supporter of yours. Elaine?
WARREN: All right, hi, Elaine. All right.
QUESTION: Hello. So as the first female president of the United States...
WARREN: Oh, I'm liking this.
QUESTION: ... what would you do to help solve the important issue for so many of us that are in the sandwich generation, those of us trying to hold down jobs, take care of children, and take care of our aging parents? How would you work to make sure we have the care for our aging population that will have fewer and in many cases no children to help take care of them?
WARREN: Boy, you have hit this one exactly right. And I want to say again, part of the reason we talk about a sandwich generation and how hard you're caught now is 40 years of trickle-down economics, 40 years of not investing in America's people, but instead just letting it all go to those at the top.
So let's talk about it for just a second. Medicare for all as I propose it has not only universal health care coverage -- and it covers your dental, and it covers your hearing, covers your glasses -- it covers long-term care, because that's where families are going to need it for decades to come.
The other part of this is that we need to do better for our caregivers. We need to provide more home health care, and the medical plans that I have are exactly about that, making sure that a loved one can stay at home. It's often cheaper to be able to do that. But you've got to be able to compensate the people who are doing the work, and they've got to be compensated fairly.
Home health care workers are going to be one of our critical occupations in coming decades, and we've got to be willing to put the resources in to support them. That's part of it.
Notice the other half of my plan with that wealth tax is that we support kids who want to get an education so you're not getting squeezed laying out tens of thousands of dollars for a young person to be able to go to college. That takes, in a sense -- I don't know what the metaphor becomes, but you don't have either slice of bread in the sandwich.
But the point is, you get a chance to build some economic security for yourselves, because your kids will have opportunities and because your aging family will not have to pull on all of your resources. We can build an America from the grassroots up. We've just got to decide to do it.
LEMON: We call that a bread sandwich where I come from.
WARREN: A bread sandwich.
LEMON: A bread sandwich. Let's bring in Nancy Peeples. Nancy Peeples is a teacher and a school administrator in Charleston who is currently undecided. Nancy?
WARREN: Hi, Nancy.
QUESTION: Hello. It's a late night for a teacher.
WARREN: It is, it is. QUESTION: As a teacher, I frequently remind students of the need to
work together to problem-solve, and children are pretty good at it. Unfortunately, bipartisan problem-solving seems to be beyond the scope of today's policymakers. Domestic and global concerns are just too big to be solved by a divided government. Do you truly believe you can bring the parties together for collaborative problem-solving, particularly with the Republican-led Senate? And if so, how?
WARREN: Not only do I believe I can do it, I have done it. I'll run on my track record here. Since Donald Trump has been elected, I've gotten more than a dozen bills passed.
But I want to tell you about one in particular. Forty million Americans have hearing loss. But only about one out of every six actually gets a hearing aid. Why? Because a couple of hearing aids cost you in the neighborhood of $5,000, not covered by insurance, not covered by Medicare for most people. They just can't afford it.
So I started asking the question a couple of years ago, why are those darn things so expensive? They're not as fancy in terms of what they do as your iPhone, but they cost a whole lot more. And the answer turns out to be the hearing aid industry is one more industry that has managed to capture government to keep those prices up and competition down.
So, here's my plan. Sell hearing aids over the counter, you know, the way you can get glasses over the counter. Yeah, you could go somewhere else and pay more, but if you can buy them over the counter, that gets a lot of help to a lot of people for not very much money.
So, talked about this with scientists, doctors, got the bill written. You know who the first person I called was? A Republican. And I pitched the idea, and he said, yeah, I'll do that. Second person I called was a Republican. The third person I called was a Republican. Did they want a couple of little changes in the bill and how we make sure there's certain notification? You bet.
But the point is, I built it and did it under the radar screen because that was the right way to do that one. No fanfare, not try to make it fancy, don't need any headlines, don't need any credit for this. Let's just get it done.
Now, there was a point where the NRA came out in opposition.
Go figure. But by that point, we already had enough people signed on. And here comes the best part. Donald Trump signed that bill into law last year, and next year people will be able to buy hearing aids over the counter.
So, we can work together.
LEMON: Last question, I have about 30 seconds. You know last year the Boston Globe warned against you running for president.
WARREN: Yes, they did.
LEMON: Well, this morning, they said, OK, they were wrong, and they actually endorsed you. Six days, Massachusetts is going to vote.
LEMON: Is it a must win for you, Massachusetts?
WARREN: Look, I'm here fighting for every vote. But I will tell you this. I had never run for public office at all. And in 2012, there was an incumbent Republican who was very popular and had as much money as he wanted from Wall Street.
Democrats around the state looked at that in Massachusetts and said, whoa, that guy is unbeatable. And then they said, why don't you run for that office?
Gee, Democrats, get a better sales pitch. But I did. I jumped in that race. I was down 17 points. And here was the amazing thing. I never ran for office before. I didn't have any of those networks. People jumped in and said, if you'll take point, I'll help with the part I can help with. I'll help you with making phone calls. I'll help you by introducing you to people. I'll help you by bringing you to one of my meetings or to one of my groups.
And over time, we built it in Massachusetts. I ended up beating that guy by 7 1/2 points, and I will always be grateful to the people of Massachusetts for putting me in.
LEMON: Is it a must-win? I got to go.
WARREN: I'm just grateful to those folks, always grateful.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, Senator.
WARREN: Thank you.
LEMON: Really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
WARREN: It's good to be here, Don.
LEMON: So, again, our thanks to Senator Elizabeth Warren. She's getting a standing ovation right now. Also, we want to thank our live audience right here in South Carolina, the Memminger Auditorium, for hosting us and the College of Charleston for their help for the event.
Join us this Saturday as voters across South Carolina go to the polls. Our coverage of the South Carolina primary starts at 4:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. I'm going to be back at midnight for our special edition of "CNN Tonight." Up next, my colleague, Chris Cuomo, with a special edition of "Cuomo Primetime," live from Charleston. Stay right there.