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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt
Haley Courts Moderates And Women In New Hampshire; Haley Repeats Calls For "Badass Woman" In White House; Trump Rivals Look To Boost Campaigns In Iowa, New Hampshire. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired December 15, 2023 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: All eyes on Iowa. Just one month until caucus day, Republican candidates beginning their final push to win
over voters and try to take down frontrunner Donald Trump in the Hawkeye State. Plus, polls show many Americans simply don't want a Biden-Trump
rematch, and they're looking harder than perhaps they usually do at independent and third-party candidates. One of them is Robert F. Kennedy
Jr. He will join me live for a wide ranging interview on set in just a few minutes.
Good day, everyone. I'm Kasie Hunt to our viewers watching in the United States and around the world. It's 11 a.m. here in Washington, Friday,
December 15, one month, just 31 days from the Iowa caucuses, 325 days from Election Day. This is today's State of the Race.
Welcome in. Right now, as we've said, just one month away from the Republican caucuses in Iowa. Donald Trump's challengers are still
scrambling to figure out how to make any sort of dent in his massive polling lead. Nikki Haley heads back to the Hawkeye State this weekend
after she picked up the endorsement of New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu. She is hoping to appeal to women and moderates, and that hopefully he can
make some movement in the polls. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The tone at the top has been damaging. We see it in the extreme things that we're seeing in the
Republican Party. We see it in extreme things we're seeing in the Democrat Party. There are no saints in D.C. right now. Right? But, that's why I
think you need a badass woman in charge at the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, that message does appear to be resonating with some voters in New Hampshire. Here is what some of them told CNN's Jeff Zeleny.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THALIA FLORAS, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I think we're past the point of talking about that. She is the candidate. Male or female, she is a strong
HELENE HAGGAR, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: It's time to get the testosterone out of the White House and put a woman in there, but a specific woman, not
Kamala Harris, but Nikki Haley.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Of course, the latest Des Moines Register/NBC News poll shows Donald Trump expanding his lead in Iowa with 51 percent of likely caucus goers
saying he'd be their first choice. Haley is still a few points behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis there, of course, though her real play is
likely in New Hampshire just over a week later.
Our panel joins to talk about all of this. Karen Finney is a CNN Political Commentator and was Senior Spokesperson for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Matt
Gorman is a former Senior Advisor to Republican Senator Tim Scott's presidential campaign, Paul Kane, Senior Congressional Correspondent for
The Washington Post, and our own Jeff Zeleny. He is CNN's Chief U.S. National Affairs Correspondent.
Jeff, I always love hearing your sort of takeaways from the trail and you just were in New Hampshire for a couple of days talking about Nikki Haley,
it sounds like. What did you learn up there?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, a lot of eyes are on Nikki Haley. She had a good endorsement this week from Governor
Chris Sununu. But, one thing I've noticed covering her rallies over the last couple of months, there are a lot of women at her rallies, women
bringing their daughters. And it's interesting because it's something that she never talks about overtly. We heard her say a badass woman in charge in
the White House. That's the only time she has really mentioned, and that was in response to a question about why are so many politicians getting
arrested and charged from George Santos and Donald Trump's? She was saying she would clean house (inaudible). But, she --
HUNT: So, there are voters who are worried about that.
ZELENY: For sure.
HUNT: That's encouraging.
ZELENY: So, one thing is clear. I mean, so many women -- and so her campaign is really walking the fine line here. She is more than willing to
use gender or to play it as a humorous mechanism at the debates we've seen, and also as sort of a defensive sort, if you will, when she was going back
and forth with Vivek Ramaswamy. She mentioned her high heels. But, the bottom line of this is women are interested in her candidacy. The challenge
still, though, is Donald Trump has a commanding lead over all demographic groups, women included.
ZELENY: So, she has a lot of room to go there. But, when she asks people at her rallies, who is seeing me for the first time, half of the hands in the
room at least, maybe more than that, shoot up and a lot of them are women, including at that rally in Keene, New Hampshire, just the other night.
HUNT: What do you make of that character?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, & FMR. SR. SPOKESPERSON FOR HILLARY CLINTON'S 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, it's interesting
because women as candidates, one of the things we know is that voters see them as outsiders. They do not see women as sitting in the back room,
drinking brandy and smoking cigars. Right? So, it sounds like she is actually understanding, how do you use that to your advantage? People are
going to see her as someone. They also see women as less corruptible than men. But, they pay a higher toll when they are seen as going negative,
which is the other reason I don't think she has been as negative as, I'd say, Chris Christie.
And it made me the case that those things are actually turning people into more curious about her and women, as we know, starting in 2018, started to
move away from President Trump because what did they say? He was too harsh. She was too mean. They didn't like that tone. And it's hard to see how next
year when we're getting a steady diet of it every day, like we did when he was President, that if he will be able to keep those women voters.
HUNT: Right? Well, I mean, Republicans in Washington like Mitch McConnell are absolutely obsessed with suburban women --
HUNT: -- and the way that they turned against Donald Trump and cost, not just the presidency, but a couple of Senate seats. So, one of the people
that Nikki Haley has been regularly sparring with, as mentioned, is Vivek Ramaswamy. He was in Iowa last night with some comments that -- they raised
my eyebrows. You watch and you'll see.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIVEK RAMASWAMY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But, our own taxpayer money is going to pay single mothers in the inner city or
elsewhere. More money not to have a man in the house than to have a man in the house. I just don't think we should create a government incentive not
to be in the marriage. I just don't think -- I think a lot of this aid is not helping the people who it's supposed to help. I don't blame these women
for responding to incentives created by the federal government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Yeah. So, our own taxpayer money is going to pay single mothers in the inner city or elsewhere, more money not to have a man of the house than
to have a man of the house. Mike Gorman.
MATT GORMAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR FOR TIM SCOTT CAMPAIGN: As a man of the house. Look, this is what you kind of come down to, right? Vivek was
somebody who burst on the scene, said a lot of kind of things that got attention. But now, the downside of that is when you're stuck at three
percent, you still need to push the envelope. You still need to say things that will get you a package on CNN, where it's a lot tougher now. It's
because he doesn't have the same polling numbers DeSantis, Nikki or Trump does, trying to say anything to break through. I think this is an example
of that. And also the strategies to get debates, take over, get as much attention as you can, hope something breaks. We're in kind of that throwing
against the wall mode right now for Vivek.
HUNT: So, here is what Chris Sununu, the Governor of New Hampshire, who just endorsed Nikki Haley had to say this morning to my colleagues when he
was asked about Vivek Ramaswamy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS SUNUNU, GOVERNOR, NEW HAMPSHIRE: We've had this consolidation happen. I think it'll continue to happen. Whether it's before or after Iowa, I'm
not 100 percent sure. But, the fact that as Republicans, we've got this down to two or three candidates, and the psychology of choice is very
different for candidates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ramaswamy?
SUNUNU: We don't count Vivek.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, come on.
SUNUNU: OK. Yeah. He is a conspiracy theory. Nobody cares about Vivek Ramaswamy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Paul Kane, some straight talk there from Chris Sununu, quite frankly.
PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: It's -- with Ramaswamy, it's not just the topics. It is a tone that he has. There
is a way to talk about the breakdown of the American family in a very thoughtful, conservative way. And there are people that have been doing it
for decades and decades, starting with Jack Kemp in the 80s and could do it without like ringing that bell of, oh, gosh, that sounds really sexist.
Back to Karen's point, as I've covered Congress for almost 25 years, I thought about corruptible, man, there are just dozens and dozens of male
members of Congress I can think about --
KANE: -- who got into ethics trouble. There are very few women. So --
FINNEY: That's right.
KANE: -- she has an edge there. She could try it.
HUNT: I've gotten into trouble for -- I don't want to insinuate. Obviously, women, men, anyone can behave badly, but --
GORMAN: But, she is getting credit, maybe.
HUNT: Maybe -- also maybe there is just fewer of us in government.
ZELENY: I mean, the idea of a female governor now is not a rare thing at all, and obviously, far fewer in the Senate and the House, but much more
than a decade ago. So, I think that it -- this is going to be a fascinating thing to talk about. Obviously, you worked on the Clinton campaign, and I
covered the Clinton campaign. And there was this -- it was overt. It's different for Republicans. But, people have long thought the first woman
President could be --
ZELENY: -- a Republican.
ZELENY: Obviously, she has a huge hurdle to climb with Trump, but it's really interesting what's happening out there.
HUNT: So, she is also coming in for attack by Chris Christie, who is, of course, polling his best in New Hampshire and is potentially a serious
roadblock for her in capturing the vote of people who don't want to see Donald Trump win the Republican nomination. He is putting some serious
money behind an ad from his former campaign. Take a look. It's out this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nikki Haley down by 26 in her home state to Trump attacks DeSantis.
HALEY: Too lame to lead, too weak to win.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is only one candidate trying to stop Trump. Chris Christie is the only one who can beat Trump because he is the only
one trying to beat Trump.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm in this race because the truth needs to be spoken. He is unfit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Matt Gorman, does this ad basically like undermine -- I just -- I feel like attacking Nikki Haley if you're Chris Christie in New Hampshire,
ultimately probably just does more to achieve the goal you say you're trying to avoid.
GORMAN: Well, I think it does a couple of things. He had been previewing this attack before the last debate. I was waiting for this sort of moment,
this attack to come. And he actually did the opposite, right? He ended up defending her against Vivek. So, he didn't say anything during the first
debate. And now, he finally has to come out and say this. But, you're right. I think with him, he is at 11 percent in New Hampshire. There is no
third act for him. This is his -- probably his last real campaign as a national candidate. So, it's a matter of whether or not he wants to attempt
to do -- win in New Hampshire, coming like a strong second, or you're right, consolidate and go after the person who could ostensibly beat Trump.
FINNEY: Well, if he threw his support to Nikki, it would be a far more competitive race in New Hampshire. That's the problem with what he is
trying to do here. And it's interesting that on the debate stage, she took a moment to kind of come to her defense which, as you know, Kasie, I
thought that was definitely a play for women, having been attacked by him on the air myself. But, to see him do that, and then you use an ad to do
your dirty work --
FINNEY: -- which is a pretty common tactic in politics, of course.
HUNT: Yeah. The other ad that we have out this morning, I just want to show a little snippet of it, is Donald Trump, who is really focused on making
sure that Ron DeSantis doesn't get too close to him in Iowa. Take a look at the Trump ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIM REYNOLDS, GOVERNOR, IOWA: -- love about this President is that his administration of action and outcomes. (Inaudible). Iowans, thank you. And
we are grateful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, quickly, Jeff Zeleny, that's Kim Reynolds. Kim Reynolds has endorsed Ron DeSantis. But, she says a lot of awful nice things about Trump
when he was President.
ZELENY: She sure does. And what the Trump campaign is trying to do is neutralize all those DeSantis ads that are airing right now with Kim
Reynolds talking about her endorsing him. Look, at the end of the day, I'm not sure any of this is new information to Iowa Republican voters, Kim
Reynolds is very popular, but we are going to see once again in January. Do endorsements matter even from popular governors? There is a really
interesting test going on in Iowa with Reynolds and DeSantis, and New Hampshire with Sununu and Haley. Neither of them might matter, but you'd
rather have it than not.
HUNT: You would. All right. We're going to take a quick break here. Donald Trump and Joe Biden get most of the headlines in the 2024 race for obvious
reasons. The polls are showing that independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has enough support to potentially have a big impact on the race, and he
joins us live up next.
HUNT: Welcome back. Less than one year out from the 2024 election, polls are showing the voters are not happy with the possibility of a Trump-Biden
rematch, and third-party candidates are set to play a decisive role in the race. Among them is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He announced his run as an
independent in October, after he ended his bid for the Democratic Party nomination. The latest poll from Quinnipiac University shows that in a
three-way match-up against Trump and Biden, 21 percent of registered voters said they backed Kennedy. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. joins me now to discuss
all of this and more. Mr. Kennedy, thank you very much for being here.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., U.S. INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, & SON OF ROBERT F. KENNEDY: Thank you very much for having me, Kasie.
HUNT: Why do one in five Americans say that they're interested in your candidacy?
KENNEDY JR.: I think they -- those are the people who've heard me speak. Those are the people who are listening to podcast, listening to long-form
interviews, and they want a change. They don't want to be told by either party that you have to choose between the lesser of two evils. I think they
want a candidate who is going to bring people together, who is going to inspire people, who cares about who is strong. I'm the only candidate who
is talking about what's happening to the middle class in this country. And this idea that if you work hard, and you play by the rules. You ought to be
able to make a decent living. You ought to be able to afford a home. You ought to be able to raise a family, take a summer vacation, and put aside
something for retirement.
And that was the central promise of the American Dream. And it's now gone for this generation, particularly people 20 to 35 who are very, very strong
with -- are seeing that it no longer applies to them, and they're feeling betrayed.
HUNT: You also have a very famous last name, especially in American politics. When you announced your run, there were some members of the
Kennedy family who were not happy about it. They wrote in a statement "The decision of our brother Bobby to run as a third-party candidate against Joe
Biden is dangerous to our country. And they said that "While you might share the same name as our father, you do not share the same values, vision
or judgment. Today's announcement is deeply saddening for us. We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country." What have you
said to your family?
KENNEDY JR.: Well, I have a big family. I have -- it's about 105 on July 4 when we sort of -- when I last counted, a lot of them supported me. A lot
of them don't. I'm -- listen, my family has a long, long relationship with President Biden. President Biden has bussed (ph) my father behind him at
the Oval Office. There is five members of my family who have jobs with the administration. So, I understand that they -- that some of them are
troubled by my running against somebody who is an old, old family friend, and then some of them disagree with me on issues like the Ukraine war.
And so, I was raised in a milieu where we were -- where we argued with each other. We actually orchestrated debates every night at the kitchen table or
at that dining room table. There was a lot of passion, and we were encouraged, but we also know how to differ with each other and still love
each other. I love my family, and they're entitled to their opinions. And I --
HUNT: Don't they think they are going to elect Donald Trump?
KENNEDY JR.: Well, they may -- people may believe that. But, that's up to them. I don't think -- I think I shouldn't be running for President. I
think people need to hear somebody talking, instead of victory, all the anger, the hatred, the division. I think people need to hear about a vision
for this country that is going to restore the industrial base. That is going to restore that middle class. That's going to get a generation of
kids into homes, into houses. And I think we ought to be asking our politicians how they're going to do that. I'm the only politician who is
talking about that. I'm the only one who has offered solutions for that.
HUNT: All right. So, you have gained notoriety for your skepticism about vaccines. And over the summer, in an interview you said "There is no
vaccine that is safe and effective." Do you still believe that?
KENNEDY JR.: I never said that.
HUNT: So, stop me. We have the clip. Please play the clip.
KENNEDY JR.: Play the whole clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEX FRIDMAN, PODCAST HOST: You've talked about that the media slanders you by calling you an anti-vaxxer, and you've said that you're not anti-
vaccine. You're pro-safe vaccine. Difficult question. Can you name any vaccines that you think are good?
KENNEDY JR.: I think some of the live virus vaccines are probably -- saw -- averting more problems than they're causing. There is no vaccine that is
safe and effective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, you did say it. Do you still believe it?
KENNEDY JR.: Oh, here is what I would say. First of all, I'm not anti- vaccine.
HUNT: How is that statement not anti-vaccine?
KENNEDY JR.: Well, it's a -- I can say right now there is no medicine for cancer that's safe and effective. It doesn't mean I'm against all
medicines. I've been fighting for years to get mercury out of fish. Nobody calls me any fish. What I want is vaccines that are proven safety, and what
I meant -- which was a bad use of words, and as -- none of the vaccines that are currently on the mandated schedule for children, the 72 vaccines,
have ever been tested in a pre-licensing safety study. What that means is that we do not know whether the -- what the risk profile is for those
products, and you cannot prove at (inaudible) with any scientific certainty, and any of those products are causing harm.
HUNT: So, you are saying you still believe that no vaccines are safe and effective?
KENNEDY JR.: Oh, what I'm saying is that none of the 72 vaccines has ever been tested in a safety study --
KENNEDY JR.: -- pre-licensing.
HUNT: So, let me ask you, if you think it's wise for people to take these vaccines, because you had this to say on a different podcast about whether
people with young babies should be getting them shots. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY JR.: For many, many years, I think parents were so gaslighted, and they were scapegoated, and they were vilified and marginalized, so that
even parents of kids who were very, very badly injured, knew what happened to their kid, but they were just reluctant to talk about it. And I think
now those days are over. We -- our job is to resist and to talk about it to everybody. If you're walking down the street, and I do this now myself,
which is, you know, I don't want to do -- I'm a busybody. I see somebody on a hiking trail with a -- caring a little baby and I say to him "Better not
get him vaccinated." And he heard that from me. If he hears it from 10 other people, maybe he won't do it. You know, maybe he will save that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Maybe he will save that child. Do you think preventing vaccines for a child will save that child? Do you still say this to parents today?
KENNEDY JR.: What I say again is I had three vaccines, Kasie, when I was a kid, and I was fully compliant. My kids got 72. The current recommendations
are I think around 77. And we --
HUNT: I have the vaccine record for my child, and there are not 77 shots on her.
KENNEDY JR.: 72 -- 77 dose -- there are 72 doses of 16 vaccines. Oh, that's just a fact. And there are certain vaccines that were added to the schedule
after 1986, because 1986, Congress made it so that it's impossible to sue a vaccine company no matter how negligent they are, no matter how grievous
your entry, no matter how reckless (inaudible).
HUNT: So, what were your three vaccines that you have in your list?
KENNEDY JR.: Let me finish this. And the -- there was a gold rush to add new vaccines to the schedule, including a lot of vaccines that are not for
diseases that are not even casually contagious, Hepatitis B.
HUNT: So, you don't think Hepatitis B vaccine is progress?
KENNEDY JR.: I don't think that Hepatitis vaccine -- I don't think the current -- but, I think the current science suggests that the current
Hepatitis B vaccines are causing more problems that they're solving. And listen, why would you --
HUNT: I'm not in a position to argue with you on science.
KENNEDY JR.: -- why would you --
HUNT: But, I'm glad you're on the record of saying that.
KENNEDY JR.: -- why would you have a baby if the baby has Hepatitis B vaccine. The only way that you can catch Hepatitis B is through sexual
interactions or using a needle. Now, there are mothers who -- that's their children. And all those mothers are tested in every hospital in the
country. Oh, if somebody is at risk, I wouldn't object to it. But, why give it to a whole generation? Good health comes from building a strong immune
system, and we had -- we never had Hepatitis B epidemics when I was a kid. We never had rotavirus epidemics. A lot of these products were added to
this schedule because they enriched the companies, and this is automatic boom, an automatic windfall.
KENNEDY JR.: But, companies that they are now being -- they are now allowed it to mandate their product with no legal liability.
HUNT: So, do you think school children should not be required to be vaccinated? In college, schools?
KENNEDY JR.: No. I would be against mandates at all.
HUNT: For any vaccines for children.
KENNEDY JR.: Any vaccine.
HUNT: OK. I'm glad we established that. All right. I want to turn to the war in the Middle East because we've seen antisemitism skyrocket in this
country since the October 7 attack. In July, you said this. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY JR.: COVID-19, there is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately. COVID-19 is targeted to
attack Caucasians and black people. The people mostly are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese. And we don't know whether it was deliberately targeted or not,
but there are papers out there that show the, you know, the racial and ethnic differential impact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Regardless of the science, do you understand why people saw those remarks as antisemitic?
KENNEDY JR.: Well, I can understand why people were disturbed by those remarks. They certainly were antisemitic.
HUNT: They were not.
KENNEDY JR.: No. Of course not. I was talking about a true study, a NIH funded study that showed that the docking site on the furin cleavage where
it docks with the ACE2 receptor in the human lung is more compatible with certain races and less compatible with certain races.
HUNT: I've looked at the study in question. I am not a scientist. So, I just want to stick with how this was -- there was a group that called on
you not to be testified before Congress after these remarks, because they pointed them as being antisemitic. Congressman Jared Moskowitz said his
entire family got COVID, and that your remarks were problematic. Do you wish you hadn't said them? Would you take them back?
KENNEDY JR.: Well, I wish I hadn't said them. What I said was true. And I said in a group where we were told it was Chatham House rules that wasn't
going public. And the only reason I wouldn't talk publicly about this, which is a true study, is that I know that there is people out there are
who are antisemitic and can misuse any information. The people that you're talking about on the Democratic Committee were all Democratic Committee
members who don't like me because I'm running against President Biden. At the same time, they were accusing me of antisemitism on Congress -- in
Congress. They were also saying I was Zionist. So, it's hard to be both of those things and reconcile both of those things. What it shows is that in
this political system, in this very, very toxic political system, people will say things that are simply not true about it.
HUNT: So, sticking with this topic, because you raised the Zionism question, you also in 2022 had this to say at a rally opposing COVID
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY JR.: Even in Hitler's Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You can hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did. Today, the
mechanisms are being put in place. I will make it so none of us can run and not at (inaudible).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, your wife Cheryl Hines put out a tweet that called those remarks reprehensible and insensitive. Is she right?
KENNEDY JR.: Oh, she is not right. But, it was something that needed to be said at that time because CNN, particularly Jake Tapper, I know he is very,
very close, those remarks and misinterpreted it and mischaracterized it. You put it off here.
HUNT: Well, it looks like you are comparing it to -- comparing COVID to what happened in Hitler's Germany.
KENNEDY JR.: No. I never -- you show the whole clip.
HUNT: Play it again. Play the clip again.
KENNEDY JR.: I don't want to play that again, I want to show what I was saying before that. If you can do that, you should play it again. What
you're doing is misleading the public right now. What I was saying is that, right now, we're living at a time with artificial intelligence, AI, with
GPS, with facial recognition systems with hundreds of thousands of low altitude satellites, and are looking at every part of the Earth every day.
And these are -- this is a kind of turnkey totalitarianism. These are methods for control and surveillance that if you get the wrong person in
government, a tyrant, if they can misuse us, it's been the ambition of every totalitarian system in the history of mankind, control every aspect
of human behavior. We erected a Constitution in the United States, the Bill of Rights, as a bulwark against that kind of control. What we ought to be
doing right now is building up those rights to make sure that now this very, very frightening technology cannot be used to suppress the rights of
the American people.
That's what I was saying. I was not comparing COVID lockdowns to Hitler's Germany.
HUNT: You did say, even in Hitler Germany, you could cross the Alps and just what's right. You can hide in an --
HUNT: Do you understand why people were upset by this?
KENNEDY JR.: And now, you can't. I understand why people were upset with your interpretation of it, your mischaracterization that I was comparing
Germany to the COVID lockdowns, which I never did.
HUNT: We do not have a longer version of the clip. I do think that the clip that we have is very clear. But, I will make sure that we look at the
farther -- the further remarks as well. Before I let you go, I pulled this piece you wrote in 2004 about the -- John Kerry, and you questioned whether
or not the 2004 election was stolen, and you raise a lot of points about particularly in Ohio. And my question for you is actually about the 2020
election, because this is something that is front and center here in the 2024 election. Do you believe that the 2020 election was fair, and that Joe
Biden is the legitimate President of the United States?
KENNEDY JR.: Well, you know, I believe that George W. Bush was the legitimate election -- legitimate President after he took the oath of
KENNEDY JR.: As, you know, even though I believe that there were irregularities in that election, and in 2001, which most Democrats believed
KENNEDY JR.: -- that Al Gore won the 2001 election. What I've said is that if people who say that there is things that are broken with the election
system, should not be punished. They shouldn't be derided. They shouldn't be characterized as undemocratic. Do I believe that Biden won the election?
I do. But, I had -- I have not gone into detail to examine it. My belief is that he did.
HUNT: So, you think it's legitimate for Donald Trump to say that he won the election?
KENNEDY JR.: Well, I think that it was Donald -- I think Donald Trump did something different, which is to deliberately try to fix the election, to
get people to change things that they knew to be true. But, in terms of people on the street who ask about the legitimacy of the election, do I
think that they should be dismissed as crazy people? No. I think their questions should be answered. They should be allowed to produce evidence.
We all should be allowed to debate it. And we should be debating it without vitriol. There are questions with our election system. And there was a
study that came up at The New York Times this week. It said that one out of every five mail-in ballot, people who did sent mail-in ballots, one out of
every five of them said that they had cheated.
So, you know, we need -- listen --
HUNT: I'm sorry.
KENNEDY JR.: -- I recommend -- what I've recommended --
HUNT: I'm sorry. I don't -- that one in five people who've mailed in ballots say that they cheated on the election?
KENNEDY JR.: You go ahead and look up the article. I -- this is what --
HUNT: Look, I think we've established here. There have been several times when you've said things to me that we've been able to prove are not the
case. So, I just -- I don't have that.
KENNEDY JR.: Hold on. Oh, you --
HUNT: I don't have that to hand.
KENNEDY JR.: -- you had one quotation of me that I did use unfortunate language, because it seemed much more expensive than I intended. And I
apologize. You have not shown me multiple times. You showed me one time.
HUNT: OK. Well, forgive me if that has caused me to make sure that -- I just want to make sure that -- I do not have the information on this study.
And I just want to make sure that our viewers understand that.
KENNEDY JR.: Look, I could be mistaken about this. Sorry for that. I believe it was yesterday. But, in any rate, I think -- I -- what I
advocated in that article and elsewhere is that we have paper ballots everywhere. We now rely on machines.
KENNEDY JR.: There is a whole city, Las Vegas, was built on the capacity to make machines that count money, that count properly. We have ATMs on every
corner in the country that never make mistakes and give you too much money. We have -- already have voting machines that can't be hacked. And we
already have paper ballots, kind of where we can double check. And that's just reasonable common sense, and it's something that shouldn't be a
KENNEDY JR.: -- or a Republican issue.
HUNT: I have one more question on another issue before I let you go, and that is January 6. Some Republicans have suggested that there was
government involvement in the riots in January -- on January 6. Do you believe that?
KENNEDY JR.: I don't know. I don't have any way of knowing. The only thing I saw, again, yesterday, was a clip where the FBI Director was asked by
Congress, were there --
KENNEDY JR.: -- FBI agents in that crowd? And he refused to answer.
HUNT: He said, no. He said, no, there were not.
KENNEDY JR.: He said there were not.
HUNT: He said that.
KENNEDY JR.: I don't have any reason to believe there are, if that's true.
HUNT: All right. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., thank you very much for coming on today. I appreciate your time.
KENNEDY JR.: Listen, I appreciate you questioning me in a way that is strong because I really appreciate that this is the first interview that
I've been able to do live on CNN in many, many years.
So, I appreciate that. I think that that's a good thing for our country that we ought to be able to have this kind of dialogue.
HUNT: Well, I'm glad that we got out into the open that there are conversations that happen in different venues. And now, we're all having
the same conversation on the same page. So, thank you very much, sir.
KENNEDY JR.: Good. Thank you.
HUNT: Appreciate it.
All right. Coming up next here, my panel is going to dig into everything that we just heard from RFK, Jr. That's next.
HUNT: Welcome back to the State of the Race. I'm Kasie Hunt. We're live in Washington. And our panel rejoins us now. Let's sort of start a big picture
here. Karen Finney, what did you hear in that interview?
FINNEY: I just want to be very clear, I did run very eagerly to get my COVID shot, and I'm grateful that I can be with you here on this set
because of my vaccinations. Look, I heard someone who -- two things. One, he has the things that are anti-vaxxed. And now that he seems to be gaining
a little steam, he is clearly trying to walk it back. We've all heard that. Oh, it's not the full clip argument. I think he did an excellent job really
trying to bring it back to the facts of what he said.
The second thing, though, that I would say is, some of his points about -- he is the only one talking about the -- getting back to the industrial
base, that's just simply not true. If you look at what President Biden has done, bringing back manufacturing jobs, investing in roads and
infrastructure in this country, that is largely what he has focused on. So, that's just disingenuous. And the last thing I would say is there is not a
single piece of research that I've seen and I've looked at a lot, that doesn't make it very clear. He will very much give the election to Donald
Trump if he stays in.
HUNT: Matt Gorman. What do you say?
GORMAN: As a comms guy, you always want to take whatever question you get asked and make it about what issues you want to talk about. Right? And what
I heard was just him talking a lot about himself. There was no rationale if you're an undecided voter who saved Trump, who is sick of Biden. He didn't
speak to any real issue that they actually are facing. There is no -- they didn't try and pivot to talk about the economy, talk about cost of living,
whatever, right? It was -- it really kind of -- he was having this esoteric discussion with himself about these kind of past statements that he didn't
try and say, Kasie, I'm here. But, I really love to talk about the economy. That's what folks are voting on. So, if you're watching, you didn't really
get a good rationale to vote for the guy today.
HUNT: Well, I mean, I think, Jeff Zeleny, the thing that I was most interested in knowing is that he obviously has said a lot of controversial
things in the past. And is that something that he is still going to be saying on the campaign trail? And I think the answer to -- in many of these
instances was actually yes.
ZELENY: For sure. And I think -- I mean, we could talk all day and look at past statements. He has done so many interviews and podcasts and things.
But, I was at his announcement rally in Boston, and many of his supporters in the room were there because they believed his anti-vax view. So, that is
a big part of his crowd. So, he can say he wasn't, he was. I think the record is fairly clear. But, that is what is propelling him, I guess, in
the short term. He is trying to branch out more.
But, I agree with Matt. I mean, I didn't hear much about the economy or other things. I mean, look, at the end of the day, what he is trying to do
is get on the ballot in a variety of states to complicate things, and the every survey and smart strategists you talk to on both sides will validate
what Karen said, he'll likely take more votes away from Joe Biden. He is right about one thing that people want to hear a different message that
people want to see a different kind of candidate. I'm just not sure that it's him to a wider audience. But, he does have a little following. That's
KANE: Every poll if you ask people, do you want to have the rematch Trump versus Biden? It's somewhere around 70 percent. They're like, no, we don't
want that. And right now, Democratic voters are answering more than Republican voters about they'd rather have somebody else than Joe Biden.
So, the support that he is getting is a combination of anti-vax folks, which really did start on the far left of sort of the political ideological
spectrum. And he is getting those people who are just like, oh, oh, it's a Kennedy. That's not Biden.
HUNT: That's what I was going to ask.
KANE: Yeah. Yeah.
HUNT: Yeah. How much of it is just about the fact that he is panicking (ph).
KANE: I think it's a lot of that. Now, can they run an ad with -- I went through it. Caroline Kennedy is the Ambassador to Australia. Vicki Kennedy
is the Austrian Ambassador. Joe Kennedy, Jr. -- Joe Kennedy III is an envoy to Northern Ireland. There is two more that have other like appointed jobs.
I don't know if they can --
ZELENY: You are the perfect Kennedy tracker.
KANE: I got five. Is there a way for the family to sort of come out and really put some ads behind this to put -- to really dent this momentum? I
GORMAN: I mean, he called his wife live on air. So, I don't think it's going to be a shame.
HUNT: I was a little surprised by that.
FINNEY: I was like -- I was thinking her agent was calling her right now to say we got a problem with your next gig (ph), two things. Interesting that
he did this interview with you, Kasie, because he has not done very many mainstream, and it's been a lot of podcasts, some NewsNation and Fox, but
not so many mainstream. So, I thought that was really interesting, because the more these ideas get out there, I think we'll see whether or not that
20 percent and 16 percent actually holds. The other thing I would just remind us is Jill Stein who got on the ballot in just a handful of states
that actually ended up costing Hillary the election. So, when we talk about him getting on a -- as Jeff just said, a couple of states and kind of
making trouble, that's the kind of trouble we're talking about.
HUNT: Yeah. Matt, do you buy the idea that he -- I mean, this -- this sort of whole package here, and kind of the big picture takeaway, I think, that
-- I was hoping to establish from this conversation is that this conspiracy theory situation is a universe, right, that people participate in. Some of
them focus on different things.
HUNT: But, it's all tied together, January 6, the election, questions about the election, antisemitism is obviously one of the very first things that
comes up, and we have seen some of that on the right in addition to the left, right? This is not necessarily a politically - -I mean, it's kind of
GORMAN: It's -- I think somebody called the horseshoe theory, right, where some people on the far left are actually closer in ideology and some folks
on the far right. You hear in 2020 or 2016, who is your first choice? Donald Trump. What about the second choice? Bernie Sanders.
HUNT: Yes. He has got a lot of (inaudible) voters. Yes.
GORMAN: It is that -- it is a real, real thing. And I'll actually say this. I don't believe Vivek Ramaswamy believes half the stuff he says. I actually
think RFK believes most of the stuff. He seems to, at least.
And so, take that for what you will. But, you're right. There is this kind of -- on the left and right, they're closer than you think when it comes to
some of this stuff.
HUNT: All right. Let's take a quick break. Coming up on State of the Race, we're going to continue our conversation here with our esteemed panel.
We'll be right back.
HUNT: Welcome back to State of the Race. My panel is back with me. And we have been discussing conspiracy theories and how they have become a central
feature or a significant one, anyway, in our political discourse. One of them relates to January 6, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. attempted to say that
the FBI Director had not been definitive about whether or not there was federal government involvement, a federal law enforcement involvement in
the events of January 6. I want to show you what the FBI Director Christopher Wray actually said when a member of Congress, who also
apparently buys into this conspiracy theory, pressed him about it at a recent hearing. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, U.S. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: If somebody is asking or suggesting whether the violence at the Capitol on
January 6 was part of some operation orchestrated by FBI sources or FBI agents or both, the answer is emphatically not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Paul Kane, I mean, you cover Congress, and forgive me, I believe you were on the Hill --
KANE: I was there. Yeah.
HUNT: -- on January 6. Yes.
HUNT: Where does this -- I mean, where does this come from? Where does like -- I honestly -- I struggled to formulate questions around this. I was at -
- because I was at a complex too.
KANE: It started that day within -- as the attack was happening, there were Republicans who were trying to say these were Antifa.
KANE: These were the far left people. They just kind of got these other Trump people a little bit riled up. And it became clearer and clearer as
more and more videos came out, you could see like, no, these were Trump people. They were wearing Trump signs.
And then there became sort of an excuse search, like, OK, if it wasn't Antifa, maybe it was the FBI, maybe -- because there were stories that
would come out that like an FBI informant in some white supremacist group had sort of said something to the Virginia office and there was like, they
didn't do a good enough job connecting the dots. And that stretched to -- they were part of it.
KANE: They were part of it. And it is -- he was answering a question, I think, from Clay Higgins at that point, which was just bananas, ghost buses
or something that, like, were filled with FBI agents who were really here trying to rile people up. Like it's crazy. And there are a few House
Republicans who are in this orbit.
HUNT: Yeah. Matt Gorman.
HUNT: Sorry. You are a Republican.
HUNT: I was going to kick it for you on that.
GORMAN: I got to keep coming back to this. I guess what I really failed to struggle -- I failed to see is, if you are still as a Republican talking
about this and that sort of way, how is that appealing to win in 2024? Right? How is -- again, still talking about January 6 in that sort of way,
actually getting what you need to get done to elect a Republican President or take back Congress. So, this obsession with it from that side of it, I
still don't understand.
HUNT: But, it's almost become a prerequisite for some of these candidates on the right.
GORMAN: I wouldn't say a prerequisite. There is -- look, there is a -- and Robert F. Kennedy taps into this too. I think one of the things I learned
in last couple of years, there is a huge ecosystem of podcasts and just media that a lot of folks do not see. Kari Lake was a master of this in
2022, where you can get on and talk to these base voters and talk about these sorts of things, and it reaches a large audience.
HUNT: Yeah. Very quick, Karen.
FINNEY: To some people, though, it also confirms what they believe which makes them feel less alone, and that sense of belonging, which is a big
part of politics, is part of the motivation, I think, because then you've created a voter and an activist.
HUNT: It really is. I mean, ecosystem has come a good way to think about it.
All right. We're going to take a real quick break here, but the panel is going to stick around. We'll have one more thing when we come back.
HUNT: Welcome back to the State of the Race. My panel rejoins me, because we always ask for one more thing on the trail in Washington that you're
watching in the coming days. Your thoughts, Jeff Zeleny.
ZELENY: Look, I mean, next week will be interesting, the border in Ukraine. I mean, there is really going to be an alliance and allegiance between
Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, which we rarely see about Ukraine funding, but it's actually opened up a border discussion as well. We're
going to be talking about this. It's not going to pass the House, likely. But, this is going to haunt the Biden campaign for the agreements that
they're making on immigration right now. So, this is something that we will put an asterisk by and be talking about a lot next year, what is in this
Senate Bill, regardless of if it becomes law.
HUNT: Right. Paul Kane.
KANE: Next week, we also get a filing deadline for party campaign committees. It's usually not that big a deal. It's November. But, it's the
first full month of Speaker Mike Johnson. And we're going to get to see whether his fundraising keeps up with where Kevin McCarthy was. Republicans
are at a huge disadvantage. Even with McCarthy, they were trailing by 26 million in terms of dollars raised so far. That's a lot of money that
Democrats can put into that special election in February for George Santos' seat.
HUNT: Yeah. It sure is. Matt.
GORMAN: The real effects. Yeah. The debate over debates, the RNC now lifting the bar of other debates that they were not running. So, it's CNN
now. Nikki Haley confirmed this morning with now her and Ron DeSantis. Do all these other splintered debates happened as Fox hosts a smaller one on a
certain show, and who has the incentive to attend? I don't expect Trump to, but if it's Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis one-on-one battle, that could be very
HUNT: I mean, why not? Karen.
FINNEY: There is economic news. I feel like I can't say enough.
This week, the stock market twice had record days. We're seeing gas prices come down. We're seeing consumer spending up. We're seeing inflation and
mortgage rates going down. Will it continue?
FINNEY: Obviously, we got good news out of the Fed this week. But, what happens in the next several months is going to also play a huge role in
what happens in November.
HUNT: If not a definitive one.
HUNT: Very sure. So, Matt picked up on my one more thing a little bit because I was going to say, at CNN, we announced today that our debate in
Iowa is going to take place January 10, moderated by our own Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, and Nikki Haley has agreed to participate in that debate.
So, it turns out that the one we saw earlier this month isn't the last time we're going to get to hear from the candidates before they try to dent
Donald Trump in Iowa. We'll see how it goes.
Thank you all very much for being here today. I really appreciate it. And thanks to all of you for watching. That's the State of the Race for today,
Friday, December 15. I'm Kasie Hunt. You can always follow me on Instagram and the platform formerly known as Twitter. Don't go anywhere. One World is