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Super Tuesday Voting Tomorrow; New Poll Shows Trump Leading with 49 Percent; Will GOP Split Over Trump?; Secret Service Versus the Press; Chris Rock and the Academy Awards. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 29, 2016 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Before we go tonight, a moment at the White House, U.S. Navy SEAL Edward Byers who helped rescued American doctor and held hostage in Afghanistan received the Medal of Honor today. He's humble about it saying the honor really goes to his SEAL comrade who died in the 2010 raid who saved his life for many others. A remarkable moment for a remarkable hero.

That does it for us. CNN TONIGHT with Don Lemon starts now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: They don't call it Super Tuesday for nothing and this one could mean everything for Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Evangelicals, the Tea Party people, we're winning with old, we're winning with young, we're winning with highly educated. Right?


We're winning with a little bit less than highly educated, which is OK. I love you.



LEMON: This is CNN tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Voters in a dozen states ready to cast ballots tomorrow. Hundreds of delegates up for grabs. Is Donald Trump unstoppable? Look at this. A new CNN poll gives him a 30-point lead over his GOP rivals. Some republican leaders growing more nervous by the minute. If Trump wins big and sails towards the nomination, could he split the GOP in two? And can he recover from his stumble over the Ku Klux Klan?

A busy night ahead as we count down to Super Tuesday indeed. I want to bring in CNn correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, thank you for joining us this evening.

A brand new CNN poll shows Donald Trump with a big lead nationwide, 49 percent, 49 percent. His nearest rival is Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, 16 and 15 percent respectively. He has more support than all of his rivals combined. What does that mean for Super Tuesday tomorrow?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going to be a good night for Donald Trump, no question about it, Don. But even rival campaigns are willing to acknowledge that. But the big question going in tomorrow is how many delegates can Donald Trump pull in? All of the contests tomorrow are proportional.

They are not win or take all for Marco Rubio, for Ted Cruz, even for John Kasich and Ben Carson who issue is trying to steal delegates from Donald Trump. And even if he gets all of the states. The big question though, for Ted Cruz, can he defend Texas? If his team thinks yes. But if Donald Trump is able to take Texas away from Ted Cruz, that could spell the end of his campaign, Don.

LEMON: Yes. And really ugly moments, too, Phil, on the campaign trail that's happening these days. Today, at a Donald Trump event, there was an extended protest, some harsh words. Tell us what happened.

MATTINGLY: Well, in an event, at a Donald Trump event in Virginia, there were Black Lives Matter protesters. About two dozen that were escorted out of an event while they were protesting. But that wasn't the biggest of that event.

That was actually an altercation between a secret service agent and a Time magazine photographer. The photographer was trying to take shots of the protesters since they were escorted out, bump into a secret service agent exchange in profanity with him and then was probably choke slammed.

Now, the Time photographer has said he's not going to press charges. The secret service press says they are looking into it. But Don, what this really underscores is Donald Trump's rally are full of tension between the crowd, between the press, and between the candidate himself, and that again itself in Virginia today, Don.

LEMON: Yes. It's awful when you look at that video, Phil, of what is happening. First of all, the Black Lives Matter protesters and then you look at this reporter basically looked that he's being choked, he is being choked and then pushed, slammed to the ground. What started this altercation? What are people saying about this? This is awful.

MATTINGLY: Well, yes. Don, it looked like it was literally just a push for space. Now one of the things that happens at Donald Trump events for reporters, is they are penned in once the event starts. The secret service often sits outside the pen and prevents reporters from going out.

As the protestors are moving out it appeared the photographer was just trying to move closer to get a shot. The secret service and he exchanged words, and the agent has exchange words and that's when all this, all blew up.

Don, this is not a good look for the secret, and right now I think the secret service itself in Washington, D.C., is really looking into this to see exactly what happened. LEMON: Yes. It looks like more than like a push for space. I mean, it

looks awful. This guy was choked. The video, the evidence is in the video. He was choked and then pushed to the ground and looks like he tried to push the, kick the secret service agent off of him.

Listen, he's also under fire -- Donald Trump, you know, beyond that under fire for not disavowing support from David Duke, the former grand wizard of the KKK. What are his rivals saying about that tonight. I'm sure they are taking that head-on.

MATTINGLY: Yes. No question about it, Don. It just moved swiftly into stumo speeches. This is Marco Rubio had to say in Atlanta this morning.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R-FL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You say David Duke to me and I say racist. Immediately. Why wouldn't he condemn the Ku Klux Klan?


There is no room in the conservative movement and there is no room in the Republican Party for members of the Ku Klux Klan or for racists like David Duke.


[22:05:09] MATTINGLY: Marco Rubio essentially saying Donald Trump not electable, really kind of feeding into this never Trump movement we've seen going across who have triggered people. The conservatives and republicans flushing that they never vote for Donald Trump. We've heard also heard Ted Cruz going off on this, John Kasich as well.

Every candidate is trying to hit about this. They believe that this makes him unelectable, this helps their argument as they head into Super Tuesday. But, Don, I'm been surveying senior GOP operatives across the party and in rival campaigns throughout the day today, my question, do you think this will actually have any impact on the votes tomorrow across the board? The answer, no.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Phil Mattingly in Jenks, Oklahoma. I want to bring in now Hugh Hewitt, host of the Huh Hewitt show. Hugh, good evening.


LEMON: First, before we even play -- before we play the response, do you think this is going to have any impact, that was Phil's last response, on his campaign?

HEWITT: Oh, absolutely. I'm a big believer in momentum in sports and in politics. I'm wearing my Browns jersey tonight because it's the convention in Cleveland and I'm a Browns fan. But I also wanted to make the point that momentum matters a lot. And what happened on Jake's show yesterday is what in politics we would call a game changer, equivalent to Mitt Romney's 47 percent comment four years ago, equivalent to Gerald Ford's comment in 1976 that Poland is free, as bad, much worse actually than Hillary Clinton saying, "I wipe my server, you mean with a cloth" or that was actually was broke when she left the White House.

Gaffes are terrible thing. But a gaffes about race, when you're offered three chances to denounce David Duke and the KKK and you miss three times, when you've done it the day before and you do it the day after is a fundamental issue now going forward.

And I had Ted Cruz on my show tonight, you had Marco Rubio earlier, they both have jumped on this and they are not going to let it go. Imagine what the democrats will do with this audiotape. So, I think Donald Trump now faces a double challenge. He's got to meet expectations tomorrow, probably sweep every state except Texas, so it will be considered a bad night for him and...


LEMON: Hugh -- Hugh, let's hang on here. I want to talk about this more and I'm going to let you talk but I want to play the moment first so that our viewers are aware of what you're talking about and then you can continue on. So, he has said he had trouble with his ear piece but I want to play because this is him. And I think he repeat the questions, but here he is on Jake's show.


JAKE TAPPER, THE LEAD SHOW HOST: Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don't want his vote or that of other white supremacist in this election?

TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacist. So, I don't know. I mean, I don't know, did he endorse me or what's going on?

Because I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacist and so you're asking me a question that I'm supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.

TAPPER: But I guess the question from the anti-defamation league is, even if you don't know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don't want their support?

TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don't know what group you're talking about. You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I'd have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. But you may have groups in there that are totally fine.


TRUMP: And it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups and I'll let you know.

TAPPER: OK. I mean, I'm just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but...

TRUMP: I don't know. Honestly, I don't know David Duke. I don't believe I've ever met him. I'm pretty sure I didn't meet him and I just don't know anything about him.


LEMON: Hugh, Hugh, come on.

HEWITT: I'm not defending that. I believe what the appropriate response would have been is that the Ku Klux Klan is evil and then I want nothing to do with David Duke and I denounce him, which is by the way, what Trump the day before. And what Donald Trump has to do every day from now until the end of eternity.

However, I just heard that audio and I see in my mind a 30-second ad playing in every swing state the final 10 days of the election and every African-American in any kind of district which doesn't give any explanation or denunciation but simply repeats the charge. And it's the 47 percent tape times a thousand. It's a -- it is a game changer.

And I think Donald Trump began to address it today but I think you'll see its impact over two weeks between now and the real Super Tuesday, the winner take all Super Tuesday on March 15th.

And I think our debate on March 10th, he's going to have to come to that debate prepared to say, I denounce David Duke. The Ku Klux Klan is evil and we cannot afford anything like this in our party whatsoever. He's got to do that every day or it could be an absolutely fail to work...


LEMON: Is it too late?

HEWITT: It may be too late. I don't know. Voters decide that. Pundits don't decide that. But in politics like in sports, we're going to end up in Cleveland with an open convention in all likelihood.

[22:10:07] If you do the mate we're going to end up in my town of Cleveland where the, you know, everyone wanted to have a fun time but no one expected an open convention. No one expected that would happen. But I think tomorrow night, if Ted Cruz wins Texas, we're on our way to an open convention in Cleveland.

LEMON: Two things for you. So, if you're doing it and Donald Trump does lots of interviews, as you saw Hugh, and if you can't hear something I'm saying, you will say, I'm sorry, Don, I didn't hear that, can you repeat it? And then, you know, as Donald Trump, you would repeat the question back to me to make sure you got as he did, he repeated Jake's question back to him. Jake understood it.

And the other thing is, anything to do, and I think you were making this point, anything to do with the KKK, the rational response from anyone who is running for office for anyone would be, I know about this particular group or anything that has to do with the KKK, I disavow it, and you know what, I don't want your vote. That is the rational. That seems to be the rational question. Or answer, I should say.

HEWITT: I've tripped over my tongue so many times; I'm never going to criticize someone for tripping over their tongue. And he might not - best case - he might not have heard the KKK part but he repeated back the David Duke.

LEMON: Right.

HEWITT: He repeated it back twice. And so, the audio, you know, a trial lawyer and I've lots of partners who are trial lawyers, I'm not now or have been a trial lawyer would play that as an omission against interest in that you are repeating back the name you say you cannot hear.

LEMON: Right.

HEWITT: So, maybe he didn't recognize it but I'm just thinking of the audio, Don.


HEWITT: That makes for the most devastating -- it's just like the Mitt Romney 47 percent ad. He could talk -- explain it all the way as much as you want. But this is a thousand times worse than that. So, I think it will have -- you know how Marco Rubio's reputation in the debate in New Hampshire hurt him badly?


HEWITT: This has that kind of effect on Donald Trump. Although I don't think it will show up or if shows up as quickly as tomorrow, that will be truly evidence that the momentum has stalled and shifted. But I think two weeks from now is when it will sink in. I already saw one super PAC out hitting out. There is also another story tonight, Don.

LEMON: Yes. I want to talk about that. You're talking about this attack by Ted Cruz today. I want your reaction to this the New York Times. Look at this.


CRUZ: And I will say there was a very disturbing story that broke today. That apparently there is a secret tape that The New York Times editorial board has of Donald Trump saying that he doesn't believe what he's saying on immigration, that all of his promises to secure the border are not real and if he's president, he doesn't intend to do what he said. Now that's been reported. The New York Times apparently has this on

tape but it was an off-the-record tape. And so, the New York Times has said they will not release the tape unless Donald gives them permission to do so. I call on Donald, ask The New York Times to release the tape and do so today before the Super Tuesday primary.

There are one of two incidents. It is either false and if Donald Trump didn't say that to The New York Times, then he deserves to have this cleared up and releasing the tape and clear it up.


LEMON: I think that's what the next story you were talking about. This is again, this is the story that you're talking about.

HEWITT: Absolutely. You know, I interviewed Ted on my show today and the senator made the same demand on Donald Trump. Mitt Romney echoed that on a tweet later in the evening saying Donald Trump, tell the Times to release a transcript.

You add in Trump University, Trump mortgage, which is the subject of the piece in The Washington Post this morning, the demand for the tax returns and the allegations that they may conceal not just a lower net worth but mob ties or a lack of generosity, it's been a horrible five days for Donald Trump other than the Chris Christie endorsement.

And if BuzzFeed is right, and the story originally was broke by Ben Smith and BuzzFeed as to whether or not there is a secret tape, if that exists, it will eventually leak. It will leak right before the election. That's the -- you know, if you're a republican and you want your nominee to win and you run a show like I do, which is Switzerland, everyone is welcomed in and they can say whatever they want, I'll ask everyone the same question, they are all going to talk about this between now and Cleveland.

This is the set of problems that Donald Trump has, it's going to be the talking points for John Kasich, for Marco Rubio, for Ted Cruz and Ben Carson at both debates and at every single speech. So, it's a big problem for him.

LEMON: I've got to run, but I have to say, anytime someone says the KKK, you just say, look, I have no part of that. Yes?


LEMON: Evil, right? I like the Browns, I like your Browns sweatshirt. Nice work there, sir.

HEWITT: Season ticket holder, Don. I'll take you to a game sometime.

LEMON: All right. Hugh, see you, sir.

HEWITT: See you.

LEMON: Make sure to stay tuned with CNN for Super Tuesday all day tomorrow as voters in a dozen states cast their ballots. Our covergae will be on whole day. Make sure you stay tuned.

Still ahead here, though, will Trump's handling of the KKK controversy damage his lead in the GOP race? Up next, I'm going to ask a Trump supporter if he is reconsidering.

[22:15:03] Also coming up, did Chris Rock strike the right tone as the host of the Oscars amid the controversy of no actor of color including Will Smith?


CHRIS ROCK: I understand you're mad, Jason is mad, his man Will was not nominated for "Concussion." I get it. I get it. To tell you the truth, I get it. You get mad. It's not fair that Will was this good and didn't get nominated. You're right. It's also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild, Wild West. OK?



LEMON: As we count down to Super Tuesday, a Donald Trump campaign rally in Virginia turned ugly today when a secret service agent allegedly choked, slammed a photographer who was -- why are we saying allegedly? You can see it in the video. He choke the photographer, he puts his hands around his neck and pushes him down to the ground and then after who was shooting a Black Lives Matter protest.

He was videotaping or shooting, taking pictures of the Black Lives matter protest after this all this disrupted today, So, or this unfolded today, while Trump is taking criticism for these comments on Sunday as well. Look at this.


TRUMP: I don't know anything about David Duke. OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don't know.


[22:20:04] LEMON: Joining me now is Pastor Darrell Scott of the New Spirit Revival Church in Cleveland. He is a Trump supporter. Tara Setmayer with us as well, a republican strategist and CNN political commentator.

Again, if you see the video, there's no allegedly there. He's choking the guy. So, Darryl, he choke slammed him. That's it. I mean, look at the video. That's a choke and that's a slam. There is no allegedly. Do you have second thoughts endorsing Donald Trump after you see this and his comments about the KKK?

DARRELL SCOTT, NEW SPIRIT RIVAL CHURCH FOUNDER & PASTOR: Well, first of all, Donald Trump didn't choke slam the guy. The United States secret service did. And from what I understand, the guy dropped an f- bomb at the secret serviceman. And the secret service man, I don't know maybe, I don't if that's part of policy and procedure that if somebody drops an f-bomb at you, you get to choke slam him. But, you know, I can't hold Donald Trump responsible for what the United States secret service did...


LEMON: Ok. Two things there. It was at a Trump rally and number two, I don't think that if someone yells an f-bomb you, I don't know if that gives you the right to choke them. I mean, probably.

SCOTT: I didn't say he gave the right. I didn't say he gave the right. I don't know what kind of day that guy had or whatever, but you know, it speaks for himself. He did it. But Trump didn't do it.


LEMON: It seems like you're condoning what he did.

SCOTT: I'm not condemning it.

LEMON: Anyways, let's talk about the -- you have the worse day. Let me say this. If you had the worst day, you don't go and choke anybody.

SCOTT: he didn't choke anybody, the secret service choke him.

LEMON: I didn't say Donald Trump. I'm talking about the agent, pastor. Come on now.

SCOTT: But, Don, do you think Donald Trump should have had instructions in the back, and say, listen, if somebody does something, make sure you don't choke slam him, because I had a bad day.


SCOTT: Now, come on now. It happened, it happened because we...


LEMON: No, it happened at a rally. And listen, I'm not blaming Donald Trump for the secret service agent.


LEMON: That's two separate things. We can have two thoughts about that.

SCOTT: All right.

LEMON: But let's talk about the KKK here. Have you -- is this making you reconsider your support for Donald Trump considering his comments on the KKK?

SCOTT: Well, no. Because I happen to know and everyone in America happens to know that Donald Trump is not a racist. That's a tag that his opponents and the media tried to label him with. He's not a racist. I mean, he did disavow David Duke. He's been disavowing David Duke for the last two or three days. Hugh said he'll have to disavow him until eternity which he probably will. He just didn't disavow as fast as Jake Tapper wanted him to do.

LEMON: OK. Let's do this. Let's show then there is progression in the so-called disavowing. No worries, Tara. You're going to get in. Let's hear what he said on -- let's hear what he said about David Duke on Friday.


TRUMP: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel about the recent endorsement from David Duke?

TRUMP: I didn't even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me? OK. All right. I disavow. OK?


LEMON: OK. Then why not say to that. Is there a strategy behind this do you think?

SCOTT: Well, I don't think there is a strategy. He said he had a bad ear piece. I have to take him for his word. Maybe he was getting there is some breathing over there.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because it's ridiculous, pastor, but go ahead.

SCOTT: It's ridiculous to you but apparently it's not ridiculous to Mr. Trump because that's what he said and that's what he's sticking by and who am I to say otherwise? I can't say what he heard.

SETMAYER: Because well...


SCOTT: But if he said on Friday, I disavow, why ask him again on Saturday?

SETMAYER: Because this is a presidential election and you're going to get asked questions often and probably the same thing over and over again, because not everybody watches what happened on Friday. And as the weekend progressed, it was, you know, you have to remember that Donald Trump also tweeted out a Mussolini tweet. He re-tweeted a Mussolini tweet for goodness sakes, on Sunday morning.

So, there are things that have been piling up and that's not an excuse. Donald Trump repeated what Jake Tapper said. We saw the video and it's completely disingenuous to actually sit here and think the American people are stupid and think that he did not hear the question that Jake Tapper asked him.

That was an excuse because Donald Trump never takes responsibility for anything. And it was a huge mistake. I'm sorry, but pastor, if someone said to you, you know, David Duke has endorsed you, and other white supremacist groups have endorse you. The first thing you're going to say is, absolutely not David Duke, a racist. I don't want anything to do with these people. You don't hedge on something like that. You don't hedge on something like that.

SCOTT: But I can't put my...

LEMON: Go ahead, Darrell.

SCOTT: I can't put my words in someone else's mouth that is guarded against the media because they are aware that anything and everything they say the media is going to blast it.

SETMAYER: Give me a break.

SCOTT: The bottom line is why wasn't it news that...


LEMON: Wait a minute, Darrell. Darrell, the media is going to blast it? He's on a live television show. That's not just nationwide. It's worldwide. So, you express the media to blast...


SCOTT: But we're still talking about it. We're still talking about it two days -- what I'm saying is why didn't the media publicize that it disvow him from Friday. Why hasn't the media...


LEMON: They ran the sound but. We run the sound bite. We have the sound bite. We ran it. It's been running, Darrell.

SCOTT: You only ran that sound bite one time and you run the other sound bite by 100 time.

SETMAYER: Listen, this whole thing is ridiculous.

SCOTT: It is ridiculous. You're absolutely right. It is ridiculous.

SETMAYER: No, it is ridiculous. Because Donald Trump who is self- inflicting these wounds on himself. It's not the media, it's not the establishment, it's not some boogie man in the closet. It's Donald Trump's own behavior...


[22:25:04] SCOTT: I think their reason. I think everybody's reason.

SETMAYER: ... his own words, his own inability to take responsibility when he makes a mistake and this is a consistent thing. It's an integrity issue. Donald Trump is dishonest and a manipulator. And he brags this.

He's brag about it in his books, he's brag about it over his 30-year career of manipulating the media and being this very gregarious character in the media. He bragged about it on, you know, Howard Stern when he's talking about sleeping with different women and their body parts.

LEMON: OK, Tara.

SETMAYER: He does this thing all the time.


SCOTT: Tara, hey, look, I was -- do me a favor.

LEMON: Darrell, Darrell, why do you say -- why do you say everybody is reaching?

LEMON: Don, do me a favor. Tell me one politician that's not a manipulator. Name one.

LEMON: That's not a point, though.

SETMAYER: We're talking about Donald Trump.

SCOTT: That's not a media -- that's not a media manipulator.

LEMON: That's not the point. If you -- listen, listen, Darrell.

SCOTT: I think everyone is reaching.

LEMON: Darrell, you're deflecting. Here is, let me tell you why you are deflecting.

SCOTT: Don, I'm not deflecting.

LEMON: Yes, you are.

SCOTT: Unless you are.

LEMON: But let me tell you why. Let me tell you why. So, you're going to tell me what I mean but you're not going to tell me what Donald Trump means? You just said I have to take Donald Trump at his word. So, take me at my word when I tell you that you're deflecting. Here's why.

SCOTT: OK. I'm not deflecting.

LEMON: Because if Hillary Clinton -- if Hillary Clinton had said if someone asked her a question, if I asked her a question about the KKK and she hedged it, then everyone would be talking about it. If I asked Marco Rubio about the KKK and she gave the same -- he has the same response that Donald Trump -- everyone would be talking about it.


LEMON: When it comes to the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan, there is no hedging in America. Everyone knows the history of race and racism in this country. Everyone knows the history of the KKK. If it's a group that is affiliated with the KKK, why must one sit there and say, I need to know about the group? If someone asks you about the KKK, the simple answer is this, I want nothing to do with the KKK. They are despicable and if you support them, I don't even want your vote. Go.

SCOTT: Hugh said it himself, that he didn't know if Don even heard -- if Donald Trump heard the part about KKK.

LEMON: No, Hugh said he did because he repeated the question back and the name.

SCOTT: He said, he repeated the question, you didn't hear what you just...


LEMON: I'm an attorney and if I was in a courtroom -- no, I heard what he said. I heard exactly what he said. But go ahead.

SCOTT: Hugh just said I don't know if Trump heard the part at the end when you say the KKK. Hugh just said that.

LEMON: He said I don't know anything -- he said I don't know anything about the KKK. I don't know anything about the...


SETMAYER: He repeated it back.

SCOTT: No, he just...

LEMON: OK. Do you have a bad ear piece right now?

SCOTT: I must do because I didn't hear him say I don't know anything about the KKK.

LEMON: Go ahead, Tara.

SCOTT: I heard him say he don't know anything about David Duke.

SETMAYER: OK. I think we've pretty much established that Donald Trump is being completely disingenuous about not hearing the question. I mean, the fact that anyone is even arguing this is crazy.

But besides that, again, I go back to the fact that it's an integrity issue. You know, Donald Trump even when said I disavowed on Friday, he said it like he's doing us a favor. When he goes, oh, David Duke endorse me, I disavow, like, he's doing us a favor. But there was no conviction behind that. I mean, where has Donald Trump...


SCOTT: You can't say that.

SETMAYER: Where has his conviction been consistently?

SCOTT: You can't say that. SETMAYER: What does he actually believe in? Because it changes.


SETMAYER: You know, a couple years ago, he believed in x, y and z. And now it's this. You know, he's going around and telling people about how he is going to be tough on the immigration and deport people. But only a couple of years of ago, he criticized Mitt Romney for being too tough on immigration and he gave an interview where he said that you can't just send people out.


LEMON: OK, Tara. I've got to go.

SETMAYER: He's inconsistent because he has no moral compass. And I'll say anything...

LEMON: Darrell, I'll give you the last word. Quickly, quickly.

SCOTT: Whatever he is, whatever he is, he's in the lead. And America...


SETMAYER: So, all that matters is winning?


SCOTT: America is embracing Donald Trump right now. It began with the amusement. Everyone called him a clown. A carnival, bark at (Inaudible) It went from amusement to concern, it went from concern to worry, from worry to fear and now it's all out panic and after Super Tuesday tomorrow, it's going to be red alert. So, whatever it is...

SETMAYER: As a pastor, you should know better.


SCOTT: So, whatever it is, whatever it, Donald Trump is winning right now.

LEMON: Thank you, Pastor. Thank you, Pastor Darrell Scott. Thank you, Tara Setmayer. I appreciate it. Interesting conversation. We're going to continue on. Just ahead, what's that sound? Is it the Republican Party splintering or freaking out? Well, we're going to talk about an anti-Trump third-party protest candidate that could rock the GOP. That's next.


LEMON: And we're back. Unelectable, disqualifying, disgusting, the harshest criticism of Donald Trump is coming from inside his own party. But what do republican say if he's the nominee come July.

Let's talk about this. Jeff DeWit is here, Arizona State Treasurer and Trump supporter, Donna Brazile, democratic strategist, Ryan Lizza, Washington -- correspondent for the New Yorker, and Matt Lewis, the author of "Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution."

OK. That was a feisty, shall we say. But, Jeff, I have to ask you, Trump is under fire for refusing to disavow the former grand wizard David Duke, over the weekend. He is now blaming a bad ear piece, he couldn't hear Jake Tapper. Do you seriously buy that?

JEFF DEWIT, ARIZONA STATE TREASURER: When I was on the Carol Costello show once they had to come back to me because I couldn't hear. When you go around the country some of the studious worked better than others. And I've had hat happen myself, too, where I had an earpiece that was all scratchy and I looked goofy for about 10 seconds saying I'm sorry I just can't hear that. I'm sorry, I can't hear you, so I've been there.

LEMON: Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, Jeff. I do this every day. Can we queue up the Jake bite, please. But, Jeff, I do this every single day of my life. And if guests don't hear me or if I don't hear someone, you know what the response is more than not. Hey, I didn't get that, Don. Can you ask that again? I'm sorry, I didn't hear you. Or Jeff, can you say that again? I didn't hear you. It's my producer who is talking to my ear. Here it is and then I'll let you response -- respond. Play it.


TAPPER: Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don't want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?

TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke. OK? I don't even know what you're talking about with white supremacy or white supremacist. So, I don't know. I mean, I don't know.

Did he endorse me or what's going on? Because you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacist. An so, you're asking me a question that I'm supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.

[22:35:07] TAPPER: But I guess the question from the anti-defamation league is, even if you don't know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you, would you say unequivocally you condemn them and you don't want their support?

TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don't know what group you're talking about. You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something was wrong.


TAPPER: The Klu Klux Klan? TRUMP: But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it

would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups and I'll let you know.

TAPPER: OK. I mean, I'm just talking about David Duke and the Klu Klux Klan here, but...

TRUMP: I don't know. Honestly, I don't know David Duke. I don't believe I've ever met him. I pretty sure I didn't meet him. And I just don't know anything about him.


LEMON: Come on, Jeff. Be an honest broker here.

DEWIT: Well, the first question is, Donald Trump completely disavows any form of racism. He disavows David Duke. He disavows the KKK. All of us in the campaign are horrified of any hint of racism...


LEMON: Why not just say it -- why not -- why not have that come out of that Donald Trump's mouth instead of your mouth?

DEWIT: Well, it has come out of his mouth at the moment.

LEMON: In that interview.

DEWIT: Look, if you understand the pressure he's under going around the country where everybody is trying to ask him a 'gotcha' question.

LEMON: I can understand he is running for president.

DEWIT: What he was asking was, you know, I think what he was trying to get to, he said, look, I know nothing about David Duke, I know nothing about these groups. You know, what he's trying to get to is what did he say? I think what he is trying to get to is give me the information first.

Because so many people spring a question on him to get him to say something and then they spring some weird, well, this is what actually happened. I think he just wanted to be told, tell me what happened. But, yes, there is no question he disavows racism.

LEMON: OK. All right, Jeff.

DEWIT: He is not a racist guy at all.


DEWIT: Well, he said he had a hard time hearing it in the first place.

LIZZA: He repeated every question. Every single question that was asked to him, he repeated the premise of the question. So, is it a broken IFP or is it that he was...


DEWIT: Well, later, you know, let me...

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all Donald Trump knows David Duke. Donald Trump said back in 1991, he reputed David Duke when he ran for governor of our home state, Don, Louisiana. Donald Trump in 2000 said, and he said it on ABC, when he said the first time he was on CNN with Larry King, a former colleague, he said on ABC in 2000 that David Duke represents the kind of racial hostility that has no place in this society.

Donald Trump understands these questions. And the leader of what -- not just disavow but a leader would also go on and state just why this type of hate has no place in our country. That's what a leader should do at this moment. Not cuddle with people who are known to have terrorized innocent people, who have a background at least the organization has a background in being a terrorist, murderous organization.

I grew up in a state where people were afraid to go out at night because they were afraid of the remnants of the Klu Klux Klan. And the notion that Donald Trump pretends that he couldn't hear because of this little thing, that's not true.

LEMON: Correct.

BRAZILE: Donald Trump should repute at it, he should stand up and said this has no place and he doesn't want their support. He should say it and come clean.

LEMON: OK. Everyone, I want everyone to stand by. Jeff, stand by. I need to take a break. I'm going to let respond. You'll get in, Matt, as well. And we'll continue to talk about this. Quick break, don't go anywhere, anyone.


LEMON: I'm back now Jeff DeWit, Donna Brazile, Ryan Lizza, and Matt Lewis. Matt, how much does this change the landscape for the Trump campaign?

MATT LEWIS, "TOO DUMB TO FAIL" AUTHOR: Well, I don't think it changes it, unfortunately, immediately. But, look, you know, Hugh was on here. Hugh Hewitt was on here earlier.

Look, I think that this poses a real problem if Donald Trump becomes the nominee. I think this makes it much more likely you will see republicans split apart, but there could be an ungluing, you know, sort of a coming apart of the Republican Party because, for a lot of republicans, they can't in good conscience now support Donald Trump.

This violates sort of their sense of honor in a sense. This is a big, big deal. And for conservatives, it's a very sensitive issue. And it goes back to William F. Buckley who many, many years ago saw there was a danger of the right being cast as a fringe, racist, sort of dark movement.

And he wanted to protect that to preserve the ideas of Edmund Burke, free markets, protecting the right to life, all of the stuff that mainstream conservatives believe in. So, Buckley policed the right and basically wrote out fringe element. And I fear that there's a danger now of redefining conservatisms to be something that many of us have for a long time fought against.

LEMON: Yes. So, Matt, let me ask you this. So, why is it that when something like this happens, when a candidate is not that clear that there is this principal logic that takes place -- well, he's not being endorsed by the KKK. That's not the point. It's not the point that he's being endorsed whether he's being endorsed or not by the KKK. It's his response to a question about the KKK that was nebulous at best. What is going on here?

LEWIS: Well, look, I agree. That's a home run. That's a question you want to be asked because it's so easy to dismiss. But I would disagree with you a little bit. I think it is telling that he was endorsed by the KKK.

They are not endorsing Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz or John Kasich. They are endorsing Donald Trump. And I have to tell you, anytime I say or write something negative about Donald Trump, I am inundated by tweets by Twitter feeds that are supporting Donald Trump that have Nazi symbols and all sorts of hate groups.

Maybe it's a coincidence that all of the white supremacist on Twitter that, you know, that want to throw me happen to be supporting Donald Trump. I'm not sure. Maybe it's a coincidence but it strikes me as sort of telling.

LEMON: No, no, I'm saying in the course of this questioning where people will say, well, you know, the KKK is not endorsing him or what have you. That's not what we're talking about.

[22:39:59] He can't control whether the KKK endorses him or not, but he can control his response to that by saying, if u have ties to the KKK, I am completely not interested in that and I don't want your vote.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

LEMON: Listen, so, Jeff, this is what Ted...


LEWIS: That's what Reagan did, by the way.

LEMON: Right.

LEWIS: That's exactly what Ronald Reagan did when it happened to him.

LEMON: This is what Ted Cruz had to say to Hugh Hewitt on the radio tonight about Trump and the KKK.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I've joked that there are not many iron rules in politics. But one that you can count on 100 percent of the time is the Klan is always bad. Nazi is always bad. You'll just, you'll never go wrong with that rule, either the Klan or Nazi's, bad, bad, bad. And it seems that somehow that Donald missed that briefing.


LEMON: I mean, come on. Is he right? Or is he right?

LEWIS: That's easy.

DEWIT: Yes, I mean, that is an easy one. Don't forget, you know, one thing is being in this, too, is a few days ago, in Bentonville, Arkansas when Chris Christie was there to endorse Donald Trump, in the Q&A after that, Donald Trump was asked a very similar question and I don't know the exact phrasing of the question but it was a very, very similar question, and right there he said, I disavow it. Ok.

He disavowed it before this particular thing happened. So, when it came up again, he was confused as to why it was being asked, he had a hard time hearing and he said, if you are going to ask about a whole bunch of different groups...


LIZZA: He had a hard time hearing.

BRAZILE: Well, he can hear it today.

LEMON: OK, Ryan. I'll let Ryan. Donna, let Ryan get in there. All he had to do is say is I answered that the other day, I disavowed it. I don't want anything to do with the Klan, they are despicable. I'm sorry. Go ahead, Ryan.

LIZZA: Look, Jeff, let's not be fools, OK? We just watched the clip. Let's not be stupid here.

DEWIT: He disavowed it.

LIZZA: No, no, but, Jeff, you're saying he didn't hear. He heard the interview. We've watched it. It's clear as day. He repeated every line.


LIZZA: So, let's not -- let's not let a politician lie and make us all fools and debate whether he lied or not. Come on.

DEWIT: You can watch my interview from eight days ago on the Las Vegas trip when I was there and I was on CNN and I could not hear for the first 10 seconds.


LIZZA: You know, we all -- we all have technical problems, Jeff. But let's not be fools.

DEWIT: I had the same problem. I could not hear for the first 10 seconds of the interview and then I hear it..

LEMON: Ryan, go ahead.

LIZZA: Let's not call a lie and makes us looks like fools by debating whether he lied or not.


LIZZA: Call a lie a lie.

DEWIT: He has disavowed it. I don't know how you - what else is different? He just disavowed it.

LIZZA: That's a different issue. That's a different issue. I just don't want to sit here and debate whether someone lied when he clearly lied.

DEWIT: He did not lie.

LIZZA: The issue to me, Don, is how stupid and racist does Donald Trump think the republican base is that he would go on TV and play coy with whether he supports David Duke and the KKK.


DEWIT: He said he does not support it. He disavows all this.

LEMON: Jeff, let him finish.

LIZZA: Let me finish, Jeff. Because he knows he's going into Super Tuesday with all of these southern states. He is the most cynical politician we have ever seen. This is what he thinks the base of the Republican Party is and he's playing a game. And I think, you know...


DEWIT: If he thought that's the case, why would he disavow it right now. Why is he disavowing it all over the place, if he thought that was the case.

LEMON: Thank you, guys.

LIZZA: Because wall-to-wall cable news is saying this is insane and he realizes he's finally gone too far.

LEMON: I wish I had more time. I don't.

BRAZILE: Happy birthday, Don.

LEMON: Thank you, very much.

DEWIT: Thanks, Don.

LIZZA: Tomorrow, tomorrow. March 1st. Super Tuesday. Can you imagine?

BRAZILE: Super Tuesday. Super Tuesday, baby. You have the best thing about Super Tuesday tomorrow.

LEMON: It's Uber Tuesday for me. Thank you.

Coming up, I had a firsthand view of the controversial Academy Awards hosted by Chris Rock.


LEMON: I was fortunate enough to report live from the 88th Academy Awards last night which means I saw firsthand how host Chris Rock attacked the Oscar so white controversy in front of millions of viewers around the world. Here's some insights from highlights.


CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: Well, I'm here at the Academy Awards. Otherwise, known as the white people's choice awards. You realize, if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job. I am sure there were no black nominee some of those years, say, in '62, '63, and black people did not protest. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time.

To being raped a lynched to who cared about best cinematographer. Hollywood is sorority racist. It's like we like you Ronda, but you're not a Kappa.


LEMON: Joining me now Nischelle Turner, Entertainment Tonight host, who I got to see here in L.A., hey, baby, And also Sheryl Lee Ralph, actress, author, and activist. Hello to you, too, as well. So good to have both of you here.


LEMON: Nischelle, you first.


LEMON: Chris Rock's monologue, people will be talking about that for a long time to come. What's your reaction?

TRUNER: Well, first of all, I'm honored to be on here with Ms. Sheryl, because I do love me some Ms. Sheryl Lee Ralph. But second of all, you know, I thought it was fantastic, Don. You know we were all anticipating what he was going to do. I was told a couple of days before to get ready because he's cooking up for some really good stuff, it's going to be bananas. But when Chris Rock walks out on the Academy Award stage to fight the

power by public enemy, you know you should buckle your seat belt and that's exactly what I did. And I enjoy the ride. It was awkward, it was uncomfortable at times. The crowd looked they didn't know what to do, and Chris Rock is probably the best observational comic to ever get on stage.

And so, when he goes there and he sharp and binding an on point like he was last night, I loved every minute of it. And I did. I thought he was fantastic.

LEMON: So, I was going to ask you if you thought he hit the right tone. Obviously you think you did. Because I...


LEMON: I did as well. I thought he hit the right tone. And being in the room, I'll share my observations. But Sheryl Lee, what do you think? Do you think he hit the right tone? Would it have been different if somebody else had hosted?

RALPH: It would have been absolutely different, but I thought he was right on point. It has been a very long time of not saying anything and now was the time for him to just hit it. And he went right there. Now, we would also be very naive to think that his notes, his jokes, his writing were not scrutinized...


[22:55:01] TURNER: Absolutely.

RALPH: ... were not gone over by others. So, we know that the message he delivered was Okayed by many levels of the entertainment industry and I think they chose the absolute correct messenger for it.


LEMON: I want to play this because I had...

TRUNER: Hey, Don, can I just say -- can I just say real quick...


TURNER: Go ahead.

LEMON: Hey, I'm almost out of time. Let me play this and then you can respond. Because I want to play these celebrities to make sure I get them in. I had a chance to speak to them on the red carpet. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see something that is wrong that start in the way the culture works? Is it cultural?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the right you just addressed the elephant in the room but you do it in the way once again with professionalism and with humor. Because although you're laughing you're able to look at it and say, wow, what he's saying is actually true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a night that should be celebrated by everyone and nobody should feel left out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be part of that change and I feel like as I'm an Academy member now. So, I want to be able to say, hey, I'll be a voice for some of the black, brown people, the people who usually get overlooked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we have to make some changes. Nothing is going to be OK until we consider all one another one family.


LEMON: So, those celebrities chose to comment and get their voices heard, Nischelle. Spike Lee, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith chose to not go to the Oscar's while others like those guys chose to. So, there you go.

TURNER: Yes. You know, I think it was interesting to that point. You know, Chris Rock didn't spare anything for anybody? I mean, he went at Will and Jada, he went at the gender equality issue, he went at a lot of other things.

But I will say this, even though I thought it was fantastic, I do absolutely understand those people who may not have the same experience as me and who come at this a little differently than I do, not really getting the whole thing and not really understanding why it kept going on and on and on. And I will say this, too, not every joke worked. I don't think to say that he does joke work at all.

RALPH: Oh, my gosh.

LEMON: Goa ahead, Sheryl.

RALPH: Stacy Dash just upset me. When Stacy Dash came out on stage and said, well, finally, I get to do something for my people. Happy black history month. That was just a little bit too much to the coning for me.

LEMON: Oh, Sheryl.

RALPH: And I did not like it at all. I did not like it. I didn't appreciate it.

TURNER: I don't think of she thought maybe she was part of the joke or she was the butt of the joke.


LEMON: But that -- that was the whole thing. That's why I liked it, Sheryl. I have to disagree with you. I liked it because if you were in the room -- a lot of the people in the room didn't get it. It went over a lot of other people's heads and if he was trying to make fun of her, he actually did that and the people who got it, got it. I kind of liked it. But I've got to go you all. I'll see you soon. Thank you. We're out of time. I'm like two minutes

over on this segment. All right. We'll be right back.