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Trump Doesn't Challenge Anti-Muslim Questioner; Hillary Clinton Answers Questions At Press Conference Live; Josh Earnest Answering Questions At Press Conference Live. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 18, 2015 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, and also 1:00 p.m. in Havana, 6:00 p.m. in London, 7:00 p.m. in Vatican City. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

We begin with presidential politics here in the United States. Donald Trump in hot water, once again. This time for what he didn't say. Trump didn't challenge a supporter at a town hall meeting who made anti-Muslim comments and called the president a Muslim.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a problem in the country, it's called Muslims. We know our current president is one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know he's not even an American.

TRUMP: We need this question -- this is the first question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's my question. When can we get rid of them?

TRUMP: We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. And, you know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We're going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.


BLITZER: His campaign manager, by the way, says that Trump didn't hear the anti-Muslim remarks. He says, and I'm quoting now, "All he heard was a question about training camps which he said we have to look into it. The media want to make this an issue about Obama, but it's about him waging a war on Christianity."

Hillary Clinton wasted little time blasting Trump. She tweeted, quote, "Donald Trump not denouncing false statements about potus (ph) and hateful rhetoric about Muslims is disturbing and just plain wrong. Cut it out." In fact, she's answering reporters right now in Durham, North -- New Hampshire. Let's listen in.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- easier for you to afford your education and get on with the rest of your life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary, (INAUDIBLE) campaign. It was just yesterday a man in a coke (ph) rally stood up and said, we have a problem in this country and it's Muslims. He went on to say that President Obama is a Muslim and that he's not even American and that there are terror camps with Muslims (INAUDIBLE.) First of all, what do you think about Trump's response? And, secondly, how would you have responded if someone said that in a town hall?

CLINTON: Well, I was appalled. And, as you may know, you know, I quickly put out a tweet expressing the great disappointment with that kind of rhetoric and calling on him, and anybody else, who is seeking the highest office of the land, to start behaving like a president, to show respect and to stand up for the truth. He knew, or he should have known, that what that man was asking was not only way out of bounds, it was untrue.

And he should have, from the beginning, repudiated that kind of rhetoric, that level of hatefulness in a questioner in an audience that he was appearing before. So, I would, you know, call on him and call on all of the candidates to stop this descent into the kind of hateful, mean-spirited divisive rhetoric that we have seen too much of in the last months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, how would you have responded?

CLINTON: Well, I don't think that person would come to my event. But if that person had been in my event, I would've called him out on it. And I would have said, from the very beginning, that has no place in a political discussion like the one we're trying to have here. And not only is it out of place and wrong, it is totally, factually untrue. And to quit impugning the integrity of the president.


CLINTON: Do I think it -- I think it's prejudice. I think it's discriminatory. I think it comes out of the same unfortunate reservoir of hateful rhetoric that we've seen too much of where people are being, you know, set against one another. And that has no place in our politics. We have serious issues we have to deal with in the years ahead. We should be trying to bring the country together around solutions not trying to divide up people and set them against each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And following up on (INAUDIBLE.) (INAUDIBLE) Lindsey Graham who is in Iowa and he said, this is a defining moment in the campaign for Republicans, for all candidates, that Donald Trump should go on national T.V. and apologize for what he said about Muslims and about the president of the United States.

And I'm wondering, what do you think (INAUDIBLE) Trump has now canceled his campaign appearances today. Should he go on television and apologize and make this right or whether he is just trying to appeal to supporters who may have prejudice (INAUDIBLE)?

CLINTON: Well, Andrea (ph), let's find out. Let's see what he does. I think that his taking a time-out to think hard about what happened last night, what he did not call out or repudiate at the time, gives him the chance to express his regret about that kind of behavior and those sorts of comments in one of his political events.

[13:05:14] I hope he does. I hope he will take Senator Graham's advice and request and do just that. You know, we can all have differences. That's what elections are about. We can compare and contrast our experiences and our views and our visions and our programs. That's all fair game. But we have a bigger obligation to the American people to try to have a campaign that is about what's really going on in the lives of Americans and to do everything we can to eliminate, from our political discourse, the kind of comments that we heard yesterday. So, I hope that he will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And his campaign manager said that he didn't hear correctly.

CLINTON: Well, he should add -- he should address that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. In talking to college students in New Hampshire, it seems pretty clear that they are going to vote on (INAUDIBLE.) Why should they vote for your plan rather than for (INAUDIBLE)?

CLINTON: Well, there will be a lot of time for me to compare and contrast. But very briefly on this, I think my plan is more comprehensive because I'm aiming at getting costs down, not just putting more money in the system so the costs keep rising. I have a very heavy emphasis on paying down debt and different ways to help students do exactly that. I also believe that people who are getting an education need to have some responsibility for their education.

So, I have a plan that will make it possible for anybody attending a four-year college or university to avoid having to borrow money for tuition. But we're still going to expect students to do their part. I believe in students working. You know, 10 hours a week is what I recommend. So, I think that my plan is really aimed at addressing the issues that I hear young Americans talking to me about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you said, recommend 10 hours --

CLINTON: That I think it would be beneficial and helpful for students to make their own contribution. If they are seeking financial help, for them to make their own contribution. And for colleges to get costs down by having students working toward the payments of, you know, their dues, their fees, their living expenses. That --


CLINTON: No, but it's recommended. You can go online and you can see all of the specifics of what I'm offering. And, in particular, the national service component and the young parent component is something that I think is overlooked by too many people and not part of other people's plans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Clinton, what did you think of Carly Fiorina's (INAUDIBLE) the other night, more specifically her views on funding for Planned Parenthood (INAUDIBLE.) Do you think that will allow her to be a strong presidential candidate (INAUDIBLE) in this country (INAUDIBLE) and potentially break the glass ceiling?

CLINTON: Well, I'm going to let you guys be the pundits. I can tell you that all of the candidates on that stage were in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood. And I vigorously disagree with that position. I think it is unfair and wrong to single out Planned Parenthood, to try to deprive the millions of women who get health care from Planned Parenthood, access to those services.

So, it's not just one candidate standing on the stage. All of them are in favor of it. And, in fact, some of them around that stage actually intend to try to shut the government of the United States of America down over the $500 million dollars that the government provides to Planned Parenthood to take care of women's cancer screenings, contraceptive family planning needs, HIV testing and other services that are essential. That's what I'm against and that's what I will continue to speak out forcefully against having happen on the merits, with respect to Planned Parenthood, and on the self-defeating, counter-productive, damaging idea of shutting down the United States government over it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Clinton, (INAUDIBLE) that do not support the House bill (INAUDIBLE.) Last year at the (INAUDIBLE) conference in Las Vegas, you said that you did think there could be an economic opportunity to lift (INAUDIBLE.) As you are thinking on that (INAUDIBLE.)

CLINTON: You know, in general, in the absence of a broader energy plan that does include concessions from the oil and gas industry, I don't think that the ban should be lifted.

[13:10:06] I'm not against it under all circumstances, but I have not yet seen any legislation introduced that would strike the right balance, from my perspective. You know, I have been putting out and will continue to put out, the whole range of energy policies that I support. And among them is how we shift away from fossil fuels and that means, how do we shift away from increasing production? How do we shift away from the subsidizing of that production and, indeed, distribution? So, I'm looking at it holistically. The bill, as I understand it, does not come anywhere near doing what I think has to be done to move towards the energy transition that is so important to our country.


CLINTON: Thank you. BLITZER: All right. So, we're going to go from the Hillary Clinton

Q&A over to the White House. Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary, he's now been asked about Donald Trump's remarks. Let's listen in.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In fact, that's precisely what every Republican presidential candidate is doing when they decline to denounce Mr. Trump's cynical strategy because they're looking for those same votes. Now, other Republicans have successfully used this strategy as well. You'll recall that one Republican Congressman told a reporter that he was David Duke without the baggage. That Congressman was elected by a majority of his colleagues in the House of Representatives to the third highest ranking position in the House.

Those same members of Congress blocked immigration reform. Those same members of Congress blocked reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. Those same members of Congress couldn't support a simple funding bill, because they're eager to defend the confederate flag. So, those are the priorities of today's Republican Party, and they'll continue to be until someone in the Republican Party decides to summon the courage to stand up and change it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should Donald Trump apologize to the president?

EARNEST: I'm not really -- I haven't seen any evidence to indicate that he's interested in my advice about what he should do. Aisha (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. So, I wanted to ask, Secretary Kerry said today in London that the U.S. believes that military talks with --

BLITZER: All right. So, you have the very tough response from the White House as well to Donald Trump's controversial silence in the face of that question to someone who showed up at the town hall meeting yesterday. We're going to get full analysis of what's going on because this is, right now, exploding into to a major story in this race for the White House. Our analysts, our reporters are standing by. Let's take a quick break. Much more right after this.



[13:16:52] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so you just heard Hillary Clinton and Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, responding to Donald Trump's silence at a town hall meeting when someone stood up and made anti-Muslim statements and very derogatory statements, the president of the United States, as well. We got Donald Trump's immediate reaction through his campaign manager, but will all of this bounce off of him like other controversies or will it have an impact? Let's talk about what's going on. Our CNN political commentators are joining us. Hilary Rosen, Tara Setmayer, and Jeffrey Lord, he's the former Reagan White House political director. He's a supporter of Donald Trump. I'm going to get to you in a moment, Jeffrey, but I want to play the - what the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, said today. He's a Republican presidential candidate. He was asked about Donald Trump's silence in the face of that question. This is what - what he said on NBC's "Today" show.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If somebody at one of my town hall meetings said something like that, I would correct them and say, no, the president is a Christian and he was born in this country. I mean, I think those - that - those two things are self- evident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it would be right for Mr. Trump to apologize to Muslims this morning?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I think it's - Donald Trump's got to decide, as we've seen, and I've said this all along, he's got to determine how serious a candidate he wants to be and how he handles different problems like this are going to determine that in the eyes of the American people. I'm not going to lecture him about what to do. I'll just tell you what I would do.


BLITZER: All right, well let me get Jeffrey. You're a supporter of Donald Trump. What do you think, should he apologize to the president? Should he apologize to the American people? To the Muslim community for what - what he didn't say last night?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Wolf - Wolf - Wolf, Wolf, here - this is enormous hypocrisy here. Let me be blunt. I am a member of the United Church of Christ, a Christian. Barack Obama, for 20 years, was a member of the United Church of Christ. We were in exactly the same denomination. So I have some authority to speak to this. I've been president of my church council for six years, on the regional board of the United Church of Christ here. The theology of the United Church of Christ is that the members are responsible for the minister. The minister reports to them. The minister can be fired by the members. President Obama sat in those pews for 20 years and heard all this anti-Semitic stuff from Jeremiah Wright, never moved to fire him. Not once. He did zero. Zero. And now we're hearing the White House talk about Donald Trump.

I want to know, where is Hillary Clinton on this? Where is the shame from President Obama? This is a massive double standard. A massive double standard. I believe he's a Christian. He belonged to my denomination. And I know the rules of my denomination. He did nothing. And he has not been called on it ever.

BLITZER: All right. All right, well, I want to get reaction from our other commentator, but do you think that Trump should apologize, though, for his silence in the face of these smears?

LORD: I want him to apologize when President Obama apologizes. BLITZER: All right. Let's get Hilary Rosen to respond. You're a good


HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, Jeffrey's just factually wrong. President Obama did take on Reverend Wright.

LORD: Did he get him fired?

ROSEN: And, in fact, alienated Reverend Wright for a long time. For - and appropriately so.

LORD: Did he get him fired in the 20 years (ph).

BLITZER: Hold on. One at a time. Go ahead.

[13:20:01] ROSEN: And, you know, he - I think here's the issue, right, which is, in the last month, Donald Trump has insulted Mexicans, he's insulted people in the military, he's - he's now doing this with Muslims. I - I think the issue really is, you know, we saw ten minutes of Hillary Clinton talking about presidential policy, talking about college affordability, acting like a grown-up. I - I think that Republicans like Chris Christie, who I thought had a very good answer today, he's not - nobody's responsible for Donald Trump. Jeffrey's not responsible for Donald Trump. He has to decide himself whether he wants to have policy discussions or whether he wants to make news with insults.

BLITZER: By the way, he was supposed to have, later today, some sort of event in South Carolina that he canceled because he's got some business transactions, his campaign says, that he's got to deal with. That's Donald Trump.

Here's how John McCain handled a similar question from someone who stood up at a town hall meeting back in 2008 when he was running for a Republican presidential nomination. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't trust Obama.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have read about him. And he's not - he's not - he's a - he's an Arab. He is not -

MCCAIN: No, ma'am. No, ma'am.


MCCAIN: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's a - he's a - he's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issue, and that's what this campaign is all about. He's not. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, so a lot of people, Tara, as you know, would have liked Donald Trump to have responded to that question last night the way John McCain responded to that question back in 2008.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, a lot of people would have liked Donald Trump to respond and handle things a lot differently than he has, it's just not who he is. Donald Trump, remember, it wasn't that long ago he was out there with his own money paying investigators, investigating President Obama's birth certificate. That was a thing for him. So why everyone is all up in arms thinking that this is some kind of a, you know, anomaly, this is par for the course.

Now, how he handled it? Well, John McCain handled that better than Hillary Clinton did. In 2008, when Hillary Clinton was sinking in the primaries, desperate to try to stop Barack Obama's momentum, she was on "60 Minutes" saying, well, no, he's not a Muslim as far as I know. I mean, so John McCain was more authoritative on that issue than Hillary Clinton was when she was in a position to try to derail Barack Obama when she was losing in 2008.

So this whole thing I think is to be par for the course. I don't know any other Republican candidates that are - you know, Chris Christie gave his answer, which was strong. I don't know of any other Republican serious candidates that would entertain this kind of nonsense. So I think we're blowing this out of proportion. Trump is being Trump and he's going to have to answer for this.

BLITZER: I want you to respond, and then I'm going to get Jeffrey into this too, but, Hilary, first to you. We did a poll not that long ago, just a couple of week or so ago, and we asked people all over the country, do you believe - do you happen to know what religion Barack Obama is? Is he Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, something else or not religious? Nationwide, 39 percent said he's Christian, 29 percent said he's Muslim in that nation - in that national poll. But if you dig deeper, among Republicans, 29 percent think he's Christian, 43 percent think he's Muslim. So this questioner who stood up at Donald Trump's town hall meeting was reflecting what a lot of people apparently out there believe.

ROSEN: Yes, 43 percent of the Republicans. And, you know, look, it's not up to the Republican Party to make sure that people know that President Obama is a Christian. But it is up to the leadership in the Republican Party to demonstrate respect for the office. And I think, you know, I give Chris Christie credit today. He stood up for it. I - but, you know, the fact that so many of Trump supporters feel that way is -

SETMAYER: Clearly it's not just Trump supporters. I mean almost 30 percent - if that's a national poll -

BLITZER: Yes, but -

ROSEN: Yes, but - but -

SETMAYER: That's not just Republicans - ROSEN: But 10 percent or more -

BLITZER: By the way, I - I -


BLITZER: But, Hilary, I - I don't have this graphic, but I went deeper -

SETMAYER: That - that's, you know, Barack Obama's prerogative.

ROSEN: I - I was actually going to go to a different point, which was the broader point about people of color in this country, that - that there is - there's an enormous amount of uncertainty, you know, subdued racism, all sorts of issues associated with people of color, and it's -

BLITZER: By the way, if you dig deeper in our poll, 15 percent of Democrats believe he's a Muslim in this poll. So it's not just - I mean 15 percent -


BLITZER: That's a significant percentage.

ROSEN: But here's the issue, though, and it's a very important distinction, right.


ROSEN: That guy on TV last night was saying that people who are Muslims shouldn't be allowed in the country. That we've got to get rid of them, right?

BLITZER: Of course.

ROSEN: That is very different than wondering whether your president - and I'm going to give those 43 (INAUDIBLE) -

BLITZER: All right, hold on - hold on, Tara. Hold on.

SETMAYER: (INAUDIBLE) worrying (ph) about radical Islamists is a different ballgame.

ROSEN: Wondering whether your president is, is - it's kind of a different issue. So leadership is important here, and that's what it takes. These guys have to be grown-ups if they want to be president.

BLITZER: Let me - let me just get Jeffrey - give me the advice you would give Donald Trump, Jeffrey, if he called you right now. This story, obviously, has got some legs. It's out there right now. He can fix it one way or another. What would you tell Donald Trump?

[13:25:02] LORD: I would go directly to the president and call him out on hypocrisy and call Secretary Clinton out on hypocrisy. The rules of the church, of Barack Obama's church, and I do believe he's a Christian. He was a member of my church. He did nothing, zero. And this double standard that's being applied to Donald Trump for some bozo questioner in New Hampshire - and, by the way, what's wrong with being a Muslim? So people believe the president's a Muslim. I have Muslim friends. What's wrong with that? Nobody said any -

BLITZER: There's absolutely nothing - there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a Muslim.

LORD: Right. Right. So - so I don't understand -

BLITZER: But that - you heard the tone of that question, though, from the person who stood up, Jeffrey.

LORD: Right. Right. Right. I did. But if - but if that's the - if that's -

ROSEN: So that's very mature. I know I am, but what are you?

LORD: If we're concerned about the tone of some questioner in New Hampshire, then I would be very concerned about what President Obama didn't do in his own church when he had the authority to do it.

BLITZER: All right.

LORD: I'm not talking about his later (INAUDIBLE) - he sort of, you know, broke with all this, but for 20 years, he personally had the authority to get Reverend Wright fired and he not only did nothing, he said he was like an uncle to me, he baptized his kids or married them or whatever he did, and he knew this was going on and he did zero.

BLITZER: All right. All right, guys, hold on. Stand by. There's a lot more to dissect in this story that's not going away. I want everyone to stand by. By the way, in case you missed Wednesday night's spirited Republican presidential debate, or just want to watch it again, CNN will reair it later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Much more coming up right after this.