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Donald Trump Pulls Out of Thursday's GOP Debate; Trump Versus Fox News. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 26, 2016 - 22:00   ET


DON LEMON, "CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON," HOST: Trump to Fox News -- you're fired.

[22:00:00] This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon.

Donald Trump says he most likely won't participate in this week's Fox News debate.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else. So let them have the debate and let's see how they do with the ratings.


LEMON: And that's not all. He's taking more shots aim for Megyn Kelly.


TRUMP: Because I'm not a fan of Megyn Kelly, I think she's a third rate reporter. I think she frankly is not good at what she does and I think they could do a lot better than Megyn Kelly.


LEMON: The feud between Trump and Roger Ailes is really heating up tonight.


TRUMP: When they sent out the wise guy press releases a little while ago, done by some PR person along with Roger Ailes, I said, bye-bye. OK.


LEMON: So, what's behind all of this? And could it hurt Trump in Iowa. Quite a day in Trump.

Donald Trump maybe the only candidate who could get more attention by refusing to debate than by taking the stage in front of an audience of millions. We're going to hear from an adviser to this campaign in just a few

moments. But first, I want you to take a listen to the front-runner himself.


TRUMP: Well, Fox is playing games. Fox is going to make a fortune. I told Fox you should give money to the wounded warriors. I'm not a fan of Megyn Kelly. I think she's a third rate reporter. I think she frankly is not good at what she does. And I think they could do a lot better than Megyn Kelly.

And so, I'm going to be making a decision with Fox. But I probably won't bother doing the debate. I see they picked me as number one, not only number one, number one by far. But probably, I won't be doing the debate. I'm going to have something else in Iowa. We'll do something where we raise money for the veterans and the wounded warriors. We're going to do something simultaneously with the debate.

But most likely, I'm not going to do the debate. I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin and playing games. I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing, but what's wrong over there? Something's wrong.

But when they sent out that press release talking about, I said, what are these people playing games? So, most likely, I won't be doing the debate.


TRUMP: See the point is that, with me, they're dealing with somebody that's a little bit different. They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else.


LEMON: All of that was in response to this satirical statement from Fox News today that read, and I quote, "We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president."

A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to these meetings -- to those meetings."

Well, Donald Trump did not like that and he has a brand new statement which we will bring to you in just a moment. But first, I want to go to CNN's Gloria Borger, she's with the Trump campaign in Iowa this evening. Gloria, it's a noisy room. This has all really escalated very quickly after the statement was released.


LEMON: Clearly, it was a last a straw for Donald Trump. And this race this turned upside down once again just days before the first votes are cast. BORGER: Yes. I think Donald Trump -- it is noisy in here. Donald

Trump feels like he was insulted, Don. He feels like he was provoked. And I think the campaign just kind of threw up its hands and said, enough is enough. And as they said in their statement, you know, Donald Trump knows a bad deal when he sees one and he decided that he didn't want to play games with Fox News anymore over this. And I think the campaign believes that Fox News went a step too far in its statement today.

LEMON: Gloria, how are people reacting?

BORGER: Well, I tell you what, we are at the University of Iowa at the field house here. It's packed. I would say a couple thousand people, maybe more, lines out the door. It was a rally that was interrupted a bunch of times by protesters. That now has become regular for Donald Trump but people here don't seem to be affected by it.

And Donald Trump did not mention the fact that he was not going to be at the Fox News debate, at least so far as I heard before I came up here on the riser. So, I think the folks here are pretty much unfazed by it. Let's see what happens as they watch the debate and whether that turns outs to be something that's not so good for Donald Trump. We'll have to see.

LEMON: Let's talk about some of the folks who are at least one person who is up against him at the debate and that's Ted Cruz. He's also on the campaign trail tonight in Iowa. And here's his reaction, Gloria, to the Donald Trump news. Take a listen.


TED CRUZ, (D) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Apparently, Megyn Kelly is really, really scary. You know, Donald is a fragile soul.

[22:05:02] You know, if she asks him mean questions, I mean, his hair might stand on end. We are effectively tied in the State of Iowa. If he's unwilling to stand on the debate stage with the other candidates, then I would like to invite Donald right now to engage in a one-on-one debate with me any time between now and the Iowa caucuses.


LEMON: So, Gloria, the question is, could this move by Trump end up working to Ted Cruz's advantage in Iowa?

BORGER: It might, absolutely. I think it was very clever of Cruz to try and challenge Donald Trump to a one-on-one. You never know what he's going to do, I doubt he would did it, by the way.

But I think, you know, Cruz is making the point, as in fact, Fox News made, you know, in a way, look, you know, if you're afraid of Megyn Kelly, what else are you going to be afraid of? You know, and Fox -- Fox's snark is what really I think is got to this campaign or got to Donald Trump personally. And when I'm done with you here I'm going to talk to some advisers to

find out some more about it because it was clear that this moved so quickly today.

You know, it's no secret that Donald Trump has a problem with Megyn Kelly for some reason. But we always kind of figured he was going to show up at that debate until that Fox News statement today.

LEMON: Yes. At the very least, interesting, that's an understatement, interesting turn of events. Gloria, if you -- if you hear anything from an adviser, anyone, let us know, we'll get you back on. But stay with us, Gloria.

BORGER: We will.

LEMON: I want to bring in Bob Beckel now who's the author of "I Should be Dead, My Life Surviving Politics, TV, and Addiction." New York magazine Gabriel Sherman is here with me, and also CNN's Brian Stelter.

Gentlemen, thank you so much. So, listen, Brian, in case it wasn't clear from this press conference, Donald Trump put up a new statement tonight.


LEMON: And what does it say?

STELTER: He is making it absolutely clear he is not showing up on Thursday night. He says "Unlike the very stupid, highly incompetent people running our country into the ground, Mr. Trump knows when to walk away. Roger Ailes and Fox News think they can toy with him, but Mr. Trump does not play games. There have already been six debates, and according to all online debate polls including Drugde, Slate, Time Magazine, and many others, Mr. Trump has won all of them, in particularly the last one."

And the statement went on to say "He will not be participating in the Fox News debate and will instead hold an event in Iowa to raise money for the Veterans and Wounded Warriors, who have been treated so horribly by all of our all talk, no action politicians."

He concluded by saying this, "Like running for offise as an extremely successful person, this takes guts and it is the kind of mentality needs in order to make America great again."

In this position this is something that he is doing to show his tough style.

LEMON: Right.

STELTER: In the rest of punch.

LEMON: And he's going to, you know, put an alternate event, right? To counter the Fox debate.


STELTER: And I'm sure some television networks will consider airing that as counter program into the Fox debate.

LEMON: Very interesting. So, you spoke to Fox News tonight, what do they tell you?

STELTER: So far, no comment. I think they're working on a new statement. Clearly this afternoon statement there was mocking Trump basically telling him to grow up, backfired on Fox. My impression having covered Fox for over decade is that Roger Ailes, the head of the network was all over that statement, speaking to run all over it, he was working on that personally but it seemed to backfire perhaps.

LEMON: Yes. And I tell our viewers again Gloria Borger is working the crowd there. She's going to try to speak with some Trump's advisers and get us some new information.

But Gabe, this all started back in during the first debate in August, right?


LEMON: It seems like forever. I mean, Megyn Kelly had long hair then.


LEMON: Here it is. Here's the question.


MEGYN KELLY, THE KELLY FILE SHOW HOST: One of the things that people love about you is you speak your mind and you don't use a politician as filter. However, it's not without its down sides, in particular, when it comes to women. You called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account...


TRUMP: Only Rosie O'Donnell.


KELLY: No, it wasn't.


KELLY: Your twitter account...

TRUMP: Thank you.

KELLY: For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O'Donnell.

TRUMP: Yes, I'm sure it was. KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about

women's looks. You once told a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton who is likely to be the democratic nominee that you are part of the war on women?


LEMON: That's how -- so how did it get -- that's how it started, Gab. How did it get to this breaking point?

SHERMAN: I think the most important thing to understand is that from that moment Fox News' audience and Trump supporters, which there's a big overlap with, were on Trump's side. That Megyn Kelly found herself on the wrong side of the very audience that Roger Ailes built this media empire on. And she was sort of the isolated one.

[22:10:10] And Fox News did not know how to respond. They were freaked out by all my sources over there about the volume of e-mails and tweets and comments that were taking Trump's side.

And if you notice in those first weeks after the August debate, their first statements were very kind of cautious. They did not know how to handle Trump. And this news tonight is further evidence that Roger Ailes does not know how to deal with Donald Trump who is laying by his own set of rules.

STELTER: You're saying that Ailes has finally after 20 years in TV news...


SHERMAN: Yes, let's just think about this.

STELTER: .., and Fox News met his match?

SHERMAN: Yes. The republican front runner for the republican nominee -- nomination is not playing by Roger Ailes' rules. For almost 20 years, Roger Ailes has built a network that has made the entire republican establishment fall into line.

LEMON: You said Donald Trump won't trump his debate, boycott his debate, boycott thread and Roger Ailes is starting to sweat. Do you believe Roger Ailes is sweating?

SHERMAN: Oh, without a question. I mean, this is unchartered territory.


SHERMAN: I mean, as Brian as just reported, the fact that he wrote the statement and then it blew up in space, Roger Ailes is not used to playing defense. Trump is on offense. Fox News as Brian just said, is scrambling to draft their own statement. They are on the back foot. Donald Trump is driving this conversation. LEMON: Yes. If I recall when this happened back in the day, back in

August, I think Megyn went on like a 10-day vacation or something right after, right during that time. So, there was really hardly any response from Fox. You barely saw any mention of Donald Trump on the network.


STELTER: I think they wanted it to blow over back then and it didn't.


LEMON: Yes. Are they speaking, the two men speaking to each other?

SHERMAN: Roger Ailes and Donald Trump?

LEMON: And Donald Trump.

STELTER: They have been over the last few days. Donald Trump...


LEMON: Over the last few hours that they speaking.

STELTER: No, they are not speaking, And as I, I've been told that Donald Trump is not taking the network's phone calls, even Sean Hannity, one of the Marquis hosts, has tried to called Trump personally, cannot get through.

And Trump is telling his surrogates that he only wants to deal with Rupert Murdoch. He wants to now deal at a chairman, the chairman level. That he says, if you got a problem with me, I will deal with the big boss not Roger Ailes, and that's where the story gets really interesting. Because if you are dragging the corporate parent company into this mess, this is not a position Rupert Murdoch wants to be.

LEMON: I think it's appropriate that we bring Bob Beckel in. Because, Bob, you worked at Fox News.



LEMON: You know Roger Ailes. So, take us behind the scenes about what's likely going on right there.

BECKEL: Well, I think there's probably their meeting. Let me put it that way. Look, here's what this close down to this relationship with Trump and Roger Ailes has gone back and forth for a number of months. Here is -- here is the danger for Trump.

When it gets to a general election, the Fox News audience has to turn out. I'll grant it's only four million people but they are hard core four million conservatives that need to turn out. So, Trump got to be a little careful of it. Do you know why he gave up this debate? Any front-runner who's got

that kind of lead nationwide and I've done it with candidates for presidents before. Front-runner, don't go to the last debate, you can make a mistake. It gives him a perfect -- Fox gave him a perfect opportunity to say I'm not going.

The other thing I'll point out is, 140,000 -- 120,000 people turned out to the republican caucuses four years ago. Trump needs 140 roughly to win. Now the question is whether he can get his supporters, which are young people and people who have not been caucus goers in the past to go. And listen, nothing surprises me. He may well pull it off.

LEMON: But, Bob, listen, I don't know. It seems to me though, that there was something in that statement that by not taking him seriously that that sort of what ticked him off. I don't know if there were some advisers saying, oh, don't go. That just doesn't seem like a Donald Trump move to me. I mean, do you guys disagree with that?

STELTER: I see what you mean about that. But on the other hand, Trump did, you could see this as a great excuse, don't you think. That's why I hear what bob is saying there. And I heard that inside Fox well today. Maybe this is just an excuse for Trump to skip the debate.


STELTER: That said...


LEMON: Stay with me. We've got a lot more to talk about. All of you, gentlemen. And, Gloria, will be back as soon as she get someone from the campaign.

When we come right back, not only is Donald Trump skipping the Fox News debate, he says he'll host his own event, so what's that going to be like. Plus, was Donald Trump looking for a reason as we said, to get out of this debate? We're going to continue to discuss and talk to one of his advisers we have, coming up.


LEMON: Donald Trump, of course, shaking up this race tonight. And only, as only he can in his campaign can do. His campaign says he will definitely skip the Fox News debate.

Back with me now is Bob Beckel, Gabriel Sherman, and Brian Stelter. OK. Gentlemen, I want you to listen to what Megyn Kelly said tonight on her broadcast.


KELLY: Trump is not used to not controlling things as the chief executive of a large organization. But the truth is, he doesn't get to control the media. And while he's made his position clear about me after that first debate, Roger Ailes made his position clear, too.


LEMON: Listen, she's right. I mean, he, you know, he can ask for fair moderators, he can ask for whomever he wants, Gabe, but that's not his role to decide who gets to ask him the questions.

SHERMAN: Of course it isn't his role but I think it is important to point out that Fox News is used to controlling the Republican Party. And for 50 years, conservatives have cried media bias. And what Donald Trump has basically done is used their play book, called bias and said I don't think your questions are fair and the audience believes him.

So, this is basically the conservative message coming home to roost. He's using their own play book against them. This is a play book that Roger Ailes has employed in his 40-year career in politics.

STELTER: I think Roger Ailes and something that I disagree with you. But I think this is in chilling effect here with regards to journalism. Earlier, I think it was last week, maybe earlier this week. I think it happens so quickly here, the National Review was disinvited from a CNN debate that's coming up in February because of its anti-Trump issues.

Earlier this season, the union leader was disinvited debate because it is editorial against Trump. So, what we're seeing here a series of decisions that are made that would seem to suggest if you take too harsh a stance against Trump, if Trump singles you out in some way that's very hostile, then you might not be able to participate in a debate. And that is worrisome for democracy.

LEMON: Yes. But Fox is taking a stand and saying that is going to happen. And you, I mean, listen, if you're standing for journalism, you must commend them for that. Go ahead, Bob.

BECKEL: I mean, what I was just going to say is just remember that Fox did buckle to Trump in another debate one in two. Rupert Murdoch has been against Trump from the beginning. He doesn't want Trump.

[22:20:02] But in the beginning he came out against Trump if you remember.


BECKEL: And now he says he wants to meet on one-on-one with somebody, a CEO to CEO. Two or three billion dollar business versus a $27 billion. But I don't -- and the other thing is, I may be dead wrong about this but I've known Roger Ailes for 35 years. That did not sound to me like a Roger Ailes tweet.

Now that doesn't mean that he didn't approve it. Yes. Somebody doesn't go out there and just let that go or they're going to find them services on the street the next day. But I'll tell you, that come sounded to me like it was written by somebody else.

SHERMAN: Well, what I think is interesting is that Fox is pushing that Roger Ailes is writing the statement. Because as I reported days ago, Roger Ailes has been basically MIA this primary elections. Sources and producers inside Fox have been wondering where he is. He's been not seen around the offie.

Rupert Murdoch in fact, has been attending a critical news meeting at Fox's because he wants to stick him more hands-on role of the network.


LEMON: But the fact that the statement like this one without Roger Ailes knowledge, is that...

SHERMAN: No, I think he looked at it but the fact that they're publicly saying that he wrote this statement is a strategic message strategy to say, listen, this guy is still hands on, he's still relevant.

STELTER: No. No one on the record is saying that. We saw what Brit Hume just tweeted out. Brit Hume, Megyn Kelly's mentor. He's used to be an anchor on Fox, a big guy over there. He put up this picture and I thought was really shocking on Twitter a few minutes ago, he said "Donald Trump is a cry baby, saying Megyn Kelly was mean to me."

I mean, this is a kind of rhetoric that we're now seeing in this reality show campaign. And there is I think some support for that that he's being childish by saying I'm not going to show up on this debate. I can't handle Megyn Kelly.

LEMON: I think there's something to be said for being the adult in the room as well and taking the high road. I'm not...


STELTER: And Ted Cruz might be taking...

LEMON: I don't necessarily find that tweet really funny even though Donald Trump maybe taking as marbles in going home. Go ahead, Bob.

BECKEL: Why trump believe that tweet? I mean, he used it. That's what he did. It was a tongue and cheek tweet. But Roger Ailes has not been around Fox all that much. He's been quite ill i some -- at some point in the last three or four months. So, he's been in and out.

And if you remember, there was a story that Murdoch was running Fox News, which said they corrected very quickly. but let's also remember the two brothers took over for Murdoch and one of them particularly doesn't like Roger Ailes.

So, I just -- there's something more going on here inside Fox. Now Gabe knows it is better than anybody else does. I mean, I worked there, but Gabe has been following for a long time. But, Gabe, don't you think something is a little amiss here?

SHERMAN: Oh, without question. You know, when I wrote my biography of Roger Ailes, he wanted the things that emerge that says he ran the network with an iron fist include from the top down. In the last year and 18 months, the network has been a drift. There's not a message coming every day, which is nice. Anchors are saying they're now finally allowed to kind of say what they want to say. But the consequence of that is that you got a guy like Trump...


LEMON: Wait, they couldn't do that before?

SHERMAN: No. And you got a consequence that you got...

LEMON: Come work over here.

SHERMAN: ... you got a guy like Trump barreling through and there is not one person to decide how they are going to deal with this stuff.

STELTER: And now you've got, you know, we shouldn't understate this. We got a war against Fox News from the GOP front-runner.

SHERMAN: Yes, it's incredible.


STELTER: This is a twist you couldn't have imagined for your book.


LEMON: You know, this is civil war in the GOP and Fox in the middle of it.

LEMON: Brian, my question starting to you. Do you think he'll end up on that stage Thursday night?

STELTER: You know, two hours ago, I thought so and now I changed my mind. I don't think he'll show up on Thursday night.


STELTER: I think he sees more upside from not being on that stage. By the way, Fox can't show empty podium. Some folks online are wondering about that. There are rules, there are agreements that are made between the campaigns and the networks. And the RNC has confirmed to me that they cannot show an empty podium. So, if Trump won't be up there and they won't be able to point that out.

LEMON: And he is telling you the truth because he was in my office no more than two -- an hour and a half ago and you did not -- you said he's going to be there but now you don't believe it.

STELTER: I had this back and I think about it.


LEMON: You change your mind.

STELTER: And I don't -- I think Trump as he's dug his feet in so deeply at this point.

LEMON: Yes. STELTER: How can you dig them out?

SHERMAN: When he's announced this counter event. And you don't announce the counter event and then walk and then walk away.

LEMON: So, you don't think he'll be there.

SHERMAN: I think the fact that he is saying he's going to do an event with the vets, and he's already quit that out there, it's really hard to say, oh, I actually just change my mind, now I'm doing the debate.

LEMON: What about you, Bob?

BECKEL: No. He won't be there but he will be there because every candidate on that stage...


LEMON: They'll going to hit him.

BECKEL: ... going to take advantage of it and they are going to hammer the hell out of him.



SHERMAN: He is an incredible television programmer.

LEMON: So, what do you think of the ratings. He says ratings are going to suffer. Do you think they'll suffer? Do you think ratings will suffer, Bob?

BECKEL: I think they are -- well, they were 24 million the first time around. My guess is it will be about eight million. Because, look, there are a lot of people are looking for an alternative to Trump in Iowa. Let's remember, Trump's number in Iowa are what, 31, 32 percent, which means that there's 70 percent who want to go someplace else.

So, it's a little bit dangerous for him to leave those out there. And they're all coming at him with ads now. As I told you as I was in Iowa, I couldn't find a Trump organization, but you don't organize people who don't go to caucuses. They are going to show up and he's going to, once again, redefine American politics or they won and he'll lose.

LEMON: We shall see. Thank you all. So, the question is, skipping the campaign -- skipping the debate a smart move for the Trump campaign? Or is he taking a risk that could back fire just days before the Iowa caucuses? We're going to discuss that next.


LEMON: This is our breaking news tonight. Donald Trump pulling out of Thursday's GOP debate because of his feud with Fox News. Bob Beckel is back with me and we're joined by Barry Bennett, an

adviser to the Trump campaign, CNN contributor Bakari Sellers, and republican strategist Cheri Jacobus.

Barry, thanks for joining us. What's the latest? Is he going to show up or not?

BARRY BENNETT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I don't think he's coming. I think that he has managed the -- own the news cycle again. And my guess is his rally tomorrow night will get better ratings than the debate.

LEMON: You think so?

BENNETT: I mean, there's a lot of other TV cameras that don't say Fox News on the side.

LEMON: Yes. You know, he says, again, as he's not going to participate, but this all unraveled very quickly today. But I want you to listen to what Trump told Wolf Blitzer just yesterday.


TRUMP: I mean, I don't like her. She doesn't treat me fairly. I'm not a big fan of hers at all. I don't care. I mean, she was, she probably was the -- I might be the best thing that ever happened to her. I don't know. Who even heard of her before the last debate?

But I thought she was very unfair in the last debate. A lot of people said I won that debate.

[22:30:00] Everybody said I won the last debate. But I'm not a fan of Megyn Kelly. I don't like her. She probably doesn't like and that's OK. But she better be fair.


LEMON: So, you said the ratings are going to be -- he said, you know, yesterday, he was telegraphing, she'd better be fair and what have you, and now he's not going to do it.

But people are saying this is not really about it. At least his campaign supporters it's not really that much about Megyn Kelly than it is about that snarky statement or the statement they found snarky from Fox News today.

BENNETT: I thought that statement was ridiculous. I mean, they were like picking a fight with him. That was really a bad move.

LEMON: So, you thought it was a bad move. Do you think it's a good strategy for him not to be on that debate stage?

BENNETT: Well, I mean, you know, like I said, he owns the news cycle now. Everybody else in the race is trying desperately to get a message through and they can't. Because the next 24, 36 hours we're going to talk Donald Trump showing up at the debate or what happened afterwards. So, you know, that's another genius move by Donald Trump.

He's a much better politician than people give him credit.

LEMON: Cheri Jacobus is shaking her head. Why do you disagree?

CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, I don't think it's a good idea for somebody to skip a debate this close to the caucuses. But, look, Donald Trump is a bad debater. When he is on stage you can tell -- this is why want the debate to be shorter. He needs to find an excuse. He's got a tenuous lead. So, he's using the Megyn Kelly you manufacture kerfuffle as his excuse.

What he's really afraid of is up, being up there facing the voters, facing the press, and facing his opponents. Because at these debates Donald Trump and some of these interviews, such as with Wolf Blitzer yesterday, he comes off like a third grader faking his way through an oral report on current affairs.

Everybody knows it, he knows it. So, he has to -- he's calculated the risk here. Do I lose more voters if I show up and show that I'm not quite up on the issues and if they got me figured out, so this is a real serious debate now as we get closer. Or do I lose more voters, you know, if I just don't show and make up this thing?

So, he knows he's going to lose people and he's just figuring, you know what? I'm going fewer people if I don't show up. Then if I show up and everybody can see that I am not just up to part.

LEMON: Does it, do you think he will look -- he'll look like he's taking a stand against being treated unfairly?

JACOBUS: It's going to seem that way but, look, what I hope is that CNN and MSNBC and the other networks show a little professional respect and unity and not let somebody like this, you know, call the shots. And I hope that you don't air the rally or whatever he then he has.

LEMON: I think you're asking a lot. I'm pretty sure that everyone will -- everyone is going to air that.


LEMON: I mean, what else are you going do? As news executive, as a journalist I would want to -- I want to hear what he has to say. He is still very viable and he's a front runner.


JACOBUS: But you hear it every day and it's not much that he has to say or he can say it at the debate that everybody agreed to.

LEMON: Yes. To Cher's earlier point, though, Bob, how is this going to play in Peoria? I mean, how is this going to play among the people in Iowa?

BECKEL: Well, first of all, you got to keep in mind that Trump's support is getting more and more solid all the time. This is the largest and strongest undecided I've seen in Iowa over six presidential races five days out. That's number one, which means they're solidified.

The question is going to be turnout as I said in the beginning. But what you've got here now is Donald Trump not wanting to make a mistake up there and he also knows that one thing happened today. Does anybody -- can you name me one thing that somebody said today, the rest of the candidates, besides Cruz saying I'll debate Donald Trump.

LEMON: Well, Jeb Bush talked about, you know, being scared and the president or whatever, but he was reacting to Donald Trump.

BENNETT: The last 10 days the polls have really shifted in Trump's favor.


BENNETT: You know, I think that, I think both the Jerry Falwell thing and the Sarah Palin thing in Iowa were homeruns. I think he's playing this very well in Iowa.


JACOBUS: Well, but he...

LEMON: So, Bakari -- Bakari, you sat there and you've been very patient. So, Thursday night I'm sure you would be watching Donald Trump, right?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, I think that and I hear the young lady talking and she sounds a lot like a democrat who we just haven't taken Donald Trump seriously. And I don't know how anyone can't take Donald Trump seriously. Now he's kind of bumbled his way through the cycle. And I don't if it's some expertise or if he's trying new political tricks.

But right now he's the front-runner and the standard bearer for the Republican Party. And what you see today is Donald Trump, one, Fox News, zero. And if Donald Trump is not on the debate stage, then for all practical purposes, it's an undercard debate.

I mean, everybody wants to see the front-runner. Everybody wants to see Donald Trump. And I have one problem with this discussion. And I think indicative of the Republican Party as a whole.

But where's Reince Priebus? I mean, where is the leadership? Where is someone simply telling Donald Trump that if you're not going to show up to this republican sanction debate, then you can't be in any more debates that we are -- that we sanctioned. I mean, there is absolutely no leadership in the Republican Party right now...


JACOBUS: Then they would have said the same thing to Rand Paul.

SELLERS: ... and they're not saying anything is deafening.

JACOBUS: Then they would have had to say the same thing to Rand Paul.

LEMON: But to his point, though, none of the leadership have said that to any of the candidates including Donald Trump and Rand Paul.

Hold that thought, hold that thought, guys. I have to get to a break. I'm sorry, Bakari. We'll get you to respond on the other side.

[22:35:02] Stay with me. When we come right back, Trump pick two big endorsements, including one that was expected to go to archrival Ted Cruz. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Just six days till the Iowa caucuses, and Donald Trump pick up two more endorsement that could help him with conservative voters. And that's Evangelical leader, Jerry Falwell Jr., and Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio now supporting him.

Back with me now, Bob Beckel, Barry Bennett, Bakari Sellers, and also Cheri Jacobus. Listen, before we talk about those endorsements I want to get back to this. I thought it was -- you brought up a good point, Bakari, if Donald Trump is not there, it's an undercard debate. Because most people want to see the front-runner.

I'm wondering, though, does anyone get to take -- does anyone get to move up from the undercard debate? Is that been answered? Bob, anyone, do you know?

BECKEL: Yes, Rand Paul.

LEMON: Rand Paul, who wouldn't participate in the last debate which is interesting.

BECKEL: Well, he gets another seat.

LEMON: Yes. All right. So, let's move on. Let's talk about Megyn Kelly now. Also we had Tony Perkins on our show tonight and he endorsed Ted Cruz. Donald Trump did get an endorsement of, again, Jerry Falwell, which, you know, which of these guys do you think is going to get the Evangelical vote? I want to ask you that, Cheri.

[22:40:06] JACOBUS: Well, first of all, it's Jerry Falwell Jr.

LEMON: Jerry Falwell Jr.

JACOBUS: And he is not his father. There is a lot -- there is a lot of people who aren't really happy with that. They weren't really happy when he introduced him on his endorsing at Liberty...

LEMON: But, I mean, he doesn't even carry the way, do you think he carries the way that his father...

JACOBUS: He does. And in fact, Liberty University put out a statement and tweet this afternoon, which I thought was really extraordinary separating themselves from saying "We don't endorse, he speaks just for himself." And then his brother, the other son of Jerry Falwell came out and, you know, pretty much separated himself from it.

So, you know, it's not having the impact. There is also a women's pro- life group that came out and slammed Donald Trump today. So, you know, there's a reason why Donald Trump does not want to be on the debate stage. He does not want these things brought up. He wants to run out the clock and hide.

But as you know, you know, a week is a very long time leading into Iowa. I ask Rick Santorum, I ask a few other people.


JACOBUS: I think -- I think that this could really be the undoing of Donald Trump.

LEMON: Who brings it? Do you think so?



LEMON: go ahead. Who's that? Bakari.

SELLERS: But, Don, one of the -- Don, but, Donald Trump's said 41 percent. I mean, we're not talking about someone who is lagging behind in the polls; we're not talking about someone who needs an upshot. Donald Trump has been leading from since this summer. This isn't anything new. And I can't really believe on the...


JACOBUS: But he's been up and down in Iowa. No, I disagree. He's been up and down in Iowa and the polls are kind of shaky right now. And there are still some undecided. And also there is a reason why, I think it's Gallup it's not polling there in primary because it's so hard in primaries now, particularly in a caucus state where it's harder.

Because you know, they voted a little differently in a caucus state than they would in a primary. So, you know, I think that the primary poll is this time around, particularly in Iowa, I wouldn't be surprised if Trump won big. I also would not be surprised if he came in third. Again, look at Rick Santorum.

LEMON: Barry, to that point, the last time Ted Cruz issued what seems like a warning to voters to take -- I want you to take a listen to this.


SEN. TED CRUZ, (R-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Donald wins Iowa, he right now has substantial lead in New Hampshire. If he went on to win New Hampshire as well, there's a very good chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, that's the warning. Barry, is Cruz right?

BENNETT: He is right. If he wins Iowa, it's over. You know, he'll Cruz through New Hampshire and South Carolina. And that point everybody else will be gasping for fumes in their bank accounts and Donald Trump would roll into the SEC primaries and spur a huge wins.

JACOBUS: That never happen. I mean, because I can see where you'd want it to happen but I'm certainly not so, I mean, there is certainly a path through that can happen. But it's way too early to call it that. I don't even like referring to Donald Trump as a front-runner before votes have been cast. Because we had Ben Carson as a front- runner for a while and we can go through separate front-runners.


SELLERS: But your -- I mean, that if, to say that...

And I remember Hillary Clinton being a front-runner in 2008. So, it is not over till the fat lady sings and she's not even warming up yet.

SELLERS: ... to say that Donald Trump is not a front-runner...


JACOBUS: It is not over till the fat lady sings that she's not even warming up.

BECKEL: There's always a front-runner.

JACOBUS: I'm not saying you're not going to be right. But it's way too early to be saying until it was all over. He was going to run it for you.

LEMON: Bakari, go ahead.

SELLERS: No, I was going to say to say Donald Trump is not the front- runner, I mean, we're just not paying attention to the facts of what's going on in this country today.

I mean, every single poll, we're not talking about maybe this poll and that poll and that poll is wrong, but every single poll, the national poll, in New Hampshire he's been up since he got in the race. In South Carolina, he's been up since he got in the race. We know he's just going to get stronger as he goes through.

And I understand that many in the republican establishment want to undercut Donald Trump. But right now, if we've learned anything, whether or not it was his POW comment or what he said about Hispanics or anything else, we can't be saying that...


JACOBUS: Yes, but you know what? LEMON: I got to get this in, guys. Guys, please stop. I have some

breaking news I have to get in. Because Fox has just responded to skipping this debate and this type is so small, I hope that I can read it.

But anyway, this is from a -- tweeted Fox and he's a spokesperson and it says, "As many of our viewers know Fox News is hosting a sanctioned debate in Des Moines Iowa on Thursday, Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday night, three days before the first votes of the 2016 election are cast in the Iowa caucuses, in the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump is refusing to debate several of his fellow presidential candidates on stage that night, which is near unprecedented. We were sure how -- we're not sure..."

Again, this is really small, I'm sorry, "How Iowans are going to feel about him walking away from them at the last minute but it should be clear to the American public by now that this is rooted in one thing, Megyn Kelly, whom he has viciously attacked since August." And then it goes on to talk about that. Discuss, who wants to go first. You should probably go, Barry.

BENNETT: You know, I think that -- I know they want to position this as a Megyn Kelly thing. But, you know, we had fights back when I was with Carson, we had fights with the networks on every debate. You know, Fox didn't want to do opening statements; Fox refuse to do closing statement. We were constantly battling with them to get these things.

You know, I think that the statement today just put everything over the top. You know, I mean, Donald Trump doesn't need the debate is the truth. He's going to show up with at a rally tomorrow in Iowa and have a TV audience probably just as big as Fox's and he's going to get all of the time instead of one...


[22:45:10] JACOBUS: You know, but don't you think that the voters deserve to have a debate? You know, you're calling the front-runner to -- that we only start referring to front-runner based on polls in recent years, usually wait till there are some votes cast.

But you're saying that the voters in this very critical time, in this final week don't deserve to have it? The fact that Donald Trump has made this...


BENNETT: Cheri, I know you don't want to be ugly.

JACOBUS: ... the fact that Donald Trump has made his about him and the press rather than about the voters. I think is...


LEMON: I got to wrap this up, every one.

BECKEL: How do you miss Donald Trump?

LEMON: I've got some breaking news -- breaking news to get to. Thank you, every one.

BECKEL: I mean, he's on every day.

LEMON: We have some breaking news out of Oregon tonight. One person was killed as authorities arrested six people involved with the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge. The person who died was a subject of a federal probable cause arrest. But official would not identify him further.

A group led by Ammon Bundy has occupied the wildlife refuge since January 2nd. They are protesting what they called government overreached on federal lands. Ammon Bundy's Ryan sustained minor injuries in today's arrest according to a law enforcement official.

That's the very latest. So, we'll be right back right after this break.


LEMON: All right. More news when it comes to Donald Trump and skipping the Fox News debate. We're hearing from Fox News which gives us an insight as to they are taking on what's going on behind the scenes.

I read the first part of the statement from Fox News earlier in regards basically saying that Donald Trump has had it aim for Megyn Kelly ever since the -- this is a quote from them, "Viciously attacked her since August and now spent four days demanding be removed from the debate stage."

The he says "Capitulating to politicians also made him." This is a statement, "About a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards as due threats including the one level by Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski toward Megyn Kelly. And a call on Monday with Fox News executive, Lewandowski stated that Megyn had a rough couple of days after that last debate and he would hate to have her go through that again."

[22:50:09] Lewandowski was warned not to level any more threats but he continued to do so. We can't give in to terrorism toward any of our employees. Trump is still welcome at Thursday night debate and will be treated fairly just as he has been during his 132 appearances on Fox News and Fox Business, but he can't dictate the moderators or the questions." Barry, your response.

BENNETT: Terrorism seems a little bit over the top. You know, I know they don't like each other but, you know, goodness, Fox seems like going out of there to kind of make this blow up.

LEMON: Well, he said terrorizations toward any of the -- of our employee.

BENNETT: Yes, my goodness, my gracious. BEKEL: That sounds like a -- that sounds like a Roger Ailes statement but you just read the first one, Don.

LEMON: Yes. I'm lucky I had these glasses because otherwise I could not be able to read it. But why do you think that sounds like Roger Ailes?

BECKEL: Well, just because I've read enough of the stuff that he's written and I've seen the kind of releases that it looks to me like it's the kind of release that he does. His releases are generally longer than that first one. And the idea of throwing the Ayatollah is something that I just find that very difficult for me to believe.

LEMON: Yes. Can one demand that someone be removed from a debate stage if journalists tell another corporation who they can have on a debate stage, Cheri?

JACOBUS: Yes. I don't think they should. And that's why I hope the CNN and the MSNBC kind of join and don't let a candidate, no matter who the candidate is hold this kind of stuff. You don't get to choose who is going to be the moderator. You can't decide what questions do you think are off limits in our -- and that we vet our candidates.

And here's what bothers me. A lot of republicans and a lot of people at Fox and a lot of the hosts have gone out on a limb for you saying we should have vetted Obama more. And I agree with him. I don't understand why they have such a problem vetting Donald Trump.

What Megyn Kelly -- the question Megyn Kelly posed to Donald Trump was quoting him directly. Anything a candidate says or does in their entire life is fair game. And if Mr. Trump or any candidate, republican or democrat, has a problem with that, I think voters should really, you know, give that a second thought.

LEMON: Here's what -- Bakari, listen. When they're talking about this terrorization toward any of the employees, this is what I find interesting here. It says "In a call on Monday with Fox News executive -- on Saturday -- excuse me, no, this says in a call on Monday with Fox News executive, Lewandowski stated that Megyn had a rough couple of days after that last debate and he would hate to have her to go through that again. Lewandowski was warned not to level any threats but he continued to do so. We can't give into terrorizations toward any of our employees."

So, apparently, the Trump campaign had been warned it seems like they're saying that Trump was threatening Megyn Kelly with the next debate. Bakari?

SELLERS: Both of those statements that came from Fox News today are really beneath a billion-dollar news organization I think. I mean, I have a problem with the way that both of those statements were written.

But I want to help Cheri kind of get to her point in what she is trying to accomplish by saying that CNN and MSNBC and all these other stations shouldn't give in to the demands of Donald Trump. We should stand up as one.

Well, what has to happen to is the Republican Party has to actually have some leadership. And I really don't want to hear another statement from anybody unless it's Reince Priebus. If Reince comes in and tells CNN and tells NMC and everybody else that you cannot host another debate if you air a rally by Donald Trump. Then it won't be aired. So, I mean...


BENNETT: Yes, but, I mean...

JACOBUS: I don't think it should come from him. I think there should be something that the press handles, you know, they've been pushed around a lot by -- they've been pushed around a lot by Corey Lewandowski and the Trump campaign. This is something that people that are in competing organizations. So, I think that this is something that the press can handle and I don't think he needs to get...


SELELRS: Well, during times like this, during times like this, I mean, this is when you actually need to show some leadership. This is when you actually need to have some courage. And if Reince Priebus didn't go stand up to Donald Trump today, he's never going to stand up tomorrow.

JACOBUS: Oh, that's a silly statement. It's not about him. Stop trying to destruct and make it about him.

BECKEL: You know, you guys are assuming, you're assuming that there's a republican establishment, number one.

JACOBUS: Exactly.

BECKEL: I don't buy into that. I haven't bought into any of that.

JACOBUS: Thank you.

BECKEL: I mean, if Reince Priebus is considered the head of the establishment. Listen, in 1984, we were not going to do until the last debate. We were ahead by so many points with Mondale. And I did a poll saying if we don't debate, what happens to Mondale? We lost about 20 points. Now, I think that -- but that was a different situation, different time. I mean, I covered late in the second...


JACOBUS: Did you pull that trick, though, about taking off after a debate moderator and using that as your excuse?

BECKEL: No, no, no.

JACOBUS: Is that the plan?

BECKEL: Our excuse was our plan was going to break down in Minnesota. But I came up with four or five different ideas. But the point was that people want to that at this close, Iowa voters are focused and they're really -- and they're really making up their minds, although, again, the undecided is very low. One hundred twenty six thousand people the last around. The question now is if it's just 140, Trump wins. If he doesn't, he lose.

[22:55:10] LEMON: Hey, Barry, I got to ask you this because there are two different statements, right? One says Saturday there was a call with Fox News executives and Lewandowski, another says Monday. I guess if doesn't matter if it's Saturday or Monday, but do you know anything about this call?

BENNETT: I don't. I don't know anything about a call on Monday.

LEMON: You know nothing.

BENNETT: But I think both of those statements though, that they put out today are, you know, incredibly poor judgment.

LEMON: How so?

BENNETT: They didn't need to become part of the story. You know, just host the debate. Be in those organization, you don't need to, you know, pinprick people or poke people. I mean, it's silly. And they, you know, they've cause this and they're going to hurt their ratings since the result of it

LEMON: I'm actually I'm surprised to his point that Fox News would come out with -- is it better in this situation to take the high road and say, you know, Donald Trump wouldn't come to our debate, he has a problem but we're not going to let him just, you know, dictate who should be up on that stage, Bob.

BECKEL: No. That's a classic Fox, I mean, Fox, the idea of not having the front-runner is something that they don't tolerate very well in the Republican Party. So, I'm not surprised. They're surprise by who or may not have read that. But I'm not surprised.

And I also think they're probably going to tell -- say to Trump, look, you're going to get a lot of our people come in the fall and you're not going to do it. So, I'm not at all surprised. I think it was kind of a way of saying rethink this, baby, and come on the air and he is not going to do it.

LEMON: Well, whatever it did, it didn't eat up much air time on the broadcast tonight.

BECKEL: Not at all. You need a service dinner here.

LEMON: That's sarcasm.

BECKEL: You know that? We don't have anything, we don't have even food, we don't have any Coke, we don't have anything.

LEMON: Bob, stop complaining. All right. Thank you, guys. I'll see you soon. We'll be right back. [23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)