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CNN TONIGHT

Death Toll in the Brussels Terror Attack Has Risen to 35; Hulk Hogan Won the $140 million Sex Tape Lawsuit; Donald Trump: Best Way To Make America Great Again to Distance Ourselves From Some Allies. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 28, 2016 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[23:00:08] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: We are counting down to CNN's GOP town hall in Wisconsin. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Our town hall is just hours away followed by Wisconsin's primary in just one week but will the Trump/Cruz war over their wives be last straw for women voters?

Plus, the $140 million sex tape. That's how much jurors awarded Hulk Hogan after gawker posted his tape. They say they are sending a message about arrogance and New York snobbism. Well, Gawker's Nick Denton says this is all about free press and he says it's not the sex tape that embarrassed Hulk Hogan. It's something else. Both sides are here tonight to discuss that.

But it's been a very busy day on the campaign trail. Joining me is Matt Lewis, the author of "Too Damn to Fail," a senior contributor to the "the Daily Caller." Kayleigh McEnany is CNN political contributor - commentator I should say and Trump supporter and Lanhee Chen, a former senior advisor to Marco Rubio. Good evening to all of you.

Kayleigh, you first. The next big Republican town hall is here on CNN tomorrow night. What does Donald Trump need to say to win over Wisconsin? What will voters be listen for youth, in your estimation?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The biggest thing is his economic message. You look at Wisconsin in January and all 72 counties, unemployment actually rose there. So Donald Trump needs to pivot from what, you know, we have been seeing on twitter and Heidi Cruz and the wife battle and get back to the message that has made him so popular in Mississippi and Michigan when he brings forth this message of I am anti-free trade or not necessarily anti-free trade but free-trade within reason and what regards to what is best for the American workers. So if he pivots back to that message, he can win Wisconsin. But that is what he needs to drive hoe with Anderson tomorrow.

LEMON: So Lanhee, how important is Wisconsin in terms of denying Donald Trump the 1237 delegates to seal the deal for the nomination?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR FOR MITT ROMNEY: Don, it's crucially important because, first of all, this is the first state that's gone in a long time. So it's going to be important for Ted Cruz or the anti-Trump forces to do well in Wisconsin. It's also, frankly, a bell weather, Don. I mean, Wisconsin is a very important state. There are a lot of elements in that state that reflect success in a general election. So I think what we are going to see in Wisconsin is whether Donald Trump can really win over the independent voters, for example, the women voters that he's going to need to have if he's going to win in November. And all of those issues are important. I really do hope Mr. Trump pivots away from foreign policy because that was a disastrous interview he gave to "the New York Times" over the weekend. But we will see what happens over the next few days.

LEMON: Matt, CNN got a recent poll that shows that 73 percent of women have a negative opinion of Donald Trump. Can he possibly overcome that kind of number?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes. I think the way to do it is to start attacking Heidi Cruz and to tweet out unflattering pictures of her.

LEMON: That's sarcasm, isn't it?

He is well on his way. I mean, look. This is - the Republican -- I think Ronald Reagan was probably the last president to win the women vote the female vote. So there is a gender gap but I think that Donald Trump exacerbates that problem. And, look, whether it's Rosie O'Donnell or Megyn Kelly or the latest Heidi Cruz, this guy has a pattern of attacking women.

LEMON: Kayleigh, the battle between Trump and Cruz, go ahead, what did you want to say?

MCENANY: Sure. You know, obviously, he needs to stop doing that and he needs to pivot away from that. It doesn't help him. But you know, I would argue with Matt that Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate and out of any of them on that stage who has said, look, Planned Parenthood does a lot of good for women. It does pre-cancer screening. It helps a lot of women. I don't want to end that. This is something that you don't hear ever on a GOP debate stage. But Donald Trump has said it and has managed to do it in a winning manner.

LEMON: Republicans are hitting him hard for that, though, Kayleigh. You know that. They are using that against him.

MCENANY: They are. But good for him for sticking to that. Good for him for sticking to. I want people to have health care. I don't want people dying on the streets. He's stuck to a lot of things that in the past used to be a (INAUDIBLE) to the Republican Party. You are right. You are exactly right. Republicans are --.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: You're right. Because I remember -- because I remember when the Republican party was a pro-life party who didn't want to subsidize Planned Parenthood and also were free trade party and also a party that believe at a strong national defense and being a part of, you know, of the global community. And so this is a radical departure in many ways.

LEMON: How does the -- how does he reconcile - Kayleigh, let me ask you this. Then how does he reconcile this, when he is being cast by other Republicans in the race as not being Republican enough, not being conservative enough, not even being a Republican for him to say things like that about Planned Parenthood and what you said about health care. Then how does he do that? How does he reconcile that?

MCENANY: Look, he's got to call out the Republican Party. Because what we just heard Matt say, last time I checked, the Republican Party is pro-life. Well, Donald Trump is pro-life. But he's commonsense conservatism in that he can realize that, yes, I don't want to see what's going on with abortion at Planned Parenthood but I'm not going to be a typical Republican that just --

[23:05:04] LEWIS: Money is spongeable. If you give money to Planned Parenthood and put it in a silo ostensibly for them to do some legitimate work, that frees up more money for them to perform abortions.

MCENANY: I understand why he has said we need to look into preserving the good functions of Planned Parenthood. That is to say, we need to preserving the pre-cancer screening that helps a lot of women who can't afford that. Maybe that means taking it out of Planned Parenthood to get rid of the abortion aspect of it. But it certainly means preserving it. Republicans in the past never looked at that. They never acknowledge that Planned Parenthood does. They do exactly what you do which is to say, I'm pro-life, sorry, Planned Parenthood has to go even if it helps women who are less fortunate.

LEMON: I want Lanhee to get in on this. Go ahead, Lenhee.

CHEN: Yes. You know, I think to Matt's point, this is the issue with Donald Trump is that there is no core there. There is no conservative core there. And in a Republican primary, I tend to think that over the long haul, that is going to be a problem. The fact that this guy doesn't stand for a strong American foreign policy that is involved and engaged in the world.

The fact that this individual has been all over the map when it comes to issues of life, the fact that this guy has an economic policy that is mercantilist at best, and really doesn't stand for the kind of economic growth that we need to get this economy growing. I think those are going to be the more important issues. The fact that he doesn't have a core, the fact that he really is a conservative. He gave this radio interview in Wisconsin where he got absolutely hammered. And the reason why is because he has no conservative core and I think voters are going to see through this Republican primary in the next few weeks.

LEMON: Does this problem get worse if he faces Hillary Clinton in the general election, Matt?

LEWIS: Well, it will be interesting to see how he does, how he pivots, how he performs. But clearly, I think that Hillary Clinton is going to try a couple of things. One, I think Trump is going to drive turnout for him and against him. So for Hillary and for Donald Trump. Hillary is not going to excite anybody except maybe young women. So I do think the gender gap, which Republicans have, you know, for a long time now had a problem with. If it's Trump versus Hillary Clinton, that's going to be a big, big gap.

LEMON: Lanhee, you supported Marco Rubio with the remaining candidates battling him out. Who do you think will inherit his support?

CHEN: Well, you know, I think that his support is going to go probably in multiple directions. People who favored Marco Rubio favored a Republican with a hopeful forward-looking message on the economy and a robust foreign policy. I think that there are elements of that in a few of these different candidates. So I don't think that they are unilateral. I don't think they go in one direction. I certainly don't think though that lion share will go to Donald Trump. I think they will either go to Cruz or Kasich for the most part.

LEMON: Matt, I want to ask you about this, about this Kasich and Cruz supposedly getting together to try to stop Donald Trump, the Kasich campaign reached out to the Cruz campaign. Cruz campaign saying no way. They are doing the campaign basically as a spoiler and they are not doing it.

LEWIS: Yes. I thought that was poetic justice or something. It was great. Because remember when Marco Rubio said -- encouraged his voters to vote for John Kasich in Ohio and the Kasich people just laugh that off and went nothing to do with helping Rubio and sort of this strategic voting to try to stop Donald Trump from getting to 1372. And now Kasich is the one going to Cruz with this, you know, deal, this plan and now he's rebuffed by Ted Cruz. So you know, I think maybe Kasich had it coming.

LEMON: All right. Stick around, everybody. When we come right back, Donald Trump drills down on foreign policy. Why he says he might withdraw troops from some American allies. Could that put us at risk?

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[23:12:31] LEMON: In Donald Trump's world view, the best way to make America great again just might be to distance ourselves from some allies, but not everyone is on board with that.

Back with me w, Matt Lewis, Kayleigh McEnany and Lanhee Chen.

Matt, you first. Donald Trump has been saying, you know, make America first is his guiding policy. But in a 100-minute interview with the "New York Times," Lanhee mentioned it just a little bit earlier, he gets more detailed. He says that allies like Japan and South Korea aren't paying enough for their own protection and that he would be willing to withdraw troops from there if they didn't pay more. What's your reaction to that?

LEWIS: Well, not only withdraw troops from there but let Japan go nuclear. I wonder what our grandparents who, you know, fought World War II against the empire of Japan and who cared very deeply Japan and not going -- you know, not having a bomb and about keeping its arm's race out of Asia, how they would feel about this.

But the interesting thing is, this is -- you know, I was talking earlier about how Trump is moving away from conservatism and life issues and other things. Interestingly, this is in a way a full circle. The Republican Party was once a protectionist party and way back when before World War II, the Republican Party was an isolationist party.

And you know, you mentioned Donald Trump said America first. Well, that's the name of the Charles Lindbergh group that basically was an isolationist party that didn't want to get involved in World War II until after Pearl Harbor. So this is really full circle.

LEMON: Yes. He said, Lanhee, Japan and South Korea. We may want to open them up to nuclear nations. What do you make of that idea?

CHEN: I almost wish he hadn't given the interview, Don. I almost wish that we could all just close our eyes and close our ears and pretend that this guy knew what he was talking about. It was breathtaking display of incoherence.

You have on the one hand calling for us to pull back from some of the bull works of our Asian security network that we've had here since the end of the second world war, frankly, and the end of Korean war. And you're talking about promoting greater nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and potentially Japan, as Matt said.

You have this notion that we pull away from NATO and from our allies in Europe. That is not the way to make America great again. That's going to make America weaker in the world by not standing by our allies. And not to mention, by the way, all of this talk about trade policy.

Donald Trump is a true anti-trade candidate. He would be the first anti-trade Republican nominee in a long time. So this was a completely incoherent interview that gave us a sense of his world view.

[23:15:04] LEMON: Kayleigh, you sat said quietly. You think it was completely incoherent and as Lanhee said, you know, he wishes that he almost didn't give the interview.

MCENANY: No. I think that the interview was a great interview. And I thought we saw very clearly what the Trump doctrine is and what it stands for. And what that stands for is not intervening in other countries.

You know, Matt seems to be OK with the fact that we go into Syria and now it's overrun by ISIS. We couple a dictator in Libya and now it is overrun by ISIS. We withdraw from Iraq. We don't leave a contingency force there in a small degree, now it's overrun by ISIS. Matt seems OK with all of this saying the Trump doctrine is, America first. We're not going to intervene on other countries unless it's within our interests.

Our allies need to start paying if they want this part of the United States, you have to start paying for it to some degree. It's America first. It's a coherent doctrine. To say it's incoherent is ridiculous.

LEMON: I want Matt to respond. She specifically pointed Mat out. Go ahead, Matt.

LEWIS: Thanks. I don't know what I said that was OK with the Syria or Libya, whatever. All the things that she cited. But look, I mean, I do think that this is -- OK. After World War II, I think there was a consensus in the Republican Party and the Democratic Party that, you know, there's two types of leadership, right. There is transformational leadership and then there is transactional leadership. And what Donald Trump is calling for is transactional leadership. But what we need is transformational leadership. And that America was going to be a force for good. Part of this, obviously, was during the cold war. So you can argue that paradigm that shifted.

But that if America doesn't have a place in the world, that it's not like everybody is going to behave, you know, that people are going to fill the vacuum. That's what happens, like for example, when we leave Iraq -- you know, Barack Obama pulls us out of Iraq and we don't leave a reserve force behind. Guess what, you know, ISIS emerges. And bad actors emerge and that's what I'm afraid would happen with the Trump doctrine.

LEMON: So Lanhee, Trump says Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies need to contribute more to the fight against ISIS in manpower and in money. A lot of Americans agreeing with that. Is he right?

CHEN: Look. I understand the sentiment. The idea that we need to have more of our allies and more of our friends around the globe engaged with us in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist organizations. I totally understand that point of view. But the way to do that is not by undercutting our allies and saying what we need to do as Americans is we need to retrench from the rest of the world. That is simply not a point of view.

And you know, to the point about the Trump doctrine, I don't know what that is. Saying America first is not a doctrine. There's no definition of engagement. There is no understanding of how we're going to engage with our friends and our adversaries around the world. And, you know, Trump has repeatedly said, I don't want to give too much away because then the other side will know what I'm going to do.

LEMON: So then how would you characterize his world view then? Does he have a comprehensive idea of how the world works, in your estimation?

CHEN: Well, you know, it seems to be that all of this is about a negotiation. You know, it's like he's buying lighting fixtures for his next hotel. That's how we are going to conduct U.S. foreign policy. It's ridiculous. It is naive and it is frankly sad that this person is the front-runner of the Republican Party who brings to bear, really, no sophisticated view of how the world works.

You know, he has got a foreign policy adviser team. There are some decent people on that team. I hope he starts to listen to them because that interview was garbage.

LEMON: Kayleigh, is that a fair characterization?

MCENANY: No. To say that he brings nothing is to completely neglect the fact that Donald Trump long before Hillary Clinton ever came against the Iraq war, long before any Republican ever became against the Iraq war, Donald Trump was against the Iraq war. Donald Trump a month ago said, guys, we need to look at Brussels. It's been overrun with radical Islam. We need to look at this.

And you know what happened as the "The New York Times" came out an article making fun of Donald Trump saying Donald Trump insults the city of Brussels and here we are a month later and we see they were attacked. This is someone who has been on the forefront of calling out when these attacks are going to happen, recognizing when we shouldn't intervene in places and to completely dismiss that and act as if he's a buffoon I think is really doing our party a disservice and our country as well.

LEMON: I only have 30 seconds left. Kayleigh, let me start with you. If Mr. Trump gets the nomination, do you think he has enough grasp of the details on foreign policy to go toe to toe with Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee? Just quickly. First, Kayleigh.

MCENANY: Yes. I have no doubt about it, yes.

LEMON: Matt?

LEWIS: Not enough to be president, but enough to go toe-to-toe in a debate because he doesn't have to know that much. He can talk (INAUDIBLE) and he can change the subject and talk about making America great again. So in a campaign, he's fine.

LEMON: Lanhee?

CHEN: He's not ready to be president and I think that will show.

LEMON: All right. Thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.

Don't forget, CNN's Wisconsin GOP town hall tomorrow. Ted Cruz John Kasich, Donald Trump take questions from voters in the primetime event moderated by Anderson Cooper. Tomorrow night beginning at 8:00 eastern.

And coming up, the death toll in the Brussels tear terror attack has risen to 35, but this terror suspect is still on the run. Are police any closer to finding him?

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[23:24:04] LEMON: Tomorrow marks one week since the deadly Brussels terror attacks and a suspect known as the man in white is still on the run tonight.

Joining me now to discuss Mubin Shaikh, author of "Undercover Jihadi," and Michael Weiss, co-author "ISIS, inside the army of terror."

So Michael, let's start with you first. Belgian authorities released the suspect (INAUDIBLE). He was arrested on Thursday who believe to the man in white. The airport bomber who escaped, turns out it was not him. How is it that almost a week later we still don't know who this man is?

MICHAEL WEISS, CO-AUTHOR, ISIS, INSIDE THE ARMY OF TERROR: Well, it's funny. The Belgians, they still haven't charged but they released him due to lack of evidence. And this guy went from being called a notorious jihadi horror show to he might be innocent, you know, within a space of 24, 48 hours.

I think they just got him in a drag net. He had been misidentified on the basis of the original photograph and now they are releasing new footage of the so-called man in white. It doesn't seem that you can make out what this guy looks like. He has suspected to be the handler or sort of the ringleader of this operation. He got away. He still at large. And I think the Belgians are frankly just scratching their head. They don't know where he is.

[23:25:12] LEMON: What are they saying about the other suspects at large?

WEISS: I mean, this is part of the ever expanding Brussels ring. Honestly, nobody really knows where these guys are. This is, again, the francophone dispatched back into Europe. You get variable figures on the number of guys who have gone over to Syria or didn't get go over to Syria because they were interdicted or were killed on the way or whatever and then who have come back.

But there's still thought to be about 130 Belgians who have been to ISIS caliphate country and they are now back in the country running around. So, it can be any one of those guys or more, frankly, that they don't even know exists.

LEMON: My goodness.

Mubin, I have to ask you, are Belgian authorities up to the task with this investigation? I know it's hindsight but does it feel like the terrorists are several steps ahead of authorities?

MUBIN SHAIKH, AUTHOR, UNDERCOVER JIHADI: Well, that's the problem with policing in general. That is reactive. It's after an offense has already occurred and now we have to come in and pick up the pieces. There's system was not built to handle this kind of load. They are now getting a lot of assistance from western professional intelligence agencies. I mean, they also have a problem with local police forces (INAUDIBLE) agencies. They, among themselves, have intelligence sharing problems. They really haven't figured out how to bring centralize their analysis. And now, of course, there have been accusations they weren't doing sharing at the federal level very well. But all of this is changing, of course, because of the gravity of the situation.

LEMON: You're talking about sharing of things but you -- I think you call it human intelligence, as you call it. Do they have enough of that?

SHAIKH: Yes. You know, I mean, again, human intelligence. These are your spies. These are people I mean, who are on the ground, who are hearing things, what's going on who know who are the movers and shakers in these networks. I mean, I was one of those people. I know what it's like. And this is why -- look, the other accusation is that the Belgians haven't done a really good job of reaching out to the communities. They don't have enough police that speak the language. They don't have people from those ethnic communities. These are things that can't be done overnight but -- and it's a little kind of a little bit too late. But, you know, something rather than nothing now.

LEMON: I want to show this. This is video. This is new video obtained of the Bakraoui brothers' apartment. And authorities are sealing the apartments -- this is for you, Michael, above and below it because of how many chemicals were leaking from the explosives that they were building. That's a big missed clue, right?

WEISS: The chemicals that were being built in there or bombs being built in the apartment? Yes. Look, I mean, it's always the case, isn't it, we've been on the show before and it has been discussed it with respect to San Bernardino.

The guys, you know, upstairs or downstairs from us with the fertilizer. And you know, we didn't think twice of what they were doing. You know, this is a community that is very closed off. In fact, "the Guardian" reported today people in Molenbeek are getting text messages saying do not engage with the (INAUDIBLE) police force. Don't give them any information. Keep your mouth shut.

This is a result of allowing a very radical ideology to faster and to be cultivated in plain sight for the course of several decades. Now, if these guys were building, you know, high explosive devices that can kill, you know, 35 people is now the current death count in this neighborhood. Nobody saw anything, nobody suspected anything, I mean, come on. I think this is the belief at this point.

LEMON: But both tactically and structurally, ISIS is getting hammered, right? But the terror attacks make you feel less safe. So what's the reality here?

WEISS: There is now a cleavage that is taking place between the army of the caliphate in Syria and Iraq and their foreign operations, with their foreign intelligence. When I can tell you, Europeans are sending a ladder of ISIS security structures with respect to their abroad.

European operatives who have come over from these countries, France, Brussels, Germany, England, whatever, go over to the caliphate, they trained and then get sent back or don't. But because they understand the geography, they understand the culture and they have the language are being, you know, sort of turned into the John Brennan of ISIS in a sense, you know. I mean, there are people on the ground in Raqqa and Aleppo, which is the headquarters of the (INAUDIBLE), the foreign intelligence branch. They don't really speak Arabic. They only speak French or they only speak English or they only speak Russian. This is the new phenomenon, the new face.

LEMON: You are the perfect person to ask this. And this is exclusive video. It shows the Abdeslam brothers partying just eight months before the Paris attacks. Friends told CNN that they were drinking, they were flirting, they were smoking pot. So how do you think that they went from that to ISIS jihadists?

SHAIKH: Well, I mean, a lot of them can have these multiple identities at the same time, you know. You are in these networks, it's fun, it's cool, lot of criminality, and the criminal underworld. And you know, in some cases a lot of them are really acting out or giving themselves a way out. They were known to be involved in these kinds of things.

Look, on the parallel side, it could be operational security. I mean, do that. Go to clubs. One of the -- I remember one of the ISIS communiques was talk about your plans in the nightclub because who's going to be able to intercept and suveil you there? So these multiple identities, criminality and then using that criminality for terrorism is the most common factors in the recruit in the west.

[23:30:46] LEMON: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

UP next, Gawker ordered to pay Hulk Hogan $140 million after posting part of his sex tape. I'm going to talk to two of the jurors.

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[23:34:51] LEMON: Gawker media is hoping an appeals court will overturn the $140 million judgment against the Web site, its founder and a former editor. They were sued by the wrestler Hulk Hogan for invasion of privacy after Gawker posted a snippet of a video showing Hogan having sex. Some jurors say they were sending a message with their verdict. In a few moment, I'm going to talk to Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media. But First, two of the Florida jury that decided that the case, Kevin Kennedy and Shane O'Neil.

Hello, gentlemen. Thank you so much for joining us.

Kevin, to you first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

LEMON: I'm doing great. Thank you. Kevin, you first. You and your fellow jurors awarded Hulk Hogan more than $140 million in damages in this lawsuit against Gawker Media. That's an amazing amount of money. What was behind your verdict?

KEVIN KENNEDY, JUROR IN HULK HOGAN V. GAWKER: Well, mainly the evidence. The evidence showed that basically, you know, the loss of revenue that Hulk Hogan could have made off of the video and also pain and suffering that he went through this entire ordeal and basically the evidence that was presented in front of us. That's what we had to work with. That's what the judge's orders were to have us look and examine that evidence without bias towards either side and that's exactly what we did.

LEMON: What was the most convincing piece of evidence, Kevin?

KENNEDY: Well, the fact that there was no evidence showing that they gave Gawker the rights to show the video. And that's really what the crux of the decision was about. That's really what -- in large part, what this case was about.

LEMON: So Shane, Gawker --

KENNEDY: They didn't have the permission to show it.

LEMON: Gawker argued that this video, Shane, was news worthy in part because Hulk Hogan is a big celebrity with a larger than life public personality. That he had talk about it in other places. Was that argument at all convincing? Did you debate that?

SHANE O'NEIL, JUROR IN HULK HOGAN V, GAWKER: We absolutely debated that. We had a great jury. There were six of us. We all came from different perspectives of life and we all came in with really different thoughts and balanced each other really well through that.

But you know, quite frankly, here, we didn't think that was, you know, the case at all as far as Mr. Bollea. We knew -- it was very clear this was invasion of privacy and it was very clear he did not want that tape to be put out to the public. And so that was the evidence that -- that was absolutely 100 percent clear to all of us.

LEMON: OK. So Kevin, Listen. After the verdict, Nick Denton, right, who is the founder if Gawker. He posted this on Gawker.com. And here is what he says. He said, it turns out this case was never about the sex on the tape Gawker received but about racist language on another, unpublished tape that threatened Hogan's reputation and career. As our lawyers argued in legal briefs that were kept secret by the trial judge from the public, Hogan filed a claim because he was terrified that one of the other tapes which memorialized his rant about his daughter dating f'ing n words might emerge. It is now clear that Hogan's lawsuit was a calculated attempt to prevent Gawker or anyone else who might obtain evidence of his racism from publishing a truth more interesting or damaging than a revelation about his sex life."

If they had introduced that into evidence, Kevin, would that have changed anything for you?

KENNEDY: I'd have to see the video. But since I haven't seen the video, I can only go on what I have seen. And what I have seen, you know, the fact that he did not want that video shown, is really all I can go on. I guess that would have to be a question for the jury.

LEMON: Shane, same question for you.

O'NEIL: Don, yes. Sure, Don. Thank you. You know, obviously it's the opposite for me. I mean, it makes it even more clear that he did not want that video to be out there. If you think about the kind of things, the comments that he made on the actual sex tape as well as what you just mentioned, obviously that's not somebody that knew he was being taped and that this is something that would go out to the public. So I think that solidifies it in my mind even more so that Mr. Hogan was not involved in this as far as knowing that it was happening and obviously he didn't want it out.

LEMON: Some jurors have said the Gawker people thought that they were above the law. Explain what you mean by that, Shane.

O'NEIL: Sure. Absolutely. I think it was very clear the way Mr. Denton kind of -- his philosophy with his company and the way he's brought his people in is that they are all about going across the line. They are not about normal journalism, ethical journalism. This is about taking it to a completely different limit and they are testing it and this is why we're here, is basically they crossed the first amendment. They crossed a right of privacy. And this is the whole crux of the whole thing and why we're here.

LEMON: Jurors have also said that there was a sense of arrogance. Is there a disconnect, you think, between Nick Denton's values and what Gawker deems acceptable and what the rest of the country thinks?

O'NEIL: You know, actually, I think on the arrogance, there was a lot of that evidence or presentation that we had from people getting on the stand from deposition. Everybody from (INAUDIBLE) to Mr. Denton to Emma Carmichael all were very arrogant especially in the deposition. I think Mr. Denton was very poised and well-spoken while he was on the stand.

But I think, you know, that's something that we couldn't take into, you know, factor really because this wasn't about judging arrogance or perception of some one. It was strictly following the law based on what we were told and what we were given. And so even though, yes, it was arrogant, we did not consider that at all when it came to making our decision.

[23:40:37] LEMON: You know, many news organizations, probably all news organizations are looking at this and thinking about the first amendment.

To Kevin, were you hoping to send a message to other media outlets with this multimillion dollar verdict?

KENNEDY: Absolutely. I mean, you can't hide behind the first amendment, you know, to further your career, your company, to make more money, whatever the case may be. So that's the way I feel about it. As a group, definitely, we felt that in this case, privacy overweighed the right of the first amendment as it applied to gawker.

LEMON: Shane?

O'NEIL: To that point, don, yes, on the punitive damage side, the last part of it, it was very, very clear that it was for two things. It was punishing Gawker, the folks involved, Gawker, Mr. Denton, A.J. Delorio. But it was also clear that it should be to deter others from doing the same thing. And we have to make that decision. So obviously, a small amount of money in a multibillion dollar industry, it would not make that kind of an impact to deter. So a lot of things came into our evaluation, you know, on all three phases of the damages but quite frankly it was very clear we had to make an example to others to deter.

LEMON: Kevin, I'm going to be interviewing Nick Denton right after you. If you had the opportunity to speak with him personally, what would you tell him?

KENNEDY: After what we have seen and as I have seen is a group, basically what I said before, you know, put yourself in his shoes and don't try to further yourself and hide behind the first amendment just to further your goals. But, again, I still think, as I have said before in one of the other interviews, that didn't seem to me like he had a heart or a soul. That certainly didn't come across the way the people that he hired, the way he trained them, the environment that he fostered at Gawker. And --

O'NEIL: I think quite frankly, bring back ethics and morals in journalism when making decisions about something like this out that is controversial. That's what it really what it comes down to.

LEMON: Shane O'Neil, Kevin Kennedy, thank you.

O'NEIL: You're welcome. Thanks for having us.

LEMON: Up next, Nick Denton speaks out about what these two jurors just said and what's next for Gawker.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:46:42] LEMON: We just heard from two jurors explaining why they ordered Gawker to pay Hulk Hogan $140 million in his invasion of privacy lawsuit over a sex tape. Joining me now is Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media group who I know personally.

How are you holding up?

NICK DENTON, FOUNDER, GAWKER MEDIA GROUP: I'm doing pretty good.

LEMON: Yes, you are looking pretty good.

I want to respond to these jurors who just spoke to me. Do you have anything to say to them? They said, you have no heart, you appear to have no heart, no soul, and that their message was to bring ethics back to journalism and that you're partially responsible for that.

DENTON: In the trial, I'm sure one of the jurors asked for a dialogue, is it possible to have a dialogue with the witness and, yes, I wish that was possible, actually, in a court environment. But you could actually talk through these issues because it's not super clear. You have to balance the desire that we have as a country for a free press against an individual's right to privacy.

LEMON: How does that feel, though, Nick, to hear people say it doesn't appear that he has a heart and he has a soul?

DENTON: You are jealous. Like you know how this works. Most stories, most good stories involve somebody seeing information about themselves that they would not -- would rather not be out there. And they are upset. And if every journalist felt every single little bit that the subject feels, there would be no news, there would be no news stories, there will be no newscasts. And the fact is that we are people and then we put on our hat as a journalist. and as a journalist, you care mostly about the story and mostly about the readers.

LEMON: What Hogan's attorneys have said is that it appears that your side, you and Gawker and the attorneys, really didn't understand what was at stake here and what this trial was all about. They spoke out to the Hollywood reporter. Let's listen to a little about it and then we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Know that they actually truly understood this case from the beginning. I think they felt they would be the champions of the first amendment and everyone would fall in line with their thinking but their thinking was so skewed, it was difficult for anybody to even agree with them on anything they testified to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nick Denton gives you these sound bites, statements like I think the invasion of privacy is incredibly good for society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's such a great point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the word in closing, this idea that privacy rights didn't matter. I don't think it's a philosophy that resonated very well with jurors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And many say it is philosophy that doesn't resonate with America. Do you think that you were sort of - that you didn't understand what was going on? That you're living in a whole other world that America doesn't really live in in your ivory tower in New York City?

DENTON: We are in New York City and part of the media and Gawker definitely represent a provocative end of the media. But we need -- readers need -- if you're going to understand what is going on in the world, you need people who are prepared sometimes just to blurt out the truth, blurt out the real story, say what is really happening and rather than constantly being conscious about --

LEMON: Why is this a truth that people needed to know? Why is this truth about Hulk Hogan? Who is it - I mean, not even a b level or c or d level?

DENTON: He's a massive global celebrity who is carefully cultivated an image on talk radio, you know, through his wrestling and a celebrity's privilege to control that message. If you're a free journalist you don't necessarily always want to go along with a celebrity publicity (INAUDIBLE).

[23:50:00] LEMON: I think what they are saying, though, is in what people whether you believe this or not, and you and I have discussed this, I have had my issues with Gawker, right? And I know you personally. I like you. I don't necessarily agree with everything that Gawker does. But where does the right to privacy end and the first amendment that you -- what they are doing in this trial is weighing the first amendment, the freedom of speech, against the right of privacy. And one would think that most people in this country would go a closed door in an intimate moment and have an expectation of privacy. What's not to be understood about that?

DENTON: Well, first of all, let's just remember that this case has actually come to the courts before. A federal judge and the appeals court itself have both found that this story was newsworthy, that it was justifiable. That he had talked so much about his sex life, he made it such a public topic, such a matter of journal interest that he had given up some of the privacy that individuals expect in their own home with their own spouse. Let's be clear, this was not his own home. This was not his spouse. This was a sex act with his best friend taking them and coming in and out of the room.

LEMON: So you think he knew about it? He says he didn't know about it.

DENTON: He talks about the sex tape on TMZ beforehand. He talks about the sex tape afterwards on Howard Stern. This is a conversation that we didn't even begin. We come to reach a turn, absolutely. But it is conversation that existed before and it's ever citizen's right, it is every journalist's right to join in that conversation.

LEMON: Do you think it's - listen, to go up against, you know, to fight the first amendment, that's a pretty huge thing, right? That's a pretty huge thing. And that's a really big burden. Their lawyers have said that this was not just about the first amendment but it was also, again, about the right to privacy. Here they are again speaking to the Hollywood reporter. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For those people that claim the first amendment was in jeopardy, remember this. This is a bright line rule. You simply don't publish video of people in intimate acts that didn't know they were being filmed and having consented to the dissemination. This represents no threat to the first amendment. It represents no chilling effect on any legitimate news or media organization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So you've learned a lot about the law in the past couple of years dealing with this case. You know what the first amendment says, right, that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment. But then it goes on to say, this is what freedom of speech does not include, Nick, to incite actions that would harm others. And some would say that you harmed. And number two, to make or distribute obscene materials. How do you respond to that?

DENTON: I would respond the same way I just did. This has already been discussed. A federal judge has already deemed the story to have been newsworthy. I believe that it was joining in a topic that he had -- Hulk Hogan had himself initiated, both with the discussion of this particular sex tape and the general discussion of his sex life.

I don't believe that celebrities should have some line-item veto over every little bit of coverage that they get just because they say they give permission for certain things to get out doesn't mean that's the only commentary and only images that could ever get out into the public domain.

LEMON: So, and you know, talking to folks, even some people in our own friends circle, what makes Gawker think that they are above the rules of journalism. Because in mainstream news organizations, if we're going to write something or post something about someone, then we feel obligated to ask that person for a response, right, or at least that person's attorney and then wait to get a response from them.

DENTON: I know from the mainstream news organizations, the rules that they follow, the guidelines, the internal guidelines that they follow result in stories that are important stories that actually never really see the light of day. Bill Cosby, there are many, many mainstream journalists who knew about the allegations against Bill Cosby but he was a beloved celebrity. And it was against their internal rules to mention these allegations. As a result, that story took a long time to get out. It was actually only when Tom (INAUDIBLE) Gawker wrote about it in 2014 and actually brought it to light, said the nasty things that need to be said for that story to come to light.

LEMON: Some people have talked about it -- and you're right, it wasn't a big story. But there is a difference between talking about Bill Cosby or discussing Hogan's sex tape and his infidelities and posting them on the air or internet.

[23:55:07] DENTON: Every story is different.

LEMON: Yes. You've changed the style of Gawker. You said you're 20 percent nicer?

DENTON: I think 20 percent.

LEMON: So ask you this, Nick. If you don't win on appeal, you said Gawker can no longer go on, correct, if you don't win the appeal?

DENTON: We're clearly going to win on appeal. The appeals court just unsealed a whole bunch of documents that were kept from the jury in this trial court and we're confident that the appeals court will find, as they have in the past, that this story was newsworthy.

LEMON: The caliber of lawyers that you have cheap. Can you sustain that over a year or so that it's going to take you to --?

DENTON: The appeals court process is actually keep it from going to trial.

LEMON: So you think you'll be fine?

DENTON: Yes.

LEMON: Thank you, nick.

DENTON: Thank you very much.

LEMON: Always good to see you. Thank you for coming on.

DENTON: All right.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

[23:59:45] LEMON: Don't forget CNN's Wisconsin GOP town hall tomorrow. Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Donald Trump take questions from voters in a primetime event moderated by Anderson Cooper. Tomorrow night beginning at 8:00 eastern. Of course right here on CNN. That's it for us tonight.

Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow night. Our live coverage continues now with Isha Sesay in Los Angeles.