Return to Transcripts main page
President Trump and Melania Trump to Visit Pittsburgh Tomorrow, Pay Respects to Victims of Synagogue Shooting; Remembering The Victims In Pittsburgh; Fox News Commentator Falsely Claims Migrants Carry Smallpox, A Disease Eradicated Decades Ago; Pittsburgh Suspect Echoed Talking Point That Dominated Fox News Airwaves. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired October 29, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. The White House announcing the President and the first lady will visit Pittsburgh tomorrow to pay their respects in the wake of the anti- Semitic attack that killed 11 people worshipping in a synagogue. They'll be joined by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
The mayor of Pittsburgh had urged the White House to delay the trip since tomorrow is the first funeral. Progressive Jewish leaders also pushed back, calling on President Trump to denounce white nationalism before coming to Pittsburgh. In the wake of all this the President is refusing to take any blame for his tone and rhetoric.
So let's discuss now. Rabbi Chuck Diamond is here. He is the former rabbi at Tree of Life. Also Dr. Jonathan Weinkle, who lives in the neighborhood of the Tree of Life synagogue and knew several of the victims. Thank you so much for joining us. I am so sorry that you guys are having to deal with this. Our hearts go out to you. I can't believe that you even can come on tonight. So thank you so much. Rabbi, I'm going to start with you. First, you know --
CHUCK DIAMOND, FORMER RABBI TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: OK.
LEMON: How's your community coping tonight?
DIAMOND: Well, you know, in some ways it gets more difficult with each passing day. At the beginning there's shock and people don't know what to make of it. And we're just sort of very numb. And then some of us -- I've been very busy from the time I heard about the shooting and at night when I go home that is sort of when it hits me.
So each day is sort of tougher and tougher. Tomorrow starts a new period for us. The period of morning. The first funerals. And our main goal is to comfort the mourners, to honor the victims. The community has been fantastic. We have a wonderful community in Pittsburgh. Jonathan, one of our finest citizens, what we call a mensch, but there are many like him. The support has just been overwhelming for us.
LEMON: Good. I'm glad you spoke of a positive thing, because in tragedies like this people come together and you really see the loving part of Americans come out. Before I get to Jonathan I want to ask you another question, rabbi.
DIAMOND: Sure. Sure.
LEMON: The President and the first lady are visiting the community tomorrow, but the mayor of Pittsburgh spoke to our Anderson Cooper earlier tonight, suggested that Trump -- he choose a different time to visit the community. As you mentioned, the mourning starts tomorrow. That the priority is -- tomorrow is the first funeral. Do you agree with the mayor?
DIAMOND: Yes, I do agree with the mayor. And I would just ask the President please, please if it's not too late, put it off a week. Any President that would come in, any President would be a distraction. And President Trump, you know, he is so divisive and there's such strong feelings on all sides, it will be a distraction. And that upsets me the most because the focus has to be on the victims and has to be on comforting the family and also the city. The City needs time to grieve. So please, if you're listening, wait till next week. That is what I would say.
LEMON: Thank you for that. Dr. Weinkle, you knew three of the victims. And one was injured, who is recovering in the hospital tonight. You say that these people were the pillars of the synagogue. Talk to us about that.
DR. JONATHAN WEINKLE, KNEW SHOOTING VICTIMS: Not just the synagogue, Don. The community. So I personally knew Cecil Rosenthal. I knew Jerry Rabinowitz. And I knew Rich Gottfried. I'll start with Rich. Rich and I were colleagues. We work at a federally qualified health center, community health center that is dedicated to serving everybody regardless of their income, regardless of what they look like, how they pray, the problems they may have encountered in their lives. And Rich and his wife were both dentists. They had a successful practice and as they were winding down their careers getting close to retirement, they decided to spend part of each week, the last seven years providing care to people who probably wouldn't get dental care otherwise.
[23:05:13] In addition to the time that Rich spent supporting the synagogue and going to other synagogues I just learned this evening to make a minion, to make a quorum in order for everybody to be able to worship together. I knew Jerry, who is somebody who was equally willing to contribute. You know, one of the things that he and his wife did was to participate in the burial society. Under any other tragic circumstances they would be at the funeral home washing and dressing and blessing bodies that needed to be prepared for a proper Jewish burial. And we're really feeling his absence there.
And Cecil was a big gentle man. I used to wait for the bus with him at the corner of Marlfield and Murray when we were a one-car family and I used to take the bus in to my residency and he'd be there every morning just kind of going wherever he was going. He was probably coming to shul for that matter, probably coming to services in the morning to make sure there were enough people. And he was so kind and so gentle and there for people when they needed him. This gunman didn't just target them because they were Jews. He target
he targeted them because they represented the best of what it was to be Jewish. They were helpers. They were people who recognized that god put us here to look out for everybody in this world. That is the job of a human being. And he attacked that. And that is just -- that is unforgivable.
DIAMOND: And I would add to that that these were gentle souls. They would never hurt anybody. They were the backbones of their congregation. And it's just a senseless, senseless loss of life. And we're all grieving their -- I knew 9 of the 11 people killed. They just -- they will be sorely missed.
WEINKLE: Don, I have to -- I mentioned I knew one other person that was injured and is thank god still living. Whatever language you pray in, whatever faith you pray in, if you could say prayers for Daniel Leger, who was as saintly as the other three, a chaplain, a nurse, and you know, he was a disciple of Fred Rogers. And if you know how gentle he was, Dan was everybody bit as gentle and every bit as kind.
DIAMOND: And Dan would be the one going to comfort people now. He would be the one doing that.
WEINKLE: Pray for him please.
LEMON: Well, I want everyone to stay tuned. Later on in our show we're going to pay tribute to the people who lost their lives and tell you a little bit of their life stories. So thank you for mentioning that. Again, there are no words. I want to bring in now Marcus Cole. Marcus Cole grew up in Squirrel Hill, wrote a powerful speech about the town that is getting a lot of attention now in the wake of this tragedy. Marcus, hello to you. Tell us how special this community is to you and your family.
MARCUS COLE, PROFESSOR OF LAW, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Hi, Don. Thanks for having me, and so sorry that it has to be under circumstances like this. I was asked to give a speech three years ago to the American Jewish committee annual dinner in Chicago, and I chose that occasion to give praise to the community that helped shape me, and that was the community of Squirrel Hill. And of all the places in America where something like this could happen the cruelest irony is that this is the last place that should ever experience anything like this.
My family moved to Squirrel Hill from the Terrace Village housing projects in 1968. And like a lot of northern cities at the time Pittsburgh was segregated. And so it was very hard for an African- American family to find another place to live when my family decided to move out of the projects. And the people of Squirrel Hill welcomed us in and made us a part of that community. And not only made us part of the community. They taught me and others a lot of things about what it means to be embraced as part of a community.
LEMON: Well, you moved there --
COLE: That is what I chose to speak about.
LEMON: This is right after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when riots erupted in your neighborhood.
COLE: Yes. Exactly.
LEMON: This is a part of a portion of your speech. OK, I want to read it. You said "when the rest of Pittsburgh seemed closed to my parents and to our family our neighbors in Squirrel Hill welcomed us in. From our very first days in Squirrel Hill, we were embraced as both very different, but very integral members of a thriving, diverse, and healthy community." These are people who welcomed your family in, welcomed people who as you write were different.
COLE: Yes. Yes. Squirrel Hill represents to this day a culture of kindness and inclusiveness.
[23:10:02] And it's very different than any other place I've ever lived. And I've lived in a lot of different places, but something in me is constantly searching for Squirrel Hill.
LEMON: Yes. I'll ask you, while we have the rabbi and the doctor here, I just wonder if you have anything to say to them, Marcus.
COLE: To say to them?
DIAMOND: First of all, I appreciate your work -- oh, sorry.
LEMON: Go on. You can -- go ahead.
DIAMOND: Ok. I just want to say I appreciate your words. Go ahead.
COLE: Yes. So I simply want to say that I think it's important that I wrote this speech three years ago. I never imagined anything like this would happen, but I want you to know that everything I felt three years ago is what I felt my entire life, that I am who I am today, because of the people of Squirrel Hill and how they took me in. And I wish that I could just return some of the comfort and aid to you that the people of Squirrel Hill gave me and my family at the time. And I'm so sorry for your loss and I wish I could do something more.
LEMON: Go ahead, rabbi.
DIAMOND: Well, I wanted to just say I appreciate your words. I grew up here in Squirrel Hill. I live in the house I grew up in. I raised my kids here. And I was raised to be tolerant of others and to respect others. That is why this attack is not only an attack on the Jewish community. It's an attack on all of us in Pittsburgh. And because we're so special, such a special tight-knit community, that we'll get through this and hopefully we'll be stronger, but it's going to be a long haul and we just have to really take it day by day.
People who send their words of comfort, it means a lot to us. And we've been getting these words and different acts of people writing letters, donating money. And it just means a great deal, but of course when we recover from a tragedy like this there's more to it and there's action needs to be taken. And maybe we can talk about that at another time, but in the short term it's the specialness of Pittsburgh which will help all of us heal and move forward.
LEMON: Rabbi Chuck Diamond --
WEINKLE: I could have --
LEMON: Go on.
WEINKLE: I could have told almost the same story as the rabbi. I live down the street my grandparents' old house and I just met the guy who used to own my house, and I know two previous owners as well. Marcus, you're welcome home anytime, my friend. My door's open.
COLE: Thank you.
WEINKLE: Come on in.
COLE: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you, Jonathan. Thank you, rabbi. Marcus, thank you. And again --
DIAMOND: Don, could I say one last thing, please?
LEMON: You can say whatever you want, rabbi.
DIAMOND: I'm sorry. I'm sorry to interrupt you.
LEMON: No, that is OK. Go on.
DIAMOND: I've been trying to say this. You know, the first responders are marvelous, and they have to be thanked. Everybody here. And I want to thank the media for being so gentle and kind and understanding. Don, we appreciate what you do. And you don't hear about that enough. And I've said it over and over to everybody I've spoken to. Just know that you're appreciated.
LEMON: Thank you, rabbi. Thank you all. I want to bring in now Reverend Sharon Risher. She knows all too well the pain of the people mourning their loved ones tonight. She lost her mother and cousins in the massacre at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston in 2015. I keep wanting to go AME, but good evening to you. I'm so glad that you could join us, reverend. This is horrific. For those in Pittsburgh tonight, what do you say to them?
REVEREND SHARON RISHER, MEMBER, EVERYTOWN SURVIVOR NETWORK: First of all, I want to send authentic thoughts and prayers. To be able to navigate through such a horrific thing is something that nobody could wrap their heads around. The grief and pain that this community will go through will be a lasting thing, but we know that the heart of America reaches out to Pittsburgh in the same way that they reached out to the community and the families of Charleston. I -- it's just beyond words to be able to describe the kind of horrific pain I know that they're feeling.
LEMON: I remember when I covered the Mother Emmanuel AME, the shooting there, and it took the -- you know, there was a time for mourning and for people to absorb the story, and then the President came down, but not so soon. Do you think that this President should visit Pittsburgh? Do you think it will comfort the community at this moment?
[23:15:07] RISHER: Well, you know, I want to say this. I thank God that President Barack Obama was the President during the time that this horrific thing happened in Charleston, because he is such a man of compassion and grace. And to have our President Trump go to Pittsburgh with such divisiveness, such -- the language that he used, I don't think that the people of Pittsburgh deserve that.
They deserve someone with compassion and kindness who is able to relate to them as a community. I just don't think Trump has that in him. I'm sorry that that is the case, but leave them be for right now. Let them be able to cling to each other as a community and as family members try to navigate through how they will be able to go on for the next days and weeks following this. I'm just glad that we had Obama. I'm really glad.
I don't know what we would have done as a community if that had happened to us and we had to deal with Trump being our President. I just don't think the healing process would have begun as fast as it did if we had someone else.
LEMON: In the past week we have seen a man send more than a dozen explosives through the mail, a white man try to get into a black church before killing two African-Americans at a grocery store, and now we have this mass murder at a synagogue, the deadliest anti- Semitic attack in American history. What's your message for communities all over the country who are quite frankly afraid right now?
RISHER: The message I would give to communities across America is to not lose your hope in humanity. Yes, we're dealing with ugliness, we're dealing with hate, we're dealing with white supremacists, white nationalists, but America is better than what is portrayed. I believe that we will come together. We will come together and somehow let people who have such hatred in their heart know that there are too many of us that are longing to come together to stand together, and we will do this and you will not break us down. That is what I want to say.
LEMON: Reverend Sharon Risher, thank you.
RISHER: Thank you, sir, for having me.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
[23:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The suspect accused of opening fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 innocent people, was pushing the same talking point that dominated Fox News. Did that hateful rhetoric play a role in this massacre? CNN's Brian Stelter has more.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The Pittsburgh
shooting suspect's hatred of Jews merged with his hatred of immigrants to deadly results. He called migrants invaders, using the same dehumanizing language that is been saturating right-wing radio and TV.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This invading horde.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an invasion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an invasion.
STELTER: We may never know where the suspect heard these ideas or why he believed them, but we do know that the hate crime coincided with a rise in hateful language. From the info wars fringe to Fox's primetime line-up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have this invasion coming over every day.
STELTER: Almost as soon as the migrant caravan formed in Central America --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a kind of invasion.
STELTER: Fox News talking heads and President Trump made it out to be a major threat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do not have the right to come here. We did not invite you here. You cannot stay here.
STELTER: Republican leaders echoed this line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to treat this as an invasion.
STELTER: And look at the online reactions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an invasion. This is an act of attacking the United States sovereignty.
STELTER: Scroll down on any of these videos on YouTube, and the fire was raging. With commenters screaming about an invading army. Even though the migrants were 1,000 miles away and fleeing danger. One voice on Fox tried to point that out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President has called it an assault on the U.S. border. It is absolutely not.
STELTER: But his audience rejected that. Shep Smith reading a tweet from a viewer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Sorry, Shep, we are not falling for your fake story. This is an invasion."
STELTER: Was the gunman watching? We may never know, but the right- wing climate was full of outrage. Six days before the shooting the suspect wrote, "I have noticed a change in people saying illegals that now say invaders. I like this." In the past two weeks the word invasion was spouted on Fox more than 60 times. And on Fox business, 75.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people are seeing these visuals on television every day, and they think of it as an invasion.
STELTER: Combine that with the claims that Democrats were funding the caravan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another leftist-funded operation.
STELTER: Laura Ingraham saying leftists were aiding and abetting. Congressman Matt Gates sharing a video, saying people were being paid to storm the U.S. storm the border. Soros is a favorite bogeyman of the right. He is a billionaire donor and he is Jewish. Dark corners of social media filled up with conspiracy theories. And it spilled onto TV.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the Soros-occupied state department.
STELTER: This Lou Dobbs guest blaming the caravan on Soros. Calling to mind an anti-Semitic trope about Jews secretly running the government. The suspect's final post on Gab blamed a Jewish refugee group for bringing in invaders.
Now the "Washington Post" arguing that the conspiracy theory about Soros and the caravan inspired the horror in Pittsburgh. And Adam Serwer writing in "The Atlantic" saying "Trump's caravan hysteria led to this." The President's reaction? He tweeted on Monday, "This is an invasion of our country."
Of course criminals are the ones responsible for crimes, but people in public life are responsible for the climate and for the tone. So hopefully some of those political leaders, some of those TV stars are doing some soul searching tonight about how they hyped up a non- existent invasion. Don?
LEMON: Brian Stelter, thank you very much for that. Let's discuss now with Max Boot. He is the author of "The corrosion of conservatism." Also here, Mr. Mike Shields. Gentlemen, good evening. So Max, you wrote a column about the role of Fox News in all of this. What is the impact the network is carrying this kind of message?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's very corrosive, Don. I mean, it's very dangerous.
[23:25:00] This is a network that reaches millions of people, and it's spreading a message of hate. It's spreading a message of conspiracy mongering. I mean, even just today Fox had a guest on their air saying that this caravan is bringing smallpox and leprosy. Smallpox doesn't even exist anymore. OK? This is the classic kind of xenophobic slurs about how these immigrants are going to infect America and it's just crazy in 2018, a national news network is putting this kind of garbage on the air.
It is radicalizing the right. It is turning sane conservatives into conspiracy mongers. And with these handful of people who may have already been unstable it helps to push them over the edge into violence. This is very dangerous and very irresponsible, what Fox is doing.
LEMON: Let me just say because this is the first time that a caravan of people have come from central America trying to get to the United States. It does happen periodically. In fact, it happened last spring. And here's what CNN reports. There were 401 claims of asylum. Most of them don't ever make it to the United States, by the way.
BOOT: Of course.
LEMON: They don't. The last time there were thousands of people, remember, coming -- 400 claims of asylum for the caravan that made its way to the U.S., this was last spring, with 374 of those receiving credible fear referrals. Which is I the initial screening in ensure claim could have merit. That is according to the citizens and immigration services data. So it's very high. Highly overplayed. Hyperbolic. And it's just not true.
So Mike, you just heard Brian. Six days before the synagogue massacre the shooter wrote he noticed people calling immigrants invaders and he liked it. That exact language comes from Fox News. How can people say there's no connection?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's outrageous at a time like this when people are grieving after a tragedy. I know we're all searching for meaning in these things. And we don't want to have a conversation about mental health, because that is just too hard. So we're going to try and find a political meaning for it. And so we're going to start assigning blame everywhere. I just think it's frankly kind of disgusting to do that.
I think if someone is going to walk -- an anti-Semitic person is going to walk into a synagogue and murder people, that is a horrible, horrible tragedy and maybe we ought to wait a little while and investigate it and take a look at it before we start blaming television networks, political leaders and -- the town that I live in, someone at the height of the Obamacare debate, when Democrats were coming on TV and saying that if Obamacare gets repealed Republicans are basically going to kill you, you're going to die if we don't have Obamacare, and he went to a baseball field and shot people. That guy was crazy. He was mentally disturbed. That was not because of political rhetoric --
BOOT: There is nothing comparable here, Mike because --
SHIELDS: It's absolutely comparable, Max.
BOOT: Please let me get a word in edgewise here.
SHIELDS: After you interrupted me I'll let you get a word in edgewise. Go ahead.
BOOT: Which is that Bernie Sanders does not encourage violence. He was not telling his supporters to go body slamming --
SHIELDS: I didn't mention Bernie Sanders. I was talking about the rhetoric -- we're talking about the political climate and the rhetoric of the time. The rhetoric of the time --
BOOT: The guy who shot at the baseball game was a supporter, somebody who is pro-Bernie Sanders and a lot of people like you are blaming Bernie Sanders for that which is false --
SHIELDS: Max, I never blamed Bernie Sanders. Those words didn't come out of my mouth.
BOOT: What you're suggesting is that if -- that there is equivalence between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump which is not the case because Bernie Sanders --
SHIELDS: I never said any of those things. I don't know what you're talking about right now.
BOOT: Can I finish, please? Bernie Sanders does not encourage violence. He doesn't tell his supporters to go out and body slam anybody and he doesn't engage in this kind of dehumanizing rhetoric and he doesn't engage in this kind of crazy conspiracy mongering in the way that Donald Trump and Fox News do.
LEMON: Mike, can I ask you a question?
LEMON: So if you're not equivocating, if you're not saying that they're equal and comparing them, then why are you bringing that up?
SHIELDS: I'm trying to bring it up because -- to try and -- so that people on both sides can understand -- OK, we'll go back to 1995. Bill Clinton, who was a great order --
LEMON: You didn't answer the question. Can we not -- Bill Clinton is not the President anymore.
SHIELDS: I'm trying to --
LEMON: Bernie Sanders is not the President.
SHIELDS: I'm trying to answer your question.
LEMON: Hang on. Let me finish. Let me finish and I will let you answer the question. So to bring that up -- you say, but I'm not saying that Bernie did this. Why do you keep bringing up a comparison between someone else? They're not the President of the United States. No one is blaming the President for shooting anybody, but saying that his rhetoric contributes to a climate where people may think it's OK.
Or that people -- that does heat people up. He in fact in an interview says, well, he realizes that he riles up people and their worst fears. He wasn't sure if it was good or bad, but he knows how he does it. And he knows that he does that. So why do you keep bringing up other people instead of talking about the person who is the President of the United States, the rhetoric that is being spotted by one network, and the conservative media.
Why not just take ownership of that and talk about how you can correct it on that side instead of this whataboutism?
SHIELDS: That's what I'm trying to do. Whataboutism is just another term for hypocrisy. And that's my point. For both sides to understand this, they both have to realize they contribute to it. OK?
BOOT: It's not equal, Mike. There is not equal contribution. There is no --
SHIELDS: Max, when you interrupt me like that, what that tells me is --
BOOT: -- there is nobody on Democratic side who is encouraging violence in the way that Donald Trump does.
LEMON: OK, I have to get a break in. But, listen, we will let you speak. But people don't want to let you speak because you're not going to let me speak.
SHIELDS: I don't know if they're going to let me speak.
LEMON: It's not because they don't want to hear what you have to say. It's because you're not being honest with it. It's not -- this is not equal. And I understand the whole argument about both sides. This is not equal.
The right-wing group killed a woman in Charlottesville. This guy is a right-winger who killed the people in the synagogue. The right-winger sent bombs to CNN and to Democrats. I don't see Democrats killing people because of political -- yeah, there maybe Democratic operatives who are out there saying --
SHIELDS: Well, they're trying to.
LEMON: OK, fine, they tried to, and that's not right. But for the most part, what do you see here, Mike --
LEMON: You see these extreme right-wingers and then instead of denouncing them and saying it's just wrong --
SHIELDS: It is wrong. Of course I'm denouncing them.
LEMON: You make people think that it's OK that you're making an excuse for us because then you go --
SHIELDS: No, no.
LEMON: -- oh, what about the Democrats, when there is no comparison. SHIELDS: No.
LEMON: There is no equivalence there.
SHIELDS: I actually had a larger point. I just wasn't allowed to finish making it.
LEMON: Go on.
SHIELDS: I wasn't saying it was OK.
LEMON: Go on. OK, let's do it after the break. Sorry, I got to get to the break. We'll do it after the break.
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: All right. I'm back now with Max and Mike. Mike, go ahead. Finish your point. Sorry about that.
SHIELDS: Look, I think this conversation is actually indicative of the larger point I was trying to make by how passionate everyone gets. And so let me say at the start before I get interrupted. What happened was horrible. What happened in Charleston was horrible.
What happened with these pipe bombs is terrible. Being sent to CNN, to my colleagues, the people that I care about. I feel sick about all this stuff. It is terrible. And I also think that the political rhetoric in this country is too hot on all sides. We all have to recognize it.
The point I'm trying to make is, we are not going to recognize it unless we are able to both -- everyone able to say that. And as soon as we start talking about it and trying to have a rational conversation about things like mental health and anti-Semitism, which is a huge thing we should be talking about, just flat out racism, people going into a black church and murdering people in Charleston in a church, we should have a conversation quite often about that that is devoid of politics.
But what happens is everyone puts their jerseys on. They immediately start assigning blame within 24 hours of it happening. We've now blamed the president. We can blame politicians for it. This conversation is just turning into yet another one of those arguments. And I think --
LEMON: You keep saying that people are blaming the president. No one is blaming the president for it. There is a nuance here, and I think you're being very disingenuous. If you are saying that Democrats can contribute to an environment, to a heated environment and make things worse, but then you don't give the same leeway to the president, of course the president -- he's got the biggest podium.
SHIELDS: No, I'm saying on both sides. I'm saying on both sides, Don.
LEMON: On both sides. On both sides. If they were equal. A Democratic president -- excuse me one second. If there was a president who was a Democrat and a president who was a Republican at the same time. There's only one president of the United States.
And in this person's name with his face on the side of the van on that Scooby-Doo van that you saw, all of it was about Donald Trump and about Republicans and spouting off all of the things that these right- wing groups do on the internet and at Trump rallies.
But it has nothing to do with the president? That makes absolutely no sense. That's cognitive dissonance that you're talking about right now. Come on. You've got to be honest. It has something to do with the president.
This person was motivated by the president. He had some -- I don't know, love or some unusual affinity or affection for Trump, in what he's saying and what he's doing, and he acted upon some of those things.
The president did not put bombs in a mailbox or help him do it, but he certainly seemed to be influenced by what the president says and what goes on at the president's rallies. I think that's a fair statement.
BOOT: If I can just jump in --
LEMON: No, let him respond. Go ahead, Mike.
SHIELDS: Look, a sick individual will find reasons that they want to do something. I think that that is a fair conversation to have and we should have it.
LEMON: We have three sick individuals over -- one sick individual then there's another one and now there's another sick individual and you keep saying there's nothing. And we've had other sick individuals. And then we've had Charlottesville and everyone keeps making excuses. It doesn't exist, this is a one-off. It's not a one-off, when it becomes a pattern. Patterns aren't one-offs.
SHIELDS: This was the point I was going to make about in 1995 when Bill Clinton blamed Rush Limbaugh and talk radio for the Oklahoma City bombing. You have to be very careful that you don't start to tell people that their political speech isn't allowed anymore because there's a direct connection between political speech and violence. That's a very serious thing to do.
BOOT: Can I just --
SHIELDS: That's what is happening.
BOOT: OK, can I just jump in quickly here? If a jihadist terrorist lone wolf carries out an attack, we always ask, what radicalized, what inspired him to go to violence? We have to ask the same thing about right-wing terrorists of whom there are a lot more in this country right now than there are Islamist terrorists. And you cannot divorce the actions of these --
SHIELDS: Yes, you can.
BOOT: No. Can I finish, please? You talk plenty. You cannot divorce the actions of these sick individuals from the sick rhetoric that you're hearing from the president of the United States, who dehumanizes immigrants, calling them animals who breed, who accuses this caravan of being terrorists, Republicans who accuse the caravan of bringing disease, all of these --
LEMON: I'm out of time.
BOOT: -- who stigmatize George Soros and globalists as an anti- Semitic conspiracy theory. You cannot divorce all this crazy rhetoric from crazy actions. There is a connection. It's not direct but Republicans and Fox News, you can say --
LEMON: I have to go, guys.
SHIELDS: -- that's the way to do it.
LEMON: Mike, I'll have you back. We'll continue this conversation. Thank you, Mike. Thank you, Max. I'm out of time. Thanks. We'll be right back.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The president and the first lady, Melania Trump, are heading to Pittsburgh tomorrow to pay their respects to the victims of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history. But with anti-Semitism on the rise, does President Trump understand what's happening and how to fight it?
Let's discuss it now. Jonathan Greenblatt is here. He's the CEO and and the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. And Jeffrey Herf, a history professor at the University of Maryland. He's also the author of "The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust."
Gentlemen, thank you so much. And just my condolences. I'm not sure if you know people there, but it's just an awful, awful day and it's been an awful weekend. So thank you so much for doing this.
I'm going to start with you, Jonathan, because your organization, the Anti-Defamation League, is reporting that anti-Semitic incidents were up 57 percent in the United States in 2017. You write that it's alarming, but not surprising. Talk to me about that.
JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Well, it's not alarming. It's incredibly alarming, but not surprising because we've seen an increase in anti-Semitism over the past 18 to 24 months.
In 2016, after almost a 15-year decline, we saw a spike of anti- Semitic incidents of 34 percent, weighted toward the second half of the year. And then of course last year, that 57 percent spike, the single largest surge the ADL has seen after 40 years of tracking this.
LEMON: So what is it? Why is it?
GREENBLATT: Yeah, I think there are multiple factors at play. I think we should keep in mind that anti-Semitism has been here for a very long time.
GREENBLATT: It's often called the oldest hatred.
GREENBLATT: What's different is that today the extremists feel emboldened and they feel energized, and I think there are a few reasons why. Number one, the political environment contributes to it. When leaders fail to lead. And when they allow hateful rhetoric to fester and they don't call it out when it happens.
[23:45:03] So, we just have to acknowledge that this is an incredible problem.
LEMON: Jeffrey, let's talk about your piece in The Washington Post and here's what it's called. The piece is called "Trump Doesn't Understand How Anti-Semitism Works. Neither Do Most Americans." Why doesn't Trump -- what doesn't he get?
JEFFREY HERF, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: He doesn't get that anti-Semitism and the most dangerous forms of anti- Semitism rest on a conspiracy theory. And the conspiracy theory historically has been that though Jews are small in number, they are very powerful and very evil.
And in a secularized form in the 20th century when the Jews were said to control politics, economics and the media, and that was the story of course that the Nazis told about the Jews starting World War II.
The president doesn't understand the danger of conspiracy thinking because if he understood the danger of conspiracy thinking, he would not have said that thousands of Muslims cheered when the World Trade Center collapsed. He would not have run that last commercial of the 2016 campaign that presented Lloyd Blankfein and Janet Yellen and George Soros and their photos.
LEMON: Jeffrey, I want to run that ad since you're talking about it and then I'll let you continue on the other side. Here it is.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (voice over): For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don't have your good in mind.
It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.
LEMON: Global financing, levers of power. Classic anti-Semitic innuendo. Correct, Jeffrey?
HERF: Yes, because what that commercial did was to reverse the actual relations of power in this world and present the United States, the most powerful country in the world, as instead a victim of nameless global interests, which were associated in that commercial with some leading Jewish personalities.
Now, then candidate Trump must -- apparently was ignorant of the history of the 1930s and '40s, and apparently was unaware that this kind of rubbish was standard fare in Nazi propaganda. It was a shocking commercial. And as soon as I saw it, my fear was that if he were elected president, that sooner or later, something like what happened in Pittsburgh would happen.
HERF: And it has.
LEMON: What would you like to hear from him in responding to these tragedies and going forward?
HERF: Well, I think the president is what, 71 or 72 years old? He is who he is. And I think it's a little bit silly for us to expect that he's going to say something different.
LEMON: I agree with you.
HERF: The president is not a stupid man. He is an astute politician. He understands -- he is not an anti-Semite and he is not spreading anti-Semitism. What he is successful at is appealing to the worst in people, to their fears and their resentments. And it works. He's succeeding.
His rallies enjoy saying "CNN sucks." They enjoy saying "lock her up." And he knows they enjoy that. And he gives them what they enjoy. If he were to give up the conspiracy theory, what would he have to say at his rallies?
LEMON: I want to give you the last word, Jonathan, but let me just say this. When any of us are discriminated against, when any of us are spoken about terribly, when women face atrocities or discrimination in society, I think we have to be equally as animated.
As African-American, I have to take it up for you as my Jewish brother. I think you the same way. And I have to take it up for women who are discriminated against. I have to take up for Muslims and on and on, for immigrants in our society.
LEMON: And unless we do that, it's the end of America as we know it.
GREENBLATT: I could not agree more. Racism is not only your problem. It's my problem.
GREENBLATT: Same with anti-Semitism for you and for me. I want to make one sort of final point.
GREENBLATT: This is bigger than any one person.
GREENBLATT: So when it is that an elected member of Congress brings a holocaust denier to the House to hear the State of the Union or political candidates claim there's some, again, conspiracy with Jewish financiers manipulating events, or religious figures call Jews termites and it prompts laughter from an audience, we need a zero tolerance policy on intolerance, no matter where it happens and who says it.
LEMON: Right. Thank you. Thank you, Jonathan. Thank you, Jeffrey.
HERF: Thank you for having us.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Eleven lives abruptly ended on Saturday when a gunman stormed the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's historic Squirrel Hill neighborhood. These victims were at the synagogue to practice their faith, honor the Sabbath, and better their community.
Tonight we remember them. Daniel Stein was 71. His family says that he was a great guy who used to coach little league baseball and had recently become a grandfather. Irving Younger was 69 years old. He was a greeter at the synagogue and known for his big smile.
Jerry Rabinowitz was 66 years old. He was a doctor in the Pittsburgh area. A former patient says in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Dr. Rabinowitz held his hands without wearing gloves and kept him alive. Joyce Fienberg was 75. A family friend says that although she was a petite woman, she lit up a room with her huge personality.
[23:55:03] Melvin Wax was 88. His sister says he usually attended synagogue every weekend and was so well versed in the prayers that he should have been a rabbi. Richard Gottfried was 65. Gottfried was a dentist in the area with former patient saying he was a fixture in the lives of those in the community.
Rose Mallinger was 97 years old. She regularly attended the synagogue with her daughter and always offered a friendly greeting, a hug and a smile. Brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal were 54 and 59 years old. They were both so devoted to their faith and synagogue that they were deemed as ambassadors to the temple. Cecil was known for his infectious laugh, David for his gentle spirit. And Sylvan and and Bernice Simon, 86 and 84 years old. They died together in the same synagogue where they were married more than 60 years ago. A neighbors says they were loving, giving and kind. Tonight, all of the love and joy that these victims shared with their synagogue and their community lives on. May their memories be a blessing.
[24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)