Interviews

Christie donor Ken Langone on fallout from bridge scandal

Home Depot co-founder speaks out

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 21, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, now to the political storm from all of this, a new Quinnipiac poll showing, in a 2016 matchup for president -- I know what you're thinking. Neil, it's 2014. It gets a little old.

But here we go. In this 2016 matchup, Chris Christie is now trailing Hillary Clinton 46 percent to 38 percent. Now, a poll last month showed the two virtually tied at 40 percent.

So is Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone worried?

Now, he just held a very private meet-and-greet with the governor and about 200 key fund raisers at his Florida home. He joins me now on the phone first on Fox.

Ken, good to have you. Happy new year.

KEN LANGONE, CO-FOUNDER, HOME DEPOT: Hi, Neil.

Can I check -- correct one thing?

CAVUTO: Sure.

LANGONE: The people that were invited to my home were not fund raisers at all.

CAVUTO: What were they? Who were they?

LANGONE: Well, they were friends of mine and people that are interested in the country that I wanted to meet Governor Christie. There was nothing to do with fund-raising at all.

CAVUTO: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Did they give -- did they give any money to the governor?

LANGONE: No!

CAVUTO: OK.

LANGONE: It was not a fund-raiser, not a nickel.

CAVUTO: All right. All right.

LANGONE: Now, one more thing, Neil.

Please, instead of calling me a billionaire, why don't you call me a charming, warm and fuzzy guy, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: I can't lie, Ken.

LANGONE: No, I don't want you to lie!

CAVUTO: All right. All right.

LANGONE: But you know I'm warm and fuzzy.

CAVUTO: You are. You're actually a wonderful guy. And you have stuck by Chris Christie...

LANGONE: You're damn right!

CAVUTO: ... when a lot of people were peeling off. And very early on...

LANGONE: Wait. I don't know of anybody peeling off.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: OK. OK.

Well, you know, you have got an attitude going here, Ken. I just -- I don't know what happened here.

(CROSSTALK)

LANGONE: No, no, what I'm saying, Neil, is not an attitude, but if you make a statement like that, that is not true.

CAVUTO: So, all right. So, you don't see -- among the people you talk to, some of them are not getting antsy?

We just had a GOP fund raiser here just a couple of days ago raising concerns among that crowd that they're not so sure he will survive this. You think they're wrong?

LANGONE: He will survive it if one thing prevails, that what he said his involvement was, was what it was.

If he lied -- and I -- I'm certain he hasn't lied. I'm certain what he said is the absolute truth. I trust the man. This will go away. It ought to go away as quickly, at least, as Benghazi ought to go away for Hillary Clinton or the IRS scandal.

Look, he has put a stake in the ground. He said I knew nothing about it. That -- by the way, Neil, on top of the cocktail party at my home, we have an organization where they hold forums once a week. The previous high attendance at a forum they held was last year for Dick Cheney, when 530 people showed up. Now, this Sunday was two big football games and Chris was the speaker at the forum, and 750 people showed up. And twice he got standing rounds of applause, standing applause, two times.

CAVUTO: Were they already people predisposed to like him?

LANGONE: No! They were people -- I had people come up to me to say to me, one woman said to me, damn it, you're right again. I said, what do you mean? She said, I came here not liking him, and I'm going home saying I like this man because he tells the truth. He is believable.

Look, look, Chris -- Neil, it's this simple. If -- if the governor is involved even remotely in what happened at the bridge, it's over. It's over.

CAVUTO: But these other things, Ken, that have come to light...

LANGONE: The other things...

CAVUTO: No. Wait. Hear me out.

LANGONE: Go ahead. Go ahead.

CAVUTO: One is that now questions about whether other people higher up were involved, maybe stopping well before the governor, the Sandy aid money, you have heard a lot about that, whether any of it was played around with or exacted or leveraged off on certain mayors.

Do you think, regardless of whether he escapes this or not, that it just drags on much longer than you -- than you hope?

LANGONE: Let me tell you right now -- God, Neil, you know this better than me. This guy -- you only tackle the guy that's got the ball.

This guy right now is a threat to the Democratic Party and, by the way, also, Neil, to the media. This symbiotic relationship between the media and the politicians is part of why America is where it is today, in my opinion, my humble opinion.

This guy represents a change in the way things -- look at what he has accomplished in New Jersey in four years. And look at -- by the way, his approval rating has not moved at all.

CAVUTO: Well, it has.

LANGONE: Well, how much?

CAVUTO: It has dipped six points.

LANGONE: OK. But he's still above 50 percent.

CAVUTO: OK, fair enough.

So, you don't think this has any lasting damage, unless it's proven that he lied, right?

LANGONE: Yes, it does -- look, if he in any way, shape or form did not give candid and honest statements about what he knew and what his involvement was, he is in trouble.

CAVUTO: Well, do you think he is a bully?

LANGONE: Not at all. I think he is bold, Neil.

I think when he...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What's the difference?

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: What's the difference?

LANGONE: What's the difference?

A bully is somebody who beats up on harmless, defenseless people. A bold guy says to a reporter, that's a stupid question. That's being bold, Neil. Don't confuse being bold with being a bully. He is not a bully. He is a compassionate...

CAVUTO: All right.

So, the impression that some people have of him that he might be, you want to disavow them of that notion -- of that notion by saying he's an in-your- face guy. But if he were to run for president, do you think that would be as appealing, let's say, in South Carolina as it is, let's say, in South Orange, New Jersey?

LANGONE: Absolutely.

You want to know why, Neil? Because I think the American people are fed up with government as it is now, and particularly in the South, where I have great relationships and strong -- I had -- by the way, I had a bunch of people here the other night from Nashville, Chattanooga, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi. They were from all over.

CAVUTO: Well, why do Tea Partiers not like him?

LANGONE: Well, first of all, Chris said something very interesting the other night.

He said, look, let me tell you about the Tea Party. What the Tea Party wants is essentially what we all should want, fiscally responsible government, education that our children can participate and compete in the world, and a government that is not intrusive in our lives.

You want proof of that, Neil, this -- this -- this Affordable Care Act, look at it. It's intruded. How about the woman that just -- just was told she -- she got breast cancer.

CAVUTO: Right.

LANGONE: And now she has no insurance, and the doctor she was being taken care of by can't take care of her because they aren't covered by the insurance company that went into the exchange, had to buy.

CAVUTO: It's a very good point.

Ken, let me flip it around then, that because the governor has been targeted relentlessly...

LANGONE: Right.

CAVUTO: ... in the media and on the part of the left that, in a perverse sense, it sort of rallied many on the right -- I don't know how many Tea Partiers, but many on the right -- who feel that it's been unfair, and that in a weird way this has helped him within the party?

Do you buy that?

LANGONE: Neil, I will tell you how I feel about this episode.

The good lord willing, he passes it. He will be stronger, just like -- remember Whitewater and Hillary and Bill and Vince Foster and all that stuff? One of the things that gave Clinton the growth to where he is today is to take the -- even getting impeached, Neil, getting impeached for a horrific behavior in the White House and lying to the American people, lying -- you talk about a lie.

CAVUTO: Well, wait a minute. You're not -- wait, wait, wait, wait. You're not using Bill Clinton as sort of a model of how you work your way out...

(CROSSTALK)

LANGONE: No.

But what I'm suggesting -- what I'm suggesting to you, if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger.

CAVUTO: Gotcha.

Has he told you unequivocally, Ken, that he is going to run for president?

LANGONE: No!

As a matter of fact, he said the other night at this gathering, this -- this forum, he said, look, this is only 2014. I have got a lot of work to do as governor. 2016 is a long way away.

CAVUTO: Well, if he doesn't run, then you have wasted all your time pushing him.

LANGONE: Absolutely -- but wait a minute.

CAVUTO: You pushed him -- you pushed him the last time to run, and he said no. And you're pushing him now. And if he says no again, then you're a billionaire who doesn't have juice, Ken.

LANGONE: Well, you know what you might say?

You might also say -- I don't know what else you said, but if you say...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

LANGONE: You say, I haven't got it, I haven't got it.

Let me just say this to you. Is it any different than backing a guy who has decided to run? Is it any different my working so hard for Romney and he didn't win the election?

CAVUTO: That's a very good point. That's a very good point.

LANGONE: OK?

I believe -- look, Neil, I'm going to tell you something right now. The one thing I challenge anybody out there to, show me how I selfishly gain by trying to help a man like this. Just show me. I'm 78. The good lord has been more -- given me more blessings than I could ever imagine or count. Life has been good to me.

And this country was the reason I have had the benefit of all these things.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Would you -- I know. And this is tacky on my part, but we have known each other long enough for you to assume that I'm going to ask a tacky question.

LANGONE: Sure. I know. No, I respect...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: If he becomes president...

LANGONE: Right.

CAVUTO: ... would you have a role in his administration?

LANGONE: Absolutely not! You think I'm nuts? Why would anybody want to go into public service, a guy like me?

CAVUTO: Then why are you trying so hard?

LANGONE: Because I think the country needs different leadership.

Look where we are, Neil. Look at the mess we -- look at entitlements. Let me tell you how good this guy is. The other night, you had 750 people, and 80 percent of them are retired. The question is asked -- quote -- by the way -- I was the guy to ask him the questions.

CAVUTO: Real quick. Real quick.

LANGONE: The question was -- quote -- "Do you think entitlements should be means-tested."

You know he said? "Absolutely."

CAVUTO: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

LANGONE: No equivocation, Neil. Well, we have got to think about it --

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: He's like -- he is like you. And you like that and... (CROSSTALK)

LANGONE: No. No, I wish I was like -- I wish I was like him. He is smart.

CAVUTO: All right, Ken, real quick, that means you are holding out on Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, all these others?

LANGONE: What do you mean holding out?

CAVUTO: Would you back them?

LANGONE: Not at all.

CAVUTO: OK.

LANGONE: Because you want to know why? They're divisive. We need to be brought together.

CAVUTO: OK.

LANGONE: Look what this guy did in New Jersey in bipartisan...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Understood. Understood.

In the meantime, Ken, I'm going to put you down as a maybe on President Obama.

But, until next time I get you back, it's been a pleasure to have you, Ken.

LANGONE: And, remember, remember, it's the warm, fuzzy, charming Ken on the phone.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Got you.

LANGONE: OK?

CAVUTO: Absolutely.

LANGONE: Have a nice day, Neil.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: All right, Ken Langone.

LANGONE: Bye.

CAVUTO: That is a very nice friend to have in your corner for one Chris Christie.

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