Controversial political cartoon a 'gift' to Ted Cruz?

Howard Kurtz and Chris Stirewalt weigh in on 'The Kelly File' after candidate's daughters are portrayed as monkeys


This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," December 23, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SANDRA SMITH, GUEST HOST: Breaking tonight, campaign controversy after one of the most powerful media outlets in the land attacks a candidate's young children.

Welcome to "The Kelly File." I'm Sandra Smith in for Megyn Kelly tonight. Well, it all started with a lighthearted political ads starring Ted Cruz and his family. In it, the Cruz' spoofed that some made-up Christmas classics. Watch.


NARRATOR: The whole family will enjoy reading stories like "The Grinch Who Lost Her E-mails."

CAROLINE CRUZ, DAUGHTER OF SENATOR TED CRUZ: I know just what I'll do, she said with a snicker. I'll use my own server and no one will be the wiser.

NARRATOR: And if you act now, we'll throw in the inspiring new Christmas story, soon to be an instant classic.



NARRATOR: The Senator Who Saved Christmas.



SMITH: But just a few days later, a Washington Post political cartoonist accused Cruz of using his five and seven-year-old daughters as political props. And went so far as to portray the presidential candidate in a Santa outfit with an organ grinder and little Catherine and Caroline Cruz as monkeys. Outrage ensued in within hours, the image was taken out of the Washington Post website. But cartoonist Ann Telnaes is not apologizing. Taking to Twitter, arguing the little girls are fair game, because Cruz put his children in the ad, something many politicians on both sides of the aisle do. The paper's editorial page editor had a different take, saying, quote, "It's generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it. I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published. I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree."

Meanwhile, Senator Cruz hit back on Twitter and on the campaign trail.


CRUZ: You know, I have to admit yesterday when I saw that cartoon, not much ticks me off. But making fun of my girls that will do it. All of us learned in kindergarten, don't hit little girls. It's not complicated.  Don't make fun of a five-year-old girl and a seven-year-old girl. Listen, everyone expects the mainstream media to be liberally biased. Folks want to attack me, knock yourself out, Ted. But that's part of the process. I signed up for that, that's fine. But my girls didn't sign up for that.


SMITH: Several of his fellow candidates also agreed with him, suggesting the paper was way out of line. In the hours since, the Cruz campaign has started fund-raising off that cartoon, saying the Liberal media is desperate to destroy him and his family. As for "The Post," well, it's now suggesting this was all a gift to Cruz, because, in part, it boosts his argument that the media doesn't treat him or conservatives fairly.

Joining us now, Chris Stirewalt, our Fox News digital politics editor.  And Howard Kurtz, host of, Fox News, "MediaBuzz."

Chris, I got to start with you first. Is there anything okay about this political cartoonist using a presidential candidate's children?

CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR: Well, I'd sure like to see what would happen if they would have done that with the Obama girls. I don't think that would have washed. And when you wonder about double standards and you wonder about how life is different for Republican candidates than it is for democratic candidates. Here you have one of the first top tier -- one of the two first top tier Hispanic candidates running for president, ever for a major party, the guy is running and his daughters are portrayed as monkeys by the Washington Post. How would that have worked if those -- if this has been Barack Obama in 2007? I think the outrage would have been much, much louder. Because it would have been right in both cases. No matter what Ted Cruz does with his daughters in an ad, they're his doggone daughters and he can do it. And there is no space for anybody in any news outlet to use them for their purposes.

SMITH: Well, Howie. We know what happens if it's the Obama daughters because it did happen in the case of the Turkey pardon. A GOP staffer criticized their appearance and their behavior at a turkey pardon, that GOP staffer was then fired. What should happen to this Washington Post editor?  You're saying she should apologize. She said he failed to look at it before it was published.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, "MEDIABUZZ": Well, look, no editor can look at every piece of content before it's posted online. But this is an utter embarrassment to The Washington Post. And the gall of that Washington Post columnist to say, well, my news organizations just slimed Ted Cruz. But this is actually a political gift to the senator. Cruz adviser Rick Tyler telling me, "Yes, we're raising money on this but not nearly enough to cover the damage." And the damage of course is the human error here. This is a dad with two little girls, and they've been portrayed as animals. So, this is not some gray area of gee, maybe the paper went too far. This is an outrage, and the muted media explosion, Chris is right, had this involved Sasha and Maliyah or Chelsea Clinton, it would have been a nuclear explosion?  

SMITH: Well, we do know that Ted Cruz's campaign, all right, he's raising campaigns funds on this. We actually have the fundraising e-mail that was sent out. He said, I was sickened by this. I knew I'd be facing attacks from day one of my campaign. But he said, I'd never expected anything like this. Anyway, he said, "This is an emergency, all hands on deck. Click here to make an instant, emergency contribution and help me fight back." So, is this a good tactic for him to turn around and use it to raise money?

STIREWALT: Very often conservatives don't know who they are going to be interested in supporting until they find out who the press hates the most. And in the case of a Republican primary race, having the Washington Post, and by the way, every news outlet treats Ted Cruz as if he is some sort of troglodyte and they can't believe it. How do they like this guy?  He's so conservative. He's so polarizing, why this guy? And they keep coming after him. What they don't understand is, everything that they do, that they think is hurting Ted Cruz is hardening, is a kneeling the conservative base around him. The way it's done for Sarah Palin, the way it's done for Donald Trump, the way it's done for other figures. The conservatives say, wait a minute. If they're coming after him, this guy must be doing something right.

SMITH: Well, Howie, we have a moment that perhaps we should remind the audience, the moment you shared with Megyn back in April. The media running after Hillary's Scooby van. And the attention, as we discussed the double standard. Take a look.


MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Howie, I'm sorry, but when I see those reporters chasing after their subject who remain so elusive, who despite their best efforts, they cannot seem to pin down, the reporters there reminded me of the reporters here. Remember this? The police. They look like the police. Look at the police. The police, they're trying to capture an elusive subject, and the reporters did the same.


Not comparing the subjects to one another. Want to underscore that.


SMITH: Howie, we had to.

KURTZ: Ah, you had to. Well, look, that was not the media's finest hour. I would point out that other reporting on Hillary Clinton has pointed out for example, the fiasco of her private email server. And I got to disclude Chris a little bit. I don't think every single reporter of every single news organization is biased against Ted Cruz. But New York Times recently -- now the Senator was surging in the polls, a clear number two to Donald Trump has a whole piece on how unlikable he is, and he's trying to get likeable but little kids don't like him. So when a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist like Ann Telnaes does this portraying the kids and animals and then sort of tone-deaf, at least could go online, or make a statement in saying, maybe I went too far, it does fuel the Senator's argument that liberal media are out to get him -- everybody in this profession would --  

SMITH: Come on, Howie. We had such a fun moment. I mean --


KURTZ: Oh, I'm getting too serious. Lamas. Bring back the Scooby van.

SMITH: I mean, Chris, and you note this morning, you included that as one of the worst media fails of 2015. I mean, can't we just have a laugh for a minute?

STIREWALT: Not the lamas. The lamas was a high point. The lamas was one of the best things that happened in 2015.


And they were able to decode it to the point of saying that the black lama was taken into custody first, and what does this mean for the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a rich nuance discussion. Twitter, for politics, however, has been worse than it has been for lamas, and not to bring it down, but unfortunately, in the airless crypt that is good sense, good reason and good judgment in politics, much of that has gone away, as reporters have joined in candidates in chasing phony outrage after outrage after outrage after outrage, and frankly, I'm tired. I'm glad the year's over. I need a break.

SMITH: Chris, I mean, we have an election year coming up. So, go get some rest, buddy. I mean, Howie, the Iowa caucus, 40 days away. Do you expect anything to change in 2016 as we revved it up?

KURTZ: Well, it is just amazing how much this campaign has been distracted by phony controversies manufactured outrage and a like. But to me the much bigger fundamental failure here is been the way in which the entire media establishment, let's face it, missed the rise of Donald Trump, mocked and minimized him, said he was going to implode any moment and more importantly, you know, failed to understand the anger and anxiety in the country that Trump was connecting with and the deep distrust of the political establishment and the media establishment. That's not a great laugh line, but it has not been a great year for the 40 state.

SMITH: All right. Well, Chris is tired. So, we've got to let him go get some rest. Thank you guys. Great to have you with us.

KURTZ: Merry Christmas.

SMITH: Breaking tonight, tornadoes ripping through parts of Mississippi. Our local FOX affiliate there reporting that at least three people have been killed. Among the dead, a seven-year-old boy who was in a car. We understand that the storm has also injured several more people and has destroyed homes in the area. We are tracking these storms and will have a report a little bit later in this hour.

Meanwhile, new polling suggests there could be a bit less debating at the holiday table this year as people begin to narrow down their picks for president.

Dana Perino is here with her handicap of the race and her advice on keeping her cool head when it comes to heated political debates around the holidays.

And new concerns over the government's ability to keep us safe, as we see new evidence that one of the San Bernardino terrorists should never have been allowed into this country.

Plus, the very latest on a brutal military operation under way right now to oust ISIS from a critically important city in Iraq.


SMITH: Well, there in may be fewer talking points around the holiday table in the coming days with several new polls suggesting folks are seriously beginning to narrow down their choices for president. We are just 40 days now out from the Iowa caucuses. As a new CNN national poll shows Trump continuing to dominate his GOP competitors by a more than two to one margin. And in second place, Senator Ted Cruz outpaces the rest of the field by nearly 10 points. One of our favorite Washington Insiders is sharing her holiday handicap and some added tips on how to keep your cool as the race for 2016 starts heating up.

Dana Perino is co-host of "The Five" here on Fox. A former White House press secretary under George W. Bush. And author of "And The Good News Is."

DANA PERINO, CO-HOST, "THE FIVE": With a Santa hat just for Christmas.

SMITH: I love it.

PERINO: Thank you.

SMITH: So Dana, what will the conversation be around American Christmas tables?

PERINO: Well, I think that because there is so much interest as given by the ratings for all of the debates in the 2016 election that there's just no doubt as families gather, it will be, who do you like, who do you like? And this is like the first time that families have really gathered to try to lock it down. And up until now, people have sort of been window shopping, OK, for like what candidate they want. Now they're taking three to four candidates into the dressing room to figure out, do I like this dress? Do I not. And the polls are starting to lockdown.  

The national polls look fabulous for Donald Trump and they have for a long time. The polls in the early states were that voting starts to really matter, are not as good for him, but still pretty good. And I think the national polls will probably have some bearing on those states. Iowa being the most important, February 1st. And then right on the heels of that will be New Hampshire, two wildly different states. Ted Cruz doing well in Iowa and some of the others sort of on their heels of the front-runners in New Hampshire.

SMITH: Yes. The women, the women vote. The gender gap you say, something we're leaving out.

PERINO: I feel like people are really missing this point. So thank you for giving me another chance to mention it. So, do you remember October 2012, there were Republicans all across the country, including me, who would say, yes, Mitt Romney can definitely win this election. Like who -- how could President Obama actually win re-election, and President Obama ran away with it.

SMITH: Uh-hm.

PERINO: One of the most important things is the women vote. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, while doing very well nationally and well with some women, they actually have a gender gap of about 27 to 19 points. So that means that they are underwater with women. Twelve percent of women in the Republican Party say they are still undecided. So, if I were Trump or Cruz and I was doing as well as they're doing, I would try to start figuring out how to deal with the gender gap. Because in a general election, remember this. One quarter of the electorate, 25 percent of the electorate in 2016, will be made up of single women.


PERINO: President Obama won women vote by 10 percentage points of 55 to 45 percent over Mitt Romney. Republicans have to do better with women, and I would say that the front-runners in the Republican primary absolutely must figure out a way to broaden their support.

SMITH: So, do you think that Trump and his team are strategizing how to wrap it up?

PERINO: All of his people will tell you he's doing great with women.  He loves women. I'm just telling you that the numbers are showing a different story. And if I were them and I want to close the deal, I would figure out a way to appeal to women.

SMITH: All right. So, you wrote this op-ed that has getting a lot of attention in certain circles. But you wrote this op-ed, "Resolved in 2016, I will not let politics strip me of my dignity." You begin the piece Dana by talking about an experience that you had on an airplane that left your stomach twisted.

PERINO: Yes. So, I even know for myself in 2012, during that election, I found myself, you know, I would yell at Bob Beckel or whoever it might be. And I just felt ugly about it, and it's one of those things that for me I couldn't even forgive myself for it. And it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The other night coming home on a flight, I heard this couple talking about one of the candidates and their group of supporters, and it was just so ugly, as if those people had no reason for living, that they were not even Americans. And I thought we were actually stronger as Americans because of our political system. We are stronger because of our diversity, not in spite of it. And what I wanted to do just for myself personally was to say, I am going to try so hard in 2016 to remember that the most important things in life are not politics

SMITH: We forget that sometimes, don't we?

PERINO: But the most port things are faith, family and friends, and politics should not strip any of us of our dignity in 2016.

SMITH: Such a great message as we enter the end of the year. And one thing I love that you wrote in this piece, being born in America was like winning the biggest lottery ever held. Americans started the finish line where we go from there is up to us.


SMITH: Such an important message as we enter into an election.

PERINO: Right. And tearing each other apart doesn't seem like the best way to spend the money that we won in a lottery. We have a lot of reasons to be thankful and grateful to be Americans. In I think in the New Year, it's not going to be possible, we're going to lose our temper with each other once in a while. But just to keep in mind, we have the best country in the world. And we should try to keep it that way.

SMITH: It inspired me to come up with a much better resolution than I already did. Dana --

PERINO: Well, I also say that I'm probably going to need some help actually getting this done, and wine might be very helpful.  

SMITH: Wine can be very helpful. Dana, thank you, and Merry Christmas.

PERINO: Thanks for having me on. Happy New Year.

SMITH: All right.

Just ahead, as we gear up for the early state contests, we take a look at the best and worst political ads of the 2016 election season to date.  Pollster Frank Luntz is here with his analysis.

Plus, we'll tell you about the big change coming to Virginia that has Republicans and second amendment supporters up in arms.


SMITH: Breaking tonight, deadly storms tearing across the southeast, with preliminary reports of 14 tornados touching down in Mississippi alone.  Our local fox affiliate is also reporting at least three people have been killed. Among them, a seven-year-old boy. Additionally, there are reports of homes being destroyed. Forecasters are warning there is the possibility of even more tornados tonight. We're tracking this dangerous situation and will bring you updates as we get them.

Developing tonight, new reaction and analysis of the best and worst political ads of the 2016 election. Frank Luntz is a pollster, CEO of Luntz Global. And author of "What Americans Really Want, Really." Frank, good evening to you.

FRANK LUNTZ, CEO, LUNTZ GLOBAL: Good evening, and I brought three ads that I think our audiences are going to like. Number one is Donald Trump.  Now let me set the tone. He's done the least advertising of any of the leading candidates, because he gets so much publicity on shows like this one. But what makes this ad interesting, it's a radio ad, is that it too has an impact. It says what Republican voters want to hear and it says so in a way that really turns them on. Let's take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to make the greatest trade deals we've ever made in our country, and I'm going to bring jobs and money back to the United States. I'll take care of our veterans and make our military so strong that nobody will mess with us. I'll secure our borders, and yes, we will have a wall. You can't have a country without borders. And I'll make sure that the Second Amendment and our religious liberty are protected. ObamaCare is a total disaster. It will be repealed and replaced with something much better.


LUNTZ: Now understand that a typical radio ad only tests in the 20s or 30s, because there's no visual. But when Donald Trump articulated the things that he's going to do, step by step, one after another, the response is very positive among conservatives and moderates.

SMITH: So it's very clear, Frank, that in this political cycle, and in this coming election year, what is working is the direct ads, the direct speak, people are liking that the energy that they're hearing from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. What's not working?

LUNTZ: Well, what's not working, we're going to shift the order, I'm warning the producer. What's not working is something that Jeb Bush did.  He's trying to show that as governor he was very effective, which most analysts agree with. In fact, arguably, he's one of the best governors of the last 20 years, but the problem with this ad, and it doesn't dial well, is that it shows you what he looked like back ten, 15 years ago. And the fact is, human beings age. So you're going to see a response that's not nearly as positive. Let's take a look.

SMITH: I know how to do this, because I was privileged to serve in Florida for eight years. And we turned the systems upside down that weren't working. 1.3 million new jobs were created. We cut taxes every year. Income rose in people's pockets. People were lifted out of poverty.  Children started to learn. As President of the United States, I pledge to you that I will solve problems.

LUNTZ: He was a great governor, and he gave the record very effectively, but the visuals don't work. And whoever designed that on his political team, I think that was the PAC. Frankly, they should be fired.  Because you can look at Bush's numbers. You show that earlier in the show, three percent, for someone who is that good a governor and only has three percent of the vote today, you know something is wrong with the presentation.

SMITH: Interesting, presenting your track record, which was arguably a very good one. As far as the economy in Florida, is it working? But what is working is an ad by Ted Cruz in which he has had a trend of pulling right from his campaign rallies, right from the debate, Frank, which is arguably been very good on the campaign's pocket book. It doesn't cost as much.

LUNTZ: And we're going to show you National Security ad that absolutely tested through the roof. Let's take a look.


CRUZ: If I'm elected to serve as commander-in-chief. We won't cower in the face of evil. America will lead. We'll rebuild our military. We'll kill the terrorists. And every Islamic militant will know, if you wage jihad against us, you're signing your death warrant. And under no circumstances will I ever apologize for America.


SMITH: So, a direct stance on Islamic terrorism effective.

LUNTZ: More than just direct when he says we're going to kill or enemy, that's what Republicans want to hear. It's one of the reasons why Ted Cruz is now second and gaining all across the country.

SMITH: All right, as a good review, many more likely to come, but it's interesting for sure Frank what's actually working. All right.

LUNTZ: I do want to encourage people to watch the FOX Business debate. Because great questioners, perfect timing, January 14th. And this is exactly why the public is so engaged. Because they want to know exactly what the candidates are saying.

SMITH: Charleston, South Carolina, I'll be there. Thank you.

Coming up, we are getting our first look inside the immigration file of San Bernardino terrorist, Tashfeen Malik. The findings raising even more questions tonight about the visa process. And whether she could have been stopped from entering this country and committing mass murder?

And as the sale of firearms surges this holiday season, the NBA is teaming up with the former mayor of New York City for a message about gun violence just in time for Christmas.


STEPHEN CURRY, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS POINT GUARD: I heard about a shooting involving a three-year-old girl over the summer. My daughter Riley is that age.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a point when I felt that I was going to die.

CHRIS PAUL, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS POINT GUARD: My parents always say a bullet doesn't have a name in it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone put a bullet in the back of my 14-year- old son's head.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can all make a difference.  



SMITH: We're getting word of tornadoes hitting the South and Midwest just as people prepare for Christmas Eve. At this moment the Storm Prediction Center is reporting 14 tornadoes have touched down in Mississippi alone. While local Fox Affiliate reports at least three people there, including a 7 year old boy, have been killed. Authorities are also going door to door in the area to search for any more possible victims.  Chief Meteorologist, Rick Reichmuth is tracking it all from the Fox Weather Center.

RICK REICHMUTH, CHIEF METEOROLOGIST: Such a dangerous night across parts of the central areas of the country. We've been so calm and so warm across the Eastern Seaboard. Now that warm air is giving way to severe weather as cold air moves in behind it. And we have tornado watches in effect across a big chunk of the country, from parts of Indiana and Ohio all the way down towards the Central Mid-South here. And potentially some very long-living, large, large dangerous storms that we're going to watch pull up for the East throughout the overnight hours.

Now it does go into the dark overnight hours. Much more dangerous when you have these kinds of storms late at night, but this is the bull's eye where you see the red. It includes cities like Nashville and up towards Louisville and eventually later on tonight, I think even in towards the Birmingham area could be watching for some tornados moving through.  Even though that's not on the highlighted area here in the Northern parts of Alabama watch as even later tonight and across parts of the North Georgia.

All of this because or partially because of these warm temperatures we have. And take a look at what happens on Christmas Eve. We're going to be breaking records, shattering records, all the way up and down the Eastern Seaboard, 66 degrees for high on Christmas Eve in Boston, 71 in New York, 73 in Atlanta, you get the idea. Even on Christmas Day will remain very warm. Storms tomorrow, by Christmas Day much of the area clearing out a little bit, if you want something colder you have to go out across the West but a dangerous night ahead with all of the tornados and record-breaking temperatures Christmas Eve. Sandra?

SMITH: And developing tonight, growing outrage out of Virginia where the State's Democratic Attorney General announced that the Commonwealth will no longer recognize out of State, concealed handgun permits held by residents of 25 States. A decision made unilaterally without the state legislature. The move will impact more than 6 million legal gun owners when it goes into effect next year. Joining me now, Guy Benson, Political Editor for and a Fox News Contributor, and Nomiki Konst the Founder and Executive Director of the Accountability Project. Welcome to you both.



SMITH: I'm sure, Merry Christmas to you. I'm sure we're going to see a spirited debates from the two of you on this one. Nomiki, I'll start out with the anger that we're seeing from the Republicans and supporters of the second amendment, Gun Rights Activist, John Whitbeck, Chairman of the Virginia Republican Party said, "The Attorney General's announcement was further proofed that Democrats have declared war on the second amendment." your take.

KONST: Listen, you know, I'm sure in Arizona right now with my family. And my family, they're all gun owners, they're NRA members and they said to me, you know, listen they want stronger gun laws, 75 percent of NRA members believe that they should -- there should be universal background checks that there should be stronger gun laws on the books. All Virginia is trying to do right now is prevent, you know, they have very safe gun laws on the books in Virginia as do most States in America. But the States that have the weakest gun laws, you know, they shouldn't allow their citizens to come in and carry, and they don't pass the same rule that Virginia's -- the Virginia checks and go through. So they're just trying to protect their own citizen. Just like if you smoke weed, if you have a license to a medical marijuana license in Colorado, you can't walk into a state and smoke weed saying, "Well you know, I have this medical marijuana license in my state. Why can't I smoke in this other state?"

SMITH: Right.

KONTS: You know, State laws matter.


SMITH: I got to get Guy in here, Nomiki. Guy and a clear sign that Americans feel that their second amendment rights is being stripped away from them and more changes may be coming. This holiday season, you know, I'm on the Fox Business Network, all day long, and we have been consistently reporting a spike in gun sales in this country. A lot of people are going to be opening up a gun underneath their Christmas tree.

BENSON: Yes, not just gun sales, it's also polling on these issues. And look, I'm actually a Virginia resident. I vote in the State of Virginia, and what's fascinating is we just had an election, Sandra, in my state. And the democrats in Northern Virginia campaign on strict gun control laws to try to beef up gun control. And guess what, they lost.  They failed to regain the State senate despite this entire push that they put together. And so, now that they've lost -- now that they've had a failed attempt to convince voters, what are they doing? They're having the State Attorney General, a Democrat, impose this agenda by fiat. Now apparently, he's within his legal rights and his authority to do so, but it's just interesting, because the democrats tried to persuade Virginians, this is what ought to be done. Virginians disagreed. They're doing it anyway.

SMITH: And they didn't -- and they didn't want it and they're still doing it anyway, Nomiki, and at the same time that State Attorney General is saying that this is what the State and this is what the people want.

KONST: This is all about the Virginia Law. They're just saying that people come from different States and were abiding by their own laws have to follow Virginia Law. And if they -- if they pass the Virginia Law, they can have a visitor's license. You know, if we want to talk about politics here, let's talk about how the NRA spends $30 million a year lobbying the legislatures in these States, and in the states with the weakest gun laws, you have the most gun violence, and that is brought to you by gun manufacturers who are representing NRA members, who are representing the people who want safe gun laws in the books. They want to make sure that there are loopholes for felons, convicts, rapists, murderers, illegal immigrants to come and purchase guns and terrorists. So the NRA really cared about it's members, maybe they should look at their polls rather than gun manufacturers who are making money off of a tragedy.

SMITH: Let's move forward. This Christmas holiday, you're going to be sitting down watching sports, many of us. And while you're watching basketball, you are likely, Guy, to see the National Basketball Association, the NBA, teaming up with Mike Bloomberg's Gun Control Group, it's called "Everytown", you were just seeing a glimpse of it there. This is an ad campaign to end gun violence, OK? The New York Times actually publishing today that this is unlike anything we've ever seen before.  We've seen professional athletes speak out and have a stand (ph) on this, but until now, no major sports league has lent its name and logo to such an effort.


SMITH: And we are going to see these across -- and we're going to see this across all these games this holiday.

BENSON: Now look, everyone is against gun violence, right.  Especially law-abiding gun owners, everyone in America is against gun violence. So look, I have no problem with celebrities or athletes or whomever, advocating on behalf of causes they care about. I will point out that there was quite a snit fit on the left when Tim Tebow did something similar in an ad for the Super Bowl a few years ago on the pro-life issue.  But look, they are well within their rights to get out there and make their case. I'm not just sure if these types of pushes are going to actually bring about new changes in terms of gun control laws because again if you look at public opinion, it is shifting away from gun control in a and b, the NBA has a bit of a gun violence culture to deal with itself. So this might be a bit of a position heal by itself situation.

SMITH: Nomiki, you're shaking your head, the ads are going to feature, we're told, star NBA athletes, calling for an end to gun violence.  The first 30-second ad is set to run as five times on Friday, Christmas Day alone. This is going to be a huge focus that they're putting out there on shooting victims. Your take.

KONST: Yeah and a lot of these NBA players come from communities where there's gun violence and have been -- have had family members as victims. So I think those message are very powerful, especially to Americans who do want sensible gun laws. And, you know, to go back to Guy's point here, that's absolutely untrue that the polls are saying that gun owners want sensible laws. They don't want felons to have access to these guns. They don't want these open loopholes. They don't want the lax gun laws that they have in States where there's more gun violence. So I think, you know, kudos to Everytown, you know, they're only spending $300,000 a year on messaging and lobbying compared to the $30 million a year spent by the gun manufacturers and lobbying Congress. And that's where -- that's why we're not having any action.

You know, nothing's changing because law makers are being bought and sold. Every time there's a tragedy, you have the NRA not ask, you know, just going out there putting ads out to buy guns and.

SMITH: All right.

KONST: .they're going -- they're something into the legislators -- their legislators office to get user (ph) gun laws and that's the problems.  They're not representing their member.

BENSON: You're ignoring the constitution and the will of the people.

KONST: They're not.

SMITH: Legal gun owners fear that their rights are going to be stripped away. If the only (ph) legal gun owners that we are concerned about and the concern is that new laws won't take.

BENSON: They don't follow the law.

SMITH: That's the point. All right, guys, thank you very much for both joining us tonight.

BENSON: Thank you.

KONST: Thank you so much (INAUDIBLE). Merry Christmas.

SMITH: All right, breaking tonight, we are getting our first look at new evidence that may prove one of the San Bernardino terrorist involved in the worst terrorist attack in this country since 9/11 should never had been allowed here in the first place. Plus the very latest on a brutal military operation underway right now to oust ISIS from a critically important city in Iraq.


SMITH: Breaking tonight, new details on day two of a bloody military operation to oust ISIS from a critically important city in Iraq. More than 10,000 Iraqi security troops have poured into Ramadi, a key strategic and symbolic city, just 60 miles from Baghdad.

ISIS overran Ramadi in May. It was an embarrassing defeat for Iraq and the U.S. Today, U.S. and coalition aircraft dropped more than 50 bombs on ISIS targets, and right now, hundreds of Iraqi troops are closing in on a fortified ISIS compound in the heart of the city.

U.S. intelligence estimates that up to 350 Jihadists are dug in and willing to fight to the death. Iraqi forces say it may take another two or three days to clear the city.

Also, breaking tonight, we're getting our first look at new evidence that may prove one of the San Bernardino terrorists should never have been allowed into the country. This is the entry visa, and passport, of Tashfeen Malik.

She the Pakistani immigrant who along with her husband killed 14 innocent people at a Christmas Party. Malik was given a visa reserved for the fianc,s of U.S. citizens. She is required to prove that the couple had met and intended to marry. But we're learning that may never have actually happened.

Pete Hegseth is a Fox News contributor, Iraq and Afghan War Veteran and CEO of Concern Veterans for America. And Robert Zimmerman is a democratic strategist and co-founder of Zimmerman/Edelson on public relations.

All right, Pete, I want to start with you first.


SMITH: Did this visa application process, did it fail us? Did this fail us or the country?

PETER HEGSETH, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It clearly failed. I mean, there was a set of information our government asked for. They provided a portion of it. They couldn't -- they never actually proved that they met in person. And then suddenly, somehow, it was approved anyway.

So you've got, clearly, a giant bureaucracy looking to almost box check, as we know with so many of these bureaucracy that's what happens.  There's such an overwhelming volume, they don't know how to handle it, so they just shuffle it through as a de facto decision without really analyzing what was in the file, without really knowing whether they met and any sort of validation of whether it's factual and so you get what we got.  And you wonder why people are so frustrated with our immigration system it's because it's a box-checking exercise, not actually validated at the ground level.

SMITH: Robert, they -- in the chairman's release, he said they demonstrates that visa screening process was incomplete by the state department's own standards, by the findings that were released here. It is tough to disagree with anything and the fact that lives could have been saved if this process had been efficient.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, let's be clear. While the investigation is ongoing, it is well-established that the visa application process has got to be tightened.

President Obama's called for that and we're seeing a very strong bipartisan leadership in the house where 417 -- 19 voted to tighten our visa application process, and Senator Chuck Schumer is leading 22 democrats to do the same.

This is -- as Pete pointed out, a bureaucracy that is plagued our government for over a decade now and in fact we're seeing progress made on this but let's not jump to conclusions until the investigation is over as to whether lives could be saved.

My concern likewise here though, is that if when we look at this visa application situation, as frustrating is and the tragedy complication present it is -- should concern all of us to see the republican presidential candidates use this as a political tool to attack refugees and spread more hate and fear.

And that's what should concern us enormously, because the refugee children and the refugees coming in from Syria are also the victims of terrorists and the United States should be very focused on.

HEGSETH: Shouldn't it matter where they're coming from Robert?  Shouldn't it matter where they're coming from? Isn't there basic litmus test here, a filter we can apply initially in light of the fact that we're at war?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, and when it comes to refugees, there is a filter that's put in place and in fact, we have an extraordinary system where we've taken in since 2011.

HEGSETH: Extraordinary.

ZIMMERMAN: Yeah, it's indeed we have.

SMITH: Robert, you say an extraordinary system, but the American people don't feel that way.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, you know something? With all the fear and hate mongering, I would see that. And.

HEGSETH: I'm not hate mongering. I'm after the facts.

ZIMMERMAN: Let know the facts are that we have taken in over 785,000 refugees since 9/11. Only 12 have had to be returned. We've taken a 27,000 Syrians and in fact, none of them have had to be returned.

SMITH: And Robert and the American people are questioning that, and many of them showing that they do not support accepting more refugees into the United States. 43 percent support, 51 percent, a majority oppose.  That's from the latest Quinnipiac Poll.

ZIMMERMAN: But, you know something Megan, but, excuse me, Megan, you know something Sandra let's also remember at World War II in 1939, 60 percent of the American people according to Gallup poll.

SMITH: Sorry (ph).

ZIMMERMAN: .would didn't want to allow Jewish refugees to come in either.

SMITH: All right, we've got to go guys. Thank you for joining us tonight.

ZIMMERMAN: Merry Christmas.

SMITH: Merry Christmas to you both as well.

ZIMMERMAN: Also Sandra. OK.

SMITH: Pete's got a new little boy at home. Go enjoy him.

Up next, He analyzed 1,000 near death experiences. Pastor John Burke tells us what the five most common things people say they have seen in heaven.


SMITH: My next guest, he is the promise of the afterlife in Christmas. Pastor John Burke examined about 1000 stories of Near-Death Experiences. Joining me now Pastor John Burke of the Gateway Church in Austin, Texas. He is the author of the book "Imagine Heaven". Welcome to tonight.

JOHN BURKE, FOUNDER, GATEWAY CHURCH IN AUSTIN: Well, thank you, thanks for having me on.

SMITH: So what is it that you're -- and you analyzed 1000 near-death experiences? What did you find?

BURKE: Well, it's fascinating because, you know, the hope that it's Christmas that we look for in Christmas. I believe really God's greatest gift that he gave at Christmas was the hope of heaven.

And what I found is really hard-hitting evidence that this hope is real, that it's not just a pipe dream. That there's -- there is something coming after this where finally there are really will be peace and the joy that, you know, that we hear promised but gosh, we look around the world and there isn't much. And.

SMITH: So from talking to these people, what do they say that heaven looks like?

BRUKE: Well, so what I do is I put together the commonalities and show how it really reveals the heaven in the bible but they talk about it in very pragmatic terms. Like they talk about how alive they feel. Not just with five senses but with more like with 50 senses.

And they say when they come back to this earth, it feels like that's the real life and this one is more like a shadow. They experience beauty, flowers, and trees, and mountains, and grass, but really like of another dimension with colors of them.

SMITH: Well John, your story is such an important one and I'm sorry, I just want to get your story in here because you weren't always a believer. You didn't always believe in God, you weren't always Christian.  That happened .

BURKE: Yeah, I was skeptical.

SMITH: .at a moment in your life and then you've taken these all on.  And you have amazing words for those that do suffer grief during the holiday season because it is difficult for a lot of people who miss loved ones that have passed. Your advice to them?

BURKE: Yeah, I mean, I was an engineer, I was skeptical of all this and what I saw through this is really hard-hitting evidence that life continues on. In fact, another commonality is this great reunion that people experience.

My mom passed away this year, and you know when you're missing loved ones in the holidays, the real hope is that we're going to be united again, that there is hope for that. And that's God's promise of Christmas, hope for life eternally for all who want it.

SMITH: Right, Pastor John Burke, thank you for joining us tonight and Merry Christmas to you.

BURKE: Merry Christmas. Thanks for having me on.

SMITH: We'll be right back.


SMITH: Tune in tomorrow night for Fox's" West Point Holiday Special" hosted by Gretchen Carlson at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Thank you for watching. I'm Sandra Smith. Merry Christmas, everyone.  This is "The Kelly File."

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