Will the pope's opinion hurt Donald Trump?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 18, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


POPE FRANCIS (via translator): A person who thinks only about building walls wherever they may be and not of building bridges is not Christian. This is not the gospel.

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If and when the Vatican is attacked by is, which as everyone knows is ISIS's ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president. For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful.

BILL DONOHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRESIDENT: There is nothing that either this Pope or any other Pope has ever said, nor will you find it in the Catholic catechism, anything where the Catholic Church says a nation does not have a right to defend its own borders. The Catholic Church is solidly in favor of that. What he's simply saying is that's not the end of the conversation.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, it was a bit surreal on the campaign trail, the Pope, Donald Trump talking about exactly what was said. We read all the statement earlier in the show.

We do want to bring on some new Fox polls. First of all, the national poll has Donald Trump with a big lead, continuing lead at 36 percent over Ted Cruz, 19. There you see Rubio at 15. Then if you look at the presidential preference, this is versus Hillary Clinton -- obviously it could be Bernie Sanders -- but there you see Rubio over Clinton 48-44, Kasich, Cruz, Trump losing to Clinton in this poll 47 to 42.

This week obviously the focus on South Carolina. The overall South Carolina picture, again, Donald Trump with a big lead and Cruz in second, Rubio in third. And then this question, who would you never support? And that has changed dramatically from December. Trump up in that poll as well, 39 percent say they would support him. Bush second in a state that lines up for Bush a lot of people said, 21 percent saying they would never vote for him.

Let's bring in our panel, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial analyst, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Judge, first the Pope and Donald Trump. Reading the whole back and forth, you get a different context than perhaps the coverage today.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: You do. And I commend you for reading the full statements of each of them. They are far less incendiary and even more rational when you read the entire statements.

I say what I am about to say as a practicing traditionalist Roman Catholic.
Before Vatican II you didn't have to say "traditionalist," and now you do.
The Pope likes to opine in areas outside his expertise, as far away from Catholicism as economics, as the environment, and now American domestic politics. I think he stay out of it. I happen to disagree with Donald Trump on the law. I disagree with Donald Trump on mass deportations. The Pope is entitled to a political opinion. But when the Pope gives a political opinion, there's imprimatur, no pun intended, on what he says.
He didn't become the Pope to lead Catholics to vote for or against an American politician.

BAIER: And he says as much. I'm not going to get involved, advise to vote for or not to vote, not going to get involved in that. But he was interpreted in a way, and Donald Trump interpreted him in a way in his response.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: And that was, to me, what really leapt out today. Donald Trump took this as a great opportunity to get into a match with the Pope who is very unpopular with conservatives and evangelicals, maybe in South Carolina.

The Pope, every one of those Republican candidates wants to build a wall. He wasn't necessarily talking about Donald Trump, but Donald Trump decided to escalate it, as he does. He got an opening and he took it. We were not talking about Nikki Haley endorsing Rubio. We were talking about the Pope and Donald Trump.

BAIER: Political, Mara, does that help him?

LIASSON: I think it could. I don't think it hurts him. I don't think it hurts him at all. The Pope is unpopular with conservatives, this Pope is. And Donald Trump is not going for the big Catholic vote in South Carolina. He is going for an evangelical vote.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Initially when I heard about it I thought Trump would retort with a quote from Two Corinthians.
Actually that's a cheap shot but I'll take one.


BAIER: I like the other one. The two Corinthians walk into a bar.


KRAUTHAMMER: The other thing is this. Trump did sort of jump the shark on this and he reached for it. And you have got to wonder, after everybody is taking him on, now he takes on the Pope, who is left? It's the big guy upstairs.

Look, the reason I take this lightly is because I don't think it amounts to anything. What the pope said was a general statement that any religious leader could say. If you only talk about walls and not bridges, that's not good. He does this in a general way. Trump takes it as an attack on him, cleverly, I think. This is in a state, South Carolina, that is not that friendly to papists, and the Pope is a papist, apparently. So this is a good play. But it is meaningless. It gives him a day in the news, which is what he does brilliantly day after day, and it's not going to hurt him at all.

NAPOLITANO: He took Nikki Haley supporting Marco Rubio completely off the front page.

BAIER: A lot of talk about the negative ads, the negative sense in South Carolina. Here's Marco Rubio today on a photo that emerged from the Cruz campaign.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is not real. The picture is fake. It is a Photoshop of someone else shaking hands. And it appears it isn't even Barack Obama either. So I think this is now a disturbing pattern, guys. Every day they're making things up. In this case they literally made up a picture.


BAIER: And here's the side by side look at the pictures. There you see the Rubio/Obama trade pact and the picture that they apparently got it off of. Does this sink in? Obviously, Rubio is saying that Ted Cruz is a liar again and again and again.

LIASSON: This is his message. Ted Cruz is a liar. Ted Cruz did dirty tricks in Iowa. He's now doing to me. Boy, against the standards of South Carolina, bare knuckle politics, this is peanuts. This is nothing. I think this is also completely inconsequential. We want to see some real South Carolina dirty tricks. We haven't seen any this year. Sometimes you don't hear about them.

BAIER: We're heading there tonight, so we'll tell you what happens tomorrow one day before the primary. Judge, your thoughts?

NAPOLITANO: I think it does show a pattern. I happen to like Ted Cruz. I know him very well. But maybe he doesn't have control over his campaign or maybe he's looking the other way or maybe he thinks that this stuff is all part of the game. But I think it does show a pattern and it is disturbing. That is no more Marco Rubio and Barack Obama than it is you and me.

BAIER: I will say that Marco Rubio has not been challenged specifically on some of the things that he says Ted Cruz is lying about. What he said on Univision in Spanish. If you look at the transcript of that, he actually said what Ted Cruz said.

KRAUTHAMMER: This is a campaign in which every major candidate is getting away with saying stuff not just that isn't so, that is never investigated.
I mean, the list of accusations and charges is long. It reminds me -- you talk about how dirty the politics are in the south. It reminds of a story, probably apocryphal, of a guy who accused his opponent of being in a theater of being a thespian, and that really resonates.


NAPOLITANO: What was the outcome of that allegation? Nobody took out a dictionary?

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