Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 05/23/15
DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, if Wall Street is
back, should the rest of us be worried? Plus, the Army veteran who
survived two tours in Iraq only to die after two days in a Texas jail. And
the role of women on TV from SAMHSA start to Supergirl. But first, six
police officers indicted by a grand jury in Baltimore.
Good morning. I`m Dorian Warren in for Melissa. This time a grand jury
chose to indict. On Thursday a Baltimore grand jury indicted the six
police officers involved in the arrest and charged in the subsequent death
of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Baltimore states attorney Marilyn Mosby
delivered the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARILYN MOSBY: These past two weeks my team has been presenting evidence
to a grand jury that just today returned indictments against all six
officers for the following offenses. Officer Cesar Goodson Jr., second
degree, depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter. Second degree
negligent assault. Officer William Porter, involuntary manslaughter,
second degree negligent assault. Lieutenant Brian Rice, involuntary
manslaughter, second degree negligent assault, Officer Edward Nero, second
degree intentional assault. Officer Garrett Miller, second degree
intentional assault, Sergeant Alicia White, involuntary manslaughter,
second degree negligent assault.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Indictments against six police officers. It`s a decision that
drastically diverges from a narrative established by grand jury decisions
in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York. After Michael Brown
died in Ferguson, in August 2014, St. Louis County prosecutor Bob
McCullough chose not to bring charges against Darren Wilson, the officer
who shot the teenager. Instead, McCullough left the decision up to a grand
In November, the grand jury chose not to indict Wilson. After Eric Garner
died in Staten Island in July 2014, prosecutors did not charge the officer
who placed Garner in a choke hold. They also left that decision in the
hands of a grand jury. That grand jury did not indict. Police officers
rarely face criminal charges for on-duty shootings. A criminologist at
Bowling Green State University found that only 41 officers were charged
with murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings over a seven year period
ending in 2011. By contrast the FBI reported 2,718 justifiable homicides
by law enforcement during that same seven-year span.
What`s different about the Baltimore case is not just that the grand jury
did indict the officers involved in Gray`s death. It`s that each of the
six officers had already been charged on May 1st. Unlike her counterparts
in Ferguson and Staten Island, Marilyn Mosby filed charges against the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOSBY: The findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent
investigation coupled with the medical examiner`s determination that Mr.
Gray`s death was a homicide, which we received today, has led us to believe
that we have probable cause to file criminal charges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Unlike prosecutors in Ferguson or Staten Island she did not quell
public unrest by saying she would simply launch an investigation. Instead
she said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOSBY: To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I
heard your call for no justice, no peace. Your peace is sincerely needed
as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Unlike prosecutors in Ferguson or Staten Island, she did not pass
the grand jury a heap of evidence and legal documents to sift through.
She`d already rendered her legal opinion as a prosecutor. Each of the six
officers was arrested after Mosby announced charges three weeks ago. Each
of the officers posted bail the same day and have been free since. After
two weeks of hearing evidence from prosecutors, the grand jury returned
charges similar to the charges Mosby brought on May 1ST. One key
difference was the removal of Mosby`s initial false imprisonment charge for
three officers. Additionally, the grand jury added a reckless endangerment
charge for each of the officers. The driver of the police van Cesar
Goodson Jr. still faces the most serious charge. Second degree depraved
heart murder. The case which have been fought in district court now moves
to circuit court where the officers will face arraignment July 2.
With me at the table Dayvon Love, co-founder of Leaders of a Beautiful
Struggle. And a member of Baltimore United Coalition, Rinku Sen, executive
director and president of Race Forward and publisher of ColorLines.com, Bob
Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos and Jon Shane, associate
professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired captain of
the New York Police Department.
But first, Seema Iyer, criminal defense attorney, former prosecutor and
host of “The Docket” on MSNBC shift is with us. Seema, help us understand
what happened with these indictments and what happens next.
SEEMA IYER, HOST OF “THE DOCKET”: OK, Dorian. Well, first of all, we were
scheduled to go to court on this case on Wednesday, May 27TH. What Ms.
Mosby did was not only did she convene the grand jury but nobody knew what
was happening, which was smart because it eliminated any issue of
protesters or any type of media frenzy. OK? So, that`s the first thing.
So, the next time they go to court is July 2nd and that is for arraignment.
Which means the formal charges will be read out and they will enter pleas
assumingly of not guilty.
Now what happened in that grand jury? Two things could have happened.
Now, we see that the false imprisonment has been removed from the initial
charges. This is what I suspect. The false part of the imprisonment was
based on the knife. Ms. Mosby, and I`m sure you remember from that initial
conference, said that Freddie Gray was not carrying an illegal knife. That
remains in contention, OK? Because she said it was a switchblade knife,
which is not illegal in Maryland. But the police never said it was a
switchblade. They said it had an automatic spring which actually is
illegal under Baltimore City law. So, to remove any issue with that,
either the grand jury decided or she didn`t present that false imprisonment
charge because it`s based again on the falsity of the knife. OK? So now
moving forward, the reckless endangerment, Dorian, it`s almost a catch-all.
Right? It`s basically saying the defendants did something that put the
victim at some type of serious, grave risk.
WARREN: So Seema, how significant is that that a grand jury chose to
indict? Especially given what`s happened in Ferguson and Staten Island?
And I`m wondering if you were surprised by this?
IYER: I was surprised by the secrecy, actually, of it, that we didn`t know
this was happening. However, I`m not surprised they indicted. They should
have indicted. She went in and presented the case. I imagine with an aim
towards an indictment. And when a prosecutor does that, Dorian, they get
an indictment. So it`s completely what is supposed to happen and we
shouldn`t be surprised. We should be grateful.
WARREN: So, Dayvon, what`s the reaction been to the indictment in
DAYVON LOVE, LEADERS OF A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: Well, I mean I think most
people are happy that, you know, we have a context where you see Freddie
Gray and the video of him screaming being in pain and people`s natural
response was that we were happy that there were charges rendered on the
officers, but I think it`s important to remember and I think those of us in
Baltimore on the ground know that an indictment doesn`t necessarily address
the structural and legal mechanisms that undermine the ability to have
accountability for law enforcement. You know, in the state of Maryland,
with the Maryland law enforcement - rights, which undermines the ability to
get access to the information needed to hold law enforcement accountable.
But I think even more importantly, it undermines the ability for the
community to be substantively involved in the administration of law
enforcement in their communities. And so that is the long-term battle that
we`re fighting to address the structural issues that make this problem such
a huge issue in Baltimore.
WARREN: So, Jon, I want to get a police perspective from you and ask you,
how does this indictment affect the officers especially when a fellow
officer is indicted on such serious charges?
JON SHANE, JOHN JAY COLLEGE FOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Quite drastically. And
I think the secrecy surrounding the process gives rise to a lot of rumor
and there`s a lot of innuendo. Right now the facts are not clear. They
seem to be clear from the prosecutor`s perspective, but the defense has a
completely different perspective. And that I have a feeling is going to
result in a slowdown of some sort. And police officers are laden with
discretion. They get a lot of leeway to work. They have some general
operating guidelines, and they operate within the law, obviously. But when
their actions are second guessed at virtually every turn, they are not
going to react favorably. And I think that`s what you`re going to see in a
very short time in Baltimore. And there might be some of that right now,
although I don`t have any data to evidence it. But there`s an uptick in
violence, there`s an uptick in shootings and that may be related to a
pullback from the officers who were saying, if at every turn I`m going to
be questioned about my staff practices, my right to inquire or putting my
hands on someone even in the most routine circumstances, I`ll avoid it.
WARREN: We`re going to come back to that point you just made about the
police seeing efforts over the last two weeks in Baltimore. But I want to
ask you about this indictment, does this feel like Baltimore might mark a
turning point in how police shootings are handled?
BOB HERBERT: Well, I don`t know. I mean I think it`s important to keep in
mind that it`s an indictment and these are not convictions. I`m not sure
that these are easy cases to prove especially on the most serious charges.
So, you can get a mixed verdict. Baltimore has to worry about what the
reaction of the community might be if these officers or some of them are
In terms of a turning point in sort of the kind of policing that Baltimore
gets, I don`t really think so. I mean I think that even with all the
attention that policing has been getting across the country, I think that
there is not enough interest and certainly not the will to do the kinds of
things to turn policing around the way it should be in this country. It
would take a lot of money, it would take a big effort and that effort would
have to be sustained. And I don`t see evidence that that`s going to occur.
WARREN: So, Seema, and we`re going to get you in the next block, Ranku.
Seema, before you go, I want you to talk to us about what you know of this
case so far in terms of how Marilyn Mosby was able to get the indictments.
This goes to what Bob just raised, how likely is she able to get
convictions of the officers in this case?
IYER: I`m glad he brought that up. And just let me point out, the
reckless endangerment, it`s a misdemeanor, but it`s five years prison, so a
lot of legal experts have been talking that that`s why they put reckless
endangerment in because if there is the situation where they go to trial,
which I imagine they will. I don`t think any of these officers is going to
take a plea. They go to trial and somebody`s found not guilty of a
manslaughter, of a murder. Reckless endangerment has that catch-all and
that would get five years prison at the top. Obviously, they could
probably get something a lot less. So it`s very different between
indictment and trial, and we have to wait and see.
WARREN: Seema Iyer, thank you for your legal input on this story. And
we`ll see you again in the next hour. Up next, in Baltimore, murders are
up, arrests are down and the police say it`s getting harder to do their
WARREN: Thursday, on the same day six Baltimore police officers were
indicted by a grand jury in the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore reached
its 100th murder of the year. The city has seen one murder per day since
Gray died on April 19 after sustaining injuries while in police custody.
In fact, the homicide rate in the Western district where Gray was arrested
is up 200 percent from the rate reported at this time last year. Despite
the increase in crime, police have made fewer arrests. The week before
Gray`s death Baltimore police arrested 682 people compared to the most
recent data that shows Baltimore officers making 339 arrests in one week.
Baltimore police commissioner Anthony Batts says his officers are having
difficulty policing the community because of crowds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BATTS: When officers pull up to respond to a call, they have 30 to
50 people surrounding them at any given point in time. You have many
citizens with handheld cameras that they`re sticking in the faces of the
officers about an inch off the officer`s face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: This week, “The Baltimore Sun” published a new video of Freddie
Gray`s arrest. The video was shot on the cell phone of a witness who
remains anonymous. On the video you can see the officers grabbing Gray`s
legs in an attempt to get him in the van. So, I have lots of questions
about policing happening now in Baltimore. But Rinku, I want to come to
you first and ask what role has the Black Lives Matter movement played in
policing and in the aftermath of Freddie Gray`s death in Baltimore?
RINKU SEN: Well, the Black Lives Matter movement has completely changed
the dynamics between police and communities and communities of color,
really. They`re entitled to respect and safety when they have encounters
with police. And they`re no longer willing to take an officer`s word for
it that those things were present in that encounter. I think as this
community moves forward, it`s hard for me to imagine that the Baltimore
police department is genuinely surprised by this reaction. And if they are
surprised, it speaks really to the level, the lack of scrutiny that police
officers are accustomed to and used to and now expect. And I think as the
community moves forward, no, kind of vague notion of community engagement
or community dialogue is going to be satisfying here. For systemic change
you have to really get into the granularities of how a police department
runs, how it recruits, how it hires, how it supervises, how it trains, how
it uses force, all of that, everything has to be on the table. And until
that kind of scrutiny of racial impact of all those practices is really
part of the discussion I think the police departments everywhere can expect
more and more crowds and people videotaping them and watching.
WARREN: They are having reports of crowds who have come with cameras. And
Dayvon, I want to ask you in terms of that right of people filming officers
trying to do their job, are police being hindered from doing their job in
Baltimore? Because as we show there have been reports that there`s been in
some ways a slowdown of arrests in the city. Do you see any evidence of
LOVE: I want to demystify the relationship between, you know, the activism
and heightened scrutiny of law enforcement and the violence that we`re
seeing in Baltimore. You know, typically, you have spikes of violence that
happen in any given year particularly going into the summertime. And I
think it`s important for us to remember that there are structural
conditions that create the context for the kinds of violence that we see in
our communities and not just the violence that we see that happens as a
result of gun violence, but all the different forms of violence that happen
in our community that are a result of the lack of access to the necessities
that people need to create a good quality of life. And so, it`s important
to put that in context. And I think on the question of law enforcement,
you know, I think it`s really important for people to keep in mind that
when we`re talking about policing, policing is not a sustainable strategy
for the kind of public safety that`s been traditionally administered in
communities. You have to have people that are from the communities that
are the ones directing the trajectory as to how law enforcement is
administered. And the problem is that you have police unions, you have
institutions that are outside of the community trying to dictate a
framework for policing folks in a context where many of them don`t even
understand the social political economic context of the people in those
neighborhoods. There is a fundamental lack of understanding of the people
in those communities.
And I think once - what happens is we frame it as, you know,
community/police relations when it`s something much deeper. It`s about
people having to develop the expertise in the community they`re policing.
And develop a fundamental respect and unfortunately, we are socialized,
many of us are socialized to see black folks as criminals. And in that
context, it creates a context where you don`t have effective policing.
WARREN: So, Jon, let me get you in here to talk about the perspective of
the officers in the communities right now in Baltimore. Six of their own
indicted. Crowds gathering on routine calls, cell phone cameras. How does
all of this affect the department`s morale and effectiveness?
SHANE: It drives it way down. And here is why. Policing is laden with
discretion. And what happens is, police officers go into a situation and
they formulate a plan and they`re going to execute certain tactics, and
there could always be an alternative to doing something. Because they`re
constantly looked at and they`re going to be filmed and someone`s going to
second guess their actions, they say to themselves why do I need to put
myself through this unless it`s absolutely necessary? So, instead of
taking the assertive role of being proactive and stopping someone,
arresting someone or doing something in a proactive manner to stop a crime,
they avoid it and they wait for the call to come. But when that happens,
you wait and all you wind up doing is picking up the loser and that`s never
a good thing. So, I agree, embedded in that discussion has to be the way,
in which the police department is structured to react to local conditions.
I don`t think it necessarily means that you have to have officers living in
the community or from the community. There`s no research at all that shows
that an officer that lives here performs better than one that does not.
And those things are all part of how we recruit, how we train and how we
deploy our tactics.
WARREN: OK, so much more to say on this. Don`t go anywhere. Up next, how
President Obama tried to address issues of policing in America this week.
WARREN: This week the White House took steps to address the policing
issues brought to light in the past year. On Monday, the president`s task
force on 21st century policing released a series of recommendations and
tactics for police departments around the country to improve community
policing. President Obama also announced that the federal government will
be banned from providing some military equipment to police departments. He
will also tighten restrictions on weapons distributed to local police. On
Tuesday, the president signed another measure aimed at policing officially
named for Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, New York officers who were shot and
killed in December. The blue alert system is meant to protect law
enforcement officers from attack. The system will be similar to the amber
alerts used when a child is abducted. But this particular nationwide alert
system would focus on detaining anyone who harms or threatens to harm an
officer. And Jon, I want to ask you first, will this blue alert system
help facilitate safe and effective community policing?
SHANE: Yeah, I think it can work. There will be some implementation
issues. Amber alert has been shown to work in certain circumstances, but
not through the stranger to stranger crime that you might think. So how
well this has played out, how well it`s rolled out will have implications
for how it does. But I think there`s value there. The idea of
broadcasting in at least a region if not across the nation someone that is
threatening law enforcement officers can go a long way to establishing
trust between communities.
WARREN: Bob, why is this blue alert system so controversial? There have
been many criticisms of this since it was announced on Tuesday.
HERBERT: I don`t find it to be that controversial, but I also don`t find
it to be that big of a deal. I mean I think the controversy comes with the
idea of someone who makes an alleged threat, for example, you know, how
much scrutiny or attention do they get and were they really serious
threats? But from covering too many cases where police officers were
killed over the years, when an officer is shot or killed or otherwise
harmed, there`s no problem in getting all the resources of law enforcement
together to go after the criminals who did that. So I don`t think the blue
alert system will help that much in those cases.
WARREN: I want to turn to the military gear and Dayvon, here`s what
President Obama had to say in announcing his recommendations around federal
banning of military gear. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And we`ve seen
how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there`s an
occupying force as opposed to a force that`s part of the community that`s
protecting them and serving them. Can alienate and intimidate local
residents and send the wrong message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: So, Dayvon, with people in Baltimore and communities that have
dealt with police in military gear agree with the president? And is this
ban good enough?
LOVE: I think – I mean, relating to the blue alert conversation, to me it
further lets me know that people don`t understand really the crux of the
issue. You know, banning militarized equipment for law enforcement I think
is a good first step, but I think we have to look at the fundamental issue,
which is that many people in the community feel like they`re being occupied
by an occupied force, right, that doesn`t have their interests at heart in
terms of thinking about the other things that affect the nature, the kinds
of - that exist in communities that police officers are made responsible
for addressing. And I think it`s important for us to look at the context
we`re in. You know, we`re in a society structured on the principal of
white supremacy. A system that people internalize the notion that black
folks` lives are disposable. That if we saw this kind of violence being
exacted on the children of white folks then we wouldn`t see the same kind -
we would see more of protests and outcry from the white community that I
think in many regards is unwilling to make the criticism of institutional
racism of law enforcement because I think there`s an image and symbolism
that people have projected on to those folks in communities that are deemed
as pathological. So, it`s important for us I think to have that
conversation. Because until we really get to the crux of that, then
everything else is just Band-Aids.
WARREN: So, Rinku, I want to get you in here and ask you about the
spreading of the Black Lives Matter campaign. And this week there was a
campaign, say her name. And it`s focused on the victims of police violence
that are women. Will the names of these victims like Rekia Boyd, for
instance, become a growing part of the movement?
SEN: I think they definitely will. I mean what worries me about the blue
alert system actually is that it may or may not be so helpful in resolving
threats against police officers. There is already a lot of attention if
officers are killed or harmed. And I worry that this particular move
creates a false equivalency in the storyline about deaths of police
officers and deaths caused by police officers. And those two things are
not equal numerically. “The Washington Post” reported earlier this month
that there have been ten officers killed in the course of this year
nationally. In Los Angeles alone LAPD has killed 14 people in that same
period of time. A great number of the people killed by the police are
going to be women and trans people and LGBT people.
So I think that that notion of what are equivalent crimes here and what
requires systemic attention is really the way, in which the blue alert
system feels like a distraction to me in a debate that has many dimensions
and many explicitly racial and gender dimensions.
WARREN: Many dimensions, and we`ll continue to talk about those dimensions
of policing on this show.
Up next, we`re going to bring in the artist behind this photo. It is the
provocative new exhibit in Los Angeles that goes directly at the dialogue
around race taking place nationwide.
WARREN: Let me off for a warning. The photographs I`m about to show you
are meant to shock you. They`re meant to make you think. Not only for
what they portray, but how they portray it. What do you feel looking at
this image? Angry, sad, confused? Do you feel a sense of vindication when
you see this depiction of a Klan member being lynched? At a new exhibit at
Los Angeles` Andrew Weiss Gallery titled historical fiction, artist Tyler
Shields explores what our country would look like if the bodies in all-too
familiar scenes swap places. Shields is no stranger to controversy. He
previously angered animal rights activists and fashionistas alike by
setting fire to a crocodile Birkin bag. But this series is his first to
issue surrounding race. And Tyler Shields joins me now from Los Angeles.
TYLER SHIELDS, PHOTOGRAPHER, “HISTORICAL ACTION”: How are you doing?
WARREN: Good. Thanks for joining us. And thanks for this incredible
project. And I`m wondering, why now and why this project? What made you
decide to take on the issue of race so explicitly?
SHIELDS: You know, it`s something I grew up with. I grew up in the South.
And, you know, when I was a kid, I actually saw, you know, the KKK have a
rally. And I remember – I didn`t know what it was. I was so young, I was
probably 5 or 6. I thought that they were just dressed up as clowns
honestly. I was a child. I didn`t really know the difference. And, you
know, as you grow up in that, you kind of realize that there`s a lot of
people who are extremely racist. This is something that happens all the
time. And I think it was from my childhood that I thought why. I didn`t
really understand it. And I thought what would it be like kind of the
other way around. And it took me kind of my whole life to get to a place
to really be able to do this and have it be on the level that it deserves
to be on.
WARREN: So, what`s the goal of this art, Tyler, is it to provoke, is it to
SHIELDS: Yeah, I mean I think that what was interesting about this is I
created it just to ask a question. And it has gone even further than I
could have ever anticipated.
WARREN: And what was that question?
SHIELDS: You know, the question is what would it be like – would people
still do this to other people if it happened to them?
WARREN: And talk to me about the reactions you`ve gotten thus far?
SHIELDS: You know, what`s interesting is people have said this is the most
powerful photo that I`ve ever seen, not just for me, but just in general
they`ve said this is the most powerful image that I`ve ever seen in my
life. Which is a fantastic response, obviously.
WARREN: So let me come to the table and get a bit of reaction. Jon, I
want to come to you first and ask you as a law enforcement, a former law
enforcement officer, I`m curious to get your opinion on Tyler`s photo of
the police officer. What`s your reaction?
SHIELDS: Well, I don`t think it`s going to contribute to a healthy
discussion about the mature conversation that needs to take place like we
were talking about at the break. The structural issues that need to take
place in policing. It seems more sensational. And clearly artistic. And
he`s free to do it, you know, within his First Amendment right to do it.
But I don`t see that that`s going to contribute to something really, really
WARREN: I`m wondering about the lynching photo in particular because
that`s the one that was most striking to me. What`s your reaction to that,
LOVE: Well, two things. One, I think it`s important for people to see
images of that I think to resonate the horrors of the kinds of violence
that people feel when you think about the issue of police brutality. But I
think even more importantly I think sometimes we think that racism is about
having to lynch someone, right? I think we need to see these photos as a
paradigm as to how we interpret things that are happening around us, right?
So, for instance, one of the things that we`re dealing with in Maryland is
a Democratic Party leadership, right, that you wouldn`t think is – you
wouldn`t characterize as racist, right? You wouldn`t characterize as
people that hate black people, but in terms of the unwillingness to make
amendments to the law enforcement officer bill of rights, a lack of urgency
about the fact that there are black folks and brown folks that are being
victimized by police brutality and you have people like the president of
our state senate Mike Miller who is in leadership and who isn`t willing to
move, you know, the type of legislation that would make substantive change,
for me, I think, this kind of artwork, which uses the paradigm to interpret
the kinds of things we are seeing in communities.
WARREN: Tyler, I want to come back to you and ask you, do you worry about
inciting violence or a violent backlash to your art?
SHIELDS: No, what`s interesting about that is, I don`t think anybody is
going to look at one of these photos and think, that looks fun, I want to
do that. I think it actually has the opposite effect where you look at
something like that and maybe you say I really don`t want that to happen to
me and I really don`t want to do that to anyone else.
WARREN: Thank you to Tyler Shields in Los Angeles, and here in New York,
thank you to Dayvon Love and Jon Shane. Bob and Rinku are sticking around.
Up next, Wall Street is back and banks are having to pay billions for
wrong-doings, should the rest of us be worried?
WARREN: This week, five of the world`s biggest banks pleaded guilty to
charges that they rigged the foreign exchange market for their own profit.
The banks agreed to pay a total of $5.6 billion in fines to a variety of
regulators including the U.S. Justice Department. Now according to the
plea deal a group of traders used secret chat rooms to collude on fixing
foreign exchange rates. They did this nearly every day for five years
manipulating one of the largest financial markets in the world. The
foreign exchange market sees 5 trillion, trillion with a “t”, dollars in
trading every day. And their cheating was brazing. They refer to
themselves as the cartel and the mafia. One vice president of Barclays was
quoted in the plea deal documents as saying, “if you ain`t cheating, you
ain`t trying.” Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the plea deal on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORETTA LYNCH, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The penalty that all of these banks
will now pay is fitting considering the long-running and egregious nature
of their anti-competitive conduct. It`s commensurate with the pervasive
hard that was done. And it should deter competitors in the future from
chasing profits without regard to fairness, to the law or public welfare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: This is the latest in a wide ranging international investigation
into manipulation on one of the world`s least regulated financial markets.
It`s also the latest evidence that Wall Street is back to its old shady
dealings or that it`s never changed its ways in the first place. A new
survey of more than 1,000 financial services professionals found that
unethical behavior is still pervasive. 23 percent reported personally
observing or having firsthand knowledge of misdeeds. That number jumps to
34 percent when looking only at those earning more than $500,000.
In the meantime, the Wall Street reforms designed to protect the economy
from a future crisis are being weakened bit by bit. In December, President
Obama signed a law that will allow big banks to use taxpayer money to back
up the kind of risky trade deals like derivatives that contributed to the
2008 crisis. The provisions attached to a must pass government funding
bill, undid a key part of the Dodd/Frank reform law. Their passage was a
victory for the financial services industry. Now, there are other signs
that Wall Street is bouncing back. Starting salaries at the major
investment banks for recent college graduates are up to $85,000 a year.
The first time the base salary has increased substantially in years. For
college grads in general, the median starting salary is about half of that.
So, it seems like Wall Street has recovered, but the question is what about
the rest of America?
Joining the table are Mike Konczal, fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and
co-author of the report “Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy.” And
Scott Gamm, correspondent for the street.com. and Mike, I want to ask you
first, are we back to where we were seven years ago?
MIKE KONCZAL, FELLOW, ROOSEVELT INSTITUTE: Wall Street is back. It is
about as large as where it was before and it`s about as profitable as it
was before. You know, the activities it`s engaged in are different. It
seems like there`s a lot less mortgage dealing, but there are a lot of, you
know, the shady things that we`re seeing that people are genuinely worried
about. People are worried that the consequences for these actions, the
finds are big headline number, aren`t robust enough or broad enough to
really change the behavior inside these firms.
WARREN: So, Scott, you cover the Street. Is there a sense on Wall Street
itself that Wall Street is back and is the culture any different there
before the crisis or even after the crisis?
SCOTT GAMM, REPORTER, “THE STREET”: Well, let`s put this in perspective
just a little bit. These foreign exchange, these crimes that we`re talking
about, we`re talking about 20 traders here. So yes, these are bad apples,
but compared to Wall Street overall, you know, these 20 traders really were
responsible for bringing down this department. But, you know, I wouldn`t
necessarily say that Wall Street is back to the old shenanigans that they
were reportedly to be up to before the crisis. So, keep this in mind that
we`re only talking about 20 bad apples here across all of Wall Street.
WARREN: So, Bob, I`m wondering about the deterrence effect of this.
Right? So, the DOJ has these guilty pleas, they have the fines, will this
be enough to stop the banks from engaging in antitrust violations or any
other kinds of unethical behavior?
HERBERT: Zero deterrence effect. The fines will be seen as a cost of
doing business. I mean the thing that strikes me about this behavior, even
though it was a small number of individuals, is that it gives the lie to
this idea that there`s some kind of free market. The market is rigged.
And the fact that the market is rigged in most cases legally is the reason
why the folks at the top are doing so well and everybody else is
WARREN: So Rinku, I`m going to switch gears a little bit here and talk
about Kansas. Because Kansas recently passed a law that limits people who
receive welfare benefits to only taking out $25 at a time, no more than
once a day. And between that, between the president signing a watering
down of Dodd/Frank, it`s hard to feel like policymakers are on the side of
the people versus on the side of the banks. Am I wrong about that?
SEN: No, I think you`re right about that. And if you just consider in
this particular situation, it will be a miracle if any of these people
actually goes to jail, if anybody actually does prison time. They`ve got
billions in fines, but they made billions in profit. So I think in the
context of this discussion we`ve been having about crime and policing, it`s
really obvious whose crimes we consider to be really bad. Stolen cigars,
carrying a switchblade, those are crimes that can get you killed, whereas,
in this case negatively affecting the currencies in the economies of poor
countries around the world gets you – will get you no jail time.
And I think that we`ve seen the racial wealth gap continuing to grow, the
wealth gap grows in general, it is racialized and grows along ethnic lines.
The Pew Research Center reported that the gap between white wealth and
black wealth went up between 2010 and 2014. Went up by like five
percentage points. So from it used to be eight times white people have the
wealth of black folks and now it`s 14 times. So, those kinds of trends are
what is causing fast food strikes, what`s causing retail workers to
organize around the country, what is causing local communities of workers
to demand $15 an hour. And those are the kind - those are the places where
we really need to pay attention and make structural change.
WARREN: We are going to come back to that. But I want to ask Mike about
what you said in terms of wealth inequality. Because Mike, there`ve been
lots of studies released over the last couple of weeks, including one of
your own. This week the OECD released the study and found that in the U.S.
the average income of the top ten percent was 19 times higher than that of
the bottom ten percent. But in the U.S. the top 10 percent owns around 76
percent of all net wealth. The financial crisis has exacerbated the
concentration of wealth according to the report. So, talk to me about what
inequality does to our country.
MIKE KONCZAL, FELLOW ROOSEVELT INSTITUTE: Yeah, I want to go back for one
quick second. You know, it`s a big thing about mass incarcerations, if
you`re convicted of a felony, you can`t vote, you are denied government
service, many government services, you`re denied many professional careers.
Before this settlement went through, they obtained waivers saying that they
would not be excluded from any kinds of financial activities, which
normally comes with these things. So it`s a radically different kind of
criminal conviction. And, you know, that`s the rules of how those things
are set up and those rules percolate into massive political and economic
inequality. You have a situation where the finances doubled its share of
the top one percent. You know, when we talk about the growth of the top
one percent, we`re really talking about finance, we`re talking about CEOs.
We`re talking about workers particularly in the last 15 years really being
And, you know, these are a series of choices. They`re a series of the way
the financial rules have been set up and crucially as we are seeing here,
the way the financial rules are being enforced that then, you know, amplify
these kinds of built-in inequalities.
WARREN: More on this when we come back. Up next, the latest front in the
fight for 15.
WARREN: This week Los Angeles City Council voted to raise the minimum wage
for workers to $15 an hour by 2020, that is a $6 increase in just five
years. One union-backed study by UCLA researchers estimated that such an
increase will affect more than 700,000 people. Nearly 40 percent of all
workers in the city. Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country
making this perhaps the biggest victory in the campaign by unions and
others to increase wages for the lowest paid workers.
Also this week, an estimated 2,000 people protested outside the corporate
headquarters of McDonald`s during the company`s annual shareholder meeting.
They demanded a $15 an hour wage and the right to unionize. So Scott, let
me come out to you first and ask you what`s Wall Street`s reaction to
raising the minimum wage in L.A. And are there other ways, maybe more
effective ways to raise wages for low-wage workers?
GAMM: Well, look, I think wages obviously have remained very weak for
quite some time. And we`re seeing average hourly earnings rise in the area
of two percent every year. Yet, of course, inflation is at about 1.8
percent. So, those two are really not working for most of the middle
class, but I think the concerns with raising the minimum wage are putting
restrictions on small businesses who provide the bulk of the jobs in the
country and there are concerns that if you raise the minimum wage you`ll
see more layoffs in that space. Of course, there are studies that show the
opposite. But, you know, I think Wall Street is obviously looking at this
from a shareholder point of view and they`re trying to maximize value for
their shareholders. And so, if they see costs rise, that`s, of course, is
going to force them to kind of makeup that revenue in other ways.
WARREN: So, Mike, talk to me about the opposition, talk to me about the
studies. Who is hurt by a higher minimum wage? What do we know?
KONCZAL: Well, let`s talk about who is helped. We know that`s going to
affect about 30 to 40 percent of the L.A. workforce. They`re going to see
a substantial raise, about 20 to 30 percent, so it`s big. These are not
affluent teenagers. Teenagers maybe about three percent of the people
affected. These are - I think the median age of the majority of the wage
people are going to gain is about 33. Overwhelmingly people of color. So
this really does help people who have seen, as Scott brought up, their
wages decline or be stagnant for a generation. The industries impacted are
industries like temp work, health care, restaurants and retail. So, these
are restaurants - these are industries that really need to be close to
where the action is, right? You can`t just move it across the border to
outside L.A. in the same way as you could for some businesses.
WARREN: These are sticky, sticky industries that cannot move. It is not
mobile capital. It`s what we like to call sticky capital.
KONCZAL: Absolutely. So, it is a big raise, but it is over a long period
of time. But it`s going to fall on a lot of businesses that at the end of
day this may be - is going to be one percent of operating cost. Real
estate prices are more than they are going to swamp this as an actual thing
on the bottom line.
WARREN: So, Bob, something Mike says rings a bell. And I know you have a
thought on this. Because you said this what affect mostly workers of
color. So, should minimum wage fights be seen as a racial justice issue
and should it be framed in that way?
HERBERT: It is more than that, but it is a racial justice issue. But, you
know, as I`m thinking about we were talking about the banks and the high
rollers and that sort of thing and inequality. And it may not be obvious,
but there`s a direct link between that and what we`ve been seeing in places
like Ferguson and Baltimore, and that sort of thing. These are communities
that have not had enough jobs that are not making enough money, where
despair prevails in many cases and eventually you get frustration. Because
inequality is a destabilizing factor in a society. It`s the main reason.
And what we`re seeing now is that it`s not just low wage workers any more,
but the middle class that`s being affected by it.
WARREN: Rinku, L.A. City Counsel, that`s public policy change to increase
wages. There`s also corporate policy change. And I want to look at what
Facebook announced last week. They announced a package of changes for all
of their employees, so the benefits include a $15 minimum wage. Minimum 15
paid days off for holidays, sick time and vacation, for those workers who
don`t receive paid parental leave, a $4,000 new child benefit for new
parents. These other benefits, are they as important as wages for workers?
SEN: I think they are as important, actually. I think the time that you
get to spend with your family and the quality of life that your family can
have based on how many jobs the people in the family are working, that`s
really critical. In about a month Race Forward is going to be releasing a
series of educational materials around racial and gender discrimination
actually in those industries that you just mentioned, restaurant, retail
and domestic work. And one effect that we can see of the constriction
around wages and benefits is that particular kinds of people get trapped in
particular kinds of jobs and the mobility that we all should be able to
expect from our labor and from our participation in the economy is simply
not there for communities of color. So hopefully the local minimum wage
changes will lead to look at the federal minimum wage. I think that`s what
the movement is really after ultimately. And I think that consumers are
actually perfectly happy to pay that one to two percent more in
restaurants, for example, so that people can get paid a living wage.
WARREN: So my thanks to Mike Konczal and Scott Gamm. Rinku Sen and Bob
Herbert will be back in the next hour.
Up next, the newly released video connected to the death of Army Sergeant
James Brown. And women on television, from “Game of Thrones” to
“Supergirl.” More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
WARREN: Welcome back. I`m Dorian in for Melissa.
I want to bring you some breaking news. A judge in Cleveland, Ohio, has
announced a not guilty verdict against Cleveland Police Officer Michael
Brelo. Brelo was charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter in a
shooting death of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in November 2012.
Police engaged in a high speed car chase of Russell and Williams after they
thought a gunshot came from their car. But authorities now believe the car
simply backfired. When the car came to a stop, 13 police officers
unleashed a hail of 137 bullets.
Officer Brelo was accused of jumping on the hood of the car and firing
straight down into the windshield. Brelo could have faced up to 22 years
in prison on the manslaughter charges. We`ll bring you the latest on this
as it develops.
Now we turn to the story of Sergeant James Brown. Twenty-six-year-old Army
Sergeant James Brown listened in El Paso, Texas, with his wife Rachel,
stepson Armani and daughter Jelaya (ph). He served two tours of combat
duty in Iraq.
In 2012, the active duty Fort Bliss soldier self-reported for a weekend
drinking and driving sentence at the El Paso County jail. He reportedly
informed the jail in writing that he`d been diagnosed with post-traumatic
stress syndrome. For the next day, Brown called his mother, Dinetta
Robinson Scott, and asked her to pay his court fine in lieu of jail time.
But by the time his mother reached him, Brown was in a hospital. By the
end of the weekend, he was dead.
What happened to Sergeant James Brown? The family is now searching for
Now, nearly three years later, vital information released has been obtained
– about this case has been obtained by El Paso TV station KFOX. A video
revealing Brown`s last moments in custody.
The video shows a jail personnel talking to Brown through his cell door
saying he wanted to get Brown treated for a cut. When Brown refused to
respond a team in riot gear stormed the cell. Upon being subdued Brown
repeatedly in distress said the words, “I can`t breathe. Help me, I`m
choking on my blood.”
He was sedated by injection. We`re going to show you portions of that
video first obtained by KFOX. I want to warn viewers first that the
footage is disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES BROWN: I can`t breathe. I`m choking on my blood. Help me. I`m
choking on my blood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
BROWN: I`m choking on my blood! I need water. Please, take it off. Take
it off. Oh, man, dude, please, take it off!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: The decorated army combat soldier was ultimately taken to the
University Medical Center where he was officially pronounced dead on
Sunday, July 15th. Autopsy results cited natural causes by a cycle cell
crisis. We invited Sheriff Richard Wiles of the El Paso County Sheriff`s
office on the program.
He declined but a spokesperson issued to us this statement agreeing with
the autopsy. He said, in part, “Mr. Brown`s death was an unfortunate
tragedy. The sheriff`s office has conducted a thorough review of the facts
surrounding Mr. Brown`s death and based upon all the evidence obtained
determined that his death was caused by a pre-existing medical condition.
The specific evidence cannot be discussed because of pending litigation.”
Nearly three years since Brown`s death, his family is still left with
lingering questions about the circumstances seen in this video. The family
is suing the county of El Paso for damages and wrongful death. Their
federal civil trial begins in October.
Joining me now, Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos, and
Rinku Sen, executive director and president of Race Forward and publisher
And joining me from Seattle, Washington, is Sergeant Brown`s mother,
Dinetta Robinson Scott.
And before we talk to Ms. Robinson-Scott, I want to talk that during the
course of this introduction, we had the audio feed of the program to her
cut off so she would not have to listen to the sound of her son.
Good morning, Ms. Robinson-Scott.
DINETTA ROBINSON-SCOTT, MOTHER OF SGT. JAMES BROWN: Good morning, Dorian.
WARREN: I first want to offer our condolences and thank you for your son`s
service on this Memorial Day weekend, and ask you, what is the work that
your family is now doing and what is the justice that you seek?
ROBINSON-SCOTT: Now we are seeking that the guards that did this to my son
be held accountable and accept responsibilities for their actions. We are
also in the process of trying to get legislation changed so that these
policemen will be trained how to deal with military personnel that suffer
Also, that the military take a more role – a bigger stance when it comes
to their personnel being held in city, county, federal facilities that they
will be walked through the process with military assistance. Also that
their investigative team be more active instead of just taking what the
county has said as their investigation, that they do a thorough
investigation. Also that mental health be available for these soldiers
that are suffering from PTSD.
WARREN: Ms. Robinson-Scott, have you seen the video yourself?
ROBINSON-SCOTT: No, I have approximately seen four seconds of the video
and I cannot bear to watch any more than that.
WARREN: Can you tell us what`s been the response of the El Paso County
ROBINSON-SCOTT: Nothing. We`ve heard nothing from them except for the
false statement that Sheriff Wiles has made.
WARREN: According to your lawyer, B.J. Crow, you are suing El Paso County
under the Americans with Disability Act with PTSD as the disability and
suing for wrongful death and damages, and the violation of your son`s civil
rights. El Paso county has responded to your lawsuit saying, quote, “The
county has insufficient information to determine the truth of the
allegations under the heading factual background and deny that the death of
Mr. Brown was caused by a constitutional deprivation, wrongful death or
personal injury caused by the county.”
You had mentioned before about the military. And I`m wondering, does the
military need to adopt some new policy procedures in regards to their
soldiers being held in custody by an outside agency?
ROBINSON-SCOTT: Yes, they do. They should have been on the scene with him
from the very beginning. Had they been there, I don`t think it would have
been allowed to be escalated to the point that it was escalated to. It was
very apparent that those guards weren`t able to deal with the situation,
and they just escalated it to an adverse level.
WARREN: Why it is important to you that the public sees this video?
ROBINSON-SCOTT: Because they need to be aware that this goes on and that
our soldiers need to be protected. And I want this to never happen to
anyone again. No one should have to suffer the way that our family has
suffered over the last three years.
And I feel that each institution each county should be held accountable
when they are housing our soldiers. I honestly don`t believe that they
should house them. I believe that should be a military responsibility.
WARREN: Bob and Rinku, in watching the video, James said that he can`t
breathe. And it`s impossible not to be reminded of Eric Garner whose death
was also captured on video and who also stated that he couldn`t breathe
before his death. I`m wondering how important is it to understand Sergeant
Brown as part of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as a movement
around our veterans?
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: The first thing that strikes me is in some of these
cases what happens to the humanity of the individuals who are inflicting
this kind of deadly force when it`s obvious that something has gone so
haywire? That`s why it`s so painful to watch it.
And it seems that it`s linked up to the Black Lives Matter thing in the
sense that it seems clear that in these cases the lives don`t matter, or in
the news break, for example, where the police officers fired 130-some times
into the car, or in Cleveland where they killed the 12-year-old boy, you
know, a couple of seconds after a cop gets out of the car – it means that
they don`t thing these lives matter.
WARREN: Ms. Robinson-Scott, how do you want your son to be remembered?
ROBINSON-SCOTT: I want him to be remembered as someone that served his
country, that served two tours in Iraq to protect our freedom and our
rights. I want him to be remembered as a hero, as a father, a husband and
a son that fought for his country.
WARREN: Thank you to Dinetta Robinson-Scott in Seattle, Washington.
And here in New York, thank you to Bob Herbert and Rinku Sen.
Up next, an MSNBC original report. Seema Iyer is here with the story of
two prices, one more men and another for women.
WARREN: Over the years the wage gap between men and women has narrowed,
but it still persists. And overtime, it can add up to major losses for
women. Estimates cited by the White House say that the average American
woman could lose up to $420,000 over her lifetime because of the earnings
Now, in an effort to highlight the disparity, a traveling pop-up shop has
introduced an unusual pricing model. Men and women pay different prices.
Seema Iyer host of “The Docket” on Shift went to Pittsburgh to report.
SEEMA IYER, “THE DOCKET” ON SHIFT (voice-over): In Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, funky new bars and art galleries are taking root in this old
industrial steel town. We went to a pop-up shop that`s part arts and
crafts haven, part political statement. And it`s inspired by a
discriminatory practice many say belongs in the past.
(on camera): OK. So, I`ve got the honey. What are the honey prices?
ELANA SCHLENKER, LESS THAN 100: They`re $12 for men and $10 for women.
(voice-over): The wage gap – everything in the store has two prices, one
for men, one for women. The men pay full price, the women, they pay 76
percent. That`s because women in Pennsylvania earn on average 76 percent
of what men make according to a study by the Institute for Women`s Policy
Across the country, that number is 78 percent, which means women take home
thousands of dollars less than men per year. And now, one woman is taking
SCHLENKER: It`s common sense to want people to be paid equally and fairly,
and that`s why I`m doing this.
IYER: We went shopping at 76 is Less than 100 founded by graphic designer
Elana Schlenker. I wanted to see how much their knickknacks would cost me
if I were a man. And how much they would cost me if I were just me, a
(on camera): This is ridiculous. Men aren`t going to be buying these
SCHLENKER: No, they might buy those for woman that they know.
SCHLENKER: Or they might wear earrings.
IYER: Right, exactly. I don`t know that, 20 for men, 16 for women.
(voice-over): Now, I don`t know a whole lot about art.
SCHLENKER: Angel`s bass (ph) is 70.
IYER (on camera): That is $70? Come on.
(voice-over): But I do know a deal when I see one.
SCHLENKER: OK. So the full price total would be $320.50, and for you,
IYER (on camera): Wow. So, it`s almost $100 in savings.
(voice-over): But is this feminist Robin Hood-esque approach even legal?
I love getting a discount, but fair is fair. Does this practice count as
price discrimination against men?
SCHLENKER: This is an arts project. There`s some leeway in that. But if
someone has an issue with this or says that they want to pay the 76 percent
if they`re a man, that`s fine with me.
IYER: And the items in the store, Elana only sells items created by female
artists like Lenka Clayton, who somehow got 100 married couples to make
pairs of mismatched shoes from tissue boxes, champagne corks.
LENKA CLAYTON, ARTIST: This is made from silk.
IYER (on camera): Wow, that`s gross.
CLAYTON: It`s really poetic.
IYER: And gross.
CLAYTON: You choose between the materials that people choose.
IYER: What if you had a male artist who was equally passionate and
enthusiastic about the project and supporting wage equality? Would you let
them be a part of your shop?
SCHLENKER: I would think about it. Maybe if the content of the work was
related to feminism or wage equality. But I`ve certainly worked with men
to put the shop together. Whatever I can, just in the spirit of the store,
I thought it made sense to work with women.
IYER: Would you describe yourself as a feminist?
SCHLENKER: You know, I – yes, I would, but I think, you know, in terms of
this project, I don`t think you have to be a feminist to think that – to
feel that people should be paid equally and fairly.
IYER (voice-over): So how many feminists can we find in Pittsburgh?
(on camera): Do you think the girls in your class should make the same
amount of money some day as you do?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think everybody should be paid equal.
IYER: Jimmy, do you think it would be discrimination to sell these
beautiful halo look alike atomic roll at 70 percent of the price and her
gentleman friend at 100 percent of the price?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, I think since the young lady is so beautiful.
IYER: Now, you`re being sexist on top of everything else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I was not. I think she should get it for free and
I think my good friend here should pay double because everything has its
price and beauty is one of those things.
IYER: Have you gotten any negative feedback from this project?
SCHLENKER: I`ve certain gotten a lot of interesting online criticism.
IYER: OK. So, we`re going to go through some e-mails, can we?
IYER: All right. Let`s do that.
IYER: OK. Elana, what about the e-mail that says your discrimination is
SCHLENKER: Well, discrimination is gross. That`s the whole point. People
are saying this isn`t fair. Yes, neither is women being paid less than
men. So yes, it`s pretty gross.
IYER (voice-over): The pop-up shop has moved on and will reopen in New
Orleans in November where it will be renamed 66 is Less Than 100 to reflect
Louisiana`s median wage gap. If Pittsburgh was any indication, Elana`s
shop will open up in more parts of the country or at least until the wage
gap is closed.
WARREN: And Seema joins me now.
And, Seema, I`m wondering, did you have a chance to talk to any of the male
customers and I`m wondering how they –
IYER: Obviously, I went to Pittsburgh to get some dates. So, of course, I
talked to the guys. Yes, all the men were so –
WARREN: All of the men, 100 percent of men.
IYER: Every guy I talked to was supportive. And not only that, Dorian, we
went on the street and that was way far from the shop, even those guys were
saying, where is this store? I want to go. So everyone agreed about the
wage gap, and wanted to do something about it.
WARREN: OK. So, how does the store owner decide where to open these pop-
IYER: Well, Elana has some roots in Pittsburgh. Her boyfriend`s from
there. So she was exposed to the community.
And, Pittsburgh, which is surprising to all of us, has this burgeoning arts
industry, a lot of supportive groups in terms of getting funding and
grants. So, she saw the opportunity there. She had this support so she
WARREN: And New Orleans is next.
IYER: New Orleans is next, and the world after that.
WARREN: Thank you to Seema Iyer.
And remember, catch Seema on “The Docket”, Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m. on Shift
Still to come this morning, Beyonce and Nicki, Taylor, and Selena, and yes,
that “Super Girl” thriller.
But up next, “Game of Thrones.”
WARREN: I want to issue a note of caution that this segment might be
triggering for sexual assault. That`s because we`re talking about HBO`s
megahit fantasy series, “Game of Thrones,” which has been no stranger to
controversy over its depiction of sexual violence against women.
The show, watched by more than 18 million viewers each episode, is based on
George R.R. Martin`s book series in which an epic struggle for power the
often played out through violence and sex in the fictional world of
In the past seasons, the show`s creators have opened themselves to
criticism with their decision to insert scenes depicting the rape of female
characters where those scenes play differently in the books.
And in this week`s episode, another of those scenes involving the sexual
assault of a beloved character in the final minutes of the show has some
fans saying enough. In the scene, Sansa Stark, a teenager in an arranged
marriage, is raped by her husband while another male character is forced to
The scene was the final straw for fans like Missouri Senator Claire
McCaskill who tweeted, “OK, I`m done `Game of Thrones”.” She went on to
add, “Gratuitous rape scene disgusting and unacceptable. It was a rocky
ride that just ended.”
And the Mary Sue, the self-proclaimed site for feminist geek culture,
declared that after the scene, “We will no longer be promoting HBO`s `Game
Reactions to the episode have been strongly polarized, with some defending
the show runner`s decision to include the scene, like one of my guests
today, who writes of the scene that, quote, “I think it`s important to
preserve the distinction between saying something simply isn`t for me and
drawing a more definitive conclusion that something is a poor artistic
Those words are from Alyssa Rosenberg, culture columnist for “The
Also here is Janet Mock, host of “So Popular” on Shift by MSNBC. Chloe
Angyal, senior columnist for Femnisting.com and opinion columnist for
“Reuters”, and Sonia Saraiya, television critic for Salon.com.
And, Alyssa, I want to come out to you first, because you talk about this
distinction between the show`s depiction of sexual violence and this scene
ALYSSA ROSENBERG, CULTURE COLUMNNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Absolutely.
WARREN: Between as what you wrote, what isn`t for you and what is a bad
artistic choice. So, which is it?
ROSENBERG: I mean, I think it`s important to understand how people view
“Game of Thrones.” If you`re watching this as sort of an epic fantasy with
dragons and great quips and wonderful character acting, then scenes of
sexual violence may seem like something that`s foisted on you, that
characters are put in there as juice drama. And I totally understand that
I come at it somewhat differently. I`ve always understood Martin`s novels
and the HBO adaptation as a story about what it`s like to live in an
intensely violent sexual culture. I realize this is a bit nerdy. So, give
me a second to go through it.
The conflict in the series literally starts from a historical instance of
rape. One character kidnaps the other. It`s presumed that he sexually
assaulted her. Her fiance uses that as an excuse to start a war, during
which rape is used as a weapon in the conflict.
And so, for me, it`s impossible to separate out the events of “Game of
Thrones” from this story, about living in a sexually violent culture.
That`s a super grim thing to turn into as your Sunday evening
entertainment. If that`s not something that you expected or want to spend
time in, I completely understand that.
Not every show is for every person. But to me, the argument that the scene
was gratuitous seems a bit odd because this is a core theme of the show.
This is a core subject of the show. And so, it`s not being added on to
juice ratings, to juice drama. It is the subject matter.
WARREN: OK. So, Sonia, I know you`re a fan of the show and you`ve written
about this. What was your take on the choice to include this scene?
SONIA SARAIYA, SALON.COM: Well, I mean, I agree with Alyssa on a lot of
the points that we`re talking about, which is that this is a show that uses
this as a device. It`s a show that is trying to say something about it.
I`ve gotten to this point at this point in the show where I just don`t know
what the show is trying to say about rape and about women who live in this
culture. You know, we have had at this point, three major characters who
have experienced sexual assault in a very violent graphic way on screen in
a way that doesn`t happen in the text. And it`s not like we have to, you
know, to get nerdy for a second, not like we have to stay with this.
But like who is that for? That`s my question. I don`t think – I
personally do not think that the “Game of Thrones” show is making these
scenes – is building these scenes and saying we really want survivors of
rape to watch this and feel represented. You know what I mean?
WARREN: OK. So – but this is my issue. Chloe, I want to turn to you. I
don`t watch this show because it`s too violent for me as a general matter
and I was forced to watch it last night as my homework.
And I`m just wondering, you know, we`re seeing beheadings, men being burned
alive, we watch someone`s head be squeezed until it explodes. So, what is
it about –
WARREN: It`s so violent. Talk to us about why you think the depiction of
sexual violence here is such fraught territory particularly for a show with
such extreme violence generally.
CHLOE ANGYAL, FEMINISTING.COM: So, it`s important to note this isn`t the
first time that viewers casual or otherwise are walked away from a series
because of the series` use of sexual violence. We saw it happened on
“Downton Abbey” with Anna Bates, and we saw it happened on “Scandal” with
the Millie Grant plotline.
And what`s interesting about those shows is that like “Game of Thrones”,
those shows had used sexual violence before but those particular instances
got viewers to a tipping point. So, I think it`s interesting to sort of
scale back and ask, what is it about this moment that constitutes a tipping
point? Is it because we like Sansa Stark? Is it because we watched this
actress essentially grow up on screen in front of us?
I mean, Olivia Pope`s consent was violated repeatedly, but it was the rape
of Millie Grant that really set people off. Lady Mary`s consent was
violated. It was the likable Anna Bates that really was the tipping point.
So, I think there`s a larger conversation here to be had about what kind of
victims we find sympathetic and what kind of violence we find unacceptable.
WARREN: So, just – I just want to point out that according to Nielsen, 42
percent of “Game of Thrones” are women. But since you brought up
“Scandal”, Janet, I want you to get in here, because we saw some backlash
from a “Scandal” episode, in which as Chloe mentioned, First Lady Millie
Grant was raped. There was an extended storyline of rape of a character on
“Private Practice”, also a Shonda Rimes show.
How do you think these scenes were handled on those shows? And does it
make a difference to have a woman behind the camera and writing the story?
JANET MOCK, SO POPULAR: I think for sure, a woman directing and running a
series would change the way in which it was told. I know for Shonda Rimes,
she told “New York” magazine that it was to highlight what happened and why
Millie is the way she is, why she`s protective of this marriage, why she
keeps secrets, why she`s traumatizing in different kinds of ways. She said
it was not to make her more likable as a character, that was antagonist on
I also think about Joan on “Mad Men” and one that really traumatized me a
lot was Dr. Melfi on “The Sopranos”. And that was one of those things, I
watched the show from the very beginning, and seeing that scene, I was so
connected where I was not connected to Sansa because I didn`t know her
storyline, but what was bizarre on that show was the close-up of the guy
who was forced to watch, as if being forced to watch this was worse than –
a greater pain or outweighed the trauma of –
WARREN: Of Sansa.
We have to go to break. I know, so much to say about this.
After the break, I want to ask my table about the new face of up, up and
away. CBS` super cool trailer is flying high but also has some critics
super-peeved. That`s next.
WARREN: For TV insiders, May is an exciting time because it`s a month when
television networks traditionally schedule their up fronts. Think about
fronts like a coming out party which networks reveal which shows made it to
their primetime and lineups. The events are so named because trailers of
the shows are unveiled to tantalize advertisers into paying up front or an
advance of air time before the start of the fall season.
These days, those thrillers are also released online to the rest of us get
a sneak peek too. And this week, one of those thrillers has caught the
attention of more than 10 million people around the world.
Jason Lynch at Adweek reports that the 6 1/2 minute trailer for
“Supergirl”, CBS` most recent foray into the superhero genre has surpassed
the viewer numbers for all of CBS, ABC, NBC and FOX`s up front trailers
combined. It`s got everything fans love in a super hero show – action,
daring rescues, villains and, of course, a cape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not playing around saving people in this thing.
Where is my cape?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Capes are lame. Tell your cousin I said so. Actually,
never do that.
A cape aids with aerodynamics. They should have taught her that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: But the trailer also features a storyline that appears to be
straight out of a romantic comedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a conference in Geneva and I need to be there
in an hour.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a blind date in a half and an hour, and I need
you to help pick up what to wear.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you do this to me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I`m your sister and you love me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: And scenes like have inspired criticisms from fans concerned that
the fall lineup only shows starring a female superhero might be too much
girl talk and not enough action.
So, Sonia, I want to come to you first, because we know that Clark Kent
story also features a clumsy alter ego struggling to be successful in love
and work. Is there something different going on here with “Supergirl”?
SARAIYA: I think so. I mean, she`s not superwoman. She`s “Supergirl”.
Which I think has been a major observation by a lot of people watching the
You know, super I don`t know, Wonder Woman is right there. That`s sort of
what I think, when I think of this, is that – I mean, you know, a lot of
the audience for shows like this, including the CW has the flash and arrow
which are also in the DC comics universe. They`re shows for teens, yes,
then I can see how maybe that`s one of the reasons.
I guess it just reflects to me – I know, I`m optimistic. I hope
“Supergirl” is great. But it reflects to me that the way we all feel
comfortable seeing our super-powered women on TV is like in this particular
WARREN: So, I want to play another sound and, Chloe, get you to respond.
This is another shot or excerpt from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Shouldn`t you be called superwoman?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think is so bad about girl? I`m a girl.
And your boss, and powerful and rich and hot and smart. So if you perceive
Supergirl as anything less than excellent, isn`t the real problem you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: OK. Chloe, so it seems like the show is trying to get ahead of
the criticisms about the girl question, but so what that it`s girly?
ANGYAL: That is the rant that launched a thousand women v. girls debates,
like we haven`t rehashed that enough with Lena Dunham sure.
Look, women, girl, I don`t care. I don`t think it`s necessary to set up an
either/or. I do think it`s interesting that little tirade is coming out of
the mouth of Calista Flockhart who most people remember as Ally McBeal, the
patron paint of fraught `90s feminism and debates over what feminism has
become in its later iterations.
I also want to push back a little bit on the kneejerk rom-com antagonism.
I study rom-coms, they`re dear to my heart. And I also have many, many
problems with them. They are deeply flawed, cultural artifacts, like all
cultural artifacts. I think a lot of the kneejerk sort of rom-com
antagonism comes from misogyny, right? These are products that are made
for women by women and almost always about women.
So, when we sort – when we automatically criticize rom coms, we should
check ourselves and ask just because it`s about women or girls in this
case, does it mean it`s necessarily bad?
ROSENBERG: Just my campaign for a she-hulk romantic comedy, please? It
would be the best thing. I can`t begin to tell you.
WARREN: So, Janet, I want to get you in here because social media has
allowed Hollywood to get instant feedback from the public about –
particularly gender disparities in Hollywood. And the ACLU recently called
for state and federal agencies to look in gender discrimination, sex
stereotyping, implicit bias in Hollywood.
And I`m wondering if getting the government involved is what it`s going to
take to get really systemic changes in terms of Hollywood`s systemic
inequities, getting more women behind the camera, more women as writers.
MOCK: I think the visibility of the case will push people to start talking
about it more. But it would really push people to actually make this a
larger issue was the releasing of the salaries that kind of happened
through the Sony hacks. That really pushed a lot of women to kind of
rally. Patricia Arquette`s kind of speech, all of that, brooded in this
But I think this is a story about representation specifically. I think
that because there are so few super heroines, we police and scrutinize
Ssupergirl and Black Widow in ways we don`t do the Hulk.
ANGYAL: We`re all riding on this to be everything to everyone. And it`s
the same for women comedians in lots of other areas where women are
But I also think, you know, the question of policy change, the last time
that Hollywood made a huge shift in representation, they did so on their
own accord. The production code in 1930s, which was basically self-imposed
censorship, and they did that because there was the threat of government
intervention. And they said, we`d rather handle this ourselves rather than
having the government tell us we can and can`t say, we`re just going to
agree these are the standards we`ll stick to for representation.
WARREN: I just want to point out, 1941, the creation of Wonderwoman
created by a man but explicitly as a feminist character.
ROSENBERG: Well, created by a couple, a married couple.
WARREN: Yes, a couple, but Dr. Marsten (ph). Anyway, people can Google
Wonder Woman and find the history.
Up next, Beyonce and Nicki, Taylor and Selena, they`re proving that girls
run the world.
WARREN: This week, three of music`s biggest names dropped new videos that
became instant viral hits among their massive legions of fans and reminded
everyone of exactly who are the bosses in the world of pop music.
During Sunday`s Billboard Awards Taylor Swift released a new video for her
single, “Bad Blood”, in which she delivers her own vision of what girl
power looks like. And the video, as sci-fi, spy mini-movie that broke a
record for 20 million views in 24 hours on the site Vevo, Swift cast
herself and a few other women as action heroes.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
WARREN: Meanwhile, Nicki Minaj`s Barbie and Beyonce beyhive fan bases
declared their collective devotion to the Barb-hive after the two artists
showed what it looked like when two of pop`s powerhouses are, you know,
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
WARREN: All right. Janet, that video, I`m feeling myself right now.
OK. So, all three of these women are part of an ongoing dialogue, Beyonce,
Taylor Swift are self-avowed feminists. Nicki Minaj hasn`t embraced the
title necessarily but her most recent album was cited for its feminist
I`m wondering how you see these artists advancing a feminist message with
these latest visuals.
MOCK: Well, I think that “Feeling Myself” is an ode about self-love and
girlfriendship. And I think that girlfriendship and sisterhood is a big
tenet, a pillar of feminism.
And I think that what Beyonce has been very explicit about it. Taylor has
been explicit about her journey towards feminism, right, linked through her
friendship with Lena Dunham who was cigar boss in there. We don`t know
what she was doing in that 18 cameo filled four minutes of a Michael Bane
girl fight, I guess, it felt like.
So, yes, I think that seeing these women kind of – I think that`s what`s
interesting is that Beyonce and Nicki and Taylor are all in front of this
pop power charge of girl power that I think I haven`t seen since Spice
ROSENBERG: This girl power needs a better action choreography. “Bad
Blood” is a terrible music video. It`s complete rip-off of Britney`s
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
ROSENBERG: In so much as it`s girl power, it`s girl power that is two
girls getting together their posses and tearing each other apart. It is
antagonistic, it`s visually apocalyptically terrible.
UNIDENTIFIED: It`s all hyped.
SARAIYA: People embodies their action star status in a model way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Impractical shoes.
ANGYAL: I think people have reached superhero action movie parody when
women action heroes get to wear practical footwear which they could
feasibly kick ass. No one is going to be able to kick ass in that kind –
ROSENBERG: And they can punch without looking like they`re worried about
smearing each other`s makeup.
ANGYAL: I think that`s very interesting. So, Taylor and her posse spent
that whole sequence practicing with weapons. A little bit of martial arts,
mostly with weapons.
When the final moment comes and the fight actually happens. It is a
catfight. They grab at each other`s hair.
WARREN: OK. You mentioned martial arts. I have to play another video
released this week by another of the country`s most powerful women. Let`s
take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Number one, get my workout
in every morning before heading in the Oval Office. Two, drink up. Three,
take the stairs, when Secret Service lets me take the stairs.
POTUS on board.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: So Michelle Obama, the first lady, released a video in response to
that where she`s engaged in martial arts and all sorts of things. She`s
planking. She did all sorts of things.
So, has she remade the mold of what it means to be first lady of the United
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First of all, the meaning to be active, period.
First of all, who jump ropes, boxes, lift weights with a full face of
makeup, doesn`t break a sweat. I can`t believe her.
ANGYAL: In those Taylor Swift shoes.
ROSENBERG: You know what? She`s going to be out of office by the time the
Black Panther movie comes out. Maybe we can get her in (INAUDIBLE). I`m
WARREN: All right. So much more to say. Thank you so much. Don`t go
Up next, he won more than $300,000 taking on took on the competition of the
game show “Jeopardy”. Now, he`s taking on nerd culture.
WARREN: The answer: he has been called a hacker, a thug, a mad genius and
the “Jeopardy” villain.
The question: who is Arthur Chu?
Last year, after an 11-game run on the game show “Jeopardy”, Chu, a former
insurance compliance analyst won close to $300,000 and wound up as the
third winningest player in the show`s history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX TREBEK, HOST: In 1814, this VP from Massachusetts for whom a
political term is named, died in office having served less than two years.
ARTHUR CHU: Who is Jerry?
TREBEK: That`s pronounced Gerry, but Elbridge Gerry.
CHU: Well, the gerrymander.
TREBEK: I know.
TREBEK: One of those weird things about our language. Go again, Arthur.
CHU: (INAUDIBLE), $800.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: Arthur`s appearance on “Jeopardy” garnered attention on social
media with people frowning on unorthodox strategy and picking on his dirty
stylings. Arthur was not deterred by the haters. Instead, he responded to
his critics online and kept himself in the limelight. In that space,
Arthur has been using the power of his words to highlight how toxic nerd
culture has become.
Since we here on MHP are members of Nerdland, we decided to bring Arthur on
to discuss the state of nerd culture today.
Joining me now from Cleveland, Ohio, is Arthur Chu, who is now a freelance
Good morning, Arthur.
CHU: Hi. Thanks for having me.
WARREN: Thanks for joining Nerdland. And we`re wondering, were you
prepared for how the “Jeopardy” experience would change your life?
CHU: I was not. I mean, I didn`t expect going in that I would be that
successful. I just – I hoped to win at least one game, and take home
enough money to make it worth my while.
The whole thing happened in the space of three days and then afterwards, I
was like at home for the months before the show actually aired just
wondering what`s going to happen. And, you know, what was really
surprising to me was like people reacting that strongly and calling me up
for interviews when I was just like four games in, before I set any kind of
record because apparently I made that much of an impression on America, you
WARREN: So, you write about nerd culture. Why don`t you tells us how you
define that. What exactly is nerd culture?
CHU: Well, I mean, as someone who was publicly made fun of a lot on social
media for how I looked on TV and how I acted, you know, I`d say it`s the
self-defined culture of being an outsider in mainstream culture. The weird
thing being that things associated with nerd culture like being an
introvert, relying a lot on digital media, liking sort of fringe, you know,
subculture entertainment that`s become the mainstream. The mainstream
doesn`t really exist anymore.
So, it`s kind of hard to define what a nerd means in today`s culture.
WARREN: So, nerd can mean many things to uniquely brilliant to socially
awkward. Are nerds bad with people? And in particular, how does digital
life how to mediate and maybe alleviate the social awkwardness?
CHU: That`s the thing. Like we`re all nerds now, like I was weird when I
was a kid because I didn`t like to interact with other people face to face.
I would always be buried in a book or in a magazine or a newspaper.
And now, the common complaint is everybody does that, right? Everybody is
addicted to screens to looking at their phone, looking at their laptop
because it`s sort of like there`s a set of people who have been trying to
make mediated experience with the world more and more attractive.
You know, there are always some of us who found it easier to deal with
media than to deal with the world unfiltered. But, you know, social media,
the internet, digital platforms have made that kind of mediated experience
with the world more and more attractive and more and more convenient and
we`re all kind of shaped by that. So, I like to say, to the extent the
world is become more pathological, you know, it`s becoming more like I`ve
always been – puts people like me in an interesting situation.
WARREN: So, really quickly, I want to ask you – how can we improve nerd
culture, especially the racism and sexism within it that you`ve written
CHU: Right. I mean I think a lot of it is this idea that because you`re
awkward, because you`re a tough time dealing with people, you`re
automatically an underdog and this mistaken ID that means all the other
problems in society have gone away, and they haven`t. They`re still there,
just obscured, and a big part of what I`m trying to do is point out, hey,
people who are good with computers and like superhero movies are not the
underdog anymore. We`re normal and we have take responsibility for the
nasty things we do to others, for the racism and sexism.
WARREN: And on that note, I have to say thank you to Arthur Chu,
unfortunately, we`re out of time. Thank you to Arthur Chu in Cleveland,
Ohio, and here in New York, thank you to Alyssa Rosenberg, Janet Mock,
Chloe Angyal, and Sonia Saraiya.
Don`t forget to watch Janet on “So Popular”, Fridays at 11:00 a.m. Eastern
on Shift by MSNBC.
That is our show for today, thanks to you at home for watching. Don`t miss
my show “Nerding Out”, Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. on Shift by MSNBC.
And now, it`s time for a preview of “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT”.
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