Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 08/02/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question, why are we
still upset over the killing of Cecil, the lion?
Plus, the message of an empty chair.
And the big news about Joe Biden.
But we begin with the first debate of the 2016 campaign. Let “the hunger
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
There are 17 candidates in the race for the Republican nomination. That`s
right, 17. This guy, former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore declared this
week. Now you see, you may have missed it, but with 17 declared
candidates, the first Republican primary debate that will be held this week
is already being described as a bloodbath, a multicandidate melee. And,
you know, now that you mention it, it really does feel kind of like an all-
out fight to the death battle Royale. All the candidates enter and only
OK, they`re all leave but only one will win. You know what else is like
that? “The hunger games.” You see, you drop a couple dozen contenders in
the ring and see which one makes it out alive. Really, stick with me now.
Just like “the hunger games,” you have the careers, the well-funded odds on
favorites, the ones that have been training for this day their whole lives.
Yes. And you have the ones that will probably go down in the first couple
of minutes. Right. OK, and you see how it`s all about strategy? I mean,
how does your campaign team get you ready for the spotlight? What is the
persona that you will present to the public? What will you wear?
That`s right, the skills and assets of the tributes are assessed before the
games begin and assigned a point value, giving the audience a sense of who
is the favorite. Kind of like these early polls that not only give us the
lay of the land, but in the case of this first debate, determine who even
makes it on stage.
What do you do when the buzzer goes off and you`re in the arena? You can
hide, you can try to blend in and survive and not make any ugly headlines.
Try to get in one good kill. Or you can throw yourself head first into
that multicandidate melee and risk losing your own head right away.
You can create alliances, however tenuous. Team up with the others to
attack the strongest and improve all your chances of living to see another
debate. And then there are the threats. Vote for me or you`ll get stuck
with this guy. You know, like Catness and Peta threatened to eat poison
berries unless they were the victors.
So who exactly are the poison berries in this scenario? Yes, right. And
like “the hunger games,” the candidates who are the most entertaining get
the most help, right? In the games that shows little silver parachute
gives the food and medicines in the primary, it`s funding, its media
attention and you hope, its votes.
Now, of course, there is one crucial difference between “the hunger games”
and the Republican primary debates. Among the children competing in “the
hunger games,” there is a lot of racial and gender diversity, more than
among the Republican presidential candidates.
Joining me now is Robert Traynham, MSNBC contributor, former Bush-Cheney
senior adviser and VP communication for the bipartisan policy center, Farai
Chideya professor of journalism at New York University and Michelle
Goldberg, senior contributing writer for “the Nation.” Also joining me now
from Baltimore is Korey Johnson, senior at the University, youth
coordinator for leaders of a beautiful struggle and the 2014 cross
examination debate association champion, which is the largest debate
championship in the world.
Korey, I actually want to start with you because is there something that
actually makes a great debate in the space where you debate that might
actually improve this madness we`re about to see on stage on Thursday?
KOREY JOHNSON, LEADER, BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE: I definitely think that debate
writ large, especially the cross examination debate association type of
debate, the policy debate that we do, is very similar to the presidential
debate, very similar to, I would say, to being in “the hunger games.” I
don`t think that there is anything different about it. I think it`s very
cutthroat, I think that we`re in there to win, so I don`t think there are
too many differences. I think that`s very unorganized, I think it`s kind
of go with the flow. I think we stress a lot more communication theory,
especially with this upcoming presidential debate, especially with the
Republican Party. I think that there isn`t a lot of organization right
now, but I think that`s maybe where we differ a little bit.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, Korey, stick with us. I want to come on and ask
you, Robert. So, we are just kind of looking at the new polls, the new NBC
polls showing Donald Trump at 19 percent, Scott Walker at 15 percent, Jeb
at 14, Ben Carson at 10 and everybody else in single digits, just a crew of
them. And I guess, part of what I am wondering is if I`m a single digit
guy, right, so you know, so what is my strategy to build a coalition? Go
after, you know, the guy on top? Do you all pretend that Donald trump
isn`t there? What is the strategy in this case?
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So remember, this is a FOX News
debate, our competitor out there –
HARRIS-PERRY: Whose competitor?
TRAYNHAM: And you`re talking about Republican voters. So you do what Mike
Huckabee did, which you say something sensationalistic, Jews quote-unquote
“going to the oven,” in the context of President Obama`s Iran deal. You
say something that is going to be provocative to stoke the Republican base
and a FOX News debate.
Now, obviously, it hasn`t worked for Huckabee, but that`s what you try to
do. And what you also saw is Rick Santorum and saw the other people did
not condone those remarks. So therefore, they`re trying to, if you will,
stoke that debate to become relevant to rise up.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I guess my concern there, Michelle, it then creates this
per verse incentive. I mean, you know, Korey is talking about sort of the
madness of debate, but at least I feel like in the academic debate, there
is some substance goal.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, SENIOR CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NATION: Right. And
there is a sense of what it means if you have to win a point, right? To
win a point doesn`t just mean kind of can you say something the loudest or
say something the most outrageous. I mean, part of it is per verse
incentives of the media and FOX News, but it`s also the per verse
incentives of the Republican Party electorate, right? I mean, the way you
appeal to a Republican Party electorate is you do what Donald Trump is
doing, you do what Mike Huckabee is doing, you know. You kind of say that
you might use federal troops to shut down Planned Parenthood. You kind of
make a lot of racially, you know, kind of racial demagoguery.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I`m with you. And I hear you. And there is nothing I
would enjoy more than just like go in on FOX News and GOP, but I wonder
like is it really that they are somehow bad or awful or so you simply have
this incentive of 15 people on a stage, and you`ve got to make your voice
the one that is heard?
FARAI CHIDEYA, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: You know, I
just think that people in the Republican field made a huge tactical error
with Donald Trump and they`re going to pay for it. I am forgetting who
said this, but you may know. Someone made a remark that essentially said
that preparing for this debate meant preparing for a NASCAR race where one
of the drivers was drunk. And that to me describes what`s going to happen.
I mean, if Donald Trump goes on the attack, what do you do? Do you attack
him back or do you not? And I don`t paint all Republicans as the same. I
have many Republicans in my family, and they have different opinions from
each other, just as the democratic members of my family have different
opinions from each other. But what I`m saying is, this debate is already
going to be a cluster nutter because nobody neutralized the Donald.
HARRIS-PERRY: A lot of weird things already happened in the first eight
minutes of the show.
So Korey, I want to come to you for a second. I want to play a moment from
the 2012 debate. This is Governor Perry kind of making a moment that
people remember as a great debate error. I want to get your response.
Let`s take a listen to Governor Perry for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The third agency of government I
would do away with the education, commerce, and let`s see. The third one I
can`t. I`m sorry. Oops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, Korey, just from a pure debate perspective,
what happens when you have a brain freeze like that? When you are just
like you can`t, you know, remember the third agency of government that you
were going to shut down. Is there any way to survive to come back from a
moment like that?
JOHNSON: I think that there is a great moment to come back from that. We
mess up a lot in debate, but I think that going back to, you know,
Aristotle`s three proofs of persuasion within communication, maintaining
your ethos and your pathos and your logos say continuing to make logical
arguments, you know what I mean?
So, if you are messing up, if you are stumbling, even just taking you
breather and taking it is like and say, look – maybe not even sorry, but
that is not what I meant and kind of rebuilding your argumentation from
there and remembering to stay firm in your standpoint because if you don`t,
your entire argument could not be acceptable and you will convince no one.
HARRIS-PERRY: If I had a Nerd Land trophy to give, you would have just won
it with your Aristotelian of principles for debate.
And so, I guess, I want do Robert, to come to you on this, because, you
know, I think that`s our goal as Americans, right, is to imagine that in
the context of debate, what we`re getting is some sort of substantive
capacity to learn about and discern between these candidates, but like sort
of where we end up going immediately as a media table is it`s just going to
be, you know, a hot mess.
TRAYNHAM: I disagree with Farai on this. Here`s why. Because every
single debate that I`ve watched over the last 15 to 20 years, the
frontrunner always has a big target behind his or her back. Because Donald
Trump is the number one front-runner, if you will, I suspect that everyone
on is that stage, including the moderators are going to press him on
substantive issues. Hi, Mr. Trump. You know, if you are trying about
immigration, walk us through your policy, walk as through infrastructure,
walk us through Iran. And what we know about Donald Trump –
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s watch the Republicans doing to Mitt Romney who was the
big front-runner in the last election cycle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A timid Massachusetts
moderate who even “the Wall Street Journal” said had an economic plan to
intimidate resembled Obama.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mitt Romney`s plan is simply
JON HUNTSMAN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He criticized me while he
was out running money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if has record was so great at governor of
Massachusetts, why didn`t he run for reelection?
GINGRICH: I realize the red light doesn`t mean anything to you because
you`re the front-runner.
PERRY: And Mitt, we need for you to release your income tax so the people
of this country can see how you made your money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So they all come for Mitt, but the reality is Mr. Romney
goes on to become the nominee. It makes me wonder so do debates matter?
CHIDEYA: Mr. Romney is not Donald Trump, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: No! Only in the sense of being the front-runner.
GOLDBERG: And isn`t he is not really? I mean, I think he`s the front-
runner in terms of polls, but nobody actually thinks we live in such a
dystopian house escapes that Donald Trump is going to be the Republican
But I guess - and part of the difficulty is that Donald Trump`s following,
who I think is not kind as sustainable as Romney`s, the core of it is very,
very passionate. There was a really interesting story in Bloomberg
recently about a focus group of Donald Trump supporters. And the more the
other candidates attacked him, the more his followers soured on those other
candidates. The more it convinced them that they were just kind of
Washington insiders who couldn`t stand the challenge that Donald Trump
HARRIS-PERRY: So stick with us, everybody. We`ve got more on this. I
want to say thank you again to Korey Johnson in Baltimore, Maryland. May
the world look more like Korey, the world you just invoked for us on the
And up next, the big news about Biden.
But before we go, the victor of “the last hunger games” weighs in on this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve got some healthy
competition in the Democratic Party, but I`ve lost count how many
Republicans are running for this job. They`ll have enough for an actual
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: While the GOP field expanded to 17 Republican candidates
this week, there are reports that the Democratic list might grow by one,
vice president Joe Biden. Yesterday the “New York Times” reported that
vice president`s advisers have been meeting with donors to explore a
possible White House run.
Joining me now, NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker.
Kristen, how has the vice president`s decision here been potentially
impacted by the recent loss of his son beau?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think is
that certainly one important factor, Melissa. And I will get to more on
that in just a second.
But first, a little bit of background, as you pointed out, the speculation
first started with that “New York Times” report which basically stated that
vice president Biden is taking what the paper is dubbing a new look at the
The newspaper reporting and I`ll just read you a little bit, that Mr. Biden
quote “advisers have started to reach out to Democratic leaders and donors
who have not yet committed to Mrs. Clinton.
Now, as you say, one of the big factors could be Biden`s late son Beau who
passed away in May from brain cancer at age 46. He reportedly urged his
father to run before he passed and had consistently urged his father to
run. Now, the vice president`s press secretary, I was in contact with her
yesterday, she sent me a statement which read in part, quote, “as the Biden
family continues to go through this difficult time, the vice president is
focused on his family and immersed in his work,” so really downplaying the
But look, here`s a little reality check. Some of Biden`s key aides have
already been working with and helping Secretary Clinton now on her
campaign. Clinton, as you know, has gotten widely reported, has brought
support among Democrats and she`s polling really well. And Democratic
sources say Biden would really likely only consider running seriously if
Clinton would stumble in a big way, and of course that hasn`t happened.
Having said all of that, though, Melissa, and this is the really
interesting thing. If you talk to folks who know vice president Biden and
know politics, one thing is certain. Once you run for president, you`re
sort of bitten by that bug and it never goes away. You always have that
inherent desire to run for president.
So it is certainly true of vice president Biden as well. We understand
he`s going to be taking a vacation with his family at the end of the
summer, and then he will make a final decision. And look, he`s always said
publicly that he will make a decision and announce his decision at the end
of summer. So we`ll have to wait and see. But there is, of course, again
that reality that Secretary Clinton has broad support among a lot of
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that was true in 2008, too.
WELKER: That`s a fair point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Kristen Welker at the White House.
And up next, my panel is going to weigh in.
And still to come, the new political battle over Planned Parenthood.
HARRIS-PERRY: One democratic donor from South Carolina explained why he
wants to see vice president Biden run for the top job next year. He told
the “New York Times,” quote, “it`s not that we dislike Hillary, it`s that
we want to win the White House, and we have a better chance of doing that
with someone who is not going to have all the distractions of a Clinton
Joining the table now, my colleague Steve Kornacki, host of “Up with Steve
So when there is breaking electoral news overnight, I call on Steve
Kornacki. Is that a fair assessment that Biden might be a better general
election candidate than Hillary Clinton?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Well, I think we have
to be a little careful in assessing Biden`s political strength right now
because his poll numbers are basically an all-time high for him as vice
president. And a lot of that probably does have to do with the outpouring
of goodwill and sympathy in the wake of his son`s death. I don`t think
it`s a coincidence his poll numbers spike.
In terms of what`s going on here right now, I think there is two ways to
read it. I think it`s still very - it is highly unlikely at this moment
that Joe Biden is actually about to jump in this race. I think there is
two realistic possibilities there may be some overlap.
Number one is that Joe Biden at a personal level in 2009, 2010, and 2011
endured how many stories saying Hillary Clinton is about to replace him as
vice president, going to kick him out of the job that he really wants. And
so, there may be a little bit of tweaking it here, a little bit of payback,
a little bit of just pouring this out there and toying with it.
In terms of the actually getting in the race, I think the scenario that
gets Joe Biden in the race, it has to be a collapse on Hillary Clinton`s
part. It has to be something more than we`ve seen so far. If you he
played it out a few months, it could be this. Bernie Sanders wins Iowa,
Bernie Sanders turns around and wins New Hampshire. She`s lost the first
two states. Now Democrats are looking and they are saying Hillary Clinton
is a goner –
HARRIS-PERRY: He can`t wait that late, though, can he?
KORNACKI: That`s the thing. So it has to be something some other
revelation between now and Iowa, something like that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because he got to be in before Iowa.
TRAYNHAM: It could be Benghazi. She`s going to testify before the House,
I`m just saying. I mean, it could be that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I can`t believe you said that word.
TRAYNHAM: Well, I mean, she is going to testify this fall. It could be
also be some acquaintance, the emails stuff. It also could be perhaps
maybe some infidelities in her marriage. So, there`s some other things out
there I`m hearing from Democrats –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What? I think that`s baked in, right?
TRAYNHAM: Well, the question is –
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, we have to pause because I don`t really know that we
can just say that on TV so – not that there may be infidelities but that
we just presume it to be.
GOLDBERG: I think people have made peace with the fact that Bill Clinton
might be having affairs, right? I mean, anybody who is going to be
completely appalled by that and find that a deal breaker has already kind
of turned their backs from.
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me suggest this. So I hear you, but I think that
this is precisely what that South Carolina operative is suggesting there,
right? That needing to have this conversation is the thing that is the
potential weakening, but that said, I actually - I want to stay away from
that for a moment, because it does feel like there`s icky sexist residue
sitting on that for me. And I guess part of what I find exciting about a
possibility of a Biden run is just his proximity to President Obama. And
whatever else we know, we know that this president has successfully won
both of his campaigns, right, to run and win.
So I just want to listen very, very briefly to President Obama speaking at
Beau Biden`s funeral to Joe Biden, because it is a reminder of the close
personal relationship between these two men.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Joe, you are my brother, and I`m grateful every day that you`ve got
such a big heart and a big soul and those broad shoulders. I couldn`t
admire you more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me just say, yes, I know there is a thing between
Hillary and Bill, whatever, but my more interesting thing is the ways in
which there is a thing between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that goes
back to a previous time. And that Joe Biden, that`s not – he doesn`t
carry that, he carries – like, I`ve stood with this man through
KORNACKI: Well, if you think back to the very beginning, it`s so
interesting that the evolution of the Obama-Biden relationship, the very
beginning is –
HARRIS-PERRY: Clean and articulate.
KORNACKI: My old newspaper, the observer, says that. See, he went from
that to getting on the ticket. When they put him on the ticket it wasn`t
necessary that much trust there. It was more we need someone who can
appeal to the white working class voters, (INAUDIBLE) primary. But that
relationship has really grown in the last six and a half years to that
moment you just played at Beau Biden`s funeral a few months ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Steve, I want to go back here. For me the moment when we
shifted from Joe Biden says that Barack Obama is clean and articulate to
like, I see, these two are down with each other. For me it was in the 2008
debate when I was asking first Sarah Palin about what happens if John
McCain, for some reason, is no president, right, if they are elected. And
then she asked it of Joe Biden and this was his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: How would a Biden administration be
different from an Obama administration if that were to happen?
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: God forbid that would ever
happen. It would be a national tragedy of historic proportions if it were
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, there was like, no, no, I am not trying to think
about - no, no, I`m here for Obama. And I just feel like that will carry
CHIDEYA: Yes, you know, it does. I mean, he`s someone who – I mean, he
has not stepped out in front very often during the two terms, you know, one
and a half so far of the Obama presidency, and when he did, it was in a way
which some people read as strategic and others read as off the cuff on gay
marriage. And he actually helped President Obama lead.
So he is someone who, when he has stepped out from the president, has done
it to the president`s strategic advantage. So he`s proven himself a true
ally and a true friend to the president. But I think that the strategic
aspects of entering the race when money plays such an important part and
the donors have already been pre-massaged to line up with their candidates,
I don`t know that he can overcome that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Money is real, but the fun thing is I`m sure Leslie Nope is
sitting with great joy about the possibility of a Joe Biden run.
Thank you to our very own, Steve Kornacki. He will stick around and talk
Up next, those Planned Parenthood videos and what they could mean for the
HARRIS-PERRY: A series of sting videos targeting Planned Parenthood has
renewed the passion and debate around abortion, even helping to fast-track
a Senate vote that seeks to defund the non-profit Planned Parenthood. The
first video was released on July 14th, and since then three other videos
have been released. All were secretly produced, filmed and edited by an
anti-abortion group, and alleged that Planned Parenthood clinics is selling
tissues from aborted fetuses for profit.
The center for medical progress says it plan to release a dozen more videos
in the coming weeks and months. All four of the covert videos show a
similar format. Planned Parenthood doctors and officials are shown
speaking to people posing as buyers from a firm procures tissues for
In one video, Planned Parenthood official is talking about techniques aimed
at preserving fetal parts, as well as the costs associated with sharing,
collecting and transporting the tissue.
We`re going to show you a clip from one of the videos now. I just want to
warn you it does contain some graphic language.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I would throw a number out. I would say
it`s probably anywhere from 30 to $100, depending on the facility,
depending on the facility and what`s involved. .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The $30 to $100 price range, that`s per specimen that
we`re talking about?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Per specimen, yes.
So then you`re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers.
We`ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that,
so I`m going see if I can get it all intact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Cecille Richards is the president of Planned Parenthood
federation of America apologized for the tone of her stuff and the video
that we just showed. She also asserts that Planned Parenthood did not
break the law and to a larger issue is at stake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CECILLE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA: We
know the real agenda of organizations behind videos like this and they have
never been concerned with protecting the health and safety of women. Their
mission is to ban abortion completely and to cut women off from care and
Planned Parenthood and the other health centers. And we will never let
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, a
Democrat from New Jersey. Congresswoman, thank you for being here. Do you
said that those are tough for those in the reproductive justice movement to
address, and so I have really appreciate you being willing to be here and
to address it. What do you see when you watch those videos? What is it
that you think is the (INAUDIBLE) this is occurring?
REP. BONNIE WATSON-COLEMAN (D), NEW JERSEY: First of all, I think this has
been a whole environment of eliminating, reducing, making it more difficult
for women to have access to a safe abortion. I think that Planned
Parenthood has been a target and a deflection.
First of all, Planned Parenthood, the majority of its patients have
wellness, prevention, all kinds of other screenings, cancer screenings.
They have sexually transmitted infections screenings and treatment, things
of that nature. And all the federal money that Planned Parenthood gets
goes to that kind of health care. And the people that Planned Parenthood
takes care of are people who otherwise wouldn`t have access to health care.
And so we`re not just talking about women and their access to a safe
abortion. We`re just something that has been discussed, determined and
stamped decades ago. We`re talking about actually having issues with
access to health care. I think it`s a Republican deflection. I think it`s
a right wing extremist deflection.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to be careful about putting - I mean, so we`ll talk
as we go forward about the ways in which Republicans are now using, making
use of these videos to talk about defunding Planned Parenthood. That said,
it`s not the Republican Party that who sent out these folks to take these
And so, part of what I`ve been kind of battling with myself is everything
you`ve said about Planned Parenthood here is true. The extent to which the
medical services, the health care provision is the vast majority of what
happens. But I also feel like, OK, we also must contend with what we are
seeing here. So even if they are poorly edited – so I`m wondering, is the
issue here about the fact that a shaming has been used to talk about this
medical procedure in a way that shaming is not used to talk about other
kinds of medical procedures. I`m trying to figure out why we find it so
difficult to just talk about this thing.
WATSON-COLEMAN: Well, first of all, using a tissue specimen has been very
helpful in research – Alzheimer`s disease, HIV, other diseases. So we
know that there is medical necessity in being able to examine and research
and use tissue. So let`s put that aside. So what is the purpose of this?
The purpose of this is to further the extremist`s perspective that they`re
all pro-life, pro-life until the baby is born, then hello-goodbye, you
know. So this is just really part of their sort of extreme views as it
relates to a woman`s right to choose. And you know what? I think it`s
also a reflection of the few women that exist in positions to be able to
impact these policies and these decisions.
HARRIS-PERRY: A California judge banned more of these videos from being
released and yet they`re still releasing them. I wonder if there is – and
as they`re releasing them, you know, obviously there is kind of this
growing anxiety around it. Some folks using black lives matter language to
actually talk about reducing the capacity of women and women of color to
have access to safe and legal abortions and using, again, sting videos in
ways that we have almost come to think of like the body camera videos being
used from police stops, and there does seem to be a kind of odd parallelism
that is being described between black lives matter. It is fascinating to
me to watch that happen in our public sphere.
WATSON-COLEMAN: It`s fascinating to me that in this day and age, we are
dealing with any of those issues. It`s fascinating to me that this is a
very unique period of time, and I`m wondering what the historians are going
to say about it 50 years from today, but it is a period of polarization, of
hate, of extremism, my way or the highway. It is ideologically based
without any logic, you know. It is a gotcha period. I got you, I will use
whatever I can to perpetuate my myth as opposed to showing it as it truly
There is nothing even in the videos that says that Planned Parenthood is
doing anything illegal. Even some of the interviewees said, we are a non-
profit. We`re not trying to profit from anything. But research has its
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, the politics of it all. There may be a lot more at
stake here when we`re talking about the future of Planned Parenthood.
HARRIS-PERRY: Republicans want to strip Planned Parenthood of federal
funding. Planned Parenthood receives about $500 million in public funding.
But says the majority of it comes from Medicaid reimbursements for specific
services which the Senate bill won`t affect.
Planned Parenthood says the federal funds go to women`s health services
such as contraception, surgical cancer screenings and testing for sexually
transmitted infections. They do not fund abortion. On Friday, the White
House threaten to veto on any bill that defunds Planned Parenthood.
Back with me is Robert Traynham, Farai Chideya, Michelle Goldberg, and the
congresswoman from New Jersey Bonnie Watson-Coleman.
So Michelle, what is at stake in this moment of talking about the defunding
of Planned Parenthood?
GOLDBERG: Well, two different things. I mean, obviously, it`s hard for me
to believe that Democrats will actually ever cave or Obama will actually
ever cave. And then I guess you can imagine that they will shut down the
government and kind of continue – refuse to pass these continuing
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that a good strategy for Republicans right now to shut
down the government over Planned Parenthood?
GOLDBERG: It depends on where they`re thinking strategically. I mean, in
terms of the primary, it might be very well be a good strategy, right? And
there are a number of people in the Republican base who are absolutely
demanding this and saying that they will rule out supporting anybody who
doesn`t go along with it. And it`s another way in which the Republican
Party is hostage to the extreme of their base. Because I don`t think it
plays well in the general election.
And then beyond that, where I think that you are going to have that Planned
Parenthood has some real challenges is in the states when, you know, these
Republican-dominated states that are already launching costly
investigations that even if Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong just
to defend themselves in these investigations is going to take a lot of
money and a lot of resources.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you look at the Gumacher (ph) poll, I mean, the
Gumacher (ph) information about the state restrictions, state level
abortion restriction, you just see this huge spike that occurred.
GOLDBERG: Right. And that`s already been happening. We`ve already seen a
lot of defunding. My guess would be that we will see a lot more. And
again, you know, once you kind of start being able to subpoena people, it
becomes this fishing expedition that can just be used to kind of torment
this organization for years and years and years to come.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me play some sound of Republicans responding to these
videos that have emerged. And then I want to talk a little bit - get more
about what`s really at stake here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today, the U.S. department of
justice should open a criminal investigation into whether Planned
Parenthood nationally is a criminal enterprise breaking the law.
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Planned Parenthood is in the
business of providing abortion. And what we now know, they`re in the
business of selling babies` body parts like the parts of a Buick.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ve been fighting to defund
Planned Parenthood. I don`t think they should get taxpayer dollars, and we
got good news today. We are going to get a vote on this. The Senate will
vote on Planned Parenthood before we leave in August.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this, Robert, does not feel like a good faith fight to
me. And let me just say this. I think that there is a reasonable and
meaningful, moral and ethical public conversation to be had between people
about the thing that is abortion. I think that is an acceptable and
reasonable thing in a democratic society where people disagree. I think it
is different to say the department of justice should open a criminal
investigation into one of the country`s largest women`s health providers.
Like that feels like two very different kinds of things to me. And I guess
I`m wondering again, in the long term, whether or not this actually
constitutes reasonable public policy or political strategy for Republicans.
TRAYNHAM: Well, a couple things. One, let me just push back slightly with
Michelle. I don`t believe the government is going to shut down over this.
Senator McConnell is On the Record of saying no more government shutdowns,
if you will. However, I think this is a legitimate public policy
discussion because what we saw is what we saw in reference to that
undercover expose, whatever you want to call it, and that could be a rogue
individual, and it sounds like that person probably is –
GOLDBERG: No, no, those are highly edited videos. They`re not selling –
TRAYNHAM: No, no. Yes, they`re highly edited, but she said what she said,
regardless of whether it was edited or not.
WATSON-COLEMAN: But she didn`t say anything illegal.
TRAYNHAM: I didn`t say that. What I said was this is a conversation that
I think generally we should ask.
GOLDBERG: It is interesting that the conversation is not about fetal
tissue donation, right? If you really find this disturbing and you say
this is something that we have to put a stop to, then you have to kind of
change the regulations around fetal tissue donation, but nobody wants to go
there which to me is a sign that this is not good faith.
WATSON-COLEMAN: This is an attack on women`s rights. This is an
opportunity to weigh in on an issue that they can`t seem to let go. I`ve
only been in Congress since January, and I have voted against bills to
reduce a woman`s access to safe and secure and legal abortions ten times.
And they`ve been – these amendments have been attached to bills on the
environment, bills on disappropriations, bills on something totally,
HARRIS-PERRY: Like the North California motorcycle law.
WATSON-COLEMAN: Exactly. This is just sort of an illustration of they`re
getting out of the way and dealing with things they need to deal with, like
creating jobs, like education, like infrastructure, things that make this
economy and this country move forward.
TRAYNHAM: I don`t disagree with the congresswoman. Let me just say as the
only male on the table, I`m slightly a little uncomfortable because
obviously this is a woman`s issue. Now, as a pro-life individual, I have
very strong opinions about life or death, something that you discussed a
few moments ago.
But let`s put this in context. We`re responding to something that happened
not because the Republicans planted the story, not because Republicans were
pushing this issue, not because Republicans want to talk about this issue,
but the reality is –
GOLDBERG: They`re very much in concert with the center for medical
TRAYNHAM: What does that have to do with what you said?
GOLDBERG: I`m just making the point that you said it is not because
Republicans are pushing this issue. I`m saying actually Republicans were
involve in kind of orchestrating the whole out of this issue because it`s
exactly what they want to talk about.
HARRIS-PERRY: So why? So let me pause for a second. My question is why?
Why would this be the issue? I mean, so Michelle, is it because you`re
suggesting that it`s a kind of a primary base issue? Because I do find it
legitimately surprising that this is the issue that Republicans want to
talk about, even, again, outside the policy in a fewer politics way.
GOLDBERG: Here`s something I think is going on. Partly, there has been a
sense that Republicans have lost the culture wars, right? They`ve been on
the defensive on every single aspect of the culture wars. They`re
increasingly kind of apologetic and resigned about their opposition to gay
marriage. The one place where they are on the march on the ascendants
where they still have some energy is the anti-abortion movement. And the
anti-abortion movement has been key to Republican momentum since it rose in
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Representative Bonnie Watson-Coleman. The rest
of my panel will return in the next hour.
Before we go to break, some other news this morning. A manhunt is under
way for a suspect in the fatal shooting of a police officer in Memphis,
Tennessee. 33-year-old officer Sean Bolton was shot during a traffic stop
on Saturday night. He later died of multiple gunshot wounds. This is the
third time a Memphis police officer has been killed in four years.
Coming up, why are the winter Olympics going to a place where it barely
even snows? We`ll tell you when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week we found out where the winter 2022 winter Olympics
will be held – Beijing, China! Where almost no snow falls ever,
seriously. This is graphic made by the international Olympics committee
showing the planned ski routes in the mountain (INAUDIBLE) Beijing. These
pictures were taken in January. There`s no snow.
Joining me now, Dave Zirin, sports editor at the nation magazine and author
of Brazil`s “dance with the devil.” So, what`s up with this?
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, NATION MAGAZINE: We are holding the winter
games in a place where there is no snow.
HARRIS-PERRY: Where there is no winter.
ZIRIN: Where there is no winter. I mean, it`s like holding the rock the
bells concert in Provo, Utah. It makes no sense whatsoever. And you know
what? I thank them for doing this, because it is a perfect metaphor for
the international Olympic committee in the Olympics in the 21st century,
because they are the emperor without clothes. They are liars.
And one of the things they lie about is the idea that for the Olympics to
come to a place like China, which is an autocracy, the Olympics will
automatically make that country more democratic. Yet the opposite is the
case. When the Olympics go to democracies, they tend to make them more
autocratic. And China is a beautiful test case in this. Wonderful.
Because they just had the Olympics in 2008. So by that theory, China
should be undergoing a democratic flowering. (INAUDIBLE) where should be a
theme park of democracy at this point.
But the opposite is the case. Two hundred human rights lawyers have been
arrested in the last month in China. And in addition, the relentless
oppression of Tibet has gone on without a word. First of all, without a
word from the United States and the west because they want to do business
in China. And second of all, without a word from the International Olympic
Now, the only reason the Olympics are even in Beijing, a place I shall say
again, without snow, is because they really have nowhere else to go because
more and more countries are looking at the snake oil the ISC is selling and
saying, you know what? That`s not for us.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, does that mean we should be pleased that Boston is
rejecting their own 2024 summer Olympics bid?
ZIRIN: Well, first of all, let`s be clear. The people rejected of Boston
rejected the 2024 bid. Grassroots activists, people involved in the black
lives matter movement, people standing up to debt displacement and
militarization. People - viewers have never heard off. These are heroes
to me. People like Robin Jack and Jonathan Kohn and Caid, people who took
time off from their lives to do the grassroots work to make that necessary.
The elites of Boston, they went on a full corps press. They spent a
thousand to one to make sure the Olympics got pushed through. They got
Larry Bird and David big Poppy Ortiz to tell Boston that these Olympics
would be a good idea. And the people of Boston still said no.
The percentage – they couldn`t get below 50 percent disapproval for the
games. And so, the mayor Marty Walsh underwent the most shameless about-
face that we have seen I think in modern politics or ever in human history,
to go from being someone who said, we have to have these Olympics to
someone who is then saying, I`m shocked to find out that there might have
to be public spending to hold these Olympic games. It`s like, OK, dude.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So speaking of the Olympic games, what about the water
ZIRIN: This is so painful to me, because the water – let`s be clear for
listeners. Brazil is one of the richest countries on the planet. The city
of Rio is one of the wealthiest cities on the planet, and yet the
government in Rio and Brazil has entirely failed the environment.
Before we talk about the Olympics, that`s what we have to be clear about,
is that there is an environmental catastrophe happening in the waters
around Rio, and mainly it`s raw sewage that gets pumped into the ocean
Now, here`s another live foot forward by the Olympic planners in
conjunction with the IOC and Brazilian officials. They said, hey, we`ve
had this horrible sewage problem for decades, basically in 19th century
sewage system in the 21st century city. Here`s what we`re going to do
about it. We`re going to fix it for the Olympics.
Now, someone might say, gee, why don`t we just take the billions of dollars
and just fix it? Why do we have to fix it for the Olympics? And sure
enough, they haven`t fixed it for the Olympics. People who have been
training in these waters are already reporting vomiting, chills, fever.
One scientist tested the water and said there is not one body of water for
Olympic swimmers that is going to be clean in time for the Olympics. I
mean, it is an absolute sewage zone of waste.
And I was thinking about coming on the show and making a poop joke or two,
but I just can`t do it because it`s just not funny. Because I was like, I
wonder if I should make a poop joke, and then I looked at a picture with
thousands of fish because they`re all dead, and they`re going to be
swimming through dead fish. And I thought about our heroes and sheroes who
are part of that 10k water race in the Olympics, and they`re going to be in
that water for two hours swimming. It`s ridiculous.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dave, you got 20 second, my friend. One piece of good news
in sports this week. First woman coach in the NFL? What`s she doing,
what`s her job?
ZIRIN: Assistant like backer coach Jen Walter with the Cardinals, but I
have to give a shout out because I`m a D.C. guy, to Natalie Randolph, the
former head football coach at (INAUDIBLE) high school. Let`s remember the
trailblazers. Let`s remember all the women who stood in front of group of
very, very conditioned macho men and said, I am here to leave.
And you know what? My buddy, Mike Freeman, great sports writer. He says
Jen Welters is going to be an NFL head coach someday, and I`m inclined to
HARRIS-PERRY: I would be absolutely down with that. We will go see the
Thank you, Dave Zirin, in Washington, D.C.
And coming up next, the killing of Cecil the lion and why it makes so many
of us so upset.
Also the message behind the empty chair in “the New York” magazine cover
story. There`s more Nerd Land at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. While visiting
Zimbabwe in early July, Minnesota dentist and large game hunter Walter
James Palmer shot and killed a 13-year-old lion named Cecil. When Cecil`s
death was reported this week, the internet erupted. And while big game
hunting is in some places including parts of Zimbabwe popular and legal,
the specifics of this case have sparked international outrage. Cecil was a
major tourist attraction and something of a mascot at the Hwange National
Park with Zimbabwe`s largest game reserve. He was also part of an Oxford
University study on lion conservation, and was wearing a GPS collar needed
Despite this, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority says,
Palmer paid two local guides right around $50,000 to help lure Cecil away
from the protection of the park where hunting is illegal. Once out of the
park, Palmer shot the lion with a crossbow and stalked the wounded animal
for two days before shooting him dead. Palmer and his guide then cut off
Cecil`s head and skinned his body. Tuesday, Palmer issued this statement
that read in part, “I had no idea that the lion I took was a known local
favorite, was collared and was part of a study until the end of the hunt.
I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice
responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”
The Zimbabwe government says, it will look to expedite Palmer. And
Wednesday the two Zimbabwe men who helped him was charged of poaching the
lion. People around the world have demanded that the dentist be held
accountable. The yelp and Facebook pages that promote his dental
businesses have been inundated with threats this week. And an online
petition, Justice for Cecile has gained more than 900,000 signatures.
Jimmy Kimmel even joined the outrage for the heartfelt call for donations
to Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, STAND-UP COMEDIAN: The big question is, why are you shooting
a lion in the first place? I`m honestly curious to know why a human being
would feel compelled to do that. How is that fun? If you want to make
this into a positive, you can – sorry – okay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But amid the rallying calls for wildlife protection, a
reaction to compare the outrage of Cecil`s death to outrage over the loss
of Black Lives Matter in the United States. That outrage over Cecil comes
the same week that relatives of Cincinnati native Samuel Dubose buried
their beloved after a University of Cincinnati police officer shot him to
death on July 19th. The distress of Cecil`s fate came the same month that
Sandra Bland`s name was added to the going list of black lives loss in
police custody. So, for some drivers there seems to be a troubling empathy
gap. In responses to the killing of the lion, and the deaths of unarmed
Capturing this concern, feminist author Roxane Gay wrote for the “New York
Times” on Friday, “When people die in police custody or are killed by the
police, there are always those who wonder what the fallen did to deserve
what befell them. He shouldn`t have been walking down that street, she
shouldn`t have been more polite with that police officer, he shouldn`t have
been playing with that toy gun in the park. We don`t consider asking such
questions of a lion. We don`t speculate as to why Cecil was roaming the
savannah.” Gay concludes her thoughtful peace saying this, “Human beings
are majestic creatures, too. May we learn to see this majesty in all of
It`s tempting to compare reactions to the suffering and death of animals
and the suffering death of black people as though they are in competition
with one another and a kind of zero some gained for public attention. But
allow me to offer a somewhat different framing. The degradation of non-
human animal life and the acceptance of suffering and violence against
animals is deeply intertwined in the history of American racial violence.
You see, recall that North American slavery in the 17th and 18th century is
distinguished by its chattel element. New world slavery did not consider
enslaves Africans to be conquered persons, it rendered them as chattel,
beast of burden. And by defining black people as animals, as non-human
animals, American slavery removed any requirement to regard black persons
and bodies as within a framework of human rights.
In this way the American slave system degraded both black people and
animals. Equating black people to non-human animals was a practice that
continued after emancipation. It is in a picture of an Alabama store here
that you can see where the sign reads, “no negro or ape allowed in the
building.” When the abuse and oppression of an entire group of people is
justified, as acceptable, because they are defined as animals, it stands to
reason that the society believes the abuse and oppression are acceptable
ways to treat the animals and implies that all subjugated person and all
animals can be used in abuse at the will of those who are more powerful.
The effects are pernicious for both black people and for non-human animals.
With me at the table are Robert Traynham, MSNBC contributor and former
Bush/Cheney senior advisor. Farai Chideya, professor of journalism at NYU.
Frankie Edozien who is journalist and director of Reporting Africa program
at New York University`s journalism school. And former Ambassador John
Campbell, the Ralph Bunche, senior fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the
Council on Foreign Relations. Thank you all for being here.
So, let me just ask, are Americans actually more appalled by cruelty
against non-human animals than they against a person?
TRAYNHAM: Absolutely. You hear the outrage when a puppy dog was left in a
hot, you know, a car for more than an hour and then the Facebook and
Twitter just lit up in the whole nine yards. But to your point, when you
hear about an African-American male being pulled over or female being
pulled over because of a lane switch, there isn`t that sense about rage, if
you will. And, you know, I don`t know why that`s the case, but it is the
case, and clearly we need to have a critical thought process as to why that
is the case, our thoughtful conversation as to why that is the case.
FMR. AMBASSADOR JOHN CAMPBELL, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: It`s very
deeply rooted. The so-called three fifths compromise at the time the
constitution was ratified defined slaves as three-fifths of a person, in
other words, not wholly a person.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s feels to me like those, so I guess what I don`t
want miss because I think, you know, it`s almost too easy to just say,
where do you love dogs and lions more than people, rather than for me
saying that if you are a dentist who can go and work to take an African
lion out of its secure place to dominate and kill and do with it what you
please, that that is not unrelated to a history of slavery and colonialism
of black bodies also lured and then abused.
FRANKIE EDOZIEN, JOURNALIST: You know, for me I feel that this outrage of
American half to Cecil, I think it`s a great thing because it shows the
pillage of Africa by rich Americans. I think people are saying, you know -
HARRIS-PERRY: By a dentist!
EDOZIEN: By a dentist, by a dentist! You should know that I had enough
money to help the Africans who live under pressure, attacked by these
animals very often and have no medical care. I am all for the anger for
Cecil because there is a deeper thing that we can be doing with this
moment. Africa has been raped and pillaged by rich people, including
American dentists, for a long time. For this guy to go over there and kill
this lion and then disappear. He says he didn`t know it was collared,
that`s fine, but he could have told the authorities, look, I did something
bad, but he disappeared and he came home. If Americans want to be outraged
of that, I am happy with that because now we can connect that to rape and
pillage of my continent.
CHIDEYA: Absolutely. And what I would say, my father who was deceased was
from Zimbabwe. I was just there in May and the unemployment rate is
staggering. So I understand why the men who were arrested for poaching
would have an economic incentive to do what they do. I`m not justifying it
HARRIS-PERRY: But you understand what the incentive structure is.
CHIDEYA: You know, to give an example, many people in my family have gone
four months without being paid for their work. They`re hanging on because
they don`t want to be unemployed but there`s widespread delays in salary.
And people are literally farming and doing other things to live because
they cannot rely on being given the wages, you know, by public employers or
private ones. And China –
HARRIS-PERRY: And they`ve been the once who are being arrested, right?
CHIDEYA: Yes, the African men of course have been arrested, but China is
investing heavily and taking the mineral wealth of Zimbabwe, the U.K. is
also investing. Everyone is going after the deep wealth in Zimbabwe and
Zimbabweans are seeing very little of it except those who control power.
And you know what`s great about this? Is that this doctor was aware of the
economic situation in Zimbabwe. This dentist knew when he flew into
Victoria Falls that these people are really having trouble, there is more
that he could do with his $50,000 other than leering a lion out and helping
just two people to kill a trophy and bring back home. There is much more
he could have done with his wealth and his expertise and his medical
expertise. No one whoever goes to Zimbabwe just goes in there and not
understand what`s going on around you. It`s not a paradise for people,
people are struggling over there, and his money could have done a lot
better than just going to kill Cecil.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or so, is in that context in the extradition request a
CAMPBELL: I mean, it`s absolutely a reasonable one. There is an
extradition treaty between the United States and Zimbabwe. Presumably the
Zimbabwean government will formally request extradition, though the
Zimbabwe and embassy in Washington says that he`s not yet received
instructions. When that happens, it`s going to pose a number of important
difficulties for the United States. For one thing, it`s going to involve a
judicial process. I would assume that the dentist`s lawyers will argue
that conditions in Zimbabwe in jails are inhuman. And, indeed, there was a
fairly recent report by a credible human rights organization to that
effect. There is also the question about whether the court system in
Zimbabwe can provide a fair trial. But if we do not do extradition, which
finally will be up to the American courts, then one has to anticipate that
Zimbabwe will be less than sympathetic to our requests for extradition of,
say, drug traffickers.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this becomes an actual question of international public
policy as a result of this moment of so-called sport.
Stick with us, because when we come back, I want to dig further into this
and really ask not only about this connection between human suffering and
non-human animal suffering, but why is it that we care more about the
suffering of some kind of animals than others? Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: The killing of Cecil the Lion has prompted a social media
outpouring, sadness, anger, despair. From people across the world, Cecil`s
name quickly became a Twitter friend as the uproar over the lion, stat
became stronger. And when conflicting reports emerged alleging that
Cecil`s brother Jericho was illegally shot and killed by another hunter at
4:00 p.m. local time yesterday, #Jericho begin trending on Twitter in the
U.S. Sparking a new wave of emotion on social media. An Oxford University
Research are tracking Jericho and the local wildlife conservation group
confirmed that Jericho is at least as far as we know right now actually
still alive and well based on GPS data.
Still, the outpouring of emotion illustrates how attuned we are to the
suffering and abuse of certain animals. So why visceral, emotional
connections to lions like Cecil but not necessarily to other animals? So,
this became quite a conversation at Nerdland yesterday as we talked about
how we all feel about Aslan from Narnia, and how we all feel about the Lion
King, and how even everyone`s in a while, a pig like, you know, Babe the
pig can give us these feelings about, but, man, we will eat a chicken all
day and step on an ant. I just wonder about this kind of antiphimore
fizing (ph) that we do of some kinds of animals.
TRAYNHAM: Well, contra does that, like if you go to a major theme park,
there are some pandas or some lions and so forth that have their own
personality, if you will, and it`s commercialized. And so therefore we
have some type of an emotional connection to him or her. I mean, look at
Miss Piggy. I`m serious. And look at Kermit the frog. And so, we feel
like we know these people or they`re not people, but –
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. But that`s exactly what we do, we turn them
into people. So now Cecil is our guy, and Cecil has a brother, and we`re
worried about Cecil`s family.
TRAYNHAM: That`s right. That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And like they`re just, wait, and I guess part of what I`m
trying to figure out is, is this a good that then allows us to transfer
this empathy, this sense of humanity to, in fact, a broader humanity, or is
it a bad that keeps us only interested in the morally neutral land of non-
human animals because we don`t want to deal with the messiness of humanity.
EDOZIEN: Well, I think in terms of the big game, this has been marketed
for a very long time. In Southern Africa, they have five animals that
poachers have given names to, and they have called them the big five, as
you would know in Zimbabwe. It`s the rhinoceros, it`s the African
elephant, it`s the leopard, it`s the buffalo, it`s all these animals that
are so big. And we have to go kill them and now we`re trying to save them
and we give them names. And the big five, we love the big five. We have
to go to Africa and see the big five before we come home. And so, we feel
like we`re doing something because these big animals have names, and
they`re big and they`re scary, but if you kill them, you have them as a
We don`t name the chickens that we eat, we don`t name the turkey at
Thanksgiving, we don`t have that affinity for them. And so, this has been
going on for a long time in terms of marketing these animals without
marketing the social that comes with that, the responsibility that comes
with the people that these animals live with.
TRAYNHAM: And that we should co-exist with these animals.
EDOZIEN: Exactly. And that is what`s happening in Africa, we co-exists
with these animals. We don`t treat them as if they are better than us, but
we don`t treat them particularly special. They`re there and we`re here.
And so we don`t name them generally. I mean, the naming of Cecil has come
from outside forces.
EDOZIEN: You know, these are the big five so we`re going to call this one
Cecil because he has a beautiful black mane which is quite lovely.
EDOZIEN: But, you know, I have cats at home, I have names for them. But
cats that live outside, I don`t name them. I don`t have a connection with
HARRIS-PERRY: My director is Australian and was saying that Americans are
just culture imperialists because we don`t like that they eat kangaroo. I
say, how can you eat kanga and roo? And he`s like, no, it`s like, it`s not
a big deal. We eat the kangaroo. They`re around everywhere.
CAMPBELL: With particularly lions, outside Africa, lions are often taken
as national symbols. The lion rampant of Scotland, the lion of flanders,
the three lions that are on the coat of arms of England. They become the
embodiment of national strength.
HARRIS-PERRY: Of a big and majestic –
CAMPBELL: Big and majestic. In the middle ages, an entrepreneur, this is
during the days of bare baiting, set up lion baiting. He was promptly
arrested by the government because dogs attacking a lion was attacking the
majesty of the crown of England.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is that extension that you hear from the animal to
the person. I want to listen for a moment – President Obama was, of
course, on the continent of Africa in Kenya and was talking about one of
the – in this case, the elephants. I just want you to listen for a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Our country is also close partners
in the fight against poachers and traffickers that threaten Kenya`s world
famous wildlife. The United States has banned already on the commercial
import of elephant ivory. I can announce that we`re proposing a new rule
that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across our state lines which will
eliminate the market for illegal ivory in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So this is coming in the context of the president
being very critical of a variety of governing structures in Kenya and in
other parts, and yet the animal piece became part of it.
CHIDEYA: Yes, and recently in New York there was also an ivory destruction
day where there were all of these, you know, trinkets made of ivory and the
point was to destroy them because it`s very hard to distinguish. Because
technically you can possess antique ivory but not new ivory, but it`s very
hard to distinguish between it. But to return to, you know, your earlier
point about what animals we pay attention to, I think we have to pay
attention also to domesticated animals.
CHIDEYA: And so John Oliver, on his HBO show, had a really great section
on how agri-business is really destroying chicken farmers by manipulating
them into treating the chickens badly.
CHIDEYA: These farmers don`t necessarily want to treat the chickens badly,
but they often have very restrictive contracts that say, you must keep the
chickens indoor, in the dark 24 hours a day. And there are agri-business
restrictions that are forcing farmers that ordinarily would prefer to have
free rage chickens or at least a less restrictive environment. So, we have
to look at –
HARRIS-PERRY: What we do to chickens in this country is really among the -
- it`s just horrifying.
CHIDEYA: It`s awful how horrible the situation is and our own complicity
in that as well as in the global wildlife market.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And if you get to know a chicken at all, you actually
will care about chickens. They`re lovely find creatures and I keep trying
to convince my husband James to let me keep chickens in the backyard. So
that was my little pitch for that.
Okay, thank you to former Ambassador John Campbell and the rest of my fave
are going to return later in the program. Still to come, the continuing
allegations against Bill Cosby and the empty chair.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the news this morning, a wing fragment believed to be
part of a missing Malaysia Airlines jet is at a military an aviation lab in
France for analysis. In the meantime, searchers continue to sift through
the coastline of Reunion Island where that fragment was found looking for
more debris. Earlier today, there was some police activity when an object
was removed from the coastline for examination. A Malaysian official later
told the Associated Press, it has been determined that the object is not
related to the missing jet.
And in other news, President Obama is wondering how astronaut Scott Kelly
is handling life in space. The President tweeted, Hey @StationCDRKelly,
loving the photos. Do you ever look out the window and just freak out? To
which Kelly replied, “I don`t freak out about anything, Mr. President,
except getting a Twitter question from you.” Astronaut Kelly is spending
about a year aboard the International Space Station. The long stay will be
the first time scientists will compare a space traveler`s health with that
of a person`s identical twin on earth.
Up next, Nerdland friend Elon James White is back to talk about the empty
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, New York magazine published an issue in which 35
women came forward to detail their allegations against Bill Cosby. NBC
News has counted 36 allegations against the entertainer. And Cosby has
consistently denied all allegations of sexual assault and hasn`t been
charged with a crime. The woman`s accounts in New York Magazine`s spent
across 30 years of accusations and they are remarkably similar in the
details of what they say happened to them and how they survived after the
New York magazine senior editor Noreen Malone writes of the women`s stories
that they quote, “Function almost as a longitudinal study. Both for how an
individual woman, on her own, deals with such trauma over the decades and
for how the culture at large has grappled with rape over the same time
period.” Although, all of the women had come forward previously with their
stories. New York Magazine we focused attention on the magnitude of the
accusations with this. All 35 women together, each of them sitting in the
same chair, staring straight out at the viewer from the cover of the
The cover was posted online Sunday night, it captured the attention of so
many people wanting to know the stories behind the faces of the New York
magazine went down for several hours. The cover took on a life beyond the
article when social media attention focused on a single empty chair in the
photo. New York magazine editors explained, quote, “That chair signifies
the 11 other women who have accused Cosby of assault but weren`t
photographed for the magazine. But it also represents the countless other
women who have been sexually assaulted but have been unable or unwilling to
Shortly after the image went up on line, this week in blackness, CEO Elon
James White took to Twitter to launch #TheEmptyChair prompting thousands to
continue the conversation around sexual assault on social media and
inspired some of them to contact Elon directly with survivor stories like
this one. I can`t share my empty chair story because I signed an NDA,
needed the money more than justice and he knew it. It was the first of
many such tweets Elon received and shared from his account.
And he joins me now from Berkeley, California. Nice to see you, Elon.
ELON JAMES WHITE, CEO, THIS WEEK IN BLACKNESS: Indeed, ma`am.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So talk to me about the #TheEmptyChair. What
has surprised you about responses to it?
WHITE: Well, it`s not so much that I was surprised by a lot of it. I
mean, we know for a fact that a lot of women don`t come forward, a lot of
people who are victims of sexual assault don`t come forward for various
reasons, it`s not being believed because there are families will tell them
they`re lying or just lots of different reasons. But what I was surprised
by was when I opened up my direct messages for people to send a message
in, I was surprised that hundreds of people wanted to share their stories
anonymously, that they wanted to get this out, get this off of their chest.
Some people would even send messages and saying that they didn`t need me to
share it, they just wanted someone else to hear it and just to be able to
say, like I admit it that this thing happened to me, and that was a lot.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. You know, I`ve read much of what you managed to
repost, and some of it also even had to do with people saying, I`m not sure
that at the time that it happened to me I could have defined it as such. I
want to play for a moment, and it come out to my table, but I do want to
play a little bit of sound here of Cosby`s lawyer talking with Thomas
Roberts about actually the definition of rape. So, let`s take a moment and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONIQUE PRESSLEY, BILL COSBY`S LAWYER: I agree with the definition of rape
and I also would say that as Mr. Cosby has said through his attorneys
numerous times, that is not what happened with him. He has vehemently
denied the allegation that he won without consent, gave anyone a drug, and
that he, two, without consent had a relationship or had sexual interaction
with another adult.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay, so let me come out to the table here for a second.
So, Michelle, you hear Cosby`s lawyer there saying, I agree with the
definition of rape and what Mr. Cosby did or didn`t do, and whatever we
heard from the definitions doesn`t constitute rape.
GOLDBERG: Right, and what`s amazing is that, you know, that may be what
has at least been a plausible line of argumentation before the depositions
were released in which he talks about giving women Quaaludes. I mean, at
this point it`s not just these 35 women who kind of, whose stories echoes
one another, he has basically confirmed it. I mean, you know, at this
point there may be arguing about kind of small nuances of the law in terms
of the sorts of punishment he`s facing, but the central kind of narrative
that these women tell over and over and over again to sort of devastating
effect, he doesn`t really – isn`t really in a position to deny that
TRAYNHAM: Well, in reality, he validates what these women have said over.
He said, and I`m paraphrasing here, I have a certain way of reading people.
I have a certain way of doing certain things. And the women kind of said
that throughout the story in terms of him using his power, if you will,
either subliminally or reactively just by saying, look, I`m Bill Cosby, I
can help you. He goes on to say, is that he did certain things when it
relates to drugs and so forth. In reality, he is the spokesperson here.
In reality, he is the person that is basically saying, yes, I`m guilty
HARRIS-PERRY: So Elon, I want to come back to this for a moment, because
obviously Mr. Cosby has not said, I am guilty, Mr. Cosby has not been
charged with a crime here. But there`s a thing I guess for me as a
survivor in part, this empty chair designates. And it is part of this idea
that 35 people across multiple decades could have such a similar story and
we still have such doubt. And I don`t mean legal doubt, which is
appropriate within the legal system, I`m talking about kind of the ways
that we socially talk about, you know, sort of our moral and ethical
capacity to believe so many people, and it reminds me that that chair is
empty because even when you have 34 other people telling the same story,
there is still so much doubt about it.
WHITE: Exactly. And it`s not – the big thing here that I learned from
reading so much from people writing in was that, not only was it that they
had this horrible thing, that this assault happened, not only did after the
assault happened they were not believed by people around them, and they
weren`t believed by the police. They were told literally at times not to
say anything. They were told they would be betrayed by their family, their
parents, their boyfriends. But in the end people just wanted to be
believed. They wanted to be able to say this and be able to say like, this
thing happened to me, this horrible trauma happened to me and then have
people go, I believe you.
HARRIS-PERRY: This isn`t your fault. You did not bring this down on you.
And that`s what I believe a lot of the empty chair is about, it`s about the
fact that like we live in a society that refuses to believe women or any
type of sexual assaults, people who are victims of sexual assault. To the
point where it takes 35 women, people to even pay attention to the fact
that one man was accused of all this, and even in the midst of that,
they`re still being called liars, they`re still being told that they`re
being controlled by puppeteers and something like that, and at this point,
women still can`t be believed and I`m not sure why that is.
TRAYNHAM: Is it kind of maybe like you`re innocent until proven guilty?
If you think about it –
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no –
TRAYNHAM: No, no, wait, whoa!
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me be clear. I think the answer to that is, no.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the reason I think the answer to that is no is because
if you watch the social media feeds, the same people who have a very clear
sense of the guilt of other people, who have even been exonerated within
the criminal justice system. So, let me just take the example of Mr.
Zimmerman who was tried and found not guilty and yet there is a sense that,
well, Zimmerman is guilty of this crime against –
CHIDEYA: Yes. People were calling him a murder when he is not a murder.
HARRIS-PERRY: When he is in fact not, as a legal definition, a murderer.
It will be the same people who say, we can`t really say anything about
Cosby because we don`t know. And I guess parts of what I`m saying is,
there are two different weights of evidence. One weight of evidence is
about the criminal justice system and we have to live with the realities of
what that is. Mr. Cosby has not been found guilty there. But the idea
that our public space can nonetheless adjudicate a certain kind of guilt
and innocence believability and not and willingly do so all the time, good,
bad or otherwise. And regularly fall on the side for women and
particularly for women who are victims and survivors of sexual assault,
that they are to be not believed, I think, is not actually about the
criminal justice system. I think it`s about something quite different.
CHIDEYA: Yes. I completely agree. And I think that there is many
different reasons for it. They`re unfortunately on the side of some women
is this idea of, if I believe it couldn`t have happened to her, then it
will never happen to me. You know?
HARRIS-PERRY: This for me is so powerful. I`ll come to you, I promise,
Elon, but that idea that part of our disbelief is self-protected.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because if you did something wrong to make it happen, then I
feel less vulnerable. Elon, let me let you in here.
WHITE: I want to be clear here. It`s not even about like people doing
something that have allow this to happen to them, like this is somehow
their fault. I believe a core aspect of this, especially around men, is
that for them to acknowledge what women are saying, for them to acknowledge
how women are explaining this situation about their assault. They would
then have to acknowledge whether or not they might have played a role in
someone`s rape in their own life, whether or not they didn`t listen when
someone said no, whether they used alcohol or whatever to inebriate someone
to the point where they couldn`t say no and then they could have their way
with them. To be able to actually sit here and acknowledge what women are
saying would be to acknowledge their own guilt in a lot of times within
privileged folks all across, they can`t do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Elon James White in Berkeley, Iowa. You are my friend. It
is nice to see you. Let me know when you`re back in New York. Here in New
York, Farai Chideya sticking around. Thank you to Robert Traynham and to
Up next, traveling while black. What it means to be an African-American
outside of America.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ninety-one-years ago today, American literary icon James
Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York. Baldwin, an essayist, a playwright
and novelist was a keen and critical observer of American, racial and
social injustice. And to influential, I mean, during works like “Notes of
a Native Son.” In his collection of essays “The Fire Next Time,” Baldwin
offered an unflinching look at the realities of Black Lives in America.
But in order to find the freedom in creative space to write his
observations, Baldwin believed he needed to watch from a distance. He left
the United States for the first time at age 24, arriving in Paris with just
$40 to his name.
In 1977 when he was returning from abroad to live once again in the United
States, Baldwin spoke to “The New York Times” about his expatriation
saying, “I had to leave. I needed to be in a place where I could breathe
and not feel someone`s hand on my throat.” Today, amid a national climate
that is prompted a movement to declare that day two feel as though they can
free the new generation of black travelers has found freedom and solace in
escaping abroad. Recently, the “New York Times” profiled these travelers
who have coalesced around social networks like the “Nomadness Travel Tribe”
and Trouble Noar (ph), to share overseas adventures travel tips and the
singular experience, the African-American being the boundaries of America.
Joining my panel now, Billy Kolber, founder and creative director of Man
About World Magazine. Frankie Edozien, journalist and director of the
reporting Africa program at New York University`s Journalism School. And
Evita Robinson, CEO and creator of “Nomadness Travel Tribe.” So, let me
start with you, what does it mean to be a black American abroad?
EVITA ROBINSON, CEO, NOMADNESS TRAVEL TRIBE: Ah, it means that you have a
chance to represent your people on a larger scale. I think there is a
responsibility that comes along with it when you go abroad. I remember,
you know, teaching when I was in Japan, I was the first black person I know
a lot of my young students saw. So, it was all about my hair and playing
in it during my lunch break, and I went there right as Obama was actually
starting his first presidency. So, some of my sentence structures, the
kids would yell out from the back of the room, yes, we can! And this is
elementary school, so I`m sitting here like, they don`t even understand the
capacity of what they were saying, and it really shows what we`re doing in
house, in the country is really a projection that`s going out to the rest
of the world, and right now, today we need to be careful because that`s
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. My niece is living in China and teaching English right
now, and so some of your story reflects – there she is, hey, Katherine.
You know, it kind of reminding me of those moments. But part of what your
site also does and part of why I wanted you at the table is look, James
Baldwin was two things, he was at the intersection of queer identity and
blackness. His need to breathe was about both of those things, and you
know, there was always this kind of motorist travel book that helped black
folks to just figure out where to go in the world within the U.S., and it`s
also a space where like, there are parts of the country where identity –
excuse me, parts of the world where identities are policed, are
criminalized, where it`s actually dangerous to be a person of color, to be
a woman, to be gay.
BILLY KOLBER, FOUNDER, MAN ABOUT WORLD MAGAZINE: Right. There are 76-plus
countries today where it is illegal to be homosexual. And gay people face
some of the same trouble that black people face in traveling, and I think
they also compound themselves. So you talk about black gay people
traveling, it`s an even broader conversation. But a lot of the themes, I
think, that Evita brought up are really very similar. It`s the connection
between identity and culture that you discover when you travel, not only
about the people you are seeing but about yourselves. Baldwin said, I met
a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself.
EDOZIEN: That`s it, that`s it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet I wonder if there is still a kind of American
imperialism associated with, let me go use somebody else`s country to find
myself. Right. And so, how do we do it in a way that doesn`t extract that
resource as well?
EDOZIEN: Excellent. I think that one way that we can do is to make space
for our brothers and sisters who are African or other brown people around
the world traveling. As a person of color who is traveling as an African,
when I come into the west, which is Europe or America, I always have to
bring a lot of documents, not just my passport, not just American, I can
just fling, but Africans have to bring birth certificates, they have to
bring letters from whoever is inviting them. If they go to conferences,
they have to show that they`re not a terrorist and they`re actually here
for an academic purpose.
And so, when you see someone in land with a huge tack of paper shuffling,
and you wondered, why isn`t this line going forward? It`s because he`s
subject to different kinds of questions that Americans are subject to as
Americans traveling on a blue pass. But what I would hope for is African-
Americans traveling abroad to make space for their African brothers and
sisters and other brown people in India whatever when they come to this
part of the world, to assist us to come in here on legitimate business and
also have a truly cultural exchange. So it doesn`t feel like, you`re
coming in, you`re taking and you`re going.
ROBINSON: It`s all reciprocity, anytime Nomadness goes to India and we
went to South Africa as well, it was about the reciprocitym we leave a
piece of ourselves of who we are in every single country and city that we
CHIDEYA: I try to get off the tourist path. And I love Nomadness. Like I
had a great experience when I went to Mumbai. I was there in India and
travel to six cities. And I started at a conference and we stayed at the
four seasons, or one of the four seasons or more than one. And so, I was
like, okay, I`m going to take a walk. And the guards, these heavily armed
guards went, no, no, no, no, don`t take a walk.
And in this area, the only thing that separating a luxury hotel from a slum
was a big tall wall and end with AKs.
HARRIS-PERRY: Go over the wall.
CHIDEYA: And so, I walked and a family took me in and served me lunch. I
took all these pictures of the neighborhood. I mailed them to the family.
We kept in correspondence, and it was literally one man in a whole
neighborhood who spoke English and that was the man who I got information
from. You can end up having powerful experiences.
HARRIS-PERRY: What you just said there, I just want to pinpoint on for a
moment because that idea about linguistic capacity. One of the things that
is often troubling about Americans is that we often speak only English.
HARRIS-PERRY: And maybe one other European language. And I wonder how
that limits us as world travelers.
ROBINSON: Well, what I tell people all the time is if that if these other
countries want to make money, there is somebody there that speaks English.
Let`s just be real. That`s a universal language, so if you`re going to
want to interact they`ll going to know a little bit of every language. I
remember being literally like kind of ran after the first, when I went to
India with just two of my girlfriends, and one of the girls with patient,
was like I`m going to speak French and creole so that they leave us alone.
They spoke French right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. They`re like roll down, that`s right.
ROBINSON: Wait a minute! Plan B.
KOLBER: English has become sort of the international language of travel.
But, you know, with gay people –
HARRIS-PERRY: It does. It does.
KOLBER: Well, it also gives us the ability, and with that comes the
responsibility, to go out and talk to people. For gay people, that also
comes with another set of responsibility because we travel with tourist
privilege. Westerners, whether you`re black or white, travel with tourist
privilege. When you`re staying at the four seasons hotel anywhere in the
world, you`re staying with tourist privilege.
KOLBER: And yet just by our actions, we can put local gay people, LGBT at
KOLBER: So for us, even meeting people comes with its own risk. And it`s
something talk about a Man of the World Magazine all the time.
EDOZIEN: If I can also lend a few words, when we go places, we don`t just
come in with our western, we`re better than you, you only speak English. I
mean, you go to Paris, people don`t talk to you if you only speak English.
You know –
(TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)
I want to learn a few words. It`s a reality to learn a few words.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Billy Kolber and Farai Chideya. Frankie
Edozien and Evita Robinson. Man, the travel. We`re going to do more of
Up next, two unsung martyrs of the civil rights movement. How their lives
and deaths helped change history. The people of the world, we are down!
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to read to you an interview that appears in a new
book. “Do you think Reverend Reeb was aware of the full potential of
violence, were you?” Yes, I`m sure he was aware of it. “What were some of
the reasons he gave for wanting to come to Selma?” One of the reasons was
the march that occurred Sunday. After he saw that he felt that he had to
go, he couldn`t stay home and do nothing when he was so much needed there.”
Was the cause worth the risk of death? I don`t believe I could answer for
myself, only for Jim. For him, any consequence that might occur would
merit its coming.”
Those were the answers Marie Reeb gave to the media`s questions shortly
before the death of her husband Minister James Reeb. He was killed by a
group of racist vigilantes in Selma, Alabama, just days after the 1965
bloody Sunday march. And Reeb, along with slain civil rights activist,
Jimmie Lee Jackson, it`s the subject of the new book “Jimmie Lee and James:
Two Lives And The Movement That Changed America.”
Joining me now is one of the authors Adar Cohen. Tell us about James Reeb
and who he was.
ADAR COHEN, AUTHOR, “JIMMIE LEE AND JAMES”: Reverend James Reeb was a
Unitarian minister. He was working in Boston at the time of bloody Sunday.
Organizing for fair housing for African-Americans. And did make the
difficult decision to travel to Selma, at Dr. King`s request, to flood the
city with support from all over the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: And lost his life as a result. And that moment, for me, I
had to pause it when I got to this in the book. His wife standing there,
Reeb not yet gone, hospitalized, saying that for him it was worth the risk
COHEN: Well, at the time, the nation had just witnessed bloody Sunday on
the Edmond Pettus Bridge. And this was a police action with deputized
white citizens who were interested in hurting people that day, who executed
horrible damage on nonviolent protesters. And the whole country watched.
Actually, almost 15 million Americans are in their living rooms watching
ironically judgment at Nuremberg. The film that famously grapples with the
legacy of Nazism, and ABC makes the bold decision to cut from the film,
away from those images to modern images of troopers on horseback firing
tear gas grenades and leading nonviolent protesters fiercely. And that
captured the moral imagination of the country in a way that hadn`t happened
HARRIS-PERRY: And so that`s the kind of part that brings so much of
America in. But it is Jimmie Lee Jackson and his death that brings so much
of the Selma movement itself up from the bottom. Tell us about Jimmie Lee.
COHEN: That`s right. Jimmie Lee Jackson is a part of the nonviolent
protest in Zion United, church in a small town called Marion, about 25
miles northwest of Selma. And he and other demonstrators were interested
in staging a vigil outside of the jail where James Orange was being held,
the SCLC organizer James Orange was being held on charges of disorderly
conduct and contributing to the vagrancy of minors. He was an SCLC
organizer, and he was organizing the youth. There was a rumor that he
might be harmed in jail that night. And local activists wanted to show
their support. As they exited the church to make a one-block march to the
jail, the city lights went out. And the police and local whites created a
horrible chaos, and caused a lot of harm. That night, Jimmie Lee Jackson,
in the melee that followed, was shot in the stomach by a white state
trooper and died eight days later from that injury.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are reminded as we mark the 50th anniversary of the
voting rights act, that this is an act bought in blood, including the blood
of Jimmie Lee Jackson, and of Reverend James Reeb. The book is critical,
everyone must read it. Jimmie Lee and James. It`s a reminder, I think
again, of the moment we`re in right now, that we can`t allow the voting
rights act to be gutted when it is bought with blood.
Thank you, Adar Cohen. That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home
for watching. I`m going to see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up right now, “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT.” Don`t miss it.
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