Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 08/23/15
JANET MOCK, MSNBC HOST: Good morning, I`m Janet Mock.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And I`m Ari Melber. Melissa is off today.
MOCK: This morning`s question, what have we learned 10 years after
MELBER: And Joe Biden consulting Elizabeth Warren, well, some calling for
him to run against Hillary.
MOCK: And Dr. Dre`s timely apology.
MELBER: But first, how the GOP in August of this year could be its undoing
Good morning to you and thanks for joining us.
You know, watching that debate that Donald Trump has been kicking off on
immigration, you might forget that Latinos are actually a growing part of
the national electorate, comprising 10 percent of it in 2012. That is
almost double their share in 2000 and they were crucial to Barack Obama`s
reelection for two reasons.
First, they played a huge role in swing states like Florida and Nevada.
And Second, they sided with Obama by huge lap sided margins according to
the Pew research center. Latinos preferred Barack Obama over Republican
Mitt Romney by 71 percent to 27 percent. That is a wider margin and
Obama`s edge among many other key groups that backed him in his coalition,
larger than his edge among young voters, for example, and voters in
poorhouses also even non-religious voters who often backed Democrats.
It was also the biggest edge among Latinos for any Democratic presidential
candidate since Bill Clinton in 1996. And how did the GOP leaders
initially react to that news, with denial or anger? No. They actually
reversed the five stages of grief and began with acceptance after 2012. In
fact, the GOP`s hundred-page 2012 postmortem said this. Quote “we must
embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our
party`s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only,”
And as the GOP marched on in 2016, many thought candidates like Senator
Marco Rubio would appear more desirable in part because of that
conversation. The Florida son of Cuban immigrants was a member of the
bipartisan gang of eight senators. They were the ones crafting
comprehensive immigration reform ideas back in 2013.
And then there`s Jeb Bush, not only because of the identity politics that
some point to with his Mexican-born wife, but also because he had been seen
as a moderate on those immigration issues, taking risk like he did just
this Tuesday when he split from many in the Republican Party and said that
he was time to defend birthright citizenship for children born to
undocumented immigrants noting it is of course a constitutional rights.
But the on Wednesday, things took a turn. The former Florida governor
speaking on (INAUDIBLE) radio show, “Morning in America,” using the
derogatory term anchor baby when talking about American children born to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there is fraud or if there is
abuse, if people are bringing - if pregnant women are coming in to have
babies simply because they can do it, then there ought to be greater
enforcement. That`s the legitimate side of this. Greater enforcement so
you don`t have these anchor babies, as they`re described, coming into the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So you heard it right there. And then when asked about those very
comments on Thursday, he basically doubled down on the term. This was one
of the feistier exchanges we`ve seen with reporters to date.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Did you use the term anchor babies yesterday
on the radio? You don`t regret it?
BUSH: No, I don`t regret it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: You don`t regret it?
BUSH: No. Do you have a better term?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: I`m asking you.
BUSH: You give me a better term and I`ll use it. I`m serious. Don`t you
yell at me behind my ear, though.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Sorry about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The term anchor baby, is that not bombastic?
BUSH: No, it isn`t. Here is the deal. What I said was it is commonly
referred to that. That`s what I said. I didn`t use it as my own language.
Do you want to get to the policy for a second? I think people born into
this country ought to be American citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Republican Donald Trump proudly took credit for Jeb Bush`s
rhetoric here. Here is Trump addressing that word choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Although now, he is using anchor
baby. You know, he put out a memo, you cannot use anchor baby. Now
because I used it, he`s using it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s a key bit of progress there, thanks to Donald Trump.
Now, it appears Republicans are basically doing their five stages of grief
here in reverse. They got to acceptance quickly, as we were reporting, but
moved by Donald Trump and maybe this primary politics, they seem to be
sliding back towards anger and even denial on so many of these issues.
Joining Janet and me today to discuss is Cristina Beltran, associate
professor of social cultural analysis and director of Latino studies at
NYU. Nice to see you. She`s also the author of “trouble with unity,
Latino politics and the creation of identity.” Also with us Juan Manuel
Benitez, political reporter and host of “Pura Politica” on New York One
I will leave all of the Spanish to people better equipped. Thank you both
for being here.
What do you make of this, because there was optimism right after 2012, and
it seems to be fading?
CRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Right, well,
what`s really interesting is there was a view put forward by Reince Preibus
and the Republican leadership about the 2012 election which is different
than what the public base feels about this. And so, one of the really
complicated issues here, there is a fundamental contradictions at the heart
of the Republican Party, which is that it has a very strong nativist, anti-
immigrant, really hostile to illegal immigration in particular. And they
think they can thread the needle on this fight simply saying, well, we`re
not against immigrants, we`re against illegal immigrants, right?
But you can see this language of anchor baby is already. I mean, that was
– these are really problematic moment, right? Because these are U.S.
citizens. These are citizens whose parents` status is unauthorized, right?
So now you`re attacking U.S.-born Latinos, right, and sort of describing
them in a sort of criminalizing, demonizing discourse that says basically
somehow the very act of their birth is a way of sort of sneaking in.
So that really speaks to the fact that one of the Republican establishment
that knows they need Latino voters to win this election, they got to get to
their 30s or they are not going to win. On the other hand, you have an
electorate that really doesn`t want to hear anything complicated or nuance
about immigration reform or about the issue of immigration in general.
MOCK: So given this rhetoric, Juan, do you think - do you feel that the
Republican candidates have already squandered 2016?
JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ, HOST, PURA POLITICO: Well, a few weeks ago I was here
at this very table and they said how Donald Trump had hijacked the
Republican primary. A few weeks later, he has hijacked the Republican
platform agenda and now everybody else is following him with this speech
that at some point is going to become a hate speech, it could become a hate
So the problem here is not only that Latinos are more sensitive to the
immigration reform issue, not only because many of them have family members
or many of them maybe no people that are in this situation, but also
because it becomes identity politics. And now everybody is suspect.
Everybody who looks Hispanic or looks Mexican or has an accent is suspect
and maybe shouldn`t be here in this country. So that`s why the issue is so
powerful among Latinos.
MELBER: I want to bring in from Washington, D.C., we also have Alfonso
Aguilar, executive director of American principle projects Latino
partnership. Nice to see you.
ALFONSO AGUILAR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN PRINCIPLE PROJECT LATINO
PARTNERSHIP: Thank you for having me.
MELBER: Let`s bring you into the conversation. I know sometimes you bring
a different view, but speak to this criticism, and is it OK, is it
understandable, in your view, that people are concerned about the way Jeb
Bush is talking even if, as we just showed in the clip, he says, hey, don`t
worry so much about the word choice, I still have the more open position on
the issue itself.
AGUILAR: Look, I don`t like the term anchor baby. I agree that it`s
offensive, but this issue has been completely overblown. Latinos are not
dumb. They know that Jeb Bush is good at immigration. He wrote a book
where he outlines a plan on immigration reform. He`s for legalization.
And it`s kind of funny that Hillary Clinton blasts him for, you know, not
calling them babies or U.S. citizens when just last year, she actually
supported the idea of expeditedly removing unaccompanied minors back to
their home countries.
Latinos are going to look at the issues, at the positions of the
candidates, not at the terminology. Terminology matters. I think it`s
been an education moment for all of us, because let`s be fair. The
majority of Americans, the majority of Latinos don`t even know what anchor
baby means. I think people realize now it`s an offensive term. I doubt
they`re going to use it again. But at the end, Latino voters are going to
be looking at issues.
And so, Hillary is making a big issue of this because Democrats are afraid
of Jeb Bush. They know he can be very competitive with Latino voters, not
only get more Latino voter support but actually win the Latino vote.
MOCK: Alfonso, one moment.
Cristina, I want to bring you in on this. As Alfonso said that there is
range of issues that Latinos care about, right? We know that the economy,
you know, economy, clean water, conservation of water, amongst another slew
of issues beyond just immigration. Can you kind of unpack the other issues
BELTRAN: Right. Well, one of the really interesting thing is when you
look the data history, is that a lot of Latinos overall – there are a lot
of other issues that rank higher than immigration, right, issues like the
economy, education. Interestingly, people were surprised. Climate change
is a really strong issue. Not surprising because so many Latinos live in
the southwestern United States and they`re dealing with drought issues.
So there are many issues. And I think Alfonso is right. I think there are
issues beyond immigration that are important here. What`s going to be
really interesting is, and to be fair, the Bush family has always been more
interesting on questions of race than other Republicans. Like they have an
interesting history in terms of supporting diversity.
MELBER: Why do you think that is?
BELTRAN: You know, it actually goes all the way back to George W. Bush.
George W. Bush was involved in supporting some of the first Republican
Latino organizations. And George W. Bush before 9/11 was very much
interested in kind of diversifying a party and compassionate conservatism.
So this is a party that - I mean, this is a family that has kind of an
interesting racial history in terms of not being a particularly nativist or
a family that plays whistleblower – kind of dog whistle politics.
On the other hand, if you look at policy issues, the Republicans and Jeb
Bush are not in support of labor unions, which is a very strong issue for
Latino voters. Latino voters care about labor issues and union issues.
They still want to create tax breaks for the rich. They have aggressive
tax policies. So all of these issues are going to get looked at. I think
one of the interesting things for George - for Jeb is that they`re trying
to play personality and shared culture over shared politics, and those two
things are different.
MOCK: We were just starting this conversation, of course. But before we
go to break, we want to show you a live picture from inside Maratha Baptist
church in Plains, Georgia. Former president Jimmy Carter, just three days
after holding a new conference to discuss of cancer diagnosis, is back
teaching a Sunday school class. \
President Carter teaches Sunday school class a few times each month. But
today a long line in front of that church before dawn.
MELBER: It`s a remarkable thing to see, and obviously everyone rooting for
him. And you see now as he`s going through, obviously, this fight, you`re
reminded of the kind of person he is in going out there. He does this
every Sunday to teach. So we wish him and his family well, of course.
When we come back, we want to tell you immigration relationship with
Mexico. A key point in another primary, 1980. Wait until you hear what
Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. had to say. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`d like to see
something done about the illegal alien problem that would be so sensitive
and so understanding about labor needs and human needs that that problem
wouldn`t come up. We`re doing two things. We`re creating a whole society
of really honorable, decent family-loving people that are in violation of
the law, and secondly, we`re exacerbating relations with Mexico.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rather than making
them or talking about putting up a fence, why don`t we work out some
recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here
legally with a work permit, and then while they`re working and earning
here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go
back, and they can cross and open the border both ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOCK: That was a clip from April 23rd, 1980 in Houston when Ronald Reagan
and George H. W. Bush discussed immigration at a debate before the Texas
Now let`s pause for a moment. You all heard that, right? The two leading
GOP candidates of the time, two of the most Republican figures of the 20th
century giving sensitive, thoughtful, quite moderate stances on immigration
almost four decades ago.
Today, Republican rhetoric about the border sounds a lot different,
especially when coming from someone like front-runner Donald Trump.
So, Juan, I want to bring you into this. How did Republicans go from that
moderate rhetoric to where we`re at now?
BENITEZ: It`s not even moderate rhetoric. We didn`t hear the questioner.
And I think we can all agree that the questioner was expecting a totally
different answer in that debate. And you have the last president who
passed immigration reform, Ronald Reagan, and he gave amnesty to more than
a million documented immigrants, and the last president, George Bush Sr.,
who did an executive order on immigration like the one that Obama tried to
have last year.
But going back to what Alfonso said before the break, I think it`s really
important. He said Latinos are not dumb. And they are not dumb. They
know how to differentiate things. But when you have a candidate like Jeb
Bush saying to Latinos, look at me, I have a Mexican wife and Mexican-
American kids. And then he goes behind their backs and says and uses the
term anchor babies and uses that rhetoric, they`re not dumb. They`re going
And just to make one more point, I think this is really important, the
immigration reform issue, but if I`m a Republican candidate right now, I
will be preparing for next month. And next month that we have the visit of
Pope Francis. The first Latin-American pope. He is a leader of the
Catholic Church, and he`s going to talk in front of a joint session of
Congress. And he`s going to talk about poverty, he is going to talk about
immigration, climate change, things that they`re not going to like.
So how they`re going to respond, all these presidential candidates,
Republicans, to what Pope Francis has to say, is going to be as important
for their decision on immigration reform for Latinos next year.
MELBER: You sound excited about that.
BENITEZ: Well, it`s going to be really exciting, because for many years we
had Popes that were not maybe not that media friendly. Benedict XVI wasn`t
that – I`m not going to use the word controversial, but we now have a Pope
that really is pursuing an agenda on poverty, climate change, immigration,
and he –
MELBER: I want to bring Alfonso. He`s speaking with moral authority about
Alfonso, you, of course, talked about the need to address Trump in the “New
York Times,” George Will, prominent conservative, has a new piece out
saying Republicans say they`ll stand up to Putin but they can`t stand up to
Donald Trump. Are you disappointed that seeing so far there is more
echoing of Trump than confronting him?
AGUILAR: No, I think the field is split. It would be wrong to generalize
and say all of them are agreeing with him. I think they knew that
immigration was going to be an issue in this campaign. I don`t think they
expected to have to address it in detail so early on. And I think,
actually, it`s an opportunity. It`s an opportunity for people like Senator
Marco Rubio, like Governor Bush to show that they`re constructive on the
issue and they can win over Latino voters.
Again, I mean, he used the term anchor baby but he didn`t say it was his
language. Latino voters know where he stands on immigration. Again, we
shouldn`t give a pass to Hillary just because she`s a Democrat. She came
out supporting removing babies, unaccompanied minors, right away back to
their home countries, and Latinos remember that, you know. She wasn`t a
leader on immigration when she was in the Senate. So I think they`re going
to look at the substance of the immigration debate. Obviously, those –
MOCK: Christina, let`s bring you into this really quick. During the
debate, President H. W. Bush calls immigrants good, strong people. When
did that human element leave the rhetoric?
BELTRAN: Right, when did this sort of start? Well, it`s a complicated
story, because on the one hand, that response really tells you how the
Republican Party has shifted so far to the right. And so, you see a huge
difference here. On the other hand, anti-Latino sentiment was circulating
in this period as well. There was a lot – we forget about the rise of the
English only legislation that was going on, that was (INAUDIBLE) the
bilingual education. We had Pat Buchanan in 1992. We had, you know, we
had prop 187 and 209 in California.
So people like Leo Chavez has written and talking about the Latino threat
narrative has a fairly long history in the U.S. But the Republican Party,
it really speaks to I think something sad about our democracy right now,
which is immigration is a complex issue. And it involves just talking
about global capitalism, about the history of American intervention in
different countries, about the history of war and colonialism, so it is
about stories about global capital and we don`t talk about this. We talk
to the public like they`re very stupid children. And so you produce an
electorate that know says less and less and understands less and less. And
then not surprising when you get them to respond.
MOCK: Thank you for that intersectional analysis. Thank you also to
Alfonso Aguilar in Washington, D.C.
MELBER: And on the Democrat side of the race, NBC News has confirmed
reporting about meetings vice president Joe Biden is taking fueling
speculations her is seriously considering challenging Hillary Clinton. We
have those details. That`s next.
MOCK: Vice president Joe Biden had a private face-to-face talk with
Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren yesterday in Washington, D.C. The
meeting is fueling the buzz surrounding the potential for a Joe Biden 2016
Earlier this week, “the New York Times” reported that vice president has
been talking to big donors who raised big cash for president Obama in 2012.
Joining us now from Martha`s Vineyard is NBC White House correspondent
Kristen, what do we know about this meeting and when can we expect a
decision from the vice president?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Janet, good
morning to you.
Well, we know that vice president Biden let Senator Warren know that he was
considering a run. This is significant because it is really the clearest
sign that we are getting yet that the vice president is seriously
considering a run.
As you know, Senator Elizabeth Warren is a progressive champion. A lot of
Democrats wanted her to run. She declined. The fact that vice president
Biden is reaching out to her suggest that if he were to throw his hat in
the ring, he`s courting those all progressive voters.
Well, let`s just put this into a broader context, Janet. We know that
secretary Clinton is still the strong Democratic front-runner. If you look
at any polls, she has a very strong lead. Having said that, there is a CNN
poll this week that shows 53 percent of Democrats want vice president Biden
to get in the race. My sources have been telling me he`s been mulling a
run with his aides, his supporters and his family members, all importantly.
The reason for him to get in the race would be because this is someone who
wanted to be president for a long time. He`s, of course, run for president
twice before unsuccessfully and there are real concerns with the Democratic
Party that Secretary Clinton could be vulnerable in a general election
given this email scandal, which is still involving, by the way. They`re
still waiting to sort of see how serious email this scandal actually gets.
The reasons against vice president Biden joining the race, some Democrats
say, look, he would be dividing the Democratic Party at the time when you
do have Secretary Clinton still running very strong in the polls. And then
there`s a personal reason, which is, he`s still, according to sources who
I`ve been talking to, very much grieving the loss of his son Beau who
passed away in May. I`m told this will be a personal decision for the vice
president. He has to huddle with his friend and family and ultimately they
will make the decision.
He has said he`ll make his final decision at the end of the summer. That
deadline, I`m told, could be pushed back by a few days or a few weeks. But
this is obviously a story we`re watching very closely. Janet, back to you.
MOCK: A lot of us will be watching. Thank you to NBC, Kristen Welker in
MELBER: And for more on this story from Biden world, we have Jared
Bernstein, a former aide to the vice president.
Jared, I know you did economics and political strategies for him, but often
how does he meet with Elizabeth Warren, otherwise, in your recollection?
And how does he approach a decision like this?
JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: By the way, in the politics, whenever
I used to talk about politics, Biden would remind me, you couldn`t get
elected dog catcher, so we tended to stick to economics. But that is his
They`ve met on occasion. There`s a lot of respect there. I mean, Joe
Biden comes from Delaware, which is a credit card state, so there`s been
some issues there between them. But it doesn`t surprise me that given
where he is as Kristen just described, that they sat down for a talk. He`s
kind of taking her temperature on where a progressive endorsement might be
for him on that.
MELBER: And what do you think is going to be his approach here? If he
gets in, he`s late, so he`s got to have a big bang or big opening splash.
BERNSTEIN: You know, it`s interesting. I mean, I was thinking about the
splashes we`ve seen so far. I mean, really the surprising ones would be,
of course, from the Donald on one side, and feeling the burn, Bernie
Sanders on the other side. And so, I think that to some extent the splash
there would be that Joe Biden is someone who is very much beloved by many
people in the Democratic Party, by many constituents out there. There`s
just something special, something genuine about that guy. And you know, I
know what it is having worked for him. And I think that there`s really
something kind of different about him that`s kind of closer to the
electorate than perhaps Senator Clinton has tapped so far.
MOCK: Well, let`s bring in Christina and Juan here in New York.
What do you think, Christina, about a Biden-Warren in 2016 ticket?
BELTRAN: Well, that ticket could be very interesting, right? I mean, the
minute he was going to meet with her, I thought, that would be – but I
don`t see why Warren would ever leave the Senate to be a vice presidential
candidate. It is not – it seems like an odd choice for her.
But the thing that I think is interesting is that when Biden – on the one
hand, Biden shows he`s carrying the Obama legacy forward, right? But Biden
was (INAUDIBLE) and I like him a lot. But I think he was used a lot sort
of appeal to white voters, white working class voters in 2012 and 2008.
And that was one of his real appeals.
Hillary Clinton has really tried to expand and build on the Obama coalition
and she`s done a lot of work trying to appeal to Latino voters, African-
American voters, taking a stand on black lives matter. So it`s going to be
really interesting. She`s been sort on the -trying to raising issues on
LGBT issues. So, she`s been really trying to put together a particular
kind of historical coalition. And I`m really curious to see – I`m not
sure if Biden, even though he comes from the Obama administration, if he
could pivot and do the same kind of work.
MELBER: And yet, Juan, you could make the argument that Hillary Clinton
has been hurt by having this sort of boring phantom primary. Everyone is
talking about the emails in part because there`s nothing else to talk
BENITEZ: Right. I think the Biden buzz is another sign of the fact that
there is a clear path for an alternative to Hillary Clinton in the
Democratic primary. People like – Democrats like Hillary Clinton, they
think she is totally ready to be president, but they`re not excited about
her candidacy. She hasn`t been able to produce that excitement that maybe
Bernie Sanders has.
And Democrats, remember, they didn`t have 2012 exciting election. They
were reelecting President Obama. But in 2008, that was the excitement.
They didn`t know this guy, who this guy was. He was new, Barack Obama.
And everybody wonder, is he U.S.-ready for the first black president. At
this point, I think everybody in the country knows that U.S. is ready for
the first female president. So they are now wondering. They know that
she`s ready. But many Democrats that I talk to, they`re saying, well, we
like Hillary but we`re waiting for someone else to show up and offer an
MELBER: Finally, Jared, is there a view in the White House in Obama world
that perhaps, it`s simply too late or somewhat unfair or disloyal for Joe
Biden to go on Hillary this late in the process?
BERNSTEIN: I don`t think so. I mean, I think that less disloyalty and
because Barack Obama really values his friendship with Joe Biden and views
him as a very important figure in his presidency. I think the too late
problem is real, and echoing some of what was just said, I mean, Hillary
Clinton had a bad August. I mean, that`s not that uncommon this far out
for a candidate to have a tough month. She`s still very strong. She`s
still locked up a lot of funding. I actually think the likelihood that the
VP might get in the race is still pretty low. But as she stumbles, it gets
a bit higher. If she were to pick up, things would look a bit different.
One other point on the vice president. An interesting thing, more than any
other vice president, I would argue, that we`ve ever had, he really worked
very closely with President Obama. He was just there at every meeting,
right? I saw it with my own eyes.
So here`s a guy who could actually walk into that job, kind of knowing how
it works, better than almost anyone I could think of, and Barack Obama is
one of the smartest people I ever met. I would argue it took him four or
five years to really figure the job out because it`s a really, really hard,
complicated job. That`s an interesting advantage that Joe Biden has.
MELBER: Thank you to Jared Bernstein there in Virginia Beach. Also, we
want to thank Cristina Beltran and Juan Manuel Benitez.
MOCK: Still to come this morning, my letter of the week.
MELBER: We now know the name of the man accused of opening fire on a train
traveling through France Friday. Prosecutors have identified him as 26-
year-old Ayoub El-Kahzzani. Belgium officials have opened their owned
investigation in the attack because the suspect boarded that train in
Brussels. The three Americans and British man who rushed and held down
that shooter are being hailed as heroes this weekend.
Joining me now from London, NBC`s Kelly Cobiella.
Kelly, what do we know about the suspect now?
KELLY COBIELLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ari, as you mentioned, we
now know his name but there are still conflicting reports about whether he
traveled to Syria. The top prosecutor in Belgium is telling NBC News that
they`re looking into whether he acted alone or was part of a wider network.
The French interior minister is only saying that the man was a known
radical flagged last year because of alleged ties to terrorist groups.
COBIELLA (voice-over): New information emerging this morning about the man
accused of attacking that train headed for Paris. Belgium`s chief
prosecutor telling NBC news his name is Ayoub El-Kahzzani. He is 26 years
old of Moroccan origin and has lived in Egypt for several years. This
morning he`s being questioned by French counterterrorism police in Paris.
Spanish media report he lived in the southern port town of Al-Jazeera and
attended the radical mosque that was under surveillance.
NBC News has not confirmed the reports and the French interior minister
cautioned against speculation. This morning, the three friends whose
European vacation took such a dramatic turn are together again in Paris.
Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone getting a heroes`
treatment and preparing to meet the French president.
This is the scene seconds after they took down the gunman on a high speed
train to Paris Friday. Stone, who is a trained paramedic, is giving first
aid to a man shot in the neck, even with his own hand badly cut. Top
military Brass visited stone in the hospital Saturday where he underwent
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were actually able to reattach that portion that
was pretty severely cut. I`m happy that he`s alive.
COBIELLA: Alive and already recovering. Stone was released late Saturday
afternoon with a smile and a wave.
COBIELLA: We understand Stone`s parents are meeting him in Paris. And we
also hear that all of the train heroes will get a personal thank you from
the French president Francois Hollande tomorrow morning.
And Ari, I know we were waiting to hear from them for a long time
yesterday. We now understand that there may be a press conference today in
just about an hour and a half from Paris. So we will keep you updated on
MELBER: All right, thank as always, Kelly, for your reporting.
Still to come on MHP, developing story about new documents that show
undercover officers are going inside part of the Black Lives Matter
movement. Is that necessary policing or overreach?
MOCK: Another week, another candidate who has confused a statement that
doesn`t need saying because it is self-evident with a statement that must
be said because of all evidence to the contrary. Only this time the
candidate is reaching back in time to support his misguided response by
misrepresenting the message of one of American history`s greatest leaders.
So this week my letter is to the latest presidential candidate to appear
confused over the Black Lives Matter movement.
Dear governor Mike Huckabee, hey, it`s Janet. This week CNN`s Wolf Blitzer
asked if you agreed to what Hillary Clinton said to a black lives matter
activist during this meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s not much that we can do to stop the violence
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conversation gets pushed back.
CLINTON: I don`t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws,
you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.
You`re not going to change every heart. You`re not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOCK: Governor, the message from BLM is that black people don`t have the
power to stop the violence committed against them by agents of the state.
It`s why they`re appealing to people like you, people vying to represent
the state for help. But clearly you weren`t paying attention to the
activist`s message, because if you truly understood that the rallying cry,
Black Lives Matter, is a call for that recognition, you wouldn`t have
responded by saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I hear people, you know,
scream Black Lives Matter, I`m thinking, of course, they do. But all lives
matter. It`s not that any life matters more than another. That`s the
whole message, I think, that Dr. King tried to present, and I think he
would be appalled at the notion we`re elevating some lives above others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOCK: Governor, offering all lives matter in response to the assertion
that Black Lives Matter, diminishes the black lives that have and continue
to be lost, and you should know that by now. Because it`s a lesson some of
your Democratic and Republican opponents have been taught, already been
taught, again and again and again.
And you, governor, you went even further. In addition to dismissing black
lives matter, you also misrepresented one of the greatest champions to
civil rights to assist in your attempt to silence the very people and ideas
that he fought to protect and died to protect. Because, yes, Martin Luther
King Jr. was appalled by the notion that we are elevating some lives above
others. But you`re a little confused about the “we” he was talking about.
When Dr. King said, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check
which has come back marked insufficient funds, he was delivering a damning
indictment against the United States government for its failure to secure
for black people basic civil rights that relegated not only their
citizenship but their humanity to second class citizen status.
Dr. King wouldn`t have to look very far to find familiarity with today`s
young activists in their struggle and the word of their critics. After
all, it`s the same violence they are fighting that king referenced when he
wrote, there are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when
will you be satisfied? We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is
the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
He was responding to his adversaries, but to his allies, people who were -
people who he called men of genuine good will. And their criticism sounded
much like what BLM activists here from white progressive today. You are
doing too much. You`re going too hard. You`re pushing too far.
Governor, if you listened closely to what the activists has said in
response to their critics, you will hear the urgencies. There are
urgencies. We go hard because out people are dying too often. And far
from being appalled at that message, Dr. King would have found echoes in it
of his own when he said in his letter in the Birmingham jail, when you have
seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black
brothers and sisters with impunity, then you will understand why we find it
difficult to wait.
When King watched Watts (ph) burned with fire and the indignation of black
rage, as we have seen in Ferguson and Baltimore in recent months, he saw in
it not the wanton violence of looters and rioters, but a response to
systematic violence of institutional racism. King wrote in an editorial
after the watts riots in the Saturday review, when there is rack-like
intransigence or sophisticated manipulation that mocks the employ-handed
petitioner, rage replaces reason.
Did you get that, governor? Because as long as you continue with your
unsophisticated manipulation of King`s message, and as long as you and
other candidates continue your rock-like resistance to the message of the
movement, that is as long as you can expect to keep hearing those urgent
screams of rage that black lives matter.
MELBER: Welcome back.
On Friday, several prominent black activists launched campaign zero putting
forward specific policy goals aimed at reducing police violence. And
suggesting include among others an end to broken windows policing, the fact
that it is going after certainly low-level crimes and activities, stronger
community oversight for police and limiting the use of force to imminent
threats when an officer`s life is in danger and the lives of others, the
legal standard as well as independent investigations of all cases when
police kill or seriously injure civilians.
The black lives matter movement has helped make this issue, of course, a
national priority, and they`ve been increasingly visual and vocal, pushing
both police and candidates to try to make changes. That kind of
visibility, some say, though, can come at a cost. In fact, throughout
American history, activists and groups that often challenge power
structures come under increased and sometimes illegal scrutiny from the
very leaders they`re trying to scrutinize.
Think back to 1956 when FBI director J. Edgar Hoover launch a
counterintelligence program that involved widespread surveillance of mostly
law-abiding citizens in aggressive efforts to disrupt political
organizations including the communist party and the black panthers. The
program may be most notorious for bugging Martin Luther King`s hotel rooms
in an effort to catch him in sexually compromising situations.
Hoover`s program officially ended in 1971. There were outcries from
Congress as well as the American public. And yet some say that era is
reminiscent in light of the new reporting on the Black Lives Matter
movement by Intercept. Just a few weeks ago, the Intercept reported that
the department of homeland security has been monitoring activist, and now
after examining nearly 300 documents from New York transit authorities,
Intercept is reporting that undercover police have regularly surveilled
Black Lives Matter activist in New York.
Joining us here at the table to discuss, Nusrat Choudhury, staff attorney
with the ACLU`s racial justice program, MSNBC reporter Trymaine Lee, and in
Dallas, the author of those Intercept articles, George Joseph.
Hello to all of you.
George, what did your investigation find, and is anything here actually
outside of the rules?
GEORGE JOSEPH, REPORTER, THE INTERCEPT: We did two investigations. One
was a few weeks ago when we found that the department of homeland security,
our country`s supposed counterterrorist federal agency, was monitoring
activist the country, looking at their twitters, looking at Facebook group
events and sort of taking a very broad overview since the Ferguson
uprisings of what`s going on.
While that is sort of to be not surprising, especially given that tweets
and Facebook posts are often public, the recent revelations that we had in
our latest story about undercover police actually regularly attending black
lives matter protests in New York was very disturbing, especially since
they`ve been taking photos of individual prominent activists, naming them
and keeping them in their files.
MELBER: Sure. And let me cut in. I want to read a statement from the
NYPD. You used the word disturbing. I think many people agree and have
said that and are concern about free speech.
But here`s what the NYPD said. We confer with our legal bureau when
planning for the policing of protests and demonstrations. We comply with
the various established guidelines governing police activities involving
these public events. And they say when they are patrolling and planning
for large events and demonstrations in New York, they`re going to look at
information and looking for people who might be showing up to try to
advance public safety. Do you see anything that was breaking rules here?
JOSEPH: Well, the thing is it`s difficult for us to know because the NYPD
hasn`t been responding to records requests and asking them to be
transparent and release what they`re actually doing. So if they don`t have
anything to hide, they should just release the documents that activists and
people like us have been asking for.
In the documents, a lot of names have been redacted, so we can`t exactly
tell to what degree the NYPD is also sending undercover police officers to
these protests. If they don`t have anything to hide, they should share
what`s going on.
MOCK: Nusrat, I want to bring you into this. Is this type of surveillance
of activists legal?
NUSRAT CHOUDHURY, STAFF ATTORNEY WITH THE ACLU`S RACIAL JUSTICE PROGRAM:
Well, there are numerous concerns, and the first, obviously, is the first
amendment. When surveillance of activists and the centers chills them from
participating in protests, from dissenting, from speaking on any issue,
including deep-seeded racial injustices in this country, there is a
possibility of a first amendment violation. And that happens when the
chill is so strong that it prevents people from tweeting, prevents them
from speaking their mind, prevent them from bringing people to associate
together in their protests.
We`re also concerned about what is happening with the information collected
about people. When the MTA police put people`s names and photograph in
files, they`re supposed to adhere to federal regulations that permit that
only when there is suspicion of criminal activity. And it`s entirely
unclear whether they`ve done that.
MOCK: Thanks for clarifying that.
Trymaine, these reports of this surveillance, how are they impacting the
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: What`s amazing is like is much
things change, they remain the same. We call this the new civil rights
movement, right, but it`s really an extension. You talk about 50 years ago
and concerns over infiltration of law enforcement agents and supervision
and all kinds of wild stuff going on.
But now we also have some infighting. You have these seeds, and the
movement, they`re congealing in something stronger. Finally, people have
been pushing and pushing and pushing for them to come out with some sort of
give us a game plan. And Hillary Clinton said give us – show us how to
change the laws, to change these things, and now they finally come
together. So even though they seem to be attacked on all fronts, they feel
like they`re being followed and tailed and all the infighting. They`re
actually coming together and they are stringer.
They actually overachieving in so many ways. I mean, A year ago you would
have thought this was an outburst of anger, but now we see black lives
matter in organized chapters. But also, you have campaign zero now. All
of these outgrows from what we saw last summer after Michael Brown.
MELBER: And Nusrat, when you look at this, though, a lot of the movement
is built on concerns about the way the police operate. The view then, is
that some of the policing of the movement itself may be biased or be a
reaction. But how do you actually figure out whether that is the case or
this is public safety?
CHOUDHURY: Well, it`s hard to know and actually trace how the surveillance
is impacting people`s ability to organize and speak. But the probability
that that`s happening is there. People have already said, you know, I`m
afraid to go to protests in grand central when I know that my photograph
and my name are going to be kept in files and we don`t know where that
information is going. And with the way specific activity reports are
shared amongst government, federal, local and state, it could lead to watch
listing, further intelligence gathering and investigations. And there`s no
indication again in the documents released by the Intercept that the
individual photographers and protesters had any connection to criminal
activity at all.
MELBER: Right, and you mentioned the photographer. I mean, what was
interesting about the article and won the spotlight is, yes, some of those
individuals seem to be almost a part of documenting it and that are getting
caught up in that surveillance.
I want to thank George Joseph for sharing some of that reporting with us
from Dallas and here in New York. And to Nusrat Choudhury and Trymaine Lee
will be back in our next hour.
Coming up next, ten years after Katrina, should the storm be seen as the
start of the Black Lives Matter movement?
MOCK: And the black buster (INAUDIBLE) and why Dr. Dre is apologizing for
something that wasn`t even in the new hit movie. More at the top of the
MELBER: Welcome back. I`m Ari Melber.
MOCK: And I`m Janet Mock in for Melissa.
Next Saturday marks ten years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall with
devastating effects. New Orleans took the brunt of the storm`s
destruction. After the storm blew in, the levees broke and 80 percent of
the city was under water. More than 1,000 people died in Louisiana alone,
most of them in New Orleans. More than one million people were displaced
throughout the region. Most of the homes in New Orleans were destroyed.
All told the storm did $135 billion in damage.
All this week, you will hear stories about Katrina. Its effect and the
still ongoing recovery. President Obama will visit New Orleans on Thursday
and meet with people who have rebuilt the city. President George W. Bush
who of course was in office at the time, and President Bill Clinton will
also visit the city to mark the anniversary. Katrina marked the start of
something powerful for this shows regular host and her husband James, a New
Orleans native. In The Nation magazine they write, “For us, Black Lives
Matter began as a public movement a decade ago on August 29th, 2005.
Before Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Sandra Bland,
it was more than 1,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of displaced New
Orleans who forced America to confront black vulnerability and to
understand how that vulnerability indicts our system of national
There were many tragedies in the days and weeks after Katrina made
landfall. One of those particular residents today. This is the Danziger
Bridge in New Orleans on September 4th, six days after Katrina hit.
Several New Orleans police officers pulled up to the bridge in a budget
rental truck. They opened fire on two families. One family was in search
of food and water. The other was trying to find a way, anyway, out of the
city. Two people were killed in a barrage of police gunfire, 17-year-old
James Bursett and 40-year-old Ronald Mason, who was mentally disabled.
Four others were badly injured. The officers say they were shot at and
were defending their lives, but prosecutors say they fired unprovoked on
unarmed civilians and then immediately tried to cover it up.
Five officers were convicted in the shootings and cover-up but we learned
just this week that those convictions may not stand. On Tuesday a federal
appeals court ruled that the officers should get a new trial because of
misconduct by the prosecutor, several of whom posted on-line comments of
new stories about the case. Melissa and James write, on the Danziger
Bridge, Americans encounter the deadly consequences wrought by police who
frame unarmed black people in need of assistance as threats and in need of
elimination. It`s a lesson we learned again with Jonathan Farrell, Renisha
McBride, Miriam Carey. Black lives matter.
The Danziger Bridge shootings are perhaps the clearest parallel from
Katrina aftermath to today`s Black Lives Matter Movement but the story of
Black Lives Matter is a story of Hurricane Katrina. The poorest, blackest
neighborhoods were the most vulnerable to destruction. It is those
neighborhoods that still have not recovered. It was the black residents we
saw on TV waiting for help from their rooftops for days. It was black
residents who were labeled looters when they were trying to survive. The
slow and militaristic response to black suffering was as visible in the
Lower Ninth Ward in 2005 as it would be nine years later in Ferguson.
Joining us now, Tracey Ross, associate director of the Poverty to
Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress and co-host of talk
poverty radio. Trymaine Lee, MSNBC national reporter, and from New Orleans
Jason Rogers Williams, City Council president and councilman at large in
the New Orleans City Council. Thank you all so much for being here.
Councilman, I want to start with you. Ten years after Katrina, what does
Black Lives Matter mean in New Orleans?
JASON ROGERS WILLIAMS, CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Well, you can turn to the
new trial that the officers just got from the Danziger Bridge. There is a
large segment of the community, white and black, that feels that the
blogging, the inappropriate behavior of the prosecutors has only affected
the case involving police officers who harm poor people. It does not
affect any other case of any moment, although the prosecutors are doing
inappropriate behavior in these other cases. So there`s still certainly a
disparity. The Black Lives Matter movement, I believe Katrina was ground
zero for that, especially when you think about the fact that there were
days when there was simply inaction from local government to national
MOCK: Tracy, I want to bring you in here. You know, the councilman says
that Katrina was ground zero, and you wrote in a piece this week about
Katrina in the “New York Times.” You wrote, “Given the enduring legacy of
discrimination,” sorry that was in “New York Times,” “on discrimination and
segregation in the united states, it is not surprising that millions of
black families are forced to live in neighborhoods that are accessible to
them precisely because these neighborhoods are at risk.” Can you expand on
that for us?
TRACEY ROSS, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, POVERTY TO PROSPERITY PROGRAM: Sure.
Well, our country has a legacy of discrimination and limiting neighborhood
choice. So, whether it`s 1930s when you saw a redlining where low income
people and people of color could not access home loans, or in the 1950s
when you see the extension of the highway system literally going through
black neighborhoods, destroying businesses and homes in the process. This
country has decided that black people can tolerate high poverty
neighborhoods and more devastation than other communities. So it really
wasn`t surprising to see the effects of Katrina in this way, that, you
know, the real story was the levees broke. It wasn`t really even the
storm, it was the levees, and it`s because the Lower Ninth Ward had poor
infrastructure. So, you know, low-income people, black people, are forced
to live in these neighborhoods because they`re less desirable and there is
greater investment in white affluent neighborhoods over time.
MOCK: And Trymaine, I don`t want us to get lost in this idea that, you
know, New Orleans are victims merely, right? That they`re also fierce
advocates for their communities. Can you share some of your thoughts
around their activism in this space?
LEE: I`ll say this. When you speak about resilience and overcome in New
Orleans in so many ways has shown just that. But I think the Danziger
Bridge illustrates that divide before Katrina, not just in New Orleans, but
in this country. I was a police reporter in New Orleans during the storm.
And the day of the Danziger Bridge, I was actually at the state there with
the police, and I heard a crackle over the radio say, we got five of
theirs, none of ours hurt. That five of theirs was that family. Those two
people who were killed. And they erupted in cheers. And that speaks
volumes about the us and the them, and the way we live in this very
segregated world, not just by race and class, but law enforcement and the
citizens there sworn to protect. So, when we think about this resilience
and what the people of Katrina in New Orleans have been able to overcome,
they`ve overcome much but they`re still are burdened with the memories and
the trauma of that day.
MELBER: And I want to bring back to Councilman Williams. When you think
about that and you look at the wider debates that are happening now race
relations and policing, there is something in common and something
problematic here, which was the reaction to the problems in Katrina was a
type of government failure. And we know there are crimes and we know
people hurt each other, generally. But there is something more distressing
in a democracy when the government`s conduct or omission itself is acting
to hurt citizens, and that`s been the same point in the policing context
where different cases merit different scrutiny, but the concern that police
power, that the power of the government and state has been used against at
times citizens. Speak to that and what we`ve learned here in this decade
as we think about the kind of government we want to have.
WILLIAMS: Sure. When you think about the Danziger Bridge, it really sort
of highlights several decades of over policing in certain neighborhoods,
abusive policing practices. We`re now under a consent decree, in which the
federal government is engaged with the restructuring and redeveloping of
our police department because they found there are actually two additional
areas that police department could fail that were present in New Orleans
that they hadn`t even accounted for in other cities. So, it was a huge
problem of really just policing a certain group of people. I`m an
attorney. I`ve done a number of criminal defense cases, and you would
often hear police officers on the stand say, we were doing proactive patrol
in a high-crime area.
But when you look at the geographical footprint of New Orleans, it`s a very
small city. It`s marbleized. You could be on the same street and have
affluent homes, and in a few blocks it turns into poverty. When you`re
talking about over policing, you`re talking about an area that is all a
high crime area. And so that over policing is manifested in situations
where you have raids in housing projects looking for drugs but never having
a raid on a college campus where there are just as many drugs. So, those
are the sorts of imbalances that you see that can cause a real disconnect
between people in the community and law enforcement, and there should not
MELBER: Stay with us because we`re going to pick up on that point. I also
want to mention Trymaine Lee has been reporting on Katrina and its
aftermath for as you said, ten years. He has a new exclusive with some
material that we want to show from the ground. That`s next.
MELBER: As we reflect on this anniversary, we want to note that ten years
ago, MSNBC reporter and a frequent Nerdland guest Trymaine Lee was a
reporter back then for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and he was part of
the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for that newspapers coverage of Katrina
and its aftermath. Now, ahead of the anniversary, Trymaine went back to
New Orleans, you`re going to see a lot of his reporting this week, now we
have a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: As the city descended into chaos, General Russell Honore arrived to
restore order and organize the evacuation process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Personal hygiene, one for family.
LEE: People who are poor struggling before the storm had it even worse
after the storm. People were marginally getting by. That old house that
they lived in no longer existed. The job that they had no longer existed.
One-and-a-half million people were forced from New Orleans and the gulf
coast region after Katrina. Ten years later a number of them have
returned, but to a new New Orleans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New Orleans has gone from literally being under water
to being one of the fastest growing major cities in America.
LEE: Despite Mayor Andrews` proclamation, violent crime, a problem before
Katrina, continues to plague certain sections of the city. The public
school system has been torn apart and remade into the nation`s first old
charter district. And although most of New Orleans` neighborhoods have
seen dramatic recovery in the last few years, and the city`s majority block
Lower Ninth Ward, the process has been much slower. For every newly
rebuilt or restored home, there is another one that`s beyond repair, and
tire blocks overgrown with weeds and nearly 100,000 black residents have
not returned compared with 11,000 white residents.
Of all the things we`ve lost in this storm, what haven`t we gotten back
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little bit of the soul is still missing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOCK: Powerful footage that kind of gives us perspective on what`s going
on on the ground. Ten years later, Trymaine, how is New Orleans doing?
LEE: New Orleans is struggling, but as I said in the piece, there is
indeed a new New Orleans in this push and desire to see it whole again.
But while you can patch up what has been broken physically, you can rebuild
the superdome and put a nice, shiny roof on it. The scars that are resting
in the people have not been properly addressed. I think a lot of folks are
struggling with that, people who were forced away by the storm, who have
never come back. Or those who have returned to find that their
neighborhoods are still in tatters, that their communities are still broken
and so many people are still struggling to get by.
And I think here we are ten years later still asking these questions and
folks are still ducking gunshots, people still dealing with corruption and
the police department allegations of such. The consent decree, how are
they actually working with the federal government? There, I have talk to a
number of police departments and federal government agents around the
country and they`re still struggling to meet their standards. And so, what
kind of New Orleans are we dealing with ten years later and where are those
people dealing with and trying to recover?
MOCK: And Tracy, what are the lessons that we learn from Katrina?
ROSS: Right. Well, we realize that, you know, a lot of people like to say
that storms of this nature are great equalizers. But really they
exacerbate the underlying socio-economic problems that our country faces
each year because low-income people tend to have inferior housing,
disproportionately near hazardous site, often wage workers which has fewer
protections if they can`t get back to their job during the storm realize
just how vulnerable communities of color are. And I think it`s important
to note, because we`ve been talking a lot about low-income communities, but
you know, the average African-American family making $100,000 a year lives
in a more disadvantaged neighborhood than the average white family making
$30,000 a year. So, there really is still a racial disparity that we have
to focus on.
MELBER: And I want to bring in the councilman. One of the things that
Melissa Harris-Perry noted in writing about this was that despite all the
coverage, and destruction of this on cable news, the federal government
refused to recognize what was happening. This part of the Katrina story
cannot be forgotten, she writes with James, video footage does not ensure
justice. And we`re in a moment where we`ve heard a lot about the need to
elevate issues, to have documentation, to have body cameras. What do you
say to that concern?
WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, I have to say that there have been remarkable
efforts into riding the ship. Economic development is booming, retail
restaurants are booming, retail, restaurants are booming, people are coming
to the city, it`s repopulating at one of the fastest clips in the country,
but we still haven`t done enough, just like your other two guests have
said. There`s simply so much more to do. We`ve run two-thirds of a
marathon. But those last miles, we have to have a new plan with how you`re
going to run those that you`re not still living in sort of a triage
scenario, but you`ve got to start making real plans to engage all of the
residents. So in the midst of this economic boom, wages at the bottom are
getting lower and wages at the top are getting higher, so the income
disparity is growing even more.
Most of the folks that were not able to leave that you just saw in that
footage couldn`t leave because they were working poor families that did
not have reliable transportation to leave. And so when we start talking
about being prepared for another storm, we`re still going to have that same
issue because we still have that poverty issue. And this desperate
treatment between how the police treat one neighborhood and another
neighborhood, it`s a poor issue. It affects poor white neighborhoods more,
but it clearly is crushing the poor black neighborhoods. So, we`ve got to
figure out a way to get real economic inclusion and that`s what we`re
working on now.
MELBER: Yes. And I suspect the President is going to talk about that when
he heads there this week. Councilman Jason Rogers Williams in New Orleans.
Thank you so much and thanks to our guests in New York, Tracy Ross and
MOCK: Still to come this morning, Dr. Dre issues an apology even as his
film Straight Outta Compton becomes a bonafide hit. But up next, why one
musician befriended the clan?
MOCK: Musician Daryl Davis has crossed paths and traded licks with some of
the biggest names in rock and soul history. But for the last three
decades, the Maryland resident has also been winning over some of the most
notorious members of a very different audience, the Ku Klux Klan. Nerdland
producers Traci Curry (ph) and Traci Tillman went to his home in Silver
Spring to find out why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARYL DAVIS, MUSICIAN: My name is Daryl Davis. I`m a musician. I like
performing rock and roll, blues, country western, R&B. I pay whatever kind
of music I`m paid to play. I never really learned about race as a smaller
child. A lot of my youth was spent overseas as an American embassy brat.
And I had no idea of what racism was. I don`t think I even knew the word
until I had my first racial incident, which was marching with the cub
scouts. There was a parade, and as I was marching, the only black scout in
this march, a group of white kids and white adults began throwing things.
And I was getting hit. It was incomprehensible to someone who knew nothing
about me would want to inflict pain upon me for no other reason than this,
the color of my skin.
So, I formed this question in my mind, how can you hate me when you don`t
even know me? As an adult, having never gotten the answer, I decided to
seek the answer. I said, I`m going to go right to the Ku Klux Klan and
have them tell me. The opportunity, the encounter presented itself. And I
was playing in a country western bar. I had just joined this country band
in 1983. I was walking across the dance floor and this white gentleman
came up from behind and put his arm around my shoulder, and he says, hey,
you know, I real like you all`s music. He wanted to buy me a drink.
And then he announces that this is the first time he ever sat down or had a
drink with a black man. I said why? Tell me. He looked at me plain as
day and didn`t crack a smile and said, I`m a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
There was his playing card. Whoa, this thing is for real. He was, you
know, very fascinated with me and wanted me to call him any time I came
back to this bar with this band so he could bring his buddies, his Klan
buddies. He came out and would bring Klan men and women to the bar and
watch me play. And so, years later I decided, you know, I want to write a
book and I want to go around the country and interview Klan leaders and
Klan members and get their perspectives. I`ll start right here in
Maryland, start with the head of the Maryland`s Klan.
He agreed to interview with me. At the end of the interview, he told me to
keep in touch. I said, I don`t like what he stands for but I like him as a
person. I am going to keep in contact with him. And he would invite me to
some Klan rallies, and I would go to these Klan rallies, and I would watch
the fight on the cross and they are kinds of things. This went on for a –
of years. We would even have dinner together. So here is the leader of
the Klan with his arch enemy, a black man, sitting down at the same table
because he was beginning to see me, slowly, as perhaps a human being. And
he began inviting me to his house.
Over time, Mr. Kelly and I became the best of friends. And he quit the
Klan. When he quit the Klan, I got his robe and hood. And when Mr. Kelly
left the Klan, the Klan in Maryland fell apart. There have been a couple
other Klan groups that tried to start up but none of them successfully.
That doesn`t mean that there`s no more racist in the state of Maryland,
there`s just no more organized racist organizations. I never set up to
convert anybody, even today. But when the first Klansman quit because of
me, I thought, I`m on to something. Over time, you know, becoming a friend
of mine, they began rethinking their own ideology themselves. And they
come to the decision that, you know what? There`s more to this world than
being in the Klan. I need to get out. And when they do, usually I`m
responsible for it. Some of them give me their robes and hoods and give me
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOCK: Our thanks to Daryl Davis and Lared (ph) Music for the music
featured in that piece. So, our producers asked Daryl Davis what kind of
reaction he`s received from other black people. He says he`s been called
every name in the book from Uncle Tom`s sellout. His response, this is
what I`ve done to put a dent in racism on how many robes and hoods have you
collected? And that tends to shut them up, he says.
MELBER: That`s one way to put it.
MOCK: Well, I`m helping you that I feel like this piece in this story kind
of – it proves the saying that you can`t hate someone whose story you
MELBER: Yes, I mean, you see just the images that are so bracing, and
obviously people are going to come to a lot of different views of how to
deal with it, and that`s a debate in religion that spans thousands of
years. When do you turn the other cheek, when do you defend yourself, when
do you confront hate? But his story, a story of music and love, I think is
a very interesting. It`s one way to do it. It`s fascinating to see it.
MOCK: It`s great to see how one can use art in that kind of way.
But up next, “Straight Outta Compton” is the biggest film in America. It
is both a generating crucial dialogue about police in America and big
controversy about the parts left out.
MELBER: The highly anticipated film “Straight Outta Compton” which depicts
the emergence of the iconic rap group NWA open in theaters last weekend,
you probably heard, the Box Office numbers had been pretty astounding, the
movie made 60.2 million by the close of that just opening weekend. That`s
the fifth highest August opening weekend ever for any kind of movie. And
the Box Office tally is set to go well beyond the $100 million mark this
weekend. This film which is from MSNBC`s parent company universal we want
to mention is doing so well that there are now rumors already a sequel that
might track the rise of death row records and the rap phenoms Tupac and
Now, there had been many critics of the film including the very important
note that the movie didn`t mention group member Dr. Dre`s reported history
of abusing women. We`re going to talk more about that in a moment here on
MHP. But first, we want to look at some of the movie`s triumphs which are
perhaps best summarize by none other than director and screen writer Ava
DuVernay who tweeted this after watching Compton. “Damn, they got it
right. The brilliant direction and the gorgeous cinematography, I was
transported back. I saw the militarized battered rams again rolling up the
streets like invaders in a war. My friend asked, is that real? Yep, that
happened. I was in the street during the Rodney King uprising,” she
tweets. “After that unjust verdict, feeling anger, in community, and fire
and love happened.”
Compton really did transport many viewers back to those tense and emotional
moments in U.S. History. But it`s powerful depiction of that history also
mirrors many things going on right now. A couple of weeks ago, the young
actors in the film spoke with Melissa Harris-Perry about their experience
of this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, “MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY”: There is no way
to watch that scene as if it`s just historical, you have to watch it in the
moment that is Ferguson, that is Texas, that is Ohio. How much was that
weighing on your minds as you were making it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heavily. Heavily on our minds. There were days when
we shot the Detroit riots, when we shutdown, I think, Lower Canyon
Boulevard in Los Angeles and shot those riots after the Rodney King
incident, and we would go home and those images that we were shooting were
on the TV.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those cultural images weighed heavily on a lot of our minds as we
were watching the movie. The depiction of NWA members being accosted by
police outside their place of business might have drummed up memories of
young teens in McKinney, Texas made the life faced down on the ground as an
officer answered the call, about that supposed pool disturbance or the
depiction of militarized armored vehicles in response to L.A. riots looking
eerily similar to militarized policing in Ferguson just last summer. The
film conveyed the dynamic is true in 1980s Compton as in Ferguson or
Biltmore today, there are systemic problems in policing in race relations
that many people in power don`t want to hear about. And forcing those
issues into conversation whether it`s through culture or politics or
protest can be powerful even as it sparks a backlash in many powerful
Joining us now to discuss is Joan Morgan, author of “When Chickenheads Come
Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down.” And Clay Cane, an
entertainment editor at BET.com. Janet and I are very excited to talk to
both of you. Let`s start with the way this movie shows, young black men
who felt marginalized throughout their lives, stepping up and using music
to punch back so powerfully that the police literally arrested them not for
any other conduct but for their music.
CLAY CANE, BET.COM`S ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR: Well, it really was that
intersection of interracial justice that we saw with NWA. The NWA managed
to tackle –
MELBER: I think we`re having a little trouble with your microphone. Let
me go to you, Joan, and we`ll come back to you. Sorry about that.
JOAN MORGAN, CULTURAL CRITIC: You know, I absolutely enjoyed the film, and
as a native New Yorker and a music critic at the time, what was really
interesting about it to me was when Ava says, she was transported back.
That`s exactly how I felt in the Movie Theater. I actually saw it around
the corner from the Apollo which is where Cube performed his first New York
City show. But what was the tension of being put back in the past and have
it so adequately mirror the present was eerie in the way that F. Gary Gray
was able to capture that.
You know, Chuck D. said that hip-hop was black America CNN. And I think
what people don`t remember about that particular period of time is that as
hip-hop hits, we had no idea what was going on in Los Angeles. Like if you
were east coast, you didn`t know what was going on on the West Coast, you
didn`t know what was going on in the South. And so, we really had no idea
that there was this level of police brutality and that black men were being
marked in that way on the West Coast because hip-hop for us was going back
to Cali with L. Cool J.
MELBER: Right. And the Rodney King video was only an issue because it was
created by video. Something that is more privileged now. I want to play
another clip from the movie looking at police interactions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These clients of yours, these rappers, they look like
gang members. You can`t come down here and arrest people just because of
what they look like. Are you crazy? That`s police harassment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said you`re a manager, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not a lawyer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that matter? You cannot come down here and arrest
these guys because they`re black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANE: Hip-hop was our social media back then, and in many ways, hip-hop
was, to some degree, our black twitter back then. And what NWA managed to
capture in a way that was threatening, that scared white people, that
scared some black people. It was brilliant. And I love the way that F.
Gary Gray really found a nuance way to tackle that. And it`s perfect
timing. In a way their foot bells station was perfect timing a couple of
years ago. This was perfect timing as well. I also think it was very
strategic. I think it was a marketing standpoint that we`re going to use
the platform the NWA had and show how it`s still relevant today. It really
kind of shook my soul how 1988-2015, it just mirrors exactly. And if you
go to the 1960s, you can get the same experience.
MOCK: And I love what Cube said in the film, he framed his work as
reporter, as a journalist. Talking to another journalist I love that kind
of push there.
Up next, one of the glaring omissions from “Straight Outta Compton.”
MELBER: And an apology from Dr. Dre himself.
MOCK: “Straight Outta Compton” left many viewers feeling thoroughly
entertained, nostalgic for the origins of reality rap. And maybe even
jarred by the eerily modern betrayal of police aggression. But it was hard
to walk away from the biopic about some of the realist most influential
artist in rap history without feeling confused by a glaring emission.
“Straight Outta Compton” failed to address Dr. Dre`s physical assault of
RNB artist and ex-fiance Michel`le Toussaint, hip-hop journalist Denise Dee
Barnes and former labelmate Tairrie B.
Many film critic including our guest Clay Cane addressed the film`s
narrative, but this week no voice seemed louder than Dean Barnes` says.
Here`s a bit of history. Barnes, who was the host of the `90s hip-hop
talks show “Pump it Up,” interviewed Ice Cube in 1990 after he left the NWA
and began feuding with his former colleagues. In a $22 million lawsuit
against Dr. Dre in 1991, Barnes alleged the rapper attacked her in a
Hollywood club after expressing her anger over an interview with Cube who
had insulted NWA. The suit was settled out of court but the history came
up again this week after Barnes shared her reaction to watching “Straight
She wrote, “When I was sitting there in the theaters and the movie`s
timeline skipped by my attack without a glance, I was like, hmm, what
happened? Like many of the women that knew and worked with NWA, I found
myself a casualty of “Straight Outta Compton`s” revisionist history. One
of the women Dee was referring to is Dr. Dre`s former fiancee Michel`le,
the mother of one of his five children. In a recent interview for a Vlad
TV, Michel`le was asked to address her absence from the film. She said
matter of factually, why would Dre put me in it? Because if they start
from where they start from, I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat up
and told to sit down and shut up.
This week`s uproar over the film`s emissions ended with an apology from Dr.
Dre. Hip-hop`s richest artist gave a statement to the “New York Times” on
Friday. It read, in part, “I apologize to the women I`ve hurt. I deeply
regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.”
He continued by saying, “25 years ago I was a young man drinking too much
and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of
this is an excuse for what I did. I`m doing everything I can so I never
resemble that man again.”
Well, Dr. Dre`s apology feels like a long-a waited public acknowledgment of
the stories Dee, Tairrie and Michel`le have shared for years. It`s
important to note that a recognition of Dre`s abusive past almost made it
into the movie. And earlier drafted the script including the scene
depicting Dr. Dre`s assault of Dee Barnes. But the scene was cut from the
final version because Director F. Gary Gray wanted to create a film that
focused entirely on the group. Gray also said the script that included the
scene was too long running almost three and a half hours. Now, we`re all
hip-hop fans here and can appreciate NWA, a group whose lyrics astutely
reflected their harsh realities in Compton. But were the harsh tube left
out the biopic just a little too real?
So, Joan, I want to start with you here. I know that Kenny Meyer (ph) who
we had on yesterday challenged the filmmakers during a screening which is
what kind of led to this emergence about the omission of Dee Barnes. Why
do you think it was not addressed?
MORGAN: I think that – first of all, I wasn`t expecting to see it
addressed. I think that one of the things that people forget about that
time period is that the ratio of women`s voices was so complete in hip-hop.
A lot of what the film portrayed is what it felt like to be around at that
time. And I feel like the only way that it could have been addressed is if
Dre himself has really dealt with and reckoned with and come to terms with
his abuse that actually should have started with an apology to Dee as
opposed to the “New York Times,” but I`m happy to get whatever we got for
But he certainly would have been able to reach out to her now for years.
And I think in fairness, I think that he has been struggling with this for
years, certainly as a journalist it`s something that I asked him after the
incident, and I just feel like in so many cases of – particularly with
black men in highly visible black men and celebrities that their domestic
violence is not only unchallenged but it also – it`s not helped in any
way, you know? I saw those actions of being the actions of someone who is
also sick and it also needs some help.
MELBER: Yes. And you`re hitting such an important point, which is their
inability to deal with it, push it out of the film. It`s not because there
wasn`t time, it was because this film partly produced by people from NWA
then didn`t want to deal with it and now didn`t want to deal with it. And
by stifling it in a participatory era when there is pushback from Dee and
Gawker on the internet, now he`s apologized because what the movie failed
to do in fictionalize history he now is being forced to do, and Apple has
to make a statement, too. So, that`s a motto come a progress Clay and yet,
this is still a problem in hip-hop. And for people who love hip-hop, why
is there this feeling that because we`re talking about something that was
marginalized and was sometimes unfairly attacked that there is this view
that you can`t deal with things like hip-hop especially in that era should
be attacked for. Which is a systemic, lyrical, physical, reality-based
problem in its treatment and depiction of women.
CANE: That`s a great point. And here`s the thing. You can appreciate an
artist and still make them accountable for their actions. That`s a really
important point. You can look at an artist and say, I like what they do
but they should still be held accountable. In a weird cosmic way, I`m
almost happy that the misogyny, what was omitted because it made it a
CANE: It made it a bigger issue. It made people say, you know what? This
must be addressed. Every person that I know that walked in to see Compton,
they thought about the misogyny. So, I think that is so powerful. You
know, what you decided to ignore it in social media, and black folks said,
this will not be ignored.
MOCK: And I think about one of the things that struck me when I watched
the film was, the one of the first points of interpersonal violence was
actually violence struck by Dre`s mother onto him which I found to be an
interesting part of the retelling of this history.
MELBER: Yes. It is. They had time for that. And so, how do fans Joan
because you wrote the book on being the feminist and enjoying and loving
hip-hop, how do they reconcile their love of hip-hop with its issues like
misogyny and homophobia.
MORGAN: Well, you know, NWA impart is responsible for hip-hop feminism
certainly my interactions in journalism if – what gave birth to the
concept. They were sort of the lying in the sand where I felt like women
had to – or for myself is a feminist, had to really be the ones
responsible from bringing these issues to the table, it`s not only just in
journalism but to the culture. And so, I`m grateful for those
opportunities. At the same time, I think that, you know, I just want to
say something about the scene that was omitted. The way that that scene
was framed, Dre – Dee Barnes throws a drink in his face, and then Dre
attacks her, which is fictional.
But they use a framing that`s so contemporary like reality TV that
basically says, well, she kind of deserved it because she threw a drink in
his face. So, and it`s on so many pervasive levels that the screenplay
doesn`t want to deal with the misogyny, the audience doesn`t want to deal
with the misogyny. The power of hip-hop is that the audience can deal with
the misogyny, critics can deal with the misogyny. And we push back to the
artist. And I think that that`s just been our job. I mean, I am on the
record as saying I found NWA straight up demonic. I had real issues with
them when they came out, but they also forced me to create hip-hop
feminism, which is an important thing.
MELBER: And this idea – I mean, Ice Cube has also said, oh, I never
understood why an upstanding lady would think we`re talking about her in
reference to some of these words. Again, this double standard. We
wouldn`t say words that are derogatory based on race can just be used and
then blame people for thinking it applied to them. Why would we say that
MORGAN: Well, here`s the thing that`s the problem with the film. There
are other stories there. Cube`s story with his wife Kim is a beautiful
story. He chose a partner that he saw as an intellectual equal, that he
felt was a strong voice in his business, and I felt like that story, even
telling that story about their relationship would have given the film
another dimension. I just think that they did not want to deal with gender
at all. Even the stronger images that are there.
MOCK: Well, thank you so much, Joan Morgan, and Clay Cane for being a part
of this conversation. Much more after this break.
MOCK: Americans mark a milestone this week. On Tuesday, the White House
hired its first openly trans-staffer. Twenty-eight year old Raffi
Freedman-Gurspan was appointed the outreach and recruitment director for
presidential personnel. She comes from The National Center for Transgender
Equality where she worked as a policy advisor on racial and economic
justice. But even as we celebrate Raffi`s accomplishment, we must take
note of another milestone, a much more somber one reached this past week.
The killings of three trans-women were reported over a 24-hour period.
Another was killed the following day. Their deaths brings the total of
killings of trans-women in America this year to 17, according to the
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, a number that already exceeds
last year`s complete total. Fifteen of the 17 women killed were Black and
The 17 women were Poppy Edwards, she was found shot in a hotel parking lot
in Booneville, Kentucky. She was only 20 years old. Lamia Beard, 30-
years-old shot in Norfolk, Virginia. Lamia was a musician and loved ones
described her as a kind person who would give the shirt of her back. Ty
Underwood, 24-years-old. A nursing student who was shot in North Tyler,
Texas. Yazmin Vash Payne, 33-years-old. She was stabbed in her Los
Angeles apartment. Her boyfriend turned himself in the next day. Taja
Gabrielle DeJesus, 36-years-old, she was stabbed in San Francisco. She was
active in her church and volunteered at her local food pantry. Her mother
recalls her as being, quote, “beautiful inside and out.”
Penny Proud, 21-years-old was shot multiple times in New Orleans, in what
police believe to be a robbery. Kristina Grant Infinite, 46-years-old, the
talented performer was found stabbed in her own home in Miami. London
Chanel, 21-years-old, she was stabbed in Philadelphia. Her roommate
confessed to the crime. Mercedes Williamson, 17-years-old, her body was
found buried in Rocky Creek, Alabama. Mercedes aspired to be a
cosmetologist. Ashton O`Hara, 25-years-old, she was found stabbed and run
over by a car in a Detroit Park. Amber Monroe, 20-years-old, she was shot
in the same Detroit park at O`Hara, just two weeks later. Friends describe
Amber as charismatic and outgoing. She loved to dance.
India Clarke, 25-years-old, she was found beaten to death in a Tampa,
Florida park. Loved ones remember her as a loving, confident and happy
person. K.C. Haggard, 66-years-old. She was stabbed on the street in
Fresno, California. She was just becoming active in her local trans-
community. Shade Schuler, 22-years-old, her body was found in a filled in
Dallas. Kandis Capri, 35-years-old, she was shot in Phoenix. Her mother
remembers her as a beautiful loving person. Elisha Walker, 20-years-old,
she was missing for almost a year before her body was found in Johnston
County, North Carolina, last week. Tamara Dominguez, 36-years-old, she was
run over by a driver repeatedly in Kansas City. Loved ones who called her
sweet and generous, and they said she loved to cook.
These women are more than just a compilation of names and ages and stories
of violence and trauma. They were people. People living at a vulnerable
intersection of race, gender and class, people existing in a culture where
they fell in between the cracks of racial justice, feminists and LGBT
movements. People whose names are only spoken by the majority of us when
they can no longer respond. Today, we learn their stories and say their
names, not out of obligation, but out of recognition that these 17 women
had value, had purpose, and were loved. And they will be missed.
And that is our program for today. And Melissa will be back next week. In
the meantime, you can catch my online program “So Popular” at MSNBC.com.
MELBER: This was very fun and an honor to do with you.
MOCK: It was so great.
MELBER: I know we`ll be having you back. And if you want to see some
pictures of us on the set here from this weekend, you can always follow me
on Instagram @AriMelber or Janet Mock @ JanetMock.
For everyone at MHP, thanks for joining us. And coming up is “WEEKENDS
WITH ALEX WITT.”
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