Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 09/05/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question – Miley,
what`s good? Plus, what may be the shortest maternity leave in the
country. She`s a CEO. And the Chicago hunger strikers trying to save a
school. But first, the pope is coming to America.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And in 17 days, Pope Francis will
land in the United States to much fanfare. His five-day visit includes a
speech before a joint session of Congress, as well as visits to an East
Harlem school here in New York City. And a prison in Philadelphia. Cities
along his route are preparing for increased traffic and an influx of
visitors. Hotels are packed and in Philadelphia, an unusual option –
bunks available for $75 a night aboard the Battleship New Jersey.
In Philly, about one million people are expected to attend an outdoor mass
by Pope Francis along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. And last night, Pope
Francis`s audience with three U.S. communities aired on national
television. So an emotional preview to his visit to the states later this
month. When a 17-year-old in Chicago spoke of her struggles with a rare
skin disorder and the solace she finds in music, a rare moment occurred.
The pope chose to address the young woman in English.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS: Marisse, I would like to have you singing. May I ask of you
to sing a song for me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were all unsure if she would sing.
POPE FRANCIS: Rock (ph) of ages.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (singing)
POPE FRANCIS: Thank you very much. That was very kind of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The pontiff also made news earlier this week when he
released a letter permitting all priests the discretion to absolve women
who seek forgiveness for having an abortion. In the letter, Pope Francis
wrote, “may priest fulfill this great chaos by expressing words of genuine
welcome combined with the reflection that explains the gravity of the sin
committed besides indicating a path of authentic conversion, by which to
obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with
Now, this discretion is already afforded to many priests by their bishop.
In Archdiocese of New York, for example, priests have had this faculty for
nearly three decades, but Vatican experts say that this edict democratizes
the process to prevent conservative bishops from blocking priests` efforts
So to be clear, this is not a doctrine change the pope announced, but it is
important to know his choice to address this long alienated constituency.
More on that in a minute.
And in the short time in the papacy, Pope Francis has repeatedly touched on
controversial issues. In June, Pope Francis called for action to stop
climate change. Saying it`s mostly man-made. The pontiff also broke with
his predecessor Benedict XVI telling the audience at the Vatican that the
Big Bang theory and evolution do not contradict the role of a divine
creator. He said, even quote, “God is not a divine being or a magician,
but the creator who brought everything to life. Evolution in nature is not
inconsistent with the notion of creation because evolution requires the
creation of beings that evolve.”
While the pope has not changed doctrine on marriage equality, he famously
said in 2013, who am I to judge? When asked about gay Catholics in the
church. And just last month, Pope Francis encouraged the church to embrace
Catholics who have divorced and remarried.
The pope of mercy has been praised for breaking the mold. He`s received
much acclaim for not shying away from these raw nerve issues, and those who
are affected by them. It`s likely he`s trying to reset the tone of the
conversation ahead of his arrival in the U.S., and in March the pontiff
announced the whole year was a way to broaden the church`s reach, to become
more inclusive instructing the church “make more evident its mission to be
a witness of mercy.” This outreach comes at a time when Catholic numbers
appear to be on the decline. A Pew survey this year found nearly one-third
of American adults say they were raised Catholic, but among their group, 41
percent no longer identify with Catholicism. And when it comes to
conversions, 12.9 percent of American adults are former Catholics while
just two percent have converted to Catholicism from another religious
In Pope Francis native Latin America where 40 percent of the world`s
Catholics reside, historical data suggests, for most of the 20th century at
least 90 percent of the population was Catholic, but today Pew research
shows, 69 percent of adults across the region identify as Catholic.
Put another way, 84 percent of Latin American adults report they were
raised Catholic, but only 69 percent currently identify as such.
Joining me now Father James Martin, author of “Jesus: A Pilgrimage”. An
editor in large at American Media and Reverend Jacqui Lewis, senior
minister at Middle Colgate Church here in New York. So nice to have you
both. I want to start with you, because I think there is – there is a
sense in those two different pieces that I was trying to present there. On
the one hand a kind of doctrinal theological emphasis of this pope, and on
the other side, a very practical question about the viability of the
Catholic Church in the world as it exists now. Do you think that those two
things are tension with each other or is this pope talking in the way that
he talks in part because of that reality?
JAMES MARTIN: I think the latter. I mean, doctrine really does depend on
practice and vice versa. So, he`s trying to meet people where they are.
He`s trying to address the issues that are very important to people right
now and that he feels had been underappreciated or under-stressed under the
last two popes. And he said that explicitly. “I want to address more
topics that are kind of where people live basically.” But you`re
absolutely right that his overall theme is mercy and I am all for that. So
I think he`s doing a great job.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this idea of mercy, there was another thing that I heard
in that town hall in particular. In the moment when he shifts into
English, folks don`t know, he has said before he`s kind of uncomfortable
speaking English. And that recognition, the pope to look at a young girl,
to recognize her and then to do something that was uncomfortable for him
while asking her to do something that was uncomfortable, I thought well,
that is all you`re going for in leadership in the church, in everything in
REV. JACQUI LEWIS: He is so walking Jesus` walk when he does that, right?
LEWIS: Looking at her, seeing who she is, recognizing her. Speaking in
her language, approaching – just like Jesus meeting the woman at the well
and knowing her and forgiving her. I mean this guy is my pope.
HARRIS-PERRY: Even though you`re not Catholic.
LEWIS: Even though I`m a Protestant. What I love about him, Melissa, is
the way he is - he is sort of leaving out God is still speaking. Though
he`s not changing doctrine, he`s creating new theology. He is doing a
theology of love and mercy and kindness as opposed to a lot of our
churches` theologies, so judgment and restriction and tightness and people
are leaving churches. Not tough Catholic churches, but all churches when
they don`t feel a book called un-Christian wrote about evangelical young
people. And it said these evangelical Christians are leaving because they
think the church is homophobic, hypocritical and judgmental. Here`s the
pope saying, God is love and let me show you what love looks like.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet the pope remains Catholic, right? And so for me,
someone who`s raised in the Unitarian Universal`s tradition, although
married to a Catholic and raising a Catholic child, there`s a doctrine of
sin that continues to be somewhat difficult for me to manage, and I just
want to point out, not just me, when we look at American Catholics in a
recent poll asking about what constitutes sin, 54 percent saying
cohabitation is not sin. 40 percent saying homosexuality is not sin, 66
percent saying, contraception, another 50 percent almost saying remarriage
without annulment is not a sin and even a third of American Catholics
saying that abortion is not sin.
So there`s still – so again, I love this pope, right, he`s my pope. But I
also see that there seem to be some challenges around this doctrine.
MARTIN: Yeah, I mean there`s still sin, there`s sin in every Christian
religion, basically. And there is sin you look outside, I mean there`s
crime and theft and those kinds of things. There`s sin that is going on in
the world. What he`s trying to do is remind people that as you said so
well, you know, God is love and God is mercy and Jesus is about
forgiveness. One of the best things I ever heard about confession, for
example, that he`s talking about in this abortion letter is that confession
is not about how bad you are, but how good God is, right? And so, you
know, as you were saying it is - it is the pope meeting people where they
are. He is a pastor, he is reaching out to people. And part of that
reaching out is forgiveness and mercy and understanding people as
imperfect, struggling people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just a matter of the Catholicism of all, help people to
understand the distinction the absolution is. This was part of, you know,
they were kind of digging into - that language matters here, right?
There`s a specific thing when you`re saying that you can be absolved of
MARTIN: Yeah, well, confession or the right of reconciliation, this if the
person comes and with a purpose of amendment and, you know, confessing
their sins, is given a penance and is forgiven in God`s name. It`s God who
does the forgiving. And for a long time, as you were saying, there were
still dioceses that reserved the forgiveness of abortion to the bishop. So
you would have to get kind of permission. Now, it`s, as you said,
universalized. And so, it is a real emphasis and reaching out to people,
and one of the great things about these letters he said, I know the
pressures that women are under. Who`s struggled with this. So, it`s a
very understanding merciful outreach I think.
LEWIS: Can I just ask a question?
LEWIS: So, to miss the mark is what sin is and in this place where I think
as a Protestant missing the mark is about breaking our relationship with
God and people, so the list of the things, smoking, you know, is that a
sin? I mean this place have you know, of what is sin, I think God sees us
already as healed and whole and forgiven. And I think the difference
between Protestantism and Catholicism, that we as Protestants know that we
can go directly to God and be forgiven.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, but it is part of what is interesting about the nature
of the Catholic Church, is the relationship of community, right? It is a
collective relationship in that way. And so, part of what I`m also
wondering, we talk a lot about this relationship between the pope and the
people. But this – isn`t it also by democratizing it, so, it`s a bit of a
relation between the pope and the priest. Like there`s also a little bit
of potentially opening up room for new and different kinds of leadership.
Because we are looking at membership numbers here, but the priesthood is
also very much challenged, particularly in the U.S., right, Around
Americans coming into the priesthood.
MARTIN: Oh, yeah, and I mean the pope is trying to set an example. As we
saw last night in that show he is being a pastor. He`s meeting people
where they are. He`s listening to people. That`s what a good pastor does,
and he`s showing in a sense priests but also other Christians how to be a
good Christian. You know, you listen, you`re merciful, you love. You take
people where they are, you know, like Jesus did at the - with the woman at
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you the politics question of all this. Given
that typically it`s on a more conservative world view where we have seen
kind of the Catholic Church deployed in American politics, I`m wondering if
this ends up being disruptive visit for what we usually think of as kind of
a partisan divide.
LEWIS: I hope so. I hope so.
MARTIN: Yeah, me too.
LEWIS: That`s our biggest hope and dream is that the pope`s presence in
the nation when he talks to Congress, when he calls those people to talk
about climate change, that we kind of break a frame about what it means to
be Christian, what it means to be holy. What it means to be whole. And
that the conversation changes to dialogue, mercy, forgiveness and love.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, two, Father Jim Martin and Reverend Jacqui Lewis.
Stay right there. Because up next, the latest on the refugee crisis in
Europe. And later, Joe Biden`s heart felt message on his political future.
HARRIS-PERRY: There are new images from overnight of thousands of people
crossing the border from Hungary into Austria. They are part of a migrant
and refugee crisis that has made Hungary a transit hub for people
experiencing violence and economic insecurity in the Middle East and
Africa, seeking safety and opportunity in Northern and Western Europe. NBC
News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel filed this report with the
latest on the story.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Here at the border between Hungary
and Austria, traffic is backed up for miles. After coming under heavy
pressure the Hungarian government finally relented and gave some
assistance, helping migrants and refugees pass through.
They made it. They won. Buses took thousands of migrants from Hungary
into Austria this morning. A simple border crossing. But this was a hard
fought victory which they had to earn one step at a time. From there, many
were quickly loaded on to trains for Vienna. Friday, the migrants and
refugees mostly from Syria finally got fed up in Hungary. And decided to
head for the Austrian border on foot. 100 miles away. The Hungarian
government had been given them a hard time. Corralling them into camps,
sometimes beating them and forcing them off trains. Ahmed lost his leg in
an airstrike in Syria and wears a prosthetic. Like many, he was angry and
confused as to why the Hungarian government was hassling instead of helping
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): We bought train tickets but they
won`t let us travel, he said. But with reporters following every step, and
babies in the sun, children two to a stroller, it all became too
embarrassing for the Hungarian government. Which finally gave the migrants
and refugees what they wanted – passage out of the country so they could
head further north and west to wealthier parts of Europe.
ENGEL: This crisis is in no way over. The Hungarian government says this
was a one-time deal [NO AUDIO] getting to the business of shuttling
refugees and migrants through the country and delivering them to Austria,
but expectations have been raised and already today, more refugees and more
migrants are on the march hoping that they too will be picked up. Richard
Engel, NBC News, along the Hungarian-Austria border.
HARRIS-PERRY: Still to come this morning, what Hillary Clinton told NBC`s
Andrea Mitchell about being perceived to be a liar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s be honest. If you`re making a serious bid to be the
president of the United States, you`re pretty much by definition not an
average person. But it is ordinary voters whose preferences determine the
contest and as a result, candidates typically have to strike a balance
between showing they understand the interests and concerns of ordinary
Americans without seeming like a pretender. The name of this particular
political game – perceived authenticity. And you know what? It turns out
Donald Trump has it. In a recent Iowa poll Republican caucus-goers said
that by far, Trump`s best quality is that quote, “he tells it like it is.”
Authenticity is also, apparently, part of Bernie Sanders` appeal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE SANDERS: We have all become so accustomed to stage managed focus
group driven candidates that authenticity comes across as lunacy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He may be the most unusual presidential candidate we`ve
seen in a long time.
SANDERS: Yes, if by unusual you mean honestly representing himself and his
beliefs rather than playing a cynical political game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: On the flip side, Hillary Clinton`s biggest weakness is that
she doesn`t seem authentic. Voters say the first words that come to mind
for Clinton are liar, dishonest and untrustworthy. Ouch. MSNBC`s Andrea
Mitchell asked Clinton on Friday about the perception that she`s not
authentic or that she doesn`t connect with voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that`s just not my experience out campaigning. I
feel very, very good about where we are. We built a terrific organization
in the early states. The level of support, the intensity of support that
I`m experiencing as I speak with people and talking about issues that I
know are on their minds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But that perception whether Clinton shares it or not may be
why Sanders is closing in. According to one recent poll in Iowa the
Vermont senator is now within just seven points of the front-runner.
Joining me now, Joy Reid, MSNBC national correspondent and author of the
forthcoming book “Fracture, Barack Obama, the Clintons and the Racial
Divide.” Rebecca Traister, writer at large for “New York Magazine” and
author of “Big Girls Don`t Cry: the Elections that Changed Everything for
American Women.” And Robert Traynham, MSNBC contributor and a former
senior adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Thank you all for being here.
Rebecca, I want to start with you. Because I mean - it`s lot of reasons,
but I guess part of what I`m wondering is, do you think that these numbers
even those poll numbers about sort of liars – do they reflect like actual
vulnerability or is this us wanting to just have a story to tell?
REBECCA TRAISTER, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”: Probably more of the second, but it
does reflect a long standing vulnerability for Clinton, right? So, this
inauthentic charge precedes the e-mail scandal. This is something that`s
been in Hillary`s past throughout her political career, right? It`s often
been attached to her sort of contortions politically that she was perceived
as starting very much from the left, she moved to the center and now she`s
back to the left. It`s been attached to other things, it`s part of the
narrative that is used against her, but it`s also rooted in reality. That
she`s been a contortionist politically, right? And it`s also, it`s very
tied up in how she`s performed often awkwardly on campaign trails. You
know, she wasn`t born an electoral politician, right? And so it`s a tag
that`s stuck with her. There was going to be a narrative at this point in
the campaign. Whether it was going to be a Benghazi thing that Trey Gowdy
got to stick, whether it was going to be this e-mail thing whether it`s
going to be something we couldn`t dream up right now, because we got the
emails instead. This is the moment at which that everybody is bored.
She`s still the front-runner, though. She is being really credibly
challenged. And this was going to happen. So sure, it reflects a
vulnerability that has always been in place for Hillary Clinton.
HARRIS-PERRY: So here`s my challenge about it happening. Is that - some
of what you named there were actual events, things, occurrences that can be
proved, just prove or evidence can be brought to bear or not.
And Joy, I want to listen here to another little piece of the Andrea
interview where Andrea asks her about what it feels like to be associated
with the word liar. Because that feels to me - that - I don`t – like
that`s different. That`s about who she actually is. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, certainly it doesn`t make me feel good, but I am
very confident that by the time this campaign has run its course people
will know that what I have been saying is accurate. More importantly, the
American people will know that they can trust me when it comes to standing
up for them and fighting for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, how do you assess this idea that the thing, the
narrative now is about who she actually is?
JOY REID, MSNBC: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: As opposed to what she did or didn`t do?
REID: I mean, I just think that after 30 something years of experience
with the Clintons where it has been sort of, you know, gate after gate
after gate after gate, people do have a built-in skepticism of everything
they do. And you see how quickly she pivoted to her talking points. I
think she contributes to it in a sense that Hillary Clinton is an attorney.
And she kind of sounds like one when she speaks. She doesn`t talk about
emotion. She pivots right to such carefully produced talking points. And
she so careful. And I think partly because she`s trying not to make the
same mistakes and the mistakes of 2008 are so in her head.
REID: And she has been parsed so much from what she wears, to whether she
took her husband`s last name. That at this point, she`s such a carefully
stage managed person that I think that people are getting that perception
of her because of her performance.
HARRIS-PERRY: We saw that even in her interaction with the Black Lives
HARRIS-PERRY: Young people, where she says, well, you can`t necessarily
change hearts and minds. You have got to change policy. But I don`t
disagree that policy is critically important, but it is a little bit of the
staying away from the emotional. But I wonder though, I mean, so I don`t
think I have been very undercover about this. I`m not a huge fan of
Hillary Clinton for president.
HARRIS-PERRY: But that`s – but this particular argument does feel gender
to me. She`s a liar, she`s untrustworthy. She`s too careful, she`s not
authentic and she`s insufficiently emotional. Well, that`s in part because
if she were emotional, we know big girls don`t cry.
ROBERT TRAYNHAM: It`s a good - between being emotional and being - not
being authentic, and I think I agree with both these ladies point here.
Hillary Clinton doesn`t come across as authentic. And what I mean by that
is that I think – look, I think at the end of the day, most Americans just
do a gut check when it comes to their politicians or people that aspire to
be president. And with Hillary Clinton, it appears to be that she`s
inauthentic on almost everything. So, to Joy`s point about the talking
points, OK, can you speak extemporaneously about an emotional issue?
Hillary Clinton doesn`t appear to do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m down with you. I agree that in ways Americans go to a
gut check. But I guess part of what I wonder is that any way to choose the
TRAYNHAM: Of course it is. Come on. Of course.
TRAYNHAM: Here`s why. 18 million people voted for Hillary Clinton in
2008. Here`s why, back around this time in 2007 Hillary Clinton ironically
the same exact thing, was 37 points ahead of a guy by the name of Barack
Obama. It was all about policy back then. So the reality is, is that the
reason why Barack Obama – one of the reasons why Barack Obama won is
because he appeared to be authentic and thus to the process created a huge
coalition where a lot of – do I need to go down the history?
HARRIS-PERRY: No, I was going to say, you had just wrote a book about
this. Would you like to weigh in on this?
TRAISTER: I think it`s very easy, I think, for people to pivot right to
this sort of almost ingrained tick that they have with the Clintons. And I
do think it`s gendered. Because if you go down that list of spontaneous
words people came up with, and we haven`t talked about it a lot on cable
television, but the “B” word was spontaneously voiced by a lot of people
when they were asked what they thought of Hillary Clinton. That would not
have happened to anyone else. And I do think that because Hillary Clinton
has had to stage manage herself so carefully, because she was taken apart
by the Barack Obama campaign last time, she`s holding things in. As women,
we know that this is what happened.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, and so this is my complaint, Rebecca. This is I
think the one that`s hard to answer is - So these may be unfair, but they
are the realities of what makes her the candidate that she is. So when I
have been not a fan, it`s less about an assessment of her and her skills
and more about whether or not she`s actually a strong candidate. And as
unfair as it may be, it is the realities of a very long period of time in
the public world view as a politician, that leads I think in part to this.
TRAISTER: Right. I mean, one of the things to keep in mind that she`s
actually still doing well in the polls.
REID: Doing very well.
TRAISTER: Bernie is going to come close and maybe beat her in one of these
early contests, I don`t know.
REID: She`s running against Bernie Sanders from Vermont.
TRAISTER: I know.
REID: Who calls himself a socialist.
TRAISTER: I know.
REID: Like she should be doing well.
TRAISTER: Right, but she is doing well against Republican opponents in the
polls. She is still strong especially for this, the doldrums, we`re so
bored, it hasn`t quite started yet. We want to go - I mean, I think she`s
not as weak as she is perceived to be.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you know who`s not boring? Do you know who is not
boring? Donald Trump.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, the RNC got Donald Trump to sign their pledge,
but will the party come to regret that
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay, this week Donald Trump promised the Republican Party
that he won`t run as a third party candidate if he loses the Republican
nomination for president. He even signed the pledge. There he is is,
waving it around. Now, of course, this is all about electoral map because
if Trump were to run as an independent he would likely siphon votes away
from the Republican nominee, which could give the Democratic nominee a big
advantage. So Trump is now in the Republican Party`s eyes officially one
of them. And the party leaders see that as a good thing. Here is RNC
chair Priebus after Trump signed the pledge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC: And my job is to protect the party and today was
about protecting the party. I`m not here to call balls and strikes. What
I`m here to do, though, is to make sure that we`re always putting our
party`s best foot forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, is this good for the party?
TRAYNHAM: Absolutely. Here`s why. Republicans by party has - still has
the battle wounds from 1992, and that`s when Ross Perot said he was going
to run as an independent. He withdrew, then he ran again in 1992, and
obviously what we now know is that if in fact he was not in the race,
George H. W. Bush would have had a second term. What we also know is that
Donald Trump to the point that - is very authentic. A lot of voters out
there say you know what, he says it the way it is. I`m not necessarily
going to vote for him. But he`s speaking on behalf of me. So when Donald
Trump says I`m dropping out of the race, which he will do probably within
six months if not sooner, he then says I`m going to endorse Jeb Bush. I
personally think he`s going to be the Republican nominee. Those
quote/unquote Trump voters and that enthusiasm then goes to the Republican
Party, which helps us in the fall.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so a couple of things. So, I - that`s a great
story. And I get that. But I don`t agree.
TRAYNHAM: And this is not kool-aid I`m drinking.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no, no. I get it. I mean it`s a great story. I get
how one gets to that story. I also don`t agree – I both don`t agree that
he`s actually authentic. I think he has extraordinary perceived
HARRIS-PERRY: I do think that that`s something different. But very
meaningful in the electoral world, but I also think that the idea that
voters will go with him to whomever the candidate is hasn`t yet been
demonstrated. That Trump has that capacity.
REID: Right, and not only that, but the whole reason Trump is resonating
with a big chunk of the Republican base is because time after time, they
keep being promised that their tea party views will be reflected in the
people that use them to get elected. They do all of this activism and they
wind up with a Congress that cannot beat Barack Obama, cannot stop health
care reform, cannot repeal health care reform. Says we can`t really do
what you want on immigration. We really can`t deport every immigrant from
Mexico. We can`t do these extreme things that we promised you we`d do to
REID: So the idea that people who are activists for Donald Trump will have
spent all that emotional energy only to get excited about Jeb Bush doesn`t
sound to me logical. By the way, on that pledge I picture Reince Priebus
sitting in a really little chair and Donald Trump sitting in a throne when
he made that deal. That deal was all helpful to Donald Trump, because now
he can get on the ballot in South Carolina.
HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly. Which is really what that was all about. Because
South Carolina had blocked anyone who wasn`t signing that pledge from being
on the ballot, and that`s a key space for him. Especially given some of
the kind of ethnic discourse that has emerged as part of Trump`s identity
TRAISTER: One of the things that is appealing to him is his feeling secure
and being able to do whatever he wants. I saw that pledge and I was like,
that`s a pretty pledge. I don`t believe for one second that he would
necessarily stand by it if it came to it. You know, I don`t – he`s
authentic in that he expresses anger. He expresses hate. He expresses
racism. He expresses all of these kind of extra party feelings that are
bringing people in who would otherwise be turned off by the candidates.
TRAYNHAM: What I find so interesting is that there are a lot of folks in
the media, a lot of folks that have a particular view that dismiss Trump
voters, that think they`re just some out there, that they`re tea partiers.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, I don`t dismiss them.
TRAYNHAM: What they are, they`re frustrated with the direction of this
country. They believe in something very strongly. They`re not necessarily
racist or xenophobic. Some may be, but –
HARRIS-PERRY: But that matters.
TRAYNHAM: It does.
HARRIS-PERRY: I hear you. I hear you that being a Trump supporter –
there`s no litmus test for I am a racist, you can figure out from who you
pick among this group of potential candidates on the Republican or the
Democratic side. But it is worth noting that he is pushing a clear
nativist, xenophobic discourse.
TRAYNHAM: I don`t disagree with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so the response to that, the idea that 30 percent of
Republican voters in Iowa are responding to that has racial implication
regardless of whether –
TRAYNHAM: I don`t disagree with you. But the flip side to that is if we
want to use that same analogy, the flip side is, look at the crowds that
Bernie Sanders is getting on the left. A socialist, a self-described
socialist. There`s a hunger out there against the anti-establishment that
are saying, you know what, this guy or this gal or this person doesn`t
speak for me. So therefore, I`m going to show up and I`m going to listen
to Bernie Sanders.
TRAYNHAM: So it`s this dissatisfaction that the liberal East Coast elite
HARRIS-PERRY: Just so you know, I don`t live on the East Coast, I live in
HARRIS-PERRY: As much as there`s dissatisfaction, Barack Obama thinks he
could win a third term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Under our Constitution, I cannot run again. I can`t run again. I
actually think I`m a pretty good president. I think if I ran, I could win.
But I can`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: At a synagogue in Atlanta Thursday night, Vice President
Biden gave a wrenching response to the question on everyone`s mind. Will
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The most relevant factor in my decision is whether my family and I
have the emotional energy to run. If I can reach that conclusion, that we
can do it, in a fashion that would still make it viable, I would not
hesitate to do it. But I have to be honest with you and everyone that has
come to me, I can`t look you straight in the eye and say now, I know I can
do that. This is as honest as I can be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If you were looking for authenticity, my friends –
TRAYNHAM: He clearly is a man that`s still very much in mourning. He`s
someone that`s struggling with this decision.
TRAYNHAM: If his reports are correct, his dying son had a wish, and then
the question becomes, do you honor that wish and/or do you –
HARRIS-PERRY: But this –
TRAYNHAM: Do you listen to your head or your heart?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, let me give the head reason. If you look at the new
CNN poll around Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and
nonwhite voters, you will see Hillary Clinton, again, huge advantage among
nonwhite voters, but Joe Biden is more than double that of Bernie Sanders
around that, and we know that Hillary Clinton has vulnerability there. And
so when President Obama is making that joke about being able to win a third
term, I want to make a claim, Joy, the only person who can run I am Obama`s
third term person, is Joe Biden. He is not a perfect candidate. At all.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I will say this, but a few things happened during the
Obama years that are big wins for the Democratic Party, that for the most
part candidate Clinton can`t talk about. Because for example, health care
reform. Because they remind us of moments of her past. I thought the
White House would want him to run just for that.
REID: Keep in mind, I have been talking a lot to the Democrats who were
either Obama people or who were just – especially in Florida. In Miami,
when Joe Biden was down there. I can say three things really quickly.
Number one, you talk to anyone who knows Joe Biden, they will say he wants
to be president. He has wanted to be president obviously most of his adult
life. He feels he would be a good president. I spoke to some sources who
were telling me that his thinking is that he`d like to be the backup plan,
that if something goes wrong with Hillary Clinton, if the FBI were to probe
into the e-mails, and it becomes more serious, he would like to be the guy
waiting in the wings, but those same sources say they`re not sure he even
thinks he has the emotional energy. He`s somebody who is clearly deflated.
The Joe Biden who spoke in Miami was not the ebullient Joe Biden we`re used
to, he has clearly been knocked down by Beau`s death. And he still wants
it and he`s seriously considering it.
Now, some very serious people with great campaign experience are part of
this draft Biden movement. They`re now up in South Carolina and Iowa as
well as in Florida, where Obama`s guy who won that election for him twice
in Florida is running – not running it yet, but he`s part of it. So I
think there is – to your point, the only reason that Hillary Clinton was
able to recover from 2008 and from all the racial conflagration and get
back so much black support is because she became a loyal member of the
Obama coalition. Who is more loyal, who is more –
HARRIS-PERRY: Who hearts Obama?
REID: More. And who does Obama heart more than Joe Biden?
TRAISTER: I love Joe Biden. I think he should run for president. I think
everybody should run for president. I wish there were more (inaudible).
TRAISTER: Okay? Great. Get in the race. But the reception of him as a
great alternate to Hillary I think is super flawed. I think we have to
recognize why he`s comforting us to us. Because every one of Hillary`s
flaws, save for being married to Bill Clinton, Joe Biden has and then some.
OK. He wrote the crime bill. He – Clarence Thomas is on the Supreme
Court because of the way he treated Anita Hill and did not let Angela
Wright testify in support of Anita Hill. He voted for the bankruptcy bill,
while his son was working – Hunter was working for MBNA, the big financial
firm that was lobbying for it. Okay, he voted for the Hyde amendment.
Okay, with no exceptions for rape or incest. He voted for the partial
birth abortion ban. He said appalling things about race. That hilarious
thing he said about Barack Obama, that he was the first mainstream African
American who was clean and bright and articulate, that was appalling. It
was nice, because it was, OK. So what I`m saying is the reasons that he
looks appealing to us are because he looks like a president, which is also
why he`s Barack Obama`s vice president. He is a comforting mainstream
white dude. That is why he ran with Obama.
REID: Sure. I feel you on all that. I don`t think you`re – clearly,
you`re exactly accurate about his legislative past. But part of what I was
saying, then that legislative past has sitting over it eight years of being
President Obama`s vice president. In a way that allows him to do a thing
that is not clear to me that Hillary Clinton is prepared to do.
TRAYNHAM: You`re both right. What she is talking about which is very
accurate, is the political land mine Biden - you are talking about the
policy. If I can talk about the policies for a second, the last time a
sitting vice president tried to run a third term and win was back in 1988
with George H.W. Bush. Before that, the last time was back in the 1800s
with McKinley. It`s very, very hard for anybody`s vice president, to say
that I`m the heir. It`s very hard. Mathematically it doesn`t make sense
for Biden to even say – hold on.
HARRIS-PERRY: But what I would say is in part what your party is doing is
changing – so this ain`t a normal politics election.
TRAYNHAM: But that Obama coalition that was there in 2008 and 2012 – I
don`t think that even exists right now for Joe Biden.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, sure. I would certainly claim that it doesn`t exist
for Hillary Clinton, and if the party has any shot around it, they have got
to find someone, and the one person for whom it would exist is President
Obama, and he as he pointed out can`t run again, but thinks he can win.
Who knows, we`ll keep watching this. It will remain fascinating.
Coming up, why some parents are so hungry for change, they`re literally
starving themselves to save their community school.
HARRIS-PERRY: Juice and water, no solid food. That has been the diet
every day for the last 20 days for 12 Chicago residents who have been going
hungry to bring attention to the closure of their neighborhood`s only high
school. In 2012, Chicago public schools decided to close Southside
Chicago`s Walter H. Dyett high school, citing the school`s low enrollment
and poor performance. And after phasing out the school year by year, Dyett
graduated its final class of 13 seniors in June. But under public
pressure, the board reversed its decision and solicited plans to reopen a
new school in the old space in September of 2016. Among those plans was a
proposal from a community based coalition for an open enrollment school,
whose curriculum would focus on science and green technology. It was one
of three plans under consideration by the district, which were to be
considered at a hearing last month. But when after a series of delays in
the discussions of the school`s future, CPS - Charter of Public Schools –
pushed the hearings back again in mid-September, the protesters escalated
their fight into a hunger strike. This week, the third week of the strike,
the protesters took their message directly to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at
two highly contentious town hall meetings, where on Wednesday he was
eventually forced off the stage. That same day, two of the protesters
traveled to Washington, D.C. to personally deliver a letter to Education
Secretary Arne Duncan – remember, he`s from Chicago – asking for his
support. Joining me now from Chicago are two of the people participating
in the hunger strike. Jitu Brown, who is director of the Journey for
Justice Alliance, and Jeanette Taylor Raymond. So nice to have you both.
JITU BROWN, JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE ALLIANCE: Thank you so much. Great to be
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me first about what is at stake here. Why is Dyett
so important given all of the various changes and disruptions in Chicago`s
JEANETTE TAYLOR RAYMOND, MOTHER: Well, without the school, my daughter,
who is now an eighth grader, travels 16 miles to a neighborhood high
school. That`s two buses and a train. That`s not bad parenting, that`s
not her being an uninspired student. That`s a district who doesn`t value
us because of the color of our skin. And so in 2015, parents should not be
on a hunger strike for something that is a human right.
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk a little bit more about it. I know where Dyett is.
It kind of sits there almost on the edge of the University of Chicago`s
neighborhood. Right there in the neighborhood, where of course the first
family has their home there in the Kenwood area. When you went to the
White House – excuse me, to the secretary of education to talk with Arne
Duncan, he`s very familiar with this space, with this area. He is even
familiar with Dyett. What did he have to say about this?
BROWN: Well, he was sympathetic. Had said that he would talk to the
mayor. I think it was interesting because it`s two things. One, in 2008,
Dyett had the largest increase in students going to college in all of the
Chicago public schools, and Arne Duncan and former Mayor Richard Daly did a
big press conference at Dyett, and he stood right next to me and asked me,
how did you all do this? So he knows the history of the school improving.
And then the question is what happened after the school improved? And the
answer to that question is systemic disinvestment in the programs that the
community had put in place. In essence, CPS killed a school that was on
the rise. So much so that in 2011, we won the ESP and Rise Up award. We
beat out over 400 schools around the country as a small school that was
making some improvements but needed some help. We won a $4 million
renovation to our athletic facilities. We won the small city school
championship. Then the next year, they phased the school out. The
students never got a chance to even enjoy those amenities. So as Jeanette
said, we`re tired of our schools being labeled as failing. Our schools are
not failing, we have been failed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jeanette, let me come to you on this, three weeks without
solid food. A hunger strike is a pretty extreme, intense, personal kind of
protest. Why was it this important to you? What is it – do you think that
this is the one thing that can make the difference?
RAYMOND: We have been fighting for this school since 2009. We went to
every education forum that CPS has had. We have been arrested three or
four times. We have gotten tickets. We protested at city hall. Enough is
enough. When Chicago public schools and the mayor won`t follow its own
process, then we have been pushed to be on a hunger strike. It`s
educational life for black children. Chicago has one of the highest murder
rates in the country. And it`s because our children are not being
educated. And so for me this – I have had enough. I`m not a parent who
does not participate. I have been on the local school council since I was
19, I`m 40. So I`ve always been invested in my children`s education. So
this is just what – what it is, is racism. It`s a set of folks, black and
brown folks, being disinvested in Chicago that`s not for us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jitu, I know you lost 30 pounds in 20 days. What is the
thing that needs to happen so that you and other hunger strikers can begin
to eat again?
BROWN: Yes, ma`am. We had a press conference yesterday where we submitted
a list of demands. Because the community did not ask for an art school, we
gave well over 3,000 Brownsville residents and Brownsville has spoken. So
part of our demands are we want green technology in the school title and in
the curriculum. It`s the fastest growing industry, one of the fastest
growing industries in the world. We want an immediate elected local school
council. The community needs to elect the principal. We have chosen our
principal. A brother by the name of Dwayne Turner. Life-long resident of
the community. Educator, solid reputation. We want to have – we want
representation of – a full representation on the school planning
committee. And a few other things. Reverend Jesse Jackson is negotiating
on our behalf, and when those demands are met, we`ll come off the hunger
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Jitu Brown and Jeanette Taylor Raymond in
Chicago. Please, please take care of yourselves and we`ll continue to
watch this story.
BROWN: Thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: My panel in New York will be back in the next hour. Coming
up, Marissa Mayer, parental leave and the reality of being a working
parent, and Nicki Minaj versus Miley Cyrus. We know what`s good. More
nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And back in January, during the State of the Union Address, President Obama
lamented that the U.S. is, quote, “the only advanced country on Earth that
doesn`t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.”
That month he even expanded parental leave for federal workers, making them
eligible for six weeks in advance to pay leave. Other employers followed
suit, rolling out improved paid parental leave benefits in hopes of
attracting retaining talent.
At Adobe Systems, effective in November, birth mothers will receive up to
26 weeks of paid time. Microsoft also in November will boost the paid
parental leave to 20 weeks for mothers and 12 weeks for fathers. The best
policy today goes to Netflix, up to a year of paid leave for some of its
employees after a child is born or adopted.
Enter Yahoo`s CEO Marissa Mayer. Now, under her leadership in 2013, Yahoo
upgraded its paid family leave benefits from eight weeks to 16 weeks up for
mom and eight weeks for dads. The policy improvement came after Mayer was
criticized for issuing a company-wide mandate banning employees from
working remotely – a burden as seen weighing more heavily on parents. But
at the same time, Mayer reportedly had a nursery installed in her office
after her son was born, which is clearly an option not open to most other
Mayer has been criticized for more than her policy choices. She`s also
come under fire for personal decisions. When named CEO of Yahoo in 2012,
Mayer was tasked with revitalizing the struggling media giant. She was
also 28 weeks pregnant. After working late into her pregnancy, Mayer chose
to take only two weeks of maternity leave even though the company offered
And on Tuesday, she announced on Tumblr she is pregnant with twin girls and
expected to deliver in December. She wrote, “I plan to approach the
pregnancy and delivery as I did with my son three years ago. Taking
limited time away and working throughout.”
It`s the choice some see as setting up an unrealistic expectation for
working parents at Yahoo and beyond.
Joining me now in studio are: MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid, “New
York Magazine” writer-at-large Rebecca Traister, and MSNBC contributor
Also joining me from Madison, Wisconsin, executive director of Family
Values at Work, Ellen Bravo.
Nice to have you, Ellen.
ELLEN BRAVO, EXEC. DIR., FAMILY VALUES AT WORK: Very great to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, I offered a few examples there of kind of
improvement in family leave policies. But overall, how would you
characterize the current state of family leave in America?
BRAVO: Any way you slice it, it`s a disgrace. If you look at that chart
that shows the number of weeks paid leave nations offer, we`re at zero.
There`s only one other country in the world like that category. If you
look at private sector employees who get paid leave from their employer, 13
And here`s the real shocker. We did a press conference recently with
Sharon Lerner from Demos, a new report she wrote shows that one in four
women go back to work before two weeks. With disastrous results for them,
for their babies and it`s because most of them don`t get a penny of pay
while they`re out.
If that story had gotten 5 percent of the coverage that Marissa Mayer`s
story has gotten, we would have had the national call to action for a paid
leave program that we so desperately need.
HARRIS-PERRY: So stick with me on this. I think this is – you make kind
of two points. One, Rebecca, is about the current state of our family
leave, which as a federal matter, only provides for unpaid leave. It
doesn`t require any paid leave at all.
REBECCA TRAISTER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: But also that we sat next to it, Mayer`s decisions. I have
this icky feeling well, OK, she`s making her life choices which are her
HARRIS-PERRY: And then there`s this, and somehow that`s we get focused,
instead of, as Ellen points out, on the broad reality.
TRAISTER: And, by the way, we`re focused, one of the things about the tech
companies offering these great programs, right, by the way, only to certain
of their employees. I noticed you said with Netflix, some of their
employees. The hourly employees are not getting that paid leave.
Now, that`s true more broadly across the nation, right? So that as Ellen
says we have zero paid leave. It is a disgrace. It`s an embarrassment.
However, we`re beginning to see paid leave. And I applaud it. I am glad
that these companies are doing this. I just benefited from this when I was
working at the “The New Republic,” I got four weeks paid leave. It changed
my life. It was radical. It was completely different experience of having
a child. That`s terrific.
I benefit from that because I`m in an extremely elite professional and
that`s true for those working in the tech companies that are getting these
benefits. Meanwhile, those people going to work after two weeks are not
going back to work because they have a nursery in their office.
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re going back because they cannot afford another day or
hour without getting paid. They can`t afford to feed the baby they just
TRAISTER: All right. So, on that, Ellen, let me come to you on this,
because, you know, similarly, my daughter is 18 month olds now. You know,
I took sometime, but when I went back, I handed her to a child care
provider who can come to my home every morning and without affordable,
accessible, high quality child care – doesn`t matter if we`re talking
about two weeks or six months. I mean, at none of those points can you
send your kid off to public school.
BRAVO: That`s right. I mean, imagine handing someone off at two weeks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I can`t.
BRAVO: Especially if you`re on the bus. You have to drop them somewhere,
it`s a scandal. It`s something we have to change.
Here`s the good news – there are campaigns in several states right now we
already won in three. There`s many more coming up, New York, Connecticut,
Massachusetts, D.C. and there`s a national program. We need to move on
We should see this moment when we hear one in four women are going back in
two weeks, we should say this is a national emergency. Like the polio
epidemic, everyone needs to come together and make a solution happen.
That`s the call we`re putting out.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, on that, Joy, let me come to you on this. Particularly
for Americans, if we say for example, that it is national emergency in that
way, Americans are still very much divided when we have a national
emergency about who is the – what is the right body for change, right? So
part of what I`m wondering, even if we could get to now we decided this is
a national emergency, we must do something about it, is it government
policy or corporate culture that is the thing that we think must change?
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I totally agree with
you. I had children in the `90s, but it occupies so much of your mind
space, after six weeks, deciding if you`re going to drop off your child and
cry all the way to work, which is what I used to do, or leave your job,
which I did twice at home and work from home, but I still need the money.
It occupies so much of your life that it does make life harder. But then
you have –
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s when you have education and a spouse –
REID: Yes. And spouse that`s working and that`s bringing in income, and
you`re still trying to figure this out. But you do have a lot of Americans
who believe that, A, the government shouldn`t force business to create,
let`s say, on-site day care. That it increases the cost of doing business.
You have the libertarian ethic that you can`t make businesses do it, but
people also don`t want the government to take it –
HARRIS-PERRY: Private child care.
REID: So we`re sort of in a no win situation who should do it.
I think the way that people sort of – they come to the accommodation
there`s a tax incentive system where the government just rewards businesses
that do the “right thing”, quote/unquote, and we`re stuck with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ellen, is that enough?
BRAVO: No. The good news is we have a solution. That doesn`t require
either of those things. It`s an insurance fund.
Everyone puts in a small amount. The federal bill would have small
contributions from all employees and employers. And it creates a pool so
people can draw a significant portion of their pay while they`re out. It
works for everybody.
We know what it looks like. Set up already in several states. That`s what
we need. We just need the will politically to make it happen and hopefully
in these elections, that will be an important issue and we`ll choose
somebody who will stand with us on this.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Robert, let me come to you on that. Can you imagine
this becoming an issue in the general election campaign where part of what
happened is a robust debate around whether or not we need to fundamentally
alter the way that government makes possible child care and family leave?
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So, I`m going to give you a long and
short answer. The short answer is no.
TRAYNHAM: And here`s why – and here`s why, because when you take a look
at the national opinion polls and I hear, I`m not a mom, I`m not a parent,
so I can`t – I completely understand, but I can`t relate, right?
But when look at the polls this doesn`t resonate on the national opinion
polls, when it comes to what Americans want their government to focus on.
Here`s what we know – we know that oftentimes the private sector kind of
leads first and then the federal government kind of follows way behind
But we also know – this is very unfortunate to say to your point earlier
is that the reason why the tech companies are doing this is because of
talent acquisition. They`re not doing it out of the goodness of their
heart. They`re doing this because they don`t want, you know, mom “A” to go
to company “C”. They want mom “A” to stay at company “A”. So, that`s the
real truth behind this.
TRAISTER: Here`s where I`m going to disagree with you.
In terms of what the polls reflect right now, we are about five minutes
from this having been a third rail issue for past 30 years. I mean, there
were debates that subsidized child care went nowhere. But this was
something you could not – this was femi-Nazi stuff ten minutes ago.
This has just come back into the culture and for this, I actually do thank
the tech companies, because I think that`s part of the cultural
conversation. Where if you`re beginning to see people have it, and even
Obama is mentioning it in the State of the Union.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s actually Yahoo is talking about it.
All right. Thank you to Ellen Bravo in Madison, Wisconsin.
We are going to explain child care and family leave to Robert during the
And still to come, Nicki Minaj versus Miley Cyrus and the presidential
announcement no one saw coming.
But, first, breaking news this morning, outside of the Kentucky jail, where
county clerk Kim Davis remains in custody. And that`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is new video from this morning of a protest rally in
support of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was taken into federal
custody after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples
because she said it violated her religion believes. The rally is part of
ongoing protests stemming from Davis` jailing that have polarized Rowan
County between supporters and opponents of same sex marriage. This all
comes a day after deputy clerks in Davis` office began issue marriage
licenses to same-sex couples.
Joining me now from Grayson, Kentucky, is NBC News correspondent Sarah
Sarah, what is next for Kim Davis?
SARAH GRAYSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Melissa. We`re
all waiting to see exactly how this plays out. You know, people being held
in contempt of court are said to hold the keys to their own freedom.
Essentially, once she complies with the judge`s order, she will be released
from jail. But right now, she has no intention of doing that or for
resigning from her position as county clerk.
Now, a rally of her supporters are gathered on the opposite side of the
parking lot here, about a hundred people carrying signs. There`s a big
pipe, even a small marching band, about 100 people here.
Now, Davis is reportedly in good spirits and unaware of much of the frenzy
surrounding her story. Her supporters herald her as this Christian soldier
in the fight against gay marriage. GOP presidential nominee hopeful Mike
Huckabee will be visiting here next week to stop by and see her in jail,
also will host a rally.
We spoke to Davis` husband about all of this just a few moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM DAVIS, HUSBAND OF KIM DAVIS: They`re trying to take her religious
freedom from us. And we`re – we want to make a stand and show them they
can`t take our religious freedom from us. It`s not about me, it`s not
about Kim, it`s not about these people, it`s about God. And that`s what we
want everybody to understand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DALLOF: Now, yesterday, deputy clerks began issuing marriage licenses to
happy same-sex couples who emerged from the offices – emerged to cheers
from their supporters, very exciting moments for them.
They maintain that this is an issue of equal rights and consequences for
government officials who do not comply with the law. Now, Davis` attorneys
are questioning whether those marriage licenses are valid since they don`t
contain her signature. The county clerk here, as well as the attorneys for
the couples, maintain that those are valid marriage certificates.
Melissa, back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Sarah Dallof in Grayson, Kentucky.
Let`s get to the table for a moment – because this one is for me, it`s a
bit of a brilliant politically, strategically. So, whatever her individual
perspective is, right, this puts the question of democracy, because she`s
an elected official, right, so it`s not about firing her from her job.
She`s an elected official. She`s been chosen by the people. She is
exercising her freedom of religion as she sees it.
These are critical things that Americans fundamentally believe in and agree
with. And yet, it`s going right against a Supreme Court decision that is
about an extension of equal rights more broadly. Like this is – whoo,
this is the heady stuff of messy democracy.
REID: Yes. I mean, and think about the fact that the – the participation
of Matthew Staver I think is significant, because Matt Staver`s
organization, Liberty Counsel, has been for decades, not just years,
testing and pushing these limits on this religious freedom question.
And when you see not only the advocacy they have done, can you display the
Ten Commandments in public, can you do religion in public, and just pushing
and pushing, and then you saw recently all of the attempts to pass state
laws shielding and protecting cake bakers and photographers from the
HARRIS-PERRY: RFRA Laws.
REID: Exactly, from marriage equality. I think there has been a push on
the religious right to find just such a case as Ms. Davis` case. She is
sort of now that – going to be that I guess martyr for the cause because
as Kate Snow said, she can free herself tomorrow, but she`s going to choose
to be a martyr because I think this is a carefully crafted strategy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And, in fact, if you look at that edge of the Internet
world, Rosa Parks is the language that is coming up.
TRAISTER: And Dr. King.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Dr. King, because these are people standing on their
Christian morals said these laws are unjust laws.
REID: Right. Yes. That`s what they`re arguing. The comparisons are
opposite comparisons, because they were trying to expand liberty during
civil rights movement, but I think it will be effective for galvanizing the
religious right, because it does raise the question of, can the state
compel you to violate your religious beliefs, can the state make you do it?
Make you participate in something you believe is morally wrong?
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels like the answer is clearly yes if you are a
bureaucrat who has a job.
REID: Right, an agent of the state.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But not if you`ve been elected – it`s different
when you`ve been elected.
TRAYNHAM: But you`ve been sworn to office to uphold the Constitution.
Look, the Supreme Court as we know – this is a spectacle, OK? This is a
spectacle where someone to Joy`s point is trying to make a martyr of
themselves and to use the twisted thinking, religious thinking that God is
speaking to me because I`m against gay marriage is ridiculous. And,
obviously, everyone knows that I`m an out gay Republican.
So, but the reality here is that what you`re trying – what these people
are trying to do and to have bagpipes and to have –
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a lot.
TRAYNHAM: It`s a lot.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a lot.
REID: It`s a theater.
TRAYNHAM: It`s inappropriate, it`s offensive, it`s disgusting is what it
is, and yet we`re talking about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet it`s right at the core, I will say, of this question
about federal overreach which has been a central question out of the party
that has been mobilizing.
OK, thank you. Here in New York, Rebecca Traister and Robert Traynham.
Joy Reid is going to be back a little bit later in the program.
But up next, the showdown of the show, Nicki Minaj`s real message to Miley
Cyrus at the VMAs.
HARRIS-PERRY: Leading up to Sunday night`s Video and Music Awards, there
was much speculation about what the night would bring, what antics could we
expect from host Miley Cyrus, with Kanye full of Kanye, will Taylor Swift
and Nicki Minaj officially bury the hatchet in person?
As you might remember, the two pop stars were involved in a social media
spat when Minaj, who`s iconic “Anaconda” video was not nominated for Video
of the Year called out the VMAs for holding black female artists with
double standard. While Minaj`s remarks did not target any particular
artist in particular, Swift who later won the Video of the Year for “Bad
Blood” jumped in to police the way that Minaj had made her report.
Quote, “Nicki Minaj, I have done nothing but love and support you. It`s
unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your
slot.” Swift later apologized to Minaj for misunderstanding the rapper`s
broader message, and Minaj publicly accepted the apology. But the artists
really squashed a feud on the VMA stage when Taylor joined Minaj for her
performance of “The Night is Still Young” and “Bad Blood.”
Just when we thought all was well again in the land of pop, we were remind
that yet another pop princess had completely missed Minaj`s point about
black women in the industry and decided to police the rapper`s tone
Miley Cyrus in an interview with “The New York Times” last week said – she
was asked about the, quote, “Nicki Minaj controversy” around the VMAs, and
Cyrus said, quote, “I know there was some beef, I don`t really know. But
there`s a way to talk to people.”
When pressed further, “The Wrecking Ball” singer continued, “And it`s not
anger like, `Guys I`m frustrated about some things that are a bigger
issue.` You made it about you. What I read sounded very much – very
Nicki Minaj, which if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind. It`s not very
Well, refusing to be silenced, shrugged off or ignored, Minaj defended her
initial statement about black women artists being shortchanged by saying
something else Miley might not consider polite, while accepting her award
for the best hip hop video. She held Cyrus accountable for her words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICKI MINAJ, POP SINGER: And now back to this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that had
a lot to say about me the other day in the press. Miley, what`s good?
MILEY CYRUS, POP SINGER: Hey, we`re all in this industry. We all do
interviews and we all know how they manipulate (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Nicki,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Even though Miley tried to chalk her “New York Times”
interview up to press manipulation, Minaj`s fans decided to hold the VMA
host accountable for her comments as well. And when Miley posted this
photo on Instagram just hours after the show, fans responded with comment
after comment all saying one thing, “Miley, what`s good?”
Joining me now to help answer that question are Brittney Cooper, assistant
professor of women`s and gender studies at Rutgers University, Jamie
Kilstein, co-author of “#Newsfail”, Jaeki Cho is a freelance writer and a
co-producer of the documentary “Bad Rap”.
OK, so you stand there in the blonde locks, in the full appropriation of
black womanhood –
BRITTNEY COOPER, ASSISTANT PROF., RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hmm, what is good?
COOPER: Let me tell you something, Nicki Minaj is my she-ro.
HARRIS-PERRY: Even on (INAUDIBLE), I love her all the everything.
COOPER: She told Miley bow down in the words of Beyonce and Miley deserves
its. So, what I wish is that I could get Miley, Taylor and Iggy in my
women`s and gender studies intro class just one day and I can get them
So, Nikki was right to talk about the ways that the white girls get award
after award and cultural – sort of cultural celebration for the
appropriation of black womanhood at the same time, black women are
maligned, they`re seen as a threat to women and innocent babies for
expressing it, but Miley can twerk all over the stage, or try to twerk
because she doesn`t have the accoutrements to twerk.
COOPER: The other thing that bothers me so much about what Miley said,
it`s what I like to call a racial hermeneutic of hot mess, right? Which is
it`s all this mix of meritocracy, the mix of meritocracy, it`s the color
blindness. So, this is not about race. You made this about you.
HARRIS-PERRY: But also a weird kind of thing, in part because again, I
have been a little distressed by the ways that people come for Miley around
her sexuality. My thing is, I hate respectability politics. I really only
like disreputable, bold people of all kinds.
And so, when she`s saying I`m not doing respectability politics, you can`t
hide behind that to critique Minaj.
JAMES KILSTEIN, CO-AUTHOR, “#NEWSFAIL”: Yes, all she has to do, she`s even
before this happened she was accused of racial appropriation. When she
sees a conversation in the mainstream about race, all she has to do is say
nothing. That`s all she has to.
JAEKI CHO, CO-PRODUCER, “BAD RAP”: The Justin Timberlake approach.
KILSTEIN: Yes. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t know. I have no words.
KILSTEIN: Yes, I forget about Iggy. She was probably at home in
Australia. Do that, forget about who I am. Then with Taylor, it`s just
like – one of those things, if you like Taylor Swift, it`s like that uncle
who like is really funny and I want to like so bad and then every
Christmas, oh, still racist. And I think that – I mean –
HARRIS-PERRY: Not that you`re saying that Taylor swift is racist in that
moment. But kind of that push me pull me around how race gets
KILSTEIN: I think a lot of the people need to be educated, because I have
heard a lot of white feminists say great things about feminism and when it
comes to the why can`t we all be one? It`s like you`re still privileged
because you`re a white lady.
COOPER: And there`s the white woman that gets this 13-year-old (INAUDIBLE)
had a wonderful post on Instagram about this. So, they don`t –
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right. Not as though white womanhood makes it
impossible to have a clear, intersectional approach to how you think about
culture and politics.
COOPER: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Jaeki, part of what I want to come to you on though is -
- so we focus on this moment because what`s good, it makes for a great meme
and all of that.
CHO: Right, right.
HARRIS-PERRY: But if you look at the VMAs more broadly. This felt like a
theme of the night. Even for me the most stunning part of the visual is
that Rebel Wilson is standing behind Minaj, fake dressed as a cop. And so,
we see this – literally an officer, you know, of the law standing behind
Minaj as she`s kind of – in this particular Black Lives Matter context,
that feels like, whoa. I`m wondering if this is a problem of the VMAs more
CHO: Well, at the end of the day, this is entertainment. I mean, well,
the VMAs has always – the focus of the VMAs has always been about what
could be controversial, so people could talk about it.
And initially, when Nicki did make that statement I was a little
speculative like OK, was this actually staged or was this really genuine,
right? But later it was pretty clear that – although Miley handled the
situation very well, it was a genuine thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And stage is part of what Nicki does. Her genius, she re-
appropriates back white womanhood, right? She does the Barbie thing and
then she becomes a white man, then she becomes a black man.
CHO: Or a white pope.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. She`ll gender herself. She will queer – she`s like
I`m so bad, I will take your woman.
CHO: Yes. I think a lot of people kind of mistake Nicki Minaj as being
this crazy artist who doesn`t know what her direction is. If anything, I
think she`s very intelligent. She knows exactly what she is doing. Just
like you said, if this stage going to be a circus, OK, let me take
advantage of that.
CHO: Let me see how I could take advantage of that and be the best at it.
I think she does that very well. And she also did at her work in the
CHO: She was basically saying, OK, if this is what you like, let me give
it to you to the maximum.
CHO: But she was upset. Like OK, I was playing your game. You won`t
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. She clear did – whenever she`s playing the game,
she`s clear. Here I am playing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, why the 2020 election could be stranger than this
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, a celebrity businessman with a large fan base
entered the political realm with a pivotal speech. Even though he has
declared that he is distinctly not a politician, perhaps that is his power
because after all he`s gained supporters. He began the speech by imploring
to the nation`s youth and continued by encouraging Americans with
innovative ideas to believe in themselves and their craft.
He concluded by announcing his intention to run for president of the United
States of America. His supporters have even launched a PAC for his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KANYE WEST, RAPPER: Bro. Bro! Listen to the kids.
And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided
in 2020 to run for president.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So speaking of a flair for the dramatic, Mr. West brought
all the drama to the bid announcement.
CHO: Right. Right. I think, you know, where do I sign up?
CHO: Where do I sign up?
HARRIS-PERRY: Which begs the question, why wait until 2020, is it because
of the fear of the back-to-back black –
CHO: No, it`s because Trump already has too much attention, so, Ye is just
backing up, saving his ammo. Yes, just to talk about that, I think, you
know, it`s kind of interesting because in Miley and Kanye are both artists
that are doing things that`s not really expected of what a celebrity is
supposed to do, right? Miley coming from the Disney background, doing what
she`s doing, although she`s not doing a good job at it.
HARRIS-PERRY: At all.
CHO: But she`s still doing something unexpected. Kanye being a musician
and becoming a successful businessman especially in the realm of fashion
and now he`s a mainstream celebrity, I think the fact that him actually
challenging once again himself as an artist to claim that I want to be the
president, it`s – it`s something that should be celebrated.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting point, because here we are ten years post-
Katrina. So we have been listening to Kanye, you know, in this week, let`s
take a listen to who Kanye West was round presidential politics a decade
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The destruction of the spirit of people of southern
Louisiana and Mississippi may not being the most tragic loss of all.
KANYE WEST: George Bush doesn`t care about black people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Like in that moment you have the initiation of the
KILSTEIN: Yes. I mean, that was one of the most important moments of the
George Bush presidency.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was his lowest – he and Taylor Swift have the same
lowest point in their lives and it involves –
KILSTEIN: It wasn`t in killing 100,000 Iraqis, it was Kanye made him feel
like a racist because he`s a racist.
KILSTEIN: He was perceived as being a racist. I don`t know what I`m
supposed to say.
CHO: Maybe his cabinet.
KILSTEIN: Here`s – the thing is we go after Kanye as being crazy and
being eccentric. Look at every president we have had. I think invading
the Middle East is a more eccentric than Kanye wanting to run for
president. That was a great moment. And you know what? He took a lot of
blowback for that.
I mean, Kanye talks about this, like he went into hiding after that moment.
That was a very bad move that he – that move was braver than what a lot of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Brittney, let me come to you on this. You know, I don`t
know if he`s really running for president or if what what`s talking about
here is doing the thing that so many candidates do which is talking about
running in order to get a set of concerns, issues. Whether it`s Kanye or
somebody else, it`s come – there`s going to be a hip-hop –
HARRIS-PERRY: Or at least presidential contender. I don`t know if we`ll
get the hip-hop president. But at some point, even Marco Rubio claims to
be listening – I`m just saying, like it is not –
CHO: You don`t know real that is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like it`s a new thing. So I`m wondering how does hip-hop
more broadly speak back to the American political –
COOPER: Sure. One of the things that disappointed me about the moment
though it`s the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and he doesn`t say
anything about Katrina. He doesn`t say anything. So that – that`s the
thing that makes me take him less seriously.
But I think that you`re absolutely right, that we have to think of how the
hip-hop generation is going to figure in the 2016 elections. Is that – is
it on the same terms as those who are part of the Black Lives Matter
movement or is this something separate?
HARRIS-PERRY: I think he gave the black lives matter one of the more
important strategies, I`ll let you finish, right. When they jump off
Bernie Sanders they`re doing their Kanye thing.
COOPER: That`s right. So, look, what he`s ushered in is disruptive black
politics is the order of the day. It`s not going away. It gets a lot of
traction. So, I think that`s very important. And so, if he`s going to
continue to sort of use this platform, I need him to be saying forthrightly
what he demanded a decade ago which is that candidates care about black
HARRIS-PERRY: There you go. I would enjoy covering Kim Kardashian as
CHO: Do you –
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, it would be enjoyable. It would make for TV ratings.
Thank you to Brittney Cooper and Jaeki Cho.
Jamie Kilstein is sticking around because now comes the part of the show
where I`m supposed to a say something clever to make you stick through the
commercial break and watch our next segment. Listen to me, you do not want
to go anywhere right now, because this guy, Jamie Kilstein, is about to
make his television debut.
Yes, Jamie is going to play his guitar and give us a preview of the first
studio album. Jamie has never done this before on television and quite
frankly, we have no idea how it will go. It may be a smash hit or a slow
moving train wreck. But find out, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Except for when he`s declaring former presidents who are
still living racists, Jamie Kilstein is one of our favorite guests here at
MHP. When we heard he was about to fulfill a dream we needed a preview.
Jamie is taking his comedy songs and rants and making a full studio album,
a dream of his since he was 16 years old.
And here with just a taste of what is in store, is Jamie Kilstein singing
“Sad White Boy Blues”. And joining him is Tessa Claire Hersh. Her amazing
vocals are part of it.
Jamie and Tessa, take it away.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I love you guys.
So I have to start, Tessa, you seem like you have actual talent, so I`m
wondering why you`re hanging out with a hack like Jamie.
TESSA CLAIRE HERSH, SINGER: That`s hilarious. No, the truth is that Jamie
just started singing less than a year ago. He was scared to sing in front
KILSTEIN: That`s true.
HERSH: He had this album inside of him.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s pretty amazing. So speaking of this album inside of
you, you being you didn`t make it in kind of a typical way. Talk about the
process and how people can get it.
KILSTEIN: Yes. So, Pledge Music approached me and they`re a great
organization that essentially doesn`t tell me what to do. I have been
kicked off enough TV shows, you were one of the only people who has me
back. Talking about the war or feminism or being vegan – everything that
can make people mad, I talked about. So, it`s really hard.
I didn`t want people in my way. I didn`t want people telling me I couldn`t
say this, or even playing that doubt. So what I`m doing with pledge, I
make the album with the people I want. I can talk about the issues I want.
And you get like a rock album, talking about feminism and stuff like that.
Like that`s pretty cool.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So part of what I love here, it`s a use of both
art and humor in the context of social movement. Both of which seems so
important. But we rarely see them married humorous art in the context of
social movement. Why is that important?
KILSTEIN: I mean, I think – I mean both of us, I think it`s important
because it reaches an audience that may be jaded or apathetic with cause.
And when I say apathetic with cause, I mean they turn on a lot of new shows
and don`t see themselves represented and they don`t see people talking
about the issues they care about or who they are as a person. And so, they
go screw up, I`m going to be apathetic, but they listen to listen to music,
they like to laugh and they`re on Tumblr. And when you reach those people,
then they get educated through that.
HERSH: Yes, it comes observing through comedy and it`s more digestible, I
think than a lecture of information.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s one of the best first lines ever. I don`t know what
sis is, so don`t call me that. I just – that pleased me.
KILSTEIN: It`s the struggle, man.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s the struggle. And it continues.
Thank you to Jamie Kilstein and to Tessa Claire Hersh.
Up next, MSNBC`s Joy Reid has some very big news and she`ll be back live
here on set to talk about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joy Reid has a new book and it comes out on Tuesday. It`s
called “Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons and the Racial Divide.” And
Joy is my friend, so I`m thrilled to say the following – joining me now,
Joy Reid, MSNBC correspondent and author of the forthcoming book “Fracture:
Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide.”
So, I have read the book and you can know this because I put a blurb along
the back along with Dyson and Chris Matthews, Charles Ogletree, Sherrilyn
Ifill, and part of what I said here is, if you plan to vote in 2016, you
need to read this book, because you walk us through a history that`s so
easy for us to forget.
REID: Yes. And I think that this sort of natural default that people have
is African-Americans have Democrats and have been Democrats forever, but
they forget it was a complicated walk for black folk and it got real
complicated in `08 as sort of threw into sharp and stark sort of relief, it
made people look at the fact that these conflicts and fissures between
African-Americans and their party of choice have existed for a really long
HARRIS-PERRY: So, part of what you remind us of is that there have long
been African-American candidates in the presidential primaries who even if
they weren`t likely to actually win the nomination and the presidency were
there to put a variety of issues on the table. And like as I was thinking
about that in the context of 2016, honestly, isn`t it a little
disappointing that there isn`t – I mean, I understand why there may not be
another Barack Obama running, that was a once in a generation sort of
candidate, but there isn`t anybody running with – who`s Latino or African-
American to say I may not win, but I`m here to put these issues on the
REID: Yes, isn`t it remarkable that a party that was essentially built in
the 1960s, the modern Democratic Party I think was built in two big waves,
one in the 1960s when masses of African-Americans in the South decided the
only game in town, the Democratic Party, which had been racist for 100
years, was their only route to power so they joined it. And then you had
white conservatives say, “You can have it, we`re out of here.” And over
the course of 40, 50 years, they left it.
So, then they met Jesse Jackson who`s underrated as a builder of the modern
Democratic Party. He went in and put explicitly liberal on the tables
front and center saying, not only am I looking for racial justice but
liberal economic justice. Then a party that has been built into this
multiethnic coalition is now only running McGovernite white old school
liberal, essentially, over 60. It`s amazing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, in fact, as you trace in the book, part of it is about
the issues but it`s also if we trace Shirley Chisholm, and then Jesse
Jackson `84, Jesse Jackson `88, they change the rules of how we choose a
Democratic nominee, the rules that the Obama `08 campaign played so
brilliantly. But just as you said that, I thought, well, wait a minute,
maybe the play is for African-Americans en masse to join our friend Robert
Traynham and the Republican Party and actually – if that party is about to
split, do you join that party, push in the a different way and 50 years
from now hope for something different?
REID: Well, I mea, ironically enough you as a professor of African-
American history know this. In the very beginning, even SNCC sent letters
to both political parties saying we want to look at your platform. This
was in the early 1960s.
So, the idea of playing in both parties was nothing new, even to the most
out in front non-accommodationalist actors back in the 1960s. But African-
Americans, I think, have felt so pushed away by the Republican Party that
unless their rhetoric fundamentally change, the rhetoric of their most
public voice, people like Rush Limbaugh, it`s – so sort of off putting to
African-Americans and rejectionist, I don`t see African-Americans doing
But I can see a big movement toward independence, toward not being
affiliated with a party which has huge implications because the primary
process is where African-Americans have a lot of influence because of these
moves since the 1960s?
HARRIS-PERRY: You don`t talk about it a lot here but it`s the way that
African-American voices are now entering the election, the Black Lives
Matter movement. Are they doing work candidates used to do in terms of
putting issues on the table for the Democratic Party?
REID: I think it`s amazing. I see them as sort of the modern day Stokely
Carmichaels, right, who are saying, I don`t need to necessarily –
HARRIS-PERRY: Except not nearly as sexist.
REID: Well, there`s that. Yes, there`s that.
And then again, though, you have black women who founded these movements
who are sometimes being marginalized even in our discussion of black lives,
it`s often black male lives. There`s a whole other conversation we can
But, yes, the Black Lives Matter movement is forcing the Democratic Party
to re-confront issues they thought they had earned their way out of. They
said, listen, we are the party that did the civil rights movement, we are
the party that gave you Barack Obama so there`s this surprise among a part
of the Democratic left that you still have young black people who are
saying, no, we don`t want to do respectability politics, we`re not going to
dress up in our Sunday best and demand our rights, we`re going to confront
you directly and demand our party of choice come to us and tell us how
you`re going to continue to fix these issues.
It`s interesting to me that Barack Obama gets elected with this notion
across both Democrats and some Republicans that he`d come to put aside
race, that he`d come to wipe it away and make it all good –
HARRIS-PERRY: The book is “Fracture.” It is a great book, it will be out
soon. Go get it, it`s available for next week.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll see
you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Tomorrow, our focus, the
political backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement.
And coming up right now, “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT.”
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