PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton: 2/26/2017

Guests:
Liz Plank, Jaime Harrison, Anthony Gangi, Jacque Reid, Gil Robertson
Transcript:

Show: POLITICS NATION

Date: February 26, 2017

Guest: Liz Plank, Jaime Harrison, Anthony Gangi, Jacque Reid, Gil Robertson

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Today and every day of my

presidency, I pledge to do everything I can to continue that promise of

freedom for African-Americans and for every American.

 

This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry,

intolerance, and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST:  Good morning, and welcome to POLITICS NATION.

 

It was a busy week for President Trump.  On Monday, he announced that he

will revise his travel ban executive order after the chaotic rollout of the

first version.

 

On Tuesday, the president went to the Smithsonian`s national museum of

African-American history, where he couldn`t help himself from bragging

about the margin of his election win in former slave states.

 

Wednesday, Trump repealed the transgender bathroom laws put in by the Obama

administration.

 

Then on Friday, he took a victory lap as he delivered a speech to his

supporters at the annual conservative political action conference. 

 

And just last night, Trump announces that he will not take part in this

year`s White House correspondents` dinner, a move that comes amid

increasingly hostile relations between the media and the White House.  And

that`s where we start this morning.

 

Joining me now to make sense of all that, former chairman of the RNC and

now an MSNBC analyst, Michael Steele.  And Liz Plank, senior correspondent

for Vox.com.  Thank you both for being here this morning.

 

LIZ PLANK, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, VOX.COM:  Thanks, Rev.

 

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC ANALYST:  Good morning.

 

SHARPTON:  Let me start with you, Michael.  The White House correspondents`

dinner, big event, people that fight and attack and take shots at each

other all year kind of sit there and break bread together.  The president

is able to, whoever the sitting president is, to give his jokes off on the

media.  This is unprecedented for a president not to go.  And the funds

goes to scholarships.  This benefits kids.

 

STEELE:  It does, although presidents don`t necessarily go every year of

their four years.  I think they typically try to go that first year,

though.  But I think your opening set the tone for this.  There is

hostility between this White House and the press, largely pushed and

measured by this White House.

 

And so, it would make sense then for him not to go to the biggest, you

know, correspondents event of the year and sort of take that opportunity to

actually bring that temperature down, and that`s unfortunate.  I think the

White House correspondents dinner is a real opportunity for the president

to do that, but I think this has something to do as much with not just

current tensions but what happened the last time he was there and was

humiliated by President Obama in that space.

 

For me, I think it would be a chance to sort of come back and just kind of

go at it, but that`s not how Trump looks at this.  It`s very personal for

him in some respects.  So, it`ll be interesting to see if the vice

president goes in his stead.  We`ll wait and see how that plays out, but I

think it`s a missed opportunity.

 

SHARPTON:  Liz, I mean, this battle with the press.  First of all, is it

healthy for the country?  Let`s put aside President Trump`s charges or the

media`s countercharges.  Is it healthy for the country for the president of

the United States to be selective on who he`s going to talk to in terms of

bringing in the White House press secretary`s office, and to just keep

every opportunity, taking shots by name at members of the media, rather

than deal with the issues that the people of this country need to deal

with?

 

PLANK:  Absolutely.  And I think – let`s be clear, what should be worrying

Americans is that Donald Trump is not going after bad journalism, he`s

going after good journalism.  He, on Friday, his administration banned five

outlets from a press briefing, and those five outlets happen to be the five

outlets who have done investigative, original reporting on his ties to

Russia.

 

So, he`s not going after Breitbart, who, you know, whose articles claim

that women are made crazy and unattractive by birth control, or that, you

know, some articles deny even the existence of climate change.  He`s going

after outlets who do source, have sources inside the White House, and who

are finding things that Donald Trump doesn`t want us to know about.

 

And so, not going to the White House correspondents` dinner comes to no

surprise.  A lot of journalists were already going to boycott the event

anyways.  He`s very sensitive.  He doesn`t do well when people don`t

applaud, when he doesn`t have an audience that agrees with him, so I`m not

surprised or shocked that he`s not going to be going.

 

SHARPTON:  Michael, when the president sends these kinds of signals,

doesn`t it reduce him to appear in pity – I mean, you won, you`re in the

White House, you`re the head of the free world.  Why are you going through

these back-and-forwards with reporters on stories?  I mean, you and I have

been in public life and have taken our shots.  

 

STEELE:  Yes.

 

SHARPTON:  And I mean, it`s part of being in public life.  He`s the

president, the ultimate public life position.

 

STEELE:  Yes, no, Rev, I have to agree with you.  And I think it does go to

the idea of that he doesn`t like it unless there`s applause, and that`s

unfortunate.  Look, you are the president.  You have an opportunity not

only through the bully pulpit to affect policy, but to set the tone for

your administration, for the country, and to be the bigger person in a lot

of situations, and this is one of them with the correspondents` dinner.  I

understand, correspondents` are going to boycott, let them boycott.  Just

go and have a good time. 

 

Don`t take it as a personal affront and avoid the opportunity to shame them

a little bit, to let them appear to be the petty ones in this particular

instance.  But that`s not how he looks at it, and I think it`s been an

unfortunate tone-setting from the beginning of this administration to sort

of pick these fights, and it sort of gets the policy down in the mud, it

gets personalities and personnel – certainly, cabinet officials are trying

to clean up after some of these conversations and some of the tweets.

 

So, it does rest at the president`s desk, and I think they need to do more

in the White House to help him control that better and to avoid some of the

things that they`ve gotten into unnecessarily.

 

SHARPTON:  Now, when we deal with the principles of the country, I mean,

the constitution, Liz – freedom of the press – I think that some people

have said, wait a minute, this borders on, if not crosses the line on how

you`re going to censure the press and how you`re going to reward those that

you find favor in how they cover you and you`re going to isolate and even

put off those that don`t.

 

I mean, this is deeper than just this last round of a correspondents`

dinner or the White House briefing.

 

PLANK:  absolutely.  And as a person who covered his campaign for a year

and a half, I can tell you I`m not surprised by any of this.  It`s a

continuation of his relationship with the press.  And he likes using the

press when it works for him, but he doesn`t like to be accountable to the

press.

 

And I think that this doesn`t only bother Democrats or people who oppose

Donald Trump.  I think it bothers conservatives.  During his speech at

CPAC, he spent the first 15 minutes of his speech only talking about the

media and going after this fake news.

 

SHARPTON:  By name.  I mean, naming certain outlets and naming certain

newspapers.

 

PLANK:  Absolutely.  And it was interesting.  People were cheering and some

woman yelled “Fake News!” and everyone applauded.  But there was this

confused applause.  I think a lot of people were waiting for him to talk

about jobs, were waiting to talk about policy, what he`s actually going to

do for them.  And while he`s talking about the media, while he`s going at

war with the media, he`s not serving the American people.

 

SHARPTON:  You know, Michael, you mentioned that he didn`t like that he had

become the butt of President Obama`s jokes, but he`s the president now. 

He`d be the main speaker, the main attraction, if he were to go to the

correspondents` dinner.

 

But aside from that, when you have a week as I just opened with, where

you`ve done things like come with a new executive action on deportation,

where you`re dealing with things like going to the African-American history

museum and making his statements on race that many of us have real

questions about, when you deal with his dealing with the whole question of

transgender rights, why would you end the week getting in an argument over

a correspondents` dinner?  Shouldn`t he be addressing the substantive

things?  You have town hall meetings with people in your party where

hundreds, if not thousands, of people are coming out worried about their

health care.

 

STEELE:  Yes, I mean, that goes to the main point here.  You know, I see

the correspondents` dinner as a distraction, but quite honestly, from a

policy standpoint, for a lot of his base and for a lot of conservatives and

Republicans around the country, this was a week where he laid down some

markers and they like that this administration is doing that, that we can

have a big discussion on the degree to which you support or not support or

think it`s good or bad policy, which is really the space we want to be

occupying at this point after 18 months of, you know, just straight-up

campaigning.

 

But to Liz`s point about this campaign mode, that`s the mode he`s most

comfortable in.  That`s the mode in which he does the best, his best and

most communication.  And now they still seem to have a problem

transitioning into a consistent, ongoing policy discussion, not just on the

topic of health care or transgender bathrooms or whatever the issue happens

to be, but even more broadly, into foreign policy, into the economy, into

jobs and how that`s all connected, because it is.  And a lot of Americans

want to know, does he see those connections the way they do?  And what is

he going to do about them?

 

SHARPTON:  All right, I`m going to have to leave it there.  Thank you,

Michael Steele and Liz Plank.

 

PLANK:  Thanks, Rev.

 

STEELE:  Thanks.

 

SHARPTON:  Coming up, now that the Democrats have picked a new chairman, he

has to deal with the elephant in the room.  That`s next on “politics

nation.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TOM PEREZ, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR:  We need to make house calls. 

We need to listen to people.  We need to get back to basics.  And we need

to move forward.  Because I am confident, my friends, I am confident that

when we lead with our values and lead with our actions, we succeed.  That

is what the Democratic Party has always been about. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  The Democrats have chosen a new leader to chair the Democratic

National Committee.  That winner is Tom Perez, who was a secretary of labor

under President Obama.  And now Perez will have to define a vision of how

to counter Donald Trump`s administration while outlining the Democrats`

agenda.

 

One of the candidates, Jaime Harrison, chairman of the South Carolina

Democratic Party, dropped out of the race to endorse the eventual winner,

Tom Perez.  And Jaime Harrison joins me now.  Thank you for joining me,

Jaime.

 

Tell me, what are the challenges that Tom Perez faces?  We have a president

who has clearly set a different type of tone.  We have a majority

Republican Senate, a majority Republican House, and statehouses all over

the country.  So, it`s an uphill battle for Democrats, to say the least.

 

How does Tom Perez put his arms around this to put a strategy together to

deal with this landscape?

 

JAIME HARRISON, CHAIRMAN, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY:  Well, first and

foremost, Rev, thank you so much for having me on.  Thank you also for

coming down to South Carolina recently to say words for our dear, departed

friend, Representative Joe Neal.  We really appreciated that.

 

SHARPTON:  Thank you.

 

HARRISON:  It was comforting for the family, so thank you.

 

As it relates to the challenges the Democratic Party faces, listen, there`s

a lot of optimism.  Tom Perez is a progressive, a strong progressive who is

a fighter.  And he is really going to galvanize our forces on the

Democratic side.

 

The one thing that we have to do very early on is we have to build capacity

in state parties.  When we think about why we`re in the situation we`re in,

part of that is because we`ve allowed state parties for the past decade or

so to really, to fall apart.  We haven`t poured the resources into those

parties so that they can go out and do the grassroots operations that are

so important to get voters educated, mobilized, and to the polls.

 

And so, he invests into state parties, we`ll start to take that next step

forward in order to rebuild the party.

 

SHARPTON:  Isn`t the challenge that we`re dealing with gerrymandered seats,

and a lot of the Congressional seats are going to be difficult unless the

Democratic party can really get a real, strong grassroots operation and

talk to people that often have not heard the message of the Democratic

party?  Isn`t that the challenge?

 

HARRISON:  That is a great challenge, Rev.  Listen, political

gerrymandering is probably one of the greatest threats to our Democracy

right now.  You basically have drawn these districts into a way in which

you`re only talking to 20 or 30 percent of the population in that district. 

We have to change that.  So, that`s something long term that President

Obama and attorney general holder are going to work on to try find some

solutions.

 

At the same time, the Democratic Party has to transform itself.  We have to

stop being this political organization that basically goes out and just

begs for votes every two or four years and become a community organization

that is working on a grassroots level in order to help people solve the

issues that they`re dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

 

We have to start showing and stop telling.  We tell people a lot about

we`re fighting for them, but we`ve got to start showing them that that`s

what we`re doing.  And if we can do those things, we will be well on the

path for 2018 to make gains in the House, protect our seats in the Senate,

and hopefully, make some gains in statehouses and governorships.

 

SHARPTON:  You ran and you withdrew and supported Tom Perez, who was the

winner yesterday.  Keith Ellison, of course, was not successful.  There are

some in the media trying to say that there becomes a disheartening of some

of the progressives that were supporting Keith Ellison.  You were there. 

You were on the stage.  Can the party be united, or is that just media

blowing something out of proportion?  How do we bring the progressives and

the center and even those on the right in the Democratic Party into one

tent and have a strategy that is durable, given this landscape?

 

Again I use that term, the landscape that we face.

 

HARRISON:  Rev, you know, the remarkable thing of last night, or yesterday,

the very first thing that Tom Perez did as chair of the DNC, the very first

thing, was to make a motion to make Keith Ellison the deputy chair of the

DNC.

 

You know, it`s not about the words that we have, it`s about the actions,

and that was the actions of our new chair.  And so, you know, people want

to write the story about the Democratic Party being divided, but if Tom

Perez did not care about uniting this party, he wouldn`t have done what he

did yesterday.  If Keith Ellison didn`t think about uniting this party, he

wouldn`t accept the role that he accepted yesterday.

 

And so, those two gentlemen, who I know and I cherish and I consider both

of them friends, know that the number one thing is not about Tom, it`s not

about Keith, it`s about the Democratic Party and the people that we

represent.  And we have to all unify, because we can continue to fight this

battle of this Bernie versus Hillary versus Obama and all of that, but

ultimately, we will all lose the war.

 

It`s about Donald Trump and this rubber-stamped Republican Congress.  We

can`t afford to let them get to 60 votes in the Senate.  We can`t afford to

let them get one more state, because then they could call a constitutional

convention.

 

There`s a lot at stake for the people that we care about, and it`s time for

Democrats to unite to make sure that we push back.

 

SHARPTON:  Isn`t that the real message that the constitutional convention,

if they get one more state, that we`ve got to really see a counter kind of

narrative put out by the Democrats that would turn people on?  You have to

turn people on before you can turn them out. 

 

HARRISON:  Oh, Rev, that is so true.  And you know, in this race, I was one

of the first people to start talking about the urgency of now, where we

are.  Like, we are on the brink.  Just take the Senate and the power of the

filibuster.

 

You know, Republicans are seven seats away.  Donald trump – in 2018, there

will be 25 Democratic U.S. Senate seats up, and 10 of the 25 are in states

that Donald Trump won.  The West Virginias of the world, the North Dakotas

of the world, the Missouri`s of the world.  And I know we got some folks in

the party saying, oh, we need to primary.  We need to primary.  Folks, wake

up.  We need to save the seats that we have and go after the Republicans.

 

We don`t have the time to be fighting amongst ourselves, because too much

is at stake.  I think about people like my grandparents who grew up in

South Carolina, people who were struggling, who could have health care

right now, but they don`t.

 

We need to think about how we make gains, how we make gains in the

statehouses, how we make gains in governorships, how we protect U.S. Senate

seats and how we make sure that they can`t change the constitution, because

you know better than anybody else.  If they get that opportunity, a lot of

the people are going to suffer.

 

SHARPTON:  Thank you, Jaime Harrison for being with me this morning.

 

HARRISON:  Thank you, reverend.  I really appreciate it.

 

SHARPTON:  Coming up, he loves the NRA.  He`s all for the second amendment. 

But now he`s too afraid to hold a town hall for fear of gun violence?  Yes. 

That`s next.  We`ll be right back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

SHARPTON:  This week there have been a lot of tense town hall meetings

across the country, Congressmen and women face their constituents and

listen to their complaints, but one Congressman, Texas Republican Louie

Gohmert, seems to be too nervous to hold such a meeting.

 

Gohmert, a well-known NRA supporter, is afraid of “groups who are preying

on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety.”

 

He specifically invoked the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords

as a solid reason for why town halls are dangerous events. 

 

So let me get this straight, a well-known second amendment supporter is

afraid to hold a town hall meeting in person because of potential gun

violence?  Isn`t it ironic? Well, it is.  And that`s why Congressman

Gohmert, we got you.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

SHARPTON:  This week, the Trump administration reversed an Obama

administration`s directive to reduce the use of private prisons.

 

Instead, private prison companies who invested hundreds of thousands of

dollars in Donald Trump`s presidential campaign were now given the green

light to make huge profits by building more prisons and keeping even more

Americans in jail.  Should we stop corporations from profiting by

incarcerating our fellow Americans?

 

Joining me now is Anthony Gangi, a corrections advocate and activist.  He

is host of “Tear Talk.”

 

Anthony, first of all, the reason this was reversed by the Obama

administration in the first place, among other things stated at the time,

was taking the profit out of those that not only want to incarcerate people

for over longer periods of time, where then the crime may have fit, but in

many cases setting up situations where it`s just making huge profit of

arresting and incarcerating people that thin to little evidence is there at

all.

 

ANTHONY GANGI, CORRECTION ADVOCATE:  Actually, we agree on the fact that

prison for profit is definitely something that should not be done.

 

First of all, I want to thank the brave men and women who work behind the

wall.  I want to thank them on the national level because their job goes

unrecognized, and I want to thank you for having me on the show.  Thank

you.  I appreciate that.

 

My concern is, part of the reason also why Obama was doing away with

privatized prisons was also because of safety and security concerns.  When

you owe total to shareholders and you`re not worried about the

responsibility of what it takes to maintain a safe and secured facility for

not just the inmates who reside there, but also for the staff who work

there – because staff, the correctional staff do set the canvas for

rehabilitation to occur.

 

Now, remember, I believe in the system, OK?  I do believe the system works. 

I`ve had inmates, mentoring inmates, tell me that the system works, parents

tell me, thank God my son`s in jail or thank God they`re in prison because

if they`re on the streets, God knows where they would be.

 

So, the system does work, and if we base the system on these extremes that

occur on the news where we take those extremes and we generalize it as this

is what defines the system, you`re going to find many people that are going

to step up and say that`s not true, because there are – believe it or not,

prisons can no longer be seen as just a dead end road.  It can be seen as a

place of hope if you do things correctly.

 

SHARPTON:  But it also can be argued on the other side that prisons have

clearly been used to overpenalize people, and in some cases penalize people

that shouldn`t be penalized.  But where we agree – and that`s why I wanted

to have you on, with you and I one on one dealing with this – where we

agree is whether you`re on the side of those working in the prisons or

those that have been incarcerated, the profit in it really takes away from

both –

 

GANGI:  Yes.

 

SHARPTON:  – the correction officers and those that are incarcerated.  So,

there`s a mid-ground here, or a common ground here for advocates on both

sides.

 

GANGI:  You`re 100 percent correct.  This is actually the first time we`re

actually together on common ground.  Believe it or not, correctional staff

and inmates do share one thing, and we share the fact that we want to go

home, you know?  And I believe right now – unfortunately – wait, let`s

just also – unfortunately, with certain issues with the state facilities

and privatized correctional facilities, it`s very hard now to say that one

problem`s isolated from the other.

 

Right now, I believe that the correctional system does need a sense of

revamping.  It does.  Don`t get me wrong.  I know it does.  It`s bleeding

from the inside.

 

And I believe that we have to do what we can to make sure that we show the

truth about what corrections is, because I`m telling you something, the

system does work.  It does.

 

Having said that, it`s not geared for profit.  Human life is not geared for

profit.  You know, if I may mention something, too –

 

SHARPTON:  Human life is not geared for profit on either side.

 

GANGI:  On either side, and that`s where we`re on the same page.  An

inmate`s life is just as valuable to us as a correction officer`s life,

trust me.

 

SHARPTON:  But if you have privatized prisons – you have people who are

stockholders, all they`re interested in is profit.

 

GANGI:  and that`s all they care.  And I agree 100%.  And if I can add

something else, whether on politics – I don`t usually stand on the

extremes.  I believe the road is a compromise in the middle where I get

your perspective, you give me mine and we constructively build.  That`s why

I want to thank you for coming on the show.  Because you guys seen me on

shows before and the fact that now we`re actually having communications

saying, hey, we`re on the same page.

 

I want to mention something too.  There`s this blue lives laws matter. 

Blue Lives Matter laws that are being passed that are affecting law

enforcement.  Corrections doesn`t know if they`re involved in those

protection laws.

 

SHARPTON:  Corrections may not be involved –

 

GANGI:  We may not be involved in those laws because corrections is not

recognized as law enforcement nationally.  Some states are, some states

aren`t.  So, if Trump wants to do the right thing here, hypothetically,

we`ve got to start recognizing those brave men and women who risk their

lives behind that wall, because the brave men – if I may –

 

SHARPTON:  So, let me get this right.  With all of his pronouncements about

standing by our law enforcement community, which all of us stand behind law

enforcement.  None of us are anti-law enforcement.  But with all those

pronouncements, he has not made sure to include corrections officers?

 

GANGI:  I agree.  See, the problem is corrections isn`t recognized as law

enforcement across the state, across the country.  Maybe that deals with

consistency in training, because if you look it in, you`ll see some

correctional agencies, they train for three weeks, some do 15, 16 weeks. 

There`s got to be more consistency with the training that you`re providing

these correctional officers.

 

Having said that, the laws that are passed right now, you don`t know, am I

covered in that, you know, because some states that don`t recognize

corrections, well, guess what, if you don`t recognize corrections as law

enforcement, then that bill is fruitless to those who work corrections.

 

SHARPTON:  So, they`ve run past the consideration of the humanity of the

inmates, whether they`re there justifiably or not, they`ve run past the

humanity of correction officers, and just took care of those that are going

to make a profit.

 

GANGI:  I agree.  And again, just mentioning this, I believe that there is

motivation behind what he does, and I believe the motivation isn`t pure. 

And again, I could be wrong, you know, and I`m just kind of giving my

opinion, because my number one objective is taking care of those brave men

and women who were forgotten behind that wall.  I think the truth comes out

when you go to privatize.  I think if ever we were to understand his

motive, at least corrections is now going to know, well wait a second, this

person that we thought was helping us may not be.

 

And if I can add one more thing, because I know we`ve got to get close to

the segment here, is I would like to kind of start informing people about

the truth, bring that middle road together.  I do it on my show all the

time.  I think it`s about getting people with experience that can sit down

with you and say, hey, you know what, I understand your perspective, Rev, I

do.  So, if you could understand mine, we both value human life, correct?

 

SHARPTON:  That`s what it`s all about, valuing human life.

 

GANGI:  Let`s move forward.

 

SHARPTON:  All human life.  That`s why I wanted to have this conversation. 

We`re going to hear from the other side as the weeks go on.

 

Thank you, Anthony Gangi.

 

Up next, ahead of the academy awards tonight, we asked, is 2016 the best

year ever for black people in film?

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  We`re not saying who must win, but if you`ve been locked out of

the process, then you`re dealing with a systemic problem of exclusion. 

You`re out of time.  We are not going to allow the Oscars to continue. 

This will be the last night of an all-white Oscar.

 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  A year after I helped organize protests against the lack of

diversity at the Academy Awards, Hollywood may be finally getting the

message.

 

This year`s list of Oscar nominees is one of the most diverse ever.  For

the first time, African-American actors are nominated in every acting

category.  Here`s a clip from the movie, “Fences.”

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How come you never liked me?

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Like you? Who the hell said I got to like you?  What

law is there say I`ve got to like you?  I asked you a question.  What law

is there say I`ve got to like you?

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  None.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right then.  You eat every day?

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You got a roof over your head?

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Got close on your back?

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why do you think that is?

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because of you.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know it`s because of me, but why do you think that

is?

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because you like me?

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  Still there is room for improvement, especially when it comes to

Latino and Asian representation.

 

Joining me now is Gil Robertson from the African-American Film Critics

Association and Jacque Reid, the host of WNBC`s “New York Live.”

 

Let me go to you first, Jacque.  A year ago, we were outside protesting and

marching.  We had – April Ryan had lit the country up with #oscarsowhite.

 

A year later, there`s diversity among blacks.  But clearly, it`s not just a

concession to those of us that raised the issue.  These are very good

films, actors and actresses, that for whatever reason, they seemingly

couldn`t find them in the years preceding.

 

JACQUE REID, HOST, WNBC`S “NEW YORK LIVE”:  Yes, it is amazing.  In 2016,

last year, on the year that, you know, you were out there and so many

others were protesting, #oscarssowhite, is a perfect example.  There might

be those who say, well, how can African-Americans be nominated if they`re

not in these films or if the roles aren`t there?  But there were plenty of

roles in 2016, for example “Beast of no Nation” was not recognized with

Idris Elba who a lot of people say should have been nominated in best actor

category.

 

The movie “Creed,” where we only saw Sylvester Stallone nominated.  Even

though there was a black director and a black star, Michael B. Jordan.  And

also “Straight Outta Compton,” no nominations from that remarkable film.

 

So yes, a lot of people are excited because this could be the most African-

American winners at the Oscars ever with 18 nominations going into this

awards ceremony this year, but we`ll just see who ends up winning.

 

But yes, every acting category, as you said, for the first time also best

director with Barry Jenkins from the movie “Moonlight.”  So, it`ll be an

interesting night to see how things go, but not only what happens tonight

but what happens years beyond that.

 

People are also saying that there are predictions as to who could be

nominated for 2018, and already there are not a lot of African-American

names in the running for years beyond this.

 

SHARPTON:  Gil, is this going to be a one-year thing, or have we seen a

turning of the corner there with additions in terms of members to the

academy that gives more of a diverse voting base?

 

But again, we still do not have any blacks or Latinos that can green-light

movies at major studios.  The problem is the pipeline and who controls the

pipeline.

 

GIL ROBERTSON, PRESIDENT, AFRICAN AMERICAN FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION: 

Absolutely, Al.  The jury is still out as to whether or not, you know, 2016

is something that was an anomaly or something that we`ll see more of in the

years to come.

 

I mean, this year, to Jacque`s point, does look a little light in terms of

color, but the year`s still young and movies are being added on to studio

release schedules all the time.  So I`m sure we`re going to see a number of

films that will certainly qualify for an Oscar or some of the other awards

that are given out during awards season, including an AFCA, an AFCA award.

 

But I think that what the academy has done is shown great leadership, and

now it`s up to the industry itself.  It`s up to the studios and other

content distributors to really put a real commitment behind populating

their projects with performers of color, both in front and behind the

camera.

 

SHARPTON:  Here`s a clip from the movie “Hidden Figures.”  Watch this.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`m not accepting reassignment unless I bring my

ladies with me.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Excuse me?

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We`re going to need a lot of manpower to program that

beast.  I can`t do it alone.  My gals are ready.  They can do the work.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ladies, we`ve been reassigned.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

SHARPTON:  So, we`re talking about artists of excellence, no matter what

standard you use, but stories, Jacque, that really are important, engaging,

and needed for the American public to see and appreciate.

 

REID:  Yes, and that`s what it`s all about.  You know, I can`t tell you how

many conversations I have with people who said they had no idea of the

story that was told in the movie “Hidden Figures,” and there are countless

stories from not just African-Americans but Hispanics and Asians that are

just not being told, because as you said, their movies, their stories, are

not being green lit.

 

The stories are there and there are people with the ability to tell them

well, but if you don`t have the funding to get your movies made, then those

stories will never make it to the screen.  And a lot of times, you know,

people – there`s the debate as to whether or not Oscars matter, and I and

many would argue that they do matter because they can open doors to funding

to get things made.

 

Ava DuVernay, who`s a great director, has made many films.  A lot of people

never heard her name until the movie “Selma,” at least because that film

was nominated, her name is out there, but she`s been making movies for a

long time, and this year is finally nominated for an Oscar for her

documentary “13th,” which is excellent.

 

SHARPTON:  Gil, how do we break through to those studios and keep putting

the pressure there to deal with the lack of diversity in terms of

executives that have real power?  We will see tonight probably a historic

number of nominees that are black, but we still see we`re going from

Adrian`s #oscarssowhite to #studiosstillwhite should be a new hashtag.

 

ROBERTSON:  At the end of the day, the only thing that institutions in this

country really respect and understand is the money.

 

And so, if we want to effectively change how business is done in Hollywood,

we`ve got to exercise what we do with our wallets.

 

I think for young filmmakers, they should also invest and put more of their

energies into untraditional paths, like the internet and what streaming

services can offer.  Technology has really opened the door and sort of

leveled it in some degrees that previous generations weren`t able to enjoy

or take advantage of.

 

So, there are some opportunities for us to – but we also have to work with

the system as well.  I think that the industry has made a sincere attempt

to address this issue, as demonstrated by the films that we`ve seen this

year, and I think that we should continue to, not to wait, but to work with

them to find the solution, you know, and find the way for pictures to

represent all communities, you know, in a positive light.

 

SHARPTON:  And Jacque, I think that Gil is right, that they`ve made a great

attempt, but I think if you hadn`t had the #oscarssowhite hashtag, if you

hadn`t had some protesters, even at the Oscars, we kind of nudged them to

help them help themselves, and I think that kind of pressure is going to

have to be put on the studios.

 

REID:  Yes, it has to continue.  Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the

Academy, who is african-american, and she has been for the past two or

three years, she definitely made a strong effort to change that voting

membership.  It`s 6,000 members predominantly white, predominantly men,

predominately older men.  Those numbers are changing, but it`s still, you

know, tips in the balance of older, white men.  So, a lot of change still

needs to happen.

 

SHARPTON:  Yes.

 

REID:  So, the fight is not over.  Ava DuVernay said it in Oscar breakfast

– a brunch, rather, that they had for women Saturday that you know, our

ancestors taught us to fight and we`re in the fight of our lives.  I`m

paraphrasing that we still have to continue the fight.  And when I think it

comes – I think she was more talking about politics and President Trump,

but I think that when it comes to every aspect of our life, it`s important

to continue to push and continue to fight, particularly with this.

 

SHARPTON:  All right.  I`m going to have to hold it there.  And when you

said the president of the academy has been black for the last two or three

years, you meant she was president and she`s been president the last two or

three years.  She`s been black all her life. 

 

Thank you, Gil Robertson and Jacque Reid.

 

ROBERTSON:  Thank you.

 

Up next, my final thoughts on the fifth anniversary of the killing of

Trayvon Martin.  How far we`ve come on race relations in America and how

far we need to go.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

SHARPTON:  I was awakened the other morning to the story of Muhammad Ali

Jr., who was stopped at an airport in Florida and held and questioned for

several hours because of his name, Muhammad Ali.  How did you get that

name?  And all kinds of questions by authorities.  And I thought about how

we are five years this week from the profiling, in my judgment, and killing

of Trayvon Martin.  His parents have in great, great, in my opinion, great

behavior and performance, have upheld the dignity of their family and that

young man but continued the fight.

 

Because five years later, whether you`re profiled because you`re black or

Latino or Muslim or a woman or transgender, we still have a fight.  I

remember when I went to Sanford, Florida, five years ago to help lead the

first big rallies and marches.  I went there because I believed in what Dr.

King said, that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat everywhere, and we

cannot allow people to just assume based on what they see and what

preconceived notions they have, that they have the right to execute

whatever their will is.

 

When we went to Sanford five years ago, the first big rally, they wouldn`t

even arrest the assailant.  They would not even say there`s probable cause

here to go to trial.  Ultimately, he was acquitted at trial, but he

wouldn`t have been arrested had there not been voices raised, and over and

over a prolonged period of time a sustained fight.

 

We`ve got to keep fighting, not just for our one particular group, but for

all groups, because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 

Five years later, it may be Muslims, it`s still blacks, it`s still Latinos,

it`s gays and lesbians and transgender, it`s many.  It`s targeting Jewish

temples and community centers.  We`ve got to fight not on a time limit,

we`ve got to fight until we stop this.

 

That does it for me.  Thanks for watching.  And to keep the conversation

going, like us at facebook.com/politicsnation.  And follow us on Twitter,

@politicsnation.  I`ll see you back here next Sunday.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

 

 

 

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