Politics Nation, Transcript 7/30/2017
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: July 30, 2017
Guest: Kerry Kennedy, Vivian Nixon, Kirsten Haglund, Zerlina Maxwell,
Francis Rooney. Tom Perez
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning and welcome to “PoliticsNation.”
We often speak of injustice in our nation`s criminal justice system. Now
that spotlight is focused on a New York teenager, recognized as an honor
student, his cry of innocence from infamous Rikers Island has inspired the
Kennedy family to help. That`s later in the show.
In other news, outrage, real outrage this morning over the president`s
comments to the nation`s law enforcement telling them to, quote, don`t be
But we start with what`s going on inside the White House and the future of
health care in this country.
Joining me now is Kirsten Haglund, a conservative commentator and Zerlina
Maxwell, the director of progressive programming for Sirius XM and former
director of progressive media for the Clinton campaign.
Let me start with you. The week has been more some would say unusual, I
would say crazy, than the preceding weeks and every week seemed crazy to
me, but this is particularly crazy.
So we end it now with the chief of staff coming in, General Kelly, after
last weekend we saw Spicer going out and all of the up and down upheaval in
between as a conservative, how do you try and make some rational sense out
KIRSTEN HAGLUND, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Well, I think as you said quite
eloquently there, rationality is not necessarily a word that can apply to
the political situation right now and I think that frustrates so many
Americans no matter what side of the political aisle you`re on.
What this week unfortunately showed and that`s someone that is more
conservative is that the GOP has made a lot of promises over the last seven
years, had a real opportunity here to have cohesive policy that addressed
some of the difficulties of ObamaCare which many people recognize,
democrats as well that there are a lot of things that need fixing in this
bill, but they were unable to actually govern.
They were unable to bring out coalition together around a policy that
people could actually agree upon and that their constituents also wanted.
I think there`s been a lot of attention especially from the president on
Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski and obviously Senator John McCain,
but those women especially who from the very beginning were like we can`t
address this. Just saying step in line – step in line with the party.
They are representing their constituents. Right? That`s a major problem -
SHARPTON: And you have to respect the fact that they stood loyal to their
constituents, what they felt was best, both Murkowski and Collins. And
I`ve got to give credit to John McCain who took a stand and he and I have
not been fans of each other, but I give him respect.
Zerlina, at the end of the day when we get past the drama and the soap
opera stuff, we are talking about millions of people`s health care and we
are talking about we do need something that even former President Obama
said that needs fixing because the premiums can rise here.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, FORMER DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE MEDIA FOR THE CLINTON
SHARPTON: Does anybody care that there are people sitting there needing
their health care to be stabilized and affordable and those that have
preexisting conditions are really being almost – they`re stressed out.
They`re now traumatized by what`s going to happen to me. We`re forgetting
about the people here.
MAXWELL: Right. And I think that the tragedy of all of this is if you are
somebody who had cancer or a terminal illness right now when they`re
debating health care and you`re not sure if you`re going to lose your
health care, as a result of the vote, that`s just an additional level of
stress on top of your illness.
And I think that that`s really unfortunate and un-American. Republicans
never came up with a message around what this bill actually did for people,
how does it actually make the health insurance system better for Americans?
They never ever came up with a bill that actually solves the problem and
they were never able to communicate why they were doing this other than we
wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act to basically get back at President
Obama. And I think that they were essentially revealed as having no
SAHRPTON: Kirsten, isn`t that the politics of this, that while we are
talking about real problems, real people, people watching us concerned
about their health, their mothers, their grandmothers, I mean, real stuff,
that people play in politics say, we`re going to repeal and replace, we`re
going to make it better and caught people`s hopes up and faith up and they
really didn`t have a replacement in mind, they had no policy there.
HAGLUND: Well, this is the thing that I think is so sad about this entire
conversation is that people are so exhausted with the politics as unusual
as you just mentioned.
What`s really interesting is if you go back to 2009/2010 when the whole
debate over the Affordable Care Act was starting, you know, that mindset of
the average every day American was very different than it is now. People
are used to having these benefits for seven, eight years now.
HAGLUND: So the concept is entirely different and they`ve been competing
on repeal and replace and that energized people`s emotions and that caused
them to vote, they raised millions of dollars on that message but the
American mindset is different now and people want universal health care
coverage and they also want to make sure –
SHARPTON: And millions had started getting coverage. I mean, if they
probably going to run into in the midterm elections is what happens to
those that have become or just accustomed to being covered, and now all of
a sudden you`ve got this kind of uneasiness.
So it`s one thing when I didn`t know that I could get relief, it`s another
when for millions under what is called ObamaCare I did get some relief and
now you`re playing games with it.
MAXWELL: It`s always more difficult to take away the entitlement once
people have it, once social security was implemented and Medicare was
implemented it is nearly impossible to take it away.
Former speaker of the house John Boehner earlier this week said ObamaCare
is here to stay. That was before the health care vote failed. And I think
that it`s important to give credit where it`s due. There were a number of
different activists and organizers all over the country, dying in, sleeping
in offices all around the country, going to the capitol, getting arrested,
people in wheelchairs literally getting arrested. And I think –
SHARPTON: People being taken out of wheelchairs by the capitol police.
I`ve never seen that in all my years of civil rights, I`ve never seen that.
MAXWELL: That surprises me that you`ve never seen that, Rev, given your
history. I think that that was a powerful moment for the resistance to
this administration that showed that, no, you`re not going to take our
health care away without a fight.
SHARPTON: I`ll get to, quickly, some of the inside baseball because I`m
much more concerned about what happens to people than what happens on the
But I must touch on this whole fight, Scaramucci coming in, the Reince
Priebus being dismissed. How does this play in terms of making the West
Wing under Trump even look more unstable than the unstable appearances it
has given us in the other parts of the first six months?
HAGLUND: You know what? Actually, the kind of chaos that has existed –
and managed chaos, which Donald Trump has previously and in his businesses
has said he kind of enjoys that competitive nature, Sarah Huckabee Sanders
now press secretary mentioned that as well that he likes to foster that.
That actually does have a real impact on the policy that does or doesn`t
get passed in the legislature. So even though it does seem a little bit
like we`re talking inside baseball here. When you don`t have a president
necessarily who has a legislative vision that does affect how things work
on Capitol Hill.
And so far as this latest staff shakeup is concerned, Reince Priebus was
the real line to the establishment wing of the GOP.
SHARPTON: Right. He was the chairman of the party.
HAGLUND: Exactly. And he wasn`t real safe in the White House to begin
with. General Kelly has a lot of great experience in being chief of staff.
If the president can actually give him and invest him with that power which
Reince Priebus didn`t necessarily have to organize the staff, then he might
be able to at least succeed in getting them coalesced around a message and
SHARPTON: Well, good luck with that.
Zerlina, when you look at the fact that the so-called on the record/off the
record kind of seen vulgar conversation with New Yorker magazine with
Scaramucci. I mean, what kind of example is that to the young people in
the country reading this? I mean, aside – and I`ve been accused of being
passionate, and I don`t know why, but, I mean, getting that way out of
bounds is a little upsetting.
MAXWELL: Right. I don`t think I`ve ever said anything like that much less
said it to a reporter on the record.
And as a communications director, I think that`s basics, that`s one-on-one
level, off the record, on the record, on background. You should know what
these terms mean and ensure that you`re not going and ranting about a
colleague on the record with the New Yorker.
But again, I think this goes back to the management style of Donald Trump.
It all goes back to the top and it`s really ironic that they`re bringing in
a wartime general, literally, to fix the office politics in the White
I think that that`s a really alarming reality that we`re living in.
SHARPTON: Maybe you want the general to deal with the war.
SHARPTON: Thanks to you both. Zerlina Maxwell and Kirsten Haglund.
Coming up, with upheaval inside the White House and a stalemate on health
care, how can legislation on such issues as infrastructure and taxes move
forward? I`ll ask republican Francis Rooney of Florida next.
SHARPTON: A failure to pass the republicans so-called skinny health care
bill in the senate and to changes at the senior level inside the White
House in two weeks which has spilled over into the loss of leadership at
Here to discuss all of this is republican Congressman Francis Rooney of
Good morning, congressman. Thank you for being with us.
I don`t want to really get into our differences politically on how we may
see different issues as much as how it impacts and affects people, we are
looking to deal with things like an infrastructure bill which is needed as
I travel around the country from roads to bridges to highways to tunnels,
we really need the repairs, and the jobs that it could create.
We have a real problem with jobs when we look at tax bill, what is that
going to mean for the middleclass, what is that going to mean for the
These issues seem to be at risk of not even coming to the front burner
because of all this other drama and trauma in Washington. How do you see
this getting through so that the people become part of the agenda?
REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: Well, first, Al, thanks for having me
I`m hopeful kind of being an outsider to all of this and being a
businessperson. I`m hopeful and optimistic that the two things you talked
about infrastructure and tax reform will be less contentious than this
disaster discussion of health care has been for the first six months.
We desperately need the infrastructure improvements around the country that
you`ve mentioned. President Trump did that infrastructure permitting event
over at the Department of Transportation a few weeks ago and showed a chart
of all the paperwork and problems of getting permits to just get one bridge
SHARPTON: Now, when you look at that shot, when you look at the plans and
the jobs it will create and the fact that a lot of these entities that
we`re dealing with that are part of what we need to have, the
infrastructure rebuilt with will actually save lives, I mean, because some
of these bridges, tunnels and others are to the point of disrepair where
lives could be at stake here.
When you look at all of this, isn`t the president and this whole White
House shakeup and this tweet, that tweet, this drama, aren`t they in many
ways an impediment to moving forward, even in the way you would want to go
forward where I may disagree with how, but all of us say we need to deal
with these issues?
ROONEY: Well, I think we need to keep our head up. We`re elected by the
American people to do a job and not let the noise maybe happening in some
parts of the government distract us from the pursuit of the agenda that we
were hired to execute.
SHARPTON: Now, when you say keep your head up, does keeping your head up
also tell the president will you quit tweeting and will you quit doing
these kinds of attacks that distract from the message? I mean, when do
republicans back their back up and stand up to the president that has been
in many ways a distraction in chief?
RONNEY: Well, what I think we need to do is use the article one
legislative powers that we have to put forth a reasonable hopefully
bipartisan tax reform proposal that will stop incentivizing capital to
leave the country and bring it back here and invest in creating those jobs
you talk about and we can move forward on some kind of infrastructure
program to repair those defective bridges, to make it easier and cheaper to
get projects built and accomplished.
SHARPTON: Does Speaker Ryan, to your knowledge, have a real plan to have
such a bipartisan effort go forward in terms of infrastructure, in terms of
tax reform? I mean, has Speaker Ryan reached out to Congresswoman Pelosi
and the democrats and really started trying to frame this so we will not
see what we`ve seen with health care?
ROONEY: I don`t know exactly what the speaker is doing, but I know that
the discussions in the various committees that have involved democrats and
republicans, I`ve spoken with several democrats about some of the ways we
can get capital back into this country by sorting out the taxes, you know,
the disincentives for investments to stay here and some of the things we
can do to simplify the personal taxes for the average American taxpayer
that spends too much time trying to comply with the law. Those kinds of
things are bipartisan issues really.
SHARPTON: Congressman, one of the things that`s of real concern to many of
us and certainly in your home state is the voting because at the end of the
day, we have a midterm elections coming, after that a census and we will be
setting state districting lines and all of that right after that and we`ve
had the president say there`s been voting fraud, many of us don`t see it
including studies by the justice department, but putting that aside in this
The fact of protecting voting rights and protecting the whole sacred nature
of voting, sacred to the concept of American democracy, how do you see the
congress in a bipartisan way move to really strengthen and support the
rights of voters without suppressing the vote of those that have in my
judgment and many others been threatened by a lot of the tactics of late.
ROONEY: Well, I`ve never seen or heard anyone want to suppress vote. I
think the dialogue that I`ve heard on both sides of the aisle is we want
all American citizens to vote. People would have the right to vote, to
exercise it, that`s one of our sacred rights as an American, but we don`t
And I don`t know whether there`s fraud or not, it`d be above my pay grade
to say. I know one thing like in Florida, we have some very strong voter
protection rules, the voter – the computers at the various county offices
do not connect to the internet so there can`t be any attack on them or
anything like that, so I think we have a good system here.
SHARPTON: Yes, but in Florida, you stopped a lot of days in early voting.
You started coming up with voter I.D. laws that in many ways eliminated
voters. I mean, Florida has been a real problem in terms of voting. If we
want all the citizens to vote as you say, why would we limit the days when
they would vote? Why would we stop Sunday polls in Florida?
ROONEY: Why wouldn`t you want to have I.D.s to make sure that you know the
people who are voting?
SHARPTON: We always had I.D.s. Why do we need new I.D.s? We`ve always
had I.D. There`s not new about having I.D.s. What`s new is having that
special federal photo I.D.s. I mean, I had I.D.s when I registered to vote
many years ago. That`s not new.
ROONEY: Well, if you have a photo I.D., there`s no doubt who you are.
SHARPTON: Well, if you don`t need it, there`s no doubt it`s moving towards
suppression, but we`ll take care of that next time you come.
Thank you, congressman, for coming on and I hope you`re right about moving
forward on infrastructure and tax reform. We`ll talk about voting next
time we have you on.
ROONEY: All right. Thanks for having me on, Al.
SHARPTON: Coming up, crossing the line with the nation`s men and women in
blue. Why I believe the advice President Trump gave police officers doing
an address is not only outrageous, but racist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The laws are so horrendously
stacked against us because for years and years they`ve been made to protect
the criminal. Totally made to protect the criminal, not the officers. You
do something wrong, you`re in more jeopardy than they are. These laws are
stacked against you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: President Donald Trump in Long Island, New York, Friday
delivering what he thought was a law and order speech to police officers.
And in the speech, he told them to – don`t be nice to criminals or don`t
be gentle and when you`re putting them away, be rough on them.
This in an era and a time where we are dealing with more graphic displays
of police misconduct because of social media and cable news than we`ve ever
I`ve been on this issue for decades and it is chilling to hear the
reprehensible statement by the president to tell police to be rougher with
what he calls criminals.
Let`s remember, he`s talking about while they are arresting people. First
of all, people that you arrest have not been convicted to be criminals in
large party, many of them could be first-time arrests.
In a city where Donald Trump and I grew up, New York, there was a policy of
stop and frisk where many people were being stopped and some arrested that
ended up totally innocent of what they were being arrested for. So you`re
also telling people to rough up people who may not even be criminals at
But even criminals are supposed to operate within the presumption of
innocence. That you must be proven guilty. And policemen can never be
told that they could be the judge, the jury and the executioner.
But I guess if you know Donald Trump like I do, who started his for race
into social and political commentary by buying ads calling for the death
penalty on five young men in the central park five case who ended up being
totally found to be innocent, I shouldn`t be surprised that he would
But he is the president and we can`t normalize a president speaking like
that even if it`s in jest. And then listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy
wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don`t be too
nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you`re protecting
their head, you know, the way you put your hand over – like don`t hit
their head and they`ve just killed somebody. Don`t hit their head? I said
you can take the hand away, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So when we go from Rodney King being beat by police to all the way
to Freddie Gray who was killed by police in a rough ride in Baltimore some
of the studies show, don`t be too nice? Be rough?
And, oh, by the way, President Trump, paddy wagon? Ethnic slur. Paddy
wagon. An anti-Irish ethnic slur. So let me get this right, you`re not
sitting up in Trump Towers arguing with me in the office anymore, you`re in
the White House making ethnic slurs to in jest tell police to be more
rough, violate more of people`s human civil rights, violate the law.
It`s against the law, Mr. President. It`s against the law for police to
mishandle people that they`re arresting. It`s against the law to go beyond
the presumption of innocence and it`s against decency to use ethnic slurs.
We`ve all used them and we`ve all corrected them. I thought as president
you would at least know better than to repeat them.
Coming up, convincing voters to elect democrats this November, the
challenges, the issues and swinging attention away from President Trump.
I`ll ask the chair of the DNC Tom Perez how he`ll do that.
SHARPTON: Eight months after the presidential election the, Democratic
Party continues to search for a voice to excite and sway voters. The
chance to make that happen comes as President Trump dominates the
headlines, through his campaign-style rallies and tweets.
With so much on the line from health care to taxes and infrastructure, how
can the democrats` message break through? That falls on the shoulders of
Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic Party. I had a chance to talk with
SHARPTON: Thank you, Tom, for being here.
TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Reverend Sharpton, it`s always
great to be with you and your viewers.
SHARPTON: The Democratic Party had a big rollout where they`re making an
appeal more toward the populous voters. What is the target of that because
there are some in the base that say does that mean they`re abandoning us?
PEREZ: Let me answer your second question first and the answer to that is
heck no. You and I talked every first Friday of the month when I was labor
secretary, we talked about jobs and we talked about justice. That`s what
the Democratic Party has always stood for, jobs and justice.
Too many people are taking it on the chin. They haven`t had a meaningful
raise in years, they`re looking for retirement security, they`re looking
for a government that`s looking out for them and that`s what Barack Obama
did, that`s what the Democratic Party does and what our better deal is all
about is making sure we`re fighting for good jobs, for good pay, for better
futures and for opportunity in every zip code. That`s what I`ve always
been about, that`s what you`ve always been about and that`s what the
Democratic Party has always been about.
We`ve to be clear in articulating that message and in the health care
debate this past week was a great illustration.
We believe as democrats that health care is a right for all and not a
privilege for a few and republicans believe that it`s a privilege for a few
and it`s more important to cut taxes for the wealthy than to enhance access
to health care.
SHARPTON: So the appeal is to say to all voters that where the democrats
bringing forth in raising is in their interests, but you`re not changing
your message and your emphasis because you know the criticism many had
including me that had the party gone more to the base in Michigan and
Wisconsin Mrs. Clinton might have won. That it wasn`t the lack of other
voters, it was they didn`t mobilize the vote in our communities, not only
communities of color, but workers and all and that they can`t feel
abandoned now. We don`t need another triangulation strategy.
PEREZ: Absolutely. I`ve been traveling all over the country in this job.
The woman in the African-American church in Detroit said to me, you`ve to
stop showing up every fourth of October and tell me that you care. She has
Our most loyal part of our Democratic Party has been African-Americans. We
need to make sure we`re out there not just mobilizing in the run up to an
election, but organizing, standing up for our values, standing up for
As Dr. King said, you know, what good is a seat at the counter if you can`t
afford to buy a hamburger? And that`s what we`re about, making sure that
people have that seat at the counter but that people have opportunity to
realize their highest and best dreams.
In the Democratic Party, we`re organizing everywhere. We have a 57-state
and territory and District of Columbia strategy because we`ve got to talk
to everyone and not just in the run up to the election. And we`ve got to
work to make sure that we elect democrats from the school board to the
senate. That`s why we`re working on local races. Because if we want to
flip the U.S. House of Representatives, we`ve got to flip state houses too.
SHARPTON: You had a very good week, the president had a bad week, the
health care vote, Senator John McCain making a very symbolic vote against
this whole Obama skinny health care, ObamaCare skinny health bill.
Even though he and I have had our differences, I did respect what he did.
The whole thing with Scaramucci and all of these almost daily things, the
president starting a war with the LGBTQ community around transgender.
The temptation, though, is to do a victory lap prematurely and I`ve seen
and heard you caution people, wait a minute, we have work to do, let`s not
I remember when they went in the Rose Garden declaring victory in the
health care bill and now, look at it.
SHARPTON: And I think you`re being very cautious, the democrats don`t get
caught up –
PEREZ: George W. Bush learned that on the floor of the ship.
SHARPTON: That`s right.
PEREZ: Donald Trump was doing a victory lap after a house vote. And by
the way, he called that bill a mean bill a week or two later.
There`s no one in the Democratic Party who is spiking the football.
I`ll tell you what I was thinking about when that vote occurred, I was
thinking about all the people who came up to me and they`re scared to death
because they`ve got a kid with autism and they rely on Medicaid for their
treatment, this he rely on Medicaid to keep their kid in the home.
People who rely on prescription drug relief from the Affordable Care Act,
it`s changed millions of lives. And so what we have to make sure we do is
never allow Donald Trump to distract us. We have to continue to fight for
the issues that matter most to people. Health care is a huge issue and I
do – I applaud not only Senator McCain, but I applaud Senator Collins and
They stood up to withering attacks from the president and they stood
strong. We should always applaud folks, republicans and democrats when
they do the right thing.
We need to improve the Affordable Care Act and democrats are the first to
say that we have a lot of ideas, but let`s do it in the right process.
That`s what we have to do and, again, we have to avoid these distractions
from Donald Trump.
You look at what distracting Donald does every day, trying to take our eye
off the ball. The democrats` eye is clearly on the ball and that is to
help people get better jobs with better pay that gives people a brighter
SHARPTON: That`s one of the more impressive things that you`ve shown in
leadership that I`ve known working when you were in the justice department,
labor and all, is that you keep your eye on the goal and the goal is not
just winning a round with your opponents, the goal is really taking care of
people. We are talking about people suffering if they don`t have health
care. The goal is not getting one up on Trump.
PEREZ: My parents taught me, Reverend Sharpton, that if you want to get to
heaven, you`ve got to have letters of reference from people living in the
shadows and that`s why I`ve spent all my life doing civil rights work and
labor activism because that`s what it`s all about. It`s about helping
people improve their lot in life. And that`s what we`ve been fighting for
We have to continue this movement forward, fighting for good jobs. We`ve
got to fight against these efforts to suppress the vote. Every
conversation I`ve had with you throughout our long relationships has been
about jobs and justice.
PEREZ: Making sure that, you know, opportunity is there in every zip code,
making sure that people have second chances and frankly in many cases a
fair first chance.
SHARPTON: Quickly, let me ask you this, we`re out of time. Virginia, New
Jersey, governor races this year. How does the democrats look, Mr.
PEREZ: Well, I feel very optimistic about both states. We announced a
$1.5 million initial investment in Virginia, it`s all about organizing,
getting out there and mobilizing, we`re doubling the number of organizers
on the ground within the next week, we`re expanding our capacity to elect
democrats up and down the ticket.
Ralph Northam is a great candidate for governor. We have a great
opportunity to elect an African-American lieutenant governor in Virginia
Justin Fairfax and reelect Mark Herring, Phil Murphy is a spectacular
candidate in New Jersey.
But we`ve to get out there and vote. And we`ve got to get out there and
organize and we can`t do it every fourth of October.
PEREZ: This is a 13-year election in New Jersey, why? And Virginia?
Because redistricting is at stake. And when you elect a democrat in these
states, you assure that we can create a fair playing field for future
SHARPTON: Well, those elections this year, we`ll be watching and we`ll be
talking to you. And some say that Tom Perez is not a politician, he`s a
leader, an organizer. But you are not a bad politician to tell a preacher
on Sunday morning. Your mama told you how to get to heaven. That`s good.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
PEREZ: Always a pleasure to be with you, reverend.
SHARPTON: My thanks to Tom Perez.
Still ahead, risking the loss of an academic scholarship, why a teenager
chose to stay in jail while maintaining his innocence and the help he`s
received from the outside world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA PEREZ, MOTHER OF PEDRO HERNANDEZ: Now I know we`ve got a good
cause to fight for. Our kids don`t deserve plea bargains, especially when
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That was Jessica Perez, mother of Bronx teenager Pedro Hernandez
who was released on bond this week from New York`s Rikers Island Jail after
spending a year in the facility for a crime he and several others insist he
did not commit.
The 17-year-old was arrested last July in connection with a non-fatal
shooting incident in the Bronx borough of New York, despite multiple
eyewitnesses and the victim himself contending that Hernandez did not fire
the shot in question.
Hernandez was offered a plea bargain of five years probation by the Bronx
district attorney, but refused to accept, maintaining his innocence, but a
full academic scholarship that the teen earned while in prison hung in the
balance as his family crowd sourced to post his $250,000 bail.
Enter the Robert F. Kennedy human rights organization which having heard
Hernandez`s story not only got his bail reduced, but agreed to pay the sum
Hernandez`s legal future remains uncertain as he will return to court in
September. But for now, he`s free to make up for lost time.
Joining me now is Kerry Kennedy, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center
for Justice and Human rights. And the Reverend Vivian Nixon, executive
director of college and community fellowship.
Thank you both for being on.
Kerry, always good to talk to you. What was so compelling to you and the
Kennedy foundation about this particular case?
KERRY KENNEDY, FOUNDER, ROBERT F. KENNEDY HUMAN RIGHTS: Well, you know,
this is an extraordinary young man who is an honor student before he went -
- he was picked up, went to Rikers, continued to be an honor student,
finished his high school degree, applied for this extraordinary fellowship,
got a four-year ride through college to the college of his choice, about 30
different colleges involved there, and all evidence points to his
What we were really looking at here is the cash bail system in New York and
we`re trying to end that cash bail system because it`s used to coerce
people to take a guilty plea instead of –instead of standing up for their
innocence and fighting for their rights, and also to close Rikers Island.
And Pedro is an extraordinary example of why this system of justice is so
unfair in New York and why we have to change it.
SHARPTON: Reverend Nixon, Kerry hit the real point, the real point is the
bail system as well as many of us agree on closing of Rikers island, but
the bail system that really forces a lot of people into plea bargaining,
saying that they did things they really didn`t do, but they can`t get
around these enormous bails that are put on them and it`s this or you end
up losing years of your life and altering your future.
VIVIAN NIXON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COLLEGE AND COMMUNITY FELLOWSHIP: That`s
exactly right. Seventy-seven percent of the people on Rikers Island have
not yet been convicted of anything, and many of them are there because they
can`t afford bail.
And it doesn`t really matter if the bail is $100,000 or $500, if you don`t
have it, you don`t get out. We all know –
SHARPTON: Which is many in our communities don`t have.
NIXON: Many in our communities don`t have it. And we know that there`s
multiple tragic stories, Kalief Browder, et cetera, but these singular
stories bring attention to a much bigger problem, that Rikers Island is
outdated, unneeded, our bail systems are outdated and not needed and they
In the United States, if you are rich, powerful and white, you have a much
better chance of getting justice. If you`re not any of those things, you
get the three-fifths justice.
SHARPTON: Right, exactly.
Let me go to this to you and Kerry, I want you to listen to what Senator
Kamala Harris who recently teamed up with Senator Rand Paul on bail reform,
this is what he she told CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: We cannot have a one size fits all
approach to criminal justice policy and so on the issue of bail reform and
the work that Rand and I are doing together, it`s about recognizing that
for some of the lowest level offenses, non-violent offenses the only
difference between someone being in jail pretrial or being out is if they
can afford to write a check.
That`s not fair, it`s not right and it`s not reflective of a system of
justice that`s supposed to be blind to who you are in terms of your wealth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Kerry, I mean, when you think about how just the statement that
Senator Harris said and Reverend Nixon is saying and you`re saying, a lot
of Americans, a lot of people watching us this morning have no idea that
this is just stacked against people who just don`t have money. And they
are disproportionally in African-American and Latino communities and that
they did nothing wrong.
That`s why I was so out raged with President Trump`s statement in jest
about be rough on people that arrested them – and I`m glad law enforcement
people, I might add around the country came out and said what Trump said
was outrageous, too. I`ve got to salute the law enforcement people.
But aside from that, I don`t think people understand how serious this is.
This ruins people`s lives who did nothing wrong.
KENNEDY: That`s absolutely right. You know, when you`re arrested within
24, 48 hours, you go before a judge and the judge sets bail. And if you
can make that bail, then you go free.
But if you`re too poor to post bail, you end up at Rikers Island or a jail
like facility like Rikers and so the rich go free and the poor go to jail.
SHARPTON: Reverend, let me say this because we`re going to run out of
time. That is why ministers like you, people like Kerry and the center are
important because all of that is the drop in the bucket. This is a system-
wide problem nationwide.
NIXON: It is a system-wide nationwide-problem. And you`re really blessed
that the Kennedys helped Pedro out. But not everyone is going to get that
benefactor to come and help them out, so we need to change the structures
and the systems that are oppressing people in this country
And we need to set a better example at the federal level because, you know,
while we`re being rough on teenagers, we`re letting people working in the
White House get away with bashing employees publicly and all kinds of stuff
that would be prosecuted otherwise.
SHARPTON: All right. Well, Kerry, keep up the good work. Good to talk to
you again, as always. Reverend Vivian Nixon, thank you for being with me.
Up next, my final thoughts on Michelle Obama opening up about racism she
faced as first lady. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: I remember when Barack Obama was elected president of the United
States. It was said we were entering a post-racial era. And many of us
knew that was fantasy even before Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner and
Ferguson made it clear, many of us understood that we had achieved
something that was tremendous. But racism had not ended.
We heard this week Michelle Obama talk about how while she was first lady,
she still had to deal with the problems of racism, and how people would
never see her any differently or see her in a way they saw the first ladies
because of the color of her skin.
I thought it was important she brought that out so that we don`t think
we`ve come further than we have, not to condemn people but to challenge
them that we must still go forward.
And when Michelle Obama with all of her popularity says there`s still
people who won`t see me for what I am because of my skin color, it brings
an issue back in front of this nation that we need to deal with that has
even been prevalent while a woman of color lived in the White House as the
That`s why some of us will continue to move. That`s why we`re having the
ministers march, 1,000 ministers marching on the anniversary of Martin
Luther King`s “I have a Dream” speech, from the King Memorial to the
You should register right now. And keep the march going. We are not there
yet, but we can get there, if we don`t turn around.
Thank you for watching. I`ll be back next week to keep the conversation
going. Like us on facebook.com/politicsnation. And follow us on Twitter,
See you back here next Sunday morning.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the