The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/01/13
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: And thanks to you at home for
staying with us the next hour.
There`s a lot of substantial news in the world tonight.
Chickens were seen on this show two years ago about the great state of
Wisconsin have come home to roost, just as Governor Scott Walker dips his
toe back in the union-busting water.
There are major updates about the killing of Ibrahim Todashev and
about the former Indiana schools chief caught up in a grade embellishing
charter school scandal.
And there`s fresh news from the race for Virginia governor, all of
this to report and to assess and we`re going to get to all of it.
But one event was a central focus of the news world late this morning
and into the afternoon. It was the dramatic courtroom proceeding which
concluded the legal process of what is both a notorious crime story and a
story of almost superhuman survival.
And so, we begin with the re-definition of the words horrific,
inhumane, brave and resilient.
Ariel Castro, a bus driver, living on the west side of Cleveland,
abducted Michele Knight first. That was 11 years ago. Michele was just 21
years old when Castro lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy
– a puppy for her son. She went to his house and was held there as
prisoner for more than a decade, during which police were not even looking
A missing persons report was filed, but they and some members of her
family thought that she`d left home on her own volition. For 11 years, no
one knew what had become of her.
Amanda Berry was walking home from her job at Burger King, in her
uniform, when she was abducted by Ariel Castro. It was a day before her
And then, a year later, Gina DeJesus, 14 years old, was kidnapped
while walking the 40 blocks from her school to her house. Castro
apparently drove past his own daughter who needed a ride so that he could
kidnap Gina. He did so by saying that he need her help in finding his
daughter, the one that he`d just driven by. When the story of Gina`s
disappearance made it into the news, Castro`s estranged son wrote an
article about the case for a community paper.
Ariel Castro kidnapped Michele Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus
on separate occasions between 2002 and 2004 and held them in captivity for
a decade, abusing them physically, sexually, and emotionally. He raped
When Amanda Berry got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, now 6
years old, it was Michelle who was nurse, maid and doctor. Michelle helped
Amanda to deliver her baby with no anesthesia or any other medical care.
The women were tied up with ropes and chains. More than 90 pounds of
chains were found in Castro`s house, with chains measuring more than 100
feet long. The house was retrofitted with an alarm on the back door, a
partition between the parts of the lower level and a porch swing
obstructing the stairs and a curtain over the stairs where the women we
And over the years, neighbors noticed things were weird. A little off
at the Castro house, there was a woman crawling around in the backyard
naked on her hands and knees. Mysterious pounding on the doors a couple
years ago. One man in the neighborhood describes hearing screams when he
sat down to eat dinner.
But when the police were called, they never went inside. They never
saw Michelle or Amanda or Gina.
And then in early May of this year, one of the most remarkable acts of
bravery and of hope that I`ve ever heard. A man in the neighborhood
walking by hears a scream.
Here`s Charles Ramsey speaking to the NBC affiliate in Cleveland about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES RAMSEY, RESCUED AMANDA BERRY: This girl, her scream was so
loud children stopped playing. That`s what made me look outside. That`s
how loud her scream was. So you figured some tree fell on her or
And I went outside and I looked and she was just kicking the door and
kicking the door. I`m looking – I know there`s no woman, to my knowledge,
that lives next door.
And like I said on the interview, I said, that ain`t right. That`s a
white girl. There`s no white family lives here. So, maybe it was his
girlfriend. So, I did what I had to do.
She said, help me out. I want to get out of here. So that`s what I
said. I thought it was a domestic dispute.
Keep in mind, I know Ariel. I didn`t know he ever had a girlfriend.
That`s why I couldn`t understand how you got in t house in the first place.
When did he bring you here, you know what I mean?
So I opened the door. As you can see on the news, it wouldn`t – he
had a lock on there, and you couldn`t open that, and the police had to,
when they got there, they finally got it ajar.
And Amanda says, it`s two more girls up there. I looked at her. I
looked at the cop in the middle of the street. He said, what? She said,
I`m not the only one.
They went up there, about, I don`t know, 15, 20 seconds, they were
coming out with Gina and that other girl.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michele.
RAMSEY: Oh, my God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Amanda Berry, with her 6-year-old daughter, she escaped
and she called the police. After 10 years in the most depraved conditions
most of us can imagine, she was still able to do this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
AMANDA BERRY: Help me. I`m Amanda Berry.
DISPATCHER: You need police, fire or ambulance?
BERRY: I need police.
DISPATCHER: OK. What`s going on there?
BERRY: I`ve been kidnapped, and I`ve been missing for 10 years, and
I`m here, I`m free now. I`m across the street. I`m using the phone.
DISPATCHER: OK. Stay there with those neighbors. Talk to the police
when they get there.
DISPATCHER: OK. Talk to the police when they get there.
BERRY: OK. Hello?
DISPATCHER: Yes. Talk to the police when they get there.
BERRY: OK. Are they on their way right now?
DISPATCHER: We`re going to send them as soon as we get a car open.
BERRY: No, I need them now before he gets back.
DISPATCHER: All right. We`re sending them, OK?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: When police finally entered the Castro home after Berry
escaped, they found the women scared, malnourished and pale. Police
describe the scene in which the women literally jumped into their arms,
refusing to be left alone.
(BEGINV IDE OCLIP)
OFFICER BARB JOHNSON, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: Unsure if there
was a suspect in the house, so we obviously go in very cautiously. I
remember it was very dark because I didn`t take my flashlight with me
because it was a brig sunny day. I didn`t think I`d need my flashlight in
Fortunately, I had a flashlight on my firearm. He hollered out to the
police again, then you hear some pitter patter of steps, someone running,
but stopped. And when she – we shined the flashlight. I remember I kind
of shined the flashlight so whoever it was could see that we were the
We later found out it was Michele Knight as she literally launched
herself into Officer Espada`s arms. He – legs, arms, just choking him,
and she just kept repeating, “You saved us, you saved”.
All of a sudden you see a face peek around the corner of the doorway
and it was later, Officer Scott asked her, what`s your name? She said,
Georgina DeJesus. She wouldn`t come out of the room. She was reluctant to
come out of the room. He said, honey, it`s OK, we are here to help you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: They were taken to the hospital and reunited with their
This thank you video posted on YouTube last month is one of the only
times we have heard from the women since their escape and rescue. They
have been, understandably, staying out of the public eye, until today.
Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to more than 900 counts including rape,
kidnapping and aggravated murder, for beating Gina when she was pregnant in
order to successfully force her to miscarry.
Today was Ariel Castro`s sentencing hearing. He was sentenced to life
plus 1,000 years. In other words, as far as he`s concerned, he is
sentenced to prison forever.
He was forced to describe in his own words what he had done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARIEL CASTRO, RAPIST/KIDNAPPER: When picked up the first victim, I
wasn`t – I didn`t even plan to take (INAUDIBLE). It wasn`t something that
they`re trying to make look like I did, and I planned it, and I was
thinking about it. I didn`t do that. That day I went to Family Dollar and
I heard her over saying something about she needed to get somewhere, and I
reacted on that.
I know when I picked up the second victim, which is Gina, I don`t
understand how I passed on to my own daughter how to pick her up, because I
was driven by sex.
Amanda, she got into my vehicle without even knowing who I was and I`m
not blaming fault on her, but I`m just saying I`m trying to make up a point
across that I am not a violent predator that you are trying to make me look
like a monster. I`m not a monster. I am a normal person. I`m just sick.
I have an addiction – just like an alcoholic has an addiction. Alcoholics
cannot control their addiction. That`s what I can`t control my addiction,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: With that, Ariel Castro will spend the rest of his life
in prison. Usually that would be the headline from today`s hearing. Ariel
Castro describes in a totally disconnected, disjointed way what he did and
why he did it.
But it was not the headline today. What was really remarkable, what
has had people enthralled about and are still talking tonight, is the
incredible dignity and restraint with which one of the survivors, Michelle
She did not have to speak at this hearing, but she did. She chose to
do that. And listen to this. This is Michelle describing not just the
horrors of what she endured, but how she and the other girls lived through
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE KNIGHT, KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: I worried about what would
happen to me and the other girls every day. Gina was my teammate. She
never let me fall, I never let her fall. She nursed me back to health when
I was dying from his abuse. My friendship with her is the only thing that
was good out of this situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Finding friendship in the wretchedness that this was.
She said it was her survival mechanism, one that could be used by others.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KNIGHT: With the guidance of God, I will prevail and help others that
have suffered at the hands of others. Writing this statement gave me this
strength to be a stronger woman and know that there`s more good than evil.
I know that there`s a lot of people going through hard times, but we need
to reach out a hand and hold them and let them know that they`re being
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Michele Knight, the woman no one knew for sure
had even been kidnapped 10 years ago, delivering what was technically an
impact statement, but can best be described as extraordinary.
And then one of the strangest and most confounding moments from today,
Ariel Castro, a kidnapper, a rapist and abuser, he describes seeing a
YouTube video recently in which Amanda attends a hip hop concert by Nelly.
And that, he says, is proof that she did not suffer during her decade in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASTRO: And if you seen the YouTube video of Amanda this weekend,
that right there itself proves that that girl did not go through no
torture. That woman did not go through torture. Because if that was true,
do you think she would be out partying already and having fun? I don`t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The twisted psychology that produces that sort of
thinking, that a person`s continued existence proves anything one way or
the other about things done to her in the past, that insane argument lasted
about as long as a flake of snow on a hot summer`s day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KNIGHT: Ariel Castro, I remember all the times that you came home
talking about what everybody else did wrong and act like you wasn`t doing
the same thing. You said at least I didn`t kill you. For – you took 11
years of my life away, and I have got it back.
I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will
overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.
From this moment on, I will not let you define me or affect who I am.
You will live – I will live on. You will die a little every day. As you
think about the 11 years and atrocities you inflicted on us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Ariel Castro`s fate was sealed for him today when he
was sentenced to more than 1,000 years in prison. Unlike Amanda and Gina
and Michele, he will never leave his physical prison. He will never
Joining us now is Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of English
and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She`s also the co-
founder of A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit organization that uses art therapy
and the visual and performing art to end violence against women and girls.
Salamishah, you`re the person I needed to talk to tonight after
enduring watching Castro.
Let`s start with him. He talks about his actions as resulting from a
sexual addiction. What do you make of that argument?
SALAMISHAH TILLET, A LONG WALK HOME: Well, I just want to, again,
just give a shout-out to these women who are so brave and so courageous.
But in terms of Castro`s statements today, I think we should think of
him two ways. One, you know, there`s the severity and duration of both his
crimes and also the sentencing are atypical, but his defense, one that he
blames the victims, two, he kind of redirects it and talks about sexual
addiction for cause of his behavior, and three, he shows that kind of
restrain or lack of remorse, with short and long-term effects of his
violence on these women isn`t atypical for perpetrators of sexual violence.
And so, oftentimes, when we have perpetrators accused of sexual
violence who seem charismatic or seem like the boy next door, we have
difficulty understanding that “A”, they could commit the crime and, two, we
tend to believe their versions of event, not the women`s.
In this case, we have someone using a very typical traditional
defense, but it`s in such a atypical situation that we`re not seeing how –
we tend to fully disbelieve him but tend to believe other people.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I think that`s useful because what I`ve been
hearing today is all of us have been watching and processing it is, well,
who could ever believe him on this? But I`m thinking actually this thing
that he is doing, this refusal to acknowledge that he`s even victimized
anyone, his desire to bring them in as co-perpetrators in this does feel
like actually the most ordinary thing that we see in this kind of violence.
TILLET: Exactly. He also repeatedly said that there were acts of
consensual sex, right? That`s, again, the most common shorthand for these
perpetrators of sexual violence. They turn to that as their defense each
and every time.
So, I just want to reiterate why it`s important for us to see this as
atypical but also fairly typical. And part of the reason why this matters,
as you pointed out, these women`s testimonies are so important. But
usually we don`t believe them, right? And so, it takes extraordinary
circumstances for us to believe the most ordinary experience. And so, I
wanted to reiterate that point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s talk about that a little bit. You and I are both
survivors. We have both written and talked publicly about being survivors.
In my case, I did not tell for years, and so, when I hear Michelle
Knight in that moment in the courtroom, expressing that the need to tell
other people you are heard, that was an incredibly – like, I just – I
almost don`t want to talk about Ariel Castro. I only want to talk about
Michele knight and what she does in this moment.
TILLET: Yes, seeing it again, hearing it again, I was so moved. I`m
moved by both her courage and her strength but also the family members of
the other women testifying on their behalf, right? Because it shows both
how healing and moving forward and coming forward requires a community.
It`s not just the individual who experienced the violence, but there`s all
these ripple effects as well as requires all of us to come to their defense
and their aid and help them heal.
And I was also thinking about, you know, for the last 10 years with
the organization I co-founded with my sister, A Long Walk Home, ten years,
the same amount of time Amanda Berry was imprisoned, we`ve been going
around trying to really convince the world that if you listen to survivors
of sexual violence stories, if you center their stories in your perception
and conception of social justice, not only will it hopefully create more
empathy and sympathy for survivors of sexual violence, but actually maybe
give us a different perspective on how we can end this epidemic, right?
If we listen to Michelle Knight`s testimony and re-imagine how we can
end this epidemic through her point of view and experience, versus our
knee-jerk response, which oftentimes over-identification with the
perpetrator, how would the laws look different, how would our rape culture
actually be eradicated?
I just think her testimony was so important because it meant so much
obviously to me and you. I actually think it really gives other women and
men who have experienced this cruelty a sense of recognition and sense of
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m glad to end it there, Salamishah because I kept
thinking, how do we talk about this and add something, not just have it be
salacious, not just have it be the voyeurism on the pain of these women.
And so, it`s very useful to me. I appreciate you saying that part of it is
if we can change how we think about these stories. Put the Michelle
Knights and Amanda Berrys and Gina DeJesuses at the center of our stories.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of
English and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania and
cofounder of A Long Walk Home – thanks for joining us.
And there`s much more ahead, including Governor Scott Walker`s war on
unions. The latest on Virginia`s free stuff from donors Republicans.
And later the perils of turning a “C” into an “A.”
HARRIS-PERRY: Republicans like to say that all Democrats are
interested in is free stuff. To that I say, what about Virginia where the
Republican governor and attorney general have turned piling up free stuff
into a Rolex and Ferrari driving art form? We`ve got the latest just
HARRIS-PERRY: The great fast food strike of 2013 continued today with
workers walking away from the cash registers and burger grills and fry-o-
laters to picket for a livable wage. They`re asking for $15 an hour, twice
what they typically earn. They`ve been asking in Chicago and New York and
St. Louis, Detroit and Flint, Michigan, at restaurants like KFC and Taco
They went on strike today at a McDonald`s outside Milwaukee in the
western suburbs. Saying McDonald`s can well afford to pay them more.
This nationwide strike comes with funding from one of the biggest
unions in the country, the SEIU. In Milwaukee, an SEIU member said she
sees the movement growing. Quote, “More and more workers are beginning to
realize they have a voice.”
What those fast food workers do not have is a union. They do not have
a union job. They have Mcjobs and Mcwages and Mcbenefits.
They do not belong to unions and it is not at all clear that they
stand any real chance of forming unions at the local Burger King.
The history of improving lives of workers in this country is very much
the history of unions. Organized labor created the weekend as we know it.
Union fought for laws against child labor in this country and back when no
one had health insurance or maternity leave, unions negotiated for those
benefits, and the benefits became the standard for everyone.
Union membership in this country has been falling over the last half
century. That is the red line here. See? Falling.
The blue line shows what has happened to the middle class in that
time, also falling. As the unions have been shrinking, so has the middle
class` slice of the pie. These days, a union member is five times more
likely to work for a government than a private company.
Public workers are the last stronghold of labor unions in this
country, the last stronghold for the people who brought you health
insurance and the weekend.
But that stronghold is not looking at all strong. In February 2011,
Republican Governor Scott Walker called for the stripping of union rights
from public workers. It was one of the first moves he made as governor of
The backlash from the public was immediate and sustained. It went on
for weeks. The biggest protests the state had ever seen. The unions and
the public knew exactly what was at stake. They knew, but they could not
stop the bill.
Governor Walker signed the bill stripping union rights from public
employees in March of 2011.
Now, the idea behind the bill was fairly simple. It took away unions`
ability to collect dues automatically from members so each member had to
choose to pay each month, which makes union membership feel more expensive.
At the same time, the bill limited public workers` rights to bargain for
better wages and benefits.
So, being in a union felt more expensive just when the new law made
that membership seem less valuable. It is classic consumer psychology.
And it worked.
Within months of Wisconsin`s law taking effect, teachers were trying
to figure out how to get members to stay members. To pay their dues and
stay involved. By the end of 2012, the state teachers union had lost a
third of their members, so many that they agreed to merge.
Last year, union membership nationwide hit the lowest level since the
Great Depression. In Wisconsin, union membership declined 14 percent last
year. In one year.
Now, Governor Walker is floating the idea of taking union rights away
from police and firefighters, too, since it`s been working out so well for
the other unions.
Here`s the thing: when Republican officials talk about stripping union
rights, they say it will save the taxpayers money, because the teachers
won`t be able to bargain for raises and benefits. They say it will be good
for the union members who won`t have to pay dues anymore and so on and so
on. That is the public argument for taking away union rights.
But there`s another explanation for why Republicans like Scott Walker
would be so determined to go after labor unions. Back during the Wisconsin
protests, on this show, Rachel Maddow ran the numbers. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: In 2010, post-Citizens United, seven of the
top ten outside spending groups in the election were all right wing.
Chamber of Commerce, both of Karl Rove`s groups, the American Future Fund,
Americans for Job Security, all of these right-wing groups. The only non-
conservative groups that cracked the top 10 were the Public Employees
Union, SEIU, and the teachers union. That`s it.
Unions are the only competition Republicans have in electoral
politics. Post-Citizens United, conservatives look at this and smell
blood. I mean, compare this to `08. They have knocked the unions down to
sixth and seventh place.
Without unions, essentially, all of the big money in politics would be
right wing money. All of it. That is not hyperbole. All it.
Unions are the only players. They are the only fish of any size on
the liberal side.
And, you know, it is nice to think, well, you know, I have this really
awesome PTA group. Bake sales. I`ve got a meet-up drinking liberally book
club honk for peace thing we do on Wednesdays. We could probably raise
It is true those are good things. It all does matter. But nothing
matters as much as this. I realize it is not romantic-sounding, but this
is really how it works in politics. This decides who wins elections and
who loses them.
And if Republicans can use public policy to destroy their only
competition for big political money, if they can use public policy to
destroy the only major institutions that help Democratic causes at election
time, then Republicans can run the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. You got it?
Unions not only gave us the weekends and health insurance. Unions not
only gave us the middle class. Unions then gave that middle class a way to
take part in the political process, in the significant part of the process
that involves putting money into political campaigns.
And when union members get involved in campaigns, they tend to throw
their considerable support behind Democrats. Not Republicans.
In our politics now, rightly or wrongly, we have big money corporate
interests on the Republican side. And their only competition comes from
unions. So Republicans try to take away the unions. They try to make it
so they can run the table. That part of the plan is also working.
Today, “The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel” reported public unions in
Wisconsin are losing their influence in the state capital. Quote, “In just
two years, spending by the state`s public employee unions on lobbyists has
slipped from the summit of Wisconsin politics, leaving business interests
uncontested at the pinnacle of capitol lobbying.”
The state`s largest teachers union used to be the leading presence in
the statehouse for educators in Wisconsin. Now, they`ve gone from seven-
figure spending on lobbying to relative peanuts. Their spokesperson says
they`re trying to make due without paid lobbying.
The top five lobbying groups in Wisconsin now are mostly business
types like hospitals and manufacturers. The folks lobbying for teachers
and janitors and snowplow drivers are all but gone.
This is a huge shift in our politics. And it may be a lasting one.
We cannot know if Republicans in Wisconsin were motivated to strip union
rights in order to achieve this end, but it`s hard to imagine they regret
how it has turned out.
HARRIS-PERRY: This guy has become quite famous on THE RACHEL MADDOW
SHOW and elsewhere. He`s Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. First renowned
for trying to mandate medically unnecessary invasive medical procedures on
women, and more recently for taking lots of gifts and favors from a shady
political donor which he has recently decided to return.
But Governor McDonnell is a short timer. He`s a one termer. His
story certainly matters.
But it`s a story of this guy which will matter much more going
forward. He is Ken Cuccinelli. He`s Virginia`s attorney general and
Republican nominee for governor.
And what Ken Cuccinelli is up to right now is a lot like the stuff
that is dogging old Bob McDonnell, except Ken Cuccinelli is responding in a
very different way.
The amazing high-stakes story of political intrigue in Virginia is
coming up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Check this out. This is what it is like to
be Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: A smile? OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can bring people together and go forward,
bearing in mind –
MCDONNELL: Is that big enough?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No fixing to do. He may not want to smile.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor?
MCDONNELL: Yes? Oh, need another one?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: You need another one? All right. Here it goes. I`m
That was Bob McDonnell forcing a smile earlier this week. Just before
sitting through an at times uncomfortable radio interview if which he
announced he was all of the gifts he and his family got from wealthy
Virginia businessman named Johnny Williams.
Bob McDonnell is giving back the Rolex watch that was personally
engraved for him. He`s giving back the $15,000 catering gift for his
daughter`s wedding. He`s giving back $10,000 gift for his other daughter`s
wedding. He`s already paid back $120,000 worth of loans that he got from
this wealthy donor and businessman.
Bob McDonnell is coming clean. Now, he still maintains he hasn`t done
anything legally wrong here, but by accepting those gifts, he says that he
lost the public`s trust. So, returning the gifts is essentially the least
he can do.
Well that and, you know, smile real big for the cameras.
Bob McDonnell giving all of those gifts back may ultimately improve
his own political standing in the state of Virginia but it ratchets up the
pressure on this guy. The Cuch – Bob McDonnell`s attorney general, Ken
Cuccinelli, who is currently running to replace him as governor.
Ken Cuccinelli has the same problem bob McDonnell has. He`s the
recipient of $18,000 worth of gifts from the same super rich Virginia
Earlier this week, we said that Cuch watch was officially back on
again. Will Ken Cuccinelli return those gifts?
Well, we now have an answer to that question. No, no he will not.
Ken Cuccinelli told reporters he has no plan to return any of the gifts he
received because according to Cuch, Star Scientific CEO Johnny Williams
didn`t give him the kinds of gifts that can be returned – which is not
I mean, one of the gifts Ken Cuccinelli received from this businessman
was a $1,500 catered thanksgiving dinner. Now, Cuch can`t give back that
dinner, that would just be gross. But he could do what Bob McDonnell did,
which is to pay back the giant catering tab. He can give back the money to
Johnny Williams. Or he can donate that money to charity.
The Cuch says that he`s not going to do that, though. He says, “There
are some bells you can`t unring.”
In some ways, this gifts scandal may actually be worse for Ken
Cuccinelli than for bob McDonnell. Bob McDonnell is term limited in
Virginia. He`s out as governor at the end of the year. While he`s facing
a number of investigations related to those gift, his political career is,
for all intents and purposes, over.
Not so for the Cuch. He`s asking Virginia voters to elect him as
governor while he`s hip deep in this gift scandal.
Not only is he refusing to repay gifts, which include private jet
trips and family vacations at the CEO`s lake house. But every detail that
comes out about his relationship with this businessman seems to be worse
than the one before.
In July of 2011, this CEO`s company sued the state of Virginia over a
tax assessment. Ken Cuccinelli is supposed to be the guy representing the
state of Virginia in that case. He`s supposed to be representing Virginia
taxpayers. But instead, Ken Cuccinelli buys a whole bunch of stock in that
guy`s company. He then takes a family vacation at the guy`s lake house.
And his office essentially sits on that case for more than a year.
Not only that, the Cuch has also now acknowledged that, yes, he may
have suggested that Johnny Williams contact a certain attorney at a
Richmond law firm to assist him and his company in their legal matters.
And, yes, he may have helped Johnny Williams and his company apply for a
few state grants. What`s the big deal?
So, as bad as this whole scandal is for good old Bob McDonnell, it`s
not better for Ken Cuccinelli. Here`s the amazing thing, though. Despite
getting dragged down in the same sort of gift scandal that has swallowed up
current Governor Bob McDonnell, despite having a record of being a far
right social crusader who`s trying to bring back things like anti-sodomy
laws, despite having a running mate that regularly goes around the state
talking about how the entire Democratic Party is anti-God and anti-family,
Ken Cuccinelli is still neck in neck in this race.
The Democratic nominee for governor, Terry McAuliffe, only leads Cuch
by 1 point in the polls. What in the world is going on in Virginia?
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s weekend morning show
“UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI.” And Steve is also a senior writer at “Salon”.
Thanks for being here, Steve.
STEVE KORNACKI, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Seriously, what is – why is it this can be happening
and Cuccinelli is basically tied?
KORNACKI: I mean, I think there`s two things going on. The first is
just the difference, you know, we think of Virginia as a state that`s
trending Democratic. That`s definitely the story over the last generation
But there`s a huge different in Virginia and this is sort of a
national story as well between the electorate that shows up in a
presidential election year and the electorate that`s shown up when Obama
has been on the ballot versus, you know, when President Obama is not on
ballot, the off year. So, Virginia of 2008 and 2012, very different in the
Virginia that elected Bob McDonnell in 2009, the one that went Republican
in 2010 in the midterms.
If that basic electorate shows up this year, Cuccinelli would have
more of a chance. But the other issue, other reason I think this is so
close right now is simply you can look at all of Ken Cuccinelli`s problems,
then you look at who the Democratic candidate is. And, you know, it`s
Terry McAuliffe, who sort of just – he – he reeks with the insider-dom.
That`s really where he is.
KORNACKI: And, you know, a bundler, a D.C. guy, a beltway guy.
Jonathan Chait, who writes for “New York” magazine, has the best line
in the campaign and he says that McAuliffe is the kind of Democrat the
Democrats have dreamed of voting against.
KORNACKI: But Cuccinelli is the alternative. So, it`s one of those
where the negatives are so high on both I think.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, when we get that, already talking about the
surge in decline that happens between presidential and midterm elections.
So, then, if you have a Democrat you`re not particularly enthusiastic
about, you have a Republican who makes you feel like, literally, his
running mate, E.W. Jackson – does that shrink the electorate further?
What we end up seeing potentially in this election is folks don`t bother to
come to the polls and cast a vote?
KORNACKI: Yes, it`s hard to see at this point for the enthusiasm for
the candidates. You do wonder if it reaches the point, perhaps on the left
it`s fear of somebody like Ken Cuccinelli and the very conservative social
agenda. That could inspire them.
You know, maybe the right gets mobilized. We want to keep Virginia
from going back into Democratic hands. But there`s that possibly.
The other thing is, like, I would look at this and say, if you took
the scandals around McDonnell and you took Cuccinelli`s connection to that
aside, you know, actually at the start of this year this probably set up
more favorably for Cuccinelli given the electorate and what Bob McDonnell
had proven in 2009 when he won the governorship.
Bob McDonnell very conservative on social issues and shown that as
governor but he knew to run in a state like Virginia, when the climate sort
of favors you, you down play the social issues, you talk about the economy.
The plan for Cuccinelli was to run as I`m the successor to bob McDonnell
and play down the culture issues.
And here he is, this tells you all you need to know about the race.
At this point in the campaign, he`s downplaying his ties to McDonnell and
he`s playing up the cultural issues, lately.
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s going on with E.W. Jackson, who I jokingly call
Ew, in part of his social issue stances. He really has said that the
entire Democratic Party is anti-God and anti-family.
KORNACKI: Right. And that would – Cuccinelli is keeping his
distance from – so, the lieutenant governor and governor are elected
separately in Virginia. This is a situation where E.W. Jackson wants it to
be the Cuccinelli/Jackson ticket. Cuccinelli wants it to be, you have two
So, that`s one of this – you know, E.W. Jackson, see every time he
says something like this, ken Cuccinelli can`t control it. His campaign
can`t control it. Every time he says it, every voter Virginia is reminded
this is Ken Cuccinelli`s running mate. This guys is on the Republican
ticket this fall. He`s running for lieutenant governor.
So, even if they get a separate choice in November, that creates a
connection that is not helpful for Cuccinelli.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you know, because of the timing of the Virginia
governor election, and always allow us to put a lot of attention on it and
to watch sort of what`s going on there.
Thank you to Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC morning show, “UP WITH
STEVE KORNACKI,” which I always get to watch when I`m getting ready for my
own. Thanks for your time tonight.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here we go, folks. Pop quiz. How did the Indiana
grade inflation scandal of 2013 turn out? The answer is straight ahead.
But keep your eyes on your own paper.
HARRIS-PERRY: In Boston, it has been a big week in the trial of
gangster Whitey Bulger. Whitey Bulger`s lawyers began presenting their
defense in a huge racketeering indictment that alleges Bulger committed 19
The judge has told Bulger`s attorneys they have until tomorrow to
decide if he will take the stand in his own defense. But even if that has
not happened, we have learned already in this court this week, it`s been
kind of incredible, like that the FBI`s files about Bulger were locked in
fire proof safe in the bureau`s Boston offices, to keep them from corrupt
agents who it was feared would leak their contents back to the mob.
It was common practice in the Boston office of the FBI and those days
for corrupt agents who listed Whitey Bulger as an informant to help feed
him tips to help evade arrest, and allow him to identify who in his gang
was working with the FBI against him.
Just today, a former FBI agent testified that he warned his bosses at
the FBI in 1982 that he was worried one of Bulger`s associates was in
danger of being killed because a high ranking member of Whitey`s gang found
out the guy had been informing to the FBI. The former agent testified that
despite his warnings to the FBI, nothing was done, and the informant was
The long, sordid history of Whitey Bulger and the FBI in Boston is
exhibit A, that the bureau is not always squeaky clean, that no one is
infallible, and that everybody should be questioned.
After the Boston marathon bombings this spring, FBI agents went to
central Florida to interview a friend of one of the suspected bombers.
Now, maybe they wanted to talk to Ibrahim Todashev about the Boston
bombings, or maybe they were questioning him about the unsolved triple
murder that took place just outside Boston in 2011, a homicide, which one
of the suspected bombers was linked to only after the marathon.
We don`t really know what was discussed because the FBI hasn`t told
us. But what we do know is this: after hours of questioning the young man,
and this was apparently the fourth time he was being interviewed, after
hours of questions, to somebody who had made himself available to the FBI
again and again – FBI agents shot the young man in his own home.
His family has released photo his of him taken apparently at the
morgue. They appear to show him shot six times in the torso, and one in
the back of the head. These are all of the reasons that law enforcement
has given since that shooting to explain why they needed seven bullets to
subdue the young man they were questioning.
First, they said Todashev charged an FBI agent with a knife. Later
that same day, they were backtracking about the knife. One week later, an
FBI agent said he had seen Todashev coming at coming at him with a metal
pole, or maybe it was a broom stick, no, no, maybe it was a sword.
Todashev was just wielding the furniture in the house, yes, that
definitely what happened. That`s it, that`s it.
Todashev`s family, the ACLU and others who are asking for an
independent investigation into what really happened are not alone in
thinking that what we`ve heard so far is nowhere near enough.
The state of Massachusetts says it has no plans to look into what
provoked the FBI to shoot this young man several times, because the
interview took place in Florida, claiming it just does not have
jurisdiction. Today, we learned the state of Florida will not be
investigating either because they say the FBI is already investigating
itself. That`s right – the only official investigation into the
convoluted story of why the FBI was unloaded seven bullets into someone it
was investigating, that investigation is being conducted by the FBI.
As for how that investigation is likely to turn out, this is the FBI`s
record on navel-gazing. Over the past 20 years the FBI has investigated
more than 120 shootings, and in zero of this is cases have they ever found
wrongdoing –a perfect record for the FBI, according to the FBI.
There is a reason organizations are not normally allowed to
investigate themselves. Independent examiners are usually best at shining
bright lights in murky dark corners.
The killing of Ibrahim Todashev has raised a “you can drive a truck
through its inconsistency” and all kinds of troubling questions.
Every government needs to have oversight and to be held accountable,
especially when the agency has the power and the firepower of the FBI.
HARRIS-PERRY: An update tonight on the employment status of Tony
Bennett, not him, although I can update you here, too, this Tony Bennett is
still a silky smooth, crooner whose appeal transcends just about everything
that defies anyone.
But the real Tony Bennett update, the Tony Bennett, regards the Tony
Bennett who used to run the school systems in the state of Indiana. The
story two nights ago was that Mr. Bennett, an advocate of the school choice
program appeared to be caught inflating grades, not the grades of kids but
of the school. And not just any school, but a charter school. Not just
any charter school, but the charter school named by a very generous donor
to Indiana Republicans, and to Mr. Bennett, and to the education program
Mr. Bennett promoted as the school`s chief.
The school in question, the Christel House Charter School, and the
“Associated Press” published emails in which Tony Bennett was more than
disappointed that Christel House Charter School had received a C-grade on
its state evaluation.
Somehow in the wake of the e-mail in question, that C-grade morphed
into an A-grade without the school performing any better than it had when
it got a C.
For the record, Mr. Tony Bennett, the former Indiana schools guy,
denied that he had cooked the books in Indiana, and did this denying from
sunny Florida, because that is where he landed as Governor Rick Scott`s
school guy, after voters in Indiana had shown him the door, in favor of a
Democratic candidate who run against charter schools.
Former Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett not only became the school`s
chief in Florida, but he`s also closely allied with former Governor Jeb
Bush`s education reform chief`s for change. That was Tuesday night Tony
Bennett related news.
Tonight, former Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett is former Florida
schools chief Tony Bennett. Despite the support of Jeb Bush`s coalition of
education of reformers and despite he`s calling the charges of his
misconduct malicious and unfounded, Tony Bennett resigned today as
Florida`s education commissioner, less than a year into his tenure, saying
that he did not want to distract from Governor Rick Scott`s education
reform effort in the state.
And among his other remarks upon his recognition, were that, quote,
“the most important thing is to educate children.” Now, on that, everyone
can agree. But the debate about how best to do it is going to continue at
least for the moment without Tony Bennett.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night.
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