The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/18/15

Guests:
Linda Sarsour
Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: That is all for this evening.

“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts now. Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. That was
fascinating.

HAYES: It was something.

MADDOW: Yes, well done, man.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

OK. This is a Japanese cat. Hello. He`s a male cat. The variety of
cat that he is I`m told is that he is a Scottish fold cat. I don`t know
what that means. But he belongs to somebody in Japan, not in Scotland.
His name is Maru, M-A-R-U.

And Maru is the biggest freaking thing in the world on the internet.
Maru videos on YouTube have been viewed more than 200 million times.

Maru the Cat is not famous anywhere else in the world. He does not
make talk show appearances or appear in movies or anything – at least as
far as I know. He`s just online. But he is freaking huge online. Maru.
He is the star of the show.

Also huge online if nowhere else is the Prancercise Lady. I thought
this was an old thing. It`s been around forever and people rediscovered
it.

No. Prancercise, this video has only been up online since 2013, but
it has been viewed more than 11 million times. Prancercise. Prancercise
is big online.

It is possible to be totally unknown in the wider world. It is
possible to be a totally obscure figure elsewhere in life while also being
a very big deal online. And one of those people who you might not
recognize from anywhere else in the world who is capital F famous online is
the lady who says Monster Energy Drinks are a ploy of Satan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at your M closely. There`s a gap right
here in the letter M. It`s never connected. So, you go into Hebrew.

The letter Vav is also the number 6. Short top, long tail. Short
top, long tail. You could have here in Hebrew 666 on the can.

But my interest is the word “Monster”. What do you see in the O?
There`s a cross.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What has Christ got to do with an energy drink,
let alone the name Monster? So I thought, well, maybe this is a Christian
company then.

BFC at the bottom of the can, do you know what that stands for?
That`s the F word. Why would they have a cross on the can?

Here`s the message: Antichrist, 666 in Hebrew and then the bible talks
about the beast in Revelations. And look at Monster`s ad. You cannot deny
that that is a cross and what is witchcraft, when the cross goes upside
down.

Bottoms up. And the devil laughs. Something to think about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how clever Satan is and how he gets into
the Christian home and a Christian`s life and it breaks god`s heart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: OK. So the lady who claims – no, doesn`t claim, explains
that Monster Energy Drinks are the work for a very clever Satan breaking
God`s heart by making you go bottoms up with the cross and the O and the
secret – all rest of it. She is very famous online for that, for that
video. That video has been viewed online more than 8 million times.

It`s popular enough that she even has kind of a nickname. She`s just
known as the shorthand online as the Satanic Monster Energy Drink lady.

But Satanic Monster Energy Drink lady got famous not just online but
in real life last month on the steps of the Texas state capitol. Since
2003, every couple of years, Muslim groups in Texas host something called
Texas Muslim Capitol Day, where hundreds of people from various Muslim
communities across Texas, mostly kids and teenagers honestly, they come to
the state capitol for a big civics day and they meet their state
legislators and they learn about the workings of state government. They
basically promote civic engagement in their community. It`s kind of a
visibility thing and also a meet your government thing.

Well, this year on Texas Muslim Capitol Day, as that group stood on
the capitol steps and held a press conference about their events and they
had a prayer and they sang the national anthem, as that was happening this
year these nice folks were standing right across from screaming at them.
You can see their signs. “Go home and take Obama with you.” “I`m the
infidel Allah warned you about.”

This is one particularly nice. “I serve a risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
Muhammad is dead.” That was nice.

So, those are the protesters across the street from the group of
mostly Muslim school kids. And then in the middle of the Texas Muslims,
again most of them school kids, while they`re singing the national anthem,
at the middle of that event, all of a sudden, none other than the satanic
Monster Energy Drink lady burst out of the anti-Muslim protester crowd and
grabbed the microphone at the event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stand against Islam and the false Prophet
Muhammad. Islam will never dominate the United States and by the grace of
God, it will not dominate Texas!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: After she did that, the satanic Monster Energy Drink lady
rejoined the protestors across the street. According to a reporter who was
there from the “Houston Chronicle”, he said she then led them in a chant of
“Muhammad is dead. Muhammad is dead.”

So, that`s how Texas Muslim Capitol Day went this year – thanks to
these nice folks. It wasn`t just the satanic Monster Energy Drink lady and
the other random people on the street screaming at Muslims that way,
though. They also had some company inside the Texas state legislature.

One freshman Republican state representative, a woman named Molly
White, posted this on her Facebook page that day. “Today is Texas Muslim
Capitol Day in Austin.” I should mention she misspelled capitol.

She says, “Most members including myself are back in district. I did,
though, leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with
instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to
renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to
America and our laws. We`ll see how long they stay in my office.”

So, welcome to the state capitol, Texas Muslim school kids here to
learn about civics. In Texas, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims live,
eighth largest Muslim population in the country. Welcome to your state
capitol. This is your state government working for you.

That same state representative had previously written on her Facebook
page, quote, “Muslims cannot be trusted, no matter how peaceful they
appear.”

So, it`s the Satanic Monster Energy Drink lady and her fellow street
protestors. It`s also inside the building a Republican state rep, who`s an
elected member of the legislature.

It`s also the newly elected lieutenant governor of the state of Texas
who was a Republican state senator before he got elected lieutenant
governor this past November. His name is Dan Patrick. When Dan Patrick
was a Texas state senator, he made a habit of getting up and walking out of
the Senate chamber whenever the prayer to open up a legislative session
happened to be led by a Muslim that day.

So, that`s Texas, which again is home to more than 400,000 American
Muslims. Obviously, though, this is not a Texas only thing. In certain
parts of the American right, this is sort of the ambient temperature right
now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRYAN FISCHER, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: Permits in my judgment
should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of
America. Not one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Bryan Fischer from the American Family Association. That was
him speaking in 2010. And I think it`s relevant that that`s him speaking
there in 2010 because circa 2010, we used to think of the American family
association and their staff members and radio hosts saying things like
mosques should not be allowed to be built in the United States of America,
we used to think of that group and guys like that as a fringe, out there
organization.

But even though that`s who they are, just a couple weeks ago, the
National Republican Party, the RNC, invited all of its members to go on an
all expenses paid trip to Israel hosted by the American Family Association.
In the ensuing publicity the RNC tried to distance itself specifically from
that guy, from Bryan Fischer at the American Family Association.

But the trip was led by another American Family Association guy who`s
named David Lane. That`s who actually took members of the RNC to Israel at
the invitation of the Republican National Committee. This is David Lane.

This is a column of his berating the Pentagon for apologizing for the
burning of Korans. The headline on his column, “Pentagon apologizes to the
false god of Islam.”

That is who the Republican Party National chairman, Reince Priebus,
invited all the members of the Republican National Committee to go on an
all expenses paid trip with just a couple of weeks ago. Until the
publicity around that trip got to him a little bit, I think. Reince
Priebus himself was reported to be planning to go on that trip with the
false god of Islam guy.

But apparently, Reince Priebus in the end didn`t go. At least we
think he didn`t go. They still won`t answer our questions about him.

But that`s the tenor of really radical anti-Muslim stuff in American
conservative politics right now. And you know, you think of it as the
fringe stuff. Right? You think of it as the screaming stuff in the
street. That would just be the province of the satanic Monster Energy
Drink lady, right?

Turns out it`s off the hilarious YouTube pages that get 8 million
gape-mouthed views. It`s not just on YouTube. It`s not just unhinged
street protests. It`s inside state government, very comfortably, it
appears, in places like Texas.

And thanks to the current Republican Party and the Republican Party
Chairman Reince Priebus, this stuff has been brought right into the heart
of the mainstream of American major party politics by the Republican Party
chairman, partnering with this group – inviting all of the members of the
RNC to go on this trip with this group that maintained in the past that it
should be illegal to build a mosque in America henceforth.

This group that maintains Muslims actually have no freedom of religion
in America. That any Muslim wanting to immigrate to the United States
should be forcibly converted to Christianity if they want to be allowed to
immigrate in this country because you should not be allowed to practice
your religion as a Muslim in America. That`s what this group has advocated
for.

Basically, they advocate that if you are a Muslim, you are not welcome
in this country, America`s not for you, Republican Party partnering with
that group.

Today at the White House it was day two of a three-day summit on the
subject of countering violent extremism. As part of the summit effort,
President Obama published an op-ed in the “L.A. Times” today which starts
with a long, long, long litany of murders and terrorist attacks committed
by what he calls in the op-ed groups that promote a twisted interpretation
of religion that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world`s
Muslims.

He starts the op-ed with this big long list including the attack on
the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and the Fort Hood massacre and Boston marathon
bombing and ISIS killing hostages including Americans in Syria and Iraq and
ISIS murdering Egyptian Christians and Libya, ISIS and al Qaeda-inspired
attacks in Ottawa and Canada and Sydney, Australia and Paris and most
recently in Copenhagen, the Pakistani-Taliban massacre of school kids, al
Shabaab`s attacks in Somalia, Boko Haram killing and kidnapping people in
Nigeria and now in neighboring countries. So, he starts with this long,
long litany of essentially the threat.

In remarks tonight at the White House at the summit, the president
reiterated more of that list. And he said in his remarks tonight bluntly,
there will be a military component to this. There are savage cruelties
going on out there that have to be stopped. There will be an element of us
just stopping them in their tracks with force. But then the president went
on to say this –

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s been a fair
amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to
describe and frame this challenge.

So, I want to be very clear about how I see it. Al Qaeda and ISIL and
groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray
themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam. That`s
why ISIL presumes to declare itself the Islamic State.

And they propagate the notion that America and the West generally is
at war with Islam. That`s how they recruit. That`s how they try to
radicalize young people.

We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is
a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that
they seek. They are not religious leaders. They`re terrorists.

(APPLAUSE)

And we are not at war with Islam.

(APPLAUSE)

We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.

If extremists are peddling the notion that Western countries are
hostile to Muslims, we need to show that we welcome people of all faiths.
That`s the story extremists and terrorists don`t want the world to know –
Muslims succeeding and thriving in America – because when that truth is
known, it exposes their propaganda as the lie that it is.

It`s also a story that every American must never forget, because it
reminds us all that hatred and bigotry and prejudice have no place in our
country. It`s not just counterproductive. It doesn`t just aid terrorists.
It`s wrong. It`s contrary to who we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: President Obama speaking at the White House late today and
that – what he just explained, that used to be pretty standard American
political rhetoric on this subject. Not everybody speaks the way everybody
else speaks, but that argument used to be pretty core to the way that
American leaders talked about the subject. It used to be what we expected
to hear from any mainstream politician on this subject.

President Obama when he made that case today honestly, forgive me,
sounded more like President George W. Bush on the subject than anybody else
that springs to mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: These acts and violence against
innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it`s
important for my fellow Americans to understand that.

The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our
many Arab friends.

Americans understand we fight not a religion. Ours is not a campaign
against the Muslim faith.

Our war is against evil, not against Islam. There are thousands of
Muslims who have proudly called themselves Americans. And they know what I
know, that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion,
the exact opposite of the teachings of the al Qaeda organization, which is
based upon evil and hate and destruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The way that George W. Bush talked about Islam and American
Muslims is the same argument that President Obama was articulating today.
It`s the same way he has talked about it throughout his presidency. That
used to be a consensus position basically for all mainstream American
politics.

But on the right, right now, the National Republican Party is
partnering with an organization that rails against the false god of Islam
and says Muslims shouldn`t be allowed to practice their faith in the United
States, that we are a country just for Christians.

Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor who`s making a run for president
for 2016 and is being taken seriously in some quarters, Bobby Jindal goes
abroad and gives a speech about these hysterical conspiracy theories that
Muslims have taken over huge swaths of Europe and Christians aren`t allowed
in whole portions of Europe anymore. It`s nonsense, right?

I mean, it was not that long ago that Republican president
conservative hero George W. Bush was talking with some uncharacteristic
eloquence about how we are not at war with Islam and how the Muslim faith
is based on peace and love and compassion.

But now, Republican Party television for one has declared that
actually what we have got here is a holy war, a holy war, and actually
that`s the way we should think of it – a war between religions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Hi, I`m Bill O`Reilly. Thanks for watching
us tonight. The holy war begins. That is the subject of this evening`s
talking points memo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Screw it. It is a holy war.

That`s this week on Republican Party television, ISIS wants everybody
to believe that there`s a holy war in the world and they are one side and
the West is the other side. That`s what ISIS wants people to believe.
That`s what al Qaeda wants people to believe too.

And it used to be American consensus politics, at least American
consensus mainstream politics to reject that narrative, to not let those
terrorist groups define what`s going on here and define themselves as half
of the fight in a clash between two equal civilizations, with them as the
Muslim side and, you know, everybody else as the other side.

There used to be a consensus in American politics that giving them
that framing for what they`re doing which they seek so desperately was not
only repeating their big lie, it was idiotic strategically, it was doing
their work for them.

I mean, if this really is defined as a fight between Muslims and the
West, which is how they want to define it, you know, not only the terrorist
group`s going to define it that way but Americans are going to define it
that way. What kind of message is that to the whole Muslim world, to the
billion Muslims in the world? If we`re saying that that is the fight, the
two sides, Muslims on one side and everybody else on the other.

How did the “we are not at war with Islam” consensus fall apart on the
American right? And can it be rebuilt? And is it dangerous if it is
falling apart?

Joining us now is Linda Sarsour. She`s a national advocacy director
at the National Network for Arab American Communities.

Ms. Sarsour, thanks very much for being here.

LINDA SARSOUR, NATIONAL NETWORK OF ARAB AMERICAN COMMUNITIES: Thank
you for having me.

MADDOW: Let me just ask big picture if you agree with the premise
here, that at least in mainstream U.S. politics, there used to be a spoken
consensus that there was no war between the United States or the West with
Islam. And it was important to define that. I feel like there was that
consensus and it is now slipping.

Do you agree with that?

SARSOUR: I think it`s always been in the mainstream in the rhetoric
but it`s never been with the action that`s go along with the words. So,
while George Bush was saying that within on one hand we were in an unjust
war in Iraq where we killed 650,000 people, many of whom were Muslims.

So, I think for people, they don`t just look at words. We want to see
the actions and do they align with the words that we see. And as you said
with the Republican Party, it`s kind of how you win – how you as a
Republican win elections. The more anti-Muslim you are, the more money you
raise. And that`s kind of been the M.O. of the Republican Party for the
past couple elections.

MADDOW: Do you think operationally thinking about national security,
thinking about terrorism, thinking about homegrown radicalism, and all
those other sort of things – do you think it is actually dangerous for
people to buy into that framing and for people to repeat that framing, to
say there is a holy war, to say it is – that Islam is the enemy? Is it
dangerous?

SARSOUR: It`s very dangerous for all of us as Americans. Violent
extremism equals Muslims in this country. It goes unsaid.

So, while we`re changing the words we`re using, we`re still focusing
on countering violent extremism programs on Muslims only.

Glen Miller went into a Jewish center in Kansas City and shot three
people. Michael Page is a white supremacist. He went into an Oak Creek
Gurdwara thought they were Muslims and shot six people.

These domestic extremism needs to be dealt with in all its forms,
whether they`re Muslims or non-Muslims. And right now, we are obsessed and
toeing the line of Peter King. He was having fine hearings in Congress
about radicalization in the American Muslim community and he`s a
Republican. And the Obama administration is doing counter extremism summit
about Muslims.

While we`re do-two different parties, two different sets of
ideologies, but when it comes to Muslims, we`re kind of like becoming –
it`s kind of a gray area for me. I kind of ask myself oh, wait, no, no,
Democrats, Republicans, like you just don`t know anymore.

MADDOW: Do you feel like in the fight right now over how best to
combat ISIS overseas, as that`s being debated in terms of – one of the
things that was interesting today is the president was talking about, yes,
this is a military fight. But it`s also all these other different types of
fights. It`s a way that America has to use our soft power abroad and we
have to project our values abroad in a way that`s going to help defeat this
beyond just what we`re doing militarily.

Do you feel like that discussion is constructive or that that is also
basically over reductive, it doesn`t take into account of how we`ve been
acting?

SARSOUR: I mean, if we want to uphold our values and we want to show
the rest of the world how wonderful we are, we need to start here at home.
While we`re talking about partnering with Muslim communities and you are a
partner, you`re part of the fabric of our society, our government operates
massive surveillance program, unwarranted surveillance in Muslim
communities, chilling free speech, making people feel afraid.

I mean, a lot of Muslims have come to the United States to get away
from regimes where they feel like their freedom of speech is infringed on,
where they – some people don`t have freedom of religion. We come to the
U.S.

Twenty-two states with anti-Sharia bills trying to ban us from
practicing our faith, Mosque oppositions. We`re fighting zoning boards
across the country. Our kids are hearing this rhetoric. We have people,
mosques being vandalized, kids being executed, Islamophobia.

Leaders on national television saying that, you know, holy wars and
these people want to take over America. I mean, it`s just – it doesn`t
for me reflect what we do stand for as a country. And these very – the
minority in our country who are the loudest voices are reflecting what we
are. And that`s not what we are as a country.

I`m an American and I`m a Muslim. Should I cut myself in half? What
side am I on? I`m born in Brooklyn. I can`t take that away and no one can
take that away from me. I can`t be deported anywhere.

So, it`s just a really hard conversation to have with young people,
especially young Muslims who don`t know what side they`re supposed to be
on.

I`m on the American side. I`m on the right side. I`m on the side of
justice. That`s the only side I`m on.

MADDOW: And you can`t split yourself in half to do that. And you
shouldn`t have to.

SARSOUR: No.

MADDOW: And there is a big difference between talking about our
values and living them. I think what`s happening domestically around
issues of bigotry right now is spooky. It`s not like it hasn`t existed
before but the way it`s bubbling up right now and being mainstreamed right
now I am spooked by.

Thank you for coming in to talk about it. I appreciate.

SARSOUR: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Linda Sarsour is national advocacy director at the National
Network for Arab American Communities.

All right. There`s lots more ahead tonight, including the second oil
fire explosion disaster this week, and it`s only Wednesday.

Also, the latest from presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. He had a doozy
of a day.

And Tom Colicchio is here.

It`s a big show. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This is the scene right now in Prescott, Arizona where they
have gathered for a memorial in honor of 26-year-old American aid worker
Kayla Mueller. Kayla Mueller was held as an is hostage for almost a year
and a half after being kidnapped in Syria. Her death while she was still
being held by ISIS was confirmed by the White House last week. Local
churches and community groups in her hometown of Prescott organized
tonight`s event to honor her life and specifically her work as an
international aid worker. They`re lighting up the town`s courthouse square
with candles in her memory.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We`re on 9:00 this morning in a suburb of L.A. called
Torrance, California, people started noticing a weird powdery white
substance was settling onto their cars. This photo shows a windshield just
coated in gunk.

Here`s another one. That`s the hood of the car that`s just covered in
what looks like flour. What it actually is, is ash. And no, this was not
a creepy elaborate Ash Wednesday stunt of some kind.

This ash was from an ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance that went up in
flames today.

At about 9:00 this morning, there was an explosion inside that
refinery that set off a three-alarm fire. The explosion took place inside
a unit of that plant that refines oil into gasoline.

Look at the crumpled thing there. Look at that. Refines oil into
gasoline and other products. That specific unit did reportedly suffer some
kind of mechanical issue on Monday this week which caused it to be
temporarily shut down. There`s no indication yet as to whether that issue
Monday eventually caused this fireball explosion and the ripping apart of
the unit today.

But that explosion and the fire caused injuries to four contractors
who were working at the refinery. They were sent to a local hospital for
treatment. It also forced everyone at 14 schools in the area to shelter in
place for hours. People nearby, even people several miles away, told local
reporters that their houses shook so hard they thought it was an
earthquake, until they saw the fire and the smoke and the ash raining down
from the sky.

This was the aftermath of the explosion at the refinery itself. Look
at that, just thick layer of ash covering everything. And the whole thing
just mangled.

Local officials say they`re continually testing the air quality in the
area tonight. So far they say they`re not detecting any harmful emissions.

So, again, that was Torrance, California today. Near L.A. that
happened about 9:30 this morning.

Meanwhile, across the country, West Virginia residents today are still
dealing with the aftermath of this, a massive train derailment and crude
oil explosion that happened 30 miles outside the state capital of
Charleston on Monday. This was that CSX oil train hauling crude oil from
North Dakota to a transportation hub in Virginia when for some still
unknown reason that train derailed and then 20 of those tanker cars
ignited.

That fire began on Monday. It was still burning today, three days
into this disaster. More than 100 people are still evacuated from their
homes tonight.

Tonight, finally at least the local water came back on. Water service
had been shut off after that derailment today. They did get water restored
today but residents are still being advised to boil their water before they
use it.

Given the size of this oil train disaster in West Virginia, given the
size of the explosions and the fact that 20 of these cars exploded one
after the other and it happened not out in the boonies but along a stretch
of river that has small towns all up and down, it is something of a miracle
that there were not more people hurt in this disaster.

That said, there was one home that was burned in the blast, completely
destroyed by the explosions. The local NBC affiliate in that part of West
Virginia spoke to the man whose home that was.

Get this. He was home at the time of the accident when that oil train
blew up and took his house with it. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I made it about 10 feet. I heard the house caving
in behind me. So I ran out of the house in my sock feet in the snow. The
house was engulfed in flames.

REPORTER: Morris`s daughter and grandchildren had been staying at his
home for a couple weeks and had just left the day before the accident. His
wife, Patricia, was in the hospital for open heart surgery. He says had
they all been home, they`d have certainly been killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn`t have left any of them in there. I
would not run out of that house without them and she couldn`t have made it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Morris made it out of the house as it was caving in behind
him. He himself was later treated and released from a local hospital. He
was treated for smoke inhalation. That derailment in West Virginia still
under investigation tonight, as is the refinery explosion today in
California. Just one more day of trouble. It`s only Wednesday this week.

Watch this space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Did you hear about the one with the two guys in the Soviet
Union and the American president? And the tiny little bit of swearing?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: Told me this story about the two
fellas in the Soviet Union that were walking down the street. And one of
them says, have we really achieved full communism? Is this it? Is this
now full communism? The other one said oh, hell, no, things are going to
get a lot worse.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Funny is a helpful thing in any line of work. It is
particularly helpful if your line of work is politics.

But that is being tested right now in some very, very brand new ways.
And that`s ahead. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: On June 16th, 1960 talk show host Jack Paar hosted a young
senator from Massachusetts on his show, a man named John Kennedy. It went
very, very well. It was in the lead up to the 1960 presidential election.
That was basically the first time a presidential candidate had tried to
leverage late night TV to boost his Q rating.

By 1968, there was Nixon doing it too. Having learned his lesson from
Kennedy in 1960. There was Nixon appearing on “Laugh-In” in 1968.

There was Ronald Reagan in 1975 talking budget cuts with Johnny
Carson, before announcing his candidacy against Gerald Ford in 1976.

There was Bill Clinton running for president in 1992 playing the sax
and wearing sunglasses on the Arsenio Hall show.

There`s George W. Bush doing the top 10 list on David Letterman, when
he was first running in the year 2000.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH: Number 7: make sure the White House library has lots
of books with big print and pictures.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: It became a regular part of presidential campaigning. If you
were seriously running, you had to show up on a late night show, show your
human side, laugh at yourself, whatever.

But then starting in 2009, new president Barack Obama became the first
ever not just candidate but sitting president to be interviewed on a late
night talk show. That is a practice he has continued throughout his
presidency. He went on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, and then on
“David Letterman” and on “Jimmy Fallon.”

Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States. But now,
nothing against the late shows – I think the late shows are actually
pretty great right now. But now high-end popular humanizing comedy
opportunities for politicians, they are no longer defined by just the reach
of network television.

Now, if you`re trying to get past the press corps to an audience that
isn`t trying to pay attention to politics, that is just trying to be
entertained, now the presidential comedy opportunities are much further
flung than the network shows.

And so, when the first Obamacare signup deadlines were approaching,
President Obama turned for help to the most popular interview show on the
Internet machine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, BETWEEN TWO FERNS: I have to know. What is it
like to be the last black president?

OBAMA: Seriously? What`s it like for this to be the last time you
ever talk to a president?

GALIFIANAKIS: It must kind of stink, though, you that can`t run three
times.

OBAMA: No. Actually, I think it`s a good idea. If I ran a third
time, it would be sort of like doing a third “Hangover” movie. Didn`t work
out very well, did it?

GALIFIANAKIS: You said if you had a son, you would not let him play
football. What makes you think that he would want to play football? What
if he was a nerd like you?

OBAMA: Do you think a woman like military would marry a nerd? Why
don`t you ask her if she would marry a nerd?

GALIFIANAKIS: Could I?

OBAMA: No, I wouldn`t let her near you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: More than 13 million people watched that interview in the
first 24 hours it was posted. And yes, that was President Obama talking
trash with a famous comedian. It also ended up being about how to sign up
for health care.

And the White House actually credits that “Between Two Ferns” comedy
video with bumping up traffic on the Affordable Care Act Web site by 40
percent, that video alone. That`s the power of Zach Galifianakis, right?

Since it worked so well the last time, this month, with another
Obamacare signup deadline approaching, the White House decided to do the
same kind of thing again. This time they decided to do it with Internet
traffic monsters, BuzzFeed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

OBAMA: Thanks, Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s pretty good.

OBAMA: That`s pretty good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seconds left in the game. Down by one. Brrr! He
gets it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President?

OBAMA: Can I live?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That video has been watched nearly 50 million times on
Facebook alone, 50 million. For a point of reference, that`s 18 million
more viewers than the president had for his most recent State of the Union
Address.

And once again, the goal was to let those 50 million people know while
they were watching this ridiculous funny video of the president, to let
people know a substantive thing, that a deadline was coming up to sign up
for health coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The deadline for signing up for – the deadline for signing up
for health insurance is February – Febru –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like any other Wednesday.

OBAMA: That`s not right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wednesday.

OBAMA: February – man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wednesday.

OBAMA: February 15th. February 15th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: And it was February 15th.

And so, yes, there are people out there who believe these goofy videos
are not presidential. We all have our own ideas of what presidential is.

But the thing to know about these comedy video stunts, (AUDIO GAP) is
that at a very functional level they work. They get more viewership and
therefore more attention to whatever thing they`re trying get attention to
than they could get by any other means including the state of the freaking
union address several times over.

And if you were trying to get your message or some awareness of some
policy across to a younger audience, in terms of guaranteed eyeballs,
guaranteed attention by people who otherwise aren`t paying attention to
politicians, you are better off putting something out on social media that
people want to watch than almost anything else you can do.

Certainly, you`re better off with a viral video than you are with a
press conference or a speech on TV. And so, now, it is not just President
Obama that is using this tactic, it is the first lady as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADDY: So we`re going to start with the
stairways. You ready to do this?

JIMMY FALLON: I was born ready –

(MUSIC)

OBAMA: Turnip for what.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can take it from me. Eating the right foods
can help make you a better athlete.

OBAMA: Ooh!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Michelle Obama has arguably been better at using social media
than her husband, the president. She`s enlisted everybody from Jimmy
Fallon to LeBron James. There was a moment of dunking on LeBron James.

Now, this week, though, Michelle Obama has done one that has
aggravated all her usual critics – not presidential.

But it has got a ton of people to watch, all for a very specific
cause. And there is the very funny video about that, but there`s also the
question about how much this thing really does help the cause in question.
And tonight, we have somebody here who knows, and that`s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is better Ariana Grande or eating a carrot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FLOTUS?

MICHELLE OBAMA: Eating I a carrot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, correct. FLOTUS gets the point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gwyneth Paltrow makes a fantastic broccoli and
arugula soup, does that matter, yes or no? Elena.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it does, she has a website.

Who`s more deserving of a Kennedy Center honor, Martin Short or a box
of frozen court?

FLOTUS?

OBAMA: The corn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Martin Short. He`s a genius. He played Ed
Grimly, right, Elena?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is funny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is funny. Even Elena likes him.

OBAMA: I like corn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corn is delicious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Canada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he`s from Canada.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is. What does that have to do with anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: First Lady Michelle Obama`s latest attempt to use online
social media in this case to get America to eat better. Things like that
which this White House is very good at, they get a ton of views because
they`re very funny and because it`s unusual to see somebody like the first
lady of the United States in that kind of environment.

Do they work, though, at changing people`s minds, moving us forward on
the country on the issues at the heart of the funny?

Joining us now for the interview tonight is someone who has been
really aggressively involved in the push to get to us eat better as a
country – Tom Colicchio, chef, food activist, “Top Chef” judge, and as of
today, the brand new MSNBC food correspondent, and host of the new online
show “Stirring the Pot”, which will be airing on Shift.

Tom, it`s great to see you.

TOM COLICCHIO, FOOD ACTIVIST: Likewise.

MADDOW: Has it made a difference in your activism world that Michelle
Obama has taken on these things as her issue?

COLICCHIO: Yes. Obviously, yes. She`s done such a great job.

Both the president and first lady, I think they realize that you need
to broaden your audience. And how do you broaden your audience? You need
to use various types of media.

It`s great going on the late-night shows, but how do you use video?
We`ve come such a long way from “video killed the radio star” on MTV, to
now millions and millions of people watching online. Millennials who are
actually coming to the dinner table and talking about these various videos
that they saw and discussing them with their parents.

So, in a way, it`s almost like the gateway drug toward getting –
infusing politics and policy into the conversation. But you`re actually
starting from the ground up and from the, again, millennials up to the
adults.

MADDOW: Around food issues, obviously, some of it is policy and
therefore hard politics. A lot of it is raising awareness and is getting
people to think about it in a – basically a raised consciousness sort of
way.

With all the different things you do. I mean, obviously, restaurant
king and the “Top Chef” stuff and all the other forms of activism, in forms
of business that you do. What do you feel like is most effective at
getting the messages across to regular people?

COLICCHIO: Sure. I think you need to break down complex problems and
give them to people so they can easily digest. I mean, for instance, we`re
looking at fruits and vegetables. Michelle Obama`s done a great job to try
to encourage people to eat fruits and vegetables.

But how do we create a different incentive to get people to eat fruits
and vegetables? We know fruits and vegetables are typically more expensive
than processed foods. So, how do you get people who are trying to eat
better but don`t have the money to do that, how can we get them to afford
fruits can and vegetables or create an incentive to do that?

Now, that has to go to policy. If you look at subsidies, $24 billion,
$25 billion worth of subsidies, 85 percent of that goes to commodity crops,
15 percent goes to meat and dairy, 1 percent goes to specialty crops or
what we know as fruits and vegetables.

So, there has to be an underlying and a corresponding policy change to
actually make those more affordable.

MADDOW: So you have to affect both the supply and demand. You have
to make people want them and also make it reasonable that they can try to
get them.

COLICCHIO: People want them. I think Michelle Obama`s doing a great
job to get more people to want them and understand the importance of why
fruits and vegetables, whole grains are important. I mean, we grew up with
the food pyramid. Remember the food pyramid? Now it`s a food plate. Half
of that plate has fruits, vegetables, and hole grains on it. Yet our
underlying policies are not supporting that plate.

And so again, I think this is a way – we`ve got to break these
complex problems down and give them in bits and pieces so people can digest
it, understand it, and then go from there. There`s a lot of food issues
that are sort of food stories but we don`t look at them as food stories.

For instance, look at the Deepwater Horizons bill and the tons of oil
that was put into the gulf. That`s a food story. That affects the food
chain. That affects the fisheries there. That affects people`s
livelihoods that rely on the fisheries.

When you look at the overuse of pesticides and herbicides and leaching
into the water system and getting into the water system and creating a dead
zone in the Gulf, another food story.

And then there`s the light side of it, Super Bowl comes around and
it`s about the game and commercials but also about food.

Then, you take hunger issues that are sometimes complex and how do you
break them down so people understand it? And I think that`s what our
country – they`re ready for it. We`ve seen the stand and stir shows. We
have a whole network dedicated to food. We have reality shows that I`ve
been part of. We have the travel shows that we see.

And I think people are ready for that next conversation around food.
People want to know what`s in their food. They want to understand food
safety. They want to understand social economic issues around food. They
definitely want to understand and fix hunger problems. So these are all
food stories and they need to be told.

MADDOW: And the connection between our individual decisions about
this stuff which we`re all very in touch with and the larger – the world
at large in policy stuff I think is a connection you`ve been making better
than almost anybody.

We`re so happy you`re here. It`s great.

COLICCHIO: Thank you.

MADDOW: Tom Colicchio is the brand new MSNBC food correspondent – a
phrase I`ve never said before – host of the online show “Stirring the
Pot,” which is going to be airing on Shift.

Tom, it is really, really an honor you`re going to be joining us here.
We`re all very excited.

COLICCHIO: Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks.

Tom Colicchio, MSNBC. Do you believe it? I know. We`ll be right
back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: There`s been a lot of attention this week to the Southeast
getting thumped with snow and ice, a region of the country that`s not used
to it. A lot of the country in the last few weeks about Boston getting
absolutely buried in snow.

But there`s one other place in America that is so buried right now it
is actually making them have a problem that couldn`t conceivably have
anything to do with winter if this winter weren`t this big. Such a weird
story. That`s next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: There`s so much snow on the ground in some parts of the
country right now, particularly New England, that we are running out of
ways to describe it. Here is a brand new idea to wrap your head around.
An idea you have never had before.

The city of Portland, Maine, has been dumping all its plowed snow at a
spot near the airport near the approach to one of the airport runways. But
now, that snow mountain they have built is so high that Portland just
figured out that they are about to violate FAA regulations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE BOBINSKY, PORTLAND, ME PUBLIC WORKS: It can send a signal that
there is some sort of structure there, and it could affect their
instrumentation as they land and possibly even take off as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: They built their snow mountain so high in Portland, Maine,
this winter that it is now interfering with airplanes.

The search for a metaphor for this winter is hereby over. Portland
wins.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

Good evening, Lawrence.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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