The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/16/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I take the monkey picking stocks approach
to the bracket, because I don`t follow college basketball at all.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: The person that always wins, that`s the
other thing. The monkey picking stocks always wins.
MADDOW: I pick the mascots I think might win in fake fight between
HAYES: I literally saw a bracket today, there`s a team in the bracket
named Wolford, W-o-l-f-o-r-d. I never heard of that.
MADDOW: All the way. They`re going all the way.
HAYES: Wolford wins.
MADDOW: Thanks, man. Take it easy.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us for the
next hour. Happy March Madness. Happy Monday.
Today, we learned about a thing that Democrats and Republicans agree
on. And I should say this is the first time ever that both parties have
agreed this much about this one thing. It`s really interesting.
It`s a new Gallup poll out today. In this Gallup poll, we learned
that Democrats and Republicans agree that they very much dislike both
Democrats and Republicans. Yay!
Look at this. Neither major party cracks 40 percent favorability in
latest poll. This is the only time, the first time since Gallup started
tracking the parties` images this way in 1992 that neither party has gotten
to 40 percent.
And you can see the way that it`s changed for the two parties over
time. This is favorable opinion for the Democratic Party in blue, and the
Republican Party in red. You can see both parties have their ups and
2005 was a particular low for the Democrats. That was after John
Kerry failed to beat George W. Bush in the presidential election in `04.
Only 46 percent of Americans viewed Democrats favorably that year. But it
was an OK year for Republicans. Republicans were up at 56 percent.
That was more than reversed in 2009 after President Obama was re-
elected. Look, Republicans all the way down at 34 percent. But the
Democrats were way up at 55 percent.
So, there have been times in our history when one party dipped way
down below 40 percent, but that usually meant people were just being drawn
to the other party. So, one party goes down below 40 percent, the other
goes way up. That`s the way it`s worked for a quarter of a century until
now. Now, only 37 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of
Republicans. While a whopping 39 percent have a favorable opinion of
Democrats. Nobody gets above 40. That has never happened before.
Congratulations, modern American politicians. America dislikes you in
historically epic terms.
And those numbers come on the heels of another poll out late last week
also from Gallup that showed when you ask people, what do you think is the
most important problem facing this country today?
Look at the answers. The percentage of people who answered that race
relations is our most important problem is 4 percent. The situation in
Iraq and with ISIS, also 4 percent of people think that`s the most
important problem facing America today. The state of our education system,
the proportion of Americans who think education is the most important
problem in the country. That`s 6 percent. Immigration, most important
problem in the country, that`s 7 percent. Unemployment, 10 percent of the
country thinks that`s the most important problem facing this country today.
But by far, the highest percentage of respondents when you ask
Americans, what is the most important problem facing America today? The
highest percentage of respondents say that biggest problem in the country
is the government. The biggest problem facing our country today is that
our government is terrible. Dissatisfaction with the government, problem
numero uno by a mile.
So, like, whatever the opposite is of this feeling. That is how
Americans feel about our major political parties and our government as a
whole. The opposite of how Snow White is feeling right there. Just
But, you know, there is a cure for this. It exists. I think there
are probably, depending on who you are, many kinds of cures for this
depression and cynicism. But here`s the cure that is really important in
today`s news, this little girl, with the pigtails, pigtail braids there in
She grew up in the 1960s in Durham, South Carolina, Little African-
American girl growing up in South Carolina in the 1960s. She went to a
mostly white elementary school.
And as a little black girl at the mostly white elementary school, she
did so well on standardized testing that the school asked her to take the
test again. They did not believe that she could do as well as she did on
that test and so they asked her to tame it again. Undaunted she took the
test again and she got an even better score than she did the first time.
1977, that same little girl went on to become the valedictorian of her
high school class, but her high school in Durham, South Carolina, got
nervous it they named a black student to be the valedictorian by herself,
it might cause a social uproar, might upset people. So, even though she
was the valedictorian her high school made her share being the
valedictorian with two other kids so there would be less focus on her, less
upsetting for everyone.
But she was the valedictorian. She was number one.
She went on to Harvard as an under grad, she stayed at Harvard for law
school. She excelled. When she graduated from Harvard Law, this little
girl had to prove to her elementary school that she really was as smart as
She got a super fancy high-paying job at a private law firm. She
stayed at that private law firm for six years or so before she quit. And
she did quit that fancy private law firm job. She quit and she took her
Harvard degrees and she decided that she wanted to use her education and
her experience to instead go work for the government, to go work for this
To do that, she took a 75 percent pay cut from her fancy law firm job.
A 75 percent voluntary pay cut, so she could go work for the U.S.
attorney`s office for the eastern district of New York. Because that work,
that work as a public servant was more meaningful to her than the cash that
she was raking in at this private law firm.
And at the U.S. attorney`s office, she has had just an incredible
career. She prosecuted one of the most high profile police abuse cases in
New York City history. She won terrorism cases one after the other,
including against a man who planned to blow up the Federal Reserve.
She busted a big, scary story. It was a ring of convenience store
owners, this criminal ring that was bringing immigrants into the country
and then using them at convenience stores as slave labor. She exposed that
and busted it up.
She was also known, famously known, for prosecuting corrupt
politicians, like Pedro Espada and William Boyland Jr., both New York state
Democrats. She prosecuted them both. She also prosecuted Republican
Congressman Michael Grimm.
This star prosecutor who could be making bank at some private law firm
somewhere who previously had, she gave that up because she wanted to do
meaningful work serving her country and she has been good at everything she
has ever done. But she as a prosecutor has excelled at prosecuting corrupt
public officials, the kinds of public officials who make people hate public
Her life`s work has really embodied public service as a noble pursuit.
She was and is the best our country has to offer. She`s had an
unimpeachable career as a government employee and a public servant.
But despite all that history, we apparently are not going to be
allowed to have her as our next attorney general because Congress won`t
vote on her. They won`t hold a vote on her. It`s not that they will vote
no, they won`t allow her to be voted on.
She, of course, is Loretta Lynch, currently the head of that eastern
district of New York office where she started all those years ago. She`s
now the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York. She was
nominated to be attorney general by President Obama four months ago.
She would replace Eric Holder as our next attorney general if the
Senate would ever allow a vote on her nomination. She was nominated for
attorney general back before President Obama nominated Ash Carter to be the
next defense secretary. President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch and then
he nominated Ash Carter. The two of them both sailed through their
confirmation hearings. There have been no substantive objections to either
But you want to know the difference between them? The difference
between them now is he has already been confirmed as defense secretary, and
is working as our nation`s defense secretary. She`s still waiting even for
He`s been confirmed long enough already that he`s already started
delaying the end of one of our wars, the war in Afghanistan. Ash Carter is
on the job and unending wars already. Busy man.
Loretta Lynch, valedictorian, unimpeachable record, incredible
successful prosecutor, she has not even had a vote in the Senate. She is
And now, Senate Republicans say they`re not going to vote on her
nomination unless Democrats give in on a totally unrelated piece of
legislation that has nothing to do with her and that both parties are
fighting about right now in Congress. Republicans are holding Loretta
Lynch`s nomination hostage on that unrelated matter.
And, you know, when you read about this on its merits, inexplicable
treatment of Loretta Lynch by Republicans though they admit they have
nothing substantive against her, when you read these stories, there`s
always a mention of Ed Meese`s name keeps popping up in these stories about
what`s happening with Loretta Lynch right now. Loretta Lynch has waited
the longest for a vote of any attorney general nominee ever in history
except for Ed Meese.
Quote, “The last to undergo such a lengthy confirmation process was Ed
Meese.” You keep seeing that reference everywhere.
Here`s the thing about Ed Meese, here`s the thing about President
Reagan`s nominee for attorney general, Edwin Meese. A special court
appointed independent counsel had to investigate Ed Meese while awaiting a
Senate vote on his attorney general nomination because he had failed to
disclose some special interest-free loans that he received on his financial
disclosure forms. There were allegations that he`d given jobs to people
who had done financial favors for him and, and, and, and, and. That
humiliating lengthy detailed investigation into his potential ethical
misdeeds, that was the reason Ed Meese had to wait so long for a vote as
And in the end, this court-appointed independent counsel issued an
almost 400-page report in which he found Ed Meese had no committed crimes
but the report, quote, “declined to evaluate his ethical qualifications for
holding such a high office.”
Can we agree we should not be comparing Ed “400-page ethics report”
Meese with Loretta Lynch about whom there`s not an ethical peep? These are
not the same.
Ed Meese had to wait a long time for a vote for a reason, for a real
reason about him. There is no reason why Loretta Lynch is still waiting
and why we as a country are still waiting.
Loretta Lynch is the embodiment of what it should mean to be a
selfless public servant. The fact that she exists, her life`s work is the
antidote to all that polling about how much Americans dislike our
government right now. But in this particular iteration of Washington that
we suffer through right now, how our government is functioning right now,
none of that seems to be making any difference right now. It`s just
Joining us now is Senator Chuck Schumer. He`s the third ranking
Democrat in the United States Senate.
Senator Schumer, thank you so much for being here.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Good evening.
MADDOW: Senator McConnell says there will not be a vote to confirm
Loretta Lynch as attorney general until an unrelated bill on human
trafficking is resolved. Do you take him at his word that there would even
be a vote on her allowed at that point?
SCHUMER: Well, who knows? We were totally befuddled when he withdrew
his promise to vote on Loretta Lynch this week. There`s no good reason for
it as you mentioned.
I sat through the hearings. They didn`t lay a glove on her. She was
perfect. One of the best witnesses I`ve seen. Her record is exemplary.
They have not found a single thing wrong with Loretta Lynch and they
keep coming up with excuses as to why they won`t go for her and it just is
There`s a human trafficking bill on the floor. Well, we need an
attorney general to look at human trafficking. We have ISIS and terrorism
and all these things. We need an attorney general to deal with this and
they are holding her up.
And I`ll tell you one thing, Rachel, Mitch McConnell came in bragging
that he`d govern. Well, they can`t even pass a trafficking bill and now
they can`t even pass or put on the floor of the Senate an exemplary nominee
who no one has a word of criticism about.
And I know her. I recommended her to the president – to President
Clinton back in `99. And then, she was so good, I recommended she come
back again in 2009.
She`s been one of the best U.S. attorneys we`ve ever had, and, again,
she has a long record and they can`t find one thing of fault with her. One
MADDOW: Senator Schumer, one of the things that has sort of befuddled
me about this is that the objections to her seem to not be about her, seem
to not be about her record or her answers to the committee. They were
raised objections about President Obama`s immigration policies or about
this unrelated bill about trafficking which also has nothing to do.
Why pick her as the nominee to hold up in protest of the unrelated
things? Why not stall Ash Carter? Why not stall judicial nominees? Why
SCHUMER: Well, that`s a great question. One thing you can be sure
of, it`s not due to her qualifications, who she is, her views, how good an
attorney general she`d be. None of them dispute that.
So, you have to ask yourself why, and there are a lot of different
MADDOW: Senator Schumer, do you have faith in your own strategy, in
the Democrat strategy more broadly, the White House strategy, to try to
pressure the Republicans into allowing a vote and trying to pressure them
into making this happen?
Absolutely. I believe she eventually will be confirmed, but this is
just – it shows how for all the claims that they know how to govern, they
don`t know they`ve had not one good week since we`ve come back. They let
their hard right wing pull them in all kinds of different directions.
On the trafficking bill, that should have been an easy bill to pass.
It was bipartisan. They snuck in an expansion of the Hyde Amendment.
Here with Loretta Lynch who they promised to put on the floor, they
can`t even get their act together to do that.
And my guess is that the hard right wing is pulling at McConnell,
pulling at Boehner, and making it impossible for them to govern because the
hard right wing has no idea of how no govern, nor do they even care.
The only good news of this, Rachel?
SCHUMER: All of this starts building the case the Republicans
shouldn`t be in charge and helps us win the presidency in 2016, take back
the Senate and if they keep this up, even the House.
MADDOW: Senator, one last question for you on strategy on this. The
delay on Loretta Lynch`s nomination I think is just now starting to get
traction as sort of a political outrage story because there aren`t any
substantive objections to her. If there does start to be a large external
source of pressure on this, if activists groups and interest groups start
pushing for this, do you think that would make it more likely or less
likely that a vote would eventually come through?
Right now, she`s been seen as not only a noncontroversial, but totally
nonpartisan cause. If people start pushing for her, do you think that
makes just a stronger push back?
SCHUMER: You know, because they have nothing bad to say against her,
they can`t find a single thing, I think the pressure from these groups will
actually help, not hurt. The more this issue was highlighted, the more
it`s shown that most Americans, many Americans just object to this kind of
behavior of the Republicans. The more it will help.
So, I would encourage groups to push forward, write and call their
senators. Again, because this nominee is so uncontroversial, is so
excellent, is so outstanding, the more focus it gets, the quicker her
confirmation will be.
MADDOW: Senator Chuck Schumer, thanks for being with us tonight, sir.
I appreciate it.
SCHUMER: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I should tell you – I said Loretta Lynch went to Durham High
School in Durham. She did go to Durham High School in Durham, but in
Durham, North Carolina, not Durham, South Carolina. I attribute that
entirely to the fact that it`s Monday. I`m very sorry.
All right. Lots more ahead. Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW JARECKI, DIRECTOR, “THE JINX”: I want to show you the envelope
that that letter came in. Would you read me the address on this envelope?
ROBERT DURST: Robert Durst, 42467 Wall Street, New York, New York,
JARECKI: And who you sent it to?
DURST: Susan Berman, 15727 Benedict Canyon, Beverley Hills,
California. Beverly spelled wrong. California, 90210.
Which is, you know, the zip code that you want in Beverly Hills but
you just didn`t want Suzy`s neighborhood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was a clip from the conclusion of the HBO documentary
series “The Jinx” which aired on HBO last night.
As you have probably heard today, there was a very dramatic
development that took place yesterday just before that episode aired
involving the man who you just show in that clip. There are some late
developments tonight on this very strange story that`s developing very
rapidly right now and that`s just ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is what a brain looks like when you take a picture of
it. This is a brain scan made by magnetic resonance imaging better known
as an MRI. If you ever had an MRI, God bless you.
When you get an MRI for your brain, they have to slide you inside this
giant machine. The room is freezing. The machine sounds like mean little
elves pounding away with little hammers.
Unless you`re a particularly blissed out person or they`ve given you
drugs, you`re basically guaranteed to feel stressed out and totally
claustrophobic during the whole long time the scan is being done. And the
whole long time the scan is being done, obviously, you`re also worried
something`s wrong with your brain, because why else would you be in this
big terrifying machine?
And then, if all goes well they slide you back out of that big machine
and there for you and your doctors is the result of the scan of your brain.
If your brain is healthy, it will look something like this. You can
see the two halves of your brain, the hemispheres. You can see the overall
shape of your skull. You can see some of the wrinkles of your brain tissue
filling your skull.
You get a picture like this, hooray, you have a healthy brain. Inside
that brain is the machinery that makes you you, right? You with your
thoughts and your memories and impulse and habits. All of it right there.
That`s a normal brain.
Now, look at this. This is a picture of what is not a normal brain,
because as you can see in this picture, this brain has a giant hole in it,
that big dark spot on the upper left side. The brain you see here is
missing 20 percent of its frontal lobe. Frontal lobe is the part of the
brain that helps us make decisions about right and wrong and allows us to
control our impulses.
They say the frontal lobe is the home of executive function. By which
you get to the boss of yourself, right, you get to control yourself, the
frontal lobe. This brain is missing 20 percent of the frontal lobe. It`s
missing a little less than 8 percent of its overall mass.
A big chunk of that brain is just gone. It`s kind of scary to see,
right? That`s a living person.
And that wrecked looking brain belongs to this living man. He`s a
prisoner on death row in Missouri. His name is Cecil Clayton. Cecil
Clayton lost that big chunk of his brain in a saw mill accident in 1972.
He was running a saw and a chunk of wood broke free from the saw and
smashed through his skull. And surgeons did emergency brain surgery. They
were able to save his life, but they had to cut out a fifth of his frontal
lobe in order to save him.
After that accident, Cecil Clayton`s IQ plummeted to the level of
being disabled. He apparently began hallucinating, hearing voices. He had
trouble controlling his anger. At one point, he asked to be hospitalized.
Years later, more than 20 years later in 1996, on the night before
Thanksgiving that year, Cecil Clayton killed a police officer in southwest
Missouri. The officer was responding to a domestic violence call. Mr.
Clayton shot the officer at close range while he was still in his patrol
It seems like it happened fast. The officer was still not only in his
control car, he still had his seat belt fastened and the car running and
his gun was still in his holster.
For that violent and terrible crime, Cecil Clayton was sentenced to
death. He`s been in prison ever since. He`s the oldest man on death row
in Missouri at the age of 74.
And since he has been in prison he and his brain with the giant hole
in it have been evaluated over and over by experts both from the state and
for his own defense team. Interestingly, he has never had a hearing, a
formal hearing, to determine whether he is competent enough to undergo
execution, to determine literally whether he legally has the brain to be
able to understand what`s happening to him and why.
In Missouri, a person can`t legally executed if as a result of a
mental disease or defect, he lacks capacity to understand the nature and
purpose of the punishment about to be imposed upon him. Cecil Clayton`s
lawyers say, yeah, he`s absolutely incompetent by that definition because
of his terrible brain injury. But he has never had an official hearing to
determine legally whether he was competent enough to undergo execution,
never had that hearing.
His trial lawyer didn`t ask for one. State law right now does not
allow him to ask for one after his conviction.
The state says that he is fit for execution. They`re planning to kill
him by lethal injection tomorrow. His lawyers are now asking the United
States Supreme Court to intervene. Their petition cites exam after exam
after exam showing that Cecil Clayton cannot think or reason properly,
showing that he barely managed life outside of prison before his crime.
And he now can`t manage routine tasks inside prison, even just things like
using a phone or ordering something at the canteen in prison. He can`t do
On page 3 of this petition to the Supreme Court, his defense team has
included for the Supreme Court justices to see a picture of his brain.
I mean, you could try as a prisoner to seem psychotic or adult or
slow. People do try that. This, on the other hand, this is an actual
prisoner of a Missouri state prisoner on death row with a hole in his
We talked to his legal team tonight. They told us that they filed
their paperwork tonight for a U.S. Supreme Court appeal. They say they
don`t expect to hear anything until tomorrow. But again, tomorrow is when
this execution is scheduled to take place.
Missouri has been executing prisoners at the rate of one a month since
late 2013. The next guy up in Missouri quite literally has a giant hole in
his brain, but they are planning on killing him at 6:00 p.m. local time
tomorrow. They say he`s fully competent to face that.
We will keep you posted as we learn more.
MADDOW: At this hour on Friday night, we reported on a monster storm
that was tearing its way through the South Pacific. This is what that
storm left behind. This is the tiny island nation of Vanuatu. It has
entire national population that`s about the same size of that of Ft. Wayne,
Indiana. About 250,000 people in that nation spread across dozens of
And Vanuatu took a direct hit from this cyclone which hit this weekend
with winds of more than 200 miles an hour. The storm leveled the capital
city of Vanuatu, reportedly destroyed or damaged 90 percent of the
buildings in the capital city.
The death toll at this point is still unclear. 24 people have been
confirmed dead. But all day today, officials have been cautioning they`ve
had no contact whatsoever with the nation`s outer islands. Those outlying
islands are believed to have taken the brunt of the storm and nobody seems
to know what they`re going to find once they`re finally able to get out
But, again, just with what has been seen in the capital, the death
toll tonight stands at 24. That number is expected to rise.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: On January 31st, 1979, a student at Hope College at Holland,
Michigan, named Janet Chandler, she was working the front desk at her hotel
job when she was abducted, and raped and murdered. She was 22 years old.
And that brutal case remained unsolved for 25 years. The police had
no suspects. They had nobody to arrest.
Twenty-four years after she was abducted in 2003, a group of
journalism students at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, they started to
make a documentary about her case. About this cold case killing, in an
effort to re-explain just what happened, to try to answer the case`s
unanswered questions, the students at Hope College interviewed family
members, interviewed local law enforcement about the investigation.
And they did a documentary about it and their documentary aired on the
local public TV station 25 years to the day after Janet Chandler`s body had
been discovered. And that documentary sparked renewed interest in the
case. Police re-opened their investigation. They assigned four detectives
to work on the case who started traveling across the country. They
conducted over 300 interviews.
That documentary paired with renewed and amped up police effort
ultimately led to six people being convicted in Janet Chandler`s death,
more than a quarter century after she had been killed. It was just an
It was also a very rare thing. A more famous example of documentary
investigation changing the course of a murder case is Errol Morris` “The
Thin Blue Line”. “The Thin Blue Line” is a phenomenal piece of film making
and one of the most influential documentaries ever made. It`s about 1976
murder of a Dallas police officer and the conviction of Randall Adams in
that police officer`s death.
The interviews and evidence Errol Morris collected in the course of
making the film led to Randall Adams` conviction being thrown out and his
release from jail after 12 years behind bars.
You`ve probably also heard of HBO`s hit documentary series “Paradise
Lost”, which began as a documentary as the West Memphis Three, three
teenagers in West Memphis, Arkansas, convicted and sentenced to life in
prison in 1994 for the deaths of 3 kids who were murdered in West Memphis.
The three-part documentary kept that case in the public eye for 15 years.
That public attention and the hard questions about the convictions in
that case spurred people across the country to push for those convictions
to be overturned. Ultimately, after almost two decades behind bars, the
prosecutors in Arkansas struck a deal with the West Memphis Three that
secured their release from jail in 2011.
Now, today, the only thing anybody has been talking about all day
today is the three deaths, two of which have never been solved, that have a
connection between them a man named Robert Durst. Robert Durst has long
been suspected but never charged in the disappearance of his wife, Kathy,
back in 1982. In 2000, his friends and de facto spokesperson Susan Berman,
she was found dead in her Los Angeles Department.
In 2003, Robert Durst was charged but acquitted in the gruesome death
of his neighbor, a man named Morris Black, in Galveston, Texas. Mr. Durst
admitted to dismembering Morris Black`s body but he was acquitted of
murdering him. After arguing in court he only shot Mr. Black in self-
Three years ago, Robert Durst approached filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and
Marc Smerling, and asked if he could work with them to tell his story. He
agreed to participate in a documentary about him that they called “The
Jinx.” His decision to participate in that HBO documentary ultimately led
prosecutors in Los Angeles to re-open their case in the death of Susan
Berman. She`s the woman who was shot to get in her Los Angeles apartment
Hours before the final episode in this documentary series was
scheduled to air last night on HBO, hours before, Robert Durst was arrested
in New Orleans by FBI agents.
In the final episode that aired last night with him in custody, the
filmmakers explained handwriting evidence they found that they contend may
link Robert Durst to Susan Berman`s death. The filmmakers interviewed Mr.
Durst about that handwriting evidence on camera, basically con fronting him
with the evidence and challenging him to explain it.
They also last night played this audio, which I`ll play here in just a
moment. The audio was recorded after the interview while Mr. Durst was in
the bathroom off camera, but still wearing his microphone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT DURST: There it is. You`re caught.
What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did he mean that literally?
That tape played last night on HBO has been headlined as Robert
Durst`s confession to having killed the three people whose deaths that he
has links to. It is absolutely unclear as to whether that actually was
intended as a confession, and whether a court would view it that way, or
whether a court would admit it as any kind of evidence.
There`s also a question of when that happened. The filmmaker said
over two years passed between when Robert Durst made that statement and
when they actually found the audio and realized what it was.
After Robert Durst`s arrest in New Orleans this weekend, just tonight,
law enforcement authorities in Los Angeles have announced that they are
charging Robert Durst with first-degree murder in the death of Susan
It does not happen often that a criminal case and documentary effort
get so entwined that it`s hard to tell them apart. But that is what is
Joining us now for the interview is a man who knows some of these
things, documentary filmmaker, Joe Berlinger. His “Paradise Lost” trilogy
helped lead to the release of the West Memphis Three.
Mr. Berlinger, thanks for being here.
JOE BERLINGER, AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARIAN: My pleasure.
MADDOW: I know every film is different. Every filmmaker is different
and works differently. I wanted to ask you about the specific question
about handing over information to the police, recognizing that you`re
working on something that may affect either an ongoing investigation or an
investigation that ought to be in law enforcement hands.
When you`re working on a real case, not just a story, but a real case,
how do you make those decisions?
BERLINGER: Well, it`s very conflicting, because sometimes, as we know
police and prosecutors get it wrong. With the West Memphis three they got
it wrong. With the 325 DNA exonerations we`ve had, you know, since DNA has
been invented, 20 of which are death row, people have gotten it wrong. So,
you know, there`s a tension between doing your own investigation, but also
not impeding upon an ongoing investigation.
You know, I don`t know the facts surrounding Andrew Jarecki`s work. I
think it`s a triumph of television. Last night`s finale was an amazing
moment. But it does raise troubling issues that I think we as a
documentary community, you know, need to address.
And I can only speak for when I`m confronted with the situation what
we chose to do. For example, in “Paradise Lost” in the original film, we
were – it was just – we had been embedded in the community for about nine
months prior to the start of the first trial. Right before the first trial
was about to begin, we were given under bizarre circumstances a bloody
Now, these children had been stabbed repeatedly with a serrated knife
that was consistent with the knife that we were given. We opened the knife
up in our hotel room and saw blood embedded in the hinge.
So, we were confronted with this moral dilemma. I mean, the moral
dilemma was, gee, if we report this to HBO, this might shut down the film.
But what do we do as good citizens?
So, of course, we decided pretty quickly we had to inform HBO and
Sheila Nevins, the head of documentaries called us back to New York. We
had a meeting. I think very quickly, we all realized that good citizenship
trumps whatever the outcome of our film may be.
Now, we were concerned that, you know, so much about documentary
making is about establishing trust and building a rapport and if we
betrayed our subject by turning over a piece of evidence that they had
given us, we were concerned that that would have serious ramifications to
the film, but we decided we need to, you know, not interfere with an
ongoing potential murder trial.
You know, by withholding evidence. So we made the quick decision to
turn it over, and as it turns out, we navigated that and in fact, that
incident is in the film. But we felt very much so that it could shut the
I would like to think in 2015, remember, that was 1993, I would like
to think in 2015 if that meeting were to happen between HBO and ourselves
that we would all collectively come to the same decision. But I think
what`s been missing from this dialogue is – today – is that I think there
has been an ongoing erosion of the line between fiction and reality,
between investigation and entertainment.
And I get notes for the various networks that I work for all the time
about making it more entertaining. So, when we do – so when we do things
like selectively withhold information until the right dramatic moment, or
we do stylized recreations of incredibly painful events for those that
you`re recreating those events for, when you put yourself on camera as an
on-camera investigator, filmmaker, investigator, guilty as charged – these
are things that I think erode the sanctity of the journalism. I think
that`s where we`ve been heading, you know? I don`t know what the answer
I mean, again, “The Jinx” is an amazing piece of cinema and amazing
television moment and has had, you said your opening, it`s rare
documentarians can feel the direct impact of their work. So, it`s an
And yet I am concerned about, you know, where this blurring of the
line between fiction and entertainment, between, you know – there`s a fine
line between investigation and exploitation. There`s a fine line between
balanced journalism and trial by television.
BERLINGER: These are issues that I don`t have the answer to, but I
think this case has brought into – today`s events brought into focus.
MADDOW: Because of the way this has landed, the power of well-
produced documentary film to present an un-rebutted case.
MADDOW: You know? That is your view of the world and the facts as
you understand them as a filmmaker is a very, very powerful thing when
you`re dealing with live suspects and live cases, it`s daunting.
MADDOW: Well, it`s great to have you here.
BERLINGER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Joe Berlinger, “Paradise Lost” trilogy, which was, of course,
seminal in its own right. Even with that – even without considering its
effect on that real-life case.
Thanks for being here.
BERLINGER: Thank you. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. Lots still to come tonight, including a missing
corpse that everybody is happy about. Everybody is happy that it`s
And also some Debunktion Junction.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: John Kerry is not running for president. Is that true or is
MADDOW: True. John Kerry will not be running for president again any
time soon for sure. Here`s how we know.
That is Secretary of State John Kerry in Switzerland today unabashedly
wearing head to toe spandex and a bike helmet. Secretary of State Kerry
was spotted talking on his cell phone in Switzerland in the midst of high
stakes ongoing negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program. The
reason the secretary of state is walking strangely as he takes that call is
because those are not normal I`m secretary of state shoes he`s wearing.
Those are cycling shoes with the clips on the bottom which make you walk
weird when you`re off your bike.
Secretary Kerry stopped to take took that phone call in the middle of
what had been a bike ride through Switzerland today, shortly after meeting
with his Iranian counterpart for five hours. You can hear one reporter
yelled at him as he rode by, “Any closer to a deal, Mr. Secretary?”
See, as a presidential candidate you can`t do this. As secretary of
state, though, come on, who cares? You can go out in a helmet if you want
to. Even in Switzerland in front of reporters. Yes, I`m walking around in
my little clippy shoes for the whole world to see. I`m working here.
Stuff if it you can`t take the spandex.
See if anybody tries to tell you John Kerry might be running for
president again some day ever. Hereby debunk it with this video that
proves he never will. Slam dunk.
More debunktion ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: “Red Dawn” was a movie made in 1984 I think about World War
III. If you have not seen it and plan on watching it, you want to close
your eye and cover your ears but not really. You can figure it out.
“Red Dawn” is about the Soviet Union invading the United States and a
group of mighty teenagers bands together to save America from Soviet
occupation. Go, Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Gray, “Red Dawn”,
“Red Dawn” weirdly was the name of a U.S. military operation conducted
on December 13th, 2003, that resulted in the capture of Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein was found hiding underground in a village
outside his hometown of Tikrit. After he was taken into custody, he was
tried by an Iraqi tribunal. They convicted him of crimes against humanity.
They sentenced him to death by hanging.
Three years later, American troops handed him over to a newly trained
unit of the Iraqi national police. That unit took him to a small room that
had been set up just for that purpose. It was reportedly cold. It smelled
bad. His executioners wore black ski masks.
While everyone in the room prayed out loud right before the execution,
some of the guards started shouting Muqtada. Muqtada. Muqtada. As in
Muqtada al Sadr, the Shiite cleric who commanded a huge Shiite militias
implicated in some of the worst sectarian fighting in Iraq at the time.
The trial of Saddam Hussein was supposed to represent a new beginning
for Iraq, right? The newly formed Iraqi national police were supposed to
represent everyone in Iraq, but the Saddam execution was a sectarian
triumphalist horror show.
And now, as the Iraqi government, which, again, is supposed to stand
for everybody, as they are waging a battle to regain control of Tikrit,
Saddam`s hometown from ISIS, we`re learning that the lavish mausoleum that
housed the tomb of Saddam has been destroyed. This is “A.P.” footage from
south of Tikrit. It was the tomb of Saddam Hussein. It`s been completely
leveled and destroyed, as you can see here.
Reports are that it was intentionally destroyed by Shiite-backed
militias, who`ve been fighting alongside the Iraqi army in this offensive
against ISIS. One other video that was posted of the site recently shows
soldiers celebrating, directly addressing and taunting Saddam.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where can we fight you? Where are you, Saddam?
You coward! Where are you? Today is a day for mujahideen (fighters).
Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Firing into the rubble, revenge, revenge, revenge.
Saddam Hussein`s actual body is not there anymore. His actual body
was reportedly moved out of that mausoleum last year to an unknown
location. I wonder what would have happened to it by now had they left it
The forces spearheading the offensive in Tikrit comprise 3,000 Iraqi
government troops and about 20,000 Shiite militiamen, including members of
the Iranian revolutionary guard, and members of Muqtada al Sadr`s Brigade.
They`re all involved, which is very awkward for the United States of
America, because their side, the Muqtada al Sadr side, the Iranian
revolutionary guard side, the Shiite militia side, with a very small number
of Iraqi government troops, that is the side that we are technically also
on the side of in the fight against ISIS.
And they do not necessarily see this as a fight to defeat ISIS like we
do, but rather a centuries-long sectarian war in which this is just the
latest battle. This video today from the tomb of Saddam in Tikrit yet
another reminder of that.
MADDOW: Hoot, hoot, Debunktion Junction, what`s my function?
All right. First up, today, you may have seen new reporting about
David Petraeus, the best known American general of his generation. After
commanding the American war effort in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he was
serving as CIA director when he stepped down suddenly following revelations
that he`d had an extramarital affair. That same investigation that turned
up evidence of the affair also eventually turned up evidence that General
Petraeus had passed classified information to his mistress.
Well, two weeks ago, General Petraeus agreed to plead guilty to a
misdemeanor related to his handling of classified information. He lost a
security clearance. He`s going to have to pay a substantial fine. He`s
theoretically facing prison time although it looks like he`ll get
But still, General Petraeus to plead guilty. All that a surprise
today when it was reported General Petraeus, fresh off this planned guilty
plea is apparently back in D.C. consulting with the White House on the
fight against ISIS in Iraq?
That can`t be true, can it?
MADDOW: True. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed
that the today in his daily briefing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is regarded as an
expert in it comes to the security situation in Iraq. So I think it`s, it
makes a lot of sense for senior administration officials to on occasion
consult him for advice.
REPORTER: And any particular security precautions that you take on
this situation, given his legal entanglements?
EARNEST: Not that I`m aware of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not that I`m aware.
General Petraeus has just been stripped of his security clearance,
agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, potentially has to pay a $40,000
fine and maybe even go to jail. But in the meantime, he`s consulting with
White House on what to do in Iraq.
Are they letting him see classified information? That is a thing that
is happening right now in real life.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Next up, true or false, a New York congressional candidate is
campaigning for that seat in Congress by promising that he will not post
naked photos of himself online. Is that a real-life campaign pledge? True
MADDOW: Also true. Yes. His name is Daniel Donovan. He`s the New
York Republican congressional candidate campaigning on the pledge that he
is too old to know how to put a naked photograph of himself on the
New York congressmen have recently been plagued by a string of
embarrassing scandals. Shirtless craigslist hunk Chris Lee, nonconsensual
staff tickle monster, Eric Massa, naked texter Anthony Weiner, so this guy
is now running to join those dubious ranks and win the Michael Grimm seat.
And he`s campaigning on the promise that he`s too old to be too gross. And
I`m not paraphrasing the campaign pledge.
This is his quote directly to “The New York Observer”, quote, “I am
too old to know how to put a naked photograph of myself on the Internet.”
So, vote for me.
MADDOW: Best campaign t-shirts ever.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD”. Ari Melber is sitting in for
Good evening, Ari.
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