The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/23/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us at this hour.
The Website Gawker is occasionally really quite profane. Gawker is
known, for example, for posting celebrity sex tapes. Gawker also
occasionally breaks real news, as they did with this story that they did on
the shirtless Craigslist ads which resulted in a married family values New
York Republican resigning from the United States Congress.
Gawker also occasionally breaks big news as they did with this dump
of photos, photos of the security contractors who were charged with
guarding the U.S. embassy in Kabul. They were guarding the embassy in
Kabul until this story came out and these photos were posted on Gawker at
which point they weren`t in charge of guarding that embassy anymore.
So, the Website Gawker is often profane. It is occasionally great.
And it is, frankly, the kind of online news outlet that occasionally will
stop you in your tracks.
Today, Gawker stopped me in my tracks when they ran a short feature
story, mostly pictures, but a feature story on a statue – a really,
really, really big statue in Nashville, Tennessee.
Now, I have been to Nashville. I`ve been to Nashville more than a
few times. I can never remember seeing this statue, though, or maybe if I
did my brain went into “save yourself” mode and erased it from my memory.
This is a terrifying thing. It`s 25 feet tall. It`s a bunch of
different colors. Look at the eyes. Terrifying blue marble eyes.
And look at the teeth. This thing has a mouth like a circular saw.
Look at those chompers. Terrifying, right?
It looks a little bit like – I know what you`re thinking – it
looks a little bit like Scary Lucy, that bronze statue that was supposed to
be Lucille Ball in her hometown and then the locals asked the nice artist
who made it to please take it down because it was scaring the children.
Looks a little bit like Scary Lucy. But I think Nashville one is
even more viscerally terrifying. And that`s in part because it `s 25 feet
tall and it apparently looms over Interstate 65 with those terrifying blue
marble eyes and those chomper teeth.
But it`s also scary because of what it is. What it depicts. What it
James Earl Ray is the man who shot and killed Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr., in April 1968. He was King`s assassin. James Earl Ray fled the scene
after the killing. He actually got over the border into Canada. Once he
was in Canada, he got a fake passport somehow, he eventually flowed the
United Kingdom. But a couple months after he shot King, they finally
picked him up in London England. They caught him out for the fake
passport, and he was extradited from the U.K. back to the United States
for-to-face trial for killing Martin Luther King.
And in 1969, a little bit less than a year after the killing, James
Earl Ray was convicted.
Now, ultimately, he pled guilty to that crime but for a while, for a
long while, actually, he and his attorney – his attorney was a guy named
Jack Kershaw – he and his attorney put forward that theory that James Earl
Ray didn`t actually kill Martin Luther King. They put forward this theory
that said that James Earl Ray was actually just the fall guy for the crime
and actually the guy who killed Martin Luther King was a man named Raul.
Even years after James Earl Ray went to prison, even after James Earl
Ray once escaped from prison for a few days before she was recaptured, Jack
Kershaw, James Earl Ray`s attorney, kept going on and on and on about this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TV ANCHOR: James Earl Ray is in solitary at Brushy Mountain Prison
in Tennessee. The last of the five men who broke out within last Friday
night was caught this morning.
And today, Ray`s lawyer was on hand, so is Eric Burns to report on
what the lawyer had to say about his client.
ERIC BURNS, NBC NEWS: This is Jack Kershaw. He`s James Earl Ray`s
attorney and he talked to Ray this morning. He told reporters that Ray is
OK physically, exhausted mentally, and sorry he tried to escape.
And, he said, there was no conspiracy to help Ray escape.
JACK KERSHAW, ATTORNEY: I think we can discount the outside help
business now. If there`d been outside help, that have been some sort of –
something in the backyard or something.
REPORTER: Did he plan the escape?
REPORTER: Who did?
KERSHAW: I don`t know.
BURNS: Ray refused to talk to these investigators for the House
Assassinations Committee today, but he will talk to them later, Kershaw
Kershaw also says he has a picture of the man named Raul. According
to Ray, Raul was the brains behind the plot to kill Martin Luther King.
Kershaw says that he will show this picture some time in the next two
months after he has asked the court for a new trial for his client.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that was the defense attorney`s defense. That was the
attorney`s defense for the man who killed Martin Luther King. He said it
wasn`t my client, James Earl Ray, even though he went to prison for this.
He didn`t actually do it. It was really some guy name Raul.
And there really wasn`t much more to it than that. He just asserted
that was Raul in the picture. That brilliant “it was Raul” defense did not
fly and James Earl Ray never got out again, either legally or by escaping.
And he died in prison in 1998.
But the attorney, the guy who represented James Earl Ray and came up
with the Raul defense, he, Jack Kershaw, lived out his days as an ardent
proselytizing segregationist. Jack Kershaw was in the White Citizens
Council. He was in the League of the South. He was an unrepentant
And he was also an amateur and terrible sculptor. James Earl Ray`s
attorney is the guy who made this. This absolutely terrifying 25-foot tall
fiberglass sculpture that looms over interstate 65 in Nashville, Tennessee.
The defense attorney for the man who assassinated Martin Luther King
made this thing, and even though the statue does look a little like scary
Lucille Ball, who it actually depicts is Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first
grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, sometimes credited as being the founder
of the Ku Klux Klan.
Nathan Bedford Forrest was also a high ranking general in the
Confederacy and this statue along I-65 in Tennessee is supposed to inspire
you to revere him.
Now, to help with that, just in case any of this isn`t clear enough,
the statue is surrounded by, I think, I`m counting 13 Confederate flags on
giant flagpoles. So, that`s very subtle. Welcome to Nashville.
Today, in the wake of the massacre of African-American churchgoers in
Charleston, South Carolina, last week, today, a Democratic candidate for
mayor of Nashville proposed that the city of Nashville might try to do
something about this giant founder of the Klan sculpture wrapped in
Confederate flags that they`ve got on the side of the interstate heading
into town. Today, Nashville City Councilor Megan Barry suggested maybe the
city or the state could put up, I don`t know, trees or shrubs or something
to try to block the view of this thing at least.
Now, the trick here is that this thing is on private land. It`s on
land owned by one of Jack Kershaw`s friends. And today, that friend who
owns the land on which that sculpture sits, he told Nashville public radio,
basically, bring it on.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL DORRIS: I`ve got some 1,800-foot flagpoles. I could put them
up starting tomorrow. And they`re going to have to build a helluva wall
and a helluva bunch of trees to block all that.
Slavery was the first form of social security. If you stop and think
about it a minute, it was a cradle-to-grave proposition. They never had it
so good as far as job security to begin with. It wasn`t the best of job
security but it had benefits.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the man who hosts the giant Klansman Confederate flag
private memorial along Interstate 65 in Tennessee.
Interestingly, when you ask him about the quality of the sculpture
itself, he admits that the statue is terrible. He admits that Jack Kershaw
was not a good sculptor. But he says he wants to keep that Klan sculpture
up there and he says he`ll fight to keep it, specifically because he
believes in the Confederacy.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DORRIS: As an artist, mediocre. As a thinker, he was way ahead of a
lot of people in his time. Jack got some materials that I used to make
bathtubs with and he started with a butcher knife. That`s the end result
that you see throughout right now.
REPORTER: To a lot of people, this monument is a symbol of racism.
DORRIS: Any monument is a symbol of racism is if you are going to
make it a symbol of racism. Now I`ve been accused of being racist. If I
was racist, why have I got so many blacks working for me? I still consider
this the sixth-largest nation in the world, the Confederate States of
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Confederate States of America.
So, congratulations, Tennessee, you now have this to deal with. I
mean, all Klan statues and Confederate flag displays are to some degree
terrifying, that`s kind of the idea of them. This one is slightly more
terrifying than usual because of the quality of the sculpture. Oh, my God!
Gawker`s headline on this today was perfect. “Alarming statue of a
racist and horse perfectly honors the Confederacy.” Perfect.
Well, Tennessee now has that alarming statue to contend with anew, in
the wake of Charleston. But that one`s on private land, so they`re up
against the guy who still believes he`s living the Confederacy, knows what
he`s up against and wants to fight for it.
And here`s the one that`s on public land. This one is also in
Tennessee. This is the bust of the same Nathan Bedford Forrest which
stands not on some private land somewhere but on the grounds of the
Tennessee state capital. This Nathan Bedford Forrest statue is four feet
tall. It`s been there since the 1970s.
Tennessee`s Republican Governor Bill Haslam said today that he now
wants this Nathan Bedford Forrest bust taken out of the Tennessee state
Now, it`s interesting. There was a law passed in Tennessee in 2013
that makes it almost impossible to remove Confederate monuments in
Tennessee when people object to them. Because of that new law passed by
Tennessee Republicans in 2013, it`s going to be hard to remove that founder
of the Klan bust from the Tennessee state capital.
But the Republican governor of the state now says he will support any
effort to do that. Governor Bill Haslam also now says he wants to state of
Tennessee to stop issuing Confederate flag license plates.
That actually shouldn`t be hard at all. Virginia Governor Terry
McAuliffe today just ordered the state of Virginia to stop issuing
Confederate flag license plates. He cited last week`s Supreme Court
decision which allowed the Texas state government to deny requests for
Confederate flag specialty plates. As the Democratic governor of Virginia
today, Terry McAuliffe just ordered it, ordered the state Transportation
Department to stop issuing these places and to issue replacement plates to
anybody in Virginia who has one on their car.
I have no idea what is going to happen when 1,677 Virginia vehicle
owners who paid for Confederate flag license plates and have them on their
cars now, I have no idea what will happen when they get their replacement
plates in the mail without the Confederate flag on them. But apparently in
Virginia that`s about to happen.
In North Carolina, Republican Governor Pat McCrory says he wants the
legislature to get rid of the Confederate flag license plate in North
Carolina. It looks like he could do that himself if he wanted to, thanks
to that Supreme Court rule, at least as far as I understand it and based on
extrapolating from the Terry McAuliffe experience in Virginia.
But in North Carolina, Pat McCrory says he wants the legislature to
do it instead of him doing it himself. In Kentucky, the Republican
candidate for governor of Kentucky has called for the statue of Jefferson
Davis, president of the Confederacy, to be removed from the Kentucky state
In Alabama, the state legislator who sponsored legislation to take
the Confederate flag down from the capitol dome in the 1990s has introduced
further legislation today to take the Confederate flag off the Confederate
memorial that`s on the state grounds, too.
That, of course, is the same fight that`s unfolding with lightning
speed in South Carolina right now. There are some really interesting
developments on that which we`re going to get to later on in this hour.
But overall, we are at a really amazing inflection point right now.
Like, even just in this 24 hours of this news cycle, right? Where this
stuff going go – I mean, it looks like there`s so much momentum to pitch
all of this stuff, maybe all this stuff is going to get pitched.
But maybe it`s not. Maybe it`s going to be proposed that it be pitch
and it sticks around despite this flurry of new discussion, despite this
outpouring of purported new understanding of the power and pain of these
symbols after the massacre in Charleston.
But, you know, it`s not a done deal and it`s not clear it will be a
done deal any time soon.
For example, in Georgia. Republican Governor Nathan Deal in Georgia,
he was asked today about the Confederate flag license plate in his state.
Unlike all the other governors in the Deep South states today that said
maybe there`s some way these things can be taken care of, maybe this thing
should be gotten rid of, today, Nathan Deal in Georgia says he, quote,
“doesn`t have a problem it with.”
And Georgia has got an interesting history around these things in
terms of state symbols. Before 1956, this had been the flag of the state
of Georgia. But in 1956, after Brown v. Board, right, in the throes of the
civil rights movement, Georgia in 1956 changed its flag from that one to
this one. Subtle, right?
It`s not like that had been their flag since the civil war. They put
the Confederate flag on the Georgia state flag in 1956, in the 1950s
specifically to stand for segregation, to stand against civil rights for
black people. 1956 they did that.
Georgia eventually had to change that. It took forever. It took
decades. It took a couple of false starts. It took a bunch of politicians
losing their jobs.
But Georgia eventually got themselves a normal flag again in 2003.
They dropped the Confederate flag one in 2003.
But when it comes to dropping the Confederate flag license plate,
Republican Governor Nathan Deal today says he isn`t ready for that.
Doesn`t see the need, like to keep the Confederate flag license plate in
Georgia. He`s OK with it.
So, we`re experiencing this rush now, right? This kind of rush to
make up for lost time. This rush to at least propose getting rid of the
similar bombs of white supremacy that we have let linger in our country for
a long time now.
In the past 24 hours, this has taken a very fast corporate turn as
well. Walmart, Sears, Kmart, eBay, Amazon, Etsy – all saying they would
stop selling Confederate flag stuff.
But, you know, as that happened, people also started buying the
Confederate flag like it was going out of style because maybe it is. Sales
soaring. Thousands of percent on Confederate flag merchandise before these
retailers stop selling them. Get them while they`re hot.
And governors like Georgia`s Nathan Deal said, no, actually, we`ll
keep our Confederate flags on our license plates.
And in the state, the one state that still has the Confederate emblem
on its official state flag, in that state, the leading conservative
political figures in the state starting feeling a little shy today about
changing anything, started to say, hmm, maybe they`re going to keep their
Confederate symbol, even on the state flag.
I mean, what we are living through right now is at least on the
surface, we`re having this sort of lightning fast recalibration of what`s
OK and what`s not OK when it comes to overt racism. And the overt symbols
of the white supremacist movement past and present.
What we`re dealing with right now is a sort of a recalibration, a new
reckoning of what`s OK and what`s not OK on private land and on public land
and as government speech and in American politics and in conservative
politics specifically, we are experiencing a moment of really fast movement
right now. But that does not mean we are experiencing a new consensus.
What has just started here is a fight, and it is unpredictable as to
how it`s going to turn out. But the fight is on.
MADDOW: Some big news tonight out of D.C. and the 2016 Republican
field which took kind of a weird turn today. We also have here for the
interview tonight the legendary activist Myrlie Evers, the widow of Medgar
Evers. That is still ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: God bless Haley Barbour.
We spent a long time on this show last talking about the former
Mississippi governor, former Republican Party chairman and his rosy
recollections about the good work in his Mississippi hometown of a white
supremacist group from the 1950s.
That same group in its new white supremacist forum appears to have
been the group that inspired the shooter in the Charleston massacre last
Well, today Haley Barbour gave his opinion about the Mississippi
state flag. That`s the only state flag in the country that features the
Confederate emblem right on it. The Republican speaker of the House in
Mississippi says the state of Mississippi should get rid of this flag,
should get rid of the Confederate emblem on its flag.
But when former Governor Haley Barbour was asked about it today he
said he is personally not offended by the Confederate flag or at least by
the Confederate emblem on the Mississippi flag. He says it doesn`t bother
He added today, quote, “While I was governor of Mississippi,
Mississippi became the only state in the country to use state money,
taxpayer money, to build a civil right`s museum.” Expecting that museum to
open in 2017.
Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour says he`s not offended by
his state`s partly Confederate flag but he is very proud of its civil
rights museum that`s due to open in the next couple of years. Already they
have been collecting artifacts for it like, for example, the papers of
Medgar Evers the first leader of the Mississippi NAACP. Medgar Evers
took on that exceedingly dangerous mission, boycotting local businesses,
organizing sit-ins, investigating civil rights murders like the killing of
a young Emmett Till.
In the middle of that work, Medgar Evers was murdered. In 1963, he
was shot to death outside his family home with his wife and kids crouched
for their own safety on the floor of that home. It took more than 30 years
for them to convict the man who murdered Medgar Evers.
In the meantime, his wife and children followed the many tens and
hundreds of thousands of African-Americans who fled the South and who fled
Mississippi in particular.
His widow, Myrlie Evers, became a respected voice for equality in her
own right and although she stayed away from Mississippi for a long time, a
couple of years ago she moved back. Myrlie Evers became a visiting scholar
at a local black university in Mississippi. She also, you may remember,
deliver the invocation at President Obama`s second inauguration.
And she has helped put together the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum
which will house not just the papers of her late husband, those papers
which she donated. That museum will also house the gun that was used to
end his life.
In 2013, Myrlie Evers spoke at the groundbreaking for that civil
rights museum. But look at what else happened at that event. Not at the
time she was speaking when she was just listening to what else was going on
that day. You can see it – look at this photo. You can see the current
governor, Phil Bryant, speaking at the podium and way back there in the
other part of the picture there, that`s Myrlie Evers, the woman they call
the permanent first lady of Mississippi.
But covering her, obscuring her with its golden fringe is the
Mississippi state flag with the giant Confederate emblem right up there in
the upper left hand quadrant.
What must it be like to be Myrlie Evers sitting on that stage within
that Confederate flag flying over the proceedings? And now, today, with
these new and newly urgent calls for Mississippi to finally get rid of that
flag, what must it like to be her of all people today.
Joining us now for the interview is Myrlie Evers. She`s chairman of
the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute.
We`re also joined by Gerry Mitchell, who`s also an esteemed
investigative reporter from the “Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger”.
Thank you for being here tonight. It`s real honor to have you both
GERRY MITCHELL, JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI CLARION-LEDGER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Ms. Evers, I`ll start with you, ma`am, if you don`t mind.
What do you make of this change going on in your state now where
there`s suddenly all this new information for changing the flag and getting
rid of that Confederate emblem?
MYRLIE EVERS, MEDGAR & MYRLIE EVERS INSTITUTE CHAIRMAN: Well, quite
honestly, I was surprised that the leaders of Mississippi made the
statements that they did, the willingness to remove that flag.
I think it goes on to say in a sense that change can happen at any
time, at any place. I was surprised. I`m still surprised. But it really
depends on what happens after that. And what is happening today.
And I`m deeply afraid that we are still as a country mired in
prejudice and racism, and I think the incidents that have happened over the
last few days point exactly to that. It`s unnerving to have to think back
and relive all of the pain and the suffering, not only of my family but of
so many other families. Not only in Mississippi, throughout the South and
actually throughout the nation.
And I have to ask the question, really, how far have we come? That
was the question that was asked years ago, how far?
It`s still a point that needs to be honestly explored and answered
and I must say to you that I am so disturbed by what has been happening in
these last few days.
And I`m horrified, horrified, at the fact that one of the largest
newspapers in this country, “The Wall Street Journal,” had a series of
articles and those articles each time called that young man who killed the
people in the church “mister”. They addressed him as “mister” throughout
that article and they have done it again and again.
And we are looking at a paper that impacts millions of people, not
only here but across the country as well. I`m horrified with it. I`m
angry with it because people don`t realize what one subtle thing can do to
take us back years, to roll back all of the advances that we have made and
I think I have kind of set myself up as a person to critique those things
and I must admit I am still angry.
I could not say that a couple of weeks ago, but I can say it today
honestly. And that`s why I work so heart to try to see that justice
prevail, not only as it did in my husband`s death, and I`m sitting next to
a dear different, Jerry Mitchell, who worked endlessly with me to see that
justice prevail. And it took years for it to happen.
So, people say to me, well, now, aren`t you satisfied with the
progress we`ve made? And my answer is “absolutely no”, because we still
have so much to do to correct the ills of our society.
MADDOW: Ms. Evers, I want to direct one question to Mr. Mitchell
who`s there with you, Jerry Mitchell from the “Clarion Ledger.”
Jerry, when you look at these calls being made in Mississippi, in
particular from Republican leadership in the state legislature that the
Confederate emblem should go from the flag, does that – does that make it
seem to you like there`s enough momentum that it might happen? That that
major change might happen in the state or do you feel like this is a long
fight that`s just at the beginning that still has an unpredictable outcome?
MITCHELL: It`s a little early to be able to tell. I think as Ms.
Evers has mentioned, we`ve had some indications that – I didn`t anticipate
this to be honest with you, even in the wake of Charleston that certain
leaders would step up in Mississippi, Republican leaders and say this is
the first statewide Republican leaders that I`m aware of who`ve actually
stood up and called for this. There have been others, you know, not in
But yes, it`s early and we just got to see how this all kind of
shakes out. You know, after – you know, this is two or three or four
months later when the legislature comes back to meet, which will be in
January, unless there`s a special session, how will they feel then? Will
there still be this momentum to really try and fix it? But it is a
The other thing that`s kind of interesting detail on this to me is
those that have called for interestingly have invoked their faith. I find
that interesting that those who have called for the change of the flag,
almost every one of them, has invoked their faith, saying, you know,
because of my faith, I really believe this is an emblem that needs to come
MADDOW: Ms. Evers, I just wanted to ask you one question that maybe
you are more qualified to answer than almost anybody else I can think of
and I`m thinking about the families of those people who died in the church
in Charleston right now, they`re seeing the deaths of their family members
and their loved ones become a catalyst, potentially, for a significant
change throughout the South, and throughout parts of the whole country –
the idea that major change comes from personal tragedy, from murder and
It`s one thing to see it from the outside. It`s another thing from
the family members of the people who are lost to experience that, too. Do
you have any advice or any insight for them in terms of how to manage what
they`re in the middle of now?
EVERS: You know, I have nothing but admiration and respect for those
family members who have been impacted by this dastardly deed. I had to ask
myself the question, could I have done the same thing?
I`m afraid not. I have to admit that. I was angry, hurt,
revengeful. So many other things that are kind of on the negative side of
this. But we saw Medgar Evers shot down at our doorstep, and three little
children watching their father die, the long fight that Jerry Mitchell and
I had to see that justice prevailed.
How many trials, Jerry, were there?
EVERS: Three. I have found that I still have bitterness. I`m not
proud of it, but it`s a fact and that`s one of the reasons I have worked so
hard and in so many arenas to try to see justice prevail. As I recall in
the `90s, when churches were being burned, particularly in North Carolina,
South Carolina, I was at that time head of the NAACP, and we went from one
community to another looking at the ashes of those churches that had been
I have nothing but admiration, love, and hope for the people who
suffered the loss of their friends and relatives at this shootout and how
they have come together and how they have prayed for those who hurt them.
I don`t think I`m that strong. After all of these years, I have
tried to move forward in which I have, but I have just been so incensed
with these last couple of days of how the media, particularly “The Wall
Street Journal,” has handled this. It`s a slap to everyone who has given
one way or the other in the movement.
And I might add, the president of the United States had every right
to use the word that he used in his speech today, I believe it was.
So, you know, we go through these changes, we hope for the best, we
continue to work. We see the buildings being torn down, we see our young
people in the street going wild. There has to be a better way.
And I have to say to myself – back off from the anger and continue
to work for peace and understanding.
MADDOW: Myrlie Evers, a true life civil rights hero, reporter Jerry
Mitchell of the “Jackson Clarion-Ledger” – it`s a real honor having you
both here tonight. Thank you both so much for your time. Thank you.
EVERS: Thank you.
MITCHELL: Thank you very much.
MADDOW: All right. We got lots more to come tonight. Please do
stay with us.
MADDOW: Today was a day that ends in Y, so that means there was the
usual amount of drama in Congress, including the very controversial trade
bill which passed the Senate today.
There was also a different kind of drama in Congress today in two
One was this moment of silence on the house floor for the victims of
the mass shooting at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston last week.
Members of South Carolina congressional delegation, including the state`s
two senators stood in the well of the House for that moment of silence as
each of the victims` names was read. This happened just a little earlier
The other thing that happened today that was dramatic – on its face,
it was sort of a logistical decision, but it was also very moving one. It
turns out the House is not going to be in session this coming Friday. It
was going to be, but they have canceled everything for Friday, specifically
so members of Congress can travel to Charleston to attend the funeral
services of the people killed in Charleston last week.
We know that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice
President Biden are going to be going there for the funerals, which is sort
of amazing. But it turns out there`s one major problem with that. And
MADDOW: Just a little more than two weeks ago that President Obama
did something that he has not done a lot of as president. It was earlier
this month when President Obama decided that he would deliver the eulogy at
the funeral for Beau Biden, Vice President Joe Biden`s oldest son who
passed away after a battle with brain cancer.
The president`s eulogy was a very emotional thing. The president
teared up at one point during the eulogy. He had a long embrace for Vice
President Biden when it was done.
President Obama has not delivered a lot of eulogies during his time
as president, but he is now about to deliver his second one in the span of
just a few weeks. President Obama is expected to personally deliver the
eulogy this Friday for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who is one of the
nine people killed inside the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston last
A funeral for Reverend Pinckney is going to be held at a giant venue
in Charleston, it`s the TD Arena in Charleston. It seats about 5,000
people. They`re expecting a huge turnout for this funeral on Friday.
But here`s an issue with that particular spot being the venue for
this particular funeral. That arena is the arena at the College of
Charleston. That`s where the College of Charleston basketball team plays
This is the president of the College of Charleston, a gentleman named
Glenn McConnell. Glenn McConnell has been president for less than a year.
The picture is his official head shot as college president.
But here`s another more well-known picture of him. That`s also Glenn
McConnell playing the part of a white Confederate general at a slave-themed
This picture was taken in 2010 at an event he attended that was
hosted by a Republican women`s group. Glenn McConnell, now president of
the College of Charleston, also in his spare time dresses up as a
Confederate soldier, that`s his hobby.
Here`s another picture. This is Glenn McConnell in 1999 proudly
posing in front of about – just about every sort of Confederate flag you
Glenn McConnell used to be the lieutenant governor of South Carolina,
seriously. But now, he is president of the college where President Obama
is expected to speak at this funeral on Friday. The place where he`s set
to deliver the official eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney.
There`s nothing honestly to be done about that. That is where this
funeral is going to be. That`s South Carolina.
But they are trying to do something about this, which is about the
government of the state of South Carolina. This is the Confederate flag
that currently flies at the state capital grounds in Columbia, South
Carolina. This flag has been either in this location at a Confederate
memorial or atop the capital dome for the last five decades. It`s remained
there through every controversy that`s swirled around it until now.
Yesterday, the governor of South Carolina and nearly every other top
political leader in the state finally called on the state legislature to
act to remove that flag from the capital grounds. Today, the legislature
did act. Both the South Carolina House and Senate voted to start debating
whether and how to remove that Confederate battle flag from the state
capital grounds finally after all these decades.
This political process has happened fast. The vote to take up this
issue was overwhelming in both chambers. “The Post and Courier” newspaper
has a whip count going about where each member of the legislature stands on
the Confederate flag. It`s going to take a two-thirds vote in each chamber
to get it done.
This is where things stand right now. The green bar represents the
number of legislators in favor of taking down the flag. The dotted line
there is the level they need to get to in order to secure a two-thirds
vote. So, it`s close but they`re not there yet.
As fast as this happening, though, there is one very, very important
way in which it is not happening fast enough. That is because tomorrow,
inside the state capital, ahead of the funeral, there`s going to be a
public viewing for one of the victims in that mass shooting. There`s going
to be a viewing at the capital rotunda for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney.
He was a beloved member of the South Carolina State Senate. He`s going to
lie in state at the capital rotunda as the Confederate flag flies outside.
I said the viewing was going to take place Thursday. It`s now
actually happening tomorrow. But Reverend Pinckney`s body is going to be
taken in a horse-drawn caisson from the funeral home to the state capitol
grounds tomorrow afternoon. His casket will lie in state under the capitol
The public and his former colleagues in the legislature will line up
to pay their respects. That viewing is set to begin at 1:00 tomorrow
afternoon. And what that means is his body and those who are coming to
honor him will first have to pass by that Confederate flag which still
tonight remains on the capitol grounds.
This vote today in South Carolina was a vote to debate whether or not
to take that flag down, but the actual vote to remove it won`t happen until
sometime this summer, if at all. So, unless, they come up with some other
accommodation specifically for tomorrow, 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, 1:00 p.m.,
that flag will be flying on the state capital grounds as the Reverend
Clementa Pinckney lies in state a short distance below it, which would be
There may yet be some accommodation, though. This is not something
being talked about widely yet, but we have looked into this in some detail
and we believe there may be an arcane but very specific solution to this
mess. That`s next.
MADDOW: We`ve got some new and rather surprising 2016 news ahead,
and next on the show, we`ve got what I think could be a solution to a
really sort of disgusting problem that is otherwise about to happen
tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. at the state capital in South Carolina. That`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is a really specific point but I think it`s an
important one. There`s a law on the books in South Carolina that dictates
how the state`s various flags should be handled, specifically the flags
that fly on the capital grounds.
This is that specific section of that law. It specifies that just
the U.S. flag and South Carolina state flag may fly atop the capital dome.
But then it goes in to great detail about the location of the Confederate
flag that also flies at the state capital complex, although no longer on
the dome. That flag, of course, is at the center of controversy right now,
not only whether it should be at the capital grounds at all, but whether it
should be there tomorrow specifically, while the body of state senator
Clementa Pinckney lies in state under the capital rotunda.
There will be a public viewing tomorrow for Reverend Pinckney
tomorrow afternoon at the state capital at the rotunda. But that means his
body and those that want to come honor him after he was murdered in
Charleston last week will have to first possess past the Confederate flag.
That will the situation as of 1:00 p.m. tomorrow in South Carolina, unless
some other accommodation can be made to remove that flag somehow tomorrow.
And that`s where the state law comes in. There`s a provision in the
law that says these flags at the state capital can be removed at
appropriate intervals as maybe necessary due to where. Due to where?
Everything needs a little maintenance, a little laundering now and then.
Does this one provision in the Confederate flag law mean that
Governor Nikki Haley or some state official could call for that specific
flag be removed tomorrow, maybe even just temporarily in order to deal with
the normal wear and tear that that flag has endured and in order to keep
the flag of the Confederacy from flying over the body of a man who was
murdered last week for a white supremacist who says he did it in the name
of that flag.
Joining us is Representative Todd Rutherford, who is the top Democrat
in the South Carolina legislature.
Sir, thank you very much for being with us tonight. It`s nice to see
STATE REP. TODD RUTHERFORD (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you for having
MADDOW: First of all, let me ask you about what happened today in
the legislature. There was an overwhelming vote taken in both house of the
legislature, as I understand it, to at least take up the issue of the flag
on the capital grounds.
RUTHERFORD: That`s correct. In the Senate, they did it by voice
vote. In the House, we had 100 members, blacks and whites vote together to
say that we are going to take you have the flag debate. Last night, I told
your viewers, in fact, that we would begin two or three weeks from now.
I`m told now that we will begin even sooner than that, maybe as soon
as next Tuesday, depending on when the governor`s vetoes are announced.
MADDOW: That`s fast.
RUTHERFORD: That`s fast.
MADDOW: Next Tuesday, however, is still many days after Senator
Clementa Pinckney, or Reverend Clementa Pinckney killed in Charleston last
week, after he is due to lie in state tomorrow at the capital.
The reason I raised this issue of this specific statute that concerns
ways that flags can be taken down at the capital and still stay within the
letter of the law is because it seems to me that it is – forgive me –
morally intolerable for him to lie in state beneath that flag. Do you
think that`s a possible loophole that could solve that problem?
RUTHERFORD: Well, you know, when I was on the state house grounds
today, I noticed the flag looked a little peeked. Some of the color looked
like it was wearing off.
So, I certainly did bring that to the attention of the governor and I
hope that she noticed it as well, and maybe takes the time to take it down,
because as you stated, it is abhorrent that the flag will be at full mast,
when the U.S. flag is at half mast, when the South Carolina flag is at half
mast, when the U.S. flags at half mast all around this country, but that
flag at full mast. If the U.S. flag is bowed, if the Stars and Stripes are
bowed, then why shouldn`t the Confederate flag be bowed or removed at a
minimum when Senator Pinckney`s body is going to lay in state, and lay in
the rotunda, at the state house?
MADDOW: Do you think there would be a backlash, do you think there
would be upset if it was brought down just for those few hours during that
ceremony for him tomorrow?
RUTHERFORD: Those people that have told you and many others that
they support this flag because of its heritage, even those people should
recognize if it`s heritage and not hate, then it should be removed during
the course of a funeral. I don`t know why we haven`t heard overwhelming
calls from those flag supporters to come out and say, the flag needs to be
taken down during the funeral. I don`t know where they are. And I`d ask
them, where are you? Why are you not coming forward saying that that flag
needs to be removed?
If the governor was to take the flag down because as I stated, it did
look like it need to be replaced, by the time anybody said anything, they
could replace it while Senator Pinckney was being buried in Charleston.
Again, he was killed by a man done under the colors of that flag. At some
point, justice has to be served and that flag needs to be removed.
MADDOW: Representative Todd Rutherford, top Democrat in the South
Carolina State Legislature – thank you for your time tonight, sir. Thank
RUTHERFORD: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. More news still to come tonight. Please stay
MADDOW: This we now know is the signature of a man named Donald
Trump, who apparently resides at 725 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York.
Yesterday, Mr. Trump of that address actually went through with it
and filed his FEC paperwork to run for president officially. Now, you
know, in case you thought it was a fantastic dream – no, there it is.
When Mr. Trump declared last week that he was running, he became the
12th major Republican to enter the race. The next one is going to jump in
And that is Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, who holds the
distinction of not only being unlucky number 13 into this race, he also has
the numerological distinction of having the worst approval rating of any
governor in the nation. Bobby Jindal is viewed positively by 27 percent of
the people in his home state, which is the worst with approval rating for
any governor in the country.
But, we also know now that Bobby Jindal will be followed in though
the race for the presidency by the governor who has the second worst
approval rating of any governor in the nation after him, and that is New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Bobby Jindal has 27 percent approval
rating. Chris Christie had 30 percent approval rating. They`re the worst
two in the country.
We do now, though, get to put dotted lines around Chris Christie`s
adorable mug on our candidates` chart, because the Christie camp now says
he will run announce his run for the candidacy by the end of this month.
And that sounds like it`s a long ways away, but it isn`t. That means he`s
going to be in for the race for the presidency by a week from today.
And with Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie getting in now, getting in
now within the next week, that means the total number of candidates in the
Republican field for the presidency is 4,602. Not exactly. I`m rounding
up to the nearest 4,602, because it is easier than actually counting them
one by one.
Trump officially yesterday, Jindal tomorrow and Christie within the
next week – and then your mother-in-law.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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