The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/12/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Presidential debates on Republican side have been kind of a headache
for Republican Party leaders this year. The party tried to take control of
the debate process this year, as compared to how it went in 2012, when
there was just willy-nilly debates all the time and the party had no say.
The party taking control of the process this year has had good points
and bad points. One of the bad points for the party is that it has led the
party`s own candidates to start attacking the party for how they`re handing
the debate issue.
The candidates have also, of course, feuded this year with the debate
moderators. Various campaigns have threatened to revolt over the various
formats in the debate. These formats that have been agreed to by the
Republican Party and the network.
Also, there`s the matter of who`s in them. From debate to debate to
debate, it really has not been clear which candidates would qualify for
either the main stage debate or for this weird innovation we`ve come up
with this year, which is the kids` table debate, the so-called undercard
debate. From debate to debate to debate, it`s never been clear, oftentimes
until the very last second, who gets in and who doesn`t.
But with all of that, with all of the consternation and criticism and
ad hoc suspense of this year`s debate process, there is one way in which
this Republican debate season has been a huge, unqualified success – and
that is the size of the audience. More people are watching this time
around than last time around by a mile.
The debate this week on the Fox Business Channel actually had the
weakest showing of all the debates so far this year, but it still got 13.5
million viewers. That is still nearly double the audience for the highest-
rated primary debate in the whole last election. The least-watched debate
this year is nearly double the most-watched debate from 2012. And the
most-watched debate for 2012 was on network TV. It wasn`t even on cable,
let alone a cable channel that a lot of people don`t have.
So, to the extent the Republicans want attention, to the extent the
Republicans wants an audience for their presidential candidate, boy, have
they got one this time around.
And so, obviously, it must be time to change everything. Members of
the RNC, the National Republican Party, met yesterday morning in Milwaukee
after the Fox Business debate to reportedly discuss changes in the criteria
by which candidates will make the debate or not make the debate. And
according to the conservative magazine, “The National Review,” what the RNC
is considering doing now, mid-stream in this remarkable and remarkably
popular debate season, what they`re considering doing is pretty radically
changing the cutoff for which candidates get allowed in to the debate.
So far in the last couple of debates, Republican candidates have
needed an average of at least 2.5 percent in recent national polls in order
to make it on to the main stage. Well, now, according to “The National
Review,” the RNC is having discussions about raising that cutoff from 2.5
percent to more like 4 percent or 5 percent.
Well, if that higher threshold would have been in place for this
week`s debate, neither John Kasich nor Rand Paul nor Carly Fiorina would
have made the main stage. Even Jeb Bush – if Jeb Bush had been roughly
half a point lower in his recent national polling average, under the new
cutoff that is reportedly being proposed by the RNC, even Jeb Bush would
have been in danger of getting kicked off the main stage.
At a 4 percent or 5 percent national polling cutoff, which is
reportedly what they are now considering, what the Republican Party is now
pushing for, Jeb Bush would have been really, really close to being shoved
down to the kids` table. Except one of the other things the Republican
Party is reportedly considering is getting rid of the kids` table.
So, the next Democratic debate is this Saturday, in Iowa. The next
Republican debate is not until next month, middle of next month, in Nevada.
But as yet, we have no idea what the criteria will be for Republican
candidates being eligible to get into the next debate. If they pick that 4
or 5 percent cutoff, it`s going to be a much smaller stagefull of main
The Republican Party held this closed-door meeting yesterday about
making the qualifying criteria that much more strict. So far, they`re not
saying what, if anything, was agreed to. And so far, we don`t know if the
campaigns are even going to give the party their blessing to proceed with
this new rather draconian plan.
So, I mean, with the giant Republican candidate field this year,
there are, undoubtedly, some unique challenges in terms of how to do this.
In terms of how to come up with a reasonable debate format. In terms of
how to include everybody and be fair. It is difficult this year. But it`s
also important to remember that there`s always some drama about who gets
into the debates and who doesn`t.
Last night, for example, we showed that incredible footage from 1980.
The Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush debate in 1980 that was supposed to be
just Bush and Reagan debating each other, but Ronald Reagan showed up,
inexplicably, with four other candidates and tried to cram them on to the
stage. There was a big fight about it and there was yelling and there was
the angry cutting off of people`s microphones and storming off the stage.
There`s always a fight about debates, right? There`s always
somebody. There`s always at least one, sometimes two, three, or four
candidates who feel wrongfully excluded from the debate stage. It always
Another example, the 2008 presidential race. In the 2008 Republican
primary, the guy who made the biggest public case that he had been wronged,
that he had been wrongfully excluded from the debates is a congressman you
may not recognize here, but you`ll probably remember his name. His name
was Duncan Hunter. They did let Congressman Duncan Hunter into some of the
early Republican debates in 2008.
But as that primary season ground on and it didn`t seem to be picking
up any extra support, they started not letting him in – and, boy, was he
mad about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The guy who
actually had some points on the scoreboard, that was myself, was not
allowed to attend the debates, because some knucklehead, arrogant executive
in the corporate media world of ABC and FOX News and some third or fourth
story glass office decided that I was – my campaign was over and the
lights were going to be shut out on my campaign.
So, against that backdrop, ABC and FOX have been asking us when I`m
going to quit. So here`s my answer. I`m not going to quit. I`m going to
(END VIDEO CLP)
MADDOW: Right after that, Duncan Hunter – he did quit. Less than
two weeks later.
But Duncan Hunter is now sort of barely remembered as a presidential
candidate at all. He`s remembered, instead, just as a long-serving member
of congress, from 1981 to 2008, there was a Republican congressman from
California named Duncan Hunter. The only reason that is ever confusing as
history is because now, today, there is also a Republican congressman from
California named Duncan Hunter, but he`s a totally different person than
the first guy.
When presidential candidate and longtime Congressman Duncan Hunter
finally decided to leave Congress in 2008, he bestowed his congressional
seat on his own son, to whom he had already given his name. And so, now,
it is Duncan Hunter Jr. who has his dad`s old seat in Congress.
And if Duncan Hunter Jr. is famous for anything, he is famous for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: I know that at least 10 ISIS
fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas.
There`s nobody –
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: How do you know that?
HUNTER: Because I`ve asked – because I`ve asked the border patrol,
VAN SUSTEREN: And the border patrol, they just let ISIS members come
across the border?
HUNTER: No, they caught them at the border. Therefore, we know that
ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or ten of them, you
know there`s going to be dozens more that did not get caught.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: My friend, Greta Van Susteren at FOX. We really are
friends. I`m not just saying that.
I mean, to her credit in that interview, she`s like, wait, wait,
wait, wait, what did you just said? Like, zipping right by there. Ten
ISIS fighters have been captured on the U.S. border? Seriously? We`ve got
10 ISIS guys in custody? What are you talking about?
This is kind of an amazing story, right? It`s kind of a big deal!
Where are we holding them? Are they being interrogated? Will there be a
statement from President Obama?
Will there be a statement from, you know, Baghdadi, the guy who runs
is? I mean, ten ISIS fighters captured on U.S. soil?! Now in American
custody, alive, here?
No! Ha-ha, of course not! Think of how big a deal that would be if
it were true. That`s not – the sort of the Department of Homeland
Security came out immediately and said, yes, right. Ixnay on the Duncan
What he`s talking about is totally not true. But it was interesting.
Duncan hunter, even after the Department of Homeland Security came out and
said, uh-uh, Duncan Hunter insisted that it was true. And the reason he
said it was true and he knew it was true is because he said he had secret
information. He had secret sources that he could not reveal, who told him
it was true.
Now, at the time when this happened, we contacted Congressman
Hunter`s office. And they refused to back down off this unbelievable
claim. They said they heard this earth-shattering information from a,
quote, “high-level source, someone who we have come to know and trust over
OK, we pushed a little further, asked for any documentation they
might have to support this claim, any evidence they might be able to show
us, so at least we could follow up on this massive national security story.
In response, they sent us a link to this adorable and misspelled blog post
on a right-wing website, which also cited unnamed sources as their
definitive proof that all these is fighters had been arrested crossing the
After we pestered Duncan Hunter`s office about it a little bit
further, they blew us off saying that Duncan Hunter would be releasing
additional information about this matter soon, very soon, and that
information would prove his point beyond a reasonable doubt. That was a
little bit more than a year now, that that has happened, a year ago. There
are no ISIS fighters in custody. The border patrol has not been arresting
ISIS fighters coming across the border from Mexico. It never happened.
Congressman Duncan Hunter never apologized. At one point, he even
started giving local media interviews to southern California TV stations,
denouncing the Department of Homeland Security for denying his story!
But that was last year. Serving member of the U.S. House, Duncan
Also last year, there was the Joni Ernst one. During her campaign
for a U.S. Senate seat in Iowa, Republican candidate Joni Ernst insisted
that she, too, had access to secret information which proved something that
you might not otherwise believe.
Here she was speaking with the “Des Moines Register” editorial board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONI ERNST (R-IOWA), THEN-SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I do have reason to
believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That was the
intelligence that was operated on. I was not at a level to question that.
REPORTER: Are you now? I mean –
ERNST: Again – I have reason to believe there was weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq.
REPORTER: What is that reason? What makes you –
ERNST: I will tell you, my husband served in Saudi Arabia, on Army
Central Command, sergeant major for a year. And that`s a hot-button topic
in that area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hot-button, to say the least. As a candidate for the United
States Senate last year, Joni Ernst insisted that despite what you might
have heard, despite what had been pretty thoroughly investigated, her
inside access to secret intelligence proved to her that there were weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq.
This “I have secret information” thing is one of the weirder ways to
try to get away with a lie as a politician. But it does happen every now
and again. And interestingly, it doesn`t seem to hurt these guys when they
I mean, Duncan Hunter, the junior, is still comfortable ensconced in
his dad`s seat in Congress. Joni Ernst went on to win the election to the
United States Senate and is now a serving U.S. senator from the state of
Iowa. They put her on the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland
Security Committee where all her secret personal intelligence is presumably
being put to good use.
The question, though, is whether the “I have access to secret
intelligence” lie works not just at a congressional level and not just at a
U.S. Senate level, but whether it works also at the presidential level,
because now we are having a very, very over-the-top test of that in this
area`s presidential race. And that`s next.
MADDOW: So the presidential race has just been ever so slightly
upended by one leading candidate claiming to have personal secret
information that nobody else has about a very big national security issue.
And in real life, the top military adviser to the secretary of defense, a
three-star general, was just suddenly and mysteriously fired tonight in
Washington and nobody saw it coming before it happened. We`ve got both of
those stories, straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His relationships go way,
way, way back, you know? 1968 at Patrice Lumumba University, that`s when
Putin first got to know the Ali Khamenei. And also, Mahmoud Abbas. And
all of these relationships are very, very complex.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So it started last month when Republican presidential front-
runner Ben Carson let loose a knowledge bomb on FOX News, in which he said,
oh, my God, Vladimir Putin and the supreme leader of Iran and the guy from
the Palestinian authority, they were kind of college roommates.
And Ben Carson didn`t just accidentally blurt this out once while
playing world leaders names refrigerator poetry on FOX. He said it at
least five times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: In the class of 1968 at Patrice Lumumba University in
Moscow, Mahmoud Abbas was one of the members of that class and so was
Khamenei, Ali Khamenei. They were classmates. And that`s when they first
established relationships with a young Vladimir Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Abbas from the Palestinian
Authority, the supreme leader of Iran, they were basically frat brothers.
All at college together in Moscow at the same time, which is either Patrice
Lumumba University or Patrice La Bumba University, depending on which time
he was talking about it.
Really, Ben Carson?
No, no. There`s no evidence outside of Ben Carson that that is true.
But when he kept saying it over and over again, people started to wonder
where he got the information from. And Ben Carson finally got pinned down
on the matter by the Christian Broadcasting Network. He told CBN that he
had some slam-the-door-shut proof for them to shut down all follow-up
He told CBN this, quote, “Dr. Carson would not disclose his sources,
but told CBN he learned about the ties between leaders from advisers.” He
said the connection helps to explain what is currently happening around the
world. He told CNB, quote, “That`s what I call wisdom.”
Dr. Carson also went on after refusing to name his sources to assure
CBN that there was more secret intelligence where this came from. Quote,
“There`s a lot more information that I`ve gotten that is probably not
appropriate for revelation.” That was last month.
Now, in this week`s debate, Ben Carson has done it again. His answer
to a fairly open-ended question on national security got a bunch of
attention for being a little hard-to-follow, a little vague. But there was
one part of that answer which was very, very specific, and has now led to
further revelations of Ben Carson`s secret and mysterious sources of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: Do you support the president`s decision to now put 50
Special Ops forces in Syria and leave 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan?
CARSON: Well, putting the special ops people in there is better than
not having them there. Because they – that`s why they`re called Special
Ops. They`re actually able to guide some of the other things that we`re
doing there. And what we have to recognize is that Putin is trying to
really spread his influence throughout the Middle East.
This is going to be his base. And we have to oppose him there, in an
effective way. We also must recognize that it`s a very complex place. You
know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Dr. Carson has a soft-spoken, sort of soft-riffic,
monotone way of speaking which sometimes makes it hard to follow what he`s
saying. But the part about the Chinese being in Syria – “We must also
recognize it`s a very complex place, you know, the Chinese are there, as
well as the Russians.” The Chinese are in Syria? What is that about?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: On that foreign policy thread, some questions have been
raised about your suggestion last night that China is involved in Syria.
Can you clarify that?
CARSON: Well, China has been trying to extend its influence, not
only throughout the Middle East, but throughout Africa and in several
locations, and their interests extends into that region as well. You know,
I have to refer you to some other people to get you the actual data, but
they`ve shown it to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: They have shown it to you. Who is “they”?
Dr. Carson did make his top staffer available to MSNBC to explain the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: You said the country that is not on the
ground in Syria is in Syria. I understand what you`re saying with the
brevity of time, but Dr. Carson said that the Chinese were – are in Syria,
which is not accurate.
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, CARSON BUSINESS MANAGER (via telephone): Well,
Tamron, from your perspective and what most people know, maybe that is
inaccurate, but from my intelligence and what Dr. Carson`s been told by
people on the ground involved in that area of the world, it has been told
to him many times over and over that the Chinese are there. But as far as
our intelligence and the briefings that Dr. Carson`s been in, and I`ve
certainly been in with him, he`s certainly been told that the Chinese are
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “As far as our intelligence.”
Republican presidential front-runner Ben Carson and his campaign say
that the source of his claim that the Chinese are operating militarily in
Syria is Dr. Ben Carson`s own secret intelligence that he cannot divulge,
but that he swears is true. And because he is the Republican presidential
front-runner right now, or at least he shares that title with Donald Trump,
the issue of Ben Carson`s secret intelligence ended up getting raised today
with the actual national security adviser to the United States in the
actual White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Ben Carson in the debate regarding Syria says that there`s
evidence that the Chinese are involved in Syria. I was wondering if that`s
SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What did he mean by
REPORTER: Well, a little unclear, but it was in the context of the
Russians, the Russians and the Chinese –
RICE: I can`t – I really can`t speak to what he was referring to,
but, you know, unless you`re talking about having a diplomatic presence,
I`m not sure what he was referring to.
REPORTER: Military involvement was the implication.
RICE: I have not seen any evidence of Chinese military involvement
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Slightest smile there.
I mean, that said, why would the White House and President Obama and
President Obama`s national security adviser, Susan Rice, have access to the
kind of high-level secret on the ground intelligence that Ben Carson has
And – so, on the one level, this is kind of funny. I mean, this
sort of thing may happen on both sides of the aisle. I only know of it
happening recently on the Republican side of the aisle, where in the wake
of the Bush/Cheney administration, foreign policy chops have not been
highly developed. It`s not been an in-demand part of the Republican
But getting away with this stuff and it not hurting you in Congress,
Duncan Hunter. And it not hurting you in the Senate, Joni Ernst. And it
maybe not hurting your presidential campaign, Ben Carson, we`ll see. On
one level, that is hilarious.
At another level, it is unnerving, to hear from somebody who might be
the Republican Party`s nominee for president of the United States, at a
time where our country is involved in a whole lot of war. As the war in
Afghanistan steams into its 15th year now, today President Obama bestowed
the nation`s military honor, the Medal of Honor, on the tenth living
recipient of that award who earned the medal while fighting the long, long
U.S. war in Afghanistan.
The U.S. military is also carrying out not just airstrikes, but also
certain levels of ground combat, both in Iraq and in Syria, in a not
imaginary fight against ISIS, that is being waged very far away from Duncan
Hunter`s district or the U.S./Mexico border.
Today, it was front page news across the country, when Kurdish
fighters in Iraq launched one of the biggest military operations yet
against ISIS. This is in northern Iraq. It`s long a key contested supply
line route between the city of Mosul and the Syrian border.
And as the White House continues to expand the U.S. military
involvement in Iraq and Syria and Congress studiously avoid taking any kind
of debate to avoid that military mission, now there`s surprise news tonight
that a very senior U.S. military officer operating at the highest level of
policymaking on defense matters has mysteriously been removed from his
post. This is a three-star general.
He`s the top military assistant to the U.S. defense secretary, Ash
Carter, and he was removed from that position by the defense secretary
after unspecified allegations of misconduct. Defense Secretary Ash Carter
says he has referred the matter to the inspector general of the Defense
Department. The general is not being fired from the army at this point,
but he is being removed fl this high-ranking position as the defense
secretary`s top military adviser.
And although there have been scattered hearsay reports about what
that might be about, at this point, at least at this point in unofficial
terms, we have no idea. And we are left with this gaping and sort of
unnerving chasm between the level of seriousness in our politics about
national security matters and the serious of the national security
challenges that our country is waging in day-to-day sort of way.
Joining us now is Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer.
Courtney, thank you for being here tonight. Nice to have you here.
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY PRODUCER: Thank you for
MADDOW: There`s this breaking news out of the Pentagon about the
defense secretary and the firing of his senior military assistant, who`s a
lieutenant general. Do we know yet what happened there?
KUBE: We don`t – so far, a senior defense official tells us that
there were some allegations of some sort of inappropriate personal
relationship engaged in by Lieutenant General Ron Lewis. General Lewis is
well-known around the Pentagon. He actually was the head of army public
affairs until just earlier this year.
So, the Pentagon press corps had a lot of interaction with him. We
know him very well. He`s also known – he`s very well respected. He
skyrocketed up from a colonel in `06 to a three-star in literally a matter
of months, in just over a year.
KUBE: Yes. And, of course, there`s no set amount of time that an
officer would go, you know, is promoted through the ranks. But to go from
a colonel to a three-star in such a short amount of time is remarkable.
So, he`s very well respected. I can tell you as someone who`s known
him for some time, it`s very surprising news to hear this. And as you
mentioned, you know, he`s still going to be working in the Pentagon. He`s
been assigned to the vice chief of staff of the army, General Allen, while
the Department of Defense inspector a general conducts an investigation to
look into these allegations.
It all just came to light in the last 48 hours. Secretary Carter
just found out about it Tuesday night.
MADDOW: That was going to be my follow-up question to you. This
isn`t something that has been brewing for a while about which there were
sort of rumors and we were expecting something to happen. This really did
just come up very quickly out of nowhere?
KUBE: No. There are rampant rumors throughout the Pentagon about
all things. And I can tell you, as a member of the Pentagon press corps,
we were very surprised to hear this, this evening.
MADDOW: Courtney, on the situation in northern Iraq right now, the
area around Mt. Sinjar is the site of renewed and as far as we can tell,
very large-scale fighting between Iraqi Kurdish fighters and ISIS. How big
of an engagement is that and do we expect any involvement there?
KUBE: The U.S. has already been involved. The whole operation began
with U.S. coalition primarily U.S. airstrikes that really pounded in and
around Sinjar overnight, as about 7,500 Kurdish special forces, Peshmerga,
and some Yazidi fighters descended on the town to try to take it back.
It`s all about this critical supply route that flows between Raqqa in
Syria and into Mosul. Sinjar literally lies right in between those two
cities. And ISIS is able to bring weapons, fighters, money, oil, illicit
oil. They were able to bring it back and forth, and use Sinjar as this hub
or this stopping point in between.
So, of course, it`s within the coalition and the Iraqi security
forces, the Peshmerga, the Kurds, especially, it`s in their best interests
to take back this city. Sinjar came to light about a year ago, where there
was this huge humanitarian crisis, where there were reports of thousands of
Yazidis who had been chased up the Sinjar Mountain by ISIS and it`s what
got the U.S. involved in air strikes there in Iraq.
MADDOW: Courtney Kube, NBC News national security producer – thank
you for helping us understand that, Courtney. It`s good to have you here.
KUBE: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
It is remarkable when you contrast the level of complexity and our
sort of expectations of the quality of the discourse around national
security and our politics. And the national security challenges that we`ve
got – their complexity, the rapidity with which they arrive, their
unpredictable nature. If there could be a better balance between what
we`re facing and how we face it, we would be much better off as a country.
All right. We have a guest tonight that is really, truly plucked
from the headlines. She did not set out to become a face of the Interwebs
right now, but there she is. She is going to tell us her story here live
tonight. Sort of cannot wait for this.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: A quick update tonight on the last governor`s race that will
take place in the country this year. It`s the runoff election for the
governor`s race next weekend in Louisiana. Two new polls out today show
Republican Senator David Vitter way behind in that race. One of the polls
is by a firm called Market Research. We couldn`t validate their
methodology. They show David Vitter trailing by 14 points for what that`s
But there`s another poll out from the University of New Orleans.
They`re showing their work and their bottom-line result is that David
Vitter is trailing Democratic state lawmaker John Bel Edwards by 22 points.
This is a red state, but the Republican candidate`s behind by 22 points.
And look at this. Look at his numbers specifically with African-
American voters in Louisiana. David Vitter is behind among black voters in
his state 90-5. That is not a typo.
And that comes as David Vitter has been making an appeal to black
voters in his state. He made a stop yesterday at Southern University,
which is an historically black college in Baton Rouge. Senator Vitter was
asked while he was there about a controversial campaign ad he`s run this
year, in which he accuses his Democratic opponent of wanting to release
dangerous thugs from prison into Louisiana.
Here`s how that went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MODERATOR: When you hear the word thug, we hear the word (AUDIO
DELETED). Do you understand by your administration, by your campaign
releasing that commercial that is highly offensive to African-Americans?
SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: I absolutely stand by it because I
don`t think it should be offensive. (INAUDIBLE) Why don`t you read what
the word means, because there`s no racial connotation at all?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: David Vitter yesterday at Southern University telling the
African-American audience there that they should go read the dictionary.
Did I mention he`s losing the black vote in his state, 90-5?
Early voting has already started in Louisiana and this is a deep,
deep red state, but you know what? Anything`s possible.
MADDOW: OK. You have seen this Vine online. Tell me you have seen
This is a Donald Trump rally this week in Illinois and that is a
young woman in the background of this Donald Trump rally who was staging a
most unexpected and possibly quite brilliant form of political protest, at
a Donald Trump rally, and it has sort of captured the Internet.
That young woman who pulled that off this week, who has become sort
of anonymously famous for having done so. As a result, she`s actually
going to be here tonight. She`s my guest tonight for “The Interview.” I
cannot wait to talk to her. That`s coming up.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. This is something we don`t usually do, but I think it
is worth doing. So, this is a story of two things happening at once. One
of the things that`s happening is that Donald Trump, for months, has been
the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president. Now, he`s
the front-runner alongside Ben Carson. But for months, he was the stand-
alone front-runner by a mile.
And, I think it is inarguable to say that his campaign has been
remarkably racially charged. He wants to build a wall around the country.
He has embellished the usual anti-immigration Republican policy rhetoric
with his own repeated ad hominem characterizations of what Americans should
think about Mexicans in particular.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They`re bringing drugs,
they`re bringing crime, they`re rapists and some I assume are good people.
Some are good and some are rapists and some are killers. If you look
at the statistics of people coming – I didn`t say about Mexican – I say
the illegal immigrants. You look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on
everything coming in illegally into this country, they`re mind boggling.
Somebody`s doing the raping, Don. I mean, you know, it`s – I mean,
somebody`s doing – women being raped, well, who`s doing the raping?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s not all, but that has kind of been the tone of Mr.
Trump`s campaign. And that kind of tone has, I think, led to some real
ugliness around his campaign and his campaign events, including some
incidents involving his own supporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are very rude. It`s not about you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not about –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of my country. Get out –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not – I`m a U.S. citizen, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, whatever. No, Univision, no, it`s not
about you –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not about you. It`s about the United
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, OK, I said there are two things going on here. That`s
one thing that`s going on. That is the front running Republican
presidential campaign this year.
Mr. Trump has been more or less steadily leading in the polls with
that kind of a campaign since around the Fourth of July. So that`s one
thing going on. And now, here`s a totally different thing that has also
been going on. This is something that you never hear talked about on cable
news, you`ve never heard me talk about it before, but bear with me here, I
promise it pays off.
A couple of years ago, a fairly well-known professor of poetry,
professor from Pomona College, started publishing some sort of experimental
new work in literary magazines. I don`t know exactly how that world works,
but from what I understand, it`s not that unusual.
That an established poet will publish individual new poems here and
there in various outlets before they publish a whole new book of poems.
And when Claudia Rankine started doing that, when she started publishing
her new work here and there a couple of years ago, it made a splash. It
was kind of a literary sensation.
She is an established artist, she`s an established poet, but she was
doing something sort of experimental that was having a big effect. It was
really smacking people hard. It was getting a lot of attention and
ultimately, a lot of praise. And the subject of this new work that she had
started publishing was race. It was everyday experiences of racism in the
And by the time Claudia Rankine was ready to publish those poems as a
book, University of Massachusetts poetry professor Jill McDonough, who`s a
good friend of mine, who I talked to about this, I asked her about what the
impact was of that book and how big a deal Claudia Rankine`s book,
“Citizen”, was in the poetry and the literary world. Jill`s
characterization, to me, was that Claudia Rankine`s new book, “Citizen,”
when it was due to come out, it was the most highly anticipated book of
American poetry in years. And there is an easy way to check this,
interestingly enough, but there`s also a pretty good chance this was the
best-selling book of new American poetry also in years.
So, in that world, it`s a big deal. And so that book, this book,
“Citizen” by Claudia Rankine, it came out in October of last year and has
this haunting image on the cover, a disembodied black hoodie, just the
And the book really is a sensation. It`s a finalist for the National
Book Award. It wins the National Book Critic Circle Award in Poetry. So,
I told you these two stories would come together.
Here is where they come together. A few days ago, President Obama
Donald Trump held one of his rallies in Springfield, Illinois. It was a
fairly typical Donald Trump presidential rally, even down to the point
where there was a fairly typical Donald Trump rally protest in the crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But, you know, what`s going to happen is Mexico is going to
pay for the wall. I will tell you right now, they`re going to pay for the
wall, because they`ve been doing a number on us. Their leaders are much
smarter, much more cunning than our leaders. Our leaders don`t have a
clue. They do not have a clue. And they`re really far more cunning –
TRUMP: Get out of here!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that happened fairly early on at this fairly typical
Donald Trump rally in Springfield, Illinois, on Monday.
But people watching this event at home, people watching the feed of
this event started to notice something else that was a little bit unusual
about this event. There was a tight little group of people sitting right
behind Donald Trump on stage, who were not necessarily reacting like all
the other excited Donald Trump fans at the event.
And then people watching started to notice this one very poised young
woman, who was calmly reading, flipping pages in a book that she was
reading, right behind Mr. Trump as he continued with his speech.
Who is this woman? What`s going on here?
Some Donald Trump fans, at one point, interceded with her, and there
was an interaction or two, that didn`t look all that pleasant. They
ultimately roped in another person sitting near them to start complaining
about this young woman. But she stuck with it. Sometimes watching what
Donald Trump was doing, but mostly reading, mostly reading, right behind
And by this point, people had had started to notice online, and
Donald Trump`s speech goes on and on and on, and she`s starting to become
Internet legend, as the Donald Trump page turner.
And then the Donald Trump rally in Illinois, it ends, and the Donald
Trump supporters leap to their feet and they`re clapping and waving their
political signs. And then she`s still there, too, but she`s waving that
book. She`s waving Claudia Rankine`s book of poems. She`s waving that
book about how racism works now in everyday ways in our country.
And now, from that not quite a protest, just that unbowable presence,
that young woman has become kind of a literary touchstone for these two
stories coming together, these worlds colliding. And not just worlds
colliding accidentally, but this young woman, bringing about that collision
herself, quietly, on purpose, in a way that drove people absolutely nuts.
Who is she?
Well, she joins us now for “The Interview.” The young woman who was
captured on camera behind Mr. Trump reading Claudia Rankine`s book,
“Citizen,” Johari Osayi Idusuyi.
Ms. Idusuyi, thank you very much for being here. It`s real pleasure
to have you here.
JOHARI OSAYI IDUSUYI, HELD UP “CITIZEN” BOOK AT TRUMP EVENT: Hi.
IDUSUYI: It`s good to hear your voice.
MADDOW: Thank you. It`s nice to see you and –
IDUSUYI: I wish I could see your beautiful –
MADDOW: I should tell you, we have a little bit of a delay because
of the satellite feed, which is often awkward, but just tell me the story
of how this happened. How did you end up at a Donald Trump campaign event,
especially sitting right behind him?
IDUSUYI: My friend left the day before, Gabby Chavez, said she had
some extra tickets and tickets. And her friend bailed on her so she had
six extra tickets, so it was the two of us. I was like – well, I guess
I`m not doing anything else.
And I looked at it as an opportunity. I mean, it is a presidential
candidate. And he is a well respected businessman, so why not? Why not
go? Why not experience something that`s free in my hometown, if I have
nothing else to do.
And if I leave, at least I have a good story out of it, you know? I
did come – we did come, my friends came with an open mind. We were – we
had low expectations, but we still wanted to see maybe the media is just
blowing him out of proportion, may he was something valid, something of
substance and that`s how I ended up there.
MADDOW: In terms of the book you were seen so visibly reading there.
Was that intentional? Did you bring it as an intentional object? Did you
mean to have Claudia Rankine`s book there and is that what you put together
there in a conscious way?
IDUSUYI: It was a book – I saw Claudia Rankine about two weeks ago
in Chicago at an event, I think, it was at the museum of – Contemporary
Art Museum. And it was called “Citizens” and it was her reading her poetry
and other artists talking about what it means to be citizen and an
American, how the experience differs for each person. And that was a
powerful event. That`s how I got the book. I had read her poetry online
and saw her videos on YouTube.
But someone had an extra copy and I wanted the signature. I got the
book from there. And I was reading it. I – we got there two hours before
the event started, and I decided that I want some books to read, you know,
to pass the time. I just want to stay in my seat. And that was one of the
books that I brought.
And I was actually reading it before the cameras, before the event
started. So it was actually something that I brought to pass the time,
before Donald came on.
MADDOW: And when you had that interaction that we`ve shown tonight,
between the people who were nearby you who seemed confrontational or
annoyed with you or something. What was going on there? And how did you
feel about that?
IDUSUYI: I feel like they felt like I was disrespectful for reading
during the rally. But there was a shifting point that you showed with the
protesters and the supporters.
And there`s an aggression. I don`t know if everyone saw it, but
there was a small aggression of a young woman who was a protester. She was
16 years old. And a man took off her favorite Obama hat and threw it out
in the crowd which was cheering.
And me and my three friends were disgusted, because, yes, protesters
have every right to protest. If they`re going to be escorted out, let them
be escorted out, but they don`t have to be disrespected. Not by you.
And to kind of, like, explain that, the kind of get out of here, was
like – I mean, Bernie Sanders invited the Black Lives Matter protesters on
stage. And if you`re going to – if that`s your opponent and you`re trying
to make a point and you`re trying to make me someone who`s trying to have
an open mind gain vote, that`s not one way to do it.
So, I was more disgusted by his supporters and how it just kind of he
let it happen and kind of egged it on. Because also, there was an incident
in Florida where his supporters were violently – his protesters, I`m
sorry, were violently dragged out of one of his rallies. And Incidents
like that are bullying and they`re not needed and they shouldn`t be
So, I was 30 minutes into the speech and I was like, OK, I came here
because I wanted to see, I wanted to see this man and I wanted to try to
have an open opinion about him. And after I saw those incidents, I felt
uninterested. And I didn`t feel like this is what I`m looking for and I
MADDOW: Johari –
IDUSUYI: Disappointed a little bit in – yes, yes.
MADDOW: Johari Osayi Idusuyi, I do see your willingness to – I`m
sorry, with the delay, it`s very awkward. I was going to tell you your
willingness to show that feeling even when other people tried to interrupt
you out of it received a lot of attention because of its boldness, and
hearing from you what was going on there and why you did it and how it
worked for you is very helpful to understand what you`re doing.
So, I want to thank you for being here with us tonight. Thank you
for being willing to talk with us about it.
IDUSUYI: Thank you so much. I can`t wait to see your face on TV.
MADDOW: Thank you. You look great. It`s great to have you here,
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This was you in the 1962.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who is that
handsome young guy with the dark hair?
(END VIDEI CLIP)
MADDOW: Controversy. That was from our First in the South
Democratic Candidates Forum last Friday in South Carolina. You might
remember I asked Bernie Sanders about this photo which he described and I
described as being from his day as a student activist at the University of
Chicago in the 1960s.
Tonight, there`s mystery about whether the person in that photo
actually is Bernie Sanders. “Time” magazine spoke with four alumni from
the University of Chicago who said the guy in the photo is actually another
organizer named Bruce Rappaport. They say Bernie was there and he was
involved in the activism at that time, but they think the University of
Chicago has misidentified the man in that photo.
The university`s photo archives does caption the man in that photo as
Bernie Sanders. They do now say they`re reviewing it. A spokesman for the
Bernie Sanders campaign tells us tonight, quote, “The university archives
has identified it as a picture of Bernie for 50 years or so now. The photo
sure looks a lot like Bernie, in fact, Bernie thinks it`s Bernie. If the
university changes its mind after half a century and decides that somehow
someone back when the photo was taken misidentified a student in one photo
in its archives collection, then we will live with that.”
Controversy. Stick a pin in that one. We will eventually sort that
one out together. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH
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