The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 03/25/15
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: We`ve got more on that story coming up right now live
on THE LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST, THE LAST WORD: Good evening, Rachel, thanks.
We`re going to pick up all of those breaking news stories and a couple more
MADDOW: OK, thank you –
O`DONNELL: Thanks Rachel. As Rachel said, we do have major breaking news
on two fronts tonight. The “New York Times” is reporting a shocking new
development from the voice recorder of the German Airliner that crashed in
the French Alps.
And war is spreading tonight in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia launching
military attacks against rebel forces in Yemen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The voices recorded in the cockpit on a damaged black
box are been analyzed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the plane`s fatal eight-minute descent, one of
the pilots was locked out of the cockpit. And you can hear he is trying to
smash the door down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have what is already a horrific tragedy and makes
it just that more – much more awful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army sergeant rescued in that
surprise prisoner swap with the Taliban, charged tonight with desertion by
the U.S. Military.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bergdahl also faces a second more serious charge of
endangering his fellow soldiers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the frat members at the center of the
controversy is going to give his first public comments.
LEVI PETITT, STUDENT: The words that were said in that chant were mean,
hateful and racist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Levi Petitt stood surrounded by African-American civic
PETITT: I`ll be deeply sorry and deeply ashamed of what I`ve done for the
rest of my life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeb Bush has stressed, he didn`t defend it from his
JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I love my brother, but I`m my own man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, there`s one Texas-sized exception.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, he will appear with the former president to
raise money in Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a very difficult balance that he`s tried to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obamacare gets its annual physical.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Coverage is up, lives have
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President marked the fifth anniversary of his
OBAMA: We have been promised a lot of things these past five years that
didn`t turn out to be the case – death panels.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Death panels to boot.
OBAMA: A serious alternative from Republicans in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Tonight, the “New York Times” is reporting that one of the
pilots on Germanwings Flight 9525 left the cockpit before the plane`s
descent and was unable to get back in.
The “Times” quotes a senior military official saying the plane`s voice
recorder revealed a very smooth, very cool conversation between the pilots
during the early part of the flight, from Barcelona to Dusseldorf.
Then the audio indicated that one of the pilots left the cockpit and could
not re-enter. The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there
is no answer, the investigators said.
And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. And there is never an
answer. He said, you can hear he is trying to smash the door down.
We don`t yet know the reason why one of the guys went out, said the
official, who requested anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
But what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is
alone and does not open the door. Joining me now near the crash site in
France is “Nbc`s” Claudio Lavanga.
Claudio, do you think that this report by the “New York Times” tonight will
put pressure on the French authorities tomorrow to reveal more of what they
know about what`s on that voice recorder?
CLAUDIO LAVANGA, NBC NEWS: Well, Lawrence, it certainly will, especially
after today`s press conference from the aviation authority.
Where they said that they didn`t have that audio file extracted from the
black box, but all they said was that, they could hear the voices in the
cockpit, they could hear the sound, but they have to interpret them.
And so it will take a number of days and weeks. Now, that sounded a bit
weird at that time, but now that this scenario has been revealed by the
“New York Times”, of course, it`s not confirmed yet, and let me stress
that, well, that it all becomes a lot more clear.
Because obviously there are more questions that are arising from that
scenario if that is true, why did the second pilot lock himself in, or even
if the door automatically closed as it does happen.
Why did he not respond? Why did he not open it? Was he unconscious? Was he
conscious? Did he do it deliberately?
These are a whole bunch of questions that the aviation authorities here
will have to answer if this report is confirmed tomorrow morning.
O`DONNELL: Claudio, do you know of anything that would prevent the
authorities from revealing what they know about the medical histories of
the pilots, and if there are any medical conditions that either one of them
might have had that could be relevant?
LAVANGA: Well, they haven`t revealed even the names of the pilots, so they
haven`t revealed of course the medical history of them.
The reason why they`re not doing that is that, obviously if they do believe
that there is some kind of criminal investigation going on, they will have
to go deep into that story before they reveal any details.
Now the fact that these intelligence source or this military source that is
some kind – in some kind linked to that investigation that they revealed
and leaked that information to the “New York Times”, did reveal that, it
means that people from within that investigative board believe that this
information needs to come out.
Well, obviously, we`ll have to wait until tomorrow, we`ll have to wait
until what the aviation authorities are going to say about that report.
And hopefully by then, they will then give out a lot more information on
what really happened on that flight, on what really happened in that
O`DONNELL: Claudio, now that we know they have obviously information from
the voice recorder, what about the flight data recorder? What is the latest
in the search for that?
LAVANGA: That hasn`t been found yet. That`s the second black box, is the
flight data recorder that contains all the statistics about the technical
statistics about the flight, and the altitude and the speed.
From the time it took off to the time it crashed, well, that hasn`t been
located yet, today, Francois Hollande; the President of France was here,
said that they found the framing but not the black box.
So, hopefully, that will be found out soon.
O`DONNELL: Claudio, thank you for doing extra late duty again tonight in
France, really appreciate it, thanks for joining us.
We`re joined now by Robert Hager, a former “Nbc News” aviation
correspondent, and also Kitty Higgins, a former National Transportation and
Safety Board member.
And joining us by phone is Greg Feith, an “Nbc News” aviation analyst and a
former NTSB investigator. Robert Hager, your reaction to tonight`s
ROBERT HAGER, FORMER NBC NEWS AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, I`ll tell you,
Lawrence, I just think this is a major development. With the caveat that
Claudio mentioned in that, so far this is a “New York Times” report.
It sounds like it`s single source, so you got to be very careful. But
meanwhile, it begins to be one of the first things that makes any sense in
this whole – this whole crash.
Is call a spade a spade. The implication here is that if one pilot left
the cockpit for whatever reason, and the other pilot then locked him out,
wouldn`t let him back in, the implication is that – the scenario would be
that this pilot who is now piloting the plane alone in the cockpit takes
the plane in intentionally.
I wondered why authorities ruled out the possibility of foul play so early,
because it seemed like that certainly is one thing that should be looked
Well, as I say, this is – it`s a single source so far, and you got to be
really careful with how you handle the information. But that`s the
implication of what we`re looking at here in this report.
O`DONNELL: And Kitty Higgins, the alternative explanation is that the
pilot who remained in the cockpit was somehow physically disabled and
incapable of opening that door.
What could possibly create that kind of scenario?
KITTY HIGGINS, FORMER MEMBER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION AND SAFETY BOARD:
Well, a medical condition of some kind, a medical emergency. But the piece
of the puzzle that I think we need to focus on here is that the plane
Either he was flying the plane and stair-stepped it down at the 4,000 foot
– feet a minute rate, or he set the autopilot for that. We don`t know
It will be now more important than ever that we get the flight data
recorder, because that will show us or tell us when the autopilot was set
and where was – who set it?
Whether it was set from the pilot`s side of the plane or from the co-
pilot`s side of the plane.
O`DONNELL: And Greg Feith, how – what is – what is the likelihood of
this plane being put into that descent accidentally? What scenario could
have given us an accidental descent like that?
GREG FEITH, AVIATION ANALYST, NBC NEWS & FORMER SENIOR AIR SAFETY
INVESTIGATOR: There is no real scenario, it`s a very prescribed descent
rate; 3,500 to 4,000 feet per minute, the speed looks the same across the
It`s a pretty consistent descent track. The fact that this airplane didn`t
stair-step down, it was on a continuous descent path, that was programmed
into the flight management system.
If the pilot was incapacitated that remained in the cockpit, then the door
should have been accessible to the pilot on the outside.
There are protocols for access and entry through that cockpit door. And
while the pilot in the cockpit can control in various levels, the security
of that door, under normal conditions, there was another alternate means of
access to get in.
So it would take a deliberate act to implement that extra level of security
to prevent anybody from getting any access into the cockpit.
O`DONNELL: And Robert Hager, in the United States, the protocol is that
you`re never to leave a pilot alone in the cockpit in that situation.
Isn`t that the protocol here?
HAGER: I tell you what? I wouldn`t be sure of that, I just don`t know
that, to tell you the truth.
O`DONNELL: Kitty Higgins, that`s what we`ve been hearing tonight –
HIGGINS: Lawrence, I actually –
O`DONNELL: Go ahead –
HIGGINS: I had that same question because it`s being asked. I checked
with a colleague who was a U.S. Air pilot, and he said post 9/11 that, in
fact, in the U.S. airline industry, the flight attendant will go into the
cockpit, as he said, not to babysit the other pilot.
But to – when the door is closed and the pilot who is left wants to re-
enter, it should – an added level of safety to be able to look through the
security peephole and make sure that it is in fact the pilot who left, who
is wanting to re-enter the cockpit.
So in fact, that is the procedure here, apparently it`s not necessarily the
procedure in Europe.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and Greg Feith, the questions tonight that are coming up
is, on the assumption that there`s no willful act here involved, but
there`s actually some kind of medical incapacitation.
People are asking how – what precautions could be taken to make this
impossible? One of them would be what Kitty was just talking about, is that
there`ll be someone else in that cockpit at all times.
FEITH: Well, typically, I mean that`s what we implemented here in the
United States. The rest of the world doesn`t necessarily follow our lead.
Whether it`s with a fortified door, because there`s a lot of airlines that
don`t have fortified doors. There are cameras that can be installed at the
cockpit door, it`s an option on many airplanes and many airlines don`t
exercise that option.
So there`s a lot of protocols, safety protocols that could be implemented.
This particular event may speed that up, just like what we saw with MH-370
in that worldwide tracking of airplanes.
Unfortunately, it takes an event like this to get people to recognize,
heighten their awareness and get the regulators off that center in trying
to implement a universal regulation.
O`DONNELL: Robert Hager, talk about the dynamics between reporters
covering these kinds of stories and the investigative officials, especially
in a situation like this tonight, where the “New York Times” has as you
said, a single source with some very powerful information about what`s on
the flight voice recorder.
What do you expect in the next 24 hours in terms of the dynamics between
the media and the officials in France about what they – what the officials
then become willing to release?
Does it – does this put pressure on them to release more information about
what they know is on that voice recorder?
HAGER: Well, reporters, now that this is out there, it`s red meat there
for reporters. And they will surely be demanding more information.
But whether that influences the investigators or not is another question.
This is Europe, it`s very bureaucratic, and it may cause them to be even
more careful about everything they say.
I presume that, well, all this information is coming from the first part of
the cockpit voice recorder that they`ve listened to so far. And they may
say they want to study it more carefully before they give us some of these
Even though some of it appears to have leaked out now.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to take a break there, Kitty Higgins and Greg
Feith, thanks for joining me tonight, we will have more on that plane crash
Up next, we`ll be joined by pilots to get their reaction to tonight`s
breaking news. And just hours ago, Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes in
neighboring Yemen to drive back rebel forces from the capital city.
And one of the fraternity members caught singing a racist chant on video a
couple of weeks ago held a press conference today and apologized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yet, hey Mike, I want to – Mike, I`m going to tell
you, it`s continuous strike there, it`s actually moving a little bit south,
it`s about on the main street now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: You`re looking at video shot earlier tonight from a news
helicopter over Moore, Oklahoma. The flashes of light are the explosions
of power transformers after one tornado touched down in Moore tonight.
You may recall Moore was hit with an EF-5 tornado, the strongest on the
scale in 2013, that tornado killed 24 people. Officials say multiple
tornadoes have touched down across Oklahoma and Arkansas tonight.
The National Weather Service is also reporting golf sized – golf ball-
sized hail and wind gusts above 70 miles per hour south of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
At least one person died in a mobile home in the Tulsa area according to
police. We`ll be right back.
O`DONNELL: We have more on the breaking news tonight about the German
Airliner crash. The report from the “New York Times” that one of the
pilots left the cockpit and could not get back in the cockpit as the plane
started to descend.
According to the “Times,” the plane`s voice recorder revealed, “the guy
outside is knocking lightly on the door and there is no answer”, according
to an investigator.
And then the investigator says “he hits the door stronger and no answer,
there is never an answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door
Joining me now Michael Kay, a pilot and a former senior British officer and
military strategist, and Anthony Roman, former commercial pilot. Michael,
your reaction to the developments tonight?
MICHAEL KAY, PILOT: Well, just going back to the – to the question on the
protocols for leaving the cockpit, Lawrence. The answer to that is there
are two situations where that door should be opened.
The first one is when a pilot needs to go to the bathroom. The second one
is when the cabin staff actually need to deliver a meal.
They`re the only two times that door should be opened. Now, what`s
interesting is that post 9/11, Airbus put out a press release, saying that
it had addressed the problem of door security.
And what it`s done is that it developed a capability, it developed a door
that had reinforced hinges, had a code to get in, had a bullet proofing
panel on it.
They`d also given the potential for a camera outside the door so the pilot
could see who is knocking on it.
And then there`s a total switch inside the cockpit which allow the pilot to
actually lock the door from the inside, so the person outside using –
O`DONNELL: And –
KAY: The code couldn`t get in –
O`DONNELL: Is this a worldwide retrofit or just on American planes? Or –
KAY: It was – it was an option. An Airbus came out there and said
operate as you now have the option to it-fits this capability that will
cost you for a single body jet around $25,000, for a wide body jet 78330,
that will cost you about $30,000.
There was no mandatory requirement by the FAA or the CAA to put this across
all of the fees on all the operators. So, that`s the first aspect there
The second aspect, Lawrence, I find it slightly unsettling. There are two
reasons why this whole investigation isn`t settling. The first one is
there`s no radio transmission.
The second one is that the aircraft wasn`t navigated off its initial path
when it started this descent into Marseille or Nice. If you rewind back,
Air France 447, the crash into the Atlantic from Brazil to France, no radio
MH370, no radio call, AirAsia flight that crashed in the Java Sea, no radio
call, Germanwings, no radio call. For some reason, the last prominent four
crashes, there`s been no radio call.
I have had to personally put out a distress call in an emergency when I`ve
been flying as a single-seat pilot and I operated the airplane, I navigated
the airplane, I`ve got to call out within the first ten seconds.
There is something which isn`t quite right here.
O`DONNELL: Anthony Roman, the two scenarios are something deliberate by
the pilot who was left in the cockpit –
ANTHONY ROMAN, PILOT: Right –
O`DONNELL: Or some physical incapacitation of the pilot left in the
cockpit. What`s the evidence for each of those?
ANTHONY ROMAN, PILOT: Well, those are the two probable scenarios, but
neither scenario should have been a factor.
They`re in violation of the International Aviation Organization
regulations, when no pilot should be alone in the cockpit.
There should be a flight attendant –
O`DONNELL: So that`s not just a U.S. domestic rule, that is a worldwide –
ROMAN: That is a worldwide rule. And a flight attendant or other flight
crew member must be in that cockpit when it is vacated by one of the
What happened here, we don`t know. This is a fly by wire aircraft. For
example, it is controlled by kind of like a control stick, a joy – a giant
And if that is moved forward, for example, ten degrees and it brings the
nose of the aircraft down, and then the joystick self-centers, that
aircraft will continue in its nose-down descent.
So if this pilot became incapacitated and unconscious, bumped into the
autopilot, bumped into the flight control stick, that could have put it
into a steady descent, or it could have been something nefarious.
However, the armored door isn`t the only way to break into a cockpit. I
have spoken to several major airline mechanics, and they explain to me that
the entire bulkhead leading to the cockpit, that will include the front
lavatory wall that`s common to both the lavatory and the cockpit, there is
no armor there.
That can be pierced, and that is a security risk. But the co-pilot or
whichever pilot was outside trying to smash that armor door down would have
been better off trying to cut through the bulkhead.
That would have been possible.
O`DONNELL: OK, we`re going to have to break it there for now, we`re going
to be back with more of this, Anthony Roman, thanks for joining us.
Coming up, the Saudi Royal Air Force launched strikes in Yemen tonight in
an attempt to defend the President of Yemen from takeover by the rebels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADEL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: The Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia have launched military operations in Yemen.
The objective is to defend the legitimate government of President Hadi from
the takeover attempts by the Houthis militias in Yemen.
The operations began approximately 7:00 Washington Time, East Coast Time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: P.m.?
AL-JUBEIR: P.m., yes. And the U.S. is not participating in military
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: A half hour ago, the National Security Council released this
statement, “President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and
intelligence support to the Gulf Cooperation Council-led military
While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support
of this effort, we are establishing a joint-planning cell with Saudi Arabia
to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support.”
Tonight, a senior Houthis rebel leader was quoted by “Reuters” saying,
“there is an aggression underway on Yemen, and we will confront it
violently. Military operations will drag the region into a wide war.”
Joining me now, “Nbc News” foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin and Steve
Clemons, Washington editor-at-large, “The Atlantic” magazine and Msnbc
Steve Clemons, does this mean a wider war?
STEVE CLEMONS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, it does. It means that
an already messy, tense Middle East is going several notches higher.
We`re seeing the disintegration of Yemen, with Iran-backed Shia Houthis
rebels overthrowing a regime within Saudi Arabia`s sphere of influence.
It is a nightmare that has been unfolding incrementally, but it definitely
makes the whole region worse.
O`DONNELL: Ayman Mohyeldin, we`ve been watching this disintegration of
Yemen for a lot – months, where it`s been really like on the brink.
Saudi Arabia waited until now. Have they – is it too little, too late?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC NEW FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: It will depend on how much
of a military engagement they`re going to try to impose on the situation in
Yemen and more importantly what the Iranian government does.
If the Saudi government carries out with this military operation, is able
to confine, contain and perhaps even push the Houthis rebels back to allow
the government to have Hadi to come back and assert itself, it may be short
All the indications suggest now Houthis rebels are going to fight, they`re
certainly not going to be pushed back very easily.
And more importantly, if they in fact begin to lose serious ground, the
question then becomes, well, what is Iran going to do?
Can they make the same argument that they are getting involved to protect
the Shia minority of Yemen and protect the rebels with their own support to
these – to these fighters.
O`DONNELL: Michael Kay, would you imagine Iran trying to reach literally
across Saudi Arabia on the map like this to influence the outcome in Yemen?
KAY: Well, I think like with most of the situations going on in the Middle
East at the moment, Lawrence, Yemen has a very complex narrative that
actually goes back years, not months. It goes back to the Arab spring post
Tunisia. It goes back to the overthrowing or the wanting to overthrow of
Saleh who is the initial president. That then instigated a National
Dialogue Conference, an NDC. That was supported by the U.N. for a
resolution. It was supported by the U.S. and it was supported by the GCC.
Basically what that was, was from May 2013 to January 2014, it was an
opportunity for all of the competing groups in Yemen to sit down around a
table and try and work out a roadmap for governance. That included the
Houthis, it included the Salafist elements in the south, and then the east,
and then it included the current government.
The outcomes of that were shot to pieces. In one, because a couple of
Houthi leaders, prominent leaders were assassinated by government allied
forces. And what happened was is that the only outcome really was the fact
that Hadi, who was the vice president that replaced Saleh was then going to
stay in power for another year. Saleh who is the initial president that
was ousted was given immunity, and that was part of the National Dialogue
So that`s why we are where we are is that the Houthis believe that the
Saudis are supporting the Salafist element and al Qaeda within Yemen and
they`re not happy with the Sunni influences, not just going on in Yemen but
is actually making its way and spreading outside of Syria. That`s why the
Houthis are worried about this. That`s why the Iranians are worried about
this spread of Salafi.
Let`s not forget, Saudi have supported Wahhabism, an exported Wahhabism,
which is an – is an extreme creed of Sunni Islam for decades. And we
shouldn`t forget the links of Saudi Arabia have with al Qaeda. Al Qaeda
bombed the hospital at the end of 2013 and killed 56 people. I`m not pro
Houthi in anyway whatsoever, but we have to look at both sides of the
debate when we`re talking about what the Houthis are doing and why they`re
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, go ahead.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: The one thing I would add to what Michael
just laid out quite nicely is that in this kind of conflict, which is
taking Yemen right to the brink, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which
has been rolled back a bit over the last year, can regain a lot of ground
and momentum in the chaos and the tension and come back. And whether
they`re supported by the Saudis or not, that`s a controversial story in and
The AQAP can be a real winner in this mess. And that`s something that has
many here in Washington quite concerned.
O`DONNELL: Ayman, John Kerry has issued a statement tonight saying, “We
shall deliver the country to safety.” The United States shall deliver the
country to safety without actually being involved directly?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: I think that`s a very,
very tall order. I`m not sure the United States alone can do that. And
I`m not sure military operations alone are going to be able to do that.
You raised a very good question, can – will Iran support the Houthis? And
the question isn`t whether they`re going to send arms or send their own
troops. The question is, can they maintain this low intensity conflict and
make it worse over the course of several years, several months? That`s
what the Iranians did in Iraq and that they`re very good at doing. That`s
what they`ve certainly been doing in Syria at a very low level with
supporting the regime.
They may not – they may wait it out. They may not get involved in the
next week or two against the Saudis directly, but in the long run, any
government of Houthi that comes in, any kind of process that emerges, if
the Iranians so choose to try to sabotage it, so choose to try to support
the Houthis in any way, they certainly can do that. They have the
influence and the resources to make that happen directly or indirectly.
And I think that`s the long-term challenge for any country that`s going to
I mean, one of the ironies in all of this, Lawrence, is that the United
States launched airstrikes in Tikrit to provide cover, air cover, to ground
forces that are Iranian backed, helping Shia militias help the Iraqi army.
And in Yemen, the U.S. is now supporting the Saudis who are fighting the
Iranian backed rebels. I mean, you want to talk about a big picture of the
region where the U.S. is helping the Iranians in Iraq, but is helping the
Saudis fight the Iranian backed rebels in Yemen, I mean, I just – this
situation is extremely chaotic. I don`t think anyone is going to see the
O`DONNELL: One of the facts in the middle of the administration, the Obama
administration`s statement tonight is this simple sentence saying, “The
United States has been in close contact with President Hadi and our
Now until that sentence came out of the White House tonight, it hasn`t been
clear that President Hadi is, A, still alive or that anyone knows where he
actually is. He`s on the run there.
KAY: We – the reports indicate that he fled the capital Sana`a in
January, and there were recent reports saying that he was in Aden and he
was looking to be evacuated from the country and that`s as far as reporting
MOHYELDIN: Yes, and today, the State Department did say that they were in
touch with him earlier today but that he was no longer in the residence in
Aden. So as of this afternoon, it`s safe to say that they were not aware
of where he was in Aden.
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Steve.
CLEMONS: And they`re also going way out of their way to say that he did
not flee in order to sort of give legitimacy to those who`s sort of taking
his place that he left of his own free will. So there`s a lot of optics
game. John Kerry`s commitment to this is, you know, on the edge of
irresponsible, because to some degree what Mike Kay just described in terms
of the power sharing discussions that went on around that roundtable
process was something the United States helped broker.
So to some degree what we`re seeing unfold are, you know, groups that have
come into power sharing arrangements that are either because of grievances
or either because of political immaturity, unable to work within a kind of
civil society structure where power ebbs and flows between different
groups. And it`s going to come back to the question of, do you need strong
men to come in and control the whole show or not? That this is an
indictment of sort of U.S. imprint of what we consider to be democratic
flow in some of these countries.
The Saudis have been highly, highly critical of America`s obsession with
this. And I think that this is going to be something that creates a lot of
strain between the Saudis and the United States down the road, despite our
support of what`s going on.
O`DONNELL: I`m just seeing the full John Kerry statement here, and it
underlines your note, Ayman, about the complexity of the relationships.
Here he is in the middle of the most important negotiations of his career
with Iran over the future of nuclear weapons there. And what his full
statement actually says is, “We shall deliver the country to safety and
raise Yemen`s flag on Mount Marran instead of the Iranian flag.” That is
the full statement.
KAY: Can I just add one thing before we go? The U.S. needs to join the
dots in foreign policy in the region and it needs to stop reacting to
various explosive insurgency battles that are going on in different
countries around the region. This to me is – the root of all of the
instabilities in Syria and there needs to be a political road map with
Assad and someone needs to put – just take the bull by the horns and
address that situation. Because if you address that, you address ISIS.
And ISIS is the source of instability here.
The U.S. needs to work out what its priorities are in terms of foreign
policy. And if I was a betting man, ISIS is the biggest threat to the U.S.
O`DONNELL: OK. We`re going to have to leave it there for this moment.
Ayman Mohyeldin, Steven Clemons, thanks for joining us tonight.
Coming up, one of the fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma
caught singing a racist chant had an apology press conference today. A
carefully choreographed apology press conference.
And U.S. Army officials bring desertion charges against Sergeant Bowe
O`DONNELL: I just want to quickly correct the record about something we
just reported in the last segment. There has been no statement so far
tonight by Secretary of State John Kerry on the situation in Yemen. The
statement that we did read was actually a statement from President Hadi
that had been issued earlier.
John Kerry has issued no statement – the Secretary of State has issued no
statement tonight on Saudi Arabia`s intervention in Yemen, with the support
of the United States military and intelligence supporting the United
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will never be a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) at SAE.
There will never be a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) at SAE. You can hang them from a
tree, but they`ll never sign with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: One of the fraternity members caught in that video singing the
hate-filled racist homicidal chant answered a few questions today and
refused to answer more important questions at a press conference arranged
by his public relations representatives. That press conference was in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEVI PETTIT, FORMER UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA STUDENT: Let me start by saying
that I`m sorry, deeply sorry. I`m so sorry for all the pain that I`ve
caused and I want you all to know that directly from me. Although I don`t
deserve it, I want to ask for your forgiveness. What you and others saw on
that video is not who I really am, it`s not who I was raised to be. And
not who I think of myself to be.
I see how my choices are affecting those who have been impacted by my
thoughtless decision to participate in this chant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Of course he did not just participate in the chant, he was one
of the leaders of the chant. Levi Pettit refused to answer the most
important questions he was asked including where did you learn that chant?
When asked that question, he stuck to the talking points obviously provided
to him by his high powered, very expensive Texas public relations firm and
said he was just there to apologize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETITT: I`m not here today to talk about where I learned the chant or how
I was taught, I`m here to apologize for what I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is the co-director of the University of Oklahoma
group, OU Unheard, Naome Kadira. Also MSNBC national reporter Trymaine Lee
and the host of “Make It Plain” on Sirius XM Radio, Mark Thompson.
Naomi, what was your reaction to the press conference today?
NAOME KADIRA, OU UNHEARD CO-DIRECTOR: Definitely as Unheard we really
think it`s a good initiative that the apology took place and that this
issue has been recognized on the larger scale. And we definitely hope that
this opens the door to – to recognize that this is larger than this bus
video, that this is larger than all the little details that people have
been focusing on, and that the grievances that we wrote about Unheard in
our letter, the seven grievances are a part of a larger issue and need to
be recognized. So I definitely think that it`s great that this apology
O`DONNELL: Trymaine, what I was watching felt a lot like a politician`s
apology. This is a very rich kid from a very rich family in Texas.
They`ve hired Bill Coletti, who`s a very expensive public relations crisis
management operator in Texas, and you don`t hire someone like that and
then, you know, write the statement yourself. So it read to me like one of
those – you know, the team put it together, here are your talking points,
and here most importantly are the things you must not say.
When they ask you where you learn the chant, don`t give anyone up. And
when you`re asked about what happened on that bus, your answer has to be,
well, I`m not here to talk about the bus, just here to apologize.
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: The choreography did stand out.
And there was something really odd and strange about it. Not the least of
which that it seemed like such a dated model, where any slight towards the
African-American community, you go to the black community, you go to the
black church. You`re surrounded by elders. At one point, they were
rubbing his shoulders, you know, it`s going to be OK, kid. Talking to
folks, have a conversation after this and going on Twitter, it`s not enough
for a lot of people who this generation, this Twitter generation, they talk
about inner sectionality and white supremacy and structural things.
But also, when you`re coming – come correct, what else, what`s next? We
don`t accept your apology, they`re saying, there in social media.
LEE: But what about the real change – some real change? 17 days, and now
you have this come to Jesus moment where you realize the world is bright to
O`DONNELL: Yes. And when you give an apology press conference, when it`s
a real apology, you don`t get to refuse the important questions, refuse to
answer the important questions.
LEE: That`s right.
O`DONNELL: One thing he did say in answer to a question was, he said, I`ve
met with these people and they`ve opened my eyes to things that I had not
been exposed to leading up to this event. He also said, when one of the
reporters asked him, why didn`t you understand that those words were bad
words in the song? He said, I knew they were wrong, but I never knew how
or why they were wrong.
So Mark Thompson, he`s never seen “12 Years a Slave,” he`s never seen
“Selma.” I just want to make it easy for him. He doesn`t have to read a
book. He`s obviously never read a chapter of anything in American history
in his Texas education with the word “lynching” in it.
MARK THOMPSON, HOST, “MAKE IT PLAIN” BY SIRIUS XM: Yes. Well, that`s –
O`DONNELL: And he lives in a family where that`s the way it goes.
THOMPSON: Yes. Well, that`s very likely. I think it was alluded to at
the press conference by some today that a lot of young people are not
educated, are in fact miseducated, they`re not exposed to these things.
One of the things – I agree with what you said. A couple of things that
were salvageable, though, was that there`s an initiative on the part of the
black caucus in the state legislature to use this as an opportunity to try
to get more African-American studies and African-American history in some
of these curricula, I guess, from the elementary level all the way to the
post-secondary and higher education level.
I also can confirm that the – inside of that meeting was somewhat tense,
and they were put on the spot. I can confirm that he and his family were
challenged to join the NAACP. They said they are. That hasn`t happened
yet. So we`ll see what happens. The proof is in the pudding as to his
And lastly, and lastly, I`ll say this, Lawrence, if he`s sincere about what
he said, wanting to fight to bring about equality or make people more aware
of racism, stay in school, stay in school in Oklahoma, go enroll in an
HBCU. Immerse himself in learning and understand what our history struggle
is since he`s been so absent from it and so unaware of it.
O`DONNELL: Do the people in that meeting asked him where he learned the
THOMPSON: I did not ask that question. I don`t – I don`t know if that –
if that came up at all. But I know that there was a lot of history
presented to him. They were there to listen. I mean, in fairness when we
talk about reconciliation, diversity, this is one of the first you do. You
try to go and learn something, but you have to go a step further. Perhaps
he should enroll in a course by an anti-racist educator like Tim Wise.
Somebody like that. But those are the things he needs to do to prove that
he is really atoning for what he said.
O`DONNELL: Naome – let me go to Naome.
Naome, were you that he said he didn`t know why the words in that song were
KADIRA: I was not surprised. Some people just aren`t educated, like some
people don`t come from those backgrounds. You are never exposed to those
things and it`s important for the school system, from – at a young age to
expose people as to why these things are wrong culture to make this people
culturally sensitive to things like this. And that`s why a huge part of
why Unheard became because we wanted to change the culture of the
university and educate, give people an opportunity to know this is wrong,
why it`s wrong, and how it`s wrong, and just how to maneuver around those
O`DONNELL: So, Naome, does that mean that you`re in college there in
Oklahoma with American high school graduates who actually don`t know
anything about lynching and don`t understand that that song was about
KADIRA: Maybe they don`t necessarily not understand the songs about
lynching, but they don`t know the history behind lynching. I wasn`t on a
bus. I don`t know his motives. I don`t know what kind of background he
grew up in. But I do understand there are two different people – two
different kinds of people in the world, people who just don`t know and
people who do know and do those things on purpose.
But I can`t say which type of person he was, if he didn`t know, then he
didn`t know. But it is our job to educate. The school system job is to
educate. So instead of pointing fingers we at Unheard we took this
initiative to educate people and bring about these issues and put them on a
platform and start conversations like these.
O`DONNELL: OK. Well, we got to go. I know Texas tightly controls their
textbooks in all of their public schools, but Mark, is it conceivable?
O`DONNELL: Can we get a Texas high school history book to see if they
leave lynching out?
THOMPSON: Lies. I had several white listeners called my show tonight and
admit that they were never exposed to these things themselves. They were
ashamed. They were calling apologizing to me, said they just –
LEE: They didn`t hang them from tree.
O`DONNELL: We have to bring it here.
Naome Kadira, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Trymaine Lee,
Mark Thompson, thank you for joining us.
We`ll be right back.
KADIRA: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who left his post in
Afghanistan in 2009, and was held by the Taliban for five years, is being
charged with desertion and endangering fellow soldiers. Army officials
If convicted of endangering his fellow soldiers, Bergdahl could be
sentenced to life in prison. Desertion carries a maximum sentence of five
The Obama administration negotiated Bergdahl`s release in exchange for five
detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in May of last year. At the
time of his release, National Security Adviser Susan Rice told ABC News
that Bergdahl, quote, “served the United States with honor and
distinction.” She also acknowledged that officials did not then know the
The day Bergdahl was released, President Obama released a statement saying,
“Sgt. Bergdahl`s recovery is a reminder of America`s unwavering commitment
to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield.”
We`ll be right back with more on the breaking news developments about the
crash of that airplane in France.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with developing news on the crash of that German
airliner. The “New York Times” is reporting tonight that one of the pilots
left the cockpit before the plane`s descent and was unable to get back in.
Bob Hager, as we`ve reported earlier, the report was that the other pilot
was banging on the door, yelling through the door, trying to get back
inside the cockpit, absolute silence. Just no sounds whatsoever coming
from the pilot left inside the cockpit.
What are you hoping for in tomorrow`s press conference in terms of what
might develop next in terms of what we understand about this?
ROBERT HAGER, MSNBC NEWS AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that`s
very, very important information. I would hope that they`ll still working
with the cockpit voice recorder, because I don`t think they have pieces of
the data recorder yet. Just hope that they could give some more
information on what`s on that cockpit voice recorder along the lines of
what`s been reported so far. But it`s just reported by “The New York
Times,” a single source, so you`ve got to be very careful with it.
But because the information is very sensitive, because for the first time
it raises the implication of a possibility of foul play in this, I think
investigators are going to be very close to the vest with the information.
So we have to hope that we get some little pieces of it to explain more
O`DONNELL: Michael Kay, one of the questions that`s going to be asked at
tomorrow`s press conference is, do you deny “The New York Times” report?
And if they don`t deny it, then it will apparently stand.
KAY: Well, it`s certainly unverified. But the information is potentially
alarming and I think it – it certainly deserves analysis. What I can
certainly take from that is that we talk about incapacitation and we talk
about the lack of pilots to react to the situation that they`re in, whether
that`s because it was a decompression scenario or it was because like Air
France 447, someone had gone wrong with the instruments, and the erroneous
The bottom line is that if there was someone knocking on the door, that
signals to me that it wasn`t a decompression environment. That`s number
one. The second one is, how do we know it was the pilot –
O`DONNELL: The decompression would have to be through the entire plane,
not just the cockpit?
KAY: Well, the – they have a door which allows the pilots to be protected
KAY: But the bottom line is – if it had decompressed, it would more
likely be in the cabin. And therefore if someone is knocking on the door
to the cabin –
KAY: They`re more likely to be affected by decompression. If there was
someone knocking then that it indicates to me that there wasn`t a
decompression for starters. But the really interesting thing, and the
thing that raises my eyebrow in this, Lawrence, is that whenever you have
an emergency situation, you will get crew resource. You will get talking
between the crew about the descent that`s falling through. So the CVR is
not giving us what we would expect from the normal situation.
O`DONNELL: Yes. Michael Kay, Robert Hager, thank you both very much for
joining us tonight.
Chris Hayes is up next..
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