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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/10/12

Guests: Karen Finney, Frank Phillips

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: That`s awesome, Ed. Thank you, man. I appreciate. And good luck to you, Kelly. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. In the 2008 presidential campaign, the Republican Party`s vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, had a few instances on the campaign trail, being interviewed by reporters, where she just sort of famously and blatantly lost momentary verbal coherence. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH PALIN (R), THEN-VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping -- it`s got to be all about job creation too. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: When "Saturday Night Live" wanted to satirize that moment of incoherence in Sarah Palin`s interview with Katie Couric there, "Saturday Night Live" did not bottom to rewrite the transcript of what Sarah Palin said at all. They just had Tina Fey say exactly what Sarah Palin had said -- all of the same words, in the same order, to devastating comedic effect. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TINA FEY, ACTRESS: Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those that are concerned about the health care reform that is need to help shore up our economy to help -- it`s got to be all about job creation, too. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Even though Sarah Palin gets all of the credit for having some really incoherent moments as a candidate in 2008, you know, John McCain actually had some of those moments too. Do you remember when George Stephanopoulos at ABC asked John McCain about gay adoption? Do you remember this moment in 2008? And all of a sudden, it was like John McCain was high or something, or he was channeling Miss Teen South Carolina? It was such a strange moment. Do you remember that? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Gay adoption, you told "The New York Times" you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn`t find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit. What is your position request? SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My position is it`s not the reason why I`m running for president of the United States and I think -- and I think that two-parent families are best for America. STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you mean by that, it`s not the reason you`re running for president of the United States? MCCAIN: Well, I think it`s important for us to instill family values, but I think it`s very important that we understand we have other challenges too. I`m running for president of the United States because I want to help with family values. And I think that family values are important when we have two-parent families that are parents -- that are the traditional family. STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don`t have a home and if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what`s wrong with that? MCCAIN: I am for the values that two-parent families, the traditional family represents. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you`re against gay adoption? MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two-parent families represent, and I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know, and I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keeps families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere, like, such as. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: My favorite part is when he says, I will do everything to encourage adoption -- which I am not in favor, the adoption -- Iraq. Yes. I don`t know. John McCain asked about his belief that gay people shouldn`t be allowed to adopt children was amazingly incoherent, even beautifully incoherent. It was like the verbal equivalent of a splatter painting. But interestingly, on the exact same policy issue today, we are having a similar splatter, right now in today`s Republican Party politics. As you know, two days ago, North Carolina voted to ban gay marriage. One day ago, President Obama came out personally in favor of same-sex marriage rights. And then today, the "Washington Post" published this stomach-churning story about Mitt Romney as an 18-year-old, having rather viciously bullied gay classmates in high school. One of the victims of Mitt Romney`s bullying was a kid who was described as a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. This student came back from spring break one year with, quote, "bleach blond hair that draped over one eye." According to one of Mr. Romney`s friend who is now speaking to "The Washington Post," quote, "Romney wasn`t having it." He quotes Mr. Romney as saying, "He can`t look like that, that`s just wrong, just look at him." Mitt kept complaining about these other boy`s look, the friend recalled. Quote, "A few days later, that friend entered Stevens Hall to find Mitt Romney marching out of his own room in front of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut student`s hair. They followed him to this room, tackled him, pinned him to the ground. As the student with his eyes filling with tears screaming for help, Romney apparently clipped his hair with a pair of scissors." This has been kind of an amazing week. I mean, day one, North Carolina. Day two, the president comes out for same-sex marriage rights. Day three, we learn that about Mitt Romney`s past. And so sort of unexpectedly, gay issues and policy around gay rights have really suddenly moved to the center of presidential campaigning. I think perhaps in an effort to make himself seem slightly less harshly anti- gay in light of this new story about himself as a teenager, Mr. Romney went on the FOX News Channel today to emphasize that he is okay with gay people having some rights, like, for example, gay people adopting children. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If two people the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship, and even want to adopt a child, in my state, individuals of the same sex are able to adopt children. In my view, that`s something which people have the right to do. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK, this is confusing. Remember when there was that kerfuffle about Hilary Rosen talking about Mr. Romney`s wife not working for money and therefore not being a great adviser for him on women and the economy. When that happened, a group called the Catholic League attacked Hilary Rosen they said for not having her own children, because Hilary Rosen`s children are adopted, Hilary Rosen is gay. At the time, an RNC spokesman stood up to respond to that, sort of defended Hilary Rosen having adopted children. But, of course, because Hilary Rosen is gay, Hilary Rosen adopting children is against the Republican Party`s stated position on whether or not gay people should have the right to adopt children. So when challenged on whether or not that`s what his tweet meant, a change in position from the Republican Party, the Republican Party spokesman then had to take it back and say, no, no, no, I was being nice to her personally, but we`re still against it as a matter of policy. Now Mitt Romney`s trying to make it clear that he would allow gay people to adopt kids, although when he was governor of Massachusetts, he did support legislation to let some adoption agencies ban gay people from adopting kids in Massachusetts. So this is all clear as mud, right? And to make it all even muddier, at one point Mr. Romney just kind of came out against gay people having can kids, full stop. Not specifically adopting kids, but he was against the idea of gay couples having kids, generally. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: Today, same-sex couples are marrying, under the law, in Massachusetts. Some are actually having children born to them. We`ve been asked to change their birth certificates to remove the phrase "mother" and "father" and replace it with parent "A" and parent "B." It`s not right on paper. It`s not right in fact. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It`s not right. So Mr. Romney has the advantage of not sounding like Miss Teen South Carolina when he is totally incoherent about his own beliefs and policy positions. But it should be noted that he is just as incoherent as John McCain was on this exact subject in 2008. But, you know, from this distance, looking back on John McCain in 2008, spacing out and losing the thread on this issue, I actually think that maybe the more important parallel here is what McCain said to try to get out of this mess, right at the beginning. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position? MCCAIN: My position is it`s not the reason why I`m running for president of the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It`s not why I`m running. In other words, yes, I believe this thing. Yes, it is my policy position. But I would not like to talk about it. I would rather talk about some focus group-tested talking point that I can`t remember right now, but not about this. Mitt Romney used almost the exact same effort to get away from this, to get away from this issue, to get away from something he didn`t want to talk about. He used almost the exact same thing that John McCain did there, when he, Mitt Romney, blew up yesterday at a reporter in Colorado. The reporter has been asked him about things like same-sex marriage and the criminalization of marijuana and some other issues. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: We do marriage. We do marijuana. I`m not running on marriage and marijuana. Those are state issues, right? REPORTER: Thank you. ROMNEY: Aren`t they? Really? REPORTER: Yes. Well, they could be federal issues. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And, in fact, they would be federal issues, taking issue with the reporter`s questions. I mean, part of the issue with Mitt Romney on gay rights issues is that he wants an amendment to the federal United States Constitution to make the U.S. Constitution anti-gay marriage. To take away marriage rights with, even in states that have decided to recognize those rights. So if you can get married right now in Iowa or Vermont, because Iowa and Vermont decided at the state level that you can do that, even if you`re a same-sex couple, Mitt Romney as president would take that right away. Mitt Romney would say, no, federally, I`m going to take that right away. We`re going to change the U.S. Constitution to ban your state from being allowed to decide that. So factually when he says, oh, this is a state issue, factually he is wrong that he should not be asked about this, because to him, it is not a state issue. But even more interestingly, even though this is his policy, even though this is what he is pledging to do as president, Mitt Romney doesn`t want to be asked about this. He doesn`t want to talk about it. This isn`t what he wants to spent his days discussing. In other words, yes, I believe this thing, yes, it is my policy position, but I do not want to talk about it. This is the same thing that John McCain did back in 2008. It`s the same thing that one of Mr. Romney`s potential running mates, Governor Bob McDonnell, governor ultrasound of Virginia, is doing right now in trying to get out of people calling him governor ultrasound. I mean, yes, Bob McDonnell signed that law to force Virginia woman to have medically unnecessary ultrasounds by order of the state government and yes, he introduced 35 anti-abortion bills while he was in the state legislator, but he does not want you to think of that as something that he does or that he focuses on. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: You know, I think, listen, that was one bill out of a thousand that we passed. It was all focused on jobs and economic development, education, and a number of other things. That`s my agenda. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That part of my -- it`s just a part -- one thing. Yes, I believe this thing. Yes, it is my policy position, but I do not want to talk about it. That`s how Republicans have dealt with the whole war on women issue broadly as well. The criticism has not caused them to change any of their policies. They`re going great guns with anti- abortion legislation, still going great guns with anti-contraception legislation, they`re still against the Fair Pay Act, they`re still against the Paycheck Fairness Act, for Equal Pay for Women. Those are still their beliefs. Those are their policy positions, but they do not want to talk about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Over a thousand bills were introduced in state legislatures in Congress across this country since then to take away women`s health -- reproductive health. There`s just no question that whether the Republicans want to call it a war, and I don`t particularly love that word, there is a concerted effort to change settled policy in the area of contraceptive rights, in the area of health care rights. When men have medical issues, they`re medical. When women have medical issues, they`re political. That is going to be a huge issue in this campaign. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are all distractions from the real issues. Let`s look at the policy. Let`s look at the real issues that face all Americans, including women. And it is. It`s the economy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: But what about all of those policies, about women and the economy? Those are a distraction? In other words, yes, I believe this thing. Yes, it is my policy position. But I do not want to talk about it. John Boehner in Congress today ran into this one so hard I thought he was going to break something. After President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage yesterday, but before we found out that Mitt Romney as an 18-year-old led a chasing mob to hold down a younger classmate as they cut off his hair and while he cried and screamed for help -- in that brief interlude in this last news cycle, at 11:30 p.m. last night, literally in the dead of night, in Washington, in Congress, House Republicans are working on a pair of bills related to the Defense Department, bills about the Pentagon budget. And they decided that their contribution to this news cycle that is unexpectedly all about gay issues in politics would be to add two anti-gay amendments to this defense bill they`re working on. One amendment to try to block gay soldiers from allowed to get married and to protect people who discriminate against gay troops. That`s nice. And another amendment to further their support for the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, which the Obama administration says is unconstitutional. These are defense bills. And this was the middle of the night last night. It`s almost like the Republicans saw President Obama doing something kind of nice for gay people with his comments in the afternoon, and they decided that they therefore needed to stick it to gay people in response. What can we do with that, what is it, a defense bill? What can we do in a defense bill that might hurt gay people? It hurts gay soldiers? I don`t care. Let`s get `em anyway! At one point, the debate over these defense bills, because they have been hijacked to become an anti-gay thing by House Republicans, at one point, the debate devolved into a bitter fight over whether or not Leviticus should be considered part of the bible, given that it is actually in the Old Testament. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: I would like to say that if you read Leviticus 20:13, you will see in there this issue of, they are to be put to death. If a man has actual relations with a man, as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Sanchez, that is the Old Testament. SANCHEZ: It`s the Bible! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the Old Testament. SANCHEZ: It`s the Bible! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So now we have to fight about whether the Old Testament counts as part of -- this is what is happening in the Republican-controlled House right now. This is what House Republicans are spending their time on. All of this anti-gay right stuff. The reason Leviticus is being discussed in a bill -- discussion about a defense bill is because the Republicans are putting anti-gay rights amendments in the defense bill. Asked to comment on the sudden reemergence of anti-gay issues in the House, the leadership of House Republicans, the speaker of the House, John Boehner, said he didn`t want to talk about it. Surprise. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, on gay marriage, Leader Pelosi and several other Democrats say you`re on the wrong side of history on this issue. Do you think that this is a civil rights issue? REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. And the president and the Democrats can talk about all this all they want. But the fact is, the American people are focused on our economy and they`re asking a question, where are the jobs? The president can talk about it all he wants. I`m going to stay focused on what the American people want us to stay focused on, and that`s job. REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, a top Romney adviser said this morning that they plan to make the marriage a campaign issue and that they`re also going to push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Do you agree on that? BOEHNER: I`m going to stay focused on jobs. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In other words, what Republicans are working on, what the Republican presidential campaign says it`s going to campaign on, what the policies are that Republicans are pursuing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, what they are staying up all night in congress to hammer home, even in the middle of something totally unrelated, what they are focused on and can`t let go is making anti-gay policy -- working hard to make gay people`s lives harder in this country, rolling back gay rights. That is the policy they plainly believe in. That is what they`re working on. But that is not what they want to talk about. I mean, I don`t want to copy Bill Maher and say new rule, but new rule. If you don`t want to talk about it, don`t do it. If you don`t want to run for office on the basis of one particular political stand, then when you run for office, don`t take that political stand. If you endorse a policy that is a controversial policy, you are going to get asked about it. You are going to have to explain it. You might even become known for it, even if it`s not in your talking points that your focus groups told you what you ought to be heard saying on the campaign trail today. It`s been true all year on abortion rights. It`s been true on policy affecting women broadly. It`s been very much true about gay rights right now and all these other things that Republicans are working on feverishly and putting right at the top of their agenda and prioritizing when they actually go to work and do the work of politicians. It is central to how they are campaigning and how they are governing and what they are proposing to change about the country and what they are actively working to change about the country, but they do not want to be known for it. They just want to do it. They don`t want to have to discuss it. Luckily, they don`t get to decide how the free press covers them. Joining us now is Karen Finney, MSNBC political analyst and columnist for "The Hill". She`s a former communications director for the Democratic Party. Karen, it`s good to see you. Thank you for being here. KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: You know, I understand why politicians want to do this. Obviously, people want to talk about the thing that focus groups the best, the thing that puts them in the best light at every opportunity. Is this actually something where the aggressiveness of the press determines whether or not they get away with it? FINNEY: Absolutely. And here`s the thing -- I mean, you know, this -- what they don`t want you to know is that the far right has really taken over the Republican Party. That`s why, instead of while they campaigned on, we`re going to get in there and focus on jobs, and instead, what are they doing, they`re holding hearings on women`s access to contraception and health care with no women in it. They`ve had all this time. I would love for each one of them have to give us an accounting for how they spent their time and how much of their time they`ve spent trying to create one job, right? They don`t want you to know that what this is really all about is sucking up to the right wing. They want to be able to go home and tell their base, hey, we voted against those gays and we voted against those women. We -- this is what we voted for. But like you say, they know that the majority of America does not accept that agenda and it does not focus group well, and it does not poll test well. So that`s not what they want to talk about. So, they`ll smile in your face and say the phrase that they think you want to hear. MADDOW: See, I feel like when John McCain started doing this, started doing this in 2008, even no more skillfully than Sarah Palin was doing it, saying, yes those are my positions, but it`s not what I would like to talk about what is my message of the day today, when he was doing that in 2008, I felt like it didn`t make much of an impact in terms of what he was able to talk about. People just kept asking him questions about whatever they seemed newsworthy. This year, I feel like it`s not just happening at the presidential level, it`s happening all down the ticket, it`s happening with politicians at every level -- and I wonder if it is a more fruitful strategy now, because we sort of have two different publics. We have a conservative public that gets all of its information from conservative media, that is totally insulated from the rest of the media. And then we have everybody else, who gets some stuff from the liberal media, but mostly things from the mainstream media. Can you get away from this -- get away with this more if you can count on talking to an insulated public that isn`t going to do anything that you don`t want them to know? FINNEY: Well, I think you can, in a sense -- and this is something I`ve said for a long time -- in gerrymandered congressional districts, absolutely. That`s how we got the Tea Party, right? But in a national election, and this was the lesson that John McCain learned, he had to go so far to the right during the primary -- I mean, remember, this is the guy who was a co-sponsor of immigration legislation that he then in the general election ended up saying he wouldn`t vote for. Right? That`s how much he contorted himself to try to appeal to the right wing. And I think, you know, with Mitt Romney, I think his career has been set on telling people what he thinks they want to hear, the majority of Americans poll show happened to believe that that`s what he does, and that`s again what I think we`re seeing happen here, right, is that they`ve said, we`re going to do these things, but we`re going to talk about the things that we think people want to hear and talk about, because we know that a majority of Americans actually know somebody who`s gay and think it`s probably OK to make a commitment to the person that you love and don`t really care -- you know, if two people of the same sex get married. Just in the same way that, you know, at one point in this country, people thought that my parents shouldn`t have been married and now people realize that that`s ridiculous, right? So what they don`t want to face is the fact that things are changing. But they still have to appeal to this very far right wing base to get elected. They rely on them in a national election. That`s part of what`s happening. The second piece, though, Rachel, that I think is really important is don`t forget what`s happening at the state level. It`s not a mistake that these Republican-controlled legislatures, thanks to ALEC and other groups, is where you`re seeing anti-union, anti-woman, stand your ground, voter ID, anti-immigrant, harsh, you know, let`s codify racial profiling legislation popping up. But that`s not what they campaigned on. They campaigned on creating jobs. MADDOW: I think that you`re right, and I think it`s important to point that out. And I actually think it will be interesting to see how much success the Democratic Party has at the national level, tying national Republican politicians to what the party has done in the states. I think that`s a communications challenge for the Democratic Party. I`ll be interested to see if they can pull it off. Karen Finney, former communications director for the DNC, MSNBC political analyst, columnist for "The Hill" -- Karen, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate it. FINNEY: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. For the life of them, Republicans say they do not understand what the rest of the country is saying about them. It is made up. It is just a distraction. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Not quite a year ago, the voters of the Cherokee Nation based on the U.S. state of Oklahoma, they elected a new principal chief, the highest elected office in the Cherokee government. The new chief, Bill John Baker, defeated a three-term incumbent by just 11 votes out of more than 15,000 votes cast. It was a really, really close race. But Bill John Baker won, and now as principal chief Bill John Baker, he is running the Cherokee nation. At the time of the election that made him principal chief, one of the issues that got raised was that Mr. Baker was of mixed ancestry. Chief Baker is, in fact, 1/32 Cherokee. That makes him Cherokee, the same as other Cherokee leaders who also have a mixed ancestry. And as you can see here that Bill John Baker, that 1/32 Cherokee, Bill John Baker, is now the dually elected, dually serving principal chief of Cherokee Nation. In another election happening 1,600 miles away from Oklahoma, in Massachusetts, Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts is locked in a virtual tie to hold on to his seat against his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren. Last month, Boston`s conservative tabloid, the "Boston Herald," published this headline, "Harvard Flaw." school once touted Liz`s Native American routes as proof of faculty diversity. The accusation here was that Elizabeth Warren was somehow wrongly considered to be Native American? She was maybe wrongly listed as having Native American heritage in law school directories and someone, maybe her, maybe the school, somehow wrongly benefited from that wrongful impression, that wrongful, spurious thing that she supposedly did. The "Boston Herald" described it as "Elizabeth Warren`s avowed Native American heritage, which the candidate rarely if ever discusses on the campaign trail, was once touted by embattled Harvard law school, officials who cited her claim as proof their faculty`s diversity." Warren`s claim, which surfaced yesterday, after a "Boston Herald" inquiry, put the candidate in an awkward position last night scrambled, but failed to produce documents proving her lineage. So the implication here is that Elizabeth Warren is faking being Native American. That is being implied. The day this article appeared in "The Herald," Senator Brown`s campaign manager demanded that Elizabeth Warren apologize for letting Harvard describe her of being as Native American ancestry. Scott Brown`s manager said it was a hypocritical sham and a, quote, "insult to all Americans who have suffered real discrimination and mistreatment." A reporter last week asked candidate Scott Brown himself, Senator Scott Brown himself, about this issue. His response amounted to, who, me? Asking about Elizabeth Warren`s ethnicity. Me? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Senator, do you feel in any way that she`s unqualified, that maybe she got that position at Harvard because she didn`t meet the -- that`s the suggestion, isn`t it, from the Native American -- SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: You guys are asking a lot of questions and I`m learning about it as you are. And you`ve asked a lot of questions and she should answer them. REPORTER: But your campaign manager also sent out a press release this morning sort of urging us to ask those questions, so -- BROWN: I think you should. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I think you should ask those questions, because I`m not asking them. I`m just following along here, with my campaign, telling you to ask these questions, and then denying that any of this is coming from me. That has actually changed in a hurry. On Tuesday, Tuesday of this week, Senator Brown personally demanded that Elizabeth Warren release her job applications. So first it was Scott Brown`s campaign manager floating the story, testing it out. Then it was Scott Brown himself saying he was just listening into this media frenzy he had nothing to do, but he liked. And now this week, Senator Brown is all in, how dare Elizabeth Warren call herself Native American. What a scam. It turns out Elizabeth Warren is Native American. She`s from Oklahoma. She is 1/32 Cherokee. She appears to be exactly as Cherokee as the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bill John Baker. Elizabeth Warren is exactly as Cherokee as the guy who heads the Cherokee nation. And actually, because she may have ancestry from the Delaware tribe as well, it is conceivable she has more native heritage than he does. So the outrage from the Scott Brown campaign is that it is somehow despicable and awful and a scandal that Elizabeth Warren says she is part Native American. Elizabeth Warren is part Native American. This is a crime? I live in Massachusetts. Remember, there was that whole thing for a while, where Scott Brown was raising money from conservatives around the country by saying that I was going to run against him for Senate? Yes. I am used to weird Massachusetts politics. I am used to weird, sleazy Scott Brown politics. But this is actually really truly weird. I mean, the Scott Brown campaign has gone all in on this story that it is offensive that Native American -- that Elizabeth Warren says she is Native American, even though she is, in fact, Native American. It`s the center of their campaign now. If you don`t believe me, consider this. This week an ethics complaint was filed against Scott Brown, a complaint that he had a Senate staffer working on his campaign on the taxpayers` dime. Now, whatever you think about the complaint, this was Scott Brown`s complaint to this ethics complaint being filed against him. Ready? The response was, quote, "This complaint has about as much credibility as Elizabeth Warren`s claim to be a Native American." But Elizabeth Warren is Native American. She is as Cherokee as the guy who is the principal chief of the Cherokee nation, which in Scott Brown`s calculation, would, I guess, make this complaint about his campaign ethics totally valid. This is the weirdest political attack of 2012 so far. I`m sure it`s going to get weirder, but this is really, really weird. Joining us now is Frank Phillips, who is the state house chief for the "Boston Globe." Mr. Phillips, thank you very much for being here tonight. It`s nice to see you. FRANK PHILLIPS, BOSTON GLOBE: It`s great to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: Are you surprised that Senator Brown has gone this far in attacking Elizabeth Warren on this? Do you see any political risk for him in doing this? PHILLIPS: Yes, I do. I think we`re all surprised that he came out and did it himself. It`s always been generated from within his circles and the Republican circles. They were really driving this story, hoping that they were going to get to the very important part of the electorate that the two are battling over, and those are the so-called Reagan Democrats, who particularly don`t like affirmative action and diversity in the workplace, and see that as a -- and he`s using that to highlight her and her use of the Native American, and implying that she got her jobs. And you`re right, it is -- it`s going to be a little difficult for him to keep going along these lines without touching the third rail. MADDOW: Well, because it seems like the two -- I mean, I guess there are two third rails here. I guess that makes one of them a fourth rail. It`s either that it is somehow scandalous itself that she is Native American, which just seems very, very strange, almost crazy to be used as a political attack. But then the other side of it, if you follow the, as you said, the sort of affirmative action critique there, his critique is that she is not qualified to have the jobs that she has had, because she is a woman, and because she is part Native American. Challenging her credentials as an academic, as somebody who has done what she`s done in her career seems almost as radioactive, I guess, as a political tactic, doesn`t it? PHILLIPS: Well, it`s all part of what they`re trying to do is separate her from the Democratic electorate, the conservative and independents, that she is not one of us, she`s Native American from Oklahoma. That brings that home. She`s from Harvard, Cambridge. They`re not part of us. And it`s effective. Whether it is going to be determinative and whether we`ll be talking about this in the fall is really unclear, and I don`t think we will be. This campaign is full of gotchas. The Democrats are doing much the same things to him. I think even that small little ethics violation, claim of ethics violation is really kind of silly. This is -- we`re an intelligent electorate here in Massachusetts, as you know, Rachel. And this doesn`t -- this whole campaign is just gotten into a lot of he did this and she did that. And all the major issues that we`re supposed to be debating here, all the intellectual firepower we are here in Massachusetts, none of the major economic issues facing the nation, the two wars that we`re fighting, all the issues of China and the inequality in pay, it isn`t even really on the radar. And here we are talking about Native Americans and whether he used a video camera that he shouldn`t have used or he`s touting Fenway Park when he tried to, you know, tried to move it out to Foxborough, another town outside of Boston. It`s just, it`s a lot of silliness. And maybe they should all get back to doing that. Now, listen, I`m the reporter who loves gotcha stuff. So people maybe think I`m having a nervous breakdown here, but I do appreciate, you know, a good debate. And we`re not seeing it in this campaign. MADDOW: Yes, and seeing the ping-pong silly stuff and the gotcha stuff happening in this campaign was depressing, but maybe not surprising. But I was surprised to see Scott Brown himself grabbing hold of this Native American issue. PHILLIPS: I think you`re very right on that. I think you have something there. He`s in dangerous territory when he gets out there and questions her credentials and that`s going to be a problem if he goes too far with that. MADDOW: Frank Phillips, "The Boston Globe" statehouse bureau chief, I really, really appreciate the ability to talk to you about this stuff. Thanks very much for being here. PHILLIPS: It`s a pleasure. Thank you, thank you. MADDOW: So this was a big day in non-apologies. I will explain in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When confronted with something that for which you really should apologize, what do you do? Do you express remorse? Do you deny your can culpability? Do you laugh nervously? An extremely prominent politician, an extremely prominent politician is now going with all three, all at once. Deny it, be remorseful, laugh nervously. That is coming up and it`s all on tape. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "The Washington Post" made a decision today to not run their story about Mitt Romney today, in the physical newsprint paper edition of "The Post." They posted it online, but it will not be in the paper until tomorrow. "The Post" apparently wanted to avoid juxtaposing their front- page story about President Obama endorsing same-sex couples to marry about their new blockbuster story about an 18-year-old Mitt Romney leading a cheering mob that chased down and held down a closeted gay student and Mr. Romney forcibly holding down that student and cutting off his hair with scissors, because Mr. Romney objected to what the boy looked like. Mr. Romney is not disputing that the incident happened back when he was a teenager, and in the story he`s quoted as saying, "He can`t look like that, that`s wrong. Just look at him." Mr. Romney told that to a close friend in his dorm. That friend a few days later, quote, "Entered their dorm to find Romney out of his own room, ahead of a prep school posse, shouting about their plan to cut the younger student`s hair." Mr. Romney`s friend followed them to a nearby room where they came upon the younger student, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As the younger student, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Mitt Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors. One man who is joined in having restraining the boy that they attacked, told "The Post," quote, "To this day it troubles me, what a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do." A childhood friend of Mr. Romney who saw it all happen that day told "The Post," quote, "It was vicious." Even though the incident was confirmed to "The Washington Post" by five different students who were at school with Romney, his campaign spokesperson initially responded to the story today by saying it was a lie. She said, "The stories seem exaggerated and off base and governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents." Mr. Romney himself later said he did not contest that the incidents had happened, but that he didn`t remember anything about them. He didn`t remember anything about them, but he somehow definitely remembers that he did not think the kid in question, who was attacked, was gay. Nor did he think that about another closeted kid he is reported to have bullied, by shouting "Atta girl" whenever the student would say something in class. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) BRIAN KILMEADE: A prank that could have gone down in high school with a guy named John Lauber, who they say that you and a couple of your friends with, who this guy was thought to be homosexual, cut his hair. Pinned him down and cut his hair. Do you remember any of this? ROMNEY: You know, I don`t remember that incident. And I`ll tell you, I certainly don`t believe that I or -- I can`t speak for other people, of course -- but thought the fella was homosexual. That was the farthest thing from our minds back in the 1960s. So that was not the case. But as to actually and play that back, I don`t remember them all, but again, high school days, and I did stupid things, and I`m afraid I`ve got to say sorry for it. KILMEADE: They also point out an incident in English class with this guy, Gary Hummel, who says he was a closeted gay student at the time, and when he would talk out, a young Mitt Romney would yell, "Atta girl," do you think that happened? ROMNEY: Well, I really can`t remember that. You know, there are a lot of times, my guess is, at a boys` school, where other boys do something and people say, hey, atta girl. But as this person indicated, he was closeted. I had no idea that he was gay, and I can`t speak to that even today. But as to the teasing or the taunts that go on in high school, that`s a long time ago. For me, it`s about, what, 48 years ago? So if there`s anything that I said that was offensive to somebody, with I`m very deeply sorry about it. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: If you don`t remember anything about it, how do you remember that you definitely didn`t attack him because he was gay? How do you remember that you definitely didn`t think he was gay if you don`t remember anything about it? You remember that exculpatory thing but you remember nothing else? And there`s one other thing, but what is the part of this that is so funny? (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) KILMEADE: Do you remember any of this? ROMNEY: You know, I don`t -- I don`t remember that incident. KILMEADE: A young Mitt Romney would yell, "Atta girl," do you think that happened? ROMNEY: Well, I really can`t remember that. Again, if there was anything that I said that was offensive to anyone, certainly I`m sorry. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Nobody is laughing with him here. It`s not like everybody involved is laughing in the conversation. He`s just laughing alone. He was like this about the dog thing too. Do you remember? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: I have a yellow Lab named Winston. I would no sooner put him in a kennel on the roof of my car than I would one of my children. Question, what were you thinking? ROMNEY: This is a completely airtight kennel and mounted on the top of our car. He climbed up there regularly, enjoyed himself. He was in a kennel at home a great deal of time as well. We loved the dog. It was where he was comfortable. And we had five kids inside the car. My guess is, he liked it a lot more in his kennel than he would have liked it inside. WALLACE: Well, I got to tell you, Massachusetts law and dog lovers, and I`m one of them, take this seriously, Massachusetts prohibits carrying an animal on top of a car, even in a kennel, as cruel and inhuman. Do you really think there`s nothing wrong? ROMNEY: I wasn`t familiar with that, in terms of Massachusetts law. Loved my dog. We`ve had a lot of dogs over the years. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mr. Romney thought this too was hilarious. The interviewer there from FOX actually has to insist, seriously, governor, seriously, nobody else is laughing in this conversation. This is kind of creepy. Can we be serious about this? I remember the humorous story Mr. Romney volunteered when he was campaigning in the Midwest this year? (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) ROMNEY: I have a few connections with the state of Wisconsin. One of the most humorous, I think, relates to my father. You may remember that my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors. As the president of the company, he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Remember, this is what he is volunteering as a humorous story about his dad closing down a factory in Michigan. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) ROMNEY: They had a high school band that was leading each of the candidates, and his band did not know how to play the Michigan fight song. It only knew how to play the Wisconsin fight song. So every time they would start playing "On with Wisconsin, on Wisconsin," my dad`s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop, because they didn`t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad mad moved production to Wisconsin. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Which is hilarious. See, the punch line is about shutting down the factory and putting all those people out of work in Michigan and people being angry about it. See, it`s hilarious. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: My dad had moved production to Wisconsin. Again, if there`s anything I said that was offensive. WALLACE: What were you thinking? KILMEADE: Do you remember any of this? ROMNEY: You know, I don`t remember. KILMEADE: A young Mitt Romney would yell "Atta girl," do you think that happened? ROMNEY: I can`t remember. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Mr. Romney, Republican presidential de facto nominee, gets asked a question about a disturbing character issue, hilarity ensues, for him. Get it? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have an amazing closing story tonight about how people sign in when they visit the White House. It is an amazing -- sorry. I have to correct myself. The group PolitiFact just called. I am told the story is not amazing. It is mostly amazing. First, they listed it as partly amazing, and we got upgraded from partly amazing to mostly amazing because we pushed back against their initial ruling, but it is totally worth sticking around for. That`s according to me. PolitiFact may disagree. You should judge for yourself. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Back in February, I said the ostensible fact-checking Web site PolitiFact was dead. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I think PolitiFact is giving up. This is so bad. This is so egregiously bad that if they do not correct this one I think we can safely assume that PolitiFact, for all intents and purpose, is dead. They are over. They are over and out. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`m here to rate my own statement false. PolitiFact has not only not dead, PolitiFact continues what can only be its real mission which is to supplant actual fact-checking, to sully the whole concept of fact- checking as a meaningless brand and thereby change the meaning of the word fact in the English language. Political lives after death like a zombie eating our national brains. Case in point: from this week, PolitiFact, the fact to be checked. Antiabortion groups says Obama White House screams unborn babies. Said antiabortion group this week claimed, quote, "The director of the White House Visitor`s Office, Ellie Shafer, today distributed an email newsletter which gives detailed instructions on how to register an unborn child, a baby that has not been born as Shafer as puts it, into the security system that is employed to arrange White House tours." Quotes here saying, "Crazy as it must sound you must include the baby in the overall count of guests in the tour." Now, this generated much excitement on the right, including at the conservative Web site funded by Rick Santorum`s billionaire Foster Friess. They headlined the story, "White House: abortion okay but visitor must register unborn children." Also, there was the "Washington Examiner" which started its piece by saying, "you can`t make this stuff up." Actually, yes, you can. PolitiFact did the calling on this. They called the White House to figure out what the policy in question here was. They got the following response from a spokesperson from the Secret Service. Quote, "This refers to a pregnant woman providing information for a tour in the future that will include the new family member. So, for example, when a 7 month pregnant woman is providing information for a tour that is four months in the future there is a place holder for the new baby." So the White House Visitor`s Office is not in fact counting one pregnant woman as two visitors. The baby does not count as a second guest until the baby is born. PolitiFact says the National Right to Life quote here, the National Right to Life had wildly misconstrued the White House e-mail here. So, PolitiFact found this fact. They checked this fact. They found this fact to be false. They said it was wildly false, in fact. PolitiFact`s rating here? They called it mostly false. Mostly? You can get something, quote, "wildly wrong" and still be only mostly wrong about it. What does it take to get a false on PolitiFact? False as in you got it wrong? False as in you really wanted the White House to be doing something that the White House was not actually doing? So, when you said they were doing it you were -- wrong. You said something wrong, false. Is it true, PolitiFact, or is it false? Oh, you found it false. So, your rating is mostly something? PolitiFact, God bless you. You are not dead, but every time your trademark truth-o-meter points at something, something dies in this country. Go away, PolitiFact. Don`t go away mad. Just go away. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END