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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/18/13

Guests: Adele Stan, Helen Prejean

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Lots going on today. President Obama is at the G8 Summit today, meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obviously, there`s this very sensitive issue right now about the war in Syria, with us and basically all of Europe taking one side in that war and Russia taking the other side in that war. So, that`s the big overwhelming tense issue that is happening at that summit. But there`s a lot under way. All of the leaders at the G8 today took their group photo. This is the group photo, ended up being a very dramatic photo this year under the stormy sky. But whatever weather is rolling in over those lovely Northern Irish foothills behind these leaders, that`s not the only thing the G8 Summit has to worry about now that Barack Obama is there with them all in Northern Ireland, because now that Barack Obama is there with them now in Northern Ireland, any minute now, the plague of locusts. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) RICK WILES, RADIO HOST: Is it by coincidence that a swarm of locust from Egypt have moved across the border into Israel today just weeks before Mr. Obama`s arrival in the holy land? Tens of millions of locusts have attacked Egypt in recent days. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. The working theory here, in case it`s hard to follow, working theory is that wherever President Obama travels, the biblical plagues follow and afflict that place. OK? OK. That`s the theory. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) WILES: In recent months, Mr. Obama has been photographed with flies buzzing around his head or attached to his lip or forehead. Each time I see the flies buzzing around him, I think of Beelzebub, lord of the flies. Beelzebub claims to cause destructions through tyrants, to cause demons to be worshipped among men, to excite priests to lust, to cause jealousy in cities and murders and to bring forth war on the world. So think about it the next time you see a fly land on Barack Obama`s lip or forehead. I wouldn`t be surprised if Israel is covered with locusts when he arrives in Jerusalem in three weeks. How many biblical signs do we need to see to know this man is evil? (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Hey, welcome to conservative talk radio. Have you not been listening recently? This is what it`s like now. This is a conservative talk radio host named Rick Wiles. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) WILES: What will be the spiritual consequences of the American people allowing Barack Obama to spiritually sodomize the nation? Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. is on the telephone. I`m going to ask him that question. Bishop Jackson, welcome to the program. BISHOP HARRY JACKSON, JR.: Well, Rick, I`m glad to be with you. You have quite a way with words. That was an intense introduction. WILES: Am I being overdramatic in saying that Barack Obama has spiritually sodomized the nation? (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: No, wait, do not answer that. Bishop Jackson, what do you think? That was -- yes. This is what this corner of conservative talk radio is like all the time now. It`s not just a one-off thing where the guy occasionally says something unintentionally super over the top and out there. This is the whole shtick now. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) WILES: What it means is he`s not just a smooth-talking, jive-talking street thug that talked his way into the White House. It means that he was placed here. He was deliberately placed here as a child. He is a manufactured person, and the conclusion I`ve come to is that he is a foreign plant. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: The "he", of course, being the president of the United States. God bless the people for the American Way who record radio shows like this so we can all enjoy them without the apocalypse survival kit equipment ads or whatever it is, right? A couple days ago, this particular conservative talk show host, the one with the flies, jive talking and sodomy and everything -- he had a man as his guest a Republican from South Carolina, a man named Jeff Duncan. Listen to this. The most amazing part of their discussion comes right at the very end of this clip. This isn`t a long clip, but listen right at the very end here, that is the jaw dropper. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) WILES: And while you guys are rounding up and deporting the illegal immigrants, any chance the House may actually pursue Barack Obama`s phony identification papers? REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, you know -- WILES: That`s the original scandal, Congressman. (LAUGHTER) WILES: That`s the original scandal. DUNCAN: We had a chance to get rid of him in November. People should have voted against him in November, and I`m afraid that wouldn`t get to the Supreme Court where it ought to get -- WILES: But if we know that they`re lying about all these other things, why not go back and say, well maybe the first scandal was a lie, too? DUNCAN: There you go. I`m all with you. So, let`s go back and revisit some of these things because Americans have questions about not only the IRS mess scandal, but also about the president`s validity. WILES: All right. I appreciate you being on the program today. My guest, South Carolina congressman and chairman of the House Homeland Security Oversight Committee. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Did he say House Homeland Security Oversight Committee? The birther guy there who just had the whole president is a secret alien discussion with that guy, with the flies and Beelzebub guy? Agreeing with Rick Wiles wholeheartedly, you know that president`s birth certificate, phony, that`s what we have got to be working on as a country? Yes, he`s one of the guys the Republican Party has put in charge of homeland security oversight in our country. So, the Department of Homeland Security, which has more than 200,000 employees, the third largest department in the cabinet, it combined the work of 22 previous different organizations into a single thing. The Republicans have entrusted oversight of that rather important thing for us as a nation to the birther guy sitting there talking about the president`s alien status with Mr. Beelzebub fly monitor. Congressman Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, the Republicans took a look at him and decided he needed to be put in a position to make homeland security decisions. Watch out for the department of Beelzebub hatching sometime this year in august depending on the rain. This feels like the day we all remembered, we all learned with a shock, right, that Georgia Congressman Paul Broun is actually on the science committee and he believes things like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL BROUN (R), GEORGIA: I`ve come to understand that all that stuff I was talking about, evolution, embryology, Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: On the science committee. It someone thing to pursued 600,000 or 700,000 people in your congressional district to elect you, it`s another thing for you to be put on the science committee when you are a guy like Paul Broun, now congressman and would-be U.S. Senate candidate. Paul Broun made a little bit of news in the past few days for trying to have his name removed as a co-sponsor of the House Republicans` national abortion ban. He was an original co-sponsor of the abortion ban but he asked to have his name taken off of it once an exemption was added to spare rape victims and incest victims from the ban. He was so outraged by those protections for rape victims and incest victims that he asked his name be taken off the bill in disgust. Interesting note, though, turns out that`s actually a hard thing to do. Been having a really hard time getting his name taken off the bill. He did vote against it today. That whole kerfuffle has been overshadowed today by the latest genius Republican man comments on the issue of abortion. This time, it came from Texas Congressman Michael Burgess. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: We should be setting this at 15 weeks, 16 weeks. Watch a sonogram at a 15-week baby and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they`re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. They feel pleasure. Why is it so hard to think they could feel pain? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It is one thing to be a random Texas Congressman Michael Burgess saying that we should set laws for everybody in the whole country based on when he thinks fetuses masturbate -- male fetuses only. It`s one thing to be a random Texas congressman. Hey, your district likes you, you know? But this guy also is in charge of something. The House Republicans took the fetal masturbation theorist and put him in charge of their subcommittee on health. Because, hey, that`s who they got, I guess. And honestly, with these last three or four years with the triumph of antiabortion activism as the main policy thrust of the Republican Party, both in federal government and in the States, I kind of felt like I had lost the capacity to be surprised, before I heard the fetal masturbation theory from Congressman Burgess today. I mean, we have had amazing theories. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen. FORMER REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it is a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, to be fair to Congressman Trent Franks there, the author of the Republicans` abortion ban that passed the House today, to his credit, he has tried to make clear when he said that he wasn`t making the exact same argument as Todd Akin. He wasn`t saying effectively if you are pregnant, then you must have wanted it, because rapes don`t cause pregnancy. What Congressman Franks said he s arguing is that you may be pregnant because you were raped, but he does not care. He wants to force you into childbirth after rape, regardless. Even those remarks from him as the sponsor of the bill were overshadowed today by the male fetus masturbation theorizing from Congressman Burgess. I mean, really, have you ever seen a headline like that? This is what, do we have -- OK. Thank you. This is what "U.S. News and World Report" Web site today. Comments by Representative Michael Burgess about fetuses masturbating not based in science, doctors say." You don`t have headlines like that everyday. You didn`t use to at least. But now, this is kind of what the politics here are like. Because of the fetal masturbation theories and the rape doesn`t get you pregnant chorus and all the rest of the guys and how they handle the issue on the Republican side, as this bill was put on the House floor for a full vote today by the House leadership, by Speaker John Boehner and Eric Cantor and the rest of them, the Republicans did take one PR move of trying to shine this thing up. They found a Republican woman to take the reins of the bill and to try to manage its progress on the floor instead of old Trent Franks. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, she got handed this bill today because she`s supposed to be great at talking about this issue. She`s supposed to be very un-alienating. Here she was today explaining how the bill would work to MSNBC`s Craig Melvin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: The bill only allows the exception for rape when it`s reported. Only allows the exception for incest when it`s reported. Is that correct? REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: That there is a reporting requirement in the text of the bill and the hope is that that will help with getting some of these perpetrators out of the population that are committing these crimes against women and against minor females. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Using women`s access to abortion as a way to fight crime. We can use our antiabortion bill to go after rapists. House Republicans effectively forcing you to use your uterus and access to it as a means of helping the police with their investigations. That`s the new idea behind the abortion ban. It will catch rapists. But, again, Marsha Blackburn is supposed to be their best at talking about this. It`s not actually like that idea is too weird for what`s going on in Republican politics right now. Remember the bill from January in New Mexico? The Republicans there had this bill, victims of sexual assault could be charged with a felony if they sought an abortion after rape or incest. The felony you would be charged with was, quote, "tampering with evidence", a third degree felony. You could get a sentence of up to three years in prison for tampering with the rapist`s evidence that happened to find its way into your body. The Republican who introduced that in New Mexico is a lawyer. It`s hard to know what happens next here. It has been a whirlwind few years of Republican activism in this part of policy. Now today, the House has passed a federal abortion ban that the antiabortion side is calling the biggest deal in federal legislation in ten years. This is not the first time they acted at the federal level. This is something like the tenth time Republicans in the House had voted for antiabortion legislation since they`ve been in control in the House. They voted on the Trent Franks abortion ban before now, too, but never made it apply federally to the whole country like the ban they passed today would. They`ve never gone this far before. Asked about a decision to put this bill on the House floor for a vote, Republican House Speaker John Boehner was as clear about this as he possibly could be. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Listen, jobs continues to be our number one concern. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Jobs, jobs, jobs. Joining us now is Adele Stan. She`s senior Washington correspondent for "RH Reality Check", which covers reproductive health and justice issues. Stan, thanks very much for being with us. ADELE STAN, RH REALITY CHECK : Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: So, you were first to report Congressman Burgess` rather extraordinary analysis of fetal behavior in that hearing room. How did you end up in that hearing room hearing that argument? STAN: Well, Rachel, actually I wasn`t even in the hearing room because I called my source on the Hill and said, rules committee hearing, do I really need to be here? He said, nothing happens there. I thought, OK, I`ll watch this stream. I drank a lot of coffee and was able to stay awake through the whole thing and there it was at the very, very end. And the reason I was there, Rachel, is I`ve been covering the progression of this bill now from a bill that once just only applied to the District of Columbia. Now, they want to apply it to all 50 states. And they`re gaming it off of the whole Gosnell trial and trying to conflate that situation with all of abortion. MADDOW: Obviously, the Republicans in the House know that this bill they passed today in their side of Capitol Hill is not going to go anywhere. The president has explicitly said that he will veto it. It`s obviously not going to go anywhere in the Senate. So, what they`re hoping for, presumably, is for the debate about this bill, particularly by their side, to be so edifying that it will spark the kind of discussion and understanding in the country that`s worth it despite the fact that this is wasted legislative time. STAN: Absolutely. And, you know, and the point was made consistently by Democrats throughout the debate process who would ask for parliamentary points and ask to introduce, you know, to discuss to debate things that actually matter like the student loan debacle. The rates are going up momentarily, and all that kind of thing, and jobs. And so Democrats were definitely at the charge making that point. But, yes, I think that their point is, is that they really think that they can change public opinion, can move public opinion by making a big stink about this while the public is still, you know, revulsed by some of what we heard during the Gosnell trial which, of course, has nothing to do with legal abortion. The guy`s a criminal. But the deal is, they think if they can change some hearts and minds that way, that would be great. They think they can get a lot of airtime, which they did, but they really kind of flubbed it, didn`t they, with the Trent Franks remarks about rape and then having to, like, kick him out of managing his own bill on the floor and pulling in Marsha Blackburn because she was a woman. And, you know, interestingly, Rachel, I got that information not from the Hill, but from the stage of a Ralph Reed event that took place last week, where we were promised that there would be all these amazing Republican women on the floor, Marsha Blackburn would marshal the bill, and that Gosnell presented a moment for the anti-choice movement such as they had never seen before and people better seize the day. MADDOW: Did they believe -- when you are hearing them talk about it and strategize amongst themselves like at the Faith and Freedom -- whatever that thing is called, the Christian Coalition Event. STAN: Right. MADDOW: I know you`re not supposed to call it that anymore, but it will always be that to me. STAN: Kind of the -- MADDOW: Exactly. Is the idea that there`s nothing wrong with antiabortion policies or the prioritization of antiabortion above all other forms of policymaking on the Republican side, rather the problem and the reason it`s alienating to women is because too many men talk while they to that? And if they just do the same thing with Republican women being out in front of it, this will suddenly become a popular agenda? STAN: Yes, you`re absolutely right. That`s what they`ve decided. That`s the new thing. I mean, you even heard that in the Reed event where not only was it said that, you know, they need to put, you know, more women front and center on this issue, but one of the panelists who was an African-American woman said, you know, the big problem is that there aren`t enough African- American women in leadership on the anti-choice side because, you know, Democrats are always making this big point about how this, you know, being -- if you outlaw abortion that it disproportionately harms poor and minority women. So, you know, they need to find some more African-American women to present the anti-choice argument. MADDOW: To present the exact same agenda that they`ve been presenting. STAN: Absolutely. Yes. MADDOW: Adele Stan, senior Washington correspondent for RH Reality Check who watched the stream of that hearing and let us all know about the fetal masturbation theory as an excuse for the 20-week abortion ban -- Adele, congratulations on the scoop. Thanks for joining us. STAN: Thanks so much for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. So, lots more to come including a simple fix for something that Congress deliberately broke seven years ago. There`s never a simple fix, but there is one this time. It`s nice. Plus, we will try to answer the question, how does a totally embarrassing mispronunciation become the best new thing in the world. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Reporter Michael Hastings has died today at the age of 33. Michael is killed in a car wreck in Los Angeles early this morning. It was announced by his employer, "BuzzFeed", tonight. Michael Hastings will be remembered nationally, of course, for his blockbuster story in "Rolling Stone" magazine in June 2010 about the off-hours behavior of General Stanley McChrystal and his top advisers. The story led to the resignation of General McChrystal who was then the commander of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. There used to be a liberal talk radio network in this country called Air America Radio. I worked there from its inception starting in 2004, and by 2006 or so, even though the network was a financial mess and a mess in a lot of other ways, we were still attracting really good, interesting people to come work with us. And one of those people was young and smart and interesting, with tons of options, who nevertheless came to work for us even though we were a mess, one of the people who came to work for us was a young woman named -- a young woman from Perry, Ohio, named Andi Parhamovich. It was through Andi, my friendship with Andi, that I first met Michael. When Andi left Air America Radio, it because she went to Iraq. She left to go to Iraq at the height of the Iraq war. She was working for the National Democratic Institute and she was ambushed and killed in central Baghdad. She was returning from a training session on electoral politics and the role of political parties and the convoy she was in was ambushed and she was killed. I`m on the advisory board of the Andi Leadership Institute for Young Women, which was set up in her name to further the kind of things that Andi believed in and that she gave her life for. Michael Hastings was Andi`s boyfriend when she died. He was also living in Baghdad at the time. He was writing for "Newsweek" magazine. He was just devastated when she was killed. When he came back to New York for the memorial that we held for Andi, I literally did not know who he was as I stood there talking to him even though I knew him pretty well. I could not recognize him face to face. He was so contorted with grief. Michael wrote a wrenching book about that. His first book was called "I Lost My Love in Baghdad." Some people love the book. Some people hated the book for it being so personal and so emotional and so angry. But that really was the whole point. And that`s why he did it. Michael was angry. He was also loving and thoughtful and constructive and brilliant, but he was angry about things that weren`t right in the world. He was angry with things that were right in the world and with war and with loss and that drove his reporting. And it made him fearless when he realized he had found something important he could report. A lot of people in the news business want to seem unafraid. Michael Hastings was actually unafraid. To the point where he radiated a sort of energy that made you realize he was unafraid and it made you treat him different than other people in the business. I remember talking with Michael the night that his "Rolling Stones" story on General McChrystal popped here. He was in Afghanistan at the time. He was about to head out on an embed. I was trying to talk to him about what he had just done and trying to talk to him into the idea that he might want to make his way out of the war zone he was in before the moment at which his reporting would cause the firing of the very popular man who was running that war that he was in the middle of. But Michael was in Kandahar that night and Michael stayed. He went out on the embed. He was unafraid. That merciless reporting he did on General McChrystal and his staff became the book "The Operators." Michael`s merciless reporting on the presidential campaign became the book "Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama`s Final Campaign." Michael did not write to make trends friends with the people he covered, although he sometimes he did. He wrote and reported in a way that was meant to be unvarnished and actually what he meant to convey no matter if it bothered people to hear it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHAEL HASTINGS, NEWSWEEK: I think what I`ve tried to demonstrate and without seeming like too much of a -- you know, jerk, is that you can do this kind of reporting. Like, if you`re a young reporter out there, you can do this kind of reporting. You can uncompromising and hard hitting and fair and accurate and honest and you can still -- people will pick up the phone again. MADDOW: Yes, fair and accurate and honest being key to it. You better be absolutely rig and have nailed down every single detail and sourced everything. Crossed every "t" and dotted every "i." HASTINGS: Bombs away and bring it on, as our former president once said. You know, this is the joy of reporting. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Michael Hastings did not report to make friends. If you were his friend, he was inspiring and exciting and original and deeply lovable guy. He was angry and he was hardworking. He was also very sweet. Michael Hastings loved his wife, Elise. He loved his native Vermont. He loved reporting. And he died today at the age of 33. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This was Al Capone`s Miami Beach pad. The swanky island property was originally bought by Mr. Scarface for $40,000 ill gotten dollars back in 1928. Bought it for $40,000. It recently sold for $7 million. When Al Capone was not running his $100 million a year bootlegging empire, he was lapping up the sun at his record breaking 30 foot by 60 foot Miami swimming pool. Al Capone was living so large back then and getting away with is to ostentatiously that the federal government set up a whole unit, whole division of the Bureau of Prohibition that was just devoted to taking him down. Those were the untouchables, right? Because they were all supposed to be totally incorruptible by the whole Capone machine. It was this guy, Elliot Nash, who ran the untouchables team. They went after Al Capone`s speakeasies and distilleries and breweries, his whole crime syndicate and they eventually helped the Treasury Department get him on tax evasion of all things. That guy, Eliot Ness was a prohibition agent. And after prohibition, the Bureau of Prohibition became eventually the ATF, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. All the fun stuff. The ATF has had a long history of busting gangsters and lawbreakers of all kinds, but lately it has had a hard time doing its job. And that is in part because for seven years nobody runs it. And that`s for a very specific reason. Seven years ago, NRA-backed Republicans in Congress put a short line item into the Patriot Act reauthorization -- 38 words that made it so the ATF would henceforth no longer automatically get a director. They would have a hard time getting one ever. It was Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner who quietly stuck in this 38-word provision that made it so starting then the ATF, newly, all of a sudden would have to be personally confirmed by the United States Senate. That had never been true before. But by making this change, by striking the words "attorney general" and replacing them with president and by and with the consent of the Senate, these NRA Republicans made the strategic move so the NRA couldn`t have somebody running it. They could hamstring that agency so the gun laws couldn`t be enforced. No presidential appointee from either party has actually been able to become the director of the ATF since the Republicans made that rule change serve years ago. The guy President Obama has picked now to run the agency, the guy who has been running the agency as its acting director only, he seems to have little chance of getting through confirmation because the Senate doesn`t want to confirm anybody. Republican members of Congress, Republican members of the Senate have no intention of confirming anybody ever to run the ATF. That was the whole point of that rules change. All that noise on the right about how we don`t need new gun laws, we just need to enforce the ones we have -- well, Republicans in Congress have insisted that we`re not allowed to let anybody run the agency that is in charge of enforcing those laws. So, it`s another gun-related thing that has no solution, right? Throw up your hands. Ridiculous intractable do- nothing Congress, right? Actually, no, not in this case. What if we just undid that change that caused this whole problem? We used to have directors of the ATF. We just can`t have one anymore because the Republicans made that change so they could block everybody. What if we just went back to the old system? Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois now says he wants to do exactly that. He wants to two back go back to having the ATF organized as part of the FBI. Just let the FBI choose a director for the agency. Leave the partisans out of it. Let us have a working ATF again like we used to. It`s a crazy idea, I know, to solve a problem by undoing the policy change that created the problem on purpose. But in this case, that would actually do the trick. Is it possible? Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a man named David Keaton. Mr. Keaton is from Florida. He was convicted in 1971 of murdering an off duty sheriff and he was sentenced to death. But he was not executed. He was actually released two years later when the real murderer got convicted. David Keaton did not do it. After the exoneration of David Keaton, the next two death row exonerations in America were also from Florida. Wilbert Lee and Freddie Pitts on death row for 12 years but then released and pardoned after somebody else confessed. Florida leads the nation in exonerating death row prisoners. Going back and saying, we know we`ve been planning to kill you, but now we believe you are innocent. Good thing we didn`t go too fast. Florida is number one in that in the nation. It`s not just the total number of exonerations that makes Florida so impressive. For every three prisoners Florida has killed, Florida has said to another prisoner, actually, we messed up in your case, 3-1. For every three they have killed, they have said to one, we messed up in your case, you are free to go, good thing we didn`t go too fast. Since the Supreme Court clear the way for states to begin executing prisoners again in 1976, Florida governors have been executing prisoners at an average rate of about two a year. That has not been fast enough, though, for Florida`s current governor, Rick Scott. He`s been going twice that fast. Eight times since he took office in January 2011, Governor Scott has given the order to kill a prisoner. And even that is not fast enough for Rick Scott. Last week, he signed a bill clearing the way for Florida to kill prisoners even faster. That`s the priority now in his state. Same deal in North Carolina where the new Republican majority there decided they want to speed up executions in their state as well. Since the U.S. Supreme Court started allowing states to start killing prisoners again in 1976, it is the state of Texas that killed more people than the next several states combined. In Texas, they are on the verge of executing their 500th prisoner. That is expected to be next week. So, in the bright red states in our country, that is the situation with killing prisoners right now. But in the rest of the country, things look different right now. In Maryland, the Democratic majority legislature there this year voted to repeal capital punishment. Governor Martin O`Malley signed that into law last month. When Maryland banned that practice of killing prisoners, it joined New York and New Jersey and New Mexico and Illinois and Connecticut to make six states that have all banned capital punishment just in the past six years. Overall, capital punishment is banned in 18 American states. Nebraska came close to banning it last month. So did Delaware, where a ban passed the state senate this spring before it failed in the house. In March in Colorado, very interesting situation there, there was a bill to ban capital punishment moving in Colorado, but it failed in House committee once Governor John Hickenlooper signaled he might veto that bill. That means that Governor Hickenlooper will not stop Colorado from having a system to execute prisoners, but he also says that he does not want to participate in it, himself. In May, Governor Hickenlooper issued a temporary reprieve for a prisoner who was scheduled to die this summer. The governor said the state did not have the drugs on hand to carry out a death sentence. He said the death penalty does not make the world a safer or better place. And in any case, he said, this prisoner`s death would weigh on his personal conscience. So, Governor Hickenlooper banned that specific execution at least while he is in office. But the system, itself, is still in place. Thanks in part to him leaving it there. We have a weird relationship with the death penalty in this country. Some states trying to speed it up, others getting rid of it, some debating which way to two, some governors going both ways at once. We have a weird relationship with choosing to kill people who are already imprisoned. We have a weird relationship with the whole idea of a dead man walking. A prisoner confined and contained, living nevertheless with a scheduled date at which the state government will kill them. Twenty years ago this year, Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun from Louisiana published her account of serving as a spiritual adviser to a man who was sentenced to die for rape and two murders in her state. That book "Dead Man Walking" became a famous movie of the same name starring Sean Penn as the prisoner and Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS: The story of "Dead Man Walking" starts off and it was very important that it started off with just a little visit, and then little by little she gets more and more involved and she kind of had all these doubts and that`s what I really liked about her was that she didn`t go into the whole situation a hero. She just got sucked in deeper and deeper and deeper, and the more she knew, the more she got involved. You`re a fool. You are making it so easy for them to kill you. Coming across as some kind of a crazed animal, Nazi racist mad dog who serves to die. SEAN PENN, ACTOR: Is that what you think? SARANDON: You`re making it so difficult to help you. PENN: You can leave. SARANDON: I`m not going to do that. It`s up to you. You want me to go, you say so. I remember when we had the first edit and we invited her to see it and I thought, oh my God, is this going to be so hard for her and I was kind of worried about her emotionally and to have to go through that again. When it was over, I said, are you all right? She said, actually doing it was much harder. I thought, oh, duh me, this is only a movie. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now for the interview tonight is Sister Helen Prejean of the Congregation of St. Joseph. She`s a leading American advocate for abolishing the death penalty. She`s the author of "Dead Man Walking", which is out 20 years ago now. Sister Helen, thanks for being here. SISTER HELEN PREJEAN, AUTHOR, "DEAD MAN WALKING": Great. I looked over my shoulder, it was 20 years. MADDOW: Yes. How did that happen? PREJEAN: How did that happen? MADDOW: Twenty years of this advocacy and activism, seeing the way that things have changed. Do you feel like you have a long view now of what works and what doesn`t in trying to get people to see this issue your way? PREJEAN: You know what I`ve come to see is you bring them into the story. The American people are not wedded to the death penalty. They just never think about it. And the minute you can bring them into reflection, the book does that, the film did that. Then Tim Robertson has written a play for high school and college students to do. Where they get -- they take all the parts. They`re the guard. They`re the victim`s family. They`re the mother of the death row inmate. They`re the governor. They`re everybody. And they go into a deeper reflection. What you have to do in a story, and what I`ll do with all the audiences, I do a lot of speaking, is you bring people over to both sides. Let`s look at this terrible crime. We`re outraged over the crime. Look at this. That person deserves to die. Is that what justice means from the victim`s family? And then you bring them over from the victim`s suffering, and then you bring him over to the other side, the perpetrators` mother and his family. The guards who have to do the killing. In "Dead Man Walking", I talk about the guards. Nobody thinks about the guards. But they`re just regular guys. And they`re told, tonight, part of your job is you take that person out of their cell and you take them out and kill them. And they just hope to God the guy goes peacefully, because you`ve had situations where the guy fights them all the way and you`re looking at a guard and you`re just saying, don`t kill me, don`t kill me. And they know they`re killing somebody who`s defenseless. Everybody. It costs everybody. We have to move this thing out of this country. We`ve got to change this thing. MADDOW: I have been thinking about the way that you have told those stories, in "Dead Man Walking" and your activism over the years. And thinking about the Governor Hickenlooper story in Colorado, because he has effectively, politically intervened to keep the system in place, but he is obviously tormented in a way that I take very seriously about him not wanting to be one of the cogs in that machine. PREJEAN: Absolutely. MADDOW: The machine will stay, but he won`t play a part in it. But he`s going to leave the machine there. He doesn`t want to be one of those guards. He doesn`t want to be one of the people making the decision. PREJEAN: You know, actually, when I`m talking to audiences, I take them there. I`m honest on both sides. I bring them into the pain on both sides. And I say to them, so if you believe in the death penalty and that it ought to happen, that justice demands it, could you do it? Could you do it? If there`s a part of you that goes -- well, I don`t know if I could do it, I say there`s a part of your moral conscience that has not said yes to the death penalty. And so reflection is what it`s all about. I just came from Oxford University. I come from England. They say, what is it about the American people? Why are you so people so vengeful? You`re holding on to the death penalty? I say, we`re not holding on to the death penalty. We never think about it. Anything that causes reflection, like your show where you get your facts and you help people think, the arts, film, books. I didn`t know the power of a book when I wrote "Dead Man Walking." I`d never written a book before. You know, I`m from the South. Talking is what we do. But I mean, reading books. OK. But it`s an intimate experience, and people, they don`t have to debate. They get new information. But they`re also using their own imagination to go to some deep places, and it`s very intimate and almost everybody comes out not the same on the other end of the book. So I believe in the book and the good work that it`s doing. And the film really captured that ambivalence, too. Like Tim said. We`re not going to do propaganda, and we`re going to shingle in 400 arguments to get people against the death penalty. We`re going to bring them over to both sides and leave them there. MADDOW: When you talk about getting people to reflection and getting people to a places where we can use a part of our mind and our soul that we wouldn`t necessarily use, even in artistic context, is this religious practice? You are obviously a Catholic nun. You`re devoted to the Catholic Church. Is this activism a form of religious practice and getting people to reflect in that way? PREJEAN: Absolutely it is. What is the deepest spiritual part of all of us? Religious practice or spiritual practice. OK? What`s the heart of all the traditions? Is that everybody is my brother and my sister. And I cannot turn a switch and say you are not human like the rest of us and we can kill you. It is deeply spiritual. It`s about the soul of all of us. And I think, you of the American people over these years, because I talk to everybody. I talk in synagogues. I talk in universities. I talk in civic clubs. I talk all over. And it`s once you can get people to be able to identify that the human being who did that outrageous act is more than that one act in their life. But it`s a journey to get there. You can`t do it through preaching at people. You can`t do it from, you know, just pure argument. You have to do it through story, and people are open when people say, let me tell you what happened to me. Like Susan was talking about the film. That was against all odds. I did that film. Every Hollywood studio turned down that film. They never dreamed it could be a box office success. And I tease Susan because she cried when she saw herself in the dailies, because, you know, not much makeup. It`s her first nun thing. She goes, I don`t want to look at the dailies. I don`t what. And then, on the night of the Academy Awards, I said look at that, Susan, your spiritual essence came out. They`re good people. But every Hollywood studio said -- well, you got no romantic interest. Let us spice it up between the nun and the death row inmate then we`ll have us a movie. Tim is saying, no, no, no, that`s not what this film is about. It`s a journey. We`re going to bring people deeper into the reflection on the death penalty. And after "Dead Man Walking" came out, notice how movies changed in t United States. They all were deeper. "Monster`s Ball", "Dancing in the Dark", "Green Mile" -- all of them were deeper. Before the formula movie was, is he guilty or not? Yes, he did it. Justice is done, end with the execution, end of film and end of reflection. "Dead Man Walking" left you there looking at bodies. Now the victim`s here, the guy on the gurney here, where are we, what have we accomplished? MADDOW: Showing and not telling in a way that lets people tell, themselves. PREJEAN: Yes, I learned that little journalistic principle before I wrote "Dead Man Walking." You show, you don`t tell, take people there. And as Tim said, you don`t insult the intelligence. Bring them there. You don`t have to preach at them. MADDOW: Sister Helen Prejean, advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. Author of "Dead Man Walking" -- it`s hard to believe it`s been 20 years. I`ve learned so learned so much from you, from your career and talking to you. PREJEAN: Thank you. I watch you, I have learned from you, too. Thank you, Rachel, for your good work. MADDOW: Thanks. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, lots still to come, including a best new thing in the world that is so charming and so awesome, if it involves ducklings, it would be on cute overload right now. That story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. This is Republican Congressman Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan. Yesterday, it was his job to preside over the house temporarily, had to take his turn as speaker pro temp. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The speaker room, Washington, D.C., June 17, 2013. I hereby appoint Kerry Bentivolio to act as speaker pro tempore on this day, signed John A. Boehner, speaker of the House. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. So, at this point, he is in charge of the House, this freshman guy, right? Scary, not a big deal, you just keep the lights on, if your colleague wants to speak, you have to recognize them. You talk into the microphone, say their names and say where they are from. But that is where things went a little haywire. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. KERRY BENTIVOLIO (R), MICHIGAN: The chair recognizes the gentleman from American Samolia. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I`m sorry, the gentleman from who? What, now? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENTIVOLIO: The chair recognizes the gentleman from American Samolia. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: American Samolia. If you Google American Samolia, you can get a little help as to what he was thinking, if you just type into Google. You ever do this, A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N, American Sa -- then the drop-down menu helps, he means American Samoa, thank you, Google, suggests the drop down menu, American samoa. Not that obscure. I mean, there`s Girl Scout cookie called Samoa, right? Lots of people who have never been to Samoa have had lots of practice saying it, Samoa, Samoa. So, he said American Samolia, but he just meant American Samoa. But then, things got a lot worse, he had to say not just the next person to speak has a name. His name is Eni Faleomavaega. Which is not an easy name to say, but not impossible. This guy is not a new guy. Eni Faleomavaega has been in Congress representing American Samoa since 1989. Now, he needs to be introduced in Congress, and it`s Kerry Bentivolio who`s got to take it away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENTIVOLIO: The chair recognizes the gentleman from American Samolia, Mr. Falumabinga. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Did you say Falumabinga? Why not? It`s actually Mr. Faleomavaega. How do you get from these letters on a piece of paper in front of you to -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENTIVOLIO: Mr. Falumabinga. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Maybe he thought American Samolia was in Spain or somewhere, where conceivably the V could be pronounced B for vinga? A tough day with the new president pro tem, right? But here`s the most important part. If you were Mr. Faleomavaega, how do you respond? This new guy, right, you`ve been there 24 years, this guy has never heard the name Samoa before? And he destroys your name and in turns into Falumbinga, what do you? You react with total class and win the whole day and everybody`s respect. Watch how he reacted. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENTOVOLIO: The chair recognizes the gentleman from American Samolia, Mr. Falumabinga. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. REP. ENI FALEOMAVAEGA, AMERICAN SAMOA: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, it is American Samoa. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The best natured man in congress is the guy who ignored that he has just been called Mr. Falumabinga, but he stands up for where he is from. Get Samoa, right, huh? With total poise, Representative Eni Faleomavaega, you were the best natured man in Congress. And that act of restraint on your part is the best new thing in the world. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." Have a great night. END THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END