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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/01/13

Guests: Salamishah Tillet

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with us the next hour. There`s a lot of substantial news in the world tonight. Chickens were seen on this show two years ago about the great state of Wisconsin have come home to roost, just as Governor Scott Walker dips his toe back in the union-busting water. There are major updates about the killing of Ibrahim Todashev and about the former Indiana schools chief caught up in a grade embellishing charter school scandal. And there`s fresh news from the race for Virginia governor, all of this to report and to assess and we`re going to get to all of it. But one event was a central focus of the news world late this morning and into the afternoon. It was the dramatic courtroom proceeding which concluded the legal process of what is both a notorious crime story and a story of almost superhuman survival. And so, we begin with the re-definition of the words horrific, inhumane, brave and resilient. Ariel Castro, a bus driver, living on the west side of Cleveland, abducted Michele Knight first. That was 11 years ago. Michele was just 21 years old when Castro lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy -- a puppy for her son. She went to his house and was held there as prisoner for more than a decade, during which police were not even looking for her. A missing persons report was filed, but they and some members of her family thought that she`d left home on her own volition. For 11 years, no one knew what had become of her. Amanda Berry was walking home from her job at Burger King, in her uniform, when she was abducted by Ariel Castro. It was a day before her 17th birthday. And then, a year later, Gina DeJesus, 14 years old, was kidnapped while walking the 40 blocks from her school to her house. Castro apparently drove past his own daughter who needed a ride so that he could kidnap Gina. He did so by saying that he need her help in finding his daughter, the one that he`d just driven by. When the story of Gina`s disappearance made it into the news, Castro`s estranged son wrote an article about the case for a community paper. Ariel Castro kidnapped Michele Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus on separate occasions between 2002 and 2004 and held them in captivity for a decade, abusing them physically, sexually, and emotionally. He raped them repeatedly. When Amanda Berry got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, now 6 years old, it was Michelle who was nurse, maid and doctor. Michelle helped Amanda to deliver her baby with no anesthesia or any other medical care. The women were tied up with ropes and chains. More than 90 pounds of chains were found in Castro`s house, with chains measuring more than 100 feet long. The house was retrofitted with an alarm on the back door, a partition between the parts of the lower level and a porch swing obstructing the stairs and a curtain over the stairs where the women we held. And over the years, neighbors noticed things were weird. A little off at the Castro house, there was a woman crawling around in the backyard naked on her hands and knees. Mysterious pounding on the doors a couple years ago. One man in the neighborhood describes hearing screams when he sat down to eat dinner. But when the police were called, they never went inside. They never saw Michelle or Amanda or Gina. And then in early May of this year, one of the most remarkable acts of bravery and of hope that I`ve ever heard. A man in the neighborhood walking by hears a scream. Here`s Charles Ramsey speaking to the NBC affiliate in Cleveland about that day. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHARLES RAMSEY, RESCUED AMANDA BERRY: This girl, her scream was so loud children stopped playing. That`s what made me look outside. That`s how loud her scream was. So you figured some tree fell on her or something. And I went outside and I looked and she was just kicking the door and kicking the door. I`m looking -- I know there`s no woman, to my knowledge, that lives next door. And like I said on the interview, I said, that ain`t right. That`s a white girl. There`s no white family lives here. So, maybe it was his girlfriend. So, I did what I had to do. She said, help me out. I want to get out of here. So that`s what I said. I thought it was a domestic dispute. Keep in mind, I know Ariel. I didn`t know he ever had a girlfriend. That`s why I couldn`t understand how you got in t house in the first place. When did he bring you here, you know what I mean? So I opened the door. As you can see on the news, it wouldn`t -- he had a lock on there, and you couldn`t open that, and the police had to, when they got there, they finally got it ajar. And Amanda says, it`s two more girls up there. I looked at her. I looked at the cop in the middle of the street. He said, what? She said, I`m not the only one. They went up there, about, I don`t know, 15, 20 seconds, they were coming out with Gina and that other girl. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michele. RAMSEY: Oh, my God. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Amanda Berry, with her 6-year-old daughter, she escaped and she called the police. After 10 years in the most depraved conditions most of us can imagine, she was still able to do this. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) AMANDA BERRY: Help me. I`m Amanda Berry. DISPATCHER: You need police, fire or ambulance? BERRY: I need police. DISPATCHER: OK. What`s going on there? BERRY: I`ve been kidnapped, and I`ve been missing for 10 years, and I`m here, I`m free now. I`m across the street. I`m using the phone. DISPATCHER: OK. Stay there with those neighbors. Talk to the police when they get there. BERRY: OK. DISPATCHER: OK. Talk to the police when they get there. BERRY: OK. Hello? DISPATCHER: Yes. Talk to the police when they get there. BERRY: OK. Are they on their way right now? DISPATCHER: We`re going to send them as soon as we get a car open. BERRY: No, I need them now before he gets back. DISPATCHER: All right. We`re sending them, OK? (END AUDIO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: When police finally entered the Castro home after Berry escaped, they found the women scared, malnourished and pale. Police describe the scene in which the women literally jumped into their arms, refusing to be left alone. (BEGINV IDE OCLIP) OFFICER BARB JOHNSON, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: Unsure if there was a suspect in the house, so we obviously go in very cautiously. I remember it was very dark because I didn`t take my flashlight with me because it was a brig sunny day. I didn`t think I`d need my flashlight in this house. Fortunately, I had a flashlight on my firearm. He hollered out to the police again, then you hear some pitter patter of steps, someone running, but stopped. And when she -- we shined the flashlight. I remember I kind of shined the flashlight so whoever it was could see that we were the police. We later found out it was Michele Knight as she literally launched herself into Officer Espada`s arms. He -- legs, arms, just choking him, and she just kept repeating, "You saved us, you saved". All of a sudden you see a face peek around the corner of the doorway and it was later, Officer Scott asked her, what`s your name? She said, Georgina DeJesus. She wouldn`t come out of the room. She was reluctant to come out of the room. He said, honey, it`s OK, we are here to help you. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: They were taken to the hospital and reunited with their families. This thank you video posted on YouTube last month is one of the only times we have heard from the women since their escape and rescue. They have been, understandably, staying out of the public eye, until today. Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to more than 900 counts including rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder, for beating Gina when she was pregnant in order to successfully force her to miscarry. Today was Ariel Castro`s sentencing hearing. He was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years. In other words, as far as he`s concerned, he is sentenced to prison forever. He was forced to describe in his own words what he had done. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ARIEL CASTRO, RAPIST/KIDNAPPER: When picked up the first victim, I wasn`t -- I didn`t even plan to take (INAUDIBLE). It wasn`t something that they`re trying to make look like I did, and I planned it, and I was thinking about it. I didn`t do that. That day I went to Family Dollar and I heard her over saying something about she needed to get somewhere, and I reacted on that. I know when I picked up the second victim, which is Gina, I don`t understand how I passed on to my own daughter how to pick her up, because I was driven by sex. Amanda, she got into my vehicle without even knowing who I was and I`m not blaming fault on her, but I`m just saying I`m trying to make up a point across that I am not a violent predator that you are trying to make me look like a monster. I`m not a monster. I am a normal person. I`m just sick. I have an addiction -- just like an alcoholic has an addiction. Alcoholics cannot control their addiction. That`s what I can`t control my addiction, your honor. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: With that, Ariel Castro will spend the rest of his life in prison. Usually that would be the headline from today`s hearing. Ariel Castro describes in a totally disconnected, disjointed way what he did and why he did it. But it was not the headline today. What was really remarkable, what has had people enthralled about and are still talking tonight, is the incredible dignity and restraint with which one of the survivors, Michelle Knight, spoke. She did not have to speak at this hearing, but she did. She chose to do that. And listen to this. This is Michelle describing not just the horrors of what she endured, but how she and the other girls lived through it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHELLE KNIGHT, KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: I worried about what would happen to me and the other girls every day. Gina was my teammate. She never let me fall, I never let her fall. She nursed me back to health when I was dying from his abuse. My friendship with her is the only thing that was good out of this situation. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Finding friendship in the wretchedness that this was. She said it was her survival mechanism, one that could be used by others. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KNIGHT: With the guidance of God, I will prevail and help others that have suffered at the hands of others. Writing this statement gave me this strength to be a stronger woman and know that there`s more good than evil. I know that there`s a lot of people going through hard times, but we need to reach out a hand and hold them and let them know that they`re being heard. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: That was Michele Knight, the woman no one knew for sure had even been kidnapped 10 years ago, delivering what was technically an impact statement, but can best be described as extraordinary. And then one of the strangest and most confounding moments from today, Ariel Castro, a kidnapper, a rapist and abuser, he describes seeing a YouTube video recently in which Amanda attends a hip hop concert by Nelly. And that, he says, is proof that she did not suffer during her decade in captivity. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CASTRO: And if you seen the YouTube video of Amanda this weekend, that right there itself proves that that girl did not go through no torture. That woman did not go through torture. Because if that was true, do you think she would be out partying already and having fun? I don`t think so. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: The twisted psychology that produces that sort of thinking, that a person`s continued existence proves anything one way or the other about things done to her in the past, that insane argument lasted about as long as a flake of snow on a hot summer`s day. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KNIGHT: Ariel Castro, I remember all the times that you came home talking about what everybody else did wrong and act like you wasn`t doing the same thing. You said at least I didn`t kill you. For -- you took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity. From this moment on, I will not let you define me or affect who I am. You will live -- I will live on. You will die a little every day. As you think about the 11 years and atrocities you inflicted on us. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Ariel Castro`s fate was sealed for him today when he was sentenced to more than 1,000 years in prison. Unlike Amanda and Gina and Michele, he will never leave his physical prison. He will never escape. Joining us now is Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of English and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She`s also the co- founder of A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit organization that uses art therapy and the visual and performing art to end violence against women and girls. Salamishah, you`re the person I needed to talk to tonight after enduring watching Castro. Let`s start with him. He talks about his actions as resulting from a sexual addiction. What do you make of that argument? SALAMISHAH TILLET, A LONG WALK HOME: Well, I just want to, again, just give a shout-out to these women who are so brave and so courageous. But in terms of Castro`s statements today, I think we should think of him two ways. One, you know, there`s the severity and duration of both his crimes and also the sentencing are atypical, but his defense, one that he blames the victims, two, he kind of redirects it and talks about sexual addiction for cause of his behavior, and three, he shows that kind of restrain or lack of remorse, with short and long-term effects of his violence on these women isn`t atypical for perpetrators of sexual violence. And so, oftentimes, when we have perpetrators accused of sexual violence who seem charismatic or seem like the boy next door, we have difficulty understanding that "A", they could commit the crime and, two, we tend to believe their versions of event, not the women`s. In this case, we have someone using a very typical traditional defense, but it`s in such a atypical situation that we`re not seeing how -- we tend to fully disbelieve him but tend to believe other people. HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I think that`s useful because what I`ve been hearing today is all of us have been watching and processing it is, well, who could ever believe him on this? But I`m thinking actually this thing that he is doing, this refusal to acknowledge that he`s even victimized anyone, his desire to bring them in as co-perpetrators in this does feel like actually the most ordinary thing that we see in this kind of violence. TILLET: Exactly. He also repeatedly said that there were acts of consensual sex, right? That`s, again, the most common shorthand for these perpetrators of sexual violence. They turn to that as their defense each and every time. So, I just want to reiterate why it`s important for us to see this as atypical but also fairly typical. And part of the reason why this matters, as you pointed out, these women`s testimonies are so important. But usually we don`t believe them, right? And so, it takes extraordinary circumstances for us to believe the most ordinary experience. And so, I wanted to reiterate that point. HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s talk about that a little bit. You and I are both survivors. We have both written and talked publicly about being survivors. In my case, I did not tell for years, and so, when I hear Michelle Knight in that moment in the courtroom, expressing that the need to tell other people you are heard, that was an incredibly -- like, I just -- I almost don`t want to talk about Ariel Castro. I only want to talk about Michele knight and what she does in this moment. TILLET: Yes, seeing it again, hearing it again, I was so moved. I`m moved by both her courage and her strength but also the family members of the other women testifying on their behalf, right? Because it shows both how healing and moving forward and coming forward requires a community. It`s not just the individual who experienced the violence, but there`s all these ripple effects as well as requires all of us to come to their defense and their aid and help them heal. And I was also thinking about, you know, for the last 10 years with the organization I co-founded with my sister, A Long Walk Home, ten years, the same amount of time Amanda Berry was imprisoned, we`ve been going around trying to really convince the world that if you listen to survivors of sexual violence stories, if you center their stories in your perception and conception of social justice, not only will it hopefully create more empathy and sympathy for survivors of sexual violence, but actually maybe give us a different perspective on how we can end this epidemic, right? If we listen to Michelle Knight`s testimony and re-imagine how we can end this epidemic through her point of view and experience, versus our knee-jerk response, which oftentimes over-identification with the perpetrator, how would the laws look different, how would our rape culture actually be eradicated? I just think her testimony was so important because it meant so much obviously to me and you. I actually think it really gives other women and men who have experienced this cruelty a sense of recognition and sense of redemption. HARRIS-PERRY: I`m glad to end it there, Salamishah because I kept thinking, how do we talk about this and add something, not just have it be salacious, not just have it be the voyeurism on the pain of these women. And so, it`s very useful to me. I appreciate you saying that part of it is if we can change how we think about these stories. Put the Michelle Knights and Amanda Berrys and Gina DeJesuses at the center of our stories. TILLET: Thanks. HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of English and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania and cofounder of A Long Walk Home -- thanks for joining us. And there`s much more ahead, including Governor Scott Walker`s war on unions. The latest on Virginia`s free stuff from donors Republicans. And later the perils of turning a "C" into an "A." Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: Republicans like to say that all Democrats are interested in is free stuff. To that I say, what about Virginia where the Republican governor and attorney general have turned piling up free stuff into a Rolex and Ferrari driving art form? We`ve got the latest just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: The great fast food strike of 2013 continued today with workers walking away from the cash registers and burger grills and fry-o- laters to picket for a livable wage. They`re asking for $15 an hour, twice what they typically earn. They`ve been asking in Chicago and New York and St. Louis, Detroit and Flint, Michigan, at restaurants like KFC and Taco Bell. They went on strike today at a McDonald`s outside Milwaukee in the western suburbs. Saying McDonald`s can well afford to pay them more. This nationwide strike comes with funding from one of the biggest unions in the country, the SEIU. In Milwaukee, an SEIU member said she sees the movement growing. Quote, "More and more workers are beginning to realize they have a voice." What those fast food workers do not have is a union. They do not have a union job. They have Mcjobs and Mcwages and Mcbenefits. They do not belong to unions and it is not at all clear that they stand any real chance of forming unions at the local Burger King. The history of improving lives of workers in this country is very much the history of unions. Organized labor created the weekend as we know it. Union fought for laws against child labor in this country and back when no one had health insurance or maternity leave, unions negotiated for those benefits, and the benefits became the standard for everyone. Union membership in this country has been falling over the last half century. That is the red line here. See? Falling. The blue line shows what has happened to the middle class in that time, also falling. As the unions have been shrinking, so has the middle class` slice of the pie. These days, a union member is five times more likely to work for a government than a private company. Public workers are the last stronghold of labor unions in this country, the last stronghold for the people who brought you health insurance and the weekend. But that stronghold is not looking at all strong. In February 2011, Republican Governor Scott Walker called for the stripping of union rights from public workers. It was one of the first moves he made as governor of Wisconsin. The backlash from the public was immediate and sustained. It went on for weeks. The biggest protests the state had ever seen. The unions and the public knew exactly what was at stake. They knew, but they could not stop the bill. Governor Walker signed the bill stripping union rights from public employees in March of 2011. Now, the idea behind the bill was fairly simple. It took away unions` ability to collect dues automatically from members so each member had to choose to pay each month, which makes union membership feel more expensive. At the same time, the bill limited public workers` rights to bargain for better wages and benefits. So, being in a union felt more expensive just when the new law made that membership seem less valuable. It is classic consumer psychology. And it worked. Within months of Wisconsin`s law taking effect, teachers were trying to figure out how to get members to stay members. To pay their dues and stay involved. By the end of 2012, the state teachers union had lost a third of their members, so many that they agreed to merge. Last year, union membership nationwide hit the lowest level since the Great Depression. In Wisconsin, union membership declined 14 percent last year. In one year. Now, Governor Walker is floating the idea of taking union rights away from police and firefighters, too, since it`s been working out so well for the other unions. Here`s the thing: when Republican officials talk about stripping union rights, they say it will save the taxpayers money, because the teachers won`t be able to bargain for raises and benefits. They say it will be good for the union members who won`t have to pay dues anymore and so on and so on. That is the public argument for taking away union rights. But there`s another explanation for why Republicans like Scott Walker would be so determined to go after labor unions. Back during the Wisconsin protests, on this show, Rachel Maddow ran the numbers. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: In 2010, post-Citizens United, seven of the top ten outside spending groups in the election were all right wing. Chamber of Commerce, both of Karl Rove`s groups, the American Future Fund, Americans for Job Security, all of these right-wing groups. The only non- conservative groups that cracked the top 10 were the Public Employees Union, SEIU, and the teachers union. That`s it. Unions are the only competition Republicans have in electoral politics. Post-Citizens United, conservatives look at this and smell blood. I mean, compare this to `08. They have knocked the unions down to sixth and seventh place. Without unions, essentially, all of the big money in politics would be right wing money. All of it. That is not hyperbole. All it. Unions are the only players. They are the only fish of any size on the liberal side. And, you know, it is nice to think, well, you know, I have this really awesome PTA group. Bake sales. I`ve got a meet-up drinking liberally book club honk for peace thing we do on Wednesdays. We could probably raise some money. It is true those are good things. It all does matter. But nothing matters as much as this. I realize it is not romantic-sounding, but this is really how it works in politics. This decides who wins elections and who loses them. And if Republicans can use public policy to destroy their only competition for big political money, if they can use public policy to destroy the only major institutions that help Democratic causes at election time, then Republicans can run the table. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: All right. You got it? Unions not only gave us the weekends and health insurance. Unions not only gave us the middle class. Unions then gave that middle class a way to take part in the political process, in the significant part of the process that involves putting money into political campaigns. And when union members get involved in campaigns, they tend to throw their considerable support behind Democrats. Not Republicans. In our politics now, rightly or wrongly, we have big money corporate interests on the Republican side. And their only competition comes from unions. So Republicans try to take away the unions. They try to make it so they can run the table. That part of the plan is also working. Today, "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" reported public unions in Wisconsin are losing their influence in the state capital. Quote, "In just two years, spending by the state`s public employee unions on lobbyists has slipped from the summit of Wisconsin politics, leaving business interests uncontested at the pinnacle of capitol lobbying." The state`s largest teachers union used to be the leading presence in the statehouse for educators in Wisconsin. Now, they`ve gone from seven- figure spending on lobbying to relative peanuts. Their spokesperson says they`re trying to make due without paid lobbying. The top five lobbying groups in Wisconsin now are mostly business types like hospitals and manufacturers. The folks lobbying for teachers and janitors and snowplow drivers are all but gone. This is a huge shift in our politics. And it may be a lasting one. We cannot know if Republicans in Wisconsin were motivated to strip union rights in order to achieve this end, but it`s hard to imagine they regret how it has turned out. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: This guy has become quite famous on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW and elsewhere. He`s Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. First renowned for trying to mandate medically unnecessary invasive medical procedures on women, and more recently for taking lots of gifts and favors from a shady political donor which he has recently decided to return. But Governor McDonnell is a short timer. He`s a one termer. His story certainly matters. But it`s a story of this guy which will matter much more going forward. He is Ken Cuccinelli. He`s Virginia`s attorney general and Republican nominee for governor. And what Ken Cuccinelli is up to right now is a lot like the stuff that is dogging old Bob McDonnell, except Ken Cuccinelli is responding in a very different way. The amazing high-stakes story of political intrigue in Virginia is coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Check this out. This is what it is like to be Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: A smile? OK. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can bring people together and go forward, bearing in mind -- MCDONNELL: Is that big enough? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No fixing to do. He may not want to smile. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor? MCDONNELL: Yes? Oh, need another one? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: You need another one? All right. Here it goes. I`m smiling. That was Bob McDonnell forcing a smile earlier this week. Just before sitting through an at times uncomfortable radio interview if which he announced he was all of the gifts he and his family got from wealthy Virginia businessman named Johnny Williams. Bob McDonnell is giving back the Rolex watch that was personally engraved for him. He`s giving back the $15,000 catering gift for his daughter`s wedding. He`s giving back $10,000 gift for his other daughter`s wedding. He`s already paid back $120,000 worth of loans that he got from this wealthy donor and businessman. Bob McDonnell is coming clean. Now, he still maintains he hasn`t done anything legally wrong here, but by accepting those gifts, he says that he lost the public`s trust. So, returning the gifts is essentially the least he can do. Well that and, you know, smile real big for the cameras. Bob McDonnell giving all of those gifts back may ultimately improve his own political standing in the state of Virginia but it ratchets up the pressure on this guy. The Cuch -- Bob McDonnell`s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, who is currently running to replace him as governor. Ken Cuccinelli has the same problem bob McDonnell has. He`s the recipient of $18,000 worth of gifts from the same super rich Virginia businessman. Earlier this week, we said that Cuch watch was officially back on again. Will Ken Cuccinelli return those gifts? Well, we now have an answer to that question. No, no he will not. Ken Cuccinelli told reporters he has no plan to return any of the gifts he received because according to Cuch, Star Scientific CEO Johnny Williams didn`t give him the kinds of gifts that can be returned -- which is not exactly true. I mean, one of the gifts Ken Cuccinelli received from this businessman was a $1,500 catered thanksgiving dinner. Now, Cuch can`t give back that dinner, that would just be gross. But he could do what Bob McDonnell did, which is to pay back the giant catering tab. He can give back the money to Johnny Williams. Or he can donate that money to charity. The Cuch says that he`s not going to do that, though. He says, "There are some bells you can`t unring." In some ways, this gifts scandal may actually be worse for Ken Cuccinelli than for bob McDonnell. Bob McDonnell is term limited in Virginia. He`s out as governor at the end of the year. While he`s facing a number of investigations related to those gift, his political career is, for all intents and purposes, over. Not so for the Cuch. He`s asking Virginia voters to elect him as governor while he`s hip deep in this gift scandal. Not only is he refusing to repay gifts, which include private jet trips and family vacations at the CEO`s lake house. But every detail that comes out about his relationship with this businessman seems to be worse than the one before. In July of 2011, this CEO`s company sued the state of Virginia over a tax assessment. Ken Cuccinelli is supposed to be the guy representing the state of Virginia in that case. He`s supposed to be representing Virginia taxpayers. But instead, Ken Cuccinelli buys a whole bunch of stock in that guy`s company. He then takes a family vacation at the guy`s lake house. And his office essentially sits on that case for more than a year. Not only that, the Cuch has also now acknowledged that, yes, he may have suggested that Johnny Williams contact a certain attorney at a Richmond law firm to assist him and his company in their legal matters. And, yes, he may have helped Johnny Williams and his company apply for a few state grants. What`s the big deal? So, as bad as this whole scandal is for good old Bob McDonnell, it`s not better for Ken Cuccinelli. Here`s the amazing thing, though. Despite getting dragged down in the same sort of gift scandal that has swallowed up current Governor Bob McDonnell, despite having a record of being a far right social crusader who`s trying to bring back things like anti-sodomy laws, despite having a running mate that regularly goes around the state talking about how the entire Democratic Party is anti-God and anti-family, Ken Cuccinelli is still neck in neck in this race. The Democratic nominee for governor, Terry McAuliffe, only leads Cuch by 1 point in the polls. What in the world is going on in Virginia? Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s weekend morning show "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI." And Steve is also a senior writer at "Salon". Thanks for being here, Steve. STEVE KORNACKI, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Thanks for having me. HARRIS-PERRY: Seriously, what is -- why is it this can be happening and Cuccinelli is basically tied? KORNACKI: I mean, I think there`s two things going on. The first is just the difference, you know, we think of Virginia as a state that`s trending Democratic. That`s definitely the story over the last generation or so. But there`s a huge different in Virginia and this is sort of a national story as well between the electorate that shows up in a presidential election year and the electorate that`s shown up when Obama has been on the ballot versus, you know, when President Obama is not on ballot, the off year. So, Virginia of 2008 and 2012, very different in the Virginia that elected Bob McDonnell in 2009, the one that went Republican in 2010 in the midterms. If that basic electorate shows up this year, Cuccinelli would have more of a chance. But the other issue, other reason I think this is so close right now is simply you can look at all of Ken Cuccinelli`s problems, then you look at who the Democratic candidate is. And, you know, it`s Terry McAuliffe, who sort of just -- he -- he reeks with the insider-dom. That`s really where he is. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. KORNACKI: And, you know, a bundler, a D.C. guy, a beltway guy. Jonathan Chait, who writes for "New York" magazine, has the best line in the campaign and he says that McAuliffe is the kind of Democrat the Democrats have dreamed of voting against. HARRIS-PERRY: Right. KORNACKI: But Cuccinelli is the alternative. So, it`s one of those where the negatives are so high on both I think. HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, when we get that, already talking about the surge in decline that happens between presidential and midterm elections. So, then, if you have a Democrat you`re not particularly enthusiastic about, you have a Republican who makes you feel like, literally, his running mate, E.W. Jackson -- does that shrink the electorate further? What we end up seeing potentially in this election is folks don`t bother to come to the polls and cast a vote? KORNACKI: Yes, it`s hard to see at this point for the enthusiasm for the candidates. You do wonder if it reaches the point, perhaps on the left it`s fear of somebody like Ken Cuccinelli and the very conservative social agenda. That could inspire them. You know, maybe the right gets mobilized. We want to keep Virginia from going back into Democratic hands. But there`s that possibly. The other thing is, like, I would look at this and say, if you took the scandals around McDonnell and you took Cuccinelli`s connection to that aside, you know, actually at the start of this year this probably set up more favorably for Cuccinelli given the electorate and what Bob McDonnell had proven in 2009 when he won the governorship. Bob McDonnell very conservative on social issues and shown that as governor but he knew to run in a state like Virginia, when the climate sort of favors you, you down play the social issues, you talk about the economy. The plan for Cuccinelli was to run as I`m the successor to bob McDonnell and play down the culture issues. And here he is, this tells you all you need to know about the race. At this point in the campaign, he`s downplaying his ties to McDonnell and he`s playing up the cultural issues, lately. HARRIS-PERRY: What`s going on with E.W. Jackson, who I jokingly call Ew, in part of his social issue stances. He really has said that the entire Democratic Party is anti-God and anti-family. KORNACKI: Right. And that would -- Cuccinelli is keeping his distance from -- so, the lieutenant governor and governor are elected separately in Virginia. This is a situation where E.W. Jackson wants it to be the Cuccinelli/Jackson ticket. Cuccinelli wants it to be, you have two choices here. So, that`s one of this -- you know, E.W. Jackson, see every time he says something like this, ken Cuccinelli can`t control it. His campaign can`t control it. Every time he says it, every voter Virginia is reminded this is Ken Cuccinelli`s running mate. This guys is on the Republican ticket this fall. He`s running for lieutenant governor. So, even if they get a separate choice in November, that creates a connection that is not helpful for Cuccinelli. HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you know, because of the timing of the Virginia governor election, and always allow us to put a lot of attention on it and to watch sort of what`s going on there. Thank you to Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC morning show, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI," which I always get to watch when I`m getting ready for my own. Thanks for your time tonight. KORNACKI: Sure. HARRIS-PERRY: Here we go, folks. Pop quiz. How did the Indiana grade inflation scandal of 2013 turn out? The answer is straight ahead. But keep your eyes on your own paper. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: In Boston, it has been a big week in the trial of gangster Whitey Bulger. Whitey Bulger`s lawyers began presenting their defense in a huge racketeering indictment that alleges Bulger committed 19 murders. The judge has told Bulger`s attorneys they have until tomorrow to decide if he will take the stand in his own defense. But even if that has not happened, we have learned already in this court this week, it`s been kind of incredible, like that the FBI`s files about Bulger were locked in fire proof safe in the bureau`s Boston offices, to keep them from corrupt agents who it was feared would leak their contents back to the mob. It was common practice in the Boston office of the FBI and those days for corrupt agents who listed Whitey Bulger as an informant to help feed him tips to help evade arrest, and allow him to identify who in his gang was working with the FBI against him. Just today, a former FBI agent testified that he warned his bosses at the FBI in 1982 that he was worried one of Bulger`s associates was in danger of being killed because a high ranking member of Whitey`s gang found out the guy had been informing to the FBI. The former agent testified that despite his warnings to the FBI, nothing was done, and the informant was killed. The long, sordid history of Whitey Bulger and the FBI in Boston is exhibit A, that the bureau is not always squeaky clean, that no one is infallible, and that everybody should be questioned. After the Boston marathon bombings this spring, FBI agents went to central Florida to interview a friend of one of the suspected bombers. Now, maybe they wanted to talk to Ibrahim Todashev about the Boston bombings, or maybe they were questioning him about the unsolved triple murder that took place just outside Boston in 2011, a homicide, which one of the suspected bombers was linked to only after the marathon. We don`t really know what was discussed because the FBI hasn`t told us. But what we do know is this: after hours of questioning the young man, and this was apparently the fourth time he was being interviewed, after hours of questions, to somebody who had made himself available to the FBI again and again -- FBI agents shot the young man in his own home. His family has released photo his of him taken apparently at the morgue. They appear to show him shot six times in the torso, and one in the back of the head. These are all of the reasons that law enforcement has given since that shooting to explain why they needed seven bullets to subdue the young man they were questioning. First, they said Todashev charged an FBI agent with a knife. Later that same day, they were backtracking about the knife. One week later, an FBI agent said he had seen Todashev coming at coming at him with a metal pole, or maybe it was a broom stick, no, no, maybe it was a sword. Todashev was just wielding the furniture in the house, yes, that definitely what happened. That`s it, that`s it. Todashev`s family, the ACLU and others who are asking for an independent investigation into what really happened are not alone in thinking that what we`ve heard so far is nowhere near enough. The state of Massachusetts says it has no plans to look into what provoked the FBI to shoot this young man several times, because the interview took place in Florida, claiming it just does not have jurisdiction. Today, we learned the state of Florida will not be investigating either because they say the FBI is already investigating itself. That`s right -- the only official investigation into the convoluted story of why the FBI was unloaded seven bullets into someone it was investigating, that investigation is being conducted by the FBI. As for how that investigation is likely to turn out, this is the FBI`s record on navel-gazing. Over the past 20 years the FBI has investigated more than 120 shootings, and in zero of this is cases have they ever found wrongdoing --a perfect record for the FBI, according to the FBI. There is a reason organizations are not normally allowed to investigate themselves. Independent examiners are usually best at shining bright lights in murky dark corners. The killing of Ibrahim Todashev has raised a "you can drive a truck through its inconsistency" and all kinds of troubling questions. Every government needs to have oversight and to be held accountable, especially when the agency has the power and the firepower of the FBI. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: An update tonight on the employment status of Tony Bennett, not him, although I can update you here, too, this Tony Bennett is still a silky smooth, crooner whose appeal transcends just about everything that defies anyone. But the real Tony Bennett update, the Tony Bennett, regards the Tony Bennett who used to run the school systems in the state of Indiana. The story two nights ago was that Mr. Bennett, an advocate of the school choice program appeared to be caught inflating grades, not the grades of kids but of the school. And not just any school, but a charter school. Not just any charter school, but the charter school named by a very generous donor to Indiana Republicans, and to Mr. Bennett, and to the education program Mr. Bennett promoted as the school`s chief. The school in question, the Christel House Charter School, and the "Associated Press" published emails in which Tony Bennett was more than disappointed that Christel House Charter School had received a C-grade on its state evaluation. Somehow in the wake of the e-mail in question, that C-grade morphed into an A-grade without the school performing any better than it had when it got a C. For the record, Mr. Tony Bennett, the former Indiana schools guy, denied that he had cooked the books in Indiana, and did this denying from sunny Florida, because that is where he landed as Governor Rick Scott`s school guy, after voters in Indiana had shown him the door, in favor of a Democratic candidate who run against charter schools. Former Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett not only became the school`s chief in Florida, but he`s also closely allied with former Governor Jeb Bush`s education reform chief`s for change. That was Tuesday night Tony Bennett related news. Tonight, former Indiana schools chief Tony Bennett is former Florida schools chief Tony Bennett. Despite the support of Jeb Bush`s coalition of education of reformers and despite he`s calling the charges of his misconduct malicious and unfounded, Tony Bennett resigned today as Florida`s education commissioner, less than a year into his tenure, saying that he did not want to distract from Governor Rick Scott`s education reform effort in the state. And among his other remarks upon his recognition, were that, quote, "the most important thing is to educate children." Now, on that, everyone can agree. But the debate about how best to do it is going to continue at least for the moment without Tony Bennett. 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