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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/03/13

Guests: Betsy West, Erika Andiola

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. In March of this past year, there was a series of violent attacks in the south of France. On March 11th, a French soldier was killed in an unprovoked, seemingly random shooting. Then, four days later, in a town about 30 miles away, two more French soldiers were ambushed in killed again in a totally unprovoked attack. And then, four days later it happened again. The third attack was an attack against a Jewish school in the city of Toulouse. A young rabbi and teacher was killed. He was trying to shield his own kids from the gunman at the time. Two kids of his children were killed along side him at that day, as well as another 8-year-old girl from the school, and then the gunman got away. Three attacks. There were March 11th, then March 15th, and then March 19th. In all three cases, it was a single gunman with a large caliber handgun on a motorcycle. And he kept his motorcycle helmet on throughout the attacks. It turns out, the gunman had mounted on his chest a video camera. He`d mounted on his chest a Go Pro, a Go Pro camera with which he recorded himself carrying out all of these shootings. After they finally figured out who the shooter was, after a huge nationwide manhunt, and a long armed stand off with police in which the killer finally went down in a hail of bullets, after a huge standoff, a few days after, it was all over and police were doing the investigation, trying to figure out if he acted alone. The TV network al Jazeera announced that the killer, before his death, had sent them the video footage of all of his killings on a USB drive. He mailed them a USB drive with all the videos on it, and he mailed it to the Paris officers of al Jazeera, along with a rambling, misspelled diatribe claiming credit and saying he was al Qaeda and explaining why he did it. Apparently, part of the reason there was four days between each of the attacks, part of what he spent his time doing in those four day periods, before the police finally caught up with him, is that he was editing. He was working on a computer to edit the video footage that he shot on his Go Pro to make these murders, these three days of murders, into an edited jihad video that he set to music and everything and he wanted al Jazeera to put it on the air. Al Jazeera did not put it on the air. Al Jazeera released a statement saying that in accordance with their company`s code of ethics, given that the video does not add any information that is not already in the public domain, they said they would not be broadcasting any of the contents of that flash drive that the killer had sent them. They said, quote, "Al Jazeera has received requests from other media outlets for copies of the videos, all such requests are being declined." On September 11th, 2001, the terrorists attacks on New York City that day started at roughly 9:00 a.m. in the morning. So, the print versions of that day`s newspapers were already out on the newsstands when the attacks happened. It`s interesting. It makes those newspapers that are dated September 11th, 2001, sort of this interesting frozen in time snapshot of the world before everything changed that day. The front page of the "New York Times" on September 11th, 2001, it was about school dress codes and how hot morning TV is now that we`re all getting up so early. The first edition of "The New York Times" that actually contained reporting on what happened on September 11th, 2001, that was the edition that came out the following day, came out on September 12th. And in that day`s paper, in the September 12th paper, "The New York Times" ran an "A.P." photo by a photographer named Richard Drew. And the photo showed a man falling -- falling from the upper floors of the World Trade Center to his death. A lot of photos were taken of people who died that way they day. It is estimated a couple hundred people may have died that way on 9/11. And their images, falling from buildings, their images were captured by multiple photographers in still images and also on video. But "The New York Times" and other newspapers who ran those images, of people falling from the buildings, who run those images on September 12th, they did not run those images again after that day. Now, whether there was an overt backlash against them, or whether they just thought better of it with the passage of time, it is hard to figure out now in retrospect. But that was it for those images of people falling from the buildings. Those images were broadcast and published in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, but then they stopped being broadcast and published. It`s not illegal to publish them. You can find your way to those images if you want to. Documentaries have been made about them. Every anniversary, people write about what it meant to see those images as the carnage was happening. But media organizations, by and large, have stopped showing those images of their own volition. And those are not easy decisions for media organizations to make, but the media does make those decisions. Just because you can publish something does not necessarily mean that you should in every instance. Today, in our own newsroom, we were talking about this phenomenon in our business. In our news meeting, producers here who work on the show were talking about going through the footage here at MSNBC in 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as it was being reported live. And going through that footage, taking care to not gratuitously show dead bodies, to now show dead Americans floating in the floodwaters after Hurricane Katrina in the streets of New Orleans, if it could be avoided. More than 1,800 Americans were killed in the aftermath of Katrina. And there is no reason that any of us should be shielded from that truth. There was an ethical obligation to tell that story, and all the ways that stories are responsibly told. But at some point, does it become irresponsible to pruriently (ph), graphically show the bodies of people who cannot consent to the use of those images, whose families maybe learning of their loved ones` death for the first time by seeing a body on television. Those decisions about responsibility are ones where it`s very hard just to be pure, right? Where you want smart people of sound judgment and sober reasoning and sensitivity and courage to be considering all of the sides, to be making very hard decisions and making them slowly and correctly. There is something that sociologists called the Werther Effect. It`s been studied in sociology and psychology and public health for several decades now. There does seem to be a provable observable link between intensive publicity for specific suicides and more people killing themselves. It`s essentially a copycat effect or a suggestive effect that when excessive attention is paid to suicides and specifically the details of why a person committed suicide and what the method was that they chose to commit suicide and how they did it and what the aftermath was in terms of people who knew them, it`s not necessarily wrong to report things like that, but intensive publicity of that kind has been linked, has been scientifically linked. It has been observed in lots of places over a long period of time now to cause more people to kill themselves. And so, there is an element of responsibility in reporting on suicides, right? A lot of media organizations have tried to be overtly conscious of that responsibility in the way they report on people taking their own lives. For example, if you look at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, they post all their standards and practices on their Web site. And they have their policy of reporting suicides posted on their Web site. It`s very easy to find. It says we`re sensitive in handling suicide attempts and desperate acts. In particular, we avoid describing the act in detail, or illustrating the method. And we consider the risk of glorifying this behavior and of influencing vulnerable people. After the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, which is the worst mass shooting in history, in which ended in the suicide of the killer, NBC News in this building received in the mail a multimedia dossier that had been prepared specifically for NBC News by the Virginia Tech killer. He seems to have started putting it together almost a week before the shootings. Because he got the zip code wrong for Rockefeller Plaza on the package, the package did arrive until well after the shooting was over and the killer was dead. But, then, NBC had a decision to make in the immediate aftermath of those shootings, about the newsworthiness of this thing that they have been sent. There was long, rambling, incoherent profanity laced confession, sort of, a manifesto, still images that the killer had taken of himself trying to look like a tough guy, or trying to look like a sympathetic guy in some pictures. It was material that no other news organization had and it did, in fact, shed light on why this deranged young man did what he did. So, yes, that information may be arguably could add to the public`s understanding of what happened in the worst mass shooting in American history, that horrible day at Virginia Tech in 2007. At the same time, this was material organized by the killer to glorify himself and excuse what he did. And in some cases, it seemed like it was designed specifically to terrorize yet more people. A lot of the images he took of himself were of himself pointing the gun at a camera. I`m not going to show you those pictures here, but that`s part of what he sent -- essentially showing the rest of the country the last thing that his victims saw before he took their lives. NBC News made the decision when they got that dossier to hand the entire thing over to federal law enforcement authorities who are investigating the killings. They kept a copy of it for themselves, they combed through it very carefully for its news value, they put together a very carefully edited news package of the information they have been sent. It was a small fraction of the total materials that they aired or even described. The press in this country is a free press. The press can do whatever we want. We can publish whatever we want. We can broadcast whatever we want. But with that freedom comes great responsibility. The press is not just an amplifying system for raw information. We`re not just a means of disseminating information that we get access to by virtue of us being the press. The press makes decisions all the time about what is right to publish and what is wrong to publish. What is a value to the public`s understanding of our world and news events, and what is not of value and would only cause unnecessary pain or harm if it were broadcast. The name of the rape victim does not need to be part of the story, right? The bodies at the crash site do not need to be shown on the 6:00 news in order for you to understand that people were killed in that crash. The death of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, it can be described and not shown, even though his killers so desperately wanted it to be shown and shown again and shown again. It can be described. It does not have to be shown, particularly because that is what they wanted. And these calls are not always simple. When Saddam Hussein was executed in Iraq, was the particular brutality of that execution just an obscenity that was beside the point of his death? Or was the sectarian screaming and the chaos and the brutality of that execution and his last moments actually an important part of the story? And for what his death would mean in an ongoing way both for Iraq and for us? When "The New York Times" found out that the Bush administration was wiretapping without court orders, Bush administration officials told "The New York Times" that the paper would have blood on its hands and would be responsible for the deaths of Americans in the next terrorists attacks on this country if they published that story. Because of those concerns, "The New York Times" held that story for a year. Conveniently or inconveniently, as you will, they held the story until after the 2004 election in which President Bush was reelected, even though they have the story before the election. Incidentally, "The Times" sitting on that story for a year is part of why Edward Snowden says he decided to take his further revelations this year about more warrantless wiretapping, not to "The New York Times" but instead to "The Guardian" in Britain. But, again, today, the editor of "The Guardian" told a parliamentary inquiry in London that "The Guardian" has only published about 1 percent of what Edward Snowden gave them and he doesn`t expect to publish much more of it. Is that decision not to publish 99 percent of what he gave them, is that an issue of bravery, and intimidation? Is that judgment as to what counts as newsworthy? I mean, they are deciding, in effect, what we get to know about what our government does based on their judgment of what counts as news. And their judgment conceivably of what harm they would cause by releasing to the public what they as a news organization are privileged to know that the rest of us to do not. It is a very, very uncomfortable thing, but it is part of why the job of a free and responsible press is not just an important thing in a democracy, it`s a hard thing, and it`s a hard job, and it is hard to do well. You want the people who do it to be worthy of the responsibility that they have. Tomorrow morning in a law office in Danbury, Connecticut, the news media will get access to the tapes of the 911 phone calls that were made in Newtown, Connecticut on the morning of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings. The state of the Connecticut and the prosecutors office and representatives of the victims` families say they did not want those tapes to ever become available to the public. But "The Associated Press" sued to get access to the tapes, and a judge was ruled in the favor and appeals were dropped. And so, tomorrow morning in Connecticut, the media for the first time will get those tapes. And then what? Now, it`s up to the good judgment of the media to decide whether those tapes should be publicly broadcast. Whether what they will add to the public understanding of the massacre outweighs the additional, pointless trauma that playing those tapes publicly will undoubtedly caused to the families and the survivors in Newtown. Again, it was an "Associated Press" lawsuit that brought about the access to the tapes. It`s going to happen tomorrow morning. It`s interesting, in all of "The A.P.`s" own news stories about their own efforts to get access to those tapes, they started adding this particular sentence at the end of the news stories. It says, "The A.P. will review the content and determine what if any of it would meet the news cooperatives standards for publication." "The A.P.`s" own published standards say without a compelling reason to do so, they will not publish obscenities, profanities, or vulgarities. And, of course, obscene, vulgar, and profane are in the eye of the beholder. But if you just take the commonly accepted dictionary definition of obscenity, as something that is offensive to morality and decency, offensive to morality or decency -- you can kind of see the weight of the decision that`s going to come down on all of our heads tomorrow morning, right? I mean, this is the decision now. This is the judgment call. Is the content of those tapes, the audio recordings of the calls for help made that were made during the master of those first graders, is the content of those tapes, the sound of those pleas for help going to increase public understanding of that incident so much that it outweighs the offense to morality and decency of putting them on display? Our press is a free press, and nobody tells the press what to do and it`s one of the most important things in our democracy. But with that freedom really does come great responsibility, and it is the press that will make the decision of what to broadcast, come tomorrow morning, which is a school day, in December, in Connecticut. Joining us now is Betsy West. She is an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism. She`s a former senior vice president at CBS News. Ms. West, thanks very much for coming in. BETSY WEST, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM: Thank you very much, Rachael. MADDOW: When the people who run news organizations like ours decide whether or not to air this kind of sensitive material, like people are going to have to decide tomorrow morning -- WEST: Yes. MADDOW: -- what do you think are the right ethical considerations to consider? WEST: Well, I think, first and foremost, everyone will be aware of what a difficult day this is going to be tomorrow in Newtown. I think that they will be listening to those tapes to see if there is anything newsworthy in them. Is -- do we learn anything that we didn`t already know about this case from those tapes? Do we learn anything about the reaction of the police, for example? It`s hard to say until you`ve heard the tapes, but I think that`s what people will be listening to first and foremost. Now, of course, what I`m skirting is the difficult question of what do you do if you hear gunshots on those tapes? I think that will be -- that will be a tough one. You know, those are -- we live in a society that is used to images of violence, you know? On the media all the time, and on television, and in movies, but this is real violence, these are real people. And just the sound of it, it is more horrible than anything you can think of that you see in some, you know, action video game in a way. MADDOW: Now that we know what those gunshots were the sound of in those moments. WEST: Exactly. MADDOW: When you think about how to balance these things, you do have to think about the harm that might be caused. Do you have to think about the specificity of the audience because in this case, we have had representatives from the victim`s families in Newtown saying they do not want these things to be released. They obviously have a moral imperative to make that case, and we I think have a moral imperative to respond to it. But they are not the only public whose interests have to be affected here. How do you weigh victim`s families in a case like this against the public`s own interest and interest against hearing this? WEST: Yes. I mean, well, there is a right to know what happened. The public has a right to know what happened in this case. And very often, I think in these horrible tragedies you come into a conflict between the public interest in knowing about this and in the rights to privacy for the victims and the family members of the victim. MADDOW: Right. WEST: And that just seems like it happens. You mentioned 9/11, you know that certainly happened in 9/11 when I think my family members felt enough, we don`t want to see any more of this. And you know, I was thinking back to that first day, I know that I was at CBS news then. I know that there were images of falling bodies. That made it on to the air in that first hour. And then I think it was a conscious decision. We said no. This is just too horrible. It`s just -- it really is just too terrible. MADDOW: Does that work in the opposite direction? I think that was a very interesting thing about 9/11, that a lot of that stuff made it on to the air in the immediate aftermath. And then was never shown again because there was a reaction within the media that it was wrong. As much as there might have been a reaction from the public, it almost didn`t matter. It was an internal by the media. WEST: It was internal. MADDOW: So, does it go the other direction? If tomorrow there are ten news organizations in that law office in Danbury, and nine of them decide, you know what? This does not add enough to the news value and this is going to cause people too much pain, we do not need to air it. If one of those news organizations decides to run with it, does that then create a sort of unstoppable bit of momentum where everybody else has to chase them into it? WEST: Well, everybody else is under competitive pressure to think about it. MADDOW: Yes. WEST: It does definitely push people and I think we have -- it seems to me I can`t imagine these tapes will not find their way on to the Internet. MADDOW: They can be -- people can access them through public records officers presumably if they want to see now that get put online. WEST: Yes, people are going to be able to see them, and I think that every news organization is going to wrestle with whether or not they feel there is something in those tapes that makes them newsworthy. MADDOW: Yes, putting them on the air in a way that somebody could accidentally come across them without trying to find them is a morally different thing than putting them out there in a way that people who are looking for them can find them, just in terms of the trauma. WEST: Yes. Exactly. MADDOW: Betsy West, associate professor now at Columbia University School of Journalism, former senior VP at CBS News, it`s really helpful to have you here, thanks for coming in. WEST: Thank you so much, Rachel. MADDOW: Appreciate it. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Congratulations, you are living in historic times. We are all living in historic times, because this year, 2013 is the year when the United States Congress did less work than any other U.S. Congress in the history of U.S. Congresses, people. Oh, yes. This Congress has passed less legislation and made less policy and less law than literally any other Congress in the history of our country back to the beginning. They are on track to set the record, and that`s not even counting the fact that while they were doing no legislating at all, they also managed to shut down the federal government and almost default on the national debt, all before Halloween. So, like, let`s say you have a car that`s up on blocks in the yard, right? It`s up on blocks, it`s not on wheels, it doesn`t run. But then in addition to being on blocks and not running, you also manage to push the car off the blocks and on to your foot. So, in addition to not driving you anywhere, your car has also managed to break all your toes. That`s what this Congress is. And in this metaphor, you pay your car $174,000 a year to sit there on blocks and occasionally break your feet. This Congress is amazing and it has been amazing for a very long time. This year will set the record for Congress doing less than ever before, but the record before this year will be last year, which is the first year that John Boehner took over as speaker. This Congress is amazing. But small glimmer of hope today, a tiny blink and you might miss it sign of progress today. Actually, a couple of signs of Congress. First of all, the House of Representatives decided today to add a whole extra day of work to their calendar between now and the end of the year. See, they had planned to give themselves a total of 239 days off work this year, but now, they`re only going to give themselves 238 days off work. They have just decided that they are going to be in session next Monday -- which means that next week, your member of Congress is planning work a full five-day week which they never do. So, we should probably all get the fainting couches ready, they might pass out. You know, though, progress is progress. Baby steps. So, that was sign of progress number one. They`re actually going to work. Sign of progress number two is that the House actually passed a thing today. The House actually passed something important and substantive that has a good chance of not dying on it`s way across the hall to the Senate. The House today voted to keep in place our country`s long-standing the ban on plastic gun that cannot be detected by metal detectors. Ronald Reagan signed the plastic gun ban in 1988. It was due to expire this week, but the House today voted to keep it in place, to extend for another 10 years. Naturally, the House of Representatives decided to cast this vote in the least courageous way possible. They passed it by a voice vote, which means that nobody has to be on the record as voting for it or against it. But still, I`m not complaining, baby steps. They did it. They passed what should be the easiest thing in the entire world to pass, but for this Congress no one was sure if they could do it. And that`s not all. The third glimmer of getting something done for the worst Congress ever today was a report from "Politico" reporting that Democratic Senator Patty Murray, who heads up budget issues for the Democrats, Patty Murray and her Republican counterpart in the House, according to "Politico", they are reportedly rather close to a deal, which might result in us having a budget as a country -- that would be neat -- and which would at least partially replace the self-inflicted designed to be stupid and painful cuts known as the sequester. According to "Politico", a deal to finally kibosh the stupid sequester could finally be at hand. Maybe. There is a catch, though. It`s Senator Patty Murray, right, in the Senate. She is a Democrat. Her Republican counterpart in the House, which she`s working with on this, is Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. And that might be a problem, because you might remember Paul Ryan from the big deficit reduction commission in 2010. He was part of that and he killed it. You might also remember him from the big bipartisan gang of six in 2011. He was part of that and then he killed it. You might also remember him from the grand bargain struck by President Obama and Speaker John Boehner in 2011 which was also killed by Paul Ryan. So, yes, Patty Murray and Paul Ryan are reportedly close to a deal which would kill the sequester and get us a budget, and all sorts of reasonable things that everybody in Washington says they want. But Paul Ryan`s history of working on deals like this is that he likes to be seen working on them before he breaks free and calls them impure and then kills what he helped to negotiate. So, we shall see on this. I`m not exactly getting excited about this yet. Initial reports are positive, long term prospects are dim. But you know what? Even the babiest of baby steps are still steps. And in a year like this one, a Congress like this one, even the most meager signs of forward progress must be nurtured. You can do it, you guys. You can do it. Surprise everybody. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Political protests do not always involved big poster board signs and banners and marching and megaphones and chanting. Sometimes, protests are quieter and they look more like this. Today in Washington, this small group of protesters that received visits from the president, and the first lady, and the vice president, and a whole bunch of members of the president`s cabinet, today, each of the seated protesters who you see here in this almost solemn ceremony, they each passed on a responsibility, a certain task to the people who were kneeling before them. Among the group agreeing to take up the mantle from these folks who cannot do what they have been doing anymore was this young congressman, Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts. This is a dramatic story today of what happened here. We`ve got more on this coming up in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the winter of 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy of New York went to California to visit Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers of America. Cesar Chavez, of course, went on to be a towering figure in the history of labor and social justice movements in this country. But in 1968, as you can see, he was a very young man and it was the start of him and his movement having a national political profile. Cesar Chavez in the winter of 1968 started a 25-day fast to publicize the aims of the farm workers and to recommit that movement to nonviolence, to the nonviolent tactics of Gandhi and the American civil rights movement. He started on a 25-day fast, no food at all, only water. Thousand of farm workers and supporters came out to California to visit, to see him through the fast. Mr. Chavez asked Senator Robert Kennedy who was running for president to come to California to see him and to talk with him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THEN-SEN. ROBERT KENNEDY (D), NEW YORK: I knew about when he went on the fast in the beginning, and I sent him a telegram at that time because I was concerned about his own health. I think that he is needed, that kind of influence that`s committed to nonviolence and committed to trying to perform some good for his people it is desperately needed for these people and for the country as a whole. And then, about a week ago, he got in touch with me and asked if I would come out. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After 25 days of not eating, Cesar Chavez broke the fast with Bobby Kennedy at his side. Mr. Chavez, first, he took communion, and then, Senator Kennedy passed him a piece of bread, his first food after 25 days. That happened 45 years ago. This winter, it is Eliseo Medina who has been fasting. The labor leader who started working with Cesar Chavez back in 1966, and who himself started fasting last month for immigration reform, along with many other mostly young activists. The day after Thanksgiving, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama went to visit Mr. Medina and the activists on the National Mall where they had been without food for 20 days. The president told the fasters that he supported their cause, that he believed it was not a matter of if but when, the House of Representatives would finally take a vote on immigration, but the president also voiced concern for the health of these people who had been fasting for so long. He suggested they take a break for their own health, that they passed on the torch, let somebody else fast next. Today, Eliseo Medina did that. After 22 days without food, he broke his fast, or rather, he passed it on to Senator Robert Kennedy`s grandson, Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts. He now will join with the other activists for fasting for 24 hours and then he will pass the fast on to yet others. These protests are all part of an emotional and intense effort to try to push the House to take up immigration reform. This is Erika Andiola who came here from Mexico when she was a child. She was one of the people who`s featured on the cover of "Time" magazine`s issue on undocumented immigrants earlier this year. In January of this year, Erika`s mother and her brother were taken from their home at 9:00 p.m., in a night raid by immigration officials. Erika posted this video online the night that it happened. An activist asked people to call immigration authorities to try to get her mother and brother released. So, this is a clip from the video that Erika posted that night. And then you`ll see the call to action at the end. This is kind of amazing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIKA ANDIOLA: Hello, my name is Erika, and I`m talking to you right now because my mother and brother were just taken away by immigration. They just came to my house. They knocked on my door. My brother was outside with the neighbor. And they just came to ask for my mom. They said they were not going to do anything to her. And my mom came outside and they took her for no reason. This is not just happening to me, it`s happening to families everywhere. We can`t let this happen anymore. I need everybody to stop pretending like nothing is wrong, to stop pretending that we`re just living normal lives because we`re not. This could happen to any us any time. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You see the slate come in there at the end about the number to call, to tell immigration authorities to let them go. The day after that raid, Erika`s brother was released but her mother remained in custody. At one point, her mother was even driven to the border, to be deported, but at the very last minute, she was granted prosecutorial discretion, a sort of reprieve which allowed her to remain in this country with her family until her case could come up for review. On the exact same day that the raid happened, one the exact same day that her house was raided, Erika had just started a new job working for Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema as an outreach director. Erika has eligible immigrant work status. But on the day she started working for the congresswoman, they came for her mom and her brother. Well, now, after almost a year working for Congresswoman Sinema, Erika Andiola is having to leave her job. "BuzzFeed" ran an interview with her today, reporting that she returning home to Arizona now to help fight her mother`s deportation. In a letter sent to her colleagues, she says, "The politically-charged immigration debate has always been personal for me and, and, in many ways, my life symbolizes the most controversial flashpoints of the debate. I came across the desert from Mexico as a child. I have lost members of my community and even my own family to deportations. I was awarded deferred action for childhood arrival status, but then had Governor Jan Brewer took away my right to a drivers license with an executive order. Once again, I`m facing the most painful aspect of the record-setting deportations of the Obama era: family separation by deportation." Erika Andiola`s mother`s case is expected to come up for review just after the New Year in January. The review will decide whether or not she is allowed to stay in this country with her kids. Joining us now for the interview is Erika Andiola. She is cofounder of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, and as of today, a former outreach director for Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. Erika, thanks very much for being with us. I really appreciate your time tonight. ANDIOLA: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: Can you tell me about this decision to leave the job at the congresswoman`s office and head home to try to help your mom? ANDIOLA: Yes, of course. I mean, it was a very tough decision. I feel like it was for me, a great opportunity for the first time I was able to use my work permit that I had just gotten in November to be able to, you know, work on the issue that I care about the most inside of Congress, right? And try to influence people within. Unfortunately, you know, things haven`t worked out in Congress for many reasons, and the fact is that my own life is pending on that and the fact that, you know, I can work for a congresswoman, but I cannot drive here because I don`t have a driver`s license, and the fact that my mother can be deported at anytime. This is the fact that, you know, they`re still undocumented and that they don`t have protection for themselves. MADDOW: You have been living this in your own family. You have been an activist at home in Arizona. You`ve been an accomplished activist in terms of founding the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, being a cofounder there, doing all the direct work that you have done. What was it like coming to Congress and trying to work on this issue specifically for Congresswoman Sinema? What is the situation in Congress compared today what you expected? ANDIOLA: It was frustrating. For me, I get a lot of home when I work with families. And you know, we were able to win a little bit, you know, a little bit at a time with battles, sometimes fighting deportation cases. And so, that gave me a lot of hope and I feel like coming to Congress and seeing the political games that came with political reform, and seeing so many deportations with the president and nothing has happened. You know, I want today tell my story to every staffer that I could find inside, every colleague. But the fact is that, you know, as much as I would tell my story, I would hear the same thing back, that, you know, there is so much politically happening that sometimes the stories are not even getting through any more. It`s frustrating, but at the same time, you know, I still have the hope that we can keep doing this and, you know right now, I cannot focus on being just in there in Congress working on this because I do have my family and my family always comes first as my mom always taught me since I was little. And so, you know, once I do this and once I stop my mom`s deportation once again, I will continue working for my community to make sure that we stop every single deportation that`s not supposed to be happening. MADDOW: What are you expecting from your mom`s case when it comes up again in January? What do you think is going to happen? ANDIOLA: The president said that he is not deporting people that are low, you know, priority, meaning people who have no criminal background, or anything like that. My mother is a 55-year-old woman who is an amazing person, you know, who does everything for her family. So I hope that he actually follows that, what he has said, and they grant her, you know, maybe deferred action like I have it, or a way to stay here without having to go to ICE every single year to ask for another year of stay, because it`s very stressful for me and my family. And we want to keep her here. You know, she has been an amazing leader now in the community, as well as in Arizona, and she has her own organization of mothers, and, you know, she is fighting for herself and she is fighting for my family as well. MADDOW: Erika Andiola, cofounder of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, leaving her job as a congressional staffer today to go hope and help her mom. Good luck. Please stay in touch with us and let us know how it goes. ANDIOLA: Thank you so much, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a Debunktion Junction, coming up, which means lots of loud noises, which I think might be found, and lots more. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today, we learned about what President Obama is planning on doing between now and Christmas Eve. Starting today, and every day between now and Christmas Eve, the White House says President Obama is going to be doing some public thing every day to highlight good things about health reform, and to get people to sign up for insurance. December 23rd is the next big enrollment deadline for Obamacare, so the White House is taking on a new effort to fight back against the law`s extremely loud critics and to encourage people to sign up for insurance. You can find of feel the change in tone from the White House on this subject already. They just don`t sound like they`re playing defense on this subject anymore. The president gave a kickoff short speech about it this afternoon in Washington, D.C., and I think it was telling this was the biggest applause line in the speech. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have always said I would work with anybody to implement and improve this law effectively. You got good ideas? Bring them to me. Let`s go. But we`re not repealing it as long as I`m president. I want everybody to be sure of that. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: On Thursday this week, the venue will be different. The crowd bill probably be a little younger, and the president will be forced off-script undoubtedly. He might even get interrupted occasionally, because President Obama on Thursday is sitting down for a one-on-one HARDBALL college tour interview with Chris Matthews at American University. President Obama and Chris Matthews on Thursday. The interview can only be seen here on MSNBC, this Thursday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern -- which means whatever you are planning on doing Thursday night, I`m giving you plenty of advance notice, you have to cancel your plans to make time to see this live when it happens. Seven p.m. Thursday night, OK? OK. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Debunktion Junction, what`s my function? OK, true or false? Obamacare does not -- I repeat -- does not cover babies? Exhibit A, when this man tried to get insurance for his family, he was told that he could buy a plan for his wife and himself and first three children, but his youngest child, still a toddler, was, quote, "out in the cold." Obamacare does not cover babies. That was his story and it went directly from "The New York Post" to the FOX News Channel. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I assumed it was a glitch. It was an administrative issue. So I called up the New York health exchange, that`s Obamacare for New York, and I was advised, no, they don`t allow children to be on family plans who are under 2 years of age. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Obamacare doesn`t cover babies? Is that true or is that false? (BUZZER) MADDOW: False. It turns out the reason this particular dad did not get coverage for his baby is that he forgot to list the baby when he signed up for insurance. Quoting, "Capital New York", "The mix-up appears to be routed in the dad`s application, which originally listed only three of his children even though he has four. When the clerical error was discovered, it was corrected." Except by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who is still peddling the story as best as he can as if it were true, even though it is not. I`m not sure I expect FOX News to correct the story, but don`t you expect the speaker of the House to? OK. Next up, true or false -- president -- that was amazing. Sorry. The desk like ate it. OK, true or false, President Obama is closing the U.S. embassy at the Vatican? From the conservative "Washington Times" newspaper, "Obama`s call to close Vatican embassy is slap in the face to Roman Catholics." From the inadvertently hilarious conspiracy theory clearinghouse "World Net Daily", they say, "Obama insults Catholics in Vatican embassy shutdown." Jeb Bush says, "Hopefully, it`s not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare." The Republican Party Senate Campaign Committee called it just the latest anti-religion pursuit of this administration, a slap in the face to Catholic Americans, a weakening of America`s position as a global leader. Oh, it sounds terrible. President Obama is closing the American embassy to the Vatican. Is that true or is that false? (BUZZER) MADDOW: That is false. President Obama is not closing the embassy. He`s moving it closer. He is moving it to the same compound with our much larger embassy to Italy. State Department says moving it will improve security and save about a million dollars a year. The new location is also a little closer to the actual Vatican than the old one is. And so, no, the president is not closing the Vatican embassy. That`s false and crazy, and the whole idea of moving the embassy in the first place was the Bush administration`s idea before the Obama administration carried it out, but that doesn`t play that well on World Net Daily or presumably with Jeb Bush. It just goes to show, when something sounds too crazy to be true, take care, Jeb Bush, maybe it is too crazy to be true, and you should take it easy. Like for example, the crazies story in the news today was, of course, the parachuting dead mice being dropped on Guam to kill the snakes, is that true or false? Dead mice being dropped from the sky to combat snakes. The story says that at Anderson Air Force Base in the U.S. territory of Guam, the government wants to do something about the brown tree snakes, because the snakes are destroying the bird population on the island, and because brown tree snakes are not native, there`s an invasive species, there`s no natural predator to keep them in check. It turns out though that the snakes are vulnerable to acetaminophen. For them, a fraction of a single Tylenol tablet is totally deadly. So the government has been dropping thousands of dead mice loaded with Tylenol and strapped into paper parachutes into the trees in Guam to be deadly poisonous bait for the invasive snakes. The person running the drug mice program is a U.S. Department of Agriculture state director of supervisory wildlife biology. His name is Dan Vice. And actually, this story is true. (BELL) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: U.S. Department of Agriculture assistant state director supervisory, wildlife biologist Dan Vice explains the process that`s already proving successful at controlling the ground tree snake population. DAN VICE, USDA: What we`re going to be watching is the aerial delivery of toxins out of the helicopter. The process is quite simple. The helicopter is going to make flights over the forest at relatively slow speeds. There are going to be certified pesticide operators inside the helicopter, delivering the baits out of the helicopter on a timed sequence. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The baits, the drugged mice. Just when you thought it was safe to trust nothing, the Tylenol-laded mice from Guam come parachuting in to call our cynicism and restore our belief that sometimes the craziest things in the news are the true ones. 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