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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/08/14

Guests: Stephen Morse

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. When Dr. Kent Brantly got sick in Liberia, he had been working in that country trying to stop the Ebola epidemic there. He`d been treating Ebola patients. And Ebola, even in places with a lot of cases, even in places that don`t have health systems that are in great western shape, even in those places Ebola is not always fatal. Some Ebola patients survive. And when Dr. Kent Brantly got sick himself in Liberia, he got two things in terms of treatment. He got access to a very, very rare dose of the scarce and hard to manufacture experimental treatment for Ebola which is called ZMapp. And the other thing he was given to try to cure him of Ebola, to try and help his body in fighting off the Ebola infection is that he was given a transfusion of the blood of one of his patients. He was given a transfusion of blood from one of the patients who he cured in Africa, in Liberia -- a Liberian boy who contracted Ebola who Dr. Brantly treated and who survived and recovered from are the virus, and Dr. Brantley received a transfusion of that boy`s blood when he first got sick. Dr. Brantley and another American working for the same aide group, a woman named Nancy Writebol, they both received initial treatment in Liberia, and then they were brought back to the United States for supportive care essentially at Emory University in Atlanta. Both of those Americans survived their bouts with Ebola. And it felt like a miracle when it happened, but they both survived. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. KENT BRANTLY: Today is a miraculous day. I`m thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Dr. Kent Brantly was the first American to be treated for Ebola in this country, but, of course, he was not the last. After he survived his bout with the disease, Dr. Brantly was asked if he would do for other patients in the United States what that little Liberian boy had done for him. Would he donate his blood and his blood plasma as -- and give it as a donation to other patients fighting Ebola, to see if his blood -- the antibodies in his blood could help them fight off the virus, too. Dr. Brantly was asked and he said yes. He donated his blood and his blood plasma was used as part of the treatment for Dr. Rick Sacra, also another American doctor who contracted the disease in Liberia. He was brought back to this country and treated at the Nebraska bio containment patient care unit. And if it has not happened already, they`re also planning to transfuse Dr. Brantley`s blood into another American patient who`s being treated here now and for the NBC freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, who`s also being treated in this country right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when you get an infection, it`s a race to your body is developing antibodies. It has to develop specific chemicals that will attach to the bacteria, the fungus or the virus and neutralize it. It takes usually 10 to 14 days, sometimes longer for that to happen. So, we`re hoping in this case is to take somebody who has gotten through the illness and already has plenty of antibodies in his system, take some of those antibodies and use them to kind of jump-start the immune system and hopefully just buy some time for our patient to fight it off himself or to have some of the other treatments help out. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the medical director at that bio containment unit and patient care center in Nebraska. I mean, honestly, there`s not much available to treat people once they`re infected with this disease. In terms of the handful of people that have been treated in this country, two of them -- the first two, they were able to get that experimental drug ZMapp. As far as we know, there`s no more of that in the entire world right now. It takes a long time to make. There are zero doses left anywhere, at least as far as we know. The Massachusetts doctor, Dr. Sacra, who was infected while he was delivering babies in Liberia, he received a different experimental drug made by a company called Tekmira. That drug, it`s still experimental. It`s called TKM-Ebola. The NBC cameraman who`s being treated in Nebraska right now, he`s being treated with yet a different drug, one made by a company that I think you pronounce their name Chimerix. It`s called Brincidofovir. The other U.S. Ebola patient who received that same drug was Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas. Sadly, though, that treatment and supportive care that he received was not enough. Thomas Eric Duncan died this morning in a hospital in Dallas. He is the first Ebola patient in America to have died from this disease. And even though this disease is thought of as being ruthlessly fatal, even though it`s responsible for thousands of deaths abroad, the fact that we never before today had somebody die of it who was being treated in this country, it did make it a shock when Mr. Duncan`s death was announced. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: Today, we`re deeply saddened by the death of the patient in Dallas. Despite maximal interventions, we learned today that he passed away. And our thoughts go out to his family, friends. He is a face that we associate now with Ebola. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Before this news was announced publicly today, the family of Thomas Eric Duncan was told of his death, told in person by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Clay Jenkins drove out to house where the family is staying and told them the news himself in person so they would not have to hear about it on the news. Thomas Eric Duncan died between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. local time this morning, and once he died, that set in motion another first, another test for the American health care system, because one of the terrible truths about Ebola is that after a person has just died from the disease, their body right after death can actually be very, very infectious. I mean, the virus cannot live indefinitely without some live host in which to reproduce, but for a considerable amount of time after someone has died, there`s such a high amount of the Ebola virus in their dead body that contact with bodily fluids from the corpse of somebody who has just died, it can be a risky situation in terms of potentially passing on the virus. I mean, it`s sort of counterintuitive, but dead bodies are not usually a worrisome thing in terms of infectious diseases. When it comes to Ebola, though, that`s not the case. So, the CDC today reiterated instructions for how to safely handle the body of somebody who has died from Ebola, now that America is dealing with that for the first time ever in the history for our country. Anybody handling the body of somebody who has died of Ebola has to wear personal protective equipment, including a head-to-toe scrub suit, a cap, a gown over the suit, eye protection, face mask, shoe covers, double layers of gloves. In addition to wearing all that gear, while being in contact with the body, those personnel have to be very careful in terms of the way they take that gear off. So, any body fluids that came in contact with the outside surfaces of any of the personal protective equipment does not inadvertently get touched by the person while they are taking that equipment off. The body, itself, gets wrapped in a plastic shroud, and the body should not be washed even if that`s a tradition in the way that the body would otherwise be treated. After the body is put in the plastic shroud, it is to be put in a leak-proof plastic bag that zips closed and then that plastic bag should be put in another bag right away. And then before the body is moved, there is to be surface decontamination of everything that the body touched, and all of the outside of all of the materials that the body is now contained in. There`s all these very specific instructions about dealing with the corpse in the hospital setting, but then also how the body has to be handled at the mortuary. There`s no embalming of the body for somebody who has died of Ebola. The double body bags are never to be opened at the mortuary. The only choice in terms of disposal of the body is either to cremate the body, to burn it, or to bury it. But if it is to be buried, it has to be in a hermetically sealed casket. And then that finally is the end. All of these sort of protocols are known. These were all prepared. They didn`t have to invent them today. But they never had to be put in place in the United States before today. Thomas Eric Duncan`s family agreed today that he would be cremated. But even these granular step by step, glove by glove, layer by layer details, this is something new for our country. This has never had to be done in this country before. And maybe this will be the only time that we`ll have to do it, God willing. Maybe this particular test of the American health care system is over today. I mean, they say in Dallas that they`re following 48 people who had varying levels of contact with Thomas Eric Duncan while he was alive and symptomatic in this country. None of them have shown any symptoms or signs of being infected. There`s no outbreak of Ebola in this country. There`s only and ever been one patient diagnosed here, that he did not contract the disease here. He contracted it somewhere else. He just happened to fly here in between getting it and starting to get sick from it. This is all we`ve had to do thus far. I mean, there have been dozens of worried well maybe patients all over the country, people who a fever, or people who traveled to West Africa or both. Another man turned himself in to health authorities today in Texas, saying he was worried about his health. He said he`d been on the sheriff`s department detail at Thomas Eric Duncan`s apartment in Dallas, and so, that man is being monitored tonight to find out if there is any chance that he was exposed rather than just being worried about his exposure. But again, as yet, there has been no other identified case of anybody ever getting Ebola in this country from Thomas Eric Duncan or from anybody else. But with Thomas Eric Duncan dying today, with America`s first Ebola patient dying today, there are questions about how well we have performed on this test of our country. First of all, let me ask two questions and these are very nitty- gritty, but these are real questions. Kent Brantly got a blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor as part of his treatment. Rick Sacra got a blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor as part of his treatment. Ashoka Mukpo is getting a blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor as part of his treatment. Dr. Brantly says that the Dallas hospital treating Thomas Eric Duncan and asked him if he would also offer his blood and his blood plasma to Thomas Eric Duncan as part of his treatment. Dr. Brantly said he said yes. He`d be happy to do it. He also says they never followed up. He never did it. He never offered a transfusion to Thomas Eric Duncan the way that they had to those other patients. Why didn`t Dallas follow up on that? Why is that? Is there a medical explanation for that? Were these two men not the same blood type so it was incompatible? Is it possible that Thomas Eric Duncan didn`t get as high a standard of treatment as other patients have gotten in this country? Did he get everything that he could have gotten once they knew he was infected? That`s an answerable question. It is empirically knowable. Why didn`t he get a transfusion from a survivor like other patients did? Does that make sense? Also, and this is another hard question for Texas, no other patient treated -- no other patient treated for Ebola in this country besides Thomas Eric Duncan has died. Is part of the reason he died because his care was delayed? He was initially turned away from care once he had already gotten sick and he was seeking medical help. He started to feel sick on Wednesday, the 24th of September. He sought medical attention in Dallas the following day, Thursday, the 25th. That hospital sent him home, sent him away while he was sick, then sick at home with no help, no treatment, and no supportive care and I.V. and all that other stuff. He was home on Friday and on Saturday and getting sicker and sicker and it wasn`t until Sunday when he came back to the hospital in an ambulance and they finally readmitted him. Those three days that he was symptomatic in the community are part of what worried everybody so much about the risk he might infect somebody else. But those three days that he was symptomatic in the community are also three days that he wasn`t receiving any medical care! He wasn`t getting any therapy to combat the Ebola virus. He wasn`t getting intensive supportive medical care to keep him alive so his immune system could do the job to fight off the virus. Don`t mean to put too fine a point on it, but did that kill him? Could he have been saved had he been treated right from the beginning of his symptoms? We now have had exactly one patient diagnosed with Ebola for the first time in this country and he`s the one patient treated for Ebola in this country who has died. God willing, he`ll be the last. But how did we do on this test as a country? How badly did we screw this up? Did the way America screwed this up kill that man? And what do we need to learn from how he was treated in order to get it right from here on out? Joining us now is Dr. Stephen Morse. He`s professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr. Morse, thank you for being here. DR. STEPHEN MORSE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: A pleasure to join you. MADDOW: Did I summarize things in a way that misrepresented the medical truth here? MORSE: No, I think that represents the situation quite well, and the delay is a particular concern. It was a missed opportunity as well. Not only could he have been treated earlier, which the earlier the better with any of these things. But also, obviously, he could have been put into isolation before others could be infected. MADDOW: Right. MORSE: And that might or might not have saved his life but might have prevented a lot of follow-up that`s been done. MADDOW: Well, there`s been so much focus -- I mean, you know, not unwarranted focus but so much on whether he could be a vector of infection to others. Obviously him being symptomatic in the community was a big concern around that. But we haven`t really drilled down because I guess we all hoped he`d survive, we haven`t drilled down on how much his own care was compromised by those two or three days he sent not being treated. Is there enough experience with the successful treatment of Ebola that we can say that that was determinative in terms of the course of his illness? MORSE: No, we can say that with any of these things -- and certainly with something like ZMapp, although that`s not what he got, the earlier the better what we know about the progression of the disease. With other diseases, for example, bird flu, avian influenza, the sooner, the better. And the ones who die tend to be the ones who take four to five days to get to treatment. But we don`t really know what would have happened. We don`t know in the other cases. Kent Brantly was able to walk out of the ambulance essentially with minimal help. So, he must have been in pretty good condition before he arrived at Emory. Very unlike this patient. MADDOW: What about the specific issue about these blood transfusions. It makes sense to me that a person who survived an Ebola infection, survived this virus would have antibodies in their system that could potentially jump-start somebody else`s immune system. Is that essentially a working theory or is there evidence that tells us that that is an effective treatment or can be a helpful treatment? MORSE: We don`t have much evidence with Ebola, but ZMapp is essentially a high tech version of the same thing. MADDOW: OK. MORSE: But the use of convalescent serum, serum from people who recovered, putting it into other people to cure or prevent disease has a very long history. And, you know, even before we knew many of these infections, we knew that you could give serum and treat it and help people get better. So, I think that it could very well make a difference. MADDOW: As we see different -- because of the limited availability of the existing experimental treatments, we see at least three different types of treatment have been used in American patients thus far. In two of those courses of drugs, we`ve seen patients survive. In one it`s being used right now in a patient fighting for his life, another one has died. If you had a choice of the existing experimental therapies to treat a patient right now, is ZMapp the one that you go with? Is that the most promising? MORSE: Well, that`s the one that`s had the best results but all the rest have only been used in one or two cases at most. I think that the Tekmira product is an interesting one, but you don`t want to subject yourself to an experiment. So, I think ZMapp is the one with the best record so far. MADDOW: We`re in this remarkable position where we`re all hoping that this will be the last time anybody ever dies with Ebola in this country. But the next time we get a patient, if we do, let us hope that the Thomas Eric Duncan experience means the next person gets treated better than he does and more rapidly. MORSE: I agree. MADDOW: Thank you, Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. It`s really helpful for you to be here. Thank you, sir. MORSE: Thanks. It`s my pleasure. MADDOW: All right. We got lots more ahead. Less than four weeks until election day, and today, a brand new state just got very unexpectedly competitive. Nobody would have thought it was going to be this state. It`s not Kansas. It`s a different one. That`s ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There`s been some pretty intense and at times gripping reporting over the last couple of days from the border between Turkey and Syria. The worry is that terrorist ISIS is about to take over towns that are inside Syria, but they`re right on the border with Turkey. And there`s been this odd insistence by Turkey that the United States must stop ISIS from doing that. Now, to be clear, it`s their border. The very capable Turkish military is right there, literally they are right there on their border watching it happen from their border. The Turkish parliament just voted to allow their military to cross the border and go to fight against ISIS. But instead of doing that Turkey is demanding that the Americans come do it for them. And while that`s happening, the Turkish prime minister has also angrily demanded that Vice President Biden apologize for questioning in some public remarks last week just how much Turkey really wants this fight against ISIS in Syria. Go figure. So, there`s been a lot of coverage and reporting about the risk to these poor Turkish border towns in Syria that are under threat from Syria, and also there`s been a lot of coverage of the black is white, up is down, Alice in wonderland false diplomatic speak you have to engage in in order to avoid asking the obvious questions about why countries like Turkey want the United States to defend them even when they don`t want to defend themselves. But here`s the thing that has not had a lot of attention over the same time period. On Sunday for the first time, when CentCom puts out one of its -- puts out its daily reports on U.S. air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, they put these out just every day since we`ve been bombing in Iraq and Syria. But on Sunday, for the first time, there was something new in the fine print. In these daily reports on where U.S. planes are bombing and what they`re hitting we get these anodyne reports on where the bombs go and what the bombs destroyed, and we also get notice of what kinds of U.S. firepower are being used in the air war now. So, like this one from last week Tuesday, U.S. military forces used attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft today to conduct 11 airstrikes in Iraq. A week ago today, U.S. military forces and a partner nation used a mix of fighter and remotely piloted aircraft Tuesday and today to conduct five air strike. So, some version of the same thing every day from CentCom. This was October 2nd, a mix of fighter, attack, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft. October 3rd, a mix of fighter and remotely piloted aircraft. So, sort of been the same thing every day. But then this weekend on Sunday, we get something new for first time. At first glance it look likes all the others, and they make no notice of announcing anything different. Military air strikes against is in Syria and Iraq, right? But then in the fine print something very, very new. Look, Sunday for first time in Iraq U.S. military forces used attack, bomber, fighter and helicopter aircraft. Really? We`re using attack helicopters now? Really? Yes, apparently really. In Iraq, look, further down, four strikes northeast of Fallujah, one strike southeast of Hit, one strike northeast of Sinjar, to conduct these strikes, the U.S. employed attack, bomber, fighter and helicopter aircraft. That`s new. Here`s why that`s so important. First of all, it means that our fellow Americans, American servicemen and women who are fighting in this war over there, they`re involved in a much closer form of combat than we knew they were in before when we knew they were only flying drones and bombers and fighter jets. The Pentagon now confirms to us that what they`re using are Apache attack helicopters. These are attack helicopters that can fire rockets and missiles. They can be mounted with a really big gun but these are aircraft that fly, as they say, relatively low and relatively slow, top speed of less than 200 miles an hour. And they fly nowhere near high enough to avoid anti-aircraft fire the way a lot of our planes can. Now, for comparison purposes, look at this. This is an Apache helicopter, a Boeing AH-64 helicopter. This is what the Pentagon has very quietly admitted we`re now putting U.S. troops in in these raids against ISIS. Now, I`m going to put up for comparison a Bell 407 and also a Russian-made MI-35 attack helicopter. I put those up alongside an Apache because in the past few days, within the past week, just as the U.S. military has started using Apache attack helicopters to attack ISIS, just in the past few days, ISIS has shot down those other two kinds of helicopters, flown by the Iraqi air force. They shot down a Russian-made attack helicopter flown by the Iraqis on Friday, shot it down with a shoulder-fired missile, then today, they used another shoulder-fired missile to shoot down one of these Bell 407s. They keep saying that American troops are not in a combat mission. It`s just an air war and that`s not combat. Well, now we know by reading the fine print that it`s an air war that isn`t just drones and fighter jets and high flying stealth bombers, right? It`s these grind them out attack helicopters too. And sure, that`s still not ground combat, but that`s as close to the ground as you can get without being on it. And they`re flying now in a place where helicopters pretty frequently are getting shot out of the sky by ISIS. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, the top Democrat in the United States Senate is, of course, Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. Harry Reid maybe more than anybody else, he needs Democrats to hold on to the Senate so he can stay majority leader, right? So, Harry Reid is calculating and strategic about where Democrats should spend their money heading into election day. You can`t spend it everywhere, right? Who`s worth it? Which states are worth Democrats committing their time and their money less than four weeks before the election? Well, this summer Harry Reid was asked about whether Democrats would invest in trying to win one specific Senate race, and he was just brutally blunt about it. He told reporters when he was asked, quote, "We are going to lose that race more than likely." That was this summer. So yeah, we`re not going there, we`re going to lose that race. Today, all changed in that same Senate race. Democrats today decided all of a sudden actually they`re going to spend seven figures to try to win that race because they think they can win it. The same one that Harry Reid only weeks ago said was unwinnable and not worth a dime. And that whiplash political surprise is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the one corner, you`ve got Thom Tillis, head of the Republican legislature in the great state of North Carolina, and in the other corner, you`ve got United States Senator Kay Hagan, incumbent Democratic senator running for re-election. It is four weeks out from the midterm election. It`s the big debate. Thom Tillis is loaded for bear. He`s got his line of attack on Kay Hagan all ready to go. He knows exactly how he`s going to hit her on this debate. He`s got it all set up. He`s got it ready. He`s got the thing memorized. He`s so excited. He knows this will be great. The time comes, he`s ready, he`s set. And he goes splat. He was so excited. You could tell he worked on this for so long, practicing and practicing and practicing it. And then when it came time, he just totally blew it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. THOM TILLIS (R), NORTH CAROLINA For the last year you`ve sat on the foreign affairs committee and you`ve missed half the meetings. Can you explain to me what other commitments you had that you thought were more important than sitting in the committee? Mainly interested in where were you and why were other commitments more important than sitting in that Foreign Affairs Committee? SEN. KAY HAGAN (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, let me clarify something, George. I`m not on the Foreign Affairs Committee. I served on the Armed Services Committee, and Speaker Tillis -- TILLIS: I stand corrected. May I ask, were you not present for 50 percent of those meetings? HAGAN: George, I`m on the Armed Services Committee. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Memorized it. He thought he had it just right. He thought it was the greatest debate point of all time. And then just -- yeah. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TILLIS: Why were other commitments more important than sitting in that foreign affairs committee? HAGAN: Well, let me clarify something, George, I`m not on the Foreign Affairs Committee. I serve on the Armed Services Committee. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Oh, God, I watched that about 40 times today. Even the best-laid plans, you never really know how they`re going to play out until you actually try to play them out in the real campaign, right? Latest polling on that Senate race in North Carolina has Kay Hagan with a slim two-point lead over Thom Tillis. But North Carolina right now is also a reminder of the broader point that things just don`t always go as expected. As Republicans are trying to pick up six seats in order to take control of the Senate, there are, of course, all these expected battlegrounds, right? Places like North Carolina and Louisiana and Alaska and Arkansas, these Democratic incumbents in red states who are trying to hold on to their seats despite prevailing political winds against them in their states. But, you know, alongside that dog bites man story, about who`s going to win the elections and control the Senate this year and where the battlefields are, alongside that very expected stuff, there keep popping up these totally unexpected man bites dog stories. Like Kansas where Republicans never thought they`d have to lift a finger, to keep old Republican Pat Roberts in his seat. But now with the Democrat dropping out to clear the field for an independent challenger to Pat Roberts, that independent candidate so far is cleaning Pat Roberts` clock in the polls. If the election was held right now, there`s a really good chance that the Republican Party would lose one of their incumbent Republican Senate seats in Kansas, which was just unthinkable until it happened. Now, today, the new unthinkable. One of these states that has not been seen as a contest, that everybody was figuring was a given for the Republicans is the Senate seat that`s being given up by retiring Senator Tim Johnson in South Dakota. He`s a Democrat but he`s retiring. Republicans don`t already hold the seat there like they do in Kansas. But like Kansas, nobody thought the Republican Party would basically have to lift a finger in order to get that seat, in order to elect Republican Mike Rounds, former Republican governor to that seat. He got the coronation from the Republican Party, he was expected to ascend to that Senate seat without so much as fluttering his wings. Well, now, he is fluttering. The Democratic Party today just announced that, hey, South Dakota is hereby a contested race. South Dakota. Democrats all of a sudden think they can maybe win in South Dakota. Today, the Democratic Party announced a million dollar ad buy there. And in South Dakota, a million dollars goes a long way. What just happened in South Dakota of all places to put that race on the map for the Democrats? And how much more scrambled is the map going to get over the next 27 very confusing days? Woo-hoo! Joining us is the great Steve Kornacki, host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" here on MSNBC on weekend morning. Steve, thank you for being here. STEVE KORNACKI, UP: Sure. MADDOW: So, what happened in South Dakota all of a sudden to put it on the map? KORNACKI: Well, what happened was the public poll came out. It`s a unique race in South Dakota. It`s a three-way race. So, Republican Mike Rounds. In the poll, you can see out there, 35 percent. There`s the wildcard, Larry Pressler. He was a three-term Republican senator. He`s running -- he lost the seat to Tim Johnson in 1996. He`s now running again as an independent at 32, and you see Rick Weiland, Democrat at 28. So, obviously, Democrats looked at this and Democrats took their own polling and they looked at this and said, well, everybody, our party, the Republicans, everybody in politics has been assuming Mike Rounds, South Dakota, Republican, 2014, he`s going to win with ease. This is real. We`re a month out and this is a competitive race. This is where not just potentially the Democrat Rick Weiland has a chance but, more importantly, what they think, Larry Pressler, the independent, "A," has a chance to win this, and, "B," if he wins this would caucus with them, would caucus with the Democrats in the Senate. Pressler has made -- we had him on our show, he`s made no public assurance of that. He`s a former Republican. He`s drifted away from the Republican Party. He endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. The key to the Democrats -- the money the Democrats put up today, this is not money for Rick Weiland. These are not ads that will be advocating Rick Weiland for the Senate. These are ads aimed at Mike Rounds. MADDOW: Right. KORNACKI: So, the calculation here is, maybe it helps Weiland but there`s a lot of attention between Weiland -- as you said in your setup, Harry Reid did not want Rick Weiland. Harry Reid wanted a different candidate. When that candidate didn`t run, Harry Reid essentially shut down national support for Rick Weiland. So, the real calculation here I think is around Pressler. They think a guy like Pressler, with his profile, with his story, former Republican, can win in South Dakota this year. So, this is not pro-Weiland, pro- Democratic money. This is anti-Rounds money. MADDOW: Well, and there`s no possibility in this case as I understand it in South Dakota that something could happen like Kansas where either Rick Weiland or Larry Pressler could drop off the race that`s giving them a clean shot at rounds. KORNACKI: This is what Republicans are counting on and the nightmare scenario for Democrats. And Democrats have seen this happened before. That`s how Marco Rubio got to the U.S. Senate from Florida in 2010. You have Meek, the Democrat, you have Charlie Crist, Bill Clinton a week before that election in 2010 tried to get Kendrick Meek, the Democrat, out of that race, to endorse Charlie Crist, almost got him to do it, Clinton`s people said, but he wouldn`t in the end. And that`s the one problem right now, if you`re hoping that, you know, Republicans don`t win this seat in South Dakota. You`ve got Weiland the Democrat and Pressler the independent, they both believe they can win. They both believe the other guy should get out. MADDOW: Could either one of them get out? Could they get their name off the ballot? If you couldn`t get your name off the ballot, you could say, listen, I`m out, don`t vote for me. KORNACKI: Here`s the thing now. This new poll, they tested a Pressler/Rounds one on one. Pressler/rounds one on one, Pressler`s up 15 points. MADDOW: Pressler`s 15 points. KORNACKI: In this new poll. Now, it`s been tested in a couple other polls that show Weiland and Pressler both pulling about even with Rounds. In this new poll that you just showed, three-way there, when they put the two together, it`s 54-39 Pressler. One poll. MADDOW: Let me ask you about -- so, I said, like, it`s a million dollars from the Democratic Party and that might not sound like a lot but a million dollars goes a long way in South Dakota. There`s another million dollars that`s just come into the race. So, Lawrence Lessig, who`s a Stanford professor who has decided to make it his life`s work to crusade against big money in politics to get the whole super PAC system dissolved, to crusade against Citizens United in every way he can, he`s got the PAC to end all PACs. He`s running essentially as an anti-corruption guy. He wants Rounds to lose this seat. I`m not sure he cares between Weiland and Pressler as far I can tell, but he just announced his PAC is going in with a million dollars into this race as well. KORNACKI: But it looks like that is a million dollars that`s more pro-Weiland in nature. This is how super PACs can complicate everything. Now, the ideal here for Democrats would be, OK, you got a million bucks from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to take down Mike Rounds. You got one million bucks from Lessig that promotes Weiland the Democrat and this money helps him on two fronts. The nightmare scenario is the anti-Rounds money helps Pressler and that pro-Weiland money helps Pressler. And again, it splits the anti-Rounds vote and allows him to win. So, it`s a real complicated situation. It`s hard again to see. Rick Weiland has run, you look in Kansas, Chad Taylor, the Democrat there had no support. He was sort of out on his own and Democrats were able to -- MADDOW: Weiland`s running. KORNACKI: Weiland is a guy who is close to Tom Daschle. He`s been in South Dakota politics for a long time. He ran for Congress ten years ago. He`s waited a long time to run on his own in South Dakota. So, they can`t say to him what they said to Chad Taylor, which was, hey, you got a future, get out and do us a favor now, we`ll help you in future. The future is now for Rick Weiland. He`s looking at this and he`s said, I`m never getting closer so I`m staying with it. MADDOW: Rick Weiland and Larry Pressler, you guys should talk. I mean -- KORNACKI: Hey, we`re inviting them to come up this weekend. Tell them to say yes to that. And Rounds as well. We want to -- MADDOW: I would sleep in my office and be here in the morning. Steve Kornacki, host of MSNBC`s weekend show, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI", thanks, Steve. KORNACKI: Thank you. MADDOW: Fascinating stuff, amazing. All right. We got a "Debunktion Junction" ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. We`ve got a full on "Debunktion Junction" coming up in just a moment, but here`s a taste of what`s to come. This is amazing. All right. Every state gets two senators no matter how big or how small the state is, right? But some states like Vermont and Wyoming and Montana, those states have such a small population that even though they`ve got two senators, they`ve only one got one of the House for the whole state. There`s seven of those states altogether. North Dakota is one of those states. They`ve only got one member of the House. North Dakota`s sole member of Congress is a guy named Kevin -- Kevin Cramer. Kevin Cramer is a Republican. He`s only been in office for on term. And now, for the first time, he`s running for re-election. If you know only one thing about Kevin, other than the fact that he`s the only member of Congress from North Dakota, if you know only one other thing about him, you probably have heard about Kevin Cramer is that in his campaign, in his first campaign for re-election, Kevin Cramer has screwed up really bad. He screwed up in a way that makes people mad at you all across the country even if they`ve never heard of you before. So, that leads us towards "Debunktion Junction". Is it true or it is false that Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer has had to pull his big re-election campaign ad this month because he shot the ad in a veterans cemetery? This is the ad. Kevin Cramer standing in front of the graves of deceased service members, implicitly drafting them in death as supporters of his campaign. Yes, somebody really did this and, no, he did not ask permission of the cemetery and the cemetery says they would have never allowed it had they known what he was doing, and no, he did not ask permission of the families of the people whose graves he used as a campaign backdrop. No, he did not ask them. Kevin Cramer really did go shoot a campaign ad in a veterans cemetery, which you might have heard about since in an era of beyond the pale disgusting behavior in politics, this is notably more disgusting than normal. But leads us to the very specific question of what happened when Kevin Cramer became famous nationwide for doing something this revolting. After the outcry, did Kevin Cramer pull the ad? I ask because he said, of course, that he was pulling the ad. That naturally led to the impression that he was pulling the ad. But there remains the factual question about this political ad shot without permission in a veterans cemetery. Is it true or false that Congressman Kevin Cramer pulled the ad like he said he did? (BUZZER) MADDOW: He did not actually pull the ad. He did tell the "Bismarck Tribune" that he had decided to no longer run the ad but he left it up online. He`s still encouraging people to watch it online. He says, "Watch the ad in its entirety. It`s a beautiful ad." Congressman Kevin Cramer, illegally shoots a campaign ad using veterans` graves as a political prop, veterans group and the cemetery itself are outraged. He says he has taken the ad down and he has not. He still loves it. Screw the veterans. They look great in my campaign ad. Congressman Kevin Cramer justifiably now, nationally famous for this one almost unbelievable thing. I know, I couldn`t even wait for "Debunktion Junction" to do that one, but the rest of "Debunktion Junction" is next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hoot, hoot. All right. We have some great "Debunktion Junctions" tonight. First up, America`s deficit. It used to be Republican Party`s favorite criticism of President Obama. They used to march out and tell us how the deficit was skyrocketing or soaring or exploding, the deficit was killing jobs. That talking point is still a favorite among Republicans, this is from the Idaho Senate debate. Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), IDAHO: The biggest challenge facing Idaho, Idaho families and for that matter America is something that really every American should be focused on, that is the national debt and the deficit spending. When you talk about cutting back in Washington, D.C., they look at you like you got three heads. I`m not going to give up. I`m going to keep pushing it. This nonsense has got to stop. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This nonsense has got to stop. The deficit is the biggest challenge facing Idaho. It is out of control. Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho at a Senate debate this week. To the same point, so you know it`s not just him. Here`s a fund- raising e-mail that went around this week from former Vice President Dick Cheney, my friend. He e-mails me all the time. He`s warning about something exploding. This time, he`s warning about exploding government and exploding spending, the explosion of spending, skyrocketing deficit. I know they love that line and they always have. But is it true or is it false that the federal government deficit is spiraling out of control? The Obama deficit is a noose around the nation`s economy. (BUZZER) MADDOW: Still a great talking point, though. The Congressional Budget Office, the official arbiter of these things, released their report on the deficit today, showing that in 2014, the deficit decreased again as it has been doing for years now by a lot. This year`s deficit is the smallest deficit we`ve had since 2008. If you think those raw numbers are voodoo and you want to instead look at deficit relative to the size of the economy, over the last 40 years -- our deficit this year is actually below the average for the last 40 years. So, no. (BUZZER) MADDOW: The deficit is not growing. The deficit is shrinking now very fast and in historical terms, it`s very small but don`t let that get in the way of your bumper sticker. And -- I`m so excited for this one. This is Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter. One of the Republican leading lights in the House of Representatives when it comes to national security, that`s why it came as a bombshell last night when Congressman Duncan Hunter went on FOX News and whipped this out completely out of nowhere. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: I know that at least ten ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas. There`s nobody talking about it -- GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: How do you know that? HUNTER: Because I`ve asked -- because I`ve asked the Border Patrol, Greta. VAN SUSTEREN: And the Border Patrol, they just let ISIS members come across the border? HUNTER: No, they caught them at the border. Therefore we know that ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or ten of them then you know there will be dozens more that did not get caught. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Greta is like, what? Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, ISIS is in this country. Duncan Hunter says the United States Border Patrol has captured at least ten ISIS fighters who have come across the southern border into the United States. Wow! Is that true or is that false? (BUZZER) MADDOW: False. False. False. False. You would have heard about it. We reached out to the Department of Homeland Security today, which oversees the Border Patrol and told us unequivocally that, no, contrary to what he says, they have not captured any members of ISIS coming across the border. They told us, quote, "The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIS have been apprehended at the southwest border is categorically false and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground. DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are plotting to cross the southwest border." So, end of story, right? Wrong. Because amazingly, Congressman Duncan Hunter is not backing down, standing by the story. We reached out to his office today. They initially pointed us to a misspelled blog post which they say confirms the story. Four ISIS terrorists arrested in Texas. That was their first response to this to point to the conservative blog as their evidence. That left us with roughly a zillion and four questions. For example, Homeland Security says your claim is false. Is your source in a position to know? When the congressman found out about the 10 ISIS fighters on the border, did he tell the FBI about this? Or anybody else? Does the congressman know where these ISIS fighters are now being held? Are they being interrogated? Are they going to be charged? Are you just going to talk about it on FOX and that`s it? We took those questions to the congressman`s office tonight. What we got back was a little amazing. They first wanted to clarify when the congressman said 10 ISIS fighters, we got this, "more accurate I think to refer to them as foreign nationals with IS associations." Oh, so maybe that members of ISIS but they`re ISIS-ee, ISIS-ish and they`re definitely foreign. As for who told the congressman about these ISIS-ish foreign characters and whether he informed the FBI about it, his office tells us, quote, "It`s a high level source, someone we`ve come to know and trust over the years. We also have sources within the Department of Homeland Security. And since one of our sources is law enforcement, no need to inform the person that`s informing us." Again, just for the record, Homeland Security says all of this is nuts, all of this is bullpucky. In other words, they say it`s categorically false, not supported by any credible intelligence or facts on the ground. Congressman Hunter`s office, his response to that tonight, quote, "Of course, DHS is right. They`re always right, aren`t they?" Of course, they would say that. Maybe they`re sort of ISIS-y too. Despite the fact they have given no evidence to substantiate this rather amazing, Congressman Hunter`s office is standing by it. They say they may release more information tomorrow, probably on FOX. We wait with bated breath. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END Content and programming copyright 2014 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2014 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. 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