IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/18/15

Guests: Linda Sarsour

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is all for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. That was fascinating. HAYES: It was something. MADDOW: Yes, well done, man. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. OK. This is a Japanese cat. Hello. He`s a male cat. The variety of cat that he is I`m told is that he is a Scottish fold cat. I don`t know what that means. But he belongs to somebody in Japan, not in Scotland. His name is Maru, M-A-R-U. And Maru is the biggest freaking thing in the world on the internet. Maru videos on YouTube have been viewed more than 200 million times. Maru the Cat is not famous anywhere else in the world. He does not make talk show appearances or appear in movies or anything -- at least as far as I know. He`s just online. But he is freaking huge online. Maru. He is the star of the show. Also huge online if nowhere else is the Prancercise Lady. I thought this was an old thing. It`s been around forever and people rediscovered it. No. Prancercise, this video has only been up online since 2013, but it has been viewed more than 11 million times. Prancercise. Prancercise is big online. It is possible to be totally unknown in the wider world. It is possible to be a totally obscure figure elsewhere in life while also being a very big deal online. And one of those people who you might not recognize from anywhere else in the world who is capital F famous online is the lady who says Monster Energy Drinks are a ploy of Satan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at your M closely. There`s a gap right here in the letter M. It`s never connected. So, you go into Hebrew. The letter Vav is also the number 6. Short top, long tail. Short top, long tail. You could have here in Hebrew 666 on the can. But my interest is the word "Monster". What do you see in the O? There`s a cross. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What has Christ got to do with an energy drink, let alone the name Monster? So I thought, well, maybe this is a Christian company then. BFC at the bottom of the can, do you know what that stands for? That`s the F word. Why would they have a cross on the can? Here`s the message: Antichrist, 666 in Hebrew and then the bible talks about the beast in Revelations. And look at Monster`s ad. You cannot deny that that is a cross and what is witchcraft, when the cross goes upside down. Bottoms up. And the devil laughs. Something to think about. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how clever Satan is and how he gets into the Christian home and a Christian`s life and it breaks god`s heart. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. So the lady who claims -- no, doesn`t claim, explains that Monster Energy Drinks are the work for a very clever Satan breaking God`s heart by making you go bottoms up with the cross and the O and the secret -- all rest of it. She is very famous online for that, for that video. That video has been viewed online more than 8 million times. It`s popular enough that she even has kind of a nickname. She`s just known as the shorthand online as the Satanic Monster Energy Drink lady. But Satanic Monster Energy Drink lady got famous not just online but in real life last month on the steps of the Texas state capitol. Since 2003, every couple of years, Muslim groups in Texas host something called Texas Muslim Capitol Day, where hundreds of people from various Muslim communities across Texas, mostly kids and teenagers honestly, they come to the state capitol for a big civics day and they meet their state legislators and they learn about the workings of state government. They basically promote civic engagement in their community. It`s kind of a visibility thing and also a meet your government thing. Well, this year on Texas Muslim Capitol Day, as that group stood on the capitol steps and held a press conference about their events and they had a prayer and they sang the national anthem, as that was happening this year these nice folks were standing right across from screaming at them. You can see their signs. "Go home and take Obama with you." "I`m the infidel Allah warned you about." This is one particularly nice. "I serve a risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Muhammad is dead." That was nice. So, those are the protesters across the street from the group of mostly Muslim school kids. And then in the middle of the Texas Muslims, again most of them school kids, while they`re singing the national anthem, at the middle of that event, all of a sudden, none other than the satanic Monster Energy Drink lady burst out of the anti-Muslim protester crowd and grabbed the microphone at the event. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stand against Islam and the false Prophet Muhammad. Islam will never dominate the United States and by the grace of God, it will not dominate Texas! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After she did that, the satanic Monster Energy Drink lady rejoined the protestors across the street. According to a reporter who was there from the "Houston Chronicle", he said she then led them in a chant of "Muhammad is dead. Muhammad is dead." So, that`s how Texas Muslim Capitol Day went this year -- thanks to these nice folks. It wasn`t just the satanic Monster Energy Drink lady and the other random people on the street screaming at Muslims that way, though. They also had some company inside the Texas state legislature. One freshman Republican state representative, a woman named Molly White, posted this on her Facebook page that day. "Today is Texas Muslim Capitol Day in Austin." I should mention she misspelled capitol. She says, "Most members including myself are back in district. I did, though, leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We`ll see how long they stay in my office." So, welcome to the state capitol, Texas Muslim school kids here to learn about civics. In Texas, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims live, eighth largest Muslim population in the country. Welcome to your state capitol. This is your state government working for you. That same state representative had previously written on her Facebook page, quote, "Muslims cannot be trusted, no matter how peaceful they appear." So, it`s the Satanic Monster Energy Drink lady and her fellow street protestors. It`s also inside the building a Republican state rep, who`s an elected member of the legislature. It`s also the newly elected lieutenant governor of the state of Texas who was a Republican state senator before he got elected lieutenant governor this past November. His name is Dan Patrick. When Dan Patrick was a Texas state senator, he made a habit of getting up and walking out of the Senate chamber whenever the prayer to open up a legislative session happened to be led by a Muslim that day. So, that`s Texas, which again is home to more than 400,000 American Muslims. Obviously, though, this is not a Texas only thing. In certain parts of the American right, this is sort of the ambient temperature right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRYAN FISCHER, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: Permits in my judgment should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America. Not one. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Bryan Fischer from the American Family Association. That was him speaking in 2010. And I think it`s relevant that that`s him speaking there in 2010 because circa 2010, we used to think of the American family association and their staff members and radio hosts saying things like mosques should not be allowed to be built in the United States of America, we used to think of that group and guys like that as a fringe, out there organization. But even though that`s who they are, just a couple weeks ago, the National Republican Party, the RNC, invited all of its members to go on an all expenses paid trip to Israel hosted by the American Family Association. In the ensuing publicity the RNC tried to distance itself specifically from that guy, from Bryan Fischer at the American Family Association. But the trip was led by another American Family Association guy who`s named David Lane. That`s who actually took members of the RNC to Israel at the invitation of the Republican National Committee. This is David Lane. This is a column of his berating the Pentagon for apologizing for the burning of Korans. The headline on his column, "Pentagon apologizes to the false god of Islam." That is who the Republican Party National chairman, Reince Priebus, invited all the members of the Republican National Committee to go on an all expenses paid trip with just a couple of weeks ago. Until the publicity around that trip got to him a little bit, I think. Reince Priebus himself was reported to be planning to go on that trip with the false god of Islam guy. But apparently, Reince Priebus in the end didn`t go. At least we think he didn`t go. They still won`t answer our questions about him. But that`s the tenor of really radical anti-Muslim stuff in American conservative politics right now. And you know, you think of it as the fringe stuff. Right? You think of it as the screaming stuff in the street. That would just be the province of the satanic Monster Energy Drink lady, right? Turns out it`s off the hilarious YouTube pages that get 8 million gape-mouthed views. It`s not just on YouTube. It`s not just unhinged street protests. It`s inside state government, very comfortably, it appears, in places like Texas. And thanks to the current Republican Party and the Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, this stuff has been brought right into the heart of the mainstream of American major party politics by the Republican Party chairman, partnering with this group -- inviting all of the members of the RNC to go on this trip with this group that maintained in the past that it should be illegal to build a mosque in America henceforth. This group that maintains Muslims actually have no freedom of religion in America. That any Muslim wanting to immigrate to the United States should be forcibly converted to Christianity if they want to be allowed to immigrate in this country because you should not be allowed to practice your religion as a Muslim in America. That`s what this group has advocated for. Basically, they advocate that if you are a Muslim, you are not welcome in this country, America`s not for you, Republican Party partnering with that group. Today at the White House it was day two of a three-day summit on the subject of countering violent extremism. As part of the summit effort, President Obama published an op-ed in the "L.A. Times" today which starts with a long, long, long litany of murders and terrorist attacks committed by what he calls in the op-ed groups that promote a twisted interpretation of religion that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world`s Muslims. He starts the op-ed with this big long list including the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and the Fort Hood massacre and Boston marathon bombing and ISIS killing hostages including Americans in Syria and Iraq and ISIS murdering Egyptian Christians and Libya, ISIS and al Qaeda-inspired attacks in Ottawa and Canada and Sydney, Australia and Paris and most recently in Copenhagen, the Pakistani-Taliban massacre of school kids, al Shabaab`s attacks in Somalia, Boko Haram killing and kidnapping people in Nigeria and now in neighboring countries. So, he starts with this long, long litany of essentially the threat. In remarks tonight at the White House at the summit, the president reiterated more of that list. And he said in his remarks tonight bluntly, there will be a military component to this. There are savage cruelties going on out there that have to be stopped. There will be an element of us just stopping them in their tracks with force. But then the president went on to say this -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There`s been a fair amount of debate in the press and among pundits about the words we use to describe and frame this challenge. So, I want to be very clear about how I see it. Al Qaeda and ISIL and groups like it are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam. That`s why ISIL presumes to declare itself the Islamic State. And they propagate the notion that America and the West generally is at war with Islam. That`s how they recruit. That`s how they try to radicalize young people. We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They`re terrorists. (APPLAUSE) And we are not at war with Islam. (APPLAUSE) We are at war with people who have perverted Islam. If extremists are peddling the notion that Western countries are hostile to Muslims, we need to show that we welcome people of all faiths. That`s the story extremists and terrorists don`t want the world to know -- Muslims succeeding and thriving in America -- because when that truth is known, it exposes their propaganda as the lie that it is. It`s also a story that every American must never forget, because it reminds us all that hatred and bigotry and prejudice have no place in our country. It`s not just counterproductive. It doesn`t just aid terrorists. It`s wrong. It`s contrary to who we are. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama speaking at the White House late today and that -- what he just explained, that used to be pretty standard American political rhetoric on this subject. Not everybody speaks the way everybody else speaks, but that argument used to be pretty core to the way that American leaders talked about the subject. It used to be what we expected to hear from any mainstream politician on this subject. President Obama when he made that case today honestly, forgive me, sounded more like President George W. Bush on the subject than anybody else that springs to mind. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: These acts and violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it`s important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Americans understand we fight not a religion. Ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. Our war is against evil, not against Islam. There are thousands of Muslims who have proudly called themselves Americans. And they know what I know, that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion, the exact opposite of the teachings of the al Qaeda organization, which is based upon evil and hate and destruction. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The way that George W. Bush talked about Islam and American Muslims is the same argument that President Obama was articulating today. It`s the same way he has talked about it throughout his presidency. That used to be a consensus position basically for all mainstream American politics. But on the right, right now, the National Republican Party is partnering with an organization that rails against the false god of Islam and says Muslims shouldn`t be allowed to practice their faith in the United States, that we are a country just for Christians. Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor who`s making a run for president for 2016 and is being taken seriously in some quarters, Bobby Jindal goes abroad and gives a speech about these hysterical conspiracy theories that Muslims have taken over huge swaths of Europe and Christians aren`t allowed in whole portions of Europe anymore. It`s nonsense, right? I mean, it was not that long ago that Republican president conservative hero George W. Bush was talking with some uncharacteristic eloquence about how we are not at war with Islam and how the Muslim faith is based on peace and love and compassion. But now, Republican Party television for one has declared that actually what we have got here is a holy war, a holy war, and actually that`s the way we should think of it -- a war between religions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Hi, I`m Bill O`Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight. The holy war begins. That is the subject of this evening`s talking points memo. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Screw it. It is a holy war. That`s this week on Republican Party television, ISIS wants everybody to believe that there`s a holy war in the world and they are one side and the West is the other side. That`s what ISIS wants people to believe. That`s what al Qaeda wants people to believe too. And it used to be American consensus politics, at least American consensus mainstream politics to reject that narrative, to not let those terrorist groups define what`s going on here and define themselves as half of the fight in a clash between two equal civilizations, with them as the Muslim side and, you know, everybody else as the other side. There used to be a consensus in American politics that giving them that framing for what they`re doing which they seek so desperately was not only repeating their big lie, it was idiotic strategically, it was doing their work for them. I mean, if this really is defined as a fight between Muslims and the West, which is how they want to define it, you know, not only the terrorist group`s going to define it that way but Americans are going to define it that way. What kind of message is that to the whole Muslim world, to the billion Muslims in the world? If we`re saying that that is the fight, the two sides, Muslims on one side and everybody else on the other. How did the "we are not at war with Islam" consensus fall apart on the American right? And can it be rebuilt? And is it dangerous if it is falling apart? Joining us now is Linda Sarsour. She`s a national advocacy director at the National Network for Arab American Communities. Ms. Sarsour, thanks very much for being here. LINDA SARSOUR, NATIONAL NETWORK OF ARAB AMERICAN COMMUNITIES: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: Let me just ask big picture if you agree with the premise here, that at least in mainstream U.S. politics, there used to be a spoken consensus that there was no war between the United States or the West with Islam. And it was important to define that. I feel like there was that consensus and it is now slipping. Do you agree with that? SARSOUR: I think it`s always been in the mainstream in the rhetoric but it`s never been with the action that`s go along with the words. So, while George Bush was saying that within on one hand we were in an unjust war in Iraq where we killed 650,000 people, many of whom were Muslims. So, I think for people, they don`t just look at words. We want to see the actions and do they align with the words that we see. And as you said with the Republican Party, it`s kind of how you win -- how you as a Republican win elections. The more anti-Muslim you are, the more money you raise. And that`s kind of been the M.O. of the Republican Party for the past couple elections. MADDOW: Do you think operationally thinking about national security, thinking about terrorism, thinking about homegrown radicalism, and all those other sort of things -- do you think it is actually dangerous for people to buy into that framing and for people to repeat that framing, to say there is a holy war, to say it is -- that Islam is the enemy? Is it dangerous? SARSOUR: It`s very dangerous for all of us as Americans. Violent extremism equals Muslims in this country. It goes unsaid. So, while we`re changing the words we`re using, we`re still focusing on countering violent extremism programs on Muslims only. Glen Miller went into a Jewish center in Kansas City and shot three people. Michael Page is a white supremacist. He went into an Oak Creek Gurdwara thought they were Muslims and shot six people. These domestic extremism needs to be dealt with in all its forms, whether they`re Muslims or non-Muslims. And right now, we are obsessed and toeing the line of Peter King. He was having fine hearings in Congress about radicalization in the American Muslim community and he`s a Republican. And the Obama administration is doing counter extremism summit about Muslims. While we`re do-two different parties, two different sets of ideologies, but when it comes to Muslims, we`re kind of like becoming -- it`s kind of a gray area for me. I kind of ask myself oh, wait, no, no, Democrats, Republicans, like you just don`t know anymore. MADDOW: Do you feel like in the fight right now over how best to combat ISIS overseas, as that`s being debated in terms of -- one of the things that was interesting today is the president was talking about, yes, this is a military fight. But it`s also all these other different types of fights. It`s a way that America has to use our soft power abroad and we have to project our values abroad in a way that`s going to help defeat this beyond just what we`re doing militarily. Do you feel like that discussion is constructive or that that is also basically over reductive, it doesn`t take into account of how we`ve been acting? SARSOUR: I mean, if we want to uphold our values and we want to show the rest of the world how wonderful we are, we need to start here at home. While we`re talking about partnering with Muslim communities and you are a partner, you`re part of the fabric of our society, our government operates massive surveillance program, unwarranted surveillance in Muslim communities, chilling free speech, making people feel afraid. I mean, a lot of Muslims have come to the United States to get away from regimes where they feel like their freedom of speech is infringed on, where they -- some people don`t have freedom of religion. We come to the U.S. Twenty-two states with anti-Sharia bills trying to ban us from practicing our faith, Mosque oppositions. We`re fighting zoning boards across the country. Our kids are hearing this rhetoric. We have people, mosques being vandalized, kids being executed, Islamophobia. Leaders on national television saying that, you know, holy wars and these people want to take over America. I mean, it`s just -- it doesn`t for me reflect what we do stand for as a country. And these very -- the minority in our country who are the loudest voices are reflecting what we are. And that`s not what we are as a country. I`m an American and I`m a Muslim. Should I cut myself in half? What side am I on? I`m born in Brooklyn. I can`t take that away and no one can take that away from me. I can`t be deported anywhere. So, it`s just a really hard conversation to have with young people, especially young Muslims who don`t know what side they`re supposed to be on. I`m on the American side. I`m on the right side. I`m on the side of justice. That`s the only side I`m on. MADDOW: And you can`t split yourself in half to do that. And you shouldn`t have to. SARSOUR: No. MADDOW: And there is a big difference between talking about our values and living them. I think what`s happening domestically around issues of bigotry right now is spooky. It`s not like it hasn`t existed before but the way it`s bubbling up right now and being mainstreamed right now I am spooked by. Thank you for coming in to talk about it. I appreciate. SARSOUR: Thank you. Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Linda Sarsour is national advocacy director at the National Network for Arab American Communities. All right. There`s lots more ahead tonight, including the second oil fire explosion disaster this week, and it`s only Wednesday. Also, the latest from presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. He had a doozy of a day. And Tom Colicchio is here. It`s a big show. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is the scene right now in Prescott, Arizona where they have gathered for a memorial in honor of 26-year-old American aid worker Kayla Mueller. Kayla Mueller was held as an is hostage for almost a year and a half after being kidnapped in Syria. Her death while she was still being held by ISIS was confirmed by the White House last week. Local churches and community groups in her hometown of Prescott organized tonight`s event to honor her life and specifically her work as an international aid worker. They`re lighting up the town`s courthouse square with candles in her memory. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`re on 9:00 this morning in a suburb of L.A. called Torrance, California, people started noticing a weird powdery white substance was settling onto their cars. This photo shows a windshield just coated in gunk. Here`s another one. That`s the hood of the car that`s just covered in what looks like flour. What it actually is, is ash. And no, this was not a creepy elaborate Ash Wednesday stunt of some kind. This ash was from an ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance that went up in flames today. At about 9:00 this morning, there was an explosion inside that refinery that set off a three-alarm fire. The explosion took place inside a unit of that plant that refines oil into gasoline. Look at the crumpled thing there. Look at that. Refines oil into gasoline and other products. That specific unit did reportedly suffer some kind of mechanical issue on Monday this week which caused it to be temporarily shut down. There`s no indication yet as to whether that issue Monday eventually caused this fireball explosion and the ripping apart of the unit today. But that explosion and the fire caused injuries to four contractors who were working at the refinery. They were sent to a local hospital for treatment. It also forced everyone at 14 schools in the area to shelter in place for hours. People nearby, even people several miles away, told local reporters that their houses shook so hard they thought it was an earthquake, until they saw the fire and the smoke and the ash raining down from the sky. This was the aftermath of the explosion at the refinery itself. Look at that, just thick layer of ash covering everything. And the whole thing just mangled. Local officials say they`re continually testing the air quality in the area tonight. So far they say they`re not detecting any harmful emissions. So, again, that was Torrance, California today. Near L.A. that happened about 9:30 this morning. Meanwhile, across the country, West Virginia residents today are still dealing with the aftermath of this, a massive train derailment and crude oil explosion that happened 30 miles outside the state capital of Charleston on Monday. This was that CSX oil train hauling crude oil from North Dakota to a transportation hub in Virginia when for some still unknown reason that train derailed and then 20 of those tanker cars ignited. That fire began on Monday. It was still burning today, three days into this disaster. More than 100 people are still evacuated from their homes tonight. Tonight, finally at least the local water came back on. Water service had been shut off after that derailment today. They did get water restored today but residents are still being advised to boil their water before they use it. Given the size of this oil train disaster in West Virginia, given the size of the explosions and the fact that 20 of these cars exploded one after the other and it happened not out in the boonies but along a stretch of river that has small towns all up and down, it is something of a miracle that there were not more people hurt in this disaster. That said, there was one home that was burned in the blast, completely destroyed by the explosions. The local NBC affiliate in that part of West Virginia spoke to the man whose home that was. Get this. He was home at the time of the accident when that oil train blew up and took his house with it. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I made it about 10 feet. I heard the house caving in behind me. So I ran out of the house in my sock feet in the snow. The house was engulfed in flames. REPORTER: Morris`s daughter and grandchildren had been staying at his home for a couple weeks and had just left the day before the accident. His wife, Patricia, was in the hospital for open heart surgery. He says had they all been home, they`d have certainly been killed. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn`t have left any of them in there. I would not run out of that house without them and she couldn`t have made it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Morris made it out of the house as it was caving in behind him. He himself was later treated and released from a local hospital. He was treated for smoke inhalation. That derailment in West Virginia still under investigation tonight, as is the refinery explosion today in California. Just one more day of trouble. It`s only Wednesday this week. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Did you hear about the one with the two guys in the Soviet Union and the American president? And the tiny little bit of swearing? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: Told me this story about the two fellas in the Soviet Union that were walking down the street. And one of them says, have we really achieved full communism? Is this it? Is this now full communism? The other one said oh, hell, no, things are going to get a lot worse. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Funny is a helpful thing in any line of work. It is particularly helpful if your line of work is politics. But that is being tested right now in some very, very brand new ways. And that`s ahead. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On June 16th, 1960 talk show host Jack Paar hosted a young senator from Massachusetts on his show, a man named John Kennedy. It went very, very well. It was in the lead up to the 1960 presidential election. That was basically the first time a presidential candidate had tried to leverage late night TV to boost his Q rating. By 1968, there was Nixon doing it too. Having learned his lesson from Kennedy in 1960. There was Nixon appearing on "Laugh-In" in 1968. There was Ronald Reagan in 1975 talking budget cuts with Johnny Carson, before announcing his candidacy against Gerald Ford in 1976. There was Bill Clinton running for president in 1992 playing the sax and wearing sunglasses on the Arsenio Hall show. There`s George W. Bush doing the top 10 list on David Letterman, when he was first running in the year 2000. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH: Number 7: make sure the White House library has lots of books with big print and pictures. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It became a regular part of presidential campaigning. If you were seriously running, you had to show up on a late night show, show your human side, laugh at yourself, whatever. But then starting in 2009, new president Barack Obama became the first ever not just candidate but sitting president to be interviewed on a late night talk show. That is a practice he has continued throughout his presidency. He went on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno", and then on "David Letterman" and on "Jimmy Fallon." Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States. But now, nothing against the late shows -- I think the late shows are actually pretty great right now. But now high-end popular humanizing comedy opportunities for politicians, they are no longer defined by just the reach of network television. Now, if you`re trying to get past the press corps to an audience that isn`t trying to pay attention to politics, that is just trying to be entertained, now the presidential comedy opportunities are much further flung than the network shows. And so, when the first Obamacare signup deadlines were approaching, President Obama turned for help to the most popular interview show on the Internet machine. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, BETWEEN TWO FERNS: I have to know. What is it like to be the last black president? OBAMA: Seriously? What`s it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president? GALIFIANAKIS: It must kind of stink, though, you that can`t run three times. OBAMA: No. Actually, I think it`s a good idea. If I ran a third time, it would be sort of like doing a third "Hangover" movie. Didn`t work out very well, did it? GALIFIANAKIS: You said if you had a son, you would not let him play football. What makes you think that he would want to play football? What if he was a nerd like you? OBAMA: Do you think a woman like military would marry a nerd? Why don`t you ask her if she would marry a nerd? GALIFIANAKIS: Could I? OBAMA: No, I wouldn`t let her near you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: More than 13 million people watched that interview in the first 24 hours it was posted. And yes, that was President Obama talking trash with a famous comedian. It also ended up being about how to sign up for health care. And the White House actually credits that "Between Two Ferns" comedy video with bumping up traffic on the Affordable Care Act Web site by 40 percent, that video alone. That`s the power of Zach Galifianakis, right? Since it worked so well the last time, this month, with another Obamacare signup deadline approaching, the White House decided to do the same kind of thing again. This time they decided to do it with Internet traffic monsters, BuzzFeed. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (MUSIC) OBAMA: Thanks, Obama. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s pretty good. OBAMA: That`s pretty good. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seconds left in the game. Down by one. Brrr! He gets it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President? OBAMA: Can I live? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That video has been watched nearly 50 million times on Facebook alone, 50 million. For a point of reference, that`s 18 million more viewers than the president had for his most recent State of the Union Address. And once again, the goal was to let those 50 million people know while they were watching this ridiculous funny video of the president, to let people know a substantive thing, that a deadline was coming up to sign up for health coverage. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The deadline for signing up for -- the deadline for signing up for health insurance is February -- Febru -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like any other Wednesday. OBAMA: That`s not right. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wednesday. OBAMA: February -- man. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wednesday. OBAMA: February 15th. February 15th. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And it was February 15th. And so, yes, there are people out there who believe these goofy videos are not presidential. We all have our own ideas of what presidential is. But the thing to know about these comedy video stunts, (AUDIO GAP) is that at a very functional level they work. They get more viewership and therefore more attention to whatever thing they`re trying get attention to than they could get by any other means including the state of the freaking union address several times over. And if you were trying to get your message or some awareness of some policy across to a younger audience, in terms of guaranteed eyeballs, guaranteed attention by people who otherwise aren`t paying attention to politicians, you are better off putting something out on social media that people want to watch than almost anything else you can do. Certainly, you`re better off with a viral video than you are with a press conference or a speech on TV. And so, now, it is not just President Obama that is using this tactic, it is the first lady as well. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADDY: So we`re going to start with the stairways. You ready to do this? JIMMY FALLON: I was born ready -- (MUSIC) OBAMA: Turnip for what. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can take it from me. Eating the right foods can help make you a better athlete. OBAMA: Ooh! UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh! (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Michelle Obama has arguably been better at using social media than her husband, the president. She`s enlisted everybody from Jimmy Fallon to LeBron James. There was a moment of dunking on LeBron James. Now, this week, though, Michelle Obama has done one that has aggravated all her usual critics -- not presidential. But it has got a ton of people to watch, all for a very specific cause. And there is the very funny video about that, but there`s also the question about how much this thing really does help the cause in question. And tonight, we have somebody here who knows, and that`s next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is better Ariana Grande or eating a carrot? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FLOTUS? MICHELLE OBAMA: Eating I a carrot. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, correct. FLOTUS gets the point. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gwyneth Paltrow makes a fantastic broccoli and arugula soup, does that matter, yes or no? Elena. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it does, she has a website. Who`s more deserving of a Kennedy Center honor, Martin Short or a box of frozen court? FLOTUS? OBAMA: The corn. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Martin Short. He`s a genius. He played Ed Grimly, right, Elena? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is funny. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is funny. Even Elena likes him. OBAMA: I like corn. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corn is delicious. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Canada. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he`s from Canada. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is. What does that have to do with anything? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: First Lady Michelle Obama`s latest attempt to use online social media in this case to get America to eat better. Things like that which this White House is very good at, they get a ton of views because they`re very funny and because it`s unusual to see somebody like the first lady of the United States in that kind of environment. Do they work, though, at changing people`s minds, moving us forward on the country on the issues at the heart of the funny? Joining us now for the interview tonight is someone who has been really aggressively involved in the push to get to us eat better as a country -- Tom Colicchio, chef, food activist, "Top Chef" judge, and as of today, the brand new MSNBC food correspondent, and host of the new online show "Stirring the Pot", which will be airing on Shift. Tom, it`s great to see you. TOM COLICCHIO, FOOD ACTIVIST: Likewise. MADDOW: Has it made a difference in your activism world that Michelle Obama has taken on these things as her issue? COLICCHIO: Yes. Obviously, yes. She`s done such a great job. Both the president and first lady, I think they realize that you need to broaden your audience. And how do you broaden your audience? You need to use various types of media. It`s great going on the late-night shows, but how do you use video? We`ve come such a long way from "video killed the radio star" on MTV, to now millions and millions of people watching online. Millennials who are actually coming to the dinner table and talking about these various videos that they saw and discussing them with their parents. So, in a way, it`s almost like the gateway drug toward getting -- infusing politics and policy into the conversation. But you`re actually starting from the ground up and from the, again, millennials up to the adults. MADDOW: Around food issues, obviously, some of it is policy and therefore hard politics. A lot of it is raising awareness and is getting people to think about it in a -- basically a raised consciousness sort of way. With all the different things you do. I mean, obviously, restaurant king and the "Top Chef" stuff and all the other forms of activism, in forms of business that you do. What do you feel like is most effective at getting the messages across to regular people? COLICCHIO: Sure. I think you need to break down complex problems and give them to people so they can easily digest. I mean, for instance, we`re looking at fruits and vegetables. Michelle Obama`s done a great job to try to encourage people to eat fruits and vegetables. But how do we create a different incentive to get people to eat fruits and vegetables? We know fruits and vegetables are typically more expensive than processed foods. So, how do you get people who are trying to eat better but don`t have the money to do that, how can we get them to afford fruits can and vegetables or create an incentive to do that? Now, that has to go to policy. If you look at subsidies, $24 billion, $25 billion worth of subsidies, 85 percent of that goes to commodity crops, 15 percent goes to meat and dairy, 1 percent goes to specialty crops or what we know as fruits and vegetables. So, there has to be an underlying and a corresponding policy change to actually make those more affordable. MADDOW: So you have to affect both the supply and demand. You have to make people want them and also make it reasonable that they can try to get them. COLICCHIO: People want them. I think Michelle Obama`s doing a great job to get more people to want them and understand the importance of why fruits and vegetables, whole grains are important. I mean, we grew up with the food pyramid. Remember the food pyramid? Now it`s a food plate. Half of that plate has fruits, vegetables, and hole grains on it. Yet our underlying policies are not supporting that plate. And so again, I think this is a way -- we`ve got to break these complex problems down and give them in bits and pieces so people can digest it, understand it, and then go from there. There`s a lot of food issues that are sort of food stories but we don`t look at them as food stories. For instance, look at the Deepwater Horizons bill and the tons of oil that was put into the gulf. That`s a food story. That affects the food chain. That affects the fisheries there. That affects people`s livelihoods that rely on the fisheries. When you look at the overuse of pesticides and herbicides and leaching into the water system and getting into the water system and creating a dead zone in the Gulf, another food story. And then there`s the light side of it, Super Bowl comes around and it`s about the game and commercials but also about food. Then, you take hunger issues that are sometimes complex and how do you break them down so people understand it? And I think that`s what our country -- they`re ready for it. We`ve seen the stand and stir shows. We have a whole network dedicated to food. We have reality shows that I`ve been part of. We have the travel shows that we see. And I think people are ready for that next conversation around food. People want to know what`s in their food. They want to understand food safety. They want to understand social economic issues around food. They definitely want to understand and fix hunger problems. So these are all food stories and they need to be told. MADDOW: And the connection between our individual decisions about this stuff which we`re all very in touch with and the larger -- the world at large in policy stuff I think is a connection you`ve been making better than almost anybody. We`re so happy you`re here. It`s great. COLICCHIO: Thank you. MADDOW: Tom Colicchio is the brand new MSNBC food correspondent -- a phrase I`ve never said before -- host of the online show "Stirring the Pot," which is going to be airing on Shift. Tom, it is really, really an honor you`re going to be joining us here. We`re all very excited. COLICCHIO: Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. Tom Colicchio, MSNBC. Do you believe it? I know. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There`s been a lot of attention this week to the Southeast getting thumped with snow and ice, a region of the country that`s not used to it. A lot of the country in the last few weeks about Boston getting absolutely buried in snow. But there`s one other place in America that is so buried right now it is actually making them have a problem that couldn`t conceivably have anything to do with winter if this winter weren`t this big. Such a weird story. That`s next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There`s so much snow on the ground in some parts of the country right now, particularly New England, that we are running out of ways to describe it. Here is a brand new idea to wrap your head around. An idea you have never had before. The city of Portland, Maine, has been dumping all its plowed snow at a spot near the airport near the approach to one of the airport runways. But now, that snow mountain they have built is so high that Portland just figured out that they are about to violate FAA regulations. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE BOBINSKY, PORTLAND, ME PUBLIC WORKS: It can send a signal that there is some sort of structure there, and it could affect their instrumentation as they land and possibly even take off as well. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: They built their snow mountain so high in Portland, Maine, this winter that it is now interfering with airplanes. The search for a metaphor for this winter is hereby over. Portland wins. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. 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