Tensions high ahead of Russia`s Victory Day. Biden to meet virtually with Zelenskyy Sunday. Jill Biden travels to Eastern Europe to visit U.S. Troops & Ukraine refugees. Heavy fighting continues in Eastern Ukraine.
ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Thank you so much for joining us. The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle starts right now.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, intense fighting at that steel plant in Mariupol, civilians still trapped as fears mount over escalation ahead of Russia`s Victory Day holiday.
And the First Lady shows support for allies in Eastern Europe. Ukraine`s Ambassador to the U.S. is here on the fight ahead for freedom and democracy.
Plus, the road ahead for abortion protections after a week of protests over the leaked draft opinion, the new push to get lawmakers on the record, as the 11th Hour gets underway on this Friday night.
Good evening. Once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. The next 72 hours may be pivotal for Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Ukrainian forces continue to resist Moscow`s drive to capture key cities in the East. But this evening, the nation is bracing for the possibility of a brutal new assault ahead of Russia`s so called Victory Day on Monday, when Russia commemorates its victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.
Meanwhile, fighting at the Mariupol steel plant has only intensified as the city is completely devastated. NBC`s Kelly Cobiella has the latest from Ukraine.
KELLY COBIELLA, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, Russian forces are still trying to break the last pocket of resistance at Mariupol steel plant.
It won`t take long, this Russian backed fighter said. The United Nations describing the plant as a hellscape with 200 civilians and hundreds more wounded fighters holed up. Today, 50 more civilians were rescued, evacuated by the U.N. and Red Cross and now in Russian controlled territory.
Russian flags are now flying in the city of Mariupol amid fears Moscow was planning a victory parade next Monday. Although the Kremlin denies it. Today, a defiant President Zelenskyy said Mariupol will never fall because there`s nothing left. Russia has already destroyed it.
RUHLE: Our thanks to Kelly Cobiella for that report.
President Zelenskyy says diplomatic efforts are underway to rescue Ukrainian troops that are still trapped in that steel plant. While President Biden will meet with Zelenskyy virtually on Sunday along with other U.S. allies.
Earlier this evening, the President signed off on an additional $150 million in military aid for Ukraine. He said the U.S. has nearly exhausted the assistance Congress approved back in March and called our lawmakers to vote for more.
Also, tonight, President Biden reportedly not happy about leaks concerning U.S. intelligence sharing with Ukraine. NBC News reports that while on the phone with intelligence officials, Biden`s message was that his disclosures are distractions from the objective and conveyed the leaks need to stop.
And as all of that unfolds here in the U.S. First Lady Jill Biden is spending this Mother`s Day weekend in Eastern Europe. Today, she visited U.S. troops supporting NATO forces. We`ll have much more on her visit later in the hour. But I want to begin with NBC`s Cal Perry who`s live for us again in Kyiv. Cal, what are Ukrainian officials -- I`m glad to have with us tonight this morning where you are. What are of Ukrainian officials telling their people ahead of Russia`s Victory Day on Monday?
CAL PERRY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: They`re warning people here across the country. They`re telling people to be on high alert that they should abide by the curfew and we are hearing new announcements of curfews, rolling curfews in cities across this country. In the last two days, there have been two dozen cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea at targets across Ukraine. A number of them have been shot down according to officials over Kyiv. So this is certainly a city I think that is at war. It`s certainly a country no question, the eastern part of the country is engaged in a fierce war. But officials are warning that Victory Day we could see an uptick of rocket attacks. Vladimir Putin could use this as an excuse to make a point.
We know there will be parades in Moscow. We`ve seen the video in Kelly Cobiella`s peace about cleaning up in Mariupol. Perhaps they will do something there. They have been making residents in Mariupol, clean up the streets, change street signs to Russian to get to get prepared for some kind of publicity event. That`s what people here are preparing for. Stephanie.
RUHLE: Over the last few weeks, though, a lot of Ukrainian refugees who left the country have been making their way back in. Are they pausing? Are officials telling them don`t come back right now ahead of what could come on Monday?
PERRY: They are. Started with the mayor of Kyiv, telling people to stop and think about it to pause their return five -- excuse me, 7.7 million people internally displaced 15 percent of them according to the United Nations trying to make their way home. Two reasons officials are telling people to stop and rethink about it. One is Victory Day, and we`ve been talking to people on the street who say that they have friends. They have family who are outside of the country, some of them inside the country, but in the western part, they`re waiting to see what Victory Day brings.
The second reason that officials are asking people to pause is the infrastructure doesn`t exist here to support these people. There`s power out in a lot of places. There`s no water so many buildings have been destroyed, so it is a refugee crisis and perhaps a refugee crisis where we will see an uptick in violence on Monday. Stephanie.
RUHLE: But a reminder to our audience, if you`re wondering why so many refugees want to come back, remember, many of them left their husbands, their sons inside the country fighting and they just want to get home. Cal, thank you. Please stay safe where you are.
And now I want to bring in our experts this evening, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times. He spent years as the Moscow Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, closely watching the rise of Putin. Retired Four Star U.S. Army General, Barry McCaffrey joins us. A decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, and a former Battlefield Commander in the Persian Gulf. And Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and MSNBC International Affairs Analyst. His book titled, From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin`s Russia.
Gentlemen, thank you. We need you all after the week we just had. General, Russia is now focusing on the east and Mariupol, what are you expecting we`re going to get out of Russian forces over the next few days? Yes.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, Stephanie, let me just put it in context, the war has clearly turned in the favor of Ukrainian armed forces. Russia is in a strategic dilemma that there`s no easy way out of their militaries proved itself being competent or leadership`s and amateurish. They`re trying now to match on a single access to attack the Ukrainian from the East. We are giving them better technology, not adequate yet probably, but a lot of 155 artillery with its long-range ammunition. And the Mariupol defenders, who have fought valiantly for a couple of months now have sucked in a lot of the Russian combat power and destroyed it in the south, throwing the whole -- the whole effort to control the land bridge and to seize the West Coast, and to include Odessa and the (inaudible). So, the situation is unclear, the Russians aren`t giving up. Monday, May 9, may well be some dramatic signal by Putin. But I might add a cautionary word for the Russian Armed Forces don`t have a big parade in Mariupol, you will be a vulnerable target.
RUHLE: Peter, give us a bit of a history lesson. Why specifically is Victory Day so important?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, obviously, more than the United States, Russia found itself, you know, redefined, transformed by World War Two. So even to this day, 75 years later, you know, is still an important part of their national psyche, the national identity, that victory over Nazi Germany remains, you know, part of their annual tradition, this may date -- this is not maybe May 9 Victory Day, you know, celebration and parade is something that is a big, big deal there.
So for Putin to sort of target that date, if he`s doing that is meant to appeal to Russian national pride, as meant to once again sort of identify this war against Ukraine, as if it`s part of some sort of -- remember denazification is what he called it. The idea that they`re fighting against the same kind of enemy that they fought against way back in World War Two, that somehow the Ukrainians are equivalent to the, to the Nazis of that era. So that`s why it matters. And it`s -- we don`t know for sure what they`re going to do, if anything on May the ninth, but that`s why there`s so much attention to it, because it`s such a big part of the Russian, you know, Russian culture, Russian history.
RUHLE: But Ambassador, isn`t Putin running the risk of looking silly. He could put on a big show for the Russian people who have no idea what`s actually happening there. But the U.S. and NATO allies, the West, we know what`s happening. Putin is not winning. It would be a joke to celebrate victory day. Isn`t he afraid of looking like a fool to all of us?
AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Yes and no. So they are going to celebrate victory day no matter what. May 9 is always celebrated. I was there twice as the ambassador. It`s a very big event. It`s a quasi-religious event and legitimize the Soviet Union. And for Russia, it still plays that role.
By the way, Ukrainians also used to celebrate this victory day. they fought and died in World War Two, as well, as well as many other nationalities within the former Soviet Union. But remember, you`re right, he say the outside world, we know when he`s winning or losing. I think he`s already lost the war of Ukraine. I think quite definitively. He may win a few more battles. He`s lost the war. But to his people back home, they live in an information bubble. They don`t know that. They`re not seeing these photos from Mariupol like we are. They`re not seeing any of that and he can tell them anything he wants, and they will believe at least a portion of Russians will believe them on that day.
RUHLE: General, President Zelenskyy has asked officially that Russia be placed on a U.S. list of nations that sponsor terrorism. And I want to share what Nancy Pelosi had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): If Russia is not listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, tear up the list.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: I mean, I`m a mere civilian. I hear that and I say drop the mike, Nance. You`re right. But you actually know how this works. Should they be?
MCCAFFREY: Oh, no question. I listen to that interviews, really first straightforward. Russia is fighting for their -- now for their public survival. Putin can`t laugh as a leader in Russia, if there`s a continuing military disaster on the ground in Ukraine. So part of that arming Ukrainian armed forces, part of that a big part in the longer run where the economic sanctions, and do they halt defense production? Do they turn the political and military elites against Putin? But a good bit of it is political, can we make Russia a pariah state. And part of that is labeling them as a state sponsored terrorism, which they clearly are not just in devastating attacks on Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure, but also murdering his opponents, both in Russia and abroad. So it`s a move we ought to take.
RUHLE: So Ambassador, let`s say we do that. Let`s say we give them that label. What does it mean? What happens?
MCFAUL: Well, as the General just said, it makes them a pariah state, it makes it hard for anybody to financially transact with them. It makes companies think twice about investing again, there. And once you get on that list, it`s really hard to get off that list. By the way, there`s four countries on right now. It`s North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Cuba. And if Cuba is on the list, surely Russia qualifies.
RUHLE: Peter, I want to talk about this intelligence sharing, I want to share what the Pentagon said, when it tried to explain the type of intelligence we give to Ukraine. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We provide them what we believe to be relevant and timely information about Russian units that will allow them to adjust and execute their self-defense, to the best of their ability. The kind of intelligence that we provide them, it`s legitimate, it`s lawful, and it`s limited.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Here`s the thing, this information is not coming out of nowhere, Biden is not happy about it. So what`s the biggest concern about the consequences of the leaks, because it`s not just about the media organizations reporting on it. It`s coming from U.S. intelligence. Peter?
BAKER: Well, look, I think there`s a certain degree of pride on the part of, you know, U.S. security agencies that they have has to hand in Ukraine success so far in beating back the Russians, and perhaps there`s a desire for, you know, Americans to know that the United States has played a role in that, then they have something to do with. I don`t know, myself, I -- my colleagues are doing stories on this, and I haven`t been involved with those stories. So I haven`t talked to the sources that they`ve been engaging with.
But it certainly, you know, American, you know, intelligence has been an important factor in this war, have been a force multiplier, you can argue, right? In other words, if you are there on the ground, and getting the kind of high level information about where units are, what their capacities are, what their movements are, what their logistics are, that gives you a real, you know, heads up, and a real advantage that a smaller country normally wouldn`t have. The latest reports suggest that not only have they been able to take out mobile command centers that have resulted in a dozen generals being killed, they will also receive health United States and taking out that flagship of their as the most VA, and that`s a big, big deal.
So from the point of view of the Russians, obviously, you know, you can argue that it inflames them and tells them that United States is more involved in this than perhaps President Biden wants them to understand and makes them more likely to retaliate or take some sort of provocative action on the grounds that they are, in fact, at war with the United States, even if we`re not directly firing guns at them, ourselves. And that`s, I think the risk that`s probably on the minds of people at the White House is a desire not to escalate, because this war could still get a whole lot nastier.
RUHLE: General, do you think it`s a problem that we`re -- we are reporting about this intelligence sharing, does it make the government`s job harder?
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, it`s hard to fault the press for juicy stories. And I think they`re, you know, watching Admiral Kirby, who was very carefully choosing his words, and they -- there are councils of lawyers all over Washington to rule on is this act belligerent, or is it defensive? Some of it is nonsense. Obviously, we should support Ukraine. We`re sending them lethal hardware to kill Russian soldiers. It`s hard to imagine why we wouldn`t assist them in locating a capital ship bombarding the whole country out in the in the Black Sea. So there, I think he was carefully using his words.
But look, at the end of the day, we want to protect sources and methods. We don`t want the Russians to know who we`re listening to. We intercept transmitters if you`ve got 20 transmitters in one spot you got to headquarters. Obviously, we should provide that to them.
And I think the disconnect they`re carefully using language is, did we tell them to go kill the general? No, we went after his headquarters and got 200 of them about four or five days ago. And missed the Chief of the General Staff, unfortunately, so you know, Russia has been a fix. We should be less concerned about it and 100 percent support the Ukrainians in our fight for freedom.
RUHLE: Ambassador, you all are educating us at this top level of who`s winning, who`s losing the direction we`re headed in. But take us to your context. Your friends in Russia and Ukraine, we`re now 73 days in. How have their lives changed?
MCFAUL: Steph, yeah, I`ll get to that in a minute. But I feel very strongly about what you`re just talking about.
RUHLE: We can get it.
MCFAUL: Yes, we should get -- we should, because I just talked to Ukrainians about it today and Senior White House official today and Russians today. And yes, we should help the Ukrainians with intelligence. But no, with all due respect to my friend, Peter Baker, we should not be talking to Peter Baker and his friends about it and the U.S. government. One, it makes it sound like a proxy war. That`s exactly what Putin wants to tell the world, not just as people but the world that this is a proxy war.
Number two, the White House most certainly did not approve this leak. And number three and talking to my friends and Kyiv today who worked for President Zelenskyy, it makes them look weak. Why is that in the American national interest. So I would urge those that wanted to have a prideful day to talk about our intelligence, do your job and stop talking about it.
RUHLE: Lose Peter Baker`s number is the takeaway in this segment, stop talking to him, don`t call him, forget his email. All right, then tell me about -- tell me about the state of things for Ukrainians and Russians that, you know, because we keep talking about the war in this big sense. But take to us personally.
MCFAUL: What for Ukrainians just horrible. It`s great that Kyiv is open again, and people are walking on the streets. But if you`re President Zelenskyy, you feel helpless, watching your citizens die in Mariupol. And that`s the feeling of helplessness as the Russians continue to kill civilians in Ukraine. And then Russia, you know, I don`t want to pretend that I speak to all Russians, but I talk to Russian elites in Moscow, pretty awful. pretty often. This is a horrible time. As one of my friends said in Moscow, there is no winners from this war, not Putin, not the generals, not the KGB guys, not the oligarchy, not the middle class, only losers, and they`ll continue to lose until this horrible tragic war ends.
RUHLE: Ambassador Michael McFaul thank you so much. General Barry McCaffrey, thank you. Peter Baker, sorry, no more scoops for you. Thank you all for joining us this evening. I appreciate it.
Coming up, Ukraine`s Ambassador to the United States here to discuss the First Lady`s trip to Eastern Europe. Why it matters and fears Russia may escalate attacks at Victory Day.
And later, what is next for Democrats plans to protect abortion rights? They want to put everyone on the record, but will it make a difference? The 11th Hour just getting underway on a Friday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYMONE SANDERS, FORMER BIDEN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Since you are going to the Slovakia-Ukraine border, I`m wondering have you spoken with Mrs. Zelenskyy?
JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY: Well, I`ve gotten a letter from Mrs. Zelenskyy. And I`ve also spoken to the First Lady of Poland and she gave me her list of things that they needed. So you know, I think it`s, I mean, we`re in a conversation but it`s not really, you know, one-to-one. Although, I did talk on the phone with Mrs. Duda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: First Lady Jill Biden has kicked off the first leg of her four-day trip to Eastern Europe. She spent time in the U.S. military base in Romania serving food and talking to troops and military leaders. Tomorrow she`ll head to Bucharest to visit a public-school hosting refugees. The First Lady is the latest high profile official to visit the region to demonstrate America support for Ukraine and NATO allies. For more we want to welcome Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States. Oksana Markarova. Madam Ambassador, thank you for joining us tonight. How important is it for the first lady to visit the region and see firsthand what`s going on?
AMB. OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for having me. It`s very important. I cannot even explain how much it will mean for Ukrainians who are outside of Ukraine and we have more than 5 million outside primarily women and children. So it`s going to be very good that the First Lady who`s paying so much attention here, to education, to children, that she will be able to see and talk to them firsthand and hear the stories of why so many Ukrainians were forced to flee the country. Because, again, it`s very important that on this weekend, the Mother`s Day coincide also with the 77th Anniversary of the end of the World War Two and yet we are again in the situation when a brutal war returned to Europe from the uncivilized country. That has taken our country, who has no -- for no reason. So it`s going to be a great sign of support.
RUHLE: The brutality continues in one area, specifically Mariupol. We`re seeing Ukrainian forces continue to keep up the fight at that steel plant. What can you tell us about what`s going on there?
MARKAROVA: Thank you. Yeah, brutality continuous everywhere. But I think Mariupol is such a symbol now of everything that Russians are doing to, you know, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Odessa, to other places, but Mariupol has been encircled for the past two months. And Russians are using every cent they have on that city and our brave, brave defenders in Mariupol, in this Azovstal Steel Plan, they`re defending the civilians, which many are still there, without access, again, to food, gas and electricity without no resupplies, they`re still holding high the Ukrainian flag, and they`re not given up. But the whole Ukraine has not given up. So we call on everyone who can help us not only to organize the humanitarian corridors, more to get all the civilians out, but also to do everything possible, to save our defenders, to get the wounded out, to get our grave defenders out from that area.
RUHLE: Do you have any specifics on what`s going on with those civilians that are trapped there? It has been weeks?
MARKAROVA: It has been months, you know, and they are trapped there. After 95 percent of Mariupol has been destroyed, residential areas, schools, everything. Russian specifically targeted civilian infrastructure and civilians there and the only refuge they have there is actually the underground or the steel plant, where they are guarded by the Ukrainian defenders. But still, you know, they`re surrounded there without access to everything without access to medical supplies. So the faster we can get everyone out, the faster Russians will stop line and actually organize the corridors and stop shooting, because they do it even right now, stop shooting and trying to destroy the plant, the faster we can save this lies.
RUHLE: Mother`s Day isn`t the only big day we`re looking ahead to Monday is Victory Day for Russia, a hugely symbolic holiday. Are you concerned about Moscow ramping up attacks leading up to it?
MARKAROVA: Yes, well, you know, the Sunday, which is May 8, is when all civilized world is going to mourn and rejoice that the World War Two was over. But I think we all will be thanking the Lord, how -- what went wrong? How is it possible that 77 years after we all said never again, Russian Federation attacked us eight years ago and now subjected the country to a full-fledged war with all this war atrocities, which are equal to what Nazis were doing to Europe 77 years ago.
So, I think May 9 for Russia, you know, it`s a shame day for them, not a Victory Day, because how can they celebrate a Victory over Nazism when they`re doing now exactly what Nazis were doing. And again, and they have engaged in this brutal war in the middle of Europe was no reason whatsoever, just because Ukraine was peaceful, just because Ukraine made a civilizational choice to be democratic to be European. And that was a threat enough for Russia to attack us in 2014, to illegally annexed Crimea and occupied less in Luhansk and the reason to start a full-fledged war 72 days ago.
RUHLE: 72 days ago, I know I`ve heard you say before, this isn`t just a war against Ukraine, this is a fight for freedom and democracy. But here we are day 72, are you worried that you`re going to lose the hearts, the minds the attention of those from the West, and if you lose our attention, things could get really isolating really quickly?
MARKAROVA: If this loses that attention, it`s not going to be just the loss of Ukraine. I think, you know, it`s very important for all of us who believe in freedom, democracy, who believe that the board is a sacred who believe that countries can decide for themselves how they want to live and make their own mistakes if they have to.
If we do not stop Russia, while still in Ukraine, if we do not say decisively that it`s not OK to wage a war in the 21st century against a peaceful country, then we all lose, then the whole global rule of law, and the whole global security architecture will prove totally inefficient. So I think, you know, we cannot lose attention to it. Like Ukrainians will not get tired in defending our country, even though it`s very hard. And it`s heartbreaking and we`ve lost already so much, but we will not surrender, and we will not get tired and I think the world, the civilized world should not get tired insane and standing up for the principles that are so important for all of us, for freedom and democracy.
RUHLE: Madam Ambassador, thank you for joining us this evening. I appreciate it.
MARKAROVA: Thank you very much.
RUHLE: Coming up, our friend Charlie Sykes is here to break down what he calls a dramatic change for Republicans on abortion restrictions when the 11th Hour continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): The plan starts by getting everybody on the record. You know, you got to be willing to stand up in public and say which side of this you come out on. And it`s both hands. It`s making sure that everyone knows where people stand who are in office. And everyone knows where people stand who are running for office, because we don`t have enough people to get this done right now that this is the day to get in the fight so that come November, we have enough people in office who will protect the rights of a woman to choose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Senator Warren turning up the heat following the leak of that draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Senate Democrats are planning a vote on abortion protections next week. It comes as Republican state legislatures around the country have been pushing even more extreme abortion bans.
As Charlie Sykes writes in the bulwark, "This reflects a dramatic change in the position that pro-life Republicans held until about five minutes ago. So let`s discuss. With us tonight, Betsy Woodruff Swan, National Political Correspondent for Politico and Charlie Sykes himself, Editor-at-Large for The Bulwark and an MSNBC Analyst.
Charlie, break it down for us. What do we need to know about this shift and Republicans?
CHARLIE SYKES, THE BULWARK FOUNDER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, I mean, for years, there was a consensus among Republicans that if you will, were pro- life you supported restrictions on abortion, that it would always include exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. That was the position that Ronald Reagan took. That was the position that national right to life organizations took. That was the position that Donald Trump himself took as recently as 2019. But what`s been happening has been the radicalization of the base people pushing the limits saying, no, we should have no exceptions whatsoever in places like Louisiana, it will be a complete ban would treat mothers as murderers.
So this is a dramatic shift. And, you know, up until now, though, it`s been a free shot for many Republicans, because it`s just been theoretical. So they could put out the press release, they could appear in front of pro- life groups and say, you know, I am the purest pro-lifer here. But now in the last several days, you realize, no, you`re firing with live ammunition, and there are real consequences. And the reason why this is a huge problem for Republicans is all you have to do is look at the polling. And the number of voters who support bans on all abortions with no exceptions is vanishingly small. It`s only about 8 percent of the electorate, even in places like Texas, it`s a very small minority of people that do not think that you should have an exception for rape and incest. But now that`s on the ballot. And many of these legislators and politicians are on record as saying that yes, you should be compelled to carry a child to term if it is the result of incest or rape. And that`s going to be a very difficult position for them to defend. And it`s one of the reasons why for the last, you know, 40 years, they haven`t tried to do that.
RUHLE: Certainly with suburban women. Is that that, Betsy, why Democrats want to put this on the big screen, if over 60 percent of Americans think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, if this thing gets taken to a vote, are you going to see those numbers translate?
BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, POLITICO NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It`s something that certainly creates a really challenging moment for elected Republicans. In some ways, many members of the Republican Party feel a little bit like the dog that caught the male truck when it comes to the possibility of Roe v. Wade actually being reversed this year or in the coming months.
For decades, Republicans have capitalized on their base as opposition to abortion rights and use that as a way to simultaneously excite social conservatives, excite evangelical Christians without delving into an issue that corporate America ever chose to weigh in on or get involved on until in a very limited way only very recently. But now all of a sudden, it`s no longer a hypothetical discussion. It`s no longer something that`s complex and a little bit down the road. The issue of Roe v. Wade itself is actually very much up in the air. Of course, the piece of this that did change that was never complex or hypothetical was abortion access as state level laws governed it.
Of course, we know around the country, a host of red states have taken steps to essentially make it impossible in several of these states, or almost prohibitively difficult for people to get abortions but nationally in terms of the supreme court politics, it`s been a real quick change real fast, and you can tell just from looking at the way Republican members of Congress are talking about it, that they`re kind of scrambling to figure out what exactly there, what their message should be in this moment.
RUHLE: Charlie, I`ll tell you personally the moderate Republican women in my life, I`m pretty sure the reason none of them are taking my calls this week is because they don`t want me to ask them about it. So do you think Elizabeth Warren, well, all of her points might be correct. Do you think as a progressive icon, she`s the right messenger for Democrats right now, because the group they could snag are moderates?
SYKES: Well, look there are a lot of messengers out there. And I think both parties are going to be struggling to figure out how they are going to frame this. You know, for example, only a small percentage of voters want to ban abortions with no exceptions, but also a very small percentage of voters believe that there should be abortions with no exceptions for the full nine months. Now, if some Democratic politicians take that position, that is obviously going to give Republicans a talking point here.
The problem with this issue, and obviously, I`m not telling you something you don`t know, is that people have very -- the American people have very nuanced views about abortion. There is strong support for legalized abortion in the first trimester. But those numbers drop off dramatically in the second and third trimester. So, you know, there is there is room for a centrist compromise, but you know, in our current environment, that is just not going to happen, because what`s going to happen will be that the absolutist will drive the debate on both sides. So it is going to be interesting, you know, who is going to be able to cast this, who`s going to be able to frame this issue, but there`s no question about it. This is a, you know, huge problem for Republicans and I think that the, you know, the analogy that Betsy mentioned, you know, the dog that caught the car is exactly right, because, you know, I`ve worked with these politicians for years. And they all just, you know, operated under the assumption that this would never actually happen. And they all understood what the blowback would be. And now suddenly, it`s about to happen.
RUHLE: Well, then, Charlie, maybe this is the moment for the radical center, though it`s threatened to for years to finally rise. We`ll soon find out. Betsy Woodruff, Charlie Sykes, thank you both so much.
Coming up, I recently sat down with the one and only Terry Crews. We have a one on one to get his take on toxic masculinity and how he has had to change his life and redefine what a man even means, when the 11th Hour continues.
RUHLE: You should recognize my next guest, actor, entertainer, superstar Terry Crews. He has been known for his roles in countless shows and movies like Everybody Hates Chris, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Longest Yard, and America`s Got Talent. But you may not know he`s also been on a decade`s long quest to understand the true meaning of toughness. In his newest and deeply personal memoir, he writes this, "Man wield power in this world because of our size and our strength. And because society gives it to us whether we deserve it or not. What I`ve learned is that to be a true man is to be the ultimate servant. With any talent or advantage that life has given you whether by birth or circumstance, your duty is to use that advantage in service of others."
And with that, I am so pleased to welcome my dear friend Terry Crews, his new memoir, Tough: My Journey to True Power.
RUHLE: Terry, I am -- I`m so grateful that you wrote this book. When people look at you, they clearly see a tough guy. But talk to us about your upbringing, because you grew up in Flint, Michigan.
TERRY CREWS, ACTOR: That`s right.
RUHLE: When the GM plants closed, when you saw what it looked like with huge job loss, gangs on the rise, drug use, you actually grew up in a home where there were some domestic abuse. How did your childhood shape your idea of what a tough man was?
CREWS: First of all, growing up in that era, the 70s and 80s, in Flint, Michigan, you`re talking about the demise of the auto industry and the rise of the crack epidemic, which created this vacuum. People went right from the factories into the drug game. And it was ruled by violence. I learned in the culture that was in, in the world that I was in, that he who was the most violent one in my house, my father -- my earliest memory is my father knocking my mother out. And I was like, hey, man, it`s your world. And men have the say, and when I went out in the street, people were getting beat up, people were getting shot, people were getting killed, and people were getting away with it. That was the thing that I learned, and I saw that. And I knew that I would have to be very, very -- just very violent in order to survive and you have to understand this too. It was a very competitive world and the competition that I was in was a matter of, it was always me versus them.
RUHLE: What made you change your perspective on what it is to be truly tough? You grew up seeing one thing and becoming another.
CREWS: First of all, you know, what was wild is that I -- that level of competition and me wanting to make it that hard, it just be this this, you know, ruler and ruled by fear rather than love. It gets you really far as a man. I mean you become really successful.
RUHLE: Yeah, for male.
CREWS: On the external, the alpha, you are the king, you`re the one. You`re king of the hill. And what was the -- the problem was, is that my internal success never matched my external. I had created an image, but my wife was the highlight. She said, I`m out. When we were 20 years married, this was 2010. And I`d had this success and all this stuff. And she was like, Terry, I don`t know who you are, because she had married the image. But she didn`t marry the man. And let me tell you something, that even the process of being so transparent in this book, and telling all of my stuff, is an attempt to tear down that image that I was hiding behind, and keep it down, so that anybody can call me on my stuff. Because I knew that thing, that double life that I had was absolutely, it was going to kill me. Straight up, it was going to be the end of me, because I wasn`t -- I had no integrity. I wasn`t a real man. And I thought I was better than any woman - - that all the women in my life, simply because of the things that I learned. It was like, hey, you`re the man, you don`t love your wife, you own your wife. And it was so wild. I didn`t appreciate my family. I possessed my family. These are the things I was taught. These are the things that a lot of men are being taught. And I had to reveal the truth.
RUHLE: So you`ve gotten better as a person but has society. We all just watched, Will Smith stand up for his woman, and smack Chris Rock in the face.
CREWS: Let me tell you, there was a time, and this is why I say this, I`ve done worse than Will that some man basically insulted my wife, I picked him up, put them on in his head on the concrete. And my wife was screaming, no, what are you doing? Stop. But I blacked out. And I mean, blacked out. I was stomping this guy in the ground. And she said, she pulled me to the side after it was all over because I almost got shot by the cops, the police came, and all my brute strength, I was using on this guy. And it was overkill. It was too much. And my wife at the end of the night, she pulled me to the side, she said, hey, man, you can never get violent like that. At the minimum, you`re going to get sued. And at the maximum, you`re going to get killed. And she said, she was pregnant with my son at the time. And he`s 16 now, but she was like, don`t you want to be here, but your son. You want -- you have to be here for him.
And I said, but I`m a man. And this is what I have to do. Like, if you don`t like it, I`m sorry, but I`m going to make sure -- she`s like nothing, I`m fine. But it`s you who`s got the problem. And I`m just sitting there going, what, and little did I know that by that moment, that I`ve controlled myself, fine -- once I finally learned it, when my agent sexually assaulted me, I had learned, I had already been through years of therapy. And I was able to control myself when I -- when she knew the old guy who was sure to kill this man. And some kind of way, I was able to control myself and really put myself together through the therapy. And the promise that I made to her. It saved my life.
RUHLE: Then if there`s one thing that you could change, impact that you could have, would it be to change how we define masculinity?
CREWS: Absolutely. I think this is what the book is about. First of all, tough, for me growing up was always the ability to throw punches. But real toughness is the ability to take -- to take the punches and to endure and to grow and to protect.
RUHLE: And to keep loving.
CREWS: And to keep loving. It`s tough and to do the work like to actually do the internal, you know, surgery that you have to do. I like to say that we as people come assembly required and most men feel like I`m fine, just the way I am. But we have to work on ourselves.
RUHLE: Just because we`re broken doesn`t mean we can`t be fixed.
RUHLE: Terry Crews, so good to see you. So good to see you.
CREWS: Thank you for letting me be here.
RUHLE: Coming up next, inspire America when the 11th Hour continues.
RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, inspiring America. This week NBC is celebrating remarkable individuals who remind us of the healing power of community. One of those being honored is fashion industry icon Christy Turlington, after facing potentially life-threatening complications during childbirth, she now travels the world brings support to pregnant women with her nonprofit, Every Mother Counts. Here`s some of her conversation with Savannah Guthrie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: Something about that moment, you go from the ecstasy of having your first baby, to the trauma of having to go through a medical procedure that was painful, and you did not plan. And that moment, gave you a mission.
CHRISTY TURLINGTON, FASHION ICON: It really did. Definitely, took a little time and I started to talk to other women. After I came home and more and more women were sharing their stories with me like oh, you know, my child was in the NICU or I had a similar experience or I enriched or I needed a transfusion, right? Like there were all these stories that I hadn`t heard until after I became a mom. And that`s too late, I think.
GUTHRIE: You started to do your homework, you started researching maternal health. And what did you find?
TURLINGTON: I learned that around the world, hundreds of 1000s of girls and women die every year from pregnancy and childbirth related complications and that shocked me, like that seems like something that happens in a different time.
GUTHRIE: It does. It feels like some old-fashioned Victorian book you might read.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: You can see all the honorees during tomorrow night`s special Inspiring America, the 2022 Inspiration List, airing on NBC at 9 p.m. Eastern and MSNBC at 10 p.m. Eastern.
And before we go, I have to give a huge congratulations to our dear friend Chris Jansing on her new role as anchor of the 1 p.m. hour of MSNBC reports. We cannot wait to see her. And a huge thanks to the one and only Monica Lewinsky tonight. I vowed to not make it on air unless I completed today`s Wordle. Well, Monica took to Twitter and helped me complete it.
On that note, I wish you a very good night from all of our colleagues across the networks have NBC News. Thanks for staying up late. Have a great Mother`s Day and I`ll see you next week.