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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/18/22

Guests: Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Lindsay Owens


Awaiting vote total from key races. In Pennsylvania, voting counting ongoing with Trump-backed Mehmet Oz and David McCormick deadlocked in the Senate Race and Democrat John Fetterman winning the primary. FOX host cited the great replacement conspiracy theory 400 times, now insisting he doesn`t know what it is. Ruth Ben-Ghiat joins THE BEAT to talk about the U.S. right to push French conspiracy theory smearing Jews and minorities. Lindsay Owens the executive director of Groundwork Collaborative joins THE BEAT to talk about the Wall Street leaders` gloat over the inflation price hike.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Thank you so much for letting us into your homes during these extraordinary times. We are so grateful. THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, thank you, Nicolle. I`m here as you could see with Steve Kornacki for a very special edition of THE BEAT.

WALLACE: Love it.

MELBER: So thanks, Nicolle, and hello to everyone.

The votes are still being counted. The nation absorbing these key results as well as a few upsets late into the night after voters hit the polls in five states.


DAVID MCCORMICK (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE PRIMARY CANDIDATE: We`re going to win this campaign. We`re going to win this campaign.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This race in Pennsylvania may be the hottest thing going this election night.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman is now the projected winner in the Democratic Senate primary.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The CNN projects that Congressman Ted Budd wins the Republican Senate nomination.

HAYES: NBC News is now projecting that Doug Mastriano, who did marched to the Capitol on January 6th, is going to be the projected winner.

DOUG MASTRIANO (R), PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: On day one, any mandates are gone. Yes. On day one, any jab for job requirements are gone.

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: This isn`t a shot across the bow of Joe Biden and the Democrats. This is a shot right amid ship and they`re taking on water.

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): Hey, we`re going to have kind of a sexual get-together at one of our homes. You should come. I`m like, what did you just ask me to come to? And then you realized they`re asking you to come to an orgy.

You know what I`ll tell you, there`s been a coordinated strike carried out by really kind of the old establishment wing of our party and it`s really something that I think --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a blow in North Carolina. Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn will not be returning to Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An endorsement from former President Trump appeared to put Dr. Oz in the driver`s seat.

MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE PRIMARY CANDIDATE: I want to thank Sean Hannity. Sean is like a brother to me.

LUCAS TOMLINSON, FOX NEWS: That`s right, Steve, it`s going to be a photo finish. Another delay in election results in Pennsylvania.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This thing is well within recount territory. This isn`t going away anytime.


MELBER: And recount territory is where we remain. This is THE BEAT. We are joined by the legendary Steve Kornacki working the big board. We`re going to get into our whole show but I want to start where we always start at times like this with a lot of open questions. What can you tell us at the board, Steve?

STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the big open question, Ari. Who is going to be the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania? Who is going to take on John Fetterman this fall? So you can see Mehmet Oz leading right now. That margin over David McCormick for him is just over 1500 votes.

Basically from this morning until now that margin has been cut in a third basically. It was about 2400 and change this morning. Now it`s down to 1500. So McCormick has gotten a little bit closer. But he`s still got a ways to go. There aren`t a ton of votes left. What we can tell you about in terms of where there are votes left in Pennsylvania, number one is Allegheny County. It`s Pittsburgh, it`s the Pittsburgh area.

They say actually the votes that are left here were probably not going to get those reported out until Monday, until after the weekend. There have been some technical issues with the equipment, with the machinery, the memory cards that they used there. But one thing that we`re also getting indications from Allegheny County is we were thinking earlier initially that there were more votes left here in the Republican race that are actually going to be the case.

So we look at this. It`s McCormick`s home county. We expect whatever comes out of Allegheny McCormick to do well in. There may not be as many votes here. We may be talking closer to about 2,000 votes left in Allegheny County. The initial thinking had been more like 6,000 or 7,000. So he may not get what we expected him to get out of Allegheny County.

There are also some votes left in the city of Philadelphia. Republican votes. There aren`t a ton of Republican votes in general in Philadelphia. But there are some left here probably just under a thousand election day votes to be counted in Philadelphia. You see that red color there. Mehmet Oz has actually been doing well in Philadelphia among the Republicans who have voted there. So Oz could pick up some vote there.

And then really beyond that, it is just a question of mail ballots. We`re not sure exactly how many vote by mail ballots are left, but the number maybe around 15,000 or so that are left. McCormick is outpacing Oz with the vote by mail ballots. In those that have been counted today, you know, we`ve had about 10,000 vote by mail ballots counted today. McCormick is leading Oz among -- in that group of votes by seven points.

So with the mail ballots, as they continue to get counted, that`s how McCormick has slowly, slowly chipped away a little bit at this Oz lead here. So basically can McCormick get some extra votes out of Allegheny County when that`s all counted up? He`s likely to take some kind of a hit in Philadelphia and I think he`s got to win what`s left of the mail-in, he may have to win by a bigger margin than we`re seeing him win by right now.

He would need all of that to happen to actually erase that 1500 vote lead that Oz has. Now the big picture here is however it finishes if the margin between these two candidates is within half a point, if it`s within 0.5 percent, by law, this will go to a recount.


And this looks like it is going to a recount no matter who finishes first or second here. But again, recounts, you know, I mean, they`re dramatic. But it`s rare that they actually change the result of the race. So McCormick really does need to either get ahead of Oz here or get very, very close to him for that to have a potential of emerging from a recount actually winning this primary. Right now 1500 is probably too far behind going into a primary. So he`s got some avenues here. But it`s still quite a bit -- it`s going to take a lot. It`s a tall order for him to actually catch Oz.

MELBER: Really great breakdown. Thank you, Steve. And you point out here, this is where all the action is. And here you got 300K plus votes. And third, that`s why frontrunners always start to wonder, gosh, could they have picked up a little more? Would it have made all the difference? Good news for OZ.

With all the caveats you gave us, you agreed to stick around.

KORNACKI: Yes. You got it.

MELBER: Even though you`re busy and tired.

KORNACKI: Nowhere else I`d rather be.

MELBER: I know you`re tired because I know how late you were up. So Steve stays with us which is great for us. We`re going to bring in former Democratic senator and MSNBC analyst Claire McCaskill who knows exactly this kind of situation.

So, Claire, Steve and I are going to hang with you. But first, your thoughts both on everything he just said in this race and the night in general.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC ANALYST: Well, I think authenticity won in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania. I think right now it`s very important for candidates to be real and to talk like normal people. And John Fetterman did a great job with that. And then you`ve got the Republican candidates.

And either way you look at it, Ari, 70 percent of the people who voted in the Republican primary voted for MAGA candidates. They voted for Trump-like candidates. 30 percent didn`t. On the other hand, there was 70 percent that voted against Trump`s endorsement. So you can read this a lot of different ways. There`s one thing I know for sure, though, Ari. If Oz wins this primary, he will have won the primary, according to Donald Trump. If Oz doesn`t win this primary, it`s because somebody cheated, according to Donald Trump.

MELBER: Yes, it`s a little bit circular there, isn`t it? I got to say.

MCCASKILL: Yes, it is.

MELBER: It`s a fair point. Senator Casey, your former colleague of Pennsylvania, speaking about all of this, so let me play a little bit of that for you and then Steve`s response.


SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): On the other side, you have a close race that might go to a recall. And in so many ways that primary including the final two candidates was kind of a contest for who could (INAUDIBLE) more for Donald Trump. And I don`t think that`s a winning formula for the general election.


MELBER: Claire?

MCCASKILL: I think Bob is right. I think there are certainly Trump loyalists, but on the other hand, Joe Biden did win Pennsylvania, whether Donald Trump likes it or not. And I don`t think any of these candidates on the Republican side are going to gather the kind of enthusiasm. I mean, Oz`s negatives are sky high in the Republican Party. I don`t see him driving a record turnout. I don`t see that happening.

Whereas I think John Fetterman is going to do a very good job of relating to some voters that may have drifted away from the Democratic Party lately. You know, he`s a mayor in a steel town that was down on its luck and he was strong and he was relatable. I think the Republicans -- I think Mitch McConnell is tossing and turning about whether or not they can hold on to Pennsylvania right now.

KORNACKI: This is going to be obviously a marquee race. Let`s go back here. I can show you the 2020 presidential result in Pennsylvania because I think you`ll see how Biden won the state in what Democrats are counting to hang - - or try to win this Senate race here. The key for Biden to win in 2020 as opposed to Hillary Clinton losing the state in 2016, one of the biggest keys was the suburbs right outside of Philadelphia.

They were blue in 2016. They were blue in 2020. But they got a lot bluer. So check out Montgomery County, for instance. This is one of the biggies right outside Philadelphia. Joe Biden beating Donald Trump by 26 points here. Go back in time four years earlier, Hillary Clinton won it, but her margin there you can see was significantly less. Clinton`s plurality over Trump was less than 100,000 votes.

Biden`s over Trump was about -- was nearly 140,000 votes. So Biden drove up much bigger margins in these highly densely populated Philadelphia suburbs. This was the area of the state that had the most negative reaction to Trump from 2016 to 2020. So what Democrats are hoping in 2022 in the midterm environment is with Doug Mastriano being the Republican nominee for governor in particular who has, you know, played such a role in January 6th, they believe that Mastriano is going to turn off the exact type of voters who really were turned off to Donald Trump and made these suburbs outside Philadelphia even bluer than they had been.


Because by making these suburbs more blue in 2020 than they had been in 2016, Biden succeeded in flipping the state. Democrats are hoping that Mastriano in particular on the gubernatorial side turns enough voters in places like that off to the Republicans that it makes the race winnable for them in what otherwise looks like a difficult midterm environment for Democrats.

MELBER: Well, exactly. It`s a difficult midterm environment in many places. This map is really interesting for the reasons you state, Steve, and then you add in, will there be a decision that overturns Roe v. Wade? And is that something that Mastriano and other people are running on saying, great, Pennsylvania, in their view, quote, "great, could be a state where they could then ban abortion." Right? And does that bring out people that as you said come out in those blue pockets?

Senator McCaskill, I want to bring you back in on a different point which is lesser the numbers, no one can top Steve`s numbers, but more to the norm-busting, whacky world we`re in. People just admitting things that within recent cycles would have been actual scandals. Take a listen to who Dr. Oz thanked last night.


OZ: When Sean punches through something, he really punches through it. He understands exactly how to make a difference and he`s been doing that this entire campaign. Much of it behind the scenes. Giving me advice, late-night conversations, again, the kinds of things that true friends do for each other.


MELBER: True friend, Sean Hannity, I guess it`s not behind the scenes anymore. Your reaction, Senator?

MCCASKILL: It`s very weird. I mean, I hate to sound old fashioned, but I get having people on air and cable news, obviously. I get the fact that there are opinions expressed. And that is totally fair in cable news. What is really weird is to have someone actively involved in a campaign. And I felt this myself. Sean Hannity was at the get-out-the-vote rally for my opponent in 2018 the night before the election.

He was the star of the show on stage campaigning for my opponent. I`m uncomfortable with it. I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with it. It`s very weird. But I also got to say, Ari, the thing about that`s also norm-busting is around the topic of abortion. When I got reelected in 2012, there was a rush of Republican leaders saying that they did not except accept that a woman who had been raped would not be able to get a legal abortion.

Now states like mine and the guy who ran for governor in Pennsylvania is saying there will be no exception for rape or incest. They have gone so extreme. That is really where we can make some hay in the suburbs that Steve Kornacki just pointed out. That`s where there`s a lot of suburban voters that get very uncomfortable with the idea that a very young woman who has been repeatedly raped by a relative would be forced to carry that child to term. That is really hard, I think. And I think it`s going to play very strongly in this election, this midterm.

MELBER: As you say, it`s a serious topic. It goes to people strongly how beliefs, it goes to human rights, and if the draft opinion that was leaked out of the Supreme Court is anything like what comes out before November, it`s going to play into how people vote, you would think.

Important stuff on the analysis from Senator McCaskill, and on the big board, on the numbers, Steve Kornacki, appreciate you staying up.

KORNACKI: Any time.

MELBER: Another day with us. We`re going to fit in a break. Coming up, we have a special report. You may not see it anywhere else on corporate executives actually caught on tape bragging about using inflation to drive up prices. Do they think you`re stupid? It`s an important story about getting the rich richer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not going to be giving this pricing back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The team did an amazing job. They`re already working on higher price.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And our ability to pass along price to the consumer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are a beneficiary of inflation.


MELBER: We`re the only place you`ll see that story tonight. Later a fact check on replacement theory we`ve been working. I`m going to share with you why Tucker Carlson is, well, lying about what he said. And we`ll explain why we have someone out there dubbing themselves Santa Claus.

A note for the governor in Florida, you`re not allowed to give yourself nicknames. We`ll get into that very important story by the end of the hour.



MELBER: Turning to the new pressure on the racist conspiracy theories cited by the Buffalo shooting suspect in our special report right now. If you watch this news program, you may recall the debunked replacement theory that migrated from a discredited French right-wing writer into initially the fringes on the American right. We did an investigative report debunking it back in October.

NBC`s Richard Engel reported on the same author back in 2020, and other journalists and human rights groups have warned both about this French theory and how it`s being peddled. Data shows global interest in this hateful conspiracy theory spikes either when mass shooters cite it, which happened with the Buffalo suspect, as you see on your screen, or in one other way, which is the highest spike you see on your screen, when Tucker Carlson promotes it, which he`s done over 400 times.

Now people know that Tucker Carlson pushes this is on FOX. The company has already lost some advertisers over this kind of thing. But Carlson remains the most watched and profitable host on the whole channel. In fact, "The New York Times" recently reported that the Murdochs now give him more leeway than any host in FOX`s history, though they`re under more pressure this week as lawmakers like Senator Schumer are pressing FOX on its potential responsibility here. Tonight the House may also vote on a domestic terror bill to further counter this kind of violence.


Is any of this getting to Carlson? Maybe. Since the shooting, he`s not exactly doubling down this week on his past peddling, although it`s a bit of a complicated and mixed bag because instead he`s trying to now insist that he does not even know what this conspiracy says or entails.

I`m going to show you him saying that. You can decide for yourself if you believe him. But I will tell you as a matter of reported analysis based on his past work, his claim that he doesn`t know what the theory is absurdly weak. A very lazy defense for someone in media who frequently covers this theory. But here`s Tucker last night.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST: You`ve heard a lot about the great replacement theory recently. It`s everywhere in the last two days. And we`re still not sure exactly what it is.


MELBER: "We`re still not sure exactly what it is." False. The evidence shows that it`s false. Mr. Carlson`s program shows that`s false. And unlike some things that happen in the close circuit of FOX News viewers, even if you only watch Mr. Carlson`s program, you would have heard about his theory so much from him that you would notice he`s lying.

He`s proven his knowledge of the theory by citing it knowledgeably, quoting, and pushing it on air. But since he asked and this is a big deal this week with the deadliest shooting of the year involving it with its suspect citing it, here is exactly what it is.

The original conspiracy theory claims white Europeans are being replaced by non-white immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, which will drive the total, quote, "extinction of the white race."

Now in America, white supremacists have morphed it into a theory that non- white individuals are being brought into the U.S. to replace all white people and voters with the help of secret Jewish elites.

Once you know this recent history, as Carlson does, you can also see what`s clearly happening in our recent history. That`s why that rally in 2017 about uniting the right-wing movement openly featured those ugly chants with the same terminology. Chants against minorities and Jews replacing white conservatives.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: You will not replace us. You will not replace us. You will not replace us.


MELBER: That was August 2017. A time of great turmoil in America after Trump`s election. You heard what he said about the good people there. And some people back then at that time may have been honestly confounded by that language. If you don`t follow this stuff closely, if you`re not educated on either from a human and civil rights perspective because some people focus on these issues, or God forbid, from the hateful side that you`re on those Web sites and you`re reading Kamu and you`re into it, but if you`re not in any of those groups, you might not have known about it then.

But now, today, if you`re informed, certainly you`ve heard about this. You will not replace us, they`re talking to basically minorities. You and Jews will not replace us, they are talking to Jews. Carlson knows what this is. He`s pushed it 400 times. He`s continuing to spew it which brings us to how he does it now. If there`s a sliver of good news here for you, I`ll offer it. I know what you`re thinking, Ari, how can there be any good news here?

Well, a sliver is at a time like this, even Tucker Carlson doesn`t want to admit he`s pushing this racist replacement theory. Even him. And he`s pushed it before. That reminds you that even in his universe, let alone the entire population of this country, which still has many people wo would not truck with anything like this, this is not actually still acceptable, even in 2022, even with the people we`ve been reporting on the ballots.

So he has to do this dodge until either this gets more acceptable, which maybe what he wants and others want, or until it gets laundered to a degree that it`s just one more politically debated item. So he has to do a dance where he says what I just showed you. He claims he doesn`t know what this is and then he continues to push it, and peddle it in other laundered language. Maybe trolling or maybe a way to have it both ways. So he goes on to say this.


CARLSON: The great res placement theory is coming from the left. The Democratic Party has decided that rather than convince you, people who are born here that their policies are helping you and making the country better and stronger, they will change the electorate.



MELBER: They will change the electorate. So first he deflects and denies. Then he repeats a version of it. Who are they changing the electorate? Well, according to replacement theory, which is this discredited and debunked form of racism that also plays into the authoritarianism we see rising in this nation, the idea that there`s only certain people who are allowed to be citizens, certain people who are allowed to vote, certain people who should rightfully have government or police power, well, they are racial minorities and Jews.

That`s what Tucker Carlson has been saying while claiming he`s not pushing it. And that brings us to one more thing we`ve prepared for you before we bring in our expert tonight. And this is new and different than some of what I showed you earlier this week. And this is important.

Mr. Carlson has a long history here of playing games and worse with these serious facts including violence and murder. He will downplay incidents of right-wing violence then he will ramp up his rhetoric about violent incidents that occur when more white people are the victims in a U.S. incident or attack.

Any violence is wrong, of course. For Mr. Carlson, however, there`s a blunt theme. He invokes replacement theory to scare white people about a minority Jewish invasion, denies he`s doing so and projects his and this theory his own racial religious fixation out on to everyone else. Now that may sound quite obviously hypocritically, but there is a method here. It echoes an ugly history in Europe and elsewhere.

When you`re building this kind of movements, there are people who don`t want to self-identify as racists or religious bigots. So they need propagandist and others to present the world to a laundered version of history and current events that offers a prism for people who might not want to admit or even realize they engage in this double standard. So we ran through it. We looked at the work. We put together this archive of Carlson`s statements about different types of attacks to show the disturbing double standard.


CARLSON: What he wrote does not add up to a manifesto. It is not a blueprint for a new extremist political movement.

A black nationalist and BLM supporter drove an SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It was a slaughter.

Because a mentally ill teenager murdered strangers, you cannot be allowed to express your political views.

And if indiscriminately murdering women and children at a Christmas parade isn`t terrorism, then what exactly is it?

There`s no obvious ideological lesson to draw from all this. Yet that hasn`t stopped the usual power-hungry morons from trying to leverage human pain for political advantage.

It`s still interesting to know a lot more about the man who apparently committed this crime. Frank James posted black supremacist rants on his YouTube channel.

The only thing that could make what happened in Charlottesville worse would be if we allowed a small number of people in power to make America less tolerant and less free in its aftermath.

Maybe if the entire news media tells you every day of your life that America hates you because of your skin color, why wouldn`t we see more crimes like this?


MELBER: "Why wouldn`t we see more crimes like this?" The framed rhetorical question is a very weak device. It`s simplistic, it`s unimaginative, but in some cases, although it can be easily dismissed, it`s also quite dangerous.

We`re watching an election where people are on the ballot openly advocating authoritarianism and the end of democracy. And we`re watching some of the most influential people in the nation tell everyone maybe there should be, quote, "more crimes like this."

NYU history professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat is an expert on exactly these issues. We will get into the facts and only the facts when we`re back in one minute.


MELBER: We`re joined by NYU history professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the author of "Strong Men: From Mussolini to the President."

Welcome, and what do you see as the link here between this conspiracy theory, the hate against certain minority groups as well as Jews, and in the theory, and really a rising embrace of authoritarian style politics in the United States?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT, HISTORY PROFESSOR, NYU: Yes, these are -- the purpose of these conspiracy style theories is like the idea of being replaced by others, is to evoke really powerful feelings of annihilation of extinction, and also the feeling you`re being manipulated. And the idea is to get people into this survivalist mentality that it`s us or them. And the tragedy is that with these, you know, shooters, that whole string of them, that means arming yourself, and we -- they can do that because of our gun policies, and going out and killing as many non-Christians and non-whites as possible.

So, you know, but these are fascist ideas. They literally go back to fascism. Before Hitler, Mussolini was talking about how white Christian civilization was being submerged. That was the word he used by too many people from African-Asian, non-whites having too many babies. All the way up to Viktor Orban, who tries to keep out, you know, non-white immigrants and talks about that we should only have white Christian Hungarian babies.

And the GOP that is, you know -- the CPAC is meeting there right now. So, these ideas that Tucker Carlson and the GOP have mainstreamed and accepted. They are unvarnished fascist ideas.

MELBER: Yes, it`s very important that way you put that into context, because sometimes when we talk about this level of hate or violence, it almost sounds like something that only the criminal element or the worst element of a society would condone. And yet any knowledge of world history shows just how many people can go along with it. But outside of the core violent actors and coup plotters, etc. There`s that wider circle of accommodationists.

And they need a reason they need a justification for the genocide, or the attack, or the breaking of the rules. And that really filters into what Carlson and others are doing. I want to play one other piece we have, where Trump`s own FBI director if people want to look at it politically, or the stats, if you want to look at it numerically show right-wing and white supremacist violence is the greatest domestic set.

Greater than for example, foreign terror, which at a different point, our history was also much higher, and quite a great threat. But Mr. Carlson uses that rhetorical questioning style to let his audience answer these questions and feel like they`re doing some work when they`re not doing the facts or the journalism take a look at this.


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS: If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns or problems this country faces, where would white supremacy be on the list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The top domestic violent extremist threat we face comes from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically, those who advocate for the superiority of the white race.


MELBER: Professor?

BEN-GHIAT: Yes, you know, Tucker Carlson is a master propagandist as that New York Times investigation showed, he has featured great replacement theories, you know, 400 times since 2016. And he shows up with his -- he`s very dangerous, he shows up with his fresh face, and his student is high looking on mainstream, and then he spouts this demagoguery. He really is a fascist demagogue who contributes to political violence in our country.

MELBER: Yes, and as you say that mainlining is vital. And as your work and others have shown, effective propaganda is a central feature of the rise of this kind of movements. It doesn`t happen well, without messaging. I`m running out of time but final thoughts (INAUDIBLE) get some say.

BEN-GHIAT: Oh, just -- that, you know, these now -- these ideas of that people are elites are manipulating you are circulating and becoming more brazen. There was a candidate for Minnesota Secretary of State who just published a -- you know, campaign ad that showed Soros -- that George Sowers -- Soros is a Jewish puppet manipulating people. So, it`s all related. And it`s all become part of daily communication among the GOP.

MELBER: Yes. And as you say, all of that justification. The idea that the people who are on the attack are actually the aggrieved, which brings you back to of course the big lie. The people who genuinely believe that they`re living under an illegitimate president who lost the race are people who are more inclined to do things and see their crimes and civil disobedience or direct action, which they are not. Professor, thanks for joining us. I hope you come back.

BEN-GHIAT: Thanks.


MELBER: Appreciate it. We`ve got more than one topic in the news tonight as I mentioned this is a big one. Leaders on Wall Street who think you`re stupid and think you will find out about this that they`re actually exploiting inflation to profiteer and they`re caught on tape. It`s an important story where pressure may matter.

And later, Ron DeSantis has given himself a nickname. If you`ve ever been in any social group. If you have any social skills whatsoever, you may know you`re not allowed to give yourself a nickname. Let alone say that you are the government, Santa Claus. It`s dumb but in a way kind of important. I`ll explain by the end of the hour.


MELBER: Stocks took a huge plunge today. The largest single-day drop in over two years. Many factors are driving it. There`s inflation, there`s the stock -- supplied chain issues, there`s the war that continues to grind on in Europe.


And that`s not all, there`s also some corporate price gouging that`s going on where companies are using all of this uncertainty in inflation, to basically exploit the situation and make you pay more than you otherwise would, raising prices. Some companies say it`s just good for business. Others are saying that, well, it`s kind of an automatic thing. But the bottom line is that we have a very unregulated economy. And that means that in times like this, well, companies can get away with a lot.

This is a special report right now. And I want you to listen to corporate leaders from companies like Visa, which is a consumer product many, many people interact with for credit cards, saying directly as they talk to investors when they have to tell a little more of the truth than in other scenarios like advertising, exactly how they`re exploiting this environment.


AL KELLY, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, VISA: Inflation typically lifts transaction size. Historically, inflation has been positive for us.

VASANT PRABHU, CHAIRMAN AND CFO, VISA: So, to the extent that there`s inflation driving up, you know, ticket size, clearly, it`s beneficial to us. So, net-net, I mean, we are a beneficiary of inflation.


MELBER: It may be one of the only ones. I`m joined now by the executive director of Groundwork, Lindsay Owen, she was the first -- there -- her group, I should say was the first report and so these damning earnings calls. She wrote about for the New York Times, discussing the profiteering from inflation and who is paying for it. Let`s go through a couple of these starting with what we just heard from Visa, how in your view is that different, say from a small business that has to keep up with rising costs, the implication here being there`s something else going on?

LINDSAY OWENS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GROUNDWORK COLLABORATIVE: Now, look, it`s really good to be Visa, and the CEO, as you just showed, we`re not shy about it. Visa makes a big chunk of their money on swipe fees, that`s just a percentage point fee that they charge on the ticket price of a transaction. So last year, when Tide detergent was $10, a bottle, they charged two percent of $10.

This year, Tide detergent is $12 a bottle, they charge two percent of $12. They just sit back and make more money with inflation. But they`re not actually just sitting back. They`re going for more. They`re actually planning Visa and MasterCard planning to hike up those swipe fees. So, you know, making money off the higher ticket price. But then, you know, headed for more.

MELBER: I want to go through a couple of these because you have so many of the receipts, the CEO of a big paint company PPG was asked about whether they would ever bring prices back down. If the price of raw materials comes back down. A lot of this is sort of presented, you know, generally to the public through fairly pro-economic corporate, for -- pro-corporate for Wall Street -- for Wall Street agenda, as hey, this has got to happen, it goes up, it goes down, it`s all kind of out there, magic. It was the answer.


MICHAEL MCGARRY, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, PPG: We`re not going to be given this pricing back. They also cannot argue that our competitors are not pricing. So, I`m really pleased our sales teams have gotten much better at pricing than ever in the history of the company. Now it`s not a matter, can we take a price increase? Now it`s about how much of a price increase are you going to take.


MELBER: Is that just greed that they`re getting away with?

OWENS: Yes, look, the laws of gravity do not apply to Wall Street. What goes up does not have to come down on Wall Street. What he`s telling, you know, shareholders and market analysts is the music is not going to stop, we`re not going to pass the savings back along to consumers. We`re going to, you know, take this new, higher price. This is the new low, low price, and it`s not such a low price anymore.

MELBER: Yes. And it has a weird kind of echo of the financial crash, where people were lectured about why you have to bail out the companies. But you can`t bail out other people, you just had to do that. It`s complicated. Obviously, there`s some backbone financial institutions whose bankruptcy could have worsened the environment for everyone. So, I`m not trying to oversimplify, but people were certainly lectured on that.

And then we`ve covered you know, in student loan and the student loan area of the law, you can never file for bankruptcy under any condition. So, you`re better off being a bank than a person, or working for a bank as some of these people do. And that brings us to another big conglomerate that doesn`t have necessarily high name, I.D. These is called Driven Brands, but they`re the largest automobile service company in the nation.

So, anyone who deals with a car or owns one has probably interacted with the company. They have the type of services people need. You guys went through all this. And as promised, I want to share some of your reporting with our audience. So, here`s what people for that company are saying about taking advantage of the kind of clutch point they have.


TIFFANY MASON, EVP AND CEO, DRIVEN BRANDS: The positive ticket is driven by two things. It`s driven by inflation and our ability to pass along price to the consumer.

JONATHAN FITZPATRICK, PRESIDENT AND CEO, DRIVEN BRANDS: Driven provides needs-based services. This means even as prices rise, consumers continue to get their vehicles repaired, maintained, washed, and they`re all changed. And it will be very low on the list of services that are downsized when spending is squeezed.


MELBER: There`s almost a hint of Glee about the fact that everyone`s going to be squeezed but they just have to deal with this. As folks see their relative buying power decrease, if you`re a regular person, regular job, and regular bills, you`re getting squeezed in a way where what you make is declining and all these companies are saying good.


OWENS: Yes, Driven Brands, you know, the household name here is, you know, the subsidiaries take five oil, Meineke oil, places where, you know, people go get their oil changed. And, you know, Driven Brands, you know, they were giddy. You know, they`re positively thrilled with the price hikes that they`re able to pass along, and the profits, they`re able to reap from that.

But they know, Americans have to get to work, they have to drive to work, they got to get their kids to school, they need their cars functioning, and so they`re going to get their oil change. And what they`re saying is, look, we don`t think we`re going to have to slow down anytime soon, because folks are going to pay up.

MELBER: Yes. Now, Lindsay, as you know, the companies I named here from your reporting. That`s it. There`s no other companies doing this. Just kidding.

OWENS: Oh, no.

MELBER: I`m just kidding. It`s just a sad joke. I want to turn to 3M, which is involved in everything, including the N95 masks that people who relied on. They hiked prices in July, October, January, they have soaring record profits as of late last year. As mentioned, they are involved in things people need, that`s fine and great. People say businesses have delivered masks, that`s certainly true. But now the company is again, looking at hiking prices.


MONISH PATOLAWALA, CFO, 3M: The team did an amazing job. They`re already working on higher price. The team has driven momentum on all items, which is price. We continue to drive price actions.


MELBER: The word of the day is price. And again, I`m going out of my way to be fair, in a capitalist economy, the system, government, and otherwise turns to companies to do things. There are companies that have distributed vaccines and masks and certainly, under the rules we have, they`re able to profit off that. But what does it tell us when that company which ought to be able to make money off just that is talking price-price-price I just showed the increases in is their final question, anything that can be done about all of this?

OWENS: Yes, capitalism without competition is exploitation. And these consumer giants, like 3M, are using their market size, their pricing power, and to really take advantage of this moment, or taking advantage of the pandemic, everybody needs to buy masks, we`ve got, you know, a surging public health crisis, still with us. Taking advantage of the fact that other people are raising prices. And so, they feel like it`s a good time to keep raising prices as well.

And so, you know, if we want this to stop, if we want this price gouging to stop, we`re going to have to have Congress move in and step in, you know, Congress is considering this week, potentially, a bill to, you know, regulate price gouging, how the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission, take on price gouging and oil and gas, but we got to go broader.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Senator Warren introduced a bill to regulate price gouging across all goods at the federal level. I think that`s a really important step and cracking down on this unbelievable profiteering during these crisis moments, these moments of economic transition, and moments of uncertainty.

MELBER: Well, I think you just also really remind us something important, which is, this all is a product of policy. So, if a company`s going out of business, and you don`t want to add one more regulation on top of it, I don`t understand that debate. If a company is having record profits, and they`re selling masks, and they`re tripling the prices. Does the government want to have some policy there to deal with that, as you remind us and people can make up their minds, but I hope they do so. Informed by some of the facts. You`ve on Earth. So again, we`re grateful to you Lindsay Owens. Thank you.

OWENS: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely. When we come back, it`s a story I promise you all hour and I mean, business. Mini MAGA says he`s DeSantis Claus. Is it fair? Is it true? Is it right? We`ll get into who`s naughty and nice. When we return.




ARTIE LANGE, ACTOR: You`re a big boy, what`s your name? And what can I get you for Christmas?

WILL FERRELL, ACTO: Don`t tell him what you want. He`s a liar.

LANGE: Let the kid talk.

FERRELL: You disgust me. How can you live with yourself?


FERRELL: He`s a fake Santa Claus. He`s a fake. He`s a fake.


MELBER: He`s a fake. As the old saying goes. The only thing worse than fake news is a fake Santa Claus. Well, this is real news. Many people say Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, where he tallies who is naughty and nice every year. But a long way from the North Pole is Florida, a place many people go to be naughty on purpose. And that may complicate the life of a very naughty politician who is something of a fake political Santa Claus.

It`s kind of funny, but I`m not joking. The reporting is that Governor Ron DeSantis is -- well he`s tried to be many things. A Trump cloning campaign season. He tried to go to Trump`s right and clashes over COVID safety. Now, while he`s not claiming to be the ultimate savior, he has dubbed himself for real -- a type of Santa Claus or specifically the Santa Claus because he claims to be giving out so many gifts.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Usually when I -- when I come, I don`t come empty-handed I try to bring stuff. Today is for Franklin County, it`s kind of like -- uh -- Christmas in April, Desanta Claus coming to town.


MELBER: Desanta Claus coming to town, it gets that sort of awkward. Half applause. It`s not the first time a politician touts government spending for their own benefit of course. It is at odds with this small-government agenda. But now Florida paper is knocking DeSantis for taking this so much farther considering he`s trying to trick voters and take credit for very actual federal stimulus money he opposed. And attacking Biden for also being a spender like a drunken sailor. DeSantis also has claimed the money came from local economic boom, which is false. And you don`t need PolitiFact for this one. We think people know a fake Santa when they see one.



FERRELL: He`s a fake Santa Claus. He`s a fake. He`s a fake.


MELBER: Would that if were only the movies. If you see a fake Santa, particularly one proclaiming themselves Santa. Well, just be careful. We`ll be right back.


MELBER: We ended our show talking about nicknames and sometimes I`d like to get you guys involved, so if you can be nice and positive tell me any nicknames you like in politics. We prefer the ones that are nice rather than mean @AriMelber. You always connect with me at social media @AriMelber or at Those are the best ways to reach me and tell me your positive nicknames. "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.