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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 2/19/21

Guest: Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Sally Kohn, Ani DiFranco, Wendy Davis


Singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco speaks out. More than 14 million

people in Texas continue to experience ongoing water service disruptions.

Senator Ted Cruz is blasted for flying to Cancun during the humanitarian

crisis in his state. How much progress is the Black Lives Matter movement




Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin tonight with Texas in crisis. More than 14 million people --

that`s half the state -- are experiencing ongoing water service

disruptions, frozen pipes bursting, a shortage in many areas, contaminated

water in others, and then flooding.

There is a boiling advisory that`s in place for those that don`t have

running water, who have to resort to boiling snow. Cities opening water

distribution sites. Many are desperate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s pretty tough to find bottled water. We are having

to boil to wash dishes or do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: North Texans really are urged to conserve as much

water as they can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have been hunting. We`re going different places

looking for it and can`t find it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have no water.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At all. We have had -- I have had no baths in four


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost our water. So that`s why we -- that`s why I came

here to pick up some water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than one million units of water will be given



MELBER: This is just some of what we`re learning about the scale of a

humanitarian crisis that`s ongoing.

Meanwhile, there are fires you see raging. Firefighters in San Antonio are

trying to contain this apartment fire. It`s another aspect of the

suffering, with so many basic services breaking down. Power company

officials are under severe criticism. You have probably heard about it.

They say the system will now generate enough power resume what they call --

quote -- "normal operating conditions." This week of arctic cold

temperatures has led to now a death toll of 30. It includes many tragic

case, including an 11-year-old boy who died of what they believe to be

hypothermia, taking shelter in what was an unheated mobile home, and a 60-

year-old man freezing to death in his own recliner.

We are tracking another humanitarian disaster. And that also speaks to some

of the wrath facing one of the top officials in the state, Senator Ted

Cruz. He is back in the U.S. after that trip to Cancun turned into

something of a national allegory for modern failed civic and political


We will get to that, as we did last night, but we will begin on the ground

in Texas and with people who understand the humanitarian crisis.

We begin with NBC`s Antonia Hylton live from the Houston area, and a former

state senator in Texas, Wendy Davis.

Antonia, you were walking us through so much of this last night. What`s

most important that you can share in your reporting as we end this tough


ANTONIA HYLTON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Ari, right now residents here feel

like they`re lurching from one version of this crisis to the other. Most

people have their lights and their power back, but they don`t have safe

water to drink, as all those people you just played explained.

So, what we saw happen here at Delmar Stadium here in Houston was hundreds

of people lining up, waiting for hours just to get into this site.

Volunteers were out in the cold, giving out free cases of water to their

families. And they served thousand upon thousands of people. They`re still

trying to estimate how many people they served today.

The main emotion I heard is that people are, frankly, just exhausted and

drained after days of all this. And many of the people we saw today came

from communities of color, low-income neighborhoods in Houston that have

been hit hard by COVID, and now they`re worried that they`re going to be

the people who recover from this last, Ari.

MELBER: Antonia Hylton kicking us off here with a lot of tough stories. And

we have been relying on your reporting all week. Thank you very much for

joining us.

Wendy Davis is here.

Your thoughts on your home state.

FMR. STATE SEN. WENDY DAVIS (D-TX): Yes, Ari, it`s just such a level of

failed leadership, it`s hard to describe.

And I want to make sure that everyone who is watching understands that

Texas understood 10 years ago, when we had a horrible blizzard come

through, exactly what the problems were. We knew that, unless our power

companies were required to have reserves of fuel as backup, and unless they

were required to weatherize their equipment, we were going have a situation

like this.

It`s a failure of leadership, and, honestly, not a failure of ERCOT, nearly

so much as it is a failure of elected officials who failed to require that

those steps be taken.

MELBER: Yes, you lay that out. And we`re hearing that, I would say, up and

down the population in Texas. There are political aspects of this, but it`s

not politically divisive.

We are hearing from people across the spectrum to the sentiment you raise.

Let me play a little bit of some more of that reporting. Take a listen.


CHERYL WALKER, TEXAS RESIDENT: You know, somebody responsible for this. And

somebody need to pay for it. You got people that are dying out here, got

hypothermia and died.

It`s worse than a hurricane, but this is the worstest. I`m 56 years old.

This is the worstest thing I have been through since I -- and I`m a

Houstonian -- since I been living here in Texas.


MELBER: Is this crisis and the awareness of it across the state, in your

view, somehow different from what people like yourself, policy leaders in

Texas, have reminded everyone, that there were warnings? So some of this

has happened before.

DAVIS: It will only be different if elected officials feel like they`re

going to be held accountable, quite honestly, Ari, because, at the end of

the day, they feel more accountable right now and certainly have in the

past to their friends in the fossil fuel industry than they do to people

like this woman who you just showed.

She`s been through hurricanes, if she lives in Houston. And as she is

saying to you, this is the worst crisis that she`s experienced. And the

problem is that, even when the weather warms up, which it is right now, and

it will be in the 60s here next week, there are going to be hundreds of

thousands of Texans who are displaced, Texans who have lost their lives,

and Texans who are going to be dealing with the long-term consequences of

cleaning up and paying for the damage, because leaders failed to do what

they knew they needed to do many years ago.


Wendy Davis, who knows so many of these issues well, thank you, and good

luck to everyone in the community there.

I want to turn now from what so many Texans are going through to what one

Texan official decided to do during this ongoing crisis, and that is to

just dip out, Senator Ted Cruz busted for flying off to Cancun during the

humanitarian crisis.

And another Southern politico, Ragin` Cajun James Carville, joins me to


But, before we hear from James, I do want to give an update on what many

are calling the most humiliating and politically damaging 24 hours of

Cruz`s career.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": While fellow Texans are freezing

with the power out, Ted Cruz did what any great leader would do when his

state needs leadership most. He booked a flight to Mexico and said, adios,




MELBER: And while Cruz is a Harvard-educated elite lawyer, he really had no

defense for this trip, because it`s indefensible.

His damage control ranged from literally blaming his own kids to then lying

by claiming this was an overnight trip. It wasn`t. That got him busted

again by reporting that showed everyone it was lie, since he had packed

more than an overnight bag, and flight records showed Cruz was originally

booked to stay longer.

A text chain in Cruz`s group text chat also leaked, with her writing to

friends, "Our house is freezing" and inviting people to join them for "the

week." I repeat, "the week," adding: "We may go to Cancun."

Cruz was busted for the vacation, and then busted again for lying about it,

which adds some layers to the spectacle. As author Bess Kalb tweeted:

"Imagine having almost 24 hours to come up with the perfect response and

the best you can come up with is, I was just dropping my 10-year-old off in

Mexico, and was bringing a suit case, and also my wife joined with her own

suitcase, and then, accidentally, we checked into a resort."

It`s not very effective damage control. So, after prolonging his own

political self-tortured crisis, Cruz is now backtracking.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Look, it was obviously a mistake, and, in hindsight,

I wouldn`t have done it.

I was trying to be a dad, and all of us have made decisions. When you got

two girls who have been cold for two days and haven`t had heat or power and

they`re saying, hey, look, we don`t have school, why don`t we go -- let`s

get out of here.

If I had understood how it would be perceived, the reaction people would

have, obviously, I wouldn`t have done it. It was a mistake.


MELBER: Senator Cruz referring to perception. So, he still doesn`t get it,

because this is still about an ongoing deadly emergency. It`s not the

perception that he left town, which he did. It`s the fact that he abandoned

his post and his job at a time when Texans need all the government help and

leadership and coordination with FEMA and federal resources that they could

possibly get.

Now, could there be any more to this story? Well, tonight, after a long

week, America, I tell you, yes, there is, because the Cruzes left their

family dog back at that freezing house that we heard about, and a reporter

snapped this photograph while Cruz was gone, the dog there sitting alone by

the front door.

You may know the old political saying, if you want a friend in Washington,

get a dog.

But if you are a dog, try to avoid Ted Cruz, because it doesn`t look like

he is much of a friend. And this dog braving the snowstorm in that freezing

house? Well, one more thing we should all know. Reportedly, the dog`s name

is Snowflake.

So, I don`t know. I -- we`re done.


MELBER: We can`t go any further.

Luckily, we have someone to take us the rest of the way. James Carville is

here on the political disaster of a lifetime.

Your thoughts, James?

JAMES CARVILLE, MSNBC ELECTION ANALYST: Well, I`m not going to declare this

the worst scandal in modern American politics, but I`m going to declare it

at the very top of the most delicious scandals in American politics.

I mean, every time -- like, what dad -- your daughters come in and say,

let`s go to Ritz-Carlton in Cancun for a week, I mean, what dad is going

say no to that? Like everybody in the world just goes and drops airplane

tickets and $400-a-night hotel rooms because, well, the kids wanted to do

that, so I`m just being a good dad.


CARVILLE: I mean, it`s almost comical.

And the other thing that is just utterly delicious about it is all their

friends dimed them. They were, like, sending "The New York Times" the text

chain. And other friends will confirm it.

I don`t think the tennis game at the River Oaks Country Club is going to be

very friendly a week from tomorrow.


CARVILLE: There a lot of trouble ahead in the...



There is a lot of circular firing squad. I will say, we don`t get into

families, obviously, in the news, other than to say what the kids thought

and said is their business. But the way their politician father is trying

to exploit and invoke them, obviously, people can judge the dad, the

senator for that.


MELBER: I will say, shout-out to Snowflake. And I hope Snowflake gets

warmed up, James.

The comics have had a field day. Take a look.



You got to be (EXPLETIVE DELETED) me, dude.

Seriously, Ted Cruz blaming his daughters for this is just gross. Being a

good father means putting them on a bus, not throwing them under one.

KIMMEL: Snake on a plane right there.


KIMMEL: I guess we were supposed to believe that he was just chaperoning

his wife and kids to Mexico and was planning to come back the next day all

along with a carry-on bag stuffed like a pinata.



MELBER: Now, the facts are bad for any politician, James, but you and I are

around this. You and I both know plenty of senators in both parties who are

more obscure, who are more low-key, who I don`t think would work for

national punchlines the same way Ted Cruz has, because he has made himself

famous partly by being self-righteous.

And there is nothing righteous about this.

CARVILLE: Right. He is. And it makes him such an attractive target.

The other thing is, in public life, if you`re in public long enough, you`re

going have your downs, Ari. You just are. And you`re going to have some

genuine mess-ups. And what happens is, it`s usually you have friends or

people you have relationships with that will come, and they will rally, and

the press calls, I will give them a quote on this, you do, et cetera, et


The point is that everybody is having fun with this. It`s not just the

Democrats. The Republicans are having fun with it. And like I said, it`s

almost like, yes, he -- obviously, he`s an Ivy League graduate, and he`s --

he`s whatever. But he just doesn`t strike you as the kind of person that`s

developed real deep and meaningful relationships in his life in politics.

And it`s haunting him now, because no one, other than Sean Hannity, who

made just as big a fool of himself as you could -- even Cruz had to

contradict his spin for Cruz.

There`s some real lessons here. And one of the lessons is try to be nice to

some people when you`re in your moment in the sun, because the sun sets on

you. And you want to have some friends when it sets on you that will defend

you and say some nice things about you. And it`s just remarkable to me how

universally ganged-up on Senator Cruz is. It`s really something to see.

MELBER: Oh, yes.

It`s one of the few moments of unity I have seen in 2021 in politics.



MELBER: As you mentioned, there`s a lot of Republicans, particularly who

know him, who deal with him are really concerned about as well his

continued position in the party.

There has been so much talk about the last president that people may forget

there were a lot of candidates who ran in 2016. Ted Cruz came in second. He

did get delegates. He did get grassroot voters. And, as you mentioned,

while he is supremely unpopular with a lot of people who deal with him,

Sean Hannity, boy, did he put his neck out.

We have a little bit of that. Take a look.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: You went, and you took your daughters to Cancun,

and you came back. I think you can be a father and be the senator of Texas

all at the same time, and make a round-trip, quick drop-off trip and come


CRUZ: I had initially planned to stay through the weekend and to work

remotely there.

But, as I was heading down there, I started to have second thoughts almost




MELBER: James, it was obviously an important, rigorous journalistic


Those of us who have been around this world, we study, we study the

interviews where you really see a reporter do their job.

Your thoughts.

CARVILLE: But, look, in Sean`s defense, I mean, maybe he says he is a

journalist, but I don`t think anyone thinks that he is.

So, I mean, it`s not like some kind of truth in packaging here. He is just

a -- he makes an enormous living being just a total flack for this. And

that just exposed the extent of how far he was willing to go, where

actually had -- Ted Cruz had to hold him back in check and say, well, it`s

a little bit worse than that maybe, Sean. As soon as the airplane door

closed, I had known I had made a mistake, but I couldn`t jump out over the

Gulf of Mexico.

Again, the reason that this works on so many levels, and it`s -- the

terrible thing is, against the backdrop, is the -- Senator Smith was

talking about, and you heard that very effective woman from Houston talking

about -- she was 56 years old. And this is like some of the worst she`s


So, the magnitude of the tragedy, we shouldn`t be so quick to laugh at

Cruz, but that`s also the backdrop. And I think Cruz has probably given a

lot of beleaguered people in Texas sitting at home at least some comic


MELBER: Yes. Well, I think...

CARVILLE: And, sometimes -- I have been through these before. I live in a

very disaster-prone area, and people need comedy even in the middle of the


So, Senator Cruz, you have provided some real comedy for people.


MELBER: I think that`s right.

CARVILLE: Without making light of a disaster, the bigger the disaster, the

bigger the need for comedy.


Well, how many of us have watched "SNL" skits about serious things? I was

thinking about, as you say this, the old Russian saying, you laugh through

the tears because you have things to cry about and you still need to laugh.

And in that spirit, James, we have one more thing on this great story,

which is the Internet. You know, they say the Internet is undefeated.

CARVILLE: That`s me.

MELBER: And, boy, some of these memes, which are made by -- these are made

by honest men and women across the country.

Here is one, "Missing: Have You Seen This Man?" putting out the wanted

poster for Ted Cruz. Going old school with a new twist, Marie Antoinette

reimagined as Cruz, "Let Them Eat Snow."

And there were more. I mean, James, what does it also tell you when a story

breaks through news and politics to everyone roasting him?

CARVILLE: You know, it`s -- just like I say, it`s one of these moments

where you had this kind of tragedy.

It was actually Ted Cruz. If it would have been someone else -- sometimes,

I think that the happiest person in the world is Lindsey Graham, because,

compared to Ted Cruz, he`s the only person in the world that Lindsey Graham

can look good against.

So, maybe this has really helped Lindsey Graham in some way, because nobody

is talking about -- we`re not talking about Lindsey Graham anymore. We`re

not talking about Mitch McConnell right now. We`re not even talking about

the Donald Trump, to tell you the truth. Cruz has come in and just

clobbered the whole cycle for everybody.

So, look, I don`t think this story can be overappreciated, because -- it`s

not the greatest scandal in the world, but it also just exposes a lot. And

it gives people something to chuckle at during this -- the middle of this

horrific and -- I don`t know, what the consequences of people not having --

14 million people, they`re saying, without water?

You talk about some profound effect. And now you`re having fires. And no

water and fires is not a bad combination, I don`t think. That`s not a good


So, there is -- and we should reflect it that there is a lot of strategy,

and people`s lives have really been upended. But we -- even in -- gallows

humor sometimes can be some of the funniest humor in the world.

MELBER: Yes. And it goes to what is an ongoing crisis there.

CARVILLE: Texas, they`re very resilient people. They`re intelligent people.

They`re going to come back, I promise you. I promise you, they will come




No, and they`re resilient. And they have been through their share of these

things. But it`s funny, but it`s about a serious thing.

And, as I mentioned, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are out there pushing

themselves as a potential presidential nominee. So, if people got a preview

of how Ted Cruz does his current job, that may be a public service. We will

let the voters, as always, have the final word.

James Carville, thanks for joining us tonight.

CARVILLE: All right. Thank you, Ari. Have a nice weekend. Yes, best -- best

to you.

MELBER: You too. Have a great weekend.

We have our shortest break right now, 30 seconds, and then we`re back with

some of the best news we have ever had on COVID.


MELBER: Welcome back.

We have major news on COVID right now, some experts saying this could be

the best thing to happen to you this year.

Now, tonight`s news is a far cry from the dark days of early 2020, when

transmission was mounting with no vaccine in sight, yet many felt like we

were all living through a scene out of "Contagion."


LAURENCE FISHBURNE, ACTOR: We have a virus, no treatment protocol and no

vaccine at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: Watch this. It`s transmission. So, we just need to

know which direction.

JUDE LAW, ACTOR: On day one, there were two people, and then four, and then

16. In three months, it`s a billion. That`s where we`re headed.


MELBER: But the good news tonight, COVID cases are falling.

They`re not just falling a bit or falling for a week, but dropping a full

77 percent in the last month-and-a-half. So, you take it together, it

offers tremendous hope for rounding the corner.

It`s a real substantial drop in COVID in America and in the risk of

transmission. One expert says the data means we could be racing towards an

extremely low level of infection overall, citing both partial immunity from

people who beat the virus and the vaccine progress, which brings us, of

course, to the vaccines, more good news, because new studies show they`re

not only effective, but more effective than some early projections, because

even a single dose of Pfizer`s vaccine is so effective at preventing

symptomatic disease, it works at a rate of about 85 percent.

So, let`s put that in very plain English here attend the end of a long

week. What this means is, while two doses are still ideal, one dose of that

vaccine, according to the new study, protects four out of five people who

get it.

That`s why some countries are first giving single doses to people at most

risk, then coming around to do the more complete, the more ideal

vaccination protocol later, when they expect fewer shortages.

Now, let`s be clear. This is part of my job. I love it when I get to give

good news, but you need the whole picture.

There is no good news in a pandemic without caveats. One is that any

progress will draw on people following the safety rules. That`s part of

what got us here. If people get too lax, if they look up and see a headline

that says, COVID dropping, and they stop doing the things that got us here,

I want to be clear, we won`t get to be here anymore.

To underscore this point, I want to paraphrase the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg

on her defense of civil rights laws. She famously said, you don`t stop

enforcing them just because you think you see overt racism going down, any

more than you throw out an umbrella in a rainstorm because you`re currently


So, you don`t stop COVID safety habits just because COVID is currently

dropping. And amidst that progress, President Biden also pushing ahead on

COVID relief, touring a Michigan vaccine plant today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My predecessor, as my mother

would say, God love him, failed to order enough vaccines, failed to

mobilize the effort to administer the shots, failed to set up vaccine


That changed the moment we took office.


MELBER: You see there a new president talking tough and factually about

these problems. He`s not leaning into the good news, for the same reason

Dr. Fauci didn`t when we had him here, because the public health messaging,

urgency, is to keep people working on the safety rules, not basking in a

six-week piece of good news.

So, that`s the context. Democrats are still rallying for the big push to

pass what would be about a $2 trillion relief bill that Biden has.

Republicans, meanwhile, looking backwards. Lindsey Graham is heading to

Trump land, going to Mar-a-Lago this weekend, a voyage other top

Republicans have made, even after some light criticism of Donald Trump over

the insurrection.

It`s becoming something of a 2021 tradition.

We`re joined now by our colleague Alicia Menendez, host of MSNBC`s

"AMERICAN VOICES" and a keen observer of politics and policy, if I may say

so myself.

Having walked through the -- both the COVID...


MELBER: You`re welcome.

Having walked through the COVID news, which I mentioned, is good, but not a

reason to change course, your thoughts on that and also where Biden`s


MENENDEZ: Yes, I think the Biden administration has been really clear about

the fact that they have to get America`s dual crises under control, that

they need to get both the health crisis brought on by COVID-19 and the

economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, the mishandling of this pandemic,

under control.

So, that means distribution of the vaccine needs to be drummed up. That`s

part of what you were watching there, and they need to get this COVID

relief bill through. They need to shore up unemployment resources. They

need to get the direct payments to Americans. They need to figure out

school openings.

They need to do those things, Ari, both because you have millions of

Americans suffering, and they need to feel the relief in order to feel that

the government is working. But I also think there is a more macro point,

which is that, if you look at the rise of the faux populists on the right,

they feed on this notion that government doesn`t work, that government

can`t deliver.

And there is no better antidote to that argument than proving that

government can.

I was struck today, Ari, by the fact that, in addition to everything that

you`re watching domestically, if you read through or watch the president`s

statements to the G7, he is underlining that exact point in a global

context, saying: "You have to prove that our model isn`t a relic of

history. We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our

people in this changed world," right, really understanding that it is both

a domestic and international challenge.

MELBER: Yes, well put.

I have about a minute left. I`m going put up the polling that shows Biden`s

been at this for about a month. He`s got a big job ahead of him, but he is

already 20 points above anywhere that Donald Trump has been.

What do you see there? And is that relevant to him getting things through


MENENDEZ: Yes, I think it`s really relevant, because it proves that if you

actually approach governance with some seriousness and act as though your

job is to get things done, then people will notice that.

And I think those numbers could be even better once people start to feel

the benefits of that governance. There are debates that are being had right

now over the minimum wage, over student debt relief. I think that then

expands the conversations, so that you`re not just talking about, can

government deal with the crisis of the moment, but, rather, can government

deliver a seismic shift and change that can fundamentally change the

American economy?


Alicia Menendez, thank you. Always nice to end the week with your insights.

MENENDEZ: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: And I want to remind everyone, you can begin your weekend -- you`re

welcome -- with the same insights, Saturday, Sunday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern,

Alicia Menendez, "AMERICAN VOICES," on MSNBC.

We`re going to fit in a break, but I have an important story I want you to

stay with me for, six police officers suspended for their role in the riot,

and new reporting on whether Black Lives Matter is making progress on one

of the biggest issues of the day.

We have it all for you coming up.


MELBER: An update on the reporting we have been doing on accountability.

Six more individuals associated with the anti-government militia

organization the Oath Keepers now arrested and charged. These are new

indictments this week for conspiring to obstruct the certification of the

2020 election.

This is different than just the traditional trespassing or violence

charges, because it is signaling a conspiracy that was very wide. Indeed,

this overlaps with some of the arguments we heard from impeachment managers

at the Senate trial.

But these are, of course, separate legal processes and indictments. Several

members of the group had donned paramilitary gear and formed a military-

style stack formation, according to authorities, as they marched up the

steps of the Capitol in that attack, breaching the door, storming the


Prosecutors also stress that these indicted individuals were coordinating

with militia members before and during the attack and, they allege,

tampering with documents after the fact.

All of these charges come as police departments are also under scrutiny for

whether or not they had members who were at the events before the riot or

participated further, plus the reporting we have been doing about links

from indicted rioters to the U.S. military.

We will keep on these cases, especially because we`re learning more and

more each week from these indictments.

I wanted to give you that update.

Now, coming up: Police shootings this year are on a certain pace that we

want you to know about, because it reflects everything we have been

reporting on with police reckoning and the George Floyd protests.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham, a member of Barack Obama`s task force, will

get into with us. That`s next.


MELBER: Turning now to important news in the ongoing reckoning for policing

in America.

The Black Lives Matter movement has drawn more support amidst those

national protests last year. It clearly catalyzed reforms in some state

laws, as we have been covering.

But on the key issue of police killings, which galvanized those protests,

well, 2021 is already looking a lot like past years, police use of force

and shootings continuing on track with years prior.

And while experts say some use of lethal force can be warranted, this

steady rate is a problem, because the U.S. has such a high use of force, as

well as force often used in discriminatory ways.

Take a new report that came to light just this week, California police

shooting a black man to death over what is an alleged instance of


Kurt Andras Reinhold hold asked where he was jaywalked. He seemed to be

disputing it. Cell phone video taken by a witness at the scene also shows

him appearing to try to walk away from police in the encounter. That`s

relevant to whether he posed any potential lethal threat initially.

Then they tackled him -- you can see a shot of this here -- an apparent

escalation, which ultimately leads to another officer asserting that

Reinhold had the officer`s gun.

Then two shots are fired, which kill him.

A warning: The video is disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to stop, or we going to have to make you


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what? For what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For jaywalking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s got my gun! He`s got my gun!



MELBER: I want you to remember that disturbing scene in the middle of the

day in San Clemente began with allegations of misdemeanor jaywalking.

It`s one of several stories that we are tracking which may not make the

same national news as the killing of George Floyd on tape. You may or may

not have heard about this one yet, but it reflects, of course, the same

loss of life, the same questions about police conduct, just like another

police killing within the last two weeks of 18-year-old Trey Webster, a

robbery suspect was killed in a shoot-out when a SWAT Team entered his

family`s home to serve him a warrant for allegedly intimidating a witness.

Like jaywalking, we are talking about things here that, even if they are

against the law are, not under any standard of legal interpretation

something that would need to require the use of lethal force.

Now, Webster was then accused of firing at a witness to persuade them not

to testify in that robbery case. But that was at a different time. The

incident here is controversial because of the nature of how he was

attempted to be contacted by police.

And now I`m going show you his family, which alleges that police did so,

that they entered without knocking or announcing themselves.


CHALEA TISDALE, WEBSTER FAMILY ATTORNEY: As they lay sleeping, their door

was kicked in. There was no knock. Police SWAT team swarmed their house.

None of them ever heard the word police.

They were told to get the F down, shut the F up.


MELBER: That is the family`s representative giving their perspective.

I have to report for you that`s also in dispute, because the police

involved say that they did announce themselves, and they argue it was

Webster who shot first.

Now, his family says they don`t believe Webster had a gun. His mother

insist any and all of this could have been avoided if the officers had

clearly announced themselves and knocked.


GEORGETTE SONS, MOTHER OF TREY WEBSTER: I`m going to miss my baby.

They didn`t have to kill him, but they killed him in cold blood.

I want justice for my son. They didn`t have to treat us like they treated

us. If they would have knocked on the door, we would have answered and came

outside. They treated us like we wasn`t even human beings.


MELBER: It`s another mother`s pain.

And, as I emphasize, if these are stories you haven`t heard about yet or

that aren`t sparking the same national reckoning as Mr. Floyd`s death, each

human life is still equal.

There are other stories, some of them quite arbitrary, like what`s on tape,

that can affect whether the governmental and political forces are forced to


Now, by definition, a lot of these cases are scrutinized after the fact.

And when police conduct is under a microscope, the law looks at it with the

high bar of whether police committed a crime or not.

But that`s just one piece of the potential problems. Say that a given

tactic might be technically legal. OK. State legislatures or Congress can

decide or change whether it`s legal or not. But if it results in

foreseeable and avoidable death, even if it`s technically legal, many

experts say that is just terrible policing, just like the no-knock warrant

used on 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, an innocent woman, was fatally shot by

police during a botched raid.

Now, I mention what is legal. More states are considering bans of this

controversial practice, which we see both in her death and these other

cases continues to create many problems.

As promised, we`re now joined by Brittany Packnett Cunningham, an activist

and former member of President Obama`s Policing Task Force.

Thanks for being here.


MELBER: I understand that a lot of this is hard to watch and live, and I

understand that people say, how do we have this conversation again?

We here on this program and many others, and I know in your work, try to

explain that keeping scrutiny on the facts and getting the facts out is

exactly what is necessary for potential accountability or change.

Your thoughts on all of that, looking at these -- some of these stories?

PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: I think what we have to reckon with most clearly is

the bar that we set for our demands. There are always two ends of this

conversation. There is accountability and there is prevention.

Now, accountability is what happens after someone like Trey Winter (sic) is

no long were us, after his mother has to sit on the news and tearfully say

the most obvious thing, that the police did not have to kill her child.

And, indeed, that is true. There are developed nations all across this

world where police officers, military forces, et cetera, do not kill

civilians. So, we have to be clear that, while we`re fighting for

accountability, that we are setting the bar as high as possible for

prevention, that not fewer of these murders need to happen, but none of

these murders need to happen.

It is possible, and we can actually do that if we divest from the

institutions that harm us, invest in the institutions that help us, and

make sure that, as a community, we demand the very best from our public


MELBER: I showed that chart. And we can put it back up. It really shows

we`re on the steady data of use of force.

And we consulted these cases. In "The Washington Post," you see the 2021 in

blue is really tracking. We`re early in the year, but it`s tracking almost

exactly like past years. And "The Washington Post" breaks these down.

And I stress in my work as a reporter that some of the cases have stronger

justifications for use of force. Some of them involve shoot-outs, for

example. But, repeatedly, like clockwork, some of them involve the -- like

the jaywalking scene that we saw.

What do you think people need to understand about how that is more common

than we might think, and it`s really only the worst of the worst of the

worst that`s also on tape that tends to get the full national attention?

PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: What we really need to understand is that the

conversation about bad apples and individual bad actors is not the right

one. It has never been the right one. We are talking about institutions and


Ari, let`s just be clear about this. The police and the carceral system at

large are not doing much to prevent crime. Often, they are there to answer

after crime has occurred. And far too often across the country, police

departments are not solving much of that crime either.

So, if they`re not preventing crime, they`re not solving crime the way that

they should be, and far too often, like in this jaywalking incident, they

are causing crime and harm in the community, then why do we keep paying

them the same amount of money?

Why do we keep increasing their budgets, while we see budgets to address

houselessness and homelessness, mental health care and living wages in

communities continue to shrink? This is an institutional challenge.

And the good news is that we have examples all across the world, and

certainly this country, about how to do this better. We can decouple

policing from education, as has been pushed in places like Los Angeles and


We can fund unarmed mental health units like the one in Denver to actually

answer those calls, instead of someone who is armed with a gun and a Taser.

MELBER: Right.

PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM: The federal government can redirect cops program

grants to those fundamental community services that actually build safety

from the ground up.

It is not impossible to get to a world where the police no longer kill

people. We just have to have the political will to make it happen.

MELBER: All important points.

And you have been working on this for a long time, which is why we`re

continuing some of this reporting in this series.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham, thank you.


MELBER: We have a lot more in the program tonight.

With a whole nation telling Ted Cruz to fall back, who else should fall


I got big news. Ani DiFranco is here for a special "Fallback" -- coming up.


MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT, so you know it`s time to fall back.

We have two special guests. Look who it is, Ani DiFranco, the music legend,

nominated for nine Grammys, winner in 2004 for the "Evolve" album, an

outspoken activist involving the anti-war movement, pro-choice movement,

criminal justice reform. The new album is "Revolutionary Love." Plenty of

politics in there if you want it.

And Sally Kohn, the activist and commentator, author of the book "The

Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity." She has been

everywhere, but we`re glad to have her here. She`s written for "Washington

Post," "New York Times" and other outlets.

Hi, you guys. Thanks for being here.

ANI DIFRANCO, MUSICIAN: Thank you. Great to be here.


MELBER: Great to have you both.


MELBER: I have been looking forward to this after a pretty long week.

Sally, what`s on your "Fallback" list?

KOHN: Not on my "Fallback" list is the fact that the little baby lesbian

inside me is extremely excited to be on TV with my hero, Ani DiFranco.

DIFRANCO: Ari, is the baby lesbian inside you equally excited?


MELBER: Absolutely.

DIFRANCO: I want to know, Ari. OK, good.

MELBER: I mean, yes. Well, First, the answer is yes. Thank you for pressing

me, like any good journalist. Yes.

And, number two, Sally, maybe the two of you can get baby lesbian trending

on Twitter. I don`t know. The baby lesbian inside all of us.

KOHN: I like to hope that there`s a baby lesbian inside of all of us.

But I`m not sure that`s where you wanted this conversation to go, Ari. But

you know I`d be happy to take it there.



KOHN: Things I would like to see fall back, for me personally, the thing

that`s been goosing my liver all week has been the fact that we know a

majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

We know a growing number of Republicans support it. Hell, we -- you saw it

pass in Florida. Biden lost in Florida, but a $15 minimum wage passed. So

we know there`s overwhelming momentum. We know that it juices the economy.

You know, when Republicans, like -- when there`s a stall in the economy,

they want to give tax breaks to the rich. We know trickle down doesn`t

work, but we know that for every dollar you give a worker, $1.21 gets

pumped in the economy. It helps women. It helps people of color. It is

overwhelmingly good, smart policy.

And yet what needs to fall back are these Republicans and, frankly, too

many Democrats -- you know their names -- saying that it`s bad for

business. It isn`t.


KOHN: It creates job growth. It creates economic growth.


KOHN: It creates spending, overwhelmingly good, and (AUDIO GAP) stop saying


MELBER: And big issue in the COVID relief bill, as you mentioned, mostly

Republicans, some Senate Democrats cold water there, too. It`s an important


Ani, what about you?

DIFRANCO: Well, I was thinking we need to fall back on the idea of life

without parole and capital punishment.

I have long been anti-capital punishment. And I used to think of life

without parole as a sort of -- a better, a kinder, gentler alternative. But

as I have continued in my -- in learning about the criminal justice system

and the reality of it, I have realized, I have come to learn that life

without parole can be the longest, slowest death sentence a person can be


And, of course, we would like to think that justice is blind, as the saying

goes, but the reality is that justice sees race. Justice sees class.

Justice sees gender and sexual orientation and everything that the rest of

the society sees.

People don`t check their biases at the door when they enter the courtroom.

These biases exist in juries, in judges. So, we have an imperfect system,

and it is -- our justice is meted out imperfectly.

And I think that we need to examine some fundamental concepts that we`re

working with, like life without parole. I think it`s wrong. I think it`s

just actually literally wrong to tell...


DIFRANCO: ... somebody they will never change, they can never redeem

themselves, they will never evolve.


And, Ani, that`s a strong one. I have got about 30 seconds left.

Your work is inspiring to people, including some of it with values and

justice. I`m curious, what are the songs or artists that have politically

inspired you, just as a final thought?

DIFRANCO: Oh, man.

Sally, I haven`t heard you sing yet, but I love your work. My friend

Valarie Kaur, who has -- does -- speaks so eloquently about revolutionary

love, something I`m singing about a lot lately.

I mean, there is just so many, so many people that inspire me.

MELBER: Love it. Well, it`s great to bring you together.

And, someday...

KOHN: Well, the baby lesbian -- my baby lesbian just died. My baby lesbian

just died. Just, that`s it.


MELBER: Ah, it`s full circle.

Let me tell you something. Post-pandemic, Ani, we`d love to have you in

person. And, clearly, Sally is going to be there no matter what, I can


So, thanks to Ani and Sally.

Thanks to everyone for being with us this week.





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