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
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
QUESTION: At all?
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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TREVOR NOAH, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH": Ted Cruz, no, man.
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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
But, as I was heading down there, I started to have second thoughts almost
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
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
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."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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
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
Having walked through the -- both the COVID...
ALICIA MENENDEZ, HOST, "AMERICAN VOICES": Thank you, Ari.
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,
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
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
And there is no better antidote to that argument than proving that
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
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
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
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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.
BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, CO-FOUNDER, CAMPAIGN ZERO: Absolutely.
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.
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.
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.
SALLY KOHN, WRITER/ACTIVIST: Happy Friday.
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?
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.
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.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.
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