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

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 3/17/21

Guests: Sam Park, Jon Ossoff, Amanda Nguyen, Min Jin Lee


President Biden spoke about the latest mass murder in America in which six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent and it happened in Georgia. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) is interviewed. Today, the first vice president of the United States of Asian descent spoke about the mass murder in Atlanta.



It turns out all of our guests are of Asian descent and expert about what we`ve been seeing in Atlanta except for one guest, which is, of course, Senator Jon Ossoff, who will be joining us and also discussing the situation in Atlanta and the situation in the United States Senate. So, it`s --


O`DONNELL: -- a night of serious reflection on a situation that really now needs our attention.

MADDOW: Absolutely. Get to it, my friend. Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

Well, Katherine Tai was born in Connecticut to parents who were born in China. Katherine Tai went to college in Connecticut, at Yale, and then to Harvard Law School. She became an expert in trade and she served in the Bush administration as general counsel to the United States trade representative. United States Trade Representative is a cabinet level position. General counsel is a very important job.

She continued as counsel to the trade representative during the Obama administration when the trade representative was an Obama appointee. And then she became the trade counsel to the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over international trade.

Today, Katherine Tai made history when she became the first member of the Biden cabinet to be confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate. The Senate has never confirmed a more qualified U.S. trade representative.

As United States trade representative, Katherine Tai is the only member of the Biden cabinet of Asian descent. The Senate unanimously confirming the first Asian woman ever to serve as the U.S. trade representative is something Joe Biden would want to celebrate, but today was not the day for that.

St. Patrick`s Day is something that Joe Biden always celebrates, but today, before he publicly shared St. Patrick`s sentiment with the Irish prime minister, President Biden had to speak about the latest mass murder in America in which six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever the motivation here, I know that Asian-Americans are in very -- very concerned because, as you know, I`ve been speaking about the brutality against Asian-Americans for the last couple of months. And I think it is very, very troubling.


O`DONNELL: Police say that a 21-year-old man named Robert Aaron Long who police say confessed to the murders shot and killed four people at a business in Cherokee County, Georgia, northern suburb of Atlanta. They were and I might struggle with these names: 33-year-old Delaina Ashley Yaun, 44- year-old Daoyou Feng, 49-year-old Xiaojie Yan and 54-year-old Paul Andre Michels.

The murderer then drove 45 miles and shot people at businesses across the street from each other. All of those victims, those victims were women, and three of them were women of Asian descent. Those names have not yet been made public.

Police posted images of the murderer at the scene on social media, and they say they were quickly contacted by the family of Robert Aaron Long. Police credit the family with being very helpful in his apprehension. Police tracked his cell phone and set up a roadblock south of Atlanta where they captured the suspect.

Today, in Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a news conference with all the jurisdictions involved.



I first like to begin by offering my condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of those who were killed and injured yesterday. Captain Baker shared with us that they determined that the suspect was on his way to Florida, I believe and perhaps to carry out additional shootings. So, again, it really speaks to the coordination and the quick response from law enforcement. For as tragic as this was on yesterday in metro Atlanta, this could have been significantly worse.

RODNEY BRYANT, CHIEF, ATLANTA POLICE DEPT.: Once we were able to get our information and gather our information, coordinate with Cherokee County, we immediately put that out metro wide, having conversations, again as I stated with our federal and state local partners, all immediately asked what could they do. All resources immediately started getting involved so that we could get -- bring this to a quick closure.

CAPT. JAY BAKER, CHEROKEE COUNTY SHERIFF`S OFFICE: When I spoke with investigators. They interviewed him this morning. And they got that impression, yes, he understood the gravity of it, and he was pretty much fed up, had been at the end of his rope and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.

REPORTER: Remorseful?

BAKER: I`m not going to go to -- I don`t know if he was remorseful or not.

BOTTOMS: Obviously, whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that many of the victims, the majority of the victims were Asian. We also know that this is an issue that`s happening across the country. It is unacceptable. It is hateful, and it has to stop.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, NBC News correspondent Kathy Park, live from one of the shooting locations in Atlanta. And Georgia State Representative Sam Park. His district is located in Gwinnett County in the Atlanta metro area.

Kathy, let me begin with you. And what new evidence or late-breaking developments there might be in the case tonight.

KATHY PARK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Lawrence, good evening to you.

I am standing in the middle of two crime scenes. Behind me is one of the locations where the gunman entered, killing three women and then across from me is another spa where the gunman killed another person. And, you know, the investigation is still ongoing.

He told officials that this was not racially motivated. In fact, he had some sort of sexual addiction and revisited some of these spas, which he had gone to in the past as a way to lash out and eliminate some of his tendencies. And, you know, the Asian community is reeling, because there has been a surge, in anti-Asian attacks over the past year, close to 3,800.

This really is just painful. I mean, I was scrolling through social media. You have a lot of high-profile Asian-Americans sounding off, saying enough is enough. They are hurting. This community is hurting, and this is resonating across the country, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And, Representative Park, I just want to leave you an open microphone to give us your reaction to this in any way that you think is important.

STATE REP. SAM PARK (D), GEORGIA: Thank you for having me, Lawrence.

First and foremost we want to offer condolences to the victims, families and loved ones. There`s a lot of fear and pain within a lot of Asian communities here in Georgia and across the country. You know, we need to do everything that we can to alleviate these concerns, ensure that justice is delivered and continue to address that this rise in xenophobia and anti- Asian hate that has devastated so many of our communities.

O`DONNELL: Kathy, I`ve been watching your coverage on this starting last night, all day on this network. You`ve been delivering us all the facts, everything we know about it so far. But I`m wondering, as you cover it, what your feelings are about this story that you are now so close to.

K. PARK: You know, Lawrence, I`m glad you asked that. I am a New York- based correspondent. I have to say as a journalist covering this and just seeing the amount of headlines that have come out in the past couple of weeks even with the surge in these types of attacks, now I have to say I am more aware of the color of my skin because I question, am I going to be the next victim even when I walk around this city alone. It`s something that is in the back of my mind.

This is something I haven`t had to do in the 36 years that I`ve been on this earth, quite frankly. I`ve lived in very diverse communities. Yes, there have been some issues of racism in the past, but nothing that hits this close to home that`s so scarring. And I think that`s why so many people are speaking out and speaking up. The fact that the #stopasianhate is trending is beyond belief. It`s hard to believe we are at this point -- Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And, Representative Park, what`s your reaction to the way police presented what they`ve done so far today?

S. PARK: Some of the comments made by the sheriff were concerning, saying this was the result of someone having a bad day. I think a lot of Asian- Americans felt that was offensive, quite frankly.

This isn`t the first time Asian-Americans have faced violence. We have a history of systemic racism and exclusion, but one of the things I want to get across especially to Asian-Americans who may be feeling scared during this period of time is to hang in there. We will overcome, we will persevere and emerge stronger as we`ve done before.

O`DONNELL: I want to listen to something that mayor bottoms said about those comments that a lot of people have reacted to the officer who we just heard say, as he was describing the things that the murderer confessed to, he said, he had a bad day. Wasn`t clear whether he was making that as an evaluation or whether he was, in a loose way, quoting the murderer.

But here is what Mayor Bottoms said about those comments.


BOTTOMS: I know in my conversations before we went out, that was not the sentiment that I felt in our conversations. I know that there was sympathy and empathy toward the victims and their families and, you know, perhaps he could have said it better with the cameras there. But I think the most important part that we have to focus on is that this guy is off of the street.


O`DONNELL: Representative Park, what was your reaction to that?

S. PARK: You know, I would agree with Mayor Bottoms that I`m happy he is off the street, but still we have to do a lot more work to address the very real fear that a lot of Asian-Americans are currently experiencing, just to simply walk outside their door. I hope our law enforcement officials will recognize that and act, and speak accordingly.

O`DONNELL: Georgia State Representative Sam Park, I`m very sorry for what your community and you are dealing with tonight. We really appreciate you joining us tonight.

And NBC`s Kathy Park, thank you very much for all of your coverage on this and for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it, Kathy.

PARK: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Every good thing that has happened in the federal government since January 20th happened because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as president and vice president, and Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were sworn in as the two new senators from Georgia on January 20th.

Without those two new senators, most of the Biden cabinet would not have been confirmed, no Biden legislation would have been signed into law by now. You would not be looking at $1,400 deposited in your account by the United States treasury. You would not be getting a $3,000 child tax credit for your children, schools would not be getting federal help to reopen.

All elections matter, not just presidential elections. All elections matter. And nothing has proved that more vividly than the wins by the new Democratic senators from Georgia.

Raphael Warnock was the first to be declared the winner of a Senate seat on the election night in Georgia, January 5th. It was not until the next day when Chuck Schumer was in hiding, because a Trump mob attacked the Capitol, that we learned that Jon Ossoff was declared the winner in his Senate race in Georgia.

And Jon Ossoff`s win made Chuck Schumer the new majority leader of the United States Senate.

Senator`s first speech on the Senate floor is a momentous occasion for that senator, but usually not many other people pay attention. New senators take weeks, sometimes months thinking about that first speech before they stand and deliver it.

Senator Warnock was the first of the two new Georgia senators scheduled to speak on the Senate floor. Senator Ossoff is not yet scheduled to speak on the Senate floor. Senator Ossoff is still thinking about that first speech he will deliver. Both of Georgia`s new senators, who decided the control of the Senate, will now command the Senate`s attention whenever they rise to speak.

Senator Warnock began his first Senate speech today by acknowledging the tragedy in Georgia.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Mr. President, before I begin my formal remarks, I want to pause to condemn the hatred and violence that took eight precious lives last night in metropolitan Atlanta. I grieve with Georgians, with Americans, with people with love all across the world. This unspeakable violence visited largely upon the Asian community is one that causes all of us to recommit ourselves to the way of peace, an act of peace that prevents these kinds of tragedies from happening in the first place. We pray for these families.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now is Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I know this is your first television appearance in primetime cable and it`s an honor to have you joining us here for that. But it comes on a tragic night in Georgia after a tragic day in Georgia yesterday.

What can you share with us? What do you know about the situation and the investigation, which includes a federal component?

SEN. JON OSSOFF (D-GA): Well, Lawrence, great to see you. And thank you for the invitation to join you tonight.

I was briefed throughout the evening last night and throughout the day today by my team on the progress of the initial investigation into these atrocities committed in Georgia yesterday.

And, look, what I want to say is this -- first and foremost, Georgia has been rocked by these appalling acts of murder and violence. Whatever the suspect`s motive -- and police and prosecutors are still investigating it - - whatever animus, whatever ideology, whatever may have driven him, the Asian-American community in Georgia, the Asian-American community across the country is reeling, is deeply concerned and feeling fear and apprehension for the safety of Asian-Americans in American society.

And I just want to express my love, support and compassion for everybody across the country, everybody in Georgia who is feeling that fear and apprehension. I have confidence that justice will be done. I have been heartened by Mayor Bottoms` initiative and heartened by how our whole community in Georgia, people of all faiths and backgrounds, have united to condemn these atrocities, to demand justice and to speak in support of and in solidarity with the Asian-American community at home.

O`DONNELL: I want to get your reaction to the controversial comments that one of the officers made in the briefing today to the news media. A lot of people have picked up on this. A lot of Asian-Americans are upset with this language where he was describing what the murderer had confessed to and what he had told them about his day leading up to committing those murders.

And the officer concluded that passage by saying yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.

What was your reaction to those remarks?

OSSOFF: Well, I can`t speak to what was going through the sheriff or sheriff deputies` mind, addressing the press in that way. We can`t diminish that we`re talking about murder. We`re talking about brutality. We`re talking about the loss of eight lives and the devastation for families and an entire community, this violence that ripped through Metropolitan Atlanta last night against the backdrop of growing harassment, intimidation, attacks on Asian-Americans across the country and against the backdrop of an increase in violence across our nation over the last year that has many communities feeling deeply insecure.

We`ve had two weekends in Atlanta in the last month with more than a dozen shootings. And as I sat on the Senate floor this morning and listened to my colleague, my brother, my friend, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock, call upon our better angels, exhort the people to seek peace and call for public policy that brings us together and lifts us all up, that brings justice where there is violence and murder and that unites this country with common purpose, love and compassion, I felt moved that we have such a voice speaking on behalf of the people of Georgia at such a moment as this, when that`s precisely the message that`s called for.

We have to be resolute and determined in the face of violence. And we have to recommit to loving each other and defining this country based upon that mutual love and compassion.

O`DONNELL: You know, most first speeches by freshmen senators are completely ignored by the news media, but you and Senator Warnock became instant stars in the Senate by determining the power structure of the Senate and giving the power to the Democrats. So, there`s a real spotlight on both of you.

Senator Warnock got that today, used it brilliantly in the way he delivered his remarks.

Do you both feel an extra pressure because of both the attention that you get and the -- basically the way you changed the Senate simply by getting elected?

OSSOFF: Well, first, let`s just take a moment, Lawrence, and reflect on the fact that the state of Georgia, with our deeply complex, painful, contradictory history as the cradle of the civil rights movement and the heart of the Old Confederacy, a state where in 1957 the temple, my temple was bombed by white supremacists and just one year later Dr. King established the SCLC. The state of Georgia sent a black preacher and a young Jewish man to represent it in the U.S. Senate. Georgia today speaking on the floor of the Senate had the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, a man of God who holds the same pulpit Dr. King did, addressing the United States Senate and the nation with words of healing and resolve. It is a revolution in Georgia politics.

And when I really felt most profoundly the significance of our victories was when, after more than 24 hours of debate, we passed the American Rescue Plan. We delivered thousands of dollars of economic relief to working people across this country. We delivered the investment in the public health and vaccine effort to defeat this virus. We delivered billions of dollars to reopen schools and we only did it thanks to the resolve, determination and passion of Georgia voters who stood up, who stood in line, who voted in record-shattering numbers to demand change and to demand good government in the midst of a crisis.

And I`m grateful to Georgia voters. I also want to say, Lawrence, I`m grateful to your audience who stood with me and Reverend Warnock throughout what was a bitter campaign. The stakes were so high. Thank you to everybody out there who chipped in a few bucks and made a few phone calls.

Elections have consequences. This was never about team blue or team red putting points on the board. This was about how good policy can improve daily life for the American people. And we are demonstrating with the good public policy that we`re making with the Senate majority right now just how important it is to participate in our democracy.

O`DONNELL: Senator, we have to squeeze in a break. When we come back, I would like to ask you about the future of the filibuster rules in the United States Senate because as they are currently in place, they can block every other thing on the Biden agenda.

We`ll be right back with Senator Jon Ossoff.



SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We will put the bill on the floor. We will see if our Republican friends join us. If they don`t join us, our caucus will come together and decide the appropriate action to take. Everything is on the table. Failure is not an option.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leader Schumer, when you say failure is not an option, does that mean that you would consider reforming the filibuster for bills like this?

SCHUMER: Failure is not an option.


O`DONNELL: Back with us, Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia.

And Senator, I have to tell you, with so many appearances you made on this show as a candidate for senate, it really is a pleasure to be introducing you as senator tonight for the first time.

And you know, what we just heard Chuck Schumer, your leader in the senate say, he said pretty much word for word directly to me in an interview here and then directly to Rachel in an interview on her show, pretty much word for word.

You don`t have to work in the Senate as long as I did to know that what he`s saying is, he is going to make some adjustment in the current so- called filibuster rules in the senate, the rule on cloture. He`s going to change it somehow, in some way that Joe Manchin can live with. Isn`t that what`s going to happen?

SENATOR JON OSSOFF (D-GA): Lawrence, first of all, while we`re getting nostalgic, let me just remind you that I actually announced my senate campaign on your program.


OSSOFF: So thank you for that opportunity. And thanks for having me tonight.

As for senate rules and Senator Schumer`s statements, I think there`s broad consensus within the Democratic caucus in the U.S. Senate that we may need to revise senate rules in order to govern.

Look, I entered the U.S. Senate to legislate, to legislate on behalf of the people, to deliver for the people -- as I said over and over during the campaign -- health, jobs and justice. Not to be mired in gridlock or hamstrung by senate procedure.

I think it`s worth stepping back and reassessing what we really mean by bipartisanship. Because we just passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus that will deliver to average working families in Georgia more than $12,000 in economic relief between the stimulus checks and the child tax credits, that`s delivering Georgia $4.5 billion for public schools, that`s super charging the vaccine effort.

And even though it was a party line vote in the senate, there`s overwhelming bipartisan support public for this legislation. We should define bipartisanship not based upon what politicians in Washington think but based upon the breadth of popular support among the people.

And when it comes to priorities like voting rights, protecting the sacred right to vote, so infamously and gratuitously under attack in Georgia right now, when it comes to priorities like infrastructure and clean energy, taking this once-in-a-generation opportunity to upgrade our way of life, become again the world`s leader in innovation, go to a carbon free energy grid, move to an all-electric vehicle fleet, build new transit and transportation options. These are priorities that have overwhelming, broad, bipartisan support.

Again, I entered the U.S. Senate to legislate and I am absolutely open to having a discussion about changing senate rules if the minority in the senate will not heed the will of the people and pass legislation that`s obviously in the public interest, long overdue and deeply necessary and that has broad bipartisan support among the public.

O`DONNELL: Well, you now have the pleasure on a daily basis of watching Mitch McConnell at work, up close. And I have to tell you, when I worked in the Senate in the 1990s, Mitch McConnell was one of the reasonable Republicans. So you`re working in a very different place that I now don`t recognize.

Let`s listen to what Mitch McConnell said about any change of senate rules.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin -- can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched earth senate would look like.

This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The senate would be more like a hundred-car pile-up.


O`DONNELL: Did Mitch McConnell scare you when he said that?

OSSOFF: No. Mitch McConnell doesn`t scare anybody these days. We`ll see if Mitch McConnell can hold on to his leadership of his Republican conference. He is dusting off the playbook that they ran against Barack Obama. And that is obstruction and gridlock, grind everything to a halt, prevent progress.

There is a mood in the country right now for results and good government. And let`s get specific about what that means. That means 75 percent support for its stimulus bill which, thanks to voters in Georgia, is projected to nearly double U.S. economic growth and add a full percent to global economic growth this year, returning us to pre-pandemic employment early next year, broad bipartisan public support.

As I said there is broad bipartisan public support for action on infrastructure and the climate. There is broad bipartisan public support for the defense of voting rights.

Mitch McConnell should listen to the people, not to the lobbyists whispering in his ear, not to the pollsters whispering in his ears -- to the people. And he should get on board with the program and play a constructive role in passing this legislation.

And if he refuses to, then we will have to assess what changes to senate rules will be necessary so that the U.S. Senate is a functional, governing, legislative body.

O`DONNELL: Senator Ossoff, quickly before you go -- this is what I like to ask freshmen senators all the time but I usually do it in private. What is the strangest thing about the senate to you as you begin your senate career? What`s the thing where you walk back to the office and say, I just can`t believe --

OSSOFF: Look, I say I just can`t believe it almost every day. Because it is a place with such historical significance, and a place where so much good can be done if we, the U.S. Senate, choose to exercise our power to do good.

When I was sworn in, what I felt most profoundly was an obligation to not waste a single minute while I have the privilege and the opportunity to represent Georgia and to do good and to help people.

And it`s that same passion, that same determination to take advantage of this chance to help the United States, to help the American people that motivates me now, as I urge my colleagues -- when I got in to the Senate, I urged my colleagues. I said look, Georgia sent us with a mandate to deliver. Let`s be bold. And that`s what I continue to say when I meet with my Democratic colleagues now.

Let`s be bold. Let`s seize this moment, this opportunity for an American renaissance. Let`s leave a positive mark on history because we have the chance to do it and we cannot squander it.

O`DONNELL: Senator Jon Ossoff, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

OSSOFF: Always a pleasure, Lawrence. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

We`ll be right back.


O`DONNELL: Today, the first vice president of the United States of Asian descent said this about the mass murder in Atlanta.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people. But knowing the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian-American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now are Amanda Nguyen, CEO and founder of the nonprofit civil rights group Rise, and Kimmy Yam, a reporter for NBC Asian America.

And Amanda, let me begin with you. And Kimmy, feel free to join in. I don`t presume to guide this discussion. I want you to just share with us your reflections and what you`re feeling about what happened in Georgia. Amanda, let`s begin with you.

AMANDA NGUYEN, CEO/FOUNDER, RISE: First, I just want to say thank you so much for having this piece, for covering this story.

I`m heartbroken. I`m outraged, you know. A couple of weeks ago, I turned on the camera and I asked people to hear our stories, to cover the attacks that are happening to our community, and millions of people responded. It was like fire meets gasoline. You know, half of it was people of AAPI community members saying, for the first time I feel like my grief is actually validated.

The other half were allies, people from different communities, who said, you know what, that`s a clear call to action. We`re going to stand up and help.

O`DONNELL: Kimmy, you have been reporting on violence against Asian- Americans before this, and now you have this, which is the biggest story of its kind so far.

KIMMY YAM, REPORTER, NBC-ASIAN AMERICA: Right. Lawrence, this has been -- you know, I have to say I, myself, am kind of processing everything as it`s going along. And even so many of us who are, you know, reporting on a lot of these attacks and violence every single day, I think, you know, are having a little bit of trouble wrapping our minds around what we`re seeing, because it`s just so heinous.

You know, yesterday I published a piece about, you know, this report that came out that mentioned over the course of roughly 12 months in the pandemic, there were about 3,800 incidents that targeted Asian-Americans, having to do with the pandemic racism and kind of that racist tie between Asian-Americans and the virus.

And in that report, it was mentioned that about 68 percent of respondents were Asian women and, you know, a far lower share, it was around 29 percent, were men. And, you know, experts say that a lot of the stereotypes surrounding Asian women that were docile, were meek, that were subservient really plays into it, because it makes Asian women appear like we are easier or more vulnerable targets.

And, you know, right now I think not a ton of information has come out about the suspect and what his true motivations were. I know that he mentioned that there was no racial motivation, but given how Asian women are hyper-fetishized and sexualized in this and the specific type of racialized sexism that we deal with it is very difficult to divorce race from this conversation.

I think that, you know, we can look back to history as early as, you know, our initial entry in this country to see where this came from. You know, one of the first exclusionary laws, the Page Act, actually barred women, Asian women from coming into the country on grounds that they were deemed, you know, morally corrupt.

And, you know, I think a lot of these stereotypes that we`re, you know, sexually deviant, that we are, you know, geishas or, you know, these like sly dragon ladies, they still persist to this day. And that can`t be ignored in this conversation.

O`DONNELL: Amanda, I saw you nodding there. Go ahead.

NGUYEN: I couldn`t agree more. And right now, people need to understand that there is so much pain. I think a lot of people are asking, especially as allies, what can I do? Some may feel like they don`t know the right thing to say. Others may be worried about how they can best be there. And what I want to say is it is as simple as just reaching out to your friends, your AAPI friends and saying, hey, I`m here for you. I don`t pretend to understand what is going on and I can`t begin to understand how you may feel. But I want to learn.

So, please know that I`m there for you. And please let me know how I can be there for you, right? I think it`s as simple as that because at the core of the issue of what we are seeing is systematic oppression, systematic oppression in the form of systematic (INAUDIBLE).

What I mean by this is not only in mainstream media but also in our education system, our workforce, our government, the AAPI narrative has been erased.

In 2009 there was a study that showed that in some federal agencies, AAPIs aren`t even recorded under the definition of racial minorities. You know, our stories aren`t told. And stories are empathy machines.

It is incredibly critical at this point that people begin to understand and include AAPIs within their framework of what it means to be an American.

O`DONNELL: Amanda Nguyen and Kimmy Yam, thank you both very much for joining this important discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

NGUYEN: Thank you.

YAM: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, the bestselling author Min Jin Lee will join us next with her insights and reflections on the tragic mass murder in Georgia.


O`DONNELL: It has been a week of multiple and important firsts for Asians and Asian-Americans. The first Asian woman director nominated for an Oscar, the first Asian-American nominated for a best actor, the first Asian- American woman confirmed by the senate to serve in a cabinet position -- the cabinet position of United States Trade Representative.

But last night our next guest tweeted, in less than 48 hours we had a historic Asian Oscar moment with multiple firsts in 93 years, then a mass shooting targeting three Asian owned businesses.

This is how terrorism works. You`re not allowed to feel safe, accepted or valued. We can resist. Take up space. Make noise.

Joining us now is Min Jin Lee, writer in residence at Amherst College and author of "The New York Times" best-seller "Pachinko".

Thank you very much for joining us tonight for this important discussion And I want to just open it to you. I don`t presume to guide you in this. Please guide us and share with us your thinking and feelings over the last 24 hours.

MIN JIN LEE, AUTHOR: Oh, good evening, Lawrence. Thank you for having me and also for discussing this issue. It`s so very important for our community and also for America.

It`s a race-based crime. It`s a gender-based crime and I think that we need to frame the narrative as such. I find it really troubling to me that we keep trying to say that it is not a race based crime. So I keep bringing it back to the discussion because denying it only compounds the injury of Asian-Americans right now who are suffering under the revisiting of the yellow apparel paradigm.

O`DONNELL: And I think what we saw -- I`ve watched an awful lot of police press conferences and today we saw the police repeatedly saying, well, he says it wasn`t race based. And it sounds like they`re investing in that, but it`s all they have at this point is what he said. That doesn`t mean it`s true.

LEE: You know, I really like what you just said because if he says it I`m going to say it`s not how about that? When you say it`s my word against his because it seems to me that the shooter drove to three locations that are Asian-owned businesses. And then he ended up shooting in those three businesses so they were targeted Asians and Asians died.

So I think that the actual impact should represent a real intention as well. He drove to specific sites which were race-based sites.

O`DONNELL: Yes, talk about how it feels because I think a lot of people when they`re watching this and they see the coverage of the press conference and police say well, he says it wasn`t race based, that doesn`t give you any relief at all.

LEE: Not at all. And also the Korean press has made it clear that there were witnesses who heard him say that I`ll kill all the Asians. And because there has been a different coverage in the Korean press it makes me really wonder what is actually going on, and maybe the Korean eyewitnesses perhaps they`re not speaking to western press about what occurred because they`re embarrassed and they`re afraid.

O`DONNELL: Do you think that this would pose a particular challenge for the police investigation dealing with Korean witnesses?

LEE: No, absolutely not. There are multiple, multilingual people who can translate very easily between the police and the witnesses and also the victims. And also what`s really interesting to me is that we have a police chief who has a history of being anti-Asian. There`s been a report that was confirmed by "The New York Times" that on Facebook he was selling T-shirts which were anti-Chinese in sentiment.

And in addition to that he said that the young shooter was just having a very bad day. And when I have a very bad day I might have some ice cream. I don`t think that having a bad day allows you to go and kill innocent people who are working class and who are just doing their jobs.

O`DONNELL: You know, some people heard that line as the police official was just describing what the killer told him. How did you hear that line?

LEE: I don`t know why this young shooter gets the benefit of the doubt but working class women who are murdered and the witnesses surrounding them don`t get the benefit of the doubt.

And I think that it`s really time -- it`s high time that we need to reframe the focus in seeing who`s human and who`s not human.

As far as I`m concerned the people who are killed and the people who are witnesses around them are very much human. And just because we might have a language barrier or may not, I think that we need to really investigate.

And I think that the police chief who spoke should be immediately stepping back from his position because I don`t think he`s qualified to investigate this.

O`DONNELL: Min Jin Lee, thank you very much for joining this important discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.

LEE: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And a special thanks tonight to Claire Kim who was one of the first people hired to work on this show when it began ten years ago and has gone on to bigger and better things but reached back to us today, called me first thing this morning to guide my approach to this coverage tonight and bring you the guests that she believed you should hear tonight.

So this could not have been done without Claire Kim`s help, once a member of THE LAST WORD team always a member of THE LAST WORD team. Thank you, Claire.