Guest Host: Lawrence O‘Donnell
Guests: Rep. Anthony Weiner, Adam Green, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Rev. Jim
Wallace, David Matthews
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
After one year of debate, health care reform all comes down to one week. President Obama is staying put for the final days of negotiations.
And from the speaker of the House—very confident talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I‘m delighted that the president will be here for the passage of the bill. It‘s going to be historic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Pelosi also makes it clear the public option won‘t be part of the bill and it is not the fault of her chamber.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: I‘m not having the Senate, which didn‘t have a public option in its bill, put any of that on our doorstep. We had it, we wanted it; they didn‘t have it, it‘s not in the reconciliation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Tonight, the public option battle with Congressman Anthony Weiner and Adam Green on the politics of it all.
Does “Bush‘s Brain” have a conscience?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FMR. BUSH ADVISOR: I‘m proud that we used techniques that broke the will of the terrorists and gave us valuable information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Karl Rove actually bragging about torture on foreign television.
Glenn Beck‘s new crusade against Christians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, TV HOST: Am I advising people to leave their church?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Now, religious leaders are advising their faithful to leave Glenn Beck.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETTY WHITE, ACTRESS: Come on, man. You have been riding me all day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Betty White rides an Internet wave of popular support right into the hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live.” Tonight—the man who spearheaded the Betty White Facebook campaign.
And the Massa disaster meets late night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
STEPHEN COLBERT, TV HOST: I know tickling a staffer sounds bad—until you look at the staffer.
DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST: One guy couldn‘t breathe, he was tickling him so hard and then—and then Dick Cheney said, “Well, we should have done that at Gitmo.” And then—
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O‘DONNELL: All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
FMR. REP. ERIC MASSA (D), NEW YORK: It‘s the whole shemozzle.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from New York. I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.
After the White House today said President Obama will push back his Asian trip to March 21st so he can stay in D.C. to see health care over the finish line, House Speaker Pelosi said she was delighted the president will be here for passage of the bill. She qualified what sounded like a promise to pass health care next week, saying only that she hopes to do so.
Republicans meanwhile kept up their campaign to scare wavering House Democrats away from passing the Senate bill. Asked by MSNBC‘s Chuck Todd whether Republicans would campaign on repealing reform if it passes, House Republican Leader John Boehner responded as follows:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Well, Chuck, you know, if we get to that point, you can bet on it. But all my attention and all my effort at this point is making sure this bill never ever, ever becomes law. And I think the American people are on our side. I think they have spoken loudly and clearly, they want no part of this. And I think Democrats who vote for this do so at their own peril.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: But it was a Democratic blame-game over the public option that lead up the political landscape today. The House, of course, passed a public option last year. The Senate did not. After progressive groups pressed Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin on whether he would work to get the votes for a public option and Durbin said he will get the votes for whatever package of fixes the House includes in its reconciliation bill, Speaker Pelosi then insisted the only reason the House will not include the public option in its reconciliation bill is that the Senate would not pass it.
But her rationale appeared to have a couple of holes in it, as we‘ll explain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: What we will have in reconciliation will be something that is agreed upon House and Senate that we can pass and they can pass. So, I‘m not having the Senate, which didn‘t have a public option in its bill, put any of that on our doorstep. We had it, we wanted it; they didn‘t have it, it‘s not in the reconciliation.
But it has nothing to do with whether we initiate it here. We did initiate it. They didn‘t. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You‘re saying if you initiate it, then they will whip.
PELOSI: You know, we‘re talking about something that is not going to be part of the legislation. So, why don‘t we talk about what is going to happen? Because I‘m quite sad that a public option isn‘t in there. But it isn‘t a case of it‘s not in there because the Senate is whipping against it. It isn‘t in there because they don‘t have the votes to have it in there, or they would have had it in there to begin with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Except they did seem to have at least 51 votes for it the last time, which is all that‘s needed this time around.
A lot of strategic developments to discuss tonight with Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.
Thank you for joining us tonight, Congressman.
You‘re a supporter of the public option, always have been. You‘re a supporter of single-payer. Public options become a very hot potato for liberal Democrats today. Dick Durbin says he‘ll fight for it in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi says it‘s dead because the Senate can‘t pass it.
Having heard what Dick Durbin has to say about it, having seen the vote pledges building up in the Senate now to over 50, what would you advise the speaker to do: put it in the House bill or kill it?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, you know, here‘s the problem. My Senate friends are being a little bit phony about this. They are indeed, every single day, going on TV saying: Oh, we‘re for the public option. Too bad it‘s not in there. And they are telling Nancy Pelosi and the House members everyday: Please, I beg of you, don‘t make us vote on this.”
You know, the fact of the matter is, there is nothing stopping Senator Durbin from amending this bill to add the public option. And I will see to it that we round up 216 votes in the House to add it. That‘s not the problem.
The problem is the Senate, all along, has been ducking a straight up or down vote on this. Harry Reid said he supports it. There‘s a letter circulating that has more and more members on it. Durbin, who‘s the whip, says he‘ll go ahead and whip on it, but they‘re also doing something else.
Nancy Pelosi is not wrong. We‘ve already done the deed in the House. We‘ve included a public option. Nancy Pelosi made sure to have the strongest one we could in there. I would have liked to be much better.
But to blame Nancy Pelosi for this is kind of the wrong place to place the blame. And so, I think that if the Senate is really serious, I would like to see Senator Durbin or anyone when it gets to there, and they amend it and add it in there - no doubt about it, when it comes back to the House, we‘ll able to get the votes for it.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman, I‘m shocked to hear a member of the House of Representatives think that there might be something phony going on in the Senate and they might be just posing on some issue.
But let‘s talk about phony for a second. Last night, on this network, with Rachel Maddow, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that you guys are working on a bill and I quote her here, “to bring health care for all Americans.”
Now, you know that Nancy Pelosi, every chairman of every committee, the president gave up on health care for all Americans before they had their first meeting on a bill. You were in favor of health care for all Americans through Medicare for all. These bills and the bill they are determined to pass will leave out half the uninsured maybe—maybe 20 million, maybe 15 million.
And so, how can Nancy Pelosi continue to overpromise and describe what she‘s doing as health care for all Americans?
WEINER: Well, that is, indeed, what we‘re all working for. We‘re not going to get it in these bills. We—you know, the moment we started with the weaker of the bills, the Senate rather than starting with the House bill, we took a step back on how many people would be covered. The president made a tactical decision that that was going to be where he‘s going to start this process.
I would have liked for him to say the following: you know, the House bill is a better bill. It includes a public option, it covers more Americans, has a more progressive system. It closes the donut hole.
He didn‘t. He started with our troubled relative, the Senate, and started with that bill.
What Pelosi should have said is: we want to cover all Americans
eventually and we‘re starting by improving the Senate bill with the House -
with some elements of the House bill to cover more people.
But you‘re right. You know, all of the thumping of our chests about the undocumented, they‘re not going to get any coverage in this plan. They are still going to walk into hospital emergency rooms and get care and pass along the bill to the rest of us. We are still going to have gaps because there‘s no employer mandate, as there should be, in the final bill.
These are, indeed, the art of sacrifice and compromise. I‘m not thrilled about it. But I can tell you this: we can‘t let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. And the Senate bill, with some of these improvements, is far better than the status quo.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman, I want to broaden our conversation by bringing in Adam Green. He‘s cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
Good evening, Adam.
Let me start with a quote from your statement your group signed onto saying, quote, “The public option will live or die based on Nancy Pelosi‘s next moves.”
Can you still make that case after hearing what Congressman Weiner just had to say?
ADAM GREEN, PROGRESSIVE CHANGE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: Absolutely. Congressman Weiner has done great work on this issue. And there are many health care champions as well.
But, at the end of the day, it‘s not OK to have someone win the blame-game. People at this moment have to step up. And just two hours ago on “THE ED SHOW,” I went down the list and showed exactly how we could get 51 votes in the Senate.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, Credo Action, we took our video cameras to Capitol Hill this week, we got statements. We have people like Kay Hagan and Mark Begich and others who are on the record saying that if the House passes the public option, they will vote for it.
So, we need the House to step up at this point, and be leaders, pass this into law and then they can point the fingers at the Senate and will pass this thing.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Weiner, how do you respond to that?
WEINER: You know, Adam‘s onto something. I got to tell you something, every time the public option has died, and we‘ve looked around, it‘s been the American people that breathed life into it. And maybe that‘s going to happen again here.
What we are trying to do here in the imperative is that we are trying to prebake as much of this as we can by essentially having a little mini conference committee between the House and Senate trying to decide what it is that we can pass. One of the things that we in the House are concerned about is we don‘t trust the Senate to do what they say they‘re going to do. So, we‘re kind of negotiating with one hand tied behind our back.
But I think that Adam is not—you know, Adam and I are kind of saying the same thing. The only question is: who takes the first move? And I think we‘ve already taken the first move in the House by having passed it.
I don‘t trust the Senate to even do it if we put it in the bill. But I do think that they should, one way or another, have an up or down vote on it. So, in that regard, Adam and I are agreeing.
O‘DONNELL: Adam, having worked in the Senate, I have to tell you, I have to support Congressman Weiner‘s distrust of the Senate. So, I don‘t mean to referee this. I just mean, I think the discussion should take that element seriously and consider it. I mean, you have these pledges for something that it‘s possible a lot of the senators believe they will never have to vote on.
Do you sense that there might be something disingenuous in the numbers of senators who signed on to say, “Oh, yes, sure, I‘m willing to do this,” because they believe they might never be asked to do it?
GREEN: Well, let me be clear. My message tonight is not “trust the Senate.” You know, the senators have been consistently weak on this issue. The White House has been weak. The House has been strong.
What I‘m saying is, we have more and more people on the record saying that if the House passes the public option, they will voter for it in the Senate. And therefore, if the vote exists in the House, this is a moment for leadership.
Let‘s accept that the senators are loser—the Senate is the loser and the House is the winner in the blame-game, OK? The House wins, they have been champs.
But we need some leadership. If Pelosi would just give us an up or down vote in the House and Anthony Weiner and all the rest of them gave us 216 votes, then the Senate would have to show their cards. And if they were, you know, disingenuous, we would all know it and the blame would be obvious, like where it belonged.
But this is a moment for leadership and this is not a game. People‘s lives are at stake. We need the House to go first right now.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman, to go back to your point of what‘s going on now, which is that the speaker and the majority leader in the Senate are trying to, as you say, preconference the bill—which is to say they are hoping to pass one reconciliation bill once in the House of Representatives, the same bill once in the Senate. What could happen here is if the House were put the public option in their reconciliation bill and it went to the Senate, and it was stripped out by amendment, you would then -- which would be a normal process—have to conference those two products, the reconciliation bill of the House and the reconciliation bill of the Senate, and go through one more vote.
And in a normal legislative universe, that‘s done all the time and no one worries about it. But it seems that what‘s going on here is that the speaker and the majority leader are desperately afraid of going through yet another vote and they seem to be trying to pre-wire everything. And that‘s what gets them into this spot on the public option, isn‘t it?
WEINER: Yes. I think you‘re exactly right.
And look at the experience that informs that -- 290 times this year, the House has passed bills that the Senate hasn‘t even taken up. So, we don‘t have a lot of confidence that if you start ping-ponging back-and-forth, the Senate isn‘t just going to not eventually do it. This is a real problem.
You know, we—the fact is, we are being punished in the House and the American people are being punished because the Senate has been somewhat feckless throughout this entire process. But that is something we have to include in our calculation. We don‘t know whether the Senate can deliver on anything that they say. That‘s the problem.
So, when we make it more complicated and then they whisper and say loudly in meetings, “Please don‘t make us vote on the public option because we don‘t think we‘ll able to pass anything,” then it puts us in a very difficult spot. And what has happened is—what troubles me is the senators. And, frankly, Senator Durbin did it today, and he‘s a good man, “You know, I‘ll whip for it if it comes to us.”
They make it look like we in the House are holding this up when its their own members who are saying in every possible way to Nancy Pelosi, “Please let us off the hook.”
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Weiner, finally, to John Boehner‘s challenge today, saying that if you guys pass this thing, if it becomes law, it‘s going to very simple for them in the campaign this year. It‘s just going to be two words: repeal it.
That won‘t be a problem for you in your district in New York City. But to some of your colleagues out there in swing districts where they might be vulnerable to a campaign like that, what do you encourage—what encouragement do you give them in terms of how they can campaign against Republicans having voted for this bill?
WEINER: Look, anyone who wants to repeal this is advocating for having higher health care costs, is advocating for having more people uninsured and passing along the bills to all of us.
You know, we have $350 billion of deficits in all 50 states. That‘s higher taxes everyone is going to have to pay. About a third of it is because of health care.
There is no doubt about it that Congressman Boehner is onto a very basic element of our form of government. Someone who is trying to do something that‘s good in the long term is going to ultimately perhaps take a tough vote in the short term. But that‘s what leadership is all about. That‘s why he‘s in the permanent minority. I hope.
O‘DONNELL: Congressman Anthony Weiner and Adam Green with the Progressive Change Committee—thank you for guiding us through this dilemma that the House and Senate are facing over the public option.
WEINER: Thanks. And thank you, Adam.
GREEN: Thank you. Yes, thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: we‘ve known the Bush administration approved torture by waterboarding terror suspects. But why is Karl Rove going on international television and bragging about it? Not to mention lying about the results.
And later, religious leaders compare Glenn Beck to Howard Stern and call on Christians to stop tuning in. We‘ll talk to Reverend Jim Wallis about why he‘s leading a new boycott against Beck.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: Karl Rove tells the BBC he‘s proud the United States tortured terror suspects. Really? After an eight-year Republican presidency, that‘s what you‘re proud of? Not balancing the budget? Not—oh, right. Hmm.
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson who served in the Bush State Department will puncture Rove‘s pride—next.
O‘DONNELL: I for one have grown more than a bit disgusted by what former Bush administration hacks are willing to say to sell their propaganda-filled books.
First came a Bush speechwriter with a book actually titled, “How Barack Obama is Inviting the Next Attack,” published by a right-wing publishing house. That collection of lies was given promotional platforms on this network and other networks.
Now comes Karl Rove‘s memoir with an utterly phony title I would prefer not to name. If you want to buy it, you know how to find it.
On his book tour, Rove now finds himself saying that he is proud that the United States of America used waterboarding. Despite the Geneva Conventions and international law saying that waterboarding is torture, and despite the view of the United States government at least until the Bush/Rove years that waterboarding is torture—despite all that, Rove still insists that waterboarding is not torture.
In an interview on the BBC, he was asked if he was proud that America used enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROVE: I‘m proud that we used techniques that broke the will of these terrorists and gave us valuable information that allowed us to foil plots such as flying airplanes into Heathrow and into London, flying—bringing down aircraft over the Pacific, flying an airplane into the tallest building in Los Angeles and other plots.
Yes, I‘m proud that we kept the world safer than it was by the use of these techniques. They are appropriate. They are in conformity with our international requirements and with the U.S. law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Then Rove was challenged: waterboarding is torture, isn‘t it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROVE: No, it‘s not. And people need to read the memos that outline what was permissible and not permissible before they make a judgment about these things, because the purpose of the memos was to delineate what met our legal obligations and what was appropriate. For example, everyone of these people—
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But not under the Geneva Convention though.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Rove did allow that reasonable people can disagree, but Rove insists it is not torture because every one of the people who were waterboarded had a doctor who ascertained that there would be no long-lasting physical or mental damage to that individual, and each of them were told, “You are not going to drown.”
Let‘s bring in the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. He is currently the Pamela Harriman visiting professor at the College of William & Mary.
Good evening, Colonel Wilkerson.
First, I have a personal question for you. I‘ve noticed that all of the biggest fans of torture like Cheney and Rove and Marc Thiessen, have lived comfortable lives in which they never once considered destroying that comfort by submitting themselves to a single day of military service.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Not a single day. I have deferments for Dick Cheney.
O‘DONNELL: As a military man, what does it feel like to watch the cheerleaders safely positioned on the sidelines their whole lives try to tell you what is the most effective process and technique in war?
WILKERSON: Well, it says to me, and I make no bones about it, that they are all cowards. I mean, it‘s plain and simple—they‘re all cowards.
O‘DONNELL: It does seem to me that there‘s some kind of moral test here in advocacy, that if you are going to advocate things like this, you should have some kind of experience with them beyond reading memos. I‘ve talked to former Navy SEALs who went through waterboarding, who say, “Oh, it‘s torture. There‘s no question about it.”
WILKERSON: It‘s been—it‘s been torture, Lawrence, since the Spanish Inquisition. If Rove were a general in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, he would have been relieved by the commander-in-chief, Teddy Roosevelt, and thrown out of the United States Army for the same offense. Waterboarding is torture.
And what Rove is saying make as liar out of the president of the United States, because more than once I listened to my president, George W. Bush, say to the public that the United States did not torture. And that was a lie, because waterboarding is torture.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Rove says that under the circumstances he described, that waterboarding is not torture—he said that because it was done in the presence of a doctor—
WILKERSON: Slick it up with doctors and slick it up with some other medical personnel present. That sounds like the Nazis.
O‘DONNELL: They had a few doctors at Nazi prison camps, didn‘t they?
WILKERSON: Absolutely. Nuremberg cites the responsibility of physicians in that regard and it isn‘t positive what they say about them. I can‘t imagine a physician or a psychiatrist or anyone allowing his ethical code, his professional code to be so grossly violated that he would agree to be present at these sorts of things.
O‘DONNELL: Now, the other thing Rove tries to do and others try to do in this line of argument is to rattle off a list of things that were prevented—a list of horrible disasters that were prevented because of this information we obtained through waterboarding. None of those have been corroborated with any external evidence. And one of them has been clearly disproven, the L.A. tower thing that they just keep talking about.
WILKERSON: Well, let me say—
O‘DONNELL: Go ahead.
WILKERSON: -- let me say this: I saw, I had the highest clearance, Top Secret SCI. I saw almost everything that Secretary Powell saw.
I saw no proof of any of the things that Karl Rove indicated. And as a matter of fact, no proof that any of the interrogation techniques other than those used by the FBI early on had a real impact on actionable intelligence.
And I got something else to say about Mr. Rove. No political counselor should have—he doesn‘t have a need to know. He shouldn‘t have access to that kind of classified information. He has no business having access.
So, if the White House allowed him to, that is a no-no. And I will guess that he‘s getting his information from Dick Cheney, because he did not have access to that kind of information.
O‘DONNELL: Lawrence Wilkerson, more than any other night, I wish we had more time with you tonight. I‘m sure this is not the last we‘ve heard from Karl Rove on this—
WILKERSON: He‘s trying to sell his book.
O‘DONNELL: -- or from you.
Thank you very much, Colonel.
WILKERSON: Thank you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up: Glenn Beck compares churches concerned with social justice to Nazis and communists. Now, some Christian leaders are calling for a Beck boycott.
And a much different crusade—the online campaign to get Betty White on “Saturday Night Live” pays off. We‘ll introduce you to the mastermind of the Facebook campaign—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
O‘DONNELL: Glenn Beck is no longer content accusing the Obama administration of being full of Marxists and Communists. And he isn‘t content with accusing liberals of being secret Marxists and Communists. Now he‘s going after the churches of America. Beck began his latest attack on his radio show last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I beg you look for the words “social justice” or “economic justice” on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: So social justice and economic justice are code words for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: Both the communists, who are on the left—they say, you know, there‘s a communist—and the Nazis are on the right. That‘s what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. One had the Hammer and Sickle. The other was a Swastika. But on each banner read the words here in America of this: social justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Beck, who is a Mormon, finds himself in disagreement with his own church. Kent Jackson, an associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University, said that over the course of 60 years social justice has been in practice in every congregation of Mormons he is familiar with.
Christian leaders immediately responded to Beck‘s assertions. The Reverend Jim Wallace, who leads the Christian anti-poverty group Sojourners, and will join us in a moment, called on Christians to leave Glenn Beck.
Beck later back-tracked—a little bit. He complained that the Reverend Jim Wallace was attacking him. And he said that that‘s social justice, in which you empower yourself to go out and help the poor, is permissible.
But Reverend Wallace sent a letter to Beck asking him to go much further in clarifying his views.
Meantime, the outrage has not quieted. A United Church of Christ congregation in Wantagh, New York, for example, posted this message:
“sorry, Mr. Beck, Jesus preached social justice.”
The pastor of the church, Ronald Garner, said that “Wantagh Memorial Congregational Church is a very progressive church. We‘re open and affirming in our denomination, which means we accept into the full life of our church gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. We are a peace church. And so I just felt that it was a sign that should be in front of our building to say that Mr. Beck‘s comments about social justice being a perversion of the gospel was a total distortion of anybody that‘s even given a cursory reading to the words of Jesus.”
Joining me now, as promised, the president of Sojourners and the author of “Rediscovering Values on Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street, a Moral Compass for the New Economy,” Reverend Jim Wallace. Thank you very much for your time tonight, Reverend Wallace.
REV. JIM WALLACE, SOJOURNERS: Hi Lawrence. Good to be with you.
O‘DONNELL: I‘d like to begin with asking you about that letter to Glenn Beck. Please expand on that.
WALLACE: Well, I said, dear Brother Glenn, let‘s have a conversation about this. When Glenn Beck started all this by saying, as you just reported, that social justice was a code word for communism and Naziism, I couldn‘t believe it. Then he said we should leave our churches if our pastors or priests preach this. That means the Catholic church, the black churches, the Evangelical churches, the mainline churches, and his own Mormon church.
Then he said to turn in your pastor or priest if they preach justice to the authorities. The problem with that is the authorities agree. So Pope Benedict would have turn himself in to himself, I guess. So I just said, if Glenn Beck has asked us to leave the churches, our churches, we should leave Glenn Beck.
Now I‘m saying, let‘s have a conversation. Let‘s clarify what you mean. I think you don‘t want to be saying this. I hope you don‘t. Let‘s have a better conversation.
So I hope he responds. I don‘t know Glenn Beck. I have not attacked him. He‘s attacked me. But I‘m not going to attack him. But the issue here is he actually said social justice is a perversion of the gospel. I believe it is at the heart of the gospel. Let‘s have a conversation to decide which is true.
O‘DONNELL: He‘s jumping in, as Beck is want to do. He‘s plunging into a subject he knows nothing about, in this case Christian theology. What would you tell him? If you could sit down with him, about would you tell him bout what Jesus Christ had to say about social justice?
WALLACE: Well, the first words out of Jesus‘ mouth in Luke Chapter IV, at Nazareth. He said “the spirit of the lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”
The gospel‘s meant to be good news to the poor. And so we help poor
people, but we also work at the conditions that make people poor. So the
prophets, the Hebrew prophets, Jesus preaching, teaching, the early church
all of our churches have talked about this for a long time.
So Glenn Beck doesn‘t understand this, perhaps, but he‘s offending and slandering churches. He‘s assaulting churches. So we say, OK, Glenn, let‘s have a conversation. Let‘s clarify this. Christians are going to stop watching his show. He needs to apologize or have a conversation. I hope he does.
O‘DONNELL: How would you guide him through theological studies about Christianity, which he clearly has not done? There is a massive body of literature, even in Salt Lake, within the Mormon facilities out there, and their libraries, not just on Mormonism, but on all other religions. He clearly has not examined the texts. He hasn‘t examined any modern interpretations of the text.
Where would you suggest he begin his Christian theological education?
WALLACE: Lawrence, Mormon leaders have called me today to apologize and to say they are embarrassed by this, too, because it is in their scriptures as well.
When I was in seminary, Lawrence, we did a study of the Bible and we found every text about the poor in the Bible, about social justice, wealth and poverty. We found 2,000 verses on the subject.
So one of my colleagues took a pair of scissors and cut out of the Bible every reference to the poor. It took him a long time to do that. When he was done. the Bible was in shreds. It was full of holes. It was falling apart. I would hand Glenn Beck the Bible and I would say, Glenn, this would have to be your Bible because you cut everything out.
So let‘s go back through the Bible, verse by verse, and look at what, in fact, God says about justice. The God in the Bible is a God of justice. Though the poor are in the center of God‘s concern—poverty breaks the heart of God. It breaks the heart of the churches.
So this is about Christians who may disagree on politics. Republicans, Democrats, it doesn‘t matter, left or right. We have different rules on the role of government. That doesn‘t matter. But justice is integral to the gospel. Across the spectrum, Christians are saying Glenn Beck got it wrong.
O‘DONNELL: Reverend Jim Wallace of Sojourner, thank you for your theological guidance tonight.
WALLACE: I hope he talks to us.
O‘DONNELL: I hope he gives you a call. We‘ll see.
Coming up, Betty White‘s big week. She found out she will host “Saturday Night Live.” We‘ll talk to the man who led the Facebook campaign to make that happen.
Also, the best of late night this week, after former Congressman Eric Massa gave comedy writers the funniest Washington sex scandal ever.
At the top of the hour with Rachel, Bart Stupak stops getting attention from House leaders, and now he is claiming his critics are for abortion because it‘s cheaper than paying for a birth.
O‘DONNELL: As we have witnessed over the past week, consistency is not what Congressman Eric Massa is known for. Snorkeling is. But on Wednesday night, Massa declared that his appearance on Larry King would be his final interview. True to his word, as of this broadcast, Eric Massa has yet to find his way back to a microphone.
Tonight, to fill the vacuum left by the suddenly silent congressman, here are some of the late night memories inspired by his misadventures.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”: New York Democratic Congressman Eric Massa announced that he was resigning from Congress due to health reasons. What health reasons? Well, rumors began to circulate that he had testicular—um, not cancer. What is it when you‘re not a doctor but you try to check out other people‘s balls?
DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”: So let‘s try to capture this image in our minds. Congressman in his office in Washington, a staffer tickling him --
STEWART: It turns out Massa had been accused of sexually harassing a male staff member. A male staff --
STEPHEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: Now, I know tickling a staffer sounds bad, until you get a look at the staffer.
Folks, I hear this guy was literally asking for it.
LETTERMAN: One guy couldn‘t breathe he was tickling him so hard. And then Dick Cheney said, well, we should have done that at Gitmo.
COLBERT: Last night, to defend himself, Massa sat down with the Silver Gopher, Glenn Beck. It was a true meeting of the minds.
COLBERT: Oh, yeah. It‘s like jazz, baby.
JIMMY KIMMEL, “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE”: Glenn Beck had him on his show last night. Out-crazying Glenn beck is no small—it‘s like out-sexing Tiger Woods.
MASSA: Not only did I grope him. I tickled him until he couldn‘t breathe and then four guys jumped on me. It was my 50th birthday.
STEWART: Just quickly, cancel my 50th birthday.
JIMMY FALLON, “LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON”: Anyway, he went on Larry King the other day, and we got ahold of some footage that never made it to air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Young male staffers get tired. You give them a piggy back ride. You trip, all your clothes fall off. What are you going to do? Not give them a piggy back ride?
MASSA: I‘m sitting there showering, naked as a jay-bird. And here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me because I wasn‘t going to vote for the president‘s budget.
Do you know how awkward it is to have a political argument with a naked man?
STEWART: Yes. Yes I do.
STEWART: This is really going on, folks. In Massa‘s own words --
MASSA: And this administration and this House leadership have said, quote/unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill. And now they have gotten rid of me and it‘ll pass. You connect the dots.
COLBERT: Fine. Here are the dots. Now let‘s connect them. No, no, no! No, Jimmy, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: From the kings of comedy to the queen. Up next, we‘ll introduce you to the guy who set Facebook ablaze with his dream of getting Betty White on “Saturday Night Live.”
O‘DONNELL: She‘s won six Emmys over a career spanning seven decades. But it was a campaign on Facebook that helped a comedic icon score one of the most coveted gigs in television. Yes, America, it‘s official, actress and comedian Betty White will host “Saturday Night Live.” Best known as the caustic happy home-maker Sue Anne Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and the ditzy Rose Nyland on “The Golden Girls.” SNL creator and executive producer calls Betty White the mother of us all in comedy.
Fitting considering Ms. White will host the show on May 8th, Mother‘s Day weekend. At 88, she‘ll be the oldest host in the show‘s 35-year history. The episode will also feature a reunion of former women cast members, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, and Rachel Dratsch. Lorne Michaels explaining, “the depth of feeling for her at the show, and particularly among the women coming back, was very deep.”
It isn‘t the first time SNL wanted the actress to host. Ms. White admitting, “years ago, I turned it down three times. It‘s so New York, and I‘m not New York at all.”
Enter the Facebook page: Betty White to host SNL, please. With a slew of recent roles and appearances endearing her to younger fans, it was a Super Bowl ad for Snickers that prompted an online frenzy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike, what did you do, man?
BETTY WHITE, ACTRESS: Come on, man, you have been riding me all day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike, you‘re playing like Betty White out there.
WHITE: That‘s not what your girlfriend says.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Baby, eat a Snickers. Better?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That hurt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re not you when you‘re hungry. Snickers satisfies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: It didn‘t take long for the Facebook page to score nearly half a million fans, and the campaign to get Ms. White the hosting gig could no longer be ignored. Lorne Michaels says “it took on a groundswell. It was the outpouring of affection from fans, and we feel the same way.”
As for Ms. White, she is humbled. “It‘s lovely and at my age, it‘s certainly unexpected.”
Joining me now is the man who started it all, creator of “Betty White to Host SNL, Please” Facebook page, David Matthews. Thanks for your time tonight, David.
DAVID MATTHEWS, STARTED BETTY WHITE FACEBOOK PAGE: Hey, thank you, Lawrence. Good evening.
O‘DONNELL: Now with this Facebook campaign, do you understand what you‘ve done? Do you know you have done what many Hollywood agents have never been able to do, land a star the spot hosting “Saturday Night Live”?
MATTHEWS: Well, I certainly wouldn‘t take all the credit for it, Lawrence. I started a page a few months ago. But if it weren‘t for the half a million people that were on it, it certainly wouldn‘t have done what it has done.
O‘DONNELL: Now, Betty White‘s agents—I don‘t know whether you realize this—I don‘t know if you know how show business works, but I‘m telling you now, they want you dead. You have ruined their lives. They take a lot of her money for getting this kind of stuff for her, and you got it for her for free. Have you had contact with her agents? I suggest you don‘t tell her agents where you live.
MATTHEWS: I have talked to her agent a couple of times. I have not talked to Betty White herself. In fact, I most recently spoke with her agent just last night. And he was giving me a run down of all the things that Betty White has coming on the plate for the rest of the year. We talked a little bit about if there was a chance at getting me a couple tickets to see the show on May 8th.
O‘DONNELL: Hey, the tickets thing, that is done. I don‘t care what agents say. COUNTDOWN is getting you tickets for “Saturday Night Live.” That‘s done. Lorne‘s right across the street right now. We‘ll take care of it.
When this campaign started in December, did you anticipate this reaction? What was your biggest dream for the campaign?
MATTHEWS: Well, no, of course, I didn‘t anticipate this at all. When I first started it, I told my friends that if we made it to 10,000 fans, then it would have been beyond my wildest dreams. Once we hit 10,000 and some media folks started picked it up, it just grew like wildfire. As I said, it‘s almost half a million strong now and growing.
O‘DONNELL: And Betty White, has she managed to pick up the phone and start talking to you about what else you have in mind for her, given that her agents have been taking all this money and have been unable to get her things like this?
MATTHEWS: I certainly wouldn‘t take credit away from her agent, who is a very, very nice man, and from everything that I can gather very, very able. Betty White has not called me to ask me anything, sir.
O‘DONNELL: All right. I need your phone number. There are a couple of deals I‘m interested in in Hollywood that my agents haven‘t been able to get for me. I‘m wondering what you and Facebook might be able to do with that. Are you thinking of expanding out into more clients and representing more people on Facebook?
MATTHEWS: No. I really haven‘t given that any thought. It was something that was a fun thing that was talked about amongst friends one night, just before the new year. Probably had a glass of wine or three when we were doing. Then I said, the next night, you know, let‘s create this thing and see what comes of it. The rest is history.
O‘DONNELL: Have you ever thought—I‘m serious now. Have you ever thought of a career in show business, representing people like Betty White and seeing what you could get for them?
MATTHEWS: I have never thought about that in my life. I have never considered myself anything Hollywood-esque at all. If you would have told me two months ago I would be here in a TV studio in San Antonio, Texas on national television, I would have laughed in your face. This has all really come up very quickly.
O‘DONNELL: Let me tell you how your life is going to work now. I told you, Betty White‘s agents want you dead. Every other agency in Hollywood is watching this and saying, where does this guy David Matthews live? We‘ve got to talk o him. We may need him on our team. OK? Be ready for those calls.
David Matthews, creator of the Facebook page to get Betty White on “Saturday Night Live.” Congratulations. Thank you for your time tonight. We‘ll see you when you come to 30 Rock to see the show.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much. Have a good night.
O‘DONNELL: That will do it for this Friday edition of COUNTDOWN. I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.” Good evening, Rachel.
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