Msnbc Live at 6 p.m. ET, Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
Read the transcript from the Tuesday 6 p.m. hour
Guests: Adam Green, David Cay Johnston, Barbara Lee, Eric Boehlert,
CENK UYGUR, HOST: President Obama defended his budget today, but did he really defend Social Security? My take on that. I‘m coming.
Also tonight, supreme bias on the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas is in trouble. He admits—he actually admitted to going to a Koch Brothers event, but did he tell the whole story? Congress wants answers.
Plus, anatomy of a right wing smear. They did it with ACORN. Now they‘re going after Planned Parenthood. We reveal how it goes from hidden videos to the mainstream to Congress.
And exposing the Tea Party. A special investigation reveals where the money goes: consultants, private jets, and luxury hotels. The reporter who broke that story joins us.
But first, today we start with President Obama. He held a news conference to talk about one big missing element in his budget, what they call entitlements. First, let me show you what he said and then I‘ll explain to you what he actually meant. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now you‘ve talked about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The truth is, Social Security is not the huge contributor to the deficit that the other two entitlements are. I‘m confident we can get Social Security done in the same way that Ronald Reagan and Tip O‘Neill were able to get it done by parties coming together, making some modest adjustments. I think we can avoid slashing benefits. And I think we can make it stable and stronger for, not only this generation, but for the next generation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Stronger for the next generation. Remember Tip O‘Neill and Ronald Reagan wound up making some cuts to Social Security. He says, oh, we‘ve got the issue with it being, you know, affecting the deficit a little bit. In fact, Social Security doesn‘t affect the deficit at all.
So I‘m looking at this going, what game are they playing? Then I remember what the Republican reaction to his budget was yesterday and it was curious. They all had a similar theme. Republican leader Eric Cantor called it a “missed opportunity” to lead.
Budget Chairman Paul Ryan said, the President “failed a critical test of leadership.”
GOP Study Committee Chair Jim Jordan said, he “failed a crucial test of leadership.”
And Republican Senator John Corner—Cornyn called it a “missed opportunity to lead.”
So what is it? Why are they all talking about leadership and leading? He introduced a budget. So what‘s with the code words? What are they trying to get at? That‘s what we‘re trying to figure out. And then I see Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions on CNN‘s “American Morning” yesterday and it began to make sense. Now listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, RANKING MEMBER, BUDGET COMMITTEE: We need to do this in a bipartisan way. None of this will ever pass if the president is not supporting it. It—he should be helping us. He should be really leading. He‘s the leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Do you understand what‘s happening? They‘re playing a little game here. They have a little dance going. They‘re saying, hey, President Obama, you left out Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in your budget. It would be great for us Republicans if you would lead on that issue. In other words, we want to cut Social Security, but we don‘t want to take the political hit for it. So why don‘t you lead on that?
OK. Now that game translates to President Obama coming out today in that clip you saw first going, well, I‘d like achieve bipartisan consensus on it, but why don‘t you lead instead?
And the game continued today. So here‘s Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan during a committee hearing. Watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: This year‘s budget, in particular, presented the president with a unique opportunity to lead our country. The president has disappointed us all by declining that opportunity. He punted. The president has advocated his leadership role. First, he punted to a bipartisan fiscal commission to develop solutions to the problem. Then, when his own commission put forward a set of fundamental entitlement and tax reforms, a commission comprised a majority of Democrats, he ignored them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Talking about punting. We would really like for the president to lead on this. Now, he already cut the spending. It ain‘t about the spending. It‘s about what they call entitlements. Now, remember they are entitlements because you paid into them your whole life. You are entitled to them.
What do they want to do? They want to talk about that commission that Paul Ryan just referred to. And that commission said, we need to raise the retirement age all the way up to 69 and we need to reduce benefits.
If they raise it to 70, by the way, you know that between 65 and 70 the difference is $63,000 for every person who would retire. That‘s the amount of the money they would take out of your pocket. I am never going to let go of that stack because that is a huge amount of money that they would take from you. Right?
So he goes over to Obama says, oh, don‘t punt, you better leave. Now, Obama‘s going to take another shot at him because he was on the Deficit Commission. Let‘s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The Fiscal Commission put out a framework. I agree with much of the framework. I disagree with some of the framework. It is true that it got 11 votes and that was a positive sign. But what‘s also true, for example, is that the chairman of the house Republican budgeteers didn‘t sign on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: And that‘s Paul Ryan and he‘s taking a little dig there. He‘s like, well, if you‘d like to cut the entitlements, why don‘t you do it, big guy? Have at it, hoss. And guess who takes up that challenge? House Speaker John Boehner at a news conference today says, all right, let‘s do it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: When it comes to the real issues facing our country, he just punted. Republicans will not punt. We will—everything‘s on the table. We will put forward a budget that deals with the big challenges that face our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: So after Boehner says, hey, listen, we will not punt, we will actually take this on, Obama says, all right, now it looks like we‘re having a deal. Let‘s watch Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Look, I was glad to see yesterday Republican leaders say, how come he didn‘t talk about entitlements?
I think that‘s progress because what we had been hearing made it sound as if—if we just slashed deeper on education or, you know, other provisions in the domestic spending, that somehow that alone was going to solve the problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: It‘s not alone going to solve the problems. You‘ve got to go after Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Now that the Republicans have said it or begun to say it, President Obama says, OK, now we can dance. OK? I didn‘t want to lead on it because, hey, I don‘t want to take the blame when we‘re just trying to figure out who‘s going to get the political blame here.
But the one thing they seemed to agree on today is, at some point, they‘re going to cut your Social Security. These politicians drive me crazy. It is the single least popular thing in America, but it looks like they‘re going to agree to do it.
Now, joining me is Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Adam, I know what a lot of Democrats are going to say. They‘re going to say, what do you mean? President Obama came out today and said he would not slash the Social Security. What‘s the matter with you guys?
ADAM GREEN, PROGRESSIVE CHANGE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: Some people will say that. But it‘s very important just to point out that whether you call it a slash, whether you call it a cut, whether you call it a trim, any cut to social security is the same thing. And that is a betrayal of workers who paid into and earned these benefits. And we need to say with one solid voice, no way, this is not on the table.
UYGUR: Well, they say, Adam, look, it‘s connected to the deficit.
We‘ve got huge deficit problems. What do you say to that?
GREEN: Well, first of all, the best way to solve the deficit in the long term is to create jobs now. And that means massive investments in our infrastructure to get people working again. That will pay for itself in the long term.
But, more importantly, I think we really need to define this to be a little bit better. It is simply just not true that all attempts to deal with the deficit are created equal. We‘ve heard a lot from President Obama recently in the context of Egypt about how self-determination in a democracy is really important. The will of the people must govern. Well, guess what? Overwhelmingly, Republican, Democratic and Independent people say no cuts to Social Security, no cuts to Medicare, no cuts to Medicaid.
But do you know what that bipartisan consensus does support? Cutting Bush‘s tax cuts for the wealthy, cutting wasteful military spending, taxing Wall Street more. So we have bipartisan consensus in the country and we just have to stop retaining that the Republican ideas are all credible. These Republican ideas are bad. There‘s bipartisan consensus against them.
And we need President Obama to finally say so.
UYGUR: So, look, it drives me crazy, because the consensus in Washington is exactly the opposite of the consensus in the rest of the country. And look, there‘s a reason for it. Because they‘re bought by the people who pay their bills, the lobbyists. The lobbyists like tax cuts for the rich. They—and where do they—you got to get the money somewhere, right, Adam? And they‘re going to get it from Social Security.
So when they say Social Security is in trouble, look, we know when the Republicans say, it ain‘t true, right? It‘s got a $2.5 trillion surplus. My question to you is why does President Obama agree with them? Why does he accept their framing? Why does he come out today and say, oh, it‘s related to the deficit, et cetera, and that we need to come to a consensus on basically how to not slash it, but cut it?
GREEN: Yes, well, we could probably have an entire two-hour program about President Obama‘s issues with his framing. But I think it could be succinctly summed up like this. He is intent on using Republican framing on almost every issue.
Today he said Social Security is not, quote, “a huge contributor to the deficit.” That‘s just not true. It is not in any way, shape or form a contributor to the deficit. Not one penny has contributed to the deficit because of Social Security. As you said, it has a surplus.
But he also said, quote, “Medicare and Medicaid are huge problems” and then talked about the deficit. No, I‘m sorry, Democratic presidents should not be talking about Medicare and Medicaid in those terms. They should be pointing out that millions of people, people like my grandmother, are dependent on Medicare to survive. And if Democratic presidents are only going to talk about social programs that are overwhelmingly popular in terms of the deficit, well, they‘re essentially asking to lose.
We need him to have a winning mentality, to go on offense, and to finally pick a fight with the Republicans and beat them.
UYGUR: And we need them to not cut Social Security. I mean, we—the one thing we beat Bush on was not cutting Social Security. Harry Reid beat them back, et cetera, et cetera. Even Harry Reid beat them back. Now to have a Democratic president. But we‘ll see, maybe we‘re wrong. Maybe Obama will come out strong and fighting. I hope he does.
It doesn‘t look like it from what he said today, but we‘ll see.
GREEN: I don‘t think we‘re wrong, but I agree. It would be great if he came out fighting. And we would be there fighting with him if he did fight the Republicans on this issue, no doubt about it.
UYGUR: All right. Adam, thank you for your time tonight.
By the way, how often do you hear a host say, God, I hope I‘m wrong?
That would be awesome. I‘m afraid I‘m not, though.
Now, look, I often talk about how the tax deal that President Obama and the Republicans just agreed to, basically redistributes wealth to the richest Americans. And now the new proposed budget cuts takes more money out of programs that help the poor and the middle class.
But there‘s a part of the earlier tax deal that doesn‘t get mentioned enough. Other than giant tax cuts for the rich, there were also some tax increases in the deal. Did you know that?
Do you know what it turns out they affect the most? I hope you‘re sitting down. It turns out the poor and middle class get hurt the most. I couldn‘t have seen that coming. The deal killed what is called the making work pay credit, OK? That used to help lower taxes for lower income Americans.
As a result, a lot of poor people are now actually seeing their taxes go up rather than down after this deal. Here‘s a graph to prove it. Look at this. Two-thirds of the people making less than $18,000 a year will pay more in taxes. So the poor paid, as a percentage, they‘re getting hit the hardest, right?
Forth percent of the people making less than $35,000 will pay more. Twenty percent of the people making less than $64,000 will pay more. You see a pattern here? Twelve percent of the people making less than $104,000 will pay more, but it gets worse. Of the people making more than $564,000 a year, less than two percent of them will see their taxes go up, thanks to this so-called bipartisan tax deal.
Now it is bipartisan, but none of the rest of us agreed to it. So 98 percent of the super-rich get huge tax cuts and two-thirds of the poor get tax increases. Have you ever seen anything less progressive in your life? It‘s a good thing we elected a Democratic president.
Now, I want to bring it the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist behind the graph we just showed you. He is investigative journalist David Cay Johnston. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his tax reporting and his latest book is “Free Lunch; How The Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense and Stick You With the Bill.”
David, first let‘s talk about that graph that we just showed people. So it seems to hit the poor the most. But did everybody else miss this story? Could that really be right? That we just said, hey, you know what, we‘ll take from the poor and give it to the rich?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: There was very, very little coverage of this. The reason I put a column on tax.com about this is that journalists missed this as a story. And particularly remember the Republicans‘ pledge, we won‘t raise taxes on anybody. Well, they raised taxes on every third taxpayer in America, 51 million people. And President Obama said, I‘m not going to raise taxes on anybody who makes less than a quarter million dollars a year. Well, he did.
Now, one of the arguments being made by critics of my column today at tax.com is, well, these were temporary tax cuts. You can‘t say they got a tax increase. They were temporary. Guess what? The Bush tax cuts, both the estate tax and the income tax, and the investor‘s tax cuts, those were temporary and they were also extended. This was not. And it‘s part of a fundamental Republican plan that‘s been at work for a long time, Cenk, which is, push the burden down the income tax ladder where people don‘t vote, they‘re not particularly politically active, and relieve burdens who are in the political donor class, the very rich in America.
UYGUR: So, David, now I know as a percentage the number of people that got affected the most were the poor, right? And then the middle class and then, obviously, the rich almost didn‘t get affected at all by the tax increase. Now, the tax cuts, on the other hand, helped the rich the most, right? So we‘ve got that.
But as a percentage of their income, how did it affect poor Americans?
Did it hurt them more in that regard as well?
JOHNSTON: Well, some poor working Americans—remember, we‘re talking about working people—will see their tax bill rise by four percent of their income. Four percent. That is a significant number.
And remember, among the bottom third of workers in America, those are people who make $15,000 or less. Think about that. Fifty million people in America who work make less than $15,000 a year. That group is particularly hard-hit. And their average income is only $6,000 because many of those people want to work full time, can‘t find full-time work. They get cheated on their wages because we‘ve radically cut enforcement of the wage laws in this country. We have fewer wage and labor inspectors than we did in 1941.
UYGUR: All right. So, you know, that‘s the tax angle. But I‘ve just got to ask you, I mean, I thought a Democratic president would believe in progressive ideals. I mean, I‘m not seeing it wrong, right? This is the exact opposite of being progressive, right?
JOHNSTON: Yes, it is. Not only is it the exact opposite, it‘s also not investing in the future. President Obama is not a particularly liberal president, despite all this talk about him being a socialist. Anyone who‘s read his life story, read whom he promoted to the high positions at the “Harvard Law Review” when he became editor of the “Harvard Law Review” will see this pattern of his very closely identifying with Wall Street, wealthy people, and their interests.
And look who‘s surrounded him in the White House? They‘re people from Wall Street.
So it‘s been a consistent pattern of the president‘s. And the president has bought into a budget now in which he‘s suggesting we‘re going to reduce support for college students and graduate students, the people who are going to have the high incomes and the intellect to develop the future economy. My goodness, would you expect that of Obama?
UYGUR: Well, whether we expect it or not, that‘s what we got. So David Cay Johnston, thank you for your time tonight. We appreciate it.
We‘ll be right back.
JOHNSTON: Thank you.
UYGUR: Enormous questions about conflicts of interest are now hanging over the U.S. Supreme Court. A lot of the focus today is falling on Justice Clarence Thomas. Eighty-five members of Congress have now signed a letter urging Thomas to recuse himself from any case involving the constitutionality of the health care reform law.
One of the problems is that his wife, Ginni Thomas works as a lobbyist. She‘s touting her experience as a Washington insider and apparently appealing to groups that want to overturn the health care law.
Now, do you understand why this is so important? If people are paying the Thomas family to kill health care reform and Clarence Thomas is one of the guys on the Supreme Court who‘s going to decide whether to kill health reform, that would be a tiny little bit conflict of interest, don‘t you think? But at least she‘s honest about her being an insider because she definitely is.
But look, it doesn‘t even end there. There are also big questions about a four-day conference at a resort that Thomas attended in 2008 along with fellow Justice Antonin Scalia. That conference was funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers. The Kochs want to change campaign finance laws and benefited from the landmark Citizens United case which Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia happened to vote in favor of. That was also, of course, a wild coincidence.
Thomas originally called this trip to Palm Springs a brief drop-by. But the group Common Cause is raising new questions about just who paid for those four fun-filled days‘ worth of transportation, meals and accommodations.
Thomas says it was the Federalist Society, a group funded by the Koch Brothers. They‘re also pointing to a new financial disclosure by Thomas that shows that his wife received nearly $700,000 while working for The Heritage Foundation. Another group funded by the Koch Brothers.
But I‘m sure that these are all wild coincidences and the justices would never be influenced by any of that money. No, no, no, they‘re way above that. I mean, if you give me $700,000, I‘d say, oh, yes, I don‘t care about that. I‘m sure.
With me now is Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat from California. Congresswoman Leak, did you sign that letter that we were just telling you about urging Justice Thomas to recuse himself if health care reform comes before the Court.
Congresswoman, this whole thing of his wife getting hundreds of thousands of dollars for basically trying to kill health care reform. I mean, I‘m kidding. It‘s not a little conflict of interest. Can you imagine a larger conflict of interest?
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I have to say that, as we said, 85 members said in our letter, any appearance of conflict of interest merits recusal. Our Supreme Court Justices must be held to the highest standard. The public has to have trust in the Supreme Court. That‘s the court of last resort.
The Supreme Court may debate the constitutionality of health care reform. And come on, we have to have a Supreme Court that‘s objective and one that really is looking at the constitutional issues. And so any time of perceived conflict of interest I think merits recusal. And we, in our letter, our 85 members who signed this letter, said just that.
Also, can I just say when the justice comes before the subcommittee that I‘m on, the Appropriations Committee, the Financial Services Subcommittee, you can bet I‘m going to ask him many questions—many probing questions about these perceived conflicts of interest. That should come before us in April. And so I think that we have an opportunity to find out more information with regard to what has been reported.
UYGUR: Right. You know, that‘s what I wanted to ask you about. What can you do about it? Let‘s say Justice Thomas says, yes, my wife makes hundreds of thousands of dollars from this, and from that, for fighting health care laws, to getting money from the Koch Brothers, what are you going to do about it? What do you say?
LEE: Well, the Supreme Court justices, I think, have a responsibility and an obligation in federal law, perceived conflicts of interests must be avoided. Supreme Court justices must achieve the highest standard in terms of the public trust. And so I think the public will be outraged if, in fact, they learn more about what we—what you actually have reported.
And so, 85 of us are really suggesting just one thing and that would make it very simple for Justice Thomas. And that‘s just to recuse himself. And when you look at this in a broader sense, when you look at the repeal of health care reform, when you look at the fact that they‘re trying to cut now—and this is part of the Republican agenda, they‘re trying to cut family planning. Three hundred and seventeen million dollars. There‘s a war on women taking place here in Washington, D.C.
When you look at their budget cuts of $1 billion for community health centers. I could go on and on. But when you look at what they‘re trying to do as it relates to health care and the huge draconian budget cuts, I think that Justice Thomas should really recuse himself because, otherwise, he will be perceived as part of the Republican agenda to dismantle, not only what health care exists today, but any future health care that we pass by law. And so I think it‘s absolutely essentially that he recuse himself.
UYGUR: All right. Congresswoman Lee, thank you for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
LEE: Thank you.
UYGUR: I want to say one last thing about this to the audience. Look, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, oh, by the way, my husband‘s getting paid $700,000 by George Soros and George Soros has cases that come before me, ah, but don‘t worry, I‘ll be impartial. What do you think the Republican reaction would be?
So why are we letting Scalia and Thomas off the hook on things like this? It‘s totally unacceptable.
All right. Now, when we come back, Congressman Chris Lee has nothing on Italy‘s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He‘s going to trial on charges of underage prostitution and wait until you hear his lame excuse.
In our latest edition of “Red States Gone Wild,” this Kansas lawmaker says she can tell who‘s illegal based on the color of their skin. Oh, no, don‘t do that. Her devastating quotes ahead.
UYGUR: Arizona is once again leading the way in extreme legislation. Congratulations. Now the state is considering taking its papers, please, law into the hospitals. Fantastic. Russell Pearce, the president of the Arizona State Senate says the proposed law would be an important tool to fight illegal immigration and keep down hospital costs. It would force doctors and nurses to demand proof of legal residence before treating non-emergency patients. Yes, because that‘s what people often do. They go to hospital just to hang out, that‘s because they have a serious medical problem, but I hear they‘ve got awesome vending machines. Hey guys, let‘s go down there on Sunday and hang out. Did you know that about hospitals? I came from the vending machines? I stayed for the infectious diseases. People have real problems. That‘s why they go to the hospital. Don‘t ask for their papers before treating them.
Now, the law would also require doctors to ask for documentation of citizenship after treating emergency patients, because there‘s nothing like waking up from surgery to have someone yelling, papers. If the patient or prospective patient can‘t produce proof of legal residence, the hospital must report them to the authorities, or they will be held liable. By the way, I‘ll bet this won‘t discourage people from visiting hospitals at all. I know that diseases won‘t spread that way. This is a great idea. Because diseases? They never jump from non-citizens to citizens. They‘re very discriminating that way. So, the rest of us should be just fine. Another genius idea brought to you by the great state of Arizona.
And last session, the Kansas legislator made their conceal/carry law more lacks. Another win. First, people no longer need to take a proficiency test when they renew with their gun license. And second, Kansas lawmakers got rid of the language that says Kansas can deny a license to a person if they, quote, “suffered from a physical infirmity which prevents the safe handling of a weapon.” A physical infirmity like say, blindness? As you can imagine, the Kansas attorney general got a few questions about that. His office now says, they are looking into the intent of the legislature, but the NRA Kansas lobbyist says, it‘s not a problem, and the gun lobby opposes any effort to fix to the non-problem. Here‘s his quote, “It‘s not necessary, why should you be required to maintain some sort of correct vision to exercise a right?” Yes, you don‘t need your eyesight to exercise your right to free speech, but some sort of correct vision might help a little if you‘re exercising your right to shoot a gun. You would have to be blind not to see the difference.
All right. Up next, a special investigation into how the right wing is going after Planned Parenthood. And the latest on the GOP‘s war on women‘s rights. Stay with us.
UYGUR: Republicans have been going after abortion on all fronts. Planned Parenthood has been particularly vilified after a right-wing activist released a heavily doctor video supposedly showing its employees advising a pimp on an under-age prostitute on how to get an abortion. Of course it was all a hoax, but it gave Republicans like Congressman Mike Pence an excuse to introduce legislation to cut Planned Parenthood‘s funding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: It‘s an outrage to me that employees of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country are facilitating the abuse of minor girls in this country. It should be a scandal to every American. The time has come to deny all federal funding to Planned Parenthood of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Of course, an outrage. Of course, Pence‘s entire premise is based on a lie, but even so, Iowa Congresswoman—Congressman I should say, that‘s funny. Steve King says, Pence‘s bill will make it all the way through democratic Senate. King said, quote, “Harry Reid can defend those ghoulish and ghastly and gruesome practices that Planned Parenthood is advocating, along with child prostitution and illegal immigration.” I didn‘t know Planned Parenthood did all that. “He can play defense on that. They didn‘t do very well on the Senate when they tried to defend ACORN. I don‘t think they‘ll do any better this time.”
Did you notice that he mentioned ACORN? Because that‘s the same exact strategy they used. So, what ties the attack against ACORN and the once against Planned Parenthood. Well, we‘re going to show you that tonight. This is the anatomy of a conservative hit job. Let me show you how it goes from fake sting videos to eventually cutting funding to these programs. First, you have to have a political environment that‘s conducive to whipping up anger against whatever it is that you want to go after. Then a young conservative seeking attention from the media comes out with a supposedly damning sting video.
Next, the right wing blogs pick it up and run with it, then FOX News goes on the offensive giving republican legislators cover to pass through coding and legislation. Conservatives used that model to take down ACORN in 2009. This is how they did it. When McCain and Palin lost the election in 2008, Republicans had to blame someone. So, they pushed a story line that ACORN stole the election for Obama, which by the way, a shocking number of Republicans actually believed. The following year, conservative activist James O‘Keefe released his hidden camera sting where ACORN was portrayed as having advised pimps on how to avoid taxes while engaging in child prostitution. The videos then went up on Andrew Breitbart‘s big government Web site, and the right wing blogosphere went nuts with headlines like, the ACORN pimp-shielding network, big government, ACORN and tax advice for under-age brothels and ACORN watch big pimpin. Then step four, and this is critical, FOX News got in on the action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Yet another big development in the ACORN story, two 20-somethings do some real old fashion undercover investigative journalism.
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: We continue with the pimp and the prostitute trying to get help from ACORN.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: An underage prostitution child abuse ring.
BECK: Isn‘t this just some type of insane corruption?
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: It‘s a remarkable criminal enterprise, isn‘t it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: And finally, John Boehner introduced a de-fund ACORN act. After everybody got softened up, the democratic house and Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of it, and President Obama signed it. Total and utter victory for the Republicans. Then, a few months later, ACORN disbanded. They didn‘t have enough money anymore. It didn‘t matter that the court founded the sting videos were heavily edited. And the government accountability office found that ACORN didn‘t mishandle any federal funds. The right-wing smear machine had already won. And now, the same thing is happening again with Planned Parenthood. Republicans win in 2010 and want to pay back their most loyal voters for all those years of voting for them, social conservatives who care most about one issue, abortion.
Sure enough, shortly thereafter, James O‘Keeffe protege Lila Rose comes out with another doctored sting video of Planned Parenthood, complete with a pimp and a prostitute, where have I seen this movie before? Enter Andrew Breitbart and company with headlines like this. Video, Lila Rose exposes another Planned Parenthood clinic breaking the law. Stopping the spin, tops six Planned Parenthood deceptions. And de-fund the predators of Planned Parenthood. Next, like clockwork, FOX News picks up the reins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Almost every time one of these sting operations reveals gross malfeasants, at the very least, gross malfeasance.
GRETCHEN CARLSON, CO-HOST OF “FOX AND FRIENDS”: This is jaw dropping. I do television every single day. This video, both of them, jaw dropping to me.
BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You have these people saying, I don‘t care if the girl is 13, we‘ll get around it, she‘ll come in. She‘ll get the abortion, nobody will know about it. And I mean, you‘re asking American taxpayers to foot the bill for that? I mean, it‘s outrageous. It‘s beyond politics. It‘s just outrageous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Of course, what‘s actually outrageous here is that—information the guys over at FOX are leaving out. First of all, by law, taxpayer money doesn‘t fund abortions. And second, Planned Parenthood didn‘t break the law. In fact, they turned the case over to the FBI. But with the coordinated right-wing effort to take down Planned Parenthood, the facts are irrelevant. The target must be destroyed. And now, Mike Pence is able to complete the cycle with his bill to cut Planned Parenthood‘s funding completely.
So here we are again, Republicans want to take out Planned Parenthood. The question is, will the Democrats go along with it again? Or will they finally wise up to the game that‘s being played here? If they don‘t, you can bet your bottom dollar that the next GOP target will get a visit from a pimp and a prostitute with a hidden camera. NPR, watch your back.
Joining me now for more is Eric Boehlert, senior fellow at Media Matters for America. Eric, what I‘m amazed by is, how obvious is this? I mean, we put it together and we‘re showing it on television, how does not everybody not see that? How do the democratic legislators not see that?
ERIC BOEHLERT, MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA: Well, I think they do see it, and I think the good news is the progressives and democrats learned from ACORN. They had no backbone when ACORN came along. They capitulated, they ran like as fast as they could. They‘ve seen this movie before, and they realize that there‘s really no there, there which is the good news.
UYGUR: It is the good news, but look, when they defunded ACORN, that was so stunning in its capitulation, right?
UYGUR: At that point I guess you have to say to them, hey, look, it was the first time around. If they didn‘t know the—right?
UYGUR: But it would have helped if they had looked into it a little bit, right?
BOEHLERT: Well, there‘s a media frenzy. That‘s what‘s different this time. You know, the right-wing media was able to create a story. The way you spread it, they way you laid it out, and it was dumped right into the mainstream media, which went craze with the ACORN story. This time around, the mainstream media gave the story about 24 hours, they looked at one of the clips, they reported it, since then they haven‘t really touched it, you know why? Shirley Sherrod. That‘s what the turning point last summer when Andrew Breitbart got caught up in that blatant smear campaign and got caught with one these videos, that‘s when the mainstream media said, wait a minute, this guy, you cannot trust this guy.
UYGUR: So, Eric, when you present to FOX News, hey, listen, all the Planned Parenthood people turned them in. In fact, the FBI started an investigation on these guys based on what Planned Parenthood turning them in, right?
UYGUR: What‘s their answer for that?
BOEHLERT: Right. The whole point is, you know, it‘s supposed to be Planned Parenthood is in on the underage sex trafficking business. That‘s supposed to be the narrative here. And, oh, but Planned Parenthood notified the FBI even before the videos came out. So, there‘s no there there, but FOX doesn‘t care about that. FOX is an important cog in this, and they‘re just going to keep shoveling it through, shoveling it through, hopefully to create a mainstream media storm, hopefully create a storm in Congress. I don‘t think they succeeded this time.
UYGUR: Yes. So, last question for you. You think Planned Parenthood too strong this trick here too transparent, this time not going to work.
BOEHLERT: Planned Parenthood was smart with the way they handled it, the Democrats were smart, the progressive community was smart with the way they handled it. They learned from A.C.O.R.N.
UYGUR: All right. Eric Boehlert from Media Matters, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.
Now, some of the suspected groups like Tea Party patriots were scam run by Washington insiders. Well now, some former members and insiders back that claim up. Some of the details are shocking. We have that story for you, next.
UYGUR: During testimony in the Kansas house last week, state lawmaker Connie O‘Brien told a story supposedly about supposedly illegal immigrant. It‘s a little outrageous, take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CONNIE O‘BRIEN ®, KANSAS: My son is a Kansas resident, born here, raised here, he doesn‘t qualify for any financial aid, yet this girl is going to get financial aid. My son was kind of upset about it, because he works and pays for his own schooling, and his books and everything. And he didn‘t think that was fair. We didn‘t ask the girl what nationality she was, we didn‘t think that was proper, but we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Whoa, you can tell just by looking at her that she‘s not from this country? How does that work? Well, that actually exactly what one of O‘Brien‘s democratic colleagues wanted to know, so they asked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Can you expand on how you could tell that they were illegal?
O‘BRIEN: Well, she wasn‘t black, she wasn‘t Asian, and she has the olive complexion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: The first part I love is that blacks and Asians are obviously from here, they couldn‘t possibly illegal. So, they‘re OK, but if you‘re not white, black origin, well, what does that leave? Illegal. By the way, that leaves me in a bit of a pickle. Because people often say, I have an olive complexion. Does that make me per say illegal? Republicans, do not answer that. By the way, it‘s not true. I‘m perfectly legal.
And one last thing I never understood. Here the two most common forms of olives, black olives, they must be legal, because they‘re black, and green olives, how does my skin look like either one of these things? I don‘t know. Maybe I think they‘ll say that I look green. I‘d never understood that complex things. All right. We‘re coming right back.
UYGUR: There are now explosive new details that have been uncovered by Mother Jones about what‘s really going on inside one of the country‘s largest Tea Party groups, the Tea Party patriots. They claimed to be all about getting rid of wasteful spending. Here‘s one of the groups co-founders Jenny Beth Martin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNY BETH MARTIN, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS CO-FOUNDER: The government cannot continue to spend the money that it is spending. That‘s very tempting to keep on spending and ignore the problems that you have, about you we cannot do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: And the Tea Party Patriots, of course, have used that message to build a big following, no wasteful spending. And the Tea Party Patriots claim to represent now 15 million activists, I‘m not sure I‘m buying it but that‘s what they say, 2,800 local affiliates all throughout the country. Of course, they have raised millions from all those activists and those local groups. So, where‘s all that money go? Well, it turns that Tea Party Patriots have hired some high-price consultants, one of them is capitol resources. They keep about 75 percent of the money that they raise for Tea Party Patriots. That‘s pretty curious. That‘s a large chunk to keep. MDS communications keeps at least 70 percent of the money that it raises for the Tea Party Patriots.
Now, more on MDS communications for you guys, it was cited by California attorney general in 2005 for returning less than 15 percent of the money raised to charities. So, they‘re keeping 85 percent and returning only 15 percent on average, but MDS also raised $585,000 for concerned women of America, but their client actually received none of that money. If I was them, I would also be a little concerned, along with private jets used by some of the leaders of the Tea Party Patriots and the fancy hotels that they have stayed in, this has caused some concern for real local Tea Party activists.
For example, Jeanne Backus quotes, she‘s a former Tea Party Patriots New Mexico state coordinator. She said, quote, “The Tea Party Patriots, the national Web site clearly states that 100 percent of the funds raised go to furthering our efforts. Well, I guess that‘s true after paying out salaries, consultants, telemarketers, attorneys, et cetera.” Then, Cindy Chafian, co-coordinator of California Chino Hills Tea Party says, quote, “The Tea Party Patriots make it seem like they help local groups. None of that money ever goes back to the local groups.” Joy McGraw, former Tea Party Patriots, Georgia state coordinator says, quote, “There are a lot of frustrated people. There are a lot of other people in the country who have done events and have gotten screwed over. They use you and abuse you.” Oops, it seems a little ironic for a group whose whole purpose for existing was to fight wasteful spending. Irony. Love it.
With me now is Stephanie Mencimer, she‘s a reporter who investigated the Tea Party Patriots for Mother Jones. All right. The first question is, I‘m struck by how much of the money these Washington consultants and media groups keep. Is that normal, to keep anywhere from 100 percent to 70 percent of the money that people donate to a political cause?
STEPHANIE MENCIMER, REPORTER, MOTHER JONES: Well, according to some of the reports from the California attorney general‘s office, it‘s not uncommon, so I think they spend a lot of money to make money. Some of the, you know, some of the political fund-raising campaigns aren‘t that much different. I think it was Sharron Angle in Nevada spent $12 million to raise $14 million. So, it‘s not unheard of.
UYGUR: Yes, but look, I know regular charities, they don‘t take 85 percent of the money that they raise. In fact they‘re proud about taking a low percentage. Why is this so much effort? I mean, let‘s take concerned women of America. I mean, how concerned would you be if you said, all right, here is $585,000, and they kept $585,000.
MENCIMER: It certainly doesn‘t look it, and I think that people that give the money might want to ask some questions about that but I have to say, I didn‘t investigate concerned women of America like (inaudible) on their situation.
UYGUR: All right. So let‘s talk about the Tea Party Patriots or the Tea Party Colts or the ravens, or whatever they do, are they—is it just the Patriots? Is this, you know, a unique case or it‘s just a little bit more spread out? Is there concern among the other groups?
MENCIMER: Well, I think that people who consider themselves local Tea Party activists, kind of the heart and soul of the movement, the really earnest, you know, grass-roots people who have done a lot of work on the ground to, you know, to—their cost, feel like there are some big national groups that are capitalizing on the Tea Party name or the work that they have done to try to raise money and promote their own causes. So it‘s not the first time that they‘ve raised these concerns.
UYGUR: I hear you. Now, in their case of the Tea Party Patriots, one of their leaders happened to have run some sort of operation that collects e-mails, right? Just tell us a little bit about that. Why would you want to collect e-mails? What do the Tea Party Patriots do to collect the e-mails in this case?
MENCIMER: Well, they‘ve actually set up a really successful Web site on one level. They‘ve had so many events, you know, they‘ve had their tax day Tea Parties and they have their rallies. And so, they get a lot of people who are interested in the movement and then go to their Web site and sign up, they give money and they submit their e-mail addresses, and they do that so they can stay in touch, and get involved, and get alerts about whatever their local congressman is doing. But those e-mail addresses are very valuable because they‘re a good source of revenue. They generate a lot of donations when Tea Party patriots uses those e-mail addresses and asks their own members for money, they get a pretty good response rate. And they‘re allowed to advertise on those as well. So, they can, you know, promote books and they can get paid by other people who want to promote their causes through those e-mails as well.
UYGUR: All right. It‘s an amazing story. Stephanie Mencimer. Thank you for joining us to talk about it.
MENCIMER: Thanks for having me.
UYGUR: All right. Now, conservative in South Dakota is proposing a bill that would expand the state‘s definition of justifiable homicide. There‘s a controversy over whether it targets abortion doctors. That‘s next.
UYGUR: Earlier in the show, we‘re talking about the republican effort to target Planned Parenthood. Well, there are other republican-led efforts to go after abortion providers throughout the country. One particularly heinous one is in South Dakota. House bill 1171 would expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include killings that would prevent harm to a fetus. I wonder who that same there, right? The bill said a homicide is permissible if committed by a person while resisting an attempt to harm an unborn child. It‘s not just the mother that can commit the homicide, but also her spouse, partner, parent or child.
So, the way it was written, even if a woman asks for an abortion herself, her spouse could still kill the doctor providing it and call it a justifiable homicide. After an unusual outcry over how outrageous that is, lawmakers agreed that it should only be women who can commit the justification homicide. OK. What a relief, at least we got a little win there. Now, Representative Phil Jensen, who sponsored the bill and he said, ardent opponent of abortion rights says, he can‘t believe people would interpret it as an attack against abortion providers. Look, if you keep using language like justifiable homicide, you can‘t go around saying, you didn‘t see the violence coming. Scott Roeder recently killed abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, because he thought it was justifiable. You egg people on and then you say, well, no one could have seen it coming. I‘m telling you now, if you use language like that in a bill, in an official bill, I can see it coming.
All right. That‘s our show for tonight. Thank you for watching.
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