'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Guests: Howard Fineman, Alice Stewart, Helen Radkey, Bryan Chu, Tammy Aaberg
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Mitt Romney is the most liberal Republican
who has ever gotten this far in a presidential campaign. Rick Santorum is
the most conservative Republican who`s ever run for president. So, why is
this such a hard choice for Republicans?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rick Santorum isn`t just gaining. He`s now
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: In three of the national polls now, he
snuck ahead of Mitt Romney.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fourth is a statistical dead heat.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC HOST: Yes, that Rick Santorum, the guy in the
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Don`t pay attention to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Voters want to hear a message and connect.
SANTORUM: I hope you have been listening to our message.
Let`s mandate that every insurance policy covers toothpaste,
deodorant. That might be a good idea, right? Have everybody cover
I don`t want to make peoples lives better by giving them someone
Those are the same people who cling to their guns and their bibles.
Thank God they do.
AD ANNOUNCER: Who has the best chance of beating Barack Obama? Rick
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can stop all the primaries now. We have our
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: He won evangelicals. He won the Tea Party.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Is he going to give Mitt Romney a real run
for his money?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney is really feeling the pressure right
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Could it all come down to Michigan?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s going to be a pretty close race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Santorum actually knows what he`s doing.
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: He`s authentic. I mean, he`s not playing a
SANTORUM: Conservatism is alive and well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s somebody that we can give in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could give you a dozen reasons why Santorum
could not be elected.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, he`s somebody who`s more like us than
Mitt Romney is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His comments about women, his comments about
contraception, his comments about men on dog.
SANTORUM: I`m Rick Santorum and I approved this message.
O`DONNELL: OK. Now, we`re going to find out how conservative the
Republican Party really is. That is what the Republican presidential
primary is going to tell us. We are now down to two Republican candidates
whose records could not be more different. Mitt Romney is the most liberal
Republican who has ever run for president, ever. No other Republican ever
helped to create a universal health care coverage system which has already
done a more thorough job of providing health insurance coverage for people
in Massachusetts than the Obama national health care law ever will do.
Rick Santorum, on the other hand, has always been faithful to the most
important conservative principles.
He has voted against every tax increase put before him in the House of
Representatives and the Senate. He is against every abortion ever
performed in human history. He doesn`t soften on abortion in cases of rape
or incest. He doesn`t think House Republicans are conservative enough on
cutting Social Security and dismantling Medicare.
Rick Santorum`s policy positions are not only far more consistently
conservative than Newt Gingrich`s ever were. Rick Santorum is way, way
more conservative than Ronald Reagan ever dreamed of being.
Ronald Reagan raised taxes repeatedly, as governor of California. He
also raised taxes, when necessary, as president of the United States --
something Rick Santorum has convincingly pledged to never do.
There is no room for doubt whose nominations for the Supreme Court
would be more conservative, Mitt Romney`s or Rick Santorum`s. And
Republican voters know.
A "New York Times"/CBS News poll out today asked Republican voters
which candidate would have policies that would be, quote, "very different
from President Obama"? Fifty-nine percent said Rick Santorum would be very
different from President Obama. Only 36 percent of Republican voters said
Mitt Romney would be very different from President Obama.
Even though the Santorum campaign has been wildly outspent by the
Romney campaign, Rick Santorum now has the lead in two new national polls
of Republican primary voters because those voters know Rick Santorum is
more conservative than Mitt Romney. But he doesn`t have a big lead.
In the "New York Times"/CBS poll, Santorum has 30 percent, while
Romney has 27 percent. Ron Paul is down to 12 percent, Gingrich has 10
In the CNN/ORC poll, Santorum has 34 percent to Romney`s 32 percent.
Ron Paul is down at 16 percent, Gingrich, 15 percent.
Now, if the Republicans really want the conservative, why isn`t
Santorum at 50 percent and Mitt Romney at 25 percent? It is certainly
isn`t electability, not anymore.
In the new CNN poll, Santorum runs virtually identical as Romney does
against President Obama. President Obama beats Romney 51 to 46. And the
president beats Santorum 52 percent to 45 percent.
Why should this be a tough choice for a party that says it prizes
conservatism above all else?
Joining me now for his first primetime interview is Alice Stewart,
national press secretary for Rick Santorum`s presidential campaign.
Thanks very much for joining me tonight, Alice.
ALICE STEWART, SANTORUM NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Great to be here,
Lawrence. I don`t know why I`m here. You just pled my case. You just
told everyone that Rick is the conservative candidate.
O`DONNELL: Well, the official position of the show is anybody but
Romney. I share that view with the majority of Republican voters, but
possibly for a different reason. Actually, I think some will have the same
reason I do and we`re going to get to that before we finish talking.
But I`m wondering if you and the Santorum campaign and Republicans
generally in elected office have kind of overestimated the conservatism of
the Republican voter and that is actually one of the reasons why Mitt
Romney is doing as well as he is. I want to consider some elements of
polling information we have here.
For example, 56 percent of Republicans opposed the Medicare vouchers
in the Ryan plan, according to an ABC News poll last year. That indicates,
right there, that on Medicare, Republican voters, the majority of them, are
more liberal than the Santorum side of the party, let`s call it. Fifty-
five percent of Republicans oppose the idea that Social Security is
unsustainable and needs to be overhauled; 43 percent of Republicans, a
minority, but still a substantial amount, 43 percent of Republicans support
raising taxes on millionaires.
And so, Alice, I`m trying to get at what is really happening in the
Republican Party. When you look at views like that, that actually helps
make a little more sense of these polls of why Romney has done as well as
STEWART: Well, the fact of the matter is that Romney has been running
for president the past five to six years ever since he began running in
`08. He certainly has a financial advantage over all the other candidates.
But at the end of the day, all of these presidential primaries, they are
marathons, they`re not sprints -- and it`s not who`s the first out of the
gate, but who has the staying power.
And what Rick Santorum has been doing ever since he started to drive
around by himself throughout Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina is
conveying his message as a social conservative on the fiscal issues and the
social issues that are important to the people of this party. And he`s
slowly, but surely, one person at a time, convincing them that he is the
conservative in this race.
A lot of people know who Mitt Romney is. He`s got nice ads up on
television in many of the states. He certainly has a nice entourage that
travels around with him. People know who he is.
But at the end of the day, people are now beginning to look at his
record. And they see what you just outlined in your open. He is the most
liberal candidate that we have in this race and he is not someone that will
truly go and represent the conservative values of the Republican Party.
He`s the original author of Obamacare, with Romneycare in
Massachusetts. That is the spring board for Obama care.
He agrees with Obama on several key issues that people in our party
don`t agree with. That is cap and trade and the Wall Street bailout, and
as I said, Obamacare.
He cannot go toe-to-toe with President Obama because he held the same
views on those issues.
On the other hand, we have Rick Santorum who is clearly opposed to
Obamacare. He`s vowed to repeal Obamacare. He`s against the Wall Street
bailout and he`s certainly not in favor of cap and trade.
He is a very fiscal conservative. He was one of the gang of seven who
fought the excessive taxpayer abuses as a member of Congress.
He was one -- the media has referred to him as the Tea Party guy
before there was even a Tea Party. He`s been a member of Washington, but
fought against its wasteful spending. He`s worked hard when he was in
Congress to institute a balanced budget amendment. He`s also worked hard
on cutting spending and he also did away with the free lunches and meals
and hair cuts for members of Congress.
So, while he was there, he was doing everything he could to be a
responsible steward of taxpayer dollars and cut wasteful spending and he
wants to continue to do that, this time from the White House.
O`DONNELL: And, Alice, I want to give you credit, where credit is
due, and point out to the audience that unlike me, you are working without
a teleprompter. That was all off the top of the head, that is the single
most important guest rift that we have in the while here.
STEWART: Well, I appreciate you letting me get it in without --
O`DONNELL: It`s OK.
Alice, I my proposition here is that the Republican Party is not as
conservative as it is portrayed in the debates, where everybody tries to
out-conservative each other. And we have polling information to indicate
that, even on the most recent, you know, controversial issue of last week -
- 41 percent of Republicans support President Obama`s compromise that he
reached last week on requiring insurance providers of religious affiliated
institutions to be in some way involved in covering birth control.
Rick Santorum obviously completely opposed to any of that. I don`t
want to get in to wrestling that down.
Here`s where I want to get to -- there`s a reason why I really now do,
very much, want to see Rick Santorum get the nomination, because I want to
see this debate. I want to see the debate that you want to see, which is
that debate between conservative America and President Obama`s vision of
where to go in America, which I will not call liberal. I know you think
it`s liberal, but I actually think there are plenty degrees of liberalism
to the left of him within our politics.
But I -- whatever we want to label those things, I want to see that
debate. And the debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney is simply
the debate between President Obama and an empty suit who`s willing to make
up anything to get himself through that debate.
Rick Santorum is the real thing. I want to see those two governing
philosophies taken to a referendum in this country in November. And so,
that`s my point. I think that is -- you would argue that, too. I think
you would also argue that, of course, the conservative view will win.
STEWART: Well, no doubt. But the focus of that debate, when Rick
Santorum goes against Barack Obama, is that we don`t need anymore
government intervention in our lives. In fact, we need to pull back on
what we have.
First and foremost, Obama care -- and that`s what Rick will do when he
gets in to the White House. He will do everything he can to repeal
But more than that, you mentioned the contraceptive, that is another
infringement the government has on religious liberties and Rick is going to
stand firm on religious liberties. He`s a man of great faith. It`s very
important to him. And any man on any stage in any political debate who
says their faith doesn`t influence their politics says that their faith
isn`t to him. And that`s very important to Rick Santorum.
O`DONNELL: Well, Alice, I actually think all of the polling data
indicates that Rick Santorum is way to the right of where the country is.
And if we have that debate of Rick Santorum`s America versus Barack Obama`s
America -- Barack Obama`s America is going to win in a big way.
But, in order to that debate --
STEWART: I disagree.
O`DONNELL: -- Rick Santorum has to get the nomination. And I -- I
want to help in any way I possibly can.
Tell your candidate, that he can come on this show anytime he wants,
and I promise him, I will lob him the easiest anti-Romney softballs that
anybody has ever thrown at him for as long as he wants to stay here because
I want see him debating real American conservativism on that stage against
STEWART: Hey, we have you on record. And you say you want to help,
you could write a $2,400 check. You can go to RickSantorum.com.
O`DONNELL: Oh, I`m sorry. The policy here doesn`t allow me to
contribute to campaigns.
STEWART: You offered to help.
O`DONNELL: But softballs I can do. I can do them here for Rick
Alice Stewart, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
STEWART: Thank you, Lawrence. Have a great night.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Joining me now is Howard Fineman, AOL/"Huffington Post" editorial
director and MSNBC political analyst.
No softballs for you, Howard. It`s going to be hard ones coming at
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Please.
O`DONNELL: I want to the look at Mitt Romney this morning on "FOX &
Friends" because there`s a beauty to this video. It`s the first time he
got stuck having to watch what`s happening out there in the public
perception of his attack ads. Let`s take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
AD ANNOUNCER: Romney and his super PAC spent $20 million attacking
fellow Republicans. Why? Because Romney is trying to hide from his big
government Romneycare and his support for job killing cap and trade. And
in the end, Romney`s ugly attacks are going to backfire.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, that`s the nature
of politics, which is that you always accuse the other guy of what you have
done yourself. So, my campaign hasn`t run any negative ads against Rick
Santorum. His campaign ran attack ads against me. I`m not saying we won`t
finally go after the guy. But, frankly, he`s been going after me as the ad
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O`DONNELL: Howard, I think it`s just the perfect demonstration of the
problem of being Mitt Romney. The world knows that the biggest super PAC
operating out there has been relentless attack ads against whoever rises
against Mitt Romney. And for him to sit there and say with his laughing
face that, oh, we don`t do that, what we are accused of in the ad -- it
just makes it worse for him, doesn`t it?
FINEMAN: Well, yes. Of course, if he admitted it on the air that he
was coordinating, that would be a problem. But, of course, everybody in
the world knows the rules are written in such a loose way that the Restore
Our Future, super PAC supporting Mitt Romney might as well be the Romney
campaign and everybody knows it. That`s number one.
Number two, the whole basis of the Romney campaign has been to tear
down everybody else around him and to make him the last man standing, to
make him the candidate by the process of elimination. He knows that.
Everybody knows it.
O`DONNELL: Howard, the Romney campaign is now struggling. And they
are struggling with something that is almost impossible to fix in politics,
and that is Romney`s personal unpopularity rating. He`s now has an
unfavorable rating above 50 percent, which is just the, political
arithmetic say you can`t win an election with that. He`s at 54.
Santorum is down in the 30s, which is kind of a normal range for
politicians, 38 percent.
How does Romney go forward with a majority of the American people in a
poll basically not liking him?
FINEMAN: Well, Lawrence, I have been trying to figure out whether any
non-incumbent party nominee has ever gone in to a general, has every won
the nomination and gone in to a general election with unfaves over 50
percent. Now, we`re going back to the dawn of polling here. It`s quite
possible that Hubert Humphrey back in 1968 was one who was over 50 percent.
O`DONNELL: But a sitting vice president.
FINEMAN: Yes, but a sitting vice president but extremely unpopular --
and we know what happened there. Maybe in some corners, Governor McGovern,
maybe Bob Dole in `96. But I don`t recall specifically that anyone has won
the nomination and gone in to a general election with an over 50 percent
O`DONNELL: Yes, there are some things in politics that are simple.
This is one of them. It is the reason I bet against Hillary Clinton last
time around. She had an unfavorable above 50 and I have no experience of
anybody overcoming that in one of these campaigns.
Howard Fineman, thank you very much for joining us.
FIENMAN: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up: my exclusive interview with Nobel Peace Prize
winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and why he asked Mitt Romney to
tell the Mormon Church to stop trying to baptize Jews. This story is too
strange to explain in this little space. You have to stay with us to see
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, the Asian actress who I called out last
week right here for her participation passion in the most vile political TV
ad of the year now realizes her mistake.
And in the spotlight tonight, the president of the United States and I
have a new favorite basketball player. That`s right. Lin-sanity comes to
THE LAST WORD.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: Santorum is running well against Mitt
Romney and it`s interesting and -- well, you decide. They are both -- Mitt
Romney and Rick Santorum are against gay marriage.
Really? Against gay marriage? I tell you the problem with this is
they would make such a cute couple. That`s the problem. Wouldn`t they?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: This morning, the Romney campaign woke up to a "Washington
Post" headline that cannot be countered by a Romney super PAC attack ad.
The headline said, "Elie Wiesel calls on Mitt Romney to make Mormon Church
stop proxy baptisms of Jews."
That`s right. The Mormon Church baptizes Jews against their will and
without their knowledge after they are dead. The Mormon Church also
baptizes people of many other religions after death and without their
A spokesman for the Mormon Church told us an e-mail today, "The
foundation of the doctrine comes from Latter Day revelation through Joseph
Smith -- who was the founder of the church -- by standing in as proxy for
someone who has died, often one of his or her own ancestors, a church
member may be baptized on behalf of that deceased person. In Latter-Day
Saint belief, a person who has died retains the right to make choices in
the next life and acceptance of the baptismal rite opens the way to
continued progress. Baptisms for the dead are performed only in temples."
The Mormon Church believes that only Mormons can enjoy the full
benefits of heaven. And so, they have, over the years, been very busily
performing baptisms for the dead.
We don`t have time to get in to the Mormon description of heaven, but
it is unlike any description of heaven in any other religion. Needless to
say, members of other religions have strong feelings about Mormon baptisms
of the dead.
Earlier tonight, Elie Wiesel, author, Nobel Peace Prize laureate,
Holocaust survivor and the founder of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for
Humanity told me of how he learned of the Mormon practice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIE WIESEL, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR & AUTHOR: It began much before, a few
queers ago. Two friends of mine, one of them a Holocaust who survivor who
was together with me in Auschwitz. We learned about a procedure in the
Mormon Church. I think 600,000, 650,000 dead Jews were converted
posthumously. So we began to protest. It took us two years until they
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And then this week, a researcher found Elie Wiesel`s name
on a list of people to be baptized after their death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WIESEL: Mitt Romney, in my first interview, I said, look, Mitt Romney
is a Mormon and I respect all religions, including the Mormon religion.
How come he hasn`t spoken up? I`m sure he is not involved in that. But
nevertheless, the moment he heard about this, he should have spoken up
because he`s running for the presidency of the United States, which means
it`s too serious an issue for him to not speak up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Romney campaign has referred all questions on this to
the Mormon Church.
Over the years, Mormons baptized an untold number of dead people
including Anne Frank, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, various presidents of
the United States, and more recently Barack Obama`s mother.
Elie Wiesel told me today that he got a call from a Mormon official
who apologized and told him this will not happen again, at least to Elie
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WIESEL: (INAUDIBLE) my family`s name all together for all the time to
come. But really, to put us in the same category as Stalin and Hitler
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me is now is the woman who uncovered the
information that sparked this controversy, former member of the Mormon
Church Helen Radkey.
Helen, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
HELEN RADKEY, RESEARCHER: My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
O`DONNELL: Helen, was Elie Wiesel`s understanding that an ending of
this practice, at least in regards to Holocaust surviving Jews had been
achieved with the Mormon Church, but you seem to have found information
indicating that at least to some extent, the process was still going on.
RADKEY: Yes. I`ve been tracking records for Holocaust Jews in Mormon
databases since around August 1999. That was roughly four years after the
`95 agreement. And I have never seen -- I mean, I`ve never seen records
that did not reflect Jewish Holocaust victims.
In other words, the practice never stopped. Definitely not after the
`95 agreement and still hasn`t stopped after the second pact, the 2010
agreement between Mormons and Jews. It didn`t stop after that either.
It`s still ongoing.
O`DONNELL: And this kind of baptism, I just want to make clear, it`s
not limited in any way to Jews. It is actually done for all sorts of
people all over the world.
O`DONNELL: Without any limitation. And for some people, that is the
problem. They don`t want the Mormon Church to be doing this in any way
even, if they don`t believe in the rituals the Mormon Church is doing.
They want the Mormon Church to stay away from anything involving their dead
RADKEY: Yes. That is correct.
Members who submit names, the Mormons who submit names for the proxy
work in Mormon temples, they are told, they are instructed not to put in
names of celebrities in lists that are not approved like Jewish Holocaust
But there`s a certain percentage of Mormons that keep doing it. You
know, they do not listen. They decide they want to do names. I mean, it
doesn`t matter how many times they are told they will do this.
And the other problem connected with that is there were many Mormons
who were submitting Jewish Holocaust names over a long period of time. And
I do not know if any of these Mormons were reprimanded. It is only when
the Elie Wiesel records, when it goes public and gave them to the
(INAUDIBLE) center a few days ago that the LDS Church spokes people made a
big to do about reprimanding the Mormon submitter.
They have never done that before, and yet I have seen thousands of
names for Jewish Holocaust victims in Mormon databases and submitters --
you know, this was no indication or no word from the church that they had
disciplined these people who broke the rules.
O`DONNELL: Helen Radkey -- thank you very much for joining us
RADKEY: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And we have an open invitation officials from the Mormon
Church to come to respond on this or anything else that we ever cover on
this show that anyway involves their concerns.
Coming up in the spotlight -- how Jeremy Lin got the president`s
attention and the rest of the country`s.
O`DONNELL: It`s nice when you`re the incumbent candidate for
president and the two Republican front runners do much of your campaign
dirty work for you by destroying each other every day. It frees up an
awful lot of time to watch NBA highlights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We were speaking about
Jeremy Lin on Marine One, as we flew here to Andrews Air Force Base this
morning. If anybody caught the highlights from last night, they were
It`s just a great story and the president was saying as much this
morning. It`s obviously terrific for the New York Knicks. But it`s the
kind of sports story that transcends the sport itself.
And yes, he is very impressed and fully up to speed. I know he`s
watched Lin play already and he had seen the highlights from last night`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Here`s the last second heroism the president was talking
about today on Marine One.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lin puts it up, bang. Jeremy Lin from downtown.
And the Knicks take the lead.
JEREMY LIN, NEW YORK KNICKS: We just clamped it down in the fourth
quarter. We couldn`t get a stop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It has for over a week now been impossible to live in this
country and not know about Lin-sanity. I am the proof of that. I consume
absolutely no sports news whatsoever, not voluntarily anyway. But when
America`s newest sports phenomenon Jeremy Lin is on the cover of every
newspaper I pick up in New York -- you get those? You see those? "New
York Post". Yeah, there you go.
It`s impossible to avoid this story. It`s impossible to avoid, I have
found, the magical pull of this story. Joining me now, Bryan Chu, who
covered the Lakers for NBA.com, and first met Jeremy Lin in 2008 while
reporting for the "San Francisco Chronicle."
Also joining me, the executive producer of MSNBC`s "THE RACHEL MADDOW
SHOW" and former Harvard athlete, Bill Wolff.
BILL WOLFF, MSNBC PRODUCER: That`s true.
O`DONNELL: Do we have Bryan`s sound? I`m told -- OK, we have a sound
problem for Bryan Chu. But at least we have him on camera, so his mother
got to see him. And I hope the sound is going to work.
WOLFF: Also, Bryan Chu wrote a very -- an excellent piece about
Jeremy Lin which I read today.
O`DONNELL: I may start reading it if we can`t get this sound.
WOLFF: It is outstanding.
O`DONNELL: You have breaking news on tonight`s Lin-sanity result at
Madison Square Garden.
WOLFF: I think by the broad definition of breaking new, yes.
WOLFF: The Knicks won. They beat --
O`DONNELL: Which is no longer breaking news, the Knicks won.
WOLFF: They win all the time now. They didn`t use to win ever and
now they are winning.
O`DONNELL: He got 150 points.
WOLFF: One hundred and fifty two. No, he had ten points and 13
O`DONNELL: That`s his lowest. Even I know --
WOLFF: But he didn`t need to because it was a blowout. I think it
was Sacramento in town. Sacramento is terrible. They blew them out. So
he only played 25, 26 minutes.
O`DONNELL: They rested the man.
WOLFF: Yes. Yes, sportsmanship.
O`DONNELL: Even I get that. Now Bryan is here. He`s written
eloquently about what this means as a phenomenon and as a cultural
phenomenon for Asian Americans. He said, in fact, in what -- he said "I
and other Asian Americans are living vicariously through his success as a
Knicks. Jeremy is one of us."
And I am hoping we can get Bryan to talk more about that. You and I
as Harvard Americans --
O`DONNELL: -- are living vicariously through Jeremy Lin. You, sir,
were a varsity Harvard athlete.
WOLFF: That`s true.
O`DONNELL: In the grueling sport of --
WOLFF: Water polo.
O`DONNELL: Oh. Oh. All right.
WOLFF: I -- like Jeremy Lin, I was not drafted by the pros.
O`DONNELL: No, you weren`t. I played the American sport of baseball,
but I did not make it to the varsity. I was -- I just played freshman
baseball. I was afraid to even attempt to make the varsity. But that`s
one of the things that caught me, was the Harvard element of this.
Because we know how unlikely it is to go from Harvard College to a
professional sport. The world knows it, in fact.
WOLFF: Yes. Unless by professional sport you mean investment
banking, screen writing. We`re the best at that. Yes, it`s extremely
unlikely. Now, the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills is a Harvard man. A
guy called Matt Burke is an offensive lineman, long time in the NFL, a
Harvard man. But -- and there are some great Harvard hockey players who
But typically no, it is not exactly a pro sports factory.
O`DONNELL: Do we have Bryan Chu yet on sound? We don`t. No word
from the control room. OK, we don`t.
O`DONNELL: He is the -- in terms, he`s the first Asian-American --
what is his first-ness in that regard in the NBA?
WOLFF: I think that he is -- well, he`s the first -- he might be the
first Taiwanese American in --
O`DONNELL: First Taiwanese.
WOLFF: Right, not the first Asian.
O`DONNELL: Do we have Bryan on the phone. OK, Bryan, we are going to
go to the phone. We have you. Bryan, tell us what place Jeremy has in
both your American -- Asian-American cultural history and in the NBA.
BRYAN CHU, FMR. LAKERS REPORTER, NBA.COM: He`s an inspiration. You
have all of these young athletes who dream to play in the NBA, and even
myself, just growing up playing basketball, there is tons -- it`s a big
sport among the Asian-Americans. And to have him continue to believe, even
though when he was young he would hear I`m too short, I`m too small and he
gets picked last all the time.
You have someone that believes in himself, that had the support of his
parents and was able to take it to the next level, to get to this point
where he basically went undrafted, unnoticed, bounced around from team to
team. And the fact that he is able to lift the whole entire Asian-American
community, not just the Chinese, Taiwanese, but Filipino, Korean and
everyone else, they look up to him.
It`s an amazing story.
O`DONNELL: Bryan, do you think he had trouble getting noticed and
getting credit because he`s Asian?
CHU: You know, I asked him that same exact question because he was
the northern California Division II player of the year in high school. And
he took his team to the state championship.
I asked him that question in 2008, whether or not that played a role
in whether- - the reason why he didn`t get a Division I scholarship. And
he kind of chuckled and he said, what do you think?
O`DONNELL: Yes, he was playing right under Stanford`s should have
been watchful eye, but he got away to Harvard. Harvard didn`t have the
highest hopes for him. One of the Harvard coaches was quoted in the "New
York Times" saying, "if I told any of the guys on the team" -- this is the
Harvard team. "If I told any of the guys on the team that Jeremy is
someday going to play in the NBA, none of them would have believed that."
And he was pretty good -- he was great at Harvard.
CHU: Yes. And the thing is that I first met him and I first saw his
game up close and personal in 2008. He didn`t have a jumper. But what he
did have was that will, that drive to want to be the best. You would see
him dive on the court.
He clanked a bunch of shots, but he just went after it. He -- he had
this whole entire mentality of where he wanted to be the best. He would
play any type of pickup game. He even asked me if I wanted to go to the
gym with just to shoot hoops.
If you have someone that is willing to put their whole heart and soul
in to it, and still manage everything that he has gone through, in terms of
the racist remarks that he`s heard on the road, while playing in the Ivy
League, and just playing in the country, and to be able to have that type
of inner strength, and to be able to deflect all of that, it -- it is a
O`DONNELL: Bryan Chu, thank you very much for your invaluable insight
tonight. And Bill Wolff, who had an amazing jump shot in water polo, thank
you very much for finding the time somehow to join us here in the studio
tonight. Thank you both very much.
WOLFF: Always an honor.
CHU: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the young actress in former Congressman Pete
Hoekstra`s racist campaign ad has now apologized for her involvement.
That`s going to be next in the Rewrite.
O`DONNELL: Last week in this space, I started a search for someone
who we wanted to have on the show but couldn`t find.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, we put out an APB on Twitter today
on this actress.
LISA CHAN, ACTRESS: Thank you Michigan Senator Debbie Spend it Now.
Debbie spend so much American money, you borrow more and more from us.
Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank
you Debbie Spend it Now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I wanted to the ask that actress why she did that ad for
Pete Hoekstra, a Republican Senate candidate in Michigan. I wanted to ask
her if she regretted it, since it met with unanimous disapproval in the
media. Even Bill O`Reilly didn`t like it.
I wanted to give her a chance to explain herself and apologize for
participating in an ad based entirely on racial stereotyping, xenophobia
and nativism. We got very close to her in the last few days. THE LAST
WORD staff spoke to people close to her at various times on the phone, but
that`s as close as we got until today, when Lisa Chan issued this apology
on her Facebook page.
"I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought
to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to
improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not, in
any way, representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my
part and one that over time I hope can be forgiven.
"I feel horrible about my participation. And I am determined to
resolve my actions."
Lisa Chan is 21 years old. She`s a graduate of UC Berkeley, one of
the most distinguished institutions of higher learning in the world. We
can only imagine what she has gone through in the weeks since I singled her
out on national television to address her participation in this ad.
I used it to make the more general point that actors should refuse
this kind of work, that they should take a pledge, I will not play dirty
politics, meaning the actor will not play a racial stereotype or tell lies
in political advertising.
The acting community should simply say, if you are going to make
lying, offensive political ads, you are going to do it without our help.
In her apology, Lisa Chan says "I feel horrible " And I think we know that
that must be an understatement.
I think we know this young actress, just trying to get her start, just
trying to get experience in front of the camera, has been going through a
personal hell in the last week that she never saw coming. And that
horrible week for Lisa Chan turned out to be a horrible week for Pete
The horrible ad starring Lisa Chan appeared as a local ad during the
Super Bowl in Michigan. And since then, Democratic Senator Debbie
Stabenow, who was ahead by nine points, has opened up a 14 point lead over
Hoekstra in a new robopoll by Public Policy Polling.
And 45 percent of Michigan voters in that poll say they are now less
likely to vote for Hoekstra specifically because of that ad.
The ability to avoid mistakes tells us a lot about a person`s
character. It shows caution, wisdom, good judgment. But even those of you
who have all of that still make mistakes, big ones. What you then do about
those mistakes gives us another window in to your character.
If apologizing is difficult, and it is -- apologizing is always
difficult for all of us, publicly apologizing is infinitely more difficult.
The honest public apology has all but disappeared. Public apologies always
begin with the word if, as in "if I offended anyone."
This is no if in Lisa Chan`s apology. Her words are, "I am deeply
sorry. I feel horrible about my participation. It was absolutely a
mistake on my part and one that over time I hope can be forgiven."
Lisa Chan did the right thing today. I, for one, believe that after
she just re-taught America what a real apology sounds like, Lisa Chan
deserves to be forgiven.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), WISCONSIN: Federal laws say you can`t
discriminate against kids because of their race, sex, religion or what
country they are from. But our laws say nothing about sexual orientation
or gender identity.
Our federal laws do not protect these kids. LGBT kids are learning
that it gets better after high school, and it does. But they shouldn`t
have to wait.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s Minnesota Senator Al Franken, whose bill, the
Student Non-Discrimination Act, would ban discrimination based on sexual
orientation in public schools. This is a topic that hits very close to
home for Senator Franken, after a rash of suicides in Minnesota`s Anoka-
Hennepin School District made national headlines.
Just this week, the school district overturned a controversial policy
that required teachers to remain neutral on issues of sexual orientation.
Over the last two years, nine students have committed suicide there, four
of them after being bullied for being gay.
One of those students was Justin Aaberg. Justin was an openly gay,
happy cello player. He was just 15 year old when he took his life in July
Joining me now is Justin`s mother, Tammy Aaberg, who is an advocate
for LGBT teens and is working with Senator Franken`s office on legislation.
Thank you for joining me tonight, Tammy. I know this is a difficult
subject for you.
TAMMY AABERG, LGBT TEEN ADVOCATE: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Tell me what kind of bullying your son was subjected to.
The kind of details of it that teacher were not really able to help him
with and discuss with him, according to the rule that they had at the time
and why we need new rules and new legislation here.
AABERG: Well, one of the hugest events, I guess, that happened to him
was -- I found out after he died from a close friend of his, is that in 8th
grade, two boys went up to him in a tunnel and grabbed his genitals and
said, you like that, don`t you. And nobody I don`t think that saw it
happen. But a counselor and a friend saw him crying down the hallway.
And he wouldn`t talk to the counselor about it. But the next day, the
counselor called down the friend and asked if she found out what had
happened. And she said, well, what happened was -- you know, things like
this happened all the time to gay people. But this time it wasn`t just
mental. It was physical.
Then the counselor said, well, thank you so much for telling me. He`s
been at the top of my worry list. I never got a phone call.
O`DONNELL: The school district is in Michele Bachmann`s congressional
district. Howard Stern really tore into her recently and Rick Santorum, in
terms of saying, look, the kind of rhetoric that they use in this area is
part of what, he believes, licenses, in effect, some of this behavior, that
there is a trickle down from that rhetoric to this kind of behavior.
AABERG: Oh, definitely. Definitely. You see the hate speech going
on all over the news, all over the country. And it trickles down. How can
you have as much hope as you possibly can when you are younger? You
already don`t have things going great for you in school. Then to hear that
you can`t get married or that, -- you know, like I remember Justin coming
home saying that he was told he was going to go to hell because he was gay.
And I told him that wasn`t true. But, you know, these kids,
especially the -- if they don`t have any positive role models that are
talked about in -- for gay history, how are they supposed to know if the
only thing that they hear in the school is about the Holocaust, that gays
were killed in the Holocaust.
O`DONNELL: And there was no guidance in the school for teachers that
was in any way helpful about how to handle these things.
AABERG: No. And it`s been 18 months. I`m so glad that the sexual
orientation curriculum policy is gone. But their new policy, I`m not --
it`s still, I think, confusing.
We just have to keep working and trying to make things better, because
I know just words right now aren`t going to be the only thing. We need to
have procedures and -- and act on these policies and make them happen.
O`DONNELL: Tammy Aaberg, thank you very much for joining us.
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