'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, May 6, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Guests: Alex Witt, Perry Bacon, Kim Dadou, Elizabeth Schneider, Nona Willis Avonowitz, Kathleen
Hall Jamieson, Alice Stewart, Daniel Gross, Misty Copeland, Kelly Hall-Tompkins
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, the flip-side of Stand
your ground, where is that lousy law when you need it?
Plus, black girls in tutus, breaking barriers with pirouettes.
And, the truth about truth and truthiness, our attempt to make Rene
But first, making the case of America, better, stronger, and faster than
Yesterday afternoon, we were all reintroduced to an old acquaintance that
we haven`t seen in four years. President Barack Obama took off his jacket
and tie, rolled up his sleeves, and, poof! transformed back into candidate
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, Ohio!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And with those words, before a crowd of 14,000 at Ohio state
university, he officially launched his campaign to reclaim the presidency.
He followed that up with a repeat performance, only hours later in
Richmond, V.A., at Virginia Commonwealth University.
So President Obama wasted no time framing the terms of this election not as
a referendum on his presidency but as a decision. You can get with this,
or you can get with that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Now we face a choice. For the last few years, the Republicans who
run this Congress have insisted that we go right back to the policies that
created this mess. Republicans in Congress have found a nominee for
president who has promised to rubber stamp this agenda if he gets the
chance. Ohio, I tell you what. We cannot give him that chance. Not now,
not with so much at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And in addressing the economy, the issue with the highest
stakes for most voters, President Obama had to strike a delicate balance.
He needed to make the case for why his freshly minted campaign theme
forward describes the general direction of the economy, while also
acknowledging that there is still a long way to go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The economy is still facing headwinds. And it will take sustained,
persistent effort, yours and mine, for America to fully recover. That`s
the truth. We all know it. But we are making progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, if you`re governor Mitt Romney, some progress is not
enough. And it`s that question, how is America doing, that`s at the heart
of this election. The answer, according to conventional wisdom, is that
the country has declined to the point that it`s almost unrecognizable as
what was once the most powerful nation on the planet. Devastated by
economic down turn from which we have yet to recover, no longer capable of
making anything that anybody wants and of our status as a world superpower.
It`s a bleak outlook.
But this week, an article in "Newsweek" by author Daniel Gross takes a
radically different view. That the entire merit of Americans decline is a
complete and total myth. The great recession of 2008 and 2009 was at the
beginning of a down turn he argues, but the beginning of a rebirth. And
that we simply don`t recognize the new improved America yet, because well,
it`s lost a lot of weight.
Gross writes, the U.S. economy has come back better, stronger, and faster
than most analysts expected and more than most of its peers. Gross argues
of America`s private sector has reinvented itself and reemerged as more
productive, efficient and better prepared for success in the future global
economy and this narrative proclaims that it is indeed the dawn of a new
day. Just one that is markedly different from what Ronald Reagan looked
out upon when he pronounced it was morning in America, 1984.
But, if this rebuke to Mitt Romney from candidate Obama is true --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Corporations aren`t people. People are people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If that is true, then that new morning for America`s private
corporations means that not everyone is going to see the light of day.
So, Daniel Gross is here with me at the table. He is the author of that
article and the new book it comes from "better, stronger, faster, the myth
of the American decline and the rise of the new economy." He is also
columnist, economic editor and co-host of "the Daily Ticker" at Yahoo!
Also with me is Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist, former press
secretary for Rick Santorum and former communications director for Michele
Bachmann`s presidential campaign. Also, Perry Bacon Jr., an MSNBC
contributor and the political editor for thegrio.com. And back again from
yesterday, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg public policy
center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Thank you all for being here.
So Daniel, your article, and the book as we have sitting here have Nerdland
in a tizzy. We`re trying to decide if this is the best news we can
imagine, that, in fact, we have really just sort of given into a rhetoric
of decline, but we`re not in decline, or whether or not when you say we`re
doing better, you really mean corporations, you don`t mean we are doing
DANIEL GROSS, AUTHOR, BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER: I`m just saying after
that, your introduction, I`m attempted to just call it a day.
GROSS: No. All these sources of decline, Obama right, right says Obama
camp says he`s a socialist, the left says we were hard enough on the banks
so we cannot recover. The people go to China, come back and say hey, look,
what they are doing calling 10 percent and we can`t even build any
infrastructure. And the reality, our economy, on the aggregate, has come
back. It`s larger than it was before the recession. We have taken this
immense fall, the client 2009. None of us had ever seen anything like
HARRIS-PERRY: So you are not arguing that we did not dip into a really
GROSS: We had the worst --
HARRIS-PERRY: And went longer and harder than anybody alive.
GROSS: Yes. I -- 2009 was a 1933 moment.
GROSS: And in 1933, everyone came out and said we had this socialist in
charge, and Mussolini has this great economy Italy and look at Stalin. He
is expanding and power in Asia that`s expanding too. Japan.
We`re helpless. We have high unemployment. And we got FDR and got back on
track and it was the public and private sector. My argument is that the
public sector did just enough to stave off catastrophe, and the private
sector, instead of setting on its rear, restructured some with the help of
government, a lot of them on their own, the consumers have done so at a
slower pace. But the real part of the story is the ability to engage the
The U.S. is the number one exporter. People don`t believe that or thinks
that we export more than any other countries. Our exports have risen 30
percent in the past two years as we are allegedly declining.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, this is the idea that in fact we do make things
that people want. I`m going, you now, we are just through your evidence
because it`s not just a claim, right? You bring evidence that we have seen
104 percent increase in the S&P 500 since March of 2009.
You say that in addition to sort of exporting things we also let you bring
in all of this tourists, so 62 million foreign tourists visited U.S. and
leave their dollars here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Four - a little bit over four million private sector jobs
since February of 2010, and $2.1 trillion in exports in 2011 which is more
than a third.
GROSS: Obama`s war on prosperity and profits is going really badly.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, if we buy Daniel`s argument, does this suck
the air out of the room for Mitt Romney and for Republicans who are saying
you have to give it back to us so we can improve the private sector? If
this is, in fact, the private sector leaner, better, stronger, faster.
ALICE STEWART, FORMER RICK SANTORUM`S PRESS SECRETARY: I appreciate your
optimism and the book looks at the rosy picture of the economy. But the
truth is with the jobs report that came out it`s a dismal picture and we
have President Obama`s policies to blame for that. Here, we have above
eight percent unemployment for the longest period in recorded history.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just barely. Pretty soon you won`t be able to say that
STEWART: When that day comes, we won`t say it anymore. We have 23 million
Americans out of work. We have the Median household income has dropped
$4,000. That`s a lot of money to people. Gas prices have tripled. We
have doubled. We have $15 trillion debt and this is because of the
policies we have with President Obama.
STEWART: And he said after he took office, if he cannot turn the economy
around this is a one-term proposition. Or I`m anxious to hold his feet to
the fire on that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite our disagreement around sort of, you know, the idea
that its President Obama`s policies that are responsible for this. But, I
do absolutely agree with you on, is that ordinary Americans are not feeling
better, stronger and faster, right? They are still feeling a lot of pain
at the kitchen table, at the gas pump, right? So, even though we disagree
at the source of that pain, if it does incur to me that politically, that
pain could be exploited by Republicans for an argument for an election that
it is not a re-election at this case.
PERRY BACON JR., MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, the end of the case was your
think whether about this unemployment 8.2 percent, Black unemployment 13
percent in some cities, 20 percent in other cities. Is it a case that
American corporations, maybe Americans themselves individually are not
doing that particular well, but they will get better as the -- recession is
two years old, but it will get better?
GROSS: So, there is no question, the typical worker is doing worse than
they were four years ago. They are also doing worse than they were in
1999. I mean people talk about Japan`s lost decade. We had our lost
decade. From 1999 to 2009, there was no job creation, there was no income
growth, and there were no return for assets of any kind.
What we receive in the past few years is, companies doing extraordinarily
well, investors doing extraordinarily well, the consumer and the worker,
not so much, because the companies are keeping much more of the pie. We
are making a lot more pizzas that are all being delivered to Park Avenue.
STEWART: That`s the issue. So for our recovery to continue, companies
have to start to give it up. And by that I mean they have to start paying
more dividends, they got to start paying more taxes, they got to start
paying more wages and benefits and they have to start hiring people. There
3.5 million jobs open in the U.S. and they are not filling them because
they are concerned about whether the demand will be there. So there`s
plenty of work to be done.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what I find interesting about this, I want to ask you
about this. We talked a bit about American exceptionalism in part as the
argument that Romney has put out against the president. The president
doesn`t have an American exceptionalism argument he claims.
Now, this is - you know, I kept struggling with this -- with the argument
that you make here, Daniel. Because it feels like a kind of American
exceptionalism argument, but also it kept crying out to me for a little
more of the spread -- spread the wealth argument, which like politically,
I`m not sure how you make both of those arguments. We are doing great.
Yes, we need to spread the wealth.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, ANNENBERG PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: It`s the verb. We
can do really well. I thought was really interesting about the opening
conversation was you had two different sets of facts featured. The facts
we feature matter. Ask yourself, how did you feel with fact set one and
fact set two?
In fact set two, you are worried about the future. You`re not that sure
we`ll be able to get there. Fact set one, yes, we still have the same
problems, but now you`re more optimistic that we can know how to get there.
How we feel about the strength of the economy matters, over and above all
the data and facts that were in set two. And we know that from social
psychology. I read that article and I felt better about what we can do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay right there. We are going to ask if this fact set is a
useful one for going forward. And whether or not America is really
stronger. And that is going to be right after the break.
Yes, and we are going to talk about George Clooney later.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re here today talking about two comebacks, the return of
candidate Obama and the rebounds of a leaner, meaner American economy.
Still with me, Yahoo! Economics editor Daniel Gross, Republican Alice
Stewart, thegrio`s Perry Bake Ann Jr. and professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson
from the Annenberg public policy center at U. Penn.
All right, gentlemen. I want to turn back to definite question that we
have been discussing both politically and just sort of empirically did they
get better, stronger, and faster on the backs of American workers? And if
so, then how do we get to where President Obama is sort of framed
yesterday, where he said it`s not just about getting back, but about
getting back for fairly. I mean, in this fairness.
GROSS: Well, there is no question that, you know, business, responded more
quickly. They are so much more ruthless about cutting obligations. If you
are a company and own $10 billion in debt, you file for chapter 11 and it
is gone in three weeks.
GROSS: Where If you are a consumer and you owe a couple hundred thousand
on your mortgage, that takes you two or three years to get out of. So they
respond much more quickly companies are able to get into overseas markets
where growth is. They can do that better than an individual can.
The best -- you know, the way we get gains for workers sustained growth.
That`s what happened in the `90s, is that the tail end when the labor
market got tight, companies with our people paying people more to take
We`re such a far -- so far from that because we have so much slack in the
labor market. The strength of unions has declined and there is really no
sanction from government at any level to companies that say, you know, you
really should be paying a living wage. You really should be paying health
So they are able to do this. So, part of it is the private sector doing
what it does naturally and part of the is I think a failure of the public
sector, mainly are government political system to say there are norms of
behavior for corporations and we want to hold you to them. And that`s fair
on both Republicans and Democrats.
STEWART: Obama`s biggest accomplishment I guess you could call it on his
side. I say it`s his biggest failure, Obama care, that`s harmful to
corporations. It`s harmful to businesses. It doesn`t help them. Many of
them are facing financial hardships.
HARRIS-PERRY: Why would it be harmful? Really empirically here, why would
it be harmful to have an individual mandate that requires that every
American citizen purchase health insurance from a large insurance company?
It feels to me like that is both -- and in fact, from left is, that`s a
major giveaway to insurance companies. And also, if every American is
carrying health insurance, shouldn`t it overall reduce the burden on
employers to provide health insurance for new employees? If they already
got it by the time they end up back in the labor market?
STEWART: Well, first of all. I believe we are going to find out from the
Supreme Court that aspect of Obama care will be unconstitutional. So,
right off the bat, it`s probably going to be an unconstitutional aspect of
But, we`re hearing story after story, corporations, businesses large and
small, that are facing terrible financial hardships already due to Obama
care, and we can`t have that, that`s the biggest signature achievement in
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, there is also the whole killing of Osama bin Laden
thing which we heard a lot about this week.
BACON: Going back to Daniel said though, Obama spent much of 2011
basically begging corporations. You have this huge amount of profits,
please hire more people. It just didn`t work. I mean, I don`t know what
more he can say about that. So now, he is going to be shifted to the OK,
you won`t hire anyone, so we will tax the wealthy more. He is trying to
address the --
GROSS: They are hiring. The private sectors have created 4.2 million jobs
as of 2010. The public sector has shed a million jobs.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it shed them largely --
GROSS: By choice.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. By state governments, often Republican-led state
governments shedding public sector workers, we have to be clear, that means
teachers, and firefighters, and police officers and that sort of thing.
GROSS: Right. but is say, you know, in the last few years, I have been to
probably 30 states, many countries, talking to business people and
companies that are growing, and the number of times that somebody has said,
you know, I`m really having a problem because of this health care mandate
that`s coming in 2014 is zero.
When you go out to North Dakota, where they are shipping all the food they
can make overseas and they are drilling for oil and natural gas like
nobody`s business, nobody talks about health insurance.
GROSS: The issue for businesses is whether you have growth and demand,
whether customers are showing up with money to pay. And that`s the thing
that matters the most.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And growth in demand requires American consumption.
So, let me ask about this because this is also sot of a point of angst for
me. There was a moment when to be a great patriot meant to sacrifice
particularly in mort times. So, we were looking at this great image of
world war I when first lady Edith Wilson had sheep brought in to mow the
lawn of the White House, because you had to - you know, everyone was in a
mode of sacrifice, meatless Mondays and all that sort of thing.
But now, it feels like in order to be a patriotic American, are you
supposed to consume. You are supposed to buy because that`s the thing that
Should we, like as consumers also be leaner and stronger and faster, rather
than the idea that we need more and more bigger house, bigger cars, all of
that sort of thing?
STEWART: I think people are doing that out of necessity. I mean. People
have to balance their own checkbook and with all due respect to the
research did you with your book, traveling across the country and Perry has
done the same too. People at town halls and meetings across the country,
they are concerned about the economy, they are concerned about jobs, they
are concerned about the direction that our country is going.
And President Obama, that`s why he wants to look forward and not back this
will be a referendum on his record. And his record is one of broken
promises. It`s not a record of achievement. We have someone like Mitt
Romney, who has a record of accomplishment, in building a successful
business, in creating jobs. He also turned the Olympics around. As
governor, he cut taxes 19 times.
HARRIS-PERRY: He does have a record of accomplishment in the private
sector, but his record of accomplishment in the public sector actually
looks surprisingly like president Obama`s public sector, accomplishment
record which is to say a major health care reform plan for the citizens of
his state in that case and in case of President Obama`s.
I mean, I hear you. I`m actually agreed that people in America do feel
like, boy, we`re in a bad place. That`s part of why Daniel`s book is so
counterintuitive. Because there is a narrative, as you point out. There`s
a narrative that we`re in a really bad place. But this is not quite the
one the good place that we are perhaps more nimble perhaps than the framing
JAMIESON: Because there are two other factors. One is we now have
squeezed every ounce of productivity we can out of the available workforce.
We are one of the have to start hiring. We have now hit the cap off of
But the second is this isn`t really an election that is based on
everybody`s perceptions across the whole economy. Virginia, unemployment
down against the national average. Ohio, down against the national
average. And Republican governors want to argue that jobs are being
increased because they are taking part of the responsibility and hence the
credit in that environment. And in that environment is very difficult for
Republicans to say, wait a minute, no, jobs, things are really awful. That
was Republican governor and those two states who want to take credit, but
as they take credit, we bounced back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. That`s really useful. It`s not just the whole
country. We got to remember, there is an electorate calling. There is a
state by state narrative.
Coming up, why I`m all about guns at the GOP convention? Seriously?
Later this hour, stand your ground in reverse. How it landed one woman in
prison. Don`t go away.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Tuesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott shot down a request
by Tampa Florida`s Democratic mayor, Bob Buckhorn. Now, just what was the
mayor asking for, an executive order to ban guns outside of Tampa`s
Republican convention in August in order to better protect police and
citizens. The nerve of him, right?
Who is the heck is the mayor Buckhorn to say people can`t carry concealed
weapons. I say let them carry guns to their convention. What? You didn`t
think I would say that? I mean, it`s not like 100,000 people in America
are shot in a year, or the 20,000 victims of gun violence are American
children and teens. I don`t care if an average of 87 people die daily from
gun violence. No.
Why does the mayor need the governor`s help? It`s not like there`s a 2011
Florida state law that prohibits cities from passing their own gun
regulations. Oh, wait, actually there is. But none of that matters. I
mean, how could it? A recent poll found in the last three years, between
65 percent and 72 percent of Republicans have said it`s more important to
protect gun rights than worry about silly old gun control. Republicans are
all over the gun situation even top dog Mitt Romney gave his two cents at
the April NRA convention in St. Louis Missouri.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a president who will
stand up for the rights of hunters and sportsmen and those who seek to
protect their homes and their families. President Obama has not. I will.
And if we`re going to safeguard our second amendment, time to elect a
president that will defend the rights that President Obama ignores or
minimizes. I will protect second amendment rights of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: See? Romney isn`t going to let some mayor try to take away
your rights to bring guns outside the Republican national convention. He
will be safe, since the secret service has banned weapons inside the arena.
But outside, it`s every gun permit holding Floridian for themselves. It
should be fine for local police officers, and how concerned is the mayor
Even he said "I believe that there is no reason to have a concealed firearm
in downtown Tampa that week. And to be clear, I am far less concerned with
those who have concealed weapons permits, than the ones who may acquire a
weapon and may use it to create mayhem.
All right, Mr. Mayor, you`re concerned about the boogieman. So come one,
come all. This is Florida, stand your ground, conceal and carry your
permits and your guns. You don`t have to worry about a 17-year-old
carrying a bag of candy being shot because of flawed gun laws, or someone
shooting you just because they feel threatened. Maybe you do. But at
least you`ll look cool, because you`re carrying a gun.
Coming up, the story of one woman who stood her ground and why she`s behind
That`s up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Trayvon Martin murder case has exposed the problematic
stand your ground laws in Florida and several other states. And this week,
the state of Florida began to take a hard look at it as the 19 member
panels assembled by Florida`s Republican governor Rick Scott held its first
Now, the panel will hold forum to hear about how the law is perceive
throughout the state. And many people will be there to say that stand your
ground shouldn`t protect Trayvon`s killer George Zimmerman. But, others
are going to be there to ask about another case.
They will ask why stand your ground didn`t protect Marissa Alexander. If
you haven`t heard of Marissa Alexander, you should know she`s the defendant
in another controversial Florida case. Alexander is a 31-year-old mother
of three who alleges she was confronted and attacked by her abusive husband
in 2010. She fired one warning shot from her gun into the kitchen ceiling
to keep him away. And for that, she was denied immunity under stand your
ground. Her motion for a retrial was denied on Thursday and Marissa faces
20 years in prison if convicted on three counts of aggravated assault.
Let me clear again, Marissa did not shoot her husband. She shot the
kitchen ceiling, and is facing 20 years. If a survivor of domestic
violence uses a gun to warn an attacker, not kill him and that survivor now
faces a prison term of 20 years, then what purpose does stand your ground
Joining to us discuss that is Elizabeth Schneider, professor of law at
Brooklyn law school. She is an expert in the field of federal civil
litigation, gender and domestic violence, and also, Nona Willis Avonowitz,
associate editor and writer for Good Magazine.
And, joining us from Rochester New York, Kim Dadou, a survivor of domestic
violence who sat in jail for 17 years after being found guilty of
manslaughter in the first degree for killing her abusive boyfriend after
years of abuse. She`s now a member of New York`s coalition of women
prisoners. Thank you for being here.
Kim, I want to start with you. Because we started with Marissa`s story
here, and I think it`s useful for people who are watching to really
understand the -- the human faces behind this. So, can you tell me just a
bit about your case and about your experiences?
KIM DADOU, COALITION FOR WOMEN PRISONERS: Sure. I want to thank you, all,
for the opportunity to be here. I want to first say that after 20 years, I
feel like I get to tell my story and someone will actually listen. I was
in an abusive relationship for almost five years, and I ended up killing
him in an act of self-defense during an abusive incident. It was the first
time I had ever fought back, and I killed him. And it was not intentional.
And as a result, I served 17 years in prison. There is no self-defense law
in New York state unless you are met with equal force, and I see it as the
system, re-victimizing domestic violence victims.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kim, thank you. It`s really useful for us to know that in
part. Because, I want to point out, that Kim`s case, Marissa`s case, these
are not exceptions, right? In many ways, this is the rule of what occurs
for women and for men who are in situations of domestic violence. Can you
tell us about the landscape we`re looking at here?
ELIZABETH SCHNEIDER, BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: Well, the landscape is
as you describe. I`m a lawyer and a law professor and since the 1970s,
actually. I`ve worked on cases and written about problems of cases
involving self-defense, involving battered women that either kill or
assault, and these are terrible cases. And they are cases in which women
often like Kim serve a very long period of time. They are convicted by
juries or sent to prison for long terms by judges.
In general, like all the laws, they are laws that are always taken into
account, in terms of the context, and where you have abusive situations,
where you have abuse, for example, as opposed to the Trayvon Martin kind of
situation, the kinds of understandings as that judges and juries bring show
a lack of understanding of the history of abuse, a lack of sensitivity to
women who have experienced abuse, a sense that these women cannot be
reasonable, which is a critical facet of what the self-defense laws
require, and so you see not only I want to say sadly in this country, but
I`ve also worked on cases around the globe, you see this around the world.
HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly that sense of like who are these women, who are in
situations of abuse? Somehow it makes it feel as though they are not the
perfect victim in the way that a Trayvon Martin is. And, you know, I have
been obviously part of a whole group of people wanting and calling for
justice on the Trayvon case, there have been basically a social movement
around Trayvon Martin. We`ve seen the crowds gathering in Florida, and yet
very little on Marissa Alexander`s case despite the fact that this woman,
again, is facing 20 years in jail for having not shot someone. For having
shot a kitchen ceiling, is there something about our inability to see these
women as the right kind of victim in some way?
NONA WILLIS AVONOWITZ, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, GOOD MAGAZINE: I think part of it
is the problem of telling domestic violence stories in general. I think,
you know, there is so much history there, he said, she said, she, you know,
threw something at him. He called her a name whereas with Trayvon Martin,
we had this one scene, this image of him with skittles and iced tea.
With Marissa, you know, after she got out on bond, she went and attacked
him. She threatened him, they have years of -- she should have known that
he was a --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. She should have known is a pretty common refraining,
right? Why did she say? Also, by the way, she was nine days after having
given birth when this incident occurred.
AONOMITWZ: Right, I mean, even when I was reading it, I think I have even
been conditioned to be like, wow, there are so many personal details here
this is not going to become a meme.
Kim, let me ask you a bit about the circumstances that you found yourself
in really even since. Because part of what I want to drive home here is
the idea that those 17 years in jail for you had not just the effect of
those 17 years, but life altering. Can you talk to me a little bit about
DADOU: Well, yes. Spending 17 years in prison, of course, I lost the
opportunity to build and have a family of my own. You know, when it
happened, I had a very good job, I had a career started, and I lost it all.
I had my five-year plan. He was the man of my dreams, and I lost it all.
And I want to make a point. You just said that they ask why didn`t she
DADOU: Why is the victim blamed in a domestic violence situation? It`s
bullying within the home. There`s a big outcry across the country about
against bullying, but that`s what domestic violence is. It`s bullying in
And the people who say, why didn`t you leave? Or I was reading on
Marissa`s case and it says that they said she should have left through the
front door or through the back door and not the garage. Well, you know
what? I say to those people, I am so glad you`ve never known that kind of
fear that paralyzes you. Or that kind of fear or that kind of danger that
prevents you from going out the front door or the back door, and you`re
trapped within your own home.
And how -- how can you blame the victim? You don`t blame a rape victim for
being raped because she had on tight jeans? Why go you blame the domestic
violence victims for staying in her own home?
AONOMITWZ: Kim, that --
DADOU: You`re re-victimizing the victim.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, to me that is so useful and so important I think in
part to recognize that -- that juries and judges are making exactly those
sorts of judgments as they are looking at a case like yours or like
SCHNEIDER: One thing I want to add to what Kim said which I completely
agree with though is, that in many situations involving women who have
experienced violence or experienced abuse, actually we do blame them. I
HARRIS-PERRY: Sexual assault.
SCHNEIDER: They are in the situation that Kim just mentioned about the
tight jeans is an example of the fact that the way we do look at and jurors
and judges do look at what the woman was wearing and whether or not she was
in a hotel room or whatever.
So, there are a lot of different legal situations in which women have
experienced violence in which the law shifts and looks at what was their
behavior. And, you know, was she reasonable or appropriate or whatever,
based on some often racially based or socially based gender norms.
HARRIS-PERRY: As soon as we come back, we are going to talk about
solutions to this and questions about whether or not there are way we can
actually intervene in law, in practice, and policy to address this double
standard for women who are standing their ground, right after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking about the case of Marissa Alexander, a
Florida mother of three and battered wife who is now facing 20 years in
prison for an incident that wasn`t legal. And which many feel should have
been protected under the state, now infamous stand your ground law.
Back with me is Brooklyn law school professor Elizabeth Schneider, Good
magazine associate editor, Nona Willis Avonowitz and Kim Dadou, a domestic
violent survivor who served 17 years in prison for fatally shooting her
Liz, I want to turn to you. Tell me a little more about this case. How is
it? Does this Marissa Alexander case end up where it is right now?
SCHNEIDER: Well, it`s important I think to just understand the sort of the
history of the case as I understand it. One is, under Florida law, the
judge could have made a decision to basically say that as a result of her
self-defense claim, that, she was immune from prosecution, and the judge
refused to do that in a motion even before the trial.
As a result of denying that immunity motion, the judge then sent the case
to the jury. And the jury convicted in 12 minutes. Then have you --
HARRIS-PERRY: And she`s been prosecuted. So, we have a jury that looks at
this mother of three who gave birth nine days before, shot the kitchen
ceiling, right, in 12 minutes, they convict her because the judge do not
grant immunity. But the prosecutor is Angela Corey, the same woman who is
prosecuting George Zimmerman for the Trayvon Martin shooting.
SCHNEIDER: That`s right. And in a quote that I saw, she said is going to
be addressing more fully the differences perhaps this week I think when the
sentencing occurs about the differences.
But then, to move on, so the jury convicts, of course, we don`t know what
is presented fully at the trial. The jury convicts after 12 minutes. And
then this week, there was a motion for vacating the conviction, and for
retrial, and it was denied by the judge.
What`s also going on here is that in Florida, have you a mandatory minimum
SCHNEIDER: So, that she is just for having the gun and for shooting it up
into the ceiling, she is facing 20 years in jail. And so, there is a lot
of effort in Florida to also challenge the mandatory minimum aspect of this
case as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because it`s mandatory minimums are supposedly going
to protect us all from criminals. But then, suddenly we see it occurring
in a real-life situation like this.
AONOMITWZ: Yes, I think the bigger cultural problem of what we think of is
private versus public in the case of Trayvon Martin, it was, you know, I
guess in a different narrative that would have been, well, this is an
outrage. Somebody is coming into my neighborhood and disrupting the peace.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It happens on the street between two strangers.
AONOMITWZ: Right. Right. And he`s a righteous victim because here is the
scary young black kid.
AONOMITWZ: In Marissa`s case, that`s her problem. This is - it`s a
private issue. We used to have the same exact reaction to marital rape
which was legal until the late `70s, in some cases the early `90s. We sort
of have this private/public divide. And that`s what we have to break that
down when we tell these stories.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kim, I want to ask you a bit of about this in part, because
you have gone from survivor to inmates and now activist. And so, I like to
talk to Kim. What do you see as the way we can begin to address these
questions as a matter of policy?
DADOU: Right now, I`m working with the correctional association of New
York. Of course, I`m a member -- I`m their upstate liaison, and we have
proposed a bill called the domestic violence justice act which is a first
of its kind in this country, and there`s a couple other states that have
taken notice in our bill and it would allow judges to have the discretion
when it comes to sentencing, and not have to go by these mandated
They would take notice of mitigating factors and take notice of a domestic
violence defense which was nerve entered, and never even looked at in my
case, because they said I didn`t fit the depiction of a battered woman
because I had a career and everything.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, my God. You weren`t cowering in the corner.
DADOU: Right. Exactly. I had a career. I had money in the bank. I had
a couple cars, so they said I didn`t look like a battered woman. And I`m
like really? This isn`t alleged blood, bruises, busted lips, black eyes,
it`s not alleged. And it wasn`t an alleged incident.
But, getting back to the bill, the domestic violence justice act, it would
give judges the discretion for alternatives to sentencing, alternatives to
incarceration programs, and not have to go by the state mandated sentences.
And we`re not saying let people get away with murder. We`re saying this
would apply to very few. But, a very important few, and Marissa would not
be in the situation she`s in right now if this bill were imposed in
HARRIS-PERRY: And we know, of course also, that it is -- it`s actually
less expensive to a state, New York spends about $55,000 a year to
incarcerate someone. Alternatives to incarceration are closer to $11,000 a
year. And if we had those kinds of discretionary choices, you are going to
head out on the segment at the moment.
But I appreciate all of you for being here. We`ll keep our eyes on
And I also, just want to point out that in recent studies, we`re looking at
nine in ten of incarcerated women are often -- have been the victims of
either childhood or teen sexual abuse or are victims of adult domestic
violence. And when we see those numbers that nearly 90 percent of the
women that we incarcerate are themselves victims and survivors, I think it
really changes our idea of what incarceration is.
So, thank you to Elizabeth Schneider, to Nona Willis Avonowitz and to Kim
Dadou. I truly appreciate all of your voices.
Coming up, can you dream of being a ballerina? If you never seen one that
looks like you making art accessible to underserved community. That`s up
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you want to be when you grow up? For some little
girls, the answer is a ballerina. But for too many, the dream is simply
out of reach. Accessibility to the arts is a problem in many poor
communities. And Harlem Uptown Dance Academy lost its rehearsal space two
years ago, and they are still fundraising to get it back.
The artist once again known as Prince and legendary ballerina Misty
Copeland, have both donated efforts to the cause. The dance academy`s
founder and director, Robin Williams is determined to regain her space and
make dance more accessible to the community. Take a look.
ROBIN WILLIAMS, FOUNDER, UPTOWN DANCE ACADEMY: Necks are long. My name is
Robin Williams, and I`m the founder of the Uptown Dance Academy. I love
teaching kids. I`ve got a passion for it. One of the biggest lessons that
they learn is how to be committed to something, and striving to be the best
you can be in something.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got accepted to American Ballet Theater. It`s
actually really good, because the more places I train, the more I know.
WILLIAMS: People sometimes think the art is just a recreational, fun
thing, and they forget about funding it. But it is something that is
Just go all the way on the leg.
A lot of times when I`m teaching, I like to use visuals, and it`s hard.
Because when I show the kids pictures of ballet, the first thing they say
is I don`t see anybody that looks like me. It doesn`t send a welcoming
message to them. Now that Misty is here, and she is in the American Ballet
Theater, they can see pictures of kids in classical ballet.
UNIDENTIFIED YOUNG GIRL: I like to dance, because it makes me happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me feel like a part of something more and
gives me something to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I dance because it really helps me get out my
WILLIAMS: People are not used to seeing African-Americans in ballet. Now,
in the 21st century, we`re able to be in ballet companies, but of the
majority of African-American and Latino people, still feel like, that`s an
art form that`s not for us.
The majority of the people in this neighborhood only don`t make more than
$30,000 a year. The kids in the community can`t afford to go to the bigger
schools. The part of our mission is not only to train community kids in
our unique style, but also to expose the community to a new, unique form of
dance they can relate to.
Basically, they are used to seeing hip-hop and things like that, so we mix
it so they can relate to it and they say, my God, ballet is cool and they
research and get deeper into it and love classical ballet.
UNIDENTIFIED YOUNG GIRL: When I dance, it feels like I`m dancing on a
cloud and I`m in heaven with god.
HARRIS-PERRY: And coming up, one little girl who did make her dream of
dancing on a cloud come true. The ground breaking Misty Copeland, right
here in the studio. Stay right there.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: OK, without getting too PBS on everyone,
it`s time to talk about the arts, why? Because Alec Baldwin says so. Just
last month, the "30 Rock" star urged lawmakers to increase funding for the
arts. As he put it, art is essential for us to be a great country.
I agree. Art isn`t just glitz and glamour and it`s actually much
more than just the usual suspects. So if I say the names Beyonce or Nikki
Minaj, my guess is most of you know these stars.
What about Raven Wilkinson or Florence Price? Do they ring any
bells? They were groundbreaking African-American women in the arts, the
classical arts. From ballet, to composing, But what about their
contemporaries? Can you name any?
Here is a hint. Five short years ago, a talented young dancer with
attitude to history books when she became the first African-American
soloist in two decades at the American Ballet Theater, which is America`s
National Ballet Company.
I am joined by none other than the talented ballerina, Misty
Thank you so much fore being here, Misty.
MISTY COPELAND, BALLERINA: It`s good to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I am really deeply interested in the arts as
fundamental to who we are as a country and this idea that somehow arts
don`t belong in serious conversation seems wrong to me. Make the case for
the fine arts for me.
COPELAND: I mean, I just think that it`s so much a vital part of a
child`s growth in every way. I did not have any exposure to the arts until
I was 13 years old. And I found out through the boys and girls club, not
through my public school.
But luckily, the boys and girls club have grown even more, having me
be part of American Ballet Theater. They have now added state of the art
ballet studios to boys and girls clubs all over the United States so that`s
so near and dear to my heart to have them expand in that way.
But it`s so important. Just in the growth of our minds, as children,
HARRIS-PERRY: And 13 is actually a late bloomer for a ballerina,
COPELAND: Yes, very late.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s typically -- we were looking at the lovely
children in the package before, and they are little tiny people and usually
by six or seven, we determine whether or not you have the talent to be in
So, how at 13 did you discover that this was both your talent and
COPELAND: It definitely discovered me. I had never seen a ballet, I
knew nothing about it, and I had a teacher that reached out to me and
introduced me to the world of classical ballet, and she saw potential in me
and knew I had what it took to be a professional dancer. So in four years,
I committed myself completely to it, and four years later, I was dancing
for American Ballet Theater.
But it`s very rare, our bodies nit rally have to be molded as it`s
growing, before the body changes. So, I was meant to do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet even as you say that, I was meant to do it,
and the sense of ease, watching you dance feels like as the young girl was
saying, dancing on a cloud. But it`s really quite difficult.
Just for viewers who may not themselves be ballet lovers, talk to me
about what it means in terms of training, and what it -- that kind of day-
to-day basis, being a ballerina, what is that?
COPELAND: It takes so much dedication and discipline. That`s why
it`s so great for a young child to experience something like that. I had
nothing like that in my life that was organized and disciplined.
But, you know, I always say this is not the kind of field you enter
to become famous. It takes so much work, that you have to love it. I go
on stage because I enjoy the gratification I get from it. I think there is
more work that goes into it than, you know, what we get out of it.
Hearing the audience`s response, knowing I`m touching one young girl
and hopefully opening her mind to this world, that`s why I do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me -- when you talk about touching one
young girl. Part of the young girls you touch is about race. So I took my
daughter, who is now 10 1/2, we went to see the Rockettes when she was 7 or
something for Christmas and she says are there any black Rockettes? I want
And, you know, it`s not that I don`t care about the white Rockettes,
but is there anyone up there who looks like me? And at the Nutcracker,
which we went to see, the answer was no. But I am so excited to take her
your pointe shoes, which have been signed. Yes there, is someone who looks
How does race impact what it means for you to be performing?
COPELAND: It`s a huge part of my daily struggles. I do get a lot of
criticism about the fact that I talk about it as openly and freely as I do.
It`s my experience. It`s part of who I am. It`s a part of my life, and I
can`t ignore that.
I respect those African-American dancers that have come before me
that don`t want to talk about it and want to just dance. That`s OK. But I
feel it`s so important for me to express my experiences and struggles,
because I see the effect it has on younger dancers. And if I get
criticized I will take that criticism if it means helping one young girl
see herself through me.
It`s just -- I don`t think it`s something that -- it`s a touchy
subject and a lot of people don`t like to talk about it. I see it every
day and there are so many young black ballerinas that have so much
potential and I think it`s hard for people to hear that, yes, we have to
work 10 times harder and this is already an extremely intense field to be
But if we don`t have every single thing that it takes, and are that
much more talented, we`re not even going to get into the front door of the
American Ballet Theater, of the Royal Ballet, of Paris Opera Ballet, the
New York City Ballet. So --
HARRIS-PERRY: And it does feel important to get into those spaces.
I`m a huge of Ailey and of the Dance Theater of Harlem, and a supporter of
the arts that give us entire black dance troupes, but there is something
about penetrating the space like American Ballet Theater or others.
What do you think is -- not that it`s more than dance theater of
Harlem. What specifically is the lesson we teach when your body shows up
in that space?
COPELAND: I think that when you talk about Ailey, Dance Theater of
Harlem, it`s just a completely different thing. I mean, Ailey is a modern
company, and Dance Theater of Harlem is its entity and I have so much
respect for them. But for a black woman to enter a white man`s world is a
completely different subject. And those companies, that are the elite
companies in the world, are still closed to us and it shouldn`t be that
But I think American Ballet Theater is the closest company, obviously
having two African-American female soloists before me. But they are the
first and only company that has done that in the history of top classical
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, absolutely. We`re going to continue our
conversation and we`re going to bring in another voice. Another African-
American woman, Kelly Hall-Tompkins is going to join us. She`s a
violinist. I`m so excited about this conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the last decade, state and federal funding for the
arts has fallen dramatically. In 2001, $451 million was appropriated to
the arts on a state level. This year`s appropriation was$263 million.
The National Endowment for the Arts this year saw a $30 million from
its high budget point of $176 million in 1992.
With continued cuts, how will the arts survive?
I`m back with American Ballet Theater soloist Misty Copeland and
joining us at the table is Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violin soloist with
Columbia Arts Management.
Thank you all so much again for being here.
So, I was going off in the break about the new Broadway production of
"A Streetcar Named Desire," with an all African-American cast. I was so
lucky to see it on opening night.
Kelly, you`re a violinist. I feel like we need to talk about our
participation in the fine arts. I think there`s a sense of how African-
Americans participate in the popular arts, but in the fine arts.
What difference does it make when we are part of this story?
KELLY HALL-TOMPKINS, VIOLIN SOLOIST: I think it`s -- we have a lot
to say. We have a lot to contribute to this art form. I`m a classical
violinist, came to me entirely naturally. I am sure it can come to others
so naturally, that I`ve experienced that it comes to others just as
So, it`s important we lend our voices to these art forms.
HARRIS-PERRY: Part what I love about both of you, is that your work
as performers, but also involved in community-based activities to make sure
that other young people have an opportunity. Talk to me about that part of
your work? Both of you.
HALL-TOMPKINS: Well, I`m a professional violinist. That`s what I do
for leaving. But in my spare time, I created an organization called Music
Kitchen, Food for the Soul. And I bring high-level chamber music to
So, I`ve enjoyed doing that. I`ve been able to take advantage of my
professional relationships and bring a lot of wonderful music into the
shelter for people who would otherwise not have access to it. That`s been
really rewarding for me and the artists I bring in. So, it`s important to
expand the realm of access to culture and the arts.
It`s a fundamental part of our human experience, to experience the
creativity of others. It`s really important that the arts thrive in our
society and every community.
COPELAND: Yes, I agree. I mean, I get out there as much as I can.
It`s very rare I think for -- especially a ballerina, to speak.
We dance and that`s our voice, so I just have felt such a strong
connection with the African-American community, and I get up there and I go
to public schools and art schools and I speak for the boys and girls club,
black girls rock. So, I think as much as they can see me and someone like
you and hear our voices, the more they will connect and want to explore.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I keep thinking in what we need in order for
Kellys and Mistys of the world to come forward, is we`re going to need
funding for it. You know, I look at our school system, which at this point
so focused in most of the country around high-stakes testing, which is very
much math and English, which I think everyone should read and do math.
And yet the notion the way to get there is to cut fine arts so that
kids don`t have a school orchestra or a school drama club, they don`t have
a school ballet, and that somehow if we just cut all of that extraneous
extra stuff away, then we`ll get really high-performing students. That
seems to me to be sort of patently false. We have to make the case for
this investment is critically important investment.
HALL-TOMPKINS: I`m a product of the public school music school
program. I am a big proponent of funding music in the school. The
influences came to this music were elsewhere to start, one traditional, and
one nontraditional. I group Lutheran and had music in the church every
Sunday and then there was Warner Brothers cartoons actually where I had the
marriage of music and movement, which totally fascinated me.
But it was the public school took me to a symphony concert for the
first time, and then it was at my public elementary school, where a string
quartet came, and I was thoroughly hooked. I fell in love with the violin,
with classical music violent on day one. Every child should have that
And not only -- I mean, we could talk all day about how the arts can
enhance other disciplines. That is so true. It will help math and your
cognitive skills and left brain and right brain and your imaginative
thinking. That`s all true.
But the arts in and of themselves are so valuable, and that we need
to cultivate a culture of that in this country. I think a lot more.
HARRIS-PERRY: Even those of us who are bad at it. I`m also a
product of public schools and public school orchestras and I`m a really
pathetically tone deaf cellist. I mean -- you know, really, when I think
about what my parents had to go through for having to listen to me practice
the cello, they should all go straight to heaven for it.
And yet, there is a way I will forever respond to classical music
because in part I helped to create it, badly. I remember hearing your
first C.D. and thinking, I just -- I wish I could have made my instrument
sound like that and similarly, I tie ballet class as a kid. Never even got
on pointe, but to watch you dance, a kind of physical memory of freedom
that returns to me when I see you dance, even for those who won`t become
the Kellys and Mistys it seems so critically important.
COPELAND: I`m also a product of public school, and not auditioning
for cheerleading, drill team in my public school, I would never have made
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to pause, a made a case for cheerleaders the
other day on this show, and I just want to remind all of our viewers, and
to now say that Misty Copeland was initially a cheerleader. It makes me so
COPELAND: For six months before I quit to become a ballet dancer.
As of now, it`s so hard to be positive about the fact that there are -- you
know, the arts is being cut in schools. But I think the positive thing we
can look at, is that society is really taking a hold of the arts on -- in
the media and on television, and it may not be the fine arts or something
that, you know, we can completely relate to.
But just sparking an interest with these arts shows and with dance
shows, I think that it`s going to spark interest in these kids that would
have never been introduced to it in any way, so --
HARRIS-PERRY: The goal is to spark the interest and then provide the
resources so those interests can be nurtured and we can fin the talent.
HALL-TOMPKINS: But it`s important that our society recognizes that
the arts are not extracurricular. It`s not -- it shouldn`t be the first
thing on the chopping block when funding is challenged. It enhances a
total human experience and it`s just so integral in terms of who we are.
HARRIS: It`s true. It`s sort of the point. I`m incredibly lucky.
I live in New Orleans, which is a place that understand our whole
rootedness, everything about who we are, has to do with what we create
So, it has been completely lovely to have both of you here. Thank
you so much to Kelly Hall-Tompkins. Thank you to Misty Copeland.
And coming up, I know it sounds mysteriously, I`m going to say happy
birthday to George Clooney and explain why he is key to everything.
HARRIS-PERRY: Happy birthday, George Clooney.
That`s right. Today, the Hollywood superstar and political
provocateur turns 51. And in tribute, we`re going to connect the dots to
show you how it`s George Clooney`s world and we`re all just trying to live
No stranger to the facts of life, Clooney is one of those celebrity
heavyweights who puts fame and credibility to work for our future
descendents and somehow seems to do so without annoying everyone.
As the election of 2012 appears to be up in the air, Clooney isn`t
just sitting around like some men staring at goats. On Thursday, at his
California home, the American will play Batman to President Obama`s Robin
as he hosts a $12 million fund-raiser.
Mitt Romney may be out of sight at the fund-raiser, but that doesn`t
mean Clooney hasn`t contributed to Romney`s overall good night and good
On Governor Romney`s (INAUDIBLE) list, the confessions of his
dangerous mind is that number one song is "I`m a Man of Constant Sorrow,"
from the soundtrack of "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou," starring none other
than George Clooney, who is worth pointing out doesn`t actually sing in the
movie because the nephew of jazz legend Rosemary Clooney may have remade
Frank Sinatra`s "Oceans 11," but he`s actually not much of a crooner.
He is however something of a benefactor. It was one fine day when
George Clooney saw a copy of the video holiday greeting, the spirit of
Christmas, Jesus versus Frosty, the original animation short about South
Park, Colorado. Clooney was such a fan that he helped Trey Parker and Matt
Stone get "South Park" on TV as a regular series. And so, you know, it was
"South Park`s" creators and their success that allow them to launch
Broadway`s current smash hit, "The Book of Mormon" which Romney had said
he`d like to see if he has time.
Of course, for candidates campaigning from dusk until dawn, to bring
together the perfect political storm, can feel like intolerable cruelty.
But when activists like George Clooney who could choose to stay on the
sidelines, but they get involved because they don`t want to see their
country end up in the E.R., it reminds us that the ultimate fail safe is
Coming up, how do you engage in a political process that lacks truth?
We`re going to talk about the end of truth and the rise of truthiness,
after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, one time Mitt Romney foe, Michele Bachmann,
turned into a Romney friend. She gave her endorsement to the former
governor while campaigning with him in the swing state of Virginia.
And this is what her 180-degree turn looked like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mitt Romney, can he beat Obama?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: No, he can`t beat Obama,
because his policy is the basis of Obamacare.
This is what victory looks like! Take a look around! We`re all here
together to have a welcome party here in the tidewater area for the next
president of the United States, President Mitt Romney!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I miss Michele.
These days, candidates are able to make a flip-flop like that and
make it look like it wasn`t a flop at all, but rather to make two truths
equal well, you know, some kind of new truth? Whatever happened to Honest
Here with me at the table to discuss whether we`ll ever hear truth in
politics anymore is Daniel Gross, economics editor and co-host of the
"Daily Ticker" at Yahoo Finance; Alice Stewart, Republican strategist and
former communications director for Michele Bachman; Perry Bacon, Jr., MSNBC
contributor and the political editor for TheGrio.com; and Kathleen Hall-
Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the
University of Pennsylvania.
Since we had Bachman there, I have to talk to you first. I mean, you
know, certainly, part of it is the 21st century, that you can take two
spots and stick them right together and see them.
But that dose feel like if you can`t beat them, I`m here to declare
victory. Which one is the one honestly what Michele Bachman thinks about
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, this is
what the primary process is all about, it`s about the candidates showing
contrast, between themselves and the other candidates. And ultimately, the
ultimate goal is to defeat Barack Obama.
I`m sure we could find the exact same kind of quotes Hillary saying
the same thing against Barack Obama in `08 and then she quickly endorsed
him. That`s how primaries work.
And this primary process has been tough. It`s been hard. We`ve had
candidates that are very strong on the issues, repealing in place
Obamacare`s has been front and center. And the good thing about this
primary process is that it didn`t divide the Republican Party. It prepared
We`re prepared to take on Barack Obama. And that`s exactly what
we`re having here. And her endorsement and, obviously, Rick Santorum met
with Romney the other day. What we`re seeing candidates that were once
competitors are now realizing it`s time to get on the same team and defeat
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I`ll absolutely give you that. That is what
primary process, but still wonder in part, because part of it I want to be
able to say, OK, here`s what this candidate, whether it`s President Obama
or this candidate, Governor Romney, really believes.
And just today on "Face the Nation," Michele Bachmann was saying on
CBS`s "Face the Nation," was doubting there was any truth even in polling.
Let`s take a quick look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The polls suggest when you look at who cares
about our problems, things of that nature -- it seems to be Mr. Obama,
BACHMANN: Again, that`s another myth of the campaign trail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re talking about poll results and you`re
saying poll results are myth or something.
BACHMANN: But we have a woman --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So are poll results myths? Is it just truthiness?
I`m really, that`s quite a statement.
PERRY BACON, JR., MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I don`t think polls are myths.
That said, politicians lie all the time about what I would call politics.
The poll says this.
Well, it says this too. I`m not concerned about politicians lying
about who they whether they like Mitt Romney or not. Voters know Michele
Bachmann doesn`t like Mitt Romney that much. I don`t think it`s a mystery.
What I`m concerned about is politicians lying about things they`ll do
in governing. Like when Romney says individual mandates are horrible, but
suddenly now -- or good in 2005, bad in 2011. That doesn`t make a lot of
sense to me.
But I think that`s the kind of stuff, I wonder what you are going to
do in office, as opposed to just, you know, who would you endorse?
Endorsements don`t matter. All the data show --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s an interesting distinction, lying about
politics versus lying about either campaign promises or policy positions or
maybe even about empirics.
STEWART: And the issue of polling. Polls are virtually snapshots in
time. Every time you take a poll, it`s a snapshot on that particular day
and that particular time. You look at the trends of the polls and how they
reflect the electorate.
What we do see, a promising trend in the polling data, shows that
most Americans trust Mitt Romney to fix the economy more than President
Obama. And that`s an important polling data and trend to look at because
the economy is the number one issue.
And as Mitt Romney says, it is still the economy, and we`re not
stupid. And that`s why President Obama doesn`t want to look at that.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is in certain ways goes back to your point,
Daniel, if I look at the polling data, I can say, OK, there`s a huge gender
gap that benefits the president, or I can say there`s a bit of trust gap on
the economy that benefits Mr. Romney. But there`s a big trust gap on
foreign policy that benefits the president.
So, you know, if we look at it, it is in fact a complicated picture.
Is that what you`re telling us around the better, stronger, or faster, that
it`s just complicated? Or is there a natural truth that we should be
boring down to?
DANIEL GROSS, AUTHOR: I think there are multiple narratives. We
have, you know, vast disparities. In North Dakota, the unemployment rate
is 3 percent, and housing prices are on the rise. In Nevada, the
employment rate is 12 percent. We`re making federal policies on both these
I was out in Toledo, the biggest employer, is the Chrysler plant.
So, the bailout worked wonders. They`re going in all cylinders.
If you`re going to parts of Ohio, where they`re dependent on coal,
well, the Obama administration is no friend of coal. So, even within
states, I think we are going to have trouble getting a single narrative
about the economy, in this -- you know, where there`s so much stuff going
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels like there should be something more than --
some similarity claim to me. Well, the truth is different in different
places. It feels like facts matter.
Look, we`re in the business here at -- on the MHP show, not the show
you come to for me to just read to you the news and facts, right? I`m
purposely bringing my own and encourage other people at the table to bring
their world view onto things. We try to work really hard to make sure
we`re not lying on television.
Is there some space between truth and truthiness?
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, ANNENBERG PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Don`t use
the word truth and I wouldn`t use the word lying.
JAMIESON: We don`t know what people have in their heads and what
their intention is when they make statements. But I think we do know what
And I think I can look at the Republican primaries and you can say
it`s not factually true that Newt Gingrich that earmarks doubled under Newt
Gingrich`s time as speaker. It`s not factually true that Santorum voted to
let convicted felons vote.
JAMIESON: If by that you mean with the orange jumpsuits on the
screen, they were given that right while still in prison.
It means factually, that when you make the claim about Mitt Romney by
saying illegal, when you talk about Medicare fraud and the Damon
Corporation, it`s not true to say he was personally implicated in Medicare
Those are three statements you can adjudicate factually and they
drive inferences about candidates that are potentially. If people voted on
the assumption that Newt Gingrich favored a one child China policy, a pro
abortion policy, and that person was a pro life conservative, that person
voted against Newt Gingrich based on factual inaccuracy.
We can adjudicate the facts, and we need to. We need to worry about
the inferences that they draw. Blackcheck.org, the sister site of
Factcheck.org, he is trying to help in that process by taking those down,
also monitoring in civility. And because television stations don`t have to
air third-party ads -- that`s a political party, and that`s interest group
ads and that`s super PAC ads. Those televisions can insist on facticity
before they air, urge your viewers to go to our Web site, email their
station, say stand by those third-party ads. Don`t air them if they are
inaccurate. And that kinds of inaccuracies, the one I just pointed out.
We shouldn`t elect or defeat --
HARRIS-PERRY: Ands it feels like you`re asking for a bit of a
broader understanding of accuracies. Because, one of the things we know,
is kind the Franken biting, where you take a half a sentence of your
opponent, and they really did say that it`s factual they said that, but
they said that within a broader context. So, you sort of need the whole
sentence in order to be presenting what is, in fact, factual.
STEWART: That`s where we run into trouble. The double-edged soared
of social media with Twitter and Facebook and whatnot. Fact check is
fantastic for paid ads that are cut and produced and put in a fine package
to televisions. But we have nowadays, we have candidates out on the stump,
saying something, and if you take just one sentence out of context with the
whole paragraph, sure, it doesn`t make sense or might be wrong or makes
them look stupid. But once it`s tweeted out.
HARRIS-PERRY: I only have 140 characters.
STEWART: I explained in my full story in "The Washington Post" that
people might not have the opportunity to read.
GROSS: We need to hashtagcheck.org.
STEWART: By the time it`s picked up by other reporters, of course,
Perry is never guilty of this. Always factually correct. But it`s hard to
put the toothpaste back in the tube, as a communications person, once the
inaccurate information is out there. It`s hard to correct it in the same
fashion as it distributed --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And particularly since we got a candidate,
we`re drawing candidate inferences. We have a lot more on the eulogy
truth, right after the break. Don`t go away.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. We are talking truth, lies and
Here with me to parse fact from fiction in political rhetoric is
Yahoo economist editor Daniel Gross, Republican strategist Alice Stewart,
"The Grio`s" Perry Bacon. Jr., and Kathleen Hall Jamieson from the
University of Pennsylvania.
Speaking of videotape and things that might be taken out of context
or use in particular ways, Joe Biden just said that he was absolutely
comfortable with same-sex marriage. I wanted to take a quick listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am vice president
of America. The president sets policy. I am absolutely comfortable with
the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual, men
marrying women are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights,
all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don`t see much of a
distinction beyond that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, we got the vice president there saying,
OK, I have a different position than the president. HRC came back
immediately with a response, "encouraged by Vice President Biden`s
comments, who rightly articulated that loving, committed, gay and lesbian
couples should be treated equally," and then immediately, of course,
calling on President Obama to speak out for full marriage equality for
I see this going like, I see that sound bite turning into Joe Biden
is, you know, a radical who wants to destroy marriage. I also see it as he
is the great, progressive conscience in the Obama administration. I just -
- you know, almost paused, I thought on the one hand, that makes me happy,
but also makes me very sad about how that true statement might end up being
a truthy statement.
BACON: Although in this case, truthiness is more accurate than truth
I would think. The President Obama keeps saying his view is evolving on
gay marriage. We all know that truth in his view that he`s for it and his
truthiness outloud view, that he`s evolving.
In this case, our assumptions I think are actually more accurate than
what the politician is saying. That`s what you will hear, more Republicans
saying Obama administration is for gay marriage, why don`t they say it out
loud or anything.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Although really no one cares what`s in your
heart as a policymaker. Like I really just care -- I mean, you know, we
were talking about President Nixon beforehand, and no one cares if you are
a nice guy. I really want to know are you going to make policy that is
egalitarian policy, even if you are an egalitarian in your heart, right?
I`d much rather have an actual egalitarian policy.
STEWART: No doubt. And I think right now, we`re going to see at
least President Obama, maybe putting on his running shoes and running away
from that just a bit. But the bottom line --
HARRIS-PERRY: Running away from Joe Biden?
STEWART: Well, the overall idea of that. But I think the big fear
is we`ll have statement like that, and I do believe we`re going to see
with the Romney campaign and Republicans moving forward, statements like
that, that will be looped together, one after the other, in conjunction
with President Obama`s whispering in the ear, that he`ll be more flexible
after the election if he`s re-elected.
Those kinds of statements will come back to haunt him because he`s
already indicated once he`s re-elected, all bets are off. Everything he`s
done up to this point are s off and there`s no telling what we`ll see on
gay rights or the economy or Obamacare. There`s no telling.
GROSS: I find it astonishing that he can`t be declarative on this.
Is there anyone that doesn`t believe that 10 years from now gay marriage
will be legal in every state?
HARRIS-PERRY: Certainly all the polls --
GROSS: To continue to be behind the curve on this, with a core issue
for his own constituency, it`s legal in Iowa, New Hampshire --
HARRIS-PERRY: You got to be at least as progressive as Iowa.
GROSS: New Hampshire, with a New Hampshire Republican state
HARRIS-PERRY: But remember, he`s -- as Kathleen was pointing out
earlier, in the end, he`s got to win, for example, Virginia, Ohio, and I
think there is some angst about some swing voters, and that is both going
to be angst for Republican Mitt Romney, who`s going to need to move a
little more center, and it is -- I think there is no doubt. In 10 years,
maybe 20, but justice delayed, justice denied.
Yes, certainly, I think history will see the president as behind the
curve on this particular issue.
Is there a way for us to, as viewers, as voters, to command more,
just sort of core factual honesty from our politicians? Is there any way
to hold them accountable on truths?
JAMIESON: Yes, there are four good fact checking organizations. The
"A.P.", "PolitiFact," Glenn Kessler at "The Washington Post" and
factcheck.org, which we run up (ph) at Annenberg Public Policy Center, they
rarely disagree on the clear cut factual world that`s out there.
And in those areas, voters I think can trust that consensus. And
that that means there`s a place on the web, when you see something online,
you can go to in order to check.
And television stations, we have a deception law that tracts those
deceptions already on air about Mitt Romney and about Barack Obama. And as
a result, when you see those claims recycled, you can take a look at them
and know not to air them before they ever reach the public. That`s the
ultimate protect on third-party ads.
BACON: I think we already are in some ways. We have a guess tax
holiday, came up, said this is a great idea. Obama said, no, it isn`t.
This is stupid, here`s why. And people voted for him, got behind him.
I would say the most truthiness candidates of these candidates were
Mitt Romney. He`s like -- he`s very data-oriented. He`s very obsessed
with the facts compared to the -- he doesn`t say the kind of things Newt
Gingrich says. I think in some ways voters are already --
HARRIS-PERRY: But he doesn`t have big ideas like moon colonies
JAMIESON: But that`s not going to be the issue. This is going to be
a campaign run by third parties. This is going to be super PACs against
super PACs, third party groups against third party groups. And pro-Romney
engaged in a high level of deception to defeat its opponents.
So, Governor Romney could run a campaign of complete integrity, as
the secondary group, and the same thing could be true on Democratic side.
STEWART: And also like in the -- the same vain, we have the pro-
Obama super PACs putting out ads against Mitt Romney. That`s what we`re
going to see, super PACs will be running a lot of show. But that`s where
it`s incumbent upon politicians and incumbent voters to do their home work
and research, find out what`s true.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it is harder, right? If you are a voter, what are
you, you`re trying to get to work in the morning, you turn it on, you know,
MSNBC for a few minutes before you head out for the day. I mean, it`s
literally tough to sort of wade through all of this. And particularly the
feel as though what`s happened here is that the Supreme Court through
Citizens United has allowed the air waves to be flooded by third parties
that can spend as much as they want, say whatever they want, even if it
doesn`t pass muster in this.
GROSS: There`s another complicating factor which is that a lot of
mainstream publications, "Washington Post," "The New York Times," "The
Journal," television networks that had -- you know, the reporters who would
sift through this and they would note when they made false claims, now have
integrated publications partisans. In other words, people who are, you
know, blog, "The Washington Post" has a few right wing bloggers and left
wing bloggers who`s kind of exist side by side with straight up reporters.
And you see that at "The Times," where they have these outsiders who
come in, and who don`t -- are not held to the same standards. So --
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to push on the idea that they were ever fully
objective. News is always. Even the facts you choose for framing it. I
mean, there is always choice that makes it somehow not simply neutral.
GROSS: Sure, but people who might feel compelled, if someone makes a
false statement, if you are the campaign reporter, you may feel compelled
and your editor may say insert that clause, he said that, it`s not, in
fact, true. But if the person who is the opinion blogger, under the same
brand, who is a political operative or sees themselves as a political
operative first and a writer last, Paul Begala now writes a column in
"Newsweek", for example. And it happens on right as well. That can be
much more confusing if people are looking to this big mainstream brand name
places, it`s not as simple as it was even in the last cycle.
BACON: I think the big dangers like in 2011, you saw a debt ceiling
debate, where everyone who studies the economy knows you have to increase
the debt ceiling. These polls keep showing that large numbers of Americans
thought, oh, we don`t need to that. That`s really dangerous to the country
when you`re Republican and you can`t vote for the debt ceiling because your
constituents didn`t understand it is important.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think that`s critical.
We`re going to stay fact checking and flack checking all during the
2012 election campaign. In just a moment, why the homework of today can
change the world of tomorrow.
But first, it`s time for a preview "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" -- Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST: All right. Here we go with all this
A body is found in the barn in the back side of Churchill Downs where
the Kentucky derby ran yesterday. We`re monitoring these developments
closely. And 10 students charged in connection with the Florida A&M
marching drum major who is beaten and kicked to death.
But why were they charged with hazing and not murder?
Author and filmmaker and war correspondent Sebastian Junger tells me
why he doesn`t consider himself to be the next Earnest Hemingway. I`m also
talking with Jay Kerber (ph). He`s a wrestler in this year`s Olympics.
He`s going to join m here on set. And I don`t know, maybe he`s going to
want to show me some moves, but I`m wearing a skirt. It`s not doing that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I would stick around to see that if they bring out a
WITT: No, you can leave.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex.
Coming up, my defense of nerds and geeks everywhere.
HARRIS-PERRY: For this week`s footnote, a tempest brewing in the
academic teapot. On Monday, "The Chronicle of Higher Education" published
a blog entry by Naomi Schaefer Reilly entitled, "The most persuasive case
for eliminating black studies? Just read the Dissertations."
Riley snarkily rant called for the elimination of African-American
studies programs at colleges and universities. Her opposition is based on
the titles of dissertations written by newly-minted PhDs at Northwestern
University. Titles like, "So I could be easeful: Black women`s
authoritative knowledge on childbirth," and "Race for profit: Black housing
and the urban crisis of the 1970s."
So, Riley opined that this research amounted to little more than
left-wing victimization claptrap and concluded that best that can be said
of these topics is that they are so irrelevant, no one will ever look at
them. Ouch! It`s a sentiment echoed by conservative lawmakers in Arizona,
Texas and California, who actively seek to eliminate ethnic studies
programs, deeming them irrelevant and unnecessary.
Now, if you`re a regular MHP show viewer, and you should be, then you
know that we call ourselves nerdland. It`s a nod to our producers, at
least one of whom gets completely geeked out over counting Republican
delegates with jelly beans.
It`s also a reminder that even though I host a TV show on the
weekends, my day job is teaching, researching and writing in the academy.
So even though Riley`s comments were hurled at would-be college professors
and not at political candidates, they did stir a response here at MHP.
Riley and the conservative lawmaker who parrot similar arguments
claim that black and ethnic studies are irrelevant because they are
specific. But it is Irish novelist and poet James Joyce who wrote , "In
the particular is contained the universal."
It`s a lesson relevant for our political lives as well. Can we see
the universal threat to equality when the constitutional rights of our
particular gay and lesbian neighbors are stripped away? Can we see the
crumbling futures of a whole generation when one student talks of the
struggle to repay student loans?
Can we see the outlines of the whole complex messy and exceptional
history of our nation embodied in one man`s biography? Can we recognize
the extraordinary potential of all human bodies, when we see the singular
Misty Copeland dance? Can we see our own sons, when we look at Trayvon
That is actually the work that African-American studies, Latino
studies, Jewish studies, ethnic studies, women`s studies and queer studies,
programs contribute to our intellectual and national lives. By specifying
the particular, they illuminate the universal.
So as we approach graduation season, I just want to congratulate
every student from grade school to graduate school, who perseveres to study
what your heart desires. In the face of judgment, cruelty and small-
mindedness of critics like Riley and I am for all of us to resist the
efforts to eliminate whole areas of academic inquiry.
We`re called the advice of Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, "If there`s
a book that you want to read, but it hasn`t been written yet, then you must
And that is our show for today. Thank you to Dan Gross, Alice
Stewart, Perry Bacon, Jr. and Kathleen Hall Jamieson for sticking around.
And thank you for watching, and I`ll see you next Sunday at 10:00 a.m. when
comedienne Lizz Winstead joins us at the table.
And coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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