updated 9/19/2012 12:29:36 PM ET 2012-09-19T16:29:36

POLITICS NATION
September 18, 2012

Guests: Ryan Grim; Michelle Cottle; Annie Lowrey; Margie Omero, Meghan McCain, Tad Devine, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe


REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you
for tuning in.

Tonight`s lead, no apology. More fallout from the secret Romney tapes
and his campaign scrambles to contain the damage from even new revelations
from that undercover video. The tapes show his stunning true feelings
about nearly half of the American people. Late today, a defiant Romney
went on FOX News to defend his views.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I recognize that those
people who are not paying income tax are going to say, God, this provision
that Mitt keeps talking about, lowering income taxes that`s not going to be
real attractive to them and those that are dependent upon government and
those that think government`s job is to redistribute, I`m not going to get
them. I know there`s a divide in the country about that view. I know some
believe that government should take from some to give to the others. I
think the president makes it clear in the tape that was released today that
that`s what he believes. I think that`s an entirely foreign concept.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The president`s foreign approach to governing? This is his
response to this crisis, roiling his campaign? He`s talking about
dependency and redistributing wealth. It`s just more of the same ugly
rhetoric that came out in the video shuttered at a closed door big bucks
fund-raiser back in May.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Forty-seven percent of the people who will vote for the
president no matter what. All right. There are 47 percent who are with
him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims,
who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who
believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name
it. That that`s an entitlement and government should give it to them. And
they will vote for this president no matter what.

And the president starts out with 48 percent, 49 percent, he starts
off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. That`s 47
percent of Americans pay no income tax. So, our message of low taxes
doesn`t connect. He will be up there talking about tax cuts for the rich.
I mean, that`s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to
worry about those people. I will never convince them. They should take
personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is to
convince the five or ten percent in the center that are independents, that
are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other, depending upon in
some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Romney`s job isn`t to worry about these people? He`s
talking about nearly half the country. And they will never be convinced to
take personal responsibility for their lives? This isn`t presidential
talk. It`s divisive and it`s classless.

Just moments ago we got President Obama`s first reaction to the
controversy, telling David Letterman that the president needs to, quote,
"work for everyone, not just some." He also says, quote "there are not a
lot of people out there who think they are victims."

But Romney thinks he can win this race by deepening the divide, by
accusing the president of being polarizing. But, in fact, he`s the one
pushing this rhetoric of us versus them. The tape doesn`t lie.

Joining me is Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief of "the HUFFINGTON
POST." He did some of the first reporting on the secret Romney tapes and
Michelle Cottle, Washington reporter for "the Daily Beast" and "Newsweek."

Thank you both for being here tonight.

RYAN GRIM, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you.

MICHELLE COTTLE, WASHINGTON REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST, NEWSWEEK:
Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Ryan, let me go to you first. What do you think of
Romney`s new spin today on these videotapes?

GRIM: Well, this is almost more damaging than the original clips.
Let`s go back to what he told Neil Cavuto. He said - and what he said in
the clip. He said people who don`t pay taxes, and let`s pretend there are
all these people who don`t pay taxes, people that don`t pay taxes won`t
benefit from tax cut, so therefore they won`t listen to my argument. Well,
that is him admitting the trickledown economics is a lie.

SHARPTON: Right.

GRIM: If you u really believe that cutting taxes for the rich
benefits everybody, then you take that argument to everybody and you say,
hey, look, 47 percent of dead beats. I`m going to cut taxes for the rich
and that`s going to help you because the economy`s going to grow, et
cetera, et cetera. We all know that, you know, the lip service that
trickledown economics plays.

So, the fact that in a closed door meeting, he doesn`t even pretend
that tax cuts for the rich will help people other than the rich is very
telling. I mean, it`s something that we all know after the last 30 years
of trying it. But it`s interesting to see him say it publicly.

SHARPTON: Michelle, what he`s actually saying in this tape, this is
no one reporting it, this is him speaking, is that he has a strategy of
preying in the dividing line, and preying one against another. I`m going
to write 47 percent off because our policies don`t work for them. And I`m
going to play to those that feel they will get an advantage. I mean, it`s
the most polarizing, blatantly divisive strategy I`ve ever seen someone say
that`s running for president of all the people.

COTTLE: It`s a little too much honesty there. But, I think you know,
on one hand you have Romney`s problem, which he says he`s playing for that
five to ten percent who vote on things like emotion, and whether they like
the guy, whether they think the guy is likeable. I`m not sure he wants to
play that game. I mean, what he is doing specifically here is playing to
his base, a lot of whom share his view that the half the country that votes
democratic do so because they don`t understand what it`s like to be
successful or they`re dependent on government. I mean, what he`s doing
here is clearly kind of pandering to the conservative base of his party.

SHARPTON: But imagine -- let`s just reverse it. When you look at
people like me that were so outraged when we heard it. Imagine there was a
tape with Barack Obama, even as President Obama, or candidate, saying, I
don`t care about the rich. I`m not going to worry about them. I don`t
care about them at all. I`m not going to care about getting enough to win.

What they would do to the president or what they would do to any
candidate that was in the Democratic Party if they had a tape saying that
two donors, who are asking to contribute to finance this strategy.

COTTLE: Exactly. And what you see happening here is today people
have lined up to take one big whack at him after another. And whatever
he`s been saying, trying to backtrack or I think there`s been some very
fancy tap dancing going on but the fact remains, he`s on the defense once
again. Any day that he is on the defensive is not a bad day for him.
Because he still not doing well enough to be coasting. He needs to be on
the offensive with his message and he had to spend his day doing damage
control one more time.

SHARPTON: Damage he caused.

Ryan, when you look at the hidden camera tapes in the May fund-raiser,
he talked about his how his campaign approaches voters they think they can
win over. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We speak with voters increase the country about their
perceptions. Those people that I told you, the five to six or seven
percent that we have to bring on our side, they all voted for Barack Obama
four years ago. So, and by the way, when you say to them, do you think
Barack Obama is a failure, they will overwhelmingly say no. They like him,
but when you say, are you disappointed in his policies, they say yes. And
because that they voted for him, they don`t want to be told that they were
wrong. That he`s a bad guy. That he does bad things, that he`s corrupt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That he`s corrupt. Now, these are new tapes released
today. These are tapes we have not seen before, Ryan. He also went on to
talk about how he`s going to be vilified. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: What he`s going to do, by the way, is try to vilify me as
someone who`s been successful or who`s, you know, closed businesses or laid
people off and this is an evil, bad guy. And that may work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So, he`s going to be vilified for being successful. Trying
to play that the president is going to make him look bad only because he`s
successful, Ryan. A really divisive, polarizing and dishonest strategy.

GRIM: Right. Although, you know, the president has accused him of
laying people off in many cases accurately so. Now, I think what Romney
was saying in that first clip actually is the closest that he got to saying
something true there. You know, Romney here is making the case that Obama
is failing because the economy hasn`t recovered fast enough. And that, I
think, is the most persuasive argument you can make to a swing voters. You
can say, he`s a good guy, he`s not corrupt. I like him a lot. I`m glad I
voted for him. I`m glad I gave him a shot. But look, he hasn`t been up to
the job. They`re still high on unemployment. He should have done better.

You know, and Bill Clinton had a good formulation of it, you know,
something like, we messed it up and he hasn`t cleaned it up fast enough.
That`s how Bill Clinton rephrased it. But said the way Romney said it,
that is the best argument that I think they have against a candidate who --
or a president who actually is well liked and who did inherit what people
do say is a really bad situation.

ROMNEY: It would be a fair point if it wasn`t in the context of,
we`ve already wiped away 47 percent of the American people.

GRIM: Right, right.

SHARPTON: -- who don`t take on their own responsibility. Let`s not
forget, this is all one delivery.

GRIM: No, that`s exactly true. And by wiping out the 47 percent of
the Americans, it makes it basically impossible for him to pick up those
other. He has this, like -- this notion that there is this, like, five to
ten percent center that he refers to that is somehow distinct from this
other 47 percent that he refers to. But that`s crazy.

You know, that five to ten percent is going to see themselves as the
same, you know, 47 percent, because the way that Romney presents America,
misunderstands the way people relate to government and to the safety net,
some years you`re doing well and you`re contributing to the system. Other
years you`re not doing as well and you`re taking a little bit more from it.
In your old age, you do feel entitled to health care and to some level of
security --

SHARPTON: Well, maybe because you invested in it.

GRIM: Exactly.

SHARPTON: But, I mean, he`s talking like these people are getting
handouts, they`re lazy, they`re irresponsible, they are just lying back,
collecting government money. It`s an insult to a lot of our seniors. It`s
an insult to people barely trying to get by.

But, let me tell you, Michelle, a lot of his own conservatives turned
on him today because this is so callous. "New York times," David Brooks
attacks Romney for his comments at the May fund-raiser. This is David
Brooks, conservative columnists write. "It suggesting that he really
doesn`t know much about the country he inhabits. As a description of
America today, Romney`s comment is a country club fantasy. It`s what self-
satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative
view of people have about Romney. He`s running a depressingly inept
presidential campaign."

This is his friends. Conservative columnist Bill Crystal at "the
Weekly Standard" had harsh words. He says, quote "it`s worth recalling
that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don`t pay income taxes are Romney
supporters. So Romney seems to have contempt not just for Democrats who
oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him. Romney`s
comments are stupid and arrogant."

These are two conservatives, Michelle.

COTTLE: Exactly. With friends like these, who needs the opposition.
But the reality is, Republican establishment folks have always been a
little bit nervous about Mitt Romney because everybody knew he had these
problems going in. He wound up as the nominee, you know, on some level
because that is all that was left after all the various surges. But,
people are quick to jump on him because he doesn`t have a loyal
constituency pretty much anywhere. I mean, who is the Romney Republicans
on some level. So, people get really nervous when he starts doing things
that, you know, make him fit the picture that people have been painting of
him as this rich plutocrat who`s out of touch. And they are going to jump
on him. And I guess, you know, as brooks put him in his column, he would
like to see him pull this out. He`s just not entirely convinced he can do
it.

SHARPTON: Ryan Grim and Michelle Cottle. Thanks for your time
tonight.

GRIM: Thank you.

COTTLE: Thanks, Reverend.

SHARPTON: So, these secret tapes reveal what Mitt Romney really
thinks. But they also reveal his ignorance of the facts. We will take a
look at the truth behind the numbers.

Plus, some brand new NBC polls show a stunning shift of views on the
economy and the choice in this election. And folks, it`s not good news for
the Republicans.

Also, we`ll talk to a pair of NFL players who weren`t afraid to tackle
one of the most controversial issues in America today.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: What Mitt Romney said was stunning, but just wait until our
fact check. More on the secret Romney tapes. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with some breaking news.

President Obama responding to those secret Romney tapes. He made the
comments for an interview to be aired tonight on David letterman. Here`s a
clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST: I don`t know if you have seen the
videotape, but I`m sure you know what we`re referencing here. Mitt Romney
at a fund-raiser, I believe in Florida. There`s a cell phone videotaping
his remarks and he talks about being in dismissive terms why 47 percent of
the people voting don`t matter to him. What does that mean? Is that just
-- is that what rich guys at country clubs are talking about?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don`t know what
he was referring to, but I can tell you this. When I won in 2008, 47
percent of the American people voted for John McCain. They didn`t vote for
me. And what I said on election night was, even though you didn`t vote for
me, I hear your voices and I`m going to work as hard as I can to be your
president. And one of the things I`ve learned as president is you
represent the entire country.

And when I meet Republicans, as I`m traveling around the country, you
know, they are hard working, family people, who care deeply about this
country. And my expectation is, if you want to be president, you`ve got to
work for everybody, not just for some.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: There`s a stunning difference between what the president
says there and what we heard from Mitt Romney on those secret tapes. The
tapes expose the disdain Romney feels for one-half of this country. But,
they also exposed a stunning ignorance of the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our
message of low taxes doesn`t connect. He will be out there talking about
tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that`s what they sell every four years.
And so my job is not to worry about those people. I will never convince
them. They should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I`ll never convince them. They should take personal
responsibility? You see, to Governor Romney, one whole half of this
country is made up of takers to him. Forty-seven percent of the country is
getting away scot-free. Too bad the facts don`t line up with that.

Look at this chart. Among the households that didn`t pay income tax
last year, 61 percent paid payroll tax. These people aren`t free-loaders.
They have jobs. They`re contributing. These folks paid over 15 percent of
their income in taxes. And guess what? That`s a higher rate than Mr.
Romney paid.

And those other people in the pie who aren`t paying income taxes, they
are elderly, they are student, they are people with disabilities, they are
disabled veterans, they are the long-term unemployment, down on their luck
because of the Bush recession. These are the people who Romney says don`t
take personal responsibility? That sort of talk is just ugly.

Joining me now is Margie Omero, Democratic strategist and Annie
Lowrey, economy reporter for "The New York Times." She`s writing about
this today on the "Times" economix blog.

Thank you for being with me this evening.
MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you.

ANNIE LOWREY, ECONOMY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Annie, let me go to you first. Let`s break down the facts.
This 47 percent figure that Romney cites ignores the facts that most
Americans are contributing. Is that right?

LOWREY: Yes, virtually all Americans who of working age or older pay
taxes. And if you don`t pay income tax, you generally pay payroll tax.
And if you`re not paying either of those taxes, it`s either because you`re
very poor, because you`re a student, because you`re elderly.

But the bottom line is that it is true about half of house holes don`t
pay income tax. But the reason why it is kind complicated. The recession
is a big part of it. Your age is a big part of it. So, the statement is
accurate but somewhat misleading.

SHARPTON: Well, but misleading because they are paying some form of
tax or making some form of contribution and it really has nothing to do
with personal responsibility or they are lazy and shiftless and all of
that.

LOWREY: Yes, absolutely. And anything that, you know, Mr. Romney
noted was that, if these people are not paying taxes, you cannot lower
taxes on them. Again, these people are paying payroll taxes. And the
Obama administration has actually lowered payroll taxes to give families a
little more money in their pockets and to increase the incentive to work.
So, the idea that they are not paying any taxes is just not true.

SHARPTON: Now, I want to ask you one more fact before going to
Margie. The Bush tax cuts are a reason many families no longer pay income
taxes. In fact, the Bush tax cuts erased the income tax burden for 7.8
million families. So in reality, Romney is complaining about something his
party contributed to.

LOWREY: Yes, absolutely. And there have been a number of Republican
policies to reduce the tax burden, especially on low income working
families, especially on families with kids. The Bush tax cuts says, that`s
one part of it. It reduced tax rates and increased credits for things like
having kids. And that just wiped out a lot of people`s federal income tax
liability by design. That`s part of what the Bush tax cuts were designed
to do for these families. That wasn`t an accident. That is what was
supposed to happen.

SHARPTON: Bow, let me go to you, Margie. "Mother Jones`" video was
just released, just released now, governor Romney talks about the country
dividing the country. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I wind up talking about how the thing which I find most
disappointing in this president is his attack of one America against
another America based on going after those who have been successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Really, he`s dividing America? Here`s a man that just
talked about his job, not to worry about half the country, 47 percent, and
they`re irresponsible when we just broke down on why they`re not paying
federal taxes. They`re contributing other ways. Yet he claims the
president is dividing and pitting Americans against each other?

OMERO: It`s amazing the combination of wrong, insulting and bad
politics, bad strategy and the lack of humanity in everything that we see
out of these Romney tapes. It`s all there. And he frequently does this a
couple times, accuses the president of really something that he is actually
part of his campaign. I mean, when you have the right and see it in the
Romney tapes, you see it a lot in the right, this worry, this paranoia that
there is a conspiracy to increase dependency, that half of Americans think
of themselves as victims, Mitt Romney is actually labeling people as
victims, people who don`t think of themselves as victims at all. I mean,
you have seniors on fixed incomes, you have students, you have a variety of
folks who may not think of themselves as victims in any way. And for Mitt
Romney to accuse so many people of thinking of themselves that way, it
shows his complete lack of understanding of the American experience.

SHARPTON: Now, you`re a strategist, Margie. Is there any way for him
to dig himself out of this one?

OMERO: You know, a gaffe like this is particularly damaging when it
reinforces what people already think about the candidates. And this is
really what this does. I mean, it, in fact, reinforces everything we know
to be about Mitt Romney, everything, people`s worst fears about Mitt
Romney.

And it would be one thing -- it would be bad strategy still. And the
strategy is wrong, and his facts are wrong. But it would be one thing if
he was simply caught talking about his campaign strategy, which is what he
said he was doing.

But, on top of that, he doesn`t actually have policies that focus on,
you know, focus on helping seniors or future seniors who need Medicare,
focus on the Ryan plan, as we`ve talked about before, Reverend, wants to
cut college affordability, wants to cut food assistance by 17 percent.

So, his policies are similarly against, you know, those Americans. On
top of that, what`s interesting is he said, you know, he`s so hypocritical
when he says I think people want to pay taxes. He said in his interview
today, when rich people, the wealthiest among us don`t want to pay taxes,
that`s OK. But when you have people who can`t afford taxes, who can`t
afford that. Those people are lazy, and they are victims, and they are, you
know, just want a handout.

SHARPTON: Right, and no responsibility.

Annie, let me go back to you since you are the bearer of facts.
Romney claimed that people who don`t pay taxes are voting for President
Obama, no matter what he says. But look at this map. These are the ten
states with the highest number of people who don`t pay federal income tax.
It has estimated that Governor Romney will get 96 electoral votes for these
states. President Obama will get five and 29 are toss-ups. So, he is
really talking about potentially his own supporters in these states where
he is going to -- according to what is polled, could significant electoral
votes.

LOWREY: Yes. I mean, it seems like he is completing a number of
numbers here. It is treated about half of households receive some form of
government assistance like a Medicaid or Medicare, about half of households
don`t pay federal income taxes, about half of households at the moment are
saying that they are going to vote for President Obama.

But the notion that all of those three things are the exact same group
of people is just silly. For instance, take the elderly. The elderly very
often don`t pay income tax because not a lot of very old people are out
working a payroll job and those people are disproportionately voting for
Mitt Romney.

So, it is really, you know, it`s inaccurate to think that there`s even
-- we don`t know how much overlap there is there. But it is also true, you
know, like you pointed out in the map, that you know, these Republican
states have tended to have more people who haven`t been paying income tax
in a lot of cases because they are poor.

SHARPTON: Margie Omero and Annie Lowrey, thanks to both of you for
your time.

OMERO: Thank you.

LOWREY: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, the results of a brand new NBC poll, with a
big shift in how voters view him and the economy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Folks, have you checked us out on Facebook? The POLITICS
NATION conversation is going all day long. Today, our community was fired
up over Romney`s comments about the 47 percent. Emma says, thanks for
letting us know you want to be president of the rich, but not the rest of
us. While Brenda hopes the Republicans in the 47 percent realize that he`s
talking about them, too. What do you think of Romney`s comments? We want
to know. Head over to Facebook and search POLITICS NATION and "like" us to
join the conversation that keeps going long after the show ends.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The secret tapes are just the latest rough patch for the
Romney campaign. And now he`s facing headwind in the polls. A brand new
NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows him trailing President Obama by six
points nationwide. The poll also shows that Americans have some critical
doubts about Romney on key fairness issues. President Obama leads Romney
by 19 point on who would do a better job looking out for the middle class.

The President leads by ten points on who would do a better job with
Medicare. And he has a six-point edge on taxes. The part of the Romney`s
video getting the most attention, there`s still a long way to go until
Election Day. But right now, it looks like an uphill climb for Mitt
Romney.

Joining me now is MSNBC contributor and author Meghan McCain and
democratic strategist Tad Devine, senior adviser to the Kerry and Gore
campaigns. Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.

MEGHAN MCCAIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

TAD DEVINE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to be with you.

SHARPTON: Meghan, let me start with you. Is it fair to say it`s been
a rough few weeks for Romney?

MCCAIN: Yes. That`s a fair statement to say it hasn`t been the best
few weeks of Governor Romney`s campaign. But I think this sort of hysteria
over saying that his campaign is over and this election is done seven weeks
out is just unfair.

SHARPTON: So, you think that there`s a way he can recover. What do
you think he has to do?

MCCAIN: I think he has to stop doing things that deteriorate away
from the message. I think he needs to really start zeroing in on the
economy and just how bad thing are right now with the $16 trillion deficit,
unemployment over eight percent. I think unfortunately with things like
this, he also needs to remember that there is always a camera on him.
Which would be lesson number one for any candidate or any public person
going out in any area, especially at a fund-raiser.

SHARPTON: Now, Tad, you`ve been in a lot of battles and you`ve been
in the FOX hole politically, do you think he can recover in seven weeks?
And what would you tell him?

DEVINE: Well, I think Megan`s right. The election is not over.
There are big events ahead like the debates but, you know, Governor Romney
is in difficult straits right now. And that poll tonight for the President
to be at 50 now, that`s -- that`s a big number. And also, for the
internals of that poll to be so advantageous to the president. You know,
the horse race number, it doesn`t trail the internals, it follows the
internals.

So when the internals opening up big gaps, that`s really trouble for
Romney. I mean, I think I agree with Meghan, he should talk about the
economy, he should talk about jobs. I think he`s also got to do some other
things. First, he has to clean up his campaign. He said, he like to fire
people. He should fire whoever is ever leaking all this stuff to the press
right now. And the biggest thing that Romney can do, he has got a resource
advantage. He needs to expand the playing field of states. Right now nine
states are in play and he has to win almost all of them to win the
presidency. He has to put more states in play or else he`s going to lose.

MCCAIN: I agree.

SHARPTON: Well, Meghan, you say that he should talk about the
economy. Let`s look at these brand new poll just coming up.

MCCAIN: But --

SHARPTON: Let`s look at the poll. Thirty nine percent say, we`re
headed in the right direction. That`s the highest number since September
of 2009. Forty two percent say, the economy will get better. That`s the
highest since October of `09. Forty seven percent approve of President
Obama`s handling of the economy. That`s the highest since May of `10. So,
right now him talking about the economy right now that`s becoming the
President`s strong suit where it was Romney`s.

MCCAIN: I`m not sure where this poll is coming from because a Gallup
poll came out this morning basically saying that President Obama and
Governor Romney are in a statistical dead heat, 47 percent for 46 percent.
So, I`m not exactly sure where you`re getting --

SHARPTON: This is an NBC poll that just came out just minutes ago.

MCCAIN: Well, I trust the -- I mean, it`s an NBC poll. You know,
different polls will say different things. I think the important thing
right now is that this video that leaked, although yes, it is a bump in the
road for their campaign, my impression of this is this is very inside
baseball. This is something we`re talking about as pundits in NDC. You
know, I don`t think the average American coming home worrying about their
job, this is really caring about, you know, some ineloquent words that
Governor Romney said during a private fund-raiser.

SHARPTON: Well, but Tad, do you think that -- let`s put aside for a
minute this new NBC/Wall Street journal poll. It`s not just NBC. Put that
aside. Do you think people coming home from work, that have struggled, and
tried to put ends together, and may be in that 47 percent, do you think
they`d like to be labeled as someone that won`t take responsibility for
their lives? Do you think that would get their attention?

DEVINE: I do. I think this is a real problem for Governor Romney.
And I`ll tell you why. For months now, the Obama campaign has been
defining him as someone who doesn`t care about people, who doesn`t
understand their problems. And now in this most recent episode, Governor
Romney has proven the case against himself. And when the free media in a
campaign, this coverage of Romney and the paid media of the campaign, the
Obama campaign has been telling people in the battlegrounds, come together,
converge, and are communicating the same message at the same time, it`s the
most powerful form of communications in politics. So, I think this is
going to hurt Governor Romney. And, you know, he`s going to have a hard
time recovering from it if he doesn`t change his campaign and change it
quickly.

SHARPTON: Now, Meghan, when you look at the fact that fellow
Republicans, Bill Kristol calls Romney`s comments stupid and arrogant.
Mark McKinnon said, they revealed a very cynical view. David Brooks say,
Romney`s running a depressing inept presidential campaign. And then Romney
goes on Telemundo last night praising his campaign. Let me show you what
he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have got a
terrific campaign. My senior campaign people work extraordinarily well
together. I work well with them. Our campaign is doing well.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So, no changes in your campaign?

ROMNEY: No, I`ve got a good team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, accept what you`re saying that he`s got, he could
turn it around in seven weeks, he first has to not be in denial and see
that he has a problem.

MCCAIN: I agree.

SHARPTON: And these are not just gaffes. I mean, when your father
ran in `08, he didn`t have any of this kind of stuff. This guy is in
denial.

MCCAIN: All campaigns have problems. To be on a campaign is to be in
the midst of chaos. I agree with Tad, what he said earlier. Governor
Romney has to look at who are these leakers are, who this people are being
disloyal and he must get rid of them immediately because that will be the
fatality in his campaign unless he gets rid of them.

SHARPTON: He also needs to get a good mirror because a lot of what
he`s facing he caused. A lot of these wounds are self-inflicted.

MCCAIN: That`s true. But he also has problem with people leaking on
his campaign, and saying things that are inappropriate to be saying when
you`re working for that candidate.

SHARPTON: Yes. That`s true. But people leaking tapes of what you
said, you need to also watch what he`s saying, as you said.

MCCAIN: It`s not a great week for Governor Romney, I`m not disputing
that with either of you.

SHARPTON: Last week wasn`t, the week before wasn`t. Meghan McCain,
Tad Devine. Meghan and I like to spar like this. Thanks for your time
tonight.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, I`ll talk to some pro football stars who have
taken a courageous stand for equal rights.

Plus, some big news about voter ID in Pennsylvania. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Human rights and the NFL, it`s hard hitting and it`s next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: This country is changing. It`s becoming more diverse, more
open to people from each other and we`re seeing it play out in a lot of
different ways. Most vividly in the race between Barack Obama and Mitt
Romney. Now change is coming to the NFL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRENDON AYANBADEJO, BALTIMORE RAVENS: I`m Brendon Ayanbadejo, I`m
linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. I believe we should be doing
everything that we can to make Maryland families stronger, which is why I
support marriage for gay and lesbian couples who want to make a lifetime
commitment to each other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: In a sport not considered friendly to gays, Brendon
Ayanbadejo says, he`s one of the few players willing to speak out in favor
of gay rights. But one Maryland lawmaker was so outraged by this, he wrote
a letter to the owners of Brendon`s team, telling them to muzzle his
player, saying many fans were, quote, "Appalled and aghast at his stand."
You know what else is appalling?

When an elected official attempts to use his position to limit free
speech. But soon after that letter became public, another NFL player came
out in support of gay rights. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe blasted
that lawmaker saying, quote, "I find it inconceivable that you are an
elected official of the United States government. Your vitriolic hatred
and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in anyway
responsible for shaping policy at any level." This letter went viral and
people all over the country stood up for free speech.

Joining me now is Brendon Ayanbadejo, and he`s a law, a linebacker by
the way for the Baltimore Ravens and Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota
Vikings. Thank you both for being here tonight.

CHRIS KLUWE, MINNESOTA VIKINGS: What`s up, bro?

AYANBADEJO: Thank you for having us.

SHARPTON: You are, that`s what`s up. Brendon, historically the NFL
has not been gay-friendly. Why did you decide to speak out for gay rights?

AYANBADEJO: Well, I think it`s important that we support love and for
me it`s an issue of inequality. When my parents met each other, they met
each other 15 years prior to when they did, they wouldn`t have been allowed
to marry each other because of people against interracial marriage. And,
you know, women`s rights, women couldn`t vote at one point in time. Go
back to slavery. So, the issue is equality. Right now it`s the gay
people`s time, it`s time for them to be treated fairly. And so, we`re
standing up and we`re going to tackle equality and right now it`s the time
for marriage equality to be passed.

SHARPTON: Now, Chris, you came out and defended Brendon. What made
you come out?

KLUWE: Well, I felt that what delegate burns had said was, you know,
it was awful. Just not only from a free speech standpoint but also from
the fact that he wanted to treat same-sex marriage, he wanted to treat gay
people like they were a lesser part of our country. And, you know, as
American citizens, we all deserve the right to be treated the same.

SHARPTON: Now, I know a little Brendon about what`s going on there in
Maryland because I`ve supported the fact that they`re voting on same-sex
marriage in November. In fact, in Maryland, Maine, Washington, voters will
decide on gay marriage, whether it should be legal this November. And
Minnesota`s voters are deciding on a constitutional ban. So, right there
where you are, this is an issue on the ballot.

AYANBADEJO: Right. And that`s why I came up. I donated two tickets
to our opening game on Monday night last week. And delegate Burns had a
problem with me donating those tickets to raise funds for marriage
equality, and that`s why we`re sitting here now. But I have to thank Mr.
Burns more than anything because this issue is being hit not only in
Maryland and the other three states that need it but it`s also being hit
internationally. And we`re going to change the world. We`re taking it one
step at a time. But I`m glad this issue hit. And we`re going to make a
big difference and Chris is amazing. I`m glad he`s teamed up with me to
help the cause.

SHARPTON: Now, Chris, delegate Burns, in fairness has since backed
off, he`s bid to silence Brendon by telling a Baltimore newspaper, quote,
"Upon reflection he has his first amendment rights. Each of us has the
right to speak our opinions. The football player and I have our right to
speak our minds." Fifty one percent of the country now supports people`s
rights to engage in marriage with the same-sex marriage, which is up five
points. Do you think that you`re seeing progress on this issue, Chris, in
this country? And the fact that you as two NFL players, in a sport that
was not looked upon as open to this, do you think you`re helping with that
process by being so public?

KLUWE: Yes, I think you know, both Brendon and myself are helping get
the issue out and getting people to talk about it. Because when you look
at it, it is a basic human rights issue. It goes back all the way back to,
like Brendon said, suffrage and segregation and slavery. And there is a
group of people that are being treated differently than everyone else.
They`re being discriminated against and they`re not allowed the same
benefits and protections under our government`s laws that everyone else
has. And to me, that`s discrimination, plain and simple.

SHARPTON: Brendon, I know, when I came out on this issue, I got into
it with a lot with fellow members of the clergy. But I wonder, in your
case, the locker room, what kind of reaction did you get from other
players? Was there any discussion, tension? What was the locker room like
when you started going public on this issue?

AYANBADEJO: Yes. When I first started talking about this issue in
2009, I would hear snickering and comments, nobody wanted to take the issue
head-on. People would just say things, you know, behind my back as I walk
by. But in 2012, surprisingly a lot of my teammates have come out in
support of me. They all support same-sex marriage. Now, the difference
between the two people, there`s two different scenarios that go on. Some
people say, if you call it a civil union, I support it but I don`t support
marriage between same-sex couples because of the religious ramifications
and what not.

And then there`s guys that flat out say, hey, if people love each
other, then why not, they should marry whoever they want. So, everybody is
in support of it but it`s just a little bit of word semantics on how they
accept it. But I`ve had about ten guys come up to me, ten teammates and
talk to me about the issue. And I`m surprised that everyone was on board
and how supportive everybody was, and how much sure everyone was to talk to
me straight on and not behind my back.

So, it`s a changing of the tide. You can`t just say that the NFL is a
homophobic sport anymore. Because it`s not that in this new generation
they`re changing everything. And we just want players, people around us
that are good players, and are also good people and you might even see
someone come out in the NFL one day.

SHARPTON: Now, Chris, what reaction did you get? What was the locker
room like for you after you came out strongly supporting Brendon and taking
his position?

KLUWE: Well, there`s a lot like Brendon said, you know, guys were
supportive. I think as you see younger generations come through the NFL,
you realize that kids are being brought up to, you know, realize that
people are free, people should be free to live their own lives without
someone else telling them what to do. And it`s very heartening to have
these younger guys come up and say, you know, hey, I think you did the
right thing writing that letter. It`s very nice to hear.

SHARPTON: All right, Brendon, Chris, keep speaking for fairness. And
thank you for your time tonight.

Let me say, this week I`ll be joining Reverend Delman Coates and
others standing up in Maryland. People have the right to live their lives.
They do not have to have my -- we can preach what we believe but we cannot
make it law. And that`s what this is about, people`s rights. We`ll be
right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Big news tonight in the fight for voting rights. The
Pennsylvania Supreme Court has sent that state`s new voter ID laws back
down to a lower court for review. The Supreme Court says, the original
judge must block the law if he finds that voters don`t have easy access to
ID cards. In other words, the state has to prove, rather than just claim
that voters can easily get the IDs they need and they may find it very hard
to do that. Just last week one man came on this show and told me about his
trouble helping his 87-year-old mother get her ID.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAN KLINCEWICZ, HELPED MOTHER GET VOTER ID: Drove the 25 miles there
and back only to find out the DMV was, in fact, closed. She had to wait
until Wednesday. And it was two hours in one line to get the forms and
then subsequently more than another two hours to get the photo taken and
finally get the ID.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Is that easy access? What would have happened to that
woman if her son wasn`t there to help? And of course, there`s Viviette
Applewhite, she is the 93-year-old who finally got her ID last month after
a ton of media attention. She told me months ago that this new law was
there for one reason and one reason only.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIVIETTE APPLEWHITE, DISENFRANCHISED VOTER: I think the reason that
they want this ID and everything is because so many of the black people
that doesn`t have ID. And I think it is because they don`t want Obama in
there, so I think they`re trying to do something to keep the black people
from having the right to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: You don`t believe her? Maybe you`ll believe the republican
house majority leader. He admitted it, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE TURZAI (R), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Voter ID which is going to
allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Whatever the cause, we must stand up for the right for
everyone to vote. No impediments, no diversions, no tricks, one person,
one vote. That`s what the country`s about. That`s what we must fight for.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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