'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, May 18th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
May 18, 2013
Guests: John Rowley, Joe Watkins, Raul Reyes, Nancy Giles, Chris Lehane, Anu Baghwati, Susan Crawford, Dan Ackerman
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: This morning, my question. How do you feel
about having the government read all of your emails?
And this week brought even more news of sexual assault in the military.
Plus 19 people were shot just blocks from my home. But first, this week
there was only one word on everyone`s lips. Scandal.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. On Thursday evening we found out
some shocking new information about the political drama we`ve all been
following. Someone in the administration who was in charge of enforcing
the law is now breaking the law. A government agent discovered evidence of
voting fraud in the past presidential election and buried the story. And a
president that we were all led to believe embodied hope, change, and maybe
even racial progress seems to be doing no actual governing, and now we`re
going to have to wait all the way until September to find out what happens
because, of course, what I`m talking about is the season finale of ABC`s
Not what`s going on in Washington. And that`s not to say that Washington
hasn`t seen its share of scandals. I`m thinking of three weeks in scandals
in particular. A president`s re-election campaign whose donations help
fund spying on the opposition party. An arms for hostages operation that
illegally funds money to a guerrilla group in Nicaragua in defiance of U.S.
law. And a U.S. president who couldn`t keep his pants zipped. Now those
are scandals. I mean Shonda Rhimes "Scandal" level scandals. But what
we`re giving wall to wall coverage of now, I mean those stories that keep
coming up at every press conference and committee hearing. You know them,
Benghazi, the IRS 501 C4 applications, the A.P phone records. Those are
all political issues. That merit discussion. But are they consuming the
news cycle because they are real bona fide scandals? No. And you know how
I know that? We just have to look back at the most important Republican
sound bite of the past five years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: And our top political
priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2010
right after the midterm elections. But then, when it came to 2012
President Barack Obama won a second term. So what do the Republicans do?
Imagine you`ve lost, failed on your allegedly top priority as a party. So,
what`s next? Well, you stop him. Throw everything at him. Obstruct his
political agenda, you tie up his judicial and cabinet nominations. You
ignore that the economy is improving and the deficit is shrinking on his
watch, you vote against his landmark health care legislation. Not once,
not twice, but 38 times. Even after it`s been passed, implemented and
upheld by the Supreme Court. And you make sure all roads of every problem
in Washington lead to President Obama. The biggest story this week is the
revelation the IRS gave extra-scrutiny to organizations applying for tax
exempt status whose names contained phrases like Tea Party, 9-12 and
Patriot. Yesterday the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing about
the issue. And Chairman Dave Camp had this to say to open the discussion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAVID CAMP (R ), MICHIGAN: It seems like the truth is hidden from the
American people just long enough to make it through an election. The
American people have a right to the truth, to a government that delivers
the facts, good or bad, no matter what. President Obama promised to be
different and to deliver a better government, the most transparent in
history. He was right. America deserves better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Chairman Camp was clear about how to characterize the IRS`s
mistake of a reflection of the fitness of our president. That hearing,
which should have been a bipartisan effort to correct a governmental error,
quickly devolved into committee members working to score political points.
And this is what seems to keep happening in our Congress. Ranking member
Senator Levin even predicted this outcome in his opening statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SANDER LEVIN (D ) MICHIGAN: If this hearing becomes essentially a
boot strap to continue the campaign of 2012 and to prepare for 2014, we
will be making a very, very serious mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And it is a mistake. But a very, very calculated one.
Because this is not about debating the real political questions of a heart
of these stories, this isn`t even about providing substantive criticism of
President Obama`s record as president. It`s about following Mitch
McConnell`s mandate for the Republican Party. It`s about stopping the
president from accomplishing what he set out to do. The politics really
are personal and it`s our president in the cross hairs. That is the real
Here with me to dissect how our government is managing the IRS story is
Raul Reyes, attorney and political columnist, now with NBCLatino.com.
Nancy Giles, comedian, because you need a little laughter in this week,
writer and social commentator, John Rowley, a Democratic consultant who has
worked on more than 400 campaigns. Now president of the media consulting
firm Fletcher Rowley Media and Joe Watkins, a former aide to President
George W. Bush, now an MSNBC political analyst. It is so lovely to have
you all here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: John I`m going to start with you. Are these scandals?
JOHN ROWLEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGY: In my judgment a scandal is when there`s
malfeasance at the top. And in none of these instances do we really have
something linked directly back to the president. I mean we have a lot of
mid-level bureaucrats and other agencies who are not in the White House,
but I mean this has been a heck of a week. I don`t think there was any
White House that has had three what I would call crises at one time hit.
And since we`re at Nerdland, and since --
ROWLEY: Since star --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I heard you`ve got a great -- you`ve got a great
"Nerdland" on this --
ROWLEY: Since "Star Trek" is opening, you know, "Into Darkness." Probably
a good theme for the week.
ROWLEY: I mean what they are dealing with from a crisis management
standpoint, is like star trek chess, which is three layered chess. And
every move has repercussions. And every other move, and so we have a three
pronged crises that they`re dealing with. And I think the best crisis
management people on the planet haven`t dealt with three crises at once.
At best, one, you`ve dealt with one, one and a half, and so -- the other
challenge in a crisis is there`s often when things are clear and easy and
obvious, then it`s pretty straight forward what you need to do. But in a
crisis like this, there`s a battle between get it right and get it done
fast. And when it`s in an agency that is not in the White House, I think
the White House has struggled to get all the facts in front of them so they
can move fast. And so, they`ve -- it`s taken them a few days to get their
see legs underneath.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, I want to -- because it feels to me like there`s two
different layers then on the political crisis piece, John. I want to come
to you on this. On the one hand you`ve got these three dimensional star
trek chess occurring and the White House trying to respond on all these
different levels, but you also have the GOP needing to make decisions about
how far they`re going to push this or not. I wanted to read you part of
the heritage action letter that went to John Boehner and to Eric Cantor.
And the letter is basically saying, what you`ve got to do is stay on these
scandals. And it says, it would be improvement to do anything that shifts
the focus from the Obama administration to the ideological differences
within the House Republican conference. The letter goes on to say,
basically, stay on the scandals. Don`t talk about real governing. Isn`t
that going to end up being a scandal on the right? This idea of
(inaudible) the scandals, don`t talk about real politics?
JOE WATKINS, FMR. AIDE TO PRES. H.W. BUSH: Well, probably not. I mean
political parties want to win, and they know that because we have a winner
take all form of politics where the president wins and he doesn`t have to
split up things with the other side the political party will try to get
whatever advantage they can, and they`ll take advantage of any -- any
weakness or anything that looks bad on the side of the party -- the other
side, to gain some points. The reality is, is that we don`t have a lot
here to really hurt the president. I mean if you`re talking about the IRS
scandal, I think he handled it the right way. While it`s terrible that it
happened, I think the president expressed the feelings of everybody when he
said that he thought this was absolutely wrong. He wasn`t going to
tolerate it. And he acted quickly. He got rid of the people at the top.
And I think your point is correct also. I work for U.S. president. I know
there are lots of people in an administration. And presidents don`t always
know what everybody in every agency happens to be doing --
WATKINS: So, it`s not a direct reflection upon the president when somebody
in an agency somewhere does something that`s wrong.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, but I`m going to push on this just a little bit, Raul.
Because I`m wondering and particularly talk to me here as an attorney.
What has happened around the 501 (c )4`s and the IRS question? It seems
bad, like --
RAUL REYES, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kind of icky. But it`s not really clear to me that even it
is scandalous. Even if you can connect it to President Obama, I mean as
far as we can tell, you`re talking about an explosion of 501 (c )4
applications from 2010 to 2012. Almost a 1000 additional applications.
But 501( c)4 denials go from, you know, three denials in 2010 to about
eight in 2012. I`m sorry. How is this a scandal?
REYES: Right. And as we know, these 501 (c )4`s are supposed to be for
social welfare anyway, which, you know, the great majority of these very
prominent ones are not. And, you know, Congress could fix that by
insisting that they enforce that law. Which they don`t, and I think for
many people in the public, all that they are seeing is just -- all that
they see is just the headlines. So, you know, they`re taking into the
scandals that, you know, the IRS is going after just these conservative
groups. And that`s the only take away. And to your point, also about the
IRS, this scandal. I actually think that will drag on. Because that`s so
easy to understand. Nobody likes the IRS.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you know what? There`s a bipartisan hatred of IRS.
REYES: And just, you know, as, you know, even with Benghazi. You know,
public policy poling showed this week. Now, I never come to "Nerdland"
without a few numbers.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right. Right.
REYES: They said 41 percent of Republicans think that Benghazi is the
biggest scandal of all time. That`s biggest history -- I mean that`s
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I mean ..
REYES: It`s what they`re doing is working. I don`t agree with it, but
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ve got to say, that`s -- I mean Nancy, I mean how could
Benghazi be the biggest scandal of all time? I think there are legitimate
questions to be asked about Benghazi. And some of them I`ll ask after the
But haven`t we misunderstood the understanding? We misunderstood the
characterization of what scandal is. And does it have anything to do with,
I don`t know, how thin this president is, for example. Is there something
about this president, like, I don`t know -- maybe he`s -- I don`t know,
maybe because he is from Chicago. I don`t know. What would it be about
NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR: I think it`s his hair color.
GILES: I think there`s something about the hair color
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah! Now he`s going gray.
GILES: Yeah, the increasing of whiteness at his hair.
GILES: No, I mean it`s -- this does not reach the level of scandal at all.
And the thing about Benghazi, I think, that`s really confused me, is ,it
was a bad situation. They were some thoughts at the beginning that maybe
it was driven by this offensive video, which we were talking about in this
country at the time. It turned out that that was not correct. So gee, the
information that was given out changed as the information that they
received change. Where is the scandal there?
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to talk more about Benghazi as soon as we come back.
Because I do want to ask how Olivia Pope`s number one rule actually took
hold of the Obama administration this week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Regular viewers of the Kerry Washington drama "Scandal" know
that her character of the powerful Washington fixer Olivia Pope starts
almost every new client meeting with some variation of this line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY WASHINGTON: I want to hear everything that happened, all of it.
Every detail. And it needs to be the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All of it. Every detail. Well, that`s actually what
President Obama provided Wednesday when the White House released more than
100 pages of emails, detailing the process of multiple U.S. agencies
writing and rewriting the talking points regarding the attack last year on
the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. He told us everything. And after all of
the buildup, what did we really finally find out? Well, there`s no data
there. The real surprise came when CBS News compared the content of the
emails with the quote that Republicans had been leaking to reporters. And
found that those Republicans had altered the language to back up their
accusations against the State Department. Raul, is it fair to criticize
this White House, and maybe it is, that they just aren`t very transparent?
That they`re not very good with giving out public information?
REYES: Well, you know, when you set the bar for yourself going in that
you`re going to be the most transparent administration in history, you -- I
mean come on, you have to live up to it. So, I mean they set that
standard. No, granted, this -- this situation, you know, I looked at some
of those e-mails. And like you said, you keep looking at thing, well,
where is the smoking gun? What am I looking for here? And, you know, it`s
hard to understand. And when you look at more at a distance and realize
these are not facts that lead up to a certain outcome or truer scandal,
it`s the other way around. They`ve decided this is a scandal. And now
somehow we`re trying to make it -- it`s like going backwards.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mixing things.
REYES: Right. Mixing things. That`s the only way that it makes sense.
You know, so I know the -- .
WATKINS: Well, it ought not to be a scandal. I mean it`s an
REYES: Right. And the Republicans --
WATKINS: It ought not be a scandal. It ought to be what it is, which is
an investigation. I mean people want to know what happened. On the one
hand, you don`t want your president to always be transparent. Because
after all, he was successful in getting Osama bin Laden --
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
WATKINS: Had he shared that information with the American public in
advance of that, or even after the fact --
WATKINS: It might not be in our best interest. And we might put people in
jeopardy who helped get that done. The same thing is true with Benghazi.
We don`t know the degree, to which things need to be kept secret. And but
there is the desire on the public (inaudible) to know what happened. And
after all, three Americans lost their lives.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think this is important. Let`s listen to Secretary of
State Clinton -- (inaudible) this exact -- former Secretary of State
Clinton to make (ph) exactly this point on Benghazi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S.SECRETARY OF STATE: The fact is we have four dead
Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a
walk one night who decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at
this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do
everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So the investigation part, right, I mean. Even
Secretary of State there saying yes, let`s investigate this. But that`s
different than claiming there`s some smoking gun in the emails that`s going
to prove that when you do group emails it`s kind of a mess.
ROWLEY: I think the brutal truth here is that the Republicans want to
extend this as long as they can. I mean they are plotting to keep this
going another month. And between the three crises, scandals, to try to
drag them out until after the president is out of office. I predict we`ll
still be hearing about this. And it reminds me of the famous Youtube
video from Allen Iverson where he`s getting criticized for not showing up
for practice. He`s like, practice? We`re talking about practice? Talking
points? We`re talking about talking points?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right, exactly. We`re talking about the talking
points. We`re not talking about the four dead Americans. And Nancy, is it
in part because -- I mean if I made this claim that they`re going after
President Obama because, that you come, already said, our top priority is
to go after this president, not after this sense of policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is this about setting up the possibility of going after in
2016 Hillary Clinton?
GILES: Of course. It`s A Hillary -- it`s like a double bonus. You know,
you can work on getting Obama and Hillary, all at once.. And look, Pat
Toomey two weeks ago, he said that one of the reasons why the gun bill
didn`t pass was because people didn`t want anything to go through that
would be perceived as a win for the president. Forget about the country
and kids being safe. The thing that keeps coming back to me, is the way
that this Congress is relating these days with all of these, you know,
panels and investigations. It reminds me of like when I was a bad temp.
Like I had a job, and I needed to look busy. You know, to make the day
look like --
GILES: So I was picking up things. And, you know --
GILES: -- moving them around.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hello, hello!
GILES: All of it is a waste of time. And it`s actually not even doing
their job. This is not your job.
WATKINS: It`s not completely waste of time. I mean Americans do want to
know any time Americans lose their lives we`d like to know what happened.
WATKINS: And certainly we`d like to know, I think Secretary Clinton made a
great point when she said, we need to figure out what went wrong so that we
don`t make the same gaffe again, and that`s a valid point., a well taken
point. Politically these things happen. I mean in the 1980s during
Reagan`s second term, Iran Contra began to unfold. And George H.W. Bush
who was vice president of the United States at the time, was -- supposedly
looking like he was going to be labeled with that his baggage. He wanted
to run for president in 1988 --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right, right.
WATKINS: And a lot of people said this is going to really impact his
presidential hopes for 1988, because this is a terrible scandal. Well, at
the end of the day, it didn`t affect him at all, he went on to be elected
president. I think the same is true for Hillary Clinton. It doesn`t
impact her greatly for a 2016 presidential run, if she chooses to run, that
is. That I don`t think it impacts her -- but of course, it needs to be
HARRIS-PERRY: But there is something that is impacted potentially greatly.
That`s the 2014 election. I mean the thing that Nancy is saying about sort
of what happens when we see these panels. So I think the Benghazi one,
there are real questions to be asked. I think in IRS those real questions
to be asked. But they`re not being asked, right? It`s this weird sort of,
like I really like the government. I`m really into politics. And I hate
my government right now just watching those hearings. And I think this
makes people tune out, and turn off and decide I`m not going to turn out to
vote. And if I don`t turn out to vote, that helps you guys much more than
it helps Democrats.
GILES: And, you know, one of the points that hasn`t come out. I mean just
talking about what`s not being investigated -- and Joe, you`re right, this
is not a wasted time per se, but there was money that was needed to defend,
to protect these people from security. And Congress kind of didn`t vote
for it. So why isn`t that coming out?
ROWLEY: And (ph) Hillary had said, this -- you`re threatening our
GILES: Thank you. Thank you. That`s --
REYES: And I think they need to be careful. The Republicans, I do think
that to them, right, maybe right now it seems it`s great there`s so much is
going on. All these horrible things, you know, about the administration.
They -- I think there`s a real risk that they could overplay their hand.
They are even talking about calling Hillary back. And you know what?
Hillary testifying about a scandal, that`s --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. She`s like -- what -- that`s what I do.
REYES: It`s not a problem. I mean --
HARRIS-PERRY: I (inaudible) I testified on scandals.
REYES: Even in that -- she`s like -- look, move on. So I mean they need
to be careful. And when this administration -- I also wonder, I sound like
a Republican strategist.
REYES: But I wonder, you know, when the Obama administration is over, what
other Republicans -- can Republican Party going to have as the -- its core
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll tell you. I`ll tell you.
REYES: It will be all focused on no Obama.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s an answer to that, and apparently they`re going to
have umbrella gate.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because the newest -- right, the newest scandal is that the
president asked some Marines in dress uniforms to hold umbrellas for both
him and a visiting -- yeah, and so -- this is the idea that somehow because
Marines in dress uniform are not meant to have umbrellas, there`s now
umbrellagate. And this does feel to me like overreach, which is exactly
why when we come back, we`re going to ask this question:. Olivia Pope is
off to parts unknown with her daddy. So --
HARRIS-PERRY: Who is going to fix this mess? The president seems to have
settled on somebody, and that is next. Spoiler alert.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama sounded a little bit like Olivia Pope at
Wednesday`s press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: My main concern
is fixing a problem. We`re going to be able to implement steps to fix it,
get the things fixed. And I think we`re going to be able to fix it. But
if there`s a problem in the government, then we fix it. That`s my
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So he`s not dressed quite as snappily as Olivia would be
dressed. But he is doing his best Olivia Pope impression in saying that he
is the fixer. But if you know anything from watching scandal, you know
that fixing and governing are two very different things. So, joining us
from San Francisco is Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant and crisis
communications expert. During the Clinton administration Lehane served as
a lawyer at the White House responsible for managing various scandals such
as White Water and the Monica Lewinsky affairs. Nice to see you, Chris.
CHRIS LEHANE, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Thanks for having me. I can
certainly tell you that when I was there they were not people as smart,
smooth, and certainly as good looking as Olivia Pope --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I know. I know, somehow I feel like Olivia Pope
would really kind of stand out in the reality of what is Washington, D.C
HARRIS-PERRY: But Chris, talk to me a little bit about this. How much of
this is the administration`s fault, just in the sense of having lost
control of the message and not being able to kind of fix it right away?
LEHANE: You know, you guys -- the panel was talking earlier. And I think,
you know, you guys were in the right track, which is, you know, in my view
this is much more of a political challenge as opposed to a substantive
(ph), real crisis. This does not rise anywhere near to the level of prior
challenges that we faced in the Clinton administration. That Reagan faced
in his second term. That even George W. Bush faced with the "Scooter"
Libby leak during his second term. But this is taking place in the middle
of what I would call the scandal industrial complex in Washington, D.C.
And where clearly, look, the Republicans are looking for every single
reason to thwart the president`s agenda.
And at some level they were being exposed for doing so, this potentially
gives them some cover to be able to do it and appear like they`re doing it
for legitimate reasons, which is why I think that the president actually
finally got to a good place by the end of the week. And looking to pivot
and turn it back, right? You want to make sure that you`re holding
yourself accountable, you want to make clear that you`re trying to get to
the truth. I think they did that over the course of the week, I think, you
know, somewhat in-eloquently initially, but they eventually got there. And
so, I do think that potentially gives them the foundation to begin to
expose the Republicans for what the Republicans are in fact trying to do,
which is to use this as excuse to go into (inaudible) and not do anything.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Chris, this is exactly my question. So, it seems to be
that the administration has at least two options. One is, you try to pivot
by claiming, hey, let`s get back to the substantive stuff. So, you know,
there`s also that great chart this week about the deficit and the fact that
the deficit is -- reducing dramatically, and that, you know, the
Republicans have been saying that the president`s biggest substantive
problem is out of control spending. And we see these projections of how
low it`s going. So, do you think it doesn`t -- try to bring it back to
substantive issues like that or do you try to dig the dirt on the other
side, kind of show them as the folks who are scandalous? What is the best
pivot to make out of this sort o f P.R debacle?
LEHANE: Well, at some level you`re going to have to do both. You`re not
mutually exclusive. I mean American people at the end of the day, do want
to see the president focused on the issues that matter to them. And for
him to be able to talk about it, get out there and have the ability to do
it, he did need to get some separation. And I think he did that by the end
of the week in terms of holding folks accountable and making clear what
they were going to do to address these issues. At the same time, you also
-- you need to make clear that there are -- that there are not exactly
clean hands on the other side. That there`s a real agenda going on. And I
think at some level the administration, the president, the White House have
been enormously helped by the fact that the Republicans just can`t control
themselves. They really overplayed their hand.
LEHANE: It was pretty apparent by the end of the week. I mean people are
talking about this as if they had absolutely no historical awareness --
LEHANE: -- of what prior scandals have been like.
LEHANE: I mean you let Richard Nixon using the IRS for his campaign.
LEHANE This is opposition research department.
LEHANE: I mean this is a situation where you have a couple of people in
Cincinnati who apparently were not doing their job particularly
confidently, but at the end of the day, it`s Republican appointees who are
overseeing them and none of these (inaudible) really held up.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right, right And -- and no one was finally harmed.
John, let me ask you the last question here, which is, if you are -- if you
are in the president`s ear at this moment, after all the campaigns you`ve
run, what is the one rule you`d tell him, what`s the first Olivia Pope`s
fix the thing you say to us?
ROWLEY: Well, I think he`s moving toward this isn`t a mess I made but I`m
fixing it. And so, he wasn`t responsible for some of these individual
incidents, but he is taking accountability, because he`s the president.
And so, one of the best things that has happened, and I don`t think it`s
really been sympathized yet, it`s heads are starting to roll. Two people
at the IRS. There were four people in the State Department that got
removed, I`m not sure if they got fired, and what not. But I mean he`s got
to -- that will show him as bold, strong and in command. And I think when
you are in a crisis, and you don`t know all the facts, and you can`t move
as fast as he would like to, I think he didn`t look as strong for the first
few days of this, but hopefully, they are starting to get their arms around
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, John. And Chris, thank you for joining us. And also
thank you for reminding us what a real IRS scandal looks like, I greatly
appreciate it. So thanks to Chris Lehane out in San Francisco. And we are
going to come back, because there was at least something substantive
happening in Washington, D.C. this week, and it turns out Republicans and
Democrats can govern together if it`s in their interest, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Thursday evening just before the season finale of
"Scandal" the bipartisan group of eight members of the United States House
announced that after months of negotiations, they had finally reached a
broad agreement on comprehensive immigration reform. So, unlike on the
television show scandal it does appear there`s some actual governing going
on, and so maybe there is hope for more than just Olivia Pope. Maybe
immigration reform will survive this week`s scandal madness. What do you
think, Raul? I mean actual things happening.
REYES: Yes, actual governing, law making. No, this is huge. Because the
House is -- you know, they have -- they are a little late of their
timetable for getting this done, but the fact that they can reach an
agreement. That`s tremendous. They were so at odds just a few weeks ago.
So that`s -- that`s huge, but, you know, this is a long term developing
story. So, it`s not a headline grabber. And if there`s anything -- I`ve
sent this before, there`s anything that`s a silver lining to all these
scandal, and we`re in the middle of it. I actually think it could be
helpful for the immigration reform. Because right now, with all this going
on, these GOP lawmakers can get out there and denounce the president,
denounce his administration, denounce the White House and that will give
them some political cover to come back later and --
HARRIS-PERRY: And do --
REYES: And be on board for immigration reform, to protect themselves from,
you know, from primary challenge on the right.
HARRIS-PERRY: That doesn`t --
REYES: So that might be --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- this idea that --
REYES: -- be good for them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, but actually creating this cover of the drama allows
some real governing to happen underneath. I mean, you know, this is the
one thing, on which people seem to be able to actually get to work on this.
WATKINS: Oh, yeah, I worked in the Senate, I worked for U.S. Senate before
I worked in the White House for U.S. president, and -- work does gets done
there, I mean there are a lot of people of good will --
WATKINS: So work actually does get done. I`m glad to report to the
HARRIS-PERRY: The actual work in the Senate.
ROWLEY: Well, we need more Republicans like you to get the work done.
WATKINS: Yeah, they are nice to say that, you know. No, but work doesn`t
get done. I think the president has a real opportunity here as well, which
is to say, to the degree that he stays above all this, remember, he`s not
going to run again for another term as president --
WATKINS: All he has to consider is his legacy. And he`s going to have
quite, I think, a strong legacy going forward. So, if he remains above the
fray, doesn`t let himself get pulled into the bickering, the Republican-
Democrat bickering and he helps bring the parties together, the cobble
together, legislation that will work for people, that`s a great thing. And
he has a chance to do this.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it is cobbled legislation. I mean --
WATKINS: That`s what we`re told.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re like over 300 amendments --
HARRIS-PERRY: That were -- that were proposed.
WATKINS: That`s cobbling. 48 of them adopted. And some of these
amendments, I really, I love some of these amendments, right. This one is
a great one, the family unity in detention, which actually said that if you
take people in detention, spouses and children have to be able to be
together with one another in the context of interrogation, but some of them
are also a little more odd. Like the naturalized citizens at the Marshall
Island in Micronesia can now receive Medicaid, which, although great --
also asked why we are sort of picking out some and not others? And then
also allowing guest worker visas for those with specialized language
training, but when you look at it, it`s Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland,
the Netherlands and Sweden, which is basically about white immigrants. So,
there`s a lot -- but part of the reason that it happened is because it`s
happening on (inaudible). What do those countries have in common?
GILES: I think it goes back to the president`s hair color again.
HARRIS-PERRY: But is this right? Is there a way, in which scandal might
actually provide cover for actual governing?
ROWLEY: We have a lot of optimists at the table.
ROWLEY: I am going to speak from the cynic seat for a moment.
ROWLEY: I`m very skeptical that when it gets out of the Senate into the
House, that the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party is really going to
go for this, because a lot of them control members and seats where you
don`t have a very diverse population. And -and, you know, one of the big
hangups is then, you know, a thing that the Republicans are really
demagogue in campaigns, which is health care for illegal immigrants.
That`s been one of the hangups, and they have -- it`s tough to go from
demagoguing an issue for cycle after cycle, and you even put it in campaign
ads, attacking your opponent to then embrace the bill.
WATKINS: Probably. It`s probably, yes.
ROWLEY: That`s what creating Frankenstein is, possibly, so.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, so -- so and I actually -- and I like this point that
we can be optimistic, pessimistic after a whole long week of what made me
feel pretty pessimistic, is there some optimism for where we are?
GILES: I would like to think so. But I have to jump on what you said,
because when it goes down to why this is one issue that Republicans can get
behind, look, Latinos are the fastest growing, you know, population in this
country. And they -- they`re not going to win election. They may in
gerrymander districts like you`re talking about, but they are not going to
win elections if they don`t support immigration reform. I will say this, I
was optimistic because I loved how the president, you know, fixed, fixed,
fixed, fixed. I thought that was really strong.
GILES: And his hair looked really good.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think he just -- he needs like that big white hat.
GILES: Don`t you think?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That I will carry that after the show
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Nancy Giles and to John Rowley. And we have to
stand around for more, and up next, an actual scandal. Cutting food aid
for the poor and hungry. My letter is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week Congress finally caught up to one of those cans
they kicked down the road last year, the Farm Bill. The piece of
legislation that sets our national agricultural policy must be renewed
every five years. And the Senate passed the version of the bill in June,
but the September 30th 2012 deadline came and went with no farm bill after
GOP leadership refused to bring it to a vote in the House. The sticking
point? Disagreement over cuts to the program that accounts for nearly 80
percent of the farm bill`s cost. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance
Program, or SNAP, formally known as food stamps. Well, here we are again.
Congress has finally gotten around to re-authorizing the farm bill. And
both chambers have put SNAP on the chopping block. The Senate Agricultural
Committee is proposing a $4.1 billion cut. But the House version as an
enticement to deficit hawks to get on board, went five times farther, with
a $20.5 billion reduction in the program that feeds America`s hungry
families. So, my letter this week is to the chairman of the House
Dear Chairman Frank Lucas. It`s me, Melissa. I understand your job as
committee chair is a lot like herding cats, so job well done on bringing
your Republican colleagues to heel by offering them that huge slice of SNAP
reduction catnip. You all can rest well in the knowledge that if your bill
passes, the deficit will no longer be burdened by that $20 billion worth of
excessive spending and government inefficiency. Except that SNAP actually
has a 96 percent efficiency rate. By and large, it does exactly what it
was intended to do -- put food on the table for those who need it the most.
And I know you`re used to thinking about these things in terms of line
items on a budget, but let`s be very clear about the people sitting around
that table. More than 43 million households, more than 47 million
individuals. Almost half of those individuals are children. And your bill
would mean nearly two million fewer seats at that table. Fewer families
like Gale (ph) and Alfonzo (ph), this Philadelphia couple that relies on
SNAP to feed their five children, including their youngest, twin daughters.
Put yourself in their shoes, Congressman Lucas. Imagine if you had to
explain to your three children and grandchild that they had to go to bed
hungry because the deficit in the national budget is more important than
the deficit of food on the table. And it`s not like SNAP is even a worthy
sacrifice on the altar of deficit reduction. Your cuts to SNAP will do
very little to solve the nation`s long-term fiscal challenges, since
spending on the program is expected to decrease according to the
Congressional Budget Office`s projections. The dramatic increase in SNAP
between `07 and 2011 is an indication that the program was responding to
Americans who were struggling to feed their families during the recession
and slow recovery. Put simply, more people are using SNAP because more
people are facing poverty and hunger.
So here is - here is a crazy thought. How about you and your colleagues in
Congress do something about that? Because SNAP really does not need you to
interfere. As the economy recovers and the number of Americans in need of
help declines, so, too will the growth in spending on SNAP. And in the
meantime, SNAP has been one of the few reliable lifelines in our weak
social safety net. It lifted 4.7 million families out of poverty in 2011,
including 2.1 million children.
So here`s my proposal, Congressman Lucas. No member of the U.S. Congress
should be allowed to introduce a bill reducing SNAP benefits until you have
personally taken the food stamp challenge. That means eating on a budget
of about $1 per person, per meal. If you and all your colleagues can do
that for a full month, and you still think we should cut SNAP, then feel
free to introduce a reduction. Until then, have a seat. Sincerely,
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week we discussed the dramatic rise in sexual assault
within the U.S. military. We know that the May 6 arrest of Lieutenant
Colonel Jeff Krusinski, who was leading the Air Force`s efforts to prevent
sexual assault and harassment when he was arrested and charged with sexual
battery himself. Then this week an unnamed Army sergeant who was working
in the Sexual Assault Prevention Office in Ft. Hood, Texas, was accused of
quote, "abusive sexual contact" and other crimes, including having
allegedly forced at least one subordinate soldier into prostitution. And
on Thursday, a third, yes third, case emerged, that of Army Lieutenant
Colonel Darin Haas, who turned himself in on charges of stalking his ex-
wife and violating the restraining order she had against him. Haas was the
manager of the sexual harassment and assault prevention program at Ft.
Campbell in Kentucky. He has been removed from his position, the Army
announced on Thursday.
We don`t know what`s going to happen in these cases. But we know that
current military policy allows these alleged crimes to be handled within
the chain of command and outside the purview of civilian courts. Senator
Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is trying to change that. On Thursday, she
led the introduction of a new bill designed to remove sexual assault cases
from the military chain of command completely, a move opposed by the
Pentagon and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, an Army veteran himself,
despite his assurance yesterday that the Pentagon will do everything needed
to fix the program.
Joining us now is Anu Baghwati, a retired Marine captain and now the
executive director of the Service Women`s Action Network. Anu helped to
draft the very legislation introduced by Senator Gillibrand on Thursday.
We are back again. Are you stunned by how rapidly this is happening? How
many more cases we`re seeing?
ANU BAGHWATI, SERVICE WOMEN`S ACTION NETWORK: I`m relieved, frankly, and
so are the thousands of veterans who have shared their stories with us. It
is about time. I think we`ve reached the tipping point. The difference
here is that the media is covering what has always happened for decades and
decades. I mean, folks who call our office have not just only just
recently been sexually abused, harassed, assaulted, raped, we`re getting
calls from women and men who were assaulted back in the Vietnam era, even
as far back as World War II. And it`s very -- it`s devastating. The
difference now is we`ve had so many women serving in the last ten years of
war, the media has taken, thank goodness, an interest in women serving and
dying. And whenever that happens, the military is a very insular system,
and so it requires extra oversight by the media and extra oversight by the
government. And that`s why this is happening now.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so you make the point that this is in large part because
of the changing roles of women within the military. I was profoundly moved
by the story of Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brian Lewis this week. I
want to listen briefly to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN LEWIS, FORMER NAVY PETTY OFFICER 3RD CLASS: I am a rape survivor. A
superior noncommissioned officer raped me while I was stationed aboard the
USS Frank Cable in Guam. After the rape, I was told by my command not to
file a formal report with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. When I
was reassigned to seek medical help, my psychiatrist told me that I was
lying about my rape, and diagnosed me with a personality disorder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is undoubtedly also a men`s issue.
BAGHWATI: It`s absolutely a men`s issue. It`s a military issue. We don`t
like to call it a women`s issue because over half of the survivors of
military sexual violence are men. And it`s devastating. There`s so much
stigma about being a man who is sexually assaulted in our society, and
there are so many confusing messages, there`s so much rape mythology about
misogyny, homophobia, and we mix messages in this culture. And it`s
devastating for men who need support and who need to understand that
they`re not alone. Brian is one of dozens of men who have come forward and
become advocates to speak out about this issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: And just incredibly brave. You can see how raw the emotion
still is. When you say it`s a military problem, an important part of that
military problem is this chain of command issue. Tell me what the new bill
does to address that.
BAGHWATI: It`s Senator Gillibrand`s bill. It`s the Military Justice
Improvement Act. And it would professionalize what is now an 18th century
military legal system, take it into the 21st century by making sure the
experts in charge of handling military cases are impartial attorneys and
judges, not commanding officers who don`t have the legal training and don`t
have the expertise and don`t have the language or knowledge about sexual
violence and rape culture and masculinity and violence. They really don`t
even know how to begin having those conversations. You hear from the Air
Force chief of staff that hookup culture is the rationale behind sexual
violence, and that`s very typically. He actually meant well--
HARRIS-PERRY: I think he was saying it meaning to try to set it within a
larger context, but then it ends up doing the kind of survivor blaming,
victim blaming that is so central to how we talk about rape.
BAGHWATI: Military leaders conflate far too many messages. They talk
about alcohol awareness in the same breath that they take about rape. And
it has no place. Men and women being social, interacting, dating is very
much separate from sexual violence and rape.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I jut want to, like, say this out loud, it is OK,
there may be reasons to not be drunk, but being drunk is not a reason to be
raped, it does not allow someone to rape you. When you look at sort of
what we hear from Secretary Hagel and all of this, how likely do you think
it is that this new legislative effort will actually penetrate, will
actually happen? I mean, I feel like there`s a lot of media attention at
this moment. Is this the one moment it might break through?
BAGHWATI: I think we have reached the tipping point. We`re working on
getting even more Republican co-sponsors to this legislation. And we have
a handful right now. But it requires all of those senators and congress
members to keep pushing the White House and to keep pushing Secretary
Hagel. Because the answers are not going to be found within the joint
chiefs. Those are also military leaders who have been ingrained in a
backwards culture, who have been ingrained in misogynystic values.
HARRIS-PERRY: That feels like it makes it different than don`t ask, don`t
tell. I just want to kind of make this distinction. When it was important
to repeal don`t ask, don`t tell, the president made a very clear argument
that it needed to go through the joint chiefs and it needed to go through
the military. But you`re saying this is a different issue.
BAGHWATI: Absolutely. And we`re not talking about an operational matter.
We`re not talking about deploying troops in and out of Afghanistan, drawing
troops back. We`re not talking that. We`re talking about criminal
justice, about which these military leaders know anything. Why would they
know anything? And this idea -- they`re wrapped up in this ego that every
single officer has been indoctrinated, which is I`m responsible for
everything in my unit. Well, you know, maybe. But you have no legal
background to understand the ins and outs of military law. And certainly
not sex crimes, which are very complex crimes and very complex cases.
HARRIS-PERRY: And also clearly, clearly rampant. Thank you for being here
again. And I both want to see you again and don`t want to see you again.
I hope we begin to make some progress on this. Thank you to Anu, and
coming up, is the government reading your e-mail?
Also, the epidemic of gun violence hit extremely close to home this week.
We`re going to talk to the author of a shocking new report on Louisiana,
where gun violence is the highest in the nation and gun control laws are
the weakest. There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
It has been a politically charged week in our nation`s capital, not only
for President Obama but also the Department of Justice. On Monday, "The
Associated Press" revealed the DOJ secretly obtained two months of phone
records from "A.P." journalists. The DOJ was conducting an investigation
to find the source of a leak for an "A.P." story about a foiled Yemen
Attorney General Eric Holder defended the actions of his department on
Tuesday with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This was a very serious, a very serious
leak, and a very, very serious leak. I`ve been a prosecutor since 1976.
And I have to say that this is among if not the most serious, it is within
the top two or three most serious leaks that I have ever seen. It put
American people at risk, and that is not hyperbole. It put the American at
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney General Holder was not involved in the
investigation, having recused himself, after being questioned by the FBI
about the leak.
But as the DOJ`s top guy, Holder still testified before the House Judiciary
Committee on Wednesday. That same day, the White House tried to stop the
P.R. nightmare by asking New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer to
reintroduce the media shield law, which will protect journalists who refuse
to reveal their sources. Whether that law gets a vote this time around
remains to be seen.
The truth is the DOJ may have been well within their rights to obtain the
"A.P.`s" phone records. But this may be less about whether what the DOJ
did was legal or not, and more about the scope of what is, in fact, legal
when it comes to obtaining information.
At the table, Raul Reyes, an attorney and contributor to NBC Latino, Ari
Melber, co-host of MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE," and he is also an attorney. Susan
Crawford, professor of law at Cardozo Law School and author of "Captive
Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the Gilded Age." She
also served as a special assistant to President Obama for science,
technology and innovation policy. And Dan Ackerman, senior editor with
So, nice to have you all here.
All right. Let`s start with a legal question. Is the DOJ`s sort of
retrieval of "The A.P." information fundamentally a legal sort of scandal
or fight? Or is this about us being scandalized about the fact that the
DOJ can simply go in and get these records and obtain them if they want
SUSAN CRAWFORD, AUTHOR, "CAPTIVE AUDIENCE": Well, actually, what the DOJ
did was perfectly acceptable in terms of the subpoena power. Internally,
they have guidelines about working with reporters. It`s not clear whether
they complied with those guidelines or not.
But what this does is shed light on numerous power of the Department of
Justice to collect all kinds of information with almost no judicial
oversight, no notice to the targets. We know that carriers are receiving
millions of requests a year for location information, customer data, call
records. It`s all a secret. And this reveals it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And is this new?
So, for me, as a student of American racial history the idea of the
Department of Justice infiltrating organizations that it thinks of as
problematic to the state. Take the Black Panthers or any other
organizations, and using the COINTELPRO tactics. So they were maybe low
tech, but they were still about, you know, kind of the DOJ obtaining
information when it felt that the American state was threatened.
Is this just the kind of, sort of newfangled, more technological version of
that? Or is this substantively different?
CRAWFORD: We`ve had decades of experience with the Department of Justice
and the FBI actually capturing in the past all telegraphs information going
between country and others, snooping on any groups they felt might threaten
the national security of the United States. We had enormous scandals about
this in the `70s. We`ve seen to have lost the lessons of those scandals,
and we removed almost all oversight from the Department of Justice when it
comes to their ability to infiltrate.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we did it because of the Patriot Act, right? I mean,
this is basically a response to the Patriot Act power, right?
ARI MELBER, ATTORNEY: Well, in part, the Patriot Act expanded certain
things that they can do. But there`s a long standing ability to subpoena
and in some cases subpoena without, as Susan was saying, without the
And why is that important? That means if you think of a traditional
warrant or seizure operation, the police come into Melissa Harris-Perry`s
office, and they say, we have a warrant. And you say, how do I know? Let
me my lawyer. Let me call the NBC lawyers. But they come in --
HARRIS-PERRY: They have lawyers?
MELBER: Yes, you should meet them sometimes.
And they take your computer. They take your hard drive. They take your
documents. Maybe they start taking your belongings. You have some shoes
in your office, they might take those.
MELBER: You know it. As unconscionable as it may feel to the person who
feels that they`re wrongly targeted, you have that notice and you begin
fighting it potentially immediately if you have lawyers, right?
We don`t have it here. What "The A.P." is saying is that something on the
order of 20 journalists have records for months, everyone that`s coming in
and out of their calls and their homes, including their personal life,
going to the government, and they didn`t get that first chance to fight it.
Had they had the chance, which would be traditional subpoena, they could go
to court to squash or to narrow it, to say why 20 journalists if there`s
only three, to do some proving. And so that comes in the point where the
DOJ guidelines intersect.
Traditionally, under the internal guidelines, there has to be good faith
negotiation with the journalists before you secretly take their stuff.
That didn`t happen here.
HARRIS-PERRY: But convince me I should care. I fly twice here every week.
I fly up here from New Orleans and I fly back to New Orleans every week.
And if you`re asking me as an American citizen, do I care more about Ari`s
right to have a leaker call him as a journalist and give him information,
or am I happy that a potential underwear bomber didn`t end up on the plane?
I`m going with underwear bomber not on the plane.
So, convince me that I should care.
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: That sounds good. But, you know, going back to
Ari`s example, we`re in the digital age. And much of the law that we have
goes back, you know, predates it.
But think of this way -- you know, right now our government, they can go
in, look at your e-mails, snoop around, personal work, all of those things.
And if it does not result in a criminal investigation, you don`t have to be
informed. So, that`s a lot of data in your -- and going to back Ari`s
point, you know, if you think about it in the physical terms, yes, if
trucks pulled up with armed guards to your office, went in, grabbed your
files and everything, carried it out, that would be an outrage.
That is happening, it`s just -- because it`s done electronically, it
doesn`t register so much on people. But, you know, it`s the same
principle. And also, in this age, you have to remember, the mainstream
press, print media, is weaker than ever.
So, this is going on. Back in the `70s, newspapers were stronger. You had
investigative units, so they fight back. This -- you know, we`re the
different age, also, you know, journalistic age. So, it`s almost like
kicking the press when they`re down.
But to the press, we represent all citizens. You should care. We all
MELBER: And a short answer to your question is, Abu Ghraib, Pentagon
papers, corruption in Tunisia.
MELBER: Each of those are from leaks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, this is the argument that somehow the leaks
themselves carry upon the mental value to us as American citizens, that we
should care about? But then how do we balance that, between, on the one
hand, yes, I want -- I need that First Amendment. This is critical part of
being a democracy.
On the other hand, I am going to shrug my shoulders a little bit and say,
sometimes, people who are in the national security business may know better
than I know, even as journalist, what is and is not dangerous to the
DAN ACKERMAN, CNET.COM: Well, it`s not just we have to give up our
information. It`s not just electronic that we`ve offset all this
information to outside third party vendors who don`t have the same
priorities that you and I know do as journalist.
Just like they can`t come in and just get the records in a cardboard box.
They go to Verizon and Comcast, and wherever else it is, and these guys
don`t have the same priorities as we do. They`re not going to fight a
subpoena to kind of give up that information, as journalists we don`t
always know that.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the assumption here is that there is profit-based motive
for any of these third parties to collect the information, right? They`re
not collecting it to give it to big brother. They`re collecting it to sell
ACKERMAN: It`s not even big brother. We`ve actually been giving up a lot
of information for years for commercial exploitation. And I don`t even
mean exploitation in a pejorative sense.
ACKERMAN: But when the government comes in and does it, that`s exactly it.
When the government comes in and does it, that`s when we notice it. Maybe
we should be noticing it a little bit earlier in the chain.
HARRIS-PERRY: But if Facebook knows to send me -- this my friend who got
engaged and she was like, all of a sudden, all of my Facebook ads are
about, when she changed her status, all of her Facebook ads were about
various things that one would presumably needed if one was going to get
marry like flowers and dresses and all this drama.
And that`s because, right, that little piece of information about a status
gave out to the commercial world all of this information.
Why are we more nervous when it is the government than when it is these
CRAWFORD: Actually, here`s where the subjects come together. The
government uses the fact that we have to communicate through third parties
to do everything in a digital age to say that there`s a giant loophole in
our expectation of privacy, that because we`ve handed over information to
Facebook or Verizon Wireless or Sprint, they get access to very little
This is all about balance. Yes, the government needs information to keep
us safe. But does it feel creepy? This feels creepy because it`s so
secret and there`s no oversight and no chance to know what`s going on.
HARRIS-PERRY: If they`re not something to this legal point, though, that
if you have voluntarily shared the information in the world, if I am
tweeting every breakfast, lunch and dinner I have, then I -- it`s actually
not that invasive, right, that you give up the expectation of privacy in a
CRAWFORD: There`s a difference between a Facebook update to a whole bunch
of people, maybe 1,000 people, and an e-mail you send to your husband.
That`s the difference, and that`s where we haven`t been able to draw the
HARRIS-PERRY: I hope so. So, let`s stay on exactly -- although some
people, I swear their Facebook updates look like thought ought to be
When we come back, how the government may expand its right to know even
more about you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), THEN-U.S. SENATOR: Giving law enforcement the tools
they need to investigation suspicious activities is one thing, and it`s the
right thing. But doing it without any real oversight seriously jeopardizes
the rights of all Americans and the ideals America stands for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was then-Senator Barack Obama in 2005, talking about
his reservations about the Patriot Act, an act which increased the
government`s surveillance powers in its fight to combat terrorism. It`s
the same far-reaching surveillance act which President Obama extended for
an additional four years in 2011.
And while that maybe water under the civil liberty`s bridge, the Obama
administration may be on the verge of backing the next frontier of
surveillance laws. According to reports, the president may support the
FBI`s push for expanded power to wiretap people not just on the phones, but
also on the Internet. This will require companies like Facebook and Google
to comply with wiretapping orders. If they failed to comply, fines could
start around $25,000 a day.
So, on the one hand, we elected to the presidency a constitutional scholar,
and in the wake of 2001 and the Patriot Act, I think a lot of us felt very
excited about that. But when we look at electronic surveillance and just
kind of on the rise, we see electronic surveillance sharply on the rise,
just original orders for electronic surveillance. Not just the orders but
the number of people affected has dramatically increased since 2008, just
hugely increased. And then, also e-mail and Internet authorizations, which
were basically flat, almost at zero until about 2008. And then, as you can
see, exploding at the end there.
Why is that?
CRAWFORD: You know, law enforcement claims that they`re doing dark because
they can`t get access to enough information. Actually, they`re going
bright. They have access to terabytes, more information. And "The A.P."
incident demonstrates that this request for increased surveillance
authority has to be shelled, has to be stopped.
The FBI used "The New York Times" to float their internal proposal. The
White House has not yet approved this.
And it`s very important that people understand that FBI is calling for far
broader authority than they ever had in the past. They didn`t get access
to postal mail in the past. They didn`t get access to contents. Now,
they`re going to get it by asking people building new forms of software to
building backdoor capabilities so that they can risk, at the risk of fines.
MELBER: Susan is hitting on such an important point.
The FBI can be a very strong political actor and bureaucratic player, as
can the 17 surveillance institutions within our larger DNI program. So we
have a lot of groups that last longer than any single administration, that
have a lot of relationships with both parties. And that is the shell of
this that we don`t see. Partly because of something that you were talking
about earlier, which is D.C.`s Obama scandal obsession.
MELBER: "The A.P." story doesn`t involve the president doing anything,
although he could take more actions to pass laws so it would be less likely
to happen, right? The IRS is one of 2.8 million federal employees doing
something wrong and getting in trouble for it.
These are not Obama stories. These are stories about what happened when
you have what Professor Jack Balkin (ph) calls a national surveillance
state, and an approach to everything that airs on the side of total
information and not the other values.
And so, the FBI wants that online, although there would be warrants in the
program. So, I`m actually slightly more comfortable with it at the
operational. What the larger point is, when you gather all this
information you create a tremendous temptation for profiling and for doing
shortcuts and not necessarily doing traditional law enforcement
investigation but just gathering up with the pre-crime mentality.
And that is the bigger scandal that has not been dealt with this week.
REYES: But there`s also something that is not addressed beyond the tech
industry, which is very much, you know, against this proposal. Yes, it`s
very expensive for them to build this technology into their services going
forward so that the government can snoop on people`s lives.
Bu if they do this, you have to think of this, you have to think of this
way -- on one hand, we can have the back door surveillance, you know, the
providers are going to go allow the government, or you can have your cyber
security. You can`t have both.
And look at all the organizations and all the groups all over the world
that have been hacked. Once that means of access is there, it`s a matter
of time before North Korea, who knows --
HARRIS-PERRY: So, propping the door open for the government means that it
is, in fact, propped open.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the criminal can come --
REYES: Most tech experts really agree, even those not affiliated with the
commercial industry, they just do not go together. Cyber security will not
work with these proposed developments. They won`t work.
ACKERMAN: And these backdoors are exactly the same kind of things that
autocratic governments have been asking for, for years, that big companies
like BlackBerry have been struggling with where the government wants access
to all your BlackBerry messages. And it`s not even just for political
purposes, it`s actually for economic purposes where you have a lot of
espionage, industrial espionage. And that`s the real reason why these
companies are really against that happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: So should I be more afraid of the FBI`s request or more
worried about Google Glasses? You know, there`s this part of me that
thinks, hey, yes, I don`t want to put the key under the door for Uncle Sam
to come in because the criminal will use it to break in.
But like I`m more worried my neighbor is taking pictures of me and I don`t
even know it.
ACKERMAN: For now, the Google Glasses look so ridiculous. You can see
them coming a block away.
HARRIS-PERRY: But they won`t forever, right. Eventually, they`ll look
MELBER: The FBI is asking to have everything updated so they have more
power. We haven`t updated the privacy law. We have a federal law that
restricts you on one-way wiretapping of phones. OK. We have that. But
does that apply to Google Glass? Most people don`t know.
REYES: Many people don`t communicate on phones the way they used to.
They`re texting and Facebooking, and all this digital communication that is
not covered. And it`s -- you know, we`re way behind in updating all those
privacy protections for our age.
CRAWFORD: Actually, the risk -- sorry.
ACKERMAN: While we have been waiting for that update, we have already
signed away a lot of the rights on our commercial relationship.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. In that thing that scrolls down that you did click
on that nobody absolutely reads, yes.
ACKERMAN: That`s actually it.
CRAWFORD: The risk of adopts this change far exceed the benefits. But
what`s great about this week is that we`re finally focusing on this giant
secret surveillance state, which gives incredible power to the government
and no power to us. This asymmetry is actually corrosive to our civic
fabric. Without trust, we can`t exist as a democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: It might be the one thing about sort of Republicans`
overreach on turning everything into a scandal. That actually, the right
had not been against this kind of surveillance previously. But because it
fits within the kind of big scandal narrative, suddenly now, we are willing
to take a look.
We are going to talk more about this as soon as we get back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I believe we owe it to the nation, we owe it to those who fought
for our civil liberties, we owe it to the future and our children, to make
sure that we craft the kind of legislation that would make us proud -- not
just legislation that we`d settle for because we`re in a rush. We don`t
have to settle for a Patriot Act that sacrifices our liberties or our
safety. We can have one that secures both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That is President Obama speaking back when he was Senator
Obama in 2005, about the topic my panel and I have been talking about,
which is that fine line between protecting the country and protecting our
privacy. The Patriot Act, the president, then-senator, was saying was
passed in a rush and it increased the government surveillance around record
searches, secret searches, intelligence searches, trap and trace searches.
All those things were handed over to the government.
Can we now -- is there a way now to go back and legislate in a more careful
way that pull some of this back?
CRAWFORD: Absolutely. I mean, in the digital age, we trust our most
intimate communications to a huge variety of private companies. Those
companies, they can voluntarily send all that stuff over to the government.
Verizon Wireless claimed in 2007, that it had a fundamental First Amendment
right to send over customer information to the NSA, the guys building the
giant thing in Utah that`s going to store every possible Internet
We can do this. We can say the government`s access to, use, retention,
dissemination of information is subject to legal controls, judicial
oversight. We`re good at this.
Otherwise, we risk blackmail, discrimination, persuasion, all the tricks
used by the government in the past.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this point that first amendment means that I have right
to sell your information, is your point about a differing perspective in
private industry, versus journalists, who are saying my First Amendment
right means I don`t have to give you the information.
ACKERMAN: Yes. We`ve already given up these rights on a commercial level,
but is that the same as giving the government the same access that we give
to Google? Because I have signed on with Google. I hit the check box that
says OK, because I know I`m getting a very nice service in return for
letting them kind of scan that email and send me context sense of
advertisements, which si kind of creepy, but it`s worth it for me to get
the web mail.
MELBER: And the justice part of this is we care a great deal in this
country about what the police can use when they go about wielding the most
extraordinary power they have, which is to arrest and detain and deny you
liberty. This goes back to the basics.
You mentioned the civil rights movement. You don`t have to explain to
black people in America why it matters what the police can use to figure
out where their investigation starts.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
MELBER: When they use skin color when you`re driving while black, or stop
and frisk in New York, where the majority of African-American males in New
York City, which is law-abiding and very wealthy African-American males, I
But the majority have been stopped and frisked under the data from the New
York City Police Department. You don`t have to explain why we care a great
kid about watching, regulating and in some times preventing the police from
So, on the data side, although it`s not as simple as race, which offends us
deeply for good reason in our history, it can also be the same kind of
problematic profiling. Whether it`s only because you are a journalist or
only because you e-mail about Islam or only because your Amazon file, you
know, has books about anarchy or you read 1984 or whatever it is, we want
to be very careful about that. And that goes to secrecy.
We can`t keep an eye on what they`re using because so much of it is without
warrants and without the traditional checks.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you never know what thing will be the thing that will
profile you. I mean, I`m sure that post-Boston bombing, right, if you
recently brought a pressure cooker to make, you know, rice, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: But suddenly that would become a relevant characteristic.
REYES: I don`t think people really recognize that in the age we live in,
how much of your personal information is truly out there and accessible,
because, again, the laws that we have. You know, for example, to look at
someone`s psychical, a snail mail letter. You have to get a warrant.
Maybe go before a judge. Have good, probable cause.
You know, in the digital age, you can access all sorts of information
without that. I still believe many people think that their e-mail is
private, that their text messages. Everyone knows what kind of stuff
people are texting, all of that is private. And it is not.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, clearly, people think that it is, especially elected
officials who do things on a text and it`s like, are you serious? What did
Thank you to Susan Crawford and to Dan Ackerman.
Raul and Ari are staying around a little bit longer.
After the break, I want to talk about -- yes, I get to say. We did a
little dance over. Look, after the break, I want to talk about something
really important, because last week, in my hometown, in New Orleans, 19
people were shot during a Mother`s Day second line. It was just blocks for
my house, and we`re going to talk about the exclusive report on the fact
that Louisiana legislators are doing nothing about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nineteen people, including two children, were shot last
Sunday during a Mother`s Day second line parade in New Orleans. Brothers,
24-year-old Sean Scott and 19-year-old Akein Scott are now in police
custody and stand charged with 20 counts of attempted second-degree murder.
Thankfully, all 19 people survived. But this story of senseless violence
has quickly and quietly slipped out of the news cycle.
And just like this story about Gregory Jackson Jr., the staffer for
President Obama`s Organizing for Action campaign, he was shot in the leg
during cross fire in Washington, D.C. Jackson`s task at OFA, community
organizing for gun reform.
And while gun reform is stalled at the federal level, it`s living out a
tale of two Americas in the states. New York state led the way in January,
enacting the New York Safe Act, which includes new gun control reform, such
as allowing police to track ammunition sales.
Colorado and Connecticut, home to the two high profile mass shootings in
the past year quickly followed suit. They`ve enacted legislation that
requires background checks for private guns sales and bans certain high
And on Thursday, Maryland Governor Martin O`Malley signed that state`s gun
reform law, which includes banning 45 types of assault weapons.
Meanwhile, states like South Dakota, Arkansas, and Kansas are working to
make guns more omnipresent. South Dakota passed a law in March giving
school employees the authority to carry a gun on their job. Arkansas now
allows college staff members to carry guns on campuses. And Kansas passed
a likely unconstitutional measure to block enforcement of the federal guns
within the state.
Which brings me back to my home state of Louisiana. The shooting happened
just blocks from my house in New Orleans`s Seventh Ward. It added only to
the dishonor of Louisiana holding the state with the worst gun murder rate
in the nation.
Almost as disgraceful, the non-response by state legislators. Fifteen gun
bills have been introduced in the Louisiana state house this year. Twelve
of them expand gun access or to block federal gun control efforts.
And while children take bullets on the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana
lawmakers are making sure that more guns are more available than ever.
Still with me are NBC Latino`s Raul Reyes and MSNBC host Ari Melber.
Joining us now is MSNBC political analyst and former aide to President
George H.W. Bush, Joe Watkins and Trymaine Lee, who`s exclusive new report
of what`s going on in Louisiana is up right now on MHPShow.com. Trymaine
is the national reporter for MSNBC.com.
You have a quote in this piece that I want to turn into a billboard all
over the state of Louisiana that says between 2001 and 2010, 4,519 people
were killed by guns here, more than a thousand more losses that U.S. combat
troops suffered during the Iraq war.
What the hell is going on?
TRYMAINE LEE, NATIONAL REPORTER, MSNBC.COM: When you look at these numbers
and spend any time down in New Orleans on the ground, read the headlines
and it`s clear that there`s a crisis going on in so many of these
communities. You have so many of all the social ills and all the things
that come with poverty.
But you also have a sub-culture over revenge and retaliation. But you also
have a state that`s awash in guns and a wide, broad embrace of this kind of
Second Amendment fundamentalism and just love of guns and we see it play
out time and time again.
At the second line parade, I haven`t been to a second line where there
wasn`t a shooting. It`s astonishing, but it seems it did rise to crisis
level, because as if we come to expect it, especially in some of these
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. We were coming home on Sunday. Second line used to be
a pretty standard part of our weekend, you know, reality, because we live
in the Seventh Ward, we live on (INAUDIBLE) and a lot of times, the second
line come right past our house, people end up on our front porch. It`s
part of what a second line is. We come out, hang out, follow a little bit.
But the idea that we`re in a situation where 19 people can be shot, and
granted, no one died in this context -- but it`s just out of the news. Is
it because it`s happening in communities where it`s expected to happen?
LEE: I think it is expected. As if they`re taking care of their own. And
we forget, there`s always -- even on Twitter yesterday, some folks saying,
we`re to our own. But the grandmother, the student, the athlete, that`s
LEE: That juxtaposition of the criminal element and the people have to
live among drug dealers and killers, and live and survive and try to go
about their every day lives in this kind of violence.
So, I think it`s a matter of, you look at these poor communities, and we
saw in some reporting after Katrina, that they were trying to escape over
the bridge to the west bank. But it`s them, it`s those people in New
Orleans, it`s the Ninth Ward, it`s Seventh Ward. It`s the inner city,
parts of parts of uptown, you see what`s happening. And it`s easy to
forgive because it happens every single day.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask about this, because, Joe, this feels like
exactly the place where Democrats and Republicans or sometimes a more
liberal conservative, where we identify the same set of problems. We look
at a community like Seventh Ward or Ninth Ward, any of those where there`s
violence. And we say, OK, there is violence here and this is wrong.
But then we come to very different understanding about how to address it.
So I`m on the position of let`s get the guns off the street, because then,
whatever these people, they`re not shooting each other. But often, I hear
from the right, no, the problem is individual decision making, sort of
Is this a place where we can finally get some kind of work done?
JOE WATKINS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`d be great if it was, Melissa. I
mean, you raised great points, and everyone wants to be safe. And passed a
church in a neighborhood where there has been gun violence in the past, I
lead a school district in a neighborhood where there has been gun violence
in the past, and if we could end it, that would be wonderful. Everybody
deserves a right to safe.
The question becomes is, how do we fix it? How do we make people safe?
If you get all the guns off the streets, if you make it harder for people
to own guns, to buy guns, if you make it hard for somebody who`s a hunter
in a rural part of a state to buy a gun, have you really fixed the problem
in north Philadelphia or in New Orleans?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, if you make it harder to get guns, yes.
WATKINS: But if the guns are illegal, in other words, if people -- in
other words, if just the bad folks end up with the guns, because remember,
bad folks are going to buy guns one way or another. They`re not going to
register somewhere. They`re going to buy the guns, because -- if you`re
involved in the drug trade, you have money, you can buy guns.
HARRIS-PERRY: But we`ve got a lot of evidence where these guns come from.
So, I guess, one of my concerns is. So, the second line is such a good
example. What if a good guy had a gun in that circumstance? You had
bullets already flying, right?
So if a good guy has a gun and turns around and starts shooting, how does
that make it better?
WATSON: That`s a very good question. You don`t want people just becoming
WATKINS: And just shooting at well.
But what do you want, you want legislators to come together to figure out,
how do we fix the problem? How do we make people safe? And then, just
like with the legislation that`s been vetted about in the House and the
Senate, how do you cobble together, I`ll use that word again today,
legislation that works for everybody? And a lot of it has to do with the
fine print, really, with the fine print.
Trymaine, your article, though, doesn`t show legislators working together.
It really shows a deep racial and partisan debate where basically in the
Louisiana state legislature, the rural parts of the state, mostly
represented by either white Democrats or white Republicans, simply make
guns more available throughout the state, while the legislative black
caucus is like, please stop.
LEE: Because what you see is not only are they loosening already very lax
gun laws, they`re introducing legislation that would make it easier to get
guns and carry in more places.
LEE: So, we`re seeing this as more guns are accessible legally, there`s a
pipeline into the communes most impacted by them. So, if I don`t have to
show anything, I could get guns, obviously, there are people committing
straw purchases and selling the guns back.
And so -- and I talked to a bunch of folks down there on both sides of the
aisle, and some will say, there`s no way I can go back to my district and
say this, I want to support this because it makes sense. But how can I go
back to my rural parish and tell these folks that we`re trying to tighten
up gun restrictions? It just won`t work.
HARRIS-PERRY: As soon as I get back, I`m bringing in Ari and Raul into the
conversation, both as attorneys, but also because Ari`s got an interesting
story about a neighborhood very different from the Seventh Ward of New
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking about guns in the wake of the Mother`s
Day second line shooting that happened in my hometown in New Orleans. The
headline about one of the shooting victims made the whole scene all the
more tragic and personal.
Kennard Alan (ph) was one of the 19 people shot last weekend. He is 10
years old. He lost both his father and his 5-year-old cousin to violence.
But that is not all. Last weekend was not the first time that young
Kennard was shot. A bullet hit him in the neck almost one year ago at his
10th birthday party. That was the party where his 5-year-old cousin was
This is a story about a boy who lives in my city who with the simple act of
attending a birthday party and a second line parade with his mom has
already been shot twice before his 11th birthday.
I don`t know if all the rest of this stuff this week was a scandal. But
this is a scandal. Can we finally have enough outrage to do something
MELBER: Well, I thought your lead-in was really important, because you
showed several states that are doing things about this -- Colorado, New
York, Connecticut. You spotlight in your reporting here a state that is
not able to do it and that has racial and regional differences over it.
But one of the things that happens in our media culture is we look at
something like background checks, which got a majority in the Senate and
because of arcane rules and Republican obstruction didn`t move on.
From a majority we say, oh, we lost. We look at the federal level and we
say we lost. And we look around and say look at these terrible things, and
they are terrible, and we have to shine a light on them.
But I think legislatively, there`s clearly a breakthrough. There`s a
reason why the NRA has been in the news more. They don`t like to be in the
news. They like to wield power quietly.
When they passed the Gun Immunity Act a couple of years back, which
basically said that all manufacturers could never be taken to civil court,
there wasn`t a lot of coverage about it. There wasn`t an NRA president
given big throw down speeches.
MELBER: They just did it. They just wielded power. They are on the
And there are states making progress.
The other thing I just wanted to say is, to me, the fundamental question
about this debate is not regional, although that matters. It`s not racial
although in some states, that is clearly the hurdled. It depends on if you
look at these incidents from the perspective of the shooter or the victim.
And you mentioned earlier, my experience, I went to an inner city high
school. And we had a shooting when I was a freshman during school hours,
all in campus. Two kids shot. A lot of other people shot at.
No one died, no one was murdered, but it was a hugely traumatic event. And
for everyone in that experience, even though it was a city, a lot of people
related to the idea of being shot at.
MELBER: And Trymaine is writing about that.
MELBER: And that`s very different from living in a rural area and feeling
that the gun is about being the shooter. I think that`s a bridgeable
difference on certain issues like background checks. It may not be on AR-
15. If you own one and think you should own, then that`s just going t to
be a black and white issue.
But for a lot of this stuff for a lot of the country as we see more and
more areas where anyone can see it from the victim and feel that fear and
say, there`s got be a little more we can do, then I think we get more
HARRIS-PERRY: But why I wanted to tell you that story, about being -- in
part because I feel like when I put up Kennard`s picture and say this child
has been shot twice before he was 11. Well, he`s poor and he`s black.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, getting shot is about what he ought to expect out of
REYES: But I think also very slowly, people are starting -- we`re in this
for the long haul. But I think very slowly, we are seeing all of the
places that were supposed to be safe not being safe. I mean, there are a
lot of people who dismissed, like Vieux (ph) parade in New Orleans, well,
that`s out of control, crazy, but -- you know, elementary schools, movie
But I do think the momentum is very slow. It`s a long battle, but, you
know, back to what Ari said, demographically, I think when you look in
terms of generations. I am slightly optimistic, because the younger
generation does not have -- the under 30s, they -- 70 percent of them think
gun culture is out of control.
And Latinos, you know, which are the fasting growing demographic in the
country, overwhelmingly support gun reform. So, maybe moving forward, it
might take another generation. In the meantime, these horrific acts are
But it took us a long time to get here. It`s going to take us a long time
to get out.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think some communities really just do bear the brunt
of the cost of this. Looking again from your report, about the Louisiana
gun murder rate per 100,000, this was in 2010. The U.S. average of 3.6,
but in Louisiana, it`s 9.5. Then you also see Mississippi, Alabama,
You know from having lived in New Orleans for some time, we always try to
be ahead of Mississippi, like it`s all, you know, sometimes that`s all we
got. We`re just better than Mississippi. But this is the wrong it means
LEE: And speaking of generational impact, I`d been a police reporter for a
long time and down in (INAUDIBLE) in New Orleans, you would see people with
babies at crime scenes. You would see 10 and 11-year-olds riding the bikes
like it was every day.
And that`s the part of this that we still missed. The traumatic, the post-
traumatic stress impact of this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LEE: And how was a generation, how can you be expected to go to school and
concentrate and get along well with others, and being able to respond to
the differences that you have of people, if every single day you`re seeing
the bloodshed, you`re seeing the bodies? How do you address that?
WATKINS: You`re absolutely right. The pressure for lawmakers is how do
you put together legislation that addresses that, that makes it safe for
people when they go to movies, for kids who want to go to school, makes it
safe for people in the streets, and at the same time, doesn`t run over the
rights of law-abiding citizens who may happen to own a gun because they
wish to own a gun?
WATKINS: And the other part is how do you put together gun legislation
that makes it safe but doesn`t disadvantage the good guys, that gives an
advantage to the bad guys and doesn`t disadvantage the good guys?
HARRIS-PERRY: But I got to tell you, like if I felt like what was
happening was the Louisiana state legislature was coming together and they
were struggling with this question. They were saying, you know, here`s
this thing that`s happening, we have to figure it out and they were coming
to different answers, then I`d be all good, because, you know, it`s a big
democracy. People are going to have different world views.
But it doesn`t feel like they are struggling with it. It feels like
they`re taking this kind of postures that we`re going to show all of these
people who want to control guns, not here, not in Louisiana. No, you
It`s part of the reason why I have many disagreements with Senator Mary
Landrieu over the years, but her taking that vote on Manchin-Toomey, earned
a lot of respect for me, that she went ahead and took that vote in that
moment, when so many people did not.
LEE: And meanwhile, when you see it play out actually in the statehouse,
it`s almost humorous and it`s shameful. The one state rep said, you know
what? This bill might be unconstitutional, but I like the bill. Then
there`d be pushback and he said, well, let`s vote. And they have the
It was so condescending and it was almost -- it was an embarrassment
watching this play out. It was an embarrassment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I talked a little bit about Huey Long last week in
part, because there was a time when Louisiana politics, even when it was,
you know, all the problems of the Huey Long administration, nonetheless
sort of focused on the people. And at the moment, it feels like it is not.
And the costs are very, very real for us of us.
Thank you to Raul, to Ari, to Joe and to Trymaine.
Also, thank you at home for starting to think through the real scandals.
But let me be really clear, we are not done yet. My foot soldier of the
week is next and you do not want to miss this teenager determined to stop
HARRIS-PERRY: If you don`t already know about her, I want to introduce you
to a remarkable young woman named Emily Anne Rigal. This is Emily Anne at
11. In elementary school, she was bullied for being overweight, leaving
her feeling ostracized and depressed.
This is Emily Ann today, now 19 years old feeling empowered, vibrant and
thriving having just finished her first year at Barnard College. It is
what happened in between these two photos of Emily Anne`s life that makes
her our foot soldier in the week.
Simply put, Emily Anne is responsible for this kind of awesomeness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am Alex.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to meet you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m here to talk to --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About being teen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or in other words, teen self-esteem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of us teenagers as a group need to unite and we
need to get some team esteem going on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that`s what this channel is all about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: WeStopHate.org.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guessed it. We stop hate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Those clips are just a few from the more than 100 videos
teens have submitted to the Web site WeStopHate.org.
Emily Anne started the site when she was only 16 years old. She had been
given a MacBook by her aunt to learn how to edit videos. And from her
bedroom in Williamsburg, Virginia, she launched a platform for teens to
tell their stories and to help one another gain confidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are so many things in your life that just pile
up and are not good. The last thing you need it for yourselves to doubt
yourself, to put yourself down or anything like that. You need to be good
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the point of being something you`re not? You
weren`t put in this world to be someone else. You were put on this world
to be you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you`re overweight. That`s OK. If you`re
bisexual, if you`re straight, if you`re gay, that`s OK. If you`re nerdy,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Indeed, if you`re nerdy, that is wonderful! The "We Stop
Hate" mantra is simple -- combat bullying by raising self-esteem because
people who are happy with themselves won`t put others down.
And now, We Stop Hate is growing. This past school year in Virginia, Emily
Anne, along with her part-time staff of five launched We Stop Hate`s first
high school club which already boasts 60 weekly members.
And this summer, We Stop Hate will offer a resource packet available for
download to teens anywhere.
Ultimately, Emily Anne wants to move beyond social media to do even more
work on the ground. She wants to create a safe space for teens and make We
Stop Hate an organization where young people can connect in person in
In addition to taking classes, Emily Anne will be working all summer long,
pushing her vision for we stop hate into reality. And here at Nerdland,
that`s the kind of summer job we salute.
For taking that MacBook and deciding to make a difference, Emily Anne Rigal
is our foot soldier of the week.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you tomorrow morning, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We`re going to get
into the conversation that Angelina Jolie has sparked by announcing her
double mastectomy. There are layers to the story that are much more
complicated than the headlines suggest, and we`re going to get into what`s
at stake with women, their health and their bodies.
But right now, it`s a preview for "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2013 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2013 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
WATCH 'THE MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY SHOW' SATURDAY AND SUNDAY AT 10:00 A.M. ET ON MSNBC.
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: