'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
August 21, 2013
Guests: Ana Marie Cox, Steve Friess, Danny Strong; Charles Allen
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Wayne LaPierre says the only way to protect
children in their schools is with a gun. Well, it is not the only way.
Meet Antoinette Tuff.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said that no one loved him. And I told him
that I loved him and that it was going to be OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The school employee in Georgia talking down a
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that it was going to be OK, that we would
want to get out safely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A 20-year-old, allegedly armed with an AK-47.
TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Five hundred rounds of ammunition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALFE: More than 800 students had to be evacuated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I began to tell him some of my life encounters.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tuff talked to the gunman, convincing him to
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To get him to be able to start talking with me,
and opening up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now this, the college athlete murdered in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A young athlete out for a jog is shot and killed.
HALL: Three teenagers have now been formally charged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not something we`ve seen here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the most gun-crazy nation on the planet,
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What will these new incidents of gun violence mean
for the national gun debate control?
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun
is a good guy with a gun.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After spending millions campaigning against a
national gun registry.
LAPIERRE: The universal registry of law abiding people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A registry of guns.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gun registration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leading to a registry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not paranoia.
LAPIERRE: Law-abiding people don`t want that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NRA has one of its own.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s Wednesday, August the 21st.
ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC ANCHOR: It`s Wednesday, August 21st.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And America simply cannot end our deadly love
affair with guns.
O`DONNELL: Yesterday, the McNair Elementary School in Decatur,
Georgia, had 870 students. That was before 20-year-old man allegedly
walked in with semi-automatic weapon and 500 rounds of ammunition and
Well, there is only one way that story could end. Wayne LaPierre told
us so. Seven days after a 20-year-old man with a semiautomatic weapon
walked into a school in Connecticut and killed 26 people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAPIERRE: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good
guy with a gun.
Security is only available with properly trained, armed good guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Today, the McNair Elementary School has 870 students, and
it wasn`t a properly trained good guy with a gun who saved them. It was
Antoinette Tuff, the school bookkeeper.
She was in the front office of the school, behind a locked door when
the man slipped in behind a parent who had been buzzed in through the
security door. Antoinette described her first encounter with the shooter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTOINETTE TUFF: He came in with the gun drawn, he said, I`m not
playing, this is for real, this is not for show. He had a look on him,
that he was willing to kill. As a matter of fact, he said it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Antoinette Tuff, who was unarmed, knew that she had to
keep the gunman occupied. At this point, the school was on lockdown, and
police were already on scene. She called the local news media, the 911, at
the gunman`s request. And the 911 call released today captured what
happened in the final 14 minutes o the encounter.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OPERATOR: DeKalb police. What`s the emergency?
TUFF: Yes, ma`am, I`m on Second Avenue in the school, and the
gentleman said tell them to hold down, the police officers are coming and
he said, he`s going to start shooting. So tell him to back off.
OPERATOR: OK, one moment.
TUFF: Do not let anybody in the building -- including the police. Do
not let anybody in the building, including the police.
OPERATOR: OK, stay on the line with me, ma`am. Where are you?
TUFF: I`m in the front office.
He just went inside and started shooting. Where can I run?
OPERATOR: Can you get somewhere safe?
TUFF: Yes, I got to go. He is going to see me running. He`s coming
back. Oh, hold on.
OPERATOR: Put the phone down.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Antoinette Tuff did put the phone down, but she did not
hang up the phone, she stayed on the line with 911. Antoinette later told
reporters that the gunman ran out of ammunition when he fired those shots.
He came back in the office and started to reload in front of her with
ammunition he brought in a book bag, 500 rounds of ammunition, according to
But with no weapon, Antoinette, completely unarmed, continued to try
to talk him down.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TUFF: He said he should have just went to the mental hospital instead
of doing this, because he is not on his medication.
TUFF: Do you want me to try -- I can help you, you want me to talk to
them? Do you want me to talk to them and try --
TUFF: OK, well, let me talk to them and let`s see if we can work it
out so you don`t have to go away with them for a long time.
SHOOTER: I`m already on probation.
TUFF: No, it does matter.
I can let them know that you have not tried to harm e or do anything
with me or anything, if you want to.
TUFF: But that doesn`t made any different, you didn`t hit anybody.
SHOOTER: You don`t know that.
TUFF: OK. Let me ask you this, ma`am. He didn`t hit anybody, he
just shot outside the door, if I walk out there with him -- if I walk out
there with him, so they won`t shoot him or anything like that. He wants to
give himself up, is that OK? And they won`t shot him?
OPERATOR: Yes, ma`am.
TUFF: He say he just want to go to the hospital.
TUFF: She said --
OPERATOR: Hold on one moment.
TUFF: She said hold on, he is going to talk to the police officer,
now go out there with you. Put it all up there. OK.
OPERATOR: He put the weapon down?
So hold on before you come, he is putting everything down. He is
going to get on the floor. So tell him to hold on a minute. So let him
get everything together. He is getting it altogether.
OK, tell me when you`re ready, and I`ll tell him to come on in. We`re
not going to hurt you, baby, it is a good thing that you have given up.
We`re not going to hate you.
OPERATOR: Ma`am, you`re doing a great job.
TUFF: So let`s do it before the helicopters and stuff like that come.
You hear them?
TUFF: OK. So -- you want to go ahead and you want me to tell them to
come on in now?
TUFF: OK, he is getting everything of his pockets now.
TUFF: OK, he said the gun may come back and say it`s stolen. But
it`s not. He knows the whole story about the gun. He let you all know
TUFF: Do y`all want him to take his belt off?
OPERATOR: Yes, that is fine, just take all his weapons off.
TUFF: OK, she said that is fine, just take all the weapons off. He
said he don`t have no more weapons.
TUFF: OK. So, you got out -- OK, he is on the ground now with his
hands behind the back, tell the officers don`t come in shooting or
anything, tell them to come on in, and I`ll buzz them in.
TUFF: So, hold on and just sit right there. I`ll buzz them in, OK,
so you know when they`re coming, OK? OK.
So just stay there calm, don`t worry about it. I`m going to sit here
so you can see they`re not trying to harm me, OK?
TUFF: It`s going to be all right, sweetheart, I just want you to know
that I love you, though, OK, and I`m proud of you. That is a good thing
that you`re just giving up and don`t worry bit. We all go through
something in life.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And here is what happened in the final 90 seconds, when
the bad guy with a gun was stopped by a good woman without one.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TUFF: You stay right there. You`re fine. You said he want him to go
out there with his hands up or do you want him to stay right here?
OPERATOR: Stay right where he is.
TUFF: OK, she said stay right where you are.
TUFF: He wants to know if he can get some of his water right quick.
Yes, Michael, you said, Michael Hill, right?
OK. Guess what, Michael? My last name is Hill, too, you know, my mom
was a Hill.
He said what are y`all waiting for? What is taking them so long to
OPERATOR: OK, one moment.
TUFF: She says she is getting to them now, they`re coming. They`re
coming. So just hold on, Michael. Go ahead and lay down. Go ahead and
lay down. Don`t put the phone -- OK, you just got the phone. OK, that is
fine. Tell him to come on, come on.
Okay, he just got his phone, that is all he got is the phone.
OFFICER: Do not move.
TUFF: It`s just him. OK. It`s just him.
TUFF: I`m going to tell you something, baby, I`ve never been so
scared for my life.
OPERATOR: But you did great.
TUFF: Oh, Jesus!
OPERATOR: You did great.
TUFF: Oh, God.
OK, I`m fine.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now are: MSNBC`s Krystal Ball, and "The
Guardian`s" Ana Marie Cox, and MSNBC.com contributor, Frank Smyth, a
reporter who`s done an extensive, investigative reporting on the NRA.
Frank, this is a scene that Wayne LaPierre said we would never see.
FRANK SMYTH, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Lawrence, I think Antoinette
Tuff puts the National Rifle Association, Dirty Harry, and Clint Eastwood
all to shame.
They peddled this myth that only a guy with a gun can stop a bad guy
with a gun. And this proves that is not the case. There are times when an
active shooter needs to be actively stopped. But those are very few actual
cases that that occurred. And this demonstrates their other approaches to
public safety in our schools that needs to be talked about and pursued.
O`DONNELL: And, Krystal, police were on scene fast enough. And they
were on the scene fast enough to go in there with guns and intervene, and
we have no idea what would have happened if they had.
KRYSTAL BALL, THE CYCLE: Right, that is exactly right. And God bless
Antoinette Tuff, what an incredible woman. We can`t always count on there
being an Antoinette Tuff at that school, in that position to be able to
talk the person down, to be able to make that call.
It is unfortunate, it`s unbelievable that we have a system where guns
are so prevalent, where they have proliferated so much in our society, that
it can get to that point where someone can show up, a mentally disturbed
person with an AK-47, and have to rely on someone like an Antoinette Tuff,
as that last line of defense for these children. It`s just an unbelievable
O`DONNELL: Ana Marie, the NRA has made sure that our mass murderers,
our aspiring mass murderers are best equipped in the world, and one of them
walked in there today, with the 500 rounds of ammunition and the NRA did
everything that they could to make him as effective as he could be today.
ANA MARIE COX, THE GUARDIAN: Right. And then what they like to do is
make Antoinette Tuff as effective.
You know, they talked about training teachers with guns. I think if
you train teachers to do stuff like what Antoinette Tuff did. And also, if
teachers (INAUDIBLE) in that kind of negotiation and that kind of way of
talking to students, that does a lot of good in a lot of other situations.
Not just talking down a gunman.
Actually, I was looking at the national education statistics, and it`s
true that actually schools are one place in our lives that the presence of
guns are decreasing. School security measures like as metal detectors,
like having to sign in and like uniforms, like trying teachers about being
able to stop gun violence, schools have gotten more safer. Students report
that they feel safe at school. To add guns into that equation would
actually undo (INAUDIBLE).
O`DONNELL: The background on the shooter, Michael Brandon Hill, 20
years old. He carried an AK-47 style rifle, two bags of ammunition, a
rifle, he has prior felony arrests, threatened to shoot his brother. He is
on three year`s probation.
And, Frank Smyth, this is the kind of guy who the NRA says, oh, we
don`t want to have a gun. But he has shown us how easily it is for him,
with his criminal record, with his mental instability to get his hands on
whatever he wants.
SMYTH: And on top of that, Lawrence, I`ve been monitoring the NRA
Twitter feeds and like-minded Twitter feeds. And they have said next to
nothing about this case.
It doesn`t fit within their world view, that they can`t process it.
So, they are saying absolutely nothing or next to nothing about this
particular incident that has the attention of the rest of the nation,
because they have no response. They don`t know what to say.
O`DONNELL: And, Krystal, if this had been the worse case scenario,
and we saw 26 bodies or more coming out of that school, you know, we would
obviously bring a kind of saturation coverage, all the cable news channels
would have stopped.
You know, as soon as I heard that this was stopped, nobody was harmed,
I thought we have to bring as much attention to this in this program
tonight as we would if some of those kids in that school had not survived.
BALL: That is exactly right. And not only should we bring attention
to it on the platforms we have. But we also need to pressure the
legislators in the way that we did after Sandy Hook. I mean, it`s
unbelievable that we couldn`t even pass a basic background check bill in
the wake of Sandy Hook.
O`DONNELL: You know, Ana, for the parents in that school today, it is
something of a miracle. It is luck that their kids came home safely.
COX: It is luck, I guess I do believe in providence. I don`t believe
it was just luck. It sounds to me like there was a reason why Antoinette
Tuff was there.
I was very moved by that entire conversation. And I do come back
believe that this is what we need to train teachers in. This is the kind
of -- this is what -- if the NRA wanted to use Sandy Hook as an excuse to
say we needed to train teachers and arm them and shield our schools with
weapons, what we need is teachers who know how to talk to people,
administrators who need to know how to talk to people.
This is the thing that we can replicate in other schools. This is the
thing that could actually save more lives because it would not be putting
more weapons into the equation.
O`DONNELL: And frank, it shows that there is a kind of empowerment
you can bring to school administrators and teachers in situations like
this, without them strapping guns on their hips.
SMYTH: Absolutely, if you have armed guards and armed teachers in
schools, it creates a terrible environment for learning. It undermines the
goals you`re trying to achieve, and it divides the community.
And what you want exactly what Ana Marie said, our teachers who have
the skills and are trained to have the skills to be able to talk through
and avoid violence and cool things down, as opposed to escalating them.
And that`s something that the gun lobby simply doesn`t understand.
O`DONNELL: And, Krystal, the outrage for those parents we`re seeing
on the video there, getting their kids today, is that a guy was in their
school with 500 rounds. He had no trouble getting that. He had a weapon
that could have wiped out hundreds of kids. He was in there, and it is --
you know, it is something of a miracle that those kids were able to go
But how can you feel good as a parent? Well, you know, there was a
gunman in there today, but, you know, he didn`t kill anybody, and so, let`s
all just go back to school in this happy country of ours where a gunman
gets to walk into school.
BALL: That is exactly right. I mean, any sense of safety that those
parents had before has certainly been shattered, because there is nothing
to keep another person, another mentally ill person from bringing another
AK-47 to that school or to any school in our country, with 500 rounds of
And as Ana Marie said, I think it was Providence that Antoinette was
there. Thank God she was there. But we should be not be putting our kids
in such a situation where we have to rely on having that kind of Providence
and having that kind of miraculous person in the line there.
COX: Yes, if I can just add. The Sandy Hook parents were mobilized
out of grief. These parents could be mobilized out of gratitude.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Krystal Ball, Ana Marie Cox, and Frank Smyth -- thank
you all for joining me on this extraordinary story.
BALL: Thanks, Lawrence.
SMYTH: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Wayne LaPierre was actually right when he
warned gun owners about a huge data base that was tracking everyone in
America who owned a gun. But he did not warn them that the NRA was keeping
that database themselves. We have the reporter who exposed the NRA`s big
data on gun owners, coming up.
And later, the American journalist who appeared on Russian TV to talk
about Bradley Manning and then refused to talk about anything but Russia`s
oppressive anti-gay laws.
And the son of the man who inspired the film, Lee Daniels, "The
Butler", will join me for his first national interview, along with the
screenwriter of that film.
O`DONNELL: A military judge sentenced Bradley Manning to 35 years in
prison today for his role in leaking thousands of secret government
documents to WikiLeaks. NBC News Keir Simmons was with Bradley Manning`s
mother, Susan, when she learned of the sentence.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
O`DONNELL: Bradley Manning`s attorney says that with credit for time
served and good behavior, Bradley Manning could be out of prison in seven
Up next, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA once warned that if the government
created a list of gun owners, it could be hacked by the Chinese. But he
didn`t say what would happen if the NRA created a list of gun owners, who
might hack that. And the NRA has done exactly that.
And the reporter who broke the story will join me next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAPIERRE: It`s going to be people like you and me. That is who their
checks will be. That`s what they`re after -- the names of good, decent
people all over this great country who happen to own a firearm, to go into
a federal database for universal registration of every lawful gun owner in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Wayne LaPierre was right about trying to assemble a list
of every lawful gun owner in America, but it`s not the federal government
compiling that list. It is Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle
The NRA has been secretly compiling the country`s largest database of
current, former and prospective gun owners in the United States. According
to BuzzFeed, that database has been built through years of acquiring gun
permit registration list from the state and county offices, gathering names
of new owners from the thousands of gun safety classes taught by the NRA-
certified instructors, and by buying list of attendees of gun shows,
subscribers to gun magazines and more.
The result: a big data power house that has deployed the high tech
tactics all year round that the vaunted Obama campaign used to win two
When BuzzFeed asked the NRA what it is doing with the data, an NRA
spokesperson replied, quote, "That`s not any of your business."
Joining me now is Steve Friess, a contributor for BuzzFeed, who wrote
that article. And, back with us is investigative journalist Frank Smyth.
Steve, how did you dig this one up?
STEVE FRIESS, BUZZFEED: Well, you know, the big question that he
keeps coming up whenever we talk about gun legislation, how does an
association that has nearly 3 million, maybe 4 million members, it`s really
not clear what the membership is, because they kind of don`t tell the truth
all the time about what the membership is, but if its` 3 million to 4
million people, how does a group of 3 million to 4 million people have this
kind of influence, the ability to shut down legislation that has such
overwhelming public support?
And the answer is data. The answer is that they have collected the
information on people, and they know how to activate many, many times the
number of people who are actually members of their organization. And you
know, they go into a congressman`s office. They go into a city council
office or a state legislator`s office and they lay it out.
They show exactly who they know. And those people realize that those
are voters that will vote, will respond to their message. And they have
tested those message. They have a very sophisticated message there.
O`DONNELL: And, Steve, this list has been put together without the
knowledge of the people on these lists.
FRIESS: Yes, I mean, one of the things that is interesting about my
day today has been looking at Twitter. And seeing people thinking well, of
course, members of the NRA are on that list. OK, so fine, so members of
the NRA are on that list.
But there are also thousands, probably millions of people who are
required by law if they want to have a concealed carry permit to take
safety classes. And by and large, those safety classes are taught by NRA
instructors. That is not the same as going to take a safety class.
These are people who are out in the community. They are 97,000 of
them across the country, far more than the number of volunteers I believe
that President Obama had in his campaign, a lot of people. And they`re out
there teaching these classes. And in many cases, the law requires you take
the class from an NRA certified instructor because this goes back to the
NRA`s own heritage before it became a very political organization, it was
honest to goodness organization that was focused on teaching people how to
use guns safely.
O`DONNELL: I want to read something that Ted Cruz said about such a
registry. "In my judgment, a federal registry of firearms, the government
keeping a list of firearms that is lawfully owned by every law-abiding
citizen would be terrible policy and would be inconsistent with the
No word tonight, Frank Smyth, on what Ted Cruz thinks of the NRA
assembling that list for themselves.
SMYTH: And the NRA isn`t talking about this either. And even in the
NRA community, people are not sure what to make of it.
This is a tremendous, difficult story for the NRA to explain to its
hardcore base, especially the libertarian wing that is very fearful of any
list of any kind. The NRA is claiming that they`re afraid of big brother,
but the NRA now is playing a big brother role by collecting this data. One
of the points that LaPierre made is that this kind of data, if it exists in
any form, could be hacked into it. The NRA seems to be oblivious that
their own list could be hacked into and obtained by people outside of their
So, this is really a very dangerous story for the gun lobby and one
that they wish to go away. And, Steve, you`ve done a great job.
O`DONNELL: And, Steve, even beyond the hacking question -- I mean,
the list like this in certain forms of litigation would be subject to
subpoena. Other parties could get their hands on it for various reasons,
down the road, in foreseeable and unforeseeable litigation circumstances.
So, the privacy that I think a lot of gun owners who are not members of the
NRA, they don`t -- they don`t want to get their names on the list of gun
owners. The privacy that a lot of them think they have doesn`t actually
exist. The NRA has taken away that privacy.
FRIESS: Well, and that is the point. I mean, if you join the NRA,
you probably give them the right to do whatever they need to with your
data. And in fact, you know, other people were saying, well, are there
companies? Google, whoever it is, they all have this data, too.
But the fact is at least in some probably fake way, but nonetheless,
some legally binding way, you click accept when you start to use an app on
your phone or whatever. You -- nobody reads all that stuff. But you do
In this case, you`ve got people who have no idea that they`re in this
database. And they probably have no control over it either. Today, I was
kind of being asked if people could call the NRA and ask them to get their
names off the list. I`m suspecting the NRA will pretend they don`t have
O`DONNELL: Steve Friess and Frank Smyth, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.
FRIESS: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, Charles Allen, who was the son of the man who
inspired the film by Lee Daniels "The Butler" will join me and talk about
his father and his feelings watching that film.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, Lee Daniels` "the Butler" in its
opening weekend, the film starring Forest Whittaker and Oprah Winfrey was
number one at the box office taking $25 million. The famous inspired by
the life of Eugene Allen who worked as a White House butler for 24 years
beginning with President Harry Truman and ending with President Ronald
Reagan. In those years, Eugene Allen became invaluable to the operations
of the White House.
Here is how Nancy Reagan, played by Jane Fonda, chose to express her
gratitude to Eugene Allen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re very popular around here. Everyone says
you are the man who got the raise and promotion. I had no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish I could take credit for that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to invite you to the state dinner
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m going to be there, Mrs. Reagan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, not as a butler, Cecil. I`m inviting you as
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the president prefers for me to serve in
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don`t you worry about Ronnie. I will take care
of that. So we`ll see you next week, you and your wife.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is Gloria, yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma`am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The movie spans a period of dramatic change in America and
profound generational changes in black America. Eugene Allen and his
family had to struggle with the challenges of the times on the street and
at the dinner table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the name of that movie, honey?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the heat of the night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the heat of the night with Sidney Poitier.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sidney Poitier is a white man`s fantasy of what he
wants us to be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just won the academy award, he is breaking
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About being a White, for acting White. Sidney
Poitier is nothing but a rich Uncle Tom. Look at you, all puffed up, with
your hat on your head, saying whatever you want. You`re free to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get the hell out of my house? I`m sorry Mr.
Butler. I didn`t mean to make fun of your hero!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything you are and everything you have is
because of that butler.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Charles Allen, son of former White House
butler, Eugene Allen, and Emmy Award winning screenwriter, Dennis Strong.
Charles, I have to ask you, what was it like for you sitting, watching
this film that`s depiction of your father?
CHARLES ALLEN, EUGENE ALLEN`S SON: It was great. Danny spent a lot of
time with us. That is one of the things that I was happy about that he
actually got to meet my father and talk with him extensively and with
myself. And a lot of these things, he has really pretty accurately
captured the contention, a lot of the contention that was between my dad
and I, my dad, being a very conservative person, and myself, of a more
O`DONNELL: Charles, talk a minute about where your conversations with
your father, where would they be now if he was still with us, and now that
you`re an older man and you have a perspective on your youth, and you have
a perspective on what your father went through and what America has gone
through during your lifetime?
ALLEN: The older I became, the more I came around to my father`s way
of thinking. You know, I thought like the (INAUDIBLE) in the picture, I
thought that I knew everything. I think my father, now, you know, we would
be more like-minded in this way we looked at things. We were both happy
about, you know, President Obama`s ascendancy. You know, unfortunately, my
mother missed that by a day.
You know, my father would be thrilled. I mean, a lot of things that
are going on now he could have never realized. I remember how happy he was
when Charles Gettons (ph) became the special agent in charge of the secret
service. I remember how happy he was when Colin Powell came down to the
White House. And he said you know, they got a young man there now, he is
going places. But you know, this whole thing about Barack of becoming
president, you know, he never couldn`t have imagined it until it actually
O`DONNELL: And he did live to see that.
ALLEN: Yes, he did, we went to the inauguration. Very arduous
experience for him also.
O`DONNELL: Tell us why.
ALLEN: Well, we had to walk about, you know, anybody who was here can
remember that there was something -- it like a biblical movement, an
exodus. And we get the subway let us off about a mile from the capital.
And my father was, I think, 89 years old at the time. And it was very hard
on him. And he had to stop and rest. And you know, Will Haygood (ph) was
with us, and my wife, you know, they were assisting me. And he said no, he
said let me rest. I`m going on. But we made it. We did, we made it up to
the capital. And we got up to the orange section, which is right up there
in front of the podium. And you know, just some of the looks that he gave
me in watching that. You know, when Barack --President Obama was coming
down the hall we realized that it was really going to happen. And he just
looked at me. You know, he was not a man of a lot of words. It was just
the way he looked at me that I know that he was fulfilled.
O`DONNELL: Yes, it was an unforgettable place in that day. I think I
was located not far from you in that crowd.
Danny Strong, you had at first nothing to go on but a "Washington
Post" article, I will never forget that. I remember reading that day.
This is fascinating, the butler who has been there for 34 years. You come
upon the article and you see a movie?
DANNY STRONG, STORYWRITER, THE BUTLER: Yes, it was actually often by
Sony Pictures and (INAUDIBLE) our great producer, a real legend in the
business. And she brought it into me, actually, and she said do you think
you can turn this into a movie? I thought I have no idea how to do this.
But there is a very special movie in here if I could just figure it out. I
knew it was something I had to try to do.
O`DONNELL: And you were going to have to do it as a historian
reporter before you got play screenwriter. You had to sit down with the
family members and get a much fuller story than what you could get out of a
STRONG: Yes, absolutely. And it is so wonderful being here right now
on the show with Charles Allen, because we spent so much time together all
of those years ago. And now we have a movie, and we are on television, on
your show, talking about it. It is really exciting. And I spent a lot of
time with Charles, I got to interview Eugene Allen, which was really a
great honor, and then I got to interview other people at the White House,
as well -- other butlers, chief ushers, engineers. And I just got so many
other wonderful stories. Then I was -- I just thought well, I got to get
all these stories into the movies. It is just too good.
O`DONNELL: And Charles, we don`t often realize how our parents are
regarded in their work place because we don`t get to be in there so much
and see them. When you were growing up and before Danny was able to tell
this story in the full way that has, did you have a real sense of how your
father was regarded by the presidents, and by others in the White House?
ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I knew that he was revered by
his co-workers. He got what he gave. In all of the presidents, people
would ask him, and so, who was your favorite president? And he would say,
well, I liked all of them. And he really did. He found something in each
of the presidents that he liked. And I think these people could pick that
up. And those films were reciprocated. I know -- I think of Mrs. Ford,
the Ford family. Mrs. Ford was an absolute sweetheart. I mean, she used
to call our father on his birthday and wish him a happy birthday. He and
Mrs. Ford shared the same birthday. And you know, just some of the things,
you know, he would tell me that eventually would slip out of him, about the
firs families and it was really fascinating.
O`DONNELL: How often did he bring work home? I mean, was it a common
thing at the dinner table for, you know, an interesting thing happened in
the White House today.
ALLEN: No. Lawrence, if you have will recall in the movie, they have
a code at the White House. And you know, you`re not supposed to come and
divulge information about the families and stuff. And that worked very
well for my father, because he was a very private person anyway. And so,
he would -- but you know, my father was also human and he would say things.
But as far as a running dialog about what was going on at the White House,
no, he didn`t do that. And he never came -- I wanted to ask, but also he
never -- he never came in and cut one of the first families and the
dignitaries or any people he worked with. Not one day.
O`DONNELL: Danny, often in this kind of work, when you get the work
out there more information will come to you by somebody who said, you know,
I knew this. Had you been picking up little nuggets that you would wish
you hadn`t in the writing process?
STRONG: Yes, actually I had a really special moment at one of our
screenings where a woman came up to me and she was in other 70s, and she
said I was a freedom writer and no one has ever thanked me before, so thank
It was really - I just thought it such a special moment because so
much of this film is a salute to the people who fought in the civil rights
movement and sort to have someone who is actually there see the movie and
appreciate it was really fantastic.
And to have Charles Allen, who called me after the first time and feel
proud of it because Charles is one of those people where he lived it. You
know, you want them to be happy. So it was a really wonderful feeling.
O`DONNELL: That was your most important review, Charles Allen.
STRONG: Yes, absolutely.
O`DONNELL: Danny Strong, and Charles Allen, thank you both very much
for joining me tonight.
STRONG: Thank you.
ALLEN: Thank you, Lawrence, and thank you again, Danny.
STRONG: Thank you, Charles.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, a lesson in how to be a guest on a Russian TV
talk show by a man who was kicked off the show for what he insisted on
saying about Russia`s anti-gay law.
O`DONNELL: Wyoming senate candidate Liz Cheney paid a $220 fine today
for making a false statement on an application for a fishing license last
year. The former Virginia resident, Liz Cheney, who is also a lawyer,
received a license 72 days after closing on her Wyoming house in May 2012,
but state law requires that residents live in the state for a full year
before being eligible for a resident license. Cheney released this
statement tonight where she kind of -- I don`t know, blamed Sean Hannity
and blamed the clerk.
On August 3rd 2012, I spent the day on the Snake River with the group
of wounded warriors and the rivers of recovery organization. I had
arranged Sean Hannity to film the group for a special he later ran on FOX
News. When I went in to purchase a license, the clerk asked if I was a
resident. I said yes, because I was living in Wyoming. It was my mistake
not to realize there was a 365-day requirement to hold a resident license.
The clerk did not ask how long I had lived in Wyoming.
Well, I guess we`ll just have to take her word for that about the
clerk. Liz Cheney currently trails her opponent, incumbent Republican
senator Mike Enzi by some 28 points, according to the latest survey by the
public policy polling.
Amazing video, next in the rewrite of a guest on a Russian talk show,
just refusing to play their game.
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s rewrite, rewriting the rules of political
talk TV in Russia. Freelance journalist James Kirchik was invited on
Russia`s state-funded network RT today to discuss the Bradley Manning case.
It was one of those panel discussions much like we have on this program.
And when his time came to throw in his two cents about Bradley Manning, he
threw in a lot more than two cents about something else.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: James, let me ask you the same position and
JAMES KIRCHIK, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Yes, well, Harvey Fierstein is a
very famous American playwright and actor. He said that being silenced in
the face of evil is something that we can`t do. And so, you know, being
here on a Kremlin propaganda network, I`m going to wear my gay pride
suspenders. I`m going to speak out against the horrific anti-gay
legislation that Vladimir Putin has signed into law that was passed
unanimously by the Russian Duma that criminalizes homosexual propaganda,
essentially making it illegal to talk about homosexuality in public.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
KIRCHIK: Do you a faith of violent attacks on gay people --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: James, we will discuss that later. But sir,
what about Bradley Manning, first?
KIRCHIK: I am not really interested in talking about Bradley Manning.
I`m interested in talking about the horrific environment of h homophobia in
Russia right now, and to let the Russians gay people that they have friends
and allies and solidarity from people all over the world, and we are not
going to be silenced in the face of this horrific repression that is
perpetrated by the (INAUDIBLE), by your pay masters, by Vladimir Putin.
That is what I`m here to talk about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.
KIRCHIK: Yes, that`s what why I here to talk about. And I don`t know
who how as a journalist you can sleep at night. It seems what happens to
that journalists in Russia who are routinely harassed, tortured, in some
cases kill by the Russian government.
KIRCHIK: And how can go to sleep at night. I find that (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come over here and see for yourself.
KIRCHIK: Everyone on this network should be ashamed of yourself. And
they should cover what is happening in Russia. You should cover the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re waiting for the verdict.
KIRCHIK: You know, you have 24 hours a day to lie about the United
States and to ignore what is happening in Russia. You have 24 hours to do
that. I am going to take my two minutes and tell people the truth.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, are you ready to have a conversation
about Bradley Manning right now with the panel that we have put assembled?
KIRCHIK: RT has been Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden 24/7. I
didn`t see anything on your network about the anti-gay laws passed in
Russia, the violence and hostility against gay people. Where is the
coverage of that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James, last week we held a panel discussion on the
program about the laws. I think you will find it very informative, and you
can find it on You Tube. It was hosted by (INAUDIBLE). We have a
representatives of some of the other TV and communities here. I think it
is an issue we take very seriously here on the channel.
KIRCHIK: You can`t say what they say on you -- they can`t make these
comments on Russian television. They can write these things in a Russian
newspaper but can`t hold a demonstration in Russian squares.
O`DONNELL: James Kirchik will be my guest right here tomorrow night
and he most definitely will get "the Last Word."
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber is going to get "the Last Word" tonight and he
O`DONNELL: The junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, continues his
crusade against funding the affordable care act. But Texas Governor Rick
Perry now wants $100 million of the funding that Ted Cruz wants to kill.
The affordable care act funding and you he wants that directed to Texas.
Rick Perry has claims to be just as opposed as Obamacare Ted Cruz is, but
now Governor Perry is reportedly in negotiation with the Obama
administration about obtaining, nearly $100 million in Medicaid funding
from the affordable care act for Texas.
And Ari Melber is shocked. Shocked, right? You`re just stunned.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: It is stunning. The saddest part
of the article about this in "Politico" was a report from a Texas anonymous
source that said they are worry, if this is publicly discussed, Perry may
actually back out because her doesn`t want it really getting a lot of
attention that he might take money for healthcare.
O`DONNELL: Two minutes left in the show.
MELBER: So we`re not helping.
O`DONNELL: Let`s talk about it or something else because we are not
supposed to discuss it because this will be bad for the people of Texas if
Perry doesn`t vote for this Medicaid funding.
MELBER: Right. And I think even Republicans, this is what sad, as
eve Republicans are well-aware of that. Their argument is simply well,
yes, we don`t any money from our own people to have this healthcare. You
have got about 19 states that are full into the program. That is more than
some people expected given how many Republicans claimed they would go
against it. And several more, according to the advisory board`s account
that are close to coming in. I actually think it is relatively fast given
that this is a new national program that well, everyone --
O`DONNELL: It is optional.
MELBER: It is optional, yes.
O`DONNELL: The Supreme Court made it optional. The bill that was
supposed to be mandatory. And my feeling was, any Republican governor who
wants to run for president will not be able to take Obamacare Medicaid
MELBER: Right, and that will be the most direct, dispositive proof
that they are looking beyond their states, beyond their constituents
towards what people in Iowa freak out about.
O`DONNELL: And we saw Jan Brewer struggling with this in her state,
ended up going for the Obama care money.
MELBER: Yes. And I think overtime, we are going to see that more and
more, either because there will be Republicans who are replaced over the
issue, because not everyone is running for president, and because
ultimately, over time it gets hard to defend to your state why you should
essentially raise their taxes over this issue or denying them
Medicaid/Medicare, as we all know, are some of the most popular parts of
the social insurance programs that we have in this country. That part of
Obama care only subsidized it. Didn`t change that piece, just subsidized
O`DONNELL: Ari Melber, the closer, gets tonight`s "Last Word."
Chris Hayes is up next.
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