'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
September 19, 2013
Guest: Howard Dean, Stuart Milk, Stuart Milk; Anita DeFrantz; Greg
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: "When you run into the street when there is
a flashing red light, you are going to get hit by cars and killed." A
Republican said that about Ted Cruz today. And what do you think Ted Cruz
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: It`s House Republicans versus the Senate
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: It`s easy to focus on the political back
TODD: Risking a government shutdown to defund the president`s health
CRUZ: Obamacare isn`t working.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Here in the House,
we`re going to lead.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: Speaker John Boehner is caving to Tea
BOEHNER: We`ll deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow.
CRUZ: I want to commend Speaker Boehner.
JANSING: Is the Tea Party running Washington?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), DEMOCRATIC LEADER: This is playing with
BOEHNER: I`m not doing that. I`m not doing that.
PELOSI: Legislative arsonists are at work.
BOEHNER: Guess what? We are going to win the fight over here and get
the job done.
CRUZ: I want to commend Speaker Boehner for leading.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His unimpeachable leadership skills.
PELOSI: Passes for humor in certain circles.
CRUZ: This is a moment for Republicans to unite.
PELOSI: This is playing with fire.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s just going to end in disaster for the
BOEHNER: I love those editorial comments.
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: You are entitled to your own opinion.
But you are not entitled to your own facts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They do not have the votes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re going to fail.
JANSING: Why is John Boehner doing this?
CRUZ: I want to commend Speaker Boehner for leading.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Ted Cruz has ignited the anger of House
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ted Cruz still refuses to back down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ted Cruz is essentially running to be Rush
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can`t keep getting away with this!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now, we are going to let our party run into
moving traffic. It`s idiotic.
BOEHNER: Oh, I`m not doing that. I`m not doing that.
O`DONNELL: Republicans are now frantically warning Tea Party
Republican Senator Ted Cruz that his plot to kill Obamacare by defunding
the government won`t work. And will actually help President Obama.
The White House warned Congress today that the president will veto any
bill that defunds Obamacare even if it is attached to a build funding the
government. Today, Ted Cruz gathered with House Tea Party Republicans to
celebrate successfully forcing Speaker John Boehner to go through the
meaningless exercise of pushing the country to a government shut down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: Two months ago, conventional wisdom in Washington said this day
was impossible. And yet, I want to commend House conservatives for
sticking their neck out. And I want to commend Speaker Boehner for
listening to the American people and for leading. For the House of
Representatives to stand up and vote to defund Obamacare is a tremendous
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: What Ted Cruz calls conventional wisdom is what other
Republicans call reality. They know that Ted Cruz is going to fail and Ted
Cruz is going to hurt their party.
This is how Nicolle Wallace described Ted Cruz`s plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLLE WALLACE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I have a 2-year-old.
Sometimes when heap is on the scooter, he wants to cross the street even
when the light is red.
It is your job as a parent to hold the child and the scooter from
running into traffic because he would get squished.
Ted Cruz is responding to what is a genuine sentiment out there.
However, when Republicans run into the street, despite the fact that there
is a flashing red light, they`re going to get hit by the cars and killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The conservative "Wall Street Journal" editorial board
called Cruz`s plan a kamikaze mission this week.
And today, Karl Rove described it as a self-defeating defunding
strategy. "The desire to strike at Obamacare is praiseworthy. But any
strategy to repeal, delay, or replace the law must have a credible chance
of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively.
The defunding strategy doesn`t. Going down that road would strengthen
the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived
tactic. And Republicans should reject it."
Republican Senator Bob Corker tweeted this today, "I didn`t go to
Harvard or Princeton, but I can count -- the defunding box canyon is a
tactic that will fail and weaken our position. Signed BC."
Former Governor Jeb Bush thinks Ted Cruz is going to fail.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: If you control one half of one
third of the leverage in Washington, D.C., your ability to influence things
are also relative to the fact that you have one half of one third of the
government. That`s a reality. It`s not -- you know, this isn`t a
hypothetical. So, as we get closer to these deadlines, there needs to be
an understanding of that, or politically, it`s quite dicey for the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: When NBC asked Ted Cruz today how far he was willing to
go, he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Will you filibuster this on the House floor?
CRUZ: I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund
CRUZ: Yes. And anything else, any procedural means necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is former Vermont governor, Dr. Howard
Dean, McCain `08 senior adviser Steve Schmidt, and "The Washington Post`s"
Eugene Robinson, there`s an impolite question to be asked here about
Ted Cruz, and he has these academic credentials that Bob Corker pointed
out, saying, you know, when Corker says, I didn`t go to Harvard, Princeton.
How stupid is Ted Cruz? Or, OK, the polite way of saying it is how smart
is Ted Cruz? Because the stuff he is saying there is wicked stupid.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, the stuff he is saying is
absolutely stupid, any way you look at it. However, he is raising his
profile, you know, he can goad the House into doing this senseless thing,
knowing it`s not going anywhere in the Senate, right? He`s not going to
succeed in a filibuster. The Senate is going to reject any bill that
So, he`ll just say, oh, well, we tried. He led the fight. And -- you
know, good for me so maybe he gains in that respect.
O`DONNELL: Governor Dean, when I watch freshman senators, or freshman
members of the House saying things that are absolutely ridiculous. I
pretty much always put it down to ignorance. They just don`t know enough
yet about how this works. But this one is really strange.
HOWARD DEAN (D), FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR: Well, here`s the
interesting part of all this, the people who are going to suffer from this,
besides the American people, who are going to be short on checks and all
sorts of things and services, the people who are really going to suffer,
the 180 people in the Republican caucus in the House who aren`t crazy,
because they`re going to have to eventually make a deal.
Either the government is going to shut down which I -- in which case I
believe the Democrats arguing take over the House in 2014. Or Boehner is
going to have to back off and make a deal with Nancy Pelosi. And that`s
going to be very costly.
So, what Boehner is making the caucus do, for the sake of these 40 or
50 people he has no control over, is walk the plank, and if anything is
even close to a swing district, because these folks are going to look like
extremists if they vote to shut the government down.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Senator John McCain said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think Senator Cruz is free to do
what he wants with the rule of the Senate. But I can tell you in the
United States Senate, we will not repeal or defund Obamacare. We will not.
And to think we can is not rational.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Not rational is the kind phrase or what I am driving at
Steve Schmidt, there`s your former boss, John McCain. What does Ted
Cruz know that John McCain doesn`t know?
STEVE SCHMIDT, MCCAIN `08 SR. ADVISOR: Well, Ted Cruz is running for
the president of the United States. And this theater, and that`s what it
is, theater, fear, is fundamentally about the Iowa caucuses. The failure
to pass this will simply be evidence of his commitment to true
conservatism, which will be the gospel he is preaching out along the
campaign trail before very long.
There is great anger in the Republican Party. His commitments, his
promises, even though they`re completely empty, they don`t fall on deaf
ears for the activists based in the Republican Party.
If you are about Ted Cruz and you care about yourself interest here.
This is great politics. Because, you know, he is, he is rising at the
expense of the party, at the expense of the congressional brand. I think
what`s important to remember as you watch this play out. So many
Republicans just pointed out by Governor Dean. Get driven off the cliff by
We have given up five U.S. senate seats over the last two election
cycles by the nomination of t Tea Party crazies by any one of the number of
states. It`s not clear if we won`t add to the count as we move forward
into 2014. Or maybe lose some more as we follow that version of the
O`DONNELL: Steve, can you scheme out the Cruz presidential campaign
after Iowa? How far does this get him in a presidential -- Republican
SCHMIDT: Look, what has always driven the ballot in a Republican
presidential primary is electability. Most conservative person seen as
being able to within a general election secures the nomination. That`s
true until the year that it`s not.
I think you can do well in Iowa. I don`t think he does particularly
well in New Hampshire. But then as you move to South Carolina, you move to
some of the Southern states, you know, he may just catch fire some where.
I do think that as you look at the field, of presidential candidates
right now, the entity of his colleagues, the derision of House staffers, of
House members, of senators -- that does nothing but help him in the base of
the Republican Party as we move through to the primary states.
So, I think along with Rand Paul, along with Chris Christie, we have
three people at the starting line, there will be more. But I do think he
is one of the big three at the starting line.
O`DONNELL: OK. We`ve got some derision from House staffers here,
that Ryan Grim is reporting in the "Huffington Post." he said -- that Cruz,
of course, and he has been getting a lot of criticism, cruise has
indicated. Prior to today he would not filibuster this thing and now, he
is saying he will. He said, Cruz has led to public questioning from House
Republican as but his motives and political acumen, not to mention joking
speculation that he may be part of a vast and devious liberal conspiracy to
undermine conservatives. "Cruz is a leader of a secret cabal of leftists
that are seeking control of the conservative movement," quipped one senior
House Republican leadership source. "Their aim is to force the party to
take on suicidal missions to destroy the movement from within."
Gene, that`s a -- senior House Republican leadership source.
ROBINSON: Manchurian candidate. I love it. I love it.
O`DONNELL: Yes. What he`s clearly showing here is this is how crazy
Cruz sounds to us?
ROBINSON: Exactly. But Steve Schmidt is so right. This is total
self interesting. This is his campaign for president, his campaign for
prominence, to become one of the -- one of the top three going into Iowa.
And with the hell with the party, basically.
And you know, too bad if they all have to jump off the cliff. Maybe
somewhere in the recesses of his mind he rationalizes when he becomes
president, it will all have been worth it.
O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, can you imagine voters forgetting this chaos
driven by Ted Cruz when he presents himself to being president of the
DEAN: Lawrence, that`s a really interesting question because if you
look at the latest poll of sort such the presidential aspirants, Cruz has
got more publicity than most people, but he`s not in first or second.
Those positions belong to Chris Christie and Rand Paul.
So, I actually think among the base vote, it is true that there are
some virulent people in the Republican Party who will turn out in
primaries. But I think even among the broad Republican base, there are a
lot of people who think Ted Cruz is probably a little crazy.
O`DONNELL: Steve Schmidt, is there anything -- is there any incentive
that you can think of that exists within the congressional menu of
incentives where they may be able to get Ted Cruz to start making some
SCHMIDT: No. Look, there is nothing that can be done to, you know,
start making Ted Cruz make sense on the issues. But it does require
serious people and senior people in the leadership of the Republican Party
to say, enough is enough with this.
You know, at the end of the day, the government shutdown will be
politically disastrous for Republicans. Governor Dean is precisely right.
It will probably deliver the House to the Democrats.
But the real dangerous issue that is looming out there is the question
of default and the debt ceiling. And this notion that the country can
default with impunity, that there`s no consequences to that that you hear
so many people my party making that argument is just absolutely
frightening. There will be profound consequences to the economy,
politically, should that happen.
I think as you look at the fights that are ahead. This government
shuttle down, fight is simply the warm-up to the much deeper, much more
serious fight that comes after that. And that`s the default fight.
O`DONNELL: Howard Dean, Steve Schmidt, and Eugene Robinson -- thank
you all for joining me tonight.
Coming up: conservative scare tactics to try to stop young people from
enrolling in Obamacare. If Obamacare is so bad, why do opponents have to
lie about it to convince people to stay away from it?
And John McCain answers Vladimir Putin`s "The New York Times" op-ed
piece with a piece on a Russian Web site.
And we now know the real author of the first novel written by an
African-American woman. It was handwritten 150 years ago by a recently
escaped slave who is afraid to use her real name on the manuscript. This
is an amazing and moving story that you are going to want few hear. That`s
O`DONNELLE: Stuart Milk is here to challenge a member of the
International Olympic Committee over Russia`s anti-gay laws. That`s coming
O`DONNELL: A battle is broken out over the enrollment of young people
in health care plans offered by President Obama`s Affordable Care Act. And
in President Obama`s corner, Katy Perry who tweeted to 43 million
followers, "If you`re one of millions of young Americans without health
insurance, you can get affordable coverage starting October 1st."
And on the other side is this ad, from a group that calls itself,
Generation Opportunity, which is financed by the Koch brothers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I see you chose to sign up for Obamacare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, my first time here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, here we are then. Change into a gown.
The doctor will see you soon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Swing on over, scoot on down and try to make
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Let`s have a look. Ah!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, I`m not sure I get what they`re trying to
suggest there? I mean, you don`t get a doctor, you get some cartoon figure
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: I`m trying to figure it out and I think
there are a couple interpretations, but the overall message I take from
this is that conservatives and Republicans who are choosing to fight the
law this way, by trying to sort of muck up implementation, are not fighting
on the turf that they know how to fight on, or they`re good at fighting on.
What I mean is this is a battle for 18 to 25-year-olds, 18 to 26, a
battle for young people. Get young, healthy people to sign up.
And there`s really very few groups of the electorates, very few
demographic groups the Republicans had less success communicating with last
few years than younger voters. What you are seeing, I think, I don`t know
the specific message there, but basically, that is the message that`s
worked with the core Republican audience, the older audience, big
government run amok. That`s what they`re sort of suggesting I think, the
government is going to be in the -- in the examination room with you.
I think that`s the kind of message if I`m interpreting it right that
traditionally plays better with older voters, the core Republican audience.
And right now, to muck up this law, they have to apply the message to 18 to
30-year-olds who I don`t think are quite as receptive --
O`DONNELL: Of course, the older voters who are themselves on Medicare
fully government run program, have never seen some one from the government
in the doctor`s office or the hospital --
KORNACKI: There`s that disconnect, take your government hand off my
O`DONNELL: Right. It is so interesting they have to come up with
such an unbelievably grotesque lie that there is some how government
personnel in the building. They`re not even in the process of you getting
any of this health care.
They -- I mean, I thought, OK, if they`re going to do one of the ads.
I thought maybe what they will do is have a waiting room with hundreds of
people in it, and say, look, with all these new Obamacare patients, you
won`t be able to. How long the lines will be.
I don`t know -- but this thing is just a crazy, hallucinatory lie.
KORNACKI: Or make a cost argument and try to say that, hey, look, you
know, you`re going to have spend hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars
a year that you shouldn`t have to spend.
KORNACKI: That`s what something what I`m curious about here, too. I
love to ask the people who made the ad. They`re saying the smart choice is
opt out of Obamacare. This is the smart thing for young people to do.
Who is the group going to put up the money for the young person who
opts out and gets cancer or gets cancer, who falls down the stairs? Who`s
going to put up the money then?
O`DONNELL: Speaking of the people who made this ad, the president of
Generation Opportunity, the ridiculous operation that put this out, in
responding to criticism has said, "I take great offense to those saying our
creepy Uncle Sam videos are suggesting anything other than the government
In other words, I take offense that you aren`t correctly describing
the lie we are telling, the government playing doctor.
KORNACKI: I mean, the whole point of -- you know, the best criticism
I think, the most valid criticism of the Affordable Care Act, of Obamacare,
actually comes from the left, it is not a single payer health care system.
That it was specifically designed to keep private insurers in business, to
keep the private health care delivery system in the country functioning.
And so, to specifically to allow you to choose your own doctor, to allow
you to see private doctors, to allow you to deal with private insurance
A lot of things people probably wouldn`t like to deal with in a lot of
ways. But it`s designed, it was designed to sort of co-opt criticisms of
the conservatives to get the law into place. And now, even after jumping
through the hoops, even making this thing incredibly complicated to make
sure insurance companies stayed in business, they`re just going to turn
around and say socialized medicine, government making all decisions for
O`DONNELL: The youth customer in Obamacare is crucially important
because they actually use health care less and that is actually in a sense
the profit center of the bill that their premiums paid into the system will
help with the care of the more expensive patients, older ages more complex
issues to deal with. That`s why they`re so critical in getting the
KORNACKI: Right. So, it`s essential to the success of the law that
young, healthy people who are going to put more money in the insurance
companies` pockets they`re going to take out, at least to start with, over
the course of a lifetime, that might be different, but at least to start
with. It`s crucial to get them all enrolled. That makes --
O`DONNELL: Well, the principle of insurance of any kind is that most
of us will always put in more than we get out. I have happily never
collected on the fire insurance on my house. I`ve never collected. You
know, some one else has, but not me.
KORNACKI: But it`s there if you need it.
Steve Kornacki, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
Coming up, John McCain goes to a Russian Web site to tell Russia what
he thinks about Vladimir Putin. And Vladimir Putin responded today to John
McCain by defending Russia`s new anti-gay laws. That`s coming up.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, Vladimir Putin. In counter to
Vladimir Putin`s op-ed piece on "The New York Times" last week, Senator
John McCain tried to submit his own op-ed to "Pravda," the Russian
newspaper in effect controlled by the government. "Pravda" did not publish
it, but it did appear -- McCain`s piece did appear today in the English
language Russian Web site Pravda.ru.
In the piece McCain says this to the Russian people, "President Putin
and his associates don`t respect for dignity or accept your authority over
them. They punish dissent and imprison opponents. They write laws to
codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn."
Vladimir Putin said he was not affair of Senator McCain`s op-ed piece
but insisted the new anti-gay law does not infringe on human rights.
The newly elected president of the Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach,
said he had "assurance from the highest authorities in Russia", end quote,
that there would be no discrimination against anyone in Sochi and that
Russia would abide by the Olympic charter.
Joining me now is LGBT activist co-founder of the Milk Foundation,
Stuart Milk, and newly elected International Olympic Committee executive
board member, Anita DeFrantz, who is also a 1976 Olympic bronze medallist.
Stuart Milk, Putin went on to say all sorts of things about the new
anti-gay laws. I have some of the quotes here saying that -- he said the
Europeans are dying out and gay marriages don`t produce children. He just
kept spewing stuff like this in response to John McCain, which makes it
very clear that the -- the energy and venom behind these anti-gay laws is
not in any way diminished with all the criticism Vladimir Putin has faced.
STUART MILK, MILK FOUNDATION: And this is continuing, you know -- I
would say, I would add to John McCain`s voice in saying that this law
actually incites hatred and incites violence. We have seen that throughout
Russia, and through out Eastern Europe where there are other nations like
Lithuania that had the same type of anti-LGBT propaganda law since 2008.
So, they`re using their cultural nationalism as the basis for
discrimination, and the one thing that I think we have to look out for is
how long is their shopping list. It doesn`t -- it may start with LGBT
people. But it doesn`t stop with them.
So this is a real warning. And the international communities response
and IOC`s response is what the world is watching right now.
O`DONNELL: Anita DeFrantz, we have been wondering how, the IOC will
react to some things that could, we could expect to see happen at the
Olympics. For example, a gay athlete kisses his partner or -- and
publicly, after winning or not winning or any circumstance like that, would
the IOC consider that a political act?
ANITA DEFRANTZ, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: I seriously doubt
it. We know that people are gay. It is that percentages of all
populations of people are gay and they have been gay. We had athletes
compete across time. It is not a matter of concern for the IOC.
We believe sports belongs to all people. And the games there can be
no discrimination during the games or at the part of the games. We are
absolutely opposed to that.
O`DONNELL: But the problem that many of us are looking at as we look
at the game, is I for one don`t expect the Russian authorities to, in
anyway, enforce their hateful laws against any of the people that you bring
in there for the Olympics for those couple of weeks. But they will enforce
them during that very same time throughout the country against people who
aren`t protected by your Olympic umbrella there.
DEFRANTZ: One of the things we hope that the Olympic Games brings is
a better standing to all people. The folks at the other parts of the
country will see what is happening in Sochi and understand that we are
celebrating human excellence and they too, could be celebrating human
We have to appreciate humanity and its variations and that`s what
makes it so important. And having the games in a country helps the people
of that country understand the larger world better.
O`DONNELL: Stuart, we had Gary Kasparov on the other night. And he
doesn`t think there should be a boycott as many of us don`t think there
should be a boycott, but it does call on sponsors to make clear
demonstration on where they stand on Russia`s anti-gay laws.
MILK: Absolutely. I mean, we are going to see in a couple weeks,
Atlanta pride, and you are going to see executives and literally thousands
of employees from Coca-Cola marching in the streets of Atlanta for LGBT
diversity and inclusion. And we expect a company that spent $2 billion in
Russia, is a major sponsor of the Olympics has over 100,000 employees in
Russia to use the opportunity to not only educate people that they work
with, but to educate the world on, inclusion. So, what you do in Atlanta,
you should be supporting in Russia.
Let me just add that that I appreciate Anita`s voice on, you know, the
basic core values of the Olympics which is the celebration of diversity.
Thomas Bach who had been elected president on a theme of unity and
diversity must have that, message must be inclusive of everyone, including
LGBT people. So, I think you have a real opportunity here in Russia as
Anita said to educate.
And I would take it a step further. I really think we need to be
supporting a pride house. We have these wonderful cultural houses that are
sometimes national. Some? Times regional, sometimes, cultural. And the
Russian government has banned what we had for previous two Olympics. They
banned an LGBT pride house.
So, let`s move that into the Olympic village, Anita. Let`s do a pride
house. Let`s show that the Olympics does is inclusive of everyone. And
let`s make sure that we get these sponsors to be doing the educational
work, Lawrence, as you just said.
DEFRANTZ: Listen, the sponsors.
MILK: We can`t waste that.
DEFRANTZ: The sponsors are there now. People are doing commerce
right now. It is every day. It will happen before the games and after the
games. The games, I guess, are a focal point. And it makes it easier to
say, listen, can this happen during the games? Of course not. Of course
not. And people who care about other people can`t be doing this anyway.
But my hope is that we don`t have to segment out the Olympic villages
for the athletes. It is their home away from home. It need to be private.
It needs to be allowed, for them to be free. And not have a focus on that.
So, I am not sure I want to bring this into the Olympic village.
The athletes are there. They express themselves as they have for
centuries as they are and as people and sharing the experience together and
respecting one another. And to me, that`s what`s important to keep it as
it is not to create more divisions.
O`DONNELL: Stuart Milk and Anita Frantz -- Go ahead, Stuart, quickly,
your last word.
MILK: Well, I just want to say, you know for the 1936 Olympics, we
have to look at what happened there in the past mistakes when there was a
campaign against Jews. Einstein quote was "the world is a dangerous place
not because of those that do evil, but because those that look on and do
nothing." So we have, we have to ask the IOC to do something. We will
meet with you. I am going to be in Germany in a month. I can to
(INAUDIBLE), but we need to do something.
O`DONNELL: Anita, will you meet with Stuart and his group?
DEFRANTZ: Well, I can, but for me we have done something for years
and we do it every day.
O`DONNELL: Russia has banned that, that facility that, that has been
present at other Olympics. They banned it. The only place they could
possibly have it is under your umbrella in the Olympic village.
DEFRANTZ: I`m not so sure the they have assured us all of Sochi, all
of where the games are.
MILK: Anita, you don`t believe them?
DEFRANTZ: I have to. I have to.
MILK: no, you don`t have to.
DEFRANTZ: All right. You say I don`t. I do.
O`DONNELL: Why would you believe them?
DEFRANTZ: Because they told us that Sochi will be free of the
enforcement of the laws. So, are we going to give them the chance --
MILK: Anita, I can send you where they banned the pride house the we
can hatch the dialogue.
O`DONNELL: They`re banning the pride house. I think you should look
on it, Anita.
Stuart Milk and Anita DeFrantz. Thank you both very much for joining
DEFRANTZ: A pleasure, thank you.
MILK: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, the first African-American woman who wrote a
novel was afraid to put her real name on it because she was an escaped
slave. You want to hear this moving and fascinating story. It`s coming
O`DONNELL: I am going to tell you what I learned in catholic school
that most Catholics don`t know, most Catholics don`t go to catholic school.
But the Pope knows it which is why he is next in the rewrite.
O`DONNELL: In tonight`s rewrite, the Pope rewrites the image of
Catholicism from a harsh judgmental condemning religion to an
understanding, supportive, and loving religion.
In an interview published today, the Pope has shocked the world, but
he hasn`t shocked me. He sound like father Harrington, the last religion
teacher I had back when I was a senior in high school. The higher I went
in Catholic education, the less intimidating Catholicism became. And there
was much less to memorize.
In the first great, Sister Janise (ph) made us memorize a whole lot,
the Ten Commandments and pages and pages of catechism. Most serious
subjects are explained to children and adults differently. Children get a
more simplistic explanation and older people get something closer to the
real thing, an explanation that includes complexity and sophistication.
The difference between religion class and the first grade of my
elementary school, and religion class in senior year, in my high school was
like the difference between first grade math and high school math. The
difference was huge. But unlike math, religion class kept getting simpler
What I found in 12 years of catholic education is that the more you
study Catholicism the less there is to it. By senior year, Father
Harrington got it down to, be a good person. That`s really all that
mattered, be a good person. All the rules we were taught in elementary
school, fell away. Some of them formally expunged by the Vatican. For
example, when I was in first grade we were taught it was a isn`t to eat
meat on Fridays. By the time I was a senior in a Catholic high school, the
cafeteria was serving meat on Fridays.
Father Harrington knew he was our last religion teacher except for a
couple kids who would go on to catholic colleges this would be the last
time we sat in a classroom discussing Catholicism. He didn`t use that
final year of class time to cram our heads with rules and condemnations.
He did everything he could to leave us comfortable and relaxed about the
presence of Catholicism in our daily lives.
Father Harrington talked only about the things that mattered most in
Catholicism which meant he talked but God and love and goodness and
kindness and he never, he never talked about sin. He told us that our
beliefs would be challenged in college and throughout our lives and that we
would probably from time to time, dealt with the existence of God as he
himself had done.
He said some would stop attending mass and some of us would stop
believing and that was OK. He said God would be with us whether we
believed or not. Father Harrington told us that being a good person was
more important than believing in God. So, after Father Harrington, it is
not surprising to me to hear a priest say the things Pope Francis says in
the new interview.
When asked, what does the church need most today? The Pope said the
thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm
the hearts of the faithful. The church sometimes has locked itself u in
small things, in small minded rules. The most important thing is the first
proclamation Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church
must be ministers of mercy above all.
The Pope went on to say, in Buenos Aires, I used to receive letters
from homosexual person who are socially wounded because they tell me that
they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does
not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro, I said
that if a homosexual person is of good will and in search of God I am no
one to judge.
A person once asked me if a provocative manner if I approved of
homosexuality. I replied with another question. Tell me when God looks at
a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love or
reject and condemn this person?
In life, God accompanies persons, and weep must accompany them,
starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with
mercy. The confessional is not a torture chamber but the place in which
the Lord`s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation
of a woman with a failed marriage in her past, and who also had an
abortion. Then this woman remarries and she is now happy and has five
children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and
she sincerely regrets it. She would look to move forward in her Christian
life. What is the confessor to do?
We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and
the use of contraceptive method. This is not possible. I have not spoken
much about these things, and I was reprimand ford that. But when weep
speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The
teaching of the church for that matter is clear, and I am a son of the
church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.
If Father Harrington was still with us, he would like this Pope a lot.
O`DONNELL: Up next, the amazing story of the first African-American
O`DONNELL: This morning`s front page of "The New York Times" carries
the report that 150-year-old mystery has been solved and we now know the
name of the author of the first novel written by an African-American woman.
Hannah Bond was a slave in North Carolina who eventually escaped to
upstate New York before settling in New Jersey. Her handwritten novel was
not published but purchased from a New York City bookseller in 1948 by
Dorothy Porter Wesley, an African-American librarian.
In 2001, the Harvard professor Henry Gates Jr. saw the manuscript and
an (INAUDIBLE) catalog where it was described as quote "a 301-page
handwritten manuscript purportedly by a female slave.
The title page of the manuscript said the bond woman`s narrative by
Hannah Crafts, a fugitive slave, recently escaped from North Carolina.
Professor Gates bought the manuscript, authenticated it and published it in
2002 under the original title the bond woman`s narrative. Every indication
was the name Hannah Crafts was a pseudonym because a fugitive slave would
be afraid to use her real name then.
Enter Professor Greg Hekomanvich, the chairman of the English
department at Winthrop University in Rockville South Carolina who spend the
last ten years trying to determine the true identity of Hannah Crafts. He
has determined that Hannah Crafts was really Hannah Bond, a slave in
service to the wheeler family in North Carolina.
Joining me now the man who uncovered this mystery, Winthrop University
English professor Greg Hekomanvich.
Greg, it must be a thrill to have finally gotten to the end of the
road on this mystery.
GREG HEKOMANVICH, ENGLISH PROFESSOR, WINTHROP UNIVERSITY: It is a
great thrill, Lawrence. The project and the research is -- it just is
exciting to be part of. And just a thrill to get to the point to be
finishing the story and allowing Hannah Bond to stand under her own name.
O`DONNELL: And what have you learned in the course of this
investigation? About one of the first mysteries about this woman is how
did a slave then, learn to read and write?
HEKOMANVICH: Yes. It so fascinating. I got -- when I first heard
about this story, I was skeptical. I was trained as a Victorian literature
scholar. And I didn`t think somebody could write this well in that
condition. Now, since I have been doing this research and really sort of
become an African-American literature scholar it is fascinating how slaves
picked up their literacy. And in fact, there is very relevant and
formative to the novel she produced.
With slaves like John Washington around the same period, a slave in
Virginia did, he took, occasional literature that he found around the house
or magazines that he could purr loin and heap would copy out of the letters
and practice it that way. And then also, pick up audibly the stories that
people told within the household.
Now, this is what Hannah Bond did. And Hannah Bond was in the
fortunate circumstance to be in a charmed circle of the most literary
atmosphere you could be in the town of Murfreesboro, North Carolina where
there are two female institutes and some of the students who boarded there
lived and she served them on the wheeler plantation. So she had this
charmed circumstance to let her budding literacy really grow. And
accomplish what she was able to accomplish.
O`DONNELL: And then a report today I read that those students who
lived on, in the wheeler mansion, were forced to, was part of their
schooling, to memorize literary passages. And so, Hannah was hearing these
literary passages out loud. That`s the way she was learning some of it.
HEKOMANVICH: That`s right. Yes. And what is so fascinating, and
what I uncovered in doing this research working through source materials, I
discovered and tracked down the students who were there around the time
that Hannah Bond was serving in that household. And what I found in their
school note books and the letters that they`re sharing, you can get a sense
of the curriculum they`re doing. The curriculum is very specific to a
famous North Carolina educator who believed in teaching women. He ended up
to beep the principal there at the female institute. He believed in
recitation and contemporary literature too as a way to sharpen young
So, what you have is this, situation where this very talented slave
who had acquired enough literacy to have the curiosity, was right there
with these texts that were being practiced over and over.
And particularly, Charleston bleak house which was obviously just a
fascinating text to Hannah Bond. I will have to say one of the things that
was eye opening for me was teaching bleak house after teaching a series of
slave narratives. After reading Harry Jacobs and then you take students
through bleak house all of a sudden you can see through the eyes of a
slave, Harry Jacobs, Harry Jacobs read bleak house. She would have read it
like Hannah Craft`s did and Hannah Bond did. And voila, you have this
amazing alchemy, and just brilliant text.
O`DONNELL: Henry Louis Gates told "The New York Times" today, about
what you have accomplished here with this proof of authorship. Words
cannot express how meaningful this is to African-American literary study.
It revolutionizes our understanding of the canon of black women`s
literature. There is no higher authority to make that pronouncement. You
must feel very close to Hannah now after this ten year search for her?
HEKOMANVICH: I do. One of the most wonderful parts of working on a
project like this, you live in the atmosphere, you live in the story. And
that`s, right now I am working on my book that is "the life and times of
Hannah Crafts, the true story the Bonds woman`s narrative." And in that, I
can take all of the source materials that I have done and tell the whole
story. And it is a story that tells the history of slavery. One of the
things that is not in the times piece. But what I did is gathered all the
circumstances and then discovered the seven slaves who, through detective
work could have written this book that were related enough and were in the
circumstances that would allow this work to come forth. And then, in doing
that, I discovered that, John Hill Wheeler (ph), the owner of the slave
was, at Nat Turner`s rebellion. And I got to tell all the slave stories
that way until I can identify Hannah Bond.
O`DONNELL: Winthrop University English Professor, Greg Hekomanvich,
thank you very much for your work. And thank you very much for joining us
HEKOMANVICH: Thank you so much for having me.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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