updated 2/6/2014 12:45:46 PM ET 2014-02-06T17:45:46

POLITICS NATION
February 5, 2014

Guests:


REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.

Tonight`s lead, the fight for fairness. Tomorrow is a huge day in the U.S.
Senate as the voters planned on extending jobless benefits for more than a
million Americans. But one Republican in the House says not extending
those benefits is a moral issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER SESSIONS (R), TEXAS: I believe it is immoral for this country
to have as a policy extending long term unemployment to people rather than
us working on creation of jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It`s immorally to extend unemployment benefits because Congress
isn`t doing enough on job creation? Congress should absolutely do more to
create jobs. But how does that become immoral to help Americans who are
looking for work?

In December, more than a million people lost their jobless benefits because
Republicans refused to renew them. What is immorally is denying help to
those who are trying to get back on their feet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: After working in the dental industry for 26
years Janet Herrera got laid off in September.

JANET HERRERA, UNEMPLOYED: We knew that we were hurting really bad
financially so having the extra Christmas for our kids was really tough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t get a job. I have been applying everywhere and
that`s my worry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Tony Perez lost his job in March, a job
doing stamped concrete for a company he worked for 20 years. Tony says he
looks for work every day and he has applied for at least 100 jobs, but so
far, no luck. His extended benefits have been helping him get by while the
search continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Giving people a life line while they search for jobs isn`t
immorally. You know what is? Denying people health care to prove you
don`t like the federal government.

Republican governors like Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Nikki
Haley have flatly refused to expand Medicare in their states. A new study
finds between 7,000 and 17,000 deaths will be, quote, "attributable to the
lack of Medicaid expansion per year."

Refusing the Medicaid expansion is literally a matter of life and death.
But Republicans won`t do it because they want to score political points? I
think we have very different ideas of morality.

Joining me now are Karen Finney and Dana Milbank. Thank you both for being
here.

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC HOST, DISRUPT: Hey, Rev.

DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Hi, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Dana, calling it immorally to help those who are out of work, I
mean, that is rough, isn`t it?

MILBANK: Yes. It is one of those accidents in Washington when somebody
accidentally speaks the truth that reveals a great deal about the position
on this. I think that the Democrats in the Senate are being quite smart in
saying OK, listen Republicans we have done what you have asked. We are
getting this thing paid for and making sure the benefits don`t go to
millionaires. They are basically putting in the sort of language
Republicans in the past have supported enforcing them if they really want
to do this to vote it down.

I think the Democrats in the House and Senate should be talking about very
little else until they get things done. Not only is it politically winning
issue, but it also happens to be a moral issue and not in the way Pete
Sessions seems to think it is.

SHARPTON: But Karen, tomorrow`s vote is just a first step really. We
still have a long way to go.

FINNEY: We do have a very long way to go. But you know, Rev., the other
thing I would add is remember, I mean, we are having two very different
conversations here. The Republicans are having a conversation about makers
and takers and the 47 percent and this idea of creating this culture of
dependency. And we are trying to have a conversation about how do we help
people when they`re most in need kind of just for that period of time when
they are in between jobs, when they are trying to get their lives back
together and we want to create jobs and they have halted every idea that
the president has put forward that would create jobs.

So, again, and in part of the problem, yes, we have a long way to go. But
part of the problem is they are not having the same conversation that we
are having about helping people and really creating jobs.

SHARPTON: Well, you know, Dana, you know when the unemployment benefits
were about to expire in December you wrote about the long term
unemployment. Let me quote Milbank to Milbank. "These people young, old
from all kinds of demographics have a 12 percent chance of finding a job in
any given month. And contrary to theories of Rand Paul Republicans, there
is no evidence that they`re more likely to find to work after losing
benefits."

Cutting off their benefits only causes more suffering for them and more
damage to the economy. So why do we keep hearing Republicans talk about
cutting off benefits, Dana?

MILBANK: Right. There really are no jobs for them and Republicans have
resisted spending money on training that would actually help these people
get jobs. The other thing is, we are not talking about poor folks
necessarily. We are talking about people from all walks of life. So, why
isn`t this the top priority of the Senate and the House of Representatives?

I took a look at what the House did today. They passed a sportsman package
of eight bills including permanent electronic duck stamp act and
recreational fishing and hunting heritage and opportunities act. Now, I`m
all for recreational fishing, but how about getting 1.8 million people the
benefits they need to keep on living before we worry about recreational
fishing and duck stamps?

SHARPTON: Karen, you talked about the politics of it. And this is one of
the times that you can find, and it is not always the case, that you can be
right and do something popular at the same time. For example, a new poll
finds 66 percent of Americans agree the government should work to reduce
income inequality. Most Democrats, moderates and independents agree with
that. It is only Republicans who don`t want the government to try to
reduce inequality. Are comments like calling unemployment benefits
immorally just playing to the GOP base?

FINNEY: Well, they are. And I think, Rev., that is part of why -- I mean,
I would have liked to see the way the questions were presented to those
Republicans who viewed it that way because I would be not surprised if in
part it is because they have been fed this diet of, you know, makers and
takers, 47 percent. And so, the perception and the stereotypes about who
is on unemployment insurance, and Dana was just talking about, we are not
talking about necessarily just poor people. So, the stereotypes that I
think exist around who is relying on these benefits and how they use these
benefits, I think very much impacts how people answer those questions.

SHARPTON: Now, Dana, you know that the president has told federal agencies
to not discriminate against long term unemployed. Many companies are
following suit. He met with CEOs. But a lot of it comes from the bosses
of these companies which is why he met with the CEOs. But listen how the
boss of the Republican Party responded, Rush Limbaugh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Obama is here to level the playing
field. So, if you are out of work longer than anybody else that is all
that matters. What if you are fired because they are drunk? What if they
are fired because they were having affairs with the boss` secretary?
Doesn`t matter? Can`t look at that. Can`t look at that. That`s not fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So everyone that`s been out of work was drunk or having an
affair with the boss? I mean, what is he talking about?

MILBANK: Yes. It was a very long time ago when we heard about
compassionate conservatism. I think they moved on to a new era here.
Look, if the elected Republicans want to say that Rush Limbaugh does not
speak for them, well, this would be an excellent chance to see if they can
decide perhaps not to filibuster this in the Senate, perhaps even allow
this to be taken up by the House of Representatives.

Democrats have a real populist opportunity here in saying look, it is not
just -- it is people who are down on their luck. They are people like you.
And they are being held back by Republicans answering corporate interests.

SHARPTON: No, going back to the politics of it, Karen, what you raised
earlier. You know, when you deal with these issues, take for example the
minimum wage, most Americans support raising the minimum wage. The Pew
poll found 73 percent support it, 66 percent according to the "Washington
Post." NBC found 51 percent saying raise in the minimum wage should be a
priority this year. I mean, this also really works in with women`s issues
since nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. How can
Republicans drag their feet on this, Karen?

FINNEY: Well, because they believe that this is the way they are catering
to their gerrymandered conservative base. And again, if you just listen to
what Rush Limbaugh was just saying, I mean, if that is what people are
hearing time and time again about who the people are who would benefit from
an increase in the minimum wage, Would rely on unemployment insurance that
drives their perceptions about who those people are that drives their
opinions.

But in addition to that, it also means that they are trying to cater to a
base. That is why one of the ones last week RH7 which would actually
impose taxes on small business that would actually mean that a woman would
have to justify if she had an abortion after being raped to the IRS if she
wanted to, you know, use that as a write up on her text.

I mean, they are focusing on these very ideological things. That`s where
they are spending their time to appeal to their base. And then these other
issues, they put it in the terms of that would give Obama a win and they
don`t want to do that.

SHARPTON: What about giving the American people a win?

Karen Finney and Dana Milbank, I`m going to have to leave it there. Thank
you for your time tonight.

And be sure to watch "Disrupt" with Karen Finney weekends at 4:00 p.m.
eastern right here on MSNBC.

Ahead, the deafening silence we are hearing from the Republican lawmaker
who refused to condemn this statement from a voter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama is not president as far as I`m concerned. He
should be executed as many combatant really --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: How does he let that vicious statement go unchallenged?

Plus, big news tonight about the rich teenager who used affluenza defense
to avoid prison time for a deadly DUI crash, he is back in court facing the
same judge.

Also, my thoughts on George Zimmerman`s so-called celebrity boxing match, I
will respond tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Up next, a new twist in the Governor Christie bridge scandal.
Stay tune.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We are back with the new twist about the key figure in Chris
Christie the bridge scandal.

David Wildstein is the former port authority official who implemented the
lane closings at the George Washington Bridge. Since the story broke,
Wildstein`s role at the agency has been a mystery. The Christie
administration created the job specifically for him. It came with a big
title, director of interstate Capitol projects and a salary of $150,000.
But without a job description, insiders call Wildstein the governor`s eyes
and ears.

Well, today we learned the port authority has eliminated the post that
Wildstein held. Meaning Wildstein will be forever known as the first and
last person to have the job. It`s a bizarre ending that only deepens the
mystery. Why was the Christie administration so eager to create a job for
David Wildstein? And does he actually know of evidence that contradicts
Governor Christie`s public statements as his attorneys claim?

Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart. Thanks for being here.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Jonathan, they created a director level job specifically for
David Wildstein and then they eliminate the job right after he leaves. But
the governor says he hardly knows the man.

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: Right. So, it makes you wonder why they gave him the job.
Look, the reason why they gave David Wildstein that job lies within a
headline of a story about David Wildstein that the governor`s own people
used to attack David Wildstein over the weekend and that was Wildstein was
the governor`s eyes and ears inside the port authority.

You know, Wildstein was given a plump position -- you just don`t make up
jobs in gigantic bureaucratic agencies for some person you kind of maybe
knew, didn`t know in high school. You do it for someone who was a key ally
and something like the port authority of New York and New Jersey is a very
important agency.

So, for the governor to have eyes and ears inside the agency actually is
rather smart. The problem that the governor is finding is that those eyes
and ears are coming back to bite him and haunt him.

SHARPTON: Well, you know, I want to ask you about the attack the Christie
administration launched on Wildstein. It included the memorable claim,
quote, "he was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher
of deceptive behavior."

Now, today the "Bergen Record" reported that the Christie team left one
part out, apparently Wildstein and the teacher made up. Quote, "issued a
joint statement saying the entire matter had been an honest difference of
opinion and basically a misunderstanding."

So even though they went back to this man`s high school days, tried to dig
up a conflict he had with his social studies teacher we find out that that
is not as we were told because they repaired it and said it was a
misunderstanding and they made up. Why this kind of desperate at least in
appearance attempt to smear him with things that don`t fall into being all
the way true when you follow the line to the end of the story?

CAPEHART: Well, Rev., the desperate attempt to smear David Wildstein is a
desperate attempt by the governor`s supporters to protect the governor and
to protect his administration. We have seen it time and time again, no
matter what, when the principle gets in trouble, when the institution gets
in trouble it moves very quickly to protect itself. It`s all a matter of
how well they do it. And Christie`s folks who put out that two paged e-
mail over the weekend didn`t do it very well because if you have to go all
the way back to high school to slam your critic, to slam your opponent you
are not winning the argument. You are actually making it worse.

SHARPTON: Well, let me ask you, Jonathan. Where do you think we are now?
We are waiting on the subpoenas. Some have come in and some have an
extension and some said they are not going to cooperate. Where do you see
this going?

CAPEHART: Well, right now, I think we are in the wait and see period.
Remember, Monday was the deadline for people to answer the subpoenas handed
out by the state legislative committee looking into all of this. Today is
the deadline or should have been the deadline for those folks who have
gotten subpoenas from the federal investigators. So we just have to sit
and wait and see what kind of information comes out from that.

In the meantime, we can expect to see Governor Christie do what I think he
has been doing rather well especially from that radio interview and that is
being governor, making sure that everyone sees you doing your job and that
you are not flummox by this. Politically speaking, it is the right thing
for him to do. Meanwhile behind the scenes, you know there is sheer
pandemonium happening behind the scenes.

SHARPTON: All right, Jonathan Capehart, thank you for your time tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, the Republican lawmaker who listened to a voter`s
ugly talk about President Obama and then said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM BRIDENSTINE (R), OKLAHOMA: Look, everybody knows the lawlessness
of this president. He picks and chooses which laws he is going to enforce
or not enforce.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Where is the decency? Why hasn`t he apologized?

Plus tonight`s justice files. The affluenza team returns to court.

And George Zimmerman steps in to the ring for a so-called celebrity boxing
match. I`ll respond tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The sound of silence. A GOP congressman`s troubling failure to
condemn some very ugly extreme talk about President Obama. Where is his
leadership? How about decency? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: It`s been 24 hours since we showed the video of a town hall
meeting with GOP Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma. At that event a
woman used shocking, offensive language in reference to the president. But
the congressman did nothing to condemn it. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama is not president as far as I`m concerned. He
should be executed as an enemy combatant really (INAUDIBLE). But the
Muslims that he is shipping into our country through pilots and commercial
jets, I can`t tell you -- I can`t say, because we`re in a public place, I
think this guy is a criminal. Nobody`s stopping him. And the other thing
is two, you know with Congress doing nothing that legally allows this moron
to make decision. He has no authority. None! And he just -- we are just
saying yes, we should do that and we should do that and we shouldn`t, but
nobody is doing anything to accomplish anything.

BRIDENSTINE: Look, everybody knows the lawlessness of the president. He
picks and chooses which laws he is going to enforce or not enforce. He
does it by decree.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Such offensive comments and yet the Congressman Bridenstine said
nothing except that the president is lawless. He refused to condemn it.
Doesn`t he find that language out of bounds in reference to any president
of the United States?

We reached out again today to the congressman`s communications director for
a response to this video, yet again we got no response. Sadly the video is
part of a pattern. There is a lot of ugly talk out there and too often the
right wing refuses to decry it. Here is another event last summer past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I need from you is to know what you can do, you
and your fellow noncommunist colleagues in the lower House, what you can do
to stop these communist tyrannical executive orders laid down by this
foreign borne American hating communist does that. What can you do? We
need some help.

(APPLAUSE)

REP. MARTHA ROBY (R), ALABAMA: So, thank you for your question. He said
it loud enough that you all heard it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Thank you for your question? That man just called the commander
in-chief an American hating communist and the Congresswoman`s response is
thank you? Here is another example.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about Obama`s birth certificate being
phony?

REP. VICKY HARTZLER (R), MISSOURI: He asked what I think about Obama`s
birth certificate being a forgery. You know, I have a lot of doubts about
that.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman Hartzler only response`s to this mockery was that
she also has doubts about the president`s birth certificate? And here is
another.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He needs to be stopped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Articles of impeachment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to get -- it should have been started a long,
long time ago to draw up something to stop this runaway train that we have
in the White House.

REP. KERRY BENTIVOLIO (R), MICHIGAN: You know, if I could write that bill
and submit it --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do it.

BENTIVOLIO: Excuse me, it would be a dream come true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: A dream come true. Forget that congressman has no grounds for
impeachment. It is a dream to him. How about this exchange at one of
Congressman Steve King`s town hall?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a Marxist. He`s a Muslim Marxist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s at least a Marxist. And he surely understands the
Muslim culture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He surely does. That`s where he grew up with. It is
his culture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t have an American experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That is reprehensible.

Back to Congressman Bridenstine. He is a tea party back politician elected
in 2012. And what makes his behavior especially objectionable is that he
is demanding that President Obama apologize to him. Here he is talking
about the president`s investment in climate change research.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIDENSTINE: We also know that this president spends 30 times as much
money on global warming research as he does on weather forecasting and
warning. For this grossness allocation, the people of Oklahoma are ready
to accept the president`s apology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: The president owes an apology? Where is your apology? Where is
your leadership? Where is your decency?

Joining me now are Joe Madison and Bill Press. Thank you for coming on the
show tonight.

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Reverend Al.

JOE MADISON, HOST, MORNINGS WITH MADISON: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Joe, let me go to you first. An elected member of Congress
staying silent when faced with this kind of violent talk about the
president of the United States, your reaction?

MADISON: My reaction would be that these are a group of hypocrites. First
of all, you know, I know, Bill knows, and the country knows, that this kind
of language would not even be allowed on the floor of the House of
Representatives. They would be immediately reprimanded.

But here is what is really going on. These are just not people who are
gathered together Nelly Willie. These are Republican activists. These are
the people who are the activists in the party that are saying these types
of things.

Now, the other thing is they become euphemisms for even uglier and darker
language that they can`t use. If this was 50 years ago it would be the
language of Jim Crow. Today --

SHARPTON: But I`m not as concerned, Bill, about the language of some of
the activists in the audience and I accept what Joe is saying. I`m
concerned about the silence of members of Congress that are standing there
when it said and say nothing. I mean, that is not the only thing that we
heard from Bridenstine`s town hall. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIDENSTINE: We got time for one more question. Yes, ma`am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only way I see out of this is to overwhelmingly
change the Senate so that we then can impeach the S.O.B.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

BRIDENSTINE: You know, you look so sweet.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, that`s his reaction, Bill. And I get it to tea party
bad guy elected in 2012. But are there no limits here for members of
Congress sworn to uphold constitution and to serve all constituents
shouldn`t there be a limit to what they just laugh off and go along with
and at least not confront?

PRESS: No, look, absolutely, Reverend Al. And the smile on the
congressman`s face there when she called the president an S.O.B. is just
disgusting and sick and deplorable and despicable.

A couple of points. Number one, I hope the secret service is knocking on
that congressman`s door and that woman`s door for talking about executing.
This is not a laughable matter. This is a serious crime. Number two,
look, you know, we all know politics is not being bad. But there are,
there have to be some limits. There has to be some sense of decency. And
you don`t see anything here with this congressman.

I will tell you what else about really bothers me, Reverend Al. It is the
silence of this congressman. Because as you pointed out, his silence
equals assent, his silence equals consent. And it is not just this
Congressman Bridenstine, this Yahoo! from Oklahoma. Where is John Boehner?
Where is the leader, where is Eric Cantor? Where is the leadership of the
House? I guarantee you, if any Democrat said this; Nancy Pelosi would be
condemning their remarks.

SHARPTON: And Joe, let me be clear, this is about what is right and fair.
No one has been more critical of John McCain than I have over and over and
over again, but I give McCain credit. He handled it much differently.
Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not believe and I can`t trust Obama. I have
heard about him and he is an Arab.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, ma`am. He`s a decent family man,
citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental
issues. And that is what this campaign is all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That`s the kind of leadership that Democratic or Republican you
should expect from people that are trying to hold higher office and really
interpret the constitution and laws in this country, Joe.

MADISON: That is the kind of leadership running for dogcatcher, it is
called civility. I mean, that`s exactly what we saw and we are losing it.
I just got an e-mail from a minister, reverend (INAUDIBLE), Saint
Margaret`s Church in Dayton. And he wrote an excellent piece on what has
happened to civility? And then you wonder how come our children act out
when they see adults who are in positions of power like a congressman and a
woman whose old enough to be their grandmother calling out the president`s
mother, calling the president`s mother a B? And then you wonder why your
children act up?

SHARPTON: But you see, Bill, what is different about this because we have
heard extreme all of our lives and many of us have been in a lot of
movements that got extreme and people would act like that. But the
difference here is elected officials and their behavior when it seems to be
no boundaries. Look at this. These are all elected officials.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We have an
increasingly lawless presidency.

REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: All I can tell you is that the general
consensus is he has produced a birth certificate. The question is, is it
legitimate?

REP. STEVE STOCKMAN (R), TEXAS: We want all tools available to use
including that impeachment tool.

BENTIVOLIO: I said, tell me how I can impeach the president of the United
States.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: There is a pattern of lawlessness in this
administration that is breath taking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Lawlessness, impeachment, birth certificate. These are elected
officials, Bill, and these are not extremists at rallies.

PRESS: No, no, no. And again, with politics it`s OK. It`s expected to
disagree with the policies of the opposition. But what we see with
President Obama, we talked about this the last time, Reverend Al, from the
beginning are personal ugly attacks which are meant to destroy any
credibility he`s got and even to challenge his right to be president or the
fact that he is president of the United States.

You know, what it comes down to me, Joe is a talk show host, I`m a talk
show host, you are, Reverend Al. We have a responsibility. Sometimes
people call us and they will say some crazy things. And we have to step in
and say no, no, no, you don`t go there. I do it all the time.

SHARPTON: We all do. We all have to step in on our show and say to people
that call I don`t agree with that. These are callers these are not members
of the Congress.

MADISON: That`s right. And let me tell you, they are priming the pump for
impeachment. That is why this election 2014 is probably the most important
election. And it doesn`t make a difference whether or not there is a
legitimate reason. This is about destroying this man`s legacy because they
couldn`t defeat him in two elections. And be careful, now we have to get
ready to get out that vote because if we lose the House, lose the Senate, I
guarantee, somebody right now on Capitol Hill, they`re writing articles of
impeachment.

SHARPTON: Joe Madison, Bill Press, thank you for your time this evening.

PRESS: Good to be with you, Reverend Al. Thank you.

MADISON: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, remember the teenager who used the affluenza
defense to avoid jail time for a deadly DUI? He is back in court and back
in our justice files tonight.

Also, did you hear that George Zimmerman will be a celebrity in a celebrity
boxing match? My parting thoughts are ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: It`s time for "Politics Nation" justice files. The big criminal
justice stars making headlines today.

Joining me now is criminal defense lawyer Ken Padowitz and former
prosecutor Faith Jenkins. Thank you both for being here.

FAITH JENKINS, FORMER CRIMINAL PROSECUTOR: Thank you.

KEN PADOWITZ, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Let`s start with breaking news in the notorious affluenza case.
Going on right now behind closed doors, 16-year-old Ethan Couch is in a
hearing to determine the terms of his probation. He got ten years
probation and no prison time despite killing four people while driving
drunk. Ethan`s lawyers said he suffered from affluenza caused by his
wealthy parents coddling him into a sense of irresponsibility.

The judge at today`s hearing is the same judge who gave Ethan probation and
ignited a national debate. She is expected to rule on whether Ethan gets
sent to a posh rehab facility that cost $1200 a day paid for by his father.

Now, the media has been ban from the courtroom. Here is a Twitter photo of
reporters outside the doors just moments ago.

Faith, this judge is under fire for a ruling. What do you expect her to
decide about this teenager`s probation?

JENKINS: I think she is going to stick with her ruling and she is going to
sentence Ethan to ten years probation. And the question will be where he
spends it. I think she has made a decision in this case that the Texas
juvenile justice system can`t address Ethan`s needs. And his parents has
the money so she is going to sent him elsewhere.

So, my question is if the Texas juvenile justice system isn`t good enough
for Ethan Couch, why are we sending any of our kids there? The ones that
have money, the ones that don`t, they should all deserve to get equal
treatment that they need. And in this case, however, it should have been
prison and not probation from the very beginning.

SHARPTON: Now Ken, if she does stand by her decision and says fine, he is
going to not have to go to jail, the criminal justice system there, as
Faith just said, doesn`t work and he can be redeemed or rehabilitated this
way, does she also, in effect, affirm affluenza. Rich kids saying I was
cuddled so I`m not responsible? Does she affirm that as a legal defense
argument in Texas?

PADOWITZ: Well, that is the problem, Reverend. She has listened to this
spoiled brat defense. And based on that defense, she gave this young man
ten years of probation for killing four people when he was triple the legal
limit of alcohol in the system while driving and had Valium in his system.
So, that sends a horrible message. And it sends a message that if you have
the money and the right defense lawyer and you can go in there with all
these wealth, that you should be treated differently than other people that
are in the criminal justice system that aren`t having that access to that
kind of money. So, it is a horrible message.

My understanding is that she sentenced him to this probation term of ten
years on four counts of vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter. But there is
two counts where he injured two people that are alive that she has to
sentence him on now. So, we have to wait and see what she is going to do.
She has an opportunity now to do the right thing and also give him jail
time but she may not. She may not. She may consistently go along with
this probation in this affluenza defense.

SHARPTON: Well, we are totally hearing it just ended, but we do not know,
I repeat, we do not know yet her decision. We`ll be watching this case and
what the judge`s decision is very carefully.

Let`s move on. The next we have a new potential stand your ground case in
Florida. Jury selection is underway in the murder trial of a man accused
of shooting an unarmed black teenager. In November of 2012 Michael Dunn
pulled into a gas station next to a car full of teens, playing music on the
radio. Dunn says he asked the teens to turn the music down. They began to
argue and Dunn claims he saw a gun in the car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL DUNN, SHOT AND KILLED A BLACK TEENAGER: This guy goes down on the
ground and comes up with something. I thought it was a shotgun. That`s
when I reached in my glove box, upholstered my pistol. Quicker than a
flash, I had a round chambered in it and I shot. I was scared for my life
and I fought back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Dunn fired eight or nine shots into the car killing 17-year-old
Jordan Davis. No weapons were found in the teen`s car. Dunn fled the
scene, went back to his hotel and never called police. He was arrested the
next morning at his home. Dunn faces charges of first degree murder and
three counts of attempted murder.

Ken, will a jury buy his self defense argument?

PADOWITZ: I don`t think so. I think he has a big problem on his hands. I
mean, he left the scene. He didn`t call the police. He didn`t say that he
was in fear for his life and had to defend himself. He left the scene,
went all the way home, had to be apprehended. And then when he makes a
claim that it was self defense that there was a gun pointed at him, there
are no weapons found at the scene. So, a jury is going to have a very big
problem with his self defense that this man is going to be arguing as to
get him off this case. He has a big problem.

SHARPTON: Now, we have a copy of a letter, Faith, that Michael Dunn, the
accused, wrote to his girlfriend from prison in June saying, quote, "I just
got off the phone with you and we were talking about how racist the blacks
are up here," talking about in prison. "The more time I`m exposed to these
people the more prejudice against them I become."

Now, this is one of several letters Dunn has written that the defense is
trying to keep out of the trial, letters in which he frequently refers to
the teens he shot as thugs. Isn`t this relevant for trial, Faith?

JENKINS: It is absolutely relevant. I think those words may very well
come back to haunt him. Because in order to get a self defense charge to
the jury in this case, I believe he is going to have to take the witness
stand and tell his version of events and he has to convince these jurors
that he was in reasonable fear for his life. And he is going to hone on
the fact that he saw a gun because that is what he needs here. He was in
his car. There is no physical injury. There was no physical
confrontation. So, he is taking his chances. He is betting on this case
that these jurors are going to believe that there was a gun, that this kid
had a gun and that`s what he needs. But those words, when he is cross exam
and those prosecutors are going to use the words to say he had an animus
from the very beginning because these kids were black.

SHARPTON: Well, he is going to also probably, is expected, Ken, use the
Texas version of stand your ground. Are we going to see another battle of
stand your ground as some of us have continued questioning that in Florida
and other states including Texas?

PADOWITZ: Well, if the case was happening here in Florida we would
definitely be seeing it because there are two components to the stand your
ground law in Florida. One is to ask for a hearing before the trial which
did not happen here. But two, the jury instructions in Florida are
changed. So, we even heard in the Zimmerman case how the jury was
instructed on stand your ground and they could consider. So, if those
instructions are similar in the state that he is being triad, we may just
hear stand your ground rear its ugly once head again.

SHARPTON: That is why I`m going to continue fighting and I do continue
fighting the stand your ground laws.

Faith Jenkins, Ken Padowitz, thank you both for your time tonight.

JENKINS: Thank you.

PADOWITZ: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, the major decision that had both the president and
the first lady offering praise today.

Also, what makes George Zimmerman a, quote, "celebrity?" Lots of people
are talking about it. I will weigh in ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Huge news from CVS Care Mark today. The nation second largest
drug store chain announced it will stop selling all tobacco products at its
7,600 stores nationwide. President Obama applauded the move and the first
lady tweeted, thanks CVS. Now, we can all breathe a little easier and our
families can live healthier.

This is a personal issue for the first family. President Obama has spoken
openly about struggles with smoking in the past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a former smoker, I
constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes.
Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No. What we don`t want is kids
going down that path in the first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Cigarette smoking remains a national health problem. I applaud
today`s decision from CVS and I hope other retailers will follow their
example.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: George Zimmerman has been busy in the seven months since the
Trayvon Martin verdict. He has been on the news on more than one occasion
for run ins with the law. But now, there is this.

George Zimmerman has signed on for a so-called celebrity boxing match. We
learned today that his opponent in the ring will be Rapper DMX. Like any
American, Zimmerman has the right to pursue whatever he wants in life. But
I have one simple question, when exactly did George Zimmerman become a
celebrity? Did he become a celebrity when he shot and killed Trayvon
Martin? Did it happen when he went on national TV and said he had no
regrets about the killing?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Do you regret getting out of the car to
follow Trayvon that night?

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, SHOT AND KILLED TRAYVON MARTIN: No, sir.

HANNITY: Do you regret that you had a gun that night?

ZIMMERMAN: No, sir.

HANNITY: Do you feel you would be here for this interview if you hadn`t
that gun?

ZIMMERMAN: No, sir. I feel that it was all God`s plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Say it was all God`s plan. Is that when he became a celebrity?
Did he become a celebrity on the night the jury found him not guilty or did
it happen a few weeks later when a juror said she thought he got away with
murder?

Let`s be clear. George Zimmerman`s only claim to fame was killing an
unarmed young man named Trayvon Martin. But killing someone does not make
you a celebrity or it shouldn`t. And this point is particularly important
today because today is Trayvon Martin`s birthday. He would have turned 19-
years-old today.

I do not begrudge people that receive celebrity status or high profile
status that I disagree with. I was in an airport recently and a very well-
known right wing TV host and a politician was there and people on different
sides came up and spoke to us and took pictures. That`s fine. He is known
for what he stands for. People agree with him. He is there based on his
merit and conduct.

But when we start making celebrities, we start in some way glorifying
people whose only claim to fame is killing someone unarmed even if a jury
says they are unable to find the letter of the law there.

Do we not have boundaries in who we raise as celebrity and glorification in
society? Think about it. Think about it on Trayvon`s birthday.

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

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