THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
February 10, 2014
Guest: Tom Moran, Dave Zirin; Wade Davis; Ari Berman
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, Chris Christie`s lawyers are
now investigating Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken, whose accusations
about the Christie administration were first revealed by MSNBC`s Steve
Kornacki on this network. Steve will join me with his reaction to this new
twist in the case.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`ve been served.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new round of subpoenas are expected today in the
bridge scandal surrounding Governor Chris Christie.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As many as 12 subpoenas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody had asked if there are 12. I think it`s
more than that number.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of the people who were key aides and
advisers to him are caught up in this.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HARDBALL: They`re squeezing these people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How worried should the Christie camp be?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they`re clearly worried about Wildstein in
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A tough rebuke of resigned Port Authority
official David Wildstein. Remember that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: David Wildstein`s fast times at Livingston High.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The one where he kind of attacks his high school
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Struck a lot of folks as odd.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christie aides now say it was distributed before
the governor even saw it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never actually read by the governor himself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he have any idea what`s happening in his
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s just digging himself a deeper hole.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New Jersey`s biggest paper has a case of buyer`s
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New Jersey`s largest paper endorsed Christie in
2013, now very much questions that decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Makes sense about the endorsement retraction.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "We blew this one."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may be a little late.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christie heads to Chicago tomorrow for a
Republican Governor Association fund-raiser.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressmen are running from him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But none of the four candidates from his party
plan to attend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s a serious problem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How well is this man running his office?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are doing everything they can to protect the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, he`s a distraction to the RGA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he can survive being governor --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve got a guy running the RGA that has
Republican candidates running away from him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Christie`s a man without an island.
O`DONNELL: The day after Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken told Steve
Kornacki on this network that Chris Christie`s lieutenant governor told her
she would get more disaster relief funding only if she approved a real
estate development deal, federal prosecutors began an investigation of what
Mayor Zimmer had to say.
And now, the Christie administration is investigating Mayor Zimmer.
Chris Christie`s lawyers are now asking for a copy of Mayor Zimmer`s
journal, copies of documents she handed over as part of a federal subpoena,
and an interview with the mayor. Additionally, they have asked for
correspondence between Hoboken officials and the "New York Times."
Tonight as first reported by Rachel Maddow, we have learned that Chris
Christie`s lawyers have contacted the attorney for Mayor Mark Sokolich of
Fort Lee, New Jersey, and have asked for an interview with the mayor, that
according to his attorneys.
Christie`s lawyers have also filed an open records request with the
town of Fort Lee. We`ve also learned today that the legislative super
committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures today
approved 18 new subpoenas including a subpoena to the New Jersey state
police for records of a helicopter flight that might show that Chris
Christie actually flew over the George Washington Bridge on September 11th
during that massive traffic jam that his staff created.
There are several new names among those who will be receiving a new
subpoena and include -- the names include the assistants to Bridget Kelly,
David Wildstein, and Bill Baroni, all of whom themselves have already been
subpoenaed. Also being subpoenaed is the Port Authority lawyer, who helped
prepare Bill Baroni`s testimony to the legislature about the George
Washington Bridge last November, when Bill Baroni claimed a traffic study
was the reason for those lane closures.
The super committee also voted today to enforce the subpoenas already
issued to Bridget Kelly and former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien.
They have both refused to comply with the subpoena, citing the Fifth
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. LORETTA WEINBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: Our attorneys supplied
the entire committee last week -- yes, Friday, with a complete background
on those constitutional issues. We came out and passed motions to in turn
let both of those folks and their attorneys know that in fact we do not
believe they have constitutional grounds to stand on the Fifth Amendment
for the production of documents before that committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki, host of "UP WITH
STTEVE KORNACKI." Steve`s been following this story, obviously, from
before the beginning. You knew David Wildstein and these players before
any of us knew their names.
Steve, so many developments to go over. But first of all, the
Christie team turning their own in-house investigation toward Mayor Dawn
STEVE KORNACKI, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: No, and that`s -- I don`t
think many people saw this coming, obviously. The context you have there
is important. The day after she made those allegations publicly, she met
with federal prosecutors. She`s turned over the evidence that she says she
has to federal prosecutors, and federal prosecutors and the FBI has been in
Hoboken investigating those claims and interviewing, you know, witnesses
and people she supposedly shared her story with, you know, months after it
One potential reading on this that I`ve heard from people, and
Sokolich with this, is that there may be a strategic thinking here by the
Christie people to intimidate other would-be elected officials, mayors,
public officials, others from coming forward that hey, if you have anything
that you want to air about Christie, we`re not just going to take it lying
down, we`re going to -- this is a little bit of what you can expect.
O`DONNELL: There are also obviously just trying to do what lawyers
call discovery, which is they desperately need to know what the other side
knows. They desperately need to know in order to get their story straight,
what has she told them.
KORNACKI: Right. And the other thing that I have been looking for
and I have not yet seen. I think it`s been three weeks now since Dawn
Zimmer was on our air with that allegation --
O`DONNELL: It seems like three months ago.
KORNACKI: Given everything that`s happened. But the one thing I`ve
been looking for in all that time is the public statement from Chris
Christie, the public statement from the governor of New Jersey that I have
full faith in what Kim Guadagno, Kim Guadagno did nothing wrong here, I
have full faith in the statement that she made publicly denying all this.
I have not heard Chris Christie publicly vouch for his lieutenant
governor in all of this. And I know he scaled back his public schedule and
there`s been sort of limited interactions with the press. At least to me,
that`s been striking that he`s not --
O`DONNELL: Well, yes. He`s hiding from the press. So he`s not going
to do that in the form of a question and answer.
But you`re absolutely right. To have such an explosive allegation
come out against your lieutenant governor and you`re silent, you the
governor do not come out and say exactly what you just said? That
absolutely could not have happened? That has been striking, more today on
It`s very interesting now that they`re going after the two who have
taken the Fifth Amendment. They`re saying nope, you cannot take the Fifth
Amendment, at least on this production of documents component because
they`re just documents from the governor`s office. Let`s listen to what
one of the senators on the committee said to Rachel tonight about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: I think there`s legal
recourse that our counsel will pursue. But clearly there`s a difference.
There`s a difference between forcing somebody to speak words that they have
not ever spoken before in front of the committee and to provide documents
that they previously sent to somebody by hitting the send button. Other
people have provided us documents. They have not interposed this
And so, the committee considered those objections that they raised,
but we feel very comfortable in following the advice of counsel and moving
in the way we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That`s Assemblyman Wisniewski. The fact that the others
did produce the documents and did not try to use the Fifth Amendment
indicates to me that there`s a pretty strong belief among the defense
lawyers involved representing all of these people that the Fifth Amendment
is not going to protect them from turning over their own especially
KORNACKI: Yes. I think this gets to a long history here within New
Jersey about the ability of the legislative branch to exercise oversight on
the executive branch. And would you be setting a precedent here?
You`re not talking about getting documents, at least not yet, from the
governor. Where relatively low-level staffers can cite the Fifth Amendment
and basically shut down, impede, call off any attempted oversight by the
legislature. That`s essentially what`s at stake here. If you can just
cite the Fifth Amendment and not turn over any documents, then anyone can
do that plausibly, and there`s absolutely no ability if the executive
branch chooses for the legislative branch to conduct oversight. That is
essentially what`s at stake here.
I don`t know how long it`s going to take for this to shake out, but I
think the history of rulings and the history of sort of law in New Jersey
is on the side of the legislature here, but it still may take some time
just to play out.
O`DONNELL: One of the most fascinating subpoenas, and we`ll know in
the end of the story what the most fascinating subpoena was because the one
to Bridget Kelly`s assistant might be the gold of the whole case, but the
lawyer at the Port Authority, a Port Authority lawyer who worked with Bill
Baroni on his testimony.
Now, some people might think attorney client privilege. Uh-uh. Not
in a case like this. Bill Baroni is not his client. He works for the Port
Authority. There`s no attorney-client privilege protecting what they
talked about in the presentation of testimony to the legislature in which
Baroni said, we did this for a traffic stop, and could not produce.
KORNACKI: Right, and also the David Wildstein letter seeking the Port
Authority to pay his legal bills. He was apparently in on those with
Philip Kwon. So, David Wildstein was apparently there for that as well.
And this is a name that a week ago nobody thought was a part of this mix at
And you`re not just talking about Bill Baroni checking in with him for
five or 10 minutes before heading down to Trenton. You`re talking about
hours of preparation for this.
And I mean theoretically, I suppose Bill Baroni could have come to him
and said hey, honest to God, this is the story, this is what happened, and
Philip Kwon helped him put together his best case interpretation of it.
But wow, when you look at the basic disingenuousness of what Bill Baroni
presented to that committee that day, that takes -- that took a lot of
effort to be that disingenuous.
O`DONNELL: First question to the lawyer who helped Baroni with that
testimony. How many times have you helped Baroni with testimony to the
legislature before? For how many minutes?
You know, because at most at the Port Authority they had to give him
one little legal memo about some little paragraph. But the idea that you
need hours of a lawyer`s time on preparing that testimony that has no
factual basis for it that we know of, the traffic stops.
KORNACKI: I mean, it`s the traffic study. And the other thing Baroni
continually harped on in that that to me was the giveaway is the idea that
these are Fort Lee-only lanes. If you know anything about the George
Washington Bridge, you know it`s all the towns around Fort Lee. So, he`s
clearly making a very disingenuous political argument at these hearings.
And when you`re making a disingenuous political argument you`re
obfuscating, you`re trying to hide something. So -- when I saw that, when
I heard that, I said clearly something is not right with this.
O`DONNELL: The weekend media was interesting. "Politico" had a story
apparently dictated from team Christie saying oh, the governor knew nothing
about that absolutely crazy statement that we put out attacking David
This, of course, is not -- it cannot possibly be true, no matter how
emphatically "Politico" tried to print it as a fact. The idea that there
would be operatives in team Christie now who would do anything on this
without the boss OK`ing it is absolutely inconceivable.
KORNACKI: The one catch I`d add is this. Anybody in the Christie
world says no low-level staffer, no mid-level staffer, nobody in the press
shop would have come up with this, snuck it in, and gotten it out to the
press without Christie`s consent.
If it wasn`t Christie himself, it had to be someone, and I`m talking
about a universe of like two or three people, someone extremely close to
him personally who`d have that kind of authority to go to the press office
and put something like that out.
But I think realistically speaking people who know Christie world say
Christie knew about it or maybe two or three people who have that kind of
authority. But the idea it would be some mid-level staffer or low-level
staffer or somebody in the press shop doesn`t wash with anybody --
O`DONNELL: The official ruling is in at THE LAST WORD: Christie knew
about it. That`s all done.
And, Steve, unprecedented -- the retraction of an editorial endorsing
Christie in his re-election campaign. Biggest newspaper in New Jersey
KORNACKI: And it wasn`t much of an endorsement to begin with. There
was all sorts of qualifications in that.
But you know, look, that was the story of the 2013 election. You
could say the "Star Ledger," that they screwed up or something. But the
Democratic Party decided in 2013 in New Jersey to take the election off.
They decided they were not going to fight Chris Christie.
A lot of them had deals with Chris Christie. A lot of them thought he
was inevitable. And they basically said at the start of that year, Barbara
Buono, State Senator Barbara Buono, you want the nomination, you want to go
out there, fine.
She`s even saying now, we`re not going to help you, you can have the
nomination week, not going to be there for you. That was the story in
2013. Everybody who needed to roll over for Chris Christie did roll over
O`DONNELL: My next guest, the poor guy who had to write the
retraction of the editorial. Steve Kornacki, your show is off for the
Olympics? Because I looked for it this weekend. I was going to learn all
the latest. What`s going on?
KORNACKI: We were off last Saturday and Sunday for women`s hockey.
We`re off this coming Saturday for women`s hockey, but we`re on Sunday.
Sunday morning 8:00 to 10:00 a.m., we`ll be on Sunday 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.
O`DONNELL: All right, 8:00 a.m. Sunday. I will be there. Steve
Kornacki, thank you very much for joining us.
Coming up, a Republican tells Chris Christie that he should consider
resigning his post at the Republican Governors Association. It wasn`t just
any Republican. It`s the Republican I listen to most, especially when I`m
on his show on MSNBC in the morning.
And the biggest newspaper in New Jersey, as we just told you, retracts
its endorsement of Chris Christie`s re-election. And I will be joined by
the poor guy who had to write the newspaper`s retraction. They were for
Christie before they were against Christie.
And later, a man says he`s gay and the world goes crazy. Well, not
really the world, just the backward, behind the times world of the National
And in the rewrite, the NFL defends the name of the Washington
football team, but they dare not actually speak that name when talking
about that name. The NFL and your tweets about the NFL are in tonight`s
O`DONNELL: On Sunday the Newark, New Jersey "Star Ledger" published a
profile of Chris Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. Shortly after it was
published, "The Star Ledger" added a postscript with a little correction.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Drewniak referred to
the Port Authority`s deputy director as a piece of crap.
While Drewniak did call him a piece of excrement, it was David
Wildstein who referred to the executive director as a "piece of crap."
Classy guy, Drewniak. Excrement, not crap.
Up next, an even bigger correction and the poor guy who had to write
it -- the correction of an endorsement for Chris Christie`s re-election as
O`DONNELL: On the day before Chris Christie`s next big road trip,
this time to Chicago, he woke up to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: I like Chris. I trust Chris. I still
take him at his word. But I`m always blind.
And the fact is right now he`s a distraction to the RGA. If
Republicans` job is electing governors, you`ve got a guy running the RGA
that has Republican candidates running away from him, that`s a serious
problem and he needs to sit down and do some soul searching and see whether
he wants to defend charges against him or continue this. I don`t think he
can do both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That is, of course, former Republican congressman and
MSNBC "MORNING JOE" host Joe Scarborough telling Chris Christie that he
cannot run the Republican Governors Association and defend himself before a
New Jersey legislative investigative committee and an investigation by
And yesterday, the largest newspaper in New Jersey rewrote its
editorial endorsing Chris Christie in his re-election campaign.
Yesterday`s editorial in the "Star Ledger," written by Tom Moran is
entitled "Chris Christie Endorsement is Regrettable."
"Yes. We knew Christie was a bully," writes Tom Moran, "but we didn`t
know his crew was crazy enough to put people`s lives at risk in Fort Lee as
a means to pressure the mayor. We didn`t know he would use hurricane Sandy
aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn`t know that Hoboken
Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno."
Joining me now is the author of the retraction of the Christie
endorsement in the "Star Ledger." Also joining me, Ari Melber, co-host of
MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE."
Tom, thank you very much on this big night, this big turnaround of the
ship over there.
I want to read another line from your retraction of the editorial --
of the endorsement. It says, "An endorsement is not a love embrace. It is
a choice between two flawed human beings. And the winner is often the less
bad option." So --
TOM MORAN, STAR-LEDGER: Sad truth to American politics.
O`DONNELL: I`ve got to say, having read your editorial endorsement of
that candidacy, that was not a love embrace.
MORAN: No. You know, I wouldn`t say it`s a correction or a
retraction. It`s a regret. The election`s over. There`s no way for us to
take it back. But looking at information that has come out since then, it
tipped the balance., which was already a tough call because we didn`t think
highly of either candidate.
I thought the Democratic candidate was very weak, and we think that
Christie`s very overrated. But on balance, we chose Christie, and on
balance now it`s tipped.
O`DONNELL: Ari, I`d like -- I`m going to read from you -- I have both
things here, the editorial. I`m not going to tell you which is which. I
have the editorial endorsing the candidacy. I also have Tom`s article
saying geez, wish we had that to do over again --
ARI MELBER, THE CYCLE: Lawrence, is it LAST WORD Chris Christie
MELBER: I`m ready.
O`DONNELL: Tell me which -- does this come from the endorsement or,
you know, the wish we didn`t do it? "The property tax burden has grown
sharply on his watch. He is hostile to low-income families, raising their
tax burden and sabotaging efforts to build affordable housing. He`s been a
catastrophe on the environment."
Is that from the endorsement or is that from the "I wish we didn`t
MELBER: As a matter of facts, it is from the endorsement.
O`DONNELL: Because you`ve memorized the endorsement.
MELBER: Because I recently read it and enjoyed it.
O`DONNELL: This is another -- this is another -- here is another line
from the endorsement. "The governor`s claim to have fixed the state`s
budget is fraudulent." It kind of goes on and on. It`s really -- it is in
its way, you had to read it recently, it`s just filled with reasons not to
vote for Chris Christie.
MORAN: Yes. But it`s also filled with a couple of big ones to vote
for him at the time, including that he is the first governor who put some
of the public costs that were spiraling out of control in New Jersey under
control with the pension health reform, the property tax gap. He`s done
some great work on education, especially in urban areas.
So, as I say, when you do an editorial you can`t really just pick
three or four things you hate about one person and disqualify him. You
have to do all ten for both people. So, it`s a balancing act.
O`DONNELL: Yes. And I think actually the way you talked about it
this weekend is -- it is the difficulty of that difficult decision, of
having to pick one or the other, which I didn`t find difficult. I thought
the Democratic candidate, Buono, was a perfectly reasonable candidate. And
I`ve got to say, half of your editorial endorsing Christie thought she was
a good candidate, too.
MORAN: Not half. Again, it`s a balancing act. And I could go
through that, but I thought she was a very weak candidate.
O`DONNELL: But inside the editorial when you first made the
endorsement how many of you were in favor -- how did that vote go?
MORAN: It was 3-1.
MORAN: Of four people. One wanted to endorse Buono.
O`DONNELL: There`s one big gloater over there.
MORAN: I would say she`s gloating, yes.
O`DONNELL: Did she get a pay raise?
MORAN: It`s Julie O`Connor, God bless her. But no, I don`t think --
look, we -- the key thing here is that Democrats as Steve had just said
sort of gave up on this race earlier and Barbara Buono got the nomination
by default. In my view, and I`ve following her for a long time, she was
But this new information tipped it.
O`DONNELL: Ari, Joe Scarborough said something diplomatically I`ve
been saying for quite a while. I mean, I`d just say he can`t continue with
the Republican governors association. It`s totally destructive to the
organization. They can`t even be seen in public.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, that`s a political job where you are supposed
to be the surrogate in chief. You are supposed to be the draw as you go
around the country. Not only is he not a draw, he`s increasingly a risk
and the only reason that it will be hard to get him away from the RGA is if
you`re too toxic for the RGA, you`re probably too toxic for the White House
and he`s worried about that sort of transference.
To go back to the editorial and the retraction, on the one hand, I
think it`s great when the media rethinks and isn`t afraid to say because we
said something before we have to stick to it. So, I kind of -- reading the
newer version I liked it. It was sort of a big like "my bad", now here`s
what we know.
I`ve got to agree with Lawrence a little bit in that while word count-
wise there was a lot of criticism of the Democratic alternative in that
original which I read, it did have some of its most strident language about
Chris Christie, saying that he was overrated, saying he was better at
politics than at governing, saying as Lawrence mentioned, he was hostile to
low-income families, accusing him, as we mentioned, of fraudulent behavior
in his budget-keeping, all of those being your paper`s words. Which you
could say was a measured endorsement because it gave some Jersey voters a
little more background information about why this was a qualified
I think the big question, I`d be curious your thoughts on, this is it
seems to me now like everything we knew that gave pause about Chris
Christie`s administration is now more than pause, it`s the breaks. Do you
see a linkage here between the factual problems in the way he presented the
budget and the factual problems that`s been reported about the way they`re
dealing with this crisis?
MORAN: No. I think on policy this is a whole different level. This
is crazy stuff. I haven`t seen anything until now --
MELBER: No, because it`s worse, you`re saying.
MORAN: Yes, what has happened since the election --
O`DONNELL: What you`ve seen prior to this is kind of a business as
usual version of governance.
MORAN: It`s within the normal range of political B.S.
O`DONNELL: And this is utterly insane.
MORAN: Exactly. It`s not just the bridge thing. It`s the sandy
money that is disturbing to me. You have $7 million given to Bellville for
a senior housing project that was two years in the planning. And Bellville
wasn`t hit by Sandy. Meanwhile, Hoboken was 80 percent underneath water
and they couldn`t get the aid they needed?
O`DONNELL: And it was the kind of thing that some of the opponents of
that aid in Washington said was going to happen.
Tom Moran, thank you very much for coming in tonight. Thank you for
writing this. I understand both of them. I don`t agree with the first one
but I understand how you arrived at it.
Ari Melber, thanks for joining us.
MELBER: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, a college football player says he`s gay and the
football world goes absolutely crazy because the football world is crazy,
and backward, and decades behind the times. In "The Rewrite," the crazy
NFL`s name for its Washington team. And why the commissioner of the NFL is
afraid to say that word, when he`s talking about that name of that team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SAM, NFL PLAYER: I came to tell the world that I`m an openly
proud gay man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam
yesterday on ESPN. Michael Sam came out on national television after being
named the Associated Press defensive player of the year in the southeastern
conference. His Missouri teammates voted him defensive player of the year
because of plays like this one. Michael Sam told ESPN it wasn`t a surprise
to his teammates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM: It`s a load off my chest. I told my teammates this past August
that -- I came out to my teammates and they took it great. They rallied
around me. They supported me. And I couldn`t ask for better teammates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Michael Sam says he intentionally made his announcement
ahead of next month`s NFL draft where he was expected to be a top pick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday Michael Sam was projected as a third or
fourth-round pick but definitely on the board and today executives will say
anonymously that his stock has dropped, he may not even be drafted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Sam did get support from the White House today. President
Obama tweeted, "Congratulations on leading the way. That`s real
sportsmanship." First lady Michelle Obama tweeted, "you`re an inspiration
to all of us. We couldn`t be prouder of your courage both on and off the
Joining me now is Dave Zirin, sports editor for "the Nation" magazine
and Wade Davis, former NFL player who came out in 2012 and has met with
Wade, tell us the import of this announcement and also get into the
issue of doing this before the NFL draft and why did he do it before the
WADE DAVIS, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I think the importance of this, it
just increases the visibility of gay players. Right, you know? So, now
you can have kids, adults who can turn on a TV and say wow, I`m watching a
gay man play the game of football.
I think there is a couple different reasons why it`s important for him
to do it now. He gives teams time to really kind of talk to the players,
talk to GMs and say hey, you know what? This really isn`t that big of a
deal. You know, we`ve had players from different races, different classes,
different religions on our team and our players are smart enough, they`re
evolved enough to handle this. It`s definitely not going to be cotton
candy and lollipops, right?
But Michael Sam, he did this in the SEC, and probably the minor
leagues of the NFL. He did it flawlessly. His team was 12-2. There were
no incidents. So, I think once we get down to it this will be no
O`DONNELL: Dave, we have some NFL people, executives, some of them
involved in the hiring process, some of them involved in the drafting
process, giving statements to the press, some with their names on them,
some not. Saying this will hurt him, this is absolutely a bad thing for
him to have done, and there will be adverse effects in his workplace as a
result of making this announcement.
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION: Look, first of all, all credit
to Wade Davis, who is not just a former NFL player who came out of the
closet, but a political activist and organizer who helped bring this day to
pass. Second of all, the contrast is so sharp. I mean, you have a profile
in courage in Michael Sam and then you have profiles in cowardice who are
these NFL general managers who like to affect this attitude of being like
these tough guys who are militaristic and they are leaders of men and they
sound like scared children when they talk about the prospect of drafting a
player of the character of Michael Sam.
I mean, you`ve got to read the quotes. It`s like outtakes from
"anchorman," they sound so anti-diluvium (ph). They say things like his
presence will alter the chemical balance of the locker room. Or what if
the media will be knocking down our doors like the "Today" show and good
housekeeping. That`s a quote, Lawrence. They`re scared of the "Today"
show and "Good Housekeeping." that`s a real quote.
And so, I think the problem here is there`s a great quote from Michael
Sam where he said I want to own my own truth. And NFL executives haven`t
owned their own truth, which is that there is a lot of homophobia and a lot
of bigotry in the front offices of the NFL.
O`DONNELL: Wade, talk about what difference it doesn`t make in the
sense that pretty much every NFL team at some point in time has had one or
more gay men on that team whether they knew it or not. And then talk about
how much difference it does make now that they would officially know ahead
of time, you know, walking in about him?
DAVIS: I think the real fear there is that, you know, guys don`t
think about the idea that there`s a gay guy in the locker room that`s going
to look at them in the wrong way. But I think that they forget that the
NFL`s a brotherhood. You know, that you`re on a team with 40 or 50 other
guys that are your actual brothers who would never do anything to take
advantage of that. And Michael Sam is no different.
I think they also have to understand that Michael Sam`s going to
protect them. He understands that a player or two is going to say
something that`s inappropriate. He`s not looking to run up to the
principal`s office and go hey, this player said this, this player said,
that because he`s experienced that already, you know. And I think that
also, that what Sam did, he showed the type of courage and leadership that
NFL execs should actually want, you know. Who doesn`t want a guy who owns
his own truth, who says hey, this is who I am, love me or hate me, but I`m
the type of guy who you want because I exhibit courage in every aspect of
O`DONNELL: Dave, how far behind the fan base is the management of the
NFL on this?
ZIRIN: Well, we can speak about this not with conjecture but with
actual numbers. There was a poll taken that said -- this was a couple of
years ago, and of course there`s been a world of change in the last couple
of years, that 86 percent of fans would have no problem whatsoever rooting
for a member of the LGBT community if they were on the field of their
favorite team. You`ve also heard from a lot of owners today, thank
goodness, after the anonymous general managers who said they would welcome
the opportunity to assess Michael Sam`s potential as an NFL player. Also
terrific supporting words from the NFL players association.
But the fans are there. I think a lot of the players are there too.
One of the most discouraging things about this panoply of anonymous GMs is
the fact they all off-loaded their bigotry onto the players. They all said
variances of, well, I wouldn`t have a problem with it, but the locker room,
the chemical imbalance would just go completely out of whack, you should
see those locker rooms. It`s just not true.
O`DONNELL: Wade Davis and Dave Zirin, thank you both very much for
joining us tonight.
Wade, thank you very much.
DAVIS: Thank you so much.
O`DONNELL: For leading the way on this. Really appreciate it. Thank
Coming up in "the rewrite," more on the NFL. The name of the NFL
football team in Washington, D.C. and why the commissioner of the NFL
defends the name but is actually afraid to use that word in a sentence
And later, a huge political demonstration this weekend that most of
the media didn`t notice.
O`DONNELL: It was 50 years ago last night that the Beatles first
appeared on national television in this country on "the Ed Sullivan Show"
on a stage just a few blocks from where I`m sitting like right over that
way. The critics of course got it very wrong. This weekend the "L.A.
Times" published a roundup of the reaction to the Beatles on "the Ed
Sullivan Show." The "Los Angeles Times" itself 50 years ago said, "not
even their mothers would claim that they sing well." I don`t think they
checked with their mothers. "The New York Times" said, "the Beatles` vocal
quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal
enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts." The "Chicago
tribune" wrote, "the Beatles must be a huge joke, a wacky gag, a gigantic
put-on." and William F. Buckley Jr. wrote in "the Boston Globe" that same
year, "the Beatles are not merely awful. I would consider it sacrilegious
to say anything less than they are god awful. They are so unbelievably
horribly so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic
of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music." Bill
Buckley, wrong as usual.
The national football league is next in "the rewrite."
O`DONNELL: Today shortly after Michelle Obama tweeted her support for
Michael Sam, it was retweeted thousands of times, including by many
celebrities who wanted to echo its sentiment. And when President Obama
tweeted essentially the same thing, he was retweeted by even more people
than retweeted the first lady. And then I tweeted, "will everyone tweeting
support for Michael Sam now please tweet opposition to name of D.C.`s NFL
team? Can someone in White House start this?"
Well, no one in the White House took up that offer, but the discussion
of the name of the Washington team continued on twitter. I invited
defenders of the name to join the discussion. I asked, "what do defenders
of D.C.`s NFL team name tell their kids when their kids ask what the team
name means?" imagine a three or 4-year-old watching football and asking
mommy or daddy what does patriots mean? There`s a nice little story to
tell there as short or as long as you want. You can include the midnight
ride of Paul Revere if you want to mention one of the individuals who`s
being implicitly invoked and honored with that theme. And there are
wonderful kids` books about Paul Revere showing the horse and all that
stuff. It could turn into something really nice.
And then, when the kid asks what does redskins mean, what do you say?
I patiently waited for hours for someone on twitter to explain to me how
they would explain the name in a way that would make a child or any of us
think that the name is a good idea, and no one could do it, no one. There
were a lot of jokes about people who defend the name saying that the first
thing that they would do is tell their kid to shut up.
The only real attempt to explain that name to a kid came from jjj666,
who said, "it means Indians. Why name a team after Indians? Because
Indians are courageous warriors. Oh, OK." But daddy, they`re not named
the Indians. Why did they name them the redskins?
There is a difference between the Kansas city chiefs and the
Washington redskins. It is the difference between the Boston Celtics and
the Boston Knicks. When the NBA named their team in Boston, they chose to
honor a local culture in the heavily Irish-American town. Now, they could
have chosen Micks, the most common term for the Irish in Boston back then,
instead of the slang term for the Irish, the NBA chose the most exalted
term. They just Americanized the pronunciation from Celtic to Celtic.
How do you know how bad the name of the Washington football team is?
Because no one dares to use the word in any context other than the name of
that team. If it is a word that can only be used when referencing the team
and is offensive even to football people when not referencing the team,
that proves how bad the word is. And football people themselves, they
prove it all the time just like the NFL commissioner in the run-up to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM CORBETT, NFL REPORTER, USA TODAY: The controversy over the
redskins` name has ramped up over this past year. We know your stance and
the team`s stance. And what we don`t know at this point is would you feel
comfortable calling an American Indian a redskin to his or her face?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Great question. Great question, Jim Corbett. And of
course Roger Goodell refused to answer it. But as you listen to what he
said in response to that great question, imagine Roger Goodell using the
word "redskins" where he uses the words "native Americans."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: Jim, I`ve been spending the last
year talking to many of the leaders in the native American communities. We
are listening. We are trying to make sure we understand the issues. Let
me remind you, this is the name of a football team. A football team that`s
had that name for 80 years and has presented the name in a way that has
honored native Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so, there is the NFL defender in chief, afraid to use
the name of his team when talking about the people the name refers to. The
best thing I read about this on twitter today was something I hadn`t
actually thought of myself but is a brilliant last word on this subject for
tonight. And that last word came from Bridge Sing, who said, "why don`t
supporters of the name say redskins shouldn`t be offended instead of native
Americans shouldn`t be offended?"
O`DONNELL: Up next, this weekend`s huge protests over voting rights
and a lot more in North Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REVEREND DR. WILLIAM BARBER, PRESIDENT, NORTH CAROLINA CHAPTER OF THE
NAACP: We are natives and immigrants. Where business leaders and workers
and unemployed. We are doctors and the uninsured. We are gay. We are
straight. We are North Carolina! We are America! And we`re here and
we`re going nowhere!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Reverend Dr. William Barber, president of the
North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, encouraging the crowd of 80,000 to
100,000 protesters in Raleigh, North Carolina on Saturday in what was the
largest civil rights rally in the south since the march from Selma to
Montgomery in 1965.
This weekend`s rally marked the 2014 launch of moral Mondays, the
weekly demonstrations started by a coalition of progressive groups last
April, fighting against the policies set by the state`s Republican-
controlled legislature and its Republican governor. Since Republicans took
control, 500,000 North Carolinians lost Medicaid coverage and another
900,000 low-wage families lost the earned income tax credit. After the
state legislature eliminated it. And the legislature passed new laws
further limiting women`s access to abortion and restricting voters` rights.
Joining me now, "the Nation`s" Ari Berman, who attended this
Ari, so moral Mondays merged into this giant event on Saturday.
ARI BERMAN, THE NATION: Yes. So for the last eight years they`ve
been holding this annual rally called the HK on j rally. But this was the
first time they did it with the moral Monday coalition present. So you had
all this energy in 2013, all these protests done at the state legislature.
They traveled all around the state opposing the legislature`s policies.
And now 2014`s the kickoff for a new year of moral Monday. And this was
the first real event. And they encouraged people to come not only just to
North Carolina but really all around the country to make a statement of how
big this movement really is now.
O`DONNELL: I want to look at the poll down there indicating that the
Republicans in North Carolina should be worried about their political
future. The governor, Pat McCrory`s approval rating, 37 percent approval
rating. This guy`s got to run for re-election. He`s got a 40 percent
disapproval. The Republican -- the state legislature there, a 32 percent
approval rating in that state legislature that these people are protesting
against, 51 percent disapproval.
How long can this kind of politics go on where the people in power are
in complete disapproval by the people who elected them?
BERMAN: Well, the first thing the legislature did when they took
power in 2010 was draw the seats in such a way to try to protect themselves
from redistricting -- they`re so vulnerable but Pat McCrory`s going to be
incredibly vulnerable in 2016. There`s a strong democratic candidate most
likely the attorney general Roy Cooper`s going to run. So there is a lot
of hot water for North Carolina Republicans right now. One thing that
moral Monday --
O`DONNELL: And North Carolina knows how to elect a democratic
BERMAN: They`ve had legendary democratic governors like Jim Hunt for
many, many years.
BERMAN: But the moral Monday coalition has made the Republicans`
policies so unpopular. They`ve shined a light on what`s happening in the
state by having these rallies at the legislature, by going all across the
state, and that`s why the approval numbers for the legislature are in the
toilet, because people are aware of what`s happening.
O`DONNELL: And you can`t get these disapproval numbers with just
liberals saying, I don`t like those policies. These are the people who
voted for these guys saying this is not what I voted for.
BERMAN: Well, when these moral Monday protests started Republicans in
the legislature just tried to paint them as a fringe and they said this is
just going to be a fad. And they said, this is just going to be a fad.
But what we`re seeing is broad-based resentment to these policies. People
don`t like kicking 170,000 people off unemployment benefits, denying
Medicaid to 500,000, ending the earned income tax credit for 900,000
people. That`s a lot of people who`s affected by these policies. And so
it`s hitting every segment of North Carolina society.
O`DONNELL: Who would have though like this weekend to be there in the
biggest demonstration of that kind in the south since the civil rights
movement, since before you were born.
BERMAN: It was really exciting. I mean, for people like me who
didn`t experience the civil rights movement, this is like a new civil
rights movement for us. To get to cover it, to see the people that are
involved with it. Reverend Barber of the North Carolina NAACP has often
been referred to as Martin Luther King. Now, obviously that`s a huge
comparison. But there`s a similar energy around North Carolina now that
what`s happening in North Carolina is the kind of thing that`s not just
about the state. It`s a state bat well national implications but it`s also
an evolution of the civil rights movement, a new phase, a new fight in
O`DONNELL: It has that same refusal to accept what is happening to
BERMAN: And to really get on the streets.
BERMAN: And to march with your feet. And also in the same way it`s
very, very diverse coalition. It`s very inclusive. It`s very
multicultural, multiracial, young, and also there`s space for everyone at
the table here. That`s why so many people showed up, because everyone`s
embracing everyone else`s issue. And that`s how you get 80,000 people
turning up. It`s not just one issue. It`s not just about voting rights or
abortion or whatever. It`s about all these things happening in the state
Ari Berman, I`m glad you were there and very thankful that you could
come here and tell us about it.
BERMAN: Thanks for having me, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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