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PoliticsNation, Monday, March 3, 2014

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March 3, 2014

Guests: Jim McDermott, James Peterson, Dana Milbank, Chris Witherspoon,
Angela Rye

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in. I`m live tonight from Miami.

Tonight`s lead, the GOP`s poor judgment. Today Congressman Paul Ryan
unveiled an amazing new report on poverty that reads like a battle plan for
attacking the poor. Surprise, surprise. He blames the safety net,
accusing welfare and social programs for making poverty worse. The report
goes after Medicaid. Quote, "Medicaid patients use the emergency room
inappropriately." He goes after the food stamp program known as SNAP.
Quote, "SNAP discourages work among female-headed households." He goes
after head start. Quote, "the head start program as a whole is failing to
prepare children for school."

So the big takeaway, let`s help the poor by attacking programs that help
the poor? The report also goes after poor families themselves. Citing the
breakdown of the family as the root factor. Quote, "perhaps the single
most important determinant of poverty is family structure." And it
continues. "Poverty is most concentrated among broken families."

Look. Everybody knows that family stability is significant. But this has
become a bizarre trend on the right.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The truth is that the greatest tool to lift
people, to lift children and families from poverty, is one that decreases
the probability of child poverty by 82 percent. But it isn`t a government
program. It`s called marriage.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The war on poverty will not
be won as long as the value of marriage is diminished.

marriage is disappearing in places where government dependency is the


SHARPTON: So the cure for poverty is to get married? It doesn`t add up.
And neither does Ryan`s attack on the safety net. President Obama has a
different vision in the fight for fairness.


drastically reduce or eliminate the safety net for a lot of people. It`s a
theory they presented in the run-up to the great depression. It is a
theory that expounded in the run-up to the crisis in 2008. Just because
this theory has a history, doesn`t mean it should have a future. It`s time
to retire this theory.


SHARPTON: Fifty years after the war on poverty began, the country has
taken great strides. But there is much work left to do. And going
backwards by cutting programs and attacking poor families won`t help.

Joining me now are Congressman Jim McDermott, Democrat of Washington, and`s Joan Walsh. Thank you both for being here.


REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: It`s good to be here.

SHARPTON: Congressman McDermott, this GOP report blames poverty on the
safety net, and on family structure. Give me your take on this.

MCDERMOTT: Well, as usual, Paul Ryan is running in the wrong direction.
The American people know that it`s what you`re paid when you work that
makes you get out of poverty. And as long as we don`t raise the minimum
wage, we`re not going to get people out of poverty.

A little town in Washington, SEATAC, voted by public vote to raise to it
$15. All over the country, suddenly there is an explosion of people
recognizing that people who are paid well are not in poverty. We haven`t
raised the minimum wage. You can work as hard as you want at a minimum
wage job and you`re still in poverty. So you have to do something about
the minimum wage. That`s why the president`s going forward with this. And
unless Paul Ryan figures out which way the country is moving, he is going
to be left in the dust.

SHARPTON: You know, Joan, when you look at the fact that here is what
Congressman Ryan said today. Look at this first. This is what he said
about the findings in his own report.


SHARPTON: He says there are nearly 100 programs at the federal level that
are meant to help. But they have actually created a poverty trap. This is
what Ryan says. But a landmark study found the safety net has helped
millions of people. In 1967, the poverty rate stood at 26 percent. By
2012, the poverty rate had dropped down to 16 percent. Now, there is the
level is still way too high.

WALSH: Right.

SHARPTON: But how is this a poverty trap, Joan?

WALSH: You know, the only poverty trap here, Reverend Al, is the trap of
reporters going back to Paul Ryan again and again and again and coming out
and telling us Paul Ryan cares about the poor. It`s a new Paul Ryan. He`s
got a new plan, when it`s the same old warmed over Reaganism. Reagan told
a terrible lie, that we fought a war on poverty and poverty won. It wasn`t
true back in 1980. It`s not true now. We did help people.

Now, I want to give him credit for a couple of things. One is there are a
lot of poverty programs. And you and I and the congressman all know they
aren`t coordinated as well as they could be. And Democrats have tried for
a very long time, and this president is trying now through the federal
bureaucracy to coordinate them and bring them together and create a web of
surfaces around poor families in need, and do really important things that
Republicans block again and again.

They also, as the congressman said, the best thing we could do right this
minute, if you and I could weave a wand, one thing we could do is raise the
minimum wage to $10.10. That lifts almost a million people out of poverty.
Tomorrow. We could do it tomorrow. Let`s have partnership on that. No,
we can`t do that. Now we have people saying let`s do away with the minimum
wage entirely. They are trying to repeal the 20th century. Not the 21st,
the 20th century.

SHARPTON: I think that`s the point, Congressman. We`re not defending a


SHARPTON: That may have not been effective or abused. They are trying to
wipe away the whole idea top safety net. We`re not talking about a
particular program.

WALSH: Right.

SHARPTON: We`re talking about the idea of government helping those in the
country that need help. And many of those in the broad context, if you
talk about Medicaid and food stamps and all have been the difference
between some people surviving or not that worked hard in this country.

MCDERMOTT: You know, Al, there is a program called the earned income tax
credit. That is if you work, you get tax credits that will lift you up.
Now, if Paul Ryan were serious and he wanted to make the earned income tax
credit lift people out of poverty, he could find some support for us giving
up some other things that are floating around that are sort of patchwork
trying to do that. You have to have a certain amount of money or you are
in poverty. And you either get it through the job you get or you get some
kind of help from the government. And when it comes to feeding your kids
and putting a roof over their house and not living in your car, it takes
money. That`s what he refuses to accept.

SHARPTON: Right. Now, today`s report goes after food stamps as well,

WALSH: Right.

SHARPTON: And this is a theme Republicans have hit on before. In
attacking the president. Listen to this.


NEWT GINGRICH, CNN HOST, CROSSFIRE: Food stamps versus paychecks. Obama
is the best food stamp president in American history.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: When he says Obama is the food stamp
president, which by the way he is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lottery winners, multimillion-dollar lottery winners
are getting food stamps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On economic policy, he has doubled the number of people
on food stamps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much rather spend the money on food stamps than he
would on a strong military or support for our troops.


SHARPTON: But the study shows that food stamps actually help lift families
out of poverty. In 2012, food stamps lifted 4.9 million people from
poverty, including, Joan, 2.2 million children.

WALSH: Yes. I mean, food stamps go to children. They go to elderly
people. They go to veterans. I mean, Dick Cheney is talking about
spending money on the military, but is ignoring the veterans and active
military personnel are disproportionately now relying on food stamps.

This is not something that President Obama caused. I mean, even under
President Bush there was a sense that the recession was causing people to
need food. And we did increase eligibility. And that was a good thing.

This is also a stimulative thing we can do for the economy. The money that
we put into the food stamp program immediately goes into grocery stores and
goes into vendors` pockets and keeps kids healthier. So it`s a crazy thing
to attack. But they`ve been on this kick for a long time.

Ronald Reagan took it back to our friend, you know, talked about the young
bucks buying t-bone steaks with food stamps. And we all know what he was
talking about there. So, this is kind of coded language that they have
used for a long time. And it really genuinely hurts people, Reverend Al.

SHARPTON: You know, the president unveiled his 2015 budget tomorrow,
Congressman McDermott, and is expected to call for no cuts to Social
Security, universal prekindergarten education, investment in job training
and manufacturing hubs, and closing corporate tax loopholes. That`s a much
different projection than what Mr. Ryan has come out with.

MCDERMOTT: That`s a view for the 21st century, Al. Ryan is looking back
to the 1900s when people were serfs. But he doesn`t want to look at what
the president is doing. He won`t even give that bill a hearing, I
guarantee you.

WALSH: It`s true.

SHARPTON: Congressman Jim McDermott and Joan Walsh, I`m going to have to
leave it there. Thank you both for your time tonight.

WALSH: Thanks, Rev.

MCDERMOTT: Good night.

SHARPTON: Coming up, where is the unity? In the face of an international
crisis in Russia, some on the right are attacking the president. Shouldn`t
politics stop at the water`s edge?

Plus, why might Marissa Alexander get 60 years in prison for a warning
shot? I`m in Florida tonight where calls are growing to repeal the shoot
first stand your ground law.

Plus, historic night. "12 Years a Slave" brings home the Oscar for best
picture and a star is born. Why it was groundbreaking and a moment of
pride. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Big news tonight about the case that has helped reveal the
unfairness in Florida`s shameful stand your ground law. Should Marissa
Alexander get 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot? That`s next.


SHARPTON: Here in Florida, there is new outrage tonight over a case that
has helped expose the gross injustice and unfairness of the state`s stand
your ground law. The news today involves Marissa Alexander, the Florida
mother who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she says was
a warning shot at her abusive husband.


threatened to kill me, that`s what he was going to do. That`s exactly what
he intended to do. And had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I
would not be here. This is my life I`m fighting for. This is my life.
And it`s life. It is not entertainment. It is my life.


SHARPTON: Marissa Alexander was denied the same stand your ground defense
that many others have received. What she was separated from her kids, and
she was sent to prison. She finally got some good news last fall when an
appeals court ordered a new trial. But now a stunning announcement from
her prosecutor. State attorney Angela Corey says she`ll try to put Marissa
Alexander in prison for 60 years, 60 years. That`s triple Alexander`s
original sentence. It`s essentially a life sentence if she is convicted at
this upcoming trial.

So Marissa Alexander fires a warning shot. No one is hurt, and she faces
60 years in prison? While others have shot and killed and are walking free
today. Where is the justice in that? .

Joining me now is Lisa Bloom, legal analyst for the "Today" show and, and the author of "suspicion nation: the inside story of the
Trayvon Martin injustice and why we continue to repeat it."

Thank you for being here, Lisa.


SHARPTON: Lisa, how can Angela Corey try to put Marissa Alexander behind
bars for 60 years when she was originally sentenced to just 20?

BLOOM: This is another outrage from Angela Corey`s office. It seems to be
a series of blunders going on there. First, the Zimmerman came, and then
the Michael Dunn case and now this. She seems completely tone deaf to what
the community is saying which is Marissa Alexander probably should not be
behind bars at all if the next jury finds this was a self-defense

Even if it wasn`t self-defense, even if the jury finds that she fired to
scare her husband off, her allegedly abusive ex-husband off, 20 years is so
far out of keeping with any sense of proportionality when no one else was
hurt. And now she wants to triple that to 60 years? I mean, this is
really shocking.

SHARPTON: No, it`s shocking and I happen to be in Florida today. And when
you look at the fact that we`re just dealing with no conviction in the
murder counts on Jordan Davis` killing where he died. A 17-year-old kid,
Trayvon Martin, 17-year-old kid died, no conviction. And this young lady
convicted, sentenced to 20 years. The court of appeals said the judge
didn`t charge the jury right. So now she is going to be retried facing 60
years. The contrast couldn`t be more striking and shocking.

BLOOM: Well, that`s right. And as you point out, the most important
factor in this case is that nobody, thank goodness, was harmed. Neither
her husband, neither her husband`s children, or anybody else. It was
simply the wall that was harmed. The wall that the bullet went into.

Now, I`m not a fan of people firing off guns in the middle of altercations.
But this was self-defense. That is a complete defense. And she makes a
pretty good story for self-defense. But if the jury says otherwise, so be
it. Twenty years behind bars that she points out, effectively a life
sentence if it goes up to 60 years, when no one was harmed. And there is
no question that her husband has a history of abuse against her.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman Corrine Brown actually confronted Angela Corey,
the prosecutor, who also happened to be the prosecutor in the case around
Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin. Yet she is the prosecutor of Marissa
Alexander. Watch this and give me your reaction, Lisa.


REP. CORRINE BROWN (D), FLORIDA: In this case, I understand what could
have happened.


BROWN: But it did not happen. It did not happen. And so all we was
asking and all the community is asking for is mercy and justice.

COREY: Congresswoman, I showed her mercy when I sat down with her, we
offered her --

BROWN: And 20 years is not even justice.


SHARPTON: So that was in 2012, right after the case with Marissa Alexander
and Angela Corey standing there being confronted by the congresswoman.

BLOOM: You know, one of the most important things for people to realize is
the prosecutors have the most power of any players in our criminal justice
system. Even more power than judges because very few cases get to judges.
About 95 percent of cases end in plea bargains. So since prosecutors
decide who to charge, what to charge them with, and whether to offer a plea
bargain or not.

And we can see here, this extraordinary abuse of power where Angela Corey
is now threatening 60 years behind bars to a woman who fired a gun in a
warning shot and no one was harmed. I think that is an abuse of power.
And I think Angela Corey needs to remember that she is answerable to the
public. She is a public official. Her salary is paid with tax dollars,
and she is clearly not acting in a way that is in keeping with what the
community wants her to do.

SHARPTON: You know, it`s not just the stand your ground law, and certainly
we have a lot of concerns about that. But the sentencing structure that is
unfair. The "Florida Times Union" reports that, quote, "the Florida
Supreme Court is expected to take up the issue of whether Florida law
requires multiple 10 to 20 life sentences to be consecutive, while the
first district has ruled that judges must make sentences consecutive, other
appellate courts in Florida have said judges can impose sentences
concurrently. That there is not even an agreement on how the sentence
should be imposed, Lisa.

BLOOM: Well, that`s right. And this is very important, because if she is
convicted of three counts and they`re served concurrently, then three 20-
count sentences is still just 20 years. But if they`re consecutively, then
it`s 60 years.

You know, the bottom line, Reverend Al, let`s call this what it is. It`s
vindictiveness on the part of the prosecutor`s office because Marissa
Alexander had the gall to support her rights and go up on an appeal and get
an appellate court to reverse it. Now it`s back down. And now she is
looking at triple the sentence. That is not appropriate for the
prosecutors to do, to behave that way towards someone who has simply been
exercising her legal rights and fighting for freedom.

SHARPTON: And where are all the stand your ground supporters in the state
of Florida when it comes to Marissa Alexander? I see all of us rallying
against stand your ground. I don`t see a lot of people that want to stand
your ground for her.

BLOOM: That`s right.

SHARPTON: But we`ll continue to follow this case closely.

Lisa, thank you for your time tonight. And thank you for your great book.

BLOOM: Thank you so much.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, in the face of an international crisis, some
Republicans are attacking the president`s Ukraine strategy as feckless and

And how can they say he is too strong and too weak at the same time?

But first, smile, Darrell Issa. Your blatant disregard of the facts has
made you the lucky recipient of tonight`s got you, next.


SHARPTON: Congressman Darrell Issa has never let the facts get in the way
of a good talking point. For over a year, he has led the GOP effort to
turn the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi into some sort of
scandal for the Obama administration. His favorite claim is that the
military was told to stand down and not try to help on the night of the


suspicions, which is secretary Clinton told them to stand down. And we all
heard about the military border for two military personnel that order is


SHARPTON: That order is undeniable. Actually, it`s completely deniable.
Because it didn`t happen. "The Washington Post" fact checker gave that
claim four pinocchios, and a Republican report from the house armed
services committee said, quote, "there was no stand-down order issued to
U.S. military personnel." So now Congressman Issa has some explaining to
do and he is not doing it very well.


GEORGE WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: But to be honest, you do not have any
evidence that secretary Clinton told Leon Panetta to stand down.

ISSA: Well, the use in answering questions in a political fundraiser, that
was in response to a question. The term "stand-down" is not used in some
sort of an explicit way, but rather the failure to react.


SHARPTON: So the stand-down order wasn`t explicit? Meaning, it was never
actually an order at all? Meaning it never happened? Interesting. Let`s
watch Issa dig himself into that hole a little deeper.


ISSA: Not maybe on the technical terms of stand down, soldier, but on what
the American people believe is a failure to respond when they could have.


SHARPTON: So the stand-down order wasn`t given on technical terms, or it
wasn`t explicit? Issa has twisted himself into knots trying to defend his
bogus talking point.

Did Congressman Issa think we wouldn`t notice? He`s technically ignoring
the facts? Nice try, but we`ll be explicit, because we got you.


SHARPTON: Tonight President Obama is facing a major new international
crisis. This time in Ukraine. Just this weekend, Russian troops invaded
part of the country. There are reports that Russian forces have threatened
a full-scale assault unless Ukrainian warships surrender. With that in
mind, today President Obama gave Russian President Vladimir Putin an
ultimatum. Stand down or face the consequences.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I think the strong condemnation
that it`s received from countries around the world indicates the degree to
which Russia is on the wrong side of history on this. Over time, this will
be a costly proposition for Russia. And now is the time for them to
consider whether they can serve their interests in a way that resorts in
diplomacy as opposed to force.


SHARPTON: And it could prove costly for Russia. Secretary of State John
Kerry says, all options are on the table. Economic sanctions, bans on
visas for Russians seeking travel to the U.S. Even freezing of Russian
assets held abroad. But none of that is enough for the GOP. It used to be
said that politics ends at the water`s edge, but Republicans couldn`t stop
themselves from attacking the President`s strategy.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy
where nobody believes in America`s strength anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I think Putin is playing chess, and I think we`re
playing marbles. And I don`t think it`s even close. So if you look at the
nuclear negotiations, we got our Fannies handed to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Every time the President goes on national television and
threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody`s eyes roll, including
mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.


SHARPTON: The president invites aggression? He is feckless, weak? No.
What is weak is the GOP`s inability to put politics aside. Even at a time
like this.

Joining me now is James Peterson and Dana Milbank. Thank you both for
coming on the show tonight.



SHARPTON: Dana, let me start with you. What happened to politics ending
at water`s edge?

MILBANK: Well, that hasn`t been the case now for a decade or two. I think
what is astounding about this, though, is just last week we were hearing
about how this president is a tyrant and a dictator and a bully.


MILBANK: And all of the sudden he is a weakling. So, I`m kind of curious
how he can be both things at the same time. And the answer is, it probably
says a lot more about his accusers than it does about this president.
Because one president can`t lurch from one extreme to the others as he goes
from domestic affairs to foreign affairs. So, I think there is just such
an antipathy towards this president that whatever he is doing it is wrong
in the extreme at that moment.

SHARPTON: You know, James, let me go into a little deeper into what Dana
is saying. Because for the past month we`ve been hearing a much different
attack from the right on the president. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Look, in America, we don`t have a king. And the reality
is that that House belongs to the people.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: My next guest has decided to stand up to
King Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I`m afraid that President Obama may have this king
complex sort of developing.

GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He has all of the earmarks of a Marxist
dictator. He does. He doesn`t like anybody to challenge him.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Did you happen to see the size of
those flags behind Obama? Those flags are getting bigger and bigger and
bigger every speech he makes. And you know, that`s what dictators do.


SHARPTON: He was a dictator. He was a king. He was operating with too
much power. Even the big flags. But now he is weak. He is feckless. I
mean, how do they flip the script that fast, James?

PETERSON: Well, it just shows the arbitrary nature with which Republicans
are prepared to try to critique this president. They`re looking for any
opportunity to try to become critical of him. And making sense of
rationale does not apply here, Rev. They`re just looking for any
opportunity. The reality is when you look at the situation in Ukraine and
what Putin is doing this current moment, it seems like he is moving more
from a space of weakness, right? He is exasperated with what has taken
place in Ukraine, the overthrow of the former president there, the activism
around trying to have a more democratic sort of policy take place and a
more democratic nation in Ukraine.

Those are kinds of things that Putin is responding to. The President is
right here that we don`t need to be threatening war or making some kind of
boots on the ground intervention internationally. It`s an international
crisis. Let the international community deal with it through sanctions and
economics, the last thing we need in this world is another war.

SHARPTON: Yes, but you know, Dana, you wrote in your column that
Republicans would criticize the president even if he offered specific
threats. Quoting you, you say suppose Obama were willing to draw red lines
and back them up with military might? Inevitably, he would be accused of
trying to distract from ObamaCare or other domestic troubles.

MILBANK: Well, Reverend, look. I mean, it is certainly fair if somebody
wants to get up and say this president is not being forceful enough with
Ukraine right now. But it`s then incumbent on them to say, OK, what`s your
alternative? And nobody, certainly not Marco Rubio or John McCain, nobody
is talking about the use of force in this situation. And when you scratch
down below the surface and say what are they asking him to do, well, it`s
basically the same set of options that Obama has put on the table.

Now, that`s true, he didn`t draw a specific red line. But when he drew a
specific red line, you heard what the complaints were in Syria, that he
wasn`t backing up that specific red line. And of course if he does
actually take an aggressive posture, well, then clearly he is just trying
to distract attention from ObamaCare or something like that. So, he is
damned if he does and he is damned if he doesn`t. It`s just -- if you`re
going to make a criticism of the President`s policy on this, that`s fair.
But let`s hear what the alternative is.

SHARPTON: But, you know, James, what is stunning to me is the right wing
media has actually praised Putin recently for his -- I say mishandling, but
his handling of Syria, and anti-gay issues. They`ve said, let me quote
them. Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace
Prize. One right wing commentator praised his moral compass on anti-gay
policies. Another has said there is validity to his claim that the U.S. is
godless. We even have GOP Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher saying in a recent
interview that Putin is being, quote, "demonized," and he doesn`t support
Russia`s military action, but, quote, "that doesn`t mean Putin and pro-
Russia forces in Ukraine are in the wrong." I mean, can you imagine a
democrat or President Obama saying such a thing, James?

PETERSON: Not at all. And if the tables returned with the Republican
president, you had a democratic critic making those kinds of statements,
they would be labeled as being unpatriotic. And so, but I think let`s be
clear here. President Putin`s leadership in terms of working against the
LGBT community in its own nation is deplorable and certainly reflects the
absence of a moral compass in this particular time frame. And that he was
pushed to the table with Syria. Remember, there were people in the
Republican Party who wanted to go to war with Syria. They wanted to make
boots on the ground interventions in Syria.

It was a president and Secretary John Kerry who worked with Putin to figure
out way to now reduce chemical weapons in Syria to the lowest levels
they`ve been in the last decade. And so, I think we just have to have a
reality check here, Rev, and that`s a difficult thing for our friends in
the Republican Party.

SHARPTON: But we`re dealing with in the Ukraine, Dana, with very serious
matters that could escalate. Hopefully not. Just as we`ve dealt with
Syria`s international matters from Syria to Egypt, on and on. Isn`t there
some kind of patriotic duty to when the nation is facing something on an
international level, that we put our partisan feelings aside and say wait a
minute, let`s at least give the President some room to deal with this in a
way that is in American interests, unless you feel he has blatantly put
Americans` lives at risk like some of us disagreed with Iraq or Vietnam.
Here there has been no real engagement by this President like that.

MILBANK: No. And the whole notion of politics stopping at the water`s
edge has been in retreat for a long time. And certainly in a case like
this where American troops aren`t directly involved, you almost don`t even
expect it from the start, that it is just inevitable that in our system
now, it`s just accepted that this is going to be what has happened. And
look, Putin has had a love-hate relationship with American presidents going
back some time to the time when George W. Bush looked to it into his soul
and saw somebody he could deal with.

He was obviously wrong with that. This administration`s attempt to reset
Russian relations obviously hasn`t gotten anywhere. And I suspect that
some of these sympathetic views that you just cited among conservative
commentators will now need a reset of their own.

SHARPTON: James Peterson, Dana Milbank, I`m going to leave there it.
Thanks for coming on the show tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.

PETERSON: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Coming up, "12 Years a Slave" makes history at last night`s
Oscars. Why we should celebrate history, but keep on looking forward.

And what was Jimmy Fallon doing with Rahm Emanuel over the weekend? Stay
with us.


SHARPTON: It`s always Hollywood`s biggest night. But this year`s Oscars
also made history. With "12 Years a Slave" winning best picture, it`s the
first movie made by a black director to win the film industry`s top honor.
Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man from New York who
was kidnapped in 1841 and spent 12 years in slavery before regaining his
freedom. Director Steve McQueen credited Northrup`s legacy in his
acceptance speech.


STEVE MCQUEEN, DIRECTOR: Everyone deserves not just to survive but to
live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northrup. I dedicate
this award to all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million
people who still suffer slavery today. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Thank you.


SHARPTON: This award is a huge occasion for everyone who pushes for
greater representation in Hollywood. And the film`s breakout star is 31-
year-old Lupita Nyong`o. "12 Years a Slave" was her first movie, and she
also went home last night with an Oscar after this inspiring speech.


LUPITA NYONG`O, ACTRESS: Thank you to the academy for this incredible
recognition. It doesn`t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my
life is thanks to so much pain in someone else`s. And so I want to salute
the spirit of patsy for her guidance and for Solomon, thank you for telling
her story and your own. When I look down at this golden statue, may it
remind me and every little child that no matter where you`re from, your
dreams are valid. Thank you.



SHARPTON: We still have a long way to go in the fight for equality. But
we can all take pride in that speech and that film.

Joining me now are Chris Witherspoon, entertainment editor for
and Angela Rye. Thank you both for being here.



SHARPTON: I want to hear from both of you. Start with Chris. What was
your takeaway from last night, your biggest moment?

WITHERSPOON: My biggest moment was the win for "12 Years a Slave." I
think that people from the beginning of this film circuit this time around
were hailing "12 Years a Slave" as the big winner for the Oscar. And
around like last month, we began hearing people saying "Gravity" was all of
the sudden going to win this film or win the big award. And "12 Years a
Slave," I think it proved that it is a tale for the ages. "Gravity" was
groundbreaking, but "12 Years a Slave" has this heartbreaking story that
really pulls you in. And I interviewed the cast back in October. I told
them. I told Lupita this film will be the best picture. And I guarantee
you too will be nominated for Oscars. They were so humble, and they`ve
carried themselves with such grace throughout this awards season. So it
was great to see this.


RYE: Well, Rev, I think that "12 Years a Slave" was major, but I also
really enjoyed Bette Midler`s performance of "Wind Beneath my Wings." It
means something very special to my family. I had a cousin who died of
aids-related complications when I was in the seventh grade. And this song
really got us through. And on the "12 Years a Slave" part, I think it`s
important to acknowledge that yes we have come quite a long way. But I was
tweeting last night that we still are not post-racial, even though we have
clearly made some major strides.

SHARPTON: Yes, I wrote that column today myself. But we`re talking about
the awards. But let`s talk about the movie. Here is a clip of Lupita
Nyong`o in "12 Years a Slave."


NYONG`O: I went to master Charles` plantation.


NYONG`O: Yes, freely. And you know why? I got this from Mistress Shaw.
Won`t even grant me so much to clean with. I stink so much I make myself
gag. Five hundred pounds of cotton day in, day out. More than any man
here. And for that I will be clean. That`s all I ask. And this here what
I went to Shaw is for.


SHARPTON: Angela, such a powerful performance. I mean, what do you make
of her win and the movie`s win?

RYE: Well, a couple of things. One is I think that for her to say that
she had to honor the spirit of patsy, who she played in the movie and
Solomon Northrup, I cannot imagine what these folks endured, particularly
Solomon Northrup, who was a free man. And to almost lose his family, all
of the things that we went through in this movie that we kind of experience
on this journey, it was so hard to watch. I mean, we`ve seen slavery movie
after slavery movie. But this one had particular impact because you think
about all of the folks who may be enslaved or in bondage in some other way,
Rev, whether now it`s economics or human trafficking that we saw Steve
McQueen mention last night. So it`s a major film. And I`m so glad it got
the recognition that it was due.

SHARPTON: Chris, last night you tweeted Lupita Nyong`o just became the
seventh black woman to win an Oscar, exactly 75 years after Hattie McDaniel
became the first. Oprah even re-tweeted what you had sent out. Why does
it strike such a chord?

WITHERSPOON: First off, Oprah, if you`re watching, thanks for re-tweeting
that. But I got to say, it`s amazing. Seventy five years later, Lupita
Nyong`o story is so amazing. It`s really just -- it brings you in. And I
think that Oprah was nominated for an academy award in 1986. She didn`t
win for "The Color Purple." She better than anyone knows how important it
is for a black actress, a black woman like Lupita Nyong`o to win this
award. She is the seventh woman after Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Hattie
McDaniel who was 35 years ago, Monique, Octavia Spencer. And I think that
she stands among great women. And I can`t wait to see what she does next
in the film world.

SHARPTON: Let`s talk about the biggest moment during the Oscars. I`m
talking about the selfie. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Bradley? I want you in it. Jennifer, come in also.
Brad, get in here.



Angie? Lupita.



UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Merryl? Can you take it? I can`t get everybody in

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is my armpit.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: My arm`s definitely better.





SHARPTON: Now it`s got more re-tweets than President Obama`s four more
years tweet on Election Day. Angela, what`s your reaction?

RYE: Well, Rev, I think it`s great that they were able to get so much
participation. It was a great way to involve social media. If that
picture could speak for the diversity of the academy, wouldn`t we have made
great strides? But not so much. But congrats to Ellen on a great selfie
portrait with so many great faces in there.

SHARPTON: And Chris, I see that Lupita`s little brother snuck in there.
That boy got skills. He got in the picture.

WITHERSPOON: Yes, he did. And, you know, the records have just been
released this Oscar awards hit a ten-year high. 43.10 million viewers.
So, I think that Ellen had it right with bringing in social media, and it
paid off.

SHARPTON: All right, Chris Witherspoon and Angela Rye, thank you both for
your time tonight.

RYE: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, the Republican governor who`s under fire for a
blatant attack on voting rights. It`s time to fight back.

But first, Jimmy Fallon`s popular plunge for a good cause. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Jimmy Fallon and Rahm Emanuel took the plunge, and this was not
in "The Tonight Show" host job description. Jimmy accepted a plunge and a
challenge from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to jump into Lake Michigan
yesterday. It was a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. Fallon stayed
true to his promise, despite it being 10 degrees outside and 32 in the
water. But it was for a good cause. Way to go, Jimmy.


SHARPTON: Finally tonight, Advancing the Dream. As I mentioned, "12 Years
a Slave" winning best picture last night was a great moment of pride. I
felt the same pride last week at the White House watching President Obama
get personal, announcing his my brother`s keeper initiative for young men
of color. But challenges still exist today. In Ohio, Governor Kasich just
signed three voter suppression bills into law. He did it quietly, and
without public ceremony. The bills eliminated early voting period called
golden week, ended same-day registration, and put new limits on absentee
ballots. The Cleveland plain dealer calls the bills a shameful assault on
voting rights.

Quote, "Voters are supposed to pick governments. Governments aren`t
supposed to pick voters." So even as I see these moments of celebration,
even as we have these flashes that show how far we have come, it should not
stop us from continuing the rest of the journey. Let us not forget that
President Obama in the White House or Lupita winning an Oscar is a result
of struggles, not the end of struggles. And whether it`s blacks or Latinos
or gays or women, we must continue to fight until equality is a reality.
The fact that we have these moments of victory only means no matter how
difficult the struggles continue to be, the victory is certain if we
continue the struggle and not stop just at momentary victories.

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


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