updated 3/31/2014 11:26:17 AM ET 2014-03-31T15:26:17

ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
March 28, 2014

Guests: Melissa Hayes, Dave Weigel, Bill Frick, David Edelstein, Anthea
Butler

ALEX WAGNER, GUEST HOST: Good evening from Washington. I`m Alex
Wagner, in for Chris Hayes.

Late breaking news tonight: the only person who definitely knows why
it was time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee, the person who wrote
that e-mail, Chris Christie`s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne
Kelly, who was fired by the governor, savaged in an internal report
released yesterday and called a liar by Christie again today has responded
tonight with a rocket of a statement from her attorney which says Kelly
will talk if given, quote, "appropriate procedural safeguards by the U.S.
attorney`s office."

If that happens, Kelly`s lawyer says she will be fully cooperative and
provide truthful and complete answers to any questions asked of her by the
appropriate law enforcement authorities.

This is a potentially huge development that comes on the heels of
Christie today holding his first news conference since January, following
the release of a 360-page internal report that found the governor was not
involved in the seemingly politically motivated decision to close access
lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September, leading to four days of
traffic gridlock.

Christie spoke to the press for more than an hour today before the
release of Bridget Anne Kelly`s statement and carried himself like a man
vindicated despite the fact the internal investigation he commissioned was
derided as little more than a taxpayer-funded whitewash by critics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: It`s colorful, Brian. It`s
colorful. Why don`t you just get to the question and cut the commentary
back a little? Not my top person.

Can you get to it already? I`ll answer. No, I joked -- Christine,
stop. You have to get the facts right if you`re going to ask me a
question.

It`s amusing to me when you guys, like, write stories about what you
think you`re entitled to. What I think you`re entitled to is the answers
when I get them.

You know, seriously, I`m up here trying to very carefully answer your
questions, and I don`t know whether you can`t take notes, or you`re not
listening.

Listen, everybody, I appreciate all the questions. It`s such an
extraordinary joy and relief for me finally to be able to come back and
interact with you in the kind and gentle way that we always have. I`d love
to say I missed you, but I didn`t. But I`m looking forward to having you
all back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Christie kicked off that press conference by announcing the
resignation of another key player in the bridge-gate scandal, the chairman
of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Samson, the fourth
Christie aide or appointee to resign or be fired since the bridge-gate
scandal began.

Samson is a close Christie ally and a highly-connected attorney, who
like Bridget Kelly, declined to be interviewed by Christie`s investigators.
Portrayed Samson`s resignation as unrelated to the scandals that have
engulfed his second term.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: David has been talking to me for the better part of a year
about wanting to move on because he just was tired. He had served a long
time. He`s 74 years old and he said, you know, Chris, I`d like to spend
more time doing other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: This month, federal prosecutors reportedly subpoenas Port
Authority records related to Mr. Samson`s potential conflicts of interest
amid questions over Samson`s votes to award bridge contracts to two large
construction companies that have been represented by his law firm.

And former Port Authority official David Wildstein, a man who was
heavily criticized in the internal Christie report, wrote in the bridge-
gate e-mails that Samson was helping us to retaliate. As for Bridget
Kelly, the statement from her lawyer today complained of, quote, "venomous,
gratuitous and inappropriate sexist remarks concerning Ms. Kelly."
Christie`s internal report speculated that Kelly`s role in the scandal may
have been part of an emotional reaction following a breakup with former
Christie chief of staff Bill Stepien.

In response to a question today about whether the report was fair to
Kelly, Christie cast it as simply reflecting reality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I think the report laid out the facts as the investigators
found them. And however anybody wants to interpret those is up to your
particular interpretation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Joining me now is my MSNBC colleague, Steve Kornacki, the
host of "UP" and Melissa Hayes, statehouse reporter for "The Record." Both
of them have been covering the heck of this story.

Steve, let me start with you.

This is -- I hesitate to use the word bombshell, but it`s kind of a
bombshell in terms of developments in and around the Christie case. This
statement from Bridget Kelly to me is like the clearest indication that she
is willing to sing if she is granted immunity.

How did you read it?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, "UP": Yes. Well, it means there`s a bit
of a competition going on right now because for a while David Wildstein
made it clear he wants a deal, he would talk if he was given immunity. And
now, Bridget Kelly, many suspected she might want a deal.

Now, they`re basically explicitly saying, she is through her lawyer
that she wants a deal. There`s an effort there in the language of this
statement, there`s sort of an effort to make the public case for why she
should get the deal and not Wildstein. She basically sets it up as, like,
Wildstein made one set of claims, Christie has made another set of claims,
and now, here`s Bridget Kelly in the middle who`s uniquely positioned to
say which one is right and which one is wrong and to back it up.

Obviously, the question becomes a legal question of, you know, does
she have the goods that could really answer all the questions here or maybe
implicate somebody else in way that would make her attractive to a federal
prosecutors? Or does Wildstein or does neither? But there`s a bit of a
competition between them now that`s been set off.

WAGNER: Well, and, Melissa, there`s another part of the statement
that is highly deeply ominous. I want to read this excerpt here. It says,
"Preemptive strike to isolate Ms. Kelly and impugn her credibility isn`t
surprising. Despite Mr. Mastro," that`s Christie`s lawyer," Despite Mr.
Mastro`s editorialized comments to the contrary, Ms. Kelly is not a liar.
She`s a single mother of four children who`s deeply devoted and committed
to her job at the office of the government. She worked tirelessly to
pursue -- and this is the important part -- the goals of the office during
her tenure."

One wonders, Melissa, what those goals really were.

MELISSA HAYES, THE RECORD: Sure. I mean, there`s a lot of questions
about whether or not Bridget Kelly was acting alone or if she was getting
orders from some sort of higher up. And we don`t know the answers to that
because we haven`t heard from Bridget Kelly yet.

We do know, officially, her role in the Governor Christie`s office was
as head of intergovernmental affairs. Her office interacted with mayors
and other local officials who had concerns or needed things from the state.
So, she oversaw this group of appointees that interacted with those local
officials.

WAGNER: Melissa, let me ask you about another dimension of the whole
Bridget Kelly back and forth. This, I guess, bridge-gate part II. Insofar
as Christie in this report, team Christie had sort of suggested Bridget
Kelly was overcome with emotion. He`s not exactly won the favor of
feminists or a lot of women who are sitting on the sidelines saying, is
that really a fair characterization in a report that`s just supposed to be
the facts?

We now have Bridget Kelly coming out and saying it was a venomous
characterization. That cannot help Christie`s case with New Jersey women
and women nationally.

HAYES: I mean, I actually asked Governor Christie today what he
thought of the portrayal of Bridget Kelly and Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of
Hoboken, who made allegations against him, his administration. Whether he
thought they were portrayed fairly in the report today because the report
doesn`t say anything about the emotional state of the men. They don`t get
into the, you know, how Stepien was dealing with the breakup with Bridget
Kelly.

So, he said that he thought that it had to do with evidence and what
the investigators had at their fingertips. So, he kind of avoided the
question directly, whether or not it was fair. But said, you know, he
didn`t see any other reason why it wouldn`t have touched on the emotional
state of the men other than the fact that the investigators must not have
had information about that.

WAGNER: Steve, there`s a lot to unpack in this unfolding drama, but
we have not yet spoken of David Samson and his resignation. What,
effectively -- I mean, if you had to read the tea leaves on this, Christie
said he found out two hours in advance. Samson is the subject of a federal
investigation. It is, perhaps, more convenient to have him off center-
stage and to longer at the Port Authority.

But do you think this sort of is broadly more of an assist to Christie
than just today`s news?

KORNACKI: Well, you know, it -- look, David Samson has sort of been
the silent man in all this, the silent person in all this. It raises the
immediate question to me of, this report, you know, apparently according to
Christie, this report is what triggered David Samson to come to him this
morning and say he wants to resign as chairman of the Port Authority. Not
that he`d done anything wrong according to Christie, but just that this
report made clear to them that major changes were needed at the Port
Authority and a new chairman would be best positioned to oversee those
changes.

It raises the question to me, if this report is so meaningful to David
Samson, if it`s so significant to him, if he was apparently anticipating it
for a while to make a very, you know, big decision for his own life, why
did he have no interest in cooperating with it? He refused to cooperate
with Christie`s -- the investigative team that Christie selected, that law
firm. He refused to cooperate. If this report was so meaningful to him,
why wouldn`t he answer their questions, why wouldn`t he want to share his
own thoughts about what was going on at the Port Authority with them? Why
wouldn`t he want to turn over any documents that they might want to see?

Why wouldn`t he want to do his part to make this a more thorough, more
complete investigation and more thorough and more complete report? Yet,
he`s completely missing. His input is completely missing from this report.

WAGNER: And also, Steve, this is coming amid the governor embracing
the suggestion or putting it out there that he will try and move forward on
the notion of splitting up the Port Authority into an organization that`s
run by New Jersey and New York rather than one umbrella. One would think
you would want the person who is heading up that organization to oversee it
or at least stay in office until that transition is completed. Seems like
a major move here.

KORNACKI: Well, we`ve seen the same assertion now twice when it comes
to Port Authority appointees from Chris Christie. He talked at his last
press conference about how Bill Baroni`s resignation, the deputy executive
director of the Port Authority. Christie appointed, who resigned back in
December with David Wildstein. Christie talked about his press last
conference about how Bill Baroni had actually been talking for a long --
he`d actually decided earlier, much earlier, that he`d be stepping aside at
the end of 2013.

And now, Christie today talking about David Samson basically says,
actually David Samson said a year ago that he was ready to step aside. You
know, as he played in the clip there, that he`s getting older. He wants to
do other things with his time. Christie actually persuaded him to stay on
this long. So we heard sort of the same thing come up twice now when
there`s been an abrupt seeming resignation from the Port Authority.

WAGNER: Melissa, let me ask you about the tenure. You were in the
room today. And for those of us who do not watch Chris -- had not watched
Chris Christie`s press conferences before, with great regularity and in-
depth attention before the bridge-gate scandal began, is this kind of
relationship which seems incredibly adversarial, is that relationship he
has with the press par for the course? Were you surprised by how tenacious
and I would say even bullying he was at moments?

I remember at one point he said these questions are so awful, they are
beneath the office to answer. As a New Jersey reporter, I mean, is this
just sort of status quo?

HAYES: We`re used to confrontations with the governor. I think he
kind of -- we saw a different Chris Christie the January 9th press
conference where he was announcing all this. You know, he was very
contrite there and he was very apologetic to the people of New Jersey about
what was going on. He was not at all confrontational with the press.

Today, we returned to the Chris Christie we all know from before that
event. The Chris Christie I think we see a lot of in his town hall-style
events across the state where he`s not afraid to challenge people who he
doesn`t agree with or doesn`t like the question. And it`s not just the
media. We`ve seen him do this with the members of the public as well.

So, I think this is indicative of Christie trying to show us that he`s
putting the bridge scandal behind him and settling back into his old ways.
And I don`t know if you had it in the clip before, but he says he`ll be
taking our questions going forward.

This was -- you know, the first time in months we had a chance to
question him since the January 9th press conference.

WAGNER: Let me ask you, Melissa, really quickly. Do you think he`s
still feeling as confident and vindicated now that the Bridget Kelly
response has been released?

HAYES: You know, I`m not sure what he thinks about that, but he was
asked yesterday by Diane Sawyer if he thought that if Bridget Kelly were to
speak out if she would be able to discredit the report. He said he did not
think she`d be able to. He seemed confident yesterday before she issued
her statement that he was standing by this report and believed it to be
fact.

He reiterated that numerous times today, he called these facts and
said there were footnotes and things. He didn`t really focus on the fact a
lot of this was information gathered through interviews which you might be
able to argue are subjective and Bridget Kelly wasn`t one of the people
that was interviewed.

WAGNER: Indeed she was not. Governor Christie is a betting man and a
good thing he`s on his way to Las Vegas.

Steve Kornacki, you can catch my friend, Steve`s, show this weekend at
8:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on MSNBC. And Melissa Hayes from the "Bergen
Record." Thank you both.

KORNACKI: Sure.

HAYES: Thanks.

WAGNER: Coming up, the governor and 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Anybody who tries to game out the politics of this kind of
stuff years in advance, that should probably show them that that`s a fool`s
errand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: A fool`s errand. This from a guy who is flying out to Las
Vegas this weekend to meet with someone who bankrolls Republican
presidential campaigns and who happens to have some baggage that no
presidential hopeful really wants to carry on. We will talk about that
just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: Coming up, chances are if you`ve heard anything about the new
film, "Noah", it was probably accompanied by a lot of shouting about how
the movie isn`t as good as the book. A movie critic and a biblical scholar
will be here to discuss, just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: When Chris Christie opened up the floor for questions this
afternoon, the first one, the first one out of the box, was whether the
decision to shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge, a decision in
which Christie asserts he has been vindicated by a report written by a team
of lawyers that he hired at taxpayer expense, whether that decision would
impact his decision to run for president in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I`m just telling you that it won`t. And in the long sweep
of things, any voters, if they consider this issue at all in considering my
candidacy if there ever is one, I got a feeling it would be a very small
element of it, if any element at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Today`s press conference and more specifically, that answer,
appears to be the first in a series of calculated moves to reassure donors
that Christie remains a strong pick for 2016. His next move in that
campaign looks to be a trip to Las Vegas this weekend where casino magnate
Sheldon Adelson is hosting potential 2016 Republican presidential
candidates as part of Republican Jewish coalition`s annual meeting.

Adelson is a powerful man with a lot of money to spend. In the 2012
cycle, "ProPublica" reported that he and his wife spent at least $98
million, $30 million of which went to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney.

With all this money on the table, it was not surprising that Chris
Christie was asked today whether he would be meeting privately with Adelson
this weekend in Vegas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I don`t know whether I`m having a private meeting with
Sheldon or not. I haven`t looked at my schedule for tomorrow. The only
thing I know I`m doing for sure in Las Vegas is I`m speaking to the
Republican Jewish coalition which I`ve done before. I`m sure I`ll have
meetings.

I haven`t looked yet as to what my schedule is. I usually wait until
I get on the plane tomorrow and look at what I`m going to be doing when I
get there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Joining me now is Dave Weigel, political reporter for
"Slate."

Dave, is there an iota of a thread of chance that Chris Christie
doesn`t know whether he`s meeting with Sheldon Adelson?

DAVE WEIGEL, SLATE: I think like a lot of times in the press
conference, he`s being a little bit cute about this. The appeal of Chris
Christie to the Republican who wanted him to win the election was manifold.
But one of them was that he already locked in a lot of the donors who made
Mitt Romney the nominee. He -- actually before, Mitt Romney was the
nominee, in 2011, he met in person in New York with David Koch, with a lot
of people who promised to bankroll whatever he wanted for a campaign if he
got into the race.

He`s trying to reestablish that because he spent three months not just
explaining his story, but sinking in the polls and needs to reassure these
people. That starts tomorrow.

WAGNER: But how much, I mean, we just had this breaking news about
Bridget Kelly, her response to the governor`s report. She calls it
venomous and sexist. She underscores the fact that she`s the mother of
four.

This is -- you know, if you talk -- there`s the whole question of
whether or not there were sexist sort of analyses in that report. How much
does that sort of undermine the network that Christie has established
insofar as donors say, I don`t now how great it is for you to be the
candidate if you alienated perhaps half the country?

WEIGEL: I think what he can do is what he did again at the press
conference, is turn it back against the media. We saw the return of the
Chris Christie who sparred with reporters and made fun of the guys who
write opinions and made fun personally with the guys he dealt with before.

I don`t think the wealthy -- that was what Chris Christie was when
these guys were ready to shower him with money in 2011. That`s what it was
at the end of 2013, that brief little honeymoon he had when he was the
guaranteed nominee, which tells people not to write those stories about
2016 too early. That was the Christie they liked. So, I don`t think
that`s going to be a problem for him.

WAGNER: OK. But if we`re talking about doorways -- where windows may
shut and doorways may open, I want to play the sound from Glenn Beck
talking about what, who I would presume to be his nominee in 2016. A man
named Rand Paul. Let us take a listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, THE BLAZE: If he were on the left, he would be being
heralded as god. Barack Obama might be Jesus, but what this guy can bridge
is astounding, and if he was -- if he was a Republican or a Democrat, they
would be calling him god. We had the son of god. Now god has shown up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Dave, god has shown up. How legitimate is Glenn Beck`s
contention that, you know, he is not even the second coming of Christ, but
actually god for a Republican audience?

WEIGEL: I haven`t seen "Noah" yet so I can`t confirm whether that`s
true or not.

I think -- this happens a lot with the candidates who media finds
interesting. It`s actually unique moment in history, it happened a little
bit with Rand Paul, too. It`s unique that somebody who`s very libertarian,
very conservative on a lot of issues is the candidate the press finds
interesting.

And as much as conservatives don`t like the press, when someone gets
that crossover coverage, can go to Berkeley and get applauded, when
somebody can go to -- not an occupy rally but more civil libertarian
rallies in D.C.

WAGNER: So, we can take credit for the NSA reforms.

WEIGEL: When somebody`s joined by Ron Wyden on the floor and Mark
Udall, they get a certain kind of coverage. But I remember John McCain
going to college campuses when he was a presumptive nominee. I`ve seen
this before where the press finds the bridge-building aspects of a
candidate interesting. Once they actually run for president, they start to
get covered for how they actually govern.

And it`s interesting, Beck has tried to reestablish himself. His
reputation suffered a lot as he was on his way out of FOX News, tried to
reestablish himself as the kind of libertarian who builds these bridges
between ideologies.

Paul can do that for now. He`s good at it. He`s a very natural
politician. Once he starts to become a presidential candidate, which is
going to happen maybe in nine months, I do think that`s going to shift. It
will be interesting to see if the young liberals and libertarians who like
him now stick with him when he has to compete in Iowa and change what he`s
focusing on.

WAGNER: Well, he does have the -- he`s the first Republican to
assemble a network in all 50 states.

WEIGEL: Yes.

WAGNER: Bridge building versus bridge-gate. If I were in Vegas
tonight, I kind of know whose cards I`d want to be playing.

Dave Weigel from "Slate", thank you as always, my friend.

WEIGEL: Thank you.

WAGNER: Coming up, a Maryland lawmaker channels his inner Frank
Underwood to stick it to Frank Underwood. Art imitates life, imitates art.
I`ll tell you all about that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mendoza is present.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under protest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cornwall is present.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Under protest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ulman (ph) is president, Mr. Walsh is present.
And Ms. Dowster (ph) is present and Mr. Haas (ph) is present. Mr.
President, the quorum is now present.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can pass the amendment. I`ll just filibuster
the main bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you won`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: He loves barbecue, power, and possibly his wife. He`s the
anti-hero of political junkies everywhere and he`s a mascot for underhanded
Washington deal making. He is Frank Underwood from "House of Cards", a
wildly popular Internet television show on Netflix that despite its premise
is filmed in Maryland.

So, when "House of Cards" producers threatened to pull production from
the state unless they got bigger tax breaks than they`re already getting,
one Maryland lawmaker decided to channel his own inner Frank Underwood.
One of the reasons a D.C. drama is being filmed in Baltimore is because the
film companies often get big tax breaks from states that are looking to
bring in business.

According to "The Washington Post," "House of Cards" already claimed
$26.6 million over two seasons. But the people who make the show wanted an
increase in those tax breaks for season three. It is a demand worthy of a
character on "House of Cards."

Enter Delegate C. William Frick, a Montgomery County Democrat in the
Maryland House of Delegates who said, "I really thought: what is an
appropriate Frank Underwood response to a threat like this?"

So, he proposed an amendment to the state budget which passed
yesterday afternoon with little debate and no roll call vote. "The
amendment does not actually mention `House of Cards`. It simply states the
Department of Business and Economic Development under certain circumstances
can exercise certain powers of eminent domain to acquire the property of a
film production company that has claimed more than $10 million in tax
credits and then ceases filming in the state."

Translation, if you stop filming in Maryland, we may seize your
property. Maryland state senators, reportedly big "House of Cards" fans,
like all senators, would have to pass this measure and the governor would
have to sign it to become law.

But if Delegate Frick wanted to send a message, he just might have
succeed in out-Underwooding the people who invented Underwood himself.

And joining me now is that delegate, Bill Frick.

Delegate Frick, thank you. And thank you. Welcome to the show.

You have managed what is seemingly impossible. You have out-
Underwooded the people who created Frank Underwood as they tried to
Underwood Maryland.

(LAUGHTER)

WAGNER: Tell us about how you came to this strategy and whether you
worry about a backlash.

BILL FRICK (D), MARYLAND DELEGATE: Sure.

You covered some of the backstory already, but we have had -- we have
been home to "House of Cards" for two seasons. We have supported them with
our film credit program to the tune of $27 million. And when they started
talking about season three, we`re in negotiations with them, they sent the
General Assembly and the governor a letter.

And they said, basically if you`re not the highest bidder, if you
don`t give us everything we want, we are going to pack up our set, break
down our stages, roll up our offices and leave to another state. And that
just struck me as extremely heavy-handed.

And I sat back, I thought, all right, Frank Underwood just threatened
me. What`s the right response? What would Frank do?

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: WWFD.

But part of me wonders whether this isn`t a snake eating its own tail,
right? Because this is about Washington or politics and sort of the palace
intrigue in and around the nation`s capital, it`s sort of a built-in
audience with senators and people in politics. If this was a show about
teenage cheerleaders, would the Maryland legislature really have put up
with this if they weren`t fans of the show, themselves, already?

FRICK: Well, I think it`s a good point.

There`s actually -- there`s the fun piece of this. There`s the sort
of playing on the almost postmodern element of Frank Underwood. You
actually saw the Maryland House of Delegates chamber in the clips you were
showing earlier.

But there`s also a broader issue about tax credits. Generally, the
way that these businesses play one state off against the other, would we
really -- are we getting the economic impact we want here? I mean, I don`t
know if we would be so eager to throw money at these productions if they
weren`t sexy, if there weren`t movie stars.

WAGNER: And ego-boosting.

FRICK: Egos. Right, Kevin Spacey came and lobbied himself. So,
maybe we would. Maybe some people do it simply for the cost benefit.

WAGNER: But you bring up a really important point. The tax breaks
that are given to corporations to keep business in state, it`s hostage-
taking almost. Boeing got 310 -- sorry, Berkshire Hathaway got 310
subsidies totaling over $1 billion, Well, Boeing more than $13 million. I
mean, this is beyond just incentivizing economics. This seems like actual
hostage-taking.

FRICK: Right. It`s a race to the bottom. And it`s not unique to
this industry. We face it all the time. Every time there`s a corporate
relocation, states are played off one against the other. And we have seen
it in defense contracting. We have seen it in a number of different
industries.

And the states are kind of stuck. We`d all be better off if these
decisions were made solely on the merits, but, instead, they`re based on
packages. We`re fighting against Virginia. We`re fighting against
Research Triangle. So we find ourselves really in a race to the bottom
with one another and we all would be better off if it was just done on the
merits.

WAGNER: Well, Delegate Frick, keep to your guns, as Frank Underwood
would. Thank you for your time and thoughts.

FRICK: Thanks for having me.

WAGNER: Coming up: why a movie about a guy, a boat, and a bunch of
animals has outraged conservatives.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WAGNER: A Louisiana congressman and Senate contender was caught on
tape last week telling the annual meeting of the Louisiana Oil and Gas
Association what he thinks about uninsured people, that they are -- quote -
- "relatively less sophisticated, less comfortable with forms, less
educated."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Insurance people, they will tell
you that they will go to a company and an employer will pay for everything,
and there are some people who will not -- they will not sign up.

Turns out those are my patients. They`re illiterate. I`m not saying
that to be mean. I say that in compassion. They cannot read. The idea
that they`re going to go on the Internet and work through a 16-page
document to put in their data and sign up does not reflect an understanding
of who is having the hardest time in our economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Congressman Bill Cassidy sought to clarify those remarks
yesterday, saying that: "The uninsured come from all segments of society.
This includes the more and the less educated. That`s exactly the point I
made and make. If we seek to be truly compassionate, our policies must
meet people where they are."

But here`s the thing about where Congressman Cassidy`s people are,
Louisiana, a state whose Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, is refusing to
expand Medicaid, even though the federal government will pick up the tab
for that extension for the next three years, and even though that decision
leaves 87 percent of poor adults in Louisiana without health coverage.

It is a good bet that a lot of the men and women of Louisiana who
don`t have insurance don`t have it not because they`re illiterate and not
because they`re undereducated and not because they won`t sign up, but
because Governor Jindal and Congressman Bill Cassidy are making sure they
can`t.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, "THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM": It is
awful. I believe that it is not a Godless climate change movie. It`s more
like "Sinbad the Sailor" meets "Shining" and "Friday the 13th" with a
sprinkle of "Mad Max" in the Thunderdome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: The reviews from the right of Darren Aronofsky`s latest film,
"Noah," are pouring in, flooding in, really.

And the story of a man and his Ark, not a new one, is not exactly
being embraced by everyone. Blogger Erick Erickson offered this measured
response in a tweet: "Any Christian leaders, hell, anybody who thinks
`Noah` is an awesome movie should be burned at the stake."

Conservatives are taking issue with some of the movie`s artistic
decisions, decisions that prompted the director himself to call "Noah" the
least biblical biblical film ever made.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn`t use the word God, not once throughout
the entire film.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Noah may not mention the word God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s like writing an American history book
without mentioning George Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The problem is, though, that the Bible uses the
word God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I read the story of Noah today, and I counted
the number of times God is used in the three books.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good for you. All right, Ainsley, great research.
How many?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. God is used 20 times and lord is
used nine times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: With "Noah"`s mathematics now settled, it`s worth clarifying
that the movie instead refers to the higher power guiding Noah as the
creator.

Also at issue, plot points.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BECK: If you`re looking for a biblical movie, this is definitely not
it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this movie, the great sin that humanity commits
is degrading the environment. The worst sins you can commit are apparently
eating a hamburger, really.

BECK: I don`t think it`s an environmentalism thing, as much as it`s
just pro-animal and anti-human.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don`t want to make it biblical, make it
Neil and the flood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So overpopulation is the problem. So is the
eating on animals. That`s a big problem. The degradation of the
environment by mining is a huge problem, so prehistoric fracking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: All of this is very problematic if you happen to love the guy
who plays Noah.

So, in the presence of a priest, Sean Hannity confessed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": All right. I will be honest. I have
been looking forward -- I want to really see this movie. I love Russell
Crowe. I can quote "Gladiator." Are you not entertained? I love Russell
Crowe. "Gladiator."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Russell Crowe, himself, shared his thoughts on the right-wing
freak-out with a FOX News reporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSSELL CROWE, ACTOR: It is kind of strange when people are willing
to put their stamp and their name to a grand statement about something they
haven`t seen.

The unfortunate thing is, you have got a whole bunch of people who
have already been infected by that stupidity, you know? And they seem to
somehow think that this is a bad thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: Joining me now is David Edelstein, chief film critic for "New
York Magazine."

David, thanks for joining me.

You`re the film critic here. But Hollywood taking artistic license
with biblical stories seems basically as old as the Bible itself. Is all
the outcry here just because there are sort of leftist progressive themes
of environmentalism and veganism in this movie?

DAVID EDELSTEIN, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Yes, this is what happens when
you leave film criticism to amateurs, I`m afraid.

I don`t think these people would have been happy unless Sarah Palin
was the voice of God.

(LAUGHTER)

EDELSTEIN: You know, the film basically posits the idea of an all-
seeing, all-powerful deity who will exterminate humankind for its
wickedness. And it also posits the reality of religious visions.

On all the major issues, this film is in line with everything in the
Old Testament. Where it does depart is, yes, yes, Noah has a problem
eating meat. Well, given the fact that his, you know, ship is groaning
with animals that come, I should say, not two by two, considerably more of
them, you know, I think that`s only -- that`s a kind of a classy move on
his point.

I mean, they don`t want to smell that. They don`t want to smell him
cooking, you know, a hamburger or something.

WAGNER: And, you know, to the point of some of the themes being more
inclusive, David, the use of the word creator is obviously an artistic
choice by the director, but it also is a marketing choice, insofar as every
major Hollywood blockbuster now has an eye towards international
distribution, and by making this nondenominational, doesn`t that actually
help them sell this film overseas?

EDELSTEIN: Sure.

And at the risk of raising religious conservatives` ire, you know, we
should remember that, you know, reputable Bible scholars of all faiths have
pointed to Gilgamesh as actually a source of the flood tale.

And, you know, the idea of wanting to make this inclusive doesn`t seem
to me heretical. It seems to me good business, which I think these people
would support, since it doesn`t undermine any the basic tenets of the
Judeo-Christian faith. In fact, the most curious episode in the Bible
comes after the flood. It`s when Noah goes out and gets bombed and one of
his sons finds him naked and another one covers him up and then he curses
that son for all eternity and his descendants.

If that had been in there, I`m sure people would have been even more
up in arms. But out of, I think, respect, Darren Aronofsky and his co-
writer, Ari Handel, just leave it out. They make Noah actually kind of a
dull guy.

WAGNER: Which is a point that has been completely lost on people like
Erick Erickson, who say that anybody who thinks "Noah" is an awesome movie
should be burned at the stake.

But let me get to the larger point about sort of biblical or faith-
centered movies, if not faith-based. There is "Son of God," which is
another Bible-based movie from 20th Century Fox. And then later this year,
we are going to see "Exodus," the Moses story in 3-D.

My question to you as a film critic is, is this because film studios
are thinking there`s a bigger audience for religious films and religious
themes, or does it reflect a dearth of ideas in Los Angeles, California?

EDELSTEIN: No, I think, on one hand, it does -- they do think that
there`s a healthy market for this, and we know on the evidence that there
is.

The other thing is, these are special effects-heavy movies.

WAGNER: Right.

EDELSTEIN: I mean, the apocalypse is big business. We know from the
spate of dystopian movies that open and make hundreds of millions, if not
billions of dollars, that people want to see the world destroyed over and
over.

And the idea of it not being some random asteroid, but, in fact, the
deity, the creator, whatever you want to call him, coming down and doing
this seems to me -- I`m sure they think it`s a slam-dunk. I`m sure
Paramount is utterly mystified by the response to this movie. And,
frankly, I`m mystified by the response to it.

WAGNER: Well, you know, part of me thinks that it -- we played that
Sean Hannity clip for a reason. It must be endlessly frustrating for sort
of the right wing that loves kind of stereotypically macho male leads like
Russell Crowe to see him starring in this movie as a vegan and
environmentalist, someone who cares about the consciousness of animals.

That casting actually, you know, of course, Russell Crowe can carry a
huge Hollywood blockbuster, but that must be sort of like the final insult
to the Sean Hannitys of the world.

EDELSTEIN: Sure, the people who were kind of weaned on "Gladiator,"
who thought of "Gladiator" as a firm that affirmed all sorts of
militaristic values that were sadly lacking in the culture back in the year
2000 or whenever it came out.

Yes, I think they probably see this as a cruel betrayal.

WAGNER: The next thing you know, Mel Gibson is going to be advocating
for pay equity in a film about Methuselah. Anyway...

(CROSSTALK)

EDELSTEIN: Well, Mel Gibson has long wanted to make the Judah
Maccabee story, which, by the way, would be about the bloodiest thing he`s
ever done, if he ever got around to doing it.

WAGNER: Which -- and it is a high bar for bloodiest things.

(LAUGHTER)

EDELSTEIN: Yes.

WAGNER: Coming up, David is going to stick around, and we will be
joined by someone who knows a lot about the Bible to do some fact-checking.
Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can watch "Star Wars" and not believe in
Yoda. Why can`t you watch this and maybe not agree with it? But what`s
wrong with the lesson of the Ten Commandments? What`s wrong with thou
shall not steal? What`s so bad about that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WAGNER: The new film "Noah" has riled up the right wing and perhaps
confused it as well.

Still with me is "New York Magazine" film critic David Edelstein. And
joining the conference is Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious
studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor, may I start with you here?

ANTHEA BUTLER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF
PENNSYLVANIA: Absolutely.

WAGNER: As someone who knows a thing or two about the Bible, the
story of Noah is actually a really short story in the Bible, so it would
seem kind of almost impossible to do an entire movie without taking some
creative licensing.

BUTLER: Yes, absolutely.

And, you know, when you think about it, it`s maybe a chapter, chapter-
and-a-half at best. So you have to add some embellishment. So I think
what Aronofsky does, very interestingly, is to put sort of the creation
story in midst of telling of the destruction and the flood story.

So, I think he`s trying to use some of the elements of the Bible. How
he uses them is what conservatives are really upset about. And I think
that`s the thing that has their rankles -- hackles up.

WAGNER: David, let me ask you, from the studio perspective,
Paramount, we know, was doing special screenings, but seemed sort of flat-
footed or unprepared for the response they would get from this film.

Did that surprise you that they didn`t sort of anticipate this outcry
more?

EDELSTEIN: Well, I don`t know if I`m spilling any beans here, but
actually Paramount contacted me about a month ago.

And, apparently, Darren Aronofsky had said, you`re showing this to
religious leaders, but you`re not showing it to any film critics. And I
actually had a screening of my own about three weeks ago, well before my
colleagues. I agreed not to write about the film, because they wanted to
know how film critics would receive this movie.

And I`m afraid my response was all over the place and probably
confused them, because I don`t think it`s Darren Aronofsky`s most
interesting movie. But I did think it was very interesting to introduce a
kind of Abraham and Isaac theme in it, whereby Noah believes that he has a
command from the creator to essentially slay his own family, to make sure
that humans do not survive.

It`s a very interesting wrinkle to the whole story. And, frankly, I
think it adds a dramatic dimension that maybe is missing from the Old
Testament, if that doesn`t sound too heretical.

(LAUGHTER)

WAGNER: Professor Butler, David makes a great point here, which is
that humans are not seen as the sort of -- as the top of the food chain, or
they are not the be-all/end-all in this movie, that animals get sort of
their fair share, and that in and of itself seems to be one of the major
problems that people in certain circles have with this film.

BUTLER: Yes, absolutely.

I`m not giving away everything in the film, but in the mouth of Cain
comes out a very big statement that a lot of, I would say, maybe
evangelical and conservative Christians believe, in that he talks about the
biggest creation is humanity, and that humans have dominion over everything
else, you know, the bees to the field, all of this other thing.

And so I think the problem for people when they watch this movie is
that they -- if you have the kind of belief going, if you believe that
human beings have dominion over everything, then the preferential treatment
that plants and the animals get, and the fact Noah wants to kill off his
entire family and -- it makes it very difficult, really difficult.

And also let me just say one more thing. The part that I had a real
problem with was the part in which he not just wanted to kill all the
family, but a specific portion, if a female child had been born, and I
thought that brought up a whole bunch of issues, which is another story
altogether. But I will leave it at that.

WAGNER: Well, yes, and there are a lot of complicating issues.

Professor, I just ask as a follow-on to that, the right wing has now
found itself, in its anger and sort of misanthropic position regarding this
film, aligned with some predominantly Muslim countries, who have taken
issue with the film because of its depiction of false prophets, including
Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain. These are strange
bedfellows, are they not, speaking theologically and religiously?

BUTLER: Well, yes, in a way, they are very good bedfellows because
they have a sort of way that they want to look at the world, which, you
know, those of us in religious studies would say is a fundamentalist
viewpoint.

On the Muslim side, what they didn`t want is, you don`t depict anyone
who`s heard the voice of God, who is the prophet of God. So Noah as a
prophet of God should not be depicted. On the Christian side, I will use
Erick Erickson for the example. He`s done exactly the same thing that some
of the Muslim clerics have done. He`s issued his own fatwa by saying, if
anybody says they like this, they should be burned at the stake.

So, these kinds of pronouncements that come out about movies like
this, especially a movie where you have -- you know, it`s from the Jewish
tradition, the Christian tradition, and the Muslim tradition, that they all
share the same book, I think that Paramount probably knew up front that
they would have some problems, but perhaps they should have put in a couple
of religious studies scholars to talk about what was probably going to
happen, because I think you can make your movies. Anybody has the right to
make whatever they want, but it`s just the problematic of how people
respond.

(CROSSTALK)

WAGNER: David, really quickly, before we go, does all of this
rigmarole, all this controversy help in terms of film ticket sales?

EDELSTEIN: Well, no.

I actually think that it`s going to cut down on the number of people
who will flock to the film, say, the audience that supported "The Passion
of the Christ." On the other hand, you know, we`re talking about it now.

WAGNER: Yes.

EDELSTEIN: If it becomes a kind of cause celebre on the left, maybe
it will help ticket sales.

In the end, it`s going to be word of mouth. In the end, it`s going to
be, do people think the special effects are really cool? Does the bad guy
get it so it hurts? And we will see. I don`t know how it`s going to play
with a mass audience.

WAGNER: We shall see. Support the environment. Go see "Noah." I
don`t know.

(LAUGHTER)

WAGNER: Film critic David Edelstein and Anthea Butler from the
University of Pennsylvania, thank you, both.

EDELSTEIN: Thank you.

BUTLER: Thank you.

WAGNER: That`s all for ALL IN this evening.

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

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