'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, May 4, 2014
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
May 4, 2014
GuestS: Maria Rodriguez, Natalia Aristizabal, Cynthia Diaz, Mark Alexander,
Cristina Beltran, Katon Dawson, Kavita Patel, Fred Yang, Swin Cash, Jemele
Hill, Michael Skolnik, Bennet Guess, Annie Clark, Andrea Pino
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question.
What`s next for the L.A. Clippers?
Plus, highlights from last night`s nerd prom in Washington, D.C.
And two women behind a new initiative from the White House.
But first, this is the reunion story we are thrilled to be able to share.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Even after all the budget standoff and congressional obstruction in
Washington, there was one result we were certain election 2012 would bring,
comprehensive immigration reform. I mean, the expectations were so high it
was all anyone could talk about, especially the presidential candidates and
their running mates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: When it comes to
immigration, politics have been put ahead of people for far too long. I
will work with Republicans and Democrats to permanently fix our immigration
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The goal should
not be to treat the symptoms of the broken immigration system, but to fix
the broken immigration system, so that we have good, legal immigration.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I`ve said is we need to
fix a broken immigration system. And I`ve done everything that I can on my
own and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fix the
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They support it, the
action taken by the president to lift the cloud of deportation off millions
of kids who were brought here. As if they`re going to say at 2-years-old,
mom, I don`t want to cross that border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And with President Barack Obama winning a second term,
everyone was like, yes, we can finally get a victory on this comprehensive
immigration reform. Especially when house speaker John Boehner said this,
just two days after the presidential election, and it was kind of
promising, kind of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: On an issue this big, the
president has to lead. I think members on both sides of the aisle want to
resolve the issue. The president is going to have to lead here. I`m not
going to get into any of the details of how you would get there. It`s just
time to get the job done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so it kind of sounded like Speaker Boehner was
endorsing reform. It wasn`t exactly a ringing endorsement. But he still
firmly placed the responsibility on President Obama. But what Boehner`s
statement reflected was the realization by the Republican Party that had
just suffered a presidential election loss that the shift in public opinion
in support of immigration was very real.
A June 2012 Gallup poll showed that 66 percent of Americans view
immigration as a good thing for the U.S. the highest level since 2006. And
ABC News/Washington poll, both poll conducted post election showed 57
percent of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented
But for Republicans, the road to find a collective and unified voice on
comprehensive immigration reform over the years has been filled with
blockades, potholes and a lot of wrong turns.
And one right turn was former president George W. Bush. It was George W.
Bush who won 40 percent of the Latino vote in the election and led a charge
for comprehensive immigration reform in p 2007.
Then there was Senator John McCain, the next GOP standard bearer. Now,
prior to 2008, senator McCain was a long time supporter of comprehensive
immigration reform. And then the presidential election happened and McCain
did a 180.
Senator McCain went so far right to appease the Republican Party`s
conservative base, instead of advocating for his own bill on reform, he
ended up pushing border security, and on Election Day 2008, Senator McCain
took home poultry 31 percent of the Latino vote while his competitor our
and our current president took home 67 percent of Latino voters. McCain
lost nine points over Bush won nine points.
Now, then there was former Massachusetts governor and Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney. You`ll remember, he of self-
deportation fame. He fared even worse than Senator McCain, receiving just
27 percent of the Latino vote, versus the 71 percent that President Obama
won in the 2012 election.
So if Republicans are looking to make end roads on the issue and with the
Latino community, they may do well to listen to one of their own, a high
profile member of the party testing the waters for a 2016 presidential bid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: This past week I made some
statements about immigration reform, apparently generated a little more
news than anticipated. The simple fact is there no conflict between
enforcing our laws, believing in the rule of law, and having some
sensitivity to the immigrant experience, which is a part of who we are as a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So former Florida governor Jeb Bush was defending his
comments that people who came to the U.S. illegally in search of a better
life for their children, they broke the law, but it was not a felon or
rather was an act of love. And while I want to say you go, Jeb, to the
full understanding of the comprehensive immigration reform by Governor
Bush, I got to hesitate. Because really, just how is that language going
to work out for him in this presidential election cycle? This is not the
first time a Republican presidential hopeful has had to defend his stance
on immigration reform.
Let me take you to 2011 when Texas governor Rick Perry was still riding
high in the Republican primary polls and said this at a GOP debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: But if you say we should not educate children
who have come into our state for no other reason than they`ve been brought
by no fault of your own, I don`t think you have a heart. We need to be
educating these children because they will become a drag on our society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Commendable compassion, good policy, maybe good for a
general election, but smart primary politics? Not so much. Governor Perry
didn`t even last to the South Carolina primary.
Let us not forget that the Republican Party is not the only one who has had
a rough path to comprehensive immigration reform. President Obama promised
in his 2008 campaign that he would tackle immigration reform. True effort
was put off for years.
And while it is true he was met with opposition from Congress in trying to
get there and took the important step in 2012 to stop the deportation of
hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people, through DAP or the
deferred action program, he still has the dubious distinction of deporting
immigrants at a faster rate than any other president in U.S. history.
Now we could spend the rest of the show on which party wins or loses when
it comes to the issue of immigration reform. But here`s the thing, this is
not really about politics. This sure is about people. This is about
According to a report on vox.com in 2012 alone, 150,000 children, U.S.
citizens had a parent deported. In 2011, 429,000 immigrants were held in
detention and this is about the three people who participated in a hunger
strike outside of the White House just a few short weeks ago to bring
attention to the plight of their detained loved ones. This is about
Cynthia Diaz, one of the hunger strikers, who spoke with me the day before
she decided to end her strike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CYNTHIA DIAZ, PARTICIPATED IN HUNGER STRIKE: I`m doing this hunger strike
for my mom. She was unfairly deported in May 2011 when I (INAUDIBLE). It
was a Saturday morning. I was 15 at the time. I have a little brother who
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Cynthia`s story is a reality that was far too common and
that far too many children in this country face when parents and other
loved ones are ripped away from their families.
And while we wait on Washington to get it together on comprehensive
immigration reform, it is Cynthia`s action that proceeded this moment on
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
HARRIS-PERRY: Indeed, her family reunited after more than two years.
Cynthia`s mom Maria was free from detention on Wednesday night, and without
further delay, I am beside myself to welcome Cynthia Diaz and her mother,
Maria Rodriguez to the show. Joining me in the studio is Natalia
Aristizabal who is board member of United We Dream and lead organizer for
make the road New York.
It`s so wonderful to have you here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cynthia, how are you feeling sitting there now with your
DIAZ: I feel so much better, thank you. Very relaxed now. Now, I have
peace of mind. So much better. Thank you.
DIAZ: Mrs. Rodriguez, can you tell me how you felt when you learned
Cynthia was on a hunger strike for you?
MARIA RODRIGUEZ, CYNTHIA DIAZ`S MOTHER: (SPEAKING SPANISH).
DIAZ: She said that she couldn`t believe it. She`s very proud of me, and
she felt that I was able to make it, and I did.
HARRIS-PERRY: We all felt very proud of you as well, Cynthia. What is
next in your mother`s case?
DIAZ: We still have to get her home. We still have to go to Phoenix.
Welcome her back. We still have another court date. We still have to, you
know, take care of my mom, welcome her back. So there`s still another
process to go on. So the fight is not over yet.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mrs. Rodriguez, when you saw Cynthia and your son, what were
RODRIGUEZ: (SPEAKING SPANISH).
DIAZ: She felt as if this time was never going to come. She felt really
comfortable, and she told us that, you know, she`s here now, and she`s
going to make sure we know she`s here for us. She`s going to keep giving
us support and everything we missed out on the past three years.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me one moment. I want to come to you, Natalia. I
can see the emotion you`re having in this moment. We are so thrilled for
Cynthia to be back, reunited in this moment with the mother. But what is
going on legally in the case of this moment? When will we have final
NATALIA ARISTIZABAL, BOARD MEMBER, UNITED WE DREAM: Well, each case is
different. It has a lot to do with representation that they are having.
But like Cynthia mentioned, they will definitely have to go back to court.
A lot of the cases, when they fight a detention, they have to every year
show up in court and every year kind of hope that the stay in the country
gets extended. And so it`s a way of living that is very nerve racking.
You have no security and no certainty that you will be able to share the
most cherished moment that any family needs to have together.
HARRIS-PERRY: Detention is such a benign word. It sounds as though people
are being held in college dormitories or something. What the real
circumstances of detention?
ARISTIZABAL: A lot of the places that are come coming are definitely in
humane. I`ve heard numerous stories of people with high critical health
conditions and not being able to receive the care that they need. Being in
places where it`s actually worse than jail. And I don`t know if anybody
can imagine what jail is like or has been, but it`s worse than that like
you don`t have access to books. You don`t have access to family visits.
You don`t have a certainly of when you are going to get out and when you
are going to be reunited with your family. And you also know you`re not
there because you didn`t commit a crime. A lot of people, like in
Cynthia`s case, they get held like the last place think they`ll be detained
or they`re driving without a license or were at the workplace and they just
happen not -- they had a bad day and they got raided. So, it`s really
unfortunate that our community that has to go through these situations.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cynthia, my last question to you. How do we get people in
Washington to stop playing politics and focus on families like your own?
DIAZ: Yes I`m an example of many other families. I`m a U.S. citizen. We
are the future. I haven`t voted yet, but I will in the near future. Many
other citizens are being impacted by this negatively. Because I now have
this experience, I`m now am aware of our politicians. And so, there are
other children as well like growing up to this. And if there`s no
difference done, then we will keep fighting for what is right for our
families and for our country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cynthia Diaz, I am so proud of you and so happy to see you
sitting there with your mother.
Thank you for being here. And thank you for all of your work.
Senyora Rodriguez, muchos gracias for being on the show this morning.
Thank you so much Natalia for being here.
RODRIGUEZ: (SPEAKING SPANISH).
DIAZ: She said thank you and she hopes that there`s many more mothers next
to their children like she is.
HARRIS-PERRY: (SPEAKING SPANISH).
Coming up we`re going to shift gears a bit. We are going to talk about
highlights from last night`s White House correspondence dinner in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: You know, I get letters from folks around the country every day. I
got ten that I read. This one got to me, a Virginia man who has been stuck
in the same part-time job for years, no respect from his boss. No chance
to get ahead. I really wish Eric Cantor would stop writing me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Last night Washington played host to the annual event that
has become known as nerd prom. No, despite my deepest desire, it is not a
convention of experts discussing deep empirical evidence on the state of
the world or how data can be used for social justice, making it a ball than
a nerd prom. But I digress.
It`s the White House correspondence dinner with the political and showbiz
elite meet, to greet and giggled. And there was plenty to laugh and groan
about with comedian and actor Joel McHale as the headliner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Good evening, Mr. President. Or as Paul Ryan refers to you, yet another
inner city minority relying on the federal government to feed and house
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But McHale may have been upstaged by the president himself
who proved he could take a joke and tell some pretty good one too,
including this one about controversial rancher, Cliven Bundy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As a general rule, things don`t end well if the sentence starts
with "let me tell you something I know about the Negro." You don`t really
need to hear the rest of it. Just a tip for you, don`t start your sentence
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The president also took some friendly jabs at his Republican
colleagues in Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m feeling sorry, believe it or not, for the speaker of the house
as well. These days house Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder
time than me which means orange really is the new black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, politicians on both sides were laughing last night.
But the midterm elections are coming up, and they are no joke.
We are going to get the scoop on the Republican strategy when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: This election year the White House is off the table. That
stands Democratic pretty much no matter what. The House of Representatives
is pretty much off the table too. Despite the fact that all 435 seats are
up for election, the Republicans have enough of a margin and enough of an
advantage based on 2010 redistrict that few, if any, are pushing the
argument that the house could slide out of GOP control.
But the Senate, that`s the real prize in 2014. Democrats hold it now with
a five-seat margin. But Republicans are within striking distance. As Nate
Silver put it a few weeks ago, we think Republicans are now slight
favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber.
About one-third of the Senate seats are up for election this year. That`s
36 seats. For the cook "Politico" report, there are 12 seats that are
competitive. In Iowa, New Hampshire, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado,
Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Montana, West Virginia, Georgia, and
In four of those states, the sitting senator is retiring. Three of those
retiring senators are Democrats. And money is already flowing. Candidates
have already spent $160 million on Senate races according to the center for
Outside groups spend another $50 million on races, including $8 million in
North Carolina alone. And it`s just May. There`s a strategy in elections
like this. As a national party, you must choose which state to focus your
resources on. You must decide how much to run on your candidate`s
personality and on local issues and how much to run on your national brand,
and you must get your people to the polls.
Here to tell us just what the Republican strategy is for taking that big
juicy Senate price and giving us a truly divided government is Katon
Dawson, the national Republican consultant and former chair of the South
Nice to see you Katon.
KATON DAWSON, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Nice to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So I have the best conversations with you in the
makeup room and in the commercial breaks where you`re always giving me like
this little digs of insight about how the GOP is strategically thinking
about this. So what is the plan right now for retaking the Senate?
DAWSON: First of all, you have the mathematicians first. And you get
really smart to go take a look at the states Mitt Romney won -- South
Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, and North
Carolina. Louisiana I`ll put to the side because Mary Landrieu is a real
competitor. North Carolina has a lot of things going on we`ll cover.
But Mitt Romney won so the Affordable Care Act is still alive there. The
conversation is still there. It hadn`t waned any. You throw that in with
the president`s popularity upside down in these states and you start
looking at what we call low information voters. Lowly informed voter who
is will really make up the difference in November.
What we have is Republicans as primaries again and we`re trying to avoid
the death by suicide inside these primaries. We have the tea party
argument. We got that fight sitting there. Right now, Mitch McConnell is
going to win both times. North Carolina got until it is going to come in
and win speaker of the house.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so pause because you`re moving fast. I want to
pause because you said three things that I think are great and I want to
dig in a little bit. So start with the tea party piece.
So tell me when you look at the tea party challenges, is that going to
weaken the capacity for the Republican party to win the Senate, or do you
think actually you`ll be able to throw those folks off? And it by you, I
just mean sort of mainstream establishment Republicans?
DAWSON: I do. I think at the end of the day, we have these primaries
coming up starting in a couple of weeks, ending in the second, third week
in June. And tea party voters are now being identified. They`re not that
well organized except from the national level. And they are going to come
where else do they have to go in November? They are not going to stay
But this is a midterm election and history shows you that Republicans have
a chance. Now, we have screwed it up before. We can do it again. But
right now our candidates are starting to surface. Lindsey Graham is
sitting way up in the 50s right now. Mitch McConnell sitting there. We
have a lot of positive things happening with our incumbents. And then we
have the open seats. So, it`s certainly is in our corner, Melissa, but we
have messed it up before.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s go to Louisiana where I`m living right now and talk to
me about Mary Landrieu. You said she a real contender. She is a Landrieu
that has a real name there. On the other hand, there has been -- I mean,
you can`t watch TV in my household without seeing a million Mary Landrieu
loves the Affordable Care Act and that bad for -- .
DAWSON: And then Mary Landrieu gets more Republican every day when I watch
her. She`s talking about energy. She is talking about the pipelines.
She`s making that sift to the Louisiana voter right now. So I never
discount the way that family can compete. And it is Louisiana is
You have Georgia. You got -- it is Nunn running in Georgia who has got
plenty of money so you have to come down to the Colorado and New Mexico to
start picking up numbers.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is this one state that is the prize? Is it North Carolina
DAWSON: It is. And there`s a lot of things why North Carolina is so
important. It`s moved up in the presidential calendar. It is sitting and
everybody is forget, it`s moved its primaries. All of them, not just a
presidential primary to a week behind South Carolina`s presidential
primary. So, the moves everything up.
Now you`ve got Jeb Bush in, who endorsed the speaker of the house. You
have Rand Paul hanging in there with the tea party of North Carolina. You
have Mike Huckabee who has moved in. So now, you got presidential politics
mixing up in the North Carolina which we taught to be careful. We have a
Senate seat that could very well be the number.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, hold on for me. We`re going to bring other
folks to the table. This North Carolina one, we have our eyes on it.
Before I tell you what we`re going to do next, I just want to say happy
birthday to one of our newest nerd land producers, Sarah Cobbler (ph). She
is turning a ridiculously young age today. But this is Sarah`s dog. And
her dog sent this video in. She`s still down living in Louisiana, this
doggie. She`s missing her mommy and just sent the video to say happy
Up next, tough medicine for the GOP. If millions of are signing onto
Obamacare, how do you run against it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Of course, we rolled out healthcare.gov. That could have gone
better. In 2008 my slogan was yes we can. In 2013 my slogan was control,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The key issue in the 2014 midterms as it was in 2010 and
2012 will be, whether we like it or not, the Affordable Care Act. Senate
Republicans will get a chance this week to make hey for the ACA for their
campaigns when confirmation hearing begin for Sylvia Burwell who is
President Obama`s nominee to replace the current secretary for health and
If the Republicans have their way, the hearings will serve as a sound age
for Republican campaign ads. As were this reported this week, Republican
strategists say the more dramatic moments in the hearing where Burwell will
face a litany of tough questions from Republican lawmakers could yield rich
material for television ads and in media campaigns. One gaffe and they,
the Democrats lose the news cycle. A Republican Party strategist said will
that work as a strategy?
Joining the table now is Mark Alexander, law professor at Seton Hall
University, a former adviser to candidate Obama and to Cristina Beltran who
is associate professor of social and culture analysis at New York
University and author of "the trouble with unity, Latino politics and the
creation of identity." And joining us from Washington D.C. is Dr. Kavita
Patel, a primary care doctor at John Hopkins and former Obama
So nice to have everybody here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Kavita, I want to start with you. There was a kind of
wonderful moment on my colleague Chris Hayes` show "All-In" earlier this
week on where it was having a conversation with David Frum. And Mr. Frum
said this. Let me play it for you and have you respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID FRUM, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So if you`re someone on Medicare, if
you`re affluent or elderly, you think this has to come from me. It`s not
coming from the future. It is coming from me. And that`s why Obamacare
remains such a potent issue even as Democrats say, tell themselves, well it
seems to be working for our people. The better it works for Democratic
voters who were frightened Republican voters become this will be at their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I thought that was a pretty stunning insight. Do you buy
that? That this strategy is really will work for Republicans? In fact,
the more the ACA works for Democratic constituencies.
DR. KAVITA PATEL, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AIDE: Well, I buy into the
fact that Republicans are going to try to use and exploit any aspect of
negative stories about whether it`s one or two seniors or even some seniors
who are expressing confusion about where the money to pay for Obamacare
comes from. And I think that`s absolutely going to be true. I don`t buy
into the notion that voters are automatically just going to hear stories
about seniors saying this is coming out of my pocket and therefore all the
elections are going to hinge on this one perspective. And I think what is
really important is actually what Katon mentioned earlier that there`s some
critical states and some critical senators like senator Kay Hagan and
people who have voted for Obamacare, who are also going to be on the
chopping block for their votes.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so I love that you took us back to North Carolina
and to Kay Hagan.
So let me come to you Mark. Should Kay Hagan, I mean, you`re not in her
campaign, but if you were, would you say don`t run from Obamacare, run to
it. Put your arms around ACA and say this is what we have done?
MARK ALEXANDER, SETON HALL UNIVERSITY: I think it`s a mistake to run from
it, you know. That the reality is that President Obama came into office
saying I`m going to do something about health care and he did something and
it is the Affordable Care Act. And Democrats have to standby the fact that
that is theirs.
They can`t disown it, you know. You can`t say I`m more like a Republican
than you think. That`s not going to win. Katon will sweep all those
elections with joy. So we have to deal with issues like the Affordable
Care Act and say this is what we are doing. We have provided for health
care for the eight million people signed up. Rates have gone down. Lay
out the facts. This is why it is good for you. You can`t run away from it
when it`s yours. You own it. And the reality is that I think is what
Democrats stands for and we have to draw those contrast.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Cristina, what mark is saying here feels to me like a
common theme that we often here. Particularly from progressives within the
Democratic Party, in a way that maybe the tea party members within the
Republican Party feel anxious because they`re more libertarian and their
party overall, and similarly progressives and like could you all just be
Democrats? Could you just embrace this thing that you have done? But are
midterms the time to do such a thing?
CRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I think it`s
never a bad time to be bold and own policies and try to speak some levels
just to power if you support a policy. Because I think Democrats never do
well when we are defensive and in sort of the defensive crouch and timid.
So I think owning this, and I think actually it`s an interesting moment
because up until now it has been a story of what`s going to happen with
Now it`s happening. Right now, there is actually real stories of real
people who were saying I was afraid. But now I can see this is actually
helping me. So think there`s actually a real moment here with the sky and
falling, people who were afraid that they were going to lose something. So
Frum`s argument is a kind of fantasy of loss that hasn`t necessarily
happened. So you wonder now with the reality of it. People say hey, the
sky isn`t falling, this is working that I think owning it and making it an
argument, I think undecided or low information voters in particular respond
to people who have a critique and an answer and a response.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is interesting, Katon. You know, I wanted -- we
were looking at one of the polls around the ACA. This is a Kaiser family
foundation poll from March, early March asking whether or not the ACA
debate should continue. Because, you know, we`re sort of sitting around in
nerd land saying why does anybody still want to talk about this? But in
fact, Republicans, 49 percent are saying yes, let`s keep talking about
this. Is that why you all decided to keep talking about this?
DAWSON: Well, you get the left. He is paying off 2400 pages of an
athlete. Things to keep cracking loose whether it`s real estate tax or
whether it is the Medicaid issue. So, it`s the gift that keeps on giving
for a while especially in the state where Mitt Romney won that the
Affordable Care Act in those numbers is still upside down. So I`m talking
about campaigns and elections. We`re into the season now.
The thing that the Democratic Party has right now is the establishment is
out there looking at the presidential election coming. So, I see him as a
little timid except for the president. The Republican nominees are like we
have so many running, Melissa, it`s unbelievable. They`re landing in every
state there is from Rand Paul to Ted Cruz, Governor Perry. I mean, so,
there`s a dynamic going. And what is going to happen is, that Mark, I`m
told there`s a low intensity, low informed voter this coming that`s going
to be able to read some of these things in the Affordable Care Act in the
seven places that matter to.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so Dr. Patel, come to me on that question of the
low information voter. Have we lost the opportunity to effectively brand
ACA with low information, folks, or is there still an opportunity for the
administration, for the Democratic Party to make its own message clear
PATEL: There`s still a huge opportunity. I mean, remember, Melissa, the
administration, when they rolled out, not only did the president joke about
the Web site rolling out, but they didn`t have the website ready for Latino
voters, for Latino people who wanted to sign up. I mean, there is still so
much that should be done, can be done, and I hope will be done to help with
not just low information voters, but you know, we see the surge in declines
in off presidential year elections.
And so we`re hoping -- we can even bring back some of those kinds of loyal
Obama voters that made North Carolina a state in play for him. So there`s
a huge opportunity in time. We still have a lot of time until those
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And North Carolina keeps remain the price. It`s like
Petey Pablo song in here. North Carolina, come on over ease up.
Thank you to Dr. Kavita Patel in Washington D.C.
Up next, the numbers game. With the economy is looking up, why are the
president`s poll numbers still looking down?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCHALE: Your approval rating has slipped. And even worse, you only have
two stars on yelp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If the midterms are referendum on the president and his
party, November doesn`t look so super great for Democrats. President
Obama`s approval ratings continue to be low, with 44 percent of people
approving of the job he`s doing as president, the 50 percent disapproving,
although, that`s up from his low of 41 percent in March. No one knows this
as well as the president himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Folks are saying that with sagging poll numbers, my fellow
Democrats, don`t really want me campaigning with them. And I don`t think
that`s true. Although, I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a
speaker at career day and she invited Bill Clinton. I was a little hurt by
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining us from Washington to tell us what those and other
numbers mean is for November is Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster who is
part of the team that conducts the NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" polling.
Nice to see you this morning.
FRED YANG, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Good morning, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so Fred, help me to understand, what is the biggest
mistake that we made when we are kind of reporting poll numbers,
particularly in March, April and May, before midterm election? What are we
failing to do as we are trying to use these numbers to predict midterm
YANG: Well, the numbers are the numbers. And it is 44 percent now in
April. But as you say, I think one mistake we make is assuming what
happens in March, April or May will predict what happens in November.
You know, the 44 percent job rating for the president, while it`s not
great, it is the best it`s been since last October. And I think the other
things, you know, we need to look at as media and as analysts are also
trends. And right now, the president is trending up. I think in some
respects because of the success of the eight million signups for the ACA.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, the ACA is an interesting one. We were just
talking with Dr. Patel about whether or not there`s an opportunity to
rebrand this. Honestly, I`m a little interested here in the key reasons
for why the president`s approval ratings remain so low, despite the fact
that the economy is adding jobs and that eight million people have signed
YANG: Well, I think one of the fascinating numbers from our NBC News/"Wall
Street Journal" poll that we released earlier this week is sort of even
with those real economic numbers, Melissa, there`s a big chunk of the
country and it is bipartisan -- Democrats, Republicans, independents who
don`t come quote "feel it."
You know, 55 percent of Americans and again, it`s bipartisan, feel that the
economic and political systems are stacked against people like them by
about 10 points. People feel that there`s more income inequality that
everyone is not benefiting from the economy. So I think, Melissa, part of
the disconnect is, the economy may go well in the macro sense. But for
ordinary folks and families, they don`t feel like this rising tide of what
those lifting our boats.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I thought those date were incredible, this idea that
there`s a majority of people who just think the system stacked against
Let me ask you one more question because I know that Democrats are going to
be pushing minimum wage as a central issue moving forward into the midterm.
And we know there is a majority of Americans who support minimum wage. But
is there a kind of enthusiasm gap around it? So in another word, help me
to understand the difference between supporting minimum wage and coming out
to vote on the issue of minimum wage?
YANG: I think -- I`ve listened to your segment earlier with Katon and
other folks. I think it`s very clear from the polling why the Republicans
are pushing Obamacare. That works for Republicans. On the flip side,
issues like income inequity and pay equity. They really do, Melissa, work
And look, this is a cliche, but we have the votes to win elections if our
folks get out. Minorities, unmarried women, younger women, minimum wage,
pay equity, those are issues that work with so-called drop off voters.
But the final thing I want to say is elections are usually won in the
middle. I think the independent voters are sort of they like the minimum
wage. They are not so hot Obamacare. I really think the independents are
the toss-ups. And I think since the elections are still six months away,
you know, elections are about the future. I think Americans understand
that, you know, President Obama has two more years, but this is part of the
future of this country. And honestly, I think both parties are still
trying to angle for what is the issue for the talks of the future.
Thank you to Fred Yang in Washington D.C.
I would like to dig in to the numbers a little bit high nerd this morning.
I appreciate you for joining us. And we will have more when we get back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: How well does Obamacare have to work before you don`t want to
repeal it? What if your yearly checkup came with tickets to a Clippers
game? Not the old Don Sterling Clippers. The new Oprah Clippers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He was doing it again in the commercial break where he
explains what the big strategy is and what does that you say poll numbers
really mean, Katon?
DAWSON: Poll numbers really mean, at this half, money. That`s why I`ve
been in New York three or four days raising money. You show poll numbers
and you show trends. And to us who do this for a living, unless we have a
primary inside the 36-day window or so, poll numbers right now, to our
advantage, help us national parties raise money because it shows we have a
chance. We got beat in the two presidential elections pretty handedly by
So now, we are back in the game, that first time seen numbers where the
president is upside down in New Mexico, first time we`ve seen the numbers.
So what it means is we have a chance to go race and spend money.
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you think, Mark? Is there a way that Democrats can
take those numbers and say no, we still have a shot? Particularly, we have
been talking about this three or four times here, is there a way to go get
ALEXANDER: Yes. There`s a way to go get it. The reality is that you have
to get out there or you pass the message. The money is going to be a
challenge, right? And if people right now are saying that`s not a winning
case, they`re going to look somewhere else. But the thing, you got to push
through knowing as we have talked before with Mr. Yang, is his poll
numbers, right? They may be, you know, not as good right now. But when
you comes to voting, you have that chance. But when it comes to raising
money to build that campaign, that`s a big challenge. And the national
part, Democratic Party has a lot of money got to raise, but OFA could help
out. And there are other ways to push money and resources into the
HARRIS-PERRY: What the president`s poll numbers where they are now, do you
invite him to come stand next to your Senate candidate if you`re running in
one of the southern state?
ALEXANDER: I think the reality is if -- if I`m doing it?
HARRIS-PERRY: If one is in fact leading this.
ALEXANDER: I think you have to, frankly. Because I think what you have to
do just say this is who I am. And you`re not going, as we talked before,
you are not going to be somebody different. You`re not going to say I`m
the Republican running against another Republican. You`re a Democrat and
there things that you owned.
But then you say what are we doing here? We`re getting 300,000 new jobs in
the last month. We`re trying to put minimum wage up. If you look at the
grasp of where the minimum wage has been, basically what happened is under
President Bush, you know, nothing is happening.
You look at unemployment, under President Bush, skyrocketing. Under Obama,
what is happening? We`re pushing for a better wage, where jobs, you know,
unemployment is coming down. You have to say, that is my message. And
this is a guy that I`m doing it with, and we`re going to keep doing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So I love the minimum wage discourse. It`s a real
policy that Democrats can really run on. But it also feels top me like --
and those folks who are going to be most firing up about minimum wage are
also those least likely to typically show up in the midterm election cycle.
BELTRAN: Right. This is the really challenging moment at this midterm.
It is also the people who are most benefitting from Obamacare are the same
population and are least likely to vote. So that`s the really interesting
dissidents. But I think fundamentally, the Democrats have to really run
against Republicans. I mean, I think the enthusiasm gap is not going to be
one somebody saying, well, I know things are got great. But they`re
I think the enthusiasm gap can be dealt with in some really important ways
by saying, look. Look at the alternative. Look at what we`re facing if
this party comes into power. Look at the policies that we`re going to be
faced with. Look at the gridlock we are going to dealing with like. These
are really paid an aggressive picture of this is the future if this party
is in power.
And this is -- so in a way, it`s really it is a little positive vision,
right? It is really like being afraid of what could be worse? But I think
that is actually a way to galvanize voters because I think a lot of voters
remember like, I don`t know, last year with the shutdown, people remember
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, so Katon, don`t you guys already run the Senate? I
mean, I know rational people think that 51 versus 49 or something would be
a majority. But as long as Democrats don`t have 60, don`t you already have
DAWSON: I wish we did. Then we could show you something.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m in trouble.
DAWSON: Who is in charge is back to the president. I think Mark is
exactly right. This one thing that president has that George Bush didn`t
have is president still has likability numbers. At the end of George
Bush`s term, people weren`t using him. I remember when Al Gore wasn`t
invited as nominee to South Carolina by sitting Democrat governor. Big
John Kerry couldn`t come in when we were sitting there. Everybody was
saying don`t bring him. But once you decide your brand is no good,
(INAUDIBLE), and Mark, you`re right. Not to bring the president. It is
probably going to be a mistake in a lot of places. And they aren`t going
to be --
HARRIS-PERRY: And particularly if you want the president who showed up
last night, his funniness and bring that president down to the urban areas.
And you bring them to Charlotte and you bring him Greensboro, just watch
Thank you to Mark Alexander and to Katon. Christina, who are going to hang
around in the next hour.
But coming up, athletes as activists, after the NBA ban on Donald Sterling,
are star players ready to flex their political muscle?
More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
(COMMERCIAL -- ENSURE)
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. The Los Angeles
Clippers faced the Golden State Warriors in last night`s game seven of
their first-round NBA playoff series. And despite the media circus still
surrounding the team, the three seed (ph) persevered, winning by a score of
126 to 121. The win came hours after the NBA announced it would appoint a
CEO to supervise the team, having banned this guy, the team`s owner still,
Donald Sterling, whose audiotaped racial comments in a conversation with a
woman who calls herself his personal assistant made him extra famous -- or
rather -- infamous in the last eight days. Their coach Doc Rivers
expressed relief more than anything else after last night`s victory.
GLEN "DOC" RIVERS, L.A. CLIPPERS HEAD COACH: I just thought this team
really needed the game. I mean, honestly, I just wanted us to win the
game. Not because of the -- you know, not winning last year. I just
thought with all this stuff that this team just needed this win. For me,
my excitement was not for me at all, it was for everybody. Yes, I wanted
the fans to get excited. I mean, they`re almost still sitting there in
shock. And I just wanted them to get excited and exhale for a second.
HARRIS-PERRY: This was a tumultuous week for the Clipper as a father/owner
hit with a $2.5 million fine and a lifetime ban from the National
Basketball Association, as well as the likelihood that the other 29 league
owners try to force him to sell the team. Commissioner Adam Silver`s
strong stance has been widely lauded. But it would be a mistake to see his
actions as his alone. This was a man reacting to significant external
pressure. This wasn`t so much a retort to Sterling`s racist remarks as it
was a reaction by a league that was being pressured into doing the absolute
most it could do according to the NBA`s constitution.
Once the ban was handed down, the NBA asked that the many sponsors who`d
abandoned the Clippers -- companies like Kia, Red Bull, State Farm, CarMax,
(Roda), Virgin America, to return after they jumped ship following social
and mainstream media`s explosion over Sterling`s remarks. Some, like Red
Bull, quacking coming back though the Clippers will be donating half of
their post-season partnership profits to charity. But they -- just as
responsible for this has been the great first round of the NBA playoffs --
the players -- this far. The ones who got us here.
The league`s biggest star, LeBron James of the Miami Heat made it clear
that, "There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league." And even
Charlotte Bobcat`s owner Michael Jordan well-known for not taking political
stances during his Hall of Fame career, said this. "I`m appalled that this
type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels
of our sports. In a league where the majority of the players are African-
American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level."
You probably already know the Clippers themselves spoke with their actions,
removing their team warm-ups prior to game four of this playoff series,
laying them down in unison at mid-court and warming up with their team tee-
shirts turned inside out so as not to display any logo. What you may not
know is that the harsh penalty for Sterling headed off what could`ve been a
dramatic and historic protest. It was going to come from the Clippers`
opponents, the Golden State Warriors. Marcus Thompson of the San Jose
Mercury News reported that the plan was to go through the pre-game
festivities Tuesday night, take the floor for the opening tip, dap the
Clippers` starters as is customary, get in position for the jump ball and
as soon as it was tossed, point guard Stephen Curry was -- and his team was
-- going to walk off the floor in protest, all of them. Curry told
Thompson that it would have been their only chance to make a statement in
front of the biggest audience -- that they weren`t going to accept anything
but the maximum punishment. And that`s pretty much what Sterling got. The
players took a stand and it paid off.
It was, you could say, a "Full Court Press." Joining me now, Jemele Hill,
the co-host of ESPN`s "Numbers Never Lie" and the "His and Hers" podcast,
Michael Skolnik, political director for Russell Simmons and editor-in-chief
of "GlobalGrind.com." Cristina Beltran, associate professor of social and
cultural analysis at New York University and Swin Cash who is on the
executive committee for the WNBA Players Union. She`s a former NCAA and
WNBA champion basketball player, most recently of the Chicago Sky and
fairly recently of Nerdland where you suggested some folks could take
multiple seats --
(LAUGHTER AND CROSS TALK)
SWIN CASH, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE , WNBA PLAYERS UNION AND WNBA PLAYER: Am
few seats open right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no, I was wondering who you thought might should maybe
take a seat this week.
CASH: We can add Donald Sterling (inaudible).
HARRIS-PERRY: So do you think we should be largely applauding these
players and former players for taking such a strong stand from this moment?
CASH: Absolutely, absolutely. I know at the beginning people wanted them
to make rush decision -- to jump right in there when this all came out.
But you really need to digest everything. I thought the players did an
excellent job because what they did first was take the leadership -- not
only from Doc Rivers but also from Chris Paul. They got together, they
came together, made a decision and then they just ran with it, and that`s
what I like about the players. They didn`t just act hastily, they actually
took the time to really think about everything.
HARRIS-PERRY: Were you surprised to know that these players took such a
clear -- and so many -- and Michael Jordan had to say in this moment?
CASH: Yes, that`s shocking. I mean, I got to say, if you -- you know
you`re considered a racist when a) you dislike Magic Johnson and b) you get
JEMELE HILL, ESPN.COM COLUMNIST: (Inaudible) you know it`s real, OK? But
there`s part of me that -- I don`t know if this is being selfish -- I kind
of wanted to see them do it. Even though Adam Silver responded in a harsh
way that they all wanted him to, I wanted to see that historic moment
happen. Because I think for so long, especially today`s athlete, they`ve
been criticized for being desensitized because of the amount of money they
make, for their position and their platform -- all the things that people
like Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali fought for, they have reaped all of those
benefits and rarely have we seen the kind of forced action that we used to
see from some of the past civil rights heroes. So, personally I wanted to
see them go through with it.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so what -- the point that you made here and some
of the folks that you have invoked -- Muhammad Ali and his position
particularly against the war in Vietnam. We can go back to John Carlos and
Tommy Smith in 1968 standing there on the -- on the Olympic podium with
their fists raised. But they were not critiquing a racial moment within
their sport, they were critiquing a racial environment, more broadly. I`d
love what the players did, but does it count as being part of that
BELTRAN: You know, I think yes and no. I mean, in one sense, what they
did was, you know, -- you talked about this yesterday on the show.
Americans like simple racial narratives and we like our racists to wear
Females: Yes, right.
BELTRAN: And Sterling filled that role completely. And so there`s a way
in which this was a kind of -- I don`t want to say easy move -- but it was
move in which, you know, saying this guy is racist in a world as divided --
in America as divided -- as ours is, this is a moment when you can speak
out against racism and you`re not going to get any disagreement on it. So
it`s a kind of moment that, you know, it was important, it was powerful but
it`s hard to know. I mean, there`s really complicated issues here. These
are people who might become activists at some point.
BELTRAN: But they`re also a commodity. They`re a brand, they`re trying to
leverage that brand --
BELTRAN: They`re trying to make sense of what makes sense for them in the
long-term with endorsements. So the question to me that`s really
interesting is who at this moment now is going to consider themselves an
activist in a new way? What players are going to say this is the first
step in making the situation better and which folks are going to see this
as kind of a one off moment that was, in some sense, the whole political
climate supported them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, so because we did see some players, we saw LeBron
James and Dwyane Wade, others come out in the moment for example of the
Travon Martin and George Zimmerman verdict, and in that moment we saw some
folks who were stepping outside of questions of race within their league
and were saying something about what was being read as a racial moment more
broadly. Do you think this is a moment that activates some of those
MICHAEL SKOLNIK, RUSSELL SIMMONS` POLITICAL DIRECTOR AND EDITOR OF
GLOBALGRIND.COM: Well, I got to give a tremendous amount of credit to
LeBron. I think that may have shown unbelievable leadership amongst men in
that league. Not just for Travon, but even before -- as the king, right --
King James. When Michael was the king of the league, Michael was silent.
And as LeBron, day one. Jordan came out the next day on Donald Sterling --
(LAUGHTER AND CROSS TALK)
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re just going in on Jordan!
SKOLNIK: So, LeBron was -- day one. And I got to give him a tremendous
amount of credit. But I think also as a society, we can`t look to these
men and women in sports to solve all problems of racism. Right, if we
point two fingers at Donald Sterling, let`s not forget that these
conversations that are happening amongst white men in closed doors are not
uncommon. I am not surprised at what Donald Sterling said. I`m disgusted
by what he said but this is happening in board rooms and executive offices,
on the street with our friends, and we as a society have to solve this
problem, and not just LeBron or Dwyane or Chris Paul to do that for us.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so you said two things I want to -- I want to put
a finger on. So one is about women athletes, and I`m wondering if there
are any kind of differences, particularly around the commoditization.
Because of commoditization of male athletes, whether or not women athletes
might actually be able to be for us a space where more of this could happen
or if in fact they`re even more vulnerable because -- because there is not
as much money in it. Because losing that job is even more marginal.
CASH: Talking to somebody going through that.
Female: Contract negotiations, right, exactly.
CASH: -- issues right now, but, you know, I can say this -- for a woman
there`s levels to it. It`s not only racism, at times it`s sexism. I
wanted to go to that point as well about speaking out. LeBron did that, he
should bring leadership but you have to understand too that these players -
- like I talk to some of the guys on the phone. They were ready to go, but
what it is, is you want to get all the facts. And they had a lot of trust
and respect for Adam Silver. They wanted to give him a little bit of a
line to see where he was going to stand. Once he made that stand, trust
me, if he didn`t make the stand that he made, those players were not going
to play. And for women -- if it happened in our league WNBA -- it`d be the
same way. We supported our brothers completely through this time right now
and it`s not done. It`s far from done, because what happened with Donald
Sterling is this -- he said something that was a surgeon cutting you
without the anesthesia. You know, like he was like that boss that you
never hear this thing -- hear these things. I mean, you hear racism all
the time like you say --
CASH: -- on the streets and stuff. But when you hear it from the top,
from a boss, that`s when it really cuts deep.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right so, all right so I -- part of then -- so women
have -- this is one of the other part of what you said is about -- and you
as well -- everybody being part of it. Unanimity among white players as
well. And I think, you know, we might just go `well, of course, it`s a
team, you know, dominated by African-Americans, what were the white guys
going to do?` But after what we saw with Incognito and Martin in the NFL
this year, I think we could be over any sort of romantic notion that
because guys are playing together, they are necessarily all in racial
harmony. Is there something valuable to be taken from the fact that white
players were also apparently completely appalled?
HARRIS-PERRY: I think that is valuable. In fact, I think -- and I hate to
say this -- it almost lends more credibility to the movement overall. I
certainly noticed that when Kevin Johnson spoke, that Steven Ads (ph) was
right behind him. And then, I hate to say it, my first thought was,
"What`s he --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- (inaudible). You know, I understand he`s also very
active sort of politically. But just to kind of get back both of you guys
said about what -- how -- this may or may not activate the players. What I
-- and wrote about this -- what I want to know is are they capable of
sustained anger? Because as Swin said, this is not over, OK? Donald
Sterling may very well be the owner as when the new season begins in 2014.
So, what are you going to do now. Like you said, Cristina, it`s very
convenient to take a stand when you have everybody else with you. It`s
much harder when you`re on that alone. And then it`s going to be more at
stake, then you`re talking about more games, then you`re talking about
jeopardizing a whole season, then you`re talking about a whole league. So
I think personally boycott action very much still be on the table for them.
BELTRAN: And then you`re talking about really union politics.
BELTRAN: (Inaudible) solidarity and that other group of people who can be
BELTRAN: -- and celebrities. That`s an amazing combination, right, to be
a solidarity --
HARRIS-PERRY: Cristina, hold that because that`s exactly where we`re going
to go. I got a few things to say but then we`re going to come back and I
want to go to exactly that union question which is what you and I had been
talking about previously, and whether or not this could even mean something
ultimately for whether or not college players might ever be able to take
these kinds of stances. Everybody stay with me. When we come back, I`m
going to show you how senate majority leader Harry Reid weighed in on this
Clippers story this week, and how he took it to a whole `nother city.
MAYOR KEVIN JOHNSON, SACRAMENTO: These events remind all of us that hatred
and bigotry are far from over. I hope that every bigot in this country
sees what happened to Mr. Sterling and recognizes that if he can fall, so
HARRIS-PERRY: When the explosive race tapes of L.A. Clippers owner Donald
Sterling were made public last week, former and current players in the NBA
did not sit by quietly. They organized, spoke out and openly protested.
It is they who forced the NBA`s commissioner to take the strongest stance
available to him, to broadcast clearly the message we do not tolerate
racial bias in this league. Now many were proud of the players for the
decisive action, including Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. And even while
expressing his pride in his players who pulled out a 17 victory last night
over the Golden State Warriors, Coach Rivers also questioned why it is so
often the victims of racial bias who are forced to take the stand against
it. Here is what Rivers said shortly after Sterling`s penalty was handed
down on Tuesday.
RIVERS: With the burden of racism, it always falls on the person who has
been offended to respond, and I`ve always thought that that`s interesting,
you know? I felt the pressure on my players, you know. Everyone was
waiting for them to give a response. And, you know, I kept thinking -- I
mean -- they didn`t do anything, you know, yet they have to respond and so
Adam responded. And I thought that that was the sigh of relief.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Coach Rivers raises an important question -- must it
always been the aggrieved party who is the driving force behind addressing
racism, real or perceived? It`s a question that native American activists
must be asking themselves as they continue to press Washington, D.C.`s team
owner Daniel Snyder to remove a mascot they experience as a racial slur.
With barely more than a shrug, Snyder has said he`ll never change his
team`s name. So the indigenous communities fight on trying to gain
leverage in their battle against the racially offensive end zones and
uniforms, facilities, merchandise and all other manner of branding
associated with the Washington team. But what if these native American
activists, the aggrieved parties in this case, didn`t have to go it alone?
What if the NFL players of the Washington team wore their jerseys inside
out or refused to use the team name in press conferences? What if opposing
teams refused to play them unless the name was changed? What if the NFL
commissioner did what the NBA commissioner did and took a clear stance,
sent a clear message -- we will not tolerate racial bias in this league?
I`m not alone in these questions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took
to the senate floor on Monday to use the Sterling moment as a challenge to
Snyder in the NFL.
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) NEVADA: How long will the NFL continue to do nothing
-- zero -- as one of its teams bears a name and inflicts so much pain on
native Americans? The National Football League should take an assist from
NBA to pick up the slack.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, now this is getting interesting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s bring it all back again. One more time to the White
House correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C. last night. Take a look at
the sports reference from President Obama.
OBAMA: Sometimes I do feel disrespected by you reporters, but that`s OK.
Seattle Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman is here tonight --
OBAMA: -- and he gave me -- he gave me some great tips on how to handle
it. Jake Tapper, don`t you ever talk about me like that. I`m the best
president in the game.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, such a great moment!
HARRIS-PERRY: But it did -- it did leave me thinking, OK, well this is
interesting. Are we going to do race in sports now, because if we`re going
to do race and sports now in America, it`s about to get really much more
HILL: Well, we`ve always done it, we just didn`t know we were doing it.
That connection has always kind of been there, and even President Obama --
we were talking so extensively about the Clippers. He was immediately
asked questions about, you know, Donald Sterling and what that -- what his
comments meant. And so I think that that horse has shot out the Kentucky
Derby -- I think that (inaudible).
(LAUGHTER AND CROSS TALK)
HILL: Yes, I think that horse has left the barn.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so I`m so glad that you brought that up because the
President was asked about it, he weighed in on it and for the first time in
weighing in on a race issue, didn`t get like this enormous fallout. So
kind of going back to your point -- this is (inaudible), being in media,
you have to be really careful not to just run around calling people -- oh
he`s a racist, she`s a -- I have been stunned by the number of people --
oh, no -- that`s racist, he`s a racist -- that`s definitely racist. Did
something -- what is it about what happened here that makes this sort of OK
to weigh in and say, no, this was wrong.
SKOLNIK: Well, I also think that, you know, white folks we want to deal
with it as who don`t say for racists. We want to think that we can pin the
tail on the donkey -- that`s the guy, right, and then we`re off the hook.
It`s always like -- well, he`s the guy, he`s really the racist and we`re OK
when we say this or we say that. But I think as Jemele said, you know, I
got to picture of Jesse Owens, the `36 Olympics in my office, I got a
picture of the `68 Olympics of Muhammad Ali, right. We want to think that
there`s harmony and unity within sport because there are interracial teams
in every league now. But as fans, as we saw with the Boston Bruins, right,
that`s fans. There still is a separation in terms of how we look at black
players, how we look at white players. And I think for us as fans, we`re
still trying to understand that we can accept a black man as our hero.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. If folks don`t know what happened with the Boston
Bruins, it was an African-American player who scores a winning shot and
then Twitter kind of loses its --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, it loses its mind. But you know saying that there is
racism on Twitter is a little bit like and water is wet.
(Inaudible) the sky is up today. So, let`s go back. If we`re going to do
racist work, the other thing that we`ve done for a long time around sport
and around race is workers -- it`s a question of unionization. You and I
were talking about the possibility of the NCAA players having a union, and
I kept thinking part of the reason that these men could behave in this way
in this moment is because they have protection as workers. If the NCAA
players had a union, would they be able to respond to campus racial
incidents in -- I mean, I went to an NCAA school, I can remember saying,
"Oh I wish the players would come stand with us." But they couldn`t
because they were scholarship athletes who were vulnerable.
CASH: Absolutely. I think, I mean, we -- I think all of us can sit here
and say we don`t know if a union would be the complete answer --
CASH: -- for these college students, but I do think that having a body --
a group of players that can come together -- and maybe it`s not titled by
as much by union, but players that have voice. That`s what happened in the
situation with the Clippers. They had one voice. They brought in Kevin
Johnson, he was the one that was speaking, he was able to galvanize them
together and then be able to make statements and make a reaction. I think
that college students need that as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Is anybody surprised that as much as we were very,
very clear about the racism, there was also an awful lot of sexism in that
tape? And that is not like --
HARRIS-PERRY: Nobody was like `You sexist!` There was just like -- so we
seem to be maybe a little more OK with the sexism?
BELTRAN: Well we just seem to be -- I mean -- I really do think that the
way this played out. So, so much about this weird post-racial moment we`re
in. I don`t mean like we are post-racial, I mean that there is this kind
of fantasy of post-racial-ness so that the kind of racism we can respond
aggressively to is when it`s incredibly overt. So he would have had to be
like -- say something really appalling about like her breasts or something.
It would have to be so blatantly bad, then we`re like, well that`s sexism.
Like it feels like -- one of my worries about this event -- I mean, my
concerns about the fact that everybody feels so self-congratulatory about
naming it as racism -- is that in some ways I worry that it makes it harder
for us to talk about subtle, elegant, you know, structural inequality
because this is just such an easy -- it`s such an easy hit in that way.
And so it just -- it just makes that -- it just makes that problem I think.
I want to talk about the union thing though. I do think that a union is
place of protection for workers, but unions are what you make them. Unions
are spaces of organizing workers and raising workers` consciousness. And
so there are good unions and bad unions. The good unions understand that
it`s a place -- it`s a democratic space that you can empower workers --
HARRIS-PERRY: Very good point.
BELTRAN: -- but it`s not like you have a union and then you`re magically
CASH: That`s exactly why right now we`re in this state with the players
with the players with the (MVPA) that are -- they`re trying to find a
leader. That`s what Kevin Johnson -- he`s pivoting from this Donald
Sterling, he`s moving over to the space that we need to find an executive
director because even with the WNBA, we had collective bargaining
agreements, we had a CPA come this year when we had so much mass chaos
going on on the men`s side and trying to find a new executive director.
You have to have stability in unions, you have to have voices and you yet
people who are (inaudible) --
SKOLNIK: I think -- back to the point of structural racism, let us not
forget that same week when Donald Sterling`s tape were leaked, the Supreme
Court ended affirmative action.
SKOLNIK: The country was silent.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right, right exactly.
SKOLNIK: All right, there was no outpouring, right. So there are still --
there are still structural racism in this country that we are not dealing
with because of these moments that seem sort of pop culture-esque, they
want to jump on but we have to focus on those big, big problems and those
things as well.
HILL: Right, we need a scodas (ph) tape.
Female: Right, right. We need the Supreme Court --
HILL: Like in the back, like `Oh, I can`t even leave for (inaudible)" --
HILL: Well both of you said something unfortunately also about the
collective national intelligence with these issues. You know there are
layers to race, you know, it is very much like an onion and we have all
gone -- in many ways we`ve allowed our self to be duped into thinking that
everything should be clear cut and overt. And part of the reason Donald
Sterling stayed in power for so long is because of his -- we can`t let
loose out of the fact that the NBA ownership group provided him a safe
haven. That`s why it was never exposed. But what he did to those black
and brown people in his housing units --
HILL: -- all right, then I think one of the -- the one lesson I hope the
players take away from this -- all right, on some level I think they
thought they were going to be different because he was paying them money
and they`re millionaires. And they found out the hard way, behind closed
doors he`s talking about you just like he talks about them.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate that so much this idea that there is -- that
being wealthy is not itself a kind of protective glaze over and against
this. And it was awfully fun to watch these men respond in this way. And
like you, I hold out for even more historic moments.
Let me tell you this. On Wednesday, a Manhattan-bound F-train derailed in
Queens. Six cars of the eight cars of the train derailed and firefighters
-- New York Fire Department and EMTs climbed into the subway cars through
the sidewalk grate to evacuate the 1,000 people on the train. It was
incredible. They are real heroes. But I just also want to say that on one
of -- on that train in one of those cars -- was one of our producers. And
she came right into work that day and she worked the whole day. And we are
just, we sort of think that, you know, she is a super hero herself. And so
that is our super hero producer there showing us what it means to do it
Jemele Hill and Swin Cash, thank you so much. And Swin, I totally think
you need like a TV show called "Have a Seat."
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for being here this morning. Still to come, two
young women who started a very personal campaign that has now gone all the
way to the White House. Michelle Cumbo as Superhero. Yea.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, Dr. Everett
Parker of the United Church of Christ conducted an undercover investigation
of local television stations in collaboration with civil rights leaders.
The NAACP has already filed two complaints that stations were blocking out
coverage addressing racial integration. Both were rejected by the FCC. In
1964 the church used information from that investigation to petition the
FCC to deny the license to one of those stations -- WLBT. The FCC refused,
so the church went to court, and in 1969, the U.S. Court of Appeals
reversed the FCC, marking the first time courts had denied a station`s
license based on racial discrimination. For the United Church of Christ
which described itself as a church of firsts, it was one victory in a long
history of faith-based action oriented toward justice.
In 1972, the church ordained Rev. William R. Johnson, the first openly gay
minister in a historic protestant denomination. In 1987, the church`s
Commission for Racial Justice published the landmarked "Environmental
Justice Study, Toxic Waste and Race" which found that communities of color
in the United States were disproportionately likely to have hazardous waste
facilities sited in their neighborhoods. Those findings led the project`s
directors, Dr. Benjamin Chavis and Charles Lee to coin the terms
`environmental racism` and `environmental justice` contributing to the
launch of a critical field of study.
Now, that`s the same Dr. Benjamin Chavis of UCC who was arrested in 1973
along with nine other civil rights activists falsely accused of arson at a
grocery store. The church raised more than $1 million to bail those
activists, or as you may know them, the Wilmington Ten out of jail. In
1976, the church elected Reverend Joseph H. Evans as their new president --
the first African-American leader of a racially-integrated mainline church
in this country.
And in 2005, when up to 68 percent of the country still believed that
marriage is between same-sex couple should not be valid. The United Church
of Christ`s general synod passed a resolution in support of same-gender
marriage equality. This week, more than 57 years after the founding of the
United Church of Christ, the UCC has yet again undertaken a historic first
for equality. The incredible constitutional claim the church is making to
create change in the deep South is next.
REV. GEOFFREY A. BLACK, PRESIDENT, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: This lawsuit
is about more than restrictions imposed on ministers. It is about
safeguarding Americans` First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and
freedom of expression from government interference.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now that was Reverend Geoffrey A. Black, the president and
general minister of the United Church of Christ, making an argument that we
normally hear used against same-sex marriage. But he and his church are
suing North Carolina to overturn the ban on marriage for LGBT couples. It
is the first of more than 60 such legal challenges across the country to
make a faith-based argument. On Monday, leaders from the United Church of
Christ joined with other North Carolina faith leaders and same-sex couples
to file a lawsuit against the state`s attorney general Ray Cooper and other
local officials. One of the targets of the lawsuit is North Carolina
general statute 51-7 which spells out marriage license requirements and
effectively makes it a crime -- in fact a class one misdemeanor -- for
religious officials to conduct same-sex marriages in the state.
Back with me at the table are Katon Dawson, national Republican consultant
and former chair of the South Carolina GOP, Michael Skolnik, political
director for Russell Simmons and the editor-in-chief of "GlobalGrind.com"
and Cristina Beltran who is associate professor of social and cultural
analysis at New York University. And joining me now from Cleveland, Ohio
is Reverend Bennett Guess, a national officer of the United Church of
Christ. Reverend, thanks for joining me this morning.
REV. BENNETT GUESS, NATIONAL OFFICER OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST:
Thanks, Melissa, it`s a pleasure to be with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we and (inaudible) were really enjoying reading about
the strategy in large part because, again, if we were to play that video of
the head of the UCC, it certainly sounds like he`s about to make an
argument against marriage equality rather than saying we need our religious
freedom in order to perform same-sex marriages. How did you all end up
with this strategy?
GUESS: Well this lawsuit actually began in North Carolina because the
United Church of Christ clergy and clergy from other traditions were
actually organizing marriage junkets if you will in which they were
chartering buses and taking couples that wanted to get married up to
Washington, D.C. because these pastors wanted to be able to be with their
parishioners when they were getting legally married. And they knew them,
they loved them and wanted to be with them.
And so these parishioners and clergy began talking saying why is it that we
as religious people have to leave our communities of faith behind, have to
leave our families behind, have to leave our sacred spaces behind in order
to go to another place to perform a religious ceremony that is perfectly
permissible in the United Church of Christ. Add to that, North Carolina`s
Amendment One which was passed by voters in 2012, not only outlaws same
gender marriage, but also went further and outlawed civil unions and
So in a great overreach by the North Carolina Legislature, they actually
made it a crime as you said for clergy to perform any religious ceremony --
marriage ceremony -- without a license. And of course gay and lesbian
people can`t get a license and therefore our clergy are being faced with
criminal prosecution for blessing same gender marriages.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, that is -- that kind of overreach feels to me like
precisely the kind of thing that is in fact just that -- it goes too far.
In fact when we look at sort of views on marriage in North Carolina -- on
marriage equality -- a recent poll by Elon University in September of 2003
shows us that although support is only at, I mean, just less than 43
percent -- 42.6 percent -- that the opposition still doesn`t even reach a
majority. Opposition is not -- is only at 46.5, and if we look at it by
age, it is clear that a majority of young people -- 18 to 30 years old --
in North Carolina absolutely support same sex marriage. Given those
realities, how optimistic are you about this case?
GUESS: I`m very optimistic about this case because there`s been an
incredible groundswell of organizing across the state of North Carolina.
The Campaign for Southern Equality is doing incredible organizing and acts
of civil disobedience in North Carolina and across the South to try to tell
the real personal stories behind same gender couples. And also we`re being
joined in this lawsuit although the UCC is the lead plaintiff. We have
some outstanding local clergy and same gender couples that are plaintiffs
as well, and they represent a broad coalition of Reform Judaism,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and your own Unitarian Universalist.
So we`re proud of the ways in which we`re telling stories which are the
ways that we really make a difference in this effort.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, let me come to my table a little bit. I`d love
to get your responses -- what do you think about this strategy, Mike?
SKOLNIK: Well think if you look at young people it`s interesting because
68 percent are in North Carolina -- but it`s Republican young people.
SKOLNIK: Sixty-one percent support gay marriage. So I think Republicans
as a strategy should start thinking different of gay marriage or they may
be out of a job pretty soon because young folks are getting older, they`re
voting, they`re voting in big blocks and this is -- you know -- it`s an
uncommon strategy for the faith-based community. As we just spoke about
sports, you know, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe coming on favor of gay
marriage. These uncommon folks coming to the table on gay marriage are
persuading young folks to look at this differently.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so I love that idea that there is this kind of --
there`s this age difference -- that`s part of what`s going on, right, for
the Republican Party. But even more than that, Katon, we were looking and
this attorney general, the one who is actually named here, said -- it`s
been some time ago now -- but he actually said that North Carolina should
change its laws to allow marriage equality, that he believes in basic
fairness, but did also say that he had a responsibility, a duty as AG in
North Carolina to make the arguments in court. But this certainly is not
someone who`s like, rah, rah, I can`t wait to do this.
And let me just also say the Arkansas attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, on
Saturday in A.P. managing editors` convention said, "I want to tell you I
do support marriage equality, I do believe Arkansans should have the right
to be equal in the eyes of the law." Are y`all coming? Are you coming
with us? Are there bumpkins comin`, Katon?
DAWSON: Let`s take a -- let`s unpack it a little bit. And we`ll throw the
African-American churches in there on the pro-life issues and same-sex
marriage issues. And they`re going to be heard in North Carolina. They`re
coming and they`re going to be heard. And they`re going to be on the other
side of this isle in my opinion. You`re also sitting in a state that`s
heavily Southern Baptist, you`re going to hear that coming. So it`s going
to be a lot more than a one-sided fight.
The Attorney General Cooper, he`s running for governor in years, OK? He`s
going to run against McCrory, who`s a pretty --
HARRIS-PERRY: And let the church say amen.
DAWSON: What`s going to happen here is the numbers -- as good as they
sound -- the electoral numbers don`t add up. Those were ballot measures to
change the constitution and both on the Democratic side and the Republican
side, it upheld. So, if you`re going to go into electoral politics, that
issue lost in North Carolina. Now, is the temperature changing? It is.
North Carolina also put some stuff in there for civil unions --
DAWSON: -- that`s going to be another part of the argument.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Reverend Guess in Cleveland -- one last question. You
know we`ve been covering "Moral Mondays" here, we`ve been talking about the
centrality of North Carolina. How much do you see this as being part of
kind of a larger movement within the context of North Carolina?
GUESS: Well there`s incredible organizing of course happening in North
Carolina on many fronts and this is one of the significant issues and
that`s why there`s a significant coalition behind this. I agree with you
that this is about changing hearts and not minds, but this is also a
constitutional argument that we have a very strong case right here. This
law in North Carolina is akin to North Carolina telling pastors that they
can`t baptize babies until they have seen a birth certificate or that a
pastor can`t less your Harley Davidson unless you have a valid license
plate. It is a very clear overreach by the state of North Carolina. It`s
not only absurd, it`s blatantly unconstitutional.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank to Reverend Ben Guess in Cleveland. Also thank you to
Katon Dawson, Michael Skolnik and Cristina Beltran. I just want to say one
last -- my favorite thing about marriage equality this week actually came
from Dolly Parton in an interview with the "Daily Mail." Her reason for
supporting marriage equality? "I think gay couples should be allowed to
marry. They should suffer just like us heterosexuals. Ha ha ha, that
cracked me up. More when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week a Pentagon study found that reports of rape and
sexual assault were up 50 percent in the last year, a sign that military
personnel are growing more willing to come forward and speak out. But the
report also came under sharp criticism. New York state senator -- excuse
me -- New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been lobbying for
reforms and prosecuting sexual assault cases, says even if reports are up,
the numbers of convictions aren`t.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, (D) NEW YORK: Your percentage of convictions?
One out of a hundred. And how many of those went to jail? Very few. It`s
a huge problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged that his work on
this issue is far from complete, saying, "We have a long way to go before
we get close to solving his problem." That`s not the only news this week
on efforts to combat sexual assault. On Tuesday the White House issued its
report to prevent sexual assaults on college campuses. Vice President Joe
Biden had this stern message.
BIDEN: No man has a right ever to raise his hand to a woman. Period. End
of story. It is assault if they do.
HARRIS-PERRY: The vice president went on to urge men to be part of the
fight against campus rape. My next guests were both invited to the White
House for Tuesday`s event. And it`s had a huge impact in the way colleges
are handling sexual assault. The two filed a Title IX complaint with the
Department of Education`s Office for Civil Rights against their alma mater,
UNC Chapel Hill for that school`s handling of sexual assault crimes. They
have also helped other students to do the same at dozens of colleges and
universities. Please welcome back to the program Annie Clark and Andrea
Pino. Nice to see you.
Females: Hi, nice to see you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what was it like in the White House week -- to be there
when this was happening?
ANNIE CLARK, STUDENT WHO FILED LAWSUIT AGAINST UNC: That was great to see
so many advocates who had worked for so long all in one room. Obviously
not everybody was able to be there, and to see the vice president give such
an impassioned speech. It was great. Obviously these are very much first
steps of a larger conversation and change that needs to happen, but it was
HARRIS-PERRY: Well it may be actually like the third or fourth step. I
mean, you all have been doing steps one, two, three and so you know cover
of "The New York Times" this morning -- "Fight Against Sexual Assault Holds
Colleges to Account." So you`ve got the White House taking account, you`ve
got "The New York Times" front page. What has been the journey to get
ANDREA PINO, STUDENT WHO FILED LAWSUIT AGAINST UNC: I mean it`s definitely
been a very long journey here, you know, from our own assault experiences,
you know, to coming forward to our school to then filing complaints and
then helping students at dozens at other colleges. It`s been a long way.
And you know initially when we first did it, we were ridiculed and told
that, you know, it was really all in our heads and we were in over our
heads, you know, over everything that we were doing and yet, you know, now
the White House and the Senate is talking about it. I mean, clearly, you
know, we`re all in this together.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s always with sexual assault. Victims are told, right?
We`re always told that this is our fault, that`s it`s happening to you --
and that -- and it`s not what you think it is, right? I mean, that is
actually sort of that cycle of abuse. So I`m wondering in the moment when
the White House is now taking account of it, now saying you`re not crazy,
you didn`t make this up, this is real -- how much do you think that will
shift the conversation -- both for the legal work and the activism work?
CLARK: Yes, definitely. I think we have two sides -- we have the
prevention side which is culture change and that`s something we can`t
legislate, but then there`s also the policies, and that`s the very nuance
that`s with the Department of Education . Even, for example, upping their
staff from clearing it (ph) and that`s 12 people from the entire country
looking at these complaints.
CLARK: So to get more funding, more staffing. I mean, those are -- those
are easy. But in terms of policies and holding schools accountable, that`s
going to take a little bit longer, but we`re getting there.
PINO: But I think it`s also, you know, we know now that we`re not alone,
right? And that was actually the title of the White House`s
recommendations -- "Not Alone" -- and that`s something that`s something
that`s definitely a big change from just a year ago. When we first came
forward and we definitely felt alone and now you see this trending
everywhere, Title IX was trending on Twitter, trending on Facebook and the
President`s talking about it, Gillibrand is talking about it, Republicans
are talking about it. It`s definitely not an issue that`s going to leave
the national agenda, and that`s something we`re really excited about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Remind people what Title IX has to do with this. I think
for a lot of folks they hear Title IX and they think girls` athletics.
PINO: Yes, I think it`s definitely -- you know -- we`re definitely doing a
good job of explaining that to people, and you know, Title IX guarantees
gender equity in education, you know, so regardless of gender, this
guarantees transgender students, gender non-conforming students, women and
men an equal educational experience. So if a university has rampant sexual
assault, there simply cannot be an equal educational experience. Women
cannot, you know, go to libraries, they don`t feel safe at night, they
don`t feel safe walking to their dorms, they don`t feel safe going to any
other school events. It just doesn`t guarantee an equitable education and
that`s what Title IX`s in there for.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know I`m wondering if there is an opportunity for
colleges and universities which see themselves as competitive for their
best students to actually sort of take a leadership role and therefore, you
know, be able to attract the best students, the best faculty, better donors
by saying `We`re on top of this.` Look at how well we are doing. Is there
anybody who you think is doing this well in the country?
PINO: It`s getting there. I mean I think it`s definitely -- I think now
with all of this attention being put to it, you know, by the White House
and definitely by all of Washington, schools are starting to at least talk
about it. But even just four years ago, you know, I`m a senior graduating
next week and, you know --
PINO: -- Thanks -- and we started, you know, when I started the whole
college tour, no one talked about it. You know, we had the blue light
talk, we had, you know, we had zero numbers across the board, and it seemed
like campuses are very safe but they`re not. You know, and I think schools
are starting to really respond to these recommendations. They`re
definitely not being proactive about it. You know at some point someone
has to and that`s because parents are going to start being much more
informed, and as the media continues covering it, parents are going to know
to ask those hard questions beyond just the blue light.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, you know I have of course spent my entire career on
college campuses, first as a student and then as a teacher but the parental
side -- the part where I now have a middle school girl and we`re starting
to think about college and I was thinking about the President also having
daughters who are going off to college. And suddenly when you start
thinking about it as a parent, you start thinking wait a minute, we got to
get this solved. Thank you for your activism, for your work, for your
tireless efforts and for being survivors, not victims. Greatly, greatly, -
PINO: Thank you.
CLARK: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- greatly appreciate it. That is our show for today and
for this week. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you
next Saturday at 10 a.m. eastern, but right now, coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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