May 31, 2014
Guests: Shirley Watkins Bowden, Marion Nestle, Yolanda Pierce, Bill
Telepan, Laurie David, Kelly Baden, Jenn Pozner, Jonathan Metzl, Byron
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. When does
an act of violence feel like a terror attack?
Plus, the first lady in a messy food fight.
And remembering Dr. Maya Angelou.
But first, how this week millions of Americans found their access at risk.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Five years ago this morning, Dr.
George Tiller was attending services at his church in Wichita, Kansas. Dr.
Tiller ran a women`s health care clinic in Wichita as a practicing
physician of almost 40 years and he was widely known as one of the few
doctors in the country to provide termination services for women in the
final trimesters of pregnancy. Even though these late-term abortions are
extremely rare, they have been heavily targeted by anti-abortion groups.
And as one of the few physicians known to provide this service, Tiller,
too, was a target. Despite years of protests, Dr. Tiller continued to do
his work. Despite extremists bombing his medical facility in 1986, Dr.
Tiller continued to do his work. Despite an assassination attempt in 1993,
Dr. Tiller continued to do his work. But then five years ago today on May
31ST, 2009 .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we turn to the shooting death of a doctor in
Wichita, Kansas, named George Tiller. He had long been a target of anti-
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After weathering years of attacks at his Wichita home
and abortion clinic, Dr. George Tiller was killed in his church.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Tiller was not doing his work that morning. Dr. Tiller
was handing out the church bulletin in the lobby of the Reformation
Lutheran Church at the start of Sunday services. An armed anti-abortion
extremist walked into the church, shot Dr. Tiller and killed him. Within
days of Dr. Tiller`s murder, his medical facility was closed. Last year
after learning that women in her community would have to drive nearly 200
miles to access abortion, Julie Burkhart who`d worked with Dr. Tiller
decided to reopen the clinic. And with the clinic now open for more than
just a year, the threat to those doing the work continues. Let us take a
look at an MSNBC.com original report.
JULIE BURKHART, SOUTH WIND WOMEN`S CENTER: That`s what gives me the
butterflies in my stomach is I think that some people are going to show up
who might be supportive, might not.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. George Tiller became the target.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`d endured decades of protests and attacks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the past the clinic has been bombed. Tiller had
been shot by a woman demonstrator outside his clinic.
BURKHART: It`s difficult when you have people living in your community who
actively work to destroy what you do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the first murder of an abortion doctor in the
United States in more than a decade.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By a gunman in his church.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Tiller`s clinic was closed down after his murder.
It has been vacant in Wichita ever since.
BURKHART: But I don`t want it to be that way forever. We`re stronger
together if we stand up for women`s rights.
Yes, so when I walk around the building and in the building, I`m constantly
reminded of Dr. Tiller. I think about him a lot. This is Dr. Tiller when
he was in the Navy. Those are nice photos of him. After Dr. Tiller was
murdered in May of 2009, his clinic was closed until we reopened it a year
ago. We are happy to meet our one-year mark. Part of our mission is to
make sure that people understand that if you live in this part of the
country, you know, women need abortions here just like women need abortions
wherever. And that we want to be open and accessible to people. Which is
a little scary, because I`m sure you saw the protesters out at our gate,
you know, and they try to harass us, intimidate us and they would like to
see us fail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mom, dad, have mercy on your babies!
BURKHART: They track our movements, our vendors, our patients.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the name of Jesus!
BURKHART: Some of the anti-choice protesters have come to my house. They
had a sign that they had right here and it said "Where`s your church?" My
former boss, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered in his church. The
interpretation is not good. It`s we`re coming to kill you.
HARRIS-PERRY: She receives death threats. Her boss was murdered for doing
this work. Still, Julie Burkhart shows up to do her job. She does not
believe women should have to drive 200 miles to access termination
services. She is willing to risk her life to ensure women have access.
But even as she confronts enormous risk to do her work, lawmakers across
the country are working overtime to make it increasingly difficult to have
an abortion, especially in the South. Wednesday Oklahoma Governor Mary
Fallin signed a bill requiring clinic physicians to have admitting
privileges at nearby hospitals. And Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has
tweeted his intent to sign a law requiring admitting privileges after it
passed the state legislature last week. That makes six states and likely a
seventh with an admitting privileges law in effect. Laws that make it
extremely difficult for clinics to stay open.
Now, if, like me, you are not a medical doctor or a hospital administrator,
these laws, these admitting privileges may sound basically innocuous, but
it`s not as simple as the name suggests. Some hospitals only allow doctors
who live in state to get privileges. And due to concerns about their
safety, some doctors who provide terminations services at clinics make the
decision not to live in the same area as the clinics. Instead they live in
a different state, they fly in and out for work. Some hospitals require
doctors to admit a certain number of patients to the hospital each year in
order to get privileges, but abortion is a safe medical procedure. So safe
that less than 0.3 percent of patients experience complications that
require hospitalization. On Thursday, a doctor testified against an
admitting privileges law passed last summer in Wisconsin telling the judge
that he had been trying to get admitting privileges for months, but could
not because he hasn`t had to admit a patient to the hospital in a decade.
If those doctors can no longer provide abortions, what choice is left for
women? In the South, it`s an increasingly marginal one. See this group of
states? Admitting privileges have now been passed into law in four of these
states. Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama. And as we mentioned
earlier, Louisiana is expected to follow soon. Although they have been
blocked by the court pending appeal in two, Mississippi and Alabama, if the
laws survive, those challenges, the number of clinics in this region could
drop from an estimated 38 to 11. 11 clinics for more than 18 million
Today we remember the murder of Dr. George Tiller. The rage of his
assassin enough to kill is not representative of the broader anti-choice
movement. But the level of terror that he experienced as a daily reality
while defending women`s health and rights, while doing legal and
constitutionally protected work and risking his life in the process that is
something physicians contend that they deal with when they try to provide
termination services even today. It means that the pool of those
physicians is smaller and the state legislatures pushing policy that will
reduce the number of clinics, those physicians become an even more visible
target. Joining me now is Kelly Baden, policy and advocacy advisor for the
center for reproductive rights and from Los Angeles MSNBC national reporter
Irin Carmon who was recently in Wichita, Kansas to report the documentary
we showed a portion of earlier. Nice to have you both here.
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
KELLY BADEN, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: Hey, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me start with you. Talk to me a bit about your
experiences in Wichita. I felt a certain kind of nervousness even showing
the portion of the documentary, showing the home. Talk to me about how
folks there are experiencing the kind of post-Tiller era.
CARMON: Well, you know, as Julie Burkhart says, women need abortions in
Wichita and the area just like they need them anywhere else. You know,
these policy makers who are seeking to stand in the way of women have not
done anything to change the fact that people want to end their pregnancies,
that they have need in their lives that they cannot add to their family at
this point. So I think that there`s a tremendous sense of responsibility
among the folks in Wichita. You know, it`s easy enough to live in New York
and California and to talk about a woman`s right to choose, but every day
that these folks go to work, they`re putting themselves in the line of
fire. They`re unable to live what we would consider normal lives. And the
doctor who flies in from Chicago, who we also interviewed on MSNBC.com, Dr.
Justin (ph), has found that even these protesters even came and found her
in her life in Chicago. She lost her job, she lost relationships close to
her. So this is an enormous sacrifice that the folks who are in the
abortion provision industry are doing. And for it, they`re painted as
villains, they`re painted as taking advantage of women. But every day that
they go to work, they make what we consider these vital rights possible.
HARRIS-PERRY: Irin, hold for me for just one second. I want to come up to
you, Kelly, because it does seem to me that part of how that becomes
possible, this kind of targeting of these physicians, is because abortion
is operating in this kind of segregated medical space. I mean the fact is
I don`t know when somebody is going into the local university hospital near
me, whether they`re going for an abortion or for a colonoscopy or for
anything else. Is there some way that we can imagine the provision of this
legal constitutionally protected medical procedure that doesn`t expose the
physicians to this kind of shaming and danger?
BADEN: Right. I mean abortion is just one part of a comprehensive
reproductive health care experience in a woman`s life, right? It`s
incredibly common. One in three women in her reproductive age will have an
abortion. And it`s an experience that is part of a woman`s whole
reproductive health care and family planning throughout her life. So for
women who experience abortion, it`s not some stand-alone health care
procedure, it`s part of their everyday health care procedure within the
context of their life. So this idea that abortion is somehow separate and
needs to be treated differently and subject to different rules and
regulations and policies is just not -- it`s not accurate with what
abortion actually is.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, actually, let me go to exactly that, Irin. Because part
of this - I mean, you know, there`s been this shift that we`ve seen in the
kind of anti-abortion activity and policy and this sort of targeting not so
much the women anymore, although there`s some of that, but targeting now
the physicians and specifically the spaces, the clinics. Talk to me about
admitting privileges, because I was -- I was just appalled to learn that if
you perform colonoscopies, you know, that there`s a much higher rate of
death from colonoscopies than from abortion and yet if you perform
colonoscopies in these kinds of ambulatory centers, you don`t have to have
CARMON: Right. Well, this is law and politics interfering with medicine.
It`s certainly not medically indicated that you need to have admitting
privileges at a hospital. If God forbid there`s an emergency you can be
admitted to the hospital like anyone else in the rare occasion, but that
But because abortion is .
HARRIS-PERRY: Before you go on, I just want you to say that again.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because I just - I don`t want that to be missed. That if
you are walking down the street and you have a heart attack, you can be
admitted to a hospital. And if you are having a medical procedure like an
abortion, you can be admitted to a hospital. Your doctor not having
admitting privileges has nothing to do with that.
CARMON: Your doctor probably shouldn`t leave the clinic where the doctor
is performing care. Emergency physicians are trained to deal with these
sorts of complications. They may be similar from the complications of a
miscarriage. If you ask any mainstream medical provider, they will say
that this is a matter of politics. And the reason it`s a matter of law is
because we still have a constitutional right to abortion in this country.
Policymakers are unable to say their real intentions, which is blocking
women who desire to end their pregnancies, so they have to say that this is
about women`s health. But everybody knows what this is really about. They
have not been able to end the need for abortion. They have not been able
to change women`s minds. They know that if they go after the women and
they look like they`re crushing women`s rights. So instead what they`re
choosing to do is to say that the doctors are substandard providers,
despite the fact that there`s no evidence that that`s the case.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kelly, so when Irin says that this is about politics, it
really is. We`re just sort of taking a look at state regulations. The 27
states have policies regulating abortions. 25 states require facilities to
meet standards for ambulatory surgical centers. 25 requiring providers to
have an affiliation with a local hospital. And 13 states actually
specified the size of the room, the corridor width, 12 states requiring
facilities to set a distance from - I mean what are we talking about here?
BADEN: We`re talking about a very clear, calculated, coordinated strategy
in which policy makers did everything they can to try to enact policies to
get women to change their minds and not choose abortion, right? Waiting
periods, ultrasound requirements, all of those things were aimed at trying
to stop women from choosing abortion. And when that didn`t work and women
still chose abortion because women need abortion care, they have now
switched to this other strategy, which is making it so difficult to provide
in the state that clinics are forced to close their doors. And as Irin
said, that`s what admitting privileges are. It`s a business agreement
between a hospital and a provider that is politically - is subject to
politics, and so it leaves abortion access in the state subject to the whim
of a hospital`s decision ultimately and that`s what we`re seeing in
Mississippi where the last clinic is, you know, hanging on by the thread of
the court as we figure out whether or not it can stay open. And, you know,
a very clear point by the governor there to say I want to be an abortion-
free state and this is the way I`m going to do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: But we have really only a few seconds, Irin, but let me just
ask, is there any hope, is there any place where things are getting better
and not worse?
CARMON: Well, the doctor who travels to Wichita every week is 32 years
old. When you talk to physicians who are in the business of abortion
provision, they say that the bright spot is that the younger generation
gets it. If they don`t step up, there isn`t going to be anyone there to
provide for these women. So I think that there is a new awareness of the
fact that if not me, then who is it going to be.
HARRIS-PERRY: Irin Carmon in Los Angeles this morning, thank you for
joining us and thank you for your continued reporting on this matter.
CARMON: Thank you so much, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Also I want to let everyone know that you can see more of
Irin`s documentary on MSNBC.com right now. Also thanks to Kelly Baden
right here in New York. Thank you for being here this morning.
But we have a lot to get to this morning, including the latest on the VA
scandal, the aftermath of last week`s rampage in California, and the first
lady`s big food fight.
But up next, the campaign to wage against the machines scores a victory in
an unlikely place. An incredible story of success, yes, success within our
political system. Whew, we need a palate cleanser, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama
issued a simple challenge to the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Tonight, let`s
declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time
should have to live in poverty and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: By his 2014 State of the Union speech, President Obama noted
that at least five states had accepted his challenge and raised their own
minimum wage and then the president upped the ante.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring
federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair wage of
at least $10.10 an hour because if you cook our troops` meals or wash their
dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And he didn`t stop there. The push for a higher minimum
wage is still a recurring theme for the president. So far Congress has not
climbed aboard, but their constituents have. In a recent Pew poll, 73
percent supported raising the minimum wage. So did 90 percent of Democrats
and more than half of Republicans. Still, all of the states in enacting
minimum wage increases this year have been led by Democrats. Until this
week when Michigan became the seventh state and the first with a
Republican-led government to do so. On Tuesday, Governor Rick Snyder
signed legislation increasing Michigan`s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour by
2018, a move that could improve the earnings of some 96,000 Michigan
Now, it sounds like Republicans are coming around, at least in Michigan,
but it`s worth noting Snyder is up for re-election in November and he just
signed the bill one day before labor activists turned in boxes of
signatures to support a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage
even higher to $10.10. It`s unclear if the ballot measure will still be
put to a vote in November, but it is clear that the popular support for a
higher minimum wage is making a difference politically.
Up next, we`re going to shift our focus to the tragedy in California. It
wasn`t just an act of violence. I want to claim it was also an act of
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week we were witness to a despicable act of violence
outside Santa Barbara, California. The young man took the lives of six
people, injured 13 and lost his own life. The story is becoming
disturbingly commonplace, the loss of innocent lives, the grieving parents
of victims, the shattered peace of a community, the sorrow and distress of
the assailant`s family. But the California homicides were more than heart-
breaking, they were terrorizing. So often after an act of mass violence,
we`re left asking why. But this perpetrator told us the reason for his
rampage. This man was angry with women. Not just the women who lived in
his neighborhood, who were members of sororities at the nearby University
of California, Santa Barbara, this man was angry with all women. In a 141-
page document he wrote, "Ii cannot kill every single female on earth, but I
can deliver a devastating blow that will shake all of them to the core of
their wicked hearts." It`s his clear misogynist motivation and the videos
and treatises documenting it that moves this act of violence into the
category of terrorism.
Terrorism never has the immediate victims as the sole target. Terrorism
subjects whole categories of people to the fear that they could be targeted
solely for their identity. Subjected to brutality and even murder. That
was this killer`s goal. And honestly since last week, many women have felt
more afraid. Now, we know we`re not actually any more vulnerable today
than we were last Friday afternoon before this happened.
And yet many are wondering if the stakes are higher than we`ve ever
imagined. If you could be risking your life by turning down a potential
suitor or simply ignoring a catcall on the street. Joining me at the table
now are Jenn Pozner, founder and executive director of Women in Media News
and also Jonathan Metzl, professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University.
Thanks for being here, both of you. So, Jonathan, here`s my question.
After, you know, we talked briefly last week but we`ve had an opportunity
to read and see so much more. Is misogyny a mental illness? And if it is,
should it be a mental illness that should keep someone from being able to
purchase a gun?
JONATHAN METZL, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MEDICINE, HEALTH AND SOCIETY,
VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Well, the short answer is yes. The long answer is,
you know, I left the show last week actually feeling almost kind of
depressed that here we go again, we`ve had this shooting. And .
HARRIS-PERRY: I almost don`t even want to see you on the show because .
METZL: I love seeing you, we`re friends, but I thought here we go again.
This is going to be another blame issue of, oh, mental illness caused it
and it`s this diagnosed mental illness that caused it. And I think what
we`ve seen in the aftermath of the shooting is we`ve actually shifted this
conversation from the individual pathology of an individual shooter into a
broader conversation about what the shooter represented in a way, which was
men who mistake conquest for intimacy and respond with violence when they
don`t get what they want. In a way I think gender has been the kind of
white elephant in the room of a lot of these mass shootings and we`ve been
too slow to recognize the role of gender and misogyny in this, and I
actually felt almost encouraged that, you know, in a way what we`ve seen as
a response to this gun proliferation rhetoric isn`t less guns, it`s
feminism in a way. I mean yes, all women and all these conversations that
have been happening have been very encouraging as rhetorics to displace
this crazy masculinized rhetoric of guns.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is useful. And I think, Jonathan, you saw -
Jonathan, I talked about it last week and we`ve had this since, but, Jen in
a certain way and you`ve said this to me before, you`ve been waiting more
than a decade to have this conversation in part because this -- the favor
that this shooter does, the one thing within the context of this horror is
because he says this is about misogyny, we can then talk about this as
being about misogyny and not about just an individual.
JENN POZNER, FOUNDER & EXEC. DIR. WOMEN IN MEDIA: Yes. And it`s true.
I`ve been waiting to have this conversation for 16 years. In 1998, two
elementary school boys in Jonesboro went and gunned down four of their
female classmates and their female teacher because one of them said no girl
is going to break up with me. And at the time all the media coverage was
what could possibly have made this happen? It must be the rap music. What
could have made this happen? It must be violent video games. It must be -
code - the breakdown of the urban family, but you know what that code is.
And nowhere in that discussion was it must be what they said it was, which
was this entitlement to female attention, this entitlement to female
bodies. It must be sexism.
And I wrote at the time, because I`m a media critic, I wrote if media and
in particular journalists weren`t going to investigate and name this as a
gender-based hate crime, they weren`t going to tell the public what the
warning signs are, media would be continuingly complicit in more of such
crimes. And then for 16 years since, the Amish shootings, the Virginia
tech shootings. Most people do not remember, and at the time I kept saying
this is a man who stalked women on campus, this is a man who - a female
teacher said she didn`t feel safe with .
HARRIS-PERRY: Including the K.G. .
POZNER: Yeah, that was in the K.G. County (ph). And still the coverage
was it must be something else. It must not be misogyny. Then the Sodini
health club murders that must be misogyny. This time we finally are having
this conversation in part because feminists have been having this
conversation online for so many years.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so here`s the hard part. And there`s a lot of hard
POZNER: Yeah. So many. But I want to take just a moment and listen - I
want to listen to the father. This is hard for me to listen to, but I want
to listen to him because as much as now we have this opportunity to have
this conversation, it is over the bodies.
HARRIS-PERRY: . of these dead boys and girls. So I want to listen to a
father for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MARTINEZ, FATHER OF THE VICTIM: Chris died because of craven,
irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What
about Chris`s right to live? When will this insanity stop?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Mr. Martinez in that moment is capturing that sense of
when will this stop? He lays it at the feet in part of the NRA and yet
part of what I thought was interesting, and you brought this to our
attention, Jonathan, is that it`s not just the NRA in the sense of like gun
ownership, but you actually talk about it as the NRA attaching guns to
masculinity and reminded us of the Bushmaster man card reissued. This
sense of like this is what your masculinity, which your manhood is a part
METZL: It kind of struck me this week that in a way what`s so problematic
about the proliferation we`ve seen, it`s not just the proliferation of
guns, it`s the proliferation of a particular kind of masculinity that`s
linked to it. That`s all about, you know, these guns are a replacement for
your anxieties about being a man. These guns represent something that you
have to, you know, protect your family and be a man. And in a way, you
know, that`s probably a message that most people can handle, but what we`re
seeing in the Rodger shooting is if you`re slightly kind of on the edge or
something like that. I mean his manifesto was full of this kind of thing
of I`m going to reclaim, you know, my masculinity, I`m going to be the
perfect gentleman and all these kinds of things, and it was - even in a way
you can see this message of guns as, you know, what psychiatrists call
phallic replacements that is not at all about what I think the constitution
intends, which is protecting our country. It`s about, you know, refine a
particular kind of manhood and I think in a way as I was saying, I think
ironically the answer to that following the yesallwomen # on Twitter is a
feminist response. I think that feminism is the voice that`s been missing
in this conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s exactly we`ll take a break and we`ll go to, as
soon as we come back, the social media reaction to the tragedy in
California. Specifically what is meant when we say #yesallwomen. That`s
HARRIS-PERRY: In the aftermath of the killings last week outside Santa
Barbara, hash tag took shape, #yesallwomen. Women used it to describe the
common misogyny and violence they experience as well as the precautions
they take to protect themselves. Some examples, "I have a boyfriend is the
easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another
man more than you." When women set boundaries, men think that`s cue to
start getting more creative with figuring out ways to violate them. I
shouldn`t have to hold my car keys in my hand like a weapon and check over
my shoulder every few seconds when I walk at night. This not shows how the
hash tag exploded around the world, accumulating more than one million
tweets at its peak, seeing more than 60,000 tweets hash tagged #yesallwomen
Joining our table now is Byron Hurt, filmmaker and anti-sexism activist and
also, Yolanda Pierce, associate professor of African-American religion and
literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. And I wanted to start with
you, Yolanda, in part because the speed with which that moved across the
earth and that sense of yes all women and I kept thinking, you know, I have
some angst about the yes all women, but the thing about it that seemed
critically important was laying on the table we spent a lot of life energy,
mental energy, emotional energy, trying not to be victims of violence. And
just imagine what we might accomplish in the world if we weren`t using the
energy to do that.
YOLANDA PIERCE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF RELIGION AND LITERATURE, PRINCETON:
So, one of the things that`s important to me to note is that people keep
saying, well, not just hash tag activism. But the truth of the matter is
that here people who feel like they don`t have a voice in other spaces, and
so they`re using Twitter to say this is happening to me and I need you to
listen to me. And in those 140 characters, a lot of complex information is
being conveyed about women`s experiences on a regular basis, including how
difficult it is for women to just go about their daily lives and also the
complexity, for instance, for women of color who disproportionately deal
with some of the harassment that they receive. So #activism actually has a
place if it`s raising awareness about experiences that it seems to me that
the rest of mainstream media wants to ignore.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I mean you put your finger right on my primary angst.
Which is whenever I hear yes all women, I always think all women are always
a little different. We want to see the diversity within the complex idea
that is womanhood, but that said there were so many things that did feel
like the yes, all women. But then, Byron, of course, the immediate
response or I`m not exactly sure of what order, but the kind of brother to
the yes all women was not all men and this kind of defensive position of,
yes, those may be your experiences, dear, but some of us are good guys and
mostly that just made me very sleepy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like I just felt like - just exhausted, right?
BYRON HURT, FILMMAKER: Yeah. Well, I mean I think that`s a pretty typical
response. You know, men have a really difficult time hearing women share
their stories about their victimization or their fear or their concern
about their physical and sexual safety, right? And so there`s always going
to be some pushback and there`s always going to be guys who want to prove
or assert the fact that they are not like that guy or like that rapist or
like that mass murderer. But I think what women and men need to see are
more men who do not ascribe to traditional notions of manhood, traditional
notions of masculinity that makes these associations with maleness and
violence. And I think a lot of men don`t really have that space to speak
out against that traditional notion of manhood because there`s a tremendous
risk when men speak out against it.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So I want to push and ask a little bit here. Because I
wonder if part of the reason that men have a difficulty in hearing about
the vulnerability, the sexual and physical vulnerability of women is
because it actually does challenge the notion of their capacity to protect
their beloveds, their wives and daughters and friends, so that often we as
women do not report our experiences of vulnerability because we fear. And
in a week in which we lost Dr. Maya Angelou, who wrote about this in cage
bird, how telling turned her mute because when she told her uncles went and
killed her assailant that we actually don`t tell so as not to draw you all
into additional violence on our behalf because that`s the presumption of
what manhood is.
HURT: Well, that`s a very male response, right? Responding violently in
order to protect or to reclaim your sense of loss of manhood or masculinity
that you feel has been violated or disrespected, right? And so, yes, that
does shut certain women down from sharing their stories because they don`t
want the violence or the trauma to continue. So, yes, that happens often.
And again, I think it reveals this connection, this almost -- it`s almost
like it`s a knee-jerk reaction to responding to violence is to reassert
your manhood or your masculinity by using more violence.
POZNER: One of the things that I think is so useful about the #yesallwomen
thread is that it`s sort of like, you know, what if you threw a party and
no one came. This is like, what if you threw a take and back your night
march and everybody in the world came and it wasn`t just feminists, but it
was women who - of all different political stripes, geographic regions,
ethnicities, class status all sharing their experiences from street
harassment to sexual assault to domestic violence, to just general misogyny
and men are listening in. So, even though there`s the predictable,
pathetic trolling on the thread with the rape threats and the hate mail,
there`s also a lot of men learning from this. I`ve gotten e-mails from a
lot of men of good conscience who said I thought I understood what the
women in my life face, I didn`t know it all. Now what can I do and they
are coming ..
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me complicate it a little bit. Because I don`t want
to suggest that - because this is what the yesallwomen can do, because I
want to suggest maybe not this one woman. So this is the Senate candidate
currently in Iowa. I just want to show a recent ad and then come to you on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s not your typical candidate. Conservative Joni
Ernst, mom, farm girl and a lieutenant colonel who carries more than just
lipstick in her purse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So there`s Joni Ernst, she`s loading her gun. I just got to
feel like - we`ve been talking about this masculinity, but clearly she is
performing that as a woman in this political space.
METZL: Well, again, I think it`s important to be very sensitive to that.
And that I don`t think that - I mean there`s a long history of women`s
responses to gender violence. Feminists in the 1970s were very public
about taking karate classes and that was the start of anti-rape protection
and things like that. But I guess that what worries me about ads like that
is we just - it`s like who are we going to arm next in a way. You know,
after the movie theater shooting, we armed the movie guys. And after the
school shooting, we arm the school guys. It`s like, oh, women are the next
place we can sell more guns in a particular way. And I think in a way, you
know, a better response than arming women, which of course is
understandable, is to say we`re critiquing the gender construction that
underlies the proliferation of guns in the first place.
HARRIS-PERRY: There are a lot of pink guns. Let me tell you - you know,
living in Louisiana, going to gun shows is part of the cultural life.
There are a lot of pink guns. And in fact, there are also baby bags with
conceal carry in the -- I know this from being -- having the baby.
OK, still to come, at what point is it a trend, the alarming series of
stories of judges telling convicted rapists no prison time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Women are exceedingly vulnerable to violence at the hands of
men. The numbers are alarming. According to the latest comprehensive
statistics compiled by the Justice Department in 2000, 55 percent of
American women have been physically assaulted and/or raped in their
lifetimes. 25percent of all women say they have suffered violence by an
intimate partner, a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, a date or an ex.
Their assailants are overwhelmingly men. Men commit 92 percent of the
physical assaults against adult women and men commit 100 percent of the
rapes against adult women. Women who have been assaulted are usually
attacked not by strangers, but by the men to whom they are closest. Of the
men who have been raped or physically assaulted, 76 percent were assaulted
by an intimate partner. About 9 percent were attacked by a relative other
than a spouse. And about 17 percent were assaulted by an acquaintance.
Just 14percent of women who were assaulted were assaulted by someone they
didn`t know. By contrast, men who are assaulted are most often assaulted
And these are just the people who survive. In 2012, 992 women were
murdered by their spouse, ex-spouse or boyfriend. 35 percent of female
murder victims that year. And guns are a major factor. Nearly two-thirds
of all women killed by firearms were killed by their intimate male partner.
If an abusive partner has access to a gun, the chance that he will murder
his partner increases fivefold. This is the everyday violence we must be
focused on. But it`s not wholly separate from acts of terrorism like the
one in California, because 18 percent of mass shooters have a prior
domestic violence charge. And the shootings themselves are often sparked
by intimate partner violence. In almost 40 percent of recent mass
shootings, the shooter`s wife, girlfriend or ex was among the victims.
More on this next
HARRIS-PERRY: A culture of misogyny does not exist only in the dark
corners of the Internet or the minds of particularly disturbed individuals,
it`s actually woven into the fabric of our key institutions. We have
reported far too many times in recent months about the unbelievably light
punishments given to convicted rapists by judges. There was a Texas judge
who in April sentenced a young man to probation after he admitted to raping
a girl at school. The judge, a woman, said the 14-year-old victim, quote,
"wasn`t the victim she claimed to be." There was the Delaware judge who
sentenced a wealthy man to probation as part of a deal in which he pled
guilty to raping his toddler daughter. The judge, a woman, noted that the
rapist would not fare well in prison and the judge was later defended by
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of vice president Joe Biden
because it, quote, "was not a strong case." But this month a judge in
Indiana sentenced a man convicted of repeatedly drugging and raping his
wife to house arrest. At the sentencing, the judge reportedly told the
victim she needed to forgive her attacker.
Yeah. All the women at the table are like, oh.
PIERCE: Deep sigh.
HARRIS-PERRY: When it`s that institutionalized, when women judges see
survivors as somehow complicit in their own victimization.
PIERCE: So we have classes of women within our society upon whom we think
that we can and should inflict violence. One of the most disturbing
portions of this case for me in terms of Santa Barbara has been the number
of people weighing in saying, well, if he had only visited a prostitute.
You know, all of those other girls, those pretty blonde girls, those
sorority girls would have been saved, as if it`s OK to inflict violence
upon the bodies of sex workers, the people who are on the margins of
society. But no, no, no, not the sorority girls.
There is ..
HARRIS-PERRY: Go work out your misogyny over there.
PIERCE: Work out your misogyny over there, and the poor folks of color,
the bodies of women of color, the bodies of the sex workers. But not -
violence against women is a systematic, institutional problem, whether
you`re wealthy or whether you`re poor. And until we can talk about how
comprehensive the source of the problem is, we`ll continue to say, well,
oh, so she was violated. That`s OK. But not this person`s daughter.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and the wealth and apparent physiological whiteness
of the assailant may also be part of the story in part because we know that
these - the part of the heart breaker is these parents seemed to be doing
everything these parents could do. They clearly had alerted the
authorities. The authorities stand there and then they walk away. And I
presume it is in part because he self-presents as what we think not an
HURT: I just - I watched I re-watched a documentary film called "Tough
Guise 2" by Jackson Katz, executive produced by Sut Jhally. And Jackson
Katz in that film does a really, really great job talking about this crisis
of white masculinity and this whole notion that these white men are trying
to reclaim their masculinity, right, by exerting violence against girls and
women as a result of ..
HARRIS-PERRY: Demographic shifts?
HURT: Demographic shifts, gains in rights that women have acquired over
the years from the 1960s and 1970s and beyond. And it also speaks to how
white masculinity and white violent masculinity and abusive masculinity
gets a pass because of white privilege. The benefits that white men share
in being white and male and, therefore, no one will have to pay any
attention to their violent behavior or attribute individual acts of
violence or acts of rape against white men because no one sees this as a
collective -- a collective action of violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this - yeah.
METZL: If I could just add, you know, I teach a class at Vanderbilt called
the politics of masculinity and we teach exactly that point. And I think
one of the points that I think people don`t realize is that hegemonic
constructions, what they are called of masculinity, are also incredibly bad
for men. I mean, you know, men die sooner from all these preventable
causes of illness trying to be a tough man. You know, you`re more likely
to die in violence, die in a car wreck. And so, in a way it`s like, you
know, men saying why should I care about this feminist stuff. It`s
actually good for your mortality to pay attention to some of these issues
because this prison of the hegemonic construction of idealize what
masculinity is also very, very bad for men.
POZNER: So I was thinking that one of the things that ties into everything
that everybody has said around the table is that this is really systemic,
right? So whether it`s the judges who sometimes are women who are letting
off these rapists or whether it`s media that - who have up until this crime
looked at misogynistic murders and said that`s not sexist, that`s not part
of it, that is part of why the police, as you said, the family tried to get
help for Elliot Rodger and they walked away saying he`s courteous, he`s
polite. Part of it is because of this white masculinity and white
POZNER: Entitlement. Exactly. And part of it is because media have not
given the warning signs to know. Right, we need to change the systemic .
HARRIS-PERRY: And the other -- the only one other thing I want to add in
here is that so I am in agreement with you around the ways in which both
race privilege and gender privilege and class privilege operate for this
particular shooter. But I also just want to point out that when we think
about the problem, for example, of black male violence, we almost
exclusively think about that violence as it is enacted on other black men,
primarily through kind of urban street violence. We almost never talk
about black male violence vis-a-vis black women`s bodies. So, you know,
what we know is all races of people except for Native American women are
most likely to be victimized by people within their own racial category,
right? So even as we are trying to do the work within, for example, racial
justice, we often are very silent about the ways in which black men`s
violence vis-a-vis black women`s bodies is also part of this story.
POZNER: And then we have Melissa, Alexander being penalized for defending
POZNER: That`s part of this whole systemic problem. Whether it`s
masculinity, whether it`s race privilege, we need to be making these
connections in a large kind of way. It`s why I`m happy we`re having this
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet I`m sad about why we have to have this conversation.
Thank you to Jenn Pozner and to Byron Hurt, I hope that you will come back
again. Although it seems like every time we are together it is behind
madness. And also thanks to Jonathan Metzl for being here. Yolanda is
going to stick around a little bit longer.
Coming up, the first lady`s food fight. First lady Obama like we have
never seen her before and my remembrances of Dr. Maya Angelou. There is
more "Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Everybody look out for flying fruit, because in case you haven`t noticed,
we are smack in the middle of a full-fledged food fight. And the stakes,
namely the federal government`s role in the nutrition and health of
American kids, couldn`t be higher. On one side, we have Congress, and more
specifically House Republicans, who are at the urging of an influential
food industry interest, looking to let some schools off the hook from the
White House`s new rules to make school meals healthier.
In the other corner, we have First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been
America`s most visible and vocal advocate for healthy kids since she first
launched her Let`s Move campaign against childhood obesity in 2010.
Now, the food already has been flying for quite some time. Think back to
2011, just a year after the first lady`s campaign first got moving and a
year after the passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, championed by
the first lady.
At the time, there was no shortage of conservative backlash and response to
the campaign and the first lady herself. There were critical comments
about her physique, the accusations that her promotion of breastfeeding was
ushering the era of a new nanny state and even suggestions that her push to
get Americans walking would somehow endanger pedestrians.
Back then, when First Lady Obama hit back at her critics, it was mostly
with a velvet glove. Here`s what she told an 11-year-old reporter for
scholastic news, who asked her to respond to criticism that the government
shouldn`t be telling people how to eat it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Let`s move is not about telling -- having
government tell people who to do, because government doesn`t have all the
answers. I mean, a problem that`s this big and affects so many people
requires everyone to step up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That soft touch approach was characteristic of First Lady
Obama`s non-confrontational response to opposition, which is why this week,
the food fight got good because this week, the gloves came off. And her
latest foray into the food fight saw some flexing of first lady muscle that
we haven`t seen from our FLOTUS before.
On Tuesday, Mrs. Obama assembled a roundtable in Washington, including
people from cities around the country make the decision about what goes on
the menu in school lunch rooms. The gathering was part of the White
House`s response to a bill backed by House Republicans that would give an
opt-out exemption to schools who say they can no longer afford to comply
with the updated 2010 nutrition standards. It would give those schools a
one-year waiver from the next round of new nutrition rules set to go into
effect this fall.
And according to a "Washington Post" report, backers of the bill were
shocked at the first lady`s decidedly different tone during her meeting
when she had this to say about the legislation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA: Despite these successes, we`re now seeing efforts in
Congress to roll back these new standards and undo the hard work that all
of you, all of us have done on behalf of our kids. And, you know, this is
unacceptable. It`s unacceptable to me not just as first lady, but as a
mother. The last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics
with our kids` health.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was the first lady versus Congress in an in-your-face
kind of way, and she didn`t stop there. She continued to come after them a
day later in a "New York Times" editorial in which Mrs. Obama expands the
battleground of food fight to include not only lunchrooms but also WIC.
That`s the federal program that provides supplemental nutrition to low
income women and their children.
And the house is currently considering a bill that would put white potatoes
on the list of foods that those moms can buy with their WIC money. But
there`s a problem, according to the first lady. In "The Times", she
writes, "Many women and children already consume enough potatoes and not
enough of the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables they need. That`s why
the Institute of Medicine, the nonpartisan, scientific body that advises on
the standards for WIC has said that potatoes should not be part of the WIC
It`s not just Michelle Obama speaking from the East Wing, White House Press
Secretary Jay Carney -- well, you know, he was press secretary at the time,
made clear this week when he told reporters aboard Air Force One that "the
president and first lady both feel very strongly about the need to continue
moving forward when it comes to school nutrition and not allowing politics
to pull us backward."
First Lady Michelle Obama`s emergence as the leading voice of the Obama
administration`s position on food policy has situated her in a unique
historic context among a very short list of first ladies who have stepped
into the middle of the political fray.
Joining me now: Shirley Watkins Bowden, school nutrition consultant, who
was one of the people in the room with First Lady Obama on Tuesday.
Marion Nestle, New York University professor in the Department of Nutrition
Food Studies and Public Health and author of "Eat, Drink, Vote: An
Illustrated Guide to Food Politics."
Still with us, Yolanda Pierce, associate professor of African-American
religion and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary.
And Bill Telepan, executive chef for the nonprofit Wellness in the Schools.
He also helped launch First Lady Obama`s Let`s Move initiative.
Thank you all for being here.
So, did you see a new tone from our first lady this week?
SHIRLEY WATKINS BOWDEN, SCHOOL NUTRITION CONSULTANT: I certainly did, and
rightfully so. This is a real food fight. We are all trying to figure out
why we are in this position. The School Nutrition Association worked
really hard for decades and were very, very supportive of the regulations.
We are baffled that they have made this turn-around and we are trying to
figure out why. It certainly is not about children.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the narrative is that what it`s about is cost and the
difficulty of schools. You know, honestly, as I listen to it -- you know,
maybe this is a stretch, but, dang, it sounds a lot like that all
deliberate speed anxiety that we had 50 years ago about the integration of
YOLANDA PIERCE, PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Some of this is just a
backlash against Mrs. Obama herself. How dare she speak her mind? How
dare this highly educated, highly competent, highly trained woman have
something to say about the nation`s children? And some of this has just
something to do with the fact that she is not taking on just kind of a pet
project as first lady but she`s daring to enter into a political fray.
But she is a citizen and she can do so and she is someone who has the
skills and qualifications to do so. Some of the backlash is the first lady
doing some things that Congress has not allowed her husband to be able to
HARRIS-PERRY: And, interestingly enough, she has a little bit more
political capital than the president to spend. Her favorability ratings
are up to 66 percent with unfavorables down around 29. Whereas POTUS is
better than he was previously, but still around 52.
So, one might think, because I think what I do agree with here is this is
not just a pet project anymore. Once Jay Carney is saying, no, no, no,
they`re in it together. It`s like, you know, J&B, they are here together
to fight this. Suddenly, it looks like, OK, food fighting is not just
about let`s move to the kids, it`s a big story now, political story.
BILL TELEPAN, EXCEC. CHEF, WELLNESS IN THE SCHOOLS: Yes, and what we`re
seeing in the schools is that it`s actually working.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And never mind that the policy is effective, right?
TELEPAN: And the other thing too is it takes a little time. With wellness
in schools, we`ve been in some of the schools for three or four years and
you see the changes in the culture of the school itself. We teach classes
where you ask questions about like you know what olive oil does to you and
kids raise their hand and know about it.
And they attack the salad bars. I mean, some kids do walk by but most of
them go and eat the vegetables. That`s a great way for them to get their
fruits and vegetables. I was just in a school on Thursday and I didn`t see
a lot of kids throwing out -- I see them eating, they`re hungry, and there
are a lot of kids in this nation that rely on that meal, for -- you know,
because they come into school hungry and, you know, why shouldn`t it be
nutritious? Why shouldn`t it be good for them?
HARRIS-PERRY: The language of culture that you just used seems to me to
also be part of what is wrapped up here in the politics. So, you know, I
didn`t know this until I sent my kid to an elite private school, which
hadn`t been part of my childhood or anything, and the food in that school
is utterly different. The presumption that, of course, there would be some
apples sitting around in the hallway for kids to eat and of course there
would be a smoothie bar and a salad bar.
Is part of the politics the presumption that some kinds of kids will get
certain kinds of food? Kids that are from communities where we expect them
to know how to eat it. But in communities where we presume the culture is
that people don`t eat well, then we also should not provide good food at
MARION NESTLE, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: No, this is about politics, it`s not
about school food at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: I see.
NESTLE: It really has to be understood as being about politics because
this was a bipartisan effort. Congress passed this bill. Schools are
doing it just fine. And there are a lot of people who started out by
saying they were not going to let the Obamas do anything. And this is part
of that agenda to keep the president and the first lady from doing anything
at all. I don`t know --
HARRIS-PERRY: Even improving school --
NESTLE: Even improving school meals.
HARRIS-PERRY: Some things just have to be noncontroversial, right?
NESTLE: The word that we`re using in our discussions is incredulous. We
cannot believe that school meals have become a pawn in this fight and that
kids` health is at stake here. When Mrs. Obama took on childhood obesity
as her -- you know, I was just thrilled. I thought, ah, a first lady who`s
interested in the same kind of issues that I am.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right.
NESTLE: Pretty terrific. I don`t know whether she knew what a land mine
she was walking into. Anything about food is political. And you can --
any time you talk about healthy food, there are people who are going to
HARRIS-PERRY: And by people, you mean industries that are going to lose.
NESTLE: Industries are going to lose.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to take a listen just for a moment because the
politics of it became clear to me listening me.
This is Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic from Florida, talking to
Robert Aderholt, Republican from Alabama, about whether this delay is
actually meant to kill the program.
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: So the majority does not
intend to eliminate these nutrition standards and allow school districts to
remain out of compliance?
REP. ROBERT ADERHOLT (R), ALABAMA: Not in this -- not in this bill. I
mean I can say --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, we`re not going to kill it with this bill, we will wait
and kill it with the next bill is how that sounded. I mean, that was a
pretty stunning moment.
BOWDEN: That`s what we`re afraid of. This is just the beginning, the
beginning of a way to destroy the programs. We`ve never seen anything like
this in history of the child nutrition programs. They have never been
politicized before, not ever.
HARRIS-PERRY: But they have been politicized, right, to the extent that
they were about, for example, USDA agricultural subsidies of corn or making
sure everybody has got the milk. They were maybe not partisan, but they
were political previously.
BOWDEN: Well, the program, I guess, we`ve never seen our people politicize
HARRIS-PERRY: In a kind of left-right, Democrat-Republican kind of way.
BOWDEN: Right. They have always joined together to support the program
for children. But they have forgotten about children now. It`s not about
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to talk a little bit about
Michelle Obama, our first lady, doing a kitchen dance with Seattle Seahawks
cornerback Richard Sherman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA: Richard, take me through your final plate.
RICHARD SHERMAN, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Let me tell you, we the best chefs in
the game. When you try with an easy meal, that`s the result you`re going
MICHELLE OBAMA: Wow, Richard, where did you learn how to do all this?
Corn, succotash, salmon cakes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was First Lady Michelle Obama and Seattle Seahawks
cornerback Richard Sherman reenacting his infamous sideline interview with
the health eating twist, in a video released Thursday. The two teamed up
as part of Obama`s Let`s Move campaign which this week upped the ante from
first lady pet project to pure politics, when she went head to head with
Congress over food policy.
First Lady Michelle Obama is speaking out against a House proposal that
would allow some schools to opt out of dietary standards that would
decrease sodium and increase fruits and vegetables and whole grains in
school lunches. Her opposition to the changes pits her against a former
ally, the School Nutrition Association, who originally worked with Let`s
Move as an advocate of the new rules. But now, that group is leading the
call for the opt-out provision citing the financial losses of schools that
are having trouble complying with the standards.
So, that`s the language, is this idea that somehow schools are losing money
because -- one, that kids are hungry because the portions are small and,
two, that schools are losing money because kids won`t pay for the healthy
TELEPAN: Well, the portion sizes are actually the same than before. I
think all they did was -- before you either got a fruit or a vegetable and
now you get a fruit and a vegetable.
HARRIS-PERRY: Imagine that.
TELEPAN: And I think, again, it`s about like putting the plate in front of
the kids and if they`re hungry, they`ll eat it. Do we really want to feed
them burgers and fries all the time? No. I think, you know, you`ve got to
get them this healthy plate of food in front of them so that they can go
into the second half of the day with like a good brain.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you have a children`s menu at your restaurant? As a
parent, one of the things I`m always irritated by is the idea that kids can
just opt out into sort of the least healthy options. They`re not even
asked to in a dining out experience sort of think about, OK, well, maybe I
don`t want the pasta with all that on it but I`ll just take some plain
pasta or I`ll take some green beans or something.
TELEPAN: I don`t present a children`s menu to people at either restaurant,
but, of course, if somebody comes in and their children wants a plate of
buttered pasta, we`ll make it. I was out, one time, we were -- when our
daughter was very, very, very young we walked into this restaurant we
really wanted to try in Vermont and this guy gave me this speech about how,
you know, I want my -- I want all the kids to try the food. I said, yes,
but what happens if I want my kid to try to eat something and we`ll put the
vegetables in it.
But again with my daughter it took time. So, now, she -- every day she
asks for -- she asks for Brussels sprouts, she asks for cauliflower, she`ll
eat broccoli, she`ll eat salmon, she`ll eat these things that are good for
you but it took us time, you know?
HARRIS-PERRY: The key is presenting it.
TELEPAN: You don`t want to be a short order cook as a parent, you know
what I mean? You don`t want to make something for your husband and
something different for each kid, you just put the food out in front of the
table like all of our moms have done.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, this is part of what we want to do in the
role in schools. I want to listen to a Democrat from Connecticut, Rosa
DeLauro, talk about the fact you can`t just give your kids pizza all the
time, even if they always want it, and then I`ll ask you about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ROSA DELAURO (D), CONNECTICUT: I spent four days with my
grandchildren over this weekend, four days. And if they could have had
pizza and French fries at every meal and ended it with some chocolate,
that`s what they would have done. However, I have a responsibility to make
sure that they are eating properly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So we have a responsibility as well. You said in the break
something I just hadn`t thought about. We literally collectively have a
responsibility to the military readiness of our nation to provide our
children with healthy food.
BOWDEN: Exactly. That`s how this program began. It was because the
military was not prepared to go to war, so they thought if we provide good
school nutritious foods, then we would have made these young men ready and
prepared to stand up and fight the battle. Now all of a sudden after all
these years, they want to change this.
For children, this is the best opportunity for them to get a good,
nutritious meal. And we have a responsibility to not only provide it, but
work with the children, work with the families to teach good nutrition and
offer them good food.
NESTLE: Politics makes strange bedfellows. Here we have the military
fighting for healthier school meals, but also 19 former presidents of the
School Nutrition Association. So, the School Nutrition Association is
split and the current leadership is for the waiver. I mean, it`s an
organization that`s very heavily supported by the food industry, and it`s
hard to believe that that doesn`t have something to do with it.
PIERCE: But the battleground that we are seeing politically is happening
on the backs of 7 and 8-year-olds, and we are often losing sight of the
fact that there are hungry children who depend upon this food. There are
children who have had -- only had access to very poor quality food and so
their taste buds have to be trained --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, exactly.
PIERCE: If all you eat are potato chips, the first time you have kale or
spinach it`s disgusting, right? But the battleground is happening on
children, some of whom would be hungry without this food and we are losing
sight of that as we are politicizing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when we come back, we`ll talk about the battleground and
the assailant, the potato.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the feistiest fighters to emerge in the back and
forth over American food policy is, believe it or not, the potato.
White potatoes took a blow this week when they get name checked by First
Lady Michelle Obama who in her "New York Times" editorial cited scientific
data that led to the USDA`s 2009 decision to spurn the spud on the list of
But don`t let that fool you to think the potato is an underdog in this
fight. Because in addition to all those delicious carbs, the potato also
has deep pockets and packs a powerful political punch. The National Potato
Council dropped $180,000 last year on spending and campaign contributions
to win support from lawmakers. More than it spent on lobbying in all of
the years from 2008 to 2012 combined. This year, the council is on track
to set a new record for spending, dropping $60,000 in the first quarter
So far, it looks like all that potato money may be paying off. Earlier
this month, "Politico" reported that the potato lobby may have won the
votes it needs to get back on the WIC list, which has renewed concern from
those on the other side of the fight, including the first lady, that big
food may have a bigger say than science in deciding what and how we eat.
Joining me now from Los Angeles is someone whose new film exposes this very
issue, Laurie David, executive producer of the documentary "Fed Up."
Nice to have you here.
LAURIE DAVID, EXEC. PRODUCER, "FED UP": Great to be here and I`m glad to
see that Michelle Obama is fed up, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, but listen, given that Mr. Potato is making it
rain in Congress, is it a good idea to pick a fight with him?
DAVID: Listen, this is -- this is -- I don`t even think this is about
politics. I disagree with the panel a little bit. I think this is all the
food industry. They are not going to back down and get their products out
of the schools. It`s too big a thing for them.
And we cover this in "Fed Up." You know, pizza as a vegetable. There`s a
company called Schwan (ph) from Minneapolis that has 70 percent of all the
pizza markets in schools. There was no way they were going to not let
pizza be part of the school lunch program, and they won.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, speaking of which, let me take a moment to read the
National Potato Council statement that came to us. This is just one
portion of it. And they write, "We are confident that allowing
participants -- this is in the Women, Infants and Children Program -- to
purchase any fresh fruit or vegetable in the produce aisle reinforces WIC
program`s mission to provide both nutrition and nutrition education for
low-income women, infants and children who are found to be at risk. In
addition, adding inexpensive nutrient-dense potatoes to the basket will
help mothers stretch their dollars and reduce confusion at checkout."
Don`t get me wrong, I get the potato issue, but I also think, yes, why
shouldn`t poor mothers be able to buy a potato?
DAVID: I can tell you one thing and it`s based solely on common sense. We
do not need to be eating more potatoes. Kids don`t need more potatoes. I
mean, French fries is -- that`s the ubiquitous thing that kids are eating
every single day. I mean they`re not really nutritious.
Now, what about sweet potatoes? Now, that would be something that would be
worth fighting for.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there is like a potato segregation situation going on
here? White potatoes no, but orange potatoes, yes?
DAVID: Well white potatoes are not that nutritious and everyone is eating
too much of them. So, we have to bring into the diet the things that have
more nutrition in them, and sweet potatoes is a perfect example. But
fruits and vegetables -- I mean so much of this is really common sense.
And who is protecting our children? I mean, it`s really outrageous. And I
think there`s a whole other piece of this argument which is marketing and
advertising and the fact that kids from the second they are born, they`re
targeted by the food industry and the beverage industry, you know, to get
them eating the least nutritious food possible. And it`s really
outrageous, it really is.
And I can understand why Michelle Obama has been working so hard on this
issue for so many years, why she is fed up, and we should all be fed up.
And, you know, the pushback has to happen. We cannot let the food industry
dictate what our kids should be eating. It`s outrageous.
So, I`m going to follow up this one thing here, because this is I think a
key aspect of the "Fed Up" film, and that is the idea that when we talk
about food-based disease, or when we talk about obesity or type 2 diabetes
in children, for example, we typically talk about it as a matter of
individual responsibility and individual choice. Nobody makes you eat this
or that. Nobody tells you, you have to sit and play the computer game
instead of going for a run.
You guys really push back against that and suggest it is the food
environment. So, let me ask this, if it`s the food environment, how come
so much individual variability within that same food environment?
DAVID: Well, here`s the thing. If you go to the supermarket and you`re
shopping for your family and you see food that says healthy or more fiber
or part of a healthy breakfast, you know, you trust those labels.
But so much of the food in the supermarket is mislabeled. The information
is misleading. There`s so much misinformation out there.
You know, 30 years ago, we took all the fat out of food and now we have
stores filled with low fat and nonfat, but what happened was when they took
the fat out, they poured in the sugar. So now we`re all consuming products
that are full of sugar. We`re not even aware of it.
When you eat dessert you know you`re having something that`s sweet. But
when you`re buying store bought salad dressing or spaghetti sauce or
yogurt, you don`t realize how much sugar is in that. Of course, the labels
Sugar is represented by grams. Nobody knows what a gram is. You know what
a teaspoon is. Why doesn`t it say teaspoon. Of course the daily
recommended amount for sugar is not listed on a single label.
So, people are eating things that are making them sick and making them fat
without even being aware of it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Laurie David in Los Angeles, both for "Fed Up"
and for your passion on this issue.
Thank you right here at the table to Shirley Watkins Bowden, and to Marion
Nestle, also to Yolanda Pierce, and to Bill Telepan.
I am going to just really spend the rest of the morning eating grapes,
because I`m stress out.
Still to come this morning, remembering Dr. Maya Angelou and my letter of
the week. No more sugar for me, I`m done, this week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is out. Embroiled
in a weeks-long scandal over the treatment of veterans at V.A. hospitals,
the retired four-star general`s service with the Obama administration came
to a close with this announcement by the president yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A few minutes ago, Secretary
Shinseki offered me his own resignation. With considerable regret, I
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The move may have been inevitable, as more than 100 members
of Congress from both parties have been calling for his resignation. And,
yes, it may have been necessary. But one man`s resignation is not the
solution to systemic failure.
That`s why my letter this week goes to one of the leaders in Washington who
had the opportunity to address the needs of our nation`s veterans and chose
Dear Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, it`s me, Melissa.
Now, you were quick to praise the resignation of Secretary Shinseki
yesterday, and that`s fine. Sometimes the face of an institution needs to
change so that the institution itself can change. But I`m more concerned
about your approach to our veterans a few months back.
Now, I get it, when you look at the numbers associated with taking care of
our veterans, it can be daunting. The number of veterans right now in the
United States is almost 22 million. Nearly 9 million veterans are
currently enrolled in the V.A. health care system, and that system includes
more than 1,270 V.A. vet centers, hospitals and outpatient clinics.
Now, according to the V.A. inspector general`s report, 42 of those
facilities are under investigation for possible neglect to veterans` care.
Which is why, Senator McConnell, I want to bring you back to this moment.
This year`s State of the Union Address in January and the standing ovation
for Army Ranger Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg who was severely injured
by a roadside bomb during his tenth deployment, a standing ovation from
everyone, Democrats, Republicans. It was a moment that made us feel at
least on this point, at the point of supporting our veterans as though we
But then, nearly one month later, you and your Republican Senate colleagues
opposed a bill introduced by Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate
Committee on Veterans Affairs -- a $20 billion bill that would have helped
to care for and educate our military men and women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I don`t think our veterans want their
programs to be enhanced if every penny of the money that`s going to enhance
those programs is added to the debt of the United States of America.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: A bill that was not
considered in committee, greatly expands spending without any realistic
offset and would vastly overwhelm the Veterans Administration health care
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HARRIS-PERRY: Overwhelm the Veterans Administration health care system?
Senator Sanders` bill is designed to expand veterans health programs, give
veterans in-state tuition rates at all schools across the country and
provide advanced appropriations for the Department of Veteran Affairs.
But, Senator McConnell, as you well know, the bill never even had a chance
because you and your Republican colleagues blocked it with a procedural
move, garnering 41 votes to prevent the funding for veterans from getting
an up or down vote.
But I want to come back to General Shinseki. When the V.A. scandal broke
and exposed the neglect our veterans faced, one of your early comments on
the story was this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: While it`s certainly been an embarrassing period for the V.A.,
it`s been a stunning period of dysfunction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, there`s one thing we can agree on, senator. It has
been a stunning period of dysfunction and an embarrassment, but not just
for the V.A., for the entire country and, yes, Senator, for the Congress.
It is not enough for Congress to stand and applaud a wounded veteran in its
midst. Congress must use its power of the purse to provide the support and
resources our veterans need, deserve and have earned.
Will it cost money, Senator? Yes. But aren`t our veterans worth it?
HARRIS-PERRY: In the spring of 1992 when I was a sophomore English major
at Wake Forest University, I took a course with Dr. Maya Angelou. And in
doing so, I became one of hundreds of Wake Forest students who were
privileged to encounter Dr. Angelou in the intimacy of a small class during
the more than three decades she thought on our beloved campus. Over those
years, she gathered us to read great works and pushed us to engage in hard
conversations and forced us to require more of ourselves than we thought
possible. She taught us many lessons.
So, on Wednesday, after Dr. Angelou`s passing at the age of 86, we college
friends began reaching out across the miles by phone and text, e-mail and
Facebook. We comforted each other for the loss of our great teacher and
reminded each other of the h hilarity and humility we experienced in her
Before I was even 20 years old, Dr. Angelou became much more than a
classroom teacher to me. Beginning in the summer in 1992, she invited me
to work for her as her student assistant. I helped with office tasks and
was responsible for assisting her in responding to the hundreds of fan
letters that arrived weekly. I was working for her in January of 1993 when
she delivered "On The Pulse of Morning" for the first inauguration of
President Bill Clinton.
As a student worker, I had a front row seat to the massive public response
to her historic poetic offering. Now, the income I earned working for Dr.
Angelou allowed me to pay some of my college fees, but that is not what I
remember from those years. Dr. Angelou included me in her holiday meals.
She afforded me opportunities to travel. She guided my choice of graduate
school and years later she even hosted by wedding reception at her home.
I was 18 when I met Dr. Angelou. I knew nothing and I didn`t even have
enough sense to know that I knew so little. She simply could have graded
my papers and sent me away, but instead she became my beloved mentor and
guide. Her generosity was unparalleled, but she wasn`t even a little bit
Dr. Angelou is the reason I believed it was possible to be a teacher and a
writer and a parent and to have a public persona. She was -- she is my
model of how to fully live and to do so with integrity. It has been
exactly 20 years since I graduated from Wake Forest. And it was a May
morning in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And just last month, I accepted
a position to return there as a professor of political science.
Now, I have taught at incredible universities, but Wake Forest, that place
that brought me to the feet of Dr. Maya Angelou beckons to me like no
other, and I still cannot believe that I`m going to have to be there
I am still her student. I am still seeking her counsel, because we who
shared her classroom, we know she`s an author and an artist and an activist
of the world. But we also kind of believe that there`s a part of her that
belongs just to us.
In September of 2012, Dr. Angelou invited me once again to her home for
what I now know was the last time, and I had the opportunity to sit down
with her for a wide-ranging interview.
Here`s part of that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I took your class when I was a sophomore here at wake
MAYA ANGELOU, FAMED POET/AUTHOR: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I will never forget two important lessons, and I wanted
to ask you about both of them.
HARRIS-PERRY: The first is the lesson that courage is the most important
virtue, because without it, nothing else can be practiced consistently.
ANGELOU: That`s right. Your memory is good.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have said it to myself over and over for 20 years. When
you look at our current world, do we lack courage?
ANGELOU: Yes, we lack courage, particularly because we are not wise enough
to try to educate ourselves so that we really can develop courage. So, we
act like cowards. We sit in rooms where people use pejoratives, regional
pejoratives or sexual pejoratives, where people assault and beleaguer other
people, Mexican, Arab, Jewish. We just sit there like numb skulls instead
of taking up because whoever is being assailed, that`s you, nitwit, so you
should say, excuse me, just a minute, I can`t -- I won`t sit in this room
when people are being assailed. Those are human beings and I`m a human
So, I have to take up and support this person. You say he`s too skinny,
he`s fat, he`s thin, he`s stupid, bad teeth.
I mean, wait a minute. The statement is I am a human being. Nothing human
can be alien to me. And if you know that, then you have enough courage --
develop enough courage so that you can stand up for somebody.
And without -- maybe you don`t know it at the time, but you`re really
standing up for yourself. It`s the human in you. It`s the kindness in you
that allows you to be courageous.
So you develop courage in small ways. You say I will not be called this,
because I`m a woman, I`m not a B. Because I`m black, I`m not an N.
Because I`m an American, I`m not a fool or a murderer. I`m not that.
You have to develop ways so that you can take up for yourself. And then
you take up for someone else. And so, sooner or later, you have enough
courage to really stand up for the human race and say I`m a representative.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`ve also always said that words are things. When I look
at our current political environment, I see a lack of courage, I see us
turning our opponents into enemies, nonhuman people, and I see us using our
words as weapons. Is there some lesson for our political world that we can
ANGELOU: I don`t know how we can after the fact, after the election, how
we can look at each other with friendly eyes, having for all intents and
purpose cursed each other out and said that this person is not really --
this person is a liar, a brute. This person is a fraud. And then the
elections will take place and then we have to work together in the House of
Representatives or in the Senate or in the supermarket. I think it`s fair
and proper to explain your point of view and what you hope to achieve.
But that doesn`t mean then to say of the other person who has another
agenda that he`s a brute or she`s a terrible word. That`s stupid. What
breaks my heart is to think what would our nation be like if we dared to be
intelligent? If we dared to allow our intelligence to dictate our
movements, our actions? Can you imagine?
HARRIS-PERRY: A lot of times in politics, we hear about the idea of the
big tent. The first actual big tent I ever experienced was at your home at
HARRIS-PERRY: And you had put up a big tent and invite everyone.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there any possibility that that lesson of our inherent
equality under a big tent can become part of our politics?
ANGELOU: Dr. Perry, I pray so, that`s why I`m doing this interview.
That`s why I write my books and go and lecture. I have something to say.
And I pray that what I have to say will encourage the coming of this
millennium you`re speaking of when we really will have enough courage to be
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you remember middle school? The pressure to fit in?
Sometimes, that pressure can be so intense, kids may avoid making friends
with anyone who`s different.
Not our foot soldiers. They are among the best friends any sixth grader
could have. This past fall, Andre Salas was a new sixth grader at Resaca
Middle School in Los Fresnos, Texas. He`s also a student with a visual
So, when he arrived at his new school, Andre spent about 12 weeks walking
through the building side by side with his mobility specialist in order to
get to know his way around. Friends of Andre`s noticed getting around
could be difficult for him and wanted to come up with a way to make it
And now, this summer they`ll be an app for that. Six students at the
Resaca middle school created the concept for a mobile application that will
help people with visual impairments navigate new spaces by combining
compass, voiceover and mapping technology. And their work is already
paying off. Because of their apt idea, this all girls team became one of
eight groups to win the Verizon innovative app challenge, earning a $20,000
Verizon grant for STEM education at their school. The challenge called for
students across the nation to come up with fresh concepts for apps that
solve problems in their community by putting STEMS skills to work.
The competition which received 770 app concepts this year is designed to
pique student`s interests in science, technology, engineering and math --
professional fields where women make up only 24 percent of the workforce.
The Texas students, led by Resaca teacher Maggie Bolado, call their app,
Hello Navi, short for navigation.
This week, the students visited Washington, D.C., to participate in the
annual White House science fair. They were able to meet other young
innovators and show off their new invention for the president, who
recognized the Resaca students for their creation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Andres was explaining if he goes from middle school to high school,
he`s got to essentially memorize and track his surroundings. And this app
is helping him do that. And so, not only do these young ladies have big
brains, but they`ve also got big hearts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: After two months of designing and coding with help from an
MIT consultant, the girls completed the product, allowing Hello Navi to hit
virtual stands at Google Play in early June. For using their STEM skills
to help a friend and many others, proving that there really is an app for
almost anything if you have the heart for it.
Teacher Maggie Bolado and the Resaca Middle School innovators are our foot
soldiers of the week.
And that`s our show today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
But, right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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