updated 6/30/2014 9:27:27 AM ET 2014-06-30T13:27:27

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
June 29, 2014

Guest: Dalton Conley, Tamara Draut, Tracy Sefl, Kate Kelly, Keith Boykin,
Sarah Kustok, Jason Page, Patrick Hruby, Justin Simien.

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-
Perry. I already sent my letter this week, but I just wanted to say, dear
Hillary, oh, my, I know you didn`t mean to do it. I mean, seriously, I
really don`t think you meant to do it. But in your interview with Diane
Sawyer on ABC News, you waited into the quick sand that hasn`t snared many
before you when you said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We came out of the White House
not only dead broke but in debt. We had no money when we got there and we
struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for
houses, for Chelsea`s education, you know, it was not easy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Now, when secretary of state, former secretary of state
Clinton says in debt, she is telling the truth. Financial disclosure
document from the center for responsive politics show that the Clinton held
as much $10 millions of death in 2000, the last year the former president
Bill Clinton was in office.

But what in debt means for the Clintons is vastly different than for the
other average person. The couple had a combined income of $357,629 that
year. And the next year, 2001, Bill Clinton made $13 million, just in
speaking fees. Hillary made $8 million off of advances for her first
memoir.

Now, they may have been in debt in 2000, but four years later, that was
gone. And that was likely not the same story for the 74 percent of you as
households also holding debt in 2000. And shortly after her ABC interview,
Clinton stepped in it, again, telling "The Guardian" quote "we pay ordinary
income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off."

Granted what is being truly well off means is certainly subjective and does
not mean the same thing for the average U.S. worker as it does for Clinton
who reportedly makes upwards of $200,000 for speaking appearances.

Hillary Clinton`s comments have caused reporters to speculate about her
relatability leading up to the 2016 campaign. But she joins a long list of
politicians whose comments on wealth have fallen a little outside of the
relatability spectrum.

Who can forget this moment from the 2012 campaign?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: You know, I`m just saying, you`re for individual
mandates, my friend.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: You know what, you`ve
raised that before, Rick, and you`re certainly wrong.

PERRY: It`s true now.

ROMNEY: Rick, I`ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks. $10,000 bet.

PERRY: I`m not in the betting business, but I`ll show you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: The $10,000 just kind of off-hand bet, you know, we`ll be
betting 10,000 here and there. And then the moment when Governor Romney
gave students in (INAUDIBLE) University in Ohio some advice on how to start
a business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We`ve always encouraged young people. Take a shot, go for it.
Take a risk, get the education. Borrow money if you have to from your
parents. Start a business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Just borrow that money from your parents to start the
business. And then there was candidate Barack Obama on the campaign trail
in Iowa trying to relate to residents at a rural issues forum asking the
crowd. Has anybody gone to whole foods lately and seen what they charge
for arugula? I mean, they are at charge on a lot of money for this stuff.

The comment probably didn`t land quite as planned because at that the time,
there was no Whole Foods in the entire state. Lesson, don`t be the Arugula
guy when you`re trying to be a regular guy, right?

Here on this network, Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren told host
Lawrence O`Donnell she doesn`t even consider herself wealthy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I realize there are some wealthy
individuals; I`m not one of them, but some wealthy individuals who have a
lot of stock portfolios.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe compared to some of her colleagues in the Senate, but
Senator Warren made more than $400,000 as a professor at Harvard in 2010
and 2011 and that`s before you add in book royalties in her investment
portfolio.

There was John McCain in 2008, an interview with "Politico" that turned
into what NBC`s "Nightly News" called the biggest political story of the
day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: The biggest political story of
the day, that came from John McCain in response to a question about how
many houses he owns. He didn`t answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: How many houses do you and Mrs. McCain have?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think, I`ll have my staff get to you.
I`ll have them get to you. As many of six further -- (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: No, nope, nope, nope. It was at least four. And let`s go
back just a little bit further to 1992 with President George H. W. Bush
failing to connect personally his response to a question about how the
national debt and the recession impacted him personally during a town hall
debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`ve had friends that have been laid off from jobs.
I know people who cannot afford to pay the mortgage on their homes and
their car payment. I have personal problems with the national debt. But
how has it affected you and if you have no experience in it, how can you
help us if you don`t know what we`re feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: I think she means more the recession, the
economic problems today the country faces rather than --

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You ought to be
in the White House for a day and hear what I hear and see what I see and
read the mail I read and touch the people that I touch from time to time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, lady who`s having trouble with her car payments, what
you should do is spends the day with me in the White House?

Listen, we honestly have to stop there because if we keep going through the
list of so-called gaffes relating to the wealth of politicians, we would
take up the whole show and I haven`t do the things I like today.

But the fact is they`re not really gaffes, per se. I mean, it is not like
say forgetting the third agency in a list of three agencies you need to
follow as is you were elected president.

Moments like those are mistakes, blunders that cause political
embarrassment. But these statements about personal wealth, they actually
seem like genuine comments by individuals. It is just those individuals
have a level of wealth extraordinarily different than the average voter.
And then when they try to relate to voters about financial outlook, they
sound, well, a lot less relatable.

The intention behind pointing out the so-called gaffe is not to say that
the politicians themselves should be chastised for their wealth. I mean,
$200,000 for speaking engagement, don`t hate the player, hate the game.

But it is to say that their wealth might, in fact, sometimes prevent them
from an act and -- excuse me. It also does not mean that their wealth does
mean that they can`t, you know, have policies that are beneficial and
smart.

But the gaffes can have political consequences especially when it comes to
voters. And with increasing speculations about Hillary Clinton`s likely
new run for president in 2016, reporters are questioning, if the way she
discusses her wealth will becomes a problem for her candidacy.

Joining me now to discuss the same, Robert Traynham, MSNBC contributor and
former Bush/Cheney senior adviser, Tracy Sefl who is a Democratic
strategist and senior adviser for the Pac, Ready for Hillary, Tamara Draut
who is vice president of policy and research DEMOS and Dalton Conley,
professor in sociology and medicine at NYU and author of "being black
living in the red; race, wealth and social policy in America."

It is so nice to have you all here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning,

HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m going to start with you and give you a chance to
sort of tell me, why should I not look at this moment and go, Mrs. Clinton
you were running for offense in one role or another for a long time. This
looks to me like you don`t get the relatability piece.

TRACY SEFL, SENIOR ADVISER, READY FOR HILLARY: Well, the important thing
to start with, and I really did appreciate that introduction, but the
important thing to start with, is that the American people are not going to
elect the next president based on their checking account balance.

And in this case with Hillary Clinton, she has been earning her income
since leaving the state department in speeches where she`s appearing before
hundreds, if not thousands of people talking about how to make the world a
better place.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Look. And seriously, I`m really not -- I mean, I
make money for speaking engagements. I make money by doing a television
show and, you know, being on a college campus and teaching. So I basically
move my mouth and earn income. I am not angry at that at all.

But there is this moment where one must recognize, just maybe you did have
a struggle coming out of the White House, but it is actually not the same
kind of struggle that ordinary people have. And so, when you do dead broke
as language, it is language that looks as if you are talking about shopping
for arugula at the whole foods.

SEFL: Or never before having seen a grocery scanner.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

SEFL: I think happened one just well with the Republican candidate. But
what Hillary Clinton has said and I do in for your viewers to really look
at the full transcripts, in particular hat she said to "the Guardian,"
where she fully said, yes, I`m very well off and I`m very blessed and we`ve
been given a lot of opportunities, she and her husband. And what happens
now is what they do with that. And to me the question is so much, also,
about cultural relatability, too.

HARRIS-PERRY: What do you mean by cultural relatability?

SEFL: In this case I`m thinking back to when Hillary Clinton has given
interviews talking about her love of -- shared love, frankly, of HGTV shows
and that`s what we do. That`s what regular people do. And there is a
cultural relatability there and that I think is important. But what
transcends that, and I want to be clear, is her record. What she`s
fighting for and what she cares about.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, sure. And that does feel like a different issue to me
whether or not she was qualified to be president.

But let me ask this. Because, you know, you`ve been with candidates. I
want just ask and maybe this is a little mean, but it did feel like this.
We remember when in an interview with E! Gwyneth Paltrow said I think
right, to have a regular job to be a mom, right, is not as challenging.
It`s not like being a mom on set, you know. And people are like, excuse
me, did you just say that it`s easier to be a working mom than it is to be
an actress, same as rich mom? It felt like Hillary Clinton turned herself
into the Gwyneth Paltrow of politicians this week.

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I don`t know about that, Melissa. But
I think the reality is, is that the majority of politicians out there, they
live in a bubble. And their bubble is different from the average bubble,
right? So, the average bubble out there, the average person is making
$36,000 a year household income. But Hillary Clinton she meant what she
said, you know, we were dead broke. Well, they were dead broke in their
context.

The reality is that my mom and dad watching at home from Landfill (ph),
Pennsylvania. When they look at that, they said wait a minute, you have no
idea what that means. You have no idea living from paycheck to paycheck
means. Arugula at Whole Foods, I could barely get an apple at the
supermarket, same thing with George H. W. Bush in the supermarket scanner.

The reality is, is that Republicans and Democrats, you mention with John
McCain, they live in that bubble and that bubble is not reality.

HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So then, there are moments, Dalton, I was
thinking about the fact that sometimes they actively try not to be in the
bubble. And so, we had Cory Booker making the decision before being
elected mayor of Newark to live in the housing projects, right, and then
ultimately to take the food stamp challenge, which some other politicians
have taken. When you see them actively pushing themselves out of the
bubble, there was thought that is great. That is seem try to try to
understand it. That others who are like, come on, Cory, you may be doing
this but you know in your bank account there is still a safety net.

DALTON CONLEY, PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Exactly. I agree that with
this incredible wealth and equality it gets greater and greater the further
up the ladder you go. That`s the kind of perniciousness of it. So that no
matter where you are, even if you`re in the top one percent, you`re hanging
out with the donors or who are in the top one in one-tenth of one percent
or one 100 to one percent.

HARRIS-PERRY: I`m still flying commercial. They have their own planes.

CONLEY: Yes, exactly.

(LAUGHTER)

CONLEY: And so, I think you lose perspective. And I think the best thing
for politicians to do, including Cory Booker who went to Stanford, is to
say I`m incredibly privileged regardless if they`re in debt temporary or
what have you and say, and I want to give that privilege or give that
opportunity to everybody. And end of story there and not do these stunts,
I probably the only Stanford graduate of his year living in public council
on food stamps.

HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe or maybe not.

CONLEY: Maybe not in this economy, actually.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Given this economy, more and more Stanford and
everything else, I saw a particular thing in Stanford.

TRAYNHAM: But we`ve seen that playbook before. We`ve seen that with John
F. Kennedy. We have seen that with FDR.

HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say FDR is the key example.

TRAYNHAM: Well, and there is a classic example John F. Kennedy during the
190 presidential debate between Richard Nixon. He says I`m very wealthy.
But what I see as an American where people are living paycheck to paycheck.
He talks about Appalachia. And so, the question is can you connect to the
average voter regardless of your wealth?

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And because it does seem to me that part of the
story of the American sort around wealth is the aspirational aspect, right?
So, you know, we see, for example, African-American communities, there
would be, for example, religious leaders who are making a lot of money,
earning a lot more than, for example, you know, our current Pope in his
tradition suggesting religious leaders ought to live in the same kind of
poverty as ordinary people.

But part of it is saying because we want to aspire, we want our leaders to
have more and to be more, but not every in a way, though, where that leader
seems to be suggesting as much as I have, I know what your struggle is,
right?

TAMARA DRAUT, VICE PRESIDENT OF POLICY AND RELIGION, DEMOS: Yes. It`s a
little gimmicky I`m going to live in public housing for a while or eat a
diet that I can only buy with food stamps. I think the key here is
relatability. And, as you said, Americans don`t hate people who have
wealth, as much as people want to accuse us of that, right? And in fact, a
lot of people aspire to be wealthy. But the key is to own your wealth, not
apologize for it but realize that others haven`t had the same opportunities
and haven`t come from the same household of privilege. And I actually
think that is the area where President Obama, unlike candidate Obama, has
done a much better job and really relating in saying, look. I know today
that working moms have it tough, you know. He just had a big White House
summit on balancing work families.

HARRIS-PERRY: No, see. It is interesting because I thought -- let`s talk
a little bit about that as it goes. Because I think that the president,
they got much better than the Arugula moment when he tried to do with
student loans and --. But I actually thought in that moment when he says,
yes, equal pay for Michelle, right, which is talking about the first lady,
that it did fall flat because it now six years in. And so, people are
like, what are you talking about?

And when we come back, I want to talk about the person who had to evolve
and whether or not they are Bill Clinton. That man from hope becoming the
man with money. There is not that -- that there is, of course, anything
wrong with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: On Wednesday none other than former President Bill Clinton
chose to publicly weigh in on his wife Hillary`s comments about not being
truly well off. He joined "Meet the Press" moderator, David Gregory, for
an exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID GREGORY, HOST, MEET THE PRESS: Can you understand as a political
matter that that could strike people as being out of touch?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, but, she`s not
out of touch. And she`s advocated and worked as a senator for things that
were good for ordinary people. And before that, all her life and the
people asking her questions should put this into some sort of context.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: That 2014 version of Bill Clinton disassociating with
experience with being in touch with ordinary people is not exactly the same
presidential hopeful who used his humble upbringing to launch himself into
the White House.

At the 1992 Democratic national convention, Clinton was introduced with a
video called "the man from hope," stressing Clinton`s humble origin in
Hope, Arkansas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B. CLINTON: I was born in a little town called Hope, Arkansas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some people think that Bill must have been born
wealthy and raised wealthy, you know, that, he had all of the privileges
you could ever imagine. Well, you know, instead of being born with a
silver spoon, he was born into a house that had our house in the backyard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: Now, that became a central part of Clinton`s campaign
strategy. His ability to listen, to understand, to relate to everyday
people, you know, feel your pain.

The Clinton campaign liked the video show much they began running it as a
television infomercial adding in a phone number hat viewers could call to
get a copy of his economic plan. That was how long ago `92 was.

Clinton went on to win the election beating incumbent George H. W. Bush by
more than 200 electoral votes. That was 1992. And since leaving office,
Bill Clinton has been paid more than $100 million just on speaking
honorariums. There is one thing for politicians to tell their story, but
when your financial means change and change so dramatically, you can`t be
the man from Hope anymore and still retain the same level of authenticity
with voters. Your political narrative just has to adjust.

So, feels to me, Robert, like the key example that is often used is
candidate Clinton playing the saxophone on Arsenio hall and the way that
sort of frames him and the cultural similarity that you were talking about
earlier. But President Clinton in running for reelection can`t play the
saxophone on TV because you`re now a new person, right? The story has to
change.

TRAYNHAM: Yes. I mean, you have to reintroduce yourself to the American
people. And to go back to your earlier point, it`s OK to be wealthy. It`s
OK to inspire the American dream. In fact, that`s what everybody should
inspire to. And that is what our presidents tell us we should. The
question becomes is whether or not you are so authentic and whether or not
you can still relate to the average person.

There are a lot of wealthy people out there that a lot of people admire.
Take a look at Bill Gates, take a look at Warren Buffett, take a look at
the individuals out there that are multi-billionaires that fly commercial
and the reason why is because there is a certain sense of relatability to
that person. And the question becomes is whether or not the American
electorate can still relate to that president.

And you go back to JFK, you go back to FDR, at the end of the day with the
American voters still have that relationship with that American president
is because that person, at least, they were perceived to be, waking up
every single morning fighting for me. Regardless of whether or not they
had money in the back account, they wanted to put money in your bank
account.

DRAUT: Well, I think one thing we haven`t talked about here is whether
they`re authentic or not and that authenticity how that influences the
policies they actually want to pass when they`re president. And you know,
in hindsight, I think this is where President Bill Clinton has left a
pretty bad legacy of doing things that benefit ordinary people.

You know, let`s remember, he signed in NAFTA. That displaced a lot of
workers in the Midwest in what we now call the rust belt. We had welfare
reform, you know, Indian welfare as we know it. And then finally, the cap
stone is we had the last nail in the coffin of financial regulation where
we finally severed the ties between commercial and investment banking which
a decade or so later helped fuel the subprime crisis and the hunger on Wall
Street for those securities.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, I think what you just laid out here is just tremendously
interesting for a number of reasons. One, you suggest the FDR and JFK
examples of, OK, progressive politics might overcome the independent
individual wealth. But the story you just told is of someone who was
president during the time of great economic growth and earned income tax
credit was a great thing for working class people.

But where there is another policy agenda that can be read as bad for
working class people but who really did, as you have suggested earlier,
have a kind of cultural capacity, right? I mean, the biting of the lip and
the feeling of your pain and, in that way, he was very much like George W.
Bush who whatever the policies were, he just was a good, like you want to
drink a beer with Bill and with George, right, in this way that whether it
was authentic or not, was politically powerful.

DRAUT: Yes.

CONLEY: I think that the Democrats have a disadvantage in this realm. I
agree, totally, that we admire wealth. It`s the cultural elitism that
hurts politicians. And the Republicans can say, look, I`m pro-wealth, I`m
pro-business and I want to cut taxes and, yes, that benefits me, so what?
Democrats have this thing lurking in the background of being called a
limousine liberal that the Republicans I don`t think suffer from as much.
And they, I think we have to go back, like you said, to FDR or JFK to see
how they managed that better than seem to do today.

HARRIS-PERRY: Perfectly acceptable to be a limousine conservative.

Speaking of which, let`s just listen for a moment on Reince Priebus
weighing in on this. Let`s just take a listen and I`ll let you respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I don`t think
there is a problem of people being rich in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Mitt Romney didn`t lose because he is wealthy,
did he?

PRIEBUS: No. But I think that when you`re perceived of being out of touch
with people that are struggling, with people that are out there working
hard, I don`t think flying on private jets and collecting $250,000 for a
speech is considered to be hard work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, now, I mean, the party that gave us 47
percent and Mitt Romney and the angst that came along with the last
election is suggesting that potentially Hillary Clinton is falling into the
same trap.

SEFL: Well, chairman Priebus is grasping as he often does. But I do want
to come back to your original frame for this that there is a question of
authentic narrative. And if anything, what President Clinton has done is
proven true the American dream. There`s no adjusting of a narrative here.

He is a child, he was a child that came from difficult background, limited
means, used his skills and opportunities, took out the college loans, went
on to become what now one-half, one of the most famous couples on earth.
And what does he do in every speech that I heard him give many, many times.
He`s advocating for tax cuts for the middle class. He is advocating to
expand opportunities. He is advocating for a growth, an excelling of
upward mobility and this is something that I think that transcends any
notion of the man from hope is no longer the man from Hope. Because he`s
talking about those same things that he always has.

HARRIS-PERRY: And he is, which I think this is part of my point, and part
of the point earlier, he`s an extraordinary talker. I think the current
president said he ought be the secretary of explaining stuff, right?

But I still think that there are -- first of all, President Bill Clinton
will not be running if a Clinton makes a decision to run in 2016, it will
be Hillary Clinton. I want to play, just quickly. Back in 2008 while
campaigning in Indiana, Hillary Clinton attempted to make a similar kind of
connection with folks around the question of a cultural similarity we
talked about. I want to play that and then we`ll come back and do
something else in a quick second. But let`s take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: You know, my dad took me up behind the cottage that my
grandfather built on a little lake call Winona (ph), outside of Scranton
and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl. You know, some people
have continued to teach their children and their grandchildren. It`s part
of a culture. It`s part of a way of life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: So, this was during that whole Pennsylvania primary in 2008
around the, when candidate Obama talked about clinging to guns and God and
the response was a sort of I`m down with you all in Scranton with your guns
and your God. And I want to talk about whether or not that was effective
or not and whether or not there are going to be questions about
authenticity going into 2016, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H. CLINTON: I am the granddaughter of a factory worker from Scranton who
went to work in the Scranton lace mills when he was 11-years-old, worked
his entire life there, mostly six-day weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: That was at the Pennsylvania democratic debate in April of
2008. At that time, candidate Clinton got a little push back about so
where were you from? Are you from Pennsylvania, are you from Illinois, are
you from New York, are you from Arkansas? I mean, this is a question that
will emerge for her again in 2016 is she decided to run.

SEFL: In 2008 she certainly a triumphed in that ultimate Pennsylvania
primary. I think the margins of her victory there were pretty strong. But
the questions, again, come back to what is it the candidate is advocating
and does the candidate really seem equipped to do that job? And with
whether their grandparents from the state and they grew up in another state
and now they live in a third state, I really fail to see how that matters.
And that has been proven true whether it is a Democrat or a Republican,
this notion of (INAUDIBLE).

HARRIS-PERRY: I think it does matter to voters. Here`s why I say it does
because, for me, electing a candidate is a bit like choosing a spouse. You
actually don`t know what you`re going to face, right? Over the course of
the four years or eight years, it could be good times or it could be bad
times, right? You could elect, you know, the party guy you want to have a
beer with and the next thing you know, we`re in a post-9/11 world. You
just don`t know exactly what will happen during that term. So a lot of
what you have to choose on is whether or not you think they get people like
you. Whether or not you think they`re honest, whether or not you think
they make decisions that you can hold them accountable for, because it is
unknowable future. I mean, I actually think it matters.

TRAYNHAM: It is a relationship. At the end of the day, it`s a
relationship. And what you saw with Hillary Clinton back in 2008, she was
trying to connect with blue collar Democrats, working Democrats. They were
called Reagan Democrats when Ronald Reagan had that relationship with them
for eight years.

The inter-individuals that are God-fearing that, in fact admire and respect
the second amendment that probably live paycheck to paycheck, they are
probably union and they probably do make $30,000 to $40,000 a year. And
so, what they want to know is whether or not, it could care less how much
you have in your bank account. What they want to know, do you understand
what I`m going through and it does in the process, are you going to enact
policies that are going to make my life better. Because guess what, I want
to be in the White House, too.

HARRIS-PERRY: So let me ask you this, Dalton. With the 99 percent, one
percent, with the growing wealth gap, is it possible in this moment of who
America is for the one percent to, in fact, have an intimacy and an
understanding of those relationships in the bottom part.

CONLEY: I think that`s a good question and I don`t think we know the
answer. I think this is such a unique with such high level of inequality.
Plus, this cultural revolution that the left sewed in the `60s and we`re
now reaping where it`s not good to be establishment. You want to be grass
roots. You want to be of the people and, you know, like I said, we
fermented that on the left and now having an Ivy League degree or having a
Ph.D., God forbid you have a Ph.D. and want to run for elected office. It
somehow is seen as illegitimate. It`s not just how much wealth you have,
it is also how you got it. Speaking fees seem yucky compared to like you
built something or invented something.

TRAYNHAM: I disagree.

SEFL: No, I do think -- Anything distasteful or very distasteful. Let`s
talk about someone, Mitt Romney, whose capital experience was predicated on
the tremendous outsourcing of American jobs overseas --

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. And Americans reject that.

TRAYNHAM: But I have a question for you. What about like a Mark
Zuckerberg or a Steve Jobs, somewhat they are billionaire (INAUDIBLE) was a
billionaire, but had an everyday relatability? I mean, when you look at
Zuckerberg with the hoodies who pushes away from all the trappings of
wealth. He drives a Prius who lives in an average neighborhood in San
Francisco. Can you -- I mean, it seems to me --

CONLEY: I don`t think there`s an average neighborhood in San Francisco.

HARRIS-PERRY: Plus, I bet they`d have trouble running for office. So it
is different to sell a consumer product, right, than to run for office.
And I guess part of --

TRAYNHAM: But look at Ross Perot, thought. I mean, if you go back --
there are certain instances where a wealthy person struck a chord, didn`t
win, but came very close.

HARRIS-PERRY: But I`ll just suggest at the end that it`s possible, I know
you`re working on a Ph.D. in presidential history right now, but just in
our contemporary moment might be different because of the expansiveness of
our current wealth gap, just a possibility.

But when we come back, we are going to talk a little bit more about this,
but a totally different way. How the makers of the country`s most famous
Swedish meatballs decided to wage against the machine? This is a
Zuckerberg question, can IKEA save us?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: The fight for higher minimum wage just got a big boost from
none other than the thing prevail, Swedish meatballs and sensibly price
couches, IKEA. Starting on January 1st the home good retailer will raise
the hourly minimum wage to $10.76 in its 38 U.S. stores and three
additional locations.

That minimum wage hike is 48 percent higher than the federal level of
$7.25. It will amount to 17 percent increase for about half of the chain`s
U.S. workers, though the exact hourly wage at each store will be determined
by location.

IKEA is the latest retailer to join a growing group of U.S.-based companies
who have chosen not to wait on the federal government and to raise the
minimum wage at the respective businesses.

In February, the gap announced it would raise its hourly minimum wage to $9
in its U.S.-based workers and follow that up with an increase to $10 next
year. Both, Chipotle, the Mexican Grill, and Starbucks have weighed in on
the issue saying that they, too, would support efforts to raise wages,
though neither company has come out with an official policy yet. And
states continue to outpace the federal government with minimum wage with
Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick, signing a measure into law on
Thursday which will raise his state`s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017,
making it the highest in any U.S. state.

So, we should all go in our gap jeans and shop at IKEA outside of, you
know, Boston, right? Like I`m wondering if these businesses are doing it
because it`s pure, good business practice or like politicians, they are
selling a product and there is a kind of progressive value to being able to
say, we moved quickly on this.

DRAUT: I think there`s a couple things happening. One, I think it`s great
news. I think overall, when you look at these trends in terms of
localities and states and companies, changing their minimum wage policies,
I think we`re finally seeing a pivot away from the idea, you know, we`ve
been told so often that the price we have to pay for low prices at Walmart,
at the gap is low wages for their workers. And I think what this says is
that bargain, which was a false bargain from the beginning is no longer
going to be the way that we do business.

There are a couple things about the IKEA decision that are really pretty
extraordinary. One, the president of the company which is privately held,
so they can get away from this without too much pushback, said that this
was part of their commitment to making the lives of their workers better.

Wow, what a radical notion, right? Let`s pay people better because we`re
committed to them having healthy, good lives. But the second thing is they
have done something that I don`t think has been done before and they are
going to tie the minimum wage to the cost of living.

HARRIS-PERRY: We took a look at what that looks like, that adjusted local
minimum wage because it really is quite different. You know, in Atlanta,
the adjusted local would be $9.31, but in New York and San Francisco where
there are no regular neighborhood, right, $11.90, right? And it just, to
see that shows you how far the gap is from the current $7 something, right,
to that $11.90.

DRAUT: I mean, it`s so important in a country as vast as the United States
with a cost of living that is so variable. This is really important to say
that when we think about what it takes to buy groceries, to put a roof over
your head, we`re going to base our wage structure on that. I think it`s
profound and it could potentially be a turning point.

HARRIS-PERRY: So Tamara, what I like about what you said there, is this
idea of listening to one`s workers and having an understanding of it. You
know, we try to bring folks to the table here who are living in
circumstances quite different than that of the host or of any of the other
guests.

One of our favorite guests is Tiana. She is a mother, you know, living on
public assistance, sometimes experiencing homelessness, and she was on our
set with Congresswoman Barbara Lee. And Barbara Lee said to Tiana that she
wanted her to come and actually testify before Congress. I want to play
that moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: I`m on Paul Rand`s committee and they`re
having a hearing. We`re having a hearing led by Paul Rand on Wednesday to
talk about poverty. I am going to ask him if you can come. I hope I can
see you on Wednesday, but I`m going to ask Congressman Ryan to invite you
as a witness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Dalton, the congresswoman did go and ask Mr. Ryan and he
was like, no. And so, Tiana offered him written testimony. But I thought
that moment of an elected member saying, hey, you have information that we
need to make policy seem so potentially powerful and then Congressman Ryan
saying, no, we`d rather not hear from her.

CONLEY: Yes. That was the wrong audience, I guess, Ryan. I think that
the -- there is vast differences in cost of living. We don`t say that in
New York. We know that. We live it. But the rallying cry for a minimum
wage that if you work full time year round, you`re not in poverty. I think
that`s a pretty powerful statement and then hopefully the next time we
actually do something on the federal level will just index it to inflation
and not have to have these struggles all the time.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I love the idea that IKEA and the GAP and Starbucks
are outpacing the Congress.

Thanks to everybody who was a guest this morning. Tracy Sefl, I appreciate
you being here this morning and to Tamara Draut and to Dalton Conley.
Robert is going to stick around with us for a little longer.

Still to come this morning, the politics of king James, Lebron, that is.

But up next, the woman who said she was kicked out of heaven by the church
of Latter Day Saints. Just what did she do to deserve that?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints known by
many as the Mormon Church is a relatively young fate. Established in 1830,
the church has made substantial changes in its doctrine during its brief
tenure. Now, these changes are understood within the church as resulting
from new revelations to receive by the faith leaders.

In 1890, the church ended the practice of plural marriage. In 1918, it
began redeeming the dead. In 1978 the church began admitting African-
Americans into the priesthood. These are meaningful substance of changes
but other practices and traditions of the church have remained firmly in
place.

Women are not allowed in the Mormon priesthood. All Mormon priests are men
and actually in the Mormon tradition, nearly all men are priest, or at
least all of them are eligible, but not women. Some people want to change
that. But church leaders are emphatically not interested in that change.

On Monday, the LDS church went so far as to ex-communicate this woman, Kate
Kelly. She is a feminist, a Mormon and a founder of the group ordain
women. She`s organized protesters in hundreds of women protests the church
general priesthood meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. The meetings are only
open to priests, that is, only open to men.

In the protests, the women lined up in mass to attend the meetings and were
turned away, one by one, all in the public eye. The church has since
banned news photographers from such protests.

Church leaders say the priesthood is only open to men because Jesus in
their view had only men as his original disciples. And the church warned
Kelly to stop rocking the boat, to take down the ordained women Web site,
distance herself from the group and to get in line.

On June 8th, Kelly`s local church leaders charged her with apostasy, the
rejection of the revelations of God. She refused to attend the hearing.
An all-male panel tried her in (INAUDIBLE) and found her guilty.

Now, a Mormon who is ex-communicated is no longer a member of the church.
Their temple blessings are revoked. They cannot even donate money to the
church and the eternal bond between a husband and wife known as the ceiling
is suspended.

As Kelly has said, essentially what they`ve done is they not only kicked me
out of church, they`ve also kicked me out of heaven.

Now, we`re going to have Kate Kelly live, next. And I bet she may be
surprised to find out just how much our stories have in common.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Ex-communicated from the church, she grew up in and told to
abandon her quest of ordained women into the priesthood of that church or
potentially to never be redeemed.

Joining us now from Salt Lake City is Kate Kelly, the founder of ordained
women who this week was ex-communicated for the church of Latter Days
Saints for her activism.

Nice to see you this morning.

KATE KELLY, FOUNDER, ORDAIN WOMEN: Hi. Thanks for having me.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, talk to me first about what, for you personally, this
decision by the church of ex-communication means.

KELLY: For me, it feels as though I`ve been stripped of my citizenship. I
am no longer allowed to participate in my local congregation. I have had
all my ordinances null and void. So that includes my baptism, that
includes my marriage and that includes my ceiling to my family. And so,
you know, this is something that is extremely devastating, both on a
personal level and for my family.

HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me a bit to help folks understand when you say that
it has this impact on your family, for example, on the ceiling. So, I come
from a family in which my mother grew up in the church of Latter Day
Saints. She graduated from BYU. So I know what some of this language is.
There is my mom on screen right now. So I know some of this language. But
help people to understand, it`s not that your civil marriage is over, that
your legal marriage is over, but it is something about the relationship as
it`s related to the church.

KELLY: As Mormons, we believe that we will be together in the afterlife
with our families. And so, we believe that the ordinances that are
performed here on earth bind us together eternally. And, in my case, what
these men have done and in their estimation is break those bonds. So that
while members of my family may go to heaven, that won`t include me because
I`m no longer a member of the church and all these ordinances have been
voided.

Now, in my personal opinion, I don`t think that`s the way God sees it and I
don`t think God will punish me for speaking out on behalf of myself and my
sisters. But that`s certainly the way with which they carried out this
punishment.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s important that you phrase it that way. That is what
they understand themselves to be doing in this moment. I want to read, in
fact, a letter from the first presidency, a statement released just
yesterday in which they say, simply asking questions has never constituted
apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open and deliberate
public opposition to the church or its faithful leaders or persisting after
receiving counsel in teaching false doctrine. Are you guilty of that?

KELLY: I think that statement by the first presidency of the church which
is the highest leader, including the prophet of the Mormon church
exonerates me completely because the group has never taught any doctrine,
yet alone false doctrine. All right, we have made is a factual assertion,
which is men and women are not equal in our church. And that`s what anyone
can see on any Sunday in any Mormon congregation. So that is just a
factual assertion. It is not doctrine. And we have never spoken anything
ill of any of the leaders of the church. We have always said we support
them. In fact, we are investing in the institution. We want to hear from
them. We want them to take this query to the Lord. And so, far from
speaking ill of them, I think we have really demonstrated our respect for
the leaders of the church.

HARRIS-PERRY: So changes in church policy within the church of Latter Day
Saints come through new revelation. Is it unfair to say we need a new
policy change if there hasn`t been new revelation?

KELLY: So, it`s very, it`s difficult to separate doctrine from policy in
the Mormon Church. But I think we`re particularly well placed to have a
place like this because we have open cannon. So in the Mormon Church, we
can receive new revelation. We have a prophet as, you know, as in Abraham
or Moses. We have that in this day and that person is living and that
person can reveal new things. In fact, one of the articles of faith, the
very core articles of faith of Mormonism says that God will yet reveal many
great and important things. That`s not cosmetic changes. That`s not
something small. That`s great and important things.

So, I think Mormonism is particularly well placed to be a leader, to be a
faith tradition that`s a leader on gender equality and that`s really what
I`m hoping for.

HARRIS-PERRY: Listening to you talk and seeing you there in Salt Lake
City, I think about my own mom who in her 20s made a decision to
voluntarily ask for ex-communication from the church because of her anxiety
about the gender and racial politics of the late 1960s LDS church. But you
have specifically asks women not to leave the church. Why?

KELLY: I think everyone should do what makes them emotionally well and
healthy and for some people that might be leaving the church. So, I don`t
discourage that. But if you are able to say, if you`re able to continue, I
think people should stay. I think this kind of change needs to happen from
within. And people who are Mormon who are active and who are believers
should be able to have these kinds of conversations.

And I think this need to happen in every major faith tradition, not just
Mormonism. This includes Islam, Catholicism, Judaism. I don`t think we`ll
see gender parity at large until we see it coming from within major faith
traditions.

I think this is the next step to see gender equality in society because
these faith traditions, including Mormonism, have members of Congress.
They affect policy. They affect the ways in which men and women interact
with each other.

And so, I think it really needs to come from within all these faith
traditions and this is kind of a change that only insiders can ask for. So
I encourage people to stay, if they can, if it`s emotionally healthy for
them to do so.

HARRIS-PERRY: Kate Kelly, I appreciate the clarity of your voice on this
and also the courage because you`re risking real things and it actually
matters. And I greatly appreciate your work here.

KELLY: Thank you so much. I think it matters for me, but also matters for
all Mormon women and all women worldwide.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much, Kate Kelly. And thank you for joining us
this morning.

KELLY: Thank you for having me.

HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up next the politics of King James, Lebron James,
that is, and the case that I promise you really could change everything for
college players hoping to follow in Lebron`s footsteps.

We`re getting all sporty with it. There is more Nerdland at the top of the
hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

I know it is World Cup fever but we are talking about basketball.

Superstar LeBron James shook up the NBA this past week, again, by
announcing that he is opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat and
becoming, for the first time in four years, a free agent. He did so nearly
a week before he had to. The deadline is tomorrow.

But this latest decision came not that long after his team took a 4-1
shellacking in the NBA Finals at the hands of fellow Wake Forest alum Timmy
Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.

That means James has won two titles since she joined the Heat four years
ago when he first used free agency.

Now, the Akron native announced in July of 2010 live on an ESPN special
that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers. Doing that made him a villain
to many. The very picture of a mercenary willing to go anywhere to win and
the problem with that is, yes, he`s still four rings behind the supposed
GOAT, greatest of all-time, Michael Jordan.

And news broke Saturday that the other two parts of Miami`s big three,
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh opted out of their contracts, according to ESPN.
There is a possibility, however slim, that their powerful team may now
break apart or not. And let`s not forget, they were just schooled, clinic
really by the Spurs.

Cue the haters on the airwaves or at the water cooler whose familiar
refrain is, man, LeBron ain`t never going to beat Jordan. He`ll never be
better.

But in my estimation, there was a future free agent James is already better
in at least one important respect, freedom. In fact, journalist Keith Reed
on Ebony.com called LeBron the singular emancipated athlete in all of
American professional team sports. And outside of boxer Floyd Mayweather,
may be the only true free athlete in America.

Some of the reasons, James reportedly made $30 million in cash and stock
when Dr. Dre sold Beats to Apple, what ESPN calls the biggest equity cash
payout for a professional athlete in history. Yes, he is an investor in
the company.

Putting that into perspective, James made about $19 million as salary from
the Heat last season and we`re not just talking about financial freedom and
his savvy for business deals for himself, this is a guy who put his career
in the hands of childhood friends. He`s actually seeing them thrive, as
Reed notes in "Ebony", LeBron eclipsed anything Jordan ever did by way of
leveraging the clout that being the world`s best basketball player bestows.

Jordan deals enriched Jordan. He really bestowed his marketing largess on
any of his contemporaries. LeBron is connected so many of his peers with
the Warren Buffetts and Steven Stouts and Tom Werners of the world.

So, is James a failure, a ring-chasing mercenary or is he winning at a much
larger game altogether?

Joining me now, Keith Boykin, a CNBC contributor and BET columnist. Next
to him is Sarah Kustok, who is a Brooklyn Nets reporter for the Yes
Network. Also with me, Jason Page, host of "The Jason Page Show" on NBC
Sports Radio, and continuing to stay at the table, MSNBC contributor,
Robert Traynam.

All right. So, is LeBron uniquely free?

SARAH KUSTOK, YES NETWORK: I`m not sure I would call him free, but in ways
he really is. I think a lot of dialogue about decisions he has made.

HARRIS-PERRY: And particularly the decision.

(CROSSTALK)

KUSTOK: The decision I have no problem with. He gave seven great seasons
to Cleveland. They weren`t winning. What are athletes trying to do?
They`re trying to win. I think it was the manner in which he chose to make
that decision.

JASON PAGE, NBC SPORTS RADIO: Let`s be honest, this is four years later
now, five years later, whatever it is. This is a much different LeBron
James than the LeBron James we were seeing four or five years ago.

And that`s part of the process of all of this is watching the maturation of
LeBron James. You talk about the financial aspect of it. All of those
things. This is a different guy than he was five years ago.

KEITH BOYKIN, CNBC: When he was 24 years ago -- 25 years old five years
ago and now, he`s 29. He is making $70 million a year, when you include
his endorsement deals with, his salary.

And I think what makes him free is not just his financial largess, but the
fact that he`s able to speak out and do what he wants. I`m not just
talking about political stuff, but I mean, the fact when he left and made
that decision in 2010, Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers,
wrote this scathing message and posted online, saying that LeBron would
never win a championship as long as he was around. He would guarantee it.

But he did. And LeBron continued to be able to make his own rules, like
opting out, even now, along with the other players. I think he is really
setting an example.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s exactly what I want. So, has he changed? Is this
what people always imagined what free agency would do or is he, in fact,
showing a different way to play this part of the game?

KUSTOK: I think different players have done things in a manner like he has
in free agency. No one around the world or around the globe has cared so
much because they weren`t at the caliber of a LeBron James. The focus, the
scrutiny, everything that he is dealing with is because he is the player he
is. He is having comparisons to Michael Jordan.

But I think, is he free in making decisions? Absolutely. But he is also
facing a lot of scrutiny. I mean, here we are talking about him.

I think that is part of the thing we learned to deal with.

HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, my friend Tim Duncan wins the NBA Finals and we`re
not doing a Tim Duncan segment, right? We`re doing a LeBron James segment.

PAGE: Boring.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, no, don`t call Timmy boring. Stop with --

PAGE: He likes to be boring.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

TRAYNHAM: But he`s a little bit difference for LeBron James. I equate him
almost like Oprah Winfrey in the 1990s. Oprah Winfrey took her brand and
took it in a totally different direction. She is the person who syndicated
"The Oprah Winfrey Show" and got individual checks from all the affiliates.
She is the one who opened Harpo Studios.

And, by the way, remember, she is an overweight black woman --

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

TRAYNHAM: -- who wrote her own press release and literally created her own
narrative and that`s a process she has owned.

HARRIS-PERRY: Put herself on the cover of every one of her magazines. How
about that?

TRAYNHAM: And LeBron is doing the same exact thing from a financial
standpoint, from a political standpoint, from a business standpoint. It`s
genius. It really is genius on so many different levels.

BOYKIN: It`s branding.

The thing that I disagreed with what Keith was saying with in his article
in "Ebony" is the idea that he`s singular emancipated athlete on all of pro
sports, because you hear a lot of role players out there in the NBA, in the
NFL, who are playing and doing their job every day and they`re making a
difference. They have great freedom. But they don`t have to be tied to
the million dollar contracts in order to be able to be a free athlete.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask, that goes back to your point about the
scrutiny. I mean, I guess in other words, I wonder if -- so, this almost
goes back to our political conversation before. As you become more the
man, do you actually become somehow less free? So, in other words, that
capacity to make those autonomous decisions might actually require having a
little less scrutiny around you.

BOYKIN: More money, more problems.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh!

(CROSSTALK)

KUSTOK: But we talk so much about LeBron. I think when people look at it,
they think, oh, he`s just out for the money. He`s just -- these guys
opting out of their contract is actually because they are choosing to
possibly take less money from the Miami Heat so they can put together a
roster so they can win.

PAGE: But who`s the ring leader of all this now is LeBron James. We had
this conversation on my show last night and I don`t think there is a more
powerful athlete in all of professional sports. Maybe sans a Floyd
Mayweather who can call his own shots --

HARRIS-PERRY: Pay his own opponents.

PAGE: -- because of the money he brings in.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

PAGE: But I don`t think there is a more, a stronger athlete in all of
sports from a power perspective than LeBron James. He`s basically, when
you say --

TRAYNHAM: When you say power, what do you mean by that?

PAGE: Well, he`s neutered Pat Riley.

TRAYNHAM: OK.

PAGE: He`s basically taken over as the G.M. of the Miami Heat. He said,
"I want Shabazz Napier from UConn." Shabazz Napier from UConn winds up on
the Miami Heat.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right, he`s tweeting it like while it`s happening. Yes,
that`s what I was going for.

We talk about Pat Riley, right? This was the man who was supposedly the
Zen master, I don`t know -- supposedly able to keep that team of those New
Yorkers who were these bad boys together and that is not what is happening
in Miami.

PAGE: But here`s the thing, he`s taken now Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and
said, I`m opting out. You guys opt out, as well. Let`s build something
here. They have $55 million in cap room to bring in the players they want
to bring.

HARRIS-PERRY: Are they bringing Carmelo?

PAGE: This is unprecedented.

HARRIS-PERRY: Are they bringing Carmelo?

PAGE: Jordan didn`t have this kind of player personnel control. Kobe, the
Lakers won`t even talk to Kobe Bryant about the moves they`re making in the
off season.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: This is amazing, when you think about it.

BOYKIN: He has enormous power. If you look at his Web site, the first
page of his Web site, I`m just a small town boy from Akron, Ohio. He is,
you can say that. But he`s also the third highest paid athlete in the
world.

HARRIS-PERRY: Did he just do a Hillary Clinton? I mean at the point in
which you have that kind of cash and you`re like, I`m just a kid from
Akron, does that actually end up alienating fans?

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Stay right there. There`s so much more that. He is not
only doing the doggone thing on the court, he`s also one of my favorite
players off the court, and I`m going to explain why when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: LeBron James once wore Michael Jordan`s number in Cleveland
and then gave it up to honor him. But it`s hard to argue that James hasn`t
surpassed the Charlotte team owner and NBA Hall of Famer in another
important respect, speaking his mind at the height of his stardom.

Marc Spears of Yahoo! quoted James recently as saying, "It`s knowing the
position I`m in and being a role model and a leader in my sport. I don`t
need to do it, it`s something I want to do in the position I`m in."

Some of the things James is doing with that platform include back in 2012,
posting a photo of he and his Heat teammates posing in silent protest,
wearing hoodies with the #wearetrayvonmartin.

In January of this year, James defended star NFL cornerback Richard Sherman
when he was being deemed a thug, tweeting, "I don`t know one thug that
graduated from Stanford and also working on their master`s. Don`t judge a
book by its cover."

And in April, James reacted to racial comments by L.A. Clippers owner
Donald Sterling by saying, quote, "There is no room for Donald Sterling in
our league."

James may have two rings as compared to Jordan`s six, but in my political
estimation, in terms of leveraging his profile and influence to impact
political awareness, he`s already surpassed old Mike who so famously
avoided political issues as a player.

You suggest that taking on this Oprah role --

PAGE: Yes.

WINFREY: -- could potentially actually have real -- with greater
responsibility comes great consequences for him.

PAGE: Him becoming essentially the de facto G.M. now of the Miami Heat.
Hey, I want Shabazz Napier, Shabazz Napier comes in. Big Three let`s opt
out, let`s try and get other players in.

Him trying to orchestrate what the Heat roster is going to ill look like
next year and taking that away from Pat Riley who generally makes those
decisions if it doesn`t go well, fairly or unfairly, he`s going to get
crucified in the media for -- hey, you know, he tried to put together a
team and it failed. He didn`t get a title. He`s going to get hit hard.

HARRIS-PERRY: Isn`t this what a leader is always meant to do, whether it
is politics or sports, you take that risk and then you say, you know what,
here we go --

(CROSSTALK)

KUSTOK: I disagree with you, Jason, just in the sense that this team in
this group, these guys opting out, what LeBron is doing, he is being a
leader for this team, and he has been that way for the past four years, but
they`re not finagling with money to individually improve themselves. They
are doing this for a collective team effort --

PAGE: He`s ruled. Why have a G.M.? Why have a Pat Riley?

(CROSSTALK)

KUSTOK: Can`t talk until July 1st. Free agency doesn`t start until July
1st.

BOYKIN: He can do it and he wants to win. They didn`t win this year. He
has the authority and the leverage, so he`s going to exercise that.

You know, the interesting thing about LeBron, ESPN reported that in both
the team he`s played for, he`s never been the highest paid player. And
he`s this big star. You would think, you know, for this villain player,
you would think he had been.

But LeBron James has been singularly involved in political causes that
other athletes haven`t been able to do. He endorsed Barack Obama,
supported his campaign, and donated to his campaign. He works with Hillary
-- excuse me, with First Lady Michelle Obama and her healthy eating
campaign. And I think Barack Obama, keep calling him president Obama, I
think LeBron --

TRAYNHAM: He`s not president yet.

HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, although, give him a minute. Give him a minute.

BOYKIN: He is the face of the NBA. He may as well be the president of the
league. That`s a unique power that he exercises, I think, well.

HARRIS-PERRY: And he exercises it.

TRAYNHAM: But he does it responsibly.

You know, it`s one thing if he`s controversial and says things that are
just way out there. I believe he`s a thoughtful person who is in the
leader position and he takes that. Now, regarding whether he falls flat on
his face, other leaders fall flat on their face. I think he`ll probably
step up to the plate and say, you know what, I was wrong, at least I try.

HARRIS-PERRY: Give me the ball. If you`re the leader, you`re meant to
want to take the lead.

KUSTOK: And on the court, and he`s also done that, if he realizes his
power for change in a way.

PAGE: To answer his question, why can`t he do it? I`m not saying he
can`t. I`m just saying, if you do, you run the risk of what`s going to
come with that if you don`t succeed.

KUSTOK: He opted out. I mean, it was a big deal. He opts out Tuesday and
you don`t have to opt out until next month. So he could send a message to
the league to his team. And now, he`s orchestrating thing with his
teammates because Pat Riley can`t talk to them until July 1st.

So, he`s taking ownership and I have a tremendous amount of respect.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, what is LeBron James, the kid from Akron? So, what if
LeBron went farther than an Instagram or a tweet about Sherman or Trayvon
Martin and was like, you know, we`re down now with raise the minimum wage.

We think people should have -- what if he really got political? Would that
be a risk? One thing to take this leadership role and say they`re doing it
for collective good, but that collective good is still within the reality
that is the NBA. What if he really stretched out and said, OK, I`m down
for the minimum wage movement, for example.

TRAYNHAM: I think it would depend on his endorsements. I think it depends
-- I think it has a lot to do with, for example, Apple bought Beats. To my
knowledge, Apple has not supported a minimum wage increase.

HARRIS-PERRY: But the thing is, he was an investor. That wasn`t about
endorsement. That was about a level of ownership.

TRAYNHAM: That`s true. But my example would be I simply don`t know this
in terms of whether -- what type of endorsements he has, but he very well
could be contractually obligated not to talk about it.

KUSTOK: Here`s the deal with LeBron, which what makes him so unique, is
that most players have endorsements. Michael Jordan still makes a ton of
money off endorsements. LeBron has made a point of becoming an investor,
taking ownership. So, every endorsement he has, he is a part owner no
matter how big.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: I`m not a businessman. I`m a business, man, right?

So, he has taken, that`s why he and Jay have that secret handshake. Maybe
he is -- maybe because of that, that is precisely the claim of being freer.

TRAYNHAM: And that`s the brilliance of it, right? So, the point is, you
can write your own press release and damn the consequences, because it
doesn`t matter, because I have enough money and credibility and because I`m
the leader, I can do this and not have a lot of consequences to suffer from
it.

BOYKIN: But if he can`t talk about the minimum wage, which I don`t think
he will or should, if he can`t talk about --

PAGE: Why shouldn`t he?

BOYKIN: Well, because I think he is implicitly doing it by supporting
Barack Obama. I don`t think he should because it`s going off of his brand.
But if he can`t talk about it and he wants to talk about it I think he
isn`t free and that`s no question that Keith Reed was putting out there,
that he`s the only free player. But like I said, you have all these little
unknown players who can talk about whatever they want and nobody is going
to care because --

HARRIS-PERRY: Right, because they`re going to ask them.

BOYKIN: Exactly.

HARRIS-PERRY: But this is the issue of power, right? It`s a bit like
saying if I`m the congressman from the third congressional district of
whatever state, I`m capable of saying things that the white house can`t.
Well, yes, but the point is the White House needs to say it, right?

OK. Stick with us. We`ll talk about LeBron the player and LeBron the
activist. When we come back, we`re going to talk about whether or not King
James is going to be the next king of comedy. He`s diversifying, people,
diversifying.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been discussing superstar LeBron James, his free
agency and the power it has given him over the NBA. But he`s also putting
his influence to use in Hollywood where he`s producing a new show for the
Stars Network called "Survivor`s Remorse", a sitcom about a pro basketball
player and what his success means for his friends and family.

Here`s a trailer for the show that spells out how hard it can be for a
young millionaire.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

HARRIS-PERRY: So, there`s a dash of reality for you. We tend to think of
labor battles in sports as millionaire athletes fighting billionaire
owners. But at least those stats help to make clear the odds of those
athletes staying millionaires, let alone even solvent are lower than many
may think. So, part of why I`m interested in the LeBron of it all, who he
is and also who he might represent.

You know, we talked earlier in the show, Robert, oh, we shouldn`t think of,
nobody feels sorry for Hillary Clinton when you make many tens of thousands
of dollars for speaking engagement. Nobody feels sorry for the millionaire
salaried NBA players, but it`s worth noting it`s very hard to get there and
even harder for them to keep their money afterward.

Is there something we can learn about labor battles and the kind of
leverage that workers ought to have from the LeBron story?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s why we call this Nerdland.

HARRIS-PERRY: Nerdland, nerd politics, there we go.

TRAYNHAM: Curious to know who his audience really is, I think it`s
probably his colleagues in the NBA. I think I`m reading into his genius
here where he`s saying, I`m going to teach you something here. I`ll teach
you how to not be one of the 41 percent of the individuals who claim or
declare bankruptcy after five years of retirement.

So, again, I think he`s speaking to a narrative that we don`t necessarily
feel comfortable talking about. And that is a black man in power. And
that is someone who is thoughtful, that is someone who is in control and
that`s someone who is teaching us through leadership by being a thoughtful
role model here and I think that`s what LeBron James is telling us based on
his actions.

HARRIS-PERRY: And also interestingly, connecting culturally because he`s
doing it through funny sitcoms set in Atlanta not be preaching to us, which
is irritating.

TRAYNHAM: He`s not sanctimonious.

BOYKIN: That does not look like a sitcom trailer.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I know, right?

BOYKIN: That`s very serious.

KUSTOK: But at the end, I think one of the things when you look at 100
percent of the people are trying to get at. I covered sports, you know, my
whole life since having played. I see high school sports and grew up in
Chicago and the amount of the entourages of these guys. From the time they
are in high school and different people see what they think they can become
and it`s not easy.

I mean, we want to assume what an easy life for a professional player, but
they have got so much to deal with and you look at those stats. It really
--

HARRIS-PERRY: Authenticity claim that comes along with it, right? If you
make good, levelheaded decisions that sometimes include saying, you know
what, we`ve been friends for a long time, but I can`t have you around me,
then you`re now inauthentic, right? And those claims are real. That is
the community from which you have emerged.

BOYKIN: Maybe the genius of the show idea is that it humanizes these
professional athletes in the way that makes them more sympathetic in labor
negotiations in the future. And especially, you know, you look at the
labor relations in the country today. Most Americans aren`t exactly
excited about labor unions and the popularity has declined a lot. When you
talk about players unions, it is more mixed. I mean, on one hand people
think, they`re all rich, but on the other hand, they started to be more
sympathetic to the needs of the labor unions and start negotiating deals
with even wealthier --

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: Maybe in NFL, but I think less, I think less in other sports. Maybe
in the NFL you get that sympathy because of what we`ve learned, head
injuries, post-career guys walking around drooling from the mouth,
basically. In the NBA and Major League Baseball and I don`t think there is
--

BOYKIN: This could be a tool to help create that sympathy or empathy, at
least.

HARRIS-PERRY: But what about, though -- I mean, you look at two-sides, the
owner. I mean, they`re making billions of dollars off these players, as
well.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: They get to stay billionaires because their career, their
career -- granted but their career isn`t over in their 30s. So, you know,
as I was watching the NBA Finals they kept talking about how old Tim Duncan
is and I was like, he was a freshman when I was a senior. Like I don`t
think of myself as old.

But for the NBA, we start aging players out that your ownership deals just
get started at that age. You have this much longer period.

And when we -- again, when we say millionaires, just because you have a
million salary, but, again, nobody feel sorry for you if you make a million
dollars. The question is, what is the human story and how is -- you know,
how is LeBron navigating it? I just wondered, do we end up with stronger
labor unions as a result of LeBron James` sitcom?

BOYKIN: I certainly hope so.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: I mean, I think if nothing else, may not affect all labor unions.
But I think, if nothing else, it does give some sort of support for the
average role players that we talked about before, and when you have the
freedom and they were able to do and say things but not that economic
freedom. That`s what the LeBron has -- he has the economic freedom that
doesn`t have the freedom to be able to do everything else.

TRAYNHAM: Right, but the reality is, there`s only one LeBron James. It
would be one thing if there`s like 10 or 15 LeBron James in the NBA, but
there isn`t. I think that`s when the labor relations board would say, you
know what, we need to step back, we need to reevaluate the situation
because there`s more LeBron James out there in terms of the power.

HARRIS-PERRY: And that question of --

TRAYNHAM: In terms of enlightenment, is real with that.

KUSTOK: Because people will listen to what LeBron James and that creates a
platform.

TRAYNHAM: OK, that`s a good point.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Robert Traynham, for sticking around with us.

Our other guests are going to hang out a little bit longer because we`re
going to go more into this labor question, because up next, the case that
could change everything for college players who are trying to be the next
LeBron, the labor questions start before the NBA.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: All that stands between the fate of a multi-million dollar
industry and the total transformation of everything you know about some of
your favorite sports is this one woman. Find out who she is and what she`s
deciding and who stands to gain and lose, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: If you`ve been regularly checking in with us here at
Nerdland over the last few months, you know we have been talking about the
legal challenges to NCAA economic dominance over college athletics. There
was the class action lawsuit alleging that the NCAA and the five richest
conferences unlawfully capped player compensation at the value of an
athletic scholarship.

And, of course, the Northwestern University football players historic push
for unionization that had our Nerdland friend Dave Zirin making this
declaration.

(BEGIN VIDE OCLIP)

DAVE ZIRIN, THE NATION: This is amazing. This is historic. This is the
first crack in the NCAA cartel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: And now, there`s this -- the case that could bust that crack
wide open.

For the last three weeks, a courtroom in Oakland, California, has been the
epicenter of a quake that could rock the NCAA to its very core. Seismic
shift that could change everything as we know it about college athletics.

Friday was the last day of testimony in this landmark three-week trial --
which puts the NCAA against every current and former player whose likeness
is used to line the organization`s pockets. At the heart of the case is a
question of whether college players should be able to get a slice of the
millions of dollars that their performances on the court generate for their
schools and the NCAA, leading the class action suit on behalf of the
players is this guy, the plaintiff and former UCLA All-American basketball
player Ed O`Bannon.

O`Bannon is arguing that the players are entitled to some of the profits
the NCAA makes by using their images mine on television and in video games.
A loss for the NCAA could mean it would have to shell out millions of
dollars in damages and schools could have to start paying their players.
And because of the NCAA`s request for trial by jury was previously denied,
the faith of the organization all comes down to this one person. U.S.
District Judge Claudia Wilken who, though she has never stepped on a court,
has suddenly become the most valuable players in American sports.

Joining me now from Washington, D.C., is Patrick Hruby, writer for "Sports
on Earth" and host of the "Sports on Earth" podcast.

Nice to see you.

PATRICK HRUBY, WRITER, SPORTS ON EARTH: Thanks for having me.

HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, is she a sports fan, this judge that is
going to make the decision and going to rock the NCAA?

HRUBY: This is a really interesting part. As far as we can tell, no.
Claudia Wilken, Judge Wilken is not a big sport fan. Much like Peter Sung-
or who gave down the regional NLRB decision regarding Northwestern
unionization, she is coming into this and looking at this with, I would
say, clear eyes, almost like a space alien coming down and really seeing it
for what it is.

You guys have been talking about power, economic power, economic freedom --
that`s what this case is really about.

HARRIS-PERRY: I so appreciate that. What I want you to do is backup for
me a little bit, because a lot of folks who are still watching at this
point are in fact sports fans. Many of them like me may have gone to a
college where we are in love with our basketball team or football team. I
am still screaming for the Demon Deacons all these many years later.

Part of what the NCAA is saying is that people like me will no longer watch
the games if suddenly the athletes who are playing are not just our fellow
students, our peers in the classroom, but are actually being paid.

HRUBY: That`s right. You know, this is an anti-trust case. An anti-
trust, you know, you can`t actually be a cartel sometimes and get away with
what seemed to be anti-trust violations if there are benefits to that. If,
basically, those benefits, you know, make your industry healthy or make
your industry possible. In the NCAA case they`re saying, look, if all of a
sudden these athletes are no longer, quote-unquote, "amateurs", fans will
be turned away. Fans like you, fans like me. We`re not going to watch any
more. It`s going to be like Minor League Baseball or D-League baseball.

What we actually like -- this is NCAA -- is not that these guys are really
talented or they`re playing for these schools that we love. What we like
is that they`re not paid. If they start getting paid, we`ll all stop
watching.

I think that`s a ridiculous argument but one of the arguments they`re
making in court.

HARRIS-PERRY: What that rests on is the fundamental concept of amateurism.
Explain then to the audience how amateurism and the notion of, as our
friend Zirin has called them, carter, operates together.

HRUBY: So, what it is basically is you got the NCAA and all their member
schools getting together like a union, if you will, and they`re saying to
all these athletes, you have to be amateurs to participate. You have to be
amateurs to be part of this.

That means that you can only be compensated with sort of a maximum wage of
an athletic scholarship. All the other money that comes in, the billions
in TV money and putting Nike shoes on your feet, and all the money that
boosters give to our athletic departments. We control all of that. You
can`t have any of that because if you do, you`re no longer an amateur,
you`re no longer eligible and you`re out.

And this is basically been, I would say, the racket that the NCAA has been
running for the last 100 years. But the funny about it is, if you go back
and look that whole concept of amateur and this point has been made in the
trial, amateur is basically what the NCAA says it is. At one point,
scholarships weren`t allowed and there was a point, laundering money was
allowed.

And there are point you could only have one-year scholarships or four-year
scholarships. They constantly shift the definition to whatever favors
them. And so, the plaintiff`s attorneys or bonds attorneys have been
pointing out, you know, this is really a fraud. This is really, like I
said, a racket. And it will be interesting to see if Judge Wilken agrees
with that.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, pause me for a second, because I want to come out and
basically ask the table for a second, whether you buy the argument that our
relationship to college sports would be fundamentally different if we
understand these players as paying for pay in some way.

BOYKIN: Not at all. I think people would go and support the college teams
regardless. And this definition of amateurism -- it seems like you can
still be an amateur and get paid, not a huge salary, just the regular
salary. The idea of working for free as volunteerism is not amateurism. I
think people get those things confused.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

PAGE: And let`s be honest -- it is, if the concern is, well, it`s going to
be viewed as a D-league or minor league, college football already is a
minor league. That`s why there is no other minor league football system or
the same thing in terms of college basketball. Big-time college basketball
is the minor leagues for the NBA, more so than the D-league.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask then, because we talked about nobody feeling
sorry for a millionaire athlete. I have to say for all the students who
are paying back the many tens of thousands of dollars in student loans,
they may also feel like, my friend, that scholarship does constitute pay.

KUSTOK: Yes, to a sense. But these institutions, the NCAA, these billion
dollar TV deals, they`re the ones getting all the money and the athletes
are the ones putting in all the work.

I don`t think it would change the perception -- you know, a very small
percent if athletes are starting to get some of the money for which they
are earning.

PAGE: The kid in the bio chem class isn`t drawing as much revenue for the
school, or as much revenue for the school, as some of these players are.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. And if he wants to work after school, he can, right?
Or if she wants to sell her autograph, she can in a way these players
can`t.

BOYKIN: Is there a difference between using your likeness and playing the
sport. Yes, maybe they shouldn`t get paid lots and lots of dollars to play
the sport, as a college level. But if you`re using your likely, yes, for
good sake, they should be compensated for that, not the same thing as
playing a sport.

HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, answer that question for us. Has there been a
distinction made in the courtroom in the actual arguments about the
difference between being paid to play for the sport versus the use of the
likeness of these athletes?

HRUBY: Yes, actually, that`s one of the interesting things about this case
is that this specific case is more about sort of main image and likeness
and the attorneys -- again, they`ve gone to the judge and said, look,
there`s lot of sort of possible ways to resolve this. We`re asking for an
injunction so that the athletes can get something.

But they said if you want, you can have a trust fund that the players could
then, you know, access that money after their eligibility is required.
There`s different solutions, if the NCAA wants to hold on to some sort of
partial definition of amateurism. The interesting thing to note here is
that after the O`Bannon case, there are other anti-trust cases coming.
They`re going to be heard under the same judge and they are much more
direct challenges to the whole that I said maximum wage, you know, earnings
cap that the scholarship constitutes.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Patrick, let me ask this. You know, NCAA typically
because of the revenue that comes particularly from men`s football and
basketball, we say NCAA and we think that. But it also, NCAA controls lots
of other sports on campus.

Would this ruling impact other sports or are we really just looking at the
marquee, you know, the revenue sports?

HRUBY: It`s a really good question. This case is about right now men`s
basketball, football, you know, the sort of big revenue sports. However,
there are sports, you know, in certain places that do generate revenue.
Some places, basketball generates revenue. Other places, you know, men`s
wrestling generate some revenue.

And in terms of the economic freedom for the athletes, we absolutely have
individual athletes in our sports that if it were not for amateurism who
could be making more money. Missy Franklin, the Olympic swimmer is a great
example of this. She went to swim at Cal. Because of that, she had to not
take a lot of endorsement opportunities that she would have otherwise had.

Talking about name image and likeness, I mean, how fair is that? It`s not
fair at all, but that`s the system we`re living with right now.

HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you one question to you, Patrick. For schools
who are looking at this, is there a reason why colleges and universities
themselves would have a preference for being in a marketplace that is open
versus having the NCAA cartel control. In other words, is it good for them
to have to compete for the best athletes in a way, if there is no sort of
wage cap for them?

HRUBY: Right. You could make the argument, the NCAA likes to argue. This
is their argument in court -- another reason we need this minimum wage is
so that we have competitive balance.

Now, I know everybody who actually follows college sports realizes there is
no competitive balance. Alabama, Duke, you know, Georgetown, UCLA -- these
schools dominate basketball and football year in and year out. They get
the best high school recruits.

You know, let`s not be fooled about this. You can make the case that if
schools were allowed to make competitive bids for athletes, a smaller
school could come in and get a few of those athletes. It could concentrate
resources on a few key players, especially in men`s basketball.

You know, right now Ball State University is never going to beat out
Kentucky for a single men`s basketball recruit.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

HRUBY: But if you had rich boosters at Ball State, they might be able to.
So, in some ways, it might be more competitive sports marketplace, not a
less competitive one.

HARRIS-PERRY: Patrick Hruby in Washington, D.C., you know, we have been
watching this. We will continue to watch this very closely. Thank you for
joining us.

And also thank to all my guests here in New York. Keith Boykin and Sara
Kustok. Also to Jason Page.

Up next, it is not my letter of the week, it`s the name of a new movie
getting rave reviews at film festivals and coming to theaters this fall.
The director of "Dear White People" in Nerdland, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Who doesn`t love a great movie whether you watch while
scarfing popcorn in your neighborhood megaplex or live streaming on your
table, movies let us escape, except sometimes.

For African-Americans, the biggest movies can be a minefield of problematic
representations. Remember when everyone was seeing "The Help"?

Well, yes, let me just say that despite the brilliance performances, when
others were applauding, watching a black woman domestic worker walk off
unemployed into the Jim Crow South, didn`t make it a feel-good ending for
me, or what about the Academy Award-winning "The Blind Side."? Yes, it is
based on a true story of a true affection formed across racial lines.

But just once I wish the blockbuster movie about the young black man didn`t
have to feature the white lady savior. And maybe that`s why I`m really
looking forward to new films, and one in particular that flips the script
on the often troubling narrow representations of blackness so often offered
up by Hollywood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How come the only black movie Hollywood wants to make
are ones with black mammies in fat suits? Or black women in pain, man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So basically we got black people dying in the past, and
black people dying in the present.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we have movie with characters in them, instead of
stereotypes wrapped in Christian dogma?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it every educated person inherently evil?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most people I hear (INAUDIBLE), it`s got two chains in
it.

CROWD: Oh!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS-PERRY: The award-winning new film "Dear White People", which was a
hit at this year`s Sundance Film Festival is in theaters everywhere this
October.

And joining me now is the film`s director, Justin Simien.

Nice to have you, Justin.

JUSTIN SIMIEN, FILM DIRECTOR: Good to be here. I love being in Nerdland.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that`s great. Thanks.

So, tell me, what lessons does this film need to teach white folks?

(LAUGHTER)

SIMIEN: Well, you know, the movie is called "Dear White People", but it`s
not necessarily to any specific group of people. You know, for me, it`s
just really an expression of what I call the new black experience. The
black experience I`ve had, has been sort of toggling my race identity in
between different sort of racial spheres. And it`s sort of this how I am
with my white friends and black friends and my mixed group friends.

That`s sort of a black experience that we were all having but nobody was
really talking about in a movie. So I made one.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, in some way -- let`s pause for a second. So, you said,
I made one. Maybe it was in part because you talked about making one. You
did a concept trailer. And it caught fire.

SIMIEN: That`s true.

HARRIS-PERRY: And all of these folks who were doing that toggling as you
called it, were like, yes, I need that movie to exist.

SIMIEN: Yes. I mean, the thing that happens every time you try to make a
movie, especially people of color in it, is everyone looks at what made
money in the last year. And if your movie is something like the movies
that made money in the last year, kind of like, I don`t know, is there
going to be an audience for this.

So, the cool thing about, you know, the (INAUDIBLE) trailer, I put my tax
return into it and we shot it over two days. And people took to it. We
were able to easily say, yes, there is an audience for this, and they`re
starving for something that represents what their actual life is like.

HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of which, you talk about the audience starving for
it. This is set on a college campus, which is part of why Nerdland just
inherently loves it. What is it that`s unique about how race operates on
campuses that makes it rich for comedy and racial conversation?

SIMIEN: Well, for me, I just -- you know, I`m a big lover of those sort of
satirical, multi-protagonists movies that like take place on these
microcosms, you know? Just like school days that came before election,
fame, you`re sort of able to talk about the American experience, in a much
more digestible way when it`s set on a microcosm of a school, for whatever
reason.

And, you know, for me, sort of writing the first draft coming out of my
college experience. So, you know, it wasn`t that much of a leap for me to
write what I knew about this particular case.

HARRIS-PERRY: Now, as you were thinking about doing race work, in comedy,
you know --

SIMIEN: Race work.

HARRIS-PERRY: Race work, right? In comedy.

SIMIEN: Very important.

HARRIS-PERRY: Here we are in 30 Rock, you know, we`re across the street
from Radio City Music Hall. Dave Chappelle has been playing, all of us are
working 24 hours a day, so we can`t get over there.

SIMIEN: Love it.

HARRIS-PERRY: It is really hard to do it with -- and make sure that you`re
laughing with folks and not having folks laugh at you. You know, how do
you balance that?

SIMIEN: You know, I don`t know. I hope I did.

HARRIS-PERRY: You`re like, I don`t know, it might be a mess, who knows?

SIMIEN: No, but I`m really proud of the movie. But what I`ve been really
happy to see happen is as a filmmaker, I wanted to make a movie that left
people feeling some kind of way. So maybe they laugh, maybe they`re
entertained, but they`re left with something to ponder at the end of the
film that they didn`t expect to.

And as we sort of play it across festivals across the country, it`s been
really cool to see that happen. And you kind of never really know what
movie you made until you start showing it to people. I`m happy that it`s
working in the way that I wanted it to.

HARRIS-PERRY: I understand you had to give the white folks in the audience
permission to laugh?

(LAUGHTER)

SIMIEN: Well, particularly at the first screening. You know, there was a
lot of folks that came in, because it was, "Dear White People". I think
some people thought this was going to be an hour and a half of all the
things they were doing wrong, which is not exactly what the movie is. But,
you know, that`s a little bit of -- that`s a part of it.

So I just wanted to ease them into, even though there are black people
sitting around you, you`re also allowed to laugh at yourselves and the
things that happen in the film.

HARRIS-PERRY: In a lot of ways it sounds like maybe finally six years into
the Obama moment, as we may remember it 20 years from now, this is -- this
toggling in between the notion of college educated folks and the question
of managing all of these difficult images is exactly what we need.

Justin Simien in Los Angeles, once again the film is "Dear White People."
And really, people are going to have to wait a bit to go and see it. So,
look for it in October.

SIMIEN: October 17.

HARRIS-PERRY: But the buzz is already building.

Thank you for joining us, Justin.

SIMIEN: Thank you so much. Such a pleasure.

HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely.

And that is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll
see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

But right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."

Hi, Alex.


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