'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, August 2nd, 2014
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
August 2, 2014
Guest: Dean Obeidallah, Jamelle Bouie, Seema Iyer, Tomas Ayuso, Alina Das,
Hector Perla, Laura Wexler, Hillary Mann Leverett, Sarah Kliff, Alexander
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY": This morning my
question, how do we respond to an outbreak that cannot be controlled?
Plus, republican implosion as the GOP battles itself over a border bill.
And the optics of war.
But first, the medical examiner`s report is in. It was homicide.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. We begin by going live to Harlem
here in New York City where MSNBC host and National Action Network
President Reverend Al Sharpton and the family of the late Eric Garner are
addressing the media. The 43-year-old Garner`s death last month occurred
after New York Police Department officers tried to arrest him for allegedly
selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island.
Cell phone video of the incident ignited a public outcry and Friday New
York City`s chief medical examiner ruled the Garner`s death was a homicide
resulting from the compression of his neck, the chokehold, a compression of
his chest applied by the officers. Garner`s asthma, obesity and
hypertension were also said to be contributing factors in his death. Let`s
go live now to events under way in Harlem.
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Homicide. You all know what
that means. Now, so this is not about the family overreacting. This is
not about civil rights activists polarizing. This is about an illegal
chokehold that caused the death. Let`s start to deal with the facts.
SHARPTON: Now, the fact that there was an illegal chokehold, the fact that
there was the - it was the cause of death and that the medical examiner
says, therefore, homicide. That, in and of itself, is probable cause for
SHARPTON: The District Attorney neither either say I`m going to move
forward and arrest or I`m going to defer it to the federal government. But
you cannot have the facts and not address the facts. That`s where we are.
Then you go on if the federal government takes it or the prosecutor does to
a grand jury. But all we are interested in is justice. Don`t do us no
favors, but don`t do us any way different than anyone else that probable
cause has been established.
SHARPTON: Now there are two issues here. I want to be real clear.
There`s the criminal justice issue, justice for Eric Garner. Justice for
Eric Garner`s family, friends, loved ones, and then there`s the issue of
policing to make sure this doesn`t happen again. What the media is trying
to do is run past one to the other. I want to be real clear. We had a
meeting the other day at city hall, Charles there, (INAUDIBLE) the 49,
Cynthia Davis joined the clergy from Staten Island, Reverend (INAUDIBLE)
with the mayor and the police chief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: You are listening there to the National Action Network
President, MSNBC`s Al Sharpton. Here at my table Dean Obeidallah,
columnist at "The Daily Beast," Jamelle Bouie, staff writer at flate.com.
Dorian Warren, MSNBC contributor and associate professor of political
science and international public affairs at Columbia University. And Seema
Iyer, criminal defense attorney here in New York City. Thank you all for
joining me. This is obviously a critical moment. I want to start with
you, Seema. So, tell me what it means for this investigation going forward
in a very narrow legal sense, what a finding by the medical examiner of
SEEMA IYER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It means that now the district
attorney`s office can file charges against the police officers for EMS
workers, for homicide. But what it really means, the sad reality is that
it`s going to be presented to a grand jury, OK? The fact that the grand
jury may or may not indict this gentleman, that depends largely on the
population of Staten Island. Now, as many of you know, Staten Island is
largely white. And they have done this before. Perhaps you remember
Ramarley Graham in the Bronx where they presented to a grand jury and the
grand jury doesn`t indict. I know Staten Island well. I practice in
Staten Island. I have a strong suspicion this case will be dismissed by
the grand jury. Also, because these EMS workers, officers, they will
testify in front of the grand jury and they may display some type of
empathy, they may get that from the grand jurors.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask then, if that were to happen, we certainly
don`t know if that will happen, but if that were to happen, this evidence
was presented to a grand jury, the grand jury of Staten Island decides not
to indict .
HARRIS-PERRY: What we heard from Reverend Sharpton there was the
possibility of federal intervention that someone might ultimately be able
to say, OK, if that does, in fact, happen, that this man, Mr. Garner, the
late Mr. Garner`s civil rights were also violated. Is that a possibility?
IYER: Absolutely. So, there are federal civil charges. There are federal
criminal charges and there are state civil charges. So, there are many
avenues for the family to find a closure, frankly, for this.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to come out for a minute from the kind of narrow
legal case. And Dorian, I want to turn to you on part of what we heard
Reverend Sharpton say there was - there are two different issues. He said
there`s justice for the families, for the friends, for the kind of
immediate community of the late Mr. Garner. And then there`s a question of
a larger justice around policing, ensuring this doesn`t happen again was
the language he used. But I just want to point to the fact that not only
might it happen again but we are already seeing in the news he in New York
apparent chokehold of a 27-year old pregnant African-American woman whose
apparent crime seemed to be grilling illegally on her front stoop. We have
seen the video come out of the young man being stomped, apparently, being
stumped in the head by an arresting officer, Mr. Coffey. What is your
sense of optimism about both the narrow sense of justice and the larger
sense of policing justice?
DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think I have more optimism about the
narrow sense of justice. I think the broader issue -- look, Mayor de
Blasio ran on a progressive platform to come in and stop "Stop and Frisk."
And instead what we`ve seen is "Stop and Choke" and "Stop and Kill." And I
think we are ratcheting up very quickly with the ubiquity of videos to a
moment that we saw in 1991 in L.A where black communities in particular had
enough. So, it was that video of Rodney King when in a moment when - in a
time when video wasn`t as prevalent. Now, as you said, we`ve had two
others. You`d better believe there are going to be more videos that come.
And so, you know, the mayor might have a serious issue around disorder and
uprising coming up in terms of New York City policing on his hands if he
doesn`t do something decisively. Let me just also say, in terms of
Commissioner Bratton, he is the implementer. He is the chief implementer
of a theory called broken windows. That if you go after low level crimes,
loitering, marijuana possession. Because the theory is that it leads to
more serious crimes. And this is still, after 20 years in practice, 30
years since the theory has been out, this is a theory in search of evidence
HARRIS-PERRY: Jamelle, we just heard from Dorian that Mayor de Blasio ran
on a platform around "Stop and Frisk." Just for the folks who think - we
are not just making it up, I want to watch us a little bit of what was
probably the turning point campaign commercial for Mayor de Blasio of his
own son talking about the fact that de Blasio was, at this point candidate
de Blasio, was meant to be specifically different on this question of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANTE: I want to tell you a little bit about Bill de Blasio. He`s the
only Democrat with the guts to really break from the Bloomberg years and
he`s the only one who will end a stop and frisk era that unfairly targets
people of color.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And so here we have the mayor`s son saying he`s the one who
will stop it. I just want to also play for us what Reverend Sharpton said
to Mr. de Blasio about his own son, about Dante. I want to take a listen
to that as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: People feel that you are not just another politician, but that
you`re the transformational mayor that they look to be. The fact of the
matter here is given the data that we are seeing in terms of these broken
window kind of operations, it`s disproportionate in the black and Latino
community. If Dante wasn`t your son, he`d be a candidate for a chokehold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That is pretty hard to hear.
JAMELLE BOUIE, STAFF MEMBER, SLATE: But it`s actually true. I mean the
thing about - the thing about policing that gives a lot of discretion and
broken windows policing as one that gives a tremendous amount of discretion
to individual officers. And it is going to mix with biases, it`s going to
mix with ideas about criminality and who you should be paying attention to.
And so, it`s almost sort of inevitable that if you`re going to approach
policing, knock out the minor offenses first, that officers, even if
they`re not, you know, explicitly targeting subconsciously, well, that guy
looks more suspicious, that woman grilling seems like a bigger problem than
that kid, who may not be African American, who may not be Latino, doing
something. That might just be seen as like play forward, whatever. And
So, you are going to - it`s like even with everyone having the best of
intentions, you`re going to have an outcome that is heavily racially
disproportionate and we sort of know that not everyone has the best
intentions here so that just makes it even worse.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I think Jamelle, everything - that`s so useful because
if we look at, Jamelle, Akafi (ph), who was allegedly stopped or apparently
was stopped by a police officer, it`s really important to note that police
officer was an African American police officer, right? And so sometimes
what you`ll hear in response to a moment like that is, well, it cannot be
racialized if, in fact, both the assailants and the victim were black. But
it has to do with who is deemed dangerous, right? Black bodies, brown
bodies, Muslim bodies, presumed Muslim bodies that are actually sick
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, THE DAILY BEAST: Right.
OBEIDALLAH: To me, and I think that`s absolutely right in that - when you
- I saw a picture that to me brought it home, there was a young kid of
color holding the T-shirt with the names of all the people killed by the
NYPD over the years, and - Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, (INAUDIBLE) Bumpers,
and then it had handwritten in the name of Eric Garner. So this young kid
grows up in a community where he sees the police as not an ally, not as a
friend, distrustful and potentially someone who will kill him, to be
honest. They grow with that mentality. It cannot be conduced (ph) of the
police workers. The police say, remember one thing, they need is a
relationship with the community. That`s why when - in my community, the
Muslim community, it made no sense. You are making us adversaries as
opposed to allies when we are the ones that want to turn in the bad people
in our community. We don`t want them to define us. So, to me when I saw
the picture of the young kid, to me it brought it out home, on a human
level. Young people growing up going, I don`t trust the police in any way.
This makes it even worse.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us. We are going to take a quick break. We are
awaiting word from the family of the late Eric Garner. We want to bring
that to you when they speak. We`ll be back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re continuing to follow events live in Harlem this
morning at the National Action Network and we`re waiting for the relatives
of the late Eric Garner to speak. Mr. Garner who died after being put in a
chokehold by New York police officers. The family will speak today about
the medical examiner`s report that determined Garner`s death was a
homicide. This is Mr. Garner`s mother. Let`s take a listen.
GWENN CARR, MOTHER OF ERIC GARNER: First, giving honor to God, who is the
head of my life, to family, friends, and of course my newfound family. It
gives me great pleasure to be here again at the National Action Network
with Reverend Al Sharpton who has been awesome since this whole thing
started. This whole ordeal, he`s just been just there for us every step of
the way. I don`t care what nobody says about him, he`s all right with me.
He`s all right.
CARR: And we also want to give thanks to the religious leaders, Bishop
Evans, who is part of my family, Bishop Brown, Reverend Brown, Reverend --
excuse me. Reverend Daughtry and everybody.
HARRIS-PERRY: We will continue -- this is Mrs. Carr. This is the late
Eric Garner`s mother. We will come back to her and to other family members
in a moment. We`ll continue to monitor it for you. As you imagine, this
might be - this is obviously a very emotional and difficult time for the
family. We`re going to come back to that. But for a moment, while the
family is preparing their statement, I do want to look at a statement by
Mayor de Blasio, sort of playing on what you were just saying, Dean.
Because de Blasio`s statement, the mayor`s statement said "We all have a
responsibility to work together to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust
and create a culture where the police department and communities respect
each other and that`s a responsibility that the Commissioner Bratton and I
take very seriously.
I said that we make a change and we will. As mayor I remain absolutely
committed to ensuring the proper forms are enacted, to ensure that this
won`t happen again. But, honestly, that notion of, oh, this is a both
sides issue. I just feel like, no. One side is empowered with the power
of the state and has acted illegally and caused the death of the other
side. This isn`t a two-sided issue.
IYER: I was just going to give Dean credit where credit is due. Because
Dean keeps pointing out to me that if it wasn`t for the video .
IYER: We wouldn`t be here talking about this. And I can tell you that
every week I have a client that`s going to the civilian complaint review
board to make complaints to the police department for excessive force. I
have clients who have been strip searched in broad daylight in front of
their entire community, but no video, and even bringing that to a jury, a
jury doesn`t believe it.
IYER: Why? Because it`s not a jury of their peers.
HARRIS-PERRY: And because - Let`s hold on for just a second. I do want to
go back to the Mr. Bratton`s mother at the National Action Network
Headquarters here in Harlem, the mother of Eric Garner is speaking.
SHARPTON: Give his mother a big hand.
SHARPTON: For the widow, let`s stand and greet her as she comes.
ESAW GARNER: Good morning, everybody. First of all, I want to thank the
God above for giving us justice for my husband so that we can move forward
and get this cop done with. That`s it. I want to thank the National
Action Network for standing behind me and keeping me strong through this
tedious process. It`s been really hard. I`ve been trying to be strong,
but it`s really hard. I met with the prosecutors and I feel like I did the
right thing by doing that, and I just want them to do the right thing and
give me justice for my husband.
ESAW GARNER: And thank you. Thank you. That`s all I`m going to say.
SHARPTON: Give her a hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That is the widow of Eric Garner speaking there. I
apologize, earlier I identified the mother of Eric Garner as the mother of
Mr. Bratton. That was a mistake. I apologize for that. So we heard there
just in that moment that his widow is beginning to think that there was
some possibility for justice as a result of what the medical examiner
found. Again, though, let me ask, you know, when we see a family like this
thrust into the role of social justice advocates, of people speaking on
television on a weekend morning, this was just a family kind of doing their
- you know, experiencing their lives and suddenly they`re in this position.
What can we expect in terms of the kind of spotlight that is likely to
occur on this family? I mean I`m just in this moment thinking about
Renisha McBride this week and the board we have heard set about here. I`m
thinking about Trayvon Martin and the kind of spotlight that was - So, on
the one hand I`m watching this family and their grace under this pressure,
but I`m also thinking what may be coming in the subsequent months might be
very, very painful.
BOUIE: My hope is that no national politician speaks about this case
because part of the problem with Trayvon Martin, right is that as soon as
President Obama said anything, it became politicized like that, right?
And all of a sudden you had conservatives taking the side of George
Zimmerman because they saw this not so much as a justice issue. And
obviously, not all conservatives.
BOUIE: But many conservatives didn`t see this as a justice issue, they saw
this as a President Obama is terrible.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, don`t we want him to speak? Like I hear you saying
we don`t want him to speak because of the backlash. On the other hand,
don`t we also, however, want our national elected officials to say this is
unacceptable in this moment?
BOUIE: I mean this is sort of, I guess, the tragedy of the current moment.
Like this is - this is the time where it would be great for President Obama
and other national leaders to say we have a problem in this country with
over policing. We have a problem in this country with particular
communities being singled out for tremendous violence against them. But to
say that is really to risk a massive political backlash. In the case of
the Garner family, it is to risk the kind of examination of that. I mean
if Obama were to speak tomorrow morning about this, in, you know, an hour I
would expect Fox News to have some report about how, you know .
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. Right. Right. And again, not to single out
Fox News, but that we have seen the ways in which a racial moment like this
then becomes racialized and politicized. But again, whether he speaks or
not, just again, watching what`s happening around the Renisha McBride`s
trial this week and the ways, in which the victim is often put on trial and
the victim`s family. Seema Iyer, thank you for being here, I hope you`ll
come back. This case is going to continue and I really want to talk to you
more about how that chokehold becomes illegal and why that becomes an
issue. Everyone else is going to stay with us and will be with us later on
the program. But right now when we come back from our break, we`re going
to talk about the border crisis and the debate that kept Congress working
late into the night.
HARRIS-PERRY: They were both born in Brooklyn, both have extensive
experience with the law, and both are considered among the best in their
fields. Both are known for telling it like it is. Maybe that`s why
they`re both notorious. I`m talking, of course, about the rapper Biggie
Smalls, aka notorious Big, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
also known as notorious RBG. Ginsburg`s blistering 35-page dissent on the
Hobby Lobby birth control case inspired one woman to create the Tumblr page
Notorious RBG. It also inspired rap parodies and T shirts. In an
interview with Yahoo Global News anchor Katie Couric, Ginsburg seemed to
relish her new reputation as she praised the creator of the Tumblr page.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: But I think she has created a
wonderful thing with Notorious RBG. I will admit I had to be told by my
law clerks what`s this notorious, and they explained that to me. But I
think that her website is something I enjoy, all of my family do. So,
cheers for doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And for those speculating about whether the 81-year-old
justice plans to retire soon, the Notorious RBG had this response. "All I
can say is that I`m still here and likely to remain for a while." So, in
the words of that other notorious, if you don`t know, now you know.
HARRIS-PERRY: House Republicans passed legislation pertaining to the
border crisis late last night, but it has little chance of becoming law.
The bill goes to the Democratic controlled Senate, already on recess and
unlikely to ever take it up for a vote. Even before it was passed,
speaking to reporters on Friday afternoon President Obama was noticeably
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: House Republicans
as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of
a bill that they already know is going nowhere. They can`t pass the Senate
and that if it were to pass the Senate, I would veto. They know it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The House Republican bill would grant additional resources
to the National Guard to address the border crisis. It would also seek to
curb President Obama`s executive powers when it comes to deferred action.
That`s the executive authority to prevent deportation of some of the
undocumented. So Congress, now on break, leaves a continuing crisis
without the necessary funding to adequately care for thousands of children
with border agencies saying their budgets will be exhausted before Congress
returns in September. But the fact is, even if enacted it would be
temporary. And by so many focusing on the immediate crisis and securing
our border, we missed the root causes why this crisis even exists. In 1986
President Ronald Reagan signed a sweeping immigration reform bill called
the Immigration Reform and Control Act. While the bill created a pathway
to citizenship it also focused heavily on enforcement. According to policy
analysis from the CATO Institute that increased focus on enforcement had a
number of unforeseen consequences in the years that followed. For example,
the smuggling price to get across the border increased from $700 in the
1990s to $7,500 this year. The higher price means that migrant workers who
might normally stay for a season or for a few years and then return to
their countries of origin end up staying longer in order to pay off the
And as one of my guests this morning explained in some recent research in
writing, the reason why migrant workers often come here to begin with has
its roots in CAFTA, or the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Passed
in 2004, CAFTA has meant big profits for U.S. agro-business to the tune of
$20 billion a year, but has devastated Central American economies and the
livelihoods of family farmers. He argues U.S. policies like HAFTA are just
part of the complicated mix of factors behind our present border crisis.
At the table, Hector Perla, an assistant professor of Latin American and
Latino studies at University of California Santa Cruz, Jamelle Bouie who`s
staff writer at Slate, Tomas Ayuso, who`s a field investigator of Norio
research to the network of researchers in international affairs, and Alina
Das, who is assistant professor of clinical law and co-director of the
immigrant rights clinic at New York University School of Law. Thank you
all for being here. So, I want to start with you first, Alina, just on
some of the legislative stuff before I get to - on the (INAUDIBLE)
question. So, just based on what we saw coming out of the U.S. House of
Representatives, this sort of increased focus, again, on enforcement and
border control, seeing this refugee crisis as an immigration and law and
order problem, is there anything about that focus that would be likely to
actually impact the crisis that we`re currently seeing?
ALINA DAS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: No, in
fact, what has come out of the House of Representatives, if it ever were to
become law would only make the situation worse. I mean these are two
different bills aimed at two different problems, there`s a humanitarian
crisis where we have children who are presenting themselves to the
government and asking for help. And then there`s the issue of
comprehensive immigration reform and what happens to the many undocumented
people who are here in the United States who want to be on the path to
citizenship and rather than coming up with a solution to either of those
problems the House Republicans have practiced (ph) language, which would
make the situation worse with the kids who are in this humanitarian crisis
they want to create a fast track deportation system to send them back to
harm`s way and with those children who have been here in the U.S. for many
years, who are American in every way except on paper, they want those
people to be deported before we have a chance to have comprehensive
immigration reform. Essentially, they are forcing the president to do the
one thing - they say they don`t want him to do, which is to use his
executive authority to actually come up with a solution.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so on that, because I really appreciate that framing,
there`s a crisis -- a humanitarian crisis around refugee children who as
you point out are presenting themselves to border patrol. So, they are not
like trying to sneak into the U.S., trying to come as a humanitarian
question. But Hector, your writing on this crisis over the past month or
so has been extremely influential on my thinking about it. And one of the
things you can - write about is American policy and the way, in which
American policy impacts this crisis, I want to listen for a moment to Ted
Cruz speaking about the American policy he believes is contributing to this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: What`s happening at the border right now, the
direct and proximate cause of it is President Obama`s amnesty? They are
coming because they believe they will get amnesty President Obama`s amnesty
and if we want to solve the problem the only way to do it is to eliminate
the promise of amnesty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Is DACA the reason that this crisis is occurring?
HECTOR PERLA, ASSISTANT PROF., UC SANTA CRUZ: He gets it exactly wrong.
He gets - and he`s right in the sense that it is a manmade disaster, a
manmade crisis. It`s a human rights crisis. But he`s looking at the wrong
policies. We know it`s not DACA because the spike began in the fall of
2011 before DACA was even passed and many of the kids, they don`t even know
that DACA is happening. So, but they are - We definitely as a nation, we
need to look in the mirror and that is we have a huge responsibility in
this crisis and it`s our foreign policies, both are economic policy, most
recently CAFTA, but we can go back even further with the neoliberal
economic policies, the Washington consensus that we pushed on Central
America immediately following in the civil wars there. But we could go
back even to the civil wars and how we militarize the region for -- and the
military dictatorships and death squads that went funded throughout the
So our economic policy has been one that, you know, these countries that
were just coming out of war all of a sudden we open them up to free trade,
and these multinationals come in and make a huge profit and completely
displace people from their traditional livelihoods.
Couple that with our kind of regional security policy, which on the one
hand, is made up of hostility, outright hostility towards leftist
governments, like the San Denise does in Nicaragua, like the FMLN in El
Salvador and the CARSI, the Central American Regional Security Initiative,
which is a militarized form of policing in the region that`s just
draconian. And I mean it`s tragic that we - that you were talking this
morning about the Eric Garner situation. But that`s the kind of policing
model that is being implemented not just here, but over there as well in
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so this strikes me at some point. Because you`ve laid
out a variety of things. I think maybe those of us who are old enough to
remember the situations in El Salvador and Nicaragua may have thought of
some familiarity with the other folks, and may have begun to get them. I
want you to take me, Tomas, to Honduras for a moment and help us - the
viewers to understand what it is that`s going on, you know, Hector is
talking about this kind of policing, this kind of aggressive policing, the
relationship of U.S. economic interest there. What does that look like on
a daily basis if you are a ten-year-old living in Honduras?
TOMAS AYUSO, FIELD INVESTIGATOR, NORIA RESEARCH: Well, it depends on where
you live. There`s - the Honduras is the country that`s undergoing the
process of urbanization. So a lot of people are leaving the fields because
it`s simply put not a way to make money anymore and they go into the cities
and you create these informal cities that keep on expanding, expanding.
These cities are outside of any sort of state control or state anything.
So, you have these vacuums of authority or illicitness and whoever takes
control of that and can exploit it tends to be the big, bad man with the
In this case gangs, organized crime or affiliated gangs. So, for a ten-
year-old it comes down to -- and these families -- we`re on the fourth or
fifth generation of migration. So, these families, these kids are born of
the nuclear families beyond destroyed at this point. It`s like the kid is
raised, a ten-year-old could be raised by the neighbor because the father
left or got - was killed, a myriad of reasons. The mother, the same thing.
Now, mothers are leaving their kids to be raised by neighbors. And the
gangs notice this, they see - they see a potential recruit. They can see a
potential -- someone who can do a little gig for them here every so often.
And that`s when the kid is faced with the choice, the inhumane choice of
either you play ball, become a criminal, or you will suffer the
consequences of reproaching the gangs.
HARRIS-PERRY: And once a ten-year-old is facing that kind of decision,
we`re in a circumstance that ought to create a human rights international
law amnesty situation, is that right?
DAS: Yes, there are laws on the books here in the United States that are
aimed at protecting children who have a well-founded fear of persecution or
who`ve been abandoned, abused or neglected in their home countries. Those
laws are in place. They were passed with bipartisan support because we, as
a country, believe that we should protect these children. So, if those
children come here they should be given every opportunity to seek a process
so that they can show that they fit those categories and we should be
HARRIS-PERRY: Jamelle, when we come back, I want to ask you about what the
process actually looks like for young people in this country who are trying
-- or young people who are on the border of this country on either side, in
the ways, in which - it`s not just a political test, but also this kind of
law enforcement test that at times means that lives are caught in the
HARRIS-PERRY: On Tuesday the mother of 16-year old Jose Antonio Elena
Rodriguez filed a federal civil lawsuit against the U.S. Border Patrol to
find out who killed her son in October 2012. Jose was shot ten times
through the border fence by unknown agents as he walked home after playing
basketball in the border town of Nogales, Mexico. According to Jose`s mom,
the reason she is bringing this lawsuit is because, quote, "The U.S. Border
Control agents who killed my son in a senseless act of violence are still
out there and they need to be brought to justice. The U.S. government has
not held the agents who shot my son accountable and that is why I am
bringing this lawsuit. And according to an investigation by Fusion since
2012, 559 pregnant women were detained in six immigration and customs
enforcement detention facilities, despite a 2010 policy change that says
"Absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirements of mandatory
detention, field office directors should not expend detention resources on
aliens who are known to be suffering from serious physical or mental
illnesses, who are disabled, elderly, pregnant or nursing. Despite that
change at least 14 women have suffered miscarriages while in detention
So, Jamelle, part of the reason I wanted to highlight the shooting by the
border patrol and what could be a violation of our own policy around
pregnant women is because of what we`ve been talking about earlier in the
hour with Mr. Garner. And the notion of - the death of Mr. Garner because
of the presumption of his criminality, because we`ve seen the apparent
chokehold of a pregnant woman right on the steps of the New York -- here in
New York City, and it feels like in both cases there is a U.S. policy of
almost violent policing towards bodies we presume to be criminal or illegal
in some way.
BOUIE: Right. We have a long-standing idea, a culture - in this country
that immigrants from Mexico, immigrants from Central America, immigrants
from South America, are somehow foreign to this country. It doesn`t matter
how long they`ve been here. It doesn`t matter that, you know, large .
HARRIS-PERRY: Given out that this country used to be that country.
BOUIE: Right. Used to be that country. We view them as foreign and
suspect. That just carries on, again, regardless of people`s intentions,
almost. And so deep-seated that it carries on in our policy as we approach
immigration as we push border security and it doesn`t help that we also
have this draconian - security as well that kind of encourages that view of
these immigrants to take center stage. And so, much in the same way that
ideas of our black criminality inform our policing choices, ideas about the
inherent foreignness and suspect of immigrants from below the border also
informs our approach to security.
HARRIS-PERRY: And just to underline that, I want to listen to two -
things. I want to listen to Representative Bachmann saying something about
how she would like to address the president on this question and then I
want to listen to John Lewis who talks about, I think, exactly this kind of
solidarity. Let`s listen to both of those.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R) MINNESOTA: What Harry Reid has the opportunity
to do is to come back and join us. We`ll be here anytime, any day,
anywhere, anyhow. We will join him here in August, September, whenever,
and he needs to put the other handcuff on this lawless president`s hands so
that we can strain this president from granting amnesty.
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D) GEORGIA: There is no such thing as an illegal human
being. History will not be kind to us if we fail to do what is right, what
is just. We must pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform and we
must pass it now.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Hector, we hear from Michele Bachmann, the language of
handcuffing the president, which, again, in this moment feels like, come
on. And then we hear John Lewis in the country, a civil rights leader
saying there is no such thing as an illegal human being. And at least I
feel like I can hear both of their experiences informing how they see this
PERLA: Absolutely. I mean it`s completely -- you see the line drawn
visibly in the sand. And, you know, the president has a chance to do the
right thing here, right? And really stop caving in, I mean, on border
security. A lot of the stuff that`s being asked to do, the border security
stuff, as you mentioned earlier, the kids are not getting through. They`re
coming and turning themselves in. So, pumping more money into more border
enforcement, more draconian policing on the border that makes no sense.
It`s not going to solve the problem.
And as we think about that then, what does begin to solve the problem? I
mean we`ve talked on this show about the need for these children not to be
fast tracked to deportation, but instead to have interpreters, to have
attorneys. Given that Congress has gone on vacation, while this is
happening without giving more money, do you have any optimism about the
likelihood that we`ll get some of those resources that could make a
DAS: Well, resources, that`s going to be tough for the president, but the
president can put into place protections for these children to do what he
can to make sure they have access to attorneys, that there are resources
that are available for these children to go through the process and
actually have a chance to explain their stories to immigration judges. You
know, I work with children who face this situation, and they`re incredibly
traumatized by what they`ve gone through. And it takes time and it takes
resources to figure out what`s wrong and whether they qualify for relief.
But many of these children do and I think the majority of Americans agree
they should be given the chance to have that due process.
Stick with us. After the break, I want to get into what is being seen more
and more as the root cause of this entire crisis, because increasingly, the
finger is pointing right back here to U.S. when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: One death every 74 minutes, Honduras, it has the world`s
highest per capita murder rate. And this violence and crime fueled by
gangs and drug trafficking are only part of the complicated tangle of
factors leading to the displacement of so many Hondurans. According to
Honduran President Juan Hernandez, U.S. drug policy is to blame for the
migration surge. Speaking to the Mexican newspaper, Hernandez said,
Honduras has been living in an emergency for a decade. The root cause of
that is United States and Colombia carried out big operations in the fight
against drugs. And then New Mexico did it. This is creating a serious
problem for us that sparked this migration. So what happens if we change
the language to displacement rather than migration or even immigration and
if we see U.S. drug policy as the root cause of it? Does that begin to
change what this conversation looks like politically?
AYUSO: I think it would be correct to use it, for starters, because, you
know, it`s not only. And I think this gets lost in U.S. media that people
are only coming to the U.S. It`s like one pathway, it`s like on ways of
street, but it`s not true. People are being displaced within cities,
within neighborhoods, within states, within the country. So, we people who
live, say, in the coastal area get pushed away from the violence and move
to the city. Move their family, they come under threat there. They move
with family members in Nicaragua, Panama, Belize, or safer countries. And
then other people just straight go into the United States. So there is
displacement, it`s similar to what has happened in any country that`s been
undergoing the civil war. You know, I wouldn`t consider what`s going on in
a civil war but there is high degree intensity of internal violence that
leads to displacement.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, one of the things that has managed to seep through,
is this language of every line of cocaine that you do here in a New York
City party is having this impact on a Honduran child, for example. And
that does seem to be a useful framework, but also may be a limited one for
understanding how our drug policy and drug appetite influence and impacts
PERLA: Right. That`s just one phase of it, that`s one aspect of it. The
other aspect - again, the draconian militarized policing, the war on drugs
created a drug war in Honduras. I mean Central America. It has created a
drug war, right? In the region and all of those countries that have
followed that are the ones that are experiencing the highest levels of
violence, Honduras 90 homicides per 100,000. In El Salvador and Guatemala
we are almost as high. Nicaragua who hasn`t followed that policy is very
different, right? They have a more community oriented policing geared
towards prevention instead of the heavy hand or the super heavy hand that
El Salvadorian, Honduras have developed.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean they have a model policing that looks not unlike the
Richmond, California, model that we actually highlighted here on the show a
few weeks ago of identifying at-risk youth, engaging them in kind of
alternative and legitimate activities and, of course, we, meaning the U.S.,
are also not there because of our -- because of what happened in the `80s,
right? We`re actually also not messing around and tinkering around too
much in that country.
PERLA: Right. And ideologically, I mean it really is kind of an
ideological component of our foreign policy to now - for instance the
Millennium Challenge Corporation pulled the funding from Nicaragua.
Nicaragua no longer receives Millennium Challenge money, which is millions
of dollars. El Salvador right now actually -- and this is really, you
know, El Salvador`s changing path after 2009 has begun to go away from the
heavy handed policies and you see the impact it`s starting to have, the
increase in children from El Salvador hasn`t been as nearly as much and El
Salvador has always been the largest of the senders. Salvadorians are now
the third largest Latino community in the United States. So, Obama has a
chance here with that as well. Instead of playing politics and trying to
leverage and look tough on, you know, the left in Latin and Central
America, just for the sake of domestic Republican audience, you know, he
has a chance to pass the funding is already there. The millennium
challenge money is there. He has a chance to give it. That could go to
economic development programs and stop while these kids are dying. They`re
not funding it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jamelle, we only have ten seconds, but I do have to ask you
this as a yes or no domestic politics question. Wasn`t this an opportunity
for Republicans, not just for the president, but for Republicans to
demonstrate a kind of compassion towards one group of potential migrants,
displaced refugee children that would have actually allowed them more space
to be even harder line on immigration? And why in the world didn`t they do
that? In ten seconds.
BOUIE: Yes, and I don`t think he did it because I think this has driven
less by policy than a primal opposition to this sort of migration. Like a
fear that they`re losing their country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. Right. To those migrants from the southern border in
particular. Thank you to Hector Perla, to Jamelle Bouie, to Tomas Ayuso
and to Alina Das. Thank you for your work.
Coming up next, we`ll go live to the Middle East for the latest on the
fighting still under way between Israel and Hamas. We`ll learn this
morning that one of the American Ebola patients is on the way to the United
States right now. So we`re going to take a look at why there is still no
vaccine for this deadly virus. It`s a matter of medicine and money.
There`s still much more MHP at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
The war in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas rages. A ceasefire
that was supposed to last three days collapsed within hours on Friday.
Both Hamas and Israel blame the other for breaking the ceasefire.
The back and forth has continued over the past 24 hours as the U.N., the
United States and Israel demand that Hamas release a captured soldier while
Hamas denies that they are holding soldier.
At least 50 more Palestinians have been killed bringing the death toll
among Palestinians to 1,650, mostly civilians including at least 286
children. Sixty-six Israelis, mostly soldiers, have also been killed in
the fighting since the war again.
In addition to the death, more than 9,000 Palestinians have been wounded,
and an estimated 460,000 have been displaced. The numbers tell a tragic
and horrific story but it is the images that are the most powerful, the
four Palestinian boys killed while playing on a beach, captured in an
incredible photo by "New York Times" photographer Tyler Hicks. Families
finding their homes turned to rubble, injured children being carried to the
hospital in the arms of adults.
These images hit us hard. They`ve always hit us hard -- as far back as we
have had images of war. The civil war was the first to be extensively
photographed. One photo of a man who escaped slavery, the scars on one
man`s back piled on top of one another became a rallying point and a tool
for abolitionists in the North. Others showed bodies lying on the
In Vietnam, it was not only the video of war that we saw for the first time
live and in our living rooms but the still images that helped turn the tide
of public opinion against the war. An execution of a Vietcong officer by a
South Vietnamese general. A young girl, her clothes burned off in a napalm
Images broadcast after the battle of Mogadishu in 1993 when two Black Hawk
helicopters were shot down and 18 Americans killed showed Somalis dragging
the body of an American soldier through the streets. The images made the
country weary of intervening in international crises for years.
The images of children killed in a chemical attack in Syria last year
helped push again to the brink of war, but led ultimately to a successful
international effort to secure the Syrian government`s chemical weapons.
And now, the images from Gaza compel us not to look away, even though we
may to. The images are not incidental to the fighting there. They are a
central part of the auxiliary conflict being waged for public support
around the world.
Look at how Israeli officials respond to questions about the high civilian
death toll. They accuse Hamas of hiding among civilians for the express
purpose of creating these images of dead and wounded civilians to inspire
the international community to put pressure on Israel to meet Hamas`
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Hamas last week on
CNN, "They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use
telegenically dead for their cause."
Can these heartbreaking images and our reaction to them really change what
is happening on the ground?
Now, I want to bring in NBC News correspondent Martin Fletcher live in Tel
Martin, we`re talking about the images of war this morning and I`m curious
to know if the Israeli population is seeing everything we`re seeing here
out of Gaza. And, if so, are the images impacting public opinion at all?
MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it`s a great
question, your description of the power of images through war to affect
public opinion is really -- it`s a really powerful concept and it, of
course, is very true.
I think here in Israel, no, I think the quick answer is no, the short
answer is no, Israelis do not see as much of the carnage and the horrific
pictures that we`re seeing around the world, not so much is shown on
Israeli television. But there is enough shown for almost everybody we
speak to here when we talk about the war and what Israel should do next.
They almost always say first, it`s horrible what`s happening in Gaza. We
feel such -- we feel so awful about the people being killed there
especially children. Israelis always say that. But then they go on to
say, however, we have to finish this war.
Bear in mind that about 90 percent of Israelis believe that Israel and the
government and the army is doing the right thing in fighting Hamas in Gaza.
But to speak specifically about the impact of war images in Israel, I think
it`s important to point out that the role of war photographers, and I used
to be one, was -- has been to bring images of wars that are usually distant
into the living rooms, into the homes of people who otherwise wouldn`t
really know what`s going on and say to them basically this is horrific. We
should stop it. That`s the role of the war photographer in most cases.
The difference is in Israel, Israel has fought 10 wars and had violent
uprisings, about 10 of them, in `48, `56, `67, `73, `82, the first
intifada, the second intifada, the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, three
wars and now it`s five years against Hamas. All of those wars in Israel
are fought at home.
It`s not a matter of photographers bringing pictures from distant places
and saying isn`t this terrible? Israelis know it`s terrible. They fought
all those wars at home. This is one of the very few countries that has
conscription where every boy and girl in theory goes into the army, becomes
What unites Israelis is that the knowledge when their children are 18 years
old, they will go in the army and the war, on average, every six years
means almost every parent in Israel fears that knock on the door at night,
that little group that says, your son, your daughter has been killed.
War is very real. They don`t need photographs to see it. So, Israelis are
passionate about their own defense.
They`re upset about what`s happening in Gaza and their response to it in
general is: we hate it but it`s our reality. We`d like it to finish
quickly but we need to end the fighting with Hamas, we need to end the
threat from Hamas that Hamas poses to us at home in Israel.
And photography plays a very important role. By the way, there have been
very important photographs in Israel that have changed things. The CBS, in
the first intifada, filmed Israeli soldiers beating those Palestinians, to
break his bones, and that horrified Israel and those soldiers were arrested
and are prosecuted by the Israeli army.
So, photographs do play an important role here but not nearly -- but not
the role of telling people what`s going on. They know what`s going on, and
it`s very sad because they`ve fought so wars.
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s Martin Fletcher in Tel Aviv, thank you.
It`s useful that reminder about conscription and the ways in which
conscription changes the notion of who soldiers are and the notion of them
as being remote versus the very likely possibility that they will be your
That`s helpful, Martin. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.
I also want to bring in now my panel in New York: Dean Obeidallah, who`s a
columnist at "The Daily Beast"; Laura Wexler, who`s professor of American
studies at Yale University, and director of the Photographic Memory
Workshop. Also at Yale, Dorian Warren, who is also an MSNBC contributor,
professor of political science international public affairs at Columbia
University and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. And finally, Hillary
Mann-Leverett, professor at the School of American Service at American
University. She also served on the National Security Council under
Presidents Clinton and Bush, and as served at U.S. embassies across the
Middle East and is author of "Going to Tehran."
Let me -- let me come out to this question about photographs. I thought
what Martin said was useful in two important ways. One, when you are
living in the space that is the war, you don`t need photographs to tell you
about it. But, also, as he made the point about conscription, not because
I agree or disagree with an Israeli perspective on it, but it is a reminder
images are always in context of what we see when we see something depends
on what we think we`re looking at.
And so, when I say civilian dead versus military dead, that`s very
different in the U.S. where if a voluntary military verse us a conscription
one. It`s useful to be reminded of that.
So, when are war images policy changers? When do they intersect with our -
- what we`re seeing and what we know in the way it changes how we behave?
LAURA WEXLER, PROF. OF AMERICAN STUDIES, YALE: Yes, that`s a great
question. And we have a belief and you showed a whole history of images
that helped us remember that. We have a belief that images change policy
But images change social policy and opinion only when there is a social
movement behind them. And these images have 47 years of occupation and a
resistance movement behind them. And it may very well be that these images
will change public opinion globally.
There is also a peace movement in Israel and these images also are useful
to that movement. So, Israel is a diverse society, the Middle East is
diverse, and I would say the images are necessary but not sufficient. What
is also necessary is the movement that is behind the images.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to think about this, also, not just in the context of
Israel and Hamas and Gaza, but to remember the U.S. has behaved in ways
relatively recently, not that far off from this. President Obama addressed
on Friday a little bit of how the U.S. responded post-9/11, in part as a
result of September 11th being something that was experienced
simultaneously by so Americans as a result of the broadcast and images.
So, we experienced that attack at the same time.
So, I want to listen to the president from Friday on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We tortured some folks. We
did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it
happened. It`s important when we look back to recall how afraid people
were after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane
in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Acknowledging, just, we tortured some folks, that we behaved
in a way that was potentially could be understood as disproportionate even,
in part because we were terrified, and we were terrified in part because we
saw it happened as it happened.
OBEDEILLAH: It`s true. Images are going to move you. I think one thing
to think of our photography, it`s no longer mainstream media. Like you
showed images from "The New York Times." It`s not that. It`s social
2009 was the last time there was a big conflict between Gaza and Israel in
military. At that time, there were about 50 million people on Twitter.
Now, there`s 250 million people. On Facebook, about 150 million then.
Now, 1.5 billion people.
Same thing for -- Instagram didn`t exist. Now, 150 million people.
I interviewed young kids in Gaza, and Palestinians. They`ve all become
self-appointed war correspondents. They are taking pictures and posting
it. We see immediately it is moving people. Will it affect public policy
is the question.
You saw a poll last week, young people 18 to 29, only 25 percent think it`s
justified what Israel is doing. Fifty percent said. People of color, the
same numbers, 50 percent say it`s no.
It`s really the Obama coalition versus white conservatives, that`s the only
group, the majority saying what Israel is doing is justified, and I think
the imagery from social media has changed it. It`s unfiltered. It`s no
longer mainstream media telling the story. We`re seeing it and we`re
making decisions on our own about what see and that`s why it`s moving
HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I would disagree with all due
respect to Dean.
LEVERETT: That it`s between a white conservative camp and Obama.
OBEIDALLAH: I`m talking about the poll numbers.
LEVERETT: Yes. But I think what Obama -- President Obama is doing, and
you`ve seen this and I saw this with President Bush and President Clinton
in those White Houses in which I served -- the critical thing is the
narrative and to get out the narrative quickly and decisively to which
people can view these pictures.
So, when I was in the Bush White House after 9/11, the most important thing
was not to galvanize the country in sorrow around the pictures here in New
York, but was to make sure that the pictures we would see out of
Afghanistan were sanitized, so that when we bombed the hospital in
Kandahar, we said without any evidence on the ground that the Taliban were
using those people in the hospital in Kandahar as human shields --
something we could not have known but it was critically important to get
the narrative out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, it is both that we see in real time -- I will
never forget sitting there and watching the second plane, right? I mean,
it`s just -- it is a searing, live reality moment. To that then sits next
to a set sanitized images of our response so we can never be held as
accountable, right, in our own minds because what we see coming out is
simply never as horrific as we saw.
There`s so much more on this. Up next, the unlikely alliances in this
conflict and the ways in which they`re making nations take sides that are
surprising, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: More developing news from the Israel/Palestinian conflict.
Israeli officials have reportedly decided not to participate in further
ceasefire negotiations in Egypt, after a ceasefire fell apart almost
immediately on Friday.
Egypt is one of several Arab countries that have been in the past
supportive of Hamas. But "The New York Times" reported this week, Arab
countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are sitting on the
sidelines this time.
Hillary, if they`re sitting on the sidelines, does that mean they`re
effectively supporting Israel in this context and would the images that
we`re seeing begin to shift that?
LEVERETT: The governments certainly are at least passively if not even
more overtly supporting Israel. The last time there was such a huge
conflagration back in 2008-2009. But we`ve had an intervening variable,
which was the Arab awakening or what some call the Arab spring, when we
were shown front and center on our TV screen that there`s a huge difference
between Arab-Muslim populations and their unrepresentative autocratic
These governments are playing with fire. I have spent so much of my life
in the Middle East, in Gaza, in Egypt, in Iran, in Saudi Arabia, in the
Gulf, this is a powder keg. For these governments to side with the U.S.
and Israel to kill Palestinians is something that had will be their doom.
We saw that with the Mubarak government and I think that`s what`s in store.
We are really in store for a dramatic change of alignments in the Middle
East, something that`s going to hurt the United States, hurt Israel, hurt
our allies. But it`s something in part we set the train in motion for.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting point that Arab spring in part largely
brought to us visually via social media helps to sort of disaggregate that
notion of the state versus the state and its people, which are almost
always in some level of contestation.
So, Dorian, thinking of that then, I want to look at two images that were
reported by an NBC reporter, Ayman Mohyeldin, and these aren`t some of the
graphic images we have seen recently, but these are just really powerful,
standing for almost the same moment when people believed that the ceasefire
was occurring and the moment it is clearly no longer occurring.
So, you just see that beach, right? Again, we`re not looking at bodies
here, just calmness in the sea and then suddenly at the moment you
recognize, no, the war is still going, the beach goes personless.
Does that help us to gain any kind of understanding of what is happening in
that space in that moment?
WARREN: I think this goes back to Laura`s point about context matters,
right? You can`t just look at an image without the broader context. So, I
imagine for Americans who look at that, it means something very different
from Palestinians or Israelis or Egyptians or other folks in the Middle
I want to bring back this point Dean made, though, because what we`ve seen
is the nation state losing control over putting out images, at the same
time as we`ve seen the democratization of media in terms of social media so
that -- and this links back to the very first story --
HARRIS-PERRY: Of Eric Garner. Yes.
WARREN: Now we have people that have video on their cameras and pictures
that can did -- so when you see --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, this image becomes not an image that was taken
by a reporter. This was an image given to us by our citizens.
WEXLER: But can I also make the point that that image has a now, but that
image also has a futurity. These images are in archives for the future and
they will be used not the only to tell us what`s happening now in all its
horror but as evidence, they will be used as a national narrative. They
will be used as commemoration. They will be used as incitement.
HARRIS-PERRY: So these images coming out of Gaza have that same future
WEXLER: And that`s very important to understand that.
OBEIDALLAH: There`s one little -- the big images, yes, they`re subtle
images. And Martin Fletcher was on live from Tel Aviv. It`s beautiful.
The buildings all standing behind him. Cut to Ayman Mohyeldin in Gaza,
wearing a flak jacket, and you hear explosions, buildings decimated.
It`s the subtle images, always this moves people. Some of the subtle ones
I think tell a subtle message that could be really powerful.
LEVERETT: This point about the democratization of media is critically
important, because we assume it actually will lead to somehow an equalizing
of the battlefield, people who have been dispossessed or without voice will
have a voice.
But those people aren`t all going to have a voice we like.
LEVERETT: And I think what we`re seeing in Israel is something that is
incredibly disturbing. We saw a member of parliament put on her Facebook
that Israel should are in fact, kill the mothers in Gaza to prevent more
snakes from being born. We`ve seen images posted onto YouTube of Israelis
dancing, that there`s not going to be school in Gaza tomorrow because there
are no children left.
So, the Israeli narrative as problematic and disturbing as some of us may
find that, we may see that, you know, in the future as something that was
better than what`s coming.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I think this goes to the point of this internal
contestation within any nation and even back to your point about you must
have the social movement and the lefty in you stands up, social movement,
HARRIS-PERRY: I always want to point out, the Klan was a social movement,
right? Which is just to say, this was a group that had lost power to a
government that was overtaking and then took power into their own hands.
So, we have to be -- social movement itself is not necessarily in any one
valiance direction (ph).
Stay with us. Up next, I`m going to share with you the incredible piece
written by my guest, Dean. He shared it with us all this week and we`re
going to talk a bit about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: This issue of public opinion is not fought not only through
images but through languages, as our guest Dean Obeidallah wrote in a
column for "The Daily Beast" this week.
Quote, "When you tell someone you`re a Palestinian heritage, it`s not just
an ethnicity, it`s a conversation starter. In fact, just saying the word
Palestine inflames some. People will tell me to my face that there has
never been a Palestine and there are no such things as Palestinians. To
them, I guess, Palestinians are simply holograms."
So, Dean, we`ve been talking about images, how powerful is just a map from
pre-1940s that simply demonstrates there`s a space? I mean, just that as
OBEIDALLAH: That`s part of it. I mean, the fact we`re still fighting
over, was there -- is there a Palestinian people, is there a Palestinian
state? Newt Gingrich in 2012 brought it up, we`re an invented people, like
my father is an inventor. Like we are still fighting to be considered
human beings and that`s the struggle for Palestinians.
HARRIS-PERRY: But all people are invented people. I mean, just to say
there`s no African-American people until that identity comes -- there are
no Latinos in Latin America, right? Latino is an invented identity but
really nothing creates that identity more powerfully than shared suffering.
Like you want to create a people, right, oppress them, and that will
generate a people.
OBEIDALLAH: Sure. And it`s simple. I wrote my article is about my father
being born in 1930s in what was called Palestine. It wasn`t a political
statement. It was what the state of Israel was today was called Palestine.
He`s actually born in the West Bank. So, still today, it would be
considered West Bank, right over the green line.
We exist. We`re a people. There`s 5 million Palestinians living in that
little region right there. So, to say these ridiculous statements, they
don`t exist. There was never a country. You didn`t have a flag -- doesn`t
help any of us. It`s ridiculous.
And when people expressed humanity of the Palestinians, like Jon Stewart
did a few weeks ago and got attacked horribly by people on the right. I
wrote another article about humanity. I got so much hate mail.
I understand it. We`re not disappearing. We`re here, more of us in the
media telling our story. We just want to tell our narrative.
I don`t want to be completely tied to Israel. We have our own lives. We
have olive trees and dancing. The dabke is the big famous dance with
We are human beings and my family, if it wasn`t for this conflict would
have been born and died within a few miles of where they were born in the
West Bank and wouldn`t know anything about Palestinians, but fate had other
plans and we are here.
HARRIS-PERRY: The story that Dean is telling me, Laura, reminds me again
that the question of what you are seeing or what you think you are seeing
has everything to do with a pre-existing set of notions about what is true,
what exists in the world. So, if I look at a map and it says Israel, is
that a lie or is it true? If I see Palestine, is it a lie or true?
I mean, simply seeing a thing does not convey meaning to it.
WEXLER: No, seeing a thing is, first of all, a sensation of horror, of
these, what we`re seeing. But it`s an invitation to bringing your own
humanity to the humanity that`s being witnessed in this horror.
And you need to imagine a different future.
You need to Frederick Douglass at the end of the civil war said that
photographs can teach us to imagine how we could do things differently.
How we could be different. That`s what these photographs are asking us to
do, not to immediately see them in the immediate moment and all of our
preconceptions but to bring the widest possible historical knowledge and
humanity to them, in order to understand what needs to be different.
These photographs are a failure of humanity. These photographs are a
witness to that.
HARRIS-PERRY: As you bring up the point of history and talk about your own
family history, Hillary, what that draws for me is a conversation we`ve
been sort of ongoing, having for a few weeks, which is the way that you
tell the story, Dean, it sounds as though this conflict that we are
currently seeing the photographs of is relatively recent in human history.
Often it is told as if it`s ancient, visceral and simply cannot exist in
this, like as though the reality of Palestinian-Jewish and
Palestinian/Israeli conflict just is true.
And yet, when I read your story, I think, well, OK, well, it`s been true
for this period of time but not forever. Does that change what we think is
possible in our future?
LEVERETT: Well, you know, if you look at Jewish communities around the
Middle East, there certainly was after the creation of the state of Israel,
and especially after the `67 war, an emigration of Jews from many of these
Arab countries to Israel. But there`s still are Jewish communities. So,
for example, there`s a thriving Jewish community in Iran.
And when I talked about that people said, oh, that`s so terrible. How can
you say that? Of course, they`re suffering. No, I`ve actually been there.
I`ve been to the kosher restaurants. I`ve been to the Jewish hospital in
There is not these deep-seeded Arab/Jewish or, you know, Muslim/Jewish
animosity. There`s not an anti-Semitism in the Middle East the way that
there was in Europe, which is based on race, which is based on color, which
is based on genes and biology. That doesn`t exist in the Middle East.
There`s no history of that in the Middle East.
So I don`t think that in terms of interrelations in the Middle East, this
is an un-resolvable problem. But in terms of power dynamics, it may be,
because the memory of the Holocaust was freshest, from 1948 to 1967, and
when Israel was arguably its most democratic, it wasn`t occupying the Gaza
Strip, West Bank and other places, there was barely any food aid coming
from the United States to Israel.
The United States decided to support Israel and embed the Israeli narrative
in our narrative after 1967, when we see Israel that can become a so-called
strategic asset, seized and hold Arab territory aligned in post-Soviet
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels important to me to mark, because actually as
horrible as it is, I somehow feel somewhat more optimistic. If this is the
problem rooted in 1967, and not in the beginning of time in some way.
Thank you to --
LEVERETT: We could step back. We could allow the United Nations, the
International Criminal Court to adjudicate this. We could step back our
military aid and let the party --
HARRIS-PERRY: And we think it started in `67, it becomes more reasonable
to imagine that different future.
Thank you to Dean Obeidallah and to Laura Wexler. Also, thank you to
Dorian Warren and always to Hillary Mann Leverett.
Up next, the latest on the arrival of patients with confirmed cases of
Ebola here in the United States.
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning, one of two Americans infected with the Ebola
virus has landed in the United States at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in
Georgia. Dr. Kent Brantly will be treated at Emory University Hospital in
Atlanta, Georgia. And we`re going to have more on that part of the story
in just a moment.
When it comes to information on this deadly outbreak playing out on the
ground in Western Africa, we look largely to the WHO, the World Health
Organization. It`s a United Nations agency tasked with addressing the
world`s most complex international health problems. As such, the
organization takes extreme caution in its public statements so as to avoid
stoking unnecessary panics in the midst of ongoing crisis.
Which is why when on Friday, Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the
WHO, addressed West African leaders about the ongoing Ebola crisis, her
statement was nothing short but alarming, "The outbreak is by far the
largest ever in the nearly four decade history of this disease. It is
taking place in areas with fluid population movements over porous borders,
and it has demonstrated its ability to spread via air travel. Contrary to
what has been seen in past outbreaks, cases are occurring in rural areas
difficult to access but also in densely populated capital cities.
This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the
situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in
terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high
risk of spread to other countries."
The outbreak is moving faster than the ability to control it. That is
straight from the director general of the World Health Organization, who`s
already using words like catastrophic.
What can be done is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emory University Hospital has been asked to accept two
patients who are currently in Africa infected with the Ebola virus
infection. The reason our facility was chosen for this is because we are
only did -- we are one of only four institutions in the United States
capable of handling patients of this nature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We learned just moments ago that one of the two American
patients infected with the Ebola virus has affected here in the United
States at an airport in Georgia after being flown from Liberia. The
patient identified as Dr. Kent Brantly is now being taken to Emory
University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment.
Brantly is the first known to reach the Western hemisphere. Doctors took
precautions in the transport of the patient.
He arrived aboard a noncommercial flight. He was encased in two players of
protective plastic during the trip. Brantly will be put in a special
isolation room at Emory University where he will be quarantined until
We did not know which of the two American Ebola patients would be arriving
first until just this morning. Brantly, a doctor with the humanitarian
group Samaritan`s first, and Nancy Writebol, who is a missionary, were both
diagnosed with the disease while working to treat patients in Liberia.
Earlier this week as their condition deteriorated, an experimental serum
was sent to help treat the two Americans. However, there was only enough
you to treat one person, Dr. Brantly selflessly insisted that it`d be given
to Ms. Writebol. The doctor was instead treated using donated flood from a
14-year-old child who survived the disease, thanks in part to treatment he
received from Dr. Brantly himself.
The situation worsens in West Africa continues to worsen with the deadly
Ebola virus now claiming more than 700 lives and infecting more than 1,300
people. The government of Sierra Leone is dispatching its military and
police forces in order to enforce measures designed to keep the disease
from spreading. Meanwhile, our government here in the U.S. has issued its
highest level travel warning imploring all Americans to avoid nonessential
trips to the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The U.S.
government has also issued a warning to all American hospitals to be on
alert for patients admitted with Ebola symptoms.
For the latest on the American patient with Ebola now in the United States,
let`s go to NBC News correspondent Sarah Dallof, who is outside Emory
University in Atlanta, where Dr. Kent Brantly will be treated.
Sarah, how is Emory preparing for his arrival?
SARAH DALLOF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Melissa, Emory says they`ve
actually been preparing for years. They`ve had this specialty isolation
unit for about 12 years and during that time, they have prepared, they have
run drills and now, they are ready to put that training into practice.
Now, as you mentioned, Dr. Brantly arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base just
a short time ago. He is now going to be put in an ambulance, which will
make his way through Atlanta Metro city streets here at Emory University
Hospital. It will be accompanied by law enforcement.
Now, once he`s here, he`s going to go into that specialty isolation unit.
As you said, it`s only one of four in the country. Doctors say they will
be performing a supportive role, that is they will be giving the body what
it needs to keep fighting, to develop those antibodies against the Ebola
virus that might mean kidney dialysis machines, that might mean a
respirator, it might just mean maintaining their blood pressure. They are
prepared to do whatever they need.
Now, there has been a lot of controversy, especially on social media about
the decision to bring an infected Ebola patient into the United States. We
talked to one doctor just a short time ago who will be treating these
patients, who says he fully supports that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would really dispute the notion this is bringing
Ebola into the country. This is a patient. He`s a sick patient that needs
our help. It is one of our neighbors. It`s somebody`s parent. It`s
somebody`s son. It`s somebody`s sibling.
He needs our help and we`re going to try to help him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DALLOF: And the family members of those patients will be able to see them
through a glass window. If the patient is able, they will be able to talk
to them through a communications system. Now, the unit is self-contained.
It is separate from the rest of the hospital, the patient rooms, even the
laboratory is just dedicated for this specialty unit. Doctors say that
eliminates the risk to other patients in the hospital, to visitors and to
the medical staff.
Now, Dr. Brantly is expected here in just a short time. The plane
meanwhile will turn around and to go back to Africa and the other Ebola
victim, Melissa, expected to be here in the next few days.
Back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much.
And joining me here in New York is Dr. Alexander Van Tullekan, who is a
senior fellow at the Institute for International Humanitarian Affairs at
Fordham University. He has a diploma in tropical medicine, a diploma in
international humanitarian assistance, a masters in public health are from
Harvard, has worked with the World Health Organization in humanitarian
crises all around the world.
And joining me from Washington, D.C., is Sarah Kliff, who is senior editor
at Vox.com, where she oversees health, medicine and education coverage.
Thank you all for being here.
Sarah, I want to -- I want just to start with you for just a moment
because, you know, before some of this information started becoming clear,
there was a lot of conversation and obviously you`re writing around
vaccination and whether or not having a vaccine would make a difference.
What is your understanding of the challenges around the question of
vaccination relative to Ebola?
SARAH KLIFF, VOX.COM: So, the challenges are necessarily science. I`ve
talked to some researches who say, we`ve done really well in testing Ebola
vaccines. We have one that worked really in nonhuman primates.
The challenge is mostly economic. That there`s not really a pharmaceutical
can company that sees a big payoff in creating an Ebola vaccine. It`s a
disease that has outbreaks relatively rarely, and when they happen, they
happen in very low income parts of the world like West Africa. So,
pharmaceutical companies, they don`t really see a big payday. So, even
though we have all this science that`s been put into testing and developing
and experimenting with Ebola vaccines, there`s not really a company that
wants to take it through the next level, move it through to phase two and
phase three trials.
So, it`s a really difficult situation where we have a lot of great science
but not really the enough system to move an Ebola vaccine forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, it`s certainly part of what we`re hearing about this
position, and as well as the missionary who has also been infected, the
other American that`s been infection. Obviously, they`re there on what
feel like humanitarian missions, you know, the Samaritan`s Purse being in
part, a humanitarian mission.
So, I`m wondering if this constitutes a broader argument for a kind of
public investment, rather than private -- sort of profit-driven incentive
for pharmaceutical development not just Ebola, but kind of a broader sense.
KLIFF: Yes. You know, I think it definitely does raise the question of
how we develop drugs. Ebola is certainly not the only disease that is
either rare or hits a less wealthy area of the world. And those are the
orphan diseases that often get left behind by pharmaceutical companies who
are focused on big diseases, that hit really wealthy people, so are
developing drugs for things like diabetes and hepatitis c, we probably want
those cures but it doesn`t seem like a system to finance these cures that
for diseases that hit less wealthy parts of the world.
We do have the NIH here in Washington. They do finance basic research on
things like Ebola. They have put money towards that. The challenge is
bringing it to the next level, the part of breaking it to market.
That`s the part where pharmaceutical companies usually step in be and
that`s where we`re not seeing really take on this challenge of creating an
Ebola vaccine, vaccines for other diseases that hit these parts of the
So, it really does raise the question of should we look at other ways of
financing those sorts of vaccines that pharmaceutical companies just don`t
see a big payday associated with.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sarah, thank you so much for joining us and for bringing
that perspective on the question of, through how we`re even thinking about
vaccines. Sarah Kliff in Washington, D.C.
But let me come back here to New York and I want to ask you, Doctor. So,
I`m hearing this language about vaccines. We heard in Atlanta, sort of the
language of come on, this is not Ebola coming, this is a patient coming.
You and I in the break, we`re talking about the fact that I was feeling
legitimate panic, but also not wanting to be the cable news host that gins
up panic about infectious disease.
So, help me breathe through this.
DR. ALEXANDER VAN TULLEKAN, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: So, this is -- it`s a
really interesting and complicated story because we don`t have to panic
about Ebola. Ebola isn`t going to spread in New York.
It is possible that someone can get on the plane and fly to New York with
Ebola, but it isn`t the right virus to start an epidemic here and here`s
why. As soon as you become infectious, you also become symptomatic, and
the symptoms are dramatic. So, Ebola cases are relatively straightforward
to identify, certainly in New York.
And then all the other things that we can do for control, active case
finding, looking for -- so contact tracing, figuring out who the person has
been in contact with, isolation of those people and then treatment. All of
that means that it won`t spread in a major Western city.
But in Africa, it`s totally different. We have to think, these are the
poorest countries in the world. These all are in the bottom 10 poorest
countries in the world, that public health systems are ridiculously
different and that populations are extremely -- literacy is very low and
mistrust of their health systems is very low as well. So, it`s able to
spread in Africa in a way it can`t spread here.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I want to dig into that a little bit more with you when
we come back, because I want to make the claim that we should care, even if
it`s not going to outbreak in New York and I want to think a little bit
about sort of how we even think about infectious disease in this country,
as soon as we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This has been a more aggressive Ebola outbreak than we`ve seen in
the past. But keep in mind that it is still affecting parts of three
countries. Keep in mind that Ebola is not something that is easily
transmitted. That`s why generally outbreaks dissipate. But the key is
identifying, quarantining, isolating, those who contract it, and making
sure practices are in place that avoid transmission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Does the president have it right there?
VAN TULLEKAN: He`s exactly right. So, the guy that discovered Ebola virus
in 1976, Peter Piot, now runs the London School of Tropical Medicine, one
of the most pre-eminent organizations in the world for studying this kind
of thing. And he said he would confidently sit next to someone on a train
with Ebola. And he`s right, it`s hard to spread.
So, the way we think about Ebola is not to worry about vaccines and
treatments. In the long term, we have to worry about that. But
immediately what we need to be doing is containing this epidemic in West
Africa and pouring money in.
So, the epidemic is getting worse in so far as there are more people dying
now than before. But it`s not a very different situation to three weeks
ago when we weren`t talking about it and the WHO wasn`t spending $100
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so when you, however, say that the keys are -- also when
the president says identifying, quarantining, isolating, and then what I
hear is that there are military personnel in many of these nations that are
now tasked with doing that. These are nations that have just come out of
bloody civil wars where the appearance of military isn`t exactly comforting
in their local communities.
Is there reason to believe that the very things we need to do may be the
very hardest things to do? That in fact investigating might be an easier
task on the continent.
VAN TULLEKAN: This kind of public health is no fun at all. So, it
involves changing peoples live dramatically in West Africa. There will be
curfews. There will be military hunting -- you know, seeking out patients
and compelling them to be isolated or treated. So, it`s not a very nice
situation. We should have been doing this months ago when it was still in
Guinea, when it was containable.
The problem is that no one ever got a medal for preventing an Ebola
epidemic, because there was no Ebola epidemic. What you get is a medal for
responding to it. So, prevention is always underfunded.
What we should be worried about is the fact that if it was flu, we would be
panicking in New York.
HARRIS-PERRY: Why? Tell me.
VAN TULLEKAN: Flu spreads differently. It`s airborne. It`s easier to
catch. And you`re contagious before you`re symptomatic.
So, imagine a virus like HIV. HIV is a great virus for spreading in an
epidemic because you can be asymptomatic for years, give it to hundreds of
Ebola, you`re so symptomatic, you got Ebola, you`re not going to be kissing
them, you`re not going to be touching them, you`re going to be moving to
HARRIS-PERRY: But in the case of HIV, in the case of flu and in the case
of Ebola, we`re still in that reality that you said where prevention is
underfunded, under -- that we focus on it so much less. So, when we have
diseases that spread easily, we`re not well-suited for the prevention side.
Is that --
VAN TULLEKAN: That`s what we should be worried about here is what we`re
seeing is a failure of the international system to respond to this virus.
And this is a virus that we should care about for humanitarian reasons.
These countries are really neglected and that`s why it`s spreading.
There was a survey that Samaritan`s Purse did a couple of days ago in one
of the big markets in Liberia, and they asked 1,000 people and 90 percent
of them didn`t believe Ebola exists. This is not a region the West has
treated well over the historical period. They`ve got good reasons not to
trust us. And we should be investing in the long term.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you both made me feel better that it is unlikely to
become an epidemic here in the U.S. and made me feel worse about the fact
that it is a crisis on West Coast of Africa.
Thank you to Dr. Alexander Van Tullekan.
And that is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Michelle Martin will be
Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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