'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday ,October 19th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
October 19, 2014
Guest: Julie Brown, Cornell William Brooks, Piper Kerman, Daryl Parks,
Arthenia Joyner, Anita Sarkeesian, Jamie Kilstein, Allison Kilkenny, Corey
Hebert; Cornell William Brooks; Alfonso Aguilar; Nick Confessore; Sandra
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-
And by now you realized that the Ebola story is changing virtually every
day, every hour, every second.
This morning, a Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Texas lab supervisor who
handled an Ebola lab specimen returned to Galveston, Texas. The woman had
been in isolation aboard the boat after officials in Cozumel and Belize
refused to let her and her spouse come ashore.
Even before she arrived this morning, a sample of her blood was airlifted
back to health officials in Texas. The CDC has now asked that all those
involved in treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died 11 days
ago of Ebola, avoid public spaces for now.
And this comes after two of the nurses who helped care for Duncan were
diagnosed with Ebola. One of those nurses took a round trip commercial
flight from Texas to Ohio in the days before she was diagnosed, triggering
concerns about anyone who may have come into contact with her.
It is a lot. I mean, between the new cases, the growing criticism of the
response from federal health officials and now a new Ebola czar, it`s a
lot. But everyone, take a breath for a moment because the next few days
may be critical, not just in terms of how we handle the Ebola cases, but in
how we handle another contagious threat -- hysteria.
Yes, Ebola is scary and often deadly. Yes, there are more than 9,000 cases
around the world. But only three of those have been diagnosed here in the
U.S. and getting Ebola is not easy. As the CDC points out, Ebola is spread
through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of an Ebola patient,
which is why health care workers are particularly vulnerable. It is not
spread through the error through water. That means that if your child
attends a school where a principal just returned from Zambia, which is bar
from the countries affected by Ebola, there`s no need to pull your child
out of school, like some parents did in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.
It means that if students from Nigeria apply to your college, you should
not reject them because Ebola cases were reported in their country. Now,
the junior college did recently in Texas. And it seems no one is immune
from the repercussions of this fear outbreak.
"Washington Post" photojournalist Michelle (INAUDIBLE) says he has been
disinvited from participating in a journalism workshop at Syracuse
University, even though he had been back from Liberia for 21 days, the
incubation period established by the CDC, and does not have any symptoms of
Dr. Richard Besser, the chief health editor for ABC news and former top CDC
official says his speech on pandemics at case western university was
recently cancelled. In an op-ed for "the Washington Post" Dr. Besser
writes, ironically the university cancelled by visit because I had recently
returned from a 10-day trip covering the outbreak in Africa. The level of
risk posed by my appearance was vanishingly small, but fear won anyway.
In this moment of uncertainty, the reaction to the appearance of Ebola in
the U.S. has run the gamut from reasonable precautions to the seemingly
ridiculous. Take the Texas man who called 911 from a restaurant in Ft.
Worth asking for an ambulance after he said he was, quote, "exposed to an
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sitting next to him having dinner and he just
revealed that he`s been in the European countries, including West Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That reaction may seem extreme and geographically not
the best, but it`s not totally unexpected given what we`ve seen in the
media coverage and even from some lawmakers.
When the head of the CDC testified on Capitol Hill last week, the question
was asked over and over. It was something about the CDC and the president
have already said won`t work, a travel ban on passengers coming to the U.S.
from West Africa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRED UPTON (R), MICHIGAN: The president does have the legal authority
to impose a travel ban because of health reasons, including Ebola.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: I want to join with Chairman Upton in
urging the president to immediately institute a travel ban until such time
that they can firmly and scientifically prove that Americans are safe from
having more Ebola patients coming into the United States.
REP. TIM MURPHY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: And this is the question the American
public is asking, why are we still allowing folks to come over here and why
once they`re over here is there no quarantine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The concern, the understandable concern from private
citizens and public officials led President Obama to use his weekly address
to once again call for calm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s a serious disease but
we can`t give in to hysteria or fear because that only makes it harder to
get people the accurate information they need. We have to be guided by the
science. We have to remember the basic facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, the facts may be our best weapon, not only against the
Ebola virus, but against any of the side effects of paranoia and hysteria.
For more on what`s next for some of the health care workers who have been
dealing with Ebola, NBC`s Sarah Dallof joins us from Dallas.
Sarah, what can you tell me about that health care worker who returned
aboard the cruise ship this morning?
SARAH DALLOF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Melissa.
That ship docked at 6:00 a.m. eastern time and the health care worker and
her spouse were off it in just minutes, well before the other passengers.
And they were put in their car and drove home after that.
Let`s talk about what the health care worker experience while she was on
board this cruise ship. Officials say she never had any fever, she never
had any symptoms or signs of Ebola and yet she and her spouse voluntarily
self-quarantined in their room. At one point a blood sample was picked up
by a coast guard helicopter and flown to Austin here in Texas for testing
Now, everybody is now off that ship. They`re going through a sanitizing
process. Some fogger machines, surfaces wiped down, all of those things
before passengers form a new cruise aboard that ship. It`s going to set
sail this afternoon again. So a deep clean and then the passengers back on
and setting sail again. Officials say there really wasn`t any risk because
as the CDC says only a person who is actively symptomatic with Ebola can
infect other people.
Now, meanwhile here in Dallas, it is a critical weekend. The list of 48
people, those people who initially came into contact with Thomas Eric
Duncan before he was admitted with Ebola, their 21-day monitoring period
for many of them is set to expire Monday morning at 12:01. That includes
his fiancee and her family. No one in that group has shown any signs or
symptoms of Ebola thus far. Now, as far as the group of 75 health care
workers who came into contact with Duncan after he was admitted, they are
currently in their monitoring period. Officials say about 25 of those
people chose to spend the light last night in the hospital out of concern
that they could expose their families to Ebola if they became symptomatic.
So far, however, Melissa, that has not happened and a lot of people
watching and waiting for that first group to expire from their 21-day
monitoring period and keeping an eye very closely on the 75 remaining
people. Back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much. NBC`s Sarah Dallof in Dallas, Texas.
Joining me from New Orleans, Louisiana, is Dr. Corey Hebert, assistant
professor at the LSU health and sciences center and at Tulane University
medical center. He`s CEO of community health TV.
All right, Dr. Hebert, I`m just going to run down some of the big fears and
get your responses. And I do need to be these questions to sound as though
I`m completely ignorant or fear mongering, but I do think they reflect some
of the myths and fears I`ve been hearing from a lot of people and I just
figured let`s get them On the Record here.
So, first, is Ebola airborne?
DR. COREY HEBERT, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, LSU HEALTH AND SCIENCE CENTER: No.
Ebola is not airborne at all. What we do know is that fear will spread a
lot faster than Ebola. People are making irrational decisions because of
their irrational fears. Now, let`s talk about whether, you know, Ebola is
airborne. I`m be very clear; myself and my investigative team have done a
lot of work on this so Ebola is not airborne.
However, we have uncovered a few samples of data out of the Canadian public
health service that did show two animal species contracting Ebola from each
other, that we can`t really explain how those animal species did contract
it. But that was not a reproduced study. It has not been done again and I
just want people to realize that we know that it`s never been shown in
human beings. So I put that out there because I don`t want people going on
the Internet finding that and saying, oh, no, no, no, it is airborne. No,
it is not. That`s the only thing I found with my team.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so speaking of air, as we`re getting up towards
the busy holiday travel season, everybody wants to know is it safe to fly?
HEBERT: Yes, it is safe to fly. The only way that it would not be safe to
fly is if there is a person with active Ebola infection on you, and
basically they threw up in your lap. Let`s be very clear. I mean, you
know, we did dodge a bullet when the nurse flew from Dallas to Cleveland
because if she had thrown up in somebody`s lap or had done something that
exposed other people to her bodily fluids, then that could have been an
issue for that person sitting next to her but not for anybody else. So,
no, you cannot catch it from a plane.
HARRIS-PERRY: Apparently according to a current "Washington Post" poll, 43
percent of Americans are worried that they or a relative are going to catch
Ebola. What is the likelihood that those 43 percent of people actually are
in fact going to catch Ebola? Is that likely or unlikely?
HEBERT: No. I mean, because when are they going to come in contact with
someone who has it. As you mentioned earlier, health care workers are at a
bigger risk because they`re actually coming in contact with people that
have Ebola at the time when they have the symptoms and at the time when the
symptoms are so severe they`re shedding their bodily fluids. You catch me?
So, you know, if you`re at home and just start feeling, I don`t feel good,
you`re going to go to the hospital. But that`s long before you start the
vomiting and having all the shedding of the bodily fluids that you would do
at your home. So no, they will not get it generally.
Now, we have to be very clear here that, you know, anything could happen,
but we`re talking about probabilities.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. "The New York Times" is reporting that there are
many increasing basically conspiracy theories around Ebola. So is Ebola a
conspiracy and is the CDC lying to the American people?
HEBERT: No, the CDC is not lying to the American people, they`re being
very clear. And as a matter of fact, they`re being overly clear and overly
cautious now with this thing on the cruise ship. I don`t really think it
was necessary but I think they dropped the ball at the very beginning
saying they want to be as cautious as they can.
I mean, you know, the whole thing out there now is should we close the
borders. That`s the political pundits, new thing. You know, who should be
close the border?
I just want to be clear about this. Should we close it? Maybe, maybe not.
But there`s really no scientific evidence to say that we should close the
border. Nor would it make any political sense. And the reason why is
because the last time we closed the borders, it was in the `80s, it was
during Reagan`s era. It was because of HIV, right? So did we close the
Ebola, did we close the borders and have we closed the borders now? No.
Both of those viruses are not airborne, OK, let`s be very clear. But let`s
think about SARS and the swan flu. SARS and the swan flu are both
airborne. They have killed over 300,000 people.
HEBERT: But we have not closed the borders because of those two. So it
would be a political nightmare as well as no scientific sense at all if we
closed the borders for this non-airborne virus.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Dr. Corey Hebert in New Orleans. My friend
just keeps telling me just go get your flu shot. That`s what you need to
HEBERT: That`s what you need to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay right there, everybody. Up next is how the Supreme
Court just may have decided the outcome of Texas elections.
HARRIS-PERRY: In just 16 days, voters will head to the polls in the
midterm elections and cast ballots that will determine the direction and
the tenor of American politics.
Up for grabs are 36 seats in the Senate, all 435 house seats and the
governor`s office in 36 states. And one of the most closely watched of
those gubernatorial elections is the race for Texas governor between
democratic candidate and Texas state senator Wendy Davis and the Republican
candidate, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott.
Now, there are many factors that will help determine the outcome of the
Texas election, the quality of the candidates, their performance in
debates, political ads explaining their positions and attacking their
But at 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning, one of the things that could be among
the most important determinants of what happened there November 4th came
not from inside Texas politics, but from hundreds of miles away in
Washington, D.C., because all of the voters in Texas will now be subject to
the will of just six people, the Supreme Court`s conservative majority
whose approval Saturday morning of Texas` strict voter I.D. law will allow
the restrictive voting policy to be in effect on Election Day.
The court offered no explanation for its decision. But, justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, otherwise known as the notorious RBG joined by justices Sonya
Sotomayor and Alana Kagan explained in strong 6-page descent why the
decision her colleagues reached was the wrong one, echoing the findings of
the U.S. district judge who struck down the law last week.
Justice Ginsburg writes that, quote, "Senate bill 14 operates as an
unconstitutional poll tax. Senate bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000
registered Texas voters, about 4.5 percent of all registered voters, from
voting in person for lack of compliant identification, a sharply
disproportionate personal of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.
Joining me now, Sandra Lilley, editor for the Latino page at NBCnews.com.
Cornell William Brooks, the new president and CEO of the NAACP. Nicholas
Confessore who is political reporter for "the New York Times." And Alfonso
Aguilar, who is executive director for the American Principals Project
So nice to have you all here.
Sandra, I want to start with you. What do you think? How big and how
consequential is this decision?
SANDRA LILLEY, EDITOR, NBCNEWS.COM: Listen, Nelva Gonzalez Ramos, our
federal district judge in Texas, I think she put it -- she wrote an 150-
page ruling last week. And she basically slammed it and said this is an
unconstitutional poll tax because if you look at how difficult it is for
some people in Texas, if you are in a rural location and do not have a car
and it takes you over three hours to get to a place to get an I.D. and then
they`ll reject what you bring in, then that doesn`t make it very easy for
people to vote.
And the funny thing is there is no voter fraud. They have done so many
studies on this and there just isn`t any voter fraud so why make it harder
for people to go out and vote. There was an instance of a young lady,
these twins that was used last year in court. They were born in Texas,
they are students at the University of Texas but their parents didn`t have
any money to pay for car insurance so they didn`t have a driver`s license.
It would have been hard for them to vote.
So if you make it hard for someone born in the state who has a university
I.D., then it`s pretty hard.
HARRIS-PERRY: So university I.D. is an interesting part of the story
because when you look at the kinds of I.D. that can be used in Texas, you
can use your gun registration, but you cannot use your college voter I.D.
if the point is to address fraud, right? And so, I think there`s a
preponderance of the evidence suggesting there isn`t fraud.
But if you believe there is and the goal is simply to provide an I.D. so
you can determine why would a gun I.D. be OK but not a college I.D.?
ALFONSO AGUILAR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN PRINCIPALS PROJECT LATINO
PARTNERSHIP: I don`t know. I leave that up to the legislators in Texas.
I think the story and I`m probably the minority here that it`s much ado
about nothing. We have to understand that they followed in Texas this law
in the last three elections and there`s no evidence that voters who were
disenfranchised -- by the way, this is not going to decide the race for
governor. Greg Abbott is the Republican candidates doing very well and
will probably win.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me say I agree with you on that, but that`s not the only
election occurring in Texas.
AGUILAR: But justice Ginsburg to agree with plaintiff and say as many as
600,000 voters will be disenfranchised, where does she come up with that
number? I mean, those numbers are really fabricated.
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re not fabricated and in fact, the --
AGUILAR: There`s evidence of voter fraud as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me back all the way up. Let`s say that six people
were disenfranchised, not 600,000. And let`s say that it caused over --
cost 50 cents. Don`t we have a constitutional amendment that says no poll
taxes? And even if it were six people who were disenfranchised that that
itself is a wrong within the U.S. system?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT/CEO, NAACP: It`s absolutely wrong and
it`s also irrational for the idea that one uses to carry a college textbook
not to be a valid form of I.D. to vote but an I.D. that allows you to carry
a weapon would be a form of I.D. that allows you to vote. It`s irrational,
it`s unconstitutional, it`s an imposition on the American public, I should
say on the citizens of Texas. And the fact that we can sit here and talk
about this, as though as though it is a minor inconvenience, it`s not.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Nick, I guess part of what I find distressing is that
this decision, like all of the other voter decisions that came down, all of
which will be in play for this election, were issued in ways that weren`t
about the court hearing and then giving us a full ruling.
And it does kind of feel like -- you know, your point that I`ll leave that
up to the legislatures, I get that. But like if you`re going to rule on
something that is going impact the core of American democracy, which is
voting, could you please give me a ruling. Like could you explain to me
why you`re doing it?
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, it`s
fairly typical of them to be like that on these things but the presumption
is that they agree with the lower court that it`s too late in the game to
change it, that it would create disruption and create confusion.
What`s interesting to me is if you -- if the court`s thinking was we should
get rid of this requirement, and it`s hard to see if you come to the polls
and you`ve gone to the trouble to get the new I.D. and it turns out you
don`t need it, OK, fine, you`re good. But if you go to the polls and you
needed one and you couldn`t get it and you`re blocked, that is a much
bigger position to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s pretty much what the attorney general said. He said
the least confusing thing is to provide access to the largest number of
Stick with us. We`ve got much more on the midterms.
Still to come this morning, understanding Gamergate (ph) and the woman
whose life is being threatened.
But up next, what Martin Luther King Jr. did to get arrested on this day in
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day in 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested
during a protest at department stores in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Dr.
King was among several activists taken into custody while trying to
integrate lunch counters at the stores. Most of those arrested were
released on bond, but the judge citing a previous charge of driving without
a proper permit sentenced King to four months hard labor to start
The sentence sparked terror in the hearts of king supporters who feared he
would be killed while in custody. And with no time to lose, they reached
out to the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy.
After a careful bit of maneuvering, Kennedy called Dr. King`s wife, a
pregnant Coretta Scott King. And Kennedy told Mrs. King that he was
thinking about them and quote "if there`s anything I can do to help, please
feel free to call on me."
Kennedy`s brother, Bobby, also called. So this time the judge in Georgia,
and king was released shortly afterwards. The phone call between John F.
Kennedy and Mrs. King was over within two minutes. The media barely took
noticed. It received only a brief mention in "The New York Times."
But African-American communities got the message loud and clear. King`s
father, Martin Luther King Sr., a prominent minister known to many as daddy
King had previously endorsed Richard Nixon. But after that call, he
switched allegiances praising Kennedy for his moral courage to stand up for
what is right.
This man was willing to wipe the tears from my daughter-in-law`s eyes, he
said. Nearly three weeks later, Kennedy won 70 percent of the African-
American vote and one of the closest presidential elections in U.S.
history. A defining moment in electoral politics spurred in part by the
response to Dr. Martin Luther King`s arrest at an Atlanta department store
on this day, October 19th, 1960.
HARRIS-PERRY: National Democrats smelling the scent of a Georgia victory
in the air are pouring an additional million dollars into campaign ads in
the state`s race for U.S. Senate. Attacks on the outsourcing record of
Republican candidate David Purdue and polling showing Democrat Michelle
Nunn in the lead with close to the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff
prompted the democratic senatorial campaign committee to launch $800,000 in
ads in Wednesday in Atlanta, an additional $200,000 is soon to come.
Meanwhile, Georgia`s gubernatorial race is giving deep south Democrats even
more reason for hope. State Senator Jason Carter, the democratic candidate
who also happens to be the grandson of President Jimmy Carter is running
neck in neck with Republican incumbent governor Nathan Diehl according to
polling from the Atlanta general constitution.
But those democratic hopes in those two very tight races where increased
turnout among voters of color can make all the difference could be dimmed
by the outcome of a dispute over African-American voter registrations.
Last week, a lawsuit filed in Georgia alleged that more than 50,000
African-American voters newly registered by the group called new Georgia
project are missing from state records which jeopardized their ability to
vote on Election Day.
But Thursday, Georgia`s secretary of state fired back at those claims
saying his office has confirmed nearly 40,000 of those voters are on the
rolls with an additional 10,000 on a pending list of voters who still need
to confirm their identity.
So, Cornell, it does seem that there`s some democratic hope in Georgia.
The Democrats started to send some money, but it is going to rest on
primarily voters of color, especially African-American voters and cover of
"The New York Times is "the black vote being seen as the last hope of the
And you have in this article about the black movement seen as the last hope
for Democrats to hold the senate, you have got Cornell Belcher, who is a
pollster, writing African-American surge voters came out in 2008 in, 2012
but they are not positioned to do so in 2014. Over half aren`t even sure
when the midterm elections are taking place. So for all the money they`re
pouring in, are they pouring it in the right place?
BROOKS: Clearly we need to focus on turning out the African-American vote.
What`s critically important to remember here is in Georgia we have an
organization with the NAACP that`s registered 10 percent -- at least 10
percent of those voters who were unregistered in places where those votes
are often neglected and discounted, in rural communities, older voters,
African-American voters, black and brown voters.
And so, the point being here where 60 percent of unregistered voters could
tip and turn the election, it`s important for us to reach out. The NAACP
has been doing that on the ground. I think that`s a positive note. But
overall it is very sobering, very sobering that those votes are being
forgotten, particularly at a moment where this is the first election in a
generation where the American electorate is unprotected by the voting
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So this point I think is such a key one. Nick, it runs
to the point that midterm elections are so different than presidential
elections, even that language by Belcher that it`s possible that a large
proportion of a group of voters don`t even know when the election is
occurring because there`s just much lower information.
It just like backing up for a second and just looking at health of
democracy as opposed to sort of, you know, Georgia, if there is a
circumstance where you have such surge and decline and midterms are really
a different kind of population who are showing up to vote, is it still --
is it still an accurate reading, temperature taking of what a group of
people actually want for their representation?
CONFESSORE: You know, you don`t vote -- if -- I`m not sure you can argue
that it`s not fair. People have to vote. It`s up to them to vote. They
have to come out to vote. If you don`t vote, you`re not part of the
conversation, you know, to say who`s going to be in there. It`s
everybody`s duty to get out and do it. So I`m not, you know, I`m not one
of those people that`s going to say, well, you know, if half the country
isn`t voting, it`s their fault if they aren`t voting.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So this is an interesting idea, right? So I hear you
saying it`s the first time in a generation you`re not protected by the VRA.
I hear you saying look, we`re Americans, we`re rugged individualists.
We`re not in a place where you are required to vote so you`ve got to get
out there and do it. How do we -- you know, if we look at a place like
Georgia where you have this changing demographic reality that may or may
not turn into a changing electoral reality.
LILLEY: I can tell you, I agree with both. But what we all know, we all
you the data and we all know, for example, young voters, for example in the
Latino population and voters are so predominantly young, we know that young
voters, a lot of voters, just low don`t income voters, don`t traditionally
vote as much as older, more affluent voters. So I think that the parties
have missed an opportunity. A lot of Latino voter groups are saying the
parties have really missed an opportunity before the midterms to inject
more funding, direct contact.
There are a lot of studies that show just that phone call, just that direct
phone call makes such a difference with voters. And so I think it`s in the
middle. Yes, we all should be voting but we also know that it helps to get
someone to the polls first.
CONFESSORE: What`s interesting in Georgia as well is that the state
Democratic Party has been kind of moribund for years and years there under
Republican domination. It`s largely outside groups that saw the surge in
the Hispanic population and looked at the proportion of voting age African-
Americans who were not registered, which is enormous.
HARRIS-PERRY: And said there`s an opportunity here.
CONFESSORE: If we can just register these people and the state party isn`t
AGUILAR: But to be fair, I think the demographics at this point still
favor Republicans. And when it comes to the alien toe --
HARRIS-PERRY: In terms of the voting demographics.
AGUILAR: Absolutely, absolutely. In terms of Georgia the Hispanic
community has grown incredibly, but the electorate is still very small. To
make a difference, the vast majority would have to vote and that`s not
going to happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So let me go on that because part of it is also
demographics need not necessarily be part -- I mean, even as we just saw in
that story about daddy King and then we say and so they got 70 percent of
the vote. If Republicans could get 30 percent of the black vote right now,
that would be game over for Democrats around the country, right?
So it`s interesting. On the one hand you have Rand Paul saying I think we
could go back to 1960. I don`t mean that, but I mean that we could end up
with 10, 15, 20 percent of the black vote.
On the other hand, I do -- I just want to play this one little bit of
campaign commercial. It is a local campaign commercial, but it is coming
from the national GOP, from the national Republican Party, because it
strikes me as a party that might be confused about whether or not it wants
minority voters. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nikko Jenkins was released from prison early after
serving only half his sentence. The head of the Omaha police union said
Jenkins is the poster child for why the good time law is a farce. Brad
Ashshored (ph) supported the good-time law and still supports it, allowing
criminals like Nikko Jenkins to be released early.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is a Nebraska campaign but it comes from the
national GOP and it just is Willie Horton, I mean it just is.
AGUILAR: But to say somehow that it`s racist just because they`re making
HARRIS-PERRY: I didn`t say it was racist.
AGUILAR: No, but that was the allegation. I think it`s a fair attack
considering that under this law there have been cases of convicted felons
being released and then when they`re out committing serious crimes. So I
think it`s a valid point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cornell, I`m going to let you weigh in and then --.
BROOKS: A Willie Horton 2.0 ad in addition to the voting rights act being
gutted in addition to a Machiavellian set of strategies to disenfranchise
the American voters, it is not unreasonable for American voters, black and
brown voters, to conclude you don`t want us to participate in the
democratic process. That`s a fact.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us. As you can see by looking at the screen, we
dub our segment this morning midterm madness. Now, in part that`s because
of the multiple contests going on all at once, just like NCAA`s march
madness. But what I`m going to show you next, the new ads starring famed
or infamous, depending on your take, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is just
one of pain old madness.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sometimes a political ad speaks about the accomplishments of
a candidate. Other times a political ad speaks about the shortcomings of a
candidate`s opponent. And then, then there are those times when a
political ad just speaks for itself.
This is an ad released this week. (INAUDIBLE) who is a member of the
independent American party at a candidate for Congress in Nevada. Now,
you`ve probably never heard of him, which is OK, because the real star of
this ad is a guy up heard way too much about, cattle rancher Cliven Bundy
who you`ll remember from his April armed standoff against the federal
government and his suggestion that African-Americans were better off during
slavery. He makes a cameo appearance in this ad, clarifying and expanding
upon those views.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLIVEN BUNDY, NEVADA RANCHER: I know black folks have had a hard time with
slavery and, you know, the government was in on it. The government is in
on it again. I worked my whole life without mistreating anybody. A man
ought to be able to express himself without being called names.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear you, Cliven, I believe you. A brave white man
like you might be just what we need to put an end to this political
correctness stuff in America today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Sir, sir, we`re not even going to talk about it because just
speaks for itself. But I`m not exactly sure how my table is going to top
that for jaw-dropping political moments in this midterm election season.
But I would like to see them try. So --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got nothing. Is that a real candidate? Is that a
HARRIS-PERRY: I actually tried to get my executive producer to film a
parody of that with me but it was already so parodied. That said, so give
me a favorite moment of your own from the midterm even if it is not.
CONFESSORE: Well, I would say last week at the Colorado Senate debate,
Cory Gardner being challenged by the debate moderator.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s so good. Let`s listen to it for just a second and then
I`ll let you talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You continue to deny that the federal life of
conception act, which you sponsor, is a personhood bill to end abortion and
we are not going to debate that here tonight because it`s a fact. Your co-
sponsors say so, your opponents say so and independent fact checkers say
so. . So let`s talk about what this entire episode may say about your
judgment more broadly. It would seem that you have a difficult time
admitting when you`re wrong and a less charitable interpretation is that
you`re not telling us the truth. Which is it?
CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I think, again, I do not
support the personhood amendment. The bill that you`re referring to is
simple low a statement that I support life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean that was a moment.
CONFESSORE: You know, sometimes when you`re a reporter you have like a
long, you know, windup to your question and you want to bake some things
into the question? That was a windup. We`re not going to debate if you`re
misleading everybody. We`re only going to ask what does it mean that
you`re doing that. That`s like an aggressive moderator and I applaud
aggressive moderators in debates, but that`s quite a moment, I think, for
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That was definitely the reporter becoming the story in
that case. Give me a favorite moment.
AGUILAR: I`ve got a good one. Allison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky
Democratic senatorial candidate, there refused not once, but twice to say
if she voted for Barack Obama in 2012.
HARRIS-PERRY: Again, it`s so good. Let`s just take a moment and take a
look at this because it really is a crazy, wonderful moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you reluctant to give an answer on whether or
not you voted for president Obama?
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Bill, there`s
no reluctance. This is a matter of principle. Our constitution grants
here in Kentucky the constitutional right for privacy at the ballot box,
for a secret ballot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You won`t answer that question tonight?
GRIMES: Again, you have that right, Senator McConnell has that right.
Every Kentuckian has the right for privacy at the ballot box.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, that is just the wrong answer to that question.
AGUILAR: Seriously? McConnell accepted that he voted for Romney.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.
Now, I mean, that was one of those moments when you`re just thinking,
you`re just better off to just stand on -- even if people disagree with
you, just stand on something.
AGUILAR: That`s the desperation of distancing herself from Barack Obama
and it`s gotten to a point where the democratic senatorial campaign
committee has removed the ads in support of her in Kentucky.
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s your favorite moment so far or one of your favorite
moments so far?
LILLEY: Well, in New Hampshire in a congressional race, a young Latino
Republican versus a democratic incumbent congresswoman and a Republican
colleague of the Hispanic candidate thought he was helping but he was so
obnoxiously off what he said about women, he compared the looks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Let`s look at what he said. He wrote does anyone not
believe that Congressman Annie Koster is as ugly as sin. She looks more
like a drag queen than most men in drag. This in a state where people are
very proud that it`s all female delegation.
LILLEY: And it made the Republican candidate have to defend the democratic
incumbent by saying that it was unfortunate that they bring up women, you
bring up looks. So talk about someone not really helping your campaign.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s worth point out that the challenger did come out and
say this is not acceptable.
Give me a favorite moment, Cornell.
BROOKS: So having Governor Scott refuse to come onstage to debate because
former governor Crist had a personal fan --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, which is -- he`s carried the fan as his friend. It has
its own twitter account. It`s a real thing to him.
BROOKS: It is Florida, it is warm.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, but at this point he`s Beyonce. Like at this point
he`s like traveling with his own personal wind machine. It`s not -- no,
you can`t. That`s a no.
All right. My favorite moment, of course, is always Flotus (ph) and she
did such an MHP thing. She got the name wrong over and over again while
she was campaigning in Iowa, but that said she then got this so, so right
so as we go out we`re going to look at her vine from this week because it
was just the best.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Turnip for what? Turnip
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In March the emergence of the Ebola virus in West Africa
marked the beginnings of a global health crisis. Then, just weeks ago with
the Ebola diagnosis of Thomas Eric Duncan it became a U.S. public health
emergency. And now, it appears the Ebola virus has become a midterm
election issue. With reports first surfaced of the arrival of Ebola in the
U.S., North Carolina senate candidate Thom Tillis became one of the first
Republican to question the Obama administration`s response to the virus and
called for a ban on travel into the U.S. That call has since been joined
by mostly other Republican lawmakers and was one of the most often repeated
lines of questioning at Thursday`s house hearing on Ebola.
Tillis has since doubled down on his politicalization of Ebola joining
other candidates like New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown in making
the tenuous link between the virus and border security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Hagan has failed the people of North Carolina
and the nation by not securing our border. Ladies and gentlemen, we`ve got
an Ebola outbreak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If people are coming in from normal channels, can you
imagine what they can do through a porous border? And that`s why I
advocated and pushed and really called senator Shaheen out on that issue
because she`s not voted not to cure the border and it`s so critically
important that we really use every tool. Shut out every mechanism for them
and that disease and other potential disease to come into our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And as much as why we are shaking our head about Thom
Tillis, the fact is Kay Hagan fell right into this trap. At first was for
the border and then against the border and then for the border. She`s like
literally flip-flopping on this. Is Ebola going to decide the midterm
CONFESSORE: I don`t think it`s going to decide it. You know, we`re at
that stage in the election where as more things come in that seem to like
fit into the narrative of certain voters, that things are kind of out of
control, that like whoever is in Washington, and this could be an
independent voter, just doesn`t quite know how to make it work. You know,
what`s happening over there. I think the more things like that pack in
these last couple of months, it`s pretty bad --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a use refrain that we have this sort of juristic and
so this new information just gets kind of ordered within what we already
think -- Cornell.
BROOKS: But I think appealing to moms and dads on the basis of the Ebola
virus smacks of a campaign of desperation. And to the extent that that
makes a candidate look weak and lacking in leadership, it`s a bad thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s interesting.
BROOKS: It`s a dangerous thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: So even though on the one hand it might stoke fears, it
might also look like all you can talk to me about is Ebola? We know that
you`re not -- it should not be a partisan response.
AGUILAR: The problem here is, and this is the problem with the situation
of Ebola, is that people are panicking. As you were saying at the
beginning of the show, there is fear, there is overreaction, so it`s easy
to play politics with it. So they look desperate because they`re
reflecting what people think. Now, I think --
HARRIS-PERRY: And shaping some of it too. So they`re both reflecting it
but also by bringing border into it, Tillis and others are shaping our
belief that that is the thing that will make us feel safe.
AGUILAR: I agree. I think President Obama didn`t help himself and
democratic candidates by not getting in front of the issue and reassuring
the American public that the CDC is taking care of this, and I think they
are. But again, the perception is that it is not. So at the end, is it an
October surprise? I don`t think it`s going to decide the election but it`s
going to have an impact that favors Republicans.
LILLEY: I think in tight races, you know, you use anything. Who is in
charge, like Nicholas is saying, the tying of immigration and Ebola and all
the dark forces are trying to do us harm. Everything, all these symbols
can be very effective in some of these states in very tight elections.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, a month ago it was really a question about ISIS
and whether or not the Obama administration had responded sufficiently to
ISIS. You see far fewer ISIS discussions now, far more on Ebola.
Thank you to Sandra Lilley and Nick Confessore and also Alfonso Aguilar.
Cornell is actually going to be back in our next hour.
Because still to come this morning, (INAUDIBLE) was the woman at the center
of Gamergate (ph).
Plus citizen radios, Allison Kill Kenny and Jamie Killstein.
But first the stunning, heart breaking untold story of a woman who wrote to
her family saying she feared for her life. Ten days later, she was found
dead. Her story at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Now, whether you binge watch or ration the episodes "Orange is the New
Black" the award winning hit Netflix series about an all women`s prison is
deeply engrossing television. I mean, we laugh, our jaws drop, we sit at
the edge of our seats in anticipation, because we care about the
characters. For as much as the show succeeds in keeping us entertained, it
also provides a three-dimensional view of incarcerated people. The show`s
creators, producers and writers create rich characters with histories and
trajectories that have led them to this moment behind bars. People who
despite a conviction and sentence have families and dreams and quirks all
their own. It`s that humanity that we find most valuable, most relatable,
and making us feel that the humanity of people that society is all too
often ready to wipe out of our collective consciousness is perhaps the most
ground-breaking achievement of the scripted drama.
But what I`m holding right now is not a script. It`s a letter. It`s a
declaration of fear and a plea for help. It was written by a woman who was
desperate to escape what she considers a threat to her life. This letter
was handwritten in mid-September by Latandra Ellington, a 36-year-old
woman, a mother of four and an inmate at Lowell Correctional Institution in
Florida. Ellington wrote her aunt this chilling words. "He told me he`s
going to beat me to death. He was all in my face, then he grabbed his
radio and said he was going to bust me in the head with it." Ellington
ended the letter asking her aunt to call the prison and express concern for
her safety. When Ellington`s aunt called the prison, she said an official
told her he would make sure her niece was looked after.
But less than 24 hours later, Ellington, the 36-year-old mom, was dead.
Her body was found in a confinement cell. She was separated from the
general population because as a Florida Department of Law Enforcement
spokesman said, the department took the threats seriously. But it was not
another inmate Ellington feared. She did not mince words in her letter.
She was afraid of a correctional officer. When Latandra wrote to her aunt
saying, she feared for her life that, quote, "he was going to beat me to
death," that quote, he was all in my face, she was referring to one of the
very people who was supposed to keep her safe. Now, to be clear, we do not
know why Latandra Ellington is dead or who is responsible. Ellington`s
family hired an attorney and paid for a private autopsy which found she
suffered blunt force trauma in her abdomen consistent with being kicked or
A spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections said, Ellington`s
death is currently under investigation so the department is unable to
comment on any details at this time. We do not know who was involved in
Ellington`s death, but we do know that she had seven months left of a 22-
month sentence for filing fake tax returns. We do know her punishment
carried out by the state issued was not a death sentence. We also know
this in Florida, Ellington`s case is hardly isolated. The "Miami Herald"
reports that she is one of four people to die while in custody at Lowell
Correctional, this year. The State Corrections Department is investigating
all four deaths and that`s just at one facility. There are 108 open
investigations into inmates who died while in Florida State custody,
according to Ellington`s attorneys. Deaths of men like Darren Rainey, a
mentally ill inmate who died after being locked inside a scalding skin
separating shower. And Randall Jordan-Aparo who died after officers fired
noxious gases into his cell. As the state`s investigates this cases an
allegations of excessive use of force, so do reporters, Julie Brown at the
"Miami Herald" has been following every development in this case, not only
digging up records and asking tough questions, but helping us learn more
about the people who have died while in the state`s custody.
And Julie Brown, investigative reporter with the "Miami Herald" is with me
now. First of all, thank you for your reporting on this. And my
understanding is that you have some new reporting this morning.
JULIE BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE MIAMI HERALD": Yes. We are
hearing a little bit more about the case involving Ellington. We are also
hearing a little bit more about another death that had happened earlier
this year at Charlotte Correctional Institution. And there is somewhat of
a pattern that we keep hearing not only with those deaths but the other
ones that I have been writing about and they involved cases in which the
people who may know the information aren`t questioned right away. The
reports that they submit are very sketchy or they contain the same
language, almost as though one person writes the report and they`re all
sort of mimeographed, copied and they`re signed by everyone. One of the
issues with all these cases is that, you know, a lot of these cases happen
in areas where theoretically there should be video, and we keep hearing
over and over again, whoops, the camera didn`t work. The video was erased.
It`s too blurry and fuzzy for us to see. And you know, so the question is
raised why are these things happening time and time again and why haven`t
they been corrected, knowing, as we have, that there have been these
problem situations in these prisons involving inmates who come out of there
and some of them with very horrendous injuries.
HARRIS-PERRY: I keep thinking that we`re in a moment when our national
conversation is being shaped by what`s going on in Ferguson, Missouri, and
the idea of police officer force and a questioning of police officer force.
But in the case of correctional officers, it can be harder to get that
public concern because these are the people that we shunt to the side. But
Latandra Ellington was in jail for 22 months around an issue about tax
filings. This is not a death sentence. How do we -- how do we get people
to ask those same, tough questions?
BROWN: Well, quite frankly I`m getting bucketfuls of mail from loved ones
all over Florida who have long been concerned about this, and the letters
that I am getting do often concern inmates that are in there on
prescription drug offenses. You know, we have very strong sentencing
guidelines in Florida and also, you know, federal guidelines, and half the
people in the prison system in Florida are nonviolent offenders. And one
of the inmates, Randall Jordan-Aparo who you mentioned earlier, he was in
for check forgery, he was in for like 17 months for check forgery. Darren
Rainey, he wasn`t really a violent inmate as well. He had a lot of mental
illness. And he just -- he was agitated. A common theme with some of
these cases where they end up dead is the guards will agitate these people.
They`ll pound on their cells, they`ll -- in the case in Charlotte that I
was going to bring up, you know, the secretary did recently fire ten
officers in connection with the death of Matthew Walker, 45-year-old inmate
who died in April, after a cell extraction.
The key part of that story that I don`t think has been really told is those
ten correctional officers had commanders, and those commanders had told
those officers repeatedly, I mean had, quote-unquote, "chewed them out" for
not enforcing this policy that they had enacted where they had to go in,
even in the middle of the night, and make all these inmates, who are
already in situations where they`re hot, I mean these are not happy places
to be in to begin with, so they wake them up at 1:00 in the morning and
they say, hey, you`ve got to clean your cell. And they`re in there yelling
and screaming at them at 1:00 in the morning. And they were told to do
this. They had PowerPoint presentations, all these correctional officers
by their bosses.
HARRIS-PERRY: Why? Why are their bosses telling them to harass people? I
mean, is it something other than they just mean that guy, because there`s
some motivation for it?
BROWN: I mean I don`t think anybody really knows the answer to that
question right now why they do that.
BROWN: But I will tell you one thing, even though there were ten officers,
rank in file officers who were summarily fired in connection with that
case, the assistant warden was promoted, the colonel was promoted after
this happened, the warden is still there. I mean, and this we have seen a
pattern of whenever there is a suspicious death, there is a bunch of people
who are always promoted.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us, when we come back I`m going to bring in a
couple more voices, including Piper Kerman, author of "Orange is the New
Black." Also, the lawyer representing Latandra Ellington`s family. Stick
HARRIS-PERRY: Reporting by the "Miami Herald" Julie Brown shows that use
of force cases have nearly doubled in Florida`s prisons since 2008. Last
fiscal year correctional officers self-reported more than 7,000 incidents.
This increase led the secretary of the Florida Corrections Department to
order a full independent audit of its use of force procedures. That audit
begins tomorrow. The department also instituted a number of reforms,
including a database of inmate death details and a mental health ombudsman,
all of which would be a way toward reducing violence within Florida`s
prisons. Yet Latandra Ellington`s family waits for answers. Attorneys for
the family have written a letter calling on the Department of Justice to
investigate her death.
Still with me is Julie Brown from the "Miami Herald," back with me is
Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP. Joining us now is
also Piper Kerman, author of "Orange is the New Black" and in Las Vegas,
Nevada. Daryl Parks, he`s attorney for Latandra Ellington`s family and the
founder of the Parks and Crump Law Firm.
Attorney Parks, let`s start here. You called on the Department of Justice,
one, have you heard any response yet from the Attorney General and
secondly, why is it important for that investigation to be happening right
DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY, LATANDRA ELLINGTON`S FAMILY: Well, it`s important
because even thus far in the investigation of Latandra`s death, we`ve had
not the greatest degree of transparency that you`d want to see in this type
of case. For example, when she first passed away for the first two days,
the medical examiner would not tell us what the cause of death was. Also,
they wouldn`t even tell us if law enforcement was involved. Well, that
caused Latandra`s family to have to do their own autopsy, which as you know
is very expensive. We did an autopsy. Once we got involved with this
case, we went public and talked about our initial findings of the blunt
force trauma to the lower abdominal area that had to have been caused by
the kicking or punching. Well, the very next day the secretary of
corrections comes out and says, that`s not what our autopsy showed. So
clearly there`s a discrepancy between what their autopsy said, and what the
DOC is saying and what we found. Thus, we believe there needs to be an
independent person, not the state of Florida to investigate what has
happened here. Beyond that, though, Melissa, I think the magnitude of the
whole situation, 108 death cases, I believe the Florida Department of Law
Enforcement is very capable but this is a situation that warrants the
interceding of the FBI and the Department of Justice civil rights division.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me for one second because, Piper, I want to come to
you on the lived experience of this. So, we have the reporting and we have
a clear call for a federal inquest into this. But I am wondering about the
women who knew Latandra Ellington who may know something but must also
recognize this letter goes out and ten days later, she`s dead. Help us to
understand what that lived experience must be like for those women in that
jail right now.
PIPER KERMAN, AUTHOR, "ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK": For those women in
Lowell, they are probably scared and they are probably also very hopeful,
because the scrutiny of, you know, smart reporters and any national
attention that is brought down on what is essentially an incredibly closed
world, every single prison and jail is like a closed universe. And
prisoners` ability to gain justice from the hierarchy that supervises them
is minimal. Really minimal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Unless we open that universe up.
KERMAN: Unless the walls of prisons and jails are transparent. Unless the
public can see in and at least the public is engaged. So, right now I`m
sure that those women are scared, really scared, and they have lost, you
know, Latandra, and there have been a number of other really questionable
deaths because of medical negligence and other reasons. But anything that
your viewers and other folks in the public can do to let Florida and I
think really to let the federal government know that they`re watching and
that they`re calling for results is important, because no one should expect
the state of Florida to really do much while Rick Scott is governor.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I will point out we do have a statement from McKinley
Lewis, who is the press secretary for the Florida Department of
Corrections. He says, "As the department continues to fully cooperate with
law enforcement partners, we look forward to the conclusion of all active
and ongoing investigations so that the truth about the circumstances behind
any and all incidents maybe known again." This is from McKinley Lewis, the
press secretary for the Florida Department of Corrections. So Cornell, you
at the NAACP, the entire history of your organization is about advocacy
around these closed moments, whether that closed world was prison or that
closed world was the Jim Crow world. How, then, do we prick the public
consciousness so that these women and these men in these institutions know
they are not alone, that we are watching?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Let`s start with a moral
assumption, that being this. A prison sentence does not represent a death
sentence in terms of your humanity. Let`s start there. Miss Ellington is
a human being. Was a citizen of our country. And the fact that she could
lose her life while being in prison for theft, yes, for theft, and that we
have 14 years of suspicious deaths in the Department of Corrections and the
Department of Juvenile justice, an uptick in the last four, 32 security
officers being fired as a consequence of their relationship in terms of
these suspicious deaths, we have a crisis. We have a crisis. And we need
the Department of Justice to get involved. The NAACP has called on the
Department of Justice to get involved and to launch an investigation. We
look to meet with them soon. We have been engaged with the families. The
point being here is, this is not a matter of women enduring indignities in
private, this is an assault on our public conscience, on our public
morality. And we can`t afford to have any part of America closed off to
the constitution in our conscience.
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney Parks, the family of Latandra Ellington, they have
lost a beloved -- four children having lost their mother. What does
justice even look like right now?
PARKS: It looks like, you know, last Monday we met with the agents from
the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but I think it gets even deeper
here. One thing that came out earlier that hopefully you know about,
Latandra actually spoke to her aunt Tuesday, which she died on a Wednesday.
But Tuesday, that afternoon, she had called up to the jail and the officer
called that Latandra is present. The officer on the phone promised
Latandra`s family that they would keep her safe. Less than 18 hours later,
PARKS: So not only do we have the letters, but we have this phone call
with a representative from the prison talking to a family member, assuring
them that she`s going to be OK. And less than 18 hours later, she`s dead.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m understanding that when they called to say that Latandra
had passed, that it was just sort of -- that it was the chaplain called so
she was gone, but there are no other official has offered compelling
information to this family.
PARKS: Nothing at all. Zero. And they are very mad about what has
happened. I mean she has a daughter who is a freshman at Florida A&M. She
has three other children as well. And they have lost their mother with no
answers. And I must tell you, the hardest thing in the world for me in my
job is to look them in their face and have no answers for them. I think
they deserve answers, and they deserve them quickly, and not have to wait a
long time because of this problem within the Florida Department of
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Daryl Parks in Las Vegas. We have more on this
when we come back. We`re going to talk about whether or not something can
be done, talking to a Florida lawmaker when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 1971, the Psychology Department at Stanford University
conducted an experiment. Twenty four student volunteers were divvied up
its cast as either prisoners or guards. The study -- two weeks was cut
short when things got out of hand. Researchers found guards subjecting
prisoners to cruel and dehumanizing abuse, and those prisoners started to
show signs of extreme stress. This experiment is now considered a classic
psychology study, revealing how much the psychological effects of authority
can impact all of us. If we are asked what leads to excessive use of
force, we should also consider the psychology of those being paid to keep
Joining me now from Tampa is State Senator Arthenia Joyner, a democrat from
Florida. Let me ask you about this. What kinds of working conditions
exist for COs that you think might be contributing to what appears to be a
pattern of abuse within Florida`s system?
STATE SEN. ARTHENIA JOYNER (D), FLORIDA: Well, the correctional officers
in Florida work 12-hour shifts, two days on and two days off, but lately
they have been called in to work overtime, to work 16 hours. Consequently,
these conditions are very stressful to them. However, that is not an
excuse for what has happened in Florida prisons.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, it`s absolutely not an excuse. But part of what I`m
wondering here is, as you start thinking as a legislator about how to
address these questions, what do you see as root causes of things that
you`re going to want to legislate around?
JOYNER: Well, we need to provide more training the law and we need to
appropriate additional funds so that these correctional officers will have
better pay and we can attract more qualified persons to serve in these
positions. But, you know, what has happened is systemic, it`s absolutely a
culture of corruption and cover-up. And it`s time for the governor to step
up to the plate and call for an independent investigation by the Department
of Justice. It`s going to end up being Rick Scott`s Katrina because if you
read all the reports, which I`ve done, all of the stories, rather, it`s
riveting. I couldn`t sleep. And anyone with a conscience and has
compassion for people would know that we are in trouble in this state in
our corrections system, and it`s incumbent upon the governor to step up now
and call for the Department of Justice, which is the group, the
organization that has the responsibility of providing for the protection of
the civil rights of those incarcerated in state institutions.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold on for me. Julie, I do want to point out we did invite
both current Governor Scott and former Governor Crist to appear in the
program this morning. Neither one of them accepted our invitation to do
so. But have you in your reporting, and you have been following some of
this for years, has there been any responsiveness on the part of elected
officials beyond the state senators and representatives? At the top, have
they been responsive?
BROWN: No. Governor Scott has been pretty quiet on this. He will say if
he`s asked questions while he`s on the campaign trail or at functions, he`s
answered them and he feels that that`s his public statement on it, but he`s
not really come to the forefront. He`s allowed his secretary for the
Department of Corrections, Michael Cruz, to speak for him. But this is an
election year. It`s a very tight race. And the fact that he isn`t saying
a whole lot I think speaks, you know, to citizens who are going to the
polls and, you know, and going to vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Piper, I want to go back for a moment to this point
about the closed system. Because it does feel like we have here elected
officials calling for an opening. We have here the attorney calling for an
opening. We don`t know, we still don`t know what happened to Latandra
Ellington. We don`t know what happened to people who were killed in this
system four years ago. What keeps correctional officers themselves from
standing up? So, it`s a closed system, right, but this is never just one -
- is there any way to imagine correctional officers coming out and saying,
you know what, I`m no longer working there or I was, but I have to tell you
the story that I know about what happened on the inside?
KERMAN: I mean, I think that folks -- you know, there are many people who
are thoughtful people, who are good people, who do work within corrections,
who desperately want to work in systems that are more functional, more
fair, more just. And I talked to them all the time and I`m sure that
you`ve talked to some of them. So I know that there have been, you know,
health care workers who have spoken to you off the record, of course,
because they fear for their jobs about the horrific things that happen in
Florida prisons. Now, Latandra died in a confinement cell. I just want
folks who are watching to understand that the most secure part of a prison
is the solitary confinement area. People do not come and go without being
noticed from those kinds of units, so there`s no way whoever hurt her and
killed her got into that confinement unit without other people knowing it.
And that culture of silence is just incredibly disturbing. You know, they
talk about the thin blue line when we talk about police on the streets.
The same thin blue line, that culture of silence exists, I think in all
parts of law enforcement quite frankly, because that helps bolster the
authority structure and the power that is consolidated within our criminal
justice system. Now, you know, when correctional officers and other prison
staff are rarely held accountable for violence, for abuse or assault within
prisons, and that`s happening in Rikers Island, right here in New York
City, it`s always painted as a few bad apple. Oh, we caught the bad apple.
But the truth of the matter is no prison staffer assaults or abuses
prisoners without a very powerful sense that they can get away with it
because of the hierarchy and because of the culture that is within the
institution that they`re within. And it is a leadership question pure and
simple. When we see prisons that run well and that have low levels of
violence, you always see really effective and conscientious leadership.
And when we see, you know, facilities or in the case of Florida entire
state systems where violence runs rampant at the hands of staff, that is --
has to go to the top. That goes to Cruz, that goes to Scott, that goes to
HARRIS-PERRY: And State Senator Joyner, I also presume the very top of the
democratic system is meant to be the voters. And so, is there a way that
you as an elected official can help to hold accountable this system?
JOYNER: Yes. We`re going to ask the republican-led Florida legislature to
conduct hearings throughout the state of Florida so that the people will
know what`s going on in our prisons. And if they fail to respond in the
affirmative, then the Florida legislated black caucus, I am sure will take
up the fight, because Floridians need to know that their loved ones are not
safe in Florida prisons, and it`s not all correctional officers. It goes
to the very top and we know that. The evidence shows that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, State Senator Arthenia Joyner in Tampa, Florida.
Here in New York, thank you to Julie Brown. Also, to Cornell William
Brooks of the NAACP and to Piper Kerman.
Still to come this morning, nerd land friends Allison and Jamie have a new
book. But first Anita Sarkeesian and the threats on her life.
HARRIS-PERRY: Pong, created in 1969. It was the first popular video game
many people have ever saw. Heralded as a milestone, this primitive little
game helped launched a multibillion dollar industry. Today, technology
allows for stunningly realistic images and allows some millions of gamers
around the globe to intercomplex world with engaging narratives and
characters. We think of this as technological new progress. There are
also parts of these extraordinary new games that have me yearning for the
simplicity of pong. Now, I want to warn you, I`m about to show some images
that can be disturbing and that are not suitable for the youngest nerd land
viewers. So, take a look behind me. These images are all from popular
video games played by millions of people and they feature women in
troubling, violent and dehumanizing ways. In this scene a group of man
howl and cheer a scantily clad stripper and hit man absolution. Here a
woman is repeatedly slapped in the game Far Cry 3. Here, a woman lays dead
and apparently irrelevant in this image from Mafia 2, Joe`s Adventures.
The games are fantasy, but the threat of violence all too real for one
woman who dared to say enough. When she spoke out against these
representations of women, she received death threats in return. We`re
going to talk to her about what the story of Gamergate is all about, next.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: My next guest is one of the most talked about people of the
moment. "Rolling Stone" magazine just called her pop culture`s most
valuable critic. Others have called her a feminist, bravely confronting
sexism in our culture. For two months now, Anita Sarkeesian`s name has
been splashed across the headlines as a central figure in what`s been
described as a woman or women in the video game industry, something the
media has come to refer to as Gamergate. Sarkeesian and other women who
work and write about the industry say they have been threatened,
intimidated and terrified by a seemingly endless wave of anonymous threats
from what they suspect are extremist members of a male dominated gamer
community. The story exploded back in August, when the ex-boyfriend of an
Indie game developer posted a scathing online attack against the woman.
Among the damaging accusations, that she had slept with a reporter to get a
favorable review on one of her games. The allegations of corruption caught
the attention of the media, triggering an angry wave of tweets and e-mails
targeting both the press and women in the gaming industry. But Anita
Sarkeesian says for her the threats started two years earlier. That`s when
the social critic began exploring the sexist depictions of women in video
games on her YouTube program, Feminist Frequency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANITA SARKEESIAN, EXEC. DIR., FEMINIST FREQUENCY: Plot devices that
capitalized on female trauma for shock value functions in much the same way
as the hitting a child or kicking the dog troops do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one defies --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There, you happy now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Since going public with her criticism of the industry,
Sarkeesian says, angry gamers have smeared her reputation, violated her
personal life and, most alarmingly, threatened her safety. Back in
September, she received a bomb threat while at an awards banquet in San
Francisco. Then just days ago she cancelled a speaking engagement at Utah
State University after the school received an anonymous threat from an
alleged gunman who promised to shoot students if she spoke. The FBI is now
reportedly involved in Sarkeesian`s case. And in the meantime more women
are coming forward with similar stories of harassment and threats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s literally been the worst thing I`ve ever
experienced in my life. They have targeted my financial assets of my
company. You know, they have actually set up fake accounts to impersonate
me online with me saying just horrible, horribly discriminating things
against people in an effort to destroy my professional reputation. You
know, they have actually set up burner accounts with fake, you know,
stories about my life and have sent them to prominent journalists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Video game designer Brianna Wu says, the repeated threats
forced her and her husband to go into hiding for their own safety. In the
meantime, Anita Sarkeesian says, something has to be done to change the
culture of the video game industry and she intends to be part of the
solution. She joins me now live from San Francisco. Anita, good morning.
SARKEESIAN: Good morning.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is appalling and also may be difficult for folks
who aren`t part of the gaming industry to completely understand. So help
us to understand -- I mean, you know, we watch your feminist frequency and
you`re very sort of measured, you`re clear that you love parts of the game,
that you`re part of it, but also that you have a critique. How in the
world does that end up with death threats and bomb scares?
SARKEESIAN: It is really hard for people outside of the industry to
understand this. And I think even for a lot of people in the industry to
understand that this is what it`s come to. You know, one of the reasons
why I think this is happening is in the last few years, there`s been a very
strong push towards making gaming a more inclusive space, making games more
inclusive, making the industry more inclusive, and there`s more and more
voices speaking up to demand this change. And I think that there is a
section of mostly male gamers who are fighting against that, who are trying
to preserve the status quo of gaming as a male dominated space. And their
reaction is often in these ways that you were just describing, violent --
threats of violence, attacking our character, trying to discredit us, you
know, threats to -- misogynist and sexist slurs, all of those sorts of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, help me to understand the decision to cancel the talk.
I really want people to understand just the extent of this threat. You
know, I get rape threats online. That, you know, we see the kind of
horrible things that women get. But for the most part you can sort of say,
well, this is horrifying but it`s, you know, it`s social media and then you
move forward. But you made a decision to cancel this talk because you took
those threats very seriously. Why in this case?
SARKEESIAN: I do, and I take all of the threats that I receive very
seriously. This was the first time I cancelled an event due to threats.
And part of the reason, actually the reason why I cancelled was when I
spoke to the police that was responsible for increasing security at the
event, I asked them about Utah`s concealed gun laws and if they could
screen for weapons. Now, to be clear, the threat that was received was
about a massive school -- like a massacre, right, a school shooting. So I
asked them what they were going to do to screen for weapons and firearms.
And they said that they couldn`t do anything. I requested pat downs or
metal detectors and they said no. So they wouldn`t even check for permits
to see if people, you know, were permitted to use -- to have firearms on
them. And I think that this is ludicrous to put me and the students`
safety at risk when there`s literally a threat about a school shooting with
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to back up for one second because on the one hand
there`s kind of the horror of the violence and the threats. But I also
want to go to the content of your actual critiques. And one of the most
important to me is your claim, and I`d like you to play this out for my
audience a little bit, that sexism and misogyny are simply bad for the
imagination, that they`re bad for gaming as an industry because they`re
kind of uninteresting.
SARKEESIAN: Yes, absolutely. You know, one of the things that`s so
interesting and almost sad is that, you know, we will, you know, suspend
our disbelief when it comes to dragons and ogres and magic in these games.
Often we`ll have massive invisible backpacks full of weapons that we can
use at our disposal in these games. But somehow the idea that, you know,
the exploitation of women or, you know, a world free of the oppression of
women is just deemed too bizarre to be believable.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Let me -- final question. So many times when bad
things do happen, you will hear this kind of low level, the games made me
do it. How can you -- how do we do a reasonable smart pop culture critique
without just turning into the games made me do it in terms of violence?
SARKEESIAN: Right, right. Yes, you know, I am definitely not advocating
that there`s a one-to-one correlation at all but I do this work because I
think that Media Matters. Right? I think that the media helps to shape
our attitudes and beliefs and value systems. And so what does it say
about, you know, our society when the primary means of conflict resolution
in most of these major games are about violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: Anita Sarkeesian in San Francisco, California. Thank you
for continuing to speak up, and stay safe.
SARKEESIAN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, citizen radio comes to Nerdland. Our friends
Allison and Jamie has something new to tell you about.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you`re a regular viewer of this program, you probably
recognize these two faces. Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein, two of our
frequent guests here on MHP. Maybe you recall when Allison and I cheered
on 9-year-old student activist Ashon Johnson, or when Jamie shared the
deeply personal details of his friendship with the late, great Robin
Williams. Heck, we even sent Jamie into the street once to find out where
New Yorkers were in terms of reacting to the price tag of $1 million placed
on each of ten parking spots at a new condo building downtown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE KILSTEIN, CITIZEN RADIO: On a scale from one to class war, how mad
are you that a $1 million parking space exists?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not on that meter.
KILSTEIN: What meter would it be on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The what the (bleep) meter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In other words, Allison and Jamie are official citizens of
Nerdland. No voter ID required. And two nerds at home probably also know
that this married duo, are co-founders and co-hosts of Citizen Radio. And
independent comedy and news podcast that challenges mainstream news and
analysis with this satire and biding leftist critique in the words of
independent journalist and an Academy Award nominee Jeremy Scahill. Jamie
and Allison are quote, "a modern day social justice non-violent Vegan punk
anti-war Bonnie & Clyde. I don`t know if you can be a Vegan Bonnie &
Clyde. It is in that capacity that they co-authored their new book,
hashtag, "#Newsfail. First look, the rule of independent media in the
modern news landscape. Jamie and Allison document the failures and follies
of the mainstream press. And how those factors precipitated the rise of
Citizen Radio and other independent news outlet. Chapter by chapter, it
breakdown the way the media frames debate about God controlled rape
culture, climate change and more including along the way, everything from
their favorite Vegan -- from the time they interviewed Ralph Nader in a
Joining me now, Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny, what in the world were
you two doing with Ralph Nader in the bathtub?
KILSTEIN: OK, so he wasn`t technically in the bathtub. I feel that`s
important to point out. Like people already make fun of his campaign that
I don`t want them to be like, oh, poor guy had to go into a bathtub to
press. When we started the show, I mean, when we started it pretty much,
we lived out of our car for like two years touring around to like any place
that would book us. And when we started the show, we did the podcast on
cellphones. There was like this sound board that you could use online.
And so, if we were in the same room together.
ALLISON KILKENNY, CITIZEN RADIO: There is massive feedback. So, we had to
be in different rooms doing the show together.
HARRIS-PERRY: Also, one of you ends up in the bathroom.
KILSTEIN: Oh, yes, I do.
KILSTEIN: So, I end up in the bathtub, and this is when we had this like
really shady studio apartment. It was like everything was really close
anyway. And this is like our first interview. Like Ralph Nader thought it
was a real show. I don`t know how we --
KILKENNY: I may have lied to him a little bit.
HARRIS-PERRY: You got it all booker`s lie a little bit.
KILSTEIN: Yes. Well, it`s a billion people listening, I guess, I have to
do this show. And so, I was so excited because he would have these great
lines, he would have these great lines about how being on the left really
isn`t radical, there isn`t anything radical about being anti-war everyone
to have health care and education. And so, I would get so excited, I would
literally run out from the living room from the bathtub, like literally in
the bathtub was where I had reception with my little T-Mobile sidekick.
And I would give Allison the thumbs up and you`d hear screeching feedback
and Allison --
KILKENNY: I was like get back in the bathtub.
KILSTEIN: She would yell at me through the phone.
HARRIS-PERRY: I would say, this actually does happen here. Every once in
a while, my executive producer Eric will get so excited, he will run from
the control room into here on commercials and give me a thumbs up.
KILSTEIN: But then you don`t have to scream, Eric, get back in the
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So tell me what is the #Newsfail? Is it primarily
ideological? Is it primarily about how we do news? What is it?
KILKENNY: Yes. So to us, what it means is that there`s a whole bunch of
people who aren`t represented in the media. So, for example, CNN has been
terrible recently with rip culture. We saw it during Steubenville, there
was all of these sympathy given to the rapists and not so much to the rape
victim. So that would be a classic example of a Newsfail.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to be clear, so you just said CNN which is
obviously a competitive network but you guys have critiques for everybody.
KILKENNY: Sure. Sure. It`s not like this is an MSNBC love fest. In fact
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, you all have a critique of my position on Ed
Snowden. Tell me about that.
KILSTEIN: Yes, so, I mean, one of the things you really try to get across
in the book, and we don`t talk about that in the book. But we talked about
it because we`re friends and we disagreed with you, is we talk about that
you can have more than one point of view, right? Like you can support
Barack Obama and be against drone strikes. You can be against Barack Obama
and not be racist. You can support, we can leak transparency but think
Julian and Hassan just probably a racist for the human garbage.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Which I want to say, I would not have said that.
KILSTEIN: Oh, of course. I`m saying that. And so, that`s what we try to
do in the book to be like, it`s OK to support principles and not like
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep. Yep.
KILKENNY: So yes, I think it`s important to say, you know, the
surveillance state is bad. But also, that that surveillance state affects
more than Edward Snowden, that particularly if you book color in this
country, we`ve been dealing with the surveillance state for a very long
time. And maybe we shouldn`t get pulled into this, you know, culture of
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Because you know, my critique of Snowden had been sort
of Edward Snowden can`t save me, because this is something that has been
existing. I want to also, you know, we were just talking about the kind of
ways on which social media on the hand and services, great democratic
experiment that reminds us of things like Genus 6 (ph), like, you know,
hands up, don`t shoot. Like it`s social who`s often out-front. But then
democracy being democracy means that the mob can sometimes be mobbish.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to just play this moment, Jamie, if you want this
show, talking about Daniel Tash, I mean, have you all talked about what
happened in the line of democracy afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KILSTEIN: All these guy comics, liberal comics, progressive comics that I
admire came out and defended this guy and defended rape culture. And
what`s so sad about that. Its comics don`t agree on anything. Everyone is
talking about the comedy community. Here`s the comedy community, are you
friends with Elon? Yes. Well, Elon got a special, I hate Elon.
We don`t even have health insurance. But suddenly we have to defend rape
culture. And it`s like comedians assemble. That`s horrifying, this is the
sword we want to die on.
HARRIS-PERRY: So you have 40 seconds. But twitter went nod when you came
on and said that.
KILSTEIN: Yes. And I thought that was going to be the least controversial
thing I`ve ever said. I went on like, Conan talked about drones, I went on
Chris Hagan show and talked about atheism. No one cared. Glenn Beck
called to vote us out. No one cared. Uhm, when I was like -- I didn`t
want to say -- Obama should shutdown comedy clubs, there`s no censorship
going on, you can still be sexist, don`t pretend you`re edgy, but when I
said I don`t personally find Rip jokes funny, you have the free speech to
say that, I have the free speech to say you`re not funny. It was thousands
of death threats. It was like a bad signal that went out but there was no
bad, it was a top out shirt. And I want to say this especially because
Anita was on and because of Allison, is what I got in a month, thousands of
KILKENNY: Oh, yes. It`s that women get all the time.
KILSTEIN: Every day. Every day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny. Book once
again is #Newsfail on sale now. And Jamie promises that if you buy a copy
and you bring it to one of his stand-up gigs, he will sign it for you.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for
watching. Eric, get back in the bathtub. I`ll see you next Saturday at
10:00 a.m. Eastern. Now it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX
WITT." Hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT": Melissa, thanks so much
for that. Well everyone, family and friends of a missing college student
prepare for the worst after a grim discovery this weekend.
Also, inside the hot zone, you`re going to hear from an "Associated Press"
photographer who captured the Ebola tragedy unfolding in Africa.
Also, new information about one of the nurses infected with the virus.
Plus, new pictures of how her dog is doing in quarantine. Don`t go
anywhere. I`ll be right back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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