'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, November 23rd, 2014
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: November 23, 2014
<Guest: Maria Dela Rosario Rodriguez, Cynthia Diaz, Cristobal Alex, Cesar
Vargas, Geraldo Torres, Angela Leslie, Kelefa Sanneh, Dean Obeidallah,
Brittney Cooper, Jill Filipovic, Seema Iyer, Vince Warren, Marquis Govan,
Jelani Cobb, Marva Robinson>
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, can we
separate Cliff Huxtable from Bill Cosby?
Plus, hear directly from one woman accusing the comedian of assault.
And the personal effects of president (INAUDIBLE).
But first, all eyes remain on Ferguson, Missouri.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And at this hour, the wait continues in Ferguson. It has been more than
100 days since unarmed teenager Michael Brown was shot by Ferguson police
officer Darren Wilson. It has been more than 100 days since Brown`s body
was left in the street for hours. It has been more than 100 hours since
Wilson was put on paid administrative leave by the police department. It
has been more than 100 days since Brown`s parents and the community first
asked for answers. Now, that community and the nation are waiting a
decision from a grand jury as to whether that officer, Darren Wilson, will
While a grand jury decision has been expected as early as today, sources
now say the grand jury is planning to meet on Monday. Multiple sources
tell NBC say that public safety units have eased back on their alert
On the ground on Ferguson is MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee.
Trymaine, what is the late that we actually know about what is happening
with the grand jury and with activist there in Ferguson.
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: So at this point, we don`t know much.
We know that they will be meeting again on Monday. Now, of course, we
don`t know if a decision will be made on Monday or at some later point.
But certainly the longer this thing is strung out it`s taking an emotional
and psychological soul, more on protesters and business owners and
You know, everyone for weeks is kind of bracing for the worst, but what do
the words look like. You know, Governor Jay Nixon signed a state of
emergency and mobilized the National Guard. And protesters are taking it
back by that because there is a presumption of violence. You know,
(INAUDIBLE), was out here on Florescent Avenue and more (INAUDIBLE) for a
week. So as you drive down, you know, all you see is the kind of particle
board in the windows of saying open.
And so, again, the longer this thing is dragged out, you know, folks are
really starting to feel the weight of this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, obviously, we`re coming into next week, the holiday
weekend, you know, at the end of the week with thanksgiving on Thursday,
and you know, black Friday, the big shopping day which has also been talked
about potentially as a day of protests, people, not shopping in the
Ferguson stores, at least some activists talking about that.
What do you know about what happened if this grand jury does not return a
decision before the Thanksgiving holiday?
LEE: Well certainly, you know, protestors plan on spilling into the
streets whether there is an indictment or not an indictment. But as you
mentioned, the organizers are already passing out fliers. I got one just
yesterday calling for protests and boycotts of black Friday. But also,
beginning Thursday because, you know, Black Friday is starting very early
this year as we have seen over the years. So they`re saying don`t shop at
these shops on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. And again, that is
whether the indictment comes down or not. Folks are still again bracing
for this and gearing up and part of that includes, you know, boycotting
HARRIS-PERRY: Trymaine, thank you so much for your continue reporting
there in Ferguson, Missouri. We are going to come back to you again in the
next hour as our coverage of Ferguson continues.
Whatever else Ferguson is about, however broad the implications, at the
most personal it is about Michael Brown`s parents waiting to find out what
will happen to the man who killed their son.
Likewise, the president`s executive action this week on immigration is vast
in its implications for politics for the economy for nearly half of the
nation`s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
But at its most personal, it`s about families. It`s about children
worrying about their parents. The nearly four million mothers and fathers
whose children are citizens or legal residents who themselves have no legal
status who could be deported at any moment.
But like Maria Dela Rosario Rodriguez. Her daughter, Cynthia Diaz,
appeared on our show earlier this year. But Cynthia is 19-year-old, a
student at the University of Arizona, and an American citizen. Cynthia did
not know that her mother was undocumented until May of 2011 when federal
agents raided her home. She was 15 at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CYNTHIA DIAZ, 19-YEAR-OLD: I was working up by my desk, screaming out,
Cynthia they are taking your mom. And I was confused because I didn`t know
what that meant. And so, I went to my front yard and there I saw ten
officers all over my front yard and I saw my mom being handcuffed and
pushed into a van and then the door shut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Cynthia`s mother was deported and later re-entered the
country. In April of this year, she was being held in a private detention
center in Arizona. Cynthia protested her mother`s detention with a hunger
strike, that she and others staged outside the White House. She did not
eat for five days.
Three weeks after she came on our show, her mother was released and allowed
to go home to her family. We sent a camera to record their emotional
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
HARRIS-PERRY: But although Maria was released, the federal government
continued proceedings to deport her and break up her family. Her next
hearing is scheduled for the summer of 2015. Until then she is in limbo.
But President Obama`s executive action could potentially mean relief for
Maria and her family, the kind of family the president invoked this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most undocumented immigrants
are good, decent people. They have been here for a long time. They`re
trying to support their families. They worship at our churches. Their
kids go to school with our kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2013, the United States carried out more than 70,000
deportations of immigrants whose children are American citizens. More than
10,000 of those deportations involved parents who had no criminal
convictions, who are guilty of nothing more than immigration offenses.
Cynthia Diaz was able to come back on our show a few weeks after her first
appearance and this time her mother came with her. Maria shared with us
her wish for mothers like her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA DELA ROSARIO RODRIGUEZ, CYNTHIA DIAZ`S MOTHER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN
DIAZ: She said thank you. And she hopes that there are many more mothers
who are next to their children like she is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now here in New York is Cesar Vargas, who is co-
director of The Dream Action Coalition, and Cristobal Alex, who is
president of Latino Victory Project. And from Phoenix, Arizona, I am
pleased to welcome back to the program Cynthia Diaz and her mother Maria
Del Rosario Rodriguez.
Cynthia, I`m so happy to see you this morning. Is your mother affected by
the president`s decision, do you know yet?
DIAZ: Good morning, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning.
DIAZ: It was rough, you know hearing President Obama`s announcement
because when he said that parents of U.S. citizens can be eligible, except
those who are recent to the United States, and because of Obama`s two
million deportations and my mom being one of them, she unfortunately does
HARRIS-PERRY: So despite the fact that she was here previously, because
she was deported and then returned, she is not eligible under this
HARRIS-PERRY: What is your next step then for your family, if this
executive action did not cover your mother? Are you able to take action as
an activist or simply as an individual?
DIAZ: We`re trying the best we can right now, we`re with many
organizations. My dad is in the process of becomes a citizen. And so,
we`re doing, you know, our best in our power to help my mom out. But we`re
also looking for the other families who were affected by Obama`s
deportations because of his previous act. You know, it affected a lot of
families and separated a lot of people. And now this relief, I know it was
huge, but it`s not helping us like we want it to.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maria, do you have a respond to the president`s executive
action this week?
RODRIGUEZ: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DIAZ: Yes, absolutely because I was expecting -- I thought it would help
me. If it wasn`t for being deported I would have been able to qualify for
this. I have a daughter who is a citizen and a son who is a U.S. resident
but right now I don`t know and I`m worried they will leave my children
again, that we will be separated once again.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that worry stays for your family.
Hold on for us, Cynthia and Maria, for one moment, I want to come out to
the table. So, what we have on the one hand, the celebration of this
great, finally some movement and some action on the part of the president.
But to hear is precisely the kind of family that the president seems to be
gesturing towards. And yet this policy will not help Cynthia and Maria.
CESAR VARGAS, CO-DIRECTOR, THE DREAM ACTION COALITION: You know, there was
no better feeling seeing my 70-year-old mother smiling and hugging my
nephews, telling them that she was going to finally stay with them. But at
the same time, it`s so heartbreaking knowing that so many other parents
will not have that assurance.
The reality is that the president took great leadership, but the
administration at the White House did not go politically and legally as far
enough. And now we`re seeing the consequences of so many people left
To dreamers just in Arizona, interrupted the president, just asked him, he
is the president, why did you leave my parents or my mom behind? Why did
you leave my mom behind (ph)? The reason I`m here, the reason fine, the
reason Cynthia is fighting is because for our families.
So we are going to continue to push Congress. But we are going to make
sure we continue to push the president to protect our families.
HARRIS-PERRY: So help me understand for one moment. So my understanding
was that, certainly for the parents of children who are American citizens,
either naturalized or who are born in this country, but does DACA -- the
parents of those who are covered under DACA, the dreamers, they are not
VARGAS: No. So the president was very clear that only -- they want to
make the case to Republicans that you only have to be kind of an American
family, so you have to have a family sibling (ph) who is a citizen, but the
dreamers, the family who all undocumented apparently, they were not
So, for me, it is like that family is as American as any other family to
me, as Cynthia`s family. So I think we need to continue to push Congress
for legislation. But also we need to remind the president that his job is
not over yet. This is a great victory but we need to do more to protect
the seven million people who are not -- who are left behind.
CRISTOBAL ALEX, PRESIDENT, LATINO VICTORY PROJECT: I agree. There is
incredible step forward by the president. It was meaningful. It will
impact millions of families across the county, folks that are American in
every single way. They lived here. They love the country. They work
hard. They just are missing the piece of paper.
And so, the president is taking an incredible step forward. But to close
the deal completely, we need Congress to pass a bill. There is no doubt
Cynthia, let me come back to you. Obviously, this is tough because a lot
of folks are feeling like this is going to repair the president`s frayed
relationship with Latino communities, but then knowing that families like
yours are left out. How then do you and the feeling sort politically about
DIAZ: It feels tough, mixed emotions definitely. You know, I`m proud that
Obama is stepping up and doing something for those that do qualify, but
then again, you know, last year and in the last couple years he did
something that, you know, broke our families apart, broke my family apart.
And if it wasn`t because of that, we for sure would have been really happy
and my mom would have stayed here and been eligible for Obama`s
HARRIS-PERRY: And let me just say. Of course, we at every point here we
have been so proud of the work that you have done as an activist. So the
president did a great thing this week but it was pushed by the activism of
you and others like.
We thank you for your work, Cynthia Diaz. And thank you to Maria Dela
Rosario Rodriguez in Phoenix Arizona. I appreciate that you come on even
in your continued position of vulnerability. Thank you so much for sharing
RODRIGUEZ: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DIAZ: Thank you. But I want to say something.
RODRIGUEZ: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
DIAZ: We came here for a reason with our children. It hurts our heart to
leave us, parents in our homes. Sometimes we can`t to be with our families
in our nation of origin. But we came here for a better future for our
children. We do this for our children`s better future. We don`t like
breaking laws. We don`t like crossing the desert. But we have to do this
because we want a better future for our children. We know we don`t have
that opportunity but we that want for our children.
HARRIS-PERRY: Everything is for their family. Thank you.
Up next, remember the UndocuBus? We first brought you that story in the
August of 2012. Their slogan then was no papers, no fear.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have been covering immigration on this show for some time
now. In August of 2012, our first year on air, I interviewed Geraldo
Torres, an undocumented activist traveling the country advocating for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERALDO TORRES, UNDOCUMENTED ACTIVIST: And I have been living undocumented
in Phoenix for more 19 years.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what are you doing here in New Orleans?
TORRES: We`re sharing our experiences and also sharing our knowledge and
how to fight for our rights against the police department, sheriff`s
departments and anyone that is attacking our community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Torres and about 30 others came out as undocumented that
summer and toured parts of the country in what they called the UndocuBus.
Their slogan was no papers, no fear. I the year since, Torres has
continued his work as an activist for the rights of immigrants as well as
the transgender community.
Joining me now from Seattle is Geraldo Torres, member of Plente Arizona and
a former UndocuBus writer.
It is so nice to see you this morning. Can you talk to me about your
continue continued activism and what kind of work you have been doing?
TORRES: Good morning. We are still working with our community at the
national level with the group of organizations, grassroots organizations.
We launched the one more campaign to stop the deportations. So for people
(INAUDIBLE) on the local level, we`re working case by case with members of
poor community to stop the deportations and help them to be released back
to their families so they can be together while they`re going through the
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask another important question. A lot of how the
president has framed, as a political matter this executive action, is the
issue of families. Of course, that presumes that everyone is in the same
kind of family. That it is one mother, one father, their biological
children. And obviously, you are doing work also at the intersection of
undocumented identity and gay and transgender identity. What difference do
those identities make in this fight and struggle?
TORRES: For my own case, I have to come out of the shadows and also come
out of the closet. So, it affects me twice, as a gay man I don`t have
citizen children so I don`t qualify for that. I came to this country 22
years ago and I was 21. So I don`t qualify for that because I think the age
is like 16 years old. So I was 21 and I don`t qualify for that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us. I want to come back to my table here for a
moment. Because, again, we see another sort of category of people, hard
working, you know, active in their community, who none the less get left
out. I guess part of what I`m wondering here is, so what is the next step?
Is it electoral action? Is it holding the next president and the Congress
accountable at the ballot box? Is it the continued activism like the
hunger strikes, lie the UndocuBus? What is the right next step?
ALEX: I think you said it earlier about coming out and folk that`s you
have seen on the show already, and to my right, now they are the activist
leading the movement for political change and we have to come out and
support of those of us who are here that were lucky enough to be citizens
need to come out of the closets and the shadows and everywhere to support
this because what we can`t have happen is we can`t go back into the
shadows. Now that the president has come out with this incredible first
step we have to back him up and we have to prepare for that.
And one way to do that is to prepare for 2016. We got to start holding
folks accountable. I think the Latino vote will be incredibly powerful
vote, so the Asian-American vote. These are the fastest growing voting
flocks in the country.
And so, what this executive action has done has created a clear line in the
sand. Are you with the community? Are you with dreamers? Are you with
folks that, you know, on your show? Are you going to push back and try to
force folks back in the shadows? Since we got to hold folks, we have to
remind them of that.
And the last thing I will say is the Latino Victory Project, founded by two
visionaries, Eva Longoria and Henry Munoz, with the idea that you take this
activism and you build political power with that, so that we have folks
like Cesar who eventually will run for office.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And now, you have a kind of clear question to put to
any candidate, will you or will you not sort of continue this executive
action and expand it, or will you seek to end it when you come to office?
It is kind of clear question.
VARGAS: Yes. And I think Cris it is about make each other we build
electoral power and political power, and that also, at least for us as
advocates. For me, my loyalties lie with my community and lie with my
family. The reason we are fighting for this, the reason Cynthia fights for
her mom so for me, I`m going to challenge politicians, whether the
Democrats or Republicans are allies, we`re going to push them to make sure
that they are protecting our families. And we are going keep pushing
Congress, we are going keep pushing Republicans, many of them -- actually,
a lot of them are pretty crazy and nutty, but we are going to continue to
work with the present to expand this executive action because this was a
first step. He could more. He should do more. And we are going to make
sure that we get there until we pass a comprehensive immigration reform
bill that will actually protect as many people and 11 million people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Torres, I want to ask you one question. Because I know
a lot of the work you were doing on UndocuBus was about local police and
sort of the impact that local police, state police were having.
And so, part of what I`m wondering is whether or not this federal level
action is going to makes much of a difference on the front lines. So when
you are driving through Arizona or Oklahoma or New York or any other place,
how big of a difference does it actually make for those front line
interactions with police officers.
TORRES: For us, it is still a challenge, and it will probably be hard for
us. Like every time I go on a date with the guy that I`m dating right now,
he always told me please pay attention to the speed limit, pay attention to
the road, and then call me back when you get home just to make sure that
So our community -- I mean, we`re going to keep fighting for what is right.
And we`re not going to stop. This is just a little step to getting to the
world that we want.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Geraldo Torres in Seattle, Washington. Also,
thank you here in New York to Cesar Vargas and to Cristobal Alex.
ALEX: Thank you so much.
VARGAS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Still to come this morning, the growing controversy
surrounding comedian Bill Cosby.
As well as more from Ferguson, Missouri and what the grand jury is going to
HARRIS-PERRY: One of America`s most famous and controversial politicians,
four-term Washington D.C. mayor, Marion Barry has passed away. During his
career, he was considered one of the most influential politicians of his
generation. A mayor of the nation`s capital, he was a champion of poor and
underserved communities instituting programs that provide a summer jobs for
young people and housing assistance for working class families. He also
helped elevate African-Americans to positions in city government that had
in previously generations for the reserved for white employees.
But Barry was plague by accusations of corruptions. He struggled with
substance abuse. In an infamous video in 1990, he was caught smoking crack
cocaine during an FBI sting. He was convicted and served six months in
But then, just four years later, he was elected to his fourth term has
mayor of Washington D.C. In July of last year, Marion Barry was a guess on
this program. We reflected on his story come back and the power of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a black community, I think we`re more forgiving than
anybody (INAUDIBLE). And also, you have to have courage. You can`t be
fake. You can`t say I`m sorry, and please forgive me. You can`t be fake
about that. You have to be real, but you have to be real before you get
there, and Marion Barry was real before I got there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Marion Barry was 78 years old.
We will be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: The story that I`m about to tell you is not new. In fact,
it`s a story that by some accounts is decades old. The headline of the
story is this, comedian, actor and philanthropist Bill Cosby, a beloved
icon of American culture has been accused my multiple women of first
drugging and then sexually assaulting them.
At least one of those accusations is of an assault that is alleged to have
happened as long ago as the late 1960s. But this first story became news
nearly a decade ago in 2005. That year, a woman named Andrea Constand
filed a civil complaint in Philadelphia federal court suing for an
unspecified amount of money.
According to the complaint Constand met Cosby in November of 2002 and came
to regard him as a friend and older mentor. And in January of 2004, she
accepted an invitation to his home after he offered his advice and guidance
in her pursuit of a new career.
The lawsuit claims that upon arriving at his home, Constand told Cosby she
was feeling stressed about her career decision and that he offered her
three pills which he told her were an herbal medication to help her relax.
Constand claimed that shortly after taking the pills her limbs felt
immovable, that she felt dizzy, and weak, and only barely conscious.
Now I want to pause here to offer a trigger warning because what Constand
says happened next may be difficult for some viewers.
The lawsuit claims that after leading her to a sofa, Cosby positioned
himself behind her, touched her breasts and vagina area, rubbed his penis
on her hand and digitally penetrated her. The complaint goes on to say
that at no point when she able to give consent during the alleged acts and
that hours later, she awoke feeling soar and with her clothes and underwear
out of place.
One year later, Constand reported her allegations to the police. But the
Pennsylvania district attorney decided against filing criminal charges
citing lack of evidence. This week, that same district attorney told NBC
News of that decision, quote, "I didn`t say he didn`t commit the crime.
There was insufficient admissible and reliable evidence on which to base a
conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. That is prosecutor speak for I think
it he did it but there was not enough here to prosecute."
Later in 2005, after Constand file the civil suit, 13 additional women came
forward of the similar allegations of having them drugged and sexually
assaulted. Cosby, who denied Constand`s allegations, settled with her out
of court for an undisclosed amount before any of these other women were
able to testify. But some of them chose to come forward and tell their
stories in the press.
Just a month after Andrea Constant`s accusations, Tamara Grina (ph),
California lawyer, who was one of the 13 witnesses named in the civil suit,
sat an interview with the "Today" show that she was drugged and groped by
Cosby in the 1970s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first thing you feel is stupid. And then you
feel that no one will believe you. This is the great Bill Cosby. The
second element for me was very soon after this attack, my brother was
terminally ill in the children`s hospital and Bill went there, gave him a
portable radio, gland handed with all of the children, he was the hero of
the terminal children`s ward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: By the end of 2006, two more women had come forward with
stories of their, about sexual assaults also allegedly committed by Cosby,
bringing the total to four women who had been on public record for nearly a
decade, naming America`s dad as the man who had allegedly sexually
The details of these accusations have been hanging around in plain sight
for years readily available to anyone that wanted to know. They made a
resurgent as recently as February of this year when Dylan Farrrow`s open
letter accusing her father, Woody Allen, of sexual abuse prompted both
"Newsweek" and (INAUDIBLE) to published stories reminding everyone about
the allegations against another one of our favorite funny guys.
But it wasn`t until just last month that those old accusations became news
once again, when this video from comedian Hannibal Buress` October 16th
stand up act was posted online.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s sad, if you don`t believe it, Google Bill Cosby
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: As the video went viral, the search term suggested by Buress
spiked on Google as more and more people took his advice. Within weeks,
Barbara Bowman, one of the original accusers wrote an op-ed for "the
Washington Post" questioning the decades of disinterest in her accusation
accusations. And Joan Tarshis is the first new accuser stepped forward and
said she was drugged and assaulted by Cosby in 1969.
Then, Cosby`s attempt to reclaim his social media narrative backfired when
he urged twitter users to make him into meme by adding clever captions to
his photo. For inspiration he posed this example with the caption "Happy
Monday." Twitter had other ideas. And instead, flooded the Cosby meme
hashtag with references to the sexual assault attentions.
Since the allegation resurfaced, at least three news organizations, NPR,
"the Associates Press," and "the Philadelphia Daily News" have all done
interviews with Cosby in which he was asked about the claims. And in each
case, Cosby`s response has been not to respond at all.
Friday, his attorney spoke for him with a statement that read in part "the
new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past
two weeks with unsubstantiated fantastical stories about things they say
occurred 30, 40 or even 50 years ago, have escalated far past the point of
But even as Bill Cosby remain silent, the action of his professional
partners have been speaking volumes. Netflix, NBC and comedy central have
all backed out of broadcasting upcoming Cosby projects and TV Land has said
will no longer be airing reruns of the Cosby show.
And this week while Cosby is on the road for his 26-stop comedy tour, Van
Heusen, Oklahoma, Nevada, Illinois, Arizona, South Carolina and Washington
have all cancelled his appearances. According to "the Associated Press"
and in the meantime, the update to that decade old news story is this, a
total of eight women have come forward with claims of sexually assault
allegedly committed by Cosby. And after years of responding with a
collective shrug to multiple women`s claims of alleged sexual assault, now
we decided to take notice. One of those women will join me to chare her
HARRIS-PERRY: In 1992, Angela Leslie was a young actress who admired Bill
Cosby as an icon and an American figure. She says that after her first
meeting with him in New York, he later flew her out to visit him in his Las
Vegas suite to discuss her acting talents and opportunities in the
business. What she says happens next had added her to growing list of
women who say that they have been sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby and who
are now coming forward their stories.
Angela Leslie is joining me now from Miami.
Ms. Leslie, thank you so much for being willing to share your story with us
this morning. Can you tell me a bit about the experience that you had with
ANGELA LESLIE, ACCUSED COSBY OF ASSAULT: Good morning, yes. I met Mr.
Cosby, actually, initially by writing a letting to him because I read
something he -- an agency was holding auditions for ghost dad. So I
submitted a letter and a photograph and I heard from Mr. Cosby right away.
I was very excited about it. He put me on the phone with his office to fly
me to New York right away. However, his office said that they didn`t
understand why they wanted me to come there so quickly because there were
no parts available at the time. So, they didn`t know why he wanted that to
But eventually, I was in New York to shoot an ad for (INAUDIBLE) because I
also was involved in modeling. And Mr. Cosby and I often talked on the
phone. And I let him know they would be in New York and that possibly he
suggested we could meet and I could come on the set of his show. So I --
after my photo shoot, I did go to his show, and it was great and he invited
me to come back for a meal afterwards and the whole cast was there. At the
time, I befriended one of the cast members and he and I stayed in touch.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when you talk about -- I have heard and read the story
that you talked about. You say that unlike some of the other women who
have come forward, you`re not someone who survived a rape or sexual assault
on the part of Mr. Cosby. Instead, you have said that there was another
set of actions here, but you believe them to be consistent with the other
allegations that you believe coming forward. Can you share that with us?
LESLIE: Yes, there seems to be threats of similarities in the stories. I
don`t know the other women at all. I have never met them or spoke with
them. When I entered Cosby`s sweet in Vegas, the Elvis Presley suite, he
wanted to meet to see my acting abilities and he asked me to pretend I was
intoxicated. I started acting as if I was intoxicated. And as I was
walking and stumbling carrying out his request, he poured beverage for me,
an alcoholic beverage and he said perhaps this will help you, and he handed
me the drink. And I put it up to my mouth, and it was extremely strong.
And I`m not a drinker, not really, and at least not that kind of liquor.
And it was so strong, I tasted just a little bit and I sat it down and I
proceeded to act as if I was intoxicated.
Later, Cosby asked me to go into the bathroom and wet my hair. He wanted
to see what I look like with my hair wet. So I followed his instructions
and I wet my hair and when I returned to the room he had gotten undressed
and gotten into the bed. As he ask me to come over to the bed. I went
over and he proceeded, he got my hand, and I sat on the bed, and he put
lotion in my hand and then that act took place. And I`m being very
selective about my words as I know it is, you know, morning show.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. So Ms. Leslie, let me just read you a statement from
Bill Cosby`s attorney Marty Singer who said it is completely illogical that
so many people would have said nothing, done nothing and made no reports to
law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they would have
been assaulted over a span of so many years.
You know, I`m an assault survivor. I didn`t tell for a decade. I
certainly have an understanding of why people don`t tell. But I do think
many people watching may not understand. . Can you help us to understand
why you are telling now but didn`t tell then?
LESLIE: The reason I`m telling this story now is because when it surfaced,
and I saw all of these ladies coming out, and Cosby was not saying anything
or wasn`t acknowledging it, it kind of bothered me that it almost made it
seem like no one was going to listen to their story. And I was not rapped
and I was not drugged. But I`m just thinking that me coming out now can
help some other young ladies that is interested in this industry, to let
her know or let their parents know if it`s a young lady, she should not go
with a male alone for an audition. And maybe Cosby can get some help.
Because it seems like he has, maybe a sexual addiction or something. And
if he would get help, maybe he would be fine and he can apologize and
acknowledge of this about mistake and everybody could move forward with
HARRIS-PERRY: Angela Leslie in Miami, Florida, I appreciate you taking the
time to come and share your story this morning.
LESLIE: You are very welcome.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to bringing in my panel for further discussion on
this issue, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Friday, two men who have been in prison for almost four
decades for murder were exonerated after a key witness against them
recanted his testimony. An Ohio judge dismissed the cases against 57-year-
old Ricky Jackson and 60-year-old Wiley Bridgeman after the witness has
said last year that his testimony against them was coerced by police.
The story of the exonerist (ph) serves as a reminder that the legal system
is not the only arbiter of guilt or innocence. As we have seen in recent
weeks, with the resurgence of sex assault accusations against Bill Cosby,
the court of public opinion weighs those questions in the balance as well.
And some of his business partnerships backed out -- some of his business
partnerships are backing out of broadcast deals and cities dropped of his
stand up tour, it is clear that the judgment that comes with this has its
Now, I want to be clear. Bill Cosby has never been charged with committing
this crime. Bill Cosby has never been tried or found guilty in any court
of law. But as new accusations against him have continue to emerge, the
public is increasingly unable to avoid the question who do they believe.
Joining me now, Dean Obeidallah who is columnist for "the Daily Beast" and
editor of the DeansReport.com, Brittney Cooper, who is an assistant
professor of women and gender studies and assistant professor of African
studies at Butler University, Jill Filipovic who is a senior political
writer at cosmopolitan.com, and Kelefa Sanneh, who is the staff writer for
"the New Yorker."
Thank you all for being here.
Brittney, I want to start with you because we are in this moment where
there is just the reality that not only has Mr. Cosby never been convicted
or even tried, he may never be, but that doesn`t allow us as a public to
simply be able to walk away from making a judgment about this. So how do
we begin to think about how we make a judgment about these accusations
recognizing that there may never be a court case, there may never be a
BRITTNEY COOPER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, BUTLER UNIVERSITY: To me, there is
really only two sides who do -- it is a world where we believe women, where
we believe victims where we want for into rape culture or where we will say
that powerful men can hide behind the cope (ph) of their money and power to
re-obsess of crimes that they allegedly committed.
Here is the thing. One of the troubling traits of this conversation has
been folks saying because of the racial dimensions, many of these accusers
are white women, that you know, this is a lynching. And I just think about
the Clarence Thomas moment, right? That Clarence Thomas invoke this notion
that this was a high-tech lynching. And for me, it feels like there is
pre-informed of disrespect to those men, like the men that you just
highlighted who were put in jail, or lynched for crimes they did not to
commit, to then allow this man to hide when we have a mountain of evidence
suggesting that he very likely committed these crimes.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it does -- it is hard, Jill, to see this as anything
other than we believe one man, who has a very strong interest in protecting
his reputation, his identity, his products, or we believe now more than a
dozen women. And yet, because we do in fact live in a culture that tends
to believe and to repeat in our popular culture that women lie, that they
particularly lie about sex, that they lie about sex to protect their own
identities and that they lie for profit, in fact, believing one person
versus 12 is actually not that hard to see how many people end up believing
the one over the more than more than a dozen.
JILL FILIPOVIC, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, COSMOPOLITAN.COM: Right. And a
lot of people do seem to believe Cosby over the, you know, I think at this
point nearly 20 women who have accused him of assault.
You know, the issue you brought up at the beginning about, you know, this
innocent until proven guilty standard in our criminal courts, which I`m
hearing a lot of responses about, whenever I tweet about this or write
about it, that is a really important standard. But as the case that you
brought up that our criminal system is imperfect. That not everyone who is
guilty is convicted and that not everyone who is convicted is actually
And twitter and your show and our conversations over dinner are not a
criminal court. And I think as consumers of media and as writers, and just
as human beings, you know, we are entitled to look at the weight of the
evidence and decide for ourselves. Is it more likely that not that this
happens? And if we think that it is, then how do you perceived? Where are
we putting our money? Where are we putting our advertising dollars? And I
think that is the conversation that we need to be having around coffee.
Dean, I want to read to you this piece from November 19th from (INAUDIBLE),
who we often cite on the show. She says courts belong to this society, not
the other way around, ducking behind an official, finding it`s kind of
cowardice, it allows us to luxury of never facing hard questions, cowardice
to be insidious. Sometimes it is a physical fear, sometimes or other
times, it`s just taking the easy out.
You`re a lawyer. The presumption of innocence is critically important. It
matters so much, particularly to exactly some of these communities that we
fight for and advocate form of show. And yet courts belong to society, not
the other way around.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: They absolutely do. In the court of
law, you have the presumption of innocence. He could be silence. And
nothing can be used against him unless he speaks. He can -- the state
would have to prove everything. He can sit there, not say a word, and be
found not guilty.
In the court of public opinions are different standard of proof. We all
know this. It is about people how their decision based on all of the
evidence in front of you. If it is one accuser, yes, maybe some people
find you guilty, or next 15 or 18 people, maybe coming forward with nothing
to gain whatsoever, telling similar stories. There are millions of people
who have convicted Bill Cosby in their mind and the corporations as well.
The question is where -- I think the question will not be criminal,
(INAUDIBLE), but his reputation. Weill he be remembered as a ground
breaking comedian or as a serial rapist, and I think that is ultimately his
punishment. We will be remembered forever as a serial rapist.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask in part about the ways in which we have
forgetfulness about Cosby`s long career. Bill Cosby has been in the
business for a very long time. And we may remember him now as America`s
dad, but that, you know initially he was like the young up and coming,
would hanging at the playboy mansion. And so, he has actually been able to
redevelop his narrative overtime. Just as you look at that long
trajectory, any sense of where he goes at this moment in terms of managing
KELEFA SANNEH, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, one of the interesting
things about his career, as a comedian, is that he was never as joke
oriented as a lot of other comedians. He was famous when he was doing "the
Cosby Show." HE told his writers to look through the scripts and if they
found anything that seemed like a joke, sounded like would be funny on his
own, then, cut it out in the script, because he wanted the humor to come
from the characters.
And so, I think even more than most comedians, what people loved about him
was inseparable from the character that he created, in a persona that he
created. And obviously, as you say, you know, we are not talking about a
court of law. We are not even talking about a civil complaint or the
standard is less than reasonable doubt. And no one has the right to be
beloved by the public.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I was to pause you right there because that`s exactly
where I want to go after the break is, can we separate Huxtable from Cosby?
Is that possible and should separate Huxtable from Cosby?
So, coming up, much more on the Cosby scandal.
We`re also going to go back to Ferguson for an update.
Plus, we`re going to meet a young man, just 11-year-old, who has some
things that you need to hear about Ferguson.
There is more MHP at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back once again from New York. I`m Melissa Harris-
Perry. And we continue to take a look this morning at the sexual assault
allegations against Bill Cosby. For eight seasons, millions of viewers set
aside 8:00 p.m. on Thursday night as a point of viewing tuning into NBC to
spend a half an hour with the Huxtables. Inspiration for the Cosby show
and its ground-breaking portrayal of an upper every middle class African-
American family sprung directly from Bill Cosby stand-up routine about the
joys and challenges of parenting. Long after the series finale in 1992,
the show remains an iconic moment in American television history. And it
left Cosby`s portrayal of the affable eye rolling ugly sweater wearing
family man, Heathcliff Huxtable indelibly imprinted in the hearts and minds
of viewers. So much so, but for many of them, Cosby and his on screen
alter ego became one in the same.
As illustrated in 2006, Magazine story from Philadelphia magazine. The
recounts a mid-90s visit by Cosby to the Philadelphia house and project
where he grew up. Where upon arriving, he was greeted by residents calling
him not Dr. Cosby by Dr. Huxtable. So, it was no doubt a moment of coming
to dissonance from many of those who fondly remember Cosby as America`s
dad, to see him this week responding to an AP interviewers question about
the sexual assault allegations and requesting that response not be made
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: There is no comment about that. And I`ll tell you
why. I think you were told. I don`t want to compromise your integrity,
but I don`t talk about it. Can I get something from you with that? That
none of that will be shown?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Just two months ago, right here on "MHP." We, fully aware
some of those old allegations, none the less did not address them when we
marked the 30th anniversary of The Cosby Show "Pilot" in this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Although it indeed in 1992, the show had a lasting impact on
pop culture. Then possibly even politics. In 2008, when President Obama
was elected -- who posit that changes in pop culture proceed major social
and political change, used the phrase, "The Huxtable Effect" suggesting the
show helped changed the racial attitudes of the children who grew up
watching it and who were now alluding age.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And so we are left, so many of us, complicit and confused
needing to reconcile the character we loved but the horrifying allegations
against the actor who portray them.
Joining me now is Dean Obeidallah who is columnist for "The Daily Beast."
Brittney Cooper, assistant professor of Women`s and Gender Studies and
Africana Studies at Rutgers University. Jill Filipovic who is a senior
political writer at Cosmopolitan.com. And Kelefa Sanneh who is staff
writer for The New Yorker.
So let me start with you on that. Because you were saying there is this
difficulty. I mean, Ennis Cosby who we all worn along with doctor and Mrs.
Cosby when they lost their son, he was Theo Huxtable, they were connected
and Dr. Cosby and Dr. Huxtable became the same person.
SANNEH: And in an odd way, we kind of run the risk of making the same
mistake we made before. In other words, before, you know, it`s easy to
look at the Huxtable family and say, oh, that must be what Bill Cosby is
like. And now with these allegations, there is this temptation to go back
through his comedy, through the Cosby show as if somehow there will be
enough clues in there.
SANNEH: To let us see, oh, the person who did this must also be capable of
what he was accused of. And I think the lesson here is that that doesn`t
really make sense. Is that what he is accused of doesn`t necessarily
spring from what we see on The Cosby Show, and on the other hand, just
because a comedian has politics we agree with, just because of comedian
make works we agree with, doesn`t mean necessarily they are not capable of
what Bill Cosby is accused of.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this thing Bernie for me is the -- this is the great
where maybe we can appreciate something that we saw rarely appreciate when
we talk about rape and sexual, assault and rape culture which is we want to
say that only the most heinous, horrible, monstrous people could possibly
be capable of these kinds of acts when in fact many of the people who
engage in predatory sexual behavior towards women, towards young girls,
towards our community activists, our leaders, people we engage in
experience as nice, and loving, and kind. Like maybe this will be the
thing that help us to unpack that.
COOPER: Absolutely, so here`s the thing I grew up watching "The Cosby
Show" every Thursday night, me and my mom, I love that show. I love Rudy
where -- same age that character.
HARRIS-PERRY: He and Vanessa, yes, right.
COOPER: But here`s the thing. We have to ask what ourselves what our
investment in the Cosby Show will cost Cosby`s alleged victims, right?
Because we are seeing Bill Cosby in light of Heathcliff Huxtable, and he
spent the last ten years using the political and culture of the "Cosby
Show" to shame poor black people, to shame nontraditional families and to
argue that he there has the moral ability to tell us how we are to live as
black people. Even though he has not be able to uphold that. So, our
investment in that show, our investment in those characters, the power he
derives from that show is the very thing that made it hard for these
victims to come forward and feel like they would have a fighting chance.
So if we want to stop powerful men from being able to do this, it`s going
to have to cost us something. We`re going to have to say to them that we
will not an accept the crimes because we love your art, that is not an
acceptable cost to pay.
HARRIS-PERRY: Roxane Gay makes a similar kind of argument writing for The
Guardian Jill, she says, "We simply don`t want to believe women, or really
we don`t want to have to believe women because doing so might ever so
slightly complicate our own lives and our own preferred narratives." When,
you know, in the conversation with my daughter, she`s almost 13, we, you
know, sort of want to talk to her about some of these allegations and she
looks to me and go, well, I`m never going to watch "The Cosby Show" again.
I mean, just, it wasn`t even the second, and even I have been unable to say
those words yet, impart because I am more culturally invested from these
previous moment, and despite the fact that I am myself a survivor, not
wanting to give up this cultural product that I love.
FILIPOVIC: Right. And I think that`s a common feeling, I also grew up on
Cosby, I love the Cosby show, I liked Woody Allen`s movies. I liked some
of Roman Polanski`s movies.
FILIPOVIC: You know, but I think you can say, all right, I enjoyed those
things, they helped to shape a certain narrative in the United States, and
that was important, it had an important cultural moment, but now that I
know what I know, going forward, what kind of choices am I going to make.
Am I going to watch, you know, a Netflix special by someone who has this
overwhelming number of accusations against him? Am I going to, you know,
give money buying this movie, or buying this music, you know, or watching
this sports game, or whatever the case may be of these powerful men who are
accused of doing really terrible things? And I think as consumers, making
those choices is very, very important.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, power is part of it, and the consumption of those
products, --, it also feels to me like part of it is the sense of genius,
and particularly male genius, which is meant to frequently kind of gives
space, also for male abuse for female buddies, reading again Pearl Cleage,
she writing about Miles Davis, right? Who says, "Can we keep giving our
money to Miles Davis so that he can buy a Malibu beach house and terrorize
our sisters in it? Can we make love to the rhythms of a little early miles
when he may have spent the morning of the day he recorded the music
clapping one of our sisters in the mouth? Can we continue to celebrate the
genius in the face of the monster? And I mean, man, to give up Miles
Davis, she`s asking, so what is that cost you, us, all of us if we elevate
male genius over female suffering?
OBEIDALLAH: It`s, you know, Pearl used the term genius, to me it`s not
about that, it`s about in our society, the idea of sexual assault against
women is at epidemic numbers and literally every two minutes a woman could
be assaulted. We just know about the cases of the famous people. It`s
going on when we cover in the media. It`s going on every day, it`s going
on during this show. So, I know it is a challenge for people. People went
to Cosby`s stand up show the other night, gain a standing ovation in
Florida. Are those people complicit? Perhaps, in my view yes they are.
How do you give a standing ovation to men who clearly sexually assaulted
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, because he hasn`t actually been tried and convicted.
I mean --
OBEIDALLAH: Look at all the woman who have come forward. What -- we want
monsters to wear a sign that says, I`m a monster. We want people to look
like a monster. But if you wear, we can`t tell, you smile a lot, you`re a
popular comedian, we probably tell, maybe they`re not a monster, we have to
get around that mind-set that people can compartmentalize. They publicly
have one face and privately if they do something wrong, they have to be
held responsible publicly what they`ve done privately.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But I mean, I think the part of the challenge here
is that we don`t sort of clearly know, like, and even we don`t clearly know
is because there`s just as long as there is a space for doubt, right?
Which is associated with the kind of court of law piece, it does provide,
right, it provides that out, it provides that wave of --
Stay with us, because I want to also go a little bit more into what
Brittney was talking about a little bit there, that question of Bill Cosby
and respectability. Some of you know about all of that, some of you don`t,
we`ll talk more about it more when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Before Bill Cosby was back in the news for allegations of
sexual assault, but after he`d left behind his iconic role of Cliff
Huxtable, he fashion himself into an arbiter of respectability for black
America. Beginning in 2004, continuing over the next two years, Cosby
visited cities across the country on a tour encouraging America`s black
underclass to claim personal responsibility over their lives. During that
time was when he made his now infamous pound cake speech where he called it
like he saw it against what he termed the lower income people who as he
said are not holding up their end in this deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: These are not political criminals, these are people going around
stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a
piece of pound cake. And then we all run out and we`re outraged, the cops
shouldn`t have shot him, what was he doing with the pound cake in his
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In this moment, that seem to have particular resonance as we
are talking about these allegations even as we are waiting for decision
from the grand jury about the death of Michael Brown. And it does, feels
to me like it puts them into a particular context. You know, at the heart
of some of this, he is an amazing philanthropist who has given money to
organizations and institutions like Spelman College, historically black
colleges for African-American women. Twenty million dollars as a gift.
This is the kind of thing we, you know, want celebrities to do with their
money. Again, part of this is about the cultural product. But the other
part of it is, what do we do with this kind of respectability narrative in
this philanthropist Bill Cosby.
COOPER: Yes. You know, the respectability narrative won`t save us. And
so, this is why I have not been here for Cosby for -- since 2004. I said
to my mom, you know, I was like mom, based upon Cosby`s narrative, you
would have been a bad mother, single mother of a latchkey kid, I was like,
but you raised a PH.D as a single mother. And so, his narrative does not
allow for you. And so this is my problem with Cosby, and I`m wondering
what Spelman will do. I mean, again, let me just say, it has to cost us
something. Because when we think about male genius and all that we allowed
for, what I think about is how the trauma of his alleged acts might have
killed the potential of female genius, right? Might have suppressed female
genius. Because he didn`t make space when he was exploiting these women`s
desire to do something greater with their lives.
And so, when men commit these violent acts, when people are victimized,
that trauma has resounding effects. And he built a career, both by the
power and whatever else that he got from imposing that trauma, and then
from being able to hide behind because of all of the money. So, you know,
so it has to cost us something because it has been costing these women
something and this is a question about what kind of society do we want to
be. Are we going to hide our monsters and criminals in plain sight? Or
are we going to say this a place that safe for women to live no matter who
HARRIS-PERRY: I guess, I also just want to point out that people are
always in plain sight. I mean this is in part sort of what we`ve learned
with the Ray Rice case. This is part of what we`ve learned with again, the
people who are our heroes in a variety of spaces. And I guess so the part
of it then is even as it is costing us something, then what are the sort of
ethical ways to respond, right? So, I just, you know, you know, he has a
sort of relationship with Ben`s Chili Bowl, which is a local restaurant in
DC and Virginia Ali from Ben`s Chili Bowl writes, said in the Washington
Post, "I am pained." She`s the owner of Ben`s Chili Bowl on U Street in
Washington which Cosby has frequented since he was 21. And she says, "He
has been part of the family for many years. I have always found him to be
very kind and generous. I would like to say he shares his humanities."
And that is, she`s not just cover, like that`s real, those are her actual
interactions. So what would we have a space, like Spelman, $20 million, a
space like Ben`s Chili Bowl that has been made famous in part by their
connection with this man. What would we have them to do that is a
reasonable, ethical response in this moment?
OBEIDALLAH: I think it is very challenging, I think the more you hear
about Bill Cosby, it`s not Ray Rice. Ray Rice is not known for doing so
many things with the community. You know, been groundbreaking with comedy
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. That`s true.
OBEIDALLAH: Bill Cosby is a unique example. At the same time I ask myself
why I did not believe the charges in 2005 and 2006. Why didn`t I when
women went on "The Today Show" and spoken out loud? "People Magazine," in
the Philadelphia magazine and thought about being --
And why didn`t I think about when I saw Bill Cosby, or what about those
rape charges? Why did it take now? And I`m like the average person I
assume in that way, and now you wake up to it. So, now is the time we`re
going to call people out and see how they will going to react.
Collectively, we did not care. And that`s why women don`t come forward.
Because they know, people did not care and when they do come forward they
get attacked. We see it right now --
HARRIS-PERRY: And I also wonder specifically about how it might tie into
the respectability of politics. So, a narrative that says it`s not kind of
political action, structures of inequality, you know, over policing of
communities sets the problem, it is literally just individual bad acts.
Right? That`s kind of what that respectability politics narrative is. You
can save yourself by acting right, by pulling up your pants, and then to
see these allegations emerge in a way that makes you feel like, no, you
know, yes, we care about personal responsibility but there is all of these
other things happening there.
FILIPOVIC: Right. And Brittney expands some incredible writing on their
respectability politics piece. And you know how Bill Cosby basically made
white people feel very good about ourselves. Because it kind of absolves
us participating in this systematic societal racism that still exist. And,
you know, when you compare that to sexual assault charges, I mean, it seems
like what we`re doing now is, yes, we`re pitting these on Bill Cosby and
we`re saying, the places that profit from him or that he profits of, you
know, we want them to be held accountable. And I think that`s an important
component. But what I would also like us to do is have a more nuance
conversation about what sexual violence looks like. That the fact that
Bill Cosby does have so many accusers is pretty standard.
That, you know, people don`t look like monsters, people have complicated
lives, they can give money to Spelman College, they can be great
philanthropist, they can be great artists, and not only the can also be
assailants, you know and terrible people, but that we know from, you know,
various studies that men who commit sexual violence tend to do so serially.
And most men are not rapist, the most men are not violence towards women,
because the once who are tend to do it over and over and over again and
they are enabled by all of those around them including us who hold these
people up as because they create great art can never also do terrible
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep. Thank you to Jill Filipovic, and to Kelefa Sanneh who
are heading out. Dean and Brittney are going to stick around a little bit
longer. Up next, we`ll going to go back to Ferguson, hear from an activist
who is already made national headlines and he`s only 11-years-old.
HARRIS-PERRY: In Ferguson, Missouri, as the community waits to find out if
a grand jury will indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of
unarmed teen Michael Brown. Young people are once again making their
voices heard. Since the shooting in August, they have been there on the
front lines protesting, organizing lobbying for change in the way their
communities are policed. One of the leaders of this new generation of
activist is just 11-years-old. Marquis Govan made a national headlines
this summer when he addressed the St. Louis City Council after police used
tear gas to disperse protests in Ferguson. Marquis told the council,
quote, "The people of Ferguson, I believe, don`t need fear gas thrown at
them. I believe they need jobs. I believe the people of Ferguson, they
don`t need to be hit with batons, what they need is people investing in
their businesses." A real moment of clarity from a sixth grader who
already sounds like a seasoned activist.
Joining the table in New York, Seema Iyer, criminal and civil rights
attorney. And also Vince Warren, executive director for the Center for
Constitutional Rights and I am pleased to have Marquis Govan join me now
from Ferguson, Missouri.
Marquis, thank you for being here this morning. Can you talk to me about
how your community, and how you, and other young people are feeling right
now as you`re waiting to hear what the grand jury`s decision is?
MARQUIS GOVAN, LOYOLA ACADEMY, ST. LOUIS: Well, I can`t really speak for
other people, but I would say that everyone is pretty much on heels. And
as you`ve heard from mothers, fathers that they have to have these
conversations with their sons about police brutality and things like that,
I`m really just kind of on my heels as well waiting for this decision to
come out. All the violence that they`re preparing for, I`m not pretty sure
that they`re having the right response and bringing in the National Guard
and things like that. I`m pretty sure that everyone is at some kind of
thing with their family man in the roofs waiting for this decision to come
HARRIS-PERRY: Marquis, you had some suggestions when you talked to the
counsel. You told them some things you thought the people of Ferguson
need, you`re on TV now, tell us, what it is you think the people of
Ferguson need right now?
GOVAN: Well, jobs is a big part about it. I spoke about the looting and
things like that. I believe those people if they would had jobs and things
like that they would have never been out on those streets doing all that
looting. If we had a better education system, I believe we could have had
a better chance of getting jobs. I spoke about how people from other
communities were coming in and taking the jobs that we have. So, I think
education is a big part of getting jobs actually, and so when we have a
school district called Riverview School District, and Normandy School
district, both are failing school districts that are becoming major
problems. We have people trying to get jobs. I have an aunt that is
trying to get a job, she can`t find one. So, I know people personally that
are trying to get job that`s have had trouble getting a good education.
And could not afford it. So I know people that have actually gone through
those and I think that I`m more of an activist for them rather than for
what I believe.
HARRIS-PERRY: Marquis, let me ask you one last question. Are you thinking
that in your future, you`re 11 now, but some day you will be 18, someday
you will be 21, are you planning to run for office?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right there in your community? Is that your plan?
HARRIS-PERRY: Marquis Govan in Ferguson, Missouri. When you`re ready to
run for office, you let us know, I don`t know if I`d still be on TV but
wherever I am, we`ll make sure that we have a place where you can let us
all know that you`re going to run. Thank you for your activism and for
your words today.
GOVAN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, we`re going to take a closer look at the grand jury
weighing the case of Officer Darren Wilson. Who they are and what exactly
HARRIS-PERRY: As Ferguson, Missouri and the St. Louis municipal area wait
until it seems at least Monday for decision as to whether police officer
Darren Wilson will be charge in the August 9th shooting death of Michael
Brown. It is worth taking a moment to remind ourselves who we are waiting
on and exactly what they are deciding. The St. Louis County grand jury
consists of 12 jurors. Nine of whom are required to vote for an indictment
or "True Bill." Fewer than nine, no "True Bill," no indictment. If there
is an indictment, a criminal charge against the accuse continues on to
trial. If not, that is all prosecution of the case ceases. How do they
arrive to that conclusion, well, here`s the process, the grand jury decides
to indict if there is probable cause for charges, a low standard referring
to the reasonable suspicion that a crime, any crime, was committed. The
next step, and I apologize if this also was kind of obvious but it is the
process. If the grand jury indicts, then a criminal trial will determine
whether the defendant, Officer Wilson is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Which is a much higher standard referring to evidence and information that
clearly establishes guilt.
Now, we have been told by the county prosecutor`s spokesman that, quote,
"the grand jury will be giving a range of potential charges, from murder
first to involuntary manslaughter." Those charges, any of which the St.
Louis County grand jury could consider in this case include second degree
murder. Knowingly causing the death of another person carrying a 10 to 30
year prison sentence. Voluntary manslaughter, sudden passion arriving from
adequate cause, punishable by five to 15 years in prison. Involuntary
manslaughter in the first or second degree carry anywhere between a four to
seven year sentences maximum. Thank goodness there are some lawyers in the
room to help us walk through all of that.
But first, I do want to bring in Jelani Cobb, contributor of The New
Yorker, the associate professor at the University of Connecticut who is
live in Ferguson, Missouri right now. I kind of walk you through all of
this. I guess I`m wondering on the ground, are people starting to wonder
why they have not heard from the grand jury yet? In other words, do people
believe the grand jury is still simply considering these options or do they
think that there is a timing purposely going on at this point?
JELANI COBB, THE NEW YORKER: Good morning, Melissa. You know it is
interesting, people`s perceptions seem to be really all over the map here
in talking to people. And I came in on Friday, on Thursday actually, and
you know, what I`ve been hearing from people and everything from, you know,
they don`t want us to come out until, you know, Thanksgiving eve, or after
Thanksgiving, you know, stifle the possibility if they`ll be, you know,
violent outburst if they`ve not, indictment, to the people are just being
deliberate and you`re taking their time and trying to figure this out. I
think the entire range of speculation if you can imagine it is probably
someone who is believing it right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, stick with us for a second, Jelani. I want to come
back out to my table of lawyers, and ask, sort of, what do you think about
this grand jury process? Seema, it`s obviously, shrouded in secrecy, we
don`t really know what is going on but at this point what do you think is
SEEMA IYER, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Okay. Well, just a little background. I
presented hundreds of cases to the grand jury as a prosecutor and I brought
in clients to testify as a defense attorney. And this has been very
different because all of the evidence is going in, right? So, usually
there is very limited amount of evidence. A grand jury transcript is
perhaps one fifth to one tenth, the size of a trial transcript.
IYER: So, that tells you the difference. A lot of test to do which is
simple math. We have 12 grand jurors. Nine are white. Correct?
IYER: We only nine for -- St. Louis County, 70 percent white. That is
representing in the grand jury. So, think about that. I also think that
people are not recognizing how compelling it is when a defendant testifies.
And here, you guys can correct me if you think I`m wrong, but as a defense
attorney, you have so much evidence given to you. You have the autopsy
reports, you have police reports, you have victim`s statement, witness
statements, you take all of that, you sit down with your client, you spread
it out and then you create a narrative based on the evidence you have.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so Officer Wilson had in fact testify before this grand
HARRIS-PERRY: Obviously, Michael Brown has not, he was killed in this
interaction, he is not there. So, what then tells his side of the story?
VINCE WARREN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Well,
that`s the interesting part. I put a lot of people in the grand jury as
well, and what is interesting about this is that Darren Wilson`s story is
being told in great detail by Darren Wilson. Also, as Seema was talking
about all this information. The story that is not being told is Mike
Brown`s story except through the witness testimony. And it`s a question of
how the grand jury -- one thing you know about juries is that you can`t
really predict what they`re going to do. So, they`re really trying to pull
together all of this information, whether the witnesses that support what
we think Mike Brown would have said, what would witnesses that support what
Darrel Wilson was saying, and then there`s the question of expert testimony
Michael Baden testified, I understand, I hear about three hours. Almost as
long as Darren Wilson did who is a medical examiner that I think is putting
some evidence in there that is contradicting perhaps what some of the local
folks are saying which makes it interesting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Interesting. So, Dean, Vince says, one of the only things
you can be sure of it is that you can`t be sure of anything but you have a
piece on The Daily Beast that says, hey, Officer Wilson is going to walk
and drawing on your experience as a lawyer, you say, it is my believe that
he`s not going to be indicted here.
OBEIDALLAH: First of all, I`m not advocating that position.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`re predicting it.
OBEIDALLAH: Like how dare you, no, no, I have great sympathy in the fact
that unarmed men are killed by the police and they`re almost never
convicted, let alone, indicted. I mean, almost never indicted, let alone
convicted. It troubles me know in. My point is, look at it objectively
and also speaking to a former Prosecutor Seema, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
OBEIDALLAH: Interviewing her for the article who made a great point that
never has a police officer testified, and that indicted in a grand jury
intimate Iyer`s experience, and you know, did a statutory defense for the
police officer in this case and the jury when you actuating arrests, and
also the sense that the grand jury will side with the police. That`s what
reasonabless, they`re look at reasonable act, reasonably or not. What he
in fear of his life? You`re hearing from one person in telling that grand
jury, yes, I was afraid. The fact that they will probably find on his side
is very, very likely.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jelani, I want to come back to you real quick though on
this. Because, you know, one of the things we`re hearing here, and then I
think sort of has been part of our coverage is we keep saying sort of
indict or not indict, like there is only two choices. But that I was
trying to lay out is there are multiple options. Do you have a sense if
there is an indictment on one of those lower level charges, you know,
involuntary manslaughter or manslaughter rather than for example, second
degree, how that might in any way impact both the communities feelings and
COBB: It is a tale of two cities here. And you know, it really is one
side of town and another side of town. And, you know, talking to people
and the two press conferences that they held on Friday, it was a stark
difference. Like, when you talk to people from the community, we talk to
activists, and when we heard from the attorney, you know, Mr. Anthony Gray
representing the Brown family, there was a great deal of skepticism, A
about the potential of achieving justice, however it is defined, and also a
narrative about they`re being restraint from the community in terms of
violent regarding a response to a non-indictment. People would say this
We will be nonviolent. But we have no reason to believe that the police
will be non-violent with us. We went to the other press conference which
was an hour later and that was in downtown, you heard the exact opposite
narrative. You heard Mayor Slay and Charlie Dooley, the county executive
saying that the police would show restraint, but expressing skepticism that
the people in the community would do the same. And so, that kind of gives
you an idea of the goal here and it`s really hard to predict how people
will process anything whether it would be on a lower charge or if it`s, you
know, where the highest charges where they have the option to --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Thank you so much, Jelani, I really appreciate you
being there in Ferguson, Missouri, and joining us this morning. We`re
going to keep all of these lawyers at the table, I have a few more
questions for them and also, we`re going to talk to someone else on the
ground there in Ferguson, Missouri. But up next, President Obama`s message
to the people of Ferguson.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is President Obama in an interview with ABC News
conducted in Las Vegas responding to a question about those who may
protests in Ferguson, Missouri after a grand jury decides whether or not to
indict Officer Darren Wilson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is a country that allows everybody to express their views.
Allows them to peacefully assemble, to protest actions that they think are
unjust. But using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule
of law, contrary to who we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And for reaction to that, we go to Ferguson to speak with
Dr. Marva Robinson, a license clinical psychologist and the president of
the St. Louis Chapter of The Association of Black Psychologists. So,
Marva, Dr. Robinson, you have been with us kind of through all of this, you
know, obviously we heard a lot from officials this week from Governor
Nixon, from the Attorney General, from the President, how are those
messages being received on the ground?
DR. MARVA ROBINSON, ST. LOUIS CHAPTER OF THE ASSOCIATION OF BLACK
PSYCHOLOGISTS: It`s been a lot of mixed emotions. You have some people
that feel that the community and the residents have been found guilty and
that the focus has been on them and their actions versus the officer and
the grand jury. So a lot of people are kind of upset about that how the
narrative has been kind of switched and focuses on them. A few days on
unrest on a legal action had colored the movement and it has not been that
way in such a long time. They`ve made such efforts to engage in training
about peaceful protests and nonviolent approaches. But I don`t think that
those actions get the impeachment they rightfully deserve. So, it`s been a
bit of a mixed emotions, and of course everyone is on edge awaiting to hear
what the decision will be from the grand jury.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to ask you one more question around this. And
that is, I guess, folks may or may not know that grand juries are not
sequestered in a way that we typically think of trial juries being
sequestered. That means if these are people in the community, 12 people
who are going home. They can see the local news, they can read the local
paper, they undoubtedly know what is happening in Ferguson and in the
surrounding greater St. Louis area. Do you have any sense that the kind of
stories or work or activism could potentially impact how the jury sees --
you know, we`ve been talking about Officer Wilson actually had an
opportunity to testify, but there is a kind of testimony coming out of the
ROBINSON: Definitely, you`ve had several individuals that have tried to
put together a timeline of what has happened, to try to make that other
side of things known. We don`t know what they hear, we don`t know what the
grand jury members which the media outlets that they tuned into. Because
it has been very stark differences in how the media portrayed certain
views. So, if you have a member of the grand jury that`s home and they`re
watching old footage from the first two days of when Michael Brown was
killed, then that may very well color their opinion moving forward. We
certainly would hope not, however, psychologically we do know that images
of violence can last longer in your mind than some of that may be more
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us for a second on Dr. Robinson, I want to come
out to you, Seema, you were saying to me in the break that there are some
quirks about the Missouri law in particular that might impact how this
grand jury`s decision.
IYER: Right. Well, right, first thing is that the justification of the
police officer`s action. That`s an instruction as read to the grand
juries. The grand jury gets to consider it. And again, going to back to
Dean`s article for The Daily Beast. Dean discusses that that justification
instruction is much broader than the Supreme Court actually allows. It`s
called the fleeing felon rule. And in Missouri, they`re basically saying
that okay, maybe this person is dangerous but I can use deadly force.
Whereas in 1985, the Supreme Court said, no, you have to have probable
cause of an actual threat, of actual danger, and Missouri has not changed
their law. So we have to wonder why they haven`t changed it, and is this
the impetus for them to change.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and then this then leads me, again, something that we
talked a little bit about yesterday, but it just still feels like such a
crucial aspect of this, which is yes, there is this grand jury. Yes, there
is Ferguson. Yes, there is Missouri, but there is still a federal
government which because it won the civil war still gets to weigh in on
this. So, does the DOJ, if there is no indictment of any kind, does the
DOJ still have the possibility of emerging on a civil rights claim? And
what do you think, I mean, can you kind of handicap the likelihood of that
WARREN: Yes, the federal government does, the Department of Justice does
have the ability to come in. I suspect that what they`re doing is they`re
waiting to see what happens in the state case. But he do have the ability
to come in and they have the ability to file federal civil rights charges
that can include criminal charges as well. But I think, you know, to tie
all of it together, what is really at stake here is to question of to what
extent do people actually believe that it is possible for police officers
to commit crimes. That`s really the question, that is why there are people
in the white community say, he is innocent without knowing anything. The
white folks and the white folks, they say, he`s guilty without knowing
anything, because they have different narratives. And people in the black
community see it happening all of the time. People in the white community
don`t. And I think that is what the grand jury is really struggling with.
Is it possible for a police officer to commit crime on duty with a black
person and that`s really what we`re talking about, and it`s actually a
watershed moment nationally for us to consider that question.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Brittney, I want you to weigh in here just to tie back
this question of guilt, innocence, indictment, non-indictment, in the end,
it may matter less in the court of public opinion whether or not Officer
Wilson is actually indicted. And in fact, even if he is indicted, even if
he is tried, even if he were convicted, none of which is happened yet,
there may still not be a sense of justice. Can we get to a sense of what
we constitute a just outcome, not only in the case of Officer Wilson and
Michael Brown, but in Ferguson, the bigger thing that is Ferguson?
COOPER: Sure. We have to have a conversation about changing policing in
this country. There have been multiple cases, just one last night of cops
killing a 12-year-old black boy in Cleveland who was holding a bb gun.
Every day that I wake up, I`m seeing another black boy shot by the police.
That`s another family that`s mourning this morning. It is simply too much,
and if they don`t bring down an indictment, these folks are going to be
saying, you don`t respect the rule of law, why should we? That is not my
advocacy for violence, but it is my advocacy for us having laws that
respect all humanity, black humanity included.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Robinson, I have to let you go, but hearing Brittney
talk about the death of a 12-year-old after I just spoke with an 11-year-
old activist in your community just kind of struck me. And I just wanted
to say, thank you for all of the work that you are doing there. You know,
talking to Marquis was an amazing opportunity, there`s still is so much joy
from its goodness, so much activism there and I just appreciate the work
that you`re doing to try to keep that resiliency possible.
ROBINSON: Thank you, I appreciate that. We still are here to support the
community. We know that this is just the beginning, there is also the
shooting death of Jimmy (INAUDIBLE). So, there`s a lot of work left to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: I also want to say thank you here in New York to Dean
Obeidallah and Brittney Cooper, also to Seema Iyer and to Vince Warren, we
are all, of course, still waiting.
HARRIS-PERRY: At this point, we do not expect an announcement today of a
grand jury decision regarding whether or not to indict police Officer
Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Sources tell NBC
News that the grand jury now is planning to meet on Monday. The public
safety units and extra police scheduled to work Saturday were expected to
We now go back to Ferguson, Missouri, to get the latest from MSNBC`s
Trymaine Lee. Trymaine, I want to ask you about this bigger question of
justice. Obviously, we`re still awaiting the grand jury. But a great
piece this morning by Joel Anderson at BuzzFeed talks about Michael Brown`s
neighborhood, about Canfield Green, about the question of residential
segregation. Of a loss of jobs, of a relationship with the police that is
deeply problematic. No matter what happens with the indictment. What is
the work on the ground there in terms of impacting those big questions?
LEE: See, that`s, you know, the big multimillion dollar question, right?
When you talk to folks in Canfield Green, in other communities, especially
in the, you know, lower income work class communities, you know, folks say
we don`t know what justice looks like. So, we almost don`t even know what
to ask for. They`ve never experienced it. They`ve never experienced a
good relationship with the police. And so while police leaders and some
community organizers and community leaders are working together to try to,
you know, mend those wounds that have never fully healed and have never
been healthy at all, there still is deep distrust. When you go to Canfield
Green apartments, even after the killing as you wait for the grand jury`s
announcement, folks are stressed out.
Economically, folks have lost their jobs because they couldn`t get out
during the height of it. I spoke to one young couple. The woman is 19,
her fiancee is 23-years-old. Where it`s been so crazy that she`s suffered
anxiety attacks, even hospitalized, they can`t break their lease, the
management said they have to pay $1100 down just to break the lease and
then pay every single months remain to in the lease. Folks are stressed
out. On one hand, they understand that Michael Brown could have been any
one of them. They think Michael Brown could have been one of their
relatives. On the other hand, all of the tension, all of the police
activity, all of the protests have kind of paralyzed this community. And
so even before we get to those answers of those big psychological ideas
about, you know, how to heal and what justice is. On the ground here,
folks are stuck, and they just simply don`t see any way out.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s such an interesting point Trymaine that there is this
kind of long version of being stuck around questions of residential
segregation and this much more recent version of being stuck literally as a
result of this long, this long waiting that we are still in the midst of.
Thank you to MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee in Ferguson, Missouri. You have been
waiting quite present there in Ferguson for so many of us. And we
appreciate your work.
LEE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for
watching. I`m going to see you next Saturday 10:00 a.m. Eastern. But
right now, it is time for a preview of "Weekends with Alex Witt." Good
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT": And a good morning to
you and Happy Thanksgiving, Melissa because we want to see each other to
the other side of that.
Anyway today, we`re going to look back at the life and political odyssey of
former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. We`re going to talk to someone
who knew him well.
Also the shocking allegations of sexual assault at one of America`s most
respected universities and why it took a report by "Rolling Stone" to make
And buying up a bankrupt Detroit. We`re going to tell you just who is
snapping up thousands of empty buildings at a rock bottom prices. Don`t go
anywhere, I will be right back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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