'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014
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Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: December 23, 2014
Guest: Kevin Cope
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy
So, here is what she said about her husband. I`m quoting here. What
she said exactly is, "He should be clean. He should be a role model. In
fact, though, he is the most crime-committing person I know." Talking
about her husband.
Her husband, at the time, was a serving member of Congress. And, to
this day, he remains the only member of Congress to have ever served in
that office while also wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet so the courts
could keep track of his whereabouts.
After being convicted at the time were the largest campaign finance
violation of all time, Republican California Congressman Jay Kim had the
ankle bracelet put on him, and he got sentenced to house arrest. He was
only allowed to go to work at the United States Capitol and to go to his
apartment. But that was it, house arrest.
And to add injury to that insult, the judge would only let him go home
to his home in Washington, not to his home in his district in California.
And so, by virtue of that judge`s order, Jay Kim is the only known member
of Congress to have ever been precluded from campaigning in his district
for re-election because he couldn`t go to his district because he was under
REPORTER: He`s a convict. His wife won`t support him. Even his
fellow Republicans are ashamed of him.
And yet, California Congressman Jay Kim, who pled guilty to three
misdemeanor counts of accepting $250,000 in illegal campaign contributions,
is still running for re-election today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me, it`s an embarrassment to him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he should have done the graceful thing
and stepped out.
REPORTER: Kim didn`t go to the polls today. He can`t. He cast his
vote by absentee ballot. That`s because he`s effectively under house
arrest ordered to stay to Washington with a monitoring device strapped to
his right ankle.
So, how does he campaign?
MATT REYNOLDS, KIM CHIEF OF STAFF: Due to unforeseen circumstances,
unfortunately, Congressman Kim can`t be here in person.
REPORTER: He sends staff out to speak for him.
Do you hear people saying where is he?
BARBARA STONE, REPUBLICAN CLUB PRESIDENT: Oh, no. They think he`s
under house arrest. That`s where they think he is.
MADDOW: That`s where they think he is because that`s where he is.
Republican Congressman Jay Kim was convicted while he was in office.
But even though he had been convicted, he refused to resign from Congress.
Now, his wife did cooperate with the ethics committee and their
investigation of her husband. She not only called him the most crime-
committing person I know, she also told "The Washington Post" that she was
amazed that her husband was allowed to stay in Congress even after he had
been convicted of a crime, even when he was wearing the ankle bracelet in
his Capitol Hill office.
She told "The Washington Post" at the time, quote, "It`s really
frustrating that our law is not tough enough to get him out right away. He
has humiliated us enough."
But what are you going to do? The congressman would not resign.
Congress itself seemed content to let him stay there, despite the ankle
bracelet, despite his conviction.
Finally, it was the voters who couldn`t stand it anymore. In that
primary, the one you saw those news clip from, when he couldn`t go to his
own home district to campaign, because he was under house arrest in
Washington, in that primary election that night, his constituents finally
voted him out. And that is how Republican Congressman Jay Kim of
California lost his seat.
And he is a little bit of an exceptional case because of the ankle
bracelet and all the rest of it. But that is usually how these sort of
things end, right? Usually, an indictment, a conviction, is enough for the
voters to say bye-bye, right?
For example, the congressman who was sentenced to more prison time
than any congressman in the history of the United States, say with me now,
Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana. He was the guy with
the bricks of money wrapped in aluminum foil and hidden in his freezer with
the pie crust.
William Jefferson`s constituents in Louisiana voted him out after he
was indicted in 2007, he was then convicted in 2009. Incidentally, William
Jefferson is still in prison for his crimes today.
Even when they do not see their own indictment or their conviction as
a reason that they should not be in Congress anymore, right, even if a
member of Congress doesn`t get that this is reason that they shouldn`t be
serving as a United States lawmaker, usually the voters can be counted onto
do the decent thing and vote the guy out.
There was also a guy you might remember named Buz Lukens. Buz Lukens
was a Republican congressman from Ohio who served forever, who served for
decades. He actually ran for re-election after being convicted of a crime
involving having sex with a minor. He was convicted.
He said he was sorry. He thought the voters would be fine with it.
The voters were not fine with it.
So, you know, William Jefferson thought that he would be fine with the
voters. He was not fine with it. Lukens thought he would be fine with the
voters. He was not fine with it.
I mean, even in the worse cases of the worse misbehavior, even if the
member of Congress can`t figure out, usually somebody can be counted onto
do the right thing so convicts do not end up serving as members of the
United States Congress. All right?
Sometimes, you have to count on the voters because the member of
Congress can`t see it. More frequently, the member of Congress him or
herself can`t see it. Even if whatever is wrong with them that caused them
to commit the crime, usually, the member of Congress, him or herself, takes
it upon themselves to resign once they`ve been convicted, or once it`s
clear that they`re going to be convicted.
Just in the past couple of years, just off the top of my head, you
might remember that resignation was how we said goodbye to Congressman
Jesse Jackson, Jr. He`s currently serving 30 months in federal prison.
Resignation is how we lost Congressman Trey Radel, convicted of
cocaine charges just this time last year.
Resignation is how we lost Congressman Duke Cunningham. He got a lot
of time in prison. His sentence was more than eight years. But at least
Duke Cunningham had the decency to resign from Congress after he pled
guilty to accepting more than $2 million in bribes.
Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, he was convicted in the Jack Abramoff
scandal. And yes, he had to go to prison, but even with all the things
with him that caused him to do that, he still had the decency on his way to
prison to resign from Congress.
And those are just like off-the-top of your head, don`t even have to
look it up recent ones.
Members of Congress who got caught for stuff or got convicted of
serious crimes have been quitting Congress in disgrace since almost a
hundred years because these guys quit in disgrace in 1870 for selling off
spots at the military academies to the highest bidders.
When people get caught, when they get convicted, they at least still
have the decency to quit. We don`t have felons serving in the United
States Congress. And it`s not because the Constitution precludes it. The
Constitution does not guilty preclude it.
The Constitution says the only qualifications that somebody can put on
someone serving in the United States Congress is they have to be of age,
they have to have U.S. citizenship, and they have to live in the state that
they represent at the time they get elected. That`s it. The Constitution
puts no further qualifications on serving in Congress. There`s no
constitutional restriction on convicted felons serving in Congress.
The only reason we don`t have convicted felons serving in Congress in
this country is because generally, our convicted felons have the decency to
quit their jobs in the United States Congress once they get convicted, or
if they don`t, at least their constituents have the decency to quit them.
Not in Staten island, though. Staten Island has, thus far, that had
the decency to quit their Congressman Michael Grimm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SCOTTA, NY1 REPORTER: So, Congressman Grimm does not want to
talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We
wanted to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw refused to talk
about that. Back to you.
REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: Let me be clear to you. If you
ever do that to me again, I`ll throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
SCOTTA: Why, why, I just wanted to ask you --
GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again --
SCOTTA: Why. Why, it`s a valid question.
No, no. You`re not man enough, you`re not man enough. I`ll break you
in half. Like a boy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Congressman Michael Grimm this past January
threatening to throw a reporter off the balcony in the U.S. Capitol press
gallery and I quote, "like a boy". I`ll break you in half, like a boy.
What is that even -- even after that got caught on camera, which not
had much to do with the congressman`s other pending legal troubles, even
with that, Staten Island did not have the decency to vote against
Congressman Michael Grimm when he was up for re-election this past
November. He was up for reelection by that point, with a 20-count federal
indictment hanging over his head. The prosecutor who brought those charges
against Michael Grimm is Loretta Lynch who is now President Obama`s nominee
to be the next attorney general of the United States.
When she first indicted Michael Grimm on those 20 felony counts,
Congressman Grimm said he would fight the charges, said there was no way he
was guilty of any of them. He was definitely, definitely innocent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRIMM: We`re going to fight tooth and nail. We`re going to fight
tooth and nail until I am fully exonerated.
REPORTER: Congressman, very simply, are you a crook?
GRIMM: No, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not going to address the charges at this
Clearly, Congressman Grimm asserts his innocence. We will fight these
charges and Congressman Grimm will be vindicated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Grimm was not vindicated. And he apparently was
not innocent or does he believe that he is innocent. We can deduce that
from the fact that Congressman Grimm today pled guilty to one of the felony
charges against him.
But what is amazing here, besides him as a human, what is also close
to historic here, is that after he pled guilty today to a felony charge, he
then said that he is not going to resign from Congress.
He is now a convicted felon. He is due to be sentenced in June to --
he`s looking at -- oh, I don`t know, a year, two years, three years in
prison, something like that. But he`s not resigning. He wants to stay in
Congress. And his district, as far as we know, is apparently happy for him
to stay. It was only a few weeks ago that they re-elected him by a 13-
point margin even though he had a 20 count felony against him.
But now, he is not just charged with felonies, now he is a convicted
felon. He has pled guilty. And as a convicted felon saying he will not
leave his congressional seat, now we are entering into almost uncharted
waters. Because there`s noting about being a convicted felon that
automatically gets you kicked out of Congress.
Usually, what we count on is human decency for that, right? Either
the human decency of your constituents, who you`d think wouldn`t send you
back to Congress under circumstances like this, or even more frequently, we
try to count on the human decency of the felon himself, of the convicted
member of Congress himself, to at least know that once convicted of a
felony, it is inappropriate for you to serve as a member of the United
Michael Grimm does not know that. He does not see that. He does not
see any connection between pleading guilty to a felony and maybe resigning
from Congress. What`s the connection? Why would I do that?
Because Michael Grimm is not going to do the decent thing here,
instead, it is going to be up to this guy.
And this is probably not what John Boehner wants to be the first order
of business when he takes over in January with the new Congress. But it
kind of looks like it might be.
And this is a fairly unusual thing. Congress almost never has to
forcibly expel somebody out of Congress who will not quit despite a felony
conviction. Since the Civil War, it`s only happened twice. I mean, yes,
in the Civil War, they voted to expel members of Congress who were
Confederates, right, for being disloyal to the country. It was also this
time of 1798 when they came within two votes of expelling a guy because he
spit in another congressman`s face on the House floor.
But in the past century, there have been two instances where a
convicted felon serving in Congress either did not quit or get forced out
by his constituents. One was an Abscam guy who got caught up in the Abscam
sting. He thought the government set him up unfairly and he never should
have been convicted. So, he wouldn`t go quietly. They had to throw him
out forcibly in 1980. His name is Congressman Michael Myers. That was
The only other one was crazy Jim Traficant. Crazy Jim Traficant who
died this year in a bizarre tractor accident after completing his seven-
year sentence on many, many, many federal corruption charges and getting
thrown out of Congress when he refused to resign.
But that`s it for the past 150 years. That`s it since the Confederacy
in terms of guys who the Congress has had to throw out against their will
because even though they were convicted of a felony, they wouldn`t quit.
And now, thanks to this guy, that is what John Boehner will have on
his plate day one for the new Republican Congress.
Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.
Joining us now is NBC News Capitol Hill producer Frank Thorp.
Frank, it is great to see you. You`re such an upstanding guy. I feel
almost guilty going to you with that rubes gallery.
FRANK THORP, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL PRODUCER: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Very good.
John Boehner has now this on his plate in a political sense. Can John
Boehner as speaker force Michael Grim out of Congress if Michael Grimm digs
in and says he`s not going to resign?
THORP: No, I mean, technically, he can`t. As speaker, the leadership
can`t force any member of Congress to resign or step down. Typically in
those kind of instances, what they usually do is try to make it very
unpleasant for the members of Congress to make it unpleasant for them in
terms of taking away committee assignments or committee chairmanships.
But in this case, actually, Congressman Grimm went ahead and stepped
down from his post on the Financial Services Committee in April after the
indictment. So, he already took care of that. That card has already been
played. So, leadership actually doesn`t have that card to play anymore.
The next step here would have to be an ethics committee investigation.
And as you were mentioning earlier -- a vote on expulsion.
MADDOW: Isn`t just -- I mean, I started reading some of the House
rules and some of the precedent on this in terms of how they have tried to
at least make things uncomfortable or at least take power away from members
of Congress who have been in these very compromised positions.
As you said, you can`t use committee stuff against him. He`s not in
any sort of leadership role. I mean, could they do basic, make him
miserable, logistical stuff like take away his office? Or not allow him to
vote, or deny him cloakroom privileges? I mean, I`m just wondering if they
think an expulsion proceeding, an ethics proceeding, is going to be so
politically annoying, especially if he`s going to fight it the whole time,
do they have other, I guess, caddier options?
THORP: Well, the House rule technically is allowed for, if you`ve
been convicted or the member of Congress has been convicted of a crime that
would allow up to two years or more of jail time, there`s a clause in there
that would actually say that that member of Congress should not vote. Now,
it actually doesn`t I have any teeth in it, because there`s no
constitutional precedent for actually requiring or stopping a member of
Congress from doing their job if they`re able to do it. As you noted in
the beginning, just because he`s a convicted felon doesn`t mean that he
can`t be a member of Congress.
But, at the same time, the ethics committee investigation could very
well happen and it`s expected to happen because it`s been on hold since the
Justice Department has been investigating Congressman Grimm. So, once they
do start to return to that investigation, if there is this kind of
groundswell of feeling that Congressman Grimm should probably go, they
could send that motion to expel him from Congress to the House floor. And
that would take two-thirds majority of those members who are actually
voting to pass it.
MADDOW: And they could move that fast, if they wanted to,
particularly given his guilty plea, I guess.
One other question for you -- obviously, the Capitol has mostly
emptied. Everybody has headed home for this holiday break. It`s a long
holiday break. And it`s a break between Congresses. This is generally
supposed to be a time when it`s sort of a flat line in terms of
congressional negotiations and stuff.
Do we know anything in terms of what negotiations or conversations
might have happened already, or might be ongoing between Michael Grimm and
other Republican leadership that might be trying to get him out before they
have to do this formally?
THORP: Well, Grimm said during his press conference today that he had
spoken to a member of leadership. He wouldn`t say who that was, or what
they said. Boehner`s office is saying that speaker has not spoken to Grimm
and that they`re waiting until the congressman or until Grimm speaks to
Boehner before they make any decisions going forward.
I think they`re just kind of trying to figure out the mentality and
see what different members are saying. I mean, you already have Pelosi and
Debbie Wasserman Schultz coming out and attacking Republicans for not
having acted quickly on this. I think they want to make this decision.
But I think that they also probably are waiting until after the holiday.
I mean, they don`t want to go, as you noted, they don`t want to go
into the New Year with this bigger, stronger, Republican majority and have
to deal with Democrats going on every press conference every week saying,
you have a Republican conference that has a convicted felon voting on the
House floor. That`s just not a message that they want to put out there.
Not to mention one of their biggest objectives in the 114th Congress is tax
reform and Congressman Grimm was, just pled guilty to tax evasion.
So, I think that they really kind of want to get rid of this quickly,
ideally. But it`s really, technically, up to Congressman Grim.
MADDOW: That`s exactly right. And he, as we know, is the most
stubborn man on earth. So, this is going to be -- this is not what I
expected today be talking about in the break between the two Congresses.
NBC News Capitol Hill producer Frank Thorp -- Frank, thank you so much
for your clarity on this. I really appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
THORP: Thank you.
MADDOW: I`ve got to say, after -- whenever we show the clip of
Michael Grimm threatening to throw the reporter off of the balcony, you
know, you do, I mean, you know -- we don`t have a balcony. I don`t think
Michael Grimm is going to throw me off of the balcony, but seeing him do
that to a reporter every time we do a story about him, you do get this
little presage, you know? You do think, like, where is he now?
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This was the scene just moments ago in New York City, right
outside this building actually. See the tree lights going up there? Right
at the top of the hour, the Rockefeller Christmas tree purposely went dark.
They dimmed the lights in order to honor the two NYPD police officers who
were murdered in Brooklyn on Saturday.
The Rockefeller and the iconic Christmas tree of Rock Center is one of
dozens of landmarks around New York City that dimmed their lights tonight
for five minutes starting at 9:00 Eastern. That honor tonight followed a
moment of silence at city hall and across this city this afternoon at 2:47
p.m., which is the time of day when those police officers were shot on
New York in mourning.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Here`s a thing that happened that just does not make sense.
These were usually be kind of thing that you would announce on a holiday,
or late on the Friday afternoon, sometime when the news might announce
something that really doesn`t make sense.
But instead, they broke the news early today. And yes, I know it`s a
holiday week, but the holiday hasn`t started yet. The news hasn`t gone
home for the weekend yet. We`re the news. We`re still here.
And this news makes no sense. It`s about a guy who is leaving his job
right now without an explanation. And he`s leaving a job that requires an
The man`s name is Cliff Sloan who has just announced that he`s
unexpectedly resigned from his job at the State Department. Before Cliff
Sloan`s got that job, in the two years prior to him taking his job, the
United States managed to transfer precisely two prisoners out of
Guantanamo, two guys transferred over two whole years.
President Obama decided to speed that up and so, he hired Cliff Sloan
to work on that issue at the State Department, to find places around the
world that would take guys from Guantanamo who the United States government
says are safe to be released.
Cliff Sloan has been pretty good at that. Again, in the two years
before he started, there were a grand total of two guys sent home. But in
the year and a half since Cliff Sloan took that job, it`s been 34 guys who
have been sent home or at least sent to somewhere. That is really picking
up the face.
And of the 34 guys who Cliff Sloan has found a home for around the
world and the year and a half that`s he`s been on the job, half of them, 17
of the 34 have been sent home just since last month.
So, right now, they`re really on a roll in terms of sending guys home
from Guantanamo. On November 5th, they sent a guy to Kuwait. On November
20th, they sent four Yemeni guys and a Tunisian guy to Georgia and
Slovakia. On November 22nd, they sent somebody to Saudi Arabia. On
December 7th, they sent six guys to Uruguay.
And now, just this weekend, they sent four more guys home to
Afghanistan. And "The Wall Street Journal" reports that this roll their on
is going to continue, on top of all those recent transfer since the
beginning of November. Quote, "The Obama administration is planning to
announce a flurry of additional prisoner transfers in the coming weeks."
So, after nobody getting out, ever, basically, now, all of the sudden,
they`ve broken the log jam. And guys are finally getting out.
If your job is sending guys home from Guantanamo, then your job is
going pretty well. And guy who`s job that is, is Cliff Sloan at the State
Department. And Cliff Sloan just unexpectedly quit the State Department.
His departure was unexpected enough that the administration reportedly
doesn`t have somebody in mind to replace him, let alone somebody lined up
and ready to go. He`s just leaving. And nobody is explaining why he`s
going right now in the middle of what he`s finally able to do what he was
hired to do.
What`s going on here? This guy leaving now with nobody on deck to
replace him really makes no sense given the other news about what he does.
I don`t know what else is going on and I will not speculate. But something
else has to be going on here.
I would tell you to watch this space because we`re going to figure it
out, but actually, watch Guantanamo, instead. Presumably, that`s where the
answer to this one is going to come from, someday.
MADDOW: Pre-Google, pre-the Internet machine, if you had a research
question and you were smart person, you may very well have taken your
research to your local library. And depending on the rules and the level
of bureaucracy and the size of your local library, you may have had to
write your research question down.
Well, the New York Public Library has just found a sheathe of their
old written reference cards that people wrote to their librarians. And
they`ve started sharing them online, using the hashtag
These are basically questions that people ask librarians at the New
York Public Library and they date back to the 1940s. And the questions are
kind of amazing. They range from the very obvious, is this the place where
I ask questions I can`t get answers to?
They range from things like that to the much less obvious. This is a
good one. Any statistics on the life span of the abandoned woman?
The New York Public Library has started posting some of these old
reference cards online. And some of the questions, it`s not just our
modern age, some of the questions even back in the day could only be
addressed with a certain level of librarian snark.
Here, for example, is one of the answers from a New York Public
Library librarian, no, madam, Jules Verne did not write Alice in
Feel the seething judgment even 60 years later. Yes, and if you want
to know who did write Alice in Wonderland, file another card, Sherlock.
It`s amazing stuff.
If you love librarians, and if you don`t, honestly, get yourself
checked out, there`s something wrong with you, if you have a thing for the
librarians among us, and I know we all do, the best new thing in the world
tonight, right at the end of the show is going to make you very, very, very
happy. That`s coming up right at the end of the show. You will love it.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Texas Governor
Rick Perry was late getting into the race. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum
had jumped in months before. Tim Pawlenty just basically grew there from
the very beginning like a mushroom in the dark while nobody noticed him.
Even nice, old Jon Huntsman got in there ahead of Rick Perry.
Rick Perry was late. Going into the summer of 2011, Rick Perry was
still a mystery. Would he challenge Barack Obama or would he stay on the
sidelines? It wasn`t until August that Governor Perry finally decided he
was going to jump into the race.
And he jumped in by holding a giant prayer rally in a stadium in Texas
with these guys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN BICKLE, "THE RESPONSE" ENDORSER: I believe that one of the main
pastors as a forerunner to the Harlot movement, it`s not the Harlot
movement yet, is Oprah. She is winsome, she is kind, she is reasonable,
she is utterly deceived, utterly deceived. A classy woman, a cool woman, a
charming woman, but has a spirit of deception, and she is one of the clear
pastors, forerunners, to the Harlot movement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The days are coming when we`re going to have to
risk our lives to stand for truth in this society. Six hundred thousand
men died on the battlefields of America, and if God required it for
slavery, what will it mean if God required it for America, for the
bloodshed of 50 million babies?
BRYAN FISCHER, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: Hitler discovered that he
could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough
to carry out his orders. But that homosexual soldiers, basically, had to
limits in the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on
whoever Hitler sent them after. So, he surrounded himself virtually all of
the storm troopers, the brown shirts, were male homosexuals. Permit, in my
judgment, should not be granted to even one more mosque in the United
States of America, not one.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: So, Rick Perry was the headline speaker for those nice folks
and their event in August, 2011. And what amounted to the kickoff campaign
in his run for president.
It was a prayer rally at Reliant Stadium in Houston, endorsed by the
really right wing of the religious right and hosted by this Mississippi
group called the American Family Association. If you`ve heard of the
American Family Association, it`s because this very quotable guy, who you
just saw, is their national spokesman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FISCHER: Counterfeit regions, alternative religions to Christianity
have no First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Kicking off his week, he announced his run for the presidency
with that guy did not work any magic for oops Perry`s presidential campaign
that time around. And so, maybe as he looks at another run this time
around, maybe he`s not going to try that again.
But it`s starting to look like this guy is going to try that this time
around. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is now doing all the things he
needs to do to get himself ready for a presidential run. And Bobby Jindal
has now announced his own plans to headline this year`s version of the
American Family Association rally that Rick Perry tried the last time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: It`s time to light the spark that
starts the spiritual revival that will put these United States of America
back on the right path.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Response.
This American Family Association event hosted and headlined by
Louisiana governor and likely presidential candidate Bobby Jindal planned
for January 24th. To help people prepare for that big rally in January,
the organizers of the response, the American Family Association, they put
out a prayer guide, which I should tell you is just the same prayer guide
they put out for the Rick Perry event in 2011 in Texas.
The prayer guy for this event blames the tragic events of Hurricane
Katrina on abortion, on homosexuality being embraced as an alternative
lifestyle, on same-sex marriage rights and on pornography being available
on demand through the Internet. Because of that stuff, because America has
strayed from foundations in Christianity, hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana.
That`s the prayer guy for this in Baton Rouge.
When reporters from "The New Orleans Times-Picayune" questioned this
group about them making that claim, making this claim, this is a group
that`s bringing their revival show to thing to Louisiana now, for an event
with the state`s governor, right?
When the local press started pressing them, really? You want to blame
hurricane Katrina on what now? The group after facing those questions took
the prayer guy off their Web site for the event. They replaced it for a
letter with another American Family Association guy, who`s the guy who
blames 9/11 on homosexuality. So, maybe they think that will go better in
Louisiana rather than blaming the hurricane on the existence of gay people,
they`ll blame 9/11 on the existence of gay people, because maybe Louisiana
was further way from the 9/11 attacks so that`s better?
Since the event at Louisiana State University was announced, student
groups at LSU have organized protests against it. The LSU faculty senate
say they want new restrictions on what campus facilities can be used for in
the future. So, maybe this won`t happen again.
But as long as events with the American Family Association are how
Republican candidates have to start their runs for president, events like
this are going to keep happening somewhere. They`re good for something,
Joining us now is Professor Kevin Cope. He is the president of the
LSU Faculty Senate, and the chair of the LSU systems council of faculty
Professor Cope, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate your
KEVIN COPE, LSU: Thank you very much. I`ll try to warm up after all
of those chilling excerpts that you read to us.
MADDOW: Yes, I feel like we keep this sort of scary jukebox full of
things that American Family Association folks have said in the past. And
you`ve got to sort of roll it out as a reminder.
I mean, Governor Jindal`s staff said when he started getting
questions, oh, listen, we didn`t read everything on the Web site. We`re
not exactly sure of everything they`ve said. This is just a prayer event.
It`s totally apolitical. How has it been received at LSU that he`s going
to do this there?
COPE: I think that the reception has been very chilly, indeed. And I
might say the fact that the governor has not read the material that he
endorses says something about his leadership. However, here, at the
university, I think that everybody agrees that we should provide a venue
for people to announce whatever views they`ve got to announce. The basic
problem is whether the governor, who is the nominal head of the state
university, ought to be acting in a way that is contrary to the public
interest, contrary to the purpose of the university and contrary to the
uplifting of the citizens of Louisiana that the university is supposed to
MADDOW: In terms of the LSU venue here, obviously, the university
like all academic and public institutions has an interest in, you know, not
policing speech and not, you know, allowing people or disallowing people
based on simply the content of their views. That said, the American Family
Association does, which is the organizers of this event, does have some
positions that seems, like, at least student groups on campus feel like are
inconsistent with the ethos and the rules of the road at LSU.
What are the student protesters making their case about? And do you
think ultimately, that they might imperil the prospects of this actually
going forward on campus?
COPE: Well, that is a definite possibility. Under the Louisiana law,
the university could suspend an event if it were shown to be a threat of
public safety. And who knows, we may have a big turn out.
In my interactions with the LSU administration, one thing I`ve tried
to do is to stress the importance of making this event hospitable to
protesters and demonstrators from wherever they might come, whether from
the students, from the public, from civic groups, you name it. What I hope
what we don`t see there at the university is an attempt to isolate the
protesters or move them out of the view of the cameras, or get them
otherwise adequate exposure to the public.
I do think the university is ready to accept almost any kind of view.
But when it turns violent when it aims to get rid of people who are part of
the university`s clientele, that`s when it steps outside the boundaries.
MADDOW: Just a logistical question for you, Professor Cope, by the
time this is due to happen in mid-January, will student be back on campus?
Is it going to be a full campus at LSU when this happens?
COPE: They`ll be barely back. The semester starts a day or two
before. And I believe that the timing of this rally is not an accident.
In other words, it was arranged, it was announced, it was discovered during
the intersection when there weren`t too many people around looking. And
so, there will be not much of a chance for people to organize any kind of
protest among the students. Nevertheless, I think we are going to see some
adverse reaction among the student clientele, as well.
MADDOW: Fascinating. LSU professor, faculty senate president, Kevin
Cope -- this is obviously going to be an incident -- an event that`s going
to have some national attention because of your governor`s national
ambitions. But it`s going to be amazing to watch down there in Louisiana.
Thanks for helping us to understand what`s going on. I appreciate it,
COPE: Thank you very much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you. Appreciate it.
All right. Your choice of holiday movies may have just gone up by
one. Some good news for at least your choices among middle brow comedies.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: One of the things we do in this show that I find very
valuable just for the record is something that we call and now here`s the
thing. So, and, now, here`s the thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: And now, here`s the thing.
This is BBC Middle East correspondent Quentin Sommerville.
QUENTIN SOMMERVILLE, BBC MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: We`ve just come
under fire and returning fire at the minute. The Iraqi army tell us that
(INAUDIBLE) ISIS fighters from Syria, but not all of them, and are still at
risk of fire (INAUDIBLE).
SUBTITLE: Quentin Sommerville is a serious accomplished foreign
correspondent, who one time, accidentally, got really high at work.
SOMMERVILLE: Burning behind me is 8 1/2 tons of heroin, opium and
hashish and other narcotics.
SOMMERVILLE: Burning behind me --
SOMMERVILLE: Quick, quick, quick.
We just need one more.
SUBTITLE: Reminder: Always do your report upwind of burning narcotics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And that is the thing that happened. Tada!
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: You wouldn`t know it from first glance, but this, this right
here, is a movie. Not a movie for watching at home, but a movie for
watching in an actual movie theater.
When your multiplex decides to show a particular film, this is how it
arrives. It arrives on a big hard disk in a comfy padded case delivered by
Until not too long ago, films were on film, and a studio had to
manufacture a film reel for every single theatre that wanted to show its
movies. But in the digital age now, it is cheaper and more efficient to
make thousands of digital copies of the film to ship out on hard drives.
They load the hard drives as digital content and just ship out the
drives. Some studios and theatre chains do deliver directly by satellite
to theatre, but most theatre, especially independent theatres and smaller
chains, they get their movies this way. They get them delivered in
physical, hard drive form.
And so, today, when Sony Pictures decided it would reverse course and
despite all the threats from the hackers, or North Korea or whoever, they
would reverse course and release its film "The Interview" on its original
Christmas Day premiere date.
When they decided that today, the studio suddenly faced a really tight
deadline, because if the theaters are going to show this film on Christmas
Day, they`re going to need to have their hard drives. They`re going to
need their hard drives of the film on hand. And as anyone who is a last-
minute holiday shopper knows, today is the last day you can send anything
if you want to get to its destination before Christmas.
So, they make the decision today, this morning, Sony let theaters
know, if you want to show "The Interview" on Christmas Day, the day after
tomorrow, we need to know today by 3:00 a.m. on the West Coast because
we`ve got to get this thing in the mail.
And a bunch of theatres said yes. The Alamo Drafthouse chain will
show the film in Houston, and in the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colorado,
and more than a dozen other Alamo locations across the country. The Plaza
Atlanta Theater in Georgia is proudly showing it. Vintage Cinemas and a
bunch of small chains in Southern California are showing it, as well as
Cleveland Cinemas in Ohio.
Sony hasn`t released a complete list, but there are reports tonight
that there will be more than 200 theaters across the country that will be
showing "The Interview" as of Christmas Day.
And all of this is good news because it means the little Tree House
Theater is not going to be alone in this endeavor. This is the Tree House
Theater here in New York City. As you can see, it is a tiny place that
only seats about 50 people. And before Sony`s 180-degree U-turn decision
today, the only place that you could hope to come close to seeing "The
Interview", we think, was here, a live reading of the film script is
scheduled for that tiny little theatre on Saturday night. Comedians from
the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater are planning to live perform the
The event producers say they think it`s a script. They found a copy
of it on the web. The organizers billed it as an opportunity for people to
come together in the name of free speech in defiance of all who have
threatened it. And it`s free.
At last check, that live reading was still going ahead. You can get
your free tickets at the bar next door before the show, at least we`re
Before today, it looked like the Tree House Theater and that possibly
bogus definitely bogarted script looked like they were going to be all
alone in its endeavor to get "The Interview" out somehow. But now they
have backup in the real movie and 200 or so real movie theaters, assuming
the hard drives arrive on time.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. This is really good. But
it starts in difficult circumstances.
The library in Ferguson, Missouri, is just down the road from the
Ferguson, Missouri, police station -- the scene of those tense and
sustained standoffs between the police and people protesting the fatal
police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. People in Ferguson,
Missouri, have not been living life as usual this year. Sometimes,
businesses have been closed, damaged, and looted because of protests.
Schools have been closed for days at a time.
But the Ferguson library has stayed open. They gave teachers a place
to hold ad hoc school days with free lunch and story time for the younger
kids when the schools closed in August. They did it again in November when
the grand jury announced there would be no charges in the killing of
Michael Brown, the schools closed down again, just like they did during the
protests after he was first killed.
Following a warning after the grand jury announcement, the Ferguson
Library tweeted that they would be open all day with Wi-Fi, water, rest and
A couple of weeks ago, the Ferguson Library put together what they
would call library healing kits for local kids. The kits come with books
designed to help kids dealing with tough situations and information about
local mental health services. They also came with a stuffed animal, which
you can keep.
In the middle of this hard time for Ferguson and for the kids in
Ferguson, right, for families in Ferguson, Ferguson library has become its
own story. Not just in Ferguson, but actually around the country. It`s
become sort of a point of focus, particularly for people looking for some
concrete way to try to help that community, right? Some way to help a
situation they other wise don`t know what to do with. At least not how to
This summer, so many people started calling the library Ferguson
asking how they could help the library reconfigured its Web site to add a
donation button. And through that button, they raised $400,000, almost its
entire yearly budget.
People also sent the library books by the thousands. The library has
ended up with hundreds of boxes of books that have been donated to them.
And while libraries do love books and need books, they also need order,
right? They need the books to be cataloged and shelved so readers can
check them out so they can do quality control, they make sure they know
what they`ve gotten. The Ferguson Library has gotten more new books it can
catalog with its one full-time librarian.
Well, last Saturday, volunteers started that process of the unpacking
and sorting the books and writing thank you notes to the senders. But now,
what the library really needed was librarians who could do the trained
librarian technical work of assigning each book its own unique spots in the
vast universe of the modern library system. This is not something that you
or I could just do unless you`ve been lucky enough to study library
This is something for which you need a pro. But that job needs doing
in Ferguson right now for these piles of new books that have come in for
these very emotional reasons.
Check this out. The proud father of a public school librarian got in
touch with us the other day and told us about his son`s plans to volunteer
at the Ferguson Library over the holiday break. Kyle Lukoff and Talia Soko
(ph) are both librarians back on the east coast. But this week, they are
volunteers in the library in Ferguson, cataloguing books for the special
Talia and Kyle are not big on bragging about their work, they`re just
doing what they can book after book. Since, as they told us today, they
have the time and the ability to do this job.
Librarians are kind of amazing when they go to work. This is what
librarians do in their day off.
Best new thing in the world today. Thanks for being with us tonight.
"THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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