'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, February 7th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: February 7, 2015
Guest: Simran Noor, Jelani Cobb, Cristina Beltran, Anthony Foxx, Lenny
Alcivar, Daniel Garisto, Salamishah Tillet, Cathy Young, Lily Goodman,
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. Will a 14
year old change the world and, plus, the class of 2016 GOP style and for
Sybrina Fulton, the struggle continues.
But first, the long, long walk to work.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. As unlikely as it may feel while
you are comfortably settled in front of the TV watching your MHP, America,
you spend a lot of your time on the go. According to the Department of
Transportation, Americans take 1.1 billion trips every day. That`s about
four for each person in the U.S. And about 15 percent of those trips,
about 165 million of them, are taken for a daily commute. Now, for many of
us that weekday journey from home to work and back again has become so much
a part of our day-to-day lives that we don`t really appreciate the simple
convenience of getting from point A to point B until that daily ritual is
disrupted. Especially when that disruption is caused by catastrophe.
As it was Tuesday night when a New York Metro North commuter train crashed
into an SUV killing six people and injuring 15 others. The vehicle, which
was stopped on the tracks at a crossing, exploded on impact and set the
front of the train on fire. Commuter trains traveling through the site of
the crash resumed running again on Thursday with authorities warning
commuters to expect delays in service. It was the same warning given on
Tuesday to commuters in Boston where all lines on the T, the city`s subway
system experienced severe delays not because of a tragic accident, but
because of well, winter. The recent blistering cold and record snowfall in
Boston have harmed the system`s infrastructure and prompted the head of the
T to get really real with Boston commuters when she said this this week.
Quite candidly, if you don`t wind up having to use the service, that`s
probably a plus. I`m just going to be candid. I`ve never said that in my
life but I don`t want to wind up misleading anyone. Now, while those
commuters in Boston and New York have been dealing with public transit
delays, most of you likely just kept on cruising since the vast majority of
Americans, 91 percent according to the DOT, still use a personal vehicle to
commute to work.
But if you are one of those daily drivers, well, this week`s transportation
news may have been a bit distressing for you too because it appears that
our recent happy days of refilling from the seemingly endless fountain of
cheap gas may soon be coming to an end. A new AAA report released Monday
predicted that gas prices which had reached five year lows, it will be
rising again throughout the month of February.
Meanwhile, even some walk to work commuters had reason to complain when
after a flash freeze swept in behind wintry weather in the New York Tri-
State area, many Walkers found themselves going through leaps and bounds to
avoid being ankle deep in those dark puddles of freezing slush.
But whatever struggles you faced on your home to job journey this week,
it`s likely you were shamed out of complaining by the one transportation
story that had us all questioning our excuses for ever being late to work.
On Sunday, the Detroit free press profiled Detroit resident James
Robertson, the tenacious man who has a 23-mile commute each way to his job
at a factory and often walks 21 of those miles in round trips every day.
Robertson has made the same journey five days a week Monday through Friday
for the last decade since his old car stopped running and amazingly even
through his grueling daily commute, he`s never missed a day of work.
Robertson`s dedication and tenacity is impressive really by any standard.
His story was so inspiring that readers donated more than $300,000 to a
collection started to help buy him - started to help him buy a car. Not
that he`ll need it now because the Detroit area dealership is giving him a
brand new Ford for free.
But as much as his story is the testament of the triumph of one man`s
spirit, it`s also an indictment of the systemic inadequacies of the
transportation infrastructure that has failed many of the people who need
it most. Robertson`s commute from work to home takes four hours due in
large part to the walk he has to make through a community where there is no
fixed route bus service and it is illustrative of one of the ways, in which
cuts to public services like transportation are often most acutely felt by
low-income workers like James.
According to a Brookings Institute analysis of data from Census Bureau
data, hundreds of thousands of zero vehicle households live out of
transit`s reach particularly in the south and in the suburbs. And those
with transit access still cannot reach majority of jobs in metro areas
within 90 minutes. So there`s plenty to celebrate in yesterday`s
announcement that unemployment rate is at 5.7 percent and that the economy
has added 257,000 jobs. Those would be workers clinging to the bottom
wrung of the income ladder. They are not going to be able to share in the
return of those jobs if they have no way to get to work.
Joining me now, Jelani Cobb, associate professor of Africana studies at the
University of Connecticut and contributor to the NewYorker.com. Cristina
Beltran, associate professor of social and cultural analysis at New York
University and author of "The Trouble with Unity." Simran Noor, who is
director of policy and strategy at the Center for Social Inclusion and Josh
Barro who just won a big game show on "UP" and then also an MSNBC
contributor, a national correspondent for "The New York Times." And host
of "Three Cents" on shift by MSNBC. So I want to start with you. Because
this is your work. What is it about the James Robertson story that tells
us something about where we stand on the issue of transportation in this
SIMRAN NOOR, CENTER FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION: Absolutely. Thank you, Melissa.
You know, James Robertson - James Robertson`s struggle, his walk to work,
is a direct result of policy. So the suburban county where James` job is
located has opted out of the regional transit system making it impossible
for people like James to get to work. And this is not just a pattern we
are seeing in the Detroit metro region where the Center for Social
Inclusion works. We see this across the country. And I think what`s most
important is understanding who bears the brunt of these policy decisions
and most - more likely that, more often than not, it`s people of color and
low income people.
HARRIS-PERRY: It also seems to me that on the one hand you have the option
for this man. I mean it is unbelievable that he`s walking. But he also is
able bodied and relatively young and able to walk. And I guess part of
what I was thinking is so what if he is a person who is not able bodied or
what if he is a person who is elderly or what if he`s a person who is a
woman who is pregnant in her final trimester. Like, you know, there`s a
part of the story that distresses me because it`s a sort of no barrier can
stand in your way story and I`m thinking no, no, some barriers can stand in
CRISTINA BELTRAN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Right. Right. It`s sort of this
ongoing story that if you can be this exceptional person you know, you can
inspire us with your ability. And so Robertson is this incredibly
inspiring person but there`s a way in which, you know, the fundamental
issues of infrastructure are so key here. And it is interesting. Because
we - I often think it`s funny when you are driving on the highway and they
say like, your tax dollars at work. They only do that when they`re doing
construction, when you`re like annoyed and crabby.
HARRIS-PERRY: But what they should do is have that running when things are
working. Like this is what it means that our infrastructure is our
collective ability to say what we care about as a - right. That we care
about clean water and good roads and the ability to get from here to there
and those kinds of things are something we have to value as a public.
And so that last phrase, as a public. Josh, this seems to me, I guess I
find myself surprised that here in 2015, five years after really the
Republican takeover in 2010 when people like OK, we know they are not going
to be able - common ground, but here`s one that I bet will be common
ground. Infrastructure. Right? Because it`s the one public asset.
Everybody recognizes that individuals can`t build roads, right? And, no,
still five years later it`s still not a consensus item.
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC: Yeah, well, it`s because at the federal level the
conversation has been so dominated by the deficit and how we need to not
borrow more money and even the Democrats when they talk about
infrastructure, they are always talking about here`s how we collect more
taxes in order to pay for infrastructure. Nobody is talking about the idea
that infrastructure is something that`s appropriate to borrow for, to
And because .
HARRIS-PERRY: And it is revenue generating over time.
BARRO: Right. And so the political environment has not been conducive to
spending any money on infrastructure even though - people think
infrastructure is a good thing. But transit also is not just about
infrastructure spending. There are a lot of ongoing operating costs,
especially with bus service, which is going to be the dominant form of
transit in the Detroit area for the foreseeable future. And that`s
something that squeezed in local budgets. And you have these suburban
counties where most households do have cars, as the budgets have been
squeezed and they ask people to make their priorities, they thing about do
we cut from education, do we cut from policing, do we cut from transit?
Transit has weak political support because for most people in these places,
transit is not the way to get to work and not a priority.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s interesting. Just then when you made the point
about suburbs, I mean this was part of what was fascinating to me. From
"The Atlantic," January 7TH, 2015, suburbs and the new American poverty.
There is fully 88 percent of Atlanta`s poor live in suburbs and that
between 2000 and 2011, Atlanta suburban population grew by 159 percent. I
mean the suburbs are increasingly a space of poverty.
COBB: That`s exactly -- this is a forefront of this issue. We know like
you are kind of transportation has been tied to these issues around civil
rights for a really long time. But when you see even a decade ago, the
NAACP and LDF were involved in cases in Baltimore, Atlanta, around this
because what happens is suburbanization of poverty, if you have people on
the outskirts of the city and you can pretty much ignore them in ways that
you can`t when they`re actually inside the city and Atlanta is illustrative
of this because just two years ago there was a bond measure. A one cent
tax that people wanted to float and this money was going to be used for
transportation cost. Overwhelmingly this was going to be funneled into
highways, not into public transportation, so they were saying, people were
going to be paying the sales tax, overwhelmingly poor people, subsidizing
transportation for the middle class people who are living further and
further outside that city.
HARRIS-PERRY: But you - you know, so that strikes me. It`s like - I mean
it`s an actual difficulty. An actual challenge. Right. So, there`s an
ideology question, but then it`s also - it`s so important. Roads don`t
have a good natural constituency in the way that, for example, education
does. Now, not that there haven`t been plenty of good strong, conservative
cuts to education but at least people can say how dare you cut, you know,
books and teachers in a classroom for children. It is so much harder to
get people worked up about bridges until they start collapsing and catching
on fire and that sort of thing.
NOOR: Absolutely, there is - we need a broad coalition of folks and we
need people to understand that roads -- they`re an invisible cost. We
don`t often think about infrastructure that is supporting us getting to
school or getting to work each day or getting to a doctor when we`re sick.
And that`s what transit and both transit and roads do. And this is - we
have to invest to make sure that this infrastructure, this infrastructure
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I wonder if there`s a political story to be told about
how - I mean because it - You can make a kind of moral, ethical, even
policy based argument. I`m also wondering if there`s a political argument.
We`ll talk a little bit more about that. But also, I want to go way back
in history and bring up some of the points, Jelani, that you were touching
on. Still to come this morning, Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin,
and part of my interview with Eric Holder, the attorney general of the
HARRIS-PERRY: The public transit inequities illustrated by the story of
James Robertson`s long walk to work is only the most recent example of the
long history transportation has in a struggle for social justice. In her
book "Right to Ride," which we examine as early as this struggle of African
Americans to resist, segregated public condenses, historian Blair Kelley
writes, "Efforts to defeat segregation took place not only in the public`s
fear of ideas and arguments in the press, the courts and the legislatures,
but also in the physical struggle for seats on trains and street cars."
That struggle was dealt its most crushing blow in 1896 when the Supreme
Court considering the case of a creole of color, jailed for sitting in the
whites only train car, legalized the segregation and institutionalized the
standard of separate but equal in its Plessy v. Ferguson decision. But the
Supreme Court also delivered a pivotal victory in 1956 when following a
year-long campaign in which African-American citizens of Montgomery,
Alabama, boycotted segregated buses, the court decided in their favor and
ordered the buses to integrate.
Even today the geographical divisions that concentrates poverty and
segregation in American cities can be traced to decades old transportation
policy. President Dwight Eisenhower`s 1956 legislation creating the
interstate highway system, was one of the country`s greatest public work`s
projects, but it also enabled white flight to the suburbs and eviscerated
long established residential communities in the inner city.
So, just, you know, I wanted to tell that history, Jelani, in part to
remind us that it may be a public good, but it`s always been a political
battle about who ..
COBB: Oh, it always has. It always has. And you can go back even earlier
than that, which is, you know, the 1883 overturning of the Civil Rights
Act, which was the 1875 Civil Rights Act, which was a specifically about an
instance, in which a black woman and a white man were riding a train and
they were ejected for being in the company of a person of another race and
that case went to the Supreme Court and led to the overturn- overturning of
the first major Civil Rights Act at the civil war. And so it`s there.
It`s Ida B. Wells, you know, who .
HARRIS-PERRY: Bracing herself on the back of that train car.
COBB: And then filing a lawsuit about this. And so, as long as there`s
been transportation, and we think about this fundamental element of
mobility which is what slavery was really rooted on. People cannot move.
COBB: The ability to move freely has been inextricably linked to people`s
civil rights and freedom.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, there was this other moment then that emerges and it
was sort of within five years of the Hurricane Katrina disaster where we
saw the issue of mobility actually trapping people in the city and yet
Bobby Jindal in 2009 as the Governor of Louisiana actually turns down
federal funds for a light rail system largely because there`s a politics
behind it. Because taking that money was taking Obama`s money. And so, it
just keeps feeling to me like, come on, we have got to get to a place where
we can talk about a kind of overarching public good around transportation.
BARRO: Yeah, and I think the politics of this varies by constituency. I
think, for example, Los Angeles has made a lot of progress on this in the
last couple of decades. There`s increase in public support for - they
actually passed a local initiative creating a local sales tax to fund
transit improvements. Partly they convince people who drive that if other
people get on transit, there will be less traffic and you`ll be faster
driving. But they`ve also built, you know, expanded the light rail through
the city in a way that`s serving a socioeconomically diverse population
there and so they`ve convinced people that this is something that is worth
making the public investment in. But then you also need to draw the line
so that people feel like they are getting something in return for the thing
they`re paying for. We have these politics here in New York where local
transit agencies, actually, a state agency, when they close the subway a
few weeks ago, people get mad at the mayor, the mayor has nothing to do
with this. There is no control over the subways. All the governor. And
so, because it`s a state agency and because it serves the city and the
suburbs, transit policy here is made with really a lot of an eye for people
living way up in the Hudson Valley who are paying for the system, but
really, the needs of it need to be designed around New York City where most
of the usage is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. OK. So, this also strikes me as connected back to
this story. Because upstate New York, downstate Illinois, the - actually,
also are demographically different both in terms of ethnic and racial
identity, in terms of class and in terms of partisanship. And I guess, so
then part of what I wonder what happened, so, yes, we are talking about
even the ability to drive the cars on the roadways, we`re really talking
about public transit. Has public transit become a racialized discourse? I
mean obviously, it was even in this moment. When I keep thinking about
like -- if you go to Birmingham now, there are not a lot of white folks
clamoring to get on the bus. Like it - you know, it`s where we are
historically feels to me demonstrative of the way it`s been racialized.
NOOR: Absolutely. And I would say, what enabled Los Angeles to make those
incredible strides was the ability to pursue private action, right, against
discrimination in transportation. And in 2001, we saw another Supreme
Court case, Alexandra v. Sandoval, which took away the ability for the
right to private action for the ability to sue for discrimination within
transportation, which we know, you know, takes away a big lever for a city
like Los Angeles to continue to have the connectivity to connect
particularly black and Latino folks that are the most disconnected.
BELTRAN: And it`s not on the ground there fascinating, right. Because I
mean one of the things is the way that suburban sprawl we are talking about
earlier has shaped things. So, in places like Los Angeles and New Mexico,
where there are really still weak infrastructures, you have the fight of
the undocumented to get driver`s licenses. Right? And so, it`s
interesting. That on the one hand, the fight for transportation sort of
exceeds and goes beyond, it`s both public and private, people want access
to public transportation, particularly if they lack status, you know, legal
status, but at the same time in some places in this country, it`s been so
deeply privatized that without a car you literally can`t live in those
places and that`s not a constituency that`s necessarily able to voice its
needs as directly.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it also just feels to me, like no, we just need earmarks
back? I mean like - what`s really - there was a way that you got - I mean
people hate the bridges to nowhere, but damn, at least we were building a
bridge. I mean like isn`t part of the problem that we`ve gone to a sort of
version where there isn`t an incentive for people to build these kinds of
public works projects.
BARRO: I don`t - I don`t think that`s the leading issue here. I think it
would be great if there was more of a federal commitment toward
infrastructure. But I really think that`s a bigger issue for roads. With
transit, really, the operating cost are such a big thing and you need
ongoing appropriations at the local level to be able to pay bus drivers and
those sorts of things and frankly, often you need more efficient decision
making by the agencies running these things. There are some that make
better - for example, here in New York, we still have two-man crews running
all of our subway cars, which almost every other system around the world is
using one person operation. That means that, you know, we can`t afford as
much service as we otherwise would because we have a higher labor cost per
train. So, if agencies were better about running that - spending that
money and at the same time, if there was more political support for
spending more money, then we could have more operations.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, you just do point out right there by saying all
those words that government does make jobs. They make bus driver jobs.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Department of Transportation says our airports are going
to be under water in 30 years. But don`t worry. They`ve got a plan and
HARRIS-PERRY: This week the federal government predicted the future of
American transportation and it`s a terrifying place. Beyond traffic, a new
report from the Department of Transportation cautions against the dangers
of failing to invest in transportation infrastructure by painting a bleak
picture of the transit of tomorrow. In DOT`s dystopian vision of America
in 2045, airports are already teetering perilously close to sea level and
could be consumed by rising waters. Nebraska will rival Los Angeles as a
hell scape of hour`s long traffic jams and commuter trains having failed to
increase capacity to a combinated (ph) growing population are too full to
stop for passengers trying to get to work. But all is not lost because
among the report`s proposals to avert this cataclysmic transportation
nightmare is an equally futuristic solution. Robot cars. No, really.
Well, sort of.
OK, here to give us some hope for how we can avoid the dystopian future is
the head of the department that brought us the report, the United States
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. So nice to have you, Secretary Fox.
SECRETARY ANTHONY FOXX, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Hi, Melissa, great
to join you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we really - in "The Atlantic" have been reading through
this report and we are all a little bit terrified about our lives 30 years
from now especially since many of us are commuting long distances. What
message were you hoping to send about U.S. transportation infrastructure?
FOXX: Well, we`re headed for a very, very clogged up future if we don`t
take better care of the system we have, if we don`t build new capacity
where we need it and if we don`t make smarter choices about how to increase
throughput using technology and better design. All of these things are
things we can do, but over the last six years Congress has passed 32 short-
term measures which has limited the ability of local and state governments
to plan and that is setting us up for failure going forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Secretary Foxx, part of what`s interesting to me about
your own kind of political trajectory is that you come out of Charlotte,
out of North Carolina, which was one of these kind of growing, booming
southern cities that, you know, was showing us kind of what a new economy
could look like. And infrastructure challenges were part of it. We`ve
been talking a lot about sort of individual access. But I`m interested in
kind of an argument about economic development and how important
transportation is to that big question.
FOXX: One of the things that transportation has done since the beginning
of time, is it hasn`t just increased throughput, it`s also improved the
places that it connects and we see in many cases across the country
including my hometown of Charlotte where transportation improves quality of
life by attracting new development, densely dispersed housing, economic
development in terms of jobs and those kinds of points of access are really
critical and Melissa, on the topic you`ve been talking about today, I think
one of the big challenges we have in transportation is getting from one
project at a time that does these types of things to getting into a system
that increases opportunity for people at the margins.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, at this point about increasing opportunity for people at
the margins, if you hold for me just one second, Secretary, I want to bring
in one of my other guests. So, Simran, I`m wondering, you know, given that
this is the work that you`re doing, trying to increase opportunity for
folks at the margins and here you have a secretary, a cabinet member, is
there a conversation the two of you would like to have here?
NOOR: Absolutely. I think - I really appreciated this report because it
comprehensively lays out what we need to do. I think what we need to do
right now, is have better planning. To Josh`s point, and to Secretary
Foxx`s point, we need comprehensive planning, we need to ensure that when
we are putting new bus lines in, for example, that we are looking, what`s
around that. Right now agencies don`t have -- they`re not using mapping
and the data that they need to make better decisions about investment. And
I think that`s a key thing we can do right now to begin to connect people.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Secretary Foxx, is that something that can come from a
level like yours, from a federal level or is it simply about creating
incentives at the local level? I mean it must be tough to be the head of a
federal department where really most of this work is happening at a very
hyper local level.
FOXX: Yes, it`s going to take a lot of coordination. Most of our transit
systems are locally based. Our highway system is mostly state controlled.
Our rail system is mostly privately owned and so you have this sort of
Rosak (ph) chart of control over how our transportation system is built.
But at the same point, I think, the point is absolutely right. That
planning is really important. And really having planning processes is that
meaningfully take into account public input is also a critical part of the
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the president has actually put forth a budget proposal
here and in his budget proposal explicitly mentions that need to connect
workers. But in his proposal, you know, 7.4 billion for TSA. 15.6 for the
FAA. 41 billion for highways. 10.9 billion for transit. Is there any
optimism given the stalemate in Washington about the ability to move
forward on the kind of planning that you and Simran have been talking
about, but also, actually, on these kind of budget proposals?
FOXX: Well, I`m a congenital optimist, but I also recognize that whether
you`re in a so-called red state or blue state, red city, blue city, red
district, blue district, across this country our infrastructure is falling
apart. And folks in Congress on both sides of the aisle are hearing this
back from their chambers of commerce, from their communities, from their
stake holders, from their governors, from their city council people, and I
happen to believe there`s enough pressure building on the ground that
something will get done. The question is whether that something is going
to be big enough, smart enough, and capable enough to move us forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Secretary Anthony Foxx in Washington D.C. I`m
a North Carolinian these days. If you ever want to take a camera, we`ll go
take a ride around the Charlotte metro area and look at how transportation
is working. I would love to do that for the show.
FOXX: I`ll take you up on that. Absolutely.
For those who want to dive in deep and comment on the department`s report,
let`s put it up on the screen there. That`s dot.gov/beyondtraffic. Don`t
get too scared, but it is a little scary. My thanks here also to Simran
Noor, right here in New York and the rest of my panel is going to be back
later in the hour.
But coming up later on the program, Sybrina Fulton joins us to tell us what
she`s doing next to honor the memory of her son, Trayvon Martin, and the
14-year-old model determined to change the entire world.
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney General Eric Holder will soon step down and that
day just can`t come soon enough for some members of Congress like Senator
John Cornyn who apparently has just one requirement of Mr. Holder`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R) TEXAS: The attorney general has been openly
contemptuous of the oversight responsibilities of the co-equal branch of
government, he`s stonewalled legitimate investigations by the Congress.
How do we know you`re not going to perform your duties of office as
attorney general the way Eric Holder has performed his duties? How are you
going to be different? Let me just stipulate you`re not Eric Holder, are
LORETTA LYNCH, ATTY. GEN. NOMINEE: No, I`m not sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I sat down with Attorney General Holder yesterday and he had
something he wants to say to the senator from Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER: Let me just say to Senator John Cornyn, I am Eric Holder and
I`m proud of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: For much, much more of my interview with the attorney
general, turn into tomorrow`s show at 10:00 a.m. Eastern right here on
MSNBC, but up next, the class of 2016.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, both of you keeping kind of home - remember the official
number right now is zero. Officially, anyway, that`s how many people are
running for president in 2016. Unofficially it`s more like a zillion (ph).
My ordinarily - technical count any way. And with all of these officially
non-candidates speaking at officially non-campaign events, you knew what
had to happen sooner or later would be the first great debate of the non-
campaign. Would it be economic policy? Would it be military engagements
overseas? Would it be common core in education? No, it was vaccines.
It`s me, and I`m not sure I saw that one coming. After New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie sparked controversy during his trip to London by saying that
parents should be allowed to decide whether or not to vaccinate their
children, he and his office had to spend the rest of the week backtracking
and qualifying his statements. That one instance sent the beltway press
into a frenzy to try and figure out where the other GOP presidential
contenders stood on the issue. And regardless of their respective
positions, almost everyone in the crowd of GOP yield had to endure days`
worth of media coverage on the issue.
But at least one potential candidate managed to avoid all of that. While
everyone else was talking about things like measles and herd immunity, this
GOP contender was rising above the fray to distinguish himself as a
potential front runner. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker surprised a lot of
people this week when polls out of both Iowa and New Hampshire found he was
the top choice among Republicans in the two states that hold the very first
presidential nominating contest. Voila, the imaginary field has a front
runner. A front runner enjoying a slew of non-measles related headlines
speculating that he might be the next great hope for the Republican Party.
But just as Scott Walker was having his political moment, we got a glance
into Scott Walker`s governing philosophy. Because this week the governor
released his budget for the state of Wisconsin and as we said before on
this show a budget is, in fact, also a moral document, a statement of a
politician`s values and priorities. Governor Walker`s latest budget cuts
deep into education, expands school voucher programs and proposes drug
testing for food stamp recipients. With his recent polling success, should
we view Scott Walker`s budget as a glimpse into what the 2016 Republican
agenda might be like?
Joining me at the table, Republican strategist Lenny Alcivar. So, Lenny,
is Walker now the frontrunner?
LENNY ALCIVAR, REPUBICAN STRATEGIST: No. There are no front runners in
February of `15. This is the largest, widest field in my entire lifetime.
I think more interesting than who the front runner is now for your viewers
is everybody in Washington on the Republican strategist side is looking at
the number of candidates who are running and looking at how that number of
candidates is changing the way we`re going to run elections in 2016. With
this many number of candidates, the notion that Iowa, the notion that New
Hampshire will be determinative in electing the next nominee, no more.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to go even further than that. Because you did
something interesting right there in the primaries. And Josh, I`m going to
go farther than that and say what the Republicans have right now is what
the Democrats wish they had, which is a wide open field because what
happened last time that we had a serious contest was we had a 50-state
primary and we got people registered to vote and right now if there`s going
to be a coronation on the Democratic side and the Republicans are going to
fight it out, even if it`s about measles, right? It`s going to fight it
out. Isn`t that ultimately really good for kind of the Republican base
building going into the generals?
BARRO: It depends on the nature of the primary campaign.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, OK.
BARRO: You know, I think Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton managed to have
a long, almost respectful contest.
HARRIS-PERRY: And there were a few moments.
BARRO: There were a few moments, but I mean she ended up being secretary
of state. Really, it wasn`t - so, whereas if you have a primary where
people completely tear each other apart and you end up with a damaged
nominee out of it and you end up with much of the party angry that they
didn`t get their choice, and may be not motivated to vote in November, then
I think the competitive primary can be bad. So, I think, you know, given
the option, I would take the coronation, especially, if I thought the
candidate that I was going to get was pretty good and most Democrats seem
pretty happy with Hillary Clinton as a candidate. But yeah, you could, it
is possible that you could have a competitive primary that invigorates
Republicans and generates energy and gets people registered to vote.
That`s not my guess about the most likely outcome of this ..
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Cristina, I`m wondering, if it`s also that I`m giving
too much credit. Because look, so Scott Walker coming to the fourth, for
me, it`s fascinating. Because I want to talk about Scott Walker`s
proposals. I want to talk about what that kind of Republican gubernatorial
sort of leadership looks like. I want to talk about whether or not that`s
what we really want to have going on in the country. But instead we are
having like a media fuelled frenzy about vaccinations. And that strikes me
just as a reminder. Let`s go back and listen to Michele Bachmann talking
about HPV vaccinations the last time there was a GOP primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELE BACHMANN: There`s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after
the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her
daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine. There
are very dangerous consequences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We just - I don`t want to talk about this.
BELTRAN: Oh, crazy. Hi, crazy.
BELTRAN: No, I mean for all of the problems, I think, and this is - people
have talked about this since the Gary Hart campaign, is that our media has
now so focused on scandal and spectacle when it comes to looking at
candidates. So if you are - you know, sort of focus then on who is a
crazy, so you have Michele Bachmann. You know, you get the people who are
kind of - is really crazy and really, you know. And so, but I think the
issue of that kind of logic when you focus on scandal and spectacle, is
that somebody like Scott Walker, who`s a hard right candidate - potentially
as a candidate, a hard right governor, right? Somebody who`s extremely
conservative, because he`s not, you know, sort of - he has a sort of
general genial technocratic vibe. We don`t look at his actual policies.
And so, the debate really starts to center around, oh, you know, he seems
like a very rationale, like a moderate. Like he becomes a moderate because
he`s not performing this kind of spectacle and he`s not like horribly
corrupt as far as we know, so we`re not actually talking about the content
of their policies. So, it`s really important to do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I like language like spectacle and scandal better than
crazy. Because we are still, which is also multi time reelected
congresswoman, right? So this - maybe she`s crazy like a fox in that
HARRIS-PERRY: But this point about spectacle and scandal versus substance,
actually, so Perry is trying to do exactly that right now. So, let`s
listen to Rick Perry, who, of course, was the one that Bachmann was
responding to there. He sort of - that campaign had died on the HPV
vaccine. But here he is making a different kind of claim. Let`s listen to
Perry this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. RICK PERRY (R) TEXAS: We look at 2016, we got to remember we`re
not electing a critic in chief. We are electing a commander in chief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So here he is trying to distinguish himself. I don`t know
whether he can do it, but certainly, Walker was sort of doing it this week.
It`s like no, actually governing - that`s what I`m doing. I`m not doing
this thing down here.
ALCIVAR: Yeah, listen. The great thing about this primary process is that
you`re going to have a much stronger group than you had in 2012, thank God.
ALCIVAR: You`re also going to have a very, very diverse series of views.
You have conservatives who are kind of mainstream thinkers who are running
governments, whether or not you agree with them. You have got people like
Marco Rubio who demonstrate a fresh, new face. And then you have people
like Jeb Bush. Maybe Chris Christie. The real question for everybody in
2016 will be can the Republican Party put up a nominee who will be forward
thinking on the economy, on inequity of opportunity with regard to our
economics and can do so who understands the uber society and can do so in a
positive, fresh, new way that discards the old way of running campaigns.
That`s my hope for 2016. I think we`ll get there.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the guy who people thought was the answer to that was
Senator Paul. So, we`re going to talk about him when we come back.
Because then he did some stuff this week, so I want to ask you whether or
not that still fits into Lenny`s category of that person being that kind of
person because he made news this week on the nomination of Loretta Lynch.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, a likely presidential contender, Senator Rand
Paul, announced that he`s opposing the nomination of Loretta Lynch for
attorney general. Now, I know what you`re thinking. A Republican senator
opposed to the president`s nominee, that`s not exactly news, Melissa. I
mean Senator Paul, however, is considered to be one of the more right wing
potential candidates of the Republican nomination and there are several
other senators who also plan to oppose Lynch`s nomination. But Senator
Paul has been doing something interesting that makes this latest move
particularly puzzling because Senator Paul has been positioning himself as
the candidate to repair the party`s relationship with African-American
voters. Over the past few years, Mr. Paul has made consistent efforts to
try to court African-American voters and it has not really been all about
pandering. You see, through his positions on drug sentencing laws and
criminal justice reform, the senator from Kentucky has managed to create
some potential space for real reforms supported by African-American
communities in these areas. Yet by opposing the first African-American
woman for attorney general, Senator Paul may be marginalizing himself, at
least, in the optics among the black voters whose support he seems to so
badly want and even maybe to help curry favor with those early state
Republican primary voters.
So do you buy that? Like, you know, I don`t know. Maybe this is
consistent. But it did feel a little bit like he`s then the one that said
let`s diversify the party and like going after Loretta Lynch seems like the
COBB: I mean it does. I mean he also thinks there`s this idea that he can
replicate the modest success he`s had among black Kentucky voters
nationally, like somehow there`s a recipe for this. But I don`t think that
you can necessarily balance off the kind of counter interest within the
party itself. So you can`t - and even with his own kind of internal
contradictions, you can`t on the one hand say that I`m interested in
broadening the base and reaching out to African-Americans and then say
because of my libertarian tendencies, I`m opposed to the Civil Rights Act,
which is something else that Rand Paul has said.
So, I`ve never kind of thought that this idea was as well developed as
people seemed to think it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: I also wonder watching Mr. Paul about another key
constituency, which is particularly for Republicans, white women voters
because although there`s a gender gap, white women have actually been
majority support for Republican candidates and this happened with Mr. Paul
this week. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL: The whole purpose of doing this is to bring money home.
PAUL: Let me finish that - hey, let me finish that. Hey .
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m sorry. Go ahead. I`m sorry.
PAUL: Calm down a bit here, Kelly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: No shushing. No .
BELTRAN: That`s never a good move.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s bad.
BELTRAN: Not a good move. Rand Paul is fascinating. And I think what`s
interesting about him, too, is that a lot of I think his moves are not
simply strategic, but they really are ideological.
HARRIS-PERRY: He`s trying .
BELTRAN: He`s trying very hard not to let it all show up because it`s
going to get complicated for the voters to make sense of him. But if you
really believe as a conservative libertarian that government is what
thwarts men`s liberty, right? If you believe that then there are some
really interesting things you`re going to think about the violence of
government. And that`s going to lead you just, you know, be somebody in
support of, you know, against draconian drug law and against forfeiture.
It`s going to lead you to some really interesting politics. And I think
one of the things that`s really interesting is that he`s one of the only
candidates who will say that the government can do real violence to its
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s fascinating for African-Americans and people of
Um: But they are all continuing to be a part of an argument.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a space of kind of libertarianism that is a
connecting point. What we don`t know is whether or not, those issues are
the issues that rise to the fore for the relevance of voting in communities
of color. But I guess, you know, I guess my bigger concern is this, if
Rand Paul comes off looking crazy to you hear or marginalized in some ways,
then do the issues that he also cares about like diversifying the party,
running it in a new way, ending the draconian drug laws, do they also
become marginalized because they are associated with a package that`s now
fringy in some way.
ALCIVAR: I don`t think so. I don`t think so. Listen, the conversation,
the energetic conversation that we`re having here at this table about Rand
Paul, the party is having that conversation. Ultimately Rand Paul is good
for the Republican Party. It`s also fair to say that Rand Paul had an
ALCIVAR: And I say that not just because of the way that he came across
with regard to vaccines or the way that he seemed to relish in opposing
Loretta Lynch, I think his bigger issue is trying to marry policy with
style. He`s trying to become the first Twitter candidate. He`s kind of
overreaching a little bit.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, in fact, he put them altogether. He tweeted out a
picture of himself getting a vaccine, right? So he kind of like - he
pushed - he pushed - and mocking the general media. Like what are they
going to say about this now?
ALCIVAR: Yes, so listen, the frank reality is just putting on my
strategies head on. I can understand opposing Loretta Lynch on policy. If
you`re a conservative, you`re looking at your colleagues like Rubio, excuse
me, Ted Cruz and others, you have got a primary, you don`t want to get out
righted. So, I can understand that if you think that the president`s views
or policies were unconstitutional. That`s not necessarily a view that I
share. My bigger problem with him is whether or not he will become
somebody who can marry policy with consistent tone to actually do what he`s
trying to do. This week if he continues to have weeks like that, we saw
someone who will have a very tough road.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lenny, I always appreciate you hanging out with us. I love
this idea of consistency of tone and a policy discourse. Obviously, we`re
just getting started on 2016. So, we`ll be back to talk more about it.
Jelani is going to hang around with me a little bit more. I want to say
thank you to Cristina Beltran and to Lenny Alcivar. Also, to Josh Barro,
again, who got himself a pitch to throw after his .
BARRO: Yes. I have to practice.
HARRIS-PERRY: After his big win. Apparently, Jelani and Josh are going to
go practice throwing now. It`s going to be great. Don`t miss Josh`s show,
"Three Cents" on Shift by MSNBC. It`s Friday`s at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
And coming up next, a high profile sexual assault case is getting even more
Also, three years after the death of Trayvon Martin, his mother joins me
live to talk about her mission now. There`s more of MHP show at the top of
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Several months ago, we introduced you to Columbia University senior Emma
Sulkowicz. She had accused a fellow student of raping her in her dorm room
of August of 2012.
When the university eventually cleared him of the charges, she was
outraged. Emma vowed to carry the mattress from her bed around with her
everywhere she went to protest Columbia`s refusal to expel her alleged
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMA SULKOWICZ, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SENIOR: I know who raped me. I have
no doubt in my mind. So, it`s my piece. I`m going to carry it until he`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The visual arts major, as a visual arts major, this protest
is also doubling as her senior thesis art project. And Emma`s compelling
story made headlines across the country. She helped shine a spotlight on
the issue of how schools handle sexual assault cases, and was even invited
to attend the State of the Union by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
And what`s happened to the man accused of the attack? Paul Nungesser`s
name became public record when Emma filed a police report on May of 2014.
Now, the school paper, "The Columbia Daily Spectator", then published an
article revealing his name, explaining, "We feel that to hide or redact his
name at this point would be doing a disservice to students on campus and to
the truth of this story." The paper`s editors went on to say, "We
understand this decision carries significant consequences, reputational and
otherwise for Nungesser, and we do not treat this matter lightly."
Paul has always denied the charges. He told "The New York Times" in
December that former friends now cross the street to avoid him. Campus
flyers proclaim him a rapist, warning students to steer clear.
Now, this week, he`s again declaring his innocence in a very public way.
He released to "The Daily Beast" Facebook messages he says he and Emma
exchanged during the weeks surrounding the alleged assault. Paul says the
tone and content of these messages prove that nothing that happened between
them on the night of August 27th changed their relationship.
From August 29th, Paul invites Emma to a party, and as you can see she
appears to respond with an enthusiastic yes. On October 4th, after Paul
sends Emma a birthday greeting, Emma responds, "I love you, Paul. Where
Emma did confirm to "The Daily Beast" that these messages were from her and
explained that her initial instincts were to reach out to Paul, someone she
had seen as a close friend and try to understand what had happened. She
concluded by saying, "I want other survivors to know that if you reach out
to your attacker after you were assaulted, it shouldn`t discredit your
Let`s be clear. The messages do not prove or disprove whether a crime was
committed, nor do they give us any insight into what happened on the night
in August of 2012. But they do offer another perspective on the story.
One that`s different from what was widely reported in media.
In response, to "The Daily Beast" story, a former opinion editor at
Columbia`s student paper had this to say, "Campus media`s goal to promote
discussion about sexual assault and to support survivors became conflated
with a fear of rigorous reporting. Personally, I felt that if I covered
the existence of a different perspective -- say, that due process should be
respected -- not only would I have been excoriated, but many would have
said that I was harming survivors and the fight against sexual assault."
That gets to the heart of the challenge that is inherent when you report on
rape. Journalists want and need to deliver accurate reporting on this
emotionally charged issue. But how do you do that when the story so often
comes down to different sides of a story that occurred when no witnesses
were present. And how do you make sure a single story doesn`t distort the
full story of sexual assault in America?
Joining me now, Jelani Cobb, associate professor of Africa Studies at the
University of Connecticut and contributor to NewYorker.com, MSNBC national
reporter Irin Carmon, University of Pennsylvania associate professor
Salamishah Tillet, and Daniel Garisto, who is a Columbia University student
and columnist and former opinion editor of the "Columbia Daily Spectator".
So, your university is at the heart of this story now.
DANIEL GARISTO, STUDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what does it mean as a student paper to be covering
issues of sexual assault on campus? What are journalistic ethics you`re
trying to use?
GARISTO: Well, I mean, the first thing I would say is that, from the
opinion side, we have an opinion news divide, just as we do in professional
organizations. So, I was not involved with the decision to publish Paul
I would say that the major difference is just sort of the scale of
reporting you`re talking about, because Columbia as a university only has
30,000 people involved in it and the undergraduate schools together are
combined have 8,000 to 10,000, so you had many people at the newspaper
itself who knew either Paul or Emma. So, it becomes --
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s kind of a micro --
GARISTO: It`s a microcosm. So, it becomes very difficult to sort of
distance yourself from this story objectively as a student journalist.
I think that lends itself to -- you know, it goes beyond just student
journalist. It goes beyond people sharing the article on Facebook. Do you
feel comfortable commenting on that?
It`s because it`s a microcosm, everything becomes intensely personal and it
becomes very difficult to be objective.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I want to push on this a little bit, because,
Salamishah, I think the language of objectivity can mask the need to be
also smart and competent in talking about the realities of power, the
likelihood -- like to be objective does not mean that you begin each new
story as though there is no context, as though there is no previous
information, right? And so, the idea that, oh, we just get two sides also
misses all of the ways in which every one of these interactions is
happening in the context where there is also pre-existing meaningful
SALAMISHAH TILLET, ASSOC. PROF., UPENN: I guess, I think there`s two
points. One, just to add to the microcosm conversation, it`s actually, the
reason why so many rape survivors feel uncomfortable coming forward because
everyone knows oftentimes the perpetrator of the assault. So, it makes it
difficult for women who have been sexually assaulted, and men who have been
sexually assaulted, to seek redress. So, I think the microcosm may make it
difficult for journalist, so it makes it really, really difficult for
victims of sexual assault.
The second thing I think is and I come from both as a survivor and advocate
and as a literary critic, so objectivity is something that always brings up
a kind of suspicion on my part because it`s just not real. But I
understand that journalists --
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s always be a point of view.
TILLET: We`re all shaped by our experiences and we bring interpretation to
whatever we see or read or write about. So, but -- knowing that
journalists strive for a sense of objectivity and under a certain mandate
to be fair and objective in their reporting, my concern, though, is that
most journalists, college journalists or even mainstream media journalists
aren`t trained in what advocates would think would be something that looks
like objectivity and looks like neutrality.
Most of us are conditioned to be victim blaming or bias against rape
victims. And so, we have to do work to become, quote-unquote, "objective"
and neutral. I just don`t see that training happening, and so I just
wonder, then, what`s the result?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me come back to you on this. Obviously, all of this
is happening in the context of the "Rolling Stone" story, University of
Virginia, and the sense that reporting -- not so much in the sense of his
side and her side, but reporting in the sense of can you fact-check certain
things simply did not occur there.
But I want to go back to what the student wrote that campus media`s goal to
promote discussion about sexual assault. And so, I guess part of what I
want to ask them, particularly on the opinion side, is there a campus media
goal to promote discussion about sexual assault, and if there is, right,
which seems to be a perfectly reasonable goal -- does that then create a
circumstance where not so much again the he said/she said framework, but
rather a framework of sort of investigative reporting on these questions.
GARISTO: Sure. I think that, first of all, when you have a problem like
sexual assault that no one is going to deny exists at Columbia, it is the
student journalists` responsibility to cover it extensively. But, second
of all, I think there`s a legitimate claim to be socially pro-active.
And, you know, in terms of the general issue of sexual assault --
obviously, that does not mean necessarily taking one person`s side of the
story. But it does mean, you know, going forward and being thorough and
really being critical of policies and telling stories. And particularly
from the opinion side of view, it means reaching out and being sensitive
and the fact-checking is very difficult.
You know, I worked with Emma and her parents on the op-ed and, you know, we
reached out to the university. We reached out to Paul.
GARISTO: But, you know, you get no comment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Irin, is there any way to acknowledge that sexual assault,
particularly when it is outside of this perfect victim who is clearly a
virgin walking down the street at night and attacked by somebody they don`t
know, right, that in almost every other case of sexual assault, it is
complicated in ways that make reporting on it complicated.
Can we talk about it as complicated without becoming victim blamers, right?
Is there a way to do the complicated work?
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: Well, I think the complexity is very
difficult to represent without a lot of work and a lot of thoughtfulness,
and my main hesitation and my uneasiness about a lot of reporting around
sexual assault is that the natural human desire to have a story to connect
to, to have a face to connect to is at odds with talking about really
CARMON: We put victims -- there are real victims here. We put victims
through the wringer. We scrutinize absolutely everything they do in
service of objectivity.
Yes, we have to be skeptical. Yes, we have a check all facts. Ultimately,
though, some of these facts are going to be unknowable. What we choose to
put in, what we choose to take out really biases the reader.
And so, I think what we`re doing is creating a climate where if you`re ever
going to talk about your sexual assault, you`re going to be scrutinized as
if you committed a crime, which is what rape law reform was trying to
The other thing is if we are talking about due process, I just think it`s
really important to note here that this person was found not responsible,
right? In his view, the system worked.
But what happens afterwards is that communities have ways of responding to
things that have to do with their norms and values. And so, you know, if
your question is about due process, well, he had a lawyer and she didn`t.
She has serious procedural critiques about what happened. So, regardless,
of what you think happened -- one, let`s focus on the law process and two,
and let`s focus on the issues that are raised by that process and not focus
on what did the victim do or not do. And let`s focus on the fact that what
a community does afterwards is not the same as that process and that the
community can sanction and stigmatize people based on its own values.
You may not like it. But that`s the community`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, yes, I also want to point out that that notion that
something that is legal is inherently good, and something that is illegal
is inherently bad is -- I mean --
CARMON: Courts are imperfect.
HARRIS-PERRY: I know. I`m letting you in, Jelani. I promise.
But I got to say goodbye to Daniel Garisto. Thank you so much for joining
us, for bringing us that perspective.
GARISTO: Yes, no problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: The rest of the panel is sticking around. I`m going to let
Jelani back in.
But also stay right there, because when we come back, I`m going to be
joined by the writer who interviewed the accused Columbia student.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been trying to talk about how media covers story of
sexual assault and specifically the case of a Columbia University student
Emma Sulkowicz. But this week, the media focus on that case was just as
much on her fellow Columbia student, the one who Emma says allegedly raped
her. That man Paul Nungesser, entered the media spotlight himself through
a lengthy piece in an online publication, "The Daily Beast".
He shared Facebook messages between himself and Emma with the writer of
"The Daily Beast" piece, in an article proclaiming that he faced a harsh
trial by media. The writer behind that "Daily Beast" story is Cathy Young,
who joins us now.
So, Cathy, how did you come to report on this story?
CATHY YOUNG, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Right. Well, I have been
interested actually in the story for a while. I`m interested in the topic
of campus sexual assault. I think -- you know, I think sexual assault is a
very serious issue. I don`t think anyone is questioning that.
I do think there has been in recent years a kind of rush to judgment, and a
kind of tendency to say that accusation equals guilt, at times to downplay
due process in campus assault cases, and I have written on that topic
And this in case, I have been following this. I actually when I first read
the account of the case on "The New York Times," it looked to me like this
was a genuine miscarriage of justice. They mentioned that there were three
accusations against this guy.
When I started reading up on it, it started looking a little more murky to
me. And eventually -- just to make a long story short, the parents of this
young man sent me an e-mail after reading one of my other stories, asking
if I was interested.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I hear you. I hear you. And I hear about the ways in
which a story can become murky.
I guess what`s distressing to me is that things you present in the article
that make the story murky. So, for example, you present Facebook messages
that Paul made public between him and Emma and that you characterize as
flirty and chatty.
So, I just want to show some of the exchanges so people know what we`re
talking about here. There`s one Facebook message where she says, "LOL,
yes. I feel like we need to have some real time where we can talk about
life and things because we really haven`t had Paul and Emma chill."
Another one that says now let`s take a look -- I`m sorry. What I want to
do is point out that Emma then responded to this and says, "I haven`t faced
him since he assaulted me. I didn`t want to talk with him about what
happened. I try to say this in a friendly tone so he doesn`t get scared.
I don`t want him to avoid the conversation."
So, I think there are a lot of things that can make a story murky. I don`t
think, right, that characterizing it as flirty and chatty conversations
between an alleged victim and her assailant are things that make a story
about sexual assault murky.
YOUNG: Well, I will tell you that if any prosecutor withheld messages like
these from the defense in a rape case, they would be disbarred, because
this would be in any criminal case, this would be considered extremely
YOUNG: This would be extremely relevant to guilt or innocence.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m not even claiming that`s not -- I`m not even claiming
that`s not true as a legal matter. I`m asking about something different.
So, when we look, for example, at the reality of Janay Rice and Ray Rice,
we know for certain that Ray Rice hit his fiancee --
YOUNG: Oh, of course.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- and we know she sat next to him in a friendly and flirty
matter and married him.
So, the idea that someone who is victimized by someone who they have an
ongoing relationship with wouldn`t continue to have that ongoing
relationship is not evidence --
YOUNG: Well, it`s a little different when -- first of all, when you`re in
a marriage because I think --
HARRIS-PERRY: They weren`t in a marriage at that point.
YOUNG: They were engaged.
CARMON: But Emma and Paul were in a social group together where they would
have to continue seeing each other and continue to manage the relationship
and/or face issues within her existing social circle. I don`t understand
why it`s weird she would want to maintain polite relations, especially --
YOUNG: This goes a little beyond polite. The sound of this goes beyond
CARMON: What`s the appropriate behavior for a rape victim after --
YOUNG: Well, first of all -- OK, I`m not saying that there is --
CARMON: I`m asking what you suspect it would be. Not what you think it
YOUNG: Well, it seems to me that we`re not talking about simply -- there
are different degrees of sexual assault. There`s a situation where maybe
someone doesn`t stop when the person says no. This is one thing.
YOUNG: So, she`s alleging that he not only raped her but strangled her
with an -- I mean, she says --
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me suggest -- I want to pause for a minute. I`m going
to pause for something because something got said on my air that I just
want to address.
That is the idea that there are different degrees of sexual assault and
that one of the lesser versions might be that you`re engaged in consensual
sexual activity and it goes to a thing, and you don`t consent to that, and
that`s somehow a different kind -- I want to be really -- I can`t describe
how much I want to be careful in responding to that.
I understand that your point is there is complexity in a moment when
there`s initial consent but consent has to be given throughout the process.
So, I actually don`t see it as -- my willingness to have vaginal sex with
you is not the same as willingness to have anal sex with you.
YOUNG: I totally agree. That was my point. Let me finish my point.
What I was saying is that in this case, she`s alleging not simply that
something nonconsensual happened, but there was also extreme violence. I
mean, the behavior that she`s describing --
HARRIS-PERRY: Something nonconsensual happening to you sexually to you is
YOUNG: She`s describing not simply nonconsensual behavior. She`s
describing being hit on the face.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like Janay Rice was before she sat next to her husband. But
I`m just saying people --
YOUNG: You know what? If this had been a different kind of contact where
there was evidence, for instance, that, you know, he apologized and said, I
got carried away the other night, you know, there are in most domestically
violent relationships, there`s a cycle of violence followed by a show of
repentance. I mean, I`m certainly not saying it`s normal --
YOUNG: In this case, we`re talking also about allegations of extreme
CARMON: Of which he was cleared.
CARMON: I don`t understand what you`re asking for here. Emma created an
art piece from her perspective. She`s telling the story from her
perspective. She`s critiquing the Columbia institutions.
CARMON: What are you asking her to do? Are you asking her to stop telling
YOUNG: I`m asking people to realize that there is a different side to the
story. I`m kind of -- I`m flabbergasted because you say he was clear of
this, but then you`re also saying we should take it as a fact that this
HARRIS-PERRY: I think we have to take it as a fact that she --
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Cathy Young. We`ll continue this conversation.
When we come back, a law enforcement officer helping to reopen years old
sexual assault cases, an MSNBC original report.
HARRIS-PERRY: Most sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement.
In fact, in 2013, just 35 percent of rape and sexual assault are reported,
a lower rate than any other type of violent crimes. Some survivors say
they didn`t go to the police because they didn`t believe that the police
could or would do anything to help them. Sometimes those fears are valid.
According to an investigation by the New Orleans inspector general, five
NYPD officers in the Special Victims Unit routinely failed for years to
investigate allegations of assault. The report released in November says
the officers failed to write investigative reports for 86 percent of sexual
assault and child abuse cases they were assigned from 2011 to `13.
But now, the NOPD is trying to make sure that justice delayed is not
entirely justice denied. One particular office is tasked with overseeing
the investigations that should have been done in the first place.
MSNBC national reporter Irin Carmon traveled to New Orleans to learn more.
Here`s an MSNBC original report.
COMMANDER PAUL NOEL, NOPD: You cold calling somebody and you`re basically
saying, how are you doing? My name is Paul Noel. I`m assigned to
investigate your sexual assault.
CARMON (voice-over): Paul Noel has one of the toughest jobs in the New
Orleans Police Department. He runs a newly formed task force that`s
reinvestigating hundreds of sexual assault cases that were improperly
dismissed or simply ignored.
NOEL: We don`t want them victimized again by the police investigator not
conducting their interview properly or sometimes misinterpreting certain
things that happen.
CARMON: Last year, the city`s independent monitor found something strange.
The number reports of forcible rape in New Orleans were 43 percent lower
than in cities with comparable crime rates. A closer look found that NOPD
misclassified 46 percent of the offenses to anything but forcible rape.
ERIN DUPUIS, CO-FOUNDER, VOICES FOR THE SILENCED: The more we heard from
victims, the more people came forward to us and said these things are
happening to me.
CARMON: In the wake of the investigation, Erin Dupuis co-founded a victims
DUPUIS: You were at a bar, how dare you be a woman out drinking at a bar,
So, they were getting blamed by these SVU officers, they get explicitly
being blamed in some regards for what happened to them and then subtly
being blamed as well by some of the other officers during the interview
process, where the officers say things like -- well, you were allegedly
CARMON: Evidence show that five special victims detectives had not been
investigating rape reports at all or at least had left no proof that they
had. In three years, only 14 percent of the cases these five detectives
were assigned to had any documented investigative efforts at all. Those
officers have been reassigned while under investigation. They could face
criminal charges. Some city leaders say that`s not enough.
LATOYA CANTRELL, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: Have any heads rolled due to
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m sorry?
CANTRELL: Has anyone been terminated due to this? Have any heads rolled
due to this? Because, otherwise, we`re transferring that problem. I have
a serious problem with that.
CARMON: Tania Tetlow is an expert in violence against women. She`s
working with the NOPD to retrain officers on how to deal with victims of
(on camera): What are some of the barriers victims face in reporting rape?
PROF. TANIA TELOW, TULANE UNIVERSITY: It`s a real leap of faith to make
sure that the police don`t blame them and don`t focus on somehow
NOEL: Drug users can be sexually assaulted. Prostitutes can be sexually
assaulted. College students that are underage drinking can absolutely be
CARMON (voice-over): The barriers these reinvestigations are facing aren`t
just logistical. They`re emotional and psychological.
SGT. DET. FRANCIS JARROTT, NOPD SPECIAL VICTIMS TASK FORCE: Given the
nature of the investigation, many of them are upset about having to go over
the same information they had gone over maybe two or three years ago.
CARMON (on camera): One of the things mentioned to me by the advocates is
it`s a good sign when rape reporting goes up. But the police want reports
of crimes to go down. So, how do you reconcile that?
NOEL: I know we always talk about reducing crime and I`m not saying we
want sexual assaults to occur but we want the public and we want victims of
sexual assault to feel confidence in us, if they if they are sexual
assaulted, they can come forward, they can work with us, and we will get
their investigation right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Irin, are the people of New Orleans from the investigative
reporting that you`ve been doing, are they feeling confident that NOPD is
going to address appropriately sexual assault questions?
CARMON: Well there are mixed feelings in the community and with community
members I spoke to. On one hand, Paul Noel, the commander who has been
placed in charge, has the confidence of all of the advocates that I talked
to, which is pretty rare given the long history of mistrust.
I mean, as you know, NOPD is under a federal consent decree. There`s a
long document of history of the department failing to address concerns of
victims of sexual assault, in addition to other groups, including people of
So, I think they feel like if somebody is going to be on this job, they`re
happy that it`s Paul Noel. But, you know, there is a mountain of work
ahead of them. In many -- coming back to these cases after several years
is going to be really hard to get evidence. They are trying to pull DNA.
There`s -- people are furious that there is a rape kit backlog in New
CARMON: So, there`s a lot of work to be done here.
HARRIS-PERRY: I kept thinking about this case, Salamishah, in connection
with the piece that you`ve written, the op-ed you have written about how --
when we don`t stop individuals and take seriously the issue of domestic
violence, we often find that those people become perpetrators of these
other kind of gun violence for example in communities. I kept thinking,
huh, when you look at the murder rate in this city of New Orleans and when
you look at how violent crime is kind of a deep problem that is long been -
- needing to be addressed in that city and this happening, I wonder if
they`re more connected than we might otherwise think.
TILLET: Yes. I mean, I think for the purposes of op-ed, Pamela and I
focused specifically on domestic violence because it was easier to make the
case for the (INAUDIBLE), but I really do think first indicator is violence
against women, right? So, not just domestic violence but sexual assault,
and we can see this in a number of national cases, particularly mass
shooting in Arizona, in Santa Barbara, and then maybe most obviously with
the alleged -- with George Zimmerman and the fact that his cousin said that
he sexually assaulted her for six years before even the first act of
domestic violence that he may have committed.
So, I think, you know, we can expand this to thinking about sexual violence
and domestic violence, but actually violence in the home or violence
against women being a primary indicator of a city or a community and nation
that`s going to be rift with forms -- other forms of violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I`m also just thinking, and policing failures around
those also being indicative potentially of policing failures in a broader
TILLET: The other thing we didn`t include in our op-ed is an issue around
police families actually having higher levels of violence particularly with
domestic violence. Four times more likely than other American families.
So, we`re just seeing this pattern. It`s unchecked and overlooked for a
number of reasons.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, we`re going to do good news next, because when we come
back, I`ve got a 14-year-old model. It`s a tough subject. It`s human
trafficking. But you wait until you see this young woman who is taking
this on, head-on.
HARRIS-PERRY: New York`s fashion week kicks off next week and while many
models will be worried about walking that walk, holding that pose and doing
those quick changes, there`s one young model with something all together
different on her mind. Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar industry
with more than 20 million victims around the world. A common misconception
is that trafficking happens elsewhere, but not here in the U.S.
According to FBI statistics, there were more than 2,500 incidents of human
trafficking in the U.S. between 2008 and 2010. Eighty-two percent of those
cases were classified as sex trafficking.
In response, the Department of Homeland Security has launched a blue
campaign aimed at clearing up misconceptions and bringing attention to
trafficking. Traffickers use force or fraud to trick their victims into a
kind of modern day slavery, and they often prey on those who are most
vulnerable, including children.
One way children are lured into trafficking is through the modeling
industry. Underage models sometimes go to castings and photo shoots
without guardians where they encounter fake agents and photographers with
Only one state requires permits as a way of regulating and protecting child
models. New York passed a bill in 2013, adding models under the age of 18
to the child performer and labor law.
One of those advocates who helped get the New York passed is joining me
Lily Goodman became aware of trafficking when she modeled for the Blue
So, Lily, tell me about your work on this.
LILY GOODMAN, HUMAN TRAFFICKING ACTIVIST: Hi. Well, I sort of -- they
asked me to do the Blue Campaign in 2013, and on set, there were
representatives from Homeland Security telling us that there`s human
trafficking in America. I just thought, you know, the movie "Taken" in
foreign countries, and I didn`t know it was in America especially in my
home state, Virginia. In Northern Virginia, there`s a lot of brothels and
And so, after hearing that and after hearing that it`s big in the modeling
industry how girls are lured into human trafficking through the modeling
industry. I`ve been modeling since I was two. So, that was -- you know, I
just felt like I needed to help because that`s what I`ve been doing and
it`s been my country and --
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, it`s funny, Jelani, I just want to pull you
back in here. We haven`t had a chance to hear from you in a minute.
But, you know, honestly, when I was first learning about this and about the
Blue Campaign and about the ways in which young people are lured through
modeling, this will sound silly, but the movie "Fame" from our generation,
right, this moment when Coco goes and she thinks she`s pursuing an acting
career and, in fact, it turns out it`s a sexual assault and a kind of
I thought, you know, so if you`re a parent or even a young person and,
you`re, like, OK, I want to have big dreams, how do we allow people to have
big dreams or big dreams, but not be in these kind of circumstances?
JELANI COBB, ASSOCIATE PROF., UCONN: Even -- just to put it out there and
be specific -- but R. Kelly`s situation. People who are attracted to the
possibility of being in entertainment and the kind of predatory behavior
that we see associated with him. So, I think these things are very real.
And having lived in Atlanta for 11 years, let me say it`s very pervasive
and so people have talked about the strip club culture tied in with hip-hop
culture in Atlanta, but given the way the laws were written in Georgia,
they were actually more stringent prohibitions against adult prostitution
than there were for juvenile prostitution at that point in time.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Lily, how does a family find a reputable agency?
Obviously, you`re working to help get the law changed so that agencies
can`t have young people walking the cat walk. But, you know, doing other
kinds of modeling, but not doing that under 18. But if you`re a parent
living in Virginia, how do you find a reputable agency?
GOODMAN: I mean, you have to be careful. You know, there aren`t really
regulations for agencies and I think those need to be put into place. And,
you know, you just have to be careful. You have to look for signs, and
there isn`t really a way to find a reputable agency. I mean, you know the
big ones. Those are all known. If somebody comes with a small agency, you
HARRIS-PERRY: You have to be careful in that sense.
One last thing. What`s the number one most important thing this law does?
GOODMAN: I think it just protects models having them have to have a
chaperone and that`s very important, because many models come from
different countries and, you know, they might not have their parents with
them. It`s really important that they have to have a chaperone.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. I appreciate it. And enjoy fashion week.
Thank you to Jelani Cobb, to Irin Carmon, to Salamishah Tillet and to Lilly
Still to come, some big news from my interview with Attorney General Eric
Holder, especially for our foot soldier of the week, Sybrina Fulton.
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day in 1926, the historian Dr. Carter J. Woodson
founded a way to recognize the contributions of black Americans to the
United States. As the son of parents who were born into slavery and the
second black man to earn a PhD from Harvard, Woodson knew that much of the
story of black accomplishments was going untold.
To bring those stories forward and to have the experience of black people
seen as integral to the American experience, he created Negro History Month
-- excuse me, Negro History Week, initially. Woodson chose the second week
of February because it included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and
Frederick Douglass, which were already celebrated in many African-American
But instead of focusing on a few great individuals, Woodson wanted a
celebration of a great people. He believed that African-Americans had to
understand their history in order to contest the obstacles they faced in
the present. Negro History Week was a tribute to past generations and a
call to action for generations that would follow.
Woodson proclaimed, "If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile
tradition. It becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the word and
it stands in danger of being exterminated."
The creation of Negro History Week came as Black America was at a
crossroads. The Harlem renaissance was happening in New York and great
migration of more than 6 million African-Americans from the field of the
rural South to factories of northern cities was under way.
Also in effect, the Jim Crow laws of the South keeping scores locked out of
the voting process and locked into poverty.
As the push for civil rights grew, so did the observance and significance
of Negro History Week. Until in 1976, the federal government officially
recognized what we now know today as black history month.
Over the years, it`s been the target of commercialization and skeptics who
question its necessity but at its heart, it remains what Woodson intended,
a time to reflect and recharge. Nearly 90 years after that first
celebration. Black America is once again at a crossroads.
While challenges to voting rights and economic equality remain, there are
now more African-Americans in Congress than ever and the highest office in
the land is held by a black man. President Obama`s proclamation of
National African-American History Month he declared, "Like countless quiet
heroes who worked and bled far from the public eye, we know that with
enough effort, empathy and perseverance, people who love their country can
President Obama`s call to action and his own place in history a testament
to the legacy of Carter G. Woodson, who first made clear that Black History
is American History, on this day, February 7th, 1926.
HARRIS-PERRY: One week from today in Miami Gardens, Florida, activists,
community members and family will once again walk under the banner "I am
Trayvon". It will be the annual day of remembrance peace walk. As posted
on the Trayvon Martin Foundation Web site, the gathering is a testament to
the right that all people should be able to walk freely without being
pursued, chased, profiled or shot and killed on their streets.
Helping to lead the way next week, Trayvon`s mother, Sybrina Fulton, who
lost her son nearly three years ago.
Since violence took her child from the world, Fulton has been transformed
from a private citizen to a leader within a movement that claims as simple
mantra, "Black Lives Matter". That`s Michael Brown`s and Eric Garner`s,
and her son Trayvon Martin`s. Their lives matter.
In a letter to the family of Michael Brown, Sabrina Fulton wrote, "If they
refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us. Some will mistake that last
statement as being negatively provocative. But feeling us means feeling
our pain; imagining our plight as parents of slain children. We will no
longer be ignored." No longer ignored indeed.
I`m so pleased to welcome back to the program our foot soldier of the week,
Sybrina Fulton, live from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Ms. Fulton, I was so moved by your letter to the family of Michael Brown.
Why do you think so many people have trouble feeling the losses of black
parents when our children are taken?
SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN`S MOM: Because it hasn`t happened to them.
I just don`t understand them not feeling the loss because I`m sure they
have had people in their lives that have been taken away from them and it`s
just multiplied when it`s a child because we all know the law of order that
says our children are supposed to bury us, not us bury our children. And
so, it`s extra painful when we have to bury our children.
HARRIS-PERRY: It has been nearly three years since the loss of your son.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with outgoing Attorney General
Eric Holder about the fact that it`s been three years since Trayvon was
killed. One year since the end of George Zimmerman`s trial. We still
don`t know if there are going to be any civil rights charges.
I`d like to play you a portion of the conversation and to get your
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: My hope is that before I leave we will
resolve the matter involving Trayvon Martin. That is one of the things I
want to get done before I leave.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you want to make some news right now? Is there a report
HOLDER: I will say, there`s a report that`s coming. But I think we have
to wait until it`s actually done. I`ve had a chance to review it. But my
hope is to get it done by the time I leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Ms. Fulton, we`re probably in the 30-day countdown
before this attorney general leaves. Are you aware that there may be some
action on this in the next month?
FULTON: Well, we`ve been waiting over a year to hear something. We`ve
been in contact with the department of justice. But we haven`t heard
either way. So, we`re looking forward to some type of closure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me a little bit, while you`ve been waiting on that
closure from the Justice Department, you have nonetheless moved forward
particularly with the Trayvon Martin foundation. What is it that the
foundation will be doing in the coming week?
FULTON: On next weekend, which is the Trayvon Martin remembrance weekend,
we have what we call is our peace walk and our peace talk, that`s to let
the community know, especially our young people, to let them know they have
a right to walk in peace without being followed, chased, pursued or gunned
At the end of the peace walk, we have what we call a peace talk, where we
have different motivational speakers, different community leaders to come
out. It`s entertaining but it`s entertaining with a purpose. We have law
enforcement to come out because we want to help bridge the gap between our
young people and law enforcement.
So, that`s just an event that this will be our third annual. And then on
Sunday, which is February 15th, we will have our remembrance center. And
all the information is on the Web site if anybody is interested in
attending or just interested in sponsorship or just donating to the cause.
They can always go on our website, which is trayvonmartinfoundation.org.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`ve said many times you refuse to accept the idea that
Trayvon died in vain. Do you feel at this point now almost three years
since you lost your son that something is beginning to change?
FULTON: I absolutely am hopeful that things will change. We didn`t get
into this situation overnight. And I don`t believe we`re going to get out
of it overnight.
So, I know it`s going to take time. But it`s not going to take 50 years.
So, you know, we`re doing our best. Everybody had to do their part. I`m
trying to do my part. And I just reach out and encourage everybody to try
to do something, do something to try to make a positive change in this
HARRIS-PERRY: You, in fact, do so much. I`ve said it many times. I just
find your steadfast refusal to be anything other than -- continuing to be a
loving mother to your son, even though your son is not with us anymore,
that you continue to be what a good mother would be.
But I have to ask you this about you personally. It`s been almost three
years. Has it gotten any easier?
FULTON: No, I can`t say that it has. Trayvon just had a birthday on
Thursday, February 5th. And I told myself that it`s going to be a good
But it started off as a rainy day here in Miami. And it started off me
trying to get out of the car and I still had my seat belt on. It started
off me just getting aggravated with so many things.
And then I end up at, you know, the middle of the day, I had to go back to
bed because I was just so sad by just thinking about his 20th birthday and
what he should have been here doing. And he should have been surrounded by
family and I just think about those things often. And so, it just got to
me on his birthday.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I really appreciate and thank you for reminding us
again, if they don`t hear us, at least maybe they can feel us, to remind us
that, of course, this is a real child and that your feelings remain
We are all here and you remain in our thoughts, in our prayers. Thank
you, to Sybrina Fulton, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
FULTON: Thank you so much for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s our show for today. I want to say thanks to you at
home for watching.
Please come back tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. On the program
tomorrow, my extensive and wide-ranging interview with U.S. Attorney
General Eric Holder. You are going to have to find out what happens when I
talk to the attorney general about the fact that here on the show in
Nerdland, we call him "The Duck".
Now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT". Hi, Alex.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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