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PoliticsNation, Thursday, March 5th, 2015

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Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: March 5, 2015
Guest: Kendall Coffey, Susan Zalkind, Shira Center, Jason Johnson, Liz Plank, Ed Rendell; Jay Rollins; Marques Zak

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you for tuning in. I'm live tonight from Miami.

We start with breaking news. These are live pictures of that airliner that nearly plunged off a runway and into icy water. Emergency vehicles still in response mode. Investigators on the way with plans to retrieve the black boxes. The Delta flight arriving at New York's LaGuardia airport today carrying 127 passengers and five decree members, only to go sliding off the runway, and nearly straight into the bay, stopped only by a safety embankment.

Here's the real-time reaction from air traffic control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have an aircraft off the runway. It's close, the airport is closed. We got a 3-4.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call 100, say again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An aircraft off 3-1 on the service road. Please advice, LaGuardia is closed at this time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, sir. If he comes up, he's lacking fuel on the left side of his aircraft heavily.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said leaking fuel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A-firm, the wing is ruptured.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Passengers describe the harrowing moments as the plane was losing control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We landed, it started skiing, and then it hit the side of the rail, and then 400 yards, next thing we knew it came to a halt. We all kind of went for --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was kind of like a state of shock. I mean, people were look, what's going on? What's really going on? We were just trying to figure out what was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then we all of a sudden we stopped. And I literally looked out my window and we were literally a matter of feet from hitting the water.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This photo was taken from inside the plane. You can see how close it came to the water. Just a few feet more, and this would be an entirely different story. Passengers were forced to evacuate by climbing down a broken wing. There are no reports yet of serious injuries, though some passengers were on gurneys. Now the search for answers, and how this went so wrong.

Joining me now is Tom Costello who covers aviation for NBC news.

Tom, take us through what happened here. What do we know?

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me start out with this map here. Because this gives us a good sense of the schematics of LaGuardia airport. Let's pull that shot out just a little bit here.

Here's LaGuardia airport. Down here is the terminal. So they were coming in on runway 1-3. And anybody who has flown into LaGuardia has done this before. The plane comes in like this, but loses control about two-thirds of the way down, and then hangs a left and banks right into that berm (ph) and nearly into flushing bay right here. This was a very close call indeed. And so --

SHARPTON: Now, we don't know what caused the plane to lose control.

COSTELLO: We don't know. We do know that the plane was coming in from Atlanta. Probably at somewhere around 150 miles per hour or so, maybe a little bit more or less, but that's normal. But it is coming in on a runway that is notoriously short. In other words, anybody coming into LaGuardia knows this is a challenging airport and challenging runways in the best of conditions. If you're coming in -- in a snow type of environment, it's slick, it's wet, it is slippery. That could be very dangerous. You've got to be at your a-game.

So where did they touch down on the runway is going to be a question, what was their speed? How did the braking go? What about the thrust reversers? Those are devices, they are almost like pots or half-clams, if you will, that fit over the engines and it reverses the thrust of the engine, it slows the plane down.

So did all of that go well? If there was a problem with braking or problem with the thrust reversers, it's possible that the plane could do a fishtail, if you will. And in fact what appears to happens is for some reason, the plane did fishtail, hang a left and go right into the embankment. Thankfully that was there.

SHARPTON: So that's what investigators are trying to find out answer to these series of questions you raised?

COSTELLO: Yes, that's right. So they are going to recover both the flight data recorder and cockpit recorder, and that will give them that information, we presume. You know, how much of an icing condition was there on the runway. Two previous pilots literally four to five minutes before this plane landed, two previous pilots said that they had good braking conditions. And in fact the runway had just been plowed about 20, 30 minutes prior to this incident.

However this went down, they were incredibly lucky. Because as you know, it was about 23 years ago that there was a fatal plane crash, a plane taking off in a snowstorm at LaGuardia, and in effect they went into the water and 27 people were dead. So in this case, those embankments, and that chain link fence really saved the day.

SHARPTON: No doubt about it.

COSTELLO: The question is how did this happen? Why were these pilots in the situation they were in? Was there a piloting error? An equipment malfunction? There's a lot of questions to be asked.

SHARPTON: Well, we're going to pay attention. As much as I fly into LaGuardia, they have my attention.

Tom Costello, thank you for reporting.

COSTELLO: You bet.

SHARPTON: Now, let's bring in Marques Zak, a passenger on the flight today. His picture standing next to the plane got a lot of attention on social media today. And also Jay Rollins, a retired American airlines captain and former U.S. Navy pilot.

Thank you both for being here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Marques, take me through what happened. When did you realized something was wrong with its landing?

MARQUES ZAK, PASSENGER OF DELTA FLIGHT: You know, we realized something was wrong almost immediately upon touching down. I happened to be looking out the window as we were coming down. There was a lot of ice, a lot of snow that was on the runway. Knew it was probably going to be a bumpy ride just because of the weather conditions but never realized it would as bumpy as I experienced today.

SHARPTON: Now, was there any warning from the captain?

ZAK: No, there was no warning from the captain or the crew. It was really just, you know, business as usual. Even when we started skidding and were kind of going through, there was very little communication around, you know, maybe brace yourself or anything like that.

SHARPTON: Wow. Now, how did then the passengers react, Marquez?

ZAK: You know what, everyone was actually very calm, I think, as we were going through. There is more shock than anything. You don't ever expect to be in this type of ordeal when you're flying. So people were very calm. Even when we, you know, crashed into the embankment and stopped from the slide that took place, you know, there wasn't cheering or, you know, kind of panic or anything like that. Most people were just relieved and thankful that we were able to live through this ordeal.

SHARPTON: Did -- were people -- did people realize fully how close they were to the water?

ZAK: I don't think most people did unless you were on the left-hand side of the airplane or like myself, you fly into LaGuardia all the time and you know that water is right there. So I don't think most people knew. But I know myself, my first thought when we started accelerating upon landing was, you know, I hope we are not that close to the water. And once we started veering to the left, hoping that the angle we took was not going to propel us right over the embankment into the water.

SHARPTON: Jay, what are your biggest questions right now about what happened and how it happened?

JAY ROLLINS, RETIRED AIRPLANE CAPTAIN: Well, I have a couple of questions. One was answered earlier about the reports that the pilots got regarding the conditions on the ground. Apparently, they were told it was good braking conditions.

Having said that, the next question is where did they exactly touch down on the runway, whether they were landing long or landing fast, or something like that or if there was an equipment malfunction. Their anti-skid system possibly failing, or shifting winds, any of these things could have caused a problem. There could have been a slick spot right at the point that it started to fishtail. Many reasons that the business about the reversers, the thrust reverses. If one of them opens up and starts reversing on one side, but not the other side, then you've got a problem that could call this sort of fishtailing.

SHARPTON: Now Jay, officials today said the runway had been plowed shortly before the incident. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK FOYE, PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK & NEW JERSEY: Shortly before the incident at approximately 11:05, two planes landed and reported quote "good braking action on the runways." The runway, this particular runway had been plowed shortly before the incident, and pilots on other planes reported good braking action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, a question -- what does that tell you by that statement, Jay?

ROLLINS: In a normal airport, meaning one with a long runway, that could probably tend to relax a captain that was approaching, but LaGuardia is not like that. As mentioned earlier, it's a difficult airport even in the best conditions, because the runway is only 7,000 feet. That particular aircraft I'm familiar with, and they requires 5,000 feet on a good day. So 7,000 feet with slick conditions like that, lower visibility, it would be stressful. So just them saying that it's good conditions, I would still have in the back of my mind that Kennedy is close by and it has nice long runways. But, you know, they did say good braking conditions, so you probably would go ahead and try this landing. But you need everything, all of the mechanics, all of the actions of the pilots to pretty well go according to the book, or else you set yourself up for this.

SHARPTON: So you say it would be challenging for a pilot even on a good day.

ROLLINS: Yes, LaGuardia is definitely one of the more challenging airports in the United States. Seven thousand feet is a fairly short runway. It's not as bad as a 5,000-foot strip, but it has water off the ends, where if you do go off the end of the runway, you're in the water as opposed to a normal quote/unquote "airport" where you would go on to a level dirt condition.

SHARPTON: Wow. I think that a lot of passengers, though, going back to you, Marquez, are clearly don't think about these things until you're faced with something like that.

ZAK: Yes, totally. You know, if I've probably flown over a million miles. And never in my wildest dreams would I expect to be in this situation. I'm totally thankful and blessed that, you know, it wasn't any worse than what it was today.

SHARPTON: Well, we'll be watching, and we're glad that everyone is safe and that there are no major injuries.

Thank you Marques Zak for coming in. Thank you Jay Rollins, both of you, for your time.

ROLLINS: You're welcome.

ZAK: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, a day of shattering emotional testimony in the trial of the accused Boston bomber. The father of this young boy confronting his son's alleged killer, as other survivors talk about their road back to recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still here. I was three feet away from a bomb. I'm going to run across the finish line. That's my goal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Also, Hillary Clinton breaks her silence on the email controversy.

And an heir to the Hilton fortune gets a plea deal for his freak out on an airport. Is he getting special treatment? "Conversation Nation" is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Hillary Clinton says she wants the public to see her emails from the state department, but do you think that's good enough for the Benghazi conspiracy crowd? No. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Now as to the developing controversy over Hillary Clinton's use of private emails reportedly stored on her own server. She's now asked the state department to hand over all the emails from her private account.

Late last night, she tweeted, I wanted public to see my email. I asked state to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible. The state department saying it will review the emails it has, but it could take some time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are now in the process of appropriately reviewing those for public release, as we do for any document for public release, and we will undertake this task as rapidly as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: According to the "New York Times," 55,000 payments of emails were given to the department, and hundreds of those pages were turned over to the house select committee on Benghazi. So are there legitimate questions here? Yes. Is this something Clinton needs to address? Yes.

But let's be very clear. We cannot let this be open season for Benghazi conspiracy theories. The Benghazi investigating committee already issued subpoenas for emails.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My responsibility is to write the final report on Benghazi to our committee's credit and frankly there are those who question whether or not we need to exist, we found something that no other committee has found.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress is also asked for these in light of Benghazi and a lot of other investigations, and evidently those emails were not included in the document productions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What makes anybody think that we're going to get all of them simply because we ask for them?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: We've seen report after report done on Benghazi. None of them found any evident of wrongdoing. The House intelligence report said there was quote "no intelligence failure prior to the attacks." So questions? Yes. Benghazi conspiracy machine? No.

Joining me now, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and MSNBC contributor Victoria Defrancesco-Soto. Thank you both for being here.

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBC LATINO CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Rev.

ED RENDELL (D), FORMER GOVERNOR, PENNSYLVANIA: Good evening, Rev.

SHARPTON: Governor Rendell, what should Hillary Clinton do? What is the way forward here?

RENDELL: Well, I think do what she did, tell the state department that she wants all these emails to be released after they reviewed them for national security. All emails to be released, not only the select committee, but more important made public. So reporters, media outlets, as well as the committee, they can pore over 55,000 pages of emails, which by the way, Rev., it's important to note, were released in response to a request by secretary Clinton, released them in response to a statement department request last October, way before the times article.

So I think a lot of reporters and a lot of staffers for the select committee are going to need a new optical plan reviewing 55,000 pages of emails. But the secretary did what she had to do. The state department spokesman in a statement today made it clear there was no prohibition against using a private email server. Other secretaries of state, including the great Colin Powell, have done the same thing. Governor Bush --

SHARPTON: And she released these 55,000 in October before the article in the Times.

RENDELL: Right. Way before she fulfilled her obligation for transparency. And by the way, governor Bush, just use an example, one out of every five emails that he sent out, he sent out on a private email account, not the state of Florida's account. And other governors do the like and mayors do the like. So there is nothing unusual here. There's no story here. But this is the world we live in.

SHARPTON: All right, now, Victoria, here are how the rules from the national archives have changed. In 2009, you could use private email, but they had to be preserved in the appropriate agency's recordkeeping system. In 2013, after Clinton left office, the rules changed, saying you should generally not use private email address for business. And in 2014, the rules said if you use a private account, you had to copy or forward your email to an official email address. What do you make of this, Victoria?

SOTO: With all of these guidelines, we see very clearly that secretary Clinton was not in violation of the regulations. You know, hindsight is 20/20. Should she maybe used the official server instead of her personal one? OK.

But ultimately the Republican portion is going -- the Republican base is going to go after secretary Clinton regardless. And I think what's interesting is that Republicans have all of the time in the world to do so, because Hillary Clinton is the prospective front-runner for the Democratic Party and we're more than a year away from the presidential election. And they are going to be nitpicking, and trying to find every little thing they can. So I think sadly this is just the beginning of a much bigger pattern of going after secretary Clinton.

SHARPTON: Well, you know, Governor, another member of the House select committee on Benghazi released this statement saying the last time we saw higher government officials seeking to edit their own responses was President Nixon. I mean, is this the Republican machine gearing up? Comparing this to Nixon? I mean, is this giving them stronger legs? I don't see how you make that comparison.

RENDELL: Well, it is ludicrous. It is clear, as you states, when the regulations change, when secretary Clinton was in office, there was no prohibition, no regulation against using private email. And again, Colin Powell, appointed by a Republican president, did the exact same things. Other secretaries have done the exact same thing. Governor Bush did, many governors in America did the exact same thing.

But secretary Clinton, let me repeat, before the "New York Times" article, way before, last October, turned over 55,000 pages of emails when the state department requested it. She's hiding nothing. She has no reason to hide anything. I think this is the type of politics.

I agree we'll see more and more of it, but this is the type of politics that convinces Americans that nobody is worth voting for. The negative, long-drawn-out campaigns that we run are one of the reasons that voting totals are so low in this country. I think Hillary Clinton did rise above it. I hope she does. I think her action today, releasing publicly all of these emails was the right step to take.

SHARPTON: Victoria, do voters outside of Washington care about things like this. I mean, how important is this to voters?

SOTO: You know what, Reverend, they don't. Right now we're so early in the presidential campaign cycle. Folks are focusing in on their lives, on the day to day, digging themselves out from the snow. So these are things that we are care about. Politicians, political scientists, political junkies. But ultimately, it's folks who are going to be going to the polls don't care about it.

If this drags on and a stuff like this keeps on as we get closer and closer to the election it could become an issue, but thankfully for secretary Clinton, there's enough time to address it with transparency and just put it to bed.

SHARPTON: Governor Rendell, you are close to the Clintons. Will this affect hurl timing in terms of an announcement?

RENDELL: No. I don't think it will, Rev. And I echo what she just said. Come November 2016, there won't be one American citizen going to the polls thinking about emails.

SHARPTON: All right. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and MSNBC contributor, Victoria Defrancesco-Soto, thank you for your time tonight.

Straight ahead, live in Boston with dramatic testimony in the trial of the Boston marathon bomber. Hearing from the survivor who described seeing the suspect in the crowd.

Also tonight, is affluenza striking again with Paris Hilton's brother?

And a big chance for the greatest show on earth. "Conversation nation" is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: A dramatic day in the Boston marathon bombing trial. The father of this young boy confronting his son's alleged killer in court. We'll talk live to a reporter who was in the courtroom. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Dramatic testimony in the second day of the trial of Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. This photo of Jeff Bauman became iconic after the bombing. He lost two legs and testified about seeing Dzhokhar brother Tamerlan at the scene, saying he was trying to make his way through the crowd. And I did notice he was carrying a bag. Bauman described the bomber to investigators from his hospital bed, even testifying, I did a sketch of him. Other witnesses talked about the three people killed -- a police officer described the complete mutilation of Krystle Campbell's body. An officer who tried to save Lingzi Lu said she laid -- and quote, "I told them she wasn't alone when she died."

But the day ended with the most heartbreaking testimony of all, when Bill Richard, the father of 8-year-old Martin Richard took the stand. He testified that when he saw his son after the explosion, quote, "There was no chance." He then went to the hospital with his 6-year-old daughter, who lost a leg. He testified his wife called and, quote, "She told me that Martin was dead. I told her, I know." And he was 8-years-old.

Joining me now is Susan Zalkind, who's covering the case for the "The Daily Beast" and was in the courtroom today, and former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey. Thank you both for being here.

KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks, Reverend.

SUSAN ZALKIND, THE DAILY BEAST: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Susan, what was the mood like when Martin Richard's father testified?

ZALKIND: I don't think there was a dry eye in the courtroom, but what was remarkable was that Bill Richards, he was very composed when he told this horrific, horrific story. Now, this is a story of a family that's almost become symbolic of the horror that struck the city itself. It's a family going to a sporting event, getting some ice cream and then their entire lives being literally torn apart. And in some cases it gets very graphic, in some cases their limbs. It was pretty heart-wrenching.

SHARPTON: Susan, how was Tsarnaev acting in court?

ZALKIND: You know what the government says about Tsarnaev after the bombing, and this happens in the opening statement, he acted like he doesn't care. He acts aloof. And that's been his presence, the way he's been acting generally in the courtroom. Truth be told, he acts like a 21-year-old misguided college student. And in this case it's a 21-year-old misguided college student in a very, very extreme horrific, terrible situation.

SHARPTON: Kendall, how will all this emotional testimony affect the jury?

COFFEY: Well, it's devastating, of course, for everyone in the courtroom. Even just hearing Susan talk about it is upsetting. And it makes guilty verdicts an inevitability. And for that reason, the defense lawyer is all but agreed that her client did it. And normally, of course, a capital murder case like this, a terrorism case, is done in two stages. So this is the guilt or innocence phase, assuming guilty verdicts, then there would be following that a sentencing phase, but the defense strategy is essentially treating this entire trial not as any kind of attempt to prove innocence. That's gone, but to try to save her client from the death penalty, treating even --

SHARPTON: So is that why the defense didn't ask any questions today? I mean, what's the strategy behind that?

COFFEY: Well, that's exactly right. You can't challenge this horrible tragic appalling truth. And you certainly don't want to quick about it and lose the jury completely so she'll shut down and not hear another word you're saying. So, the defense is standing back, let the jury hear it, and hope that down the road the jury will at least listen when they try to explain circumstances as to why this man's life should not be taken for the horrible crimes he assuredly committed.

SHARPTON: Susan, you wrote an article in "The Daily Beast" today about how the D.C. sniper defense could get the Boston bomber off. What are the similarities between this case and the D.C. sniper case?

ZALKIND: Well, it's worked before. As you remember in the D.C. sniper case, you have shooters who have murdered multiple people, terrorized an entire region, where the topic of headlines widely publicized case, but -- in this case there's John Lee Boyd and then there's John Allen, the older associate. So, you have a 17-year-old and you have a man in his 40s. The man in his 40s is sentenced to death, the 17-year-old survives. And what the attorney told me about his case today was that he argued that the younger client was brainwashed. And that's very much like what the Tsarnaev's attorneys did earlier. They said that Tsarnaev was under the influence of his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and they showed a picture of him. This is -- Tamerlan Tsarnaev is a Golden Globe's boxing champion. His massive in his statue and his attorney say he was massive in his personality as well, that Tsarnaev was misguided, he was failing in college classes, his parents had left the country, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the only one there and that he say that Tamerlan was the one that was radicalized. There might be some evidence for that and we will see that throughout the case. But what the government is trying to do to counter that argument is to say that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was radicalized by himself. That he was looking at this radical materials on his own.

SHARPTON: Kendall, will the jury accept that his older brother is really to blame?

COFFEY: Well, it's going to take a lot of work to get there. Because there's so much that he did individually. The defense is acknowledging he set off a bomb. When he was hiding under that boat, he wrote this note. His brother was dead by then. He wrote a note basically explaining a terrorist motive for what he had done. It's not going to be easy. But as Susan described, it's the kind of thing that gives the defense a shot. If they can get one or two of those jurors to hold out, and say okay, he's guilty, but he doesn't deserve to die. He was dominated by an overpowering older brother, and yes he's got to go to jail, yes he's guilty, but he shouldn't die for it. They could get a couple holdout jurors in the sentencing phase that could save his life.

SHARPTON: What is the goal, Kendall? What are they trying to do here?

COFFEY: All they're trying to do is save the life of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. They know they can't keep him out of the jail. They know he's going to spend in the best case scenario for them, the rest of his life in prison, but in this case, a life sentence would be considered a defense victory.

SHARPTON: Susan Zalkind and Kendall Coffey, thank you both for your time tonight.

COFFEY: Thanks, Reverend.

ZALKIND: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, bloody Sunday 50 years later. What a new poll reveals about the challenges then and now.

Also Jeb Bush's million dollar problem. Why he's actually asking donors to give less money.

Also, a plea deal for the Hilton heir who freaked out on an airplane. "Conversation Nation" is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Time now for "Conversation Nation." Joining me tonight Roll Call's Shira Center, political analyst Jason Johnson and Mic.com's Liz Plank. Thank you all for being here tonight. >

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Rev.

LIZ PLANK, MIC.COM: Thank you.

SHIRA CENTER, ROLL CALL POLITICS EDITOR: Thank you.

SHARPTON: We start tonight with the mess created by Citizens United. This chart shows how outside spending in presidential elections exploded after the 2010 Supreme Court ruling. And now there's so much money sloshing around that Jeb Bush is actually telling donors to stop giving him so much cash. "The Washington Post" reports Bush is telling donors they should not give more than $1 million to his PAC this quarter. He apparently doesn't want people to think he's beholding to his wealthy supporters.

Jason, have you ever heard of a politician asking donors not to give him too much.

JOHNSON: Not often but then again we've never seen an election like this where you have a former president. Actually two former presidents, brother and son, running against the wife of a former president. This is, we can't pretend anymore that we have any semblance of democracy. This is all going to be a bought and paid for election. So, I'm not surprised what George Bush is doing. And he's certainly not going to convince anyone that he's not beholding to the rich and powerful forces of his brother in previous administrations. So, this is all just window dressing right now for something that's going to be bought by probably six or seven major investors and major companies in the United States.

SHARPTON: Liz?

PLANK: At first glance, I really appreciate the sentiment, but I have to agree with Jason on this. I mean, this to me only speaks of the privilege that he actually has as a candidate and how far ahead in the race he is, that he's so comfortable that he can say, no, no, no, you're over a million dollars, I'm not going to take it. And I think it helps him, you know, in the long run. Citizens United is not a popular decision.

SHARPTON: But it helps him with who, Liz?

PLANK: I think it helps him with Americans. A lot of Americans are actually not comfortable with the idea of millionaires or billionaires deciding who's going to be winning these elections. So, I think this is a good move for him. Because he, A, doesn't need the money, he has so much of it. And B, I think a lot of Americans will see that as a good decision on his part.

SHARPTON: Shira, do you think it helps him or it hurts him? I mean, at one level Liz is saying that they'll see him favorably at another level it could remind people how many millionaires and billionaires are supporting him.

CENTER: Yes, well, first of all, it must be nice, right? To be a political candidate and have to turn down millions and millions of dollars. I do think it's a smart move for him politically, but not for the reason that we've discussed already. It's smart because this guy is looking to win a republican primary right now. And he's already been labeled this establishment candidate. If he comes out of the gates roaring with millions and millions more dollars than everyone else on the field, he's just going to be tacked with that label for the next year and he won't bet get rid of it.

SHARPTON: Now, I'll see you shaking, nodding you head, Jason. So, Shira raises a good point. If he's trying to get his average republican kind of blue collar working-class guy, this is something that plays to him. That's another element to this?

JOHNSON: Oh, yes, this is Jeb's chance to get some street cred with Republican Party, and talk about hey, I'm not completely beholding to millionaires, I only know 12 or 13 of them like Mitt Romney. But the reality is, don't we remember it was just six years ago that we have a guy running for president of the United States and President Obama bragged about the fact that his average donation was only $40? That's what actually resonates with voters that you have a large number of people giving small amounts of money. If I were Jeb Bush, I would have said this at all. It will not play well, it's the kind of thing he's going to be hammered with next spring when he's trying to run for president. And all the other candidates is saying, this guy -- delivered by the special interest that the --

CENTER: Look, I'm sure if it was up to Jeb's campaign, they would not want us to make it known that they were limiting their donations.

SHARPTON: Yes.

CENTER: But it was going to get out anyway as soon as they start of doing what --

SHARPTON: Yes. They put it out. It was forced out, I believe, from the context that I read it. Let's move on. Ladies and gentlemen boys and girls, children of all ages. The elephants are going away. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending a 100-year tradition. Phasing elephants out of their shows. The move comes after years of complaints from animal rights groups, who say elephants are abused and mistreated. PETA uncovered this video of the elephants being mistreated in 2009. The circus denied charges of abuse then, but now will they retire their 43 elephants to the company's center for elephant conservation in Florida by 2018? Other animals will stay in the acts. Liz, good decision? Or will you miss the elephants?

PLANK: I will not miss the elephants. I'm happy. I mean, the ones that were a part of the circus will just retire, as in the center that they already live in, but I'm glad to see the circus industry taking the step. I mean, it's come a long way. We used to have bearded women and people of smaller sizes there as literally, you know, as part of a freak show. So I think we're taking a step in the right direction. And I'm glad that it's audiences, you know, the market is moving the circus industry into this direction.

SHARPTON: Yes.

PLANK: I think that's a good sign.

SHARPTON: Jason?

JOHNSON: Rev, I've got to say I'm sad. Full disclosure. My aunt used to work for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I used to go to the circus as a kid in St. Louis. I rode on the backs of elephants. I have very fond memories of these things.

PLANK: Kids will come after you.

JOHNSON: I know, but as an adult, I know they're not --

CENTER: Being marched around little cages.

JOHNSON: It was a very, very fun thing. But yes, you know, as an adult, I recognize that, you know, there's other ways we can get entertainment now. It's not necessarily fair to the animals. But I'll miss it in a way. It was a big part of my childhood.

SHARPTON: Shira, let me go to you before -- let Jason get his composure.

(LAUGHTER)

CENTER: Well, look, you know, this is not an American past time that I am going to miss at all. Let's go watch a baseball game instead. It's just, you know, it's cruel what they have done to animals in a lot of these cases. And I think it's absolutely wonderful that consumers have made the choice to stop supporting it. I think that's one of the best parts about our country, that consumers can make that choice and it made a difference.

SHARPTON: It's going to be very interesting to see the markets -- as Liz say as the market changed and Americans have changed.

Everyone stay with me. When we come back, Paris Hilton's brother might be getting off from an alleged air-rage incident. We'll talk about it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We're back with our panel, Shira, Jason and Liz. Is affluenza striking again? Paris Hilton's 20-year-old brother Conrad reportedly went on a midair tirade on a flight in July, allegedly threatening to kill crew members, and calling other passengers peasants. He was charged with interfering with a flight crew and faced up to 20 years in prison, but he just pled guilty to a misdemeanor of assault. The offense carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail, but under the deal, prosecutors said they would ask a judge to give him only probation. Jason is this fair?

JOHNSON: No, it's not. And Rev, you're exactly right. This is affluenza and he is lucky there wasn't some Liam Neeson, Samuel Jackson, air marshal over there to beat them down. When he was having an absolute fit and threatening people and causing people one way or another. This is not only a danger to the people on the plane, but it sets a horrible precedent. He apparently bragged to people that he's been kicked off several other airlines for this kind of behavior. He needs to suffer the consequences of his behavior just like anybody else when dangers of flight never one else on it.

SHARPTON: Shira?

CENTER: Yes, I think this is very sad. Right? It's sad because he's obviously gotten a pretty week punishment for it. This is sad that a guy with so many means cannot find what obviously he needs as help. Right? So, I'm not a shrink, but it seems like he has some psychological issues going on. And it's sad, you needs help when you put a lot of people's lives in danger in the process.

SHARPTON: Liz?

PLANK: I mean, I was reading what he said, you know, calling passengers peasants, and yes, saying like my father is going to, you know, fire all of you.

SHARPTON: Right.

PLANK: It really read like script, like a parody of a rich brat who's on a plane and who no one can stand. And I know a lot of people are asking for zones for just children and babies in airplanes. I think maybe there should be a zone just for spoiled rich brats, or the Hiltons for that matter.

SHARPTON: All right. Let's move on. Is changed coming to the 20 dollar bill. A new campaign is asking people to vote, to take President Andrew Jackson off the 20 dollar bill and replace him with a woman. Among the 15 candidates are women's rights activists Susan Bellantoni (ph), anti-slavery hero Harriet Tubman and civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Shira, is it time to finally put a woman on in American bill?

CENTER: This should be an awesome change, Rev, it really would be. First of all, Andrew Jackson, not exactly a great president, right? He just, you know, he didn't even support the idea of a paper currency to begin with. He preferred silver and gold. So, I don't think he would even enjoy the fact he was on a paper bill. Okay. That aside, there's so many wonderful people in the history of our country who we could put in the bill instead, including an African-American woman. I personally think the first African-American woman elected to Congress Shirley Chisholm would be an excellent choice and be an inspiration to a lot of young women who might run for office someday.

SHARPTON: Yes. And ran for president in '72. I was one of her youth directors. I know Shirley Chisholm. Jason?

JOHNSON: Yes. I think it would be great. I think the bill that I want to see is -- on one side, Eleanor Roosevelt on the other. I think these are two of the most amazing woman in American history. There's a precedent for having more than one person on the bill.

SHARPTON: All right.

JOHNSON: And we need to do this now before paper money is put out of the circulation.

SHARPTON: Liz, real quick, give me yours.

PLANK: I mean, you already knew what I'm going to say. Beyonce, obviously.

(LAUGHTER)

I agree with Shira. I mean, we should have an African-American woman on the bill, and it should be Beyonce.

SHARPTON: All right. I got to go. Shira, Jason and Liz, get your Beyonce on while we go to break. Thank you for your time tonight. We'll be right back with bloody Sunday, 50 years later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Finally tonight, marching forward is what civil rights leaders like John Lewis planned to do in Selma nearly 50 years ago on March 7th, 1965.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN LEWIS, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: To dramatize to the nation, dramatize to the world that hundreds and thousands of Negro citizens of Alabama, but particularly here in the Blytheville, denied the right to vote.

But they were stopped by state troopers before they got past the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It became known as bloody Sunday. A few days later Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., FORMER CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: There may be some tear gas ahead. I say to you this afternoon that I would rather die on the highways of Alabama than make a butchery of my conscience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That courage led to the voting rights act later that year. We've come a long way, but there's a long way to go, and many of the challenges remain the same. The nation was shocked by this photo of a police dog attacking a young protester in 1963. Fifty years ago later, the Justice Department found problems with canine units in the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department. Quote, "In every canine bite incident for which racial information is available, the subject was African-American."

Clearly there's work yet to be done. A new poll shows 51 percent of Americans think only some of the goals of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement have been achieved. Continuing their work shouldn't be a partisan issue, but unfortunately it is. It's turned into one. Seventy nine percent of democrats say the voting rights act is still necessary today, while 52 percent of republicans say it is not.

We can't just celebrate and commemorate this weekend. We must continue and we must challenge. The enforcement of the voting rights act -- to protect the right to vote. We can't celebration battles fought and won if we are not going to finish the war of equal protection under the law and equal opportunity. The Ferguson report shows us that we still have a long way to go. Thank God, the evidence that we can get there is what has happened in the last 50 years.

Thanks for watching, I'm Al Sharpton. I'll be live in Montgomery, Alabama tomorrow. Be sure to catch Ava DuVernay tonight, the director of "Selma." She'll be on tonight. "THE LAST WORD" at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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