'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, March 28th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: March 28, 2015
Guest: Rashad Robinson, Jon Shane, Raul Reyes, John Cox, Gregory Rohl,
Floyd Dent, Serene Jones, Dale Ho, Barbara Arnwine, Latonya Suggs, Nancy
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question, will
conservative Evangelical voters choose the Republican nominee?
Plus, police violence in cities across the country.
And the teacher who gave away a million dollar prize. But first, Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell apparently just has way too much to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. It is day 140 since
President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch to become the nation`s next
attorney general. It`s been long enough for the new fashion statement has
popped up at the Justice Department. "Free Eric Holder" bracelets, as in
let the current attorney general retire already and bring in his successor.
But we are still waiting. Waiting for Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell to call for a vote to confirm Loretta Lynch. He is still
insisting that first the Senate must pass the Justice for Victims of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I continue to hope
that we can get past the dilemma that you have all witnessed on the
trafficking bill and go forward with that and, in turn, to the Lynch
nomination. I know there are people on both sides, they are trying to
figure out how to get past the impasse. And I hope they can do that, and I
wish them well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it`s going to take more than well wishing to get this
legislation pass. The act still contains language that restricts access to
funds for abortion, and Democrats are unwilling to vote for the bill as
long as that language is in it. Now, it`s not that Senator McConnell isn`t
doing anything. By all accounts, he had a busy week. Just look at some of
the things that kept him occupied while not calling for a vote on the
president`s nominee for attorney general.
Monday he took to the Senate floor to commend an accomplished woman who is
trying to make a difference for the people she represents. No, it`s not
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: On behalf of all the members of the Senate, I just want to
congratulate the senator from Iowa for a new bill and for her first
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And on Tuesday he helped bestow Congress`s highest civilian
honor on, no, not Loretta Lynch, golfing great Jack Nicklaus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: He apparently gave President Bush the following golf advice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now if you happened into the Senate chamber on Wednesday,
you might have thought for just a moment that McConnell had changed his
tune and decided to vote on the nation`s top law enforcer after all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: It`s an important moment for our country. I know a lot of
Americans are excited to see it finally happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But no, the topic was not Loretta Lynch. Instead, it was
the Republicans` balanced budget proposal, which wound up passing the
Senate in the wee hours of Friday morning. Though, keep in mind, that when
the final budget is passed later this year, it will likely look nothing
like the one that was voted on this week. Also on Thursday, Senator
McConnell avoided a crowd of about 20 women led by Representative Sheila
Jackson Lee who descended on his office calling for a vote on, yes, Loretta
Lynch. Those calls may grow harder to avoid as more lynch supporters
pressure him to act.
The Senate is now on spring break returning April 13th. And it is not at
all clear that a vote on Lynch will be scheduled when they return. What is
becoming increasingly clear, however, is that this delay has real
consequences. As time passes, more Senate Republicans are saying they will
not support Lynch`s nomination. The latest to join the fray this week was
West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito. Now, she explained on her
Facebook page that while she has "great personal and professional respect
for Loretta Lynch, her views about the legality of President Obama`s
executive actions are concerning. In order to be confirmed, Lynch needs
"yes" votes from all 44 senate Democrats, both independents and at least
four Republicans. That would then leave Vice President Joe Biden as the
So far four Republican senators have said that they support her. Utah
senator Orrin Hatch, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Arizona`s Jeff
Flake and Susan Collins of Maine. But the math may quickly grow more
complicated. Why? Because this week New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob
Menendez, whom the Justice Department is preparing to charge with
corruption any day now, said he`s on the fence. And if he`s charged before
Lynch`s confirmation vote he may even choose to recuse himself, and that
would leave Lynch scrambling for another "yes" vote.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters this week that he`s worried
Lynch may not wind up being attorney general after all. On the other hand,
Senator Lindsey Graham told "Huffington Post", he believes more Republicans
will step up to support Lynch once push comes to shove.
Joining me now Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under the law. And Raul Reyes, an
attorney and contributor for nbcnews.com.
So, Barbara, is Loretta Lynch going to actually get to be the attorney
BARBARA ARNWINE, PRES. & EXEC. DIR. LAWYERS COMMITTEE: She has to be. The
African-American women community, we`re not going to sit back and allow her
to be Susan Riced. We are going to demand that her vote be brought to the
Senate floor. It is important that we do everything possible. All women,
all people who are justice loving in this country, any race, any sex, you
are to be doing everything you can to talk to your senators about
confirming this highly qualified excellent woman. Yes, I was one of the 36
marchers who were all over the Senate. We went to this office in the
Russell Building, we went to the Senate majority leader`s office, and yes,
we demanded to see him, and I want to just say one thing to Senator Mitch
McConnell. There is no hiding place. You refuse to see us, but we will be
back. We demand that there be a vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so, part of what I hear you saying, and Raul, this is I
think the part that for me is most distressing. When you invoke Susan Rice
in that moment, at least in the context of Susan Rice, there was an attempt
to pretend that it was about her.
HARRIS-PERRY: In this case, almost no one even begins to pretend that this
is about whether or not Loretta Lynch herself is qualified and capable for
this job. It is simply, you know, a sort of newfangled form of
nullification what this is about is ...
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: Right. And the strangest thing is that this is all
about ideological differences, but not hers. It`s about their ideological
differences with the president. And if you try and put yourself in the
shoes of these people who are against her, if she didn`t share the same
views, as the president, she would never even be his nominee.
REYES: So their position in that sense is illogical. But it also when you
look at the historical context, this is so outrageous. In the post war
period, there have only been two nominees for the cabinet who`ve been
rejected. Seven who have withdrawn. And of those who withdrew, they were
people, say, like Linda Chavez (ph), Zoey Baird where there were real
instances - they have, in their cases, they hired undocumented workers.
Tom Daschle had tax problems. When there were substantive questions about
their record. They had problems. There`s nothing here. And it`s
extremely troubling when you look at it to say like if the Republicans are
going to be standing in the way of history in this sense with the first
African-American woman as attorney general, there should be a good reason.
I mean don`t do it for an indefensible reason. In this case, why?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, the other thing I think that I find fascinating here
is this, I love the "free Eric Holder bracelets." Right? You know, this
idea of, like, OK, come on, the attorney general - 40 days ago, saying he
wants to retire. We have a nominee. This person is qualified. But in the
meantime, Attorney General Holder is not kind of just chilling, right? So
we saw this week the DOJ charged the student at the University of
Mississippi with a federal civil rights crime violation for placing a noose
on the neck of the James Meredith statue. I mean, you know, justice
proceeds in a certain way, and yet it seems to me that there are still
important consequences for not being able to move on.
ARNWINE: Every time we turn around, we`re looking at another police
brutality incident. Every time we turn around, we`re looking at a new
problem with a policing department. These issues are DOJ issues. When we
talk about everything pertaining to national security, all of these are DOJ
issues. When we talk about educational equality, all of these issues,
that`s what the top law enforcement officer does. It makes zero sense that
she has waited the longest of any nominee to the attorney general position.
HARRIS-PERRY: I kept thinking about the fact that President Obama had this
kind of great discussion with "The Wire`s" David Simon this week and they
are talking about criminal justice. I`m like, this is great, right? You
know, it`s sort of reaching out to people who are thinking about criminal
justice even through a pop culture lens. But I want to talk - to Dave
Simon. I mean it`s fine that he did, but I want to talk to his new
attorney general about this, to know what they are going to do about
REYES: Right. And you know, as you mentioned, this is a critical time
because one of the areas that DOJ oversees are terrorism.
REYES: You know, we are constantly hearing about new threats, cyber
security in light of all these hacking scandals.
REYES: That would - in private sector and - These are all critical issues.
And I also think just from a broader perspective, this sends a terrible
message. I mean at the bottom line, Loretta Lynch is a person who`s
literally putting her life on hold. This sends a terrible message to
people who are interested in public service, and interested in government,
and I just fail to see how the Republicans who say that they believe in the
meritocracy, Loretta Lynch embodies that, and yet they are being so
obstructionist when it comes to her. And it`s another missed attempt for
them to broaden their appeal with African-Americans.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you just got to figure again, this Congress, why they
don`t want to let Eric Holder retire. They do not.
REYES: It makes no sense.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love those bracelets. Keep him 100. Let Eric Holder
retire. Free him.
Up next, they have new detail this morning on the crashed Germanwings
HARRIS-PERRY: As crews painstakingly search the site where the Germanwings
plane crashed into French Alps on Tuesday, investigators are also pouring
over clues into the life of the co-pilot who was at the controls.
Prosecutors say Andreas Lubitz had a mental illness, but kept the diagnosis
secret from his employer. Investigators found torn up doctor`s notes in
his home including one excusing him from work on the day of the crash. The
focus on Lubitz coming late this week after French investigators listened
to the cockpit voice recorder and concluded that Lubitz locked his captain
out of the cockpit and put the airbus in rapid descent.
Joining me now retired airline pilot and MSNBC and NBC News aviation
analyst Captain John Cox. Captain Cox, so, this is my challenge this week.
In the midst of this tragedy and all of us feeling horrible about it, but
sometimes our reaction to air disasters is to make sweeping policy change
and it`s not the kind of thing we do if there`s a single car accident no
matter how upsetting and sad it is. And so, I`m wondering is it an
overreaction to make policy change about what in this case is a horrible
thing, but a one off thing.
CAPTAIN JOHN COX, MSNBC/NBC NEWS AVIATION ANALYST: Absolutely, a knee jerk
reaction in aviation safety is almost always a bad idea. And after 30
years of being an aviation safety professional, we have seen time after
time after time of these knee jerk reactions and they haven`t turned out
very well. So in the wake of this tragedy, and you`re very correct, the
likelihood this is a one off, it`s a very, very rare event, the likelihood
of this being an ongoing problem is extremely remote. We need to take
time, we need to be exhaustive in gathering the right group of experts
together and doing what we normally do, and that is to continue to
evaluate, update and move forward with the policies and procedures for
aviation safety and security. Let`s let the experts get together and let
them review the balance between protecting the flight deck from a passenger
with the intent to hijack other nefarious intent, and to make sure that the
right people can get into the flight deck at the right time.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, we have heard a lot at this point about the kind
of fear and stress that something like this creates for fliers, obviously.
You know, I fly every week to travel up here to do this show. And it
certainly always creates anxiety when there`s this sort of moment. But I
wonder about what kind of anxiety or stress this may create for pilots and
other airline professionals when a moment like this happens, how it makes
their job harder in the days and weeks that follow.
COX: Well, I think at least for the pilots that I have talked to since
this tragedy occurred, it`s very hard for a professional aviator to believe
that someone would do this. It`s a strike against the profession and it`s
something that we take extremely seriously. Aviation safety and
particularly the safety of the passengers is a paramount concern for all
professional pilots. And to have someone do something like this, it`s
very, very disconcerting. And so, it`s been a personal hit, if you will,
against all of us, and that has added stress in and of itself. But it`s
one we`ll get over.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. I`m - it is a bond of trust every time I get on that
plane and I`m so grateful to all of my pilots and the airline professionals
who undoubtedly work to keep us safe and get me back and forth to work and
to my family. Captain John Cox in Tampa, Florida, thank you so much for
joining us this morning.
COX: My pleasure.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, the video shows a man pulled over by police and
struck in the head 16 times. That`s only the beginning.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week newly released dash cam video shows the January
arrest of Detroit auto worker Floyd Dent, who after being pulled over in a
traffic stop was taken from his car at gunpoint, choked, beaten and tasered
by police in the Detroit suburb of Inkster. A police report says Dent was
pulled over after running a stop sign and after officers saw him in an area
known for drug activity. But Dent and the video of the arrest suggests a
very different story from the police account about what exactly happened
during the incident. According to police, Dent tried to flee from the
officers when they attempted to make the stop. But the video appears to
show Dent`s car maintaining a steady speed and then pulling over across the
street from the Inkster police station. The report says police feared that
Dent may be - may have been reaching for a weapon and they heard him saying
I`ll kill you. But Dent, who was unarmed, says he never said those words
and there`s no audio to substantiate the officer`s claim. Because none of
the six arresting officers had their microphones turned on at the beginning
of the encounter. The officer who punched Dent a total of 16 times said
the punches were to stop himself from being bitten, a claim that Dent also
disputes. And there`s no indication on the police report that any officer
The report also says Dent appeared to have, quote, "a blank stair as if on
a form of narcotic" and that upon searching his car, the officers found a
bag of crack cocaine under the passenger seat. But Dent, who has no
criminal record and tested negative for drugs after the arrest, says the
officers planted the cocaine in his car. Police charged him with resisting
arrest, assaulting an officer and possession of cocaine. But after
watching the video, a judge dismissed all the charges against Dent except
the drug charge. Inkster police chief Vicki Yost said she is waiting on
the results of an internal investigation that was launched immediately
after the incident occurred. Michigan state police are also investigating
the arrest and one of the officers involved has been placed on
On Wednesday, protesters gathered outside the Inkster police department
calling for all the officers to be fired. Joining me now from Detroit are
Dent`s attorney Gregory Rohl and Mr. Floyd Dent himself, nice to see you
both this morning.
GREGORY ROHL, ATTORNEY FOR FLOYD DENT: Thank you. Good to be here,
Melissa. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. Mr. Dent, so I want to start with your story
FLOYD DENT, BEATEN BY POLICE: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Police say that they started following you after they saw
you at a motel that was known for drug activity. Can you tell us, in your
words, what you were doing there?
ROHL: He wasn`t there.
DENT: I wasn`t there.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Attorney, do you want to tell us a little bit about the
story? Because I know there is kind of a back story.
ROHL: Melissa, it was a complete fabrication. Mr. Dent was coming home
from work and went to deliver a bottle of some beer to a friend who was
blind. And as he proceeded thereafter, he passed by the location where the
officers were on patrol and allegedly they saw him through these binoculars
from 600 yards away in a, quote, unquote, high narcotic activity area. It
amazes me, Melissa, that the fact he took the stand, this officer who knows
- who goes by the name of Robocop, took the stand and told under oath to
the court that he racially profiled my client because he was a black man in
a Cadillac in a high area of traffic and narcotics, all of a sudden he`s
guilty and he was going to pull him over regardless of what happened.
ROHL: He said it from the stand and he said it proudly. It`s ridiculous.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there are two - there are two really important things
you brought up there that I just want to make sure for our audience who may
not know this whole story. So, let me just do a couple of things here.
One, Mr. Dent, I want to ask you a little bit about that first interaction.
We don`t have audio, and so since we don`t have audio, there are these two
different stories going about what happened there. And we know that what
the officer said is that Mr. Dent said "I`ll kill you." Mr. Dent, can you
tell us, what do you remember happening in the moments before they pulled
you out of the car?
DENT: Well, the moment before they pulled me out of the car, I had opened
up my door, stuck my arms out and the officer ran to the car with a weapon
and said, get out of the car, I`ll kill you, just like that. So, they
grabbed me by the arm and threw me on the ground and started beating,
kicking on me and I was - just tried to cover my face from all the beating
that the officer was giving me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Dent, I can hear the stress in your voice as you`re
talking, and so I want to give you a break for a second. Because I think
it`s important we`ve gotten almost (INAUDIBLE) to seeing these videos, and
sometimes we can forget how painful and stressful and the experience is.
So Mr. Rohl, let me just go to you for a moment. I know that you all are
maintaining, in part, that the public ought to know something about this
officer. You just called him or said that he goes by the name of Robocop.
Can you just again, for my audience, can you explain what it is about the
officer`s background that you think the public ought to know.
ROHL: Sure, he was fired from the Detroit police department for various
acts of violence against citizenry, which cost the Detroit public millions
of dollars in settlements. He was indicted in a federal court for criminal
activity including planting evidence and then like, he was acquitted by a
white jury in that case, but there were officers that took the stand and
swore under oath that he did these things. The chief of police as - has a
history of abuse and payouts over $1 million on claims against her as well
when she was with the city of Detroit. It seems as though all the refuse
of Detroit, ends up somehow in Inkster, they call themselves the cowboys
and it`s ridiculous. And I think of great is the fact that Inkster is 90
percent African-American. The police force is 90 percent white. What
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Rohl and Mr. Dent, I very much appreciate you being here
today. Mr. Dent, I particularly appreciate because I know that this is
difficult to talk about, it`s a difficult video to watch. Floyd Dent and
Gregory Rohl in Detroit, thank you so much for your time this morning. And
when we come back ...
ROHL: Thank you for your concern.
DENT: Thank you too, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. And when we come back, I`m going to bring in my
panel and we`re going to discuss this a bit. We need to talk about what
this moment means for all of us in the questions of policing and justice in
HARRIS-PERRY: We were just speaking with Detroit auto worker Floyd Dent,
who after being pulled over in a traffic stop was taken from his car at
gunpoint, choked, beaten and tasered by police in the Detroit suburb of
Inkster. I`d like now to bring in my panel. Still with me, Barbara
Arnwine and Raul Reyes. Joining the table, Rashad Robinson, executive
director of "Color of Change" and Jon Shane, who is associate professor at
John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired New York police captain.
And so, I want to start with you because, you know, I listen to Mr. Dent, I
hear in his voice the sadness, the stress, the distress and at this point
I`m reporting on these every week. And I`m thinking, this has got to make
the world actually harder for police officers, worse for police officers,
more dangerous for police officers if every time I see a blue light I`m
thinking that this is the kind of interaction I`m going to have. And yet
it feels like only the internal policing of police on their fellow
policemen can really make this stop.
JON SHANE, ASSOC. PROF. JOHN JAY COLLEGE: Well, let`s not look at this as
a moral panic. That`s number one.
SHANE: First of all, when you look at the data, maybe 2008 was the last
survey, about 45.5 million interactions between police and the public. And
of course, there`s going to be a handful of incidents like this. The media
doesn`t see those incidents that don`t happen. And always see the ones
that do. And when they do, and they are portrayed in this fashion, and you
have a slant this way from the plaintiff`s attorney, and you don`t have the
other side of it, you don`t have all the details, it`s not contextualized,
it make it seem as though it`s potentially worse than it is.
Now, I`m not suggesting that those officers don`t have something to
explain, they clearly do, and that`s the whole basis of accountability. We
want that. But accountability does not translate into punishment. It`s
not synonymous with that term. We expect the police to defend themselves,
but at the same time, not to do so in a manner that is grossly
disproportionate to what they are facing. So, we don`t know exactly what
they were facing. We hear about what the attorney said. We haven`t heard
all the details and read the reports and things that the police have
submitted yet. So a rush to judgment on that is not appropriate.
RASHAD ROBINSON, EXEC. DIR., COLOROFCHANGE: The professor brings up a good
point about data. In fact, the problem is that we actually don`t collect
data in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, it`s a really good point.
ROBINSON: We don`t collect data. There`s no national database on when
people are harmed or hurt or killed by police. Local law enforcement are
not held accountable for actually having to report that. So any type of
surveys that we have are the type of surveys that law enforcement are sort
of volunteering into. And we know what happens when law enforcement have
to police themselves. We actually don`t get the type of real data, the
real accountability that our communities need and deserve. And so, we
don`t have a real picture. What we do is have these stories that we
continue to see over and over again and then we continue to hear the
stories from folks like my members over and over again. And we have a
national epidemic of police violence in our communities. And we have to be
honest about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. So, as much as we don`t know everything that
happens in this one moment, and that`s fair, we don`t know everything that
happened in this moment. But I guess, actually, a couple of things that we
do know, we do know that there are vast disproportionate stops in Stop and
Frisk, right, in every city where there`s a stop, question and frisk
policy. We know there`s vast over-policing of black and brown bodies,
particularly African-American males bodies, and we know that those stop,
question and frisk aren`t turning into crime prevention, right? So, we
also know that they don`t turn up a disproportionate amount of drugs or
weapons on these bodies that get stopped. And so, that does feel to me
like as much as we don`t have some data, we do have other data that tells
us there`s something going on here.
REYES: And we do have enough, the data that we have, as you mentioned,
it`s limited. We do have data that shows when you look at the CDC
statistics on what they call arrest-related deaths, if you`re an African-
American, you`re four times, more than four times as likely to die in an
encounter with police involving arrests. For Latinos, it`s nearly twice as
high. And remember, these are the things that are reported. There`s so
much that`s unreported not just by the police department, but also by
individuals, because they don`t want to come forward. Even in these
instances where we have video, where we have - of course, we don`t know all
the full circumstances of this case, but you have a man being dragged out
of a car, ten officers were on the scene. I know there`s an investigation
going on, but I believe this happened January 28th, so what does it take?
Do we need audio and video, multiple angles before we decide this is not
okay? It`s very frustrating in communities of color that we continue to
have this problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: The other thing we know is we know something about this
officer. We know that 12 federal lawsuits were filed against Menendez (ph)
dating back to 1996. We know he was cleared of those things, but they
allege among other things that he planted evidence, assaulted people in
their homes, fabricated police reports, wrong arrested people. Some of the
suits were dropped, some were settled out of court. And I guess so part of
my pushback here is also we know in the Tamir Rice shooting, that it was
also a police officer who a neighboring jurisdiction did not think was fit
to serve, who goes to this jurisdiction and then we see the death of a 12-
year-old at his hands. And I guess part of what I`m wondering is, we talk
about accountability. Ought there be accountability so that if you have
this kind of a record, you don`t just get hired in the next jurisdiction.
ARNWINE: Clearly, the recruitment and the screening of police officers
needs to be a lot different than it is now. Also, it doesn`t matter who
you screen, what you do, if you don`t hold your officers accountable.
Every story of an officer who gets off, who gets away with it inspires
others to also feel that they have no accountability and they can do it
too. The civil rights policing of reform coalition that I helped to
facilitate, we are really into the fact that there has to be absolute
radical restructuring of policing in this country. And there has to be
radical reforms of policing to make police more accountable. The Akia Boyd
(ph) case, a young black woman shot for no reason in Chicago, is getting
ready to start. I just want to be very clear that this Monday, on the
30th, is what we call her deferred dream day, and we`re going to be talking
about black women and police violence all over this country, because the
(inaudible), all of these stories have to be lifted up, because police are
working from a racial stereotype and they are abusing black people. We
have only seen the tip of the iceberg.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s one more set of stories I want to lift up as soon as
we come back from the break. An unarmed man fired on 17 times by police.
And why this case is sparking comparisons to Ferguson.
HARRIS-PERRY: Next week a federal mediator will travel to Pasco,
Washington to start talks between the city`s police department and
community leaders following the police shooting of an unarmed, undocumented
immigrant last month. Three officers shot 35-year-old Antonio Zimbano
Montez (ph) after he threw rocks at cars and at the police. The officers
said he threatened them and failed to respond to their orders. The
mediator will be responding to community group`s claims that the shooting
was unjustified and that officers are out of touch with the city`s people.
And that in a predominantly Latino city, Latino officers are
underrepresented on the force. Similar concerns were raised by activists
in Ferguson, Missouri, where mediators also intervened in the wake of the
police shooting of Michael Brown, and it`s those similarities that prompted
one of my guests to ask this week, why is Pasco not the Latino Ferguson?
REYES: Actually, that`s a term that "The New York Times" used to describe
this incident. It`s also been referenced in "The Daily Beast," "The New
Republic." Between Pasco and Ferguson, we do see certain structural
similarities. Like, Ferguson we saw the racial imbalance in the power
structure. Same thing in Pasco. For example, the school system there, 70
percent Latino but there are no Latinos on the school board. It`s a town
where it`s majority Hispanics, officers are less than a quarter on the
force. I think they do have on their city council one Latino. So we see
the imbalance there.
What has been also been troubling to people is that we have these instances
of excessive use of force and brutality by the police. Unlike Ferguson,
Pasco has not resonated with the national community, with the mainstream
media as much. It sort of speaks to the conundrum that we have with these
types of incidents. The media will not respond to an incident until they
feel that it has generated widespread outrage. And yet you can`t have the
widespread outrage until the media covers it. But in this case, what`s
different is I think for a lot of people in the media, including in the
media, when they hear the victim was Spanish speaking or undocumented
immigrant, they assume well, it`s a Telemundo story, that`s for Univision.
So in a sense, he becomes a type of invisible person. When I spoke to some
of the people who have been protesting in Pasco and having these protests,
they also say they feel very frustrated because they have really made a
conscious effort to have peaceful, orderly demonstrations and protests, and
they feel in a sense it`s almost backfired, that they said -- not that they
want any type of lawlessness (ph) or looting, but it does not bring
cameras, it does not generate the national coverage, a saturation coverage
like we`re seeing in other instances.
HARRIS-PERRY: So all of that seems right to me. It seems like the way you
build a coalition. But I also want to draw attention to the specificity as
well, around the policing issues, especially for those who are undocumented
or who are in communities where people are undocumented, where their loved
ones, friends, family members are there, because it is not just about being
shot unarmed. It`s about a kind of violence that occurs as a result of the
relationship between federal policing, immigration agents, local agents,
the kind of financial incentives that come from incarcerating undocumented
people. So I want to talk about the daily violence that it`s not a Latino
Ferguson - it`s its own thing that is about the ways in which these police
relationships are about, again, policing these bodies, these identities.
Not just the idea that people have done something, but just who they are.
ROBINSON: Absolutely. It`s why in New York and around the country, folks
are calling for independent prosecutors when these things happen. We have
to start pulling this out of police departments. There`s no incentive for
police departments to police themselves well. And particularly when we--
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels like there is. I want to pause on that, because it
feels like there`s an incentive. Right? If you presume that police are
professionals who want to do their job well, who want to actually make
communities safer, and who are concerned for their own safety, it actually
does feel, to me, like there`s an incentive to not do policing badly.
ROBINSON: But it doesn`t play itself out on a day-to-day basis. Over and
over again, we continue to see these moments, and being on the ground in
Ferguson, that`s a unique situation because when you read the Ferguson
report, when you meet the people in Ferguson, you see this daily abuse over
and over again. But it wasn`t actually until a young man`s body was left
out in the street for four hours and a million tweets had to be sent out
until the national media actually paid any attention. So the daily abuse
over and over again and the lack of calls from national police unions. I
testified at the president`s commission and sat next to the head of the
police union when he said nothing needs to be done.
HARRIS-PERRY: How do you speak to that? What could police officers, as a
professional set of organizations, be doing to intervene in this one?
SHANE: There`s a couple things. From the executive level, from the policy
level, what you have to have is a leadership issue. You have to have
leaders that embrace the community, that have a multifaceted panel that
come in and talk about policy and how the policing strategies are going to
be formulated. A lot of what was talked about just now at this moment was
tactical things. When we talk about we have a body on the street for X
number of hours, those things remain because you have to have a very, very
detailed, very systemic investigation. You don`t want to disturb the crime
scene. Because the moment you do that, you can`t reconvene the crime
scene, you can`t put it back in its place, and somebody is going to explain
to you that you contaminated the crime scene and therefore you biased the
investigation. So you leave it, you conduct the investigation, and then
you move on from there.
ARNWINE: And you leave the body in the street for four hours and you don`t
even have pictures? Come on, this was one of the worst investigations you
could ever have. I think the problem is that some policing believe that
their role is to control black and brown people. And Native American
people. It`s not about protecting--
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me also just say -- I don`t want to lose a particular
thread here. I don`t want to lose a particular thread here because we
moved so quickly to Ferguson. I think in a certain way, it`s indicative of
what you were talking about, Raul. To sit for a moment with part of the
problem around the policing of undocumented bodies is it presumably it`s a
law question. It`s a part of what I want to do is move to a human rights
question, because part of what happens if we`re talking about undocumented
immigrants, the notion is well, they are lawbreakers. And therefore we
have a right, OK, we`ll have more to come. We`re going to talk about the
new stop and frisk capital of the country, next, more on policing when we
HARRIS-PERRY: Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union announced the
results of a study of the Chicago Police Department that found Chicago has
replaced New York City as the nation`s leader in the use of stop and frisk.
The report said that last summer, CPD officers stopped more than 250,000
people without making an arrest. And most of those people were African-
American. The report also found that while stops are most common in
Chicago neighborhoods with large populations of people of color, African-
Americans are much more likely to be stopped in predominantly white
neighborhoods as well. In a separate report this week, Justice Department
experts on community oriented policing criticized the Philadelphia police
based on statistical findings that revealed the use of lethal force to be a
common practice among officers in the city. According to the report,
police officers in Philadelphia averaged about one shooting a week from
2007 to 2013. During that time, the percentage of unarmed suspects shot by
the police increased from 6 percent to 20 percent.
Is it possible that our lack of national common sense gun control laws
leads to a situation where it is more dangerous to be a police officer, and
so police officers begin acting in ways they expect everyone to be armed.
They have the implicit biases that we know from all the research are
associated with black and brown bodies. And therefore, their mistake rate
gets higher, and you end up with these shootings in part as a result of
something that`s about this big policy.
SHANE: Guns have always been a part of the landscape in the United States,
they always will be. They have always been a factor that`s trained on in
policing tactics. You can`t avoid that. So it`s not necessarily an
increase, it`s the contextual factors that go into each and every
individual stop. Unarmed does not necessarily mean not dangerous, but the
data that`s been put out by Philadelphia suggests--
HARRIS-PERRY: I want you to stop right there. That gives me a feeling.
So I need to know what it means to assess danger if you are armed and the
other person is not.
SHANE: Isolation, time of day, number of occupants, whether you`re
outnumbered, physical size, all sorts of things, whether you`re on an
uneven keel, all sorts of things, imbalance, did you fall down.
HARRIS-PERRY: That makes sense to me. I mean, I actually want to walk
through that a little bit, because that makes sense to me. If I have
fallen down and there are four people and none of them are armed but they
are all coming out, but I guess part of what I will say is my concern is
that because of racial stereotyping that creates implicit bias, that for
officers who are making a judgment call about whether or not they are in
fear, that an African-American male body can be perceived as more dangerous
than it actually empirically is. Does that--
SHANE: Yes, but I don`t necessarily buy into that stereotype that police
officers are saying to themselves, well, I have pulled this car over and it
has a black guy in it so therefore I have to come out with my gun.
ROBINSON: This is science. This is not like a theory or an idea that
people are making up that - in fact, it explains actually the data. It
helps to explain the data that the police officers are not having some sort
of secret racial meetings where they are deciding to hurt black people. In
fact, there`s some bias at play, there`s some mind science at play that`s
forcing people to make these decisions in these moments. It actually helps
to really explain some of the things that are happening. It also gives us
if we`re willing to actually look at it, it gives us a path forward to some
solutions here. At the end of the day, we see these numbers happening in
cities after cities, we see it happening over and over again, and unless
we`re willing to actually look at the fact we do have bias at play, and our
media, our culture, all this at play. We looked at New York City data in
terms of like the local news stations and their crime reporting. And if
you just look at NYPD arrest records and you look at all four of the
stations, all of them had a rate of 20 to 30 to 40 percent more in terms of
black crime they were showing. So in fact, NYPD arrest records compared to
the suspects, pictures, and when they were (inaudible), so the city is
seeing over and over again black crimes.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to do one other thing and I want to lay over that.
The implicit bias I think does tell us a lot, it tells us about individual
interactions. I do not want to miss that the Ferguson report was not about
implicit bias. It was about explicit bias. It was about a decision to --
REYES: There are DOJ investigation into systemic abuses and excessive
force by police in Albuquerque, Riverside, New Orleans, Washington, D.C.,
all over the country. So just to be fair, when we talk about the implicit
bias, and we talk about the police, it`s not singling out the police as the
only ones who have these implicit biases. Every single one of us at this
table, everyone in our society, we all carry them, for better or worse.
It`s just that the police by nature of their job are in these literally
life or death situations. They tend to have a weapon.
SHANE: I find it difficult to believe that people are acting
unconsciously. Humans act consciously.
HARRIS-PERRY: I will just say because we like to give people things to
read. But to read, there are some really great reports on this. We will
post it on our site. Jennifer Eberhard (ph) is a researcher who has
demonstrated a lot of this, and is working with police forces. I also want
to say one thing. Eric Holder spoke at the speech of the bipartisan summit
on criminal justice this week. And he said, we must reject the notion that
old practices are unchangeable. That the policies that have governed our
institutions for decades cannot be altered, and that the way things have
always been done is the way they must always be done. Just a reminder,
that we can make a decision to police differently. Thank you to Rashad
Robinson and Jon Shane. Barbara and Raul are sticking around.
Coming up next, the first official candidate in the 2016 presidential race,
and what Ted Cruz`s announcement says about the power of the evangelical
Also, students fighting against high college loans by refusing to pay them.
There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
The junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, made a big announcement Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I believe in the power of millions of courageous
conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America. And that is
why today I am announcing that I`m running for president of the United
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I am so happy about this. I mean, it`s not like it was a
surprise or anything, we all knew Senator Cruz was planning a run, but he`s
the first major candidate to officially declare his candidacy.
And how he did it tells us as much about how we plans to run in a field
crowded with his Republican colleagues. Cruz didn`t announce in his home
state the way, for example, President Clinton and President Obama did. He
didn`t announce in an early primary state like New Hampshire, as Senator
John McCain did. Cruz made his announcement in Lynchburg, Virginia, and
not at the front of a historic political landmark, but at Liberty
But the locale says a lot about how Cruz wants to run. Liberty was founded
by the late reverend, Jerry Falwell, the founder of the moral majority
movement, which helped elect President Reagan in 1980 and led to decades of
white and evangelical Christians being a major force in electoral politics.
Liberty is not Cruz`s alma mater. He went to not one but two Ivy League
schools, Princeton and Harvard, but Liberty was among the first parties to
sue the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act. It filed suit
the same day President Obama signed the law, five years to the day before
Cruz made his presidential announcement.
Before Cruz spoke, stage hands wheeled away the podium and standing mike
that other speakers had used. Cruz spoke without notes, moving around the
stage and sounding very much like an evangelical pastor from a heartland
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: I want to talk to you this morning about reigniting the promise of
America. For so many Americans, the promise of America seems more and more
distant. What is the promise of America? The idea that -- the
revolutionary idea that this country was founded upon, which is that our
rights, they don`t come from man. They come from God Almighty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Even the timing says a lot. Cruz got out ahead of the gate
and importantly ahead of all the other candidates, who are planning to
build support from a religiously conservative base like Mike Huckabee and
Those voters remain key. Evangelical Christians make up half of GOP
primary voters and in early primary states, the numbers are even higher --
56 percent in Iowa and 64 percent in South Carolina identify as
But they have not voted as a bloc in recent Republican primaries. In 2008,
evangelicals were widely split in their choice for Republican nominee. In
2012, looking to avoid a repeal, 150 evangelical leaders gathered at a
Texas ranch a week before the South Carolina primary, hoping to coalesce
around a single candidate, who wasn`t Mitt Romney. They chose Rick
Santorum. But Santorum lost in South Carolina to both Romney and Newt
Gingrich, and eventually dropped out of the race.
This year, they are trying it again. Earlier this time, "The New York
Times" reported this week that leaders are already in talks to coalesce
behind a single, socially conservative candidate and bring their voting
power to bear.
Joining me now, the Reverend Dr. Serene Jones, president of the Union
Theological Seminary, and author of the book, "Trauma and Grace", Raul
Reyes, contributor to NBCNews.com, Joe Watkins, former aide to President
George H.W. Bush, Beth Fouhy, senior editor of MSNBC.com.
Thank you, Ted Cruz, for announcing your presidential run because you make
such good TV.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joe, what do you make of Cruz`s choice to announce in this
way and in this place?
JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, obviously, talking to a an
evangelical crowd that would like what he had to say will certainly make
for a great back draft for him. He`s still going to have to raise lots of
money. I mean, you have to raise money, you have to build a larger base,
and you`re not going to win with just a conservative base, not a
presidential election. I mean, Barry Goldwater had a conservative base
back in `64 but lost by a landslide to Lyndon Johnson. I mean, you`re
going to have to build a base bigger than whatever we had in 2012 and 2008.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Well, I guess part of what I find interesting when the
field start starts getting crowded, it`s not like everybody is running for
president, right? Some people are running to push the party. You know,
people are running for a variety of reasons. It wasn`t as though he was
trying to appear presidential. It seems to me that he was trying to appear
something else, right? I mean, that`s why I keep smiling about how
enjoyable that kind of performance was in that moment.
BETH FOUHY, MSNBC.COM: Yes, I`m also enjoying that we`re finally getting
the show on the road.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, here we go.
FOUHY: We have been waiting and waiting and everybody may be running,
testing the waters, forming their super PAC, what have you.
Ted Cruz got out there. He got rid of the exploratory phase, he`s in.
But I would say, he did what he does best. His father is an evangelical
preacher. He knows how to work the room. He knows how to work the crowd.
The walking around thing that he does, he always does that when he speaks.
He`s very good at it. When he`s spoken at some of the big cattle calls
we`ve seen like CPAC, he gets the crowd really riled up. He speaks that
language very well.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate you saying that because when I think Ted Cruz
speaking, there`s only one thing I think about. I wonder if we have the
sound of the one thing I think about when I think about Ted Cruz speaking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, I do not like
green eggs and ham.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But he was going to announce his presidential run --
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: My second favorite Ted Cruz moment was this week he
signed up for Obamacare, which he`s trying to destroy. Rather than paying
for it on the private market, he put his whole family on Obamacare.
But, yes, he did, don`t look at me like that. That`s a fact.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was puzzled by this.
REYES: The other thing that was so interesting about that speech is he
said everything like a preacher. Everything was cast in this religious
biblical term, even the story of his father had briefly left the family and
returned. It was cast as this born again moment of his personal family
born again moment that changed the course of their family history and now
have the potential to change the course of the nation. That`s just
fascinating, you know, the way he`s working that crowd and that segment of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that idea of working them, what I dislike is the idea of
mocking people of faith who bring their faith traditions to bear on their
political ideas. I certainly bring my understanding of faith to bear on my
political world view, but I guess part of it is that certain traditions or
performances end up feeling more like pandering than like authentic
George W. Bush looked and sounded and people felt it, and so, I guess I
can`t tell, because I always hear green eggs and ham. I can`t tell whether
or not that felt like an authentic connection or a bit like a pandering
REV. DR. SERENE JONES, PRESIDENT, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Well, to me,
it felt like an old style Broadway performance. You know, this is -- now,
we`re going to give you a clip of what we think a pastor should look like
and act like in the U.S., but it was a completely political performance.
It did not have the valance of being a religious performance. I mean, come
on, you`re in Liberty University, and you get a standing ovation, but you
have a crowd there that`s going to get fined if they don`t stand and
applaud for him. That`s usually not the case in church. And it also says
something about the challenge ahead of him. If those kids sitting on that
audience are the millennials that he`s going to have to convince by the
politics behind the positions he was putting out there, and he has got a
big road to hue because they don`t agree with him on these issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joe, actually, I want to come to that little bit, because we
talk about Reagan as being the moment when the shift happens and Jerry
Falwell becomes moral majority becomes apart of this. And yet, Reagan ends
up disappointing the evangelicals for the most part. So, I just wanted to
read this piece, believing themselves the key constituency that had
guaranteed Reagan`s historic win in 1980, Christian conservatives felt the
president, in this case, Reagan, owed them for their enthusiastic backing,
but once in office, the Reagan administration claimed it had to address the
economy and the social Christian conservatives would have to wait.
I think in many ways, George H.W. Bush also was -- even though those voters
were important, it wasn`t really his governing style. And so, I wonder if
this population actually ends up a captured population that doesn`t get
what they want on their agenda.
WATKINS: Well, at the end of the day, you have to help all Americans.
That`s what Ronald Reagan did. Reagan talked about abolishing the
Department of Education and other departments, just as Ted Cruz is saying.
But once he got to be the president, he couldn`t abolish the Department of
Education. George W. Bush talked about abolishing a couple of departments,
he ended up creating a new department, which is Homeland Security. So, a
new department is added.
At the end of the day, you have to do what`s best for America and you have
to work with all Americans.
HARRIS-PERRY: This idea that government just keeps making more of itself
When we come back, what did the governor of Indiana do this week to tick
off both the NCAA and Miley Cyrus?
HARRIS-PERRY: On Thursday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence ignored pleas from
the business community, LGBT advocates and the mayor of his state`s biggest
city and went ahead and signed the, quote, "Religious Freedom Restoration
Act". Opponent says the law will allow businesses to discriminate against
gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, including refusing them
The governor signed the bill in a private ceremony with religious leaders
and lobbyists, but close to members of the press.
But that has not protected him from the backlash. The multibillion tech
company Salesforce.com said it will cancel all programs that require to
travel to Indiana. Online ratings Yelp said it would not have a corporate
presence in any state with such a law. Apple`s CEO Tim Cook tweeted that
his company is disappointed in the law and said, quote, "around the world,
we strive to treat every customer the same, regardless of where they come
from, how they worship or who they love." The NCAA, which is based in
Indiana and will hold the men`s Final Four there next week, suggested it
may reconsider holding its tournaments in the state.
#BoycottIndiana became a trending topic on Twitter and Miley Cyrus called
the governor an A-hole.
The Broadway superstar Audrey McDonald read the governor in a Twitter rant,
culminating with a promise that she would donate money she made performing
in Indiana to the Human Rights Campaign which supports equal rights for the
LGBT community. "Yep, that`s what I`ll do, get ready for a little money
coming your way from Indiana via me to you, have at it!
Several other states have considered several bills here, part of the
backlash of the rapidly expanding number of states with the law now allows
Serene, do you the biblical quote where the Lord had said, do not serve
your gay neighbor?
JONES: You know, I have looked. I have not found that one. I found a
couple about poverty, but that one has never popped up.
You know, the one about it`s OK to have a wedding cake lunch counter in
Indiana today. Where did Jesus say that? Like, if we`re going to talk
Scripture, let`s get to the heart of it. Where is the thing about the
golden rule? Love your neighbor.
WATKINS: It`s unconditional. Supposed to be -- the love is supposed to be
unconditional. You`re supposed to love everybody and hate nobody. That`s
what the Bible says. That`s what the New Testament talks about. That`s
what Jesus said. Love everybody, hate nobody.
You can`t say you love God, that you can`t see, and say, but I hate my
HARRIS-PERRY: Who I see every day.
So, I guess, for me this is a concern. If we are going to make a claim
that this is about religious freedom, is there some basis on which we then
have to understand whether or not one says this? In the context of
conscientious objection, right, you can`t say, I`m a Unitarian
universalist, and therefore, I won`t go to war. You have to demonstrate
that it says you can`t be part of war.
And so, this is framed as religion and as troubling as it is about LGBT, it
also troubles me from the perspective of saying what my religion claims.
REYES: It`s really not about religion. What it`s about is marriage
quality has become more accepted and likely to be approved by the Supreme
Court. This is similar to the `60s where some conservatives are trying to
find a way around that and they`re reframing this issue as one of religious
But the fact is, there are many religious beliefs. There are people, for
example, if you are fundamentalist Mormon, you believe in polygamy. Maybe
that is sincerely held belief, that doesn`t mean that it`s legal.
HARRIS-PERRY: I will say the LDS church did -- because I get this from LDS
people, os that`s no longer part of LDS --
REYES: Right. No, no, I`m saying that`s more fundamentalist group. There
are people, you know, who have concern religious believes. But
consistently, the Supreme Court has ruled, just because they affirm
people`s right to freedom of religion, but just because you may -- there
may be certain conduct arising out of that -- out of those religious
beliefs doesn`t mean it`s going to be protected or likely affirmed. That
distinction between religious beliefs --
HARRIS-PERRY: And legal practice.
REYES: That`s an important distinction.
FOUHY: Melissa, I wanted to say, the politics of this are very
interesting. I mean, Mike Pence is probably not running for president.
HARRIS-PERRY: But why do it?
FOUHY: We were talking about in the last segment, is who`s running for
vice president? I could say this is what he`s trying to do. He`s speaking
a language that Republicans and conservatives really respond to right now,
which is you don`t discriminate overtly against gay and lesbian people, gay
and marriage, but you assert people`s right to practice their religion, as
they see fit. I think this concept or cause is the gay marriage of 2004,
when actually anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives popped up all over the
country. You won`t see that anymore. This is ten years later the version
HARRIS-PERRY: But when you have -- so that`s fascinating to me because I
was trying to figure out, t doesn`t seem like Mike Pence is running. What
is he doing here? Maybe he is running for V.P. But I guess part of what I
find surprising is, but, you know, you have to run with the Chamber of
Commerce, with the NCAA. I guess that`s what I find prize surprising. Who
is the coalition group for this?
FOUHY: This is a national message that he`s sending about himself and his
view of faith, as a politician. He`s willing to give up all this money,
all this business that have already indicated they are going to take their
business elsewhere outside of Indiana.
Why would he do this? There`s only one reason. That`s because he`s
looking at national politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: In a very basic way, doesn`t that make him a bad governor?
If you`re willing to make choices that economically harm your constituents,
in order to pursue simply your own political goals, Bobby Jindal, then
isn`t that actually making you a bad representative, a bad governor?
WATKINS: I have known Mike Pence. I`ve known him for a long time.
WATKINS: I think he`s a good human being.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have to see if he was a good governor.
WATKINS: I think so far he`s been a good governor. I think this is a
deeply held personal belief.
My fear is what it might do to people in the LGBT community. I don`t think
that they should be discriminated against. I think that the law has to
work for everybody, regardless of who they are, and what their sexual
preference. It has to work and protect everybody.
So, that`s my fear. My fear is that there may be some people who abuse the
intent of what is meant to be in the governor`s case something good for
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. But so let`s just take that on the table. He`s a good
guy. It`s a deeply-held personal belief.
I guess I`m asking a question here about if you`re a good guy with a deeply
held personal belief, but I have elected you to be the governor, part of
that is good financial management of our state and you make a choice based
on your personal belief or your personal ambitions --
REYES: A personal choice that`s anti-business, a personal choice that
could potentially cost your state millions of dollars, a personal choice
that potentially makes a certain class -- a group of people second class
citizens. I just don`t understand what is the game for him.
And aside from that, the way this law is written, it does not especially
single out LGT people. This law has all types of potential that it could
be used to potentially justify or excuse all different types of behavior.
The thing that`s also troubling about this, maybe it seems extreme to some
of us, but his position, because not many people have explored this issue
of what "religious liberty", quote-unquote, really is, it`s not that
different from a mainstream position right now because the public when they
are polled on these type of laws, it`s pretty much split. I think like
47/48, but statistically, the same.
So, a lot of people who have not explored the issue, maybe they do feel
like Mr. Pence. But the difference is, when you flip the question and said
would you be OK with a Muslim store owner denying you service because
you`re wife is not wearing a head scarf, or a Mormon in Utah denying you
service because you`re not LDS, that`s when people say, wait a minute, this
is not cool.
HARRIS-PERRY: I so appreciate the vision of a wedding cake lunch counter.
For a moment I just thought that sounded very yummy and I realized we`re
talking here about the question of segregating people, of refusing to serve
people purely because of their identity.
My panel is going to be back later in the hour.
Still to come this morning, one group`s approach to student loan debt is
refusing to pay it back.
But, first, it`s time for an installment of "This Week in Voter
Suppression"! That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Two Republican leaders we have been keeping our eye on are
back for our latest edition of "This Week in Voter Suppression"!
"This Week in Voter Suppression", first, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker,
who hasn`t declared he`s running for president but sure is acting like it,
nabbed a victory on Monday in his state`s push to restrict voting access.
The Supreme Court refused to weigh in on the voter ID law Walker signed in
2011, clearing the way for it to take effect after the state`s April 7th
The law requires nearly all voters to present approved photo identification
like a driver`s license or passport in order to cast a ballot. Walker is
clearly savoring his victory, already e-mailing supporters, asking for
donations to celebrate the Supreme Court decision.
Next, we have Ohio Secretary of State John Houston, who in the annals of
voter suppression is legend. As the chief elections official of the state,
Houston has pushed for a shorter early voting period, cuts to Sunday and
evening voting, and slashing same day registration. And now, he`s after
On Wednesday, Republicans in the Ohio state Senate snuck a last-minute
provision into a transportation budget. It requires out of state students
who register to vote in Ohio to obtain Ohio state driver`s licenses and
vehicle registrations within 30 days.
The cost to obtain an Ohio driver`s license and register a vehicle is $75
or more, meaning there`s an actual price tag for out-of-state students in
the buckeye state to vote. Sure does sound like a poll tax to us.
But according to Secretary Houston, this isn`t about voting. It`s about --
wait for it -- residency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HOUSTON, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: If you`re going to have the
privileges of being an Ohio resident, you have the responsibilities of
being an Ohio resident. In our read of this is that there`s no difference
and all it does is set a time frame for that of 30 days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Still with me, Barbara Arnwine, president and executive
director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Right and the Law.
Joining me in the table, Dale Ho, director of ACLU`s Voting Rights Project,
who is currently involved in voting rights litigation in both Wisconsin and
What in the world?
DALE HO, ACLU`S VOTING RIGHTS PROJECT: It`s a bad week for voting rights
in both states. So, Wisconsin, we know there are 300,000 registered voters
in that state who don`t have this forms of IDs. The Supreme Court`
decision not to take the case paves the way for implementation of that law
as you noted after April 7th. So, at least the law`s blocked for one more
Now, there`s still ongoing litigation, but it`s about the range of ID cards
that are going to be acceptable. For instance, Wisconsin doesn`t accept a
Veterans Administration ID card, which is really, really remarkable.
Even Secretary of State Houston, who`s no hero of voting rights, even he
has come out against the notion of excluding veterans IDs from any kind of
ID law. That`s the reason they don`t have an ID law in Ohio right now,
because he said, look, I`m all for voter integrity, I mean, election
integrity, but let`s think about the disabled vets who don`t drive and who
can`t get to a motor vehicle office.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, it`s interesting that he is thinking about
disabled vets who don`t drive. But what about college students who may not
drive? I mean, this idea that you need 30 days, within 30 days, you have
to actually basically pay a tax.
We have a 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It says, "The right of
citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for
president or vice president, for elections, or senator or representative of
Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state
by a reason or failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."
Isn`t that what this is?
ARNWINE: And this is also -- you have to remember there`s a Supreme Court
case, the Sims case, that is decades old that makes it allows students to
vote in the state at which they are enrolled in college.
So this is yet another attack. We saw this in New Hampshire. We have seen
it in other states where people have tried to introduce these bills to
restrict students from voting because they think they are, quote, "too
liberal" in their voting.
This is not about residency, it`s not about driving licenses, it`s really
about, once again, trying to get rid of and suppress a population of voters
you don`t like.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Dale, we talk a lot on this show about the gutting of
the Voting Rights Act, we talked about section 5 and section 4, but this is
Wisconsin and Ohio. Those are not states that would have been covered
under the old formula any way.
So, what are the tools available for addressing this?
HO: Well, as you mentioned, we have the Constitution --
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that little thing.
HO: -- that prohibits poll taxes. The Supreme Court held 49 years ago
that you can`t have poll taxes in federal election. You can`t have one in
This is a big deal in Ohio. There are about 60,000 students at OSU. One
fifth of the freshman class came in from out of state, right? If they
bring their cars within, now, they`re going to -- they have 30 days if they
registered to vote in Ohio to pay the $75 up to $100 for certain types of
cars. It`s a big deal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that can be the cost of books for the fall. So that
idea certainly seems to me as though we have moved in that space to
operating as a poll tax.
ARNWINE: Absolutely. One of the good things that did happen around voting
this last two weeks is the state of Washington passed voter modernization,
which means that you`re automatically registered to vote if you`re over 18
and you are a citizen. And you`re automatically registered. This is one
of the things that we need to see.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that was in Oregon, right, where you`re asking to opt
out. This kind of goes along with what the president has said the week
before, about maybe what we need to do is get more people voting. And, of
course, there was also in Alabama, there`s some question about whether or
not that redistricting is now going to be allowed to go forward. That
seems like a little bit of good news, or no?
ARNWINE: Yes, I mean, the Alabama case in general is good because it
reaffirms the principle strongly in modern times that you can`t pack racial
minorities into districts to dilute their power in one district, by putting
them all in one district where they can only vote in person, and then they
have no influence on the surrounding counties and surrounding areas, so
they have less power.
So, this is important that the court has reaffirmed that principle and has
done it in a modern context of looking at the gerrymandering that these
jurisdictions are beginning to engage in. It has implications for North
Carolina. It has implications for many other states, where this practice
has really been too prevalent.
HARRIS-PERRY: A little bit of good news, lots of bad news in voter
Thank you to Barbara Arnwine and Dale Ho.
Still to come this it morning, the group of 15 refusing to payback their
student loans. But first the details on the plane crash this week in the
French Alps, that`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Families are still trickling into a French village near the
crash site of the Germanwings Airbus that went down Tuesday, killing all
150 people onboard.
This morning, we learned Germanwings has offered victims` families up to
50,000 euro, about $54,000, for immediate costs. French prosecutors say
the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit and
intentionally put the plane in a rapid descent. The victims came from more
than a dozen countries including the United States, and search crews are
still working to recover remains and personal belongings, in efforts to
confirm the identities of the dead.
Joining me now from that village in France is Claudio Lavanga.
Claudio, what do we know about the timeline for this search?
CLAUDIO LAVANGA, NBC NEWS: Well, Melissa, both the investigation and the
recovery operation are likely to take weeks, rather than days. This is a
very complicated operation, made it even more difficult by the fact that
because of the high speed of the impact of the plane against that mountain
behind me, the plane pulverized essentially. There are thousands and
thousands of small debris of the plane and also the bodies are in a bad
The national police here told us they could not find a single body that was
intact because of the impact, the violence of that impact. And the
investigators have to take small samples from body parts to match them with
the DNA samples that the families have left and are still leaving here with
Now, what we know is that today and in the next few days, 30 investigators
have been lowered from a helicopter down to that crash site. Fifteen are
in charge of collecting DNA samples and 15 are in charge of looking for the
second black box, the flight data recorder, that hasn`t been recovered yet
and also to try to find evidence among the debris of that plane.
We learned that yesterday 600 DNA samples have been taken, but we also
learned about emotional details about the 20 national mountain police here
that are helping out these investigators. They haven`t seen anything like
it. Of course, they are in charge of looking for lost hikers in the
mountains, or skiers involved in avalanches.
So, they are now looking at a mass murder site. Also, some of them are
receiving psychological counseling because those are the ones that need to
stay there at night. They need to set up campfires to prevent the animals
from creeping in. So, those are the ones that are really taking the toll
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, man. Claudio Lavanga in French, painting for us a very
difficult picture there -- thank you for bringing us that report.
And up next, taking a stand on student debt by refusing to pay it back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Student loan debt in the United States has nearly quadrupled
in the last decade with the amount owed topping $1 trillion. Of the 38
million Americans who owe, 2.4 million are in default. Among tem are 15
former students who are resolute in that default and refusing to repay
their loans as a form of protest. They call themselves the Corinthians 15,
taking their name from the for-profit college chain they attended.
Corinthian Colleges was sold off last year after the Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau sued Corinthian Colleges, accusing it of predatory
lending. According to the bureau, Corinthians private loans had doubled
the interest rate of typical student loans, and required payment while
students were still enrolled. In addition, the Corinthian 15 say they were
lured to taking on debt and misled about future job prospects.
In a letter send to the Department of Education last month, they write,
"Corinthian`s predatory empire pushed hundreds of thousands into a debt
trap. But even beyond for-profit schools, tens of millions of students are
in more debt than they can ever repay. And you are the debt collector,
with powers beyond a payday lender`s wildest dreams."
The company has denied accusations. In the meantime, this debt strike puts
former students at the risk of ruining their credit and losing their
paychecks or tax refunds.
Joining me now from Cincinnati, Ohio, one of the Corinthian 15, Latonya
Ms. Suggs, I`m so happy that you`re here.
Talk to me -- how much do you owe? And what quality of education did you
receive for the money you were charged?
LATONYA SUGGS, MEMBER, CORINTHIAN 15: Well, I currently owe $32,000. I
just want to get that correct. And also we are actually Corinthian 100
now. The moment has been growing, and we are getting stronger and we`re
not backing down.
The quality of education was horrible. I was promised things like one-on-
one tutoring if I needed it. Everything -- I basically taught myself the
whole two years I was in college.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t want people to miss it, there`s kind of two pieces
here. One piece is about Corinthian Colleges, and about the loans they
were giving. The other piece is about the Department of Education, the
federal government paid for by taxpayers, supported by all of us as voters,
and the idea that that part of the debt is also not being forgiven. Is
SUGGS: Correct, the thing is that we are not asking for forgiveness
because we did not do anything wrong. We are demanding them to discharge
this debt because they have the power to do so.
We did everything that we were supposed to. We went to college, we
graduated, we made good grades and some people didn`t even get to go get
So, it`s like where would our future hold us? The Department of Education
is responsible for half of what`s going on in this mess.
HARRIS-PERRY: So stay with us. Don`t go away.
I want to come out to the table for a second, though, because I want to
play a little bit of sound from President Obama this week. He was in
Birmingham, and he was talking about the issue of payday lenders and really
trying to kind of push this idea of a justice-based response to payday
Let`s take a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They go to a payday loan,
borrow for the funeral, can`t pay back the loan in time, the family`s car
gets taken away and the folks who are breadwinners in the family lose their
jobs because they can`t get to work, right? So what started off as a
short-term emergency suddenly becomes a catastrophic financial situation
for that family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Raul, this is the president talk about payday lenders.
He`s got that story exactly right.
But I`m thinking payday lenders have nothing on $32,000 for college
education that`s not really a college education, colleges get shutdown,
doesn`t -- if we`re going to take that kind of strong stance against payday
lenders, don`t we also need to take the same against these predatory
REYES: Yes, we should. And some of the structural similarities are there.
These for-profit colleges target low-income minority students. They target
veterans. They target single mothers.
And I think the young lady here, she has a good point if you look at a
legal contract. This is what the school promised to do and in exchange
they would pay back this debt. The school did not live up to their
promise. They did not provide them with the type of education. They admit
in several cases where they are being sued by state attorney generals
around the country, that they engaged in deceptive advertising.
So, I look at it as just a breach of contract there. I think the students
have a case.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this is part of, I just want to say, I mean, we
have Congresswoman Maxine Watters talking about this. The Consumer
Financial Protection Board is weighing on this.
What do you think, Joe?
WATKINS: I think these young people are so courageous to stand up for
their rights and say this isn`t fair, this isn`t right.
My wife worked on just this kind of thing when she worked at the Department
of Education. So we have heard this before. This is not brand new.
I think at the end of the day, I stand with these young kids, with these
young students. I think what they are doing is the right thing. They are
standing up for their rights to saying, no more, it`s got to stop. I think
you have to reform the way in which these kinds of predatory businesses do
business so that people aren`t hurt.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ms. Suggs, let me come back to you, because you`re risking a
lot in this. To make a decision not to pay back a debt sitting on your
credit is a risk for you.
SUGGS: Yes, it is. It`s a really big risk, but it`s worth taking that
risk for other students to not have to go through this and for my children
and your children, like it`s all worth the fight.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold on for a second.
Serene, is there an ethical question here? It feels to me, in part, like
education is a human resource development issue in which the state has a
fundamental interest, and that this is one part of it, but maybe all
student loans should be zero interest. I mean, we expect people to pay
back, but maybe they should be zero interest.
JONES: Yes, this is -- this example is just the tip of the iceberg of the
real problem. It could be the higher end 15 million in terms of the
massive amount of debt that students are incurring. Even to get, in many
cases, excellent education.
JONES: But they are leaving with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt
that will forever cripple them. What kind of world are we creating when we
do that to students who we want to get educated for the greater social
And right now, just to add to this, Congress is trying to cut the Perkins
loans, which is the only loan we have in place right now that will cover
that gap for a very low-income student to be able to go to college, period.
HARRIS-PERRY: Latonya, let me ask you this as we go. What is next for
SUGGS: The next step is to dispute these debts. We`re going to continue
to fight. We`re not backing down. We`re fighting for everyone. Not just
for-profit colleges, traditional colleges and everything. We have a lot of
more actions coming up this spring.
So, it`s about to get real juicy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Latonya Suggs, once was of the Corinthian 15 and is now part
of Corinthian 100 in Cincinnati, Ohio -- thank you.
And thank you to my guests here in New York, Reverend Dr. Serene Jones, and
Raul Reyes. Also, Joe Watkins and Beth Fouhy.
After the break, she won a million dollars and her response -- give it all
away. Our foot soldier of the week is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Have you ever dreamed of winning a million dollars? What
would you do? Buy a house, pay off student loans? Take all your friends
and family on an amazing vacation? How about giving it all away?
That`s what our foot soldier of the week just did. Nancy Atwell is a
language arts teacher with more than 40 years of experience as a
professional educator. She is the founder of the independent school, the
Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine.
And this month, she was awarded the first annual Global Teacher Prize given
out by the Varkey Foundation. The prize for the foundation`s Web site is
awarded to, quote, "one super special, innovative and caring teacher who`s
made an inspirational impact on their students and community."
The award has been called the Nobel Prize of teaching, and it comes with a
$1 million prize.
Nancy`s plan for the money is to pour it right back into her school, to
fund tuition assistance, purchase books and renovate the grounds.
I`m so pleased to be joined now by our foot soldier of the week, Nancy
Atwell in Brunswick, Maine.
NANCY ATWELL, TEACHER: Good morning.
HARRIS-PERRY: How did you make this decision? Did you think about going
ATWELL: It was automatic. There was never a question. I mean, I have
everything I need. But my students don`t and my school doesn`t. So it was
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, this idea of awarding a prize of this size to a
teacher feels like such an important way to say that teaching is important
and that what teachers do is valuable. But I also wonder if there are
policy changes we ought to be making that give that message to more
teachers more consistently.
ATWELL: I think right now the climate is not a very good one for teachers
who want to be autonomous, who want to be creative, who want to have a big
influence on kids` lives. I know at my school, because it`s a
demonstration school, we work really hard to develop methods and then
disseminate them to teachers around the country.
So, our kids for example -- you know, our older kids read at least 40 books
a year. They write 20 or 30 pieces of publishable writing. They choose
what they`re going to write and read. They have all this time and
And those aren`t options that are available under the standardized methods
and standardized tests that are controlling right now what`s happening in
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, what you`re saying there about the value of these
experiences of learning and of being producers of knowledge, not just
consumers of it -- I want to take a listen to something you said about the
relevance of being global citizens. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATWELL: It`s not possible for children any longer to just understand their
own communities. They need to understand the world. And they need to have
vicarious experiences of it and they need to have empathy for the range of
experience that extends beyond their our own borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: How do we do that? How do we create that empathy for
experiences beyond their own borders?
ATWELL: In my school, which is in Rural Maine, it`s about as isolated
culturally and ethnically as it can get. It`s very white.
You know, we`ve worked on so many different fronts. Melissa, we celebrate
every ethnic and religious holiday at the school. Our students are active
in the model U.N. They were the first middle school kids in Maine to learn
about other countries and represent them as diplomats on issues like girls`
education and animal rights.
We have the most fantastic classroom library of books that represent
children from all kinds of cultures and tell their stories. And we engage
in lots of fund-raising activities for organizations that are doing work
around the world that the children and I are concerned about, like Doctors
Without Borders and Oxfam.
So, in every way, I`m trying to help the kids understand that they need to
know about the world out there because they can`t empathize unless they
have knowledge. That`s really the job, I think, of every school in the
U.S., to open its doors to every kind of experience so our kids -- if we
really want them to be global citizens, have had their lives touched and
have touched others` lives in sincere, profound ways.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to say two things. I so appreciate that world view,
that perspective. At Wake Forest University where I teach, we sum that up
by calling it pro humanae vitae, that spirit of being for humanity.
I also want to thank you very personally as the mom of a seventh-grader
because your text was extremely helpful to me in thinking about what
middle-schoolers can do and the ways that middle education can be great
Nancy Atwell in Brunswick, Maine, our foot soldier of the week, giving back
her million dollars to her students and to her community -- thank you much.
ATWELL: It`s my pleasure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
And that is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see you tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We`re going to be
talking about race on college campuses. Angelina Jolie and her experiences
with her own body and why TV now in color is causing such a fuss. See you
Right now, it`s time for a preview with "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi,
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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