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All In With Chris Hayes, Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

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Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: March 31, 2015
Guest: Richard Socarides, Scott Pelath, Chris Murphy, Jon Ralston, Todd
Barry, Britney Cooper

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC GUEST HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN --

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: It`s been a tough week here in the
Hoosier State.

MELBER: What a difference a day makes. NASCAR joins the chorus
against Indiana`s religious freedom bill and the Republican governor begins
backing down.

PENCE: I believe this is a clarification but it`s also a fix.

MELBER: But is that course correction too late for the 2016 hopefuls
who already jumped into the fray?

JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I think once the facts are
established, people aren`t going to see this as discriminatory at all.

MELBER: Then, Obama`s big deal delayed on Iran.

Elizabeth Warren on Hillary Clinton.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I think we need to give her
a chance to decide if she`s going to run.

MELBER: And new conservative conspiracy theories about Senator Harry
Reid, and new controversy around the new host of "The Daily Show".

ALL IN starts right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: Good evening. I`m Ari Melber here in New York for Chris
Hayes.

Republican Governor Mike Pence has seen the light or at least the
pressure after spending the weekend claiming that Indiana`s new religious
freedom law didn`t possibly discriminate. You remember that? Then, Pence
changed his tune today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: It`s been a tough week here in the Hoosier State.

I don`t believe for a minute that it was the intention of the general
assembly to create a license to discriminate or right to deny services to
gays, lesbians or anyone else in this state and it certainly wasn`t my
intent. But I can appreciate that that`s become the perception.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Republican legislators are now trying to amend the new law.
And in his press conference there, Governor Pence said he`ll help them move
a bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: To move legislation this week makes it clear that this law
does not give businesses the right to deny services for anyone. Let me say
I believe this is a clarification, but it`s also a fix.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, a fix implies basically something is broken in the law,
so that is sort of a big concession coming from its proponents. But a
minor fix or clarification may not be enough. And a sign of just how broad
the support for principles of inclusion and nondiscrimination have become
in this country, the groups condemning this law have ranged from left to
right, from nonprofit to corporate, and including now, all American
favorites that don`t do politics like basketball and car racing
organizations.

Take a look at this. Today, NASCAR jumped right into this debate
saying they`re disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana and
they say, "We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or
intolerance." And that comes after the NCAA made similar statements and
nine major Indiana CEOs called on Governor Pence to pass this new bill to
ensure that no state laws are used to justify discrimination based on
sexual orientation or gender identity.

National companies are also weighing in. Take a look at this
statement from Marriott`s CEO.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNE SORENSON, CEO, MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL: The legislation in
Indiana, and there are some bills being considered in other states, is not
just pure idiocy from a business perspective and it is that. The notion
that you can tell businesses somehow that they are free to discriminate
against people based on who they are is madness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And here is the Republican mayor of Indianapolis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR GREG BALLARD (R), INDIANAPOLIS: Call upon Governor Pence and
the Indiana legislature to fix this law. Either repeal it or pass a law
that protects all who live, work and visit Indiana, and do so immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: So, you`re basically seeing there a bipartisan onslaught in
Indiana. But the shift here is also bigger than that state. Conservative
politicians who were trying to target evangelicals with these religious
bills are realizing that the world around their targets is moving pretty
swiftly. It is hard to find a way to say condemn gay marriage without
antagonizing the broad spectrum of Americans committed to inclusion and
nondiscrimination.

And some GOP presidential candidates are getting caught in this
political undertow, defending the law even as we`re reporting, even as its
state sponsors are retreating.

Take a look at Jeb Bush saying that Governor Pence did the right
thing.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BUSH: I think if you, if they actually got briefed on the law that
they wouldn`t be blasting this law. I think Governor Pence has done the
right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like
this at the federal level.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s the problem. You just need to get briefed.

Meanwhile, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida basically tried to have it
both ways.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I don`t think Americans want to
discriminate against anyone. I think the fundamental question in some of
these laws is should someone be discriminated against because of their
religious views. So, no one here is saying it should be legal to deny
someone service at a restaurant or hotel because of their sexual
orientation. I think that`s the consensus view in America.

The flip side of it is, though, should a photographer be punished for
refusing to do a wedding that their faith teaches them is not one that is
valid in the eyes of God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And then there`s Governor Scott Walker, a well-known
conservative in Wisconsin and he`s saying he doesn`t anticipate his state
adopting this kind of law.

Now, none of this means, let`s be clear, that these laws are dead on
arrival in America today. In fact, just this afternoon, we can report to
you, Arkansas`s legislature went ahead and passed a similar bill.

But in a sign of what we believe is this rapidly shifting politics,
the largest employer in the state and the nation, one you may have heard
of, a well-known friend to the GOP, Walmart, is already pushing back.
Walmart`s CEO asking the governor there to veto that bill and so far, that
governor looking less enthusiastic than Governor Pence, although Governor
Pence doesn`t look that enthusiastic anymore either.

Now, to discuss all the fast moving politics, we have Democratic
strategist Richard Socarides, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton,
and knowledgeable on many of these issues.

What do you make of this shift, that you basically have even the
people who thought they could get away with this feeling they need to move
if not for political reasons if not for substance?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I think
the chain of events that you just described is remarkable chain of events
which, you know, just even five years ago would never have been possible,
and it shows how dramatically the center of gravity around this issue has
changed.

And, you know, a year ago, we had a little bit of a preview of this
when Jan Brewer in Arizona, the former governor of Arizona, vetoed a very
similar bill. She saw what was coming and, you know, Governor Brewer never
thought to be the smartest tack in the box saw this coming. So, I think
you could see it coming but it`s been a remarkable couple of weeks around
this.

MELBER: What do you think of what Senator Rubio tried to do in
threading that needle, and saying, well, the real issue is that religious
people face their own kind of reverse discrimination here?

SOCARIDES: Well, I don`t think it will be successful. I think what
we as Democrats believe is that religious freedom has been an important
American value and will continue to be an important American value. But we
have always been able to realize that religious liberty is important while
at the same time putting the value of equality front and center.

So, these two values have coexisted in American law and American
governance for a long time. I think it`s interesting that Hillary Clinton
was right out of the box on this. The day this Indiana law was passed, she
came out against it and I think it will shape up as an interesting and
important issue in the 2016 campaign.

MELBER: And some of the political history in Indiana that specific is
they had an earlier battle over marriage equality recently, and the courts
basically prevented that, and the courts writ large and Supreme Court now
looking at a case to essentially nationalized marriage equality.

Is there a sort of desperation here for folks who want to give
something on the right, to the evangelicals, but don`t have a lot of
policies to play with. So, they end up over, for what people who aren`t
obsessed with politics looks like a weird side issue. The wedding cake,
wedding photos issue.

SOCARIDES: You`re exactly right. And that`s exactly what happened.

I mean, let`s just be candid about this. This is coming up now
because the Supreme Court and everybody expects in June will rule that
every state, all 50 states, have to allow same sex marriage, have to be
able to marry the person you love.

So, Indiana, this is where the right has wanted to do battle now,
around this issue of so-called religious freedom. But it totally backfired
on them because businesses especially understand that you can`t
discriminate against any kind of customer and states trying to promote
economic development understand that you can`t say business in this state
is closed to any one individual group.

MELBER: And doesn`t there seem to be a little bit of a fixation on
what -- if people believe that a certain kind of sex or love is a sin, and
some people have that religious belief, isn`t there sort of a fixation on
this? Because you don`t hear about people quizzing their potential wedding
customers about, well, did you have premarital sex before this wedding?
Because that`s going to come into whether I as a Christian or whatever, can
do your wedding photos.

SOCARIDES: It`s a strange preoccupation, indeed. And, in fact, you
know, obviously, same sex marriage only applies to civil marriage. There
will never be a church that is compelled in this country to perform a gay
wedding that doesn`t want to. Obviously, some denominations are coming
around and do. But that will never happen.

So, this is purely a law which will permit private companies,
corporations, you know, who don`t really have personalities. You know,
they`re not people. This law was much broader than any of the other laws
ever passed before.

But most importantly what happened here was context. You know, Mike
Pence`s problem, Governor Pence`s problem is he is really lying through his
teeth. When he says it was never the intention to discriminate, that is
exactly what this bill was intended to do.

This bill was intended to be a gift to religious conservatives who
wanted to take a stand against gay marriage. And when he signed this
bill, he had all the anti-gay lobbyists surrounding him.

So, when he comes up today, when the governor comes out and says this
was never my intention, this was never the intention, he`s just out and out
lying and that`s why he has no cover. That`s why it`s been so difficult
for --

MELBER: Yes, they went from this is something we`re proud of to no
one understands what this does, to everyone understands it and we`re sorry,
sort of. We might fix it.

Richard Socarides, thank you for your time tonight.

And now, we discuss whether anything less than the repeal of the law
will be enough. We have the Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath.

Good evening to you. What are you guys going to do next?

SCOTT PELATH (D), INDIANA HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Hi, Ari.

Well, I tell you what - absolutely, the first thing that has to
happen, unambiguously, is this statute has to be repealed. That is the
first thing that needs to transpire. That is admitting that the state has
made a terrible mistake and going to the confessional booth in front of the
rest of the nation.

The next thing that has to happen --

MELBER: Let me stop you there.

PELATH: Sure.

MELBER: So you say repeal. That means what Governor Pence offered
today as a fix for you right now is not enough.

PELATH: Absolutely, it`s not enough. I mean, the legislature has to
take it out of Governor Pence`s hands and admit the error that was made
first and then take the law right off the books. Once that`s done we have
to do the hard work of ensuring that the rest of the nation and the world
understands that we`re welcoming, intolerant and open for business to
everybody, and that`s going to mean changing some other laws to ensure
equal protections for all Hoosiers.

MELBER: What have you heard from your colleagues who did support this
recently?

PELATH: Oh, there`s a lot of buyers remorse. Many of them feel
misled. They think they didn`t fully understand the law as it was being
passed.

But we know who did understand it. It was -- it was the anti-marriage
equality advocates who as soon as the ink was dry on the new law were out
there bragging about all the benefits it was going to have to narrow
evangelical groups.

MELBER: And you mention other laws, this is a state that does not
have strong protections generally like a state level Employment Protection
Act for people. So you can still be fired legally for your identity so to
speak.

PELATH: Sadly, that`s correct, yes.

MELBER: What do you want to do about that? Do you think there`s an
opening here to actually move farther? Because some of what Governor Pence
said if you take him at his word, and mind you, his word has changed, makes
it sound like he would support those kind of protections now even though
they`re not on the books yet in Indiana.

PELATH: Well, I`m not sure he has gotten there yet. He`s in an awful
lot of denial about the situation that he`s put Indiana in and legislative
leaders have put us in.

It started out as a civil rights debate and very heated one. But now
it`s blown into a flat out business problem for Indiana. We have
businesses and investors threatening to pull out because of perceived
intolerance, and the people of the state are going to have to make it clear
than a few of their governmental leaders. They`re doing that right now.
That`s a good start.

And we`re going to have to put some of these civil rights protections
on the books. One because it`s the right thing to do and we should have
done it all along, but more remedially, because we`ve got to show the
business community that we`re serious about being open to everybody.

MELBER: All right. Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath,
thanks for joining us tonight.

PELATH: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: And Elizabeth Warren made new some comments about Hillary
Clinton just today, talking about why we should give her a chance. The
Massachusetts senator also addressed all those Democrats who keep calling
on her to run again no matter what.

Well, we will show you her message to the anybody but Clinton crowd.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Today, the congressman leading the House Committee on
Benghazi, Trey Gowdy, asked Hillary Clinton to talk about it all again.
Now, this time, he wants to focus on the e-mails she sent from that
personal account while she was secretary of state. And something a little
different, Gowdy reportedly wants Clinton to appear for a private
interview, this according to "The New York Times", because then the
committee would get "a transcribed interview to best protect Secretary
Clinton`s privacy, the security of the information queried, and the
public`s interest in ensuring the committee has all the information needed
to accomplish the task set before it," end quote there from "The Times".

Now, Clinton says she prefers to offer testimony in a public setting,
at a hearing open to the American public. So, here we have a debate over a
private or public discussion, an odd wrinkle on and the ongoing debate over
transparency and Clinton e-mails. And, unfortunately, folks, it`s a debate
that probably isn`t ending any time soon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: It is 8:17 p.m. on the East Coast, and we are now more than
two hours past the self-imposed deadline for nuclear talks with Iran and
with no deal here.

Negotiators, though, have been working through the night at their
hotel in Switzerland. This is a last ditch effort to nail down the
political agreement after the U.S. agreed to extend past this official
midnight deadline.

The State Department said in a statement that "we`ve made enough
progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday. There are
several difficult issues still remaining."

With a breakthrough now within reach, the decision to keep going is
already being characterized as a failure by the deal`s opponents.

Tom Cotton, author of the Senate Republican`s unusual and
controversial letter that was addressed to Iran`s leader, is now saying in
a statement, quote, "Given the dangerous concessions by the Obama
administration over the past week, one can only imagine what further
concessions it will make in the next 24 hours to resolve these issues. The
best solution is to walk away from the nuclear negotiations now and return
to a position of strength", end quote.

And that is just a taste of what`s to come if and when the
administration actually manages to bring back a deal here in Washington.
No matter what emerges from Switzerland, the Obama administration will face
intense skepticism from lawmakers and not just from Republicans. Many of
Tom Cotton`s Republican colleagues in the majority, of course, have shown
already where they stand.

For example, speaking on the floor last week, Senator John McCain said
a nuclear deal could force Israel to take matters into their own hands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The Israelis will need to chart their
own path of resistance. On the Iranian nuclear deal, they may have to go
rogue. Let`s hope their warnings have not been mere bluffs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, traveling to Israel over the
weekend, where in a video released by the Israeli government, he assured
the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, there are still ways to stop this
deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The group who are here
share your concerns about this potential agreement and there are options
that the United States has in the wake of an agreement and if there is no
agreement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Meanwhile, John Boehner scheduled to meet with Netanyahu
tomorrow in Jerusalem.

And now, we are joined by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of
Connecticut, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Before we get to the politics, just give me your take on this
overnight homework extension they have given themselves for the Obama
administration. Is this a sign that something is close or a last ditch
effort before a total break down?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: It`s an arbitrary deadline first.
So, let`s understand that if there`s progress being made, there`s
absolutely no reason why you wouldn`t extend the talks at least a day.
And, of course, this is a deadline to get a frame work. The talks have
actually been extended through June.

And so, all of the Obama administration has outlined a deal by the end
of March, and then they`ll have to work on the details. But, of course, we
should give them more time because the stakes are enormous. I mean, what
you have Republicans cheerleading for war.

The consequence of the United States walking away from these
negotiations and maybe we`ll ultimately have to do that is really a
military option. We won`t be able to put the sanctions back together as
effectively as we had them in the first place.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: What do you mean by cheerleading for war specifically? Are
you referring to Senator McConnell and McCain there, that their opposition
to this deal means they want the U.S. to engage militarily against Iran?

MURPHY: I think Senator Cotton made it pretty clear that he thinks
that the best option ultimately is for the United States to use military
intervention in order to disabuse Iran of any future nuclear weapons
program. I don`t think that everybody who signed that letter, all 47 of
them, believe that that`s the case, but there`s certainly an element of the
Republican Party that views American international power solely through a
military lens. Just doesn`t see any use for negotiations.

MELBER: And, Senator, since you bring it up --

MURPHY: Ultimately, there`s part of these Republicans who are
cheerleading for war.

MELBER: Since you bring it up, let`s zero in on that, because what
Senator McCain and others would say publicly and in more detail privately
is Israel has been able to go in before and tom facilities when they need
to. So, the U.S. has this option that doesn`t involve a U.S. attack. What
do you say to that?

MURPHY: Well, Israel is going to deserve it`s right to act
unilaterally and they have in the past. They have a limited capacity to
take out Iran`s nuclear program for a period that will extend beyond a year
or two, and it`s in all of our interests to get to a negotiated settlement
that gives us more cover than you would get by a military strike.

People are upset that the proposed deal is only ten years. Well,
that`s double the amount of time you would get for a military strike.

So, Israel is going to do what they feel like they need to do. I
think we should give these negotiations a shot. It will give us much more
protection than any multilateral or unilateral military strike.

MELBER: And from your vantage point on the Foreign Relations
Committee and your advocacy for a diplomatic solution here, what is the
administration doing to try to bring people along in the Congress? As you
know, "Wall Street Journal" has a story that seemed to rely on Obama
administration sources saying, look, they will work with, they will
collaborate with members of Congress to give them a stake in this.

What is your view and your knowledge of that?

MURPHY: Well, I think what the administration is saying is that they
understand that Congress has the ability to weigh in on a deal once it is
signed, and I don`t think there`s really any question that Republicans in
the Senate and House are going to structure a approval or disapproval vote
once an agreement is reached.

What the administration is saying is that because you already have
that power, why weigh in and pass legislation now, while we`re sitting at
the negotiating table? And I think that they`re going to ultimately be
persuasive on most Democrats at least with that argument.

We don`t need to pass a bill telling us that we have the power to
approve or disapprove a deal once it`s signed. We should just have the
good sense and the maturity to wait and let these negotiations play out so
that we can look at an agreement and decide whether we want to move forward
on it with an up-or-down vote.

MELBER: And, Senator, why do you think some Republicans are so eager
to engage on this when meanwhile we`re deep into several months bombing of
ISIS targets and the Congress hasn`t found a way to have the vote, the
administration asked for. They`re on the war authority which is obviously
a hot conflict.

MURPHY: I think it`s two reasons. One, I think they are motivated,
many of them, simply by an effort to embarrass the president. And so, this
negotiation could result in what will be a diplomatic victory for President
Obama. They don`t want that to happen.

But second, I do think this is all about the Republicans viewing
American power in the world simply through a military platform. And so,
they don`t have a problem with what he`s doing in bombing ISIS targets
because that`s about the military. They do have a problem with diplomacy.
They simply don`t see that as a legitimate tool of American power.

That`s where the stakes are here. This isn`t just about Iran`s
nuclear program. This is also about standing up for the idea that talking
to other countries, even our enemies, actually can sometimes further
national security interests.

MELBER: Yes, that`s a interesting and disappointing contrast you draw
there about them.

Senator Chris Murphy, thank you for your time.

MURPHY: Thanks a lot.

MELBER: Senator Harry Reid says he injured himself in an exercise
accident. But some conservatives do not believe him. They have their own
conspiracy theories involving gangsters and Vegas rumors, and that story is
ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, ALL IN HOST: Where do you want to go here?

JOSH BARRO: I mean, who cares? Let`s try 24.

HAYES: Who cares, let`s try 24. Motto for 2016, Elizabeth Warren.

BARRO: Elizabeth Warren -- she says she is not running. She is
definitely not running. She says she is really definitely certainly not
running.

So, is she running? We say keep asking.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

(APPLAUSE)

HAYES: This is the problem. Unlike Jim Webb and Bernie Sanders, do
you think she is going to run?

BARRO: No.

HAYES: You`re really, basically iced out here?

BARRO: You have given me the one member of the United States Senate
who honestly does not want to be president.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Josh Barro may have less than thrilled with his final pick in
the ALL IN 2016 fantasy candidate draft. That was a few months ago.

And judging by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren`s latest
interview with NBC`s Savannah Guthrie, it doesn`t look like she`s changed
her mind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, TODAY SHOW HOST: You didn`t think you`d get away
with this interview without me asking you, point blank, are you going to
run for President?

ELIZABETH WARREN, MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR: No. I`m not running and I`m
not going to run.

GUTHRIE: Let me make sure that we underscore this and maybe bold it
and put it in all caps, because I have to tell you I have read every single
interview you`ve done in the last year where people ask you, will you run
for President, and it had seemed that you were hedging a little bit in the
past.

I don`t hear that hedging now. Are you unequivocally and categorically
saying I`m not running for President in 2016.

WARREN: I`m not running.

GUTHRIE: Possibly I`m beating a dead horse here, but did you ever
even consider, entertain the possibility of running for President.

WARREN: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Yet, more than any other senator, including many who do seem
to want to run, that question has followed Senator Warren over the past
months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: Are you going to run for President?

WARREN: I`m not running for President.

MUIR: There`s nothing that could change your mind.

WARREN: David, like I said, I`m not running for President.

I`m not running for President.

` UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there`s no way you`re going to run in 2016.

WARREN: I`m not running for President. You can ask it lot of
different ways.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don`t you want to run for President.

WARREN: I`m not running for President.

I am not running for President. No means no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a minor, tiny, little question here. Are you
going to run for President.

WARREN: I am not running for President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s an affirmative. You`re throwing it out
there, no?

WARREN: I am not running for President.

BOB SCHIEFFER, FACE THE NATION: But you`ve also said about 19 times
that you are not running for President, so I`m going to give you a chance
to say for the 20th time.

WARREN: I am not running for President.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMAL: If Hilary didn`t run you might give it a shot?

WARREN: I am not running for President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s the thing about reporters. We are all hard of hearing.

Now, the big question is a world without a candidate Warren still a
good place for Warren`s brand of economic populism. Can she use the support
for her nonexistent candidacy to push an agenda, or nudge Clinton?

You can see on the screen Senator Warren might answer some of those
questions or others by Rachel Maddow. She is the special guest host tonight
and, mark your calendars, there`s a special encore presentation of All In
2016 Fantasy Candidate
Draft.

It`s fun to say. It`s fun to watch. They`ll be all kinds of pop up
updates.
It`s this Friday night at 8pm eastern. You don`t want to miss it, or the
rest of the show because we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: At the beginning of this year, Harry Reid`s office announced
the Democratic Senate leader had been hospitalized after falling and
breaking a number of ribs and bones in his face while exercising.

The boxer turned senator explained what happened in a video a few days
later.

HARRY REID, SENATOR: I didn`t get this black eye by squaring with
Manny, by challenging Floyd Mayweather. I didn`t go bull riding. I wasn`t
riding a motorcycle. I was exercising in my new home.

MELBER: Exercising Reid explained and he said, quote, with those
large rubber bands and one of them broke, spun me around and I crashed into
these cabinets.

The Democratic minority leader still hasn`t fully healed from those
injuries. He was in the news of course on Friday when he announced he won`t
seek re-election.

But tonight he is drawing a whole different kind of attention. An
internet storm is brewing over the outlandish idea that this entire thing
is actually a
cover up.

Here`s Rush Limbuagh recently describing it.

RUSH LIMBUAGH, HOST OF RUSH LIMBUAGH SHOW: I don`t believe for a
minute that whatever happened to Harry Reid has anything to do with an
exercise machine unless somebody repeatedly threw him into it. Harry Reid
looks like and is acting like - and now with this announcement, behaving
like - somebody who may have been beaten up.

MELBER: Now, who would beat up Reid and get him to lie about it?
Conservative blogger John Hinderaker has a theory, saying quote, Reid had
promised
to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters. He met with them on New
Year`s
Day and broke the bad news that he hadn`t been able to deliver what he
promised.
When the mobster`s complained, he continued, Reid, according to this rumor,
made a comment they considered disrespectful and one of them beat him up,
end quote.

Now, that`s a big charge. What is his source? A friend of his who
heard rumors when he was in Vegas a week or two ago. Because, you know
about Vegas
rumors.

Other than that, Hinderaker doesn`t have any evidence to support this
mobster theory, but he says it`s more credible than the exercise band claim
and now he`s calling for an investigation, which he got.

Today, Breitbart News, which of course many conservatives and
Republican officials continuously sight as a news source, dove into the
story.

They posted the model floor plan for Reid`s house and an in depth
break down of the dimensions of the bathroom where this accident took place
or supposedly took place.

And this, at this point, isn`t really a story about Harry Reid`s
injuries. It is about how some conservatives will push baseless
conspiracies, I guess out of habit. Even when their target has already
disclaimed any political future.

As the claims drew more attention online today, All In went ahead and
talked to Reid`s staff about the charges. They say they are baseless and
bizarre, and Reid`s chief spokesman added to us, in a quote here, the main
problem with the
mobster theory is that it completely overlooks the critical role played by
the
yeti. A conspiracy reference in it`s own right.

Joining me now to answer these pressing questions. Was Harry Reid
beaten up by mobsters?

The dean of Nevada press court himself, political reporter Jon
Ralston, host of Ralston Reports. What is going on here?

JON RALSTON, HOST OF RALSTON REPORTS: Well, I think you said it, the
real story here, Ari, is not what might have happened to Harry Reid or
whether what happens in Harry Reid`s bathroom stays in Harry Reid`s
bathroom. It`s how that the unhinged conservatives and the Harry Reid`s
enemies become about him that they`re
willing to kind of concoct almost anything.

I mean, ask yourself -- people seem not to ask their selves this
threshold question, Ari. Why would anyone say they had an accident in their
bathroom involving an exercise band and that`s how they got hurt?

How embarrassing is that story? Wouldn`t you want to say that you
fended off some mobsters or some intruders in your home?

The whole thing, I mean, you used the word outlandish. I think you`re
being generous.

MEELBER: Well, that`s what I try to do when I deal with conspiracy
theories in the news. We start out generous and then we debunk.

So, you`ve spoken to the idea that the claim or accusation of the
cover story is hard to believe. Then there`s the underlying facts we do
know.

In his position, Senator Reid has a security detail that travels with
him and according to independent accounts as well as from the senator`s
office, they were with him at the time and also drove him to the hospital.

How does that figure in?

RALSTON: Yeah, well, that`s another crazy part of this of course,
Ari.

He`s got that security detail all the time with him. I mean, the story
itself, the cover story itself, is not that outlandish, to use that word
again.

Harry Reid is a fitness nut. He`s always exercising. He does all these
walks and sit ups. He just moved into this new house that`s essentially
unfurnished. He made what it seems is a foolish decision to set up this
exercise band in the bathroom, and of course it snapped on him and hit him
and injured him pretty badly.

He`s 75 years old. It`s not surprising that he was badly injured when
something like that hit him.

But again, this is not a story about what might or not have happened
to Harry Reid when he was exercising in his bathroom. Now it sounds like a
game of clue to me as I even say that.

It`s a story about how people feel about Harry Reid.

I have written a ton of stories about Harry Reid for Politico, for the
newspapers I work for. Look at the comment stream every time I write about
him.

People, I`ll use the word again, Ari, are unhinged in their hatred for
Harry Reid and they`re willingness to believe the craziest stuff about him.

MELBER: Yeah, and then it also goes to, I guess some sort of
discomfort
with other parts of his history because as Nevada gaming commissioner he
famously stood up to the mob.

He even, when there was an attempt of a bribery on him, he worked with
the FBI on the sting, and so I wonder if in a very different context, we`ve
seen the
Birther charges sort of go around Obama for people who have that issue with
the President.

I wonder here, though, is there something about the fact that they
don`t like
the idea that he actually got famous and his political career was pushed by
standing up to the mob back in the day?

RALSTON: Well, I think there are a lot of things that people don`t
like about Harry Reid, but I think he brings that on himself to some extent
by his complete dismissiveness of any decorum in politics. Calling people
losers and liars.

He has done -- look, he just went and did an interview and said he is
basically unrepentant about lying about Mitt Romney`s taxes.

MELBER: Yeah, let me jump in because we have -- that`s new, Jon, and
we --

RALSTON: He just doesn`t care.

MELBER: We have that for people who haven`t seen it. Jon, I want to
play it. Jon, let me play first the original charge from the 2012 campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senate majority leader says a source tells him
Mitt
Romney hasn`t paid any taxes in ten years.

REED: The word`s out that he hasn`t paid any taxes for ten years.

Let him prove that he has paid taxes because he hasn`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And here`s from today as you mentioned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, no regrets about Mitt Romney, about the Coke
brothers? Some people even called it McCarthyite.

MELBER: No, they can call it whatever they want. Romney didn`t win,
did he?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What did you make of that there as a final thought?

RALSTON: I have to tell you, it doesn`t surprise me at all that Harry
Reid would be that way.

I thought that it was McCarthyite. When he did it was incredibly
offensive. He had no evidence that Romney hadn`t paid his taxes, he just
said it.

I believe probably The White House told him to stop saying it but he
didn`t care, because that`s the way that Harry Reed is. Which is why, Ari,
some people
feel so strongly about Harry Reid, and because of the tactics he uses, that
they`re willing to use those tactics and even worse to try to smear him.

MELBER: All right. A story with a lot of turns.

Jon Ralston, dean of Nevada politics, thank you so much.

And just one day after getting a brand new gig hosting The Daily Show,
a quote hand full of jokes coming back to haunt Trevor Noah. That story is
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Do you remember Cliven Bundy? He is the Nevada rancher who,
along with some supporters, some of them armed, engaged in that tense
standoff with federal authorities who wanted Bundy to pay the grazing fees
that he had neglected for about 20 years, and then follow a court order to
remove his cattle from land he didn`t own, land owned by the federal
government.

Well, today Cliven Bundy was back in the news and I asked Nevada
political reporter Jon Ralston for the details.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALSTON: It`s almost exactly a year after Cliven Bundy and the BLM
had their encounter at his ranch. Now he and his family and his supporters
are up in Carson
City, the state capital where the legislature is meeting, trying to pass a
bill that they`re calling the Take Back Our Federal Lands Bill.

The legislative attorneys up here say it`s patently unconstitutional.

They didn`t -- they got a double -- they got a double whammy here,
they violated both the state and federal constitutions with this bill. They
don`t care. They`re talking about freedom and the Magna Carta, and we the
people. It`s almost like deja vu from what happened a year ago.

The bill is going nowhere but he has some enablers in the Republican
assembly caucus here. They`re having a hearing. It`s still going on right
now, which is the big demonstration.

But, yes, he`s back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREVOR NOAH, COMMEDIAN: You guys love your sports out here. I`ve
never seen more focus put on sports anywhere else in the world.

Americans love their sports back to front.

You guys know everything. Every step. Well, I mean he`s got four out
of five and if you look at that statistic alone it looks like he should be
getting four and
then it`s just -- it`s just crazy.

You know everything. You know everything.

And then you switch over to like your business channels and your
economy and you`re like what`s happening in the economy this year, Bob?
Well, nobody knows, I mean. Nobody knows. Yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Less than 36 hours after South African comedian Trevor Noah
was named as John Stewart`s successor of to host The Daily Show he is
already defending himself against some new critics of his old jokes.

The controversy is about jokes Noah told on Twitter basically several
years ago. One from 2011 says, oh yeah the weekend. People are going to get
drunk and think that I`m sexy. Quote, fat chicks everywhere, as if they
were saying that.

Another from 2009, quote, almost bumped a Jewish kid crossing the
road. He didn`t look before crossing but I still would have felt so bad in
my German car. End quote.

Now, since yesterday`s announcement those tweets have been covered by
many news outlets. NPR noting the comedian is being criticized for tweets
he sent more than a year ago that critics say are sexist and even anti
Semitic.

Now today, Comedy Central released a new statement backing Noah.
Quote, like many comedians they say, Trevor Noah pushes boundaries. He`s
provocative and spares no one, himself included. To judge him or his comedy
based on a handful of jokes is unfair. Trevor is a talented comedian with a
bright future at Comedy Central.

Tonight, Noah defended himself, saying, to reduce my views to a
handful of jokes that didn`t land is not a true reflection of my character
nor my evolution as a comedian. End quote.

Now, is all of that enough to squelch the controversy? Should this be
a controversy?

Anyone who watched the Justin Bieber Roast last night on Comedy
Central may be wondering if there are any lines at all.

I will talk to comedian Todd Barry and professor Brittany Cooper about
all of this straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Last night Comedy Central aired a roast of the pop star
Justin Bieber and, as roasts are intended to be, it was over the top.

Some of what was said over those two hours uncensored programming note
was so offensive we can`t show it to you or tell it to you, but we will
give you a little bit of what we are allowed to share here as an idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s hear it for Shaq, all right?

Thanks for being here and taking a break from throwing barrels at
Super Mario.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t like your music, man. I`m not a big fan of
it.

I hate your music more than Bill Cosby hates my comedy.

WILL FERRELL, COMEDIAN: I`ve always encouraged people to stay classy,
and what`s more classy than hanging out with Floyd Mayweather.

Would I love to see Biebs spending time with Oscar Pistorius? Of
course I would, but that day will come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, was what happened last night on the air on Comedy
Central far more offensive than any of the jokes in soon to be Daily Show
host Trevor Noah`s Twitter feed?

Is there a different set of rules for what a comedian says on Twitter
versus what they say in front of a room full real people?

Well, joining me now to talk with us is Britney Cooper, assistant
professor of woman`s and gender studies and African studies at Rutgers
University, and
comedian Todd Barry, his latest comedy special is The Crowd Work Tour.

Good evening to you both.

Todd, you do a lot of stand up in front of people, you also have a
Twitter following. What do you make of this attack and concern and offense
taken at Trevor Noah`s jokes on Twitter?

TODD BARRY, COMEDIAN: Comedians in general are not the most offended
people, I find.

So, I mean, we sort of like to shock each other. So, you know, I don`t
usually make the leap between like -- I`m Jewish, but I don`t think because
he made that joke about the German car that he hates Jewish people.

MELBER: So, you weren`t offended by that.

BARRY: No. I mean -- and also, the joke seems to be that they would
be more upset by the car than the fact that they were hit by a car.

MELBER: That the make of the car, just to do some joke
deconstruction, would somehow be worse than the death.

BARRY: Yeah. I mean, I think that`s the joke.

MELBER: And you don`t find that funny or offensive.

BARRY: It doesn`t offend me.

MELBER: Britney, what do you think?

BRITTANY COOPER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Well, I think that some of these
jokes are in poor taste, but the real issue is that they`re cheap jokes. He
goes for cheap punch lines.

And the problem is The Daily Show is a whole other stratosphere.

So, John Stewart has gotten our respect because he doesn`t usually,
anyway, go for cheap jokes or an easy punch line. He does really
sophisticated cultural analysis under the guise of doing comedy and satire.

And so, for me, when I saw what Trevor Noah was saying, his digs at
fat chicks, I mean, first off, fat chicks, you can`t handle a fat chick. As
a fat chick, I can say it, you can`t handle a fat chick.

But secondly, he has to build our trust and I don`t think that he has
it just yet. That the level of sophistication that is required to step into
John Stewart`s shoes, the jokes -- those old jokes that didn`t land as he
said, the question is
whether that is how he usually constructs his comedy.

MELBER: I mean, part of the point here is policing of language can be
positive when it helps people rethink the words and culture that can hold
people down.

But comedy is special and different and satire is important.

Jerry Seinfeld was talking to Bill Burr about this and a potential
over sensitivity.

Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY SEINFELD, COMEDIAN: You`re not worried that we`re becoming this
very gentle, respectful culture that people the won`t be funny anymore.

BILL BURR, COMEDIAN: I`m worried that every time I see a comedian
apologize, just to end it -- just because you took what I said seriously
doesn`t mean I now meant it.

Like, you don`t get to decide that you`re in my head and you know my
intent.
Like, if I`m saying something and I`m joking, I`m joking.

MELBER: Does that defense work and Todd do you worry that if
comedians have to then apologize for everything it actually cuts into the
work that you guys are trying to do.

BARRY: Yeah, because I don`t think the apology is sincere probably a
lot of the time.

I mean, if you`re just sort of called out and you`re like, oh, I`m
going to just do my little apology, it`s questionable whether you really
mean it.

But also, I mean I think I have a different set of rules for a
comedian than
someone who would come up to me at a bar who I don`t know and tell me some
horrible racist joke.

MELBER: What do you mean?

BARRY: Oh, a follow up question. I was really proud of my little
answer I gave you.

Just, I feel like if I know it`s in the context of this is a comedian,
then I let more slide than if it`s just a stranger who walks up to me and
makes a comment.

Because I would be more likely to think they mean it than I would a
comedian.

MELBER: And then, if you look at the roast and Britney mentions the
stature of The Daily Show.

I mean, they had Martha Stewart telling Edward jokes and other things
that we can`t even -- we wouldn`t even show on our air. And that, for some
reason, isn`t what`s getting hammered today.

BARRY: But, if you don`t like that you shouldn`t be watching a roast.
That should be the last thing you should be watching. Because that`s the
idea of a roast is you really push.

MELBER: Let me play some Chris Rock, Britney, also talking to Jerry
Seinfeld, because he makes a joke about bullying, but I think if you look
at some of the terrible bullying that goes on you could say why would you
ever take the side of bullies, but, he`s so clearly joking, I don`t think
you can read it as pro bullying.

Take a listen.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: I`m working on a bit about bullying.

Everybody is trying to get rid of bullying. Like, what are you, crazy?

Some of these kids need this. I`ll go even further, most of them need
it. Who is going to (inaudible)? Who`s going to invent the fuel that gets
us off of fossil fuel? Who is going to do these things?

Some guy that was bullied. That`s who is going to do it.

MELBER: Is that funny enough to get by, or should people be offended
by that, Brittany?

COOPER: No, we shouldn`t be offended by it. Look, I think we have to
give comedy a wide birth.

Chris Rock is one of my favorite comedians because I think he does
such important social commentary, and we`re in a moment where we`re seeing
just how clunky we are as a nation about race.

I mean, we got Starbucks trying to talk about race. We got everybody
sort of thinking that they can deal with these social issues.

So I don`t have a problem with comedians having a wider birth, but
again, I think with Trevor Noah the point is that the jokes weren`t funny
and that, again, he went for cheap punch lines and so, the question becomes
what do we get to evaluate comedians on?

MELBER: Right. And, I can tell you from personal experience, not
being funny is the worst sin of all.

Todd Barry and Britney Cooper, thank you so much.

That`s hour show for this evening. The Rachel Maddow show starts
now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

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