'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Past transcripts by month
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: June 24, 2015
Guest: Paul Butler, John Hawkins
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only survivors but everybody can join this
movement. We don`t want this to happen anymore. We don`t want it to
happen in churches and in schools and in malls. It is absolutely
disgusting that this continues to happen.
And people can make a difference. And people can make a difference
now by even participating in the conversation rising for Charleston, the
#RisingforCharleston, and join in the conversation. And that`s where it
can begin. And it is really powerful for people to do that.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Abby Clements (ph) and Shanna Watts
(ph), thank you both.
That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this.
There were a lot of moving parts in the news cycle today.
In terms of big policy issues -- the trade bill got a lot closer to
passing today. This is the Trans Pacific trade deal on. And on this deal,
the weird political accommodations, right? It`s the Republicans and
President Obama who like the bill. Most Democrats who are not President
Obama dislike this bill and they`ve been organizing against it. But those
Democrats appear to have been be outmaneuvered and outflanked by this odd
Obama and the Republicans coalition today.
So, there`s been months of fighting about this. There`s been just a
whipsaw back and forth about the fate of this thing. But it looks like the
trade deal is on track to pass tomorrow. Maybe. Fat lady still not
singing, although she`s very nice.
That will be the major thing in Washington to watch tomorrow. It was
the big news today on domestic policy.
Now in terms of domestic politics, there was a new entry into the
2016 presidential race today. Whoo-hoo! Just what we need!
And in addition tom, a giant new wrench was also thrown into the
works today in terms of the FOX News Channel and the Republican Party and
their plan for how they want to run their Republican presidential primary
this year. We`re going to have more on that. It turns out the new wrench
in the works is kind of hilarious.
But the biggest news in the country today, all of the biggest news
stories in the country today ended up being about terrorism and national
security, and people who kill and capture Americans for ideological and
First, there was President Obama at midday today, announcing the
creation of a hostage recovery fusion cell in the federal government. So,
Americans held hostage abroad by terrorist groups like ISIS, will now have
a coordinated law enforcement counterterrorism team operating here at home
to try to secure their release and communicate with their families and make
decisions about negotiations and potential rescue attempts and diplomatic
strategies and all the rest.
Apparently, a senior FBI official will head up this hostage recovery
fusion team. The team will also include officials from the Pentagon and
the Justice Department and the State Department and the CIA, among other
agencies. The families of hostages who`ve been held by terrorist groups
abroad over the last few years have been pretty critical of the way they`ve
been treated by the U.S. government and the fact they did not feel
supported, they did not feel that the resources of the U.S. government were
effectively brought to bear to try to free their loved ones.
The president today in making this announcement about this new fusion
cell, he frankly and soberly apologized for the U.S. government having not
done right by hostages` families thus far. He apologized for the U.S.
government, not doing something like this fusion cell idea before now. But
as of today, per the president`s announcement, that new policy is in place.
And then as the president was making that announcement about the
hostage stuff today, we also got surprising news from another one of these
nexuses of terrorism and national security and murder. As the president
was making this announcement about the hostage recovery fusion cell that he
is creating, we got news today that the defendant convicted in one of the
most spectacular terrorist attacks in this country since 9/11, we got news
that defendant would choose to speak publicly today. We didn`t know he was
going to but he chose to speak today in the courtroom as his sentence was
being handed down for the Boston marathon bombing.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev today speaking at his sentencing. He did not take
that opportunity to issue some kind of call to jihad or some attempted
justification for what he and his brother did. Instead, I think this
surprised a lot of people, he took that opportunity to apologize, and said
he was praying for the survivors of the Boston marathon bombing, he was
praying for the families of the victims who were killed. He cried during
his statement. He said he regretted what he did.
And that was basically the last word in his trial before his death
sentence was formally handed down by the judge in this case. Now, even
though that bombing was in Massachusetts, even though his trial took place
in ,Massachusetts, and the statement in the courtroom today happened in
Massachusetts, this prosecution was a federal prosecution. So, when he
spoke today, he was in federal court, and that means there were no cameras
recording it when he spoke. People never, ever see footage of him speaking
today, because federal courts don`t allow cameras.
And when he was done speaking today and he got his sentence, he was
taken into federal custody to immediately begin spending the rest of his
life in federal prison, whether or not his life ends with him being
executed on death row. So, that happened today.
And then as that was happening today, and the victims` families from
the Boston marathon bombing and the prosecutors in that case were still
grappling with that case finally being over and this spectacle of hearing,
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev addressed the court and expressed his remorse -- as all
that was happening today, we also then learn that it is also going to be a
federal trial, a federal prosecution in the case of the Charleston, South
Carolina black church massacre.
"The New York Times" first to report today, so far alone to report
today, that federal hate crimes charges are expected to be filed in the
case of the Charleston church massacre, where a 21-year-old South Carolina
man has reportedly already confessed to the murder of nine innocent
African-American churchgoers who were at a bible study this night last
He`s reportedly already told police that he committed that crime
because of his own racism, because he is a white supremacist. He wanted to
be known for spitting on the American flag and for flying the Confederate
flag instead. He reportedly told police that he killed all those people.
He killed those specific people in that specific place because he wanted to
start a race war.
That young man is in custody in South Carolina. He has reportedly
confessed already. If federal hate crimes charges really are brought in
this case, what does that mean in term of this young man`s prosecution?
Does that change any possible sentence that he might receive?
South Carolina has no hate crime charges among its statutes. The
state can convict people with capital murder though. They do have the
death penalty in South Carolina. I mean, the federal government has a
choice to make as to whether or not they want to bring additional federal
charges in a place the state charges are already being filed and already as
serious as you can get.
Why did, or why would the federal government chose to get involved in
a case like this? And why hate crimes charges in particular?
If "The New York Times" is right and this is going to be a federal
prosecution in Charleston, what happens to this defendant in terms of the
way his case is handled and specifically in terms of the attention and the
publicity he may want to get for his supposed cause through the venue of
At this intersection of mass murder and terrorism and hate crimes,
this reported federal intervention into the South Carolina case raises some
really interesting questions about how much we will ever to hear from this
perpetrator, right, about why he did what did he and whether or not we have
to hear about it from him.
And all of those questions arrived today with this headline in "The
New York Times". All of these questions today arrived before the victims
in Charleston are even buried.
Today, the pastor of the Mother Emanuel AME Church, State Senator
Clementa Pinckney, today, he laid in state at the South Carolina state
capitol under the rotunda there for hours. Clementa Pinckney served as a
state senator for the past 15 years in South Carolina.
These incredible long lines of people that cued up today to pay their
respects to him in Columbia. There are reports that some people fainted
from heat exhaustion while they were standing in that long, long line
outside today, outside the state capitol. It`s 97 degrees in South
Carolina, with a heat index of 109 degrees. But, still, people stood in
line for blocks and blocks and blocks and blocks, for hours for the chance
to file past his coffin inside the state capitol.
Apparently, when they decided they would give Senator Pinckney this
honor of laying him out at the state capitol for the viewing, his fellow
state senators signed up for 30-minute shifts to stand by his coffin so he
wouldn`t be alone at any point during the day in case not enough people
showed up to see him, that turned out not to be a problem today.
We`re not 100 percent sure but it appears from the records that we
got access to that Senator Pinckney may be the first African-American to
have ever laid in state at the South Carolina state capitol.
South Carolina legislators over the last 48 hours have moved quickly
to consider legislation, to potentially take down the Confederate battle
flag that flies on the grounds of the state capitol in South Carolina. But
those discussions haven`t happened yet. That legislation hasn`t been filed
yet. And neither the legislature nor Governor Nikki Haley today took
action to even temporarily remove that flag out of respect for Senator
Pinckney as his body laid at the capitol.
So, that Confederate flag still flew at the state capitol today with
his body inside in the rotunda. They did roll a sort of black drape thing
over the window that would have looked out on that flag from the capitol,
from where his casket was. So, they covered the window so you wonderful
see it licks but they did leave it flying there full staff.
On Friday, the day after tomorrow, thousands of people are expected
at the College of Charleston, actually at the basketball arena at the
College of Charleston because it has a large seating capacity. That arena
is going to be used for the site for Senator Pinckney`s formal funeral.
And that itself is a little tough to take given the circumstances of
this massacre in which Senator Pinckney and those eight other churchgoers
were killed. And the reason that is a little tough to take is because of
this one specific thing about the College of Charleston, which is
specifically the president of the College of Charleston.
The president of that school was just appointed to that post last
year amid quite a bit of local controversy. The College of Charleston
students protested his opponent in large numbers. The college faculty
passed a unanimous resolution of no confidence in the board that chose this
man to be president of the college.
The reason there was all this furor around him being picked for the
college president`s job is because the thing that College of Charleston
president Glenn McConnell is most known for in the state is being this guy.
Glenn McConnell is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. As a
state legislator in South Carolina, he led the fight to keep that
Confederate battle flag flying at the state capitol.
Part of the reason he became president of the College of Charleston
last year is basically because he had ascended to a place in state
government where it became too awkward to have him in such a visible role.
You see, Glenn McConnell was a state senator. He ended up becoming the
highest ranking state senator is in the state. He was president pro temp
of the Senate.
And then, the lieutenant governor of South Carolina had to resign in
a totally unrelated scandal. And the line of succession in South Carolina
says that if the lieutenant governor has to go for any reason, whoever the
president pro temp is, moves up and takes that job. Moves up and takes the
lieutenant governor job. So, Glenn McConnell sort of accidentally became
the lieutenant governor of South Carolina.
And that ended up being untenable for somebody like Glenn McConnell
to have that kind of a high level state-run job, because Glenn McConnell is
a Confederate civil war re-enactor, he is a Sons of Confederate Veterans
activist. He is the most aggressive and visible defender of the
Confederate flag on the state capitol grounds in the state legislature at
the time that he was ascended to the statewide job.
I mean, it was too awkward to hold a statewide leadership position
once photos like this started floating around, right? This is him dressed
up like a Confederate soldier at a slave themed plantation party.
The other thing that Glenn McConnell did besides being the most
visibly pro-Confederate that state senator in South Carolina, the other
thing he did for his job is that he ran a Confederate themed souvenir store
in Charleston until 2006, basically a Confederate flag gift shop. That was
his other job besides being a state senator.
And so, part of the reason he became the president of the College of
Charleston last year is that the state government needed something else for
him to do. They needed somewhere soft for him to land after it became too
awkward, too creepy to have him in a statewide leadership role as
And so, he couldn`t be the lieutenant governor and now he is a
college president. And being a college president in South Carolina right
now is an interesting and high profile thing.
Since the Charleston massacre, presidents of all of these South
Carolina universities, every major university in the state, and frankly
most of the minor ones as well, presidents of all of these universities and
colleges in South Carolina have all joined the call for the state
government to take down the Confederate flag at the statehouse. Glenn
McConnell of the College of Charleston is the only college president who
Even Bob Jones University -- Bob Jones University banned interracial
dating until the year 2000. Even the president of Bob Jones University has
spoken out and said South Carolina should take down the Confederate flag at
But not this one college president at the College of Charleston --
which is now perhaps by logistics about, to host 5,000 people for the
funeral of reverend and state senator, Clementa Pinckney.
President Obama will be there in person for that funeral. He will
deliver the state senator`s eulogy. The First Lady Michelle Obama will be
there. Vice President Biden will be there. Congress has canceled all
votes on Friday so members of the House can go to the funeral. That will
The leaders of the federal government basically decamping to South
Carolina to pay their respects, as the federal Justice Department says it
will take on this prosecution, and as the South Carolina state government
today for all its intentions to take this flag down sometime in the future,
the South Carolina state government today made sure that this Confederate
flag still flew, over the horse drawn carriage that carried Senator
Pinckney`s president to the state capitol to lie in state.
I guess they thought they couldn`t bear to take it down even for a
few hours, even just for the moments it took on let his body pass by it.
Joining us now to talk about what it means that the federal
government may be filing hate crime charges in this case is Paul Butler.
He`s a professor of law at Georgetown University. He`s a former federal
Mr. Butler, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to see you
PAUL BUTLER, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: It`s great to be here.
MADDOW: So, if the Justice Department does file hate crimes charges,
what does that mean in material of how this is going to be prosecuted?
Obviously, the state is expressing interest and prosecuting for capitol
BUTLER: The law is expressive. We can`t bring back the nine lives
that were snuffed out in Charleston. We can`t reverse the injury that a
criminal does. But how that injury is described sends a powerful message.
Here, the shooter extinguished the lives of nine African-American
people, but he crushed the souls of every African-American. He enhanced a
sense of vulnerability that comes from 400 years of racialized violence.
The Justice Department is saying that that white supremacist motive
needs to be acknowledged in the criminal process. Now, as a practical
matter, it doesn`t make a difference in term of the sentence that he gets.
There`s no death penalty for a federal hate crime. There is for a federal
terrorism charge as we know from the Boston massacre shooting.
But this is really more symbolic. It`s a way to acknowledge that
racism is a major part of the reason that Mr. Roof acted. And so, it ought
to be part of criminal resolution.
MADDOW: You mentioned the prospect, at least the analogy of federal
terrorism charges. In your opinion as a former prosecutor, and just
somebody looking at the facts of the case, is it possible that terrorism
charges could have also been considered in this case at the federal level?
BUTLER: Absolutely. The federal domestic terrorism law says that if
you attempt on commit a crime with the intent to coerce or intimidate a
group, you`re guilty.
You know, too often when it is an Arab or Muslim person who commits
mass murder, we understand that`s a political act. We describe it as
terrorism. When it`s a white person, we talk about mental illness or some
kind of emotional breakdown. It`s almost as though, white privilege
extends even to white people who are accused of mass murder.
But if you look at the facts, domestic terrorists who look like Mr.
Roof have killed more people than ISIS and al Qaeda combined. The first
domestic terrorism law, the Ku Klux Klan act of 1871 was designed, targeted
as race based violence. That was 1871. In 2015, African-Americans still
need equal protection of the law.
MADDOW: Are you encouraged that if these hate crime charges are
brought at the federal level, however it has worked out in terms of the
sequencing of prosecution and the venue this will be played out, are you
encouraged that there will be additional federal resources brought to bear?
Just the Department of Justice`s resources brought to bear on this, to make
sure this prosecution is as aggressive as it possibly can be?
BUTLER: Absolutely. The Justice Department has great prosecutors
and it has the be agents, the investigators, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, the best law enforcement agency in the world. So, it`s
great to have these resources on the case.
In addition, in South Carolina, we`ve got nine murder charges. The
evidence seems clear. The lawyers understand, you never know what a jury
is going to do. So, if something goes wrong in South Carolina with the
state case, the federal case also provides insurance that justice can still
MADDOW: Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor, Georgetown
University law professor, very clarifying, sir. Thank you very much for
being here. I really appreciate it tonight.
BUTLER: Great to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more to come on this topic and
much more including what I am hearing is some breaking news which we`ll
have right after we come back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have some breaking news tonight in the case of the two
convicted killers who escaped from that maximum security prison in Upstate
New York earlier this month, and no, they are not yet caught.
But tonight, NBC News has a learned that a corrections officer at the
prison from which these men escaped has been arrested, in connection with
the escape. The details are still coming in on this, but we have learned
tonight that this male 57-year-old corrections officer has been charged
with promoting prison contraband with tampering with physical evidence and
with official misconduct.
What exactly did he do? It`s not totally clear yet. But apparently
this officer was placed on administrative leave last week as part of the
ongoing investigation into the escape. But tonight, something has changed
and they have decided to officially arrest him. He is now the second
prison employee to be arrested in connection with this escape after a
supervisor at the prison`s tailor shop was arrested and charged earlier
Now, tonight, with this officer`s arrest, we`re told he is expected
to be arraigned tonight in a courtroom in Plattsburgh, New York.
But again, the big bottom line is the search for these two escape
prisoners is still ongoing and now heads into day 20. But a corrections
officer has been arrested in connection with the escape.
We`ll bring you more as this story develops.
MADDOW: OK. So, NBC does those public service announcements called
"The More You Know", right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: I know you`re busy, I know your kids are busy.
Maybe it`s time you find out what they`re busy doing. If we want better
kids, we`ve got to be better parents. And sometimes, that starts with
something as simple as dinner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Simple, to the point. The more you know.
I have always loved those things. I did one of those things which
involved me saying the word crackalackin. You can look it up if you`re
interested. I am too embarrassed to show it to you.
But, today, in beloved homage to "The More You Know", we decided at
our news meeting that we need our own version of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The more we now know. The more you know.
TRMS SENIOR PRODUCER MIKE YARVITZ: The more we now know?
MADDOW: The more we now know -- the more we now know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more we know.
MADDOW: You know.
TRMS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CORY GNAZZO: Or is it "we told you so"?
TRMS SEGMENT PRODUCER JULIA NUTTER: OK. The more, colon, we know.
MADDOW: Why would you change "you" to "we"? We can keep the "you"
the more, nevermind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It urns out it is very hard to riff on "the more you know"
because the "the more you know" is perfect as it is.
But you know what? The news cycle demands a riff. Are you ready?
OK. What it`s called is -- you know more now.
Thank you, Nick.
So, there`s like a thing that happens in the news cycle where the
story ends is kind of a cliffhanger and you think you know where it ends up
but you don`t really know where it ends up until you do. Until you know
And that story that left everyone when it first broke, it finally
gets resolved. That`s the situation we`re in. So, for example, a few
months ago, the very famous Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City made
some important and sort of worrying news.
Every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover has stayed at the Waldorf
Astoria when visiting New York. For decades, U.S. State Department
officials have made the Waldorf Astoria their official headquarters while
they`re in town for meetings of the U.N., which is based in New York. The
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. for 50 years now has maintained a permanent
residence at the Waldorf Astoria. Samantha Power lives there now. Francis
Underwood`s wife would have had to move there had she been confirmed by the
Senate in the "House of Cards". Right.
So, when news broke a few months ago that a Chinese company with
links to the Chinese government was buying the Waldorf Astoria hotel, that
immediately raised these questions as to whether or not the U.S. would have
to worry about the Chinese government spying on all these high level U.S.
officials staying at that hotel.
Turns out, we do not have to worry about it, because now we know.
The State Department has decided that high level U.S. officials will no
longer stay at the Waldorf Astoria. It looks like President Obama will not
be checking in there again either.
We now know because a Chinese company bought the Waldorf Astoria
because of worries about Chinese spying on U.S. officials, the U.S.
government is, in fact, abandoning the Waldorf hotel for the first time in
generations. It has happened.
We know how the story ends. They pulled the plug. You know more
And here`s another example. Last month, we had Sister Megan Rice on
this show after she had served two years in federal prison for breaking
into a nuclear plant that stored uranium for nuclear warheads. Sister
Megan is a Catholic nun, she is a beat your swords into plowshares Catholic
anti-nuclear weapons activist.
And she broke in to this nuclear site as an act of protest. Sister
Megan was freed from prison before her sentence was up after a federal
judge overturned the charges against her.
But since she got out, there`s been this looming worry that 85-year-
old Sister Megan might have to go back to prison if federal prosecutors
appealed the judge`s ruling and basically put her on trial again. That
worry has been looming for her ever since the 85-year-old Catholic nun got
sprung from prison.
Now we know what will happen to her. Sister Megan, the 85-year-old
nun, is not going back to jail. Federal prosecutors have now announced
that they are dropping it. They are leaving it be. She gets to stay free.
They declined to appeal the case. You know more now.
And here`s one more which is a stupefying one which broke today.
This story first emerged during the protest in Baltimore over the death of
Freddie Gray. On April 27th, the same day as Freddie Gray`s funeral,
Baltimore police put out a super inflammatory super scary media advisory.
Do you remember this?
Baltimore Police Department, quote, "has received credible
information that members of various gangs including the Black Gorilla
family, the Bloods and Crips have entered into a partnership to, quote,
`take out law enforcement officers`." The Baltimore police department
called this explicitly a credible threat. They said law enforcement
agencies should take precautions to ensure the safety of their officers.
It was a scary thing, right? And the media ran with it like
wildfire. Even though Baltimore police spokesperson at the time would not
say how they learned of this threat, why they thought it was credible or
whether or not it was all connected to the Freddie Gray demonstrations.
Well, today, some important light was shed on this subject. Through
a Freedom of Information Act request, Vice News got access to hundreds of
pages of correspondence, among Homeland Security officials during the riots
It turns out that very shortly after the Baltimore police issued that
advisory about gang members setting aside their differences and entering a
partnership to kill police officers, very soon after the Baltimore PD
announce that had intelligence, a number of federal officials thought there
was something a little fishy about it. Quote, "Curious that the alert came
from Baltimore Police Department media relations section instead of
Baltimore Police Department intelligence unit, which is where we typically
receive this info."
A few hours later another Homeland Security employee says, quote,
"FBI Baltimore has interviewed the source of this information and has
determined this threat to be non-credible."
So, despite the huge media play that was given to this supposed
unified gang threat, once that supposed threat was found by the FBI to be
bunk, there was no retraction. They just left it out there. Why not?
So stories break. Sometime stories break off in mid stride and you
don`t know how they will work out.
But you know more now. Hence the nice man with the star. Thank you,
MADDOW: Sometimes, history has a way of putting one super courageous
person in exactly the spot that he or she needs to be in at exactly the
right time. My guest for the interview is one of those people I`m really,
really excited to talk to him. You have never seen him on TV before. But
he`s here next.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: I`m not sure where this would go on the number line of
courage, but here you have it. The mayor of Williamson County, Tennessee,
outside of Nashville, said today that they might, ought to, maybe
reconsider the county seal which shows some farm animals and an open bible
and also the Confederate flag draped over a cannon.
Williamson County, Tennessee, adopted that seal in 1968. Not 1868
but 1968. As a symbol of exactly what you think it would be a symbol of
when you made that decision in 1968.
Now, the mayor says maybe that seal should go. Quote, "We need to
look into the future and decide if this is something that needs to be
addressed." So courage maybe.
Since the racially motivated murders in that Charleston church last
week, a week ago tonight, government officials high and low have been
volunteering to get rid of their Confederate symbols, especially their
Confederate flags. Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina are all
reconsidering their Confederate flag license plates.
Last night on the show, we reported that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal
said, quote, "He does not have a problem with his state`s Confederate
plate." It turns out that after Governor Deal said he doesn`t have a
problem with that Confederate flag plate, he then very quickly changed his
mind. Now, Governor Nathan Deal says that plate should be changed.
In Mississippi, where the state flag includes the Confederate emblem,
the current and most recent governors have been basically saying, we don`t
really want to have anything to do with this discussion please. Let`s talk
about something else.
Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran said yesterday that he had no
opinion on the matter. But then today, Thad Cochran evolved. Yesterday,
no opinion. Today, Thad Cochran joined the chorus for changing the
Mississippi state flag. He called it his, quote, "personal hope".
So, you`ll find elected officials, particularly conservative elected
officials, all up and down the number line between courage and call me a
maybe on this. Ask me a different one, right? You`ll find them all up and
down that number lightning.
But you will also find, here and there, not just a statement of
courage, but actual action.
In Alabama, this morning, with no advance notice and no fuss about
it, Republican Governor Robert Bentley told Alabama state workers to take
the Confederate flags down. Those flags are not flying at the Alabama
state capitol anymore. He just did it. No muss, no fuss, he did it as his
own say-so as governor.
In moments of change and challenge like this, it sometimes takes a
person to just do it. To just get off the dime and go do it. It sometimes
takes somebody picking the fight when they are ready to pick the fight,
when they`re in a position to do so and they`re ready to say that they
personally are not willing to continue doing this thing that has been done
before. Sometime, it just takes right person.
This is John Hawkins. John Hawkins grew up in Water Valley,
Mississippi, not far from the University of Mississippi, which most people
call Ole Miss. And when John Hawkins was ready to go on college, he went
to Ole Miss.
And at the time, in the last `70s and early `80s, only about 7
percent of the student body at Ole Miss was African-American. People had
rioted when the first African-American student tried to enroll in 1962.
They rioted for three days. President Kennedy called out the National
Guard. Two people lost their lives in that revolt to keep Ole Miss all
The segregationist governor of Mississippi who stood in the school
house door at Ole Miss, he waved the rebel flag in an Ole Miss football
game the night those riots broke out. People who are there at the time say
that is actually when the rebel flag became ubiquitous at Ole Miss football
games. The school was already known as the Ole Miss Rebels. They had
Colonel Reb for their mascot.
But people say that Ole Miss became synonymous with the Confederate
battle flag, starting then, starting in 1962 not 1862 during war, but 1962,
as a symbol of resistance to civil rights and the civil rights movement, a
symbol of resistance to integration.
Twenty years after the violent effort to integrate that university,
John Hawkins, Ole Miss student, got himself elected cheerleader at the
If you look closely at this picture, you will see it is the white
cheerleader behind him that is waving a rebel flag. By then, by the early
1980s, Ole Miss cheerleaders were carrying rebel flag. But John Hawkins
who is a cheerleader I know what that white guy, Mr. Hawkins is waving a
mega phone. He is not waving the Confederate flag. Because John Hawkins
was the first African-American cheer leader in Ole Miss history and he
personally refused to wave the Confederate flag.
He told reporters back then, quote, "While I`m an Ole Miss
cheerleader, I`m still a black man. In my household, I wasn`t told to hate
the flag, but I did have history classes. And I know what my ancestors
went through, and what the rebel flag represents. It is my choice that I
prefer not to wave one."
You know what? The university changed. He did it. It was because
First, the university gave in to him specifically and John Hawkins
cheered for his team without carrying that flag. But then over the next 15
years, Ole Miss got rid of the rebel flag all together as an official
symbol of the school.
And it started with one student. It started with John Hawkins and
the personal courage he had to say no. Calmly, clearly, and alone as one
young man called on to do something he did not want to do. John Hawkins
said no. And it worked.
Joining us now for the interview is John Hawkins.
Mr. Hawkins, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I know you
have not spoken out about this much over the years. I really appreciate
you being here.
JOHN HAWKINS, FORMER UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI CHEERLEADER: My
MADDOW: At the time when you took that stand about the Confederate
flag and what you were and were not comfortable with, was it already a big
issue for black students or for other students on campus or were you
standing alone on that?
HAWKINS: You know, it`s an interesting discussion, because as you
know over the last 30 years, I`ve been fairly quiet on this topic. It was
quite a lonely moment 30 years ago, dealing with this issue.
What people don`t often talk about is that I was also the president
of the black student body at Ole Miss. And African-American students` fees
were being used at that time to purchase those flags. And African-American
students at the time did not approve of that.
So, I certainly did not to go Ole Miss for the purpose of becoming a
cheerleader. I was focused on athletics and other things but fate had it
such that that was one of the things I was put in a position to do.
And the idea of waving the flag was just not something that was
important to me. For those individuals that had a connection to the flag
for the purposes of student spirit and those types of things, I certainly
respected their decision.
But at the same time I think this is a great moment for us. Today it
is a leadership moment and it`s not just about looking at the flag and what
it represents. It is about how do we move forward and that was
foundational, I believe, to the decision for Ole Miss to embrace changing
that flag at that time.
MADDOW: You know, it`s the leadership question that made me want to
talk to you about this today, because you were obviously a young man, a
college student at the time and a student leader at the time. But when you
made that decision and ended up being a very consequential decision, it
can`t have been easy to do.
I mean, you talk about it being lonely. Were you scared to take
stand that you did when you did it?
HAWKINS: I`m not sure the word scared is the word I would use. I
mean, was I concerned? Of course at that time, because of the things that
were happening around me? Of course. It was 30 years ago, and that was a
But I knew that the stand I took was the right stand, a principle
decision. It wasn`t something that I spent a long time thinking about.
The night that the election took place, which is interesting, I was trying
to help another student friend of mine. A young lady by the name of Clara
Bibbs (ph) and her journey to become the first Ole Miss African-American
cheerleader. And I ended up making it and she didn`t. And she is still a
good friend of mine to this day.
But the question was at that moment, are you going to follow the
tradition of cheerleaders and carry that flag? And, of course, the answer
As you think about the journey that Ole Miss was on at that moment,
Rachel, and what it subsequently mental, that I believe defining moment was
one that allowed that university to turn the page and start moving towards
the future. Is it all the way where it needs to be? Certainly not. But,
you know, the way that you make, take a journey to a mile and playing it
one step at a time. I think that was an important first step in that
MADDOW: And because you were there and you were willing to take that
step, a lot happened because of what you were willing to do.
Thank you for helping us understand this. Again, I know that you
haven`t talked about this publicly a lot over the years. Thank you for
talking to us about it tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
HAWKINS: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you. John Hawkins.
I should tell you. Mr. Hawkins mentioned that the university used to
buy those flags with student fees and student money. One of the direct
consequences of him saying no, he wouldn`t wave that flag is that the
university stopped buying those flags and handing them out to people to
wave at their football games. He did it, because he was great. He did it.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So, hey, the largest event yet for any 2016 presidential
candidate anywhere just happened. It wasn`t the launch of anybody`s
presidential campaign or anything. Just a normal campaign stop, just the -
- I`m going to show up here so come see me if you like me event.
The speech was apparently only planned two days in advance and what
we`re told is more than 5,000 people turned out. This is the biggest
presidential candidate event yet for any candidate for 2016. They actually
overflowed the room. Hundreds had to watch from other overflow rooms.
They even had to listen from bleachers that were set up outside.
As far as we can tell, other than maybe some of the big "I`m
launching my campaign" special events, no candidate has had a turnout like
this one at all. This is the biggest yet for anyone. Guess who it was?
MADDOW: So, as you know, we have been covering for the last few
weeks the historically giant field of candidates running for the Republican
presidential nomination. We started at 22, which I thought was an insanely
high number. We then winnowed it down to 19 when a few people poofed
because they said they wouldn`t run.
But still, 19 is an amazing enough number, by far the largest major
field for president ever, and it poses some fascinating logistical
difficulties and awkward choices for the Republican Party. For example, we
have reported Republicans in the three early voting states in Iowa, New
Hampshire and South Carolina are all now protesting openly against the
National Republican Party and against the FOX News Channel because the
early state Republican parties do not like the debate criteria, which is
going to exclude a significant number of the people who are in the running.
Those protests are a big deal. You can`t be the official TV channel
of the Republican Party, FOX News, you can`t be the Republican Party and
give a one-finger salute to all three of the states who vote first in the
Republican primaries. You just can`t. So, something really is going to
have to break.
And then today it got worse, because today, we learned that
Univision, the huge Spanish language network, is joining the protests of
the Republicans in the early states. Univision is also now revolting
against the RNC. Univision is saying that they and "The Washington Post"
will sponsor their own Republican presidential candidates` forum despite
the RNC saying they can`t.
Depending on how they do it, what they are about to do will probably
break the RNC`s rules, just like Republicans in Iowa, New Hampshire and
South Carolina want to, as well.
So, all three early states plus the biggest Spanish language outlet
in the country, they are vowing to defy the RNC`s rules for how they are
running the primary. Whoo-hoo!
Something is going to have to break here. This cannot stand and
we`ve got a scoop on tomorrow night`s show how the Republican Party is
handling the pressure on the issue. It`s really weird. It is tomorrow
night. We`re nailing it down now. Please watch that tomorrow. It`s going
to be great.
Today, though, Bobby Jindal became the latest Republican to join the
race. Unless and RNC and FOX News change their plans for how they`re
running the primary, which I think they will have to do, it looks like
Governor Jindal may very well not make it to the first debates, which means
he will have no chance to making it to subsequent debates, which means he
won`t even really be running.
In the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, Bobby Jindal polls at 0
percent among national Republican voters. That`s not going to get him in
In the latest FOX News national poll, Bobby Jindal hits 2 percent.
So, maybe he makes it in, maybe.
That said in the same FOX News national poll, the overall top two
national finishers are Jeb Bush first and Donald Trump in second place
So, as the whole process of the Republican primary basically breaks
and the reality show guy beats out the governors, so they can`t really
compete for the nomination but he can, there`s one candidate who by a
large, clear margin is having the biggest impact on the ground as a
presidential campaigner. Just in terms of the sheer size of his campaign
events, this guy is blowing everyone away in terms of the number of people
who are turning up at his events, the ease with which he is able to conjure
not just large crowds, but larger crowds than any other person who is
He is the candidate who filled this gymnasium in Denver this weekend.
This is the Hamilton gym at the University of Denver. It is a capacity of
2,600 people. When he showed up, that room very quickly hit capacity and
then they filled up the lacrosse field and all of the bleachers next door,
5,000 people turned out for this event.
This campaign said they only organized it with a few days` notice.
They`ve got a post on Facebook. No big advance wind up, no heavy-duty
publicity. They threw this together at the last minute, not an early
voting state where people are hot wired to turn out and meet the candidates
because they know they`ll be there.
This is the one candidate on the trail right now who can turn out, I
kid you not, 5,000 people with a Facebook post, a huge overflow crowd at
the drop of the hat. Thrilling supporters and bewildering the national
Naturally, you have guessed by now, that candidate is Bernie Sanders
-- 5,000 people in Denver this weekend.
Yes, Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic
nomination. But there`s something going on with Bernie Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARLEN COAKLEY-JENKINS, SISTER KILLED IN CHARLESTON SHOOOTING: We
can`t allow hate to replace everything that our parents ever instilled in
us. We have to be forgiving. We have to be loving. We have to turn love
the noun in to love the verb.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tonight marks one week since the small group of people who
turned up for Wednesday night bible study at the Mother Emanuel Church in
Charleston, were killed in that church. That was one week ago tonight.
And tonight, it is more like 100 people who are congregated in the same
room at the church tonight for bible study tonight, including family
members of one of the victims, 59-year-old Myra Thompson.
Funerals for the victims of that massacre will begin in South
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2015 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
MORE FROM RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Add Rachel Maddow Show headlines to your news reader: