Skip navigation

'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Read the transcript to the Thursday show


Date: August 6, 2015

Guest: No



      CHRIS MATTHEWS, "HARDBALL" HOST:  It`s 11:00 Eastern for full

coverage, analysis and reaction to the big debate we`ll have to watch out



      Right now, for the great Rachel -- Rachel Maddow, THE RACHEL MADDOW



      RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Thank you, Chris.  I appreciate it.  I`m

looking forward to the drunk edition of "HARDBALL" at 11:00 tonight. 

That`s going to be fun.  Ten beers between now and then, everybody go.


      I want to thank you at home for being with us tonight.  There is

obviously a TV event for the ages going on tonight, one whose ratings I

have to admit will absolutely dwarf whatever we are able to do here



      But, you know what?  Jon Stewart`s grand finale on "The Daily Show"

after 16 years at the helm of the best news and politics satire show that

our country has ever had, this grand finale he is doing later on tonight,

this is not just a TV event for the ages, it`s something that is a big,

important moment for us as a country. 


      I mean, if you care about the kinds of things that you probably care

about if you watch this show, it`s not all that unreasonable to look at

this event tonight, to look at Jon Stewart ending "The Daily Show" and ask

who are we actually going to be as a country after tonight`s last "Daily

Show"?  Who are we going to be when we don`t have this to turn to anymore

to make sense of our news? 




      JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW:  Well, if you remember in the original

rush to war -- I mean, diligently planned, internationally sanctioned --

freedom rave, there were some individuals who were wrong about the whole

(EXPLETIVE DELETED) thing.  Just wrong.  Just dead wrong, like, about

everything.  All of them. 


      SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Let`s act now to get rid of

the tyrant who has abused and killed his own people, who is procuring

weapons of mass destruction, substantial evidence to that effect.


      WILLIAM KRISTOL, EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD:  The choice is disarming

him by war or letting him have the weapons of mass destruction. 



with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and

relatively soon. 



Baathists who use their power to repress the Iraqi people will be removed

from office. 


      STEWART:  By the way, you can have all these memorable screw-ups and

more.  Just call now and order. 


      That`s what I call being completely (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wrong about



      Anyhow anyhow, you`ll appreciate this.  I think you`ll appreciate

this.  Those idiots were ostracized.  Never heard from again because of how

-- I`m kidding. 


      Because I think we all know four wrongs make a right.  In this

current crisis the news media has rushed to get the band back together

again and they all have the same advice.  On bass-ically wrong about

everything, Bill Kristol, on drum-ming support for endless war, Paul

Wolfowitz, on guitar, are you kidding me, how does this guy keep getting

put on television, Lindsey Graham. 


      GRAHAM:  The stubborn headed president we have who thinks he knows

better than everybody else, who withdrew troops -- stubborn headed,

delusional detached president.  That`s the last bad thing I`m going to say.




      STEWART:  My wicked tongue.  I`m so bad, at foreign policy.  Now pour

me another julep, Lindsey feels a song.




      MADDOW:  Honestly, America, how are we going to survive Lindsey

Graham running for president this year without Jon Stewart there every

night to do his Lindsey Graham "pour me a julep" voice?  How are we going

to have Donald Trump actually running for president this year without Jon

Stewart to explain things to Donald Trump? 




      UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  On day three of Sarah Palin`s One Nation bus

tour she met with Donald Trump on his home turf here in New York City. 


      STEWART:  Oh, my gosh, she`s here?  She`s in the house?  With him? 


      Wow, this brings up so many questions.  Whose name will they put on

the vehicle they travel in? 


      Will they call it trailing plump? 


      So Trump is showing Palin the town.  I`m sure he`s showing her all

the best, some classy place like the Trump all-you-can-eat foie gras and



      Trump foie gras and cafeteria where you are guaranteed to contract

gout.  The disease of kings. 


      UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The two broke bread.  They went out for a slice

of pizza in New York`s Times Square. 


      STEWART:  You know what?  A slice of pizza.  Respect. 


      UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The place is called Famous Famiglia Pizza.  It is

an Albanian chain of pizzerias. 


      STEWART:  What?  Famous Famiglia is at Fifth and Broadway, I mean,

I`ve eaten there.  The pizza is, you know, fine.  I used to eat there a lot

when I was working next door at Caroline`s comedy club.  It`s good

convenience pizza. 


      Back in the `80s, there weren`t a lot of food options in Times

Square.  It was either Famiglia pizza or scarfing down some edible

underwear from one of the porn shops. 


      And then Giuliani took that option away.


      You know, Donald, if you`re taking an esteemed visitor to get real

New York pizza, Famiglia`s ain`t it. 


      SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  We had great pizza.  Wasn`t

that good?  It was real New York pizza. 


      STEWART:  No!  No, it`s not.  Unless real authentic New York pizza

can also be found in terminal four of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International

Airport.  It`s Famiglia.  It`s a chain.


      And, Governor Palin, by the way, no disrespect.  No disrespect to

you.  You`re a guest of our city.  We should offer you the finest that our

hospitality has to offer you. 


      I just would have thought Captain Comb-over could have pulled that

one off.  I mean, for (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sake, it`s New York City.  I

mean, I hate to use this term this close to Ground Zero, but we`re a bit of

a pizza mecca. 


      I mean, you know, you`ve got -- you`ve got Lombardi`s.  Honestly,

Lombardi`s.  Go down to Lombardi`s, little Italy, founded in 1905.  Make

their own pork sausage. 




      MADDOW:  I get my pizza from Lombardi`s. 


      When Jon Stewart signs off tonight on his final show on "The Daily

Show", we will enter a new American era where for the first time in 16

years I don`t think it`s hyperbole to say we really don`t know how the

presidential race or politics in general will be covered anymore.  Not that

we don`t know that they will be covered.  They will be. 


      But we don`t know what it will be like because Jon Stewart has been

so influential, not just on the other comedy, more on that in a moment, but

on the news itself.  And honestly, you know what?  I`m a liberal and as a

liberal, I am really going to miss the greatest practitioner in the nation

of the art of making fun of FOX News. 




      GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS:  Why do I have to drive around with my

kids to look for nativity scenes and be like, oh, yeah, kids, look. 

There`s baby Jesus behind the Festivus pole made out of beer cans?  It`s



      STEWART:  Yes.  That sounds relatively nuts.  Why are you driving

around looking for nativity scenes in the car when you could just bring

your kids to where you work where you put a giant nativity scene out on the



      But as much as I`m used to Gretchen`s yearly manger danger warnings,

little surprised to see Megyn Kelly going full Christmas nog. 


      MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS:  So, in "Slate", they have a piece on dot-com,

Santa Claus should not be a white man anymore.  By the way, for all of you

kids watching at home, Santa just is white, but this person is just arguing

that maybe we should also have a black Santa.  But, you know, Santa is what

he is and we`re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.


      STEWART:  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) just got real.  Santa is just white. 

And who are you actually talking to? 


      Children who are sophisticated enough to be watching the news channel

at 10:00 at night yet innocent enough to still believe Santa Claus is real,

yet racist enough to be freaked out if he isn`t white. 




      MADDOW:  I actually think that FOX News channel is going to be sorry

to see Jon Stewart go.  I think Jon Stewart leaving "The Daily Show" will

reduce the influence overall of FOX News or at least their reach because,

yes, every conservative in the country already watches FOX News, but nobody

other than conservatives watches FOX News. 


      The way the rest of the country ever found out what was happening

over on FOX News was mostly by watching Jon Stewart make fun of them. 


      I will also say this on a slightly more serious point although I mean

all of these ones.  In all of the tributes and the good-byes that are being

written about Jon Stewart and the lead up to his finale show on "The Daily

Show" late tonight, I have to say, I wish more people gave him credit for

one of the issues that he chooses to focus on, that he doesn`t have to

choose, but he has consistently done it and that is that he consistently

chooses to talk about war and foreign policy and national security and

veterans issues.  He doesn`t have to do that stuff but he does. 


      And I am a liberal who really cares about those issues.  I care about

those issues almost more than I care about anything else.  I was lucky

enough to be able to go on his show a bunch of times to talk about those

issues.  But as hard as I try to get those kinds of issues into the

national discussion particularly as a liberal, honestly, nobody is better

or more consistently good about talking about those issues in a way that

everybody understands than Jon Stewart has been all these years, and I will

miss that. 




      STEWART:  The Defense Department uses a medical tracking program

called AHLTA, while the V.A. uses a generally superior program called

VistA, and those two programs are unable -- I swear to you this is true --

those two programs are unable to communicate with each other.


      How insane is this complication?  Even the analogy explaining why the

two computer systems can`t work together is fundamentally flawed. 


      REP. JEFF MILLER (R), FLORIDA:  Let me use this analogy.  An Xbox and

a PlayStation can play the same game on the same TV screen but they don`t

talk together. 


      STEWART:  That makes sense. 


      Here is the thing: an Xbox and a PlayStation don`t talk because

they`re competitors.  Their mission is to destroy each other -- which is

not the relationship we expect from the part of government that takes care

of our disabled veterans and the part of government that creates them.


      So while I guess you could spend -- so I guess you could spend a

billion dollars over four years trying to get one kid`s Xbox-games to work

with another kid`s PlayStation games or, as the family`s parent or

commander-in-chief, could you just command we`re going to just use the





      MADDOW:  In the act of making fun of everyone and making fun of

everything, I think when Jon Stewart really rattled people is when it

started to emerge in the data, started to emerge on the data, young people

were not just having a good time watching Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show"

they were learning about the news from Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show."


      And that`s because he really does do a good job explaining things

while making you laugh.  That Xbox-PlayStation thing is a good example of

that.  I mean, it is an art and a lot of us try to do it but he

consistently does it. 


      He also has seeded the landscape with so many other people who are

also good at that particular art that it`s hard to imagine political satire

in our country going forward without the people who Jon Stewart has brought

into it through their roles on "The Daily Show."




      STEVE CARELL, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Not only was I finally on the bus, but

I was going to get the chance to talk to senator John McCain. 


      Sir, how are you? 


      SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA:  You are welcome on our bus at any



      CARELL:  Let`s do a lightning round. 


      MCCAIN:  OK. 


      CARELL:  Your favorite book. 


      MCCAIN:  "For Whom the Bell Tolls". 


      CARELL:  Favorite movie. 


      MCCAIN:  Viva Zapata!


      CARELL:  Charlton Heston. 


      MCCAIN:  Marlon Brando. 


      CARELL:  Close enough. 


      If I were a tree I would be a --


      MCCAIN:  If I were a tree I would be a root. 


      CARELL:  What does that mean? 


      Senator, how do you reconcile the fact were you one of the most vocal

critics of pork barrel politics and yet while were you chairman of the

Commerce Committee, that committee set a record for unauthorized



      I was just kidding.  No, I don`t even know what that means. 


      Oh, they all laughed at my little question, but two things were

abundantly clear. 


      OK, all right.  We`re gone.  It was the wrong question to ask, and I

was going to be walking. 


      JOHN OLIVER:  Mr. Prime Minister, let`s begin in the formal

Australian way, good day. 




      OLIVER:  Obviously gun control doesn`t work, it can`t work, it will

never work.  So how was your scheme a failure?


      HOWARD:  Well my scheme was not a failure.  We had a massacre at a

place called Port Arthur 17 years ago and there have been none since.


      OLIVER (voice-over):  Zero gun massacres?  Hold on.  Did gun control

actually work?



that could also be a statistical anomaly.


      OLIVER:  Yes.  It was just their mass shootings disappeared.


      VAN CLEAVE:  But there were so few of them.  Woopty-doo.


      OLIVER:  Woopty-doo?


      VAN CLEAVE:  Yes. 


      OLIVER:  Woopty-doo?


      VAN CLEAVE:  Yes.  Mass shootings were rare anyhow.


      OLIVER:  Exactly. They probably barely had a massacre before 1996. 


      HOWARD:  There were about 13 in the previous 18 years.


      OLIVER:  In the 18 years before Port Arthur, there were 13 mass



      VAN CLEAVE:  Yes. 


      OLIVER:  Almost one a year. 


      VAN CLEAVE:  I was unaware they had that many.  Mass being, what,

more than two poem a people at a time? 


      OLIVER:  More than four. 


      VAN CLEAVE:  More than four.  OK.


      OLIVER:  Woopty-doo.


      STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN:  Finally, it was time for Bush in the



      He`s waving.  And he has a blue tie. 


      GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT:  I accept your nomination for

president of the United States. 


      COLBERT:  He accepted!  I didn`t know.  I didn`t know if he would

accept.  It was touch and go for a while because Pataki rocked the house so

hard they could have given it to Pataki at the last minute.  I would have

understood if Bush said, no, Pataki rocked the house.  Give the nomination

to Pataki.  He came out and grabbed it and that shows decisiveness and



      BUSH:  Members of both political parties including --


      COLBERT:  The protesters are now being whisked away to an all

expenses paid vacation in beautiful Guantanamo Bay. 




      MADDOW:  Stephen Colbert will soon take over for David Letterman. 

John Oliver has his successful satire show on HBO now.  Steve Carell is

freaking Steve Carell. 


      "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart ends tonight.  It is hard to

imagine our political discourse without him, not just because of the way he

shaped the rest of satire but because of the way he`s also shaped the news

and politics by being both of it and against it, too. 


      And there`s a reason the president of the United States did so many

shows and Bill O`Reilly couldn`t say no either.  You couldn`t afford --

you`ve never been able to afford to not take him seriously, even as he

insisted he wasn`t being serious.


      If you are a liberal in particular but really for all of us, "The

Daily Show" ending tonight is the end of an American era and it is an end

of an era I do not want to see ended.


      There`s a lot else going on in the world tonight, I swear.  We`ll

have a lot on all of that.  But we will have more on this.  Do stay with





      MADDOW:  We`ve got an update on how the kids` table debate went over

at FOX News.  We`re also going to be talking more about Jon Stewart. 


      When Jon Stewart signs off after 16 years on "The Daily Show", we`re

not only going to be losing the funniest pseudo-news anchor on American

television.  We`re also going to be losing one of the best interviewers

ever on the air. 


      Jon Stewart himself, though, does not consent to doing many

interviews, to being asked questions by other people.  But he did do one of

those with me and some of that is next.






      MADDOW:  Do you think that "The Daily Show" functions just as

entertainment?  I sort of feel like --




      MADDOW:  Satire - it`s more than entertainment.  It is engagement and

it is criticism. 


      STEWART:  Here`s what I would say.  I feel more kinship to Jerry

Seinfeld than I do to, you know, what you guys do or what CNN does or what

NBC does in that he is able to comedically articulate an intangible for



      When they see it, they are, "God, it`s been in my head and I know

it`s been in there, but I`ve never put it together with that kind of rhythm

in four levels, and that`s hilarious that you were able to articulate



      He is a craftsman at that.  He`s the best at being able to craft

those moments of sort of these intangible esoteric things and put them

together into something that really connects with people. 


      We try to do the same thing but with a more political-social avenue. 

But it is still - if you were to look at our process, he`s much more our

process than the news is.  Does that make sense? 


      MADDOW:  But what I know of your process seems very similar to the

way I put my show together. 


      STEWART:  You really need to change that. 


      MADDOW:  I mean -- yes. 


      STEWART:  We have to, because we`re parodying a news organization. 

We have to have the logistics and mechanics of one. 


      MADDOW:  Yes. 


      STEWART:  But the process that the material goes through is not a

news process.  It`s a comp --  


      MADDOW:  But it`s fact-checking. 


      STEWART:  Well, we do that, but not to be journalists.  We do that

because it wouldn`t be that funny. 


      MADDOW:  If it was a lie. 


      STEWART:  Yes.  It would be like, I think it`s pronounced Baltimore

and not "Baltimore."  No.  You know, you do that because untrue things

stand out like a sore thumb in the --


      MADDOW:  Even though you identify yourself as fake news and having

built with a fake news process -


      STEWART:  Yes.


      MADDOW:  I think --


      STEWART:  I don`t -- we don`t say fake.  I mean, fake is wrong.  That

is - it`s a misnomer that we use and it`s glib.  It`s not.  We`re not news

anything.  We`re commenting on the news comedically. 


      MADDOW:  I think that you think of it differently.  But I think a lot

of people who watch your show and who watch cable news think of what we do

as not being that different, which sucks for me, because I used to be this

sort of mildly amusing person talking, like using humor to tell the story

of the wasteful F-35 second engine on that fighter jet. 


      STEWART:  Right.


      MADDOW:  And now, I`m the person trying to be Jon Stewart and



      STEWART:  I love that F-35 that you did. 


      MADDOW:  Yes. 


      STEWART:  That wasteful engine bit -- that killed them.  That used to

be my bit. 


      MADDOW:  Even if you`re not launching it in the same way, it`s being

received in the same way.  And the barriers between what actually happens

on cable news that you`re satirizing and what you`re doing - we`re not

seeing as being all that different.  Does that worry you?


      STEWART:  The only thing that I would say - it doesn`t worry me.  I

think I can understand how it would worry people in the news.  But what I -

- I have existed - I am the highlander. 


      You know, there`s been a form of me around in forever, a comedian

who, with political and social concepts, criticizes them from a haughty yet

ultimately feckless perch, throwing things, like, that - the box that I`m

in has always existed. 


      The box that you`re talking about I think is new.  And so, I do think

if that`s moving towards me, that`s OK.  But I really feel like I`m on

pretty solid ground with the footsteps of my ancestors. 


      You know, that`s all -- you know, I don`t happen if the Smother

Brothers don`t happen.  Bill Maher -- you know, those guys all paved a way

for something that I do.  But that`s always existed. 




      MADDOW:  Jon Stewart is doing his final episode tonight of "The Daily

Show" on Comedy Central and, yes, there`s the first Republican presidential

debate, too.  Honestly Jon Stewart signing off after 16 years is the thing

that`s going to go down in history about tonight. 


      "The Daily Show" happens on a news-like set.  When he retires

tonight, they`re moving the whole set to the Newseum in Washington.  Mr.

Stewart told me in that interview that calling his show fake news was not

exactly the right term.  He wanted his show to be seen as comedic criticism

of the news, not as news itself.


      But that doesn`t mean people haven`t been getting their news from Jon

Stewart happily for years now.  And Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert pushed

it further. 


      Remember when they did a real, live Washington, D.C., rally as a way

of making fun of Washington, D.C., rallies by holding a Washington, D.C.,



      I mean, "The Daily Show" has been so influential in the media that

has caused a lot of gnashing of teeth and worry over the years about

whether the boundary of real news and comedy were getting too blurred. 




      MADDOW:  After the 2000 election, you said something that --

something I remember it was about George Bush and Dick Cheney right after

Bush versus Gore, and you said something to the effect of Bush said, can we

have the recession outside today because the weather is so nice -- with the

idea being that George Bush is an idiot.  He`s an infantile person that

thinks "recess" and "recession" are the same thing. 


      STEWART:  Right, right, right.


      MADDOW:  And after the "Teabag the White House before they tea bag

you" sign goes on Fox News, we talk about what the whole idea is about

teabagging and how funny they don`t get what that word choice means. 


      STEWART:  Right, right, right.


      MADDOW:  I sort of feel like we`re doing the same thing, that you

make -- essentially, you exaggerate in order to be funny or in order to

make a point. 


      STEWART:  I understand it.


      MADDOW:  And everybody understands it`s just little exaggeration. 


      STEWART:  That`s true. 


      MADDOW:  But there`s a commitment - I think we both have a commitment

to not lying, to telling the truth, even when we are making a point. 


      STEWART:  As we see it.  As we see it. 


      MADDOW:  Yes. 


      STEWART:  I mean, I think everybody does -- I think it`s -- I don`t

doubt that it`s genuine.  There is a part of me that feels like there`s a

high-mindedness to news and journalism that doesn`t exist. 


      I feel like I do have liberties that you don`t have.  And I could

lose them by stepping into that, and what I would gain in that, I think, is

a little bit more dignity, a little bit more - you know what I mean? 


      Like, there`s -- I would have a little more skin in the game.  And I

think there`s something about that that`s more courageous than what we do. 

So that, I very much admire.  But I also think that, though, that there`s a

part of me that says, like, these rules have existed for people such as me

forever, and we`re not the ones bending them.  I`m not -


      MADDOW:  We`re getting to be more like you.  You`re not getting to be

more like us? 


      STEWART:  Kind of. 


      MADDOW:  Until the rally, then you got a little bit more like us. 


      STEWART:  Yes.  Because I felt in 12 years I earned a moment to tell

people who I was. 


      MADDOW:  Yes.


      STEWART:  And that`s what I did.  And you know, this isn`t going to

be me forever either.  And that doesn`t mean, you know, (INAUDIBLE).  But

in my life, I also try and actually get on the field and help people, just

in a different way.  Just not through the show. 


      MADDOW:  Not through the show. 


      You`re a mensch for spending this much time with us. 


      STEWART:  I am a mensch. 


      MADDOW:  You are a mensch.  It`s a Yiddish word, right? 


      Can I tell you something? 


      MADDOW:  Yes.


      STEWART:  And I`m going to say this and you can edit this out -- I

like you.  I just -- there`s -- you know, we can have different points

about this is a little bit unfair as it goes in there and I completely



      Like what happens in discourse is not precise. 


      MADDOW:  Yes.


      STEWART:  But what is important, I think, is the place that people

come from.  And it`s important to remember, like, when I do those things, I

do try and remember where I think people are coming from, and I`m trying to

do better in my life remembering that, from even those that I really

disagree with. 


      MADDOW:  Yes.


      STEWART:  And I think some of that is based on, you know, the whole

idea -- you know, I don`t know if you know this Iranian journalist, Maziar


      But he --


      MADDOW:  Oh, yes. 


      STEWART:  OK.  So he was arrested.  There are, like -- as I said,

there are real enemies in the world and really just bad evil things. 


      But there are lot less of them than we probably, from watching all

this stuff, think that there are.  And that`s all that I just try and

remember in my own head to keep saying, because you`ve got to understand, I

watch this stuff like, you know, clockwork orange. 


      I`m strapped to my chair with my things -- you know, like, it`s just

comes out.  It`s like if you watch local news all the time, you`re going to

think something terrible is going to happen to your family a lot.  You will

feel the fear more than --


      MADDOW:  I will definitely be afraid of driving for fear of a car



      STEWART:  (INAUDIBLE) or the intestinal flu.  That is -- here`s

what`s the most amazing thing about this interview -- I have not thrown up

once while we`ve been doing this.  And that is -- I believe that may be the

longest in 24 hours that I have gone - you, my friend, are like ginger





      STEWART:  You are the ginger root of interviewers in that you have

pulled things out of me that I never knew were there and yet, still, I

leave not nauseous. 




      MADDOW:  He had the stomach flu.  But he didn`t bar f in the room and

I carry that triumph with me still. 


      I am a huge, huge fan of Jon Stewart and I think he is important.  I

think his work on "The Daily Show" at Comedy Central has made our country a

better country.  I think it has made politics more accountable.  I think it

has made the news media sharper and more self-conscious and ultimately



      This show you`re watching here, this host would not be here if it

were not for the influence of Jon Stewart on American politics and the

American media and his success in doing what he does. 


      And I`m sure that Trevor Noah is going to be great and I look forward

to him, you know, taking over, over there.  But between us, I will miss Jon

Stewart on "The Daily Show" like a house on fire.  His last show after 16

years is later tonight. 




      MADDOW:  Thanks for all the time, Jon.  I appreciate it. 


      STEWART:  Please.  I don`t want to do because I have the bubons.


      MADDOW:  OK.


      STEWART:  There you go.






      MADDOW:  Today, the Democratic Party announced the debate schedule

for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and the other Democrats vying for

the Democratic nomination for president this year.  Those fabulous five we

now know will have six debates in total -- six debates to pencil into their

busy campaigning schedules.


      The first debate will be set for October 13th.  That will be in

Nevada.  Think about that for a second.  They don`t start until October. 

And the last ones going to be February or March 2016.


      But that is kind of a remarkable decision by the Democratic Party. 

The first Democratic presidential debate is still more than two months away

from now. 


      In the meantime, though, the Republican kids` table debate for the

candidates who FOX wouldn`t let into their real debate tonight, that

happened at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight.  If you want a bottom line for

how that went, the phrase you`re probably looking for is cruel and unusual.


      And that`s next.




      MADDOW:  Well, that was cruel.  Bottom line, I think it was mean.  I

think it was gratuitously insulting and undermining and patronizing, and it

did not have to be that way. 


      Viewers who tuned in to FOX News at 5:00 Eastern tonight for what FOX

News has been insisting was supposed to be a real legitimate debate for the

seven presidential candidates who didn`t make it into the real debate

tonight, viewers who turned in for that, this is the first image that FOX

News showed them on their screens. 


      This is what FOX put on screen, a completely empty stadium, gigantic

stadium full of seats with no people in them. 


      And throughout their entire broadcast forecast gave no explanation

for why this giant room was so empty. 


      FOX News gathered these poor people on stage, put them on TV speaking

with an echo into an empty arena that seats 20,000 people, and then they

took care to make sure that those of us watching at home would see that the

arena was empty.  It was not just, you know, one or two accidental shots

where you actually notice things were empty.


      Every time the camera pan to the FOX News moderators, look behind

them.  There was a shot of the stage in which you could see -- look at the

seats on the side.  Every time, you could see the lack of a crowd.  They

seemed to go out of their way to show it. 


      The awkwardness was humiliating and weird and again nobody explained

why.  You`re left to wonder, oh, could people have gone to this event and

they choose not to because these they chose not to because they are so



      And that question was complicated by the fact that there were a few

people around.  FOX, in fact, went out of their way to show the very few

people who were there scattered throughout the arena.  I mean, whoever they

were, they were quite obviously not paying attention, look, to the debates

and the candidates.  There were people on their phones texting or something

right behind the moderators.  You see the little glow of people moving

equipment around, setting up, presumably, for the main event later.  You

could see people just completely ignoring the debate going on, talking,



      It was bizarre and insulting and such an incredible disservice to

these candidates and it was mean for FOX to shoot it that way.  They didn`t

have to. 


      And it was such a striking aspect of watching this event that better

part of the afternoon, political reporters were trying to figure out why

FOX News and the Republican Party made the decision to stage it this way

and to shoot it this way. 


      Late this afternoon, the chairman of the party Republican Party for

the state of Ohio told us in response to our questions about it, told us

this.  Quote, "There was no audience for that debate."


      Oh, OK.  This was the plan all along to put these candidates on stage

like this and to allow no audience except for a few stragglers and then to

show off the empty room they were talking all these empty seats.  It was

just -- it was gratuitously mean to the people on stage. 


      And it was not just mean to them as a group.  FOX News singled out

specific candidates to humiliate one by one.  Astounding.


      That`s next. 




      MADDOW:  So, this was the shot.  This was the angle on stage FOX News

kept putting on screen over and over again at their also-rans consolation

prize debate earlier tonight. 


      It`s a fine shot until you notice that clearly visible in the shot

what`s going on here is the fact that Senator Lindsey Graham is standing on

a carpeted riser to make him look taller and that might seem like a small

thing, but showing it -- showing this one candidate over and over again on

a riser when nobody else is using one, that is not the image a presidential

candidate wants to project. 


      FOX News did not have to show that.  News organizations regularly

make sure they don`t show something l like that as a kindness to the

candidates.  But FOX News showed it over and over and over. 


      They also called the only female candidate on the stage by her first

name.  They did not have to do that either. 




      MODERATOR:  Carly, you were CEO of Hewlett-Packard. 




      MADDOW:  Imagine the moderators calling, "Hey, Rick, you were

governor of Texas."  It`s hard to imagine that for a reason because that

sort of thing didn`t happen with any of the male candidates, only the woman

gets called by her first name. 


      And then there were the "you don`t deserve to even be here" round of





      MODERATOR:  The first question to Governor Perry from Texas.  You

were in charge of the 12th largest economy of the world and you recently

said that four years ago, you weren`t ready for this job.  Why should

someone vote for you now? 


      MODERATOR:  Carly, you were CEO of Hewlett-Packard.  You ran for

Senate and lost in California in 2010.  This week, you said, "Margaret

Thatcher was not content to manage a great nation in decline and neither am

I."  Given your current standings in the polls, is the Iron Lady comparison

a stretch? 


      MODERATOR:  Senator Santorum, you won the Iowa caucus years ago and

ten other states but you failed to beat Mitt Romney for the nomination. 

Has your moment passed, Senator? 




      MADDOW:  Those questions on their own in a different context

legitimate questions n.  This context, though, FOX News asking these

candidates to justify their existence as candidates while FOX News does

everything it can to show them in a way that will make them look pathetic,

those questions they did nothing but further undercut these candidates even

more than they were already being undercut by the logistics and visuals of

the event. 


      Despite all of that, though, despite the terrible, unexpectedly

terrible position that these candidates were put in by FOX News

gratuitously, some of them did OK.  Seriously.  Actual highlights next. 

I`m not kidding. 




      MADDOW:  So, the FOX News Channel set up and shot the first

Republican candidates debate tonight.  The one that started at 5:00 p.m.

Eastern and included the candidates that FOX would not let into their other

debate.  They set that up tonight and they shot it for television in a way

that was gratuitously insulting and undercutting to the candidates who were

unlucky enough to be on that stage. 


      That said, though, some of the candidates tonight found a way to have

some shining moments.  And I mean it. 


      Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, for example, he went after Jeb Bush

tonight in a concise and passionate way.  What do I know, but to my ear it

worked.  He did this in a way that is likely to resonate with Republican

primary voters.  What do you think? 





have to be willing to lose the primary in order to win the general.  That`s

the establishment telling us to hide our conservative principles to get the

left and the media to like us.  That never works.  If we do that again, we

will lose again.  We will deserve to lose again. 




      MADDOW:  We will lose again and we will deserve it.  Strong answer. 


      Former Senator Rick Santorum also had a very bright moment tonight. 

He spoke personally and effectively when he was asked about immigration and

how specifically he would handle deporting undocumented adults who have

kids who were American citizens.  Watch how he does this.  This is why it`s

worth taking Rick Santorum despite all the reasons you don`t. 




      MODERATOR:  What would you say to a child born and raised in America

who could see their family broken apart by your policy? 


      RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  My father was born in

Italy.  And shortly after, they immigrated to this country.  Under the laws

of this country, he wasn`t allowed to be with his father for seven years. 

He spent the first seven years of his life in fascist Italy under Benito

Mussolini, not a pleasant place to be. 


      I asked my dad after I found out about this.  I said, "Didn`t you

resent America for not letting you be with your father in this formative

and threatening years?"  You know what he said to me, "America was worth

the wait."




      MADDOW:  Actually stopped the answer there because after that good

part, Rick Santorum seemed so psyched to be sticking that answer like that,

that the rest of his statement kind of headed off into an incoherent place

and he ended up getting dinged and the whole thing.  But the beginning was

great.  It was very good. 


      And the question everybody knew would be asked sooner or later, the

Donald Trump question, the moderators put that right up front and they

essentially phrased it to all these candidates as to why is Donald Trump so

much more awesome than you are.  They asked that question of Carly Fiorina

and frankly I think she hit it out of the park. 




      MODERATOR:  Like it or not Donald Trump, there`s a huge disparity

between the poll numbers that you have and the poll numbers that he has. 

So, Carly Fiorina, is he getting the better of you? 


      FIORINA:  Well, I don`t know.  I didn`t get a phone call from Bill

Clinton before I jumped in the race.  Did any of you get a phone call from

Bill Clinton?  I didn`t.  Maybe it`s because I hadn`t given money to the

foundation or donated to his wife`s Senate campaign.


      Here`s the thing that I would ask to Donald Trump in all seriousness. 

He is the party`s front runner right now and good for him.  I think he`s

tapped into an anger that people feel.  They are sick of politics as usual. 


      You know, whatever your issue, your cause, the festering problem you

hoped would be resolved, the political class has failed you.  That`s just a

fact and that`s what Donald Trump taps into. 


      I would also just say this.  Since he`s changed his mind on amnesty,

health care and on abortion, I would just ask, what are the principles by

which he will govern?




      MADDOW:  Well-aimed, reasonable, memorable and sometimes attacking

another candidate can make you look weak, but the way Carly Fiorina and

some of these candidates handled these questions I think made them look

strong.  Some of them got it right tonight. 


      Some of them also struggled a lot.  To be frank, one candidate, who I

think is usually a great political communicator, even though I disagree

with him on everything, I think is one of the best in politics not just in

the presidential field.  He delivered a very, very weak performance

tonight.  That was South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. 




      GRAHAM:  We need somebody ready to be commander-in-chief on day one

who understands there are no moderates in Iran.  They have been killed a

long time ago. 




      MADDOW:  No moderates left in the entire nation of Iran.  None.  Even

the babies.  Seventy-odd million people live there, none of them are

anything but hard liners. 


      We have an Iranian-American producer on our staff who heard him say

that in the debate and she turned around and said, you know, I`m going to

have to call my family in Iran and let them know that they are either hard

liners or they are dead.  They are going to be upset to hear that.


      Really, there are no moderate -- nobody -- while Lindsey Graham was

fumbling over his words, he was on his way to trying to make a substantive

point, an important and newsworthy point that he was trying to make. 

Lindsey Graham said tonight in this debate that not only does he think

there should be U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria indefinitely,

not only is that his policy as a presidential candidate, another land war

in the Middle East starting now, he also believes that that should be a

litmus test for anybody else who wants to run for the Republican



      He put it out there tonight.  If you do not want a new American

ground war in the Middle East, you`re not even fit to run for president. 




      GRAHAM:  One thing I want to be clear about tonight, if you`re

running for president of the United States and you don`t understand that we

need more American ground forces in Iraq and that America has to be part of

a regional ground force that will go into Syria and destroy ISIL in Syria,

then you`re not ready to be commander-in-chief, and you`re not serious

about destroying ISIL. 




      MADDOW:  Usually, Lindsey Graham, whatever he`s talking about is at

least interesting to watch.  Tonight, it felt like he was somewhere between

bursting into tears and falling asleep.  He just didn`t do a good job. 


      That said, what he said there, that`s a remarkable statement for a

presidential candidate, right?  It ought to be a litmus test issue for any

Republican candidate.  That would be the sort of thing that could generate

a headline for him coming out of this debate. 


      But honestly, that answer and the rest of the substance that was

supposed to come out of this debate got fully lost in this.  In what FOX

News did to these candidates in the humiliating optics that they set up

that swallowed the entire event. 


      It is understandable why these seven candidates, if you go back in

time, it`s understandable why they said yes to being in this thing, right? 

You think about when they were asked.  Running for president, don`t fit the

ridiculous changing criteria to make the debate stage.  You don`t make that

top 10.


      When at the time they got asked, you would still say yes to being in

this kids table debate at 5:00.  I mean, you might have felt insulted or

disappointed, but you`d say yes because at least you get to be on stage and

on FOX News.  You can understand why they all decided to participate when

they were asked.  Nobody turned FOX News down. 


      But in retrospect, the way FOX News set this thing up, look behind

the moderators.  The way they set them up to be undermined and embarrassed

and diminished by their appearance in this thing, politically it was a

mistake for any of them to be there tonight, because no matter how strong a

performance they gave, no matter how on point they were, no matter how

substantive they were, through no fault of their own, they were diminished

by taking part in this thing because of the way FOX News stated it.


      FOX News and the Republican Party decided to stage this event in this

particular way.  They didn`t have to do it this way.  It was preplanned. 

They planned an empty stadium for the second tier stadium.  And they

planned all their camera angles to show it.  This was cruel and it did not

have to be. 




      MADDOW:  Minneapolis, Minnesota, 3,000 people.  Keen, New Hampshire,

a thousand people showed up.  They couldn`t even fit in the room for the

event.  Portland, Maine, 9,000 people.  Madison, Wisconsin, 10,000 people. 

Phoenix, Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona, more than 11,000 people. 


      That has been the story of the largest crowds of the 2016

presidential campaign by far.  And all of them were people turning out to

see Bernie Sanders. 


      But now, check out the next one which is going to beat them all. 

This weekend, Senator Sanders is going to be in Portland, Oregon.  The

campaign announced they have had to move the event from a 13,000-set

coliseum to a larger venue, the one that seats 20,000 people because they

think they are going to need it. 


      Sunday, Portland, Oregon, Bernie Sanders, setting the bar higher and

higher and higher.


      That does it for us tonight. 


      Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".


      Good evening, Lawrence. 





<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.>

Rachel Maddow Show Section Front
Add Rachel Maddow Show headlines to your news reader:

Sponsored links

Resource guide