Guests: Cynthia Tucker, David Gergen, Faye Williams, Armstrong Williams, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Maury Wills, Sheryl Crow, Laurie David
DAVID GREGORY, GUEST HOST: Tonight: Don Imus is off the air, but the debate has not died down. Where does the conversation go from here about race, words and how we talk to each other?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m David Gregory, in again tonight for Chris. Thursday night, CBS followed NBC News in taking radio talk show host Don Imus off the air in response to his racist and sexist comments about the Rutgers women‘s basketball team. Today the team, after a personal meeting with Imus, announced it has accepted his apology, but his comments and firing have triggered a fiery debate and backlash around the country. Tonight, a frank, and we hope, candid discussion on the fall of Don Imus and the firestorm left in his wake.
Plus: It is ironic that this debate comes 60 years after such an important moment in this country. That‘s when 60 years ago, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and came into the game of baseball. Much to my delight as a lifelong Dodger fan, we‘re going to Dodger Stadium this hour, and we‘re going to talk to one of the greatest players in baseball history—about one of the great players in baseball history, Jackie Robinson, with one of the greatest Dodgers, and that‘s Maury Wills (ph). That‘s coming up a little bit later on.
We‘re going to begin this hour with Faye Williams, the chair of the National Congress of Black Women, and Armstrong Williams, who is a radio talk show host and a syndicated columnist. Welcome to you both.
Dr. Williams, I want to talk about where we are at the end of this week. And my observation, having covered this story and discussed this story at great length this week, that I think there‘s a lot of anger on both sides of this divide at the end of this week over the firing of Don Imus. What do you think?
FAYE WILLIAMS, CHAIR, NATIONAL CONGRESS OF BLACK WOMEN: Yes, I think you‘re right, David. But at the same time, plain old anger will just consume and destroy us. So we in the National Congress of Black Women have been on this issue for almost 15 years, when we started out with gangsta rap and talking about the destructive nature of it to our culture. And here we are, nearly 15 years later, still dealing with it. It says to us that all of us have got to work a little bit harder and that just being angry about it is not going to help.
GREGORY: Why do you think people are angry, though?
FAYE WILLIAMS: Well...
GREGORY: Why do you—where does the anger come from?
FAYE WILLIAMS: I think people are angry because they thought they had fought some battles, and what they find is we are continuing to fight the same old battles. So today, about 30 women‘s groups came together and basically said, Enough is enough. We can‘t settle with just being angry, we‘ve got to have a plan because we see now that this kind of thing is going to continue to happen, and we‘ve got to...
GREGORY: And what is—so what is the plan? What is—what do you think is the action item that comes after this incident?
FAYE WILLIAMS: Yes. Well, first of all, we talked today about the need to monitor these shows, to monitor our society more closely because there‘s so many things going on out there, so many things are getting past us that are being said, and we don‘t feel the need to do anything about it because we think it‘s just a passing fancy. But we see now it is not. And I think the Imus incident has taught us that we have to be ever vigilant, we can never assume that this problem is resolved. So these 30...
GREGORY: Do you have a list of people that you‘re going to be monitoring that you feel you need to go after?
FAYE WILLIAMS: Oh, I think I think we‘re going to looking at everybody because who knows where the racism, the sexism or the bigotry is coming from. We‘re just seeing that in our culture, everybody just seems free to talk about anybody, to destroy and to denigrate anybody. And we as women have said that we—you know, enough is enough. We have got to look at it.
And we want stations like yours to have a policy so that we don‘t have to fight these battles every time, a station knows what it is to do when somebody crosses that line. So we‘ve drawn some lines in the sand, and we‘re saying it can go so far and no farther.
And if the stations don‘t realize it, then we‘ll be there, including civil disobedience. We were prepared to go there today, but it just so happened that, you know, this part of the crisis ended. But it has not ended at all. And those 38 women‘s groups that came together today have vowed that we‘re going to be together. We are—at this moment, we have our staffs working on the rest of the plan in terms of what we will be doing.
We have purchased stock in your company. We‘ve purchased stock in other companies, as we did with gangsta rap, so that we can talk go to those shareholders‘ meetings and we can talk about what is that is denigrating to our people. And we‘ve called upon stations like yours to have diversity of leadership, of on-air personalities, and of people who come on the shows to talk about our issues.
GREGORY: Armstrong, I want to take on an issue here of about diversity because it‘s been a big topic, and it‘s a fair topic in a conversation to have. And Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have come on this program this week and said, What we‘re really going to take on is diversity inside NBC News and inside the other networks.
But I want you suggest this and have you comment on it. There is a level of diversity within NBC News that provided for a dialogue within NBC News that led to the firing of Don Imus. And I‘m not certain if 10, 15 years ago, that would have been the case. There were African-American voices within this network who were heard and heard loudly and heard strongly and who made a compelling case to our management, where they said, You know what? It‘s no longer appropriate to be associated with him.
So I ask you for a comment on that and about whether what Dr. Williams is saying is where you think this conversation goes next.
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think the biggest dilemma for American, because of our history from human slavery to de jure segregation to the Civil Rights movement, Americans actually are conditioned to believe that there is such a thing as black problems, white problems and Hispanic problems. The problem is, there are certain people in this country who seem to get outraged by a Don Imus, or run off to Durham, North Carolina, to do—when they assume that a black woman has been raped by three white men and ratchet up the rhetoric and say so many demeaning things because in our society, you‘re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. But we crossed another threshold. You‘re guilty until proven innocent.
And the Sharptons get more energized if the victim is black. They seem to think that whites only care if the victim is white. We should not be outraged, as African-Americans in the newsroom, because Don Imus is white and what he said offended black people. It offended our humanity. There should be no such thing as a black and white problem in the way we talk about it. I should be just as offended by what happened to these Duke players as by what Don Imus said about those ladies at Rutgers.
The problem is, we like to put ourselves in camps. So what we got to do is realize that black people can‘t take care of their problems, their out-of-wedlock births, lack of men in their households, the crime in the inner city, the lack of justice in the justice system. It takes all Americans to solve those problems. The probably is, we‘ve decided that we have to do it ourselves and nobody can take care of our problems. Just like Katrina. That was a black problem. White people wouldn‘t understand. That is ridiculous! That was an American problem.
We may have come here on different ships, but we‘re in the same boat now where you sink together or swim together. The problem is, we have been swimming separately and apart. There is one America. Until we are energized about all the problems that affect us all, and stop trying to put them in little boxes, nothing‘s going to change!
GREGORY: Let me bring you back, Armstrong, to where I started, which is my observation at the end of this week, I think there‘s African-Americans who are saying, Yes, it‘s an important step that Imus is off the air, but this is the beginning of this conversation, and it‘s just the start of taking on some of these issues.
And I think there are a lot of white people, including fans of Imus—and I‘ve gotten the e-mail and we‘ve gotten the e-mail at NBC News—who say this is crazy, that he shouldn‘t have been taken off the air, that he apologized, that it‘s Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton who are leading the fight and that they‘re not pure actors in this drama, and who are they to judge and lead the charge and that it was reactionary and we were responding to a kind of media mob mentality about sort of bringing Imus down.
Why do you think there‘s this anger at the end of this week, rather than a sense of resolution?
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: Well, it was Jesse Jackson, when he made the “hymie” comment, at his press conference, he said, Be patient with me, God is not through with me yet. In other words, he said, I‘ve fallen (ph). I‘ve done a very bad thing. I‘ve hurt a lot of people. But I still think the hope of my becoming a better human being and striving to correct this and bring about productive change is still within me.
But people are saying, Well, you‘re not willing to say that about Don Imus. You‘re not willing to hold Don Imus to the same standard that you asked for when you fell short. The Reverend Sharpton, when he and Reverend Jesse Jackson went down to Durham and condemned these white players and took the side of this accuser—we now know that she was lying, and they‘re not willing to say that, and destroyed the lives of these boys that they can never get their reputations back and their good name back. And so they realize that Reverend Al Sharpton used (INAUDIBLE) He—Reverend Al Sharpton caused by his rhetoric eight people to die, Reverend Al Sharpton and Tawana Brawley.
It is one thing—Al Sharpton is a good man. I know Al Sharpton. But sometimes good is not enough. Al Sharpton should be man enough to say to America, I owe you an apology. I‘m sorry. The same thing that he could sit so high and mighty in his studio to ask Don Imus to do, he should have the moral authority, especially as a minister, to do for himself.
And so until Al Sharpton and Reverend Jesse Jackson and these so-called leaders are willing to hold themselves to the same standard that they are holding Don Imus and everybody else to, they cannot be respected, and the American people will not want (ph) them. And this is not a black and white issue. They just don‘t have the moral authority because they‘re not the ones whose houses are totally clean. And that‘s just being honest. You may not like it, but that‘s what it is. And people see the hypocrisy. They see the contradictions, and they don‘t like it. They said, If we‘re going to do it, let‘s challenge the rap artists, let‘s challenge hip-hop, let‘s challenged these other shock jocks who use racist remarks toward whites and we laugh at it. Let‘s hold everybody to the same standard.
Don Imus could have been a force for good if we had left him on the airwaves. I really believe Don Imus learned and he was challenged, and I think he could have been a part of this dialogue.
GREGORY: I want to take that up when we come back. We have to take a break. We‘re coming back with Faye Williams and Armstrong Williams. They‘re staying with us. And when we return, we‘ll talk with Benita Fitzgerald Mosley of the Womens Sports Foundation and MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford, as well, who was a frequent guest on the Don Imus radio program.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
GREGORY: We‘re back on HARDBALL and back with Faye Williams of the National Congress of Black Women and syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams. And I‘m also going to bring in Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, who‘s president and CEO of Women in Cable Telecommunications. She‘s also a trustee for the Womens Sports Foundation and a 1984 Olympic gold medal winner. And MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford, who has been a frequent guest on the Imus show. Welcome to all of you.
I want to talk about Imus specifically here and the fact that he met with the Rutgers women last night at the governor‘s mansion in New Jersey. Reverend DeForest Soaries is a familiar face on this air this week because he has been talking to Imus, talking to the Rutgers ladies and mediated this meeting. I asked him about what was said specifically by Imus during this powerful meeting. This is what he said earlier today.
GREGORY: What did we say that we haven‘t heard him say in the past few days, to them?
REV. DEFOREST SOARIES, PASTOR TO RUTGERS WOMEN‘S BASKETBALL TEAM: He said something I believe that was quite profound and sincere. He said, I was just fired by CBS, and I‘m still here. Obviously, I‘m not here because I‘m trying to save my job. And he said, I‘m not trying to save my job, I‘m trying to save my life. Don Imus is attempting to get beyond this issue, and the meeting last night, I believe, gave him the kind of information that he indeed will need to make decisions about his future.
GREGORY: That was Reverend DeForest Soaries. Craig Crawford, let me ask you, as somebody who not only knows Imus, has been a guest, as I have, but has been following this story all this week, where do you think Imus ended the week, as opposed to where he began, in terms of his recognition of all of this?
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:
Well, I would go back to one of the things the reverend said when you had him on this morning and we talked about it. One quote that has stuck with me all day is when Imus said, I told the students, I‘m not trying to save my job, I‘m trying to save my life. That‘s something Imus fans would understand.
He‘s a complicated man, and you know, one of my problems with a lot of the critics of the show is they didn‘t actually watch the show, and only those facets of the show that are so controversial are the ones so many have seen. There were other parts of the show where a lot of his fans—he was a friend to them, almost like a family member who would come into their homes and he would talk about religion. He would talk about more—he had many sides.
And sometimes I think he sort of played Archie Bunker, in a way, which was sort of the play-acting side of him that got him in so much trouble. But the genuine side of him is the side that that quote came from. And a lot of Imus fans would recognize that—I‘m not trying to save my job, I‘m trying to save my life.
This is a man who came back from a lot of personal crises over the years...
CRAWFORD: ... and many of his fans overcame their own personal crises, substance abuse and various things, with his leadership. I had a fan one time tell me he actually used the Imus show as an AA meeting to keep from drinking. I think a lot of fans, you know, looked at him that way, and those fans are the ones that have totally been forgotten in this debate.
GREGORY: And Dr. Williams, I want to ask you a question that I‘ve asked a lot this week. And based on what you heard Reverend Soaries say about Imus‘s state of mind and what he told these young women—you talked about your goals going forward now.
FAYE WILLIAMS: Yes.
GREGORY: Why is it that you think Don Imus couldn‘t have been a helpful part of that agenda and of that conversation?
FAYE WILLIAMS: Well, let me put it like this, David. Suppose I were a drug addict or I was an alcoholic, I don‘t think I would be allowed to talk with young people and be that role model for the young people. Armstrong talked in the beginning about Reverend Jackson and about Reverend Sharpton. So I think it‘s for that reason. I have a young niece at Texas A&M University who is an honor student, dean‘s honor roll. She‘s a three-point champion. She plays basketball. She‘s bright. She‘s brilliant. She‘s beautiful. But if all she‘s got to hear is that she‘s a “nappy-headed ho,” I mean, where is the incentive for her to do better in our society?
Black women have been kicked around so long that it‘s time for us to start kicking back because we cannot allow our children to grow up having to listen to that. It‘s hard enough being a black female.
And while my heart goes out to Mr. Imus and his family and we pray for his recovery, being out here in the public airwaves is not the place for him to be because there are young people out there who are listening and because of his problems, we never know what he‘s going to say.
GREGORY: But Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, let me bring you in here and take what Dr. Williams said because I think, in some ways, you‘re making my point. If he is a drug addict and he‘s a recovered drug addict, which by the way, happens to be true, if he is saying racist things and is trying to get over that—whether you believe he can or not, I suppose, is a separate debate—but why can‘t he be a force for good to try to heal the wounds by talking about the mistakes he‘s made? Why doesn‘t he have credibility on that topic?
BENITA FITZGERALD MOSLEY, WOMEN‘S SPORTS FOUNDATION: He may have credibility, but clearly, he has really abused the privilege of being on the public airwaves. And I think there are two different issues at hand here. One is the issue of free speech and whether or not he‘s allowed or legally allowed to say certain things at will. And the other is, you know, there are a lot of hard-fought anti-discrimination, anti-harassment issues that come into play here, laws that are in place, policies that are in place at many corporations, including, I‘m sure, GE...
MOSLEY: ... NBC and MSNBC, that have been violated. And for instance, you know, if you were in a corporate workplace and you said some things to a colleague that were similar to this or called them a “jigaboo” or some other...
MOSLEY: ... word, you would be called on the carpet by...
GREGORY: It‘s actually a good point...
GREGORY: I mean, Armstrong—I mean, you know, in a work—I couldn‘t call anybody a “nappy-headed ho” and be—I wouldn‘t be around for five minutes.
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS: But the difference here is—and I respect Dr. Williams so much, we‘ve worked together before—is that hearing the “H” word and the “B” word and all these other words—it‘s not as if they‘ve heard it the first time from Don Imus. She‘s been fighting a battle with rap artists and hard-core lyrics for a long time. I don‘t know anyone who‘s lost their recording contract because of using these words. I don‘t know too many people other than the target—the poster boy for this kind of discussion, white men, who‘ve lost their jobs or their way of life.
So, when Americans see this—and you could make that argument, but it would be one thing if Don Imus was saying something that shocked people. Dr. Williams is not shocked by the rhetoric he has used. She is shocked by what he—who he directed it towards.
She has heard this rhetoric. So, what is our goal here? To kill the messenger or to kill the message? I think our goal should be to rid our marketplace of the message.
I mean, do you know that, at the 2006 Grammy Award, what the song of the year was? “It‘s Hard Out Here to Be a Pimp”? And they used the word hos and B‘s. It was so bad, when they were trying to bleep it out during the broadcast, it was still coming across.
What kind of industry celebrates “It‘s Hard Out Here to Be a Pimp”? I mean, so, I‘m not so concerned about the messenger. It‘s the message. That‘s the moral issue, not the political one.
GREGORY: All right. We‘re going to take another break here, come back with everybody, Faye Williams, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Armstrong Williams, and Craig Crawford. They‘re all staying with us. And we hope you will, too.
We‘re watching HARDBALL. You‘re watching HARDBALL, right here on
GREGORY: We are back with Faye Williams, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Armstrong Williams, and Craig Crawford.
I want to bring something up from Russell Simmons. This is a
statement he issued on this very topic about these questions about where
the word ho comes from, and the fact that it comes from the hip-hop culture
Russell Simmons, the founder, of course, of Def Jam Records, launched artists like Run-D.M.C. and LL Cool J and others, back in ‘80s, when I listening to rap music as a kid growing up in Los Angeles.
He said the following—quote—“Don Imus is not a hip-hop artist or a poet. Hip-hop artists rap about what they see, hear, and feel around them, their experience of the world. Like the artists throughout history, their messages are a mirror of what is right and wrong with society. Comparing Don Imus‘ language with hip-hop artists‘ poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mind-set that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship.”
Dr. Williams, the point that I was making just a minute ago off the air, Don Imus, if he‘s a racist, and is going to speak as a racist from his heart, he‘s not going to—a 67-year-old enjoy is not going to use the phrase nappy-headed ho. That‘s something that he is picking up, and used stupidly and hurtfully and wrongly, but it‘s something that he learned from the rappers that Russell Simmons is talking about, no?
F. WILLIAMS: Oh, I—I think the word ho and nappy-headed, those are words that came long ago, long before hip-hop.
And I want to make the point, there are some very positive young people who are doing hip-hop. There‘s a group called Hip-Hop Culture out of Seattle, Washington, right now who is working with us to put the first African-American woman in the United States Capitol. Sojourner Truth, it happens to be.
F. WILLIAMS: They are working very hard. They are meeting right now.
So, I don‘t want to castigate all hip-hop. What we started to work against was the gangster rap, and just what gangster implies. It‘s meant to hurt. These young people were doing this because this is what was being paid for. This is what they were being encouraged to do.
Some of them have had tears. They have cried with us. They have said they wished they had an option, but this is all that they know. Dr. Tucker, took the time to try to teach some of the young people that there are alternative words you can use. Use that same beat. The beat sounds good.
Many people like it. But use lyrics to promote something that is good, to advance our culture. And I think that‘s what—not what the money is doing. The money is encouraging them to demean and to castigate black women.
GREGORY: I just want to get a—just a thought from everybody here in a little less than two minutes, first, Armstrong, because you were making the point that it‘s what hurts the most, right? Is that—that‘s kind of, in your mind, what the standard is?
A. WILLIAMS: I think, when you think about collateral damage—and I said “It‘s Hard Out Here Being a Pimp” was a Grammy. It was an Oscar. It won an Oscar.
GREGORY: An even bigger...
A. WILLIAMS: Bigger forum—forum.
It‘s about the damage. There is no way you can say that Don Imus has done more damage to the young women she‘s trying to protect than these gangster rap artists. And have—they have been—in fact, this is historic. This is the first time that I can recall that we have had a meaningful debate about gangster rap music and hip-hop and its impact.
And you know why we‘re having it? Because of Don Imus, the poster boy scapegoat for all this. But Don Imus should not be in this hall of shame by himself.
GREGORY: Well, but this is kind of like when you discipline kids, Craig, because this is Don Imus‘ day in the public court. It doesn‘t mean that we can‘t be taking on gangster rap, but it doesn‘t mean that he should not be confronted as well.
CRAWFORD: And I would point out, I don‘t think he would sit here and say—and hide behind gangster rap. He took responsibility for what he did and said. He apologized for it. He asked for forgiveness. He only got it from the students.
And I would bring back this focus to the students. I said it earlier in this week. I think, today, after I heard what they said, they have been the most sane voices in this thing. None of them were interested in kicking back, as I just heard someone suggest should be done. They‘re not interested in being victims.
I think they are closer to understanding that it‘s not empowering to make yourself a victim. Their self-worth is not determined by what someone else calls them. I think these students have made more sense to me than most of the adults I have heard talk about this.
GREGORY: Quick—quick final comment from Benita Fitzgerald Mosley.
I think that, really, this debate has opened up a whole ‘nother level of discussion about the still remaining cultural divide, as far as gender equity is concerned, as far as cultural and racial equity. And it really goes to where women are in society today.
And, when we look across the board, particularly at corporate America, and see that women are still only getting paid 77 cents on the dollar, that we—it will take us 43 years in order to catch up to men, as far as our parity in corporate directorships, 74 years to catch up with men as far as the board of directors, we‘re still so far behind.
And, really, if you‘re talking about people of color, particularly African-Americans, it‘s a lot farther to go than that. So, I‘m—I‘m glad for the discussion. I‘m heartened by the outcry. I‘m also very respectful of all the efforts that the—the women‘s groups are doing in order to collectively bring light to this issue, and continue the heat, to make sure that women, specifically African-American women, are treated more favorably in the media.
GREGORY: To be continued, for sure, and I hope.
And I think it‘s interesting that it was Don Imus who said this week:
If I hadn‘t have said it, we wouldn‘t be here.
And where we are is beginning to have a bigger conversation that goes beyond Don Imus.
Thanks to my guests, Faye Williams, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Armstrong Williams, and Craig Crawford.
GREGORY: Coming up next, we are going to continue our discussion about Imus, race relations, and how we communicate with “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution”‘s Cynthia Tucker and former presidential adviser David Gergen.
And we‘re also going to assess where the political culture has been in all of this, the presidential candidates, national leaders, where they have been on this.
And, by the way, there it is. That‘s Chavez Ravine, Dodger Stadium, a source of great joy in my young life. We are going to talk about the legacy of Jackie Robinson on a fitting day, 60 years after he broke baseball‘s color barrier. And we‘re going to have Maury Wills.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MARGARET BRENNAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Margaret Brennan with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks closed higher on Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average gaining 59 points, the S&P 500 up five points, the Nasdaq up just short of 12.
Wall Street welcomed news that core inflation at the wholesale level was flat last month. Also helping stocks today, word that the nation‘s trade deficit improved for a second straight month, and that the trade deficit with China narrowed to its lowest point in nine months.
And there was also some positive earnings news from General Electric, the parent of MSNBC and CNBC. GE shares rose just about half-a-percent in trading. But Merck shares jumped more than 8 percent, after the drugmaker raised its earnings outlook. Fast-food giant McDonald‘s also raised its profit outlook.
And this news just breaking: Google has agreed to buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion in cash. DoubleClick is a marketing technology and services company. Google definitely going to be a stock to watch on Monday.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
GREGORY: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
For more on the political and media debate surrounding the firing of Don Imus, let‘s bring in Cynthia Tucker—she‘s an editorial page editor of “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution”—and David Gergen, director of the Center For Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He‘s also an editor at large at “U.S. News & World Report.”
Good to have you both here.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Thank you.
GREGORY: Cynthia, let me start with you.
In the media, the media management of this, the media reaction, and, ultimately, the media reaction in firing Don Imus, what—what happened this week, from day—not day one, but, say, the day one of this week, where he apologized, to the suspension, to both NBC and CBS firing him?
CYNTHIA TUCKER, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, “THE ATLANTA-JOURNAL
CONSTITUTION”: Well, I think, among many other things, Don Imus was the victim of new technology.
He‘s a veteran of the business. He‘s been in the business for many, many years. And, when he started out, he would not have had to contend with YouTube or the Internet, where the video clip of him, the TV—his—his radio show, after all, had been simulcast by this very network, MSNBC. And you could see him and actually hear the words and see the expression on his face, the smirk on his face.
And, after this video has been shown over and over again, it has an effect it wouldn‘t have had with people just repeating it or you seeing in it print.
GREGORY: And, David Gergen, there is a culture now of media watchdogs and interested parties, special interest groups, that can mobilize and organize and reach the Internet, and, therefore, reach us, and have an impact in a hurry.
And that‘s what—the real story of this week. The anatomy of his
demise was how fast it happened. ~
GERGEN: Well, I think that‘s partly right.
And I certainly believe, as Cynthia and both of you have put it, that the fact that it was on YouTube, that you could see it, that it was so—people could share in it, what—drove the story a lot.
But I have to tell you something. There‘s another factor here. And that is the degree to which the media itself has changed and the diversity that is now out in the media, with many more women and many more African-Americans and Hispanics in the media, that you had the National Black Journalists, who got on this and pushed it really hard, which was terrific.
And then Gwen Ifill wrote that piece in “The New York Times...”
GREGORY: Yes. Yes.
GERGEN: ... which I thought was one of the turning points, that it was from an African-American woman who is a journalist, who said, when she was covering the White House, he called her, you know, this—this cleaning woman in the White House.
GERGEN: And I thought that—it was very powerful.
And, then, on top of that, the girls themselves, I have to tell you, David, I thought that the Rutgers girls being out there really was the absolute turning point. After that, I think he was finished.
GREGORY: Now, you know, I think Gwen Ifill writing the piece, Al Roker speaking out, as well...
GREGORY: ... as internal conversations within NBC, Cynthia, led a lot of people who were on his show to sort of question themselves and say, what‘s my part in this?
You know, I was a guest on his show. Did I tune out some of the aspects of the show that were so offensive to so many, because I was interested in what I was tuning in to the show for, which is to be on it, to have an interesting conversation about politics and world affairs and such? Were we numb to it? Were we in denial about it? What?
And it sort of forced all of those questions to the foreground.
TUCKER: Well, I‘m glad it did. I‘m very glad it did. And I think David is absolutely right to point to the diversity in the news media now. That‘s one of the wonderful things.
We have long argued—I am old enough now to be a pioneering member, sad to say, of the National Association of Black Journalists. And one of the reasons we always argued for diversity is because we said, you need to be able to hear from us, too. We may have a different point of view about this.
If you are—have a black daughter, not just on a basketball team, but anywhere, then you don‘t want her to be subjected to these horrendous disparaging remarks. And Al Roker has daughters.
And, so, I think it did make a tremendous difference that black journalists talked about how they felt about it. And it may not have struck white journalists who had appeared on the show in quite the same way. It was just sort of the white noise for them.
TUCKER: But it affected black journalists much more personally.
GREGORY: David Gergen, I have just got a minute left. I do want to talk about some of the political debate here.
Barack Obama came on this program earlier this week and said—and condemned Imus, said he would never go on there again. Chris Dodd was on this program, wouldn‘t really weigh in as to whether he thought he should have been fired.
GERGEN: He announced on “Imus.”
GREGORY: He did.
GREGORY: Hillary Clinton is going to Rutgers to speak about this on Monday.
What do you think about the extent to which the politicians have—have or have not weighed in?
GERGEN: I think the politicians have been remarkably silent. I‘m glad Barack Obama finally weighed in. He was slow, but he did weigh in, and he weighed in on the right side.
Hillary Clinton going to Rutgers, I think some people are going to think that may be a little over the top or exploitive.
But, nonetheless, it has thrust race into the campaign, and—and questions extending to women. And that‘s very healthy in this campaign. After all, we have a historic possibility in this campaign. We could elect the first woman in history. We could elect the first African American in history to the White House. It‘s good to race and gender as part of the national discourse, so we can all grow up.
I mean, the fact is, a lot of us as white males, David, as you well know, have sat around talking and using phrases for a long we didn‘t realize caused deep offense. And it‘s come sharply to our attention in this. I hope it will help to change the national discourse overall and will help us to have a more mature conversation about can a—Isn‘t it time for an African American to be considered seriously? Isn‘t it time for a woman to be considered seriously for the White House?
GREGORY: All right, we‘re going to leave it there. Thanks to David Gergen and Cynthia Tucker. When we return, we‘re going to go, as I‘ve been saying, to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles to talk about the legacy of Jackie Robinson with Dodger legend Maury Wills.
And later singer Cheryl Crow on the fight to slow down global warming.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
GREGORY: We are back on HARDBALL. The conversation about race triggered by the Don Imus incident comes on the anniversary of a watershed moment in the history of race relations in this country. Sixty years ago this weekend, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball‘s Major Leagues when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. We go now to Los Angeles, to Chavez Ravine in Dodger Stadium. And we are very pleased to be joined by Dodger‘s legend Maury wills.
Mr. Wills, it‘s a pleasure to have you on the program.
MAURY WILLS, FMR LOS ANGELES DODGER: Thank you David.
GREGORY: I want to ask you about Jackie Robinson. You know, we talk about sports teaching the country about itself, about what it is and what it can be. I want you to reflect about Jackie Robinson and when he broke in, what it taught the country about itself and also, sort of, held out there about what the country could be.
WILLS: Well, David, when I was just a kid growing up in the projects in Washington, D.C., I remember asking all the older folks, who were buzzing about this black man up in Brooklyn called Jackie Robinson. At the time I was a fine little athlete. I had four brothers who were also good baseball players. But I didn‘t think of myself as having any future in the game on a national basis.
So I asked about this man named Jackie Robinson, and they told me and they told me where Brooklyn in, and they told me where New York was. I didn‘t even know that. And I remember walking away. I was about 14 at the time. And I said, you know, one day I‘m going to play for the Dodgers. And at that time every young black kid who played baseball wanted to play for the Dodgers, was a Dodgers fan. I shudder to think where I would be right now if not for Jackie Robinson, because he gave me a dream of getting out of those projects and somehow having a good life. That came true for me.
GREGORY: Talk about the reaction to Jackie Robinson when he broke in and how the country responded then, but came to respond over time.
WILLS: Well, you see, at that time I had no idea how the country was responding to it. We speak of today as the world as being small, because we are all so knowledgeable about everything that‘s going on. But in that time, just the opposite I would have to say. The world was very large, because my scope was narrow. I didn‘t know that much about what was going on.
It was in the days when everything was separated; the neighborhoods, schools, transportation and everything else. I just know that this man named Jackie Robinson gave us a feeling of being more significant, a feeling of wanting being someone or being able to be someone. And I did that. I spent eight and a half years in the minor leagues, when only—after four years, if you haven‘t made it to the big leagues usually you get discouraged and you quit or the young player gets released by the organization.
But because of my dream through Jackie Robinson being there with the Brooklyn Dodgers, I was able to persevere, and after eight and a half years in the minor leagues, playing on teams where I couldn‘t stay where my teammates stayed. I couldn‘t eat where my teammates ate. I couldn‘t travel the way they traveled. But nothing was going to deter from that dream that I had, all because of Jackie Robinson.
GREGORY: Tell me what he was like. Tell me about the Jackie Robinson you knew.
WILLS: I got to barn storm with Jackie when I was just about 19-years-old. He was barn storming through the south for a month after the regular baseball season with Brooklyn. He had a couple Major League players and they filled the rest of the positions with the minor league players and I was one of those minor leaguers. It was just a terrific experience. The man cared about us.
I remember being sometimes—he would check the bus every night to make sure we were on the bus. He wanted to know where we were and how we felt and what was going on. He was a tremendous individual.
GREGORY: Did he talk about race? Did he talk about what he was going through?
WILLS: No, no such thing. We just lived life. We played baseball.
Baseball was life. We didn‘t get into that. I remember I played in 1955. I went to the Texas League and played with Fort Worth, Texas. I was the first African-American or black player to play there. I was to be their Jackie Robinson and I failed utterly.
It wasn‘t because people were mean to me. Nobody yelled any obscene or nasty things. It was the laws that got me. I never felt so lonely in my life. I couldn‘t stay where my teammates stayed. I couldn‘t travel with them. I couldn‘t eat where they ate. And I said, now I know what Jackie went through, but that just made me more determined.
GREGORY: Maury Wills, I‘ve just got a few seconds left. I have a four ½-year-old boy, Max, who loves to play baseball. What‘s the number one thing I can tell him about how to run those bases and steal bases like you did?
WILLS: Well, don‘t be afraid, you know, just run, run, run. That‘s all he needs to know at this point.
GREGORY: That‘s pretty good advice for life too, I would say. Maury Wills from Dodger Stadium, a great pleasure. Thank you for coming on.
WILLS: You bet, David.
GREGORY: All right, we‘re going to take a break. Coming up next, singer Sheryl Crow and environmental activist Laurie David; they‘re on the road trying to get young people to do more to stop global warming, and they‘re coming up next. You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
GREGORY: Welcome back to HARDBALL. What can the next generation do to stop global warming? Singer Sheryl Crow may have some answers. She and environmental activist Laurie David begin a 13 day, ten stop tour of the southern U.S., colleges is where they‘re going to raise awareness of global warming among the students. And they both join us now from New Orleans, looking fun in the sun, looking cool in the sun out there in New Orleans.
Thank you ladies, Sheryl Crow, is the new grass roots for fighting global warming, on these campuses, do you find?
SHERYL CROW, SINGER: This is about as grassroots as it takes. And we are really, literally taking it to the people on a bio-diesel bus. And I think that we are kicking up the dust on a subject that‘s the most important subject right now, that we all need to be concentrating on. And there‘s never been a social movement that has not involved college students. So that‘s why we‘re starting right here at Loyola, and we have been to Texas, and we are headed up to Alabama, and we‘re going to wind up in D.C. on Earth Day.
GREGORY: Laurie, go ahead. Yes, there‘s a little satellite delay, so we‘ll bear with each other. But you started in Texas, why?
LAURIE DAVID, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: Well, because Texas is the number one emitter of CO 2 emissions in the country. So what better place to shine the light than there?
CROW: We didn‘t want to go someplace where everyone is driving hybrids. We wanted to go to a place where maybe people were not completely sold that global warming is actually happening. And it doesn‘t do us any good to go out and preach to the converted. What we want to do is really start some momentum here, because this is a topic that‘s not going away.
DAVID: That‘s one of our messages, that we are all guilty of this problem, so we all have to be part of the solution.
GREGORY: What is the Al Gore affect that you‘re finding?
DAVID: Well, you know, I think the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” had a big impact on this country and people, and all around the world. It‘s opened all around the world right now. But now we have to move very quickly to solutions, and that‘s our goal, to go from—OK, the debate is over. The globe is warming. Humans are causing it. Now what do we do about it. And that‘s where we have to focus all of our attention.
GREGORY: Sheryl, this is a grass roots effort, and I cover the White House, and have heard this president talk about alternative sources of energy. It‘s been on the political agenda, but as it moves to the next election cycle, where does it have to be, beyond where it‘s been as a discussion piece, as an agenda item.
CROW: Listen, talk is not enough right now. All the scientists in the world -- 2,000 scientists in 150 countries have already said, look, we have a window of opportunity here. As we all know, scientists are pretty conservative laws. So ten years, maybe we have five years, six years. Now it the time not to be discussing, to be arguing, to be debating whether this is happening.
We have to move, and we have to be responsible when we vote. We need to vote for people who are actually going to do something about this. And I believe, in the next two years, something is going to happen in Washington, because it has to, because the people are demanding it. We‘re seeing the repercussions right now.
It‘s not just about warm days. It‘s about extreme weather on both ends. And while you guys are having snow tomorrow in New York, we had snow in Dallas on Easter on Sunday, and now, two days later, it‘s 80 degrees. This is not normal.
DAVID: Listen, we just came through the warmest winter on record. And they‘re saying—and 2006 was the warmest year. They‘re saying 2007 is going to worse. So we have to do something and do it right now.
GREGORY: Sheryl, before I let you go, I also want to ask you about your efforts on breast cancer. I know you have been working on legislation on Capitol Hill. Where does that stand and where do you think there is an opportunity now?
CROW: We heard an amazing mayor from Arlington, Texas the other day, talking about how global warming is going to affect our health, and it‘s very astounding. And that‘s something that‘s not being addressed. And this bill that we are trying to get passed with the Breast Cancer Coalition, which is a fabulous organization, is looking at the environment, and what kind of play it has in breast cancer. And hopefully that will become the model for looking at all diseases.
That‘s one area—we can go into laboratories and look at genetics, but we‘re not looking at the environment. And there is no denying that the environment does have a large play in disease, and we‘re going to see it coming up as global warming gets worst. I think our message really is not to be defeated by what we are seeing and reading. It‘s to get involved and try to stop what is happening or slow it down.
And what Laurie and I are doing with our program is just talking to kids about what they can do, how they can start personally, how they can get their colleges to change, and then how—what to ask the country to do.
GREGORY: Ladies, I‘m going to have to leave it there. I know you have to get to your next interview, because I know there‘s a Cadillac Escallade waiting to take you. No, no, I kid. I kid. Thank you very much.
CROW: Not unless it‘s running on vegetable oil.
DAVID: Thanks David.
GREGORY: Sheryl Crow, Laurie David, thank you very much.
And this programming note, this Sunday night on MSNBC the premier of the documentary of “Journeys With George.” This is good. I was there. I can tell you—in which film maker Alexander Pelosi goes on the bus with then Governor George Bush during his 2000 presidential campaign. I would keep telling her get that camera away from me, but it turned out to be a very interesting film, Sunday night at 8:00 eastern, right here on MSNBC.
Chris Matthews returns to HARDBALL Monday. He will be in Las Vegas.
I‘m David Gregory. Thank you for watching tonight. Have a good weekend.
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