Guest: Medea Benjamin, Joe Conason, Armstrong Williams, Al Sharpton,
Jonathan Capehart, Julie Mason, John Heilemann
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: And I thought democracy was supposed to be noisy. Freedom gets stung at a Kerry political event. Plus, are there words a black guy can say but I can’t?
Let’s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I’m Chris Matthews. And welcome to HARDBALL. A trio of wild stories tonight, the first about the 1st Amendment. Remember when you could speak your mind in this country, could even cause a little trouble if it made a political point? Well, forget about it. Watch what happened to this kid when he shot his mouth off at a John Kerry event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW MEYER, UNIV. OF FLORIDA STUDENT: Don’t tase me, bro! Don’t tase me! I can’t do—ow! Ow! Ow!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing!
MEYER: Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop!
MEYER: Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So is this the democracy we’re out there killing people for? Is this the way we’re teaching the Sunnis and Shias to run their show?
Our second story tonight: Let’s get the hard facts on the O.J. story. Did someone have a gun? Are we talking armed robbery here? Because if we are, it doesn’t matter what the excuses are, Simpson’s facing prison time, the time he may have escaped for that murder case. And let’s be honest, this is a big story.
Also tonight, the bad boy of the bathrooms is back. Larry Craig showed up at the U.S. Senate today, setting the stage for a huge comeback if he beats that rap in Minneapolis next week.
And finally: Is there a double standard for words you can’t use, words a black man, for example, can say but a white man can’t? Let’s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A white man calling a black female that is wrong (ph) with me, too. I’m not tolerating that. I’m not accepting that. So if it’s going down that road, with a black female and a white male saying that to her, that’s a problem for me. And I’m sorry to say, I do make a distinction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Wow. We begin tonight with HARDBALL’s David Shuster and this report on the latest assault on freedom of speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEYER: Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing!
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was not a case of public intoxication or of a man wielding a deadly weapon.
MEYER: Ow! Ow! Ow!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you doing!
SHUSTER: Andrew Meyer is a college student who was removed, tackled and tasered for asking a politician too many questions. Today Senator John Kerry said, quote, “I was not aware that a taser was used until I left the building. I regret enormously that a good, healthy discussion was interrupted.” And this afternoon, the president of the University of Florida said an investigation has begun.
J. BERNARD MACHEN, PRESIDENT OF UNIV. OF FLORIDA: Two officers that were central to the activity yesterday have been placed on paid administrative leave.
SHUSTER: The drama on Monday began to unfold after Senator Kerry spoke to Florida students for more than an hour and started answering questions. The student in front of Meyer was told he would get the final question, but Meyer asked to speak, as well, and Kerry said OK. Meyer then lectured Kerry about the last presidential election.
MEYER: There are multiple reports of disenfranchising of black voters (INAUDIBLE) 2004.
SHUSTER: About 30 seconds later, an officer told him to wrap it up.
MEYER: He’s been talking for two hours. (INAUDIBLE) two minutes.
SHUSTER: Then Meyer kept going, criticizing Kerry for not being angry enough in 2004 about voting irregularities.
MEYER: How could you concede the election?
SHUSTER: The police then grabbed Meyer and told him to leave. Meyer
got angrier, prompting police to get angrier, as well
SHUSTER: Help! Help! Help! Are you kidding? They’re arresting me!
What have I done? What have I done? Get away from me, man!
SHUSTER: At the back of the room, Meyer resisted police and was tackled.
MEYER: I didn’t do anything! Don’t tase me, bro!
SHUSTER: Then he was hit with 50,000 volts.
MEYER: Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
SHUSTER: Meyer spent the night in jail booked on a felony charge of resisting an officer with violence. Universities like to promote a free exchange of ideas and rigorous discussions, and several academics said today the incident in Florida is the latest example of a nationwide trend toward censorship and control.
Just a few nights ago, during the Fox network broadcast of the television Emmy Awards, Sally Field began to talk about the Iraq war, and Fox censored out this.
SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS: If mothers ruled the world, there would be no (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wars in the first place!
SHUSTER: Fox is owned by conservative Rupert Murdoch. A week ago, Fox was the only network that covered President Bush’s primetime speech on Iraq and decided not to run the Democratic response.
But Democrats have also tried to control things, as well. Last week, when the Democratic-led hearings on Iraq were repeatedly interrupted by members of the group Code Pink, the committee chairman, to discourage other protesters, began threatening arrest.
Things have also changed on the campaign trail. A presidential advance manual written by the Bush White House political office that used to be run by Karl Rove instructs staffers on how to screen out critics. Quote, “It is important to have your volunteers at a checkpoint before the magnetometers in order to stop a demonstrator from getting into the event.”
This summer, Jeffrey and Nicole Rank told HARDBALL about how they got into a Bush event, refused to take off their anti-Bush T-shirts and were arrested by security.
JEFFERY RANK, ARRESTED AT BUSH RALLY: They handcuffed us and removed us from the event. And then once we were in holding, they figured out what they would charge us with.
SHUSTER: The strategy helped President Bush fend off brutal questions like these.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) and what’s the toughest thing to you about being president?
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The funnest thing is this—making decisions that make the world a better place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you like your job? And is it difficult at times?
BUSH: Yes, I love my job. And that’s why I want to do it for four more years.
SHUSTER: At the University of Florida, taser victim Andrew Meyer is known among students for his style and approach. Meyer has a Web site where he has sharply criticized the Iraq war. He has also criticized things like the Harry Potter book phenomenon. And Meyer posted an irreverent video of him holding a placard and pretending to spoil the ending. Even police were not amused.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That’s so wrong in so many ways.
SHUSTER: But was it wrong to speak out and criticize a politician?
Students in Florida say police overreacted.
MEYER: Oh, my God! Why are you arresting me? What did I do?
SHUSTER (on camera): In a sign of how much this is all reverberating, today, Donttasemebro (ph), was established as a page on Facebook. Free speech is, indeed, a big part of a democratic society. Some would say most of us used to say free speech was an essential part.
I’m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, David. Medea Benjamin is co-founder of Code Pink, a peace movement against the war in Iraq. And Joe Conason is a great reporter with “The New York Observer.”
I got to go with you, Joe. I have to tell you I’m not easily shocked, but tasering somebody because they’ve got a big mouth would get me in trouble.
JOE CONASON, “NEW YORK OBSERVER”: Yes, it was pretty awful. I watched that video a few times, Chris, and there’s no question in my mind that the police overreacted. It looked like they were torturing that kid. And for what? For going on too long? Kerry was actually perfectly ready to stay there, as far as I know, and answer his questions. In fact, he said something like, you know, Let me answer his question.
CONASON: And the police dragged the kid away and—and—and shocked him.
MATTHEWS: You know, Joe, you and I have been at enough political events over the last X many years to know that there’s always somebody who asks a long-wined question.
CONASON: Of course.
MATTHEWS: There’s always somebody who grabs the mike and asks the big, long—gives the speech...
CONASON: It’s every kind of event.
MATTHEWS: You live with it.
CONASON: It’s every kind of event.
MATTHEWS: You live with it.
CONASON: If you go out and sell a book, Chris, as you know, somebody will come and want to make a speech, rather than ask a question. So you get used to saying, And your question is?
CONASON: You know?
MATTHEWS: And usually, the crowd shouts the person down and you move on.
MATTHEWS: That’s life in a democracy. Let me bring in Medea here, Medea Benjamin. You folks were involved in that demonstration at the Senate hearings last week, right?
MEDEA BENJAMIN, CODE PINK CO-FOUNDER: Well, Chris, I mean, I think-
BENJAMIN: ... people have to wake up and...
MATTHEWS: Were you involved in those?
BENJAMIN: We were involved in those demonstrations...
BENJAMIN: ... and our rights for free speech are being violated every day when we’re in Washington, going to the Congress. We’ve had people tackled to the ground for standing on line, trying to get into a hearing, like Reverend Yearwood was tackled at the Petraeus hearings. They broke his ankle, eight police on top of him.
BENJAMIN: We’ve had women who were tackled to the ground in the halls of Congress. Unfortunately, it’s happening every day to us.
MATTHEWS: Well, Joe, here the new rules of engagement. We got to hold up the new White House presidential advance manual. These are the manuals of arms of how to deal with people that might disagree with this president. By the way, 80 percent of the country disagrees with him, so you’ve got to have this manual handy. Quote, “If demonstrators appear likely to cause only a political disruption, it is the advance person’s responsibility to take appropriate action. Rally squads should be dispatched to surround and drown out demonstrators immediately.”
CONASON: Well, you know...
MATTHEWS: ... this is goon squad stuff.
CONASON: It was worse than that, Chris. You remember during the campaign, the president would be at public events, and they would try to screen out anybody who wasn’t a Republican...
CONASON: ... from attending a presidential speech, which is—you know, you’re getting into authoritarian territory there. That’s the behavior of a banana republic. That’s not American.
MATTHEWS: I was thinking of the old days in Mozambique, when I was in
the Peace Corps. There’s certainly a lot of law and order. You didn’t get
you weren’t going to be mugged...
CONASON: That’s right.
MATTHEWS: ... but there were guys walking around, carrying axes in case you got into any—you caused any disturbance.
Let me ask you about this Sally Field thing the other night. You know, she used the word—the phrase—and I will—hold your ears if this offends you. She was talking about, in her words, not mine, This (EXPLETIVE DELETED) war. Now, that’s strong language. It may offend some people. But it gets into the question of whether Fox or anybody else should be in the business of openly shutting down an entire sentence. Apparently, when she spoke at the Emmy, like a lot of Hollywood people do, about the war, her entire sentence was stricken from hearing.
CONASON: Well, now, the Fox people claim that they did this because they were worried about the FCC, right, and that—and that if she—if (EXPLETIVE DELETED) was broadcast, then somehow they’d get in trouble for that...
CONASON: ... and not, supposedly, that they were trying to censor Sally Field’s anti-war statement. I don’t know what the truth is, but it looked bad.
MATTHEWS: So blasphemy is now—blasphemy is not permissible on television.
CONASON: Right. It looked bad, though.
MATTHEWS: It looked bad for them.
CONASON: Yes, it looked very bad for them. And you know, if I were running the academy, I’d wonder whether we want to have Fox controlling, you know, the discourse at our event that way.
MATTHEWS: Aren’t we better, Medea, listening to Vanessa Redgrave giving her diatribes and Jane Fonda giving her diatribes than to watch people being basically gagged? I mean, some people disagree with this. They like the gagging process. I don’t.
BENJAMIN: Of course, we are. And this is supposed to be a democracy. We’re supposed to have free speech. You know, at the Republican convention, the last one, they set up these protest pens way far away from anywhere. And then guess what? The Democrats went and did the exact same thing.
MATTHEWS: I know.
BENJAMIN: They call them free speech zones. Isn’t this country supposed to be...
MATTHEWS: And they’re about a mile away from the cameras.
BENJAMIN: Totally away from everywhere.
MATTHEWS: I know. They were amazing, like holding pens for cattle.
BENJAMIN: And another thing, Chris, I want you to know, is that when we get pulled out of a hearing or a hallway for trying to hold up a little sign, not only are we arrested, we are given “stay away” orders. We’ve had women in Code Pink who for six months haven’t been able to go back to Congress. We had a woman who was banned from Washington, D.C., for a year for a peaceful protest.
MATTHEWS: Banned from the city?
BENJAMIN: Banned from the entire city for a year.
CONASON: You know, Chris...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Joe, about—you’ve been covering this campaign. I’m in the studio here. It’s a great job, but I don’t get out of here much. When you get out there and cover these presidential stops, does it feel like—like Trumanville (ph) or something like—I look at the faces of the people who are watching the president. They have this passivity.
MATTHEWS: I shouldn’t be cruel, but are they Stepford wives...
CONASON: I haven’t...
MATTHEWS: ... and golfing Republicans?
CONASON: I haven’t been to a...
MATTHEWS: Who are these people that just sort of sits there, Oh, that’s interesting, the war’s going to end positively. Everything’s going well, and our troops are doing the job.
CONASON: Well, you know...
MATTHEWS: And everything is so calm and collected. I don’t get who these people are.
CONASON: That would be OK, if that’s the way the world really was. But the point you made at the beginning is very important. You know, America is on trial all the time in the eyes of the world now because of, I’m sorry to say, errors that this administration has made. The rhetoric does not match with the action. And you know, we’re trying to show the rest of the world what a democracy is supposed to look like, how a democracy functions, what freedom really is. And if you don’t, you know, walk the walk, you’re going to be called on it every time. And we look bad today because of this kind of thing.
MATTHEWS: You know, when we walk into those—every night on television, you watch pictures of American soldiers risking their lives to break into homes in Baghdad at gunpoint, telling people to go along with the government that we’ve set up over there. Democracy at gunpoint. I wonder if it’s filtered back here at home. I wonder if it’s dripped back home, the idea that democracy is something you do at gunpoint. Either you behave and do it this way and show up by putting your fingers in the ink and doing it this way, or you’re an insurgent. Therefore, we can round you up, and if you resist, we can kill you. That notion—it’s a bit fascist, and it’s certainly a fascistic notion of democracy we’re forcing on people over there.
MATTHEWS: They didn’t invite us into Iraq, and I wonder now whether we’re picking up some of the bad habits of the war front. What do you think, Medea?
BENJAMIN: Well, I think post-9/11, we have lost a lot of our civil liberties. And the Republicans and the Democrats are doing it. I got pulled out of a hearing for wearing this shirt, with peace signs on it and “Peace” in different languages.
MATTHEWS: I hear Conyers doesn’t like you guys much over...
BENJAMIN: Conyers doesn’t like me...
MATTHEWS: ... in the Judiciary Committee, either.
BENJAMIN: I got pulled out of a Hillary Clinton rally for wearing this shirt.
MATTHEWS: Pulled out of the rally?
BENJAMIN: Pulled out of the rally.
MATTHEWS: Who were the pullers?
BENJAMIN: She has goons, just like the Republicans have goons, and they drag you out of there and they say, No signs other than the signs that we hand to you. The Republicans and the Democrats do the same thing.
MATTHEWS: Wonderful. Joe, any final words on our...
CONASON: Yes. Well, clearly...
MATTHEWS: ... tough indictment of current democracy in America?
CONASON: Yes. It’s shameful...
MATTHEWS: Because I like people to yell at each other and argue publicly.
CONASON: Yes. Of course. Of course. Look, it’s shameful for anybody to do that kind of thing. And the problem we have had for the last several years is that from the very top, we’ve had a disrespect for people’s rights of free speech. It’s been very clear from the—almost from inauguration day. And as a result, you have cops doing things like they did to that kid the other day. It—it...
MATTHEWS: Well, that’s going to be—I hope that’s an iconic moment.
CONASON: You know, the fish stinks from the head.
MATTHEWS: I hope—I’ve always said that, by the way. But I want to tell you something. I hope that was the end of something, not the beginning of something. Tasering people because they’re obnoxious is a hell of a standard. Anyway...
CONASON: Yes, we need to leave that behind.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Joe Conason of “The New York Observer,” one of the great newspapers, and Medea Benjamin. Great for coming on the show. Thank you.
BENJAMIN: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: The latest on what O.J. Simpson did in Vegas.
Obviously, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas.
You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. O.J. Simpson will make his first court appearance tomorrow following his arrest in Las Vegas Sunday on six felony charges, including armed robbery. Today more audiotape from the incident was released by TMZ.com.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
O.J. SIMPSON: Don’t let nobody out of here, man. And you—I trusted you, man!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just—I...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bag this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bag this (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
SIMPSON: Where’d you get all my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) personal (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I bought it from Mike.
ALFRED BEARDSLEY: Mike sold it all, right? You know...
SIMPSON: Bag this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up. Bag it. Bag it!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you bring the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in, man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said they were friends of yours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you bring it in?
SIMPSON: (EXPLETIVE DELETED)!
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Mike Jaccarino is covering the story for “The New York Daily News” and joins us from Las Vegas. Mike, give us a narration, if you can, as if you’d never told the story to anybody else. Give us a fresh narration of what this crime incident was.
MIKE JACCARINO, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: Tom Riccio, O.J.’s buddy, got some news that some guys were holding onto O.J. memorabilia, and they were looking to sell it in Las Vegas. Sounds like a little bit of a shady deal. He tips off O.J. to the fact, and O.J. comes to Las Vegas. Riccio informs the two memorabilia dealers, Beardsley, Alfred Beardsley, of Burbank, California, and Bruce Fromong of North Las Vegas, that he has a private sports memorabilia collector interested in buying these items. He doesn’t tell them that it’s O.J. So the meet is set up at the Palace Station hotel and casino, a hotel off the strip here.
O.J., Riccio and four other gentlemen come to the—come to the room on Thursday night. They walk in. And Fromong and Beardsley are taken completely off guard. O.J. and—well, everybody knows what happens, from listening to the TMZ tape, from—from there on out.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of that tape when you watch it over and over again and you listen to it? Do you hear what looks like an armed robbery?
You know, I—that’s my—it would be opinion for me to say so, but it’s—it’s pretty obvious that O.J. was agitated. It sounded like an armed robbery, but certainly not consistent with...
MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let’s get to the evidence.
MATTHEWS: Let’s get to the evidence, Mike.
What is the evidence that guns were used in this—this incident?
JACCARINO: All right.
Walter Alexander was one of the five individuals who went in with O.J. He called his attorney Saturday and told them, I think the police are looking for me.
He went to the airport on Sunday. He tells police that he was going -
he planning to go to Mesa, Arizona, back home to pick up clothes, and then go to L.A. to meet with his attorney, Mr. Rentzer. Somebody dropped a dime on him. The police were waiting. They picked him up there, brought him back.
Mr. Rentzer orchestrated a deal with prosecutors that he would be allowed to make a statement, under the proviso that nothing that he was—nothing that he would say would be used against him in a court of law.
Based upon that statement, which was basically his account of what happened inside that room—this is before the TMZ tape comes out—police executed three search warrants. They’re not forthcoming on where they went and searched. But they do say that, based upon those search warrants, they found two weapons, the two firearms that were used in the alleged robbery, some clothing that was worn on that night, and the memorabilia that was taken.
After that, Sunday afternoon, O.J. was—was arrested. Police have intimated that, based upon what they got from the search warrants and Alexander, that’s where they effected the arrest.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, is there any reasonable doubt here about—well, let me put—not use legal terminology. Is there anybody who believes who is involved in this case that there were not guns involved?
JACCARINO: I mean, listen, I have what the police say. They believe that—that two of the individuals who walked in had guns. They don’t think that O.J. had a weapon. He was barking out orders and orchestrating it, and telling people, you know, to—to back off and collect the memorabilia and all that stuff.
So, and that—what we have in the public record speaks for itself, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Well, unfortunately, it isn’t all that clear, because we had a guest on last night who said he talked to a member of the O.J. family or whatever. I’m not sure who he talked to, somebody in his circle, who denied that O.J. knew there were guns there before, during, or after the incident, denied there ever were guns there, never saw one, ever.
JACCARINO: I—I can’t speak to that. I did speak to his
girlfriend, Christie Prody, at a—at a—at a—he’s in town, actually
you know, he wasn’t just in town to pick up this memorabilia. He was serving as the best man for one of the guys who went into the room with him, Thomas Scotto. He was the best man in his wedding.
And we followed him to the wedding, the Crystal Chapel, on Saturday night. There, we found O.J. and we found his girlfriend. The girlfriend says that he doesn’t own a gun. He didn’t—this is ridiculous, and...
MATTHEWS: Who says who doesn’t own a gun?
JACCARINO: Christie Prody, O.J.’s girlfriend, said that O.J. does not own a gun.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but that is not the issue. That’s a straw man.
Look, nobody said O.J. waved a gun around. It’s been said that the people with him had guns. Why we keep going off on tangents? I don’t want to get wasting time here, Mike. The issue is not whether O.J. was waving a gun around. It’s whether he walked in with some guys with guns.
JACCARINO: All right, Chris, I don’t know the answer to that. How do you like that?
MATTHEWS: Well, that’s tough, because that’s the issue of armed robbery here. The police have—the police have charged. Are they going to bring a charge tomorrow? Do you know?
JACCARINO: Well, the charges are already lodged. It’s the six felony counts. He’s going to go before a judge tomorrow and be formally arraigned on the charges. And his—we’re expecting that his counsel is going to make a formal application for bail.
MATTHEWS: Is there any talk of a kidnapping charge thrown on top of this?
JACCARINO: I haven’t heard any, no.
MATTHEWS: Is there any talk of any kind of plea deal so far by O.J.? Is he going to try to get out of this by admitting to a—to a misdemeanor, something to with the assault, sort of the basic assault charge?
JACCARINO: I—Chris, honestly, I haven’t been in touch with his attorney. We have another reporter on the ground who spoke to his attorney today.
I can say—from my perspective, what I could offer your viewers is, I was in back of the prison last night. I spoke to some prisoners who actually saw him in there.
JACCARINO: They said he looked dog-tired, hungry. They saw him in his prison blues.
JACCARINO: But he wasn’t—he was actually upbeat. One of the guys said that, when—when he saw O.J., he said, “Hey, O.J.,” and O.J. turned and winked at him.
JACCARINO: And this was while O.J. was being booked.
MATTHEWS: Well, I just got—I just heard through my—through my earpiece something you’re going to hear from your colleague, Mike, is that the district attorney is now charging him with—with kidnapping with a—with a deadly weapon.
So, this—they’re really putting on the charges here together.
MATTHEWS: This is going to be a lot of serious time he’s being charged with and he’s threatened with right now.
Do you think O.J. has got his act together, or he’s just sort of living in a cuckoo land here? Because he’s laughing. We’re watching scenes of him being arrested, put in the patrol car, chuckling away. It seems like he doesn’t think this is for real when we’re watching this little perp walk here.
JACCARINO: Not at all, Chris.
You know, when I saw him Saturday night at this wedding, he was smiling. He was personable. He was charismatic. It was the first time I ever met him. He shook my hand and he looked me in the eye, and he said, this is all behind me. It’s over.
He had talked to Beardsley at that point. And Beardsley said he wasn’t interested in pressing charges. He said, it’s all over. This is all finished.
JACCARINO: It’s—we’re moving on.
JACCARINO: And, if you look at the—at the mug shot, Chris, the mug shot from ‘94 shows a dour Simpson. If you look at the mug shot from today, he’s actually smiling.
Well, it’s strange. It may be diminished capacity is the defense at some point here.
Mike Jaccarino, it’s great having you on. Thanks a lot for coming on HARDBALL tonight.
JACCARINO: My pleasure, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Up next: What did Karl Rove think about Hillary’s new health care plan? Well, you can imagine. He threw a few, well, stink bombs at it today.
You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. Time for some HARDBALL stuff.
Larry Craig’s back in town. The man they thought who would never show his face back on Capitol Hill was back strolling around the Senate today. Some say that shows in-your-face street smarts on his part. By showing up, by showing the guts to show up, he’s laying the groundwork for sticking in the Senate, if he gets his guilty plea withdrawn in Minneapolis next Wednesday. Don’t count this guy out.
Speaking of long good-byes, Karl Rove is still lurking close enough to the capital to throw a stink bomb at Hillary Clinton’s new health care plan, which he says will be run by—quote—“government bureaucrats.”
Who says the Republicans don’t have sharp new ideas?
And what about Obama? Down 2-1 to Hillary in the latest NBC poll, he spoke last night from the Olympian Heights high atop New York City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, obviously, when you’re in competition in the midst of a campaign, you’re not as buddy-buddy as you might have been previously.
But, you know, I have high regard for Senator Clinton. I think she is a smart, capable person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it’s mid-September, Mr. Obama. Do you know where your campaign is? When are you going to come down from the rooftops and take on Hillary Clinton?
Jack Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has tried more than most to stop this war in Iraq, says he keeps hearing from Republican colleagues that they agree with him about how bad the war is, but are afraid to say so. They’re afraid because they don’t want to get on the wrong side of rabid pro-war Republicans, the kind of folks that vote in primaries.
And, finally, I got a call at home from comedian Ellen DeGeneres.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW”)
ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, “THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW”: As you heard by now, I tried to call Wolf Blitzer to invite him on the show. And he wouldn’t take my call.
DEGENERES: And, so, he’s—he’s a no-show.
Do you like Wolf?
MATTHEWS: Yes. He’s a little different than me.
DEGENERES: Yes, he’s different.
Now, would you be interested in coming on the show, instead of Wolf?
MATTHEWS: I would love to. Can I—I want to thank him. I want to dump him.
MATTHEWS: Bump him. Get me on. Forget him.
DEGENERES: All right. Well...
MATTHEWS: It’s a rivalry—it’s a rivalry here.
DEGENERES: All right. So, I have to go. And—and thanks for talk...
MATTHEWS: You’re the funniest person on television.
DEGENERES: Oh, you’re sweet.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: And I think you might be the best dancer. I’m not sure.
DEGENERES: I—I—I adore you.
Thank you so much, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK. Ellen, you’re great. Bye-bye.
DEGENERES: All right. Bye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: She is the funniest.
When we come back, tonight’s HARDBALL debate: Is there a double standard for words you can’t use, words a black man, for example, can say, but a white man can’t?
Let’s talk about that one when we come back.
MIKE HUCKMAN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I am Mike Huckman with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks surged after today’s dramatic move by the Fed. The Dow Jones industrials soared 336 points. The S&P 500 gained 43 points. And the Nasdaq gained 70 points.
The Fed aggressively cut a key interest rate, the federal funds rate, a half-a-percent. That’s double the quarter-point cut that had been expected. And it’s the first cut in the federal funds rate in four years.
The Fed also cut the discount rate, which it lowered last month another half-a-percent. The Fed is seeking to prevent the economy from sinking into a recession sparked by the housing slump.
As the Fed also keeps an eye on inflation, producer prices tumbled last month by a larger-than-expected 1.4 percent. Meantime, so-called core prices, which exclude food and energy, rose a modest two-tenths-of-a-percent.
And oil closed at another record high of $81.51 a barrel, after rising 94 cents.
That’s it from CNBC, America’s business channel—now back to
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Time now for our HARDBALL debate.
A female executive from the New York Knicks basketball team accused coach Isiah Thomas of harassment.
In a videotaped statement, Thomas admitted to calling the executive—and here’s a bad word—“bitch.”
Here’s his side of the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISIAH THOMAS, NEW YORK KNICKS COACH: A white man calling a black female that, it’s on with me, too. I’m not tolerating that. I’m not accepting that. So, if—if it’s going down that road, with a black female and a white male saying that to her, well, that’s a problem for me, I’m sorry to say. I do make a distinction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Makes a distinction.
The Reverend Al Sharpton is president of the National Action Network.
And Armstrong Williams is a syndicated radio host.
Reverend Sharpton, sir, thank you for coming on.
Is there a distinction in who says the word?
AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: No, I don’t think so. I think that the word is wrong, no matter who says it. It’s a misogynist and sexist term. I do not agree with anyone using it.
We in National Action Network have fought it, whether it was Imus or whether it was hip-hop artists. I think that a sexist word or a racist word or a word that is homophobic is that, no matter who is the one using the word.
MATTHEWS: So, that’s a bad word in your vocabulary, period?
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Armstrong Williams.
Your thought. Is Isiah Williams—I mean—Isiah Thomas got a point here or what?
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, Isiah Thomas has a double standard. And he has one standard for one person, depending on their race, and another standard, depending on their race.
And, so, he’s sort of hypocritical. And, so, he has no credibility on that issue. You know, I—I—I—this is a dilemma for me, because I have never used the word. I would not use the word. I choose to use something else.
But I grew up in an environment in the South, where, when guys were out of hand, sometimes, they were referred to as son of a B.
WILLIAMS: And women were referred to as B.s. And women used the word. And some women see it as a badge of honor.
And I’m just wondering how far are we going into this political correctness and free speech? I mean, there are certain cultures in entertainment and corporate America, and I’m sure—sure Reverend Sharpton, as he usually is, can—they use this word.
I mean, what are we trying to say here, is that this is something new, that it’s something we should be shocked by? I mean, we hear it all the time. I mean, you hear it on radio stations. People use it.
So, yes, Isiah Thomas is using a double standard. He’s wrong. But I’m not going to say we should censor the word. I have a problem with it. It’s not my value system, the way I grew up. But I’m not offended by it, I must admit. I’m just not, because I—we hear it.
SHARPTON: Well, I don’t think—I don’t think the issue here is—is whether or not we censor.
I think the question is whether or not it matters whether who uses it and, based on who says it, whether it’s appropriate. I don’t think it’s appropriate. I don’t think it’s a right term, no matter who says it.
Now, does someone have the right to say it? Yes, but you have the right to be wrong. And people have the right to be offended by it. I think there’s a big difference in saying that something is commonly used and then saying, therefore, it should be accepted by women, if somebody of a different race says it, as opposed to someone else.
I think that that’s where the line is drawn. And I think that you cannot say that something is more accepted or more appropriate based on who says it.
MATTHEWS: Where are you—where are you on that, Armstrong? Where are you on the issue that we have started with here, which is Isiah Thomas, a very prominent—well, he’s a major figure in sports. He says that, if he says the word, the bitch word, it’s all right because he’s a black fellow, but, if a white guy came along and used it, it would carry a different connotation, and he would be very angry and he would do something about it.
Is that a legitimate distinction? He said there’s a distinction. Is there?
WILLIAMS: Absolutely, unequivocally not. Isiah Thomas is a hypocrite and he’s deluding—deluding himself.
Isiah Thomas sounds like a racist, saying it’s OK for one person to say it, depending upon their race, and he would be more outraged if someone looked like you said it.
I mean, come on. That is ridiculous. The issue is not about what race used the word. If he’s outraged by somebody using it towards a sister if they’re black, then he should be just as outraged at somebody else using it. The standard should be the same, no matter who uses the word. He should be just as outraged. So literally, to me, he has no credibility. What he says to me is just utterly ridiculous.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Reverend Sharpton on this question. Words have many meanings. This isn’t like the N word that has only a foul word. A word like that, bitch, is sometimes used by guys who drive choppers, big guys who drive motorcylcles, as the woman that rides with him. I don’t think it’s used negatively by them. Is this a word that you generally just say can’t be used? Is this off list?
SHARPTON: I think it is because I think that most women and certainly most groups that have dealt with this have deemed this to be a very misogynist term. I think it is not a term that is complimentary, even when it is used in a slang way. I think that slang is used as a negative word that they’re going to try to use in a slang way to put you down or put you in a certain category. I think that becomes deadly. But I think that when you have people of prominence start trying to sanitize words that are clearly derogatory, we are on a dangerous slope and we can’t equivocate on it. That should not be accepted.
MATTHEWS: So, I once again find myself in a situation on HARDBALL with one of these debates where both you gentlemen agree there shouldn’t be a double standard. Am I right?
SHARPTON: You are right. I think I’ve converted Armstrong. If I can convert Armstrong on Clarence Thomas, then we’d have a great day.
WILLIAMS: You’ll have that opportunity. Listen, Reverend Sharpton and I, anybody with common sense, would agree on the double standard. If Isaiah Thomas is basing his position on the race of an individual. Where I differ with Reverend Sharpton is the fact of whether or not the B word is offensive. I hear guys refer to women oftentimes that’s my B. They smile about it. They don’t find it offensive.
I hear other women accuse others as being B’s. Some women see that as being tough and can do brass knuckles with the boys, and they’re just as bad as the boys. In my culture, where I grew up, using the B word or son of a B, something I would not use, to me has never been offensive, because you use it in so many different contexts. I think sometimes guys use it, like, let’s say, for Isaiah Thomas, if the woman did spurn his advances and if she found him offensive and did not give him the kind of attention he’s accustomed to getting from women, because he’s supposed to be the celebrated athlete and not president of the New York Knicks, then he referred to her as a B, because he did not get his way. Still, he’s implying here she’s a tough broad.
MATTHEWS: What do you think the chances are he’s going to beat this harassment wrap, this complaint, by his argument that it’s not offensive if it’s within the ethnic group that—apparently he finds it to be a charming use within the black community. Do you think he’ll win that argument in court, sir? Armstrong Williams?
WILLIAMS: You know what, I just think that some people, depending on how far this will go in court, will find it laughable. It’s freedom of speech. She never really complained about it. Obviously the trial is still on going and the judge is fed up with it. If she’s not offended by it and she allowed it—you never know what she may have said.
MATTHEWS: She’s obviously offended by it. She’s bringing a suit.
WILLIAMS: She’s bringing a suit because now she’s a disgruntled employee. It’s different. She didn’t bring this suit while this was ongoing. Listen, anybody can file a frivolous lawsuit. That doesn’t take much.
MATTHEWS: Reverend Sharpton, have you become the arbiter of what’s acceptable in America?
MATTHEWS: How did you get this throne, this position of influence where you can decree that Don Imus must go or the conditions upon which he can come back? Where did you get this position of power?
SHARPTON: I think what I said was that Don Imus or anyone else had the right to say what they want, but we have the right to organize people to say that we’re not going to pay for it, as I’m in Jena, Louisiana, right now, organizing against a decision we feel is wrong in the criminal justice system. I don’t think, by the way, though that Mr. Thomas’s lawsuit has anything to do with just this word. I think harassment will be determined on lot of other things.
MATTHEWS: I agree with you, sir.
SHARPTON: I may disagree with his use of the term and still think that the lawsuit is frivolous and still think that she has not reached the bar of what’s accepted. She may have. I really don’t know enough about the lawsuit.
MATTHEWS: We have three men talking about this. We’re going to have to enlarge this discussion next time we will bring it up with some women aboard, because I think we just lost the women listening with that argument. Thank you. Reverend, it’s good to have you back aboard. I think you’ve learned the American way, power.
Anyway, up next, the round table on today’s news and the battle for the White House. This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We’re back. It’s time for the round table; the “Washington Post’s” Jonathan Capehart, “New York Magazine’s” John Heilemann and Julie Mason of the “Houston Chronicle.” Julie, thank you for joining us. I had a plan to talk about O.J. right now. We will for once second. But you just raised the issue. In New York they’re about to outlaw the word bitch, outlaw—you can’t speak it under punishment of what.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NYMAG.COM: I wouldn’t say they’re about to.
MATTHEWS: What happened to the first amendment thing we used to have here.
HEILEMANN: I wouldn’t say they’re about to outlaw it, but there is a move in the city council. About a year ago they outlawed the use of the N word in New York.
MATTHEWS: You mean, they’ve done smoking, now let’s do speech.
HEILEMANN: That’s exactly right.
MATTHEWS: They’re too damn busy. Let’s go to the issue of this O.J. case. Here we are back on the issue that made cable television what it is today, Jonathan, and kept me busy for at least a year. It looks like the prosecutor in this case knows more than we know. Apparently he knows, if you’re going to give him the credit of knowing what his job is, he’s throwing the book at O.J. Eight counts now, including kidnapping with—armed kidnapping, I never heard of that phrase. We can figure out what that adds up to, a gun and telling people they can’t leave a room. Apparently, you can kidnap a person for a few minutes. That’s what he did.
If you listen to the tape, it sounds like what he’s doing.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, “WASHINGTON POST”: Right, what’s your question.
MATTHEWS: Where are we here. My question is what do you think?
CAPEHART: What do I think? I think O.J. is in deep trouble.
MATTHEWS: Diminished capacity. I watch the guy. I really have a very limited attitude about this case. I had a lot of attitude, like everybody, ten years ago. I’ve lost my indignation here. I have lost it. It took time. I have other things to worry about, this war, as Sally Field would call it, this god damn war. I’ve got to think about it too much to think about O.J. But here’s the question, is this really a triple jeopardy situation? Didn’t get him in the criminal trial, didn’t get him in the civil case, and now the police and everybody are going back to get him now.
CAPEHART: But, I mean, O.J. is the one who found himself in the situation with a couple of guy who had guns and, you know, we’ve got the audio tape that’s been all over the place, with him using MF and all sorts of other words. He got himself into this situation. Not—I don’t think it’s the work of overzealous cops trying to go after him three or four times.
MATTHEWS: Julie, the problem with saying he’s hanging around with the wrong crowd is you could say the crowd’s hanging around the wrong guy. People that choose to hang around a guy like O.J. got to figure he probably did it. And they love the fact of hanging around a guy who beat a rap for murder.
JULIE MASON, “HOUSTON CHRONICLE”: I never hang around with a bunch of guys with guns. Chris, don’t you think this kind of has the feeling of unresolved relationship issues, like we need to close the deal on O.J. now and here’s the chance to do it? It really feels that way to me, maybe not to you.
MATTHEWS: It’s like the second Gulf War, how about that?
MASON: OK, all right.
MATTHEWS: Let’s go back to—let’s talk about this issue. This grabs Americans, because most Americans thought he did it in the first case, and they feel that he had a very brilliant lawyer. He was able to use the history of racial problems in Los Angeles between the police and the black community to win over a jury, not necessarily on the facts, but on what we used to call in Catholic school—what’s it called? Not community justice, but that other one. The community justice, the one involving relationships and long-term group rights—group concerns.
He didn’t win because he was innocent actually. He won because his crowd had been abused over the years out there.
HEILEMANN: He won because he had a clever set of lawyers. The thing that grabs America because people—in some ways this crime is crazier than that crime. A crime of passion where you kill somebody, this happens in society. It’s terrible, but it happens. This crime --
MATTHEWS: Distributive justice is the word I was looking for.
Distributive justice is when you think life is unfair.
HEILEMANN: But this crime he looks like a nut.
MATTHEWS: Did you notice how he’s smiling getting into the police car.
HEILEMANN: He looks like he’s deranged.
MATTHEWS: What’s he happy about.
CAPEHART: He looks like he’s enjoying it.
MATTHEWS: And he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s cuffed by moving his hands over to the right. Then the cop pulled his hands back to show he was cuffed. What’s that all about, is he trying to pretend to his fans he wasn’t cuffed?
CAPEHART: When you’ve got the silver bracelet on, you can see no matter what angle, there’s only so much you can do. It seemed that O.J. was enjoying this a little too much. I wonder if the guy is all there.
MATTHEWS: Well, someone said in the papers today that he just had two choices after he got away with murder, basically, which was he could go into the shadows and not exist anymore as a public figure, or he could find some way to get back into trouble and get back in the lime light. I think he likes this. Is that strange? Nixon, in a weird way, liked Watergate. Some people like the attention, even if it’s horrible.
Anyway, we’ll be right back with round table. We’re going to talk about this issue of free speech and whether we can still have elections in this country and you can still be a heckler without being tasered. You’re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: We’re back with the round table. Let’s talk about that tasing incident down in Florida, at the University of Florida. Let’s look at right now a scene where somebody who was heckling, or actually asking too long a question to John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts, who was subdued by the campus police and punished on the spot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don’t taser me, bro, don’t taser me. Ow, ow, ow! ow! What are you doing? Ow, ow! Stop! Oh my god.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Julie, that might have something of a chilling effect on further remarks by the audience.
MASON: Ouchie, don’t tase me, bro. That was horrible. Just because he was some sort of campus provocateur, I don’t think it justifies—what was that? Five cops tasering him.
MATTHEWS: Why don’t we just bring—it’s like using him like a human iron or toaster. Just put him in the socket is what they did to this guy.
MASON: Very grim.
MATTHEWS: I have to ask, because we were talking earlier in the show, Jonathan, and I know you’re a free speech guy because you’re so, well, concerned with words, since you write them for the op ed page in the “Washington Post.” Don’t we have a wide latitude in this country for behavior at political events? Like people are allowed to hold posters. They are allowed to yell. They’re allowed to heckle. You can generally shut them up if you have to, but there’s a lot of latitude in our democracy. That’s what it’s called.
CAPEHART: Right, and that’s why I think it’s important that the campus president—the college president announced today he’s calling for an independent investigation as to what happened. Because it’s not so much the kid—it’s not what he was saying. It’s that the cops went overboard. He should not have been tasered.
MATTHEWS: If the kid had been throwing flowers at John Kerry, saying you’re the greatest man that ever lived. You’re wonderful. The speech could have gone on forever. They would not have taken him away and tasered him. It’s what he was saying. He was yelling against this established meeting. Right? That’s what I worry about here. It’s the substance of what they are saying. It’s protected speech under the first amendment.
CAPEHART: I’m with you on that, Chris.
MATTHEWS: OK, John. I won’t to argue and you refuse to argue.
HEILEMANN: It’s like the campaign he had 15 years ago in 1992, when people used to show up in chicken suits to challenge George Bush for not debating with Bill Clinton. What would have happened to the guy in the chicken suit in 2008?
MATTHEWS: This story is breaking right now. Apparently the police story—and it’s probably accurate. I don’t think police make up stories like this. Look at the eye going out. Look at that. Get a shot of the eyebrow. The kid was yelling obscenities at them. I’m not sure that raises the level of what they’re allowed to do. What do you think, Julie?
MASON: I don’t think so.
MATTHEWS: We were wondering whether that was seen as too much ethnic familiarity with the police officer. We weren’t sure.
MASON: Whatever he said, I don’t think it hurt as much as that taser.
MATTHEWS: What we are not trying to encourage in Iraq, which is real democracy, a bit noisy, a bit loud, a bit rambunctious. But if we start tasering people because they say the wrong thing, I think the Shia might get the wrong idea.
Anyway, thank you Jonathan Capehart, John Heilemann and Julie Mason.
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more HARDBALL.
Right now it’s time for “TUCKER.”
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