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PoliticsNation, Thursday, May 10, 2012

Read the transcript from the Thursday show

Guests: E.J. Dionne; David Corn, Cynthia Tucker; Celinda Lake; Chris Van Hollen, Delmon Coates,
Harry Jackson

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation." I`m Al

Tonight`s lead, a question of character. When you`re running for
president, every part of your life is examined. Everything you have ever
done or said is looked at for clues as to who you are and what kind of
leader you would be. That`s why today`s report about Mitt Romney in "the
Washington Post" is potentially so revealing.

The post`s article recounts appalling incident that happened during
Romney`s senior year at the elite private high school he attended in
Michigan when he was 18 years old. The post reports, quote, "John Lauber,
a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney was perpetually teased for
his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality."

Now, he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair
that draped over one eye and Romney wasn`t having it. Quote, "he can`t
look like that. That`s wrong. Just look at him. An incensed Romney told
Matthew Friedemann his close friend. Now Matthew Friedemann tells the
post, he later saw Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep
school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber`s hair. Friedemann
followed them to nearby room. When they came upon Lauber, tackled him and
pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears screamed
for help. Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors." It
was a searing moment for some of those involved in the moment, most of all
John Lauber.

Thirty years later, one of Romney`s classmates ran into Lauber at an
airport and asked him about what happened. According to the polls, Lauber
said, quote, "it was horrible." Lauber went on to explain how frightened
he was during the incident and, quote, "it`s something I`ve thought about a
lot since then." End of quote.

And one of the young men who took part in the bullying told "the Post,"
quote, "it happened very quickly and to this day it troubled me," said
Thomas Buford the schools wrestling champion, who said he joined Romney in
restraining Lauber. Buford subsequently apologized to Lauber, who was
terrified, he said. What a senseless, stupid, idiotic thing to do." But
this morning a top Romney adviser seems to shrug off the incident.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Romney doesn`t remember that incident at all.
It`s understandable. It was high school.


SHARPTON: And in a radio interview this morning, Romney was actually
chuckling, chuckling while he was talking about this.


don`t remember that incident and I`ll tell you, I certainly don`t believe
that I -- and I can`t speak for other people, of course, thought the fellow
was homosexual. But as to the teasing and the taunts that go on in high
school, that`s a long time ago. For me it`s about 48 years ago. So,
again, if there`s anything that I said that was offensive to someone, I
certainly am sorry about that.


SHARPTON: But by late this afternoon, Romney`s attitude and tone was


ROMNEY: First of all, I had no idea what that individual`s sexual
orientation might be, going back to the 1960s, that wasn`t something that
we all discussed or considered. So that`s simply not accurate. I don`t
recall the incident myself but I`ve seen the reports and I`m not going to
argue with that. There`s no question that I did some stupid things when I
was in high school and obviously if I hurt anyone by virtue of that, I
would be very sorry for that and apologize for that.


SHARPTON: But when you run for president, the past is never really the

Joining me now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones"
and also and MSNBC political analyst. He`s the author of a new book called
"showdown." And Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated
columnist and now visiting professor of journalism at the University of

Thanks to both of you for joining me.


SHARPTON: David, this happened 48 years ago. Does it really matter now?

CORN: That`s a good question. And what happens that far back in the past
in the relevancy to the present character of a person is openly to
question. And you know it really depends on whether it happened more than
once. But, more important, is what the reaction today is to revelations
about the past.

And that`s where I think Romney is failing the character test. I find it
personally unbelievable that he doesn`t remember such an event. I was
involved in those sorts of terrible moments during high school. I`ve
witnessed them. And I remember them. I remember when they happened to me.
I remember when I saw them happen to other people and the fact that you
have four or five witnesses telling Jason Horowitz of "the Washington Post"
incredible details about that moment shows that it really was of cons
consequence to them.

So for him to come out and say, I don`t recall, but I do remember that I
didn`t think he was gay and have all of these sort of Wesley words and to
be chuckling about it, indicates to me that that`s the problem. This is a
moment for him to step up to the plate and say, you know, I did do stupid
things. That was wrong and I believe bullying is a problem today and, you
know, to talk about it honestly. The fact that he can`t do that, to me, is
perhaps more troubling now than what actually happened back then.

SHARPTON: But Cynthia, it`s 48 years ago. Is it that we have the right to
go all the way back in any presidential candidate`s life? I mean, we are
hearing about the president`s girlfriends decades ago. So is this a fair
game for anybody running for president?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Absolutely. You know, whether it`s
fair or not, this is the way it`s done. Mitt Romney is on the grand stage
now. He`s at the show, as they say in major league baseball. So, yes,
they will go all the way back to his kindergarten years, for heaven`s
sakes. Reporters have gone back to the school that Obama attended as a
young boy in Indonesia. So, yes, this is fair game.

But I think David is absolutely right here. It`s not so important to me
what Romney did as a teenager. I don`t want to sound as if I think
bullying isn`t a problem. For heaven`s sakes, I was bullied in school. I
was a teacher`s kid in a small town. I certainly got bullied. But people
grow out of that.

What troubles me much more is that Mitt Romney can`t stand before the
cameras now and give a straight answer. I was sometimes a jerk when I was
in high school. I am so sorry. He didn`t even really issue an apology.

My mother taught me in first grade, any time you start a so-called apology
with, if I offended someone, then you`re not really apologizing. So he
hasn`t really even apologized. Why doesn`t he just say, I was sometimes a
jerk. I am ashamed of the way I sometimes behaved. I am truly sorry.

SHARPTON: I might not add that, Cynthia, we have an audio problem in the
studio. That`s why she`s holding the cell phone.

TUCKER: I`m holding a telephone, yes.

SHARPTON: Yes. I just wanted to he can plain to people why you are doing


SHARPTON: David, let me go back to you. "The Washington Post" reports
about the bullying incident, it was a hack job, recalled Phillip Maxwell, a
childhood friend of Romney, who was in the dorm when the incident occurred.
It was vicious. Then Romney`s former classmate paints a dark picture of
him for ABC News, one former classmate and old friend of Romney`s who
refused to be identified by name, said there are a lot of guys who went to
Cranbrook who have really negative memories of Romney`s behavior in the
dorms, behavior this classmate describes as evil and like the lord of the

CORN: Well, let`s be clear here, this was not a prank. I mean, that was
part of, you know, the excuse and, you know, the cover story that came out
earlier in the day, that, you know, that I did some pranks, and done
foolish pranks, you know. This was even more than bullying. This was an
assault. It was violent. I can see how this would have a searing effect
on the victim, on John Lauber who, unfortunately, died a few years ago and
is not around to accept Romney`s half apology.

So it goes beyond prank. And so, if people want to, you know, look at the
question of whether there is something particularly mean or dark inside
Mitt Romney, you know, this is a starting point.

And, also, I think everything is fair game here. Mitt Romney is the
presidential candidate that gets out there and he talks about how his
grandfather used to spit nails as a carpenter, how his father used to sell

Well, if you can talk about that stuff on the campaign trail, other people
can certainly talk about the time you brutalized a student because you
thought he was gay.

SHARPTON: Now, Cynthia, let me raise this to you, because I think that it
is interesting to me how later today on a radio show he talked about -- he
being Mr. Romney -- that he`s a different person today. He doesn`t
remember the incident but he remembers he`s different today. Listen to


ROMNEY: There are elements in life that change you. I`m a very different
person than I was in high school. I`m quite a different guy now. I`m
married. I have five sons, five daughters in law and now 18 grandchildren.


SHARPTON: And I`m the first to say, people can grow mature and be
different. I have. A lot of people have. But why are you saying you`re
different if you don`t remember that you`re different from?

TUCKER: Indeed. And that`s at the core of a big problem for Mitt Romney.
Can he relate to people who are weak, who are vulnerable? You know "the
Washington Post" account, the most horrifying episode involved Lauber, the
young man whom they did assault held down to cut his hair.

But there are other episodes where it`s clear that Mitt Romney had a pinch
for picking on the weak and the vulnerable. He had a teacher who was
almost legally blind and he deliberately allowed him to walk into a closed
door and hurt himself. And he laughed about that. Yes, could he have
changed? Maybe he could have. But I need to see some evidence that he can
now relate to people who are weak, who are vulnerable and he still doesn`t
show any ability to do that. And that is the big problem for Mitt Romney.

SHARPTON: Yes. Thank you so much, Cynthia Tucker, David Corn. Thank you
both of you for your time tonight.

CORN: Sure.

SHARPTON: Ahead, President Obama`s historic endorsement of gay marriage
has sparked some backlash. I`ll explain why this is not a religious issue
but a civil rights issue.

Plus, won the poll, Paul Ryan and the GOP to slash food stamps and meals on
wheels to protect the rich, a new law.

And a day of gold. Michele Bachmann was a proud Swiss citizen. Now you
won`t believe what she`s saying. It`s amazing.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.


SHARPTON: The president made a big historic announcement yesterday.
Today, fallout, passionate agreement and disagreement. That`s next.


SHARPTON: This morning millions of Americans woke up knowing for the first
time that the president of the United States says that they deserve the
same rights as other Americans, the right to marry who you want. This is a
fundamental right. President Obama`s decision to support marriage equality
was the result of a personal evolution.


friends whose parents are same-sex parents. And, Malia and Sasha would not
condone on them that somehow their friends` parents would be treated
differently. It doesn`t make sense to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Did you discuss this with Mrs. Obama?

OBAMA: This is something that, yes, we`ve talked about over the years.
And, you know, she feels the same way that I do. In the end, the values
that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we
treat other people.


SHARPTON: America is moving forward but House Republicans responded by
trying to move backwards. Just hours after the president`s big
announcement, Republicans voted to stop federal funds from being used to
oppose anti-gay defense of marriage act of Republican led panel also voted
to ban same-sex marriage on military bases.

Meanwhile Mitt Romney now says he opposes both same-sex marriage and civil
unions. They have equal and full rights. Unlike the president, Romney is
moving in the wrong direction on this.

In 1994 he said he better -- he`d be better than Ted Kennedy for gay
rights. But, earlier this year Romney spoke at a conservative conference
that banned a gay Republican group and bragged about how he banned gay
marriage equality as governor of Massachusetts.


ROMNEY: On my watch we fought hard and prevented Massachusetts from
becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage.


SHARPTON: And at a debate last year, Romney stood by and said nothing
while the Republican crowd booed a soldier simply because he was gay.


STEPHEN HILL, SOLDIER IN IRAQ: Under your presidency, do you intend to for
gay and lesbians in the military?


SHARPTON: Here`s how Romney explain his failure to spoke out against that.


ROMNEY: The boos and the applause is not always coincided with my own
views but I haven`t stepped in to try and say, this one is right and this
one is wrong. I haven`t made it my practice to listen to the cheers and
the boos and them try and correct the people on their expressions of their


SHARPTON: Ideally our presidents lead by example. They provide a model to
the rest of the country. President Obama has done that. What has Mitt
Romney done?

Joining me now is "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC contributor E.J.
Dionne and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

Thank you both for joining me.


SHARPTON: Let me start with you Celinda. Are the American people ready
for this kind of commitment to civil right from their president?

CELINDA LAKE, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Absolutely. And I think particularly
the American people who are going to vote for President Obama, were more
than ready. I think we are at stage now where you will never have a
democratic presidential nominee nor will you have in most states a
Democratic nominated who doesn`t support marriage equality and the same
rights for loving committed couples.

SHARPTON: Now, if you look at the polling of supporters of same-sex
marriage, 18 and 34 years old, 66 percent, Democrats, 65 percent,
moderates, 58 percent, independents, 57 percent, college grads, 57 percent,
women, 56 percent, Catholics, 51 percent. Quite an impressive majority in
these areas, Celinda.

LAKE: That`s right. And in fact, that it`s up to the majority of all
Americans. I also think what is interesting here is, first of all, Mitt
Romney yet again flip-flopping but more to the points, his position would
take away health care benefits, benefits, hospital visitation rights and
benefits in a number of states. His position is one for a century ago, not

SHARPTON: Now, E.J., you wrote a very compelling column about your own
change of heart. The president talked about his evolution but I don`t
think anyone wrote more passionately than you did about your own evolution
in this area and you said -- I`m quoting you and then you can expound upon
t you said, "I was sympathetic to granting gay couples of rights of married
people but baulked at applying the word "marriage" to their unions." Like
a lot of people, I decided I was wrong. That`s four years ago you wrote

DIONNE: I did. And I decided I was wrong because I had always been a
supporter of gay rights but I felt that it was asking too much of an awful
lot of people in the country who were moving very quickly on this issue. I
don`t think there`s any issue in which the public`s mind has changed more
quickly than in having a warmer and more open attitude towards people who
are gay and lesbian.

And I just decided that if you believe that people should be in committed
and faithful relationships, if you think that it`s in the country`s
interest to promote those, then that`s actually the kind of socially
conservative view, that we should be on the side of committed
relationships, then how in the world could you deny that to people who are
gay and lesbians.

So, I decided that I was wrong and a lot of people have decided that and I
think what gives power to what the president did is that, yes, there`s
always been politics back there. Every politician has to think about the
politics. But I think he went on the same journey that a lot of other
people did and I think he spoke about it in that way.

And that`s why I think that all of the talk about this being politically
damaging is probably going to be wrong. It might hurt him a little bit
here or there but I think it`s going to help him in terms of enthusiasm
among young people, which he really needs to reignite right now and I
always think it`s better for somebody, a politician, to say what he or she
really thinks. And it was clear that he was evolving in this direction and
he couldn`t just sit there and say, I`m evolving. He had to take a stand.
And so, I think it`s good that he did.

SHARPTON: Now, Celinda, I remember years ago when many of us debated this
in the 2004 primary when I was involved, there was one or two of us that
said, yes, we supported. And it was a tremendous backlash and the
Republicans used it as a wedge issue.

But I don`t know that they are jumping in to do that this time because John
Boehner, not a guy who sounds like he wants to use this issue. Look at his
reaction today.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president can talk about
it all he wants. I`m going to stay focus on what the American people wants
us to stay focused on and that`s jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: A top Romney advisor said this morning that
they plan to make gay marriage a campaign issue and they are also so going
to push for a constitutional amendment. Do you agree with that?

BOEHNER: I`m going to stay focused on job.


SHARPTON: So directly asked about the constitutional amendment and a top
Romney adviser saying is it an issue, Republican speaker Boehner said I`m
going to stay focused on jobs.

Celinda, is he looking at the shift that the country has gone through in
the last five to eight years where it`s not the kind of wedge issue that
they once mobilized a lot of people around?

LAKE: I think that`s right and thank you for your early leadership in
particular with the multiple hats that you wear and a religious leader was
so important. But, I think that`s right. The other thing that I think is
they paid a huge price for getting off on social issues and taking
positions that were out of the mainstream. And voters do not want to see
them, do that again.

And you know what, when you ask the public what are you more worried about,
holding on to your job or who your neighbor is marrying, people are a lot
more worried about holding on to their jobs.

SHARPTON: Well, I thank you E.J. and Celinda Lake for your time this

LAKE: Thank you.

DIONNE: Thanks for those kind words, Reverend, I appreciate it very much.

SHARPTON: You certainly deserved it. And I agree with you, Celinda,
people are more concerned in this election about what is going on in the
board room than what is going on in somebody`s bedroom.

LAKE: That`s right.

SHARPTON: Ahead, house Republicans show their true colors, cutting food
stamps and meal on wheels and help for the disabled. Folks, we are better
than this.

And yesterday Michele Bachmann was gushing with pride for becoming a Swiss
citizen. What a difference a day makes. That`s next.


SHARPTON: That`s the classic American song "American girl" and even though
Tom Petty asked her not to, Michele Bachmann used that song last summer to
kick off her presidential campaign. After all, she made a name for
herself, wrapping herself in the American flag and being a tea party
leader. She doesn`t want there to be a doubt in anyone`s mind that she`s
an American, especially now.

As you may have heard, Congresswoman Bachmann became a citizen of
Switzerland through her husband, whose parents grew up there. Last night
she said it`s no big deal and she`s been a dual citizen for more than three
decades. And earlier this week she told a Swiss TV station how much she
loves their country.


percent Swiss and his parents were raised in Switzerland. They were
married there. They came to the United States. They bought a farm in
Wisconsin and raised their three sons. It`s tough to find a place not to
like in Switzerland.


SHARPTON: But what a difference a day makes. Today, she announced she`s
withdrawing her Swiss citizenship. Quote, "today I sent a letter to the
Swiss consulate requesting withdrawal of my dual Swiss citizenship. I took
this action because I want to make it perfectly clear, I was born in
America and I am a proud American citizen."

Congresswoman, we know that you are a proud American citizen. You remind
us all the time.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: God Bless the United States of
America. We will soundly stand for someone who believes in America. The
American people expect no less. What I believe is that I love the American
people. And I love this country.


SHARPTON: Congresswoman, we have political differences but we never
doubted that you are proud to be an American. Who would question a
patriotism of someone serving their country?


BACHMANN: I absolutely --

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So, do you believe that Barack Obama may have anti-
American views?

BACHMANN: Absolutely. I`m very concerned that he may have anti-
American views.


SHARPTON: That was definitely a swing and a miss, or should I say a
swing and a Swiss. We`ll be right back.


SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Remember that big
government shutdown we almost had this summer? Well, way back in July,
Democrats and Republicans reached a deal. They agreed to raise the debt
ceiling on these terms.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The big news this morning is after weeks of
often bitter negotiations, Republicans and democratic leaders in Washington
have finally, finally agreed to the outline of a deal in this debt ceiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That`s right. It came last night. It would cut
trillions of dollars in federal spending over the next decade or so.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: If Congress fails to actually make those
recommend cuts by the end of the election year, that kicks in automatic
spending cuts, including Medicare and defense.


SHARPTON: Now, Democrats and Republicans need to find a way to close
this deficit. Otherwise, automatic cuts to Medicare and defense will take
place. Neither side wants that to happen. Democrats are pushing for a
plan that makes the richest Americans contribute more. Today, Republicans
offered their solution and to get the crowd warmed up Congressman Paul Ryan
told this joke.


which should not be a class-based society, it should be a society of upward
mobility, where we can make the most of our lives based on our own God-
given talent and our own effort.


SHARPTON: You`re hilarious. I mean, you`re joking, right? Because
just hours ago, your party voted against that upward mobility that you`re
speaking so passionately about. You`ve ordered to cut billions from food
stamps, billions more from health care. You even cut meals on wheels and
just for fun, help for the disabled. Make no mistake, this bill has no
chance of becoming law but it speaks to what the GOP believes in. That the
poor should suffer while the rich get off Scott free and that`s why I
thought this was a joke.


RYAN: It should be a society of upward mobility.


SHARPTON: The GOP believes in upward mobility for the rich, the
presidential candidate believes in upward mobility for the rich. This vote
today was more for than just a GOP bill. It was a testament to what the
whole Republican Party believes in and what this election is all about.

Joining me now is a Congressman who`s been at the center of this
debate. Representative Chris Van Hollen, democrat for Maryland.
Congressman Van Hollen, thanks for your time tonight.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Reverend, always good to be
with you.

SHARPTON: Now, the GOP plan includes cuts to meals on wheels, food
stamps, and help for the disabled. Is it just me or is this a new low?

VAN HOLLEN: It`s not just you and I think the American people will
see this as a new low. They are going to cut a food and nutrition programs
to 20 million kids, they are going to say to 300,000 kids, you`re no longer
are going to get access to healthcare, to the children`s health insurance
program. As you indicated, they are going to slice back on the programs
like meals for wheels and programs that helped kids that are abused. These
are abused on the neglected kids, they`re cutting back on that. In fact,
they are eliminating entirely the social services block grant and they are
doing all of this because they don`t want to ask people who make $1 million
a year to pay a little bit more to help reduce our deficit. And because 98
percent of the Republicans in the House had signed this pledge say, they
are not going to ask the oil companies to give up a penny of taxpayer
subsidies, they are not going to ask the wealthy to pay more, because they
do that, they have to hit everybody else much harder. So, they have to hit
kids` health, kids` nutrition programs, the aging Medicare, they take it
out on everybody else.

SHARPTON: You know what is also striking to me, they are supposed to
be the party of defense but look at what Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
said today. Watch this.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: By taking these funds from the poor
middle class Americans, homeowners, and other vulnerable parts of our
American constituencies, the guaranteed results will be confrontation
gridlock and a greater likelihood of sequester.


SHARPTON: Now, that`s the Secretary of Defense. Now, when you
combine that, Congressman, with the fact that Democrats twice this week
tried to present an alternative and the GOP wouldn`t even let the Democrats
offer it, they wouldn`t even bring it up and it would have saved defense
when the alternative was no defense cuts, cut $24 billion in farm
subsidies, five billion by reform flood insurance, but they wanted $84
billion raised by increasing taxes on wealthy and on the five biggest all
companies, and I guess that`s the deal breaker. You don`t raise taxes on
the wealthy and the big oil guys. You rather take it from people at the
bottom of the economy.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Reverend, that`s exactly right. And that`s what
exposes the hypocrisy of our republican colleagues in the House. Because
the Democrats offered a substitute amendment that would have also
prohibited the across the board cuts to defense, we just would have done it
in a different way. And our Republicans colleagues keep saying, well,
these cost to defense, they are going to jeopardize our National Security
but they didn`t even let us have a vote on our alternative which said, OK,
we`re going to prevent those cuts to defense but let`s close the tax
loopholes for the big oil companies.

Let`s ask millionaires to pay as much as the people who are working
for them in terms of their tax rates, let`s cut some of these acts
subsidies and work with us and you can avoid those cuts in the military,
and when it came right down to it, the Republicans chose to protect those
tax breaks and those tax subsidies rather than protect defense spending for
our National Security. So they talk a big game about defense but when it
comes to actually paying for defense, they don`t want to do it. They would
rather protect these tax breaks.

SHARPTON: It`s obvious that the bill won`t pass ultimately through
the Senate but it really shows us what this party is about and with the
republican candidate who is the standard bearer of the party. Now, Mr.
Romney is about. This is really what this election is about. What are the
priorities in this country?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, that`s right. Because Mitt Romney has fully
embraced this House republican budget with the end of the Medicare
guarantee, with the very deep cuts to programs that help seniors and
disabled in nursing homes and at the same time doubling down on tax breaks
for the very wealthy. People like Mitt Romney would do just great under
the House republican plan and they do great at the expense of everybody
else and the important investments to help our economy grow. So that more
people can succeed in this country. So, this trickledown theory that we
saw for eight years under the Bush administration, we know it failed.
Because at the end of that eight year period, you had a net loss of private
sector jobs. So, you know the old saying, right? I mean, fool me once,
shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I`m sure the American people
aren`t going to be fooled by this again.

SHARPTON: Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, thank you for your
time tonight. Always appreciate having you on this show.

VAN HOLLEN: Great to be with you.

SHARPTON: Ahead, the President`s endorsement of marriage equality
ignites a big religious debate in the black community. I`ll explain why we
must stand for civil rights for all.

And President Obama weighs in on Willard saying he deserves credit
for saving Detroit.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I think this is one of his
etch-a-sketch moments. I don`t think anybody takes that seriously.


SHARPTON: We`ll see what else Willard is claiming credit for. Stay
with us.


SHARPTON: President Obama`s historic endorsement of gay marriage has
sparked a lot of debate in the African-American community. We`ll discuss
that with both sides, next.



OBAMA: I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, you
know, the word "Marriage" was something that evokes very powerful
traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.


SHARPTON: That was President Obama talking about the sensitivity of
religious beliefs and marriage. The President`s marriage equality
announcement has sparked a serious debate on the issue of same-sex marriage
and it`s especially intense in the African-American community. A majority
of black voters have traditionally opposed same-sex marriage. "The
Washington Post" averaged numerous polls on marriage equality from March
201 through March of this year and found 42 percent of black voters said,
they support gay marriage while 55 percent would oppose it. I believe the
fight for marriage equality is not about religion. It`s about civil rights
for everyone. That`s why I fought for it this year in Maryland where same-
sex marriage recently became law.


SHARPTON: As a Baptist minister, I don`t have the right to impose my
beliefs on anyone else. So if committed gay and lesbian couples want to
marry, that`s their business, none of us should stand in their way.


SHARPTON: You cannot be a selective civil rights activist. Either
you stand for rights for all or none. But the debate rages on. We have
both sides covered tonight. Reverend Delmon Coates is fighting for
marriage equality in Maryland and conservative Bishop Harry Jackson
staunchly opposes same-sex marriage. Let me both thank both of you for
being here tonight on this important issue.

Al. Thanks.


SHARPTON: Now, Reverend Coats, there is this discomfort amongst some
in the black community. What do you say to those people?

COATES: What I attempt to do is I attempt to help people to
understand that the issue of marriage equality is an issue of public policy
and not theology. The role of the state Reverend Sharpton is decidedly
different than the role of the church or any religious institute. The role
of the state is to provide for the common good of all citizens and protect
the rights of all citizens of the state or of the country, regardless of
race, creed, color, or in this instance, sexual orientation. And so, what
I attempt to help people to understand is that marriage equality laws that
are proposed around this country are providing civil marriage protection,
which is decidedly different from religious marriage. No religious
institution is prevented from defining marriage as they so define. And in
this country, what makes our country so great is that we recognize the
separation of church and state which provides for religious liberty but
does not allow people to impose their religious beliefs and theology on
others as a matter of public policy.

SHARPTON: Now, Bishop, how do you respond to that? I mean, marriage
is civil and it can also be religious but atheists can get married. So,
how do we impose our religious views on people?

JACKSON: Well, I don`t want to impose my religious views. They are
my views, period. I think in a democracy, everybody gets a say and one of
the challenges about this time is that very often folks don`t want my side
to be heard. You`ve got to be some kind of homophobe or somebody who`s
fearful when in reality, I`m looking at what`s going to happen in the next
generations. If it change marriage, you re-define the family, we define
the family, we must re-define education. We define education. Then,
Heather has two mommies as taught in a second grade class and those are the
kind of things that I don`t want to see happen because I think they are not
appropriate at those young ages.

SHARPTON: But Bishop, well, if we do a biblical definition of
things, second marriage is in the bible to be wrong. Would you want a law
against second marriages?

JACKSON: I think there are a lot of laws that prevent people, like
in the State of Maryland, from getting divorced quickly.

SHARPTON: No, no, no. But there`s no law from preventing them from
getting a divorced. I`m saying, would you outlaw second marriage? That`s
in the bible.

JACKSON: No, I wouldn`t outlaw a second marriage.

SHARPTON: So, you would be selective?

JACKSON: Well, no, no. Hear me out. There should be somebody`s
morality at the end of all of the laws out there, basically, all I`m saying
is that on this particular issue, I don`t think it`s going to be good for
children coming up next generations for there to be this definitional
change in the institution of marriage and I think it`s wrong for folks to
say that people like me don`t have a right to speak out.

SHARPTON: Oh, no. You definitely do. That`s why you are on
tonight. Reverend Coates, are you saying that there is a separation when
the bishop says that morality has to be at the end of whatever law we`re
talking. Also, I think, President Obama, let me show you this, Reverend
Coates, he said this, by accepting gay marriage is the right thing to do,
according to Christianity. Let me show you what the President say.


OBAMA: We are both practicing Christians and obviously this position
may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others. But, you
know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about
is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it`s also the
golden rule.


SHARPTON: Reverend Coates?

COATES: One of the things I think that is at the core of faith is
loving everyone and respecting everyone regardless of the choices and the
decisions that they made. And at the core of our religious heritage is the
notion freedom of choice and freedom of conscience. That is fundamental to
what it means to be a Christian and I believe that it`s critically
important that we make sure that in this country, we protect matters of
public policy from issues of subjective theology. And I believe that
people are going to see that African-Americans are not just a one issue
people. When I talk to people, Reverend Sharpton, be people are concerned
about schools.


COATES: Education and jobs.


COATES: And whether they disagree with marriage equality, they still
believe that these other issues are equally important.

SHARPTON: Bishop, how do you respond to that? Isn`t this really
about people`s civil rights being protected?

JACKSON: I think the presidencies it that way. You see it that way.
But I want the President, Brother Al, to define what he`s going to do next.
He says, I say he`s a private citizen. I want to know if he`s going to use
a bully pulpit to promote this issue like the governor of Maryland did. I
want to know what he`s going to do. Is he going to have another, Don`t
Ask, Don`t Tell kind of turn around? Those kinds of things concern me. I
want him to answer for himself not through surrogates, so many ministers
with me are going to send out letters as asked the President and we`re
going to ask Romney, be specific, don`t just talk and -- what are y`all
going to do? And are you going to enforce the laws as they stand about

SHARPTON: Now, you have not endorsed anyone in this election as of
yet, bishop, right?

JACKSON: You`re absolutely right.

SHARPTON: But you did in the last election around these issues?

JACKSON: Around these issues I came out, I wrote some articles. I
did not endorse anybody per se really but I wasn`t really for President
Obama because of this issue of marriage and the issue of the sanctity of
human life. You know, three times our percentage of the population we have
black babies aborted in America. We have 40 percent of abortions, issues
like marriage concern me and so --

SHARPTON: Well, I`m going to have you back on abortion but let me say
this Reverend Coates, before we have to go, I brought up to the bishop
about second marriages which is also raised in the bible. Divorces in more
families that hurt more children than gay marriages.

COATES: That`s absolutely correct. And I think what the people see
is, that once you begin legislating the bible in one area, then you have
to begin legislating the bible in others. I believe that our
responsibility is to live in our faith, not to legislate it. I think the
President took the right stand. It`s a courageous stand and a historic

SHARPTON: Well, Reverend Delmon Coates and Bishop Harris Jackson,
great debate, thank you both for being respectful.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

SHARPTON: Because you know, how subdued and laid back I am.

COATES: Thank you very much, sir.

SHARPTON: We`ll have you both of you back on the show.

COATES: Thank you, sir.

SHARPTON: Ahead, Willard`s taking credit for just about everything.
We have a credit check, next.


SHARPTON: We`re back with a Willard Romney credit check. You may
have heard, Governor Romney is actually taking credit for President Obama`s
auto bailout. What do you say about this, Mr. President?


OBAMA: I think this is one of the etch-a-sketch moments. I don`t
think anybody takes that seriously. People remember his position which
was, let`s let Detroit go bankrupt.


SHARPTON: Your reaction, Mitt?

said. The headline you read which has said, let Detroit go bankrupt.

SHARPTON: Yep, there was a man who saved Detroit. Of course, the
guy who says that should be credited for saving Detroit. We owe it all to
Willard. In fact, did you know that many great American moments are thanks
to him, like the very first moon landing of Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
That wasn`t just one small step for Neil Armstrong. It was one giant leap
for Mitt Romney. Isn`t that right, Willard?


ROMNEY: I`ll take a lot of credit.


SHARPTON: Good work there, Gov. And how can you forget the miracle
on the Hudson when Chesley Sullenberger safely landed a plane in the Hudson
River saving the lives of 150 passengers? Well, move-over Sully, it turns
out it was actually Captain Willard piloting that plane.

Meanwhile, in Hollywood, the avengers broke all kinds of box office
records, grossing a whopping $200 million in the opening weekend and, get
this, Willard directed it. Yep, he gets that credit. And remember that
big stink about Al Gore in vetting the internet? Well, he can`t take
credit anymore. Twitter, Facebook, Google, funny videos for kittens, all
of that stuff that makes it harder to concentrate at work is all because of
Willard Romney. That`s a lot of credit for one guy. But don`t worry,
Willard, I`m giving you credit. I tell everyone republican I know what a
great job you did with Romney-care.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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