December 19, 2012
Guests: Dana Milbank; Barney Frank; Anna Marie Cox, Bob Strum, Cynthia Tucker, Jonathan Moore, Jim Dwyer, Sarah Burns
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, take the deal. For weeks, Republicans have been
playing a juvenile game of chicken refusing to give in on tax cuts for
millionaires. Demanded more cuts to the social safety net. Today,
President Obama made it clear to the GOP take the deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are hurting people
in order to give another advantage to folks who don`t need help. And we
had an extensive debate about this for a year. And, not only does the
majority of the American people agree with me, about half of Republican
voters agree with me on this. So, at some point, there`s got to be, I
think recognition, on the part of my Republican friends that take the deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Take the deal. It`s just that simple. Republicans lost
the election. Polling is against them. It makes you wonder, is political
pettiness their only rationale for saying no? I hope not. So does this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you just pull back from the immediate political battles, if
you kind of peel off the partisan war paint, then we should be able to get
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president has done everything he can to get something
done. He`s put forth a detailed plan. And, today, he spent a large part
of his 36-minute news conference talking about how the two parties can come
together on a deal. But speaker Boehner, his negotiating partner, he put
on his partisan war paint in a 52 second press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I hope the president
will get serious soon about providing and working with us on a balanced
approach. Tomorrow, the house will pass legislation to make permanent tax
relief for nearly every American. He can call on Senate Democrats to pass
that bill or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Fifty two seconds. That`s all the time he got. Speaker
Boehner is taking his ball and he`s going home signaling he`ll walk away
from the deal unless Democrats agreed to his plan, one that gives
millionaires a $50,000 a year tax cut.
I can tell you one thing, the president is not going to take that
deal. It`s a raw deal for the American people. With time running out for
the New Year, Republicans are still playing politics.
Joining me now is Dana Milbank, columnist for the Washington Post and
Anna Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for "the Guardian."
Thank you for both being here tonight.
DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Hi, Reverend.
ANA MARIE COX, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: It`s good to
SHARPTON: Ana, will Boehner take the deal?
COX: Well, if I could answer that one way or another, then I wouldn`t
have to open my Christmas presents, either. I would know everything. But
I don`t know. I do know that the plan B that he`s put forward. It`s an
unusual thing to be in with the Republican with support to plan B. But it
seems like such a suicide mission in some ways. It seems like there`s no
win in that. It is full of not win. It is full of losing for the
Republicans on every level.
So, I confess that maybe I`m of the mystic or naive, but I have to
believe that there`s a lot more going on underneath the surface than we
know about. Boehner is known for being a deal maker. He is known for
being wanting to - or known to want to reach compromise. And the president
is a deal maker himself.
So maybe there`s some -- maybe there`s footsy going on here that we
don`t know about. On the top of the table, it makes no sense what so ever.
SHARPTON: Dana, what are we looking at here? Fight within the
Republican Party here? Is it against the more moderate Republicans? I
mean, why are we seeing Boehner take this kind of position?
MILBANK: Well, Boehner is taking this kind of position because he`s
basically being held hostage by his very conservative house Republican
caucus. It`s not entirely clear that he`s going to be able to get enough
of his Republicans even to pass his plan B. That`s looking like that could
be misfire on the House floor tomorrow. Then he`s got to go to a plan C.
So, it`s not clear that John Boehner is able to strike a deal at least
until things get a little more tense in that on. I think you`re seeing
that frustration. That`s what was boiling over today. It`s going to be
pretty ugly on the house floor tomorrow.
SHARPTON: Now Ana Marie, when you look at some of the conservatives
like Brent Bozell, they`re saying exactly what Dana is talking about.
Listen to Brent Bozell, the right wing activist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENT BOZELL, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: This is a terrible bill. This
is a terrible box. Republicans have painted themselves into in this
corner. They`ve got to get themselves out of it. The void for higher
taxes and trying to play Democrat wise is the worst possible solution. It
is embarrassing how badly this has been negotiated. Real fiscal
conservatives would simply walk away from this mess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, Ana Marie, when Dana was talking about tomorrow and
you see Bozell attacking, he`s attacking Boehner`s bill, not the
president`s. He doesn`t think Boehner`s bill is good enough. I mean, all
of that vehement there is against Boehner. They`re not even considering
COX: I know. You see we used to talk about a sort of sub rose war
instead of the war in the Republican Party. It certainly becomes Rosa. It
certainly becomes something just right there on the surface.
Part of me wants to believe that Boehner is doing this plan B to force
these radical tea party conservatives to vote against it and sort make them
come out and state that they`re willing not to compromise at all. Because
you know what, there`s one thing that the American people want to see on
this, one thing that polls show over and over is that people want some kind
of compromise. Now, they`re not too clear about what the compromise that
by mean. They are not too clear about what the sequestration is.
But to make these Republicans to vote against even this plan B, which
is a terrible compromise, a terrible bill for lots of reasons, I think the
American people are not going to be happy about that. Like I said, there`s
sort of no win at all in this bill. For Boehner or the tea party
Republicans. I don`t know exactly what`s going on. I wish that I did.
SHARPTON: Well, you know, Dana, when you look at the fact that we`ve
seen bipartisan cooperation before, even Gingrich worked with Bill Clinton.
And even Gingrich admits that raising taxes isn`t the worst thing in the
Let me quote him. "The impact will be some pain to a lot of people.
But, in fact, we`ve survived the `90s paying Clinton-level taxes. I`m just
saying. Clinton-level taxes meant that the people at the top had to pay
their share and they would not getting tax cuts.
MILBANK: Yes, I mean, Reverend, consider this. You mentioned Grover
Norquist a moment ago. Even he has said to the Republicans, it`s OK. You
can go with this Boehner plan because we won`t consider it a tax increase.
He`s given them a blessing. And even then, you have a significant number
of conservatives willing to ball k at this.
And so, it`s really not clear who`s in charge, if anybody is in charge
in this environment at all. That`s why it`s very dicey to predict what
will happen. You know, in terms of the -- there was a plot of shouting
back and forth between the White House and Newt Gingrich back in the `90s.
They ultimately got to a deal. We will ultimately get to a deal here.
It`s just not clear how much collateral damage needs to be inflicted on the
SHARPTON: But, let me be clear that this bill, as much as they are
against it, it is no kind of way a progressive bill. Let`s be real clear
that this bill would raise taxes on 20 million families. It raises just 50
percent of the revenue to president asked for during the campaign.
Unemployment benefits expire for two million workers and it allows the
GOP to hold the debt limit hostage. So this is no progressive bill at all
that Mr. Boehner is proposing. That they`re voting on tomorrow, Ana Marie.
Yet, that`s too moderate for some of the tea party and Bozells in the
COX: Well, like I said, it sort of -- it sort of captures their
insanity a little bit. And again, maybe there is some kind of grand scheme
going on here that Boehner is trying to point out. You know, he has been
sort of losing a lot of power to the tea parties in his caucus. He`s
really had a lot of trouble reigning them in. There`s only so many power
games you can play inside the Congress in order to get people to go along.
Forcing them to come out might, as I`m willing to compromise on any
level, might be something that he can use against them in the future. But,
you know, it`s two more long years before we have, yet, another election.
He`s a smart guy. I have to believe this is something that didn`t come to
him at 5:00 happy hour. That he`s actually thought over. So we`ll see
what happens tomorrow. As Dana said, it`s really hard to target to game it
out at this point.
SHARPTON: Well, we`ll be watching tomorrow.
Dana Milbank, Ana Marie Cox. Thank you both for your time this
MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: President Obama promises action on guns in January. But
Republicans are offering more ridiculous comments. We`ll talk about the
chance for change with Chairman Barney Frank.
Also, president challenges Republicans. We`ll tell you why he`s
telling them to, "Take me out of it."
And the "Politics Nation" justice files. Ten years ago today, five
young men were cleared of a crime they didn`t commit. But their call for
justice goes on.
All of that, plus we`ll tell you what`s going on in this picture.
You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: It is the photo everyone is talking about. The president
and a rather small Spiderman one-on-one in the White House. What`s it all
about? Stay tuned.
SHARPTON: Today, President Obama took a huge step towards preventing
another mass shooting like we saw at Sandy Hook elementary. He announced
that vice president Biden would oversee a mass from across the
administration to reform our gun laws.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The fact that this problem is complex, can no longer be an
excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can`t prevent every act of
violence doesn`t mean we can`t steadily reduce the violence and prevent the
very worst violence. This should be a wakeup call for all of us to say
that if we are not getting right, the need to keep our children safe, then
nothing else matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president audit results by the end of next month. This
is not an issue he will allow to just fade away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is not some Washington commission. This is not something
where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and
publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team
that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Real reforms right now. The American people want this.
Our children deserve this. Democrats and Congress are working on it. But,
some on the right just can`t accept that everything is changed.
Just look at the headline from today. Florida announced it has passed
one million permits for concealed weapons, the most in the nation. A
Virginia state lawmaker is introducing a bill that would m require schools
to arm teachers. And Ohio`s governor says he`ll sign a bill expanding the
use of concealed weapons in that state.
We cannot continue to be a nation where there are more guns than
people. And where the worst among us have access to these kinds of
weapons. We can`t wait and the president knows it.
Joining me now is Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat from
Massachusetts and former chairman of the financial services committee.
Chairman Frank, thanks for joining me today.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, I`m
always good to be with you.
SHARPTON: Let me ask you, will this time be different? I mean, do
Republicans understand we have to change our gun laws now?
FRANK: I`m not sure they do. But the Democrats do and it is
different. I`ve been in support for tougher gun laws for some time. But
I`ve got to explain to my liberal fans that we haven`t always had the vote.
There are parts of the country where, unfortunately, the support wasn`t
Newtown has changed that. The majority of people who wanted
unrestricted gun ownership and ammunition ownership cared so strongly about
that that from the political standpoint, they had more points than one
group of people through a high priority issue. But now, it`s a high-
priority issue. And a large number of Democrats say OK. Now, we`re going
to do the right thing. And the fact what it means in some of my colleagues
will now feel, they will have the courage of their convictions. Some
Republicans will also agree to that. And I believe you`re going to see
early in the next Congress, a series legislative of successes.
SHARPTON: But the NRA will be fighting strong. Do you think they are
power and influences over estimated as mayor Michael Bloomberg said?
FRANK: No, it wasn`t. I think at the time, mayor Bloomberg, a few
years ago -- you know, I`m a little puzzled by Mr. Bloomberg pointing
fingers at everybody else. The assault weapons ban expired in 2004, which
was the result of the Republican Congress. That was around the time that
Mike Bloomberg was giving money to Republicans. And I don`t remember him
telling Tom DeLay that he wouldn`t contribute to DeLay`s organization,
which he did around that time, unless he allowed the assault weapon ban to
They were powerful. Newtown has changed things. What it has done is
given those people who agree with us that we should regulate guns more
motivation. They`re more likely now to vote that way. So two years ago,
yes, the NRA was very powerful. And it could defeat some people. But the
Newtown mass murder that the -- the unspeakable horror of that, has changed
SHARPTON: It is so egregious, Mr. Chairman, when you look at the fact
that in Florida and Iowa, ex-felons never allowed to vote again in their
life. But after five years, they can carry a gun. I mean, how do we have
states where you cannot vote for the rest of your life but you can be a
convicted felon, ex-felon, and I believe redemption certainly should cover
voting and anything else, but you can carry a gun but you can never vote.
FRANK: Well, absolutely. And by the way, even there, that the NRA
people are hypocritical because they will concede in some cases in their
people who is seriously mentally ill, for instance, who shouldn`t be
allowed to have a gun. But they have opposed allowing a check system.
We did pass a drill over the rejection to acquire a seven-day period
to go to a store. But they have these gun shows that pop up. And you can
go into a gun show and, no matter how mentally and emotionally deranged you
are, there`s no waiting period.
So, you`re right. It`s totally inconsistent. And it is also, even
where they do say OK, there are limits on who can buy a gun, they make
those limits totally unenforceable. We will be putting legislation
through, I hope, to change that.
SHARPTON: Now, what do you think it is possible when you say putting
legislation through? Is it assault weapons ban? Is it the clips? What do
you think --?
FRANK: Reinstating the assault weapons ban, banning the large clips,
the large number of bullet that is you can fire in such a short period of
time. And adding other places where you can buy guns to this requirement
for a waiting period. It should not be possible to buy a gun anywhere in
America without a waiting period during which we check to see if you are in
these categories. So we are talking about severe, thorough checking before
people can buy guns. Assault weapon ban and a situation where the
ammunition is banned.
We also want to have what they`ve been trying to do in the NRA`s
pocket, a registry where you can see what guns do so you can look for
commonalities in the bullets that are fired from guns. And that because
it`s not just mass weapons or handguns, are also a problem. But assault
weapons, large numbers of bullets, those big magazines of ammunition and a
full check system. We should be able to get all three of those.
SHARPTON: Now, Newt Gingrich says that sandy hook shooting happened
because god was driven from public light. Let me show you what he says.
When you have an anti-religious, secular bureaucracy and secular judiciary
seeking to drive God out of public life, something fills the vacuum. I
don`t know that going from communion to playing war games in which you
practice killing people is necessarily an improvement.
FRANK: That`s just an example Newt Gingrich will say anything to get
attention. From the standpoint of God, by the way, God appears to have
been driven out of Mr. Gingrich`s private life, if you look at his marital
history. He`s very selective about where he thinks fundamental religious
tenants ought to be followed.
That is just such nonsense. In the first place, somebody once say we
drove God out. We must be very powerful. If you believe in God, you`re
believed in an omnipotent, Omni-confident, (INAUDIBLE), saying that you
can`t say a particular prayer on a particular building because there are
variety of people there, dies anyone thinks that means that all powerful
God loses that influence, it`s just it is Sacramento`s.
SHARPTON: Mr. Chairman, thank you for your time tonight. Best of
luck in your next endeavor and please come back on the show any time. Any
FRANK: Absolutely. Thank you, Al. Thank you.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, a powerful new documentary about five young
men cleared of a crime they didn`t commit. That happened ten years ago
today. And now, their fight for justice is heating up.
Plus, what`s really behind the GOP`s opposition to President Obama.
Is it politics or is it personal. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: President Obama is poised for an unprecedented push forward
for America on guns, taxes, immigration, voting. He can make the country
so much better. If Republicans are willing to make a deal. But are they?
SHARPTON: When President Obama was reelected last month, Americans
sent a message to Washington. They believe in fans. They believe in
progress. The Republicans have done nothing but drag their feet. And
today, the President made it clear he is trying to do what is best for the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: I`m often reminded when I
speak to the republican leadership, that the majority of their caucus`s
membership comes from districts that I lost. And so sometimes, they may
not see an incentive in cooperating with me. At some point, you know,
they`ve got to take me out of it. And think about their voters. And think
about what`s best for the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: This can`t be personal. This has to be about policy. It
has to be about what`s best for the country. There`s a job that has to be
done. And Americans stand behind what President Obama is trying to do. A
new poll shows the President`s job approval ratings at 57 percent. The
highest ratings since the death of Osama bin Laden. But only 11 percent of
Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. Eleven percent. Americans
believe in the president and are sick and tired of GOP failures in
Joining me now is Bob Strum, senior advisor to the Kerry and Gore
campaigns and now a professor at NYU. And Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize
winning columnist and visiting professor of journalism at the University of
Georgia. Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Glad to be here, Rev.
CYNTHIA TUCKER, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING COLUMNIST: Good to be here,
SHARPTON: Will public opinion force the Republicans to get out of the
way of the President pushes the second term agenda?
SHRUM: I think it may. It`s going to be tough. It`s going to be the
perils in all the way. But the Republicans are on the fiscal cliff,
they`re on the gun cliff, they`re on the immigration cliff, they`re either
going to move and come to some degree of cooperation or they`re going to
stay in this extremist cul-de-sac. If they move, the President is going to
have some landmark achievements. If they don`t move, as a prominent
republican as privately said, they`re in danger of becoming functionally a
third party. That is a permanent minority party in presidential politics.
I suspect Boehner understands this, I think McConnell understands this.
But Boehner in particular, has people who are crazy to deal with. I mean,
they don`t want to vote for anything. And they dislike the President so
much that if he proposed something they had been for a year ago, they would
now be mightily against it and we`re probably accuse of containing debt
SHARPTON: Now, Cynthia, the President has been appealing to
Republicans for compromise. Listen to him today as he made these appeals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If there`s one thing we should have after this week, it should
be a sense of perspective about what`s important. And I would like to
think that members of the caucus would say to themselves, you know what, we
disagree with the President and a whole bunch of things. We wish the other
guy had one. But, right now, what the country needs is for us to
compromise. Get the deficit reduction deal in place. Make sure middle
class taxes don`t go up. All the things that will really make a
determination as to whether our country grows over the next four, 10 years,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Cynthia, do the republican leadership have the ability to
compromise? They so much vetoed inside their own caucus by the right
wingers that they are jammed from even being anywhere in appearances to be
TUCKER: Well, earlier in the show Reverend, you were talking about
the fiscal cliff, and the fact that Boehner seems very much hemmed in, the
plan B makes absolutely no sense except for the fact that the man is unable
to get his right wing republican caucus to come to its senses. You know,
we spent last month after Election Day debating whether Republicans had
finally learned their listen. Surely, they would now understand that the
majority of voters did not like what Republicans stand for. That their
brand was damaged.
And surely they would change before they found themselves a third
party or worst, extinct. But it does not appear that they have yet gotten
the message. Maybe they will eventually, but it doesn`t look like they`ve
gotten the message on taxes. And I`m not sure that they`ve yet gotten the
message on gun control, either. We`ll see.
SHARPTON: You know, Bob, the president according to the New York
Times, he faces a critical choice when it comes to his second term. The
agenda has changed because of the Sandy Hook school shootings and today The
Times says, he`s got to deal with whether he should tackle gun reform in
the next term. Let me read what they write. They say, "To his core
supporters, this is a moment that will define what a second term Obama
presidency will look like whether it will be closer to the soaring
aspirations that set liberal hearts aflutter in 2008 or more like the back
room deal making that characterized the four years that followed."
What does he do, bob?
SHRUM: Well, some deals are going to be made in the back room,
frankly. If there`s a fiscal cliff deal at the end, it`s going to be
Boehner and Obama sitting there and they`re going to sign onto something I
think pretty close to what the President has proposed. But he`s going to
move forward with gun control. Look, if you look at the numbers on that
issue, if you ask people just, do you think there should be a lot more gun
control or not, you know, it`s a very close question. If you say, should
we outlaw assault weapons? Should we outlaw these clips that go on and on?
Should we close the gun show loophole?
There are big majorities in favor of that. I think the President is
going to put it in the State of the Union message. I think he`s going to
push for it. And I think Republicans are going to be in real trouble if
they block that. They`re going to face the same problem on immigration
reform. As we just heard, and I think it`s a brilliant analysis, their
brand is damaged. But they can`t repair their brand with some kind of pr
campaign. They`re actually something like immigration are going to have to
face up to the fact that we need to create a pathway to citizenship. That
we can`t -- millions of people from (INAUDIBLE).
I think the President is going to fight for that. And as I said
earlier, the Republicans are going to move or they`re going to be blamed
for lack of progress. One other thing, if they think they can hurt
Democrats in 2014 and 2016 by slowing this economy as much as possible,
they already tried that. It didn`t work out very well in 2012.
SHARPTON: Now, Cynthia, you know, in November, the New York Times
reported that the President wanted to be a transformational figure. But
that`s a very, very tricky thing. And it`s a hard mountain to climb. Let
me read what they wrote. The president once envisioned himself in the
pantheon of transcendent presidents enters his next term as a far more
conventional partisan leaders than he intended to be. Now, Mr. Obama a
specialist in long shots, faces what may be the climatic challenge of his
political career. A second chance to deliver the renewal he still
promises. But without a clear mandate, a healthy economy or willing
I mean, is it that Mr. Obama keeps facing the immediacy of the
political hour situations behind his control? Where he has to deal with
day-to-day combat with the Republicans rather than deal with some of the
transformational kinds of bigger, broader issues that he was so committed
TUCKER: Well, he can hardly transform Washington`s partisan politics.
What these Republicans that he asked to work with.
TUCKER: What can he possibly do with Republicans who are still
committed to his failure? It didn`t work for them in the election in
November, but they are still committed to his failure. You know, there`s a
bit of a silver lining I think and are getting to see Republicans who are
still opposing the president on every turn. And that is I think
progressives may now have more realistic expectations about what Obama can
TUCKER: I thought during his first term that the President got, you
know, a lot of unnecessary heat from progressives you thought he wasn`t
doing enough. He was doing everything he possibly could and I think he
will continue to do so in his second term.
SHARPTON: Bob Shrum and Cynthia Tucker, thank you both for your time
SHRUM: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, the POLITICS NATION justice files. The Central
Park case that`s revisited. Why is New York still fighting these men who
ten years ago today were cleared of that crime? It`s a matter of justice.
Stay with us.
SHARPTON: What`s going on in this picture? Why is the president
going on and on with this pint-sized story on Spiderman? The story behind
SHARPTON: Have you joined the POLITICS NATION conversation on
Facebook yet? On our page, this photo was the big hit of the day. It was
taken right before Halloween. It shows the President pretending to be
caught in the web of a pint-sized Spiderman. This actually the son of a
White House staffer. This photo also got a big response on the POLITICS
NATION Facebook page. It showed President Obama and his daughter Sasha`s
dance rehearsal Sunday morning while working on the speech he`d give that
night to the people of Newtown, Connecticut.
Linda calls him the father in chief. And Jenn says, he`s a great
President and a great parent. We want to know what you think, too. Please
head over to Facebook and search POLITICS NATION and like us to join the
conversation that keeps going long after the show ends.
SHARPTON: It was known simply as The Central Park Jogger Case. The
terrible 1989 rape and beating of a jogger in New York, Central Park. It
captivated the city and became a flash point for questions about justice in
America. Five teenagers were convicted of the crime and went to prison but
ten years ago today, those men were cleared of the crime. Another man
actually confessed and a judge overturned their convictions. I`ve had
rallies about this case because these young men should have been presumed
I even helped raise money to get them out of jail. Ten years ago
today, these men were cleared. To get on with their lives. But, since
then, the city of New York has fought their claim for restitution for the
mistakes made by the city. It`s police and is prosecutors. The question
10 years later is, why won`t the city do the right thing?
Joining me now is Attorney Jonathan Moore who represents four of the
five men in their suit against the city of New York. Thank you for coming
on the show tonight, Jonathan.
JONATHAN MOORE, ATTORNEY: Thank you, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: Now, this was obviously a joyous day for the Central Park
Five. But your case has been going on for years. What are you asking for?
And why is it still going on a decade later?
MOORE: Well, the case is about really two things. It`s about
compensation for the fact that these young kids, 14, 15 at the time, spent
the best part of their youth locked up in prisons in the state of New York
for something that they didn`t do. But the case is also about
accountability. And about holding these detectives and the district
attorneys involved accountable for their misconduct.
SHARPTON: Now, you`re talking about prosecutors and detectives that
had contra-evidence, we`re not talking about people -- advocated on what
they believed. They had hard evidence that was not used, am I right?
MOORE: They had any reasonable detective or district attorney looking
at this evidence at the time. Especially when the evidence came back with
no DNA connection between these kids and the unfortunate victim in the park
that night. They should have been looking for evidence about who really
did this. And they had Matias Reyes name, the ultimate perpetrator in this
event. They had it even before April 19th because he had raped somebody in
the park two days earlier. Had they done the basic investigative detective
work, not only would these young men have been spared the indignity and
humanity of having to go to jail and rupture their family lives away. But
several victims who were raped and murdered after April 19th might have
been spared that indignity as well.
SHARPTON: Now, you`re referring to the fact that Reyes, who ended up
years later confessing to this, in fact, went onto rape other women and
kill one. He raped three women, raped and killed one woman.
MOORE: Who was pregnant.
SHARPTON: Who was pregnant.
MOORE: So, that`s two deaths.
SHARPTON: So he was able to do this because he was not charged, even
though he in fact the police had the where with all to arrest him when all
of this was going on?
MOORE: The police have his name as a result of identification of him
by stitches on his chin on April 17th. And a rape that occurred in the
park in the very vicinity where the Central Park jogger was raped. They
had his name on April 17th. In fact, they had a --
SHARPTON: April 17th, 1989?
MOORE: Nineteen eighty nine.
SHARPTON: And he did not know that any of these young men were not
connected with him in anyway.
MOORE: There was absolutely no evidence that he was ever connected
with a district attorney when they re-investigated the case concluded that
there was absolutely no evidence that he knew any of the people involved in
SHARPTON: Jonathan Moore, thank you for joining us tonight.
MOORE: My pleasure.
SHARPTON: We`ll have you back on the show as we follow this case.
MOORE: My pleasure.
SHARPTON: Now with me is Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Time
columnist Jim Dwyer who`s covered this case and appears in the film. And
Sarah Burns who co-directed the new documentary The Central Park Five.
Thank you both for being here tonight.
SARAH BURNS, DIRECTOR, "THE CENTRAL PART FIVE": Thanks for having me.
JIM DWYER, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING COLUMNIST: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Jim Dwyer, there`s always been so much wrapped into this
case. In your mind, why after all of these years won`t the city step up
and come to some settlement. After all, the guys were cleared.
DWYER: I think the same reason that the case moved forward even when
it was really very weak and became weaker and weaker as more investigation
was done, I think people got stuck into their positions and they never got
unstuck. And that continues to this day.
SHARPTON: But we`re talking, Sarah, about law enforcement. We`re not
talking about people that are getting emotional and all of that or really
firmly -- we`re talking about people that supposed objectively look at
evidence. They have the power to stay.
BURNS: They didn`t do their jobs. Their jobs is to get justice,
right? That`s what they`re supposed to do. And they failed in this case.
They let the right man get away and they put the wrong people in jail.
SHARPTON: You said in the documentary, Jim that I`m quoting you,
"Central Park Five," you said that, "they could have had the real
criminal." Let`s take a listen at what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DWYER: By prosecuting the wrong people for the Central Park jogger
case, Matias Reyes continued to hurt, maim and kill. And they could have
had him, but they got stuck with a mistake. And they`re still invested in
SHARPTON: And what`s disturbing is Reyes went on continuing to kill
another women and rape three other women.
DWYER: That`s right. Yes. Obviously, whenever they put a wrong man
or a wrong person in prison, the right person is out on the street
continuing to hurt people. So you may feel no sympathy for the five
teenagers who were wrongly confused -- accused and convicted. But don`t
forget, you`re letting a criminal go free when you put the wrong person in
prison. If you don`t -- if it doesn`t bother you, all right, that you --
you know, that you`re destroying these boys` youths, well, at least think
about the other people on the street who are going to get hurt.
SHARPTON: One of the things -- and I`ve been very open that I was
involved in this case in `89, one of the things that was most griping
though was when I talked to the young men and you recently, they`re talking
to me about the interrogation. Why they were forced to make confessions
and why they did that. Listen to some of that interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YUSEF SALAAM, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED: None of us, including our
parents, had ever had any involvement with the law.
KEVIN RICHARDSON, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED: Since we were kids, we were
very fragile at the time.
RAYMOND SANTANA, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED: Once a juvenile is broken
down, you can basically tell him anything.
SALAAM: Just the amount of technology that they were using was so
devious, that it caused even our parents at the point of saying, you know
what, maybe if we just go along with it, we`ll be able to get out of here.
RICHARDSON: Tired from lack of sleep. Lack of food. Lack of
showers. And we just wanted to go home. We wanted it to go away.
SANTANA: They brought another detective in, he sat close to me and
started yelling in my face.
KOREY WISE, WRONGFULLY CONVICTED: And they were just holding me,
holding me hostage there.
SANTANA: It all seems like a blur. It all seems like this one
nightmare that you can`t wake up from, you can`t escape from.
SALAAM: They wanted society to kill us off, as well. You know, never
in a million years did they want us to be able to succeed and be here
before you today telling the truth about this matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DWYER: You know, I knew a lot about the facts of this case, about the
logistics and the forensics and all that stuff. Until I saw the Burns
McMahon movie, I didn`t know these young men. And I felt what revelations
about these people as human beings. It was extraordinarily powerful to me
to meet them through the film. It`s really a fabulous --
SHARPTON: And it is a fabulous film. And the motivation for you and
your partners to do this and your father, I didn`t know the young men when
we defended them. But when they got out of jail, they couldn`t get a job.
One of them ended up working for me at National Action Network. Good,
young men whose whole lives have been turned around. What was the
motivation why you wanted to do this documentary?
BURNS: Well, part of it was simply setting the record straight. I
think people didn`t know that the convictions have been vacated. It wasn`t
the big story that it was in 1999. And so many people were still walking
around thinking oh, yes, that Wyoming case and assuming that they were
guilty. So part of it was just less informed people of what happens. But
also, this is not an isolated case, and I think it`s important that we
understand how this happens and why it happens. Because something like
this could happen again today.
SHARPTON: And I think that`s the point. That if we do not correct
how the system works, if we do not correct how prosecutors and police work,
then it can happen again. And I would argue that it is happening again,
DWYER: Well, I do think it`s both a system question and it`s almost a
spiritual, cultural question, right? Because you have that, one of the
things the movie shows very well is the incredible antagonism of that
moment in 1989. People calling for the death penalty for teenagers. You
know? We have to think about these things a little more deeply about how
we respond to them. Just as humans. Forget about where the cops -- the
cops have got to do the right thing. The prosecutor has got to do the
right thing. But we`re the public. We have to think about these things.
SHARPTON: No, they were calling them. And you noticed, because all
of us that have been active have believed in things and passionate and said
things that maybe others felt was over the line. I`m not talking about the
advocates. And I could call some famous names that were on the other side.
But they`ve had the right to believe in things like I have had the right.
But I`m talking about law enforcement. We`re not talking about believers
here. We`re talking about people who have the power of prosecutors and the
badge that use the power of the state and ignore evidence and still won`t
make it right now. That`s what your film does for us, Burns, Ms. Burns.
BURNS: Yes, I think, they have a duty, that part of their job. Is
that they are supposed to look for the truth and get the right person. And
they didn`t do that.
SHARPTON: Do you think this film will open up a lot of eyes on the
prosecutors around the country? I`m talking about in police side, that
they have an obligation to be more cautious?
DWYER: I think it will. I think a lot of prosecutors really do a
great job and a lot of cops do really great job, hard work every day. But
they`re human too, they get stuck with their mistakes, I form -- with my
own mistakes all the time.
DWYER: And getting over them takes a long time. You`ve got to break
off these bad relationships.
SHARPTON: That`s true.
DWYER: And you know, I think this will help the really good people
who operate in good faith, as all so many of them do.
SHARPTON: Well, Jim Dwyer and Sarah Burns, thank you so much for your
time tonight as we do these justice files with POLITICS NATION, there are
things all over the country that operate well in the dark. If you put a
little light on them and illuminate them, it brings a little justice. And
we intend to shed light in dark places. Ten years ago today, thank God
some people shed light. And this young man confessed and these young men
got out. Now, I only hope they get justice.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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