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PoliticsNation, Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Read the transcript from the Thursday show

January 17, 2013

Guests: Maria Teresa Kumar, Angela Rye, Myrlie Evers-Williams

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you
for tuning in.

Tonight`s lead, Republicans call for nullification? Responding to
President Obama`s gun safety ideas, conservatives are in a frenzy and
they`re reaching back to an old argument with an ugly history in this
country. States` rights.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Our founding fathers were very
concerned about having a separation of powers. They didn`t want to let the
president become a king. And I`m afraid that President Obama may have this
king complex sort of developing. And we`re going to make sure that it
doesn`t happen.

We will nullify anything the president does that smacks of


SHARPTON: Nullify anything the president does? Nullification?
States` rights? State sovereignty? For many decades, these ideas was used
to defend slavery. And, later, Jim Crow.

In 1963, Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse doorway at
the University of Alabama invoking states` rights to try to block


governor of this sovereign state and refuse to submit to illegal use of
power by the central government and hereby denounce and forbid this illegal
and unwarranted action by the central government.


SHARPTON: That was Alabama governor George Wallace 50 years ago.
Here`s Mississippi governor Phil Bryant yesterday.


GOV. PHIL BRYANT(R), MISSISSIPPI: We will not enforce any
unconstitutional measure, edict, that`s being issued by the president of
the United States. We need to send a clear message to the federal
government that we`re not going to continue what we enforce what we believe
to be unconstitutional laws.


SHARPTON: Different issue, same words. States` rights. Back in the
1950s and `60s, local police often stood by and refused to enforce new
civil rights laws. Now, some conservative sheriffs say they`ll refuse to
enforce new gun control laws from Washington because they may consider them

Today`s conservatives aren`t opposing the right of our children to go
to school. But they are standing in the way of our children going to
school safely. That`s why President Obama is proposing these strong,
common sense solutions to gun violence.


set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Fundamental rights that were denied to college students at Virginia tech
and high school students of Columbine and elementary school students in
Newtown and kids on street corners in Chicago. Those rights are at stake.
We`re responsible.


SHARPTON: We`re all responsible for protecting our children and
that`s why change is going to happen. All that talk about states` rights
couldn`t stop progress 50 years ago. And he must make sure it doesn`t stop
progress today.

Joining me now is Toure, co-host of "the Cycle" here on MSNBC. And
David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC

Thank you both for joining me.



SHARPTON: Toure, we`ve heard this states` right song and dance
before, haven`t we?

TOURE: We sure have. And I noticed that you pointed out Rand Paul
talking about nullification right and you have been talking about
nullification? He`s also talking about Obama is not a king. Well, if he`s
not a king, then you could nullify him. If he is a king, trying to be a
king, then you can`t nullify what a king is trying to do. What the
previous GOP mean was we need leadership from Obama.


TOURE: Now, they mean is he is trying to be a king. Well, you can`t
have it both ways, one day saying he is not leading us and the next day
he`s trying to be a king. Look. What he put forward is very reasonable.
He`s not trying to take away everyone`s guns. He`s not trampling the
second amendment. But, he`s doing something very responsible that allows
law-abiding, responsible gun owners to have their guns and protect
themselves in their homes, but also, trying to create more safety for

And he`s done something that isn`t worried about the political wins.
He`s doing what he thinks is right, what is the best policy. And I`m
actually proud to see him stand up for what he thinks is the best policy
and no say, well, we`re not going to do the assault weapons ban because it
can`t get in the House. Push them as far as you can. Because you know,
the pro-gun right is lost to the Democrats. So don`t worry about them. We
can still win elections without them.

SHARPTON: Well, David, five states where GOP lawmakers have
introduced billed making it illegal to enforce President Obama`s new
executive action and gun proposals, another example of states` rights and
nullifications. The states of Tennessee, Wyoming, South Carolina and North
Dakota. So here we are with a states` rights movement live and well in
2013. This is unreal.

CORN: Well, I don`t think these guys truly understand the
constitution. Because under the constitution, which they claimed to
cherish, you know, it`s not yahoo sheriffs who get to decide whether
something is constitutional or not. It`s something called the Supreme
Court. So right away, they`re undermining our entire system by issuing
their edicts or their fiats against these actions.

But I`m still waiting. I`m waiting for any of these guys to come out
and say OK, 23 executive actions? Which ones don`t you like? The ones
that make it easier for universal background checks to be -- to happen as
they should be happening, just on the basis of regulations and guidances?
What law -- which executive action -- which one are you opposed to? Which
one is turning Barack Obama into a king? These guys cannot deal with the
specifics or the merits.

SHARPTON: But this has been consistent. Because since President
Obama`s been president, health care, they said we`re not going to take it
in our state, states` rights. Immigration? States` rights. Women?
States` rights. They`ve gone all the way through since he`s been president
with threatening this states` rights stuff and they`ve done it again.
Maybe the reason that, as David points out, they`re not the Supreme Court,
maybe when the Supreme Court, under John Roberts, certainly no liberal,
said that health care was constitutional, they decided we better not talk
about the Supreme Court. We better go another way, Toure.

TOURE: I noticed that the NRA and their people keep using Obama as
this selling tool. They keep putting him in magazines and acting like he
wants to take away your guns so you have to buy as many guns as possible.
Before, he actually takes away your guns. He`s only, to this point, been a
friend to the NRA and expanded where we can carry guns. So, he is
certainly hasn`t been somebody who has been trying to take away all the
guns. But these have been the best-selling tool that they`ve ever had.

SHARPTON: Well, if you look at if NRA, they sent out a fund raising
letter right after this started saying -- and I`m quoting from the letter,
NRA fund-raising letter today about president Obama`s supposed real goal on
gun control. The letter says the main goal of the gun banners in Congress
is not to make school safer, but to ban your guns.

And, David, they come with this, well, we need to have our guns in
case the government comes in to take -- first of all, if the government
came in to take our guns, do you think they`re going to knock on the door
and try to take it with an automatic weapon for automatic weapon on me? It
would certainly be a lot more ammunition than an automatic weapon couldn`t
fight the government. So it`s absurd on his face.

CORN: You really haven`t seen too many gun grabbers in the course of
history say I support your rights to have a gun. I want to limit your
access to certain guns and then confiscate all of the guns.


CORN: I mean, this is crass exploitation of paranoia and conspiracy
thinking that is being fuelled by the NRA. And I talked about this last
night on "the Ed Show." I am still waiting for any stand-up Republican.
Michael Steele kind of did that last night. But someone in an elected,
leadership position to come out and say, this is crazy.

And listen. Colin Powell, great man in some ways, he doesn`t count.
OK. I`m waiting for somebody in an elected leadership position Republican
Party to come out and say enough of this stuff. Let`s have a real debate
about the policy.

TOURE: But that idea you talk about, all of these people who want to
have guns just in case for that day when you have to fight against the
government, remember Waco, Texas? They had that idea. How did that work
out for them?

SHARPTON: But the point is, Toure, not only did it not work out well
in Waco, we are talking about they`re going to be shooting American
soldiers and policemen. Can you imagine if people on the left were saying
we are arming ourselves in case of the police?

TOURE: And how is it -- this is a good, credible argument for them.
We have to make sure that we are armed so we`re going to overthrow the
government. But that makes me say maybe we should do something about your

SHARPTON: Let me ask you this, David. When you look at this, David
Barton, was on Glen Beck`s telling us a story that supposedly happened in
the 1850s about armed school kids. Watch this.

DAVID BARTON, CONSERVATIVE ACTIVIST: He comes into school with this
gun to shoot the teacher. He decides not to shoot the teacher because all
the kids pulled out their guns and said you kill the teacher, you die. So,
he says, OK. The teacher left real simple stuff, save the life -- there
was no shooting because all the kids -- and we`re talking elementary
school. All the kids pulled their guns out and said we like our teacher.


SHARPTON: All the kids pulled their gun out in school. I mean, this
is how fringe they`ve become. I mean, it`s crazy. They`re in a frenzy to
sit up on television and talk like this is absolutely unthinkable.

CORN: I`d like to see any evidence of that event happening other than
in some "B" western movie like Ronald Reagan used to confuse movies with
reality. You know, whatever happened, you know, to the right wing,
conservative notion of law and order?

Here you have these sheriffs and state legislatures around the
country, certain you know, red states, saying we will arrest federal law
enforcement officers if they enforce the law. The people who acts,
sometimes put their lives on the line, to protect us. And we`re talking
about in such disregard. This is what happened back in the `90s when the
same crowd was talking about Jack Buddha thugs and it led, in some ways, to
Oklahoma City. This - we could be heading towards frightening times with
this sort of rhetoric.

SHARPTON: Well, let me say this. This is the anniversary year of the
march on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther king, who his holiday will be on
Monday when the president is inaugurated. In the famous speech he made, I
have a dream, he referred to a governor whose lips drifts with the words of
interposition and nullification. That is the words that we`re hearing
dripping from lips today. Interposition and nullification. Maybe when
they said the president was trying to be a king, maybe they were talking
about Martin Luther King.

Toure, David, thanks for your time tonight.

TOURE: Thank you.

SHARPTON: And be sure to catch Toure on "the cycle," weekdays at 3:00
eastern time.

Coming up, it`s day two of the big GOP unity retreat, a time for
change. New blood. But why in the world are Republicans asking Paul Ryan
for advice on beating President Obama?

And as the president surges in this second term, we have news tonight
about the birther movement and it might surprise you.

Plus, 50 years since civil rights leader Medgar Evers was murdered.
His legacy is living on through his wife. And I counted the civil rights
movement. Merlie Evers has a big honor at the inauguration. She joins me
live tonight.

You`re watching "Politics Nation," the place for politics, MSNBC.


SHARPTON: Have you joined the "Politics Nation" conversation on
facebook yet? We hope you will.

Today, our facebook family was celebrating birthdays. Folks, we`re
wishing a happy 71st birthday to Muhammad Ali.

Victor says, happy birthday to the greatest of all time.

Adrian says happy birthday to the champ. A hero for his principle as
well as his prowess as a fighter.

The other big birthday? First lady Michelle Obama is 49.

Another Michelle says happy birthday to a beautiful and inspiring

And Mario says 49? Let`s see the birth certificate. She looks more
like 29.

We`ve got two first lady surprises for a birthday to reveal later in
the show. Stick around.

But, first, we want you to share your thoughts with us. Please head
over to facebook and search politics nation and like us to join the
conversation that keeps going long after the show ends.



OBAMA: We have fought our way back. And we know in our hearts, for
the United States of America, the best is yet to come.


SHARPTON: On election night, the president told America the best is
yet to come. And judging by his second-term agenda, h e is setting his
sights high. Sweeping change to gun control. Immigration reform. Taking
on climate change. Cutting the deficit. And oh, yes, lowering
unemployment. Make no mistake about it. It`s ambitious. But the
president is entering his second term with a job approval among the highest
since the early months of his presidency. His favorability rating has
jumped nine points in the last three months. How about that?

At the very same time, the other side is fractured. Destroying
itself. They re stomping their feet at rational gun reform. They`re even
threatening impeachment over the issue.


REP. STEVE STOCKMAN (R), TEXAS: We want all tools available to use
including impeachment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: If he continue this, could that build up
to make a case for possible impeachment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All options should be on the table, undoubtedly.


SHARPTON: And if that weren`t enough, they`re back. That`s right,
the birther brigade is stronger than ever. A new poll finds that 64
percent of Republicans think is quote "probably true that President Obama
is hiding important information about his early life, 64 percent. You
can`t get that many Republicans to agree on anything. No wonder the GOP is
going off the deep end. And no wonder the president is looking better than

Joining me now is Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "the
Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor.

Thanks for coming on the show tonight.


SHARPTON: Sixty four percent of the GOP has questioned about the
president`s early life. How do you explain that?

CAPEHART: Well, look, 64 percent questioning the president`s early
light. That could be the birthers. That could also be those folks who
followed the line of Donald Trump who questions the president`s academic
performance who want to see the president`s college transcripts to figure
out how he got into Columbia and how he was able to get into Harvard law

Look, I think the problem here is, and the reason why the birther lie
won`t die and all of these other questions about the president`s past won`t
die, it`s because there`s no grown-up within the Republican Party who will
stand up and say consistently cut the nonsense. The president is
legitimately the president of the United States. He is an American. He
was born here. Questions about his academic performance and asking for his
college records are beneath him and beneath the office of the president of
the United States.

Unfortunately, there`s no one who will do that. Not speaker John
Boehner, not senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, not even Mitt Romney
who was the standard bearer of the party in 2012 for the presidency.

SHARPTON: Now, Jonathan, when you look at this, the birther movement
hasn`t gone anywhere. They`re still going strong. There`s been 100 court
cases filed to prevent the inauguration ceremony Monday citing Obama`s
over-seas birth. And you know, I wonder where that GOP base got the idea
from that the president wasn`t born here. It certainly wasn`t just Donald
Trump. Look at this.


to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were
born and raised.

REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: All I can tell you is ha the general
consensus is that he has produced a birth certificate. The question is, is
it legitimate?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: This is the easiest problem to
solve. All the president has to do is show it.


SHARPTON: So why is this important? Because if you dehumanize the
president, if you made him un-American, you`ve made him other, then you
don`t deal with him because he`s not American, he`s not really legit. And
if you convince your constituents with that, you can`t make a deal with
him. So, going forward, how do you make progress when you`re trying to
paint this picture on the president even when he doesn`t work when he`s so
overwhelmingly popular?

CAPEHART: Yes. You know, I don`t know. I mean, this speaks to a
larger problem for the Republican Party. And, yes, the president is
popular. I mean, you show the Pew polls dropped approval rating for the
president which is at 52 percent. The Washington Post-ABC news poll puts
the president`s top approval rating at 55 percent. The president is wildly
popular. He was re-elected overwhelming - he was re-elected with more than
50 percent of the vote and it is convincing in decisive way.

And what you have happening is that the Republican party is continuing
what seems to be its willingness to keep itself a reactionary, regional
party that`s not terribly interested in governing, but, instead, is more
interested in doing battle with someone who they think is illegitimate and
is willing to contemplate, entertain and even promote ideas that are, you
know, lies, that are racist lies and that do nothing to solve the problems
facing the country and certainly do nothing for the Republican party`s
ability to convince people that they should be entrusted with governing.

SHARPTON: Yes, well, I think that`s the problem. I think that
they`ve painted themselves into a corner because here`s a man that is very
popular with all they threw at him, they were not able to bring down his
numbers and not able to stop him from being re-elected at a wider margin
than President Bush. So now, you`ve painted yourself in a corner where
you`ve dehumanized somebody that is probably the most popular political
human in the United States.

Jonathan Capehart, thanks for coming on the show tonight.

CAPEHART: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, Republicans tap Paul Ryan to lead them back to
their winning ways. You know, Paul Ryan? The guy who lost in November?
We`ll go inside the GOP`s big unity conference tonight.

But, first, Governor Rick Scott did everything he could to suppress
voters in Florida. But, today, he`s suppressing his own memory. This is
one you need to hear.

You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.


SHARPTON: We all know that voting in Florida last November was a real
mess. Some people waited up to seven hours to cast ballots. Some in line
until after 1:00 a.m. and it took weeks to certify the results. Most of
the problem came from a new law that dramatically cut back early voting
hours. Well, Governor Rick Scott doesn`t want the blame.

On Tuesday, he said quote, "it was not my bill. We`ve got to make
changes, I agree. The legislature passed it. I didn`t have anything to do
with passing it."

Nothing to do with passing it? Really? Well, somebody signed that
law. Here`s the signature. On a letter telling the secretary of state to
file it. This is all very suspicious. If Rick Scott didn`t sign the law,
than who did? Was there a look alike going around Florida pretending to be
Rick Scott? Could it be him? Haven`t seen this guy in a while. Or what
about him? He`s got the crafty, super villain smarts to get it done. Or
maybe it was somebody you`d never suspect.

You know what? I`m pretty sure Governor Scott did sign that into law.
After all, he thought it was just fine two days after the election.


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Well, the right thing happened. So we
did the right thing? What we`re doing is the right thing. The right thing
happened. So we did the right thing?


SHARPTON: The governor did not do the right thing. And the changes
he wants now are too little, too late. Scott says we should allow
supervisors of elections the flexibility to offer anywhere between eight
and 14 days of early voting.

Flexibility to offer as little as eight days of early voting? Which
is what that republican law says now anyway. Flexibility to determine
whether they want more or less voting, depending on the district. Florida
needs real changes. And they should be statewide.

Did Governor Scott think we`d forget what he`d made harder and what
was made harder for the people to vote? Well, Governor, we don`t forget.
Nice try but we got you.


SHARPTON: It`s day two of the Republican Party`s big retreat in
Williamsburg, Virginia. A time for the party to unify, a time to bond, a
time to come together and figure out their future. And I sure hope they`re
doing more than trust folds. A brand new NBC News poll just out shows 49
percent of Americans have a negative view of the Republican Party.

That`s the worst negative rating for the GOP since 2008. Only 26
percent have a positive view of Republicans. And 81 percent disapprove of
the job Congress is doing while just 14 percent approve. So who are the
big headliners for change today? These guys.

Oh, yes. A real breath of fresh air. Speaker Boehner, Eric Cantor
and Paul Ryan. That`s change you can believe in. And it was Mr. Ryan who
was giving all kinds of advice today on how to battle President Obama.
This is the GOP`s fix-it guy?


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Seventy percent of Americans want the
American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want
the welfare state.

We don`t want to turn this state -- into a panic. That lulls able-
bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency.

I`ve always adopted the idea, the position that the method of
conception doesn`t change the definition of life.


SHARPTON: This is the guy to fix their tarnished brand. They`re
lost. And they`re freaked out about their future. The Hill reports,
Republicans where they`ll lose the House to Democrats if they botched the
fiscal talks. So have a great time in Williamsburg. Enjoy the bonding.
But good luck when you get back to Washington. Maybe it`s time for more
than a little get away.

Joining me now is Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto
Latino, and an MSNBC contributor. And Angela Rye, political strategist and
co-former for IMPACT. And the former executive director of the
Congressional Black Caucus. Thanks to you both for being here tonight.


having me, Rev.

SHARPTON: Maria Teresa, what do you see coming out of this GOP

KUMAR: They`re having a Kumbaya moment. When we actually start
looking at the headlines, right, the -- that you`re having, one is how to
communicate to minorities and women. If it was only a communications
problem that they had and they`d actually have a shot to achieve it. But,
unfortunately, you showed it there. They lacked diversity, they also
lacked the shepherding that Colin Powell was trying to do.

So, you got to get to change your ways. You need fundamental change.
You can`t do it in a two-day retreat. You actually have to scratch your
head, have a come to -- moment, we actually have to create and actually
diversify in order to bring individuals with the changing landscape of
America. I don`t think they want to do that. I don`t think they`re
prepared to do that. I think that they`re still under the impression that
America was back, you know, back in the 1950s.

And what we saw was the American voter voted basically, voted for
President Obama overwhelmingly basically saying that they`re define the
changing face of America.

SHARPTON: Now, Angela, Paul Ryan actually sounded like a voice of
reason in the GOP today. He advised Republicans, and I`m quoting here,
"While we aspire to give the country a very specific and clear vision about
what we think is the right way to go, the major big issues of the time, we
have to do it at the same time, recognize the divided government moment
that we have and the fiscal deadlines that are approaching. What those
involve and then how we`re going to proceed forward."

I mean it almost sounds like when he says recognize the divided
government moment. Is he telling them to back away from the debt ceiling

RYE: I don`t know that he`s telling them to back away. But I think
he`s certainly smart in observing the facts. We saw a really brutal fight
for Speaker Boehner. We saw a failed plan B on The Hill, and then you saw
him scrambling to figure out how to get the votes to pass a fiscal cliff
deal. So Paul Ryan recognizes the sign of the times and I think he`s
pleading with the most far right of the party. Because it`s certainly not
going to work in this day and age.

SHARPTON: But Angela, you worked The Hill, you are the executive
director of the major caucus there are the Congressional Black Caucus.
When they get back to D.C., the friends of their party will still be there
and it`s a problem.

RYE: That`s right.

SHARPTON: Political reports GOP leaders are authentically at a loss
on how to control members who don`t respond to the normal incentives of
wanting to help party leaders or of avoiding situations like default. That
could be a public relations nightmares. Now, how do you deal with this? I
mean, you`ve been in those rooms with Congress people. How do they deal
with the fringe groups that are marching to the beat of a different drum?

RYE: Well, I think Paul Ryan also said today that they`re at risk
of, you know, potentially losing the house. I think that they need to have
a come-to-Jesus moment with the far right and say, listen, if we can`t
figure out a way to really reach compromise, that is the reason why we`re
elected, that is the reason why we`re supposed to work with this president
regardless of our personal feelings or biases, we really have to come
together and compromise. That is the only way forward.

SHARPTON: Now, Maria, the fringe is also in big trouble because
their brand has been damaged. The new NBC poll shows favorable ratings for
the Tea Party movement on a worst-ever recorded. Forty seven percent
unfavorable, 23 percent favorable. So they may have some advantages in
their home districts, Maria, but nationally, they`re as unpopular as
they`ve ever been.

KUMAR: Right. And that`s -- and I guess that`s sort of the problem
with gerrymandering. Do they care that they`re unpopular on the national
level as long as they basically have a safe seat until the next 20 years.
Talk about nobody having to reach term doubt. I think what the -- in the
republican leadership, I think Boehner, he tried to basically shake the Tea
Party up but basically say, you know, we`re actually going to take you off
all of your chairman ships. What good did it do?

When he still had to negotiate, basically send pieces of the fiscal
cliff legislation to the Senate in order to get anything done. I think
what the real problem is, for the Republican Party, is that they are either
a sun setting party because as, even though they have them as
gerrymandering districts, it`s only going to last for so long because
they`re not going to infuse them with a new pipeline of individuals that
are thoughtful innovative, whether they`re black, Latino, women or Asian.
They`re not going to have that force. So in order for them not to be a
dying party, they have to modernize.

SHARPTON: Now, Angela, as we go towards these fights, the fiscal
fights and other issues that come up, you`ve got the president very popular
and you`ve got them very unpopular. How does the president leverage that
popularity and they`re unpopularity to move an agenda forward when they
still have the power to block some things in the house.

RYE: I think we`re seeing a new face of this president this term.
You`ve already seen him step up in a major way with the debt ceiling fight.
He`s been very clear about what he expects for them going forward. He was
very clear about what his expectations for his fiscal cliff negotiations
and we`ve even seen him dealing with the Sandy Hook kind of crisis with
signing executive actions.

I think the president is going to lay down a hard-line and we`ll
continue to do that not only for the fight immediately before us that also
things like immigration reform and the Republican Party is just going to
have to compromise.

SHARPTON: Maria Teresa Kumar, Angela Rye, thank you both for your
time tonight.

RYE: Thank you, Reverend.

KUMAR: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, two big birthday surprises. Today, from the
first lady, you`ll want to see what everybody is talking about.

But, first, 50 years ago, civil rights activists Medgar Evers was
murdered in Mississippi. His widow vowed to carry on his legacy. And on
Monday, she`ll make history at President Obama`s inauguration. We are
honored to have Myrlie Evers-Williams join us live tonight.


SHARPTON: The First Lady celebrated her 49th birthday today with a
couple of big surprises for all of us. First, it was a brand new twitter
account. She already has a personal account @MichelleObama. But now, it`s
cleared to be official account for the First Lady`s office.

And then, later, in the day, she tweeted yet another surprise.
Unveiling a new haircut with bangs. She sure is looking great on her
birthday. But then she always looks great. Happy 49th, Mrs. Obama.


SHARPTON: Fifty years ago, 1963 was a historic year in the civil
rights movement. It was a year of protest and sit-ins across the south.
In Mississippi, a young civil rights leader named Medgar Evers was a leader
for change. After fighting in World War II, he returned to the United
States to fight for equality at home.


MEDGAR EVERS, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: For many of us who have gone
overseas and fought for this country and fought for Mississippi, we fought
for Alabama, we fought for North Carolina, we fought for Illinois and we
fought for every state in this union.


SHARPTON: He became the NAACP`s first field representative for his
home state of Mississippi organizing protests against segregationists shop


EVERS: I am the greatest.

I`m going to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.


SHARPTON: And he became a tireless fighter for the right to vote,
which we`re still fighting for today.


EVERS: We`re not just interested in voting so that conditions will be
improved for Negros. We want the conditions improved for everybody.


SHARPTON: Evers knew he`d be a modern man because of his work. His
home was attacked. He even taught his young children how to flee bullet
fire. But Evers refused to turn away from his important work. On June
11th, 1963, he watched President Kennedy deliver his civil rights speech
from the Oval Office.


FMR. PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY, UNITED STATES: The rights of every man
are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.


SHARPTON: Later that night, as he returned home from watching the
speech, Evers was assassinated in the driveway of his home by a white
supremacist. Evers was the first major civil rights leader at that time to
give up his life for the movement. His death inspired many to join the
fight and it prompted President Kennedy to push Congress for a civil rights
bill, which was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Inspired by her
husband, Myrlie Evers became a civil rights icon in her own right.

Sixteen hours after his death, she rallied hundreds in Jackson,
Mississippi and vowed to make sure her husband`s death would not be in
vain. Later she ran for Congress, published books on civil rights and in
1995, she was elected chair of the board of the NAACP. In 2008, my National
Action Network honored her for her work.

On Monday, Martin Luther King day, the work of the Evers family comes
full circle. Fifty years later after a life devoted to civil rights,
she`ll deliver one of the highest honors, the invocation at the
inauguration of our country`s first black president.

Joining me now, Medgar Evers widow, the icon in her own right. Myrlie
Evers-Williams. It`s an honor to have you with us tonight.

It`s my honor to be on your show, as well. I think so highly of you and
all of your work and all that you`re doing now and I`m very, very pleased.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

Tell me, what does it mean to you to be a featured speaker at the
second inauguration of the nation`s first African-American president.

WILLIAMS: You know, I have not been able to put those feelings into
words yet. I`m just so appreciative, so thankful. It`s an honor that I
never thought that I would even come close to receiving. Because at the
march in Washington, and I was scheduled to speak then, and it was listed
on the original program, I was in Boston, could not get to Washington, D.C.
in time and missed that marvelous opportunity.

And for years, I thought I`ll never be able to do anything like that
again. And here we are. Fifty years later, I have been asked to deliver
the invocation for President Obama`s second term as president of the United
States. It`s something that`s it`s difficult to explain. I`m simply
honored. I am delighted. I feel even more of American now than I think I
did when Medgar was buried at Arlington cemetery.

I have hope for this country. I have hope for my own people. I`m a
realist. And I certainly see things that need to be done.


WILLIAMS: But we must continue to work to build up this country, to
build up race relations, to bring up opportunities and to bring our young
people and our elders, shall I say, together for a more perfect union. I
never imagined that this would happen in my wildest dreams. And I am just
very, very thankful.

SHARPTON: Now, what do you think your husband would say if he were

WILLIAMS: If he were me?

SHARPTON: If he were here today.

WILLIAMS: Oh, if he were here today. He probably would repeat to me
something that he said a couple of nights before his assassination. We
were talking and I said, Medgar, I can`t make it without you. I`m not
strong enough. And he said, you are. You must believe in yourself. You
will be all right and you take care of my children. And I remember those
words so clearly. I just think Medgar would be very, very proud and he
probably would smile, that wicked little smile that he had, and would say,
I told you so. I told you so.

SHARPTON: What do you want Americans to know about Medgar Evers?
What do you think they should know?

WILLIAMS: Everything. Everything about him that`s possible to know.
His commitment to his people. His commitment to his state. His inability
to walk away from a fight. It might not been a physical one, but whatever
he believed in, he was in it for the long haul. And it`s something magical
about that. To learn of his strategies. To learn of his fears and his
hopes and his dreams and his movement forward.

It`s so critically important that we have heroes and heroines, that
our young people can learn about and for those of us, at my age, now, we
can still embrace them, what they stood for. Medgar never, ever wanted
glory for what he did. And I would tell him at times, you know, you need
to promote yourself a little. And he said, Myrlie, that`s not what I`m
about. I`m about doing the job.

SHARPTON: You`ll be the first layperson to give an inaugural
invocation. How did you find out that you`ve been chose, what happened?

WILLIAMS: I received a call from one of the staff persons at the
White House. And she simply told me that I had been chosen and I said
certainly you just -- I did not believe it. But I quickly came to the
realization that it was a possibility and that it was an honor that I will
forever, forever cherish. But hoping that I would say the right words.
It`s only a limited time. You have about three minutes.

And I tend to go on and on with my speeches and whatnot. I hope I
don`t bore people to death. But how do I say what I feel about my country?
How do I say what I feel about Medgar and all those civil rights leaders?
How do I say how much I believe in the proclamation?


WILLIAMS: How do I address all of those strong feelings? Yet, be
realistic about where we are today. And realize that even though there
were so many who fought for the right to vote, all we have to do is to look
back on what happened a couple of months ago.


WILLIAMS: And all of those things that were done to make it
difficult, particularly for minorities to register and vote. You know, we
are past the point where we have to count the number of beans in a jar. We
are passed the point where we have to work so hard to pay $3 for a poll tax
receipt. But it sends a message to America that even though we have moved
forward, be aware and guard your rights because there are different methods
of disenfranchisement.

SHARPTON: Yes. Well, I think when you walk on that stage and that
platform, it symbolizes and personifies all of that. Myrlie Evers-
Williams, congratulations on your honor. Thank you for being you. Half a
century later, looking great and standing up for the dream of Medgar Evers.

WILLIAMS: And thank you for you.

SHARPTON: We`ll be right back.


SHARPTON: Today is boxing legend Muhammad Ali`s 71st birthday. He
was and he is the greatest. And we must never forget that at the height of
his career, he gave it all up for conscience.


go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in
the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never
lynched me, they didn`t put no dogs on me, they didn`t rob me of my
nationality. How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.


SHARPTON: Medgar Evers widow just told us, you have to have heroes.
Since I was a teenager, Muhammad Ali has been a hero to me. One that
stands for something rather than puts material gain above his conscience.
Happy birthday, champ, you`re still the greatest.

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


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