March 3, 2013
Guests: L. Joy Williams, Mike Konczal, Brentin Mock, Sara Gonzales-Rothi Kronenthal, Cecile Richards, Pia Glenn, Judy Gold, Cecile Richards, Jill Filipovic, Gwen Moore
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, who could
think calling a 9-year-old girl the "c" word is funny.
Plus, the real Harlem Shake. Please, do not be fooled by those viral
videos and VAWA passes as the house Republicans cave.
But first, three years after the disaster in the Gulf and BP is finally on
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Everyone have a good week? I don`t know how you all fared these past seven
days, but down on Wall Street it got pretty wild. One of the worst single
day plunges in months was followed by a near record high later in the week.
On Thursday afternoon, the Dow just about hit its highest point ever, a
record that was set in the fall of 2007 before the crash of this great
We also learned this week that American factories expanded for the third
straight month, continuing what has been the biggest jump in manufacturing
since the economy began to turn around. New analysis out this week further
supported the positive signs that corporate America is on the mend. The
S&P 500, that`s the index that tracks the stock value of the country`s 500
leading companies, is up more than 120 percent since March of 2009. Heck,
the dollar gained strength this week, and all just in time for Wall Street
bankers to get the most out of their bonuses which on average increased
nearly 10 percent this year. Did your pay? Yes, it is good to be a
corporation these days doing business in America. Unless perhaps you are
British petroleum because this week BP executives found themselves in court
in my hometown in New Orleans on trial for gross negligence in causing one
of the worst ecological disasters in written history which took 11 lives
and soiled hundreds of miles of beaches from Louisiana to Florida.
For 87 days after the deep water horizon oil rig exploded 50 miles off the
coast of Louisiana, oil was spilling in to the gulf. The disaster would
eventually release as much as 206 million gallons of oil, a devastating
blow to the gulf`s ecosystem. And to stem the tide-of-the-spill, two
million gallons of chemical dispersants were dumped into the gulf causing
still more unknown damage to the fragile coastal eco-systems.
In the six months that followed the spill, 8,000 birds, sea turtles and
marine mammals were found injured or dead, shellfish beds that gulf coast
residents depend on their livelihood were decimated costing millions in
economic damage, but, hey, BP paid out.
Just this past November the billion dollar corporation pled guilty to
felony manslaughter and environmental crimes, agreeing to pay out $4.5
billion on top of nearly $8 billion in settlement with those affected by
the spill, and the company has already spent upwards of $14 billion on
cleanup costs. And if you hear them tell it, things are now a-OK in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two years ago the people of BP made a commitment to the
gulf and every day since we`ve worked hard to keep it. BP has paid over
$23 billion to help people in businesses who were affected and to cover
cleanup costs. Today, the beaches and gulf are open for everyone to enjoy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All cleaned up, they say, pristine beaches for all to enjoy.
In recent months oil slicks have been detected in the region of the
original spill. That is 33 months and counting since the deep water
horizon oil rig exploded. Oil persists in the region, and as the Louisiana
attorney general said in his statement at Monday`s hearing the disaster has
damaged Louisiana people most importantly this disaster continues in
Over 212 miles of Louisiana coast are being polluted and continue to be
oiled. Many of those affected by the oil spill or the oil gusher will have
their day in court in the coming weeks hoping to prove that BP was grossly
negligent in this disaster and should be made to pay upwards of $20
billion. And while, yes, BP has shrunk as a corporation and is now the
smallest of the big four oil companies, it still brought in nearly $4
billion in profit last quarter alone. And BP continues to operate 700
offshore drilling licenses.
It makes me wonder if even $20 billion wouldn`t simply be a small price to
pay for the profit brought by big oil.
Joining me today, Sara Gonzales-Rothi Kronenthal, who is senior policy
specialist for the national wildlife federation, Brentin Mock who is
investigative reporter, political strategist L. Joy Williams who is also a
host of this week "in Blackness" and Mike Konczal who is a fellow at the
Roosevelt Institute where he works on financial reform and writes the blog,
It is so nice to have you all here.
Brentin , I want to start with you. OK. Those of us living on the coast
are watching this trial. Remind people what this trial is and what the
kind of central claims are here.
BRENTIN MOCK, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Right. So, this is the civil trial.
MOCK: Where they are going to be determining who is responsible basically
for the gusher, as you correctly identified it as, and right now there`s a
lot finger-pointing in that trial which started this week. BP, Halliburton
and TransOcean, these were all operators of the rig, and they are all
pointing fingers, saying, no, you did it. No, you did it, and it`s kind of
-- in the meanwhile the oil is still out there in the gulf.
MOCK: Still about one million barrels of oil that`s unaccounted for. Tar
balls are still washing up on to the coast so at the end of this, like you
said, they will try to figure out if $20 billion is the appropriate amount
but advocates on the gulf say they need to pay upwards of $50 billion to
really make it right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And, I think, your point here, Sarah, and on the one
hand, I get the need for the commercials, the everything is fine, come back
to the coast. It doesn`t do us any good for those hotels to sit empty. It
doesn`t do any good for us economically for people to think that there is a
continuing disaster, but there is a continuing disaster.
SARA GONZALES-ROTHI KRONENTHAL, SENIOR POLICY SPECIALIST, THE NATIONAL
WILDLIFE FEDERATION: That`s correct, and that`s a great point. I mean, do
I hope the BP commercials are working and people are going back to the
gulf? Absolutely. I want them to see it. I want them to fall in love
with the gulf, but the American people are not buying it. And in fact, a
few weeks ago we hand delivered in other coalitions with other
environmental organizations 133,000 petitions from all over the United
States, not just gulf residents, to the department of justice asking them
to hold BP fully accountable.
And so the question is, what is accountability? There`s two pieces of
accountability that will be fleshed out in this trial. First of all, BP is
liable under the oil pollution act for every single blade of sea grass that
was oiled, every single gulf pelican that was harmed, and they are liable
to us for our inability to use the gulf during that time. Thirty seven
percent of the federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico were closed to fishing
in the middle of the disaster.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to pause here for just a second because I want to
sort of underline that point. On the one hand we have these fundamental
questions of human suffering which we will get, to I promise, but I also
don`t want to miss that there is a responsibility to the earth itself as
the earth, that they are responsible for the wild life, for the water, for
the ecosystem, that that itself also has a standing in this case.
KRONENTHAL: Certainly, and where that responsibility comes in it`s to all
of us, it`s to the American people, and that`s why the oil pollution act
and the clean water act have two sets of liability here. First, BP has to
pay for all the damage that they did to the environment, but in addition,
because these profits are enormous, and we`re talking about multi-national
corporations. You have to have a penalty in addition on top of the actual
damage in order to deter future oil companies from taking these kinds of
risky shortcuts and putting profits over safety.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to go to just that question of profits, Mike.
Because, you know, just sort of looking at where corporate profits are
right now. They are up 171 percent. Despite all of the you know,
discourse about we have this terrible so-called socialist president who is
redistributing income, 171 percent is the profit margin that these
companies, not just oil companies, but corporations in general. Is there
anything that can get them to behave in a way that is responsive to
anything other than the bottom line?
MIKE KONCZAL, FELLOW, ROOSEVELT INSTITUTE: Well, lawsuits like this are
very important, so it`s one thing, it`s important to remember the point of
this gross negligence charge that the civil courts are bringing forward.
One thing for them to say there`s all these damages and we`re going to pay
it out. That`s basic fairness. We need something that`s punitive, that
punishes them and sends signals to other oil companies that are also
building rigs and have to decide how much safety they are going to have and
what their obligations are to the environment and to the people. And you
know, without a serious payout that is punitive and that actually deters
future behavior, we`re going to see more things like this.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, this is sort of torts 101, right? This was the
class that all the law students who not planning on doing this kind of law,
now have to take towards, but the whole idea that it does force a different
set of business practices. We are just looking at the fact that some of
the things that BP is being charged with is withholding crucial information
from the government, consistent patterns of misreporting and a false
impression of what was happening on the drilling project, right. This
isn`t about, we made a mistake. This is about a consistent pattern of
discourse that was untrue.
L. JOY WILLIAMS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, finally somebody is being put
on trial in terms of a large corporation for doing something wrong and to
harm the American people and our ecosystem, right? And so in an age right
now where we have corporations are too big to fail. We have to figure out
how to help them so they don`t destroy the rest of our economy is
refreshing on one point to see that someone is actually going to trial and
will have to answer a question in a courtroom who is responsible? What did
you do and what didn`t you do in response to this?
HARRIS-PERRY: Elizabeth Warren kept asking is when was the last time you
took someone to trial in?
WILLIAMS: And that trial helps to bring that information out, and it also
helps to, as you said, hold them accountable so people won`t do it again,
but other part, the question that is definitely to those of you writing
much more on it, is the difference in the penalties versus the fines,
right, in terms of if they pay fines or penalties they get to write them
off on their taxes.
WILLIAMS: So that is something else that the American people don`t know as
well. Yes, you can pay on it, but then I get to write it off.
KRONENTHAL: Right. So, going back to, you know, the two pieces that BP
will face, they will face compensatory damages, and then they will face
penalties, and there is a different differential tax treatment for fines
versus penalties, but we believe and the American people believe, BP needs
to be held fully accountable on both counts.
KRONENTHAL: And that`s where you hear those figures of $45 billion is that
gross negligence results in a fine of about $17.6 billion. In addition, if
you look back at the Exxon "Valdez" oil spill and what ecological
restoration cost per barrel in that bill, you come to a number of about $45
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, we have this sense during the 2012 election,
we kept hear Mitt Romney saying corporations are people, and I`m thinking,
yes. But, if I killed 11 people and destroyed a whole neighborhood, I
would not be having, you know, $1 billion profits in my fourth quarter.
The reality of them being not individuals, of them being not people I think
it`s very clear when we see the ways in which they are not held
accountable. So, after the break, how corporations get communities to act
against their own self-interest? We`ll talk to Buddy Roemer next.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week was just the first phase in one of the largest
environmental trials in U.S. history which is set to hear testimony for
three months to determine the share of liability of BP and other companies
involved in the 2010 deep water horizon oil rig explosion. Even as we
consider the enormous cost of that disaster, you can`t ignore that the oil
industry plays a big role in the economy of the gulf coast. And for the
political leaders in the region this poses a quandary when trying to
regulation a profit-driven industry that brings millions of jobs, to well,
Here`s Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu arguing against closing the tax
loophole for the oil industry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: These five large oil companies that
everybody enjoys beating up on, and I understand that the of the 9.2
millions are making a lot of money today, but this is no reason to go after
them, singling them out, particularly because of the 9.2 million Americans
working in and around and for them and the thousands of independent
companies and suppliers that work in partnership with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And that is the tough position I want to ask my next guest
about. Joining me for a discussion from Baton Rouge, Louisiana is Buddy
Roemer, chairman of the reformproject.org and former Louisiana governor.
Hi, Buddy, always nice to see you.
BUDDY ROEMER, FORMER LOUISIANA GOVERNOR; Hey, Melissa, good to be with
HARRIS-PERRY: So look, senator Landrieu is not an all bad guy or all good
guy in this. It seems to me that she, almost like everyone else in
Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama, all along the gulf coast, even into
Florida is facing this quandary. How do we expect responsible political
leadership when so much of the -- of the economy is tied to these oil and
ROEMER: Well, the industry was not regulated, Melissa. They talk, talk,
talk, but they don`t take any action. I`ve been governor of Louisiana.
I`ve been a congressman from here. I have decent relationships with
companies than energy for us. It`s important for America. I don`t dismiss
this at all, but this speech by Mary Landrieu and others, and she`s not the
worst of them.
ROEMER: I want to be fair to her, Washington`s not broken, Melissa. It`s
bought. The money that -- that comes in contributions to politicians is a
scandal. Now, there is an economic reality here. I think BP is one of the
worst players in the gulf. I said that 25 years ago when I was governor of
Louisiana. I`m walking in downtown Baton Rouge the morning of this -- of
this five million barrel spill and a member of the department of natural
resources yells at me and says Buddy, did you hear about the blowout in the
gulf, I haven`t heard about it. I said no, but I can tell you. He said
both smile. That`s the way it is. And they ought to pay for the claims
out there. They ought to pay for the damages. They ought to pay fines.
They ought to pay penalties. They ought to put money set aside because we
don`t know what the effect on the wildlife is.
Look, I`m a businessman. I run a pretty large bank in the south, and the
economic benefits of oil and gas energy is important to our area.
ROEMER: But we ought to ask a simple question. Do we have the courage to
regulate them? Do we have the courage to put our children and our animals
and our land continues first? I think we do, Melissa. I think this
administration has done a good job the last two years of bringing this into
focus for the first time in my life.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Buddy, you know, this point about courage is a real one
because as you point out about the bought-ness of Washington, oil lobbying,
gas -- gas and oil lobbying dollars since 1990, $238.7 million. We know
that about half a million dollars to Mary Landrieu herself since 2007.
Again, she`s just one of many, many people getting this lobbying money, so
it really is a question of whether or not you have the political capacity
to say no to that money and to start talking about the regulation.
ROEMER: We ought to eliminate lobbyist contributions. We ought to have
tax reform, not talking about raising the rates but doing away with all
these loopholes. If you were to do away with these corporate loopholes,
could you lower the marginal rate for every American, including the rich
people, and they couldn`t make a contribution to get a little loophole in
the law. You know when the fiscal cliff thing that we did in December,
Obama and the Congress finally did, big disaster. Do you know buried in
that bill, buried in that bill were hundreds of millions of dollars of
additional loopholes for special corporations. It`s not right, Melissa.
It`s called corruption.
HARRIS-PERRY: Buddy Roemer, you always make it plain. And that`s why I
always enjoy having you here on MHP. I hope you can join on the --
ROEMER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, when of profit is human lives. More on the oil
spill when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Even before the BP oil spill became an environmental
disaster, it was a human tragedy. The 11 men who were killed on April
20th, 2010 when the deep water horizon drilling rig exploded were more than
just workers. To their families they were fathers and husbands and sons,
and no trial or amount of money awarded can fill the void for their loved
Back at the table, Sara and Brentin, l. Joy and Mike.
All right, folks. Brentin, this is real. The 11 people died, but then
also thousands of workers out of work. How do you replace or make
reparation for that?
MOCK: Well, there`s no dollar that you can put on, you know, all that was
lost in the gulf coast. There is no way you can put a dollar on lives
lost, known how that impacts families and how that impacts communities.
But also, when you look at the greatest impact across the cost, let`s talk
about the fact that poverty jumped up 33 percent between the time of the
disaster and all the way through 2011.
This is an already impoverished region that just suffered a great deal of
poverty across the gulf coast, so now what we`re trying to transition to is
a restoration economy, you know, where we get the money from BP, and this
is right at $45 billion to $50 billion is so important, so that money comes
back and those jobs can be creative for environmental restoration, and
economists right now are saying that 36 jobs can be made for every $1
million invested in environmental restoration across the coast. This is a
chance to real turn the coast around and restore beauty and health.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. This is not a small deal. I was looking at this
letter to gut stay o small state governors saying there were possibly as
many as 78,000 new jobs but those jobs would be over the course of 50
years, and the fact is people in the short term they have families to feed.
They have got taxes to pay and all the things they have to do, and in the
short term you say it`s a lot of jobs and it`s over 50 years. How could I
right now create an economy that starts to put back to work all of these
the folks, particularly if you start to pull out those oil and gas jobs,
the deep water jobs.
I mean, this is an excellent opportunity to really just start transitioning
our economy to a green economy. We already see the disasters in the havoc
that`s been wreaked on the environment and the climate because of the oil
and gas industry,. So, this is an excellent opportunity, you know, for
money to be used to transition, you know, skills so that people can learn
how to create the wind farms, the solar panel industries and really just
start to restore the environment.
And this is long overdue. I mean, the environment has been completely
devastated across the gulf going back decades, far before the BP oil
That`s one of the things, you know, for those of us who lived through, you
know, Isaac recently or the folks who were there for Katrina. I mean, this
is not just -- it is about the ecology, but that ecology impacts human
beings at all these different levels.
KRONENTHAL: Integrally, I mean, when you talk about the recreational and
tourism industry across the gulf coast. You`re talking about 640,000 jobs
and $210 billion in wages for recreation and tourism alone, that`s not
talking about just the oil and gas industry.
So, there`s an opportunity to create a new environmentally beneficial
economy because the environment in that region underlies the economy and
every dime that BP pace that can go to environmental restoration should go
to environmental restoration because that`s economic recovery in the long
run of the let me tell you why. The coast of Louisiana every 38 minutes
loses land the size of a football field to open water.
KRONENTHAL: So it`s not about a choice between the economy and the
environment. You have to have a strong, healthy resilient gulf in order to
have a strong economy, and to protect it from hurricanes like you talked
about. I mean, Isaac brought up 565,000 more pounds of oil material from
the deep water horizon oil spill.
KRONENTHAL: So the impacts are there. They are real. You still have
dolphins dying in an unusually high number.
HARRIS-PERRY: You have shrimp with tumors when the shrimping industry is a
key aspect of sort of what sustains those gulf coast communities.
KRONENTHAL: That`s right. But, you know, there is a silver lining to
this. It`s not like we should throw our hands up in the air and walk away
from the give. We know the gulf is resilient, and if you restore it,
restore the estuaries, if you address the Mississippi river delta and
create the barrier island and rebuild land rather than losing land, then
you benefit the environment in the long term and the economy in the long
HARRIS-PERRY: When I hear this argument, it`s one that I think the left,
you know, the greens, they say, look, there is a new way to build corporate
profits. There`s a new way to build a strong and sustainable economy, but
there`s a lot of sort of irate, eyebrow-raising and critique of that
argument, particularly on the right, no, there`s in stuff jobs in this way.
KONCZAL: Well, I mean, there`s a huge amount of unemployment out there so
this is a great way to get money off the sidelines and get it investing
creating jobs. I think its worth to going back to what buddy said in the
difficulty of regulating this up front. A lot of capture and political
money and why it`s so important to watch this trial because this is
ultimately the last form of regulation we have. We have weak enforcements
and a lot of industry capture of a lot of regular industry industries and
the laws themselves are very relaxed and dispersed across many states.
However, you know, tort laws you said earlier, but the civil court system
is the last chance of redress, and the other thing is we`re talking about,
you know, $20 billion and so on and so forth, it`s really difficult to get
an accurate measure of the true cost of things. People will tally up
things they can measure and human suffering, third offered of poverty that
has skyrocketed because of all the industry collapse that`s very difficult
to put a price tag on. No matter what number we put on, especially decades
from now when we learn about the real health and environmental capacity
it`s probably too small.
HARRIS-PERRY: And at this, I don`t want to move too quickly past this for
just a second. Explain again just for folks whom this might be a buzz
phrase, what regulatory capture is, why that`s a problem in this context.
KONCZAL: Sure. So, we have very weak laws in terms of regulating offshore
drilling, and the other -- the laws need to be enforced so we have
regulatory agencies and people accountable to the public, public employees
to go out and enforce the laws. Now, a lot of times there`s really obvious
what we call capture where the industries own up owning the regulators and
telling them what to do. There is obvious things where there`s a revolving
door where people will go from a regular industry agency to the company.
There`s bags of cash issue which are real and very important, but there`s a
much more subtle capture, where regulators identify with the people that
they are identifying, more like their shareholders and supposed to be
embodying the public.
HARRIS-PERRY: And quickly, regulatory Stockholm syndrome right, when you
think more and, therefore, And therefore the capture. I think part of what
I want to come back to here is Brentin`s point about this sense of the
human impact that goes on third order poverty, all of this.
Is there a way that we can start reimaging how we call or whether or not we
call business successful on something other than the bottom lines, but more
on how they contribute to sort of the broader human community in which they
WILLIAMS: I think in society we have to value those corporations and those
business owners who look beyond their profits, you know, and we have to
hold them up, and this is a critique on our society, you know.
You know, we hold a poem that make a lot of money and make quick money and
there`s billions of dollars and they have, you know, jets, and we focus
everything on how much money they make and how much power they wield as
opposed to valuing the corporations and the small business owners who not
only make profit and successful in business but also our contributors to
their local economy, to creating jobs, creating a safe work environment and
being a real contributor to society and community, and we have to do a
better job in saying that we value those corporations who see hem selves as
more as just money-makers and how much money we can give our stockholders,
and we are a holistic company that cares about our employees, cares about
profits, yes, but also cares about our greatest society.
HARRIS-PERRY: Give me a good idea. Do the foot soldiers on Saturday. You
make me want to do small business foot soldiers at this point. I like this
idea that we need to re-imagine the corporations that we think of as
And we`re going to stay on exactly that topic, because there is another big
economic narrative about what we need to do and what kinds of companies we
should hold up, and it`s about that XL pipeline. Remember that? Have we
learned nothing at all? When we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: At the very end of the day on Friday, even as most of us,
even those of us who work in the media were getting ready to turn off the
computers and head home, the state department issued their long-awaited
draft of the environmental impact report of the XL keystone pipeline.
After years of environmental activists and farmers and native Americans
pleading with the state department to consider the tremendous environmental
impact involved in this nearly 2,000-mile long oil pipeline that would
carry crude oil from Canada to the gulf coast, a project that a leading
American climate scientist has said would be game over for the climate, and
the state department said, nah, project doesn`t seem to pose much an impact
on climate change. Makes you wonder if we have learned anything at all.
Sarah, have we learned anything at all here?
KRONENTHAL: I hope so. I hope so. Have we seen strong reforms or are we
having amnesia? Yes, I think we`re having amnesia. It is not even three
years after the spill and the media reports that there`s been a recent
study that suggests for that support for offshore drilling is about
equivalent to what it was before the oil spill.
And if you remember, right before the deep water horizon spill we were
hearing this mantra drill, baby, drill and told by the oil companies, don`t
worry, it`s safe. Guess what? In August of 2009 there was a blowout, an
explosion in the east Timor Sea that spilled for 74 days.
So, you know, I hope our memories are a little longer this time. I hope
that people learn to value our natural resources and recognize that we
can`t live without clean water.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, the memory piece is not small. 311 Olympic-sized
swimming pools worth of oil dumped into the gulf during the Bp spill, and
here we are saying we need this XL for jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
WILLIAMS: I think what the - I think also what the American people don`t
understand in this debate also is what is the right balance between
maintaining a clean environment and also the need for energy, need for oil,
need for job. I don`t the American people understand what the balance is.
It is either you`re on either side, you`re drill, baby drill or against it
all. and I don`t think there`s been a great argument about what is the
HARRIS-PERRY: See. I`m going to push because I think we do understand.
And I think we do understand that the thing we would have to do is consume
less. The one thing --
WILLIAMS: But we haven`t been asked to.
HARRIS-PERRY: Granted we have not been asked to, but part of the reason we
haven`t been asked to because every politician from dog catcher to
president who says, you know what, the real solution here is you`re going
to have to less, you are going to have a smaller house, you are going to
need to drive a smaller car, you are going to have to make different kind
of consumption choices and we are going to have to do it collectively. And
we`re like, whoa, no, that is the American way. We are bigger, better,
bolder and go draw whatever natural resource it is. It all belongs to us
and allowed to use as much as we want.
WILLIAMS: Right. And to your point, we haven`t been asked to. There
hasn`t been a president or anyone to say we need to collectively as a
society consume less in order to protect our environment, and we can do
KONCZAL: Tell us to consume more.
WILLIAMS: And we could do this together and make it. We are America and
we can do this together. We can protect our land and create jobs and still
have the energy we need.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
WILLIAMS: We haven`t that large question and that punt to the American
people has not been asked.
KONCZAL: This is going to be more of a national right. I mean, the
ultimate, you know, we talk about regulations and fines and punitive
charges, but ultimately if we want to prevent these kinds of things can`t
have oil companies going to increasingly risky and dangerous types of
drilling, you know. We want to prevent the catastrophes when they do
happen but we need transitions to safer forms of energy and you know,
that`s going to have to be part by a larger strategy.
KRONENTHAL: And the questions are out, you know, what is the American way?
Certainly, there`s a notion that these resources belong to us. But, guess
what, they belong to all of the American people, and the Gulf of Mexico is
our backyard. So you`re allowing BP and other oil companies to drill in
our backyard, and when they do it they better be as responsible as
I don`t -- you know, I don`t buy the argument that, well, we followed the
baseline regulations. Regulations are our requirement. You have to follow
all the rules all the time. And if you can`t follow rules you shouldn`t
play the game. But in addition since you`re drilling in our backyard and
the consequences can be so severe, you have to use the utmost care.
MOCK: There should be pre-clearance, you know. I just got back from
covering the Shelby versus Holder case with the voting rights act. And you
know, right now, states with a history of racial discrimination. They have
to pre-clear any election laws with the federal government and same with
the countries with history violence and the history of destruction. BP
should have to clear every single decision. I don`t care if it`s moving a
port-a-potty from one side of the bridge to the other. They need to go to
(INAUDIBLE) and they need say hey, is this going to be OK? Will it cause
harm? And if they can prove up front that it will not cause harm, then
maybe we`ll consider it. But, you know, it can`t just be this thing where
they have like a blank slate to just do whatever they want, and then after
the fact they go and try to pay for it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think we also are going to have to collectively more
risk averse on this. I mean, I do think there`s ways in which our focus on
recycling makes us think we don`t have to change consumption and tar sand
oils makes us feel we don`t have to make the cars smaller. If we don`t to,
that`s fine. We`re running into the face of the future generations, right?
We`re talking about this around the debt all the time. But we are creating
an environmental debt here.
Thanks to everyone for coming in and helping me just be irritated with BP.
I hope --
KRONENTHAL: Well, there is a silver lining.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. I mean, we are starting to move toward something
else. So, thank you Sara, Brentin and Mike. And L. Joy is back a little
But, up nest, to love American-style when it comes to push for marriage
equality, the surprising way that the momentum continues.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nationally, same-sex couples continue to be left out with
the full benefits that come with the institution of marriage because some
people want to keep marriage narrowly codified as a union between one man
and one woman. Yet, in spite of the opposition there are big signs that
support and momentum are building for marriage equality. Eight, that is
the number of California proposition that banned marriage for same-sex
couples but was eventually overturned in 2010 and whose fate will
ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
Two, is the number of cases on marriage equality, one on proposition eight
and the other on the defense of marriage act that will be heard on back-to-
back days by the Supreme Court this month.
Twenty three is how many days remain until oral arguments begin in the
first of those cases. Hollingsworth v. Perry which deals with whether
overturning "prop 8" in California was constitutional.
Two hundred and twelve is how many members of Congress signed a brief
asking the court to strike down Doma or the defense of marriage act which
narrowly defines marriage between a man and a woman.
One hundred and thirty one, that is the number of conservative leaders,
yes, conservative leaders, that signed a brief asking the court to overturn
California`s "prop 8." Sixty one is the percentage of California voters
that now approve of same-sex marriage according to a recent field poll, and
that is more than double the rate of California voters who supported same-
sex marriage in 1977 when the question was first asked.
Fifty one is the national percentage of American voters that support
marriage equality in the latest national poll by NBC and the "Wall Street
Journal." That my friends, is a majority.
Two is the number of briefs that the Obama administration has filed. One
each, for the prop 8 and Doma cases, and it`s the first time that a U.S.
president has come out in support for the rights of same-sex couples to the
And two, for the individuals that make up each of the same-sex couples who
hope that the support and momentum continues all the way to the nine
members of the Supreme Court so that they, too, can live and love like any
Coming up, we`re going to switch gears. It`s women`s history month, and
the legacy of the great Ann Richard is on our table. Her daughter Cecile
joins us next.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s March, and in honor of women`s history month we are
highlighting some of the amazing women who helped shape our country.
This morning, we are remembering political pioneer Ann Richards who despite
all of her accomplishment perhaps remains best remembered for this iconic
member in the 1988 Democratic National Convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN RICHARDS (D), TEXAS STATE TREASURER: Poor George. He can`t help it.
He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Still good all these years later. This Thursday, a new play
aptly named "Ann" opens on Broadway at Lincoln center starring actress
Holland Taylor, and it captures the essence of the tough as nails Texan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARDS: I`ll tell you what though. If I got turned down over my
concealed weapons veto, so be it and sayonara, more guns in people`s
pockets meant more people dead. There was no compromise to be.
Now I did tell them. I told them that I might consider a law that let guys
carry guns hanging from a chain around their neck because that way -- that
way we could say, look out. He`s got a gun!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I am pleased to welcome Ann Richards` daughter, Cecile
Richards who is, of course, the president of the Planned Parenthood
federation of America.
It is lovely to have you here.
CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA:
Great to be here, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, I spent some time reading a bio of your mother
last night, "let the people in." and hear it is a moment when we`re
remembering the feminist movement and I keep thinking, it is impossible to
imagine a woman like your mother, as governor talking about the feminist
movement. And I keep thinking it is impossible to imagine a woman like
your mother as governor of Texas today. What has changed in the world?
RICHARDS: Well, actually, I mean, Texas, you know, we`ve made a serious
right turn, but things are coming back, as you`ve been reading. But, I
actually think mother would be thrilled to see so many incredible women in
office. Look at the last election. The women who came in who are each
independent, feisty and heady hide camp from North Dakota to Elizabeth
Warren in Massachusetts to everything in between. I think it`s a good time
for women in politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: The fascinating thing to me about who Governor Richard was,
was her focus on women certainly but also on people of color, on people
with disabilities, her sense of attachment to Barbara Jordan and to other
women who had sort of paved the way for her. How do we take that message
into this 113th Congress that now has a record number of women? How do
they be more than just women in office but women like governor Richards in
RICHARDS: Well, I do think look, I do think women in office do reach --
reach back, and they carry other folks along with them, and I know when mom
was governor, there were many things she was proud of, but certainly
appointing more minorities, women, open gay and lesbian people to office
and to positions of power was probably one of the most important things
that she did because it did open up government. I see that happening with
women in the Senate, women in the House of Representatives. They are --
they have an interest, both for their own political future and frankly for
the better of the country of getting more folks from different backgrounds
in office. And each one who joins the Congress makes a big difference I
HARRIS-PERRY: What would she have thought of the Castro brothers in Texas?
RICHARDS: Loved them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. She would have loved them.
RICHARDS: She would love that. In fact, you know, it`s interesting
because they come from a strong family of social activists, a very, you
know, committed public servants. And I think what mom would say is she
sees in the Castro brothers and Juliana Joaquin (ph), the future of the
state of Texas. I think a lot of us do. I think it`s very exciting.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is. It is exciting. You know, it feels to me like that
position that we just saw on gun control, saying, hey, I`m a Texan. I`m a
tough lady. I`m from a land where people understand guns, but this is
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there something we can learn from that moment as we go
into our own gun control policy debate?
RICHARDS: I think absolutely. One of the reasons why people related to
mom is she was plain spoken and also used humor and sort of talked about
the reality of people`s lives. I think we can do a lot more of, that less
pontificating and more down home honest to goodness talking, the way people
talking, the way people talk about at their dinner tables or the kitchen
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s interesting to hear you talk about governor
Richard as mom, and I think to myself that question of being able to be mom
and be an elected official and do all of the things that she did, this is
exactly what we`re fighting for, for young women today, that ability to
make choices about reproductive moments. When are you going to have kids
and control your fertility so that you can do fantastic things like being
RICHARDS: Well, right. And I mean, actually mother, her path was not the
same as I think a lot of women now. She was a house wife as we called them
back in the day and she raised four of us before she ever got into public
office. And really, the only reason she got to break in was because Sarah
Waddington (ph) was a young woman lawyer, wanted to run for office and
frankly, the men in the political establishment in Texas really weren`t
interested in running her campaign. So, it was a very different type back
then. I think the struggles that women face going and running for office
are still pretty steep.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. There`s no doubt, that you know, as we like to say on
the show the struggle continues, and yet it was nice in this moment that is
women`s history month to pause and remember your mother, the fantastic Ann
Richards and people should absolutely go see.
RICHARDS: I hope you got to see the show. It`s really fantastic and I do
think it is -- there`s nothing mother would have loved better than going to
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And I hope she would have come to Nerdland with you
and Nerdland been around at that time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, the Oscar night tweet seen around the world.
I`m sorry. I`m already here dated. Why would you ever call a 9-year-old
the "c" word?
Also, the violence against women act and how sojourner truth, to finally
helped Republicans see the light.
Plus, and the real Harlem shake, the real one.
More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
There we all were last Sunday night, collectively taking part in a national
watch party. No, not talking about the Oscars. I`m talking about watching
our Twitter time lines while watching the Oscars.
It wasn`t so bad as far as parties go. There`s lots of noisy conversation
and boisterous back and forth about host Seth MacFarlane`s performance and
red carpet fashions and acceptance fashion and the "Jaws" theme music that
cut many of those speeches short.
Like most parties, there`s that one funny guy who keeps everyone laughing,
until he just takes one joke too far. This time that guy was the satirical
news outlet, "The Onion".
Now, unless you have been living under a rock, you know that 9-year-old
Quvenzhane Wallis is a gifted young actress, who poise and cautious
performance in "Beast of the Southern Wild" earned her an Oscar nomination
for best actress.
And when nominations were announced earlier this year, Quvenzhane became
the youngest person ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for best
actress. It is an achievement for which she should be rightfully proud,
and her joy on Oscar night was palpable. There she was working the red
carpet in her sparkly blue dress and pressing curl and her puppy purse.
Just killing us with cuteness.
Most folks at the Twitter party responded with an "aaahh", that is until
whoever it was on tweet duty for "The Onion" that night decided a 9-year-
old was fair game for the funny and tweeted this, "Everyone else seems
afraid to say it but that Quvenzhane Wallis is kind of a `C` word, right?"
Wrong. Because there is nothing right about it. No matter how much
mansplaining about comedy and free speech tried to make it right, listen, I
understand perfectly well what the tweet was trying to do -- I`ve followed
"The Onion" -- but our petty hyper critical focus on celebrities and famous
women certainly is ripe for satirical commentary, but there are probably, I
don`t know, a thousand, maybe a million different edgy envelope-pushing
ways to poke fun at it.
Using a derogatory term for sex organ in reference to a 9-year-old black
girl is not one of them, because here`s what those of you defending it
don`t seem to understand. A sexualized, hateful comment about a child is
only funny if you see that child as the least likely target for that kind
of attack. And if you`re fortunate enough to wear the privilege of
blinders, then that`s probably what you saw and laughed at. But when the
lens through which you view the world reveals that women of color and even
little girls of color are regularly in the crosshairs for dehumanizing
critiques, it is neither funny nor ironic. It`s just real.
And now when Quvenzhane Wallis looks back or when history looks back on the
best days of her life, on this historic moment for this little girl, you
know what`s going to be part of that story, the "Onion`s" tweet. Gee,
At the table: Cecile Richards of the president -- who is president of the
Planned Parenthood Federation of America; L. Joy Williams, a political
strategist and host of "This Week in Blackness"; Judy Gold, an Emmy Award-
winning actress and comedian; Jill Filipovic who is editor of "Feminist"
and columnist for "The Guardian" and also in my Twitter feed.
Also with us from Los Angeles is Pia Glenn, actress, singer, dancer, writer
and, boy, on fire about this tweet.
Pia, I`m going to start with you to draw you in here with us. Tell me a
little bit more about what your critique was of "The Onion`s" tweet.
PIA GLENN, ACTRESS AND PERFORMER: Well, you said it perfectly I think. So
it only remains me not to remember to curse right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, please.
GLENN: And not to say the word. But my critique was rough because the
tweet was rough, and I personally have just had enough of sitting back and
taking the joke. I`ve been in a position to make the joke. I`ve been the
joke, and I`ve made money being the joke.
And I get it. I completely get it. I 1,000 percent get it and ha, ha, ha,
But I`ve had enough, and that was my critique. As you said, what we found
is the jokesters and the pranksters and the defenders apparently were
thoroughly unaware that black women have been denigrated very casually
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Pia.
I think for me, Judy, one of the reasons we want you at the table. We`ve
talked comedy on this show before, right? We talked about rape jokes. We
talked about race jokes, and all kinds of things and consistently trying to
push the envelope and say had a comedy like art have relative autonomy.
But like Pia, this felt like that was it, not funny.
JUDY GOLD, COMEDIAN: Well, we know that the joke was supposed to be in the
absurdity of it, the fact that it`s so far beyond reality and so not true.
It would be as if someone tweeted other that Mother Teresa is like a
selfish bitch. That is where the joke was coming from, and it`s sad
because all no jokes are funny and that word is very, very loaded.
And -- and I don`t think -- first of all, we`re all assuming, I did as
well, that this is a white guy that tweeted this. I have no idea. That`s
what I assume.
HARRIS-PERRY: His anonymity is actually or her anonymity is part of what
GOLD: Right. Exactly.
HARRIS-PERRY: Quvenzhane has no anonymity. She has to be the little mole
of the world, carrying this joke around, while this person is completely
GLENN: Exactly. I`ve heard every argument and every defense and I`ve
really kicked through the teeth of all of them. And I just think one of
the main defenses when people bring up examples like Jon Stewart making the
same time of joke about Glen Hansard when he won that award and saying that
guy is arrogant when he was really the most self-effacing person ever.
He was standing there in person. It was a joke made in the moment and
that`s what comedy is. That`s what makes is magical.
Oh, you know, oopsie, I just made a mistake. It`s not up to me to say what
comedy is. It`s entirely subjective and I get that.
But when you`re not in the particular building and that particular building
is assembled for the sole purpose of celebrating this young woman and
cinema and performance in cinema, you`re sitting in a remote location.
What was her offense? What did she do in the moment that made you say
that, that made that even remotely appropriate?
HARRIS-PERRY: I know, Cecile, also just been thinking about the very fact
that the word, the "C" word is a word that carries -- that it can carry
that kind of power with it.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to show just a little piece from one of my new
obsessions, "House of Cards" where the "C" word shows up again. I want to
see this and ask you a question about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think you appreciate anything. I think you`re
an ungrateful, self-entitled little --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Little what? Little what, Tom? Say it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You`re a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. That -- the very fact that that word carries that
meaning feels to me like part of the rape culture that we exist in as our
general cultural pursuit (ph).
RICHARDS: Oh, absolutely. It`s interesting. I totally agree with what
Judy said and what Pia said, and you.
This is -- this is outrageous. There`s nothing funny about it. It was
beyond the pale.
I think one of the things to kind of pull it back a little bit that`s kind
of interesting to me is whatever we think about "The Onion", they did at
least recognize this was over the top, and they apologized.
And, again, I think in this land of tweeting when things go out and this is
going to happen and people have to be held accountable. The extraordinary
thing to me is the fact that this usually doesn`t happen. So I think like
a year ago when Rush Limbaugh was happy to Sandra Fluke a slut, and
repeatedly, and would never even recognize that this is not something that
Now, I`m not trying to compare the two, it`s not the same thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I guess I push back on this. I`m not sure that this
feels like it doesn`t happen. I mean, I feel look, recently, right, so
let`s take Gabby Douglas, right? Let`s say, again, a young woman having a
movement history, right, and now the historical record will always show
there`s Gabby Douglas winning the Olympic gold medal and having consistent
commentary about her hair and her body.
It does feel like in fact it happens particularly to girls and women of
WILLIAMS: Well, that is why our reaction was so emotional was because for
thousands of millions of women of color across the country we see all the
time in our communities, on TV, in movies, we see that constant attack
daily, and so, to see we were so very happy that you have a 9-year-old
little person of color. She did not have the weight of race on her
HARRIS-PERRY: A puppy purse.
WILLIAMS: With a puppy purse. And everybody thought she was adorable, and
she was not the adorable little black child. She was just an adorable
And then all of a sudden now we have this loaded word that`s added to her,
and so our reaction was one of protection because we finally have an
opportunity to -- she`s just a child, an adorable child and now we have to
add that burden of race and that burden of sexism in everything to her in
which she doesn`t even have to understand.
WILLIAMS: And I hope she doesn`t have to understand or have that
conversation right now, but that was the reason why it was such an
GOLD: She is a child -- I mean, we`re talking about a child.
WILLIAMS: She was a child --
GOLD: And we sexualize women from the earliest of ages in this country.
Girls are sexualized from the minute, you know, I don`t know, the pre-
adolescent. It`s ridiculous.
HARRIS-PERRY: Not just in general, Jill. I mean, part of what was
irritating to me I suppose is also when we think about the particular
context of the Oscars, right, Butterfly McQueen from "Gone with the Wind"
and the first time we had sort of a black child in an Oscar-nominated film,
like the version -- the weight of race, as you`re saying, L. Joy, and here
was this girl and then "The Onion" tweet, it was the defenders of the
HARRIS-PERRY: That was so distressing for me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was horrible to see.
GLENN: As someone who has performed in comedy and loves comedy and
worships comedy and loves raunchy come dishes by the way, the people who
are defending to me would blush and pee their pants and watch what I watch
for fun, OK? "Down and Dirty" with Jim Norton, (INAUDIBLE) they`d be
terrified. So it`s not that I`m scared of words or anything.
When people attack comedians because they say you can`t make a joke about
cancer because I have cancer or all kinds of things, you know, that`s not
the comedian`s responsibility. It`s not anyone`s responsibility to know
anyone`s personal history who is sitting in their audience.
But anyone watching the Oscars had to endure a joke about one day she might
have sex with George Clooney or something. That was out there already. If
you`re tweeting about the Oscars, I can only presume you`re watching them,
so where`s your defense? What is going on here?
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, Pia, hold for me. Jill, I promise I`m going
to get you as soon as we get back.
We`re going to take a quick break and we`re going to come back because I
want to show how this whole problem could have been avoided if everyone
knew the rules of the Apollo and that`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: When "The Onion" tweeted about nominee Quvenzhane Wallis on
Oscar night they real he no excuse for not knowing they crossed the line
because at the legendary amateur night at Harlem`s Apollo Theater, that
line had long ago been drawn in the sand or shall I say, the Sandman. At
the Apollo, a single sour note or a poorly landed punch line would get a
performer booed and swiftly tap danced off the stage by the legendary
The only exception, the one that "The Onion" forget -- kids are always off
limits. We don`t boo the babies.
That is the rule. Little baby children walking around being extraordinary
and just get to do that.
JILL FILIPOVIC, EDITOR, FEMINISTE: Yes. I think that`s right, and part of
the problem with "The Onion`s" tweet is Quvenzhane Wallis doesn`t look like
their babies, whoever sent that tweet. There`s this great post on
blackgirldangerous.org that I recommend all your viewers read go read,
which talks about how a lot of white people view black children as small
black adults, and not as children. And so they don`t get that presumption
of innocence, and they don`t get the same kind of kind treatment that adult
white people give to baby white children.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this is not a cultural question. This is a matter of
public policy, right? So in the context of enslavement, enslaved children
did not have childhoods, they were workers. And in the context of Jim
Crow, little black babies were not allowed to sit at the front of the bus.
They went through all of the social indignities.
And when we think about sort of what the social movements were about, they
were in part about creating a world where the children did not have to
I was in Philadelphia on Friday, and I just spoke with a woman whose name
is Landra Booker Johnson. She is the founder of an organization, a
company, that makes hair products for African-American girls.
And I just kind of asked her about the tweet, just to sort of see what a
mom and entrepreneur would say. Let`s listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANDRA BOOKER JOHNSON, CEO, CARA B NATURAL PRODUCTS: The Quvenzhane issue
is particularly painful because that tweet was a symbol for a perception
that is I think not necessarily prevailing but it`s OK to talk about little
brown girls that way, and it is painful. It is physically painful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That idea that it`s physically painful. This is why we
don`t boot babies.
WILLIAMS: Right. And her point is exactly what I said is that we -- we
want to protect because we see so many times in our own communities because
we do it to ourselves, we do it to our own kids and then society also does
it to our kids.
WILLIAMS: So once we see someone sort of branch out and we just want them
to be adorable and not have those pressures that the rest of the world puts
on us as adults, right, as adults. We can take those on and even it gets
heavy for us, but then to see a child have to suffer through that and still
have no idea.
She will have no idea and not be able to comprehend sort of what, you know,
the loaded history that the "C" word contains, why it matters in terms of
her race. She`s not going to see any of that.
We have to do that for her and that prevent anybody from doing it again, so
anybody who is thinking about typing a tweet or any corporation deciding to
do be a article or something about that before, since black women are the
new, you know, "It" thing, they will know that they will get fire and get
response from the new "It" community.
GOLD: Well, I am almost certain that the person that wrote this tweet has
no idea of the history of that word and how it affects African-American
girls and women. I`m sure to them it was just, hey, this is funny, you
know. I`ll tweet this.
It was on for an hour, but the good thing is it did spur a discussion,
something that needs to be told -- and I think "The Onion" does that. You
know, that`s a satirical newspaper that`s so far out, and we know that it`s
a joke, but some of the stuff really does facilitate a dialogue regarding
things that we don`t want to talk about.
HARRIS-PERRY: And let me get clear, I actually think "The Onion" has been
relatively responsible here.
GOLD: I do, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, "The Onion" offered a real apology, not an I`m sorry,
I`m sorry you were offended apology, right? A real apology.
And then also, I think this is epic. Their new headline, a new study finds
"The Onion" has never been more popular, more beloved, or more respected,
So, it was an epic very "Onion" way of you know -- a straight real kind of
apology and then when they`re recognizing this. So, this isn`t beating up
on "The Onion." It`s about beating up on the moment that even -- even,
Judy, the idea that there`s someone who just -- it is unacceptable to me
that one would be ignorant of the conversation that we`re having, right,
the considered that you simply don`t know it.
GLENN: I agree.
HARRIS-PERRY: Pia, I`ll give you the last word on this section.
GLENN: No, I agree. I actually will say, I don`t ever begrudge anyone in
their innocent ignorance. If it truly is not your experience and you
haven`t encountered that, that`s fine. But if I tell you my experience,
don`t tell me I`m wrong, don`t tell me I`m making it up or pulling it out
of thin air or that I`m just looking to cause a problem because you create
a world where my choices as a black woman are either to remain silent, or
to be the angry black woman.
Look, I`m just looking for trouble, and I`m just rolling my neck and I got
problems and got things to say about it. You know what? My neck can stay
still and this is very real, my dears. And --
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s so funny you say that. I was back and forth about
whether to do this because I have been angry black woman it up all in the
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I try to leave her my back pocket and not bring
her to TV, but this one was too much.
Stay there for me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because up next, I do have a question for my feminist
colleagues: where were you?
HARRIS-PERRY: The backlash from feminists on Twitter to "The Onion`s"
tweet was fast and furious, but it was not all united as "Clutch" magazine
writer Kirsten West Savali noted recently, saying, "The arc of white
feminist dialogue on social media in the wake of a barbaric misogynist
tweet emerged as tepid awareness -- maybe possibly there`s racism -- before
curving towards the indefensible position of the white male counterparts --
it`s just brilliant satire -- before ultimately coming to rest at
So, again, this wasn`t the first time we`ve seen. I think one of the ones
that broke my hearts was Rue from "Hunger Games" that when "Hunger Games"
was released and you heard folks tweet -- saw folks tweeting that they just
couldn`t feel the same way about Rue because she was black and why does Rue
have to be black, it kind of ruined the movie for me. Rue is black, I`m
not watching. Call me a racist but because Rue was black, I didn`t find
her death to be so sad.
I mean, it`s not just a one-off, right? This makes you feel like you`re
constantly being bombarded.
WILLIAMS: Yes, when you take away, the interesting thing for me is if
people could look at each other as human beings, right, or someone has died
or someone has been offended and I should feel empathy and support you, and
I think that`s what I think in taking this over to feminists as the larger
community. Someone has been offended, a daughter has been offended, a
young woman has been offended. Let`s all band together and protect her.
And let`s -- opposite of race and trying and help us understand what satire
Someone has been offended, I may not see it personally because I may have -
- I don`t have the historical context, I don`t have the race context, but
my sister is upset because someone has been offend so I`m going to support
you. We don`t get the same benefit in the feminist movement sometimes.
RICHARDS: Isn`t the tragedy of this whole event with Quvenzhane is that it
was not only this moment but it was imagining the rest of her life. I
mean, it`s not just that she`s going to carry this around with her. We all
know African-American women in this country face enormous obstacles in
So, this is -- in some ways to me, that was the sad part about this, is
that this is just the beginning of her life.
RICHARDS: And I`d love to say it`s going to be a lot different when she
gets older. It`s, obviously, worse that she`s a young -- this young
beautiful young woman, but it`s going to be tough all the way.
GLENN: People who have said that we are now the problem, that we would
just shut up about it she might never know. Really, they can have every
seat in the Ikea catalog because that is preposterous, OK?
The technology exists, screen shots exist. The Internet is forever. Look
at my gossip, the Internet stays with you, but I`m a grown woman.
GLENN: I deal with that. Don`t put that on a 9-year-old.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the thing is, what I love -- there`s ways to joke about
kids. There`s even ways to joke about kids and race that work. I love
Louis C.K. on Leno doing this joke about his own kids and race. It was
great. So, it`s worth taking a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOUIS C.K., COMEDIAN: My kids are good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LOUIS C.K.: I mean, they`re -- on paper, they are great. They`re two
little white girls in America.
I just want to say I`m not trying to say that if you`re white, you can`t
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
LOUIS C.K.: I`m just saying that if you`re black, you get to complain
(END VIDEO CLIP)
So it`s not that kids are totally off the board, one of my -- I will watch
Bernie Mac in "Kings of Comedy" and he does this little riff where he
pretends to have a fight with a 5-year-old. Also worth listening to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE MAC, COMEDIAN: She`s going to look at me like I`m short, you know?
No, no, no. Everybody in this room knows what that look means. That look
means you want to do something to me.
So I backed up. And I told her bust a move.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, so child abuse is not funny, but it`s not an actual
kid there, right? He`s riffing in this way that allows us to know what
satire is. So, it`s not like we`re sitting here setting rules. We`re just
trying to reflect sort of how ugly this was and how bad this was.
GLENN: Exactly. And hopefully the conversation will continue, because I`m
personally not trying to shut down "The Onion," that would be ridiculous.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes.
GLENN: But this is foolish. I know some of my comedy brothers are very
angry with me right now, and it`s a risk that I take being here. You know,
this is my job, but it`s enough.
These are our people. This is me, and it cannot continue, and I tell you
with all seriousness, if they make me choose between being comedy and a
black woman, there`s only one of those I can stop, and it would break my
heart -- it would break my heart but that`s the truth.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Joy.
WILLIAMS: Yes. The other point in seeing some of the defenders on Twitter
and other conversations is when is it OK to use the word, the "C" word,
right, and we see the same argument sometimes about the "N" word.
HARRIS-PERRY: With the "N" word.
WILLIAMS: You know, I always talk about, there`s amount of privilege in
that. Well, why can`t I say it? Why can`t say it when I feel like saying
it, why do you have to have to feel, as opposed to just evolving as a human
being and realizing, well, I will just not use it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, my question is always, OK, when is it that you wanted
to use it, right? When people asking, when can I use that? So, when was
that? Let me know and then I`ll let you know whether or not I thought that
was a good time to use the "N" word, right? Because maybe there are good
times to use it.
But I`m just going to go with 9-year-old Oscar nominee -- not the right
Thank you for all your fire out there, Pia Glenn in Los Angeles.
GLENN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And if they do make you choose, you can just be a black girl
at table any time they want to.
GLENN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And next, Congresswoman Gwen Moore joins us on how even
House Republicans sometimes have to give in to common sense.
HARRIS-PERRY: The renewal of the Violence Against Women Act has been more
difficult than it should have been. That`s because President Obama and the
Democrats sought to expand those covered by the bill while Republicans
resisted and offered more of their own version of a very narrow bill this
The Democrats won, as the more inclusive Senate version of VAWA passed the
House with a vote of 286 to 138, 87 Republicans joined 199 Democrats to
help send the reauthorization to the president`s desk for signature.
Why did the Republicans like House Minority Leader Eric Cantor who had been
so obstinate that they let the r reauthorization die in the last Congress -
- not only to relent but once again break the previously cherished Hastert
Rule about bringing a bill up to vote that they knew would pass on a
majority Democratic vote?
Maybe my next guest had something to do with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GWEN MOORE (D), WISCONSIN: As I think about the LGBT victims that are
not here, the native women who are not here, the immigrants who are not
included in this bill, I would say, as Sojourner Truth would say, ain`t
They deserve protections, and we talk about the constitutional rights.
Don`t women on tribal lands deserve the constitutional right of equal
protection and not to be raped and battered and beaten and dragged back on
to native lands because they know they can be raped with impunity? Ain`t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Ain`t they indeed.
That reference is to the famed former slave and abolitionist Sojourner
Truth and it came from her "Ain`t I Woman" speech a decade before the Civil
But as in that case, in this declaration, is the coming merely at the start
of an even longer fight.
Joining our conversation from Milwaukee, Congresswoman Gwen Moore of
It`s so nice always to see you, Representative.
MOORE: Oh, it`s great. I wish I could be there with you today.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, tell me, what do you think finally turned the tide of
MOORE: Let me tell you something, Melissa. I can tell you that this is a
real course in miracles, and it really demonstrates that our democracy,
however flawed, really does work. There was a lot of momentum behind that
leadership wall, Eric Cantor refusing to bring the bill to the floor.
The 87 Republicans there -- Tom Cole, the only Native American member of
Congress, a Republican, fighting hard to get it to the floor on their side.
The 1,300 groups, including law enforcement groups that supported the
Senate version and my identical version in the House of Representatives --
you just cannot stonewall a bill like this.
We had Native American tribes, something I had never even heard of,
crawling all over the Hill, and, of course, the -- the gap in the last
election, the gender gap really was very persuasive as well. And so, I
think that you saw a wall come down because of democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so on that, let me ask a little bit about the politics
of this because obviously they are looking at that gender gap. They are
looking at this sort of continuing discourse about a war on women but
Boehner has broken that sacred rule twice, brought votes to the floor that
he knew would pass but with only a minority of his party support.
Is he going to keep his job?
MOORE: Well, I can tell you that there are threats to his leadership about
the sequester that`s coming up if he were to break that rule. My own
senator from Wisconsin, Senator Johnson, was recently quoted as saying,
hey, he should fear for his job if he were to give in on that.
But I can tell you, it speaks volumes about the gerrymandering we`ve seen
around redistricting. I think that this is a flaw in their redistricting
plan because the greater -- the greater public will out there is to do
something about the sequester, is to do something about women`s rights,
LGBT rights, to keep our economy on an even keel, and I just think that the
leadership in the House of Representatives is mismatched with the general
HARRIS-PERRY: Jill, I want to ask you something about something the
congresswoman has brought up twice there, which is the sequester. On the
one hand, we`re so excited we finally passed VAWA. But now, we`re looking
at the sequester, which could in fact take all of these, what`s in law, but
make it impossible because there`s no money to do it.
FILIPOVIC: Right, exactly. There`s -- I believe it`s $20 million of the
Violence Against Women Act that will be held up by the sequester. If it
lasts for a full ten months, that`s 210,000 victims of violence that won`t
get the services they need.
FILIPOVIC: You know, this is an ongoing problem with the Republican
problem, hostility towards women. And if you look at the groups that the
House VAWA cut out of the bill, it reads like a who`s who list of the
groups the Republican Party has been increasingly hostile to, immigrants,
LBGT people, native women, you know, low-income women in particular who are
the main beneficiaries of VAWA.
You know, so, the Republican Party, the strategy of only targeting their
policies towards middle and upper class white straight men, you know, it
rallies the base, but as that group wanes in numbers and in power, it`s not
a good electoral strategy going forward. And I do look forward to seeing
them losing more elections.
GOLD: They definitely will. The way -- it is so -- I mean, it`s so
obvious -- I mean, Eric Cantor should be completely ashamed of himself and
all of these people that vote against LBGT rights should not be able to
have gay in their life. I`m not kidding, any songs by gay people, sorry,
you can`t listen to this. You can`t -- you can`t wear clothes that are
designed by gay people, movies with gay people.
So, do you understand that we are -- we`re part of your life -- and, you
know, look at Dick Cheney. I mean, no gay kids.
All these people, you know, God forbid, they have gay kids and all of a
HARRIS-PERRY: I love the idea of a gay-free lifestyle and I love it
because I hate the idea of a gay-free lifestyle.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congresswoman Moore, thank you so much for joining us and
thank you even more for that for bringing Sojourner Truth back to us and
asking that question, ain`t I woman?
Cecile and I have more to talk about with this panel when we come back,
because not only should we be celebrating VAWA, but we still need to be
building that wall because they are going after Planned Parenthood, again.
HARRIS-PERRY: If it`s a day of the week that ends with "Y", it seems
you`re likely to see Republicans in Congress targeting Planned Parenthood.
Last Monday, of course, was no different. Reports emerged that morning
indicating that dozens of Republicans in the House and Senate have asked
the GAO, the Government Accountability Office, to examine how Planned
Parenthood and other groups that provide abortion services are using
Keep in mind, taxpayer funding for abortion services is already against
federal law and has been for a while. But Republicans like Senator David
Vitter of my home state in Louisiana argue that there is no accounting for
how Planned Parenthood ensures that none of its federal funding goes
Cecile, how are we always the boogiemen at this point?
RICHARDS: Well, I think it speaks to the question we were talking about
earlier. I just think that we had this incredible election, where the
biggest gender gap ever in the history of Gallup polling overwhelming the
issues that determine a lot of folks vote were about the attitudes of, you
know, the Republican Party on women. And yet we`re seeing not only voting
Again, we didn`t even touch the service, but the fact that Mitch McConnell
voted against VAWA. Go down the list, all of their stars, Marco Rubio
going after Planned Parenthood and now, of course, they`re going after
birth control. This is what`s incredible to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that Mitch McConnell went after VAWA, and now, Ashley
Judd is going to go after Mitch McConnell. Maybe.
RICHARDS: And even another good point on Mr. McConnell is, you know, we
actually have birth control coverage in America -- thanks to President
Obama and women in the leadership in the House or the Senate. But there
are literally folks in Congress who are now fighting to keep that birth
control benefit from folks, including Mitch McConnell who signed an amicus
brief basically saying he thinks any employer should be able -- forget
religion, they should be able to deny women birth control access because
they don`t want to.
That is -- this is -- this is the 21st century. News flash: every woman in
America uses birth control. This is incredible.
WILLIAMS: You know what I find interesting is that they have this
investigative spirit about what women are doing with their bodies, but we
don`t have the same investigative spirit for how banks are screwing us.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Don`t you love it? There is an investigative
spirit here, right? But the whole idea that we need to have an accounting
of Planned Parenthood, Wall Street?
WILLIAMS: What you`re using the dollars on, how many times you`re looking
up there and doing something up there.
RICHARDS: And can I say, in serious answer to you -- we`re the most
regulated publicly funded organization in the country and we operate like
hospitals and everyone else.
But you`re right. It is absolutely an effort to try to get Planned
Parenthood. Not, as you said, it`s not about abortion. It`s to keep
Planned Parenthood from providing birth control, cancer screenings, well
women visits. And for a lot of women in this country, Planned Parenthood
is their only health care provider.
GOLD: Right. That`s what`s so infuriating, the lies that they put across
saying this is just an abortion drop-in, having -- as if we all enjoy it.
You know what? I`m not busy today. I`m going to have an abortion, you
HARRIS-PERRY: And the women aren`t fully considered thinkers --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- who are making decisions, tougher -- and even the fact
that most women who have abortions, the majority of them already have
children. It`s not like women aren`t making an informed decision.
GOLD: And not every woman is on birth control. I happen to be a lesbian.
RICHARDS: But I think that is -- I think the thing that Judy is saying is
so important because, look, we do more to provide birth control, help women
provide unintended pregnancy, but the very folks who are after us are
trying to keep us from being able to get birth as school. And literally,
it`s everything single thing that benefits women.
HARRIS-PERRY: I do however like the idea of lesbianism as a solution to
the war on women. Well, if I can`t have birth control --
RICHARDS: Come on over.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- it`s going to have to be how it`s going to be.
FILIPOVIC: Look, it`s not about abortion. It`s not about lowering the
abortion rate and not really about birth control.
It`s about this understanding that birth control, abortion rights, freedom
from violence -- these are all the things that allow women to succeed in
life and to make independent decisions.
FILIPOVIC: And, you know, it`s not that Republicans are pro-violence or
conservatives are pro-violence but a viewpoint that says women deserve full
freedom to break free from gender roles to do whatever we want to with our
lives and our bodies. You know, that`s in direct conflict with the
conservative view that says the husband is the head of the household.
Women are kind of secondary or servile.
So, that`s the view underlying all of this.
HARRIS-PERRY: The other part is that full freedom for women requires
public policy intervention, like it can`t be done with simply a libertarian
spirit of, OK, well, then go be free because there`s many decades of
enforced public policy inequality for women so generating that equal
playing field requires intervention on the part of females.
GOLD: And let`s not forget all of these men have mothers and many of them
GOLD: And the fact that this is the way they lead their lives, it is just
-- it is disgusting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right.
WILLIAMS: And in general the -- the general conversation that the GOP
which is supposed to be the party of we want people to pursue their
individual freedoms, to pursue their individual causes except women in
their individual bodies and what they are doing, who they are birthing, who
they are sleeping with, whether or not they are gay or straight, sort of
all of those things. So, to me it`s contradictory to your standing.
RICHARDS: Oh, totally.
WILLIAMS: And even in the Violence Against Women Act in the discussion, I
asked on Twitter, I asked Republicans in person and people that were
opposing the act, what is it about it that you`re against? You know,
because from the spin and I`m taking myself from the spin, it seems that
you`re just against women and you`re against poor people of color and
immigrants and LBGT.
Is it a budget issue maybe? Tell me something that`s the reason why and no
one could answer as to the reason why. So now you continue to feed into
that you are against people individually living their lives.
GOLD: But it`s their philosophy that it`s an entitlement. We all want
entitlements, not human rights.
HARRIS-PERRY: All those free things.
GOLD: Right. And would I say to the GOP, you want to be someone`s pastor,
you don`t want to be someone`s --
HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly. Thank you to Cecile Richards, L. Joy Williams,
Judy Gold and Jill Filipovic. There is so much, not only just -- so much
more, but first a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: I`m sorry, feel like I`m interrupting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Big happening behind you over there.
WITT: Oh, I know. This is going to be so much fun.
Let`s get with this. Former basketball star Dennis Rodman, he is back from
North Korea, and he`s carrying a message from North Korean leader to
President Obama. Rodman talked about that today.
One group has put New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on notice. Its
members are going to wage a big fight against a very popular incumbent
Plus, one former government official that`s a Republican is taking on her
party over taxes and fighting for the middle class. She makes a very
And we`re going to take you to Selma, Alabama. That is where thousands are
commemorating the historic march by civil rights leaders in 1965 from Selma
to Montgomery. It`s been 48 years.
Melissa, back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much, Alex.
And up next, do not miss this, because you think you have been seeing a
thing called the "Harlem Shake". It is not the "Harlem Shake". Turn off
your YouTube because we are bringing the real "Harlem Shake" to nerd land.
Do not miss this. It`s happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I wasn`t going to say anything about the mislabeled so-
called "Harlem Shake" dance craze. Really, I wasn`t.
But look, the international viral video madness that is populating Facebook
and fill-in segments of the morning shows is fascinating. But it is not --
I repeat not -- the "Harlem Shake".
To be clear, I`m not hating. Feel free to don cartoon mask and hurl, jerk
and toss yourself about to any old beat you want, even if you`re the only
one who can hear it. Just don`t call it to the "Harlem Shake". The
"Harlem Shake" has a history and a trajectory imbedded in the authentic
lived urban experience. It has been popular in New York since at least the
And for everyone not living under a rock, P. Diddy brought the "Harlem
Shake" to popular culture two decades ago. But in truth, you have not seen
the "Harlem Shake" unless you have seen kids on a New York subway
performing the intricate, fast paced and on beat moves while maintaining
balance on a moving train.
Now, this is about more than proper designation of a popular dance. It`s
about cultural appropriation. When communities create original art, they
have a right to some creative control over its definition. If you enter a
ballroom dancing competition, you`d better not cha-cha during the waltz.
Creative interpretation is expected to respect certain boundaries. That`s
what conveys the respect. And the wholesale application of the term
"Harlem Shake" to flash mob boogie downs that are most definitely not the
Harlem Shake, let`s say that`s problematic.
This is especially true within the long history of voyeurism and
appropriation of Harlem`s artistic innovations. Harlem has given birth to
some of America`s most distinctive and original art, music and literature.
Just as surely as Harlem has innovated, it has been invaded by those who
come to Harlem with little sense of history or social context and no desire
for political or economic solidarity.
Think of the original Cotton Club of the 1920s. There it sat on 142nd and
Lenox. It was home to Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Bessie
Smith, Ella Fitzgerald. But only white patrons were allowed. No member of
the community could sit and enjoy the music that the community itself
And the wound of that cultural theft is still fresh. And the new shake
craze must be understood in that context.
Just check out these residents of Harlem responding to the so-called new
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it`s not the "Harlem Shake", like, at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not the shake. Oh, no good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s not it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not what the "Harlem Shake" is at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So I`m asking members of the media to cease-and-desist in
describing this as the "Harlem Shake". I`m going to show you what you can
call the "Harlem Shake".
As we leave you until next week, let me introduce Harlem`s finest. The
true performers of the "Harlem Shake". The Crazy Boys and the Harlem
Shakers. Take it away.
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