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All In With Chris Hayes, Thursdayy, April 4th, 2013

Read the transcript from the Thursday show

April 4, 2013
Guests: Tsedeye Gebreselassie, Joseph Barrera, Dorian Warren, Tabitha
Verges, Andrew Moesel, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Marisa Guthrie, David Edelstein,
Jay Smooth, James Lipton

CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Roger Ebert died today at the age of 70. And
anyone who cares about movies or great writing or liberal politics or just
basic, humanism and generosity of spirit and decency is suffering a loss.
We`re going to discuss his life and legacy later in the show.

But, first tonight, very big news that you may have missed. Signs
today of a new front opening up in the battle being fought by some of this
country`s lowest paid workers. Hundreds of fast-food workers went on
strike in New York City, many of them walking out of their jobs to
participate in the strike, demanding higher wages and in some cases, the
right to unionize.

Workers from 60 restaurants join the strike and Burger King confirmed
to "Bloomberg News": that one of its Brooklyn location was forced to open
its doors late because of the strike.

Today`s strike follows an earlier strike back in November, about twice
as many workers participated this time around.

Now, you might look at this and say, oh, that`s a rally, or, you know,
400 people. No big deal.

Let me tell you why this is remarkable. I want you to think about
this for a second. Put yourself in the shoes of someone, if you are not in
those shoes already, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is making
minimum wage.

For example, Gregory Reynoso (ph), who participated in the strike and
spoke to "The New York Times." He is a driver for Domino`s Pizza in
Brooklyn. He has a 3-year-old daughter to support and he makes $7.25 an

He tells to "New York Times" it is not possible to support a family on
$7.25 an hour. We are just surviving, he says.

Life in New York City at $7.25 an hour is life spent bailing out a
boat with a hole that keeps getting bigger. You cannot make it work. You
cannot make the math work.

No amount of hard work makes $7.25 an hour add up to a livable wage.
No amount of determination or stoic nobility makes the math work. The math
does not work at $7.25 an hour.

If you make $7.25 an hour, you will be poor and you will be in debt.

Now, the math works at the fast food restaurants. In fact, here`s
what the math looks like. For example, Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell,
KFC and Pizza Hut, reported $1.3 billion in net income in 2011. McDonald`s
net income rose by 11 percent last quarter, to more than $1.38 billion.
Burger King`s quarterly profit nearly doubled in the last quarter to $48.6

But if I were in a situation of a minimum wage fast food worker, I
would be terrified, above all else, of losing that job. Because if the
math doesn`t work at $7.25 an hour, it really doesn`t work at zero dollars
an hour.

And for that reason, McDonald`s and Burger King and Taco Bell and
Domino`s can basically do whatever they want, because if Gregory Reynoso
decides he`s had enough of being ground to the bone for poverty level
wages, someone down the street who doesn`t have a job at all will step in
and take it.

And so, on this day, to find 400 people, 400 people each fighting that
individual daily battle who are nonetheless willing to cross the threshold
of risk to invite disaster into lives that cannot afford disaster, by
choosing to make a symbolic strike at their employer with no legal recourse
for protection, it`s really something of a miracle.

All successful social movements are built and all social progress is
built out of multitudes of tiny miracles just like the one we saw today in
New York City. A single person and accretion of people, a union of
thousands or millions who decide against the odds, against great risk, with
no protection to do something courageous, to speak up for their dignity, to
proclaim themselves human.

And that is what the striking fast food workers did today. That was
the message of the signs they carried, `I am a man, I am a woman." And
this sign should ring a bell, because it`s a sign we have seen at a major
labor strike before, at this labor strike in the city of Memphis in 1968,
these sanitation workers were being paid that many of them, even working
full time, needed welfare just to feed their families. Their jobs were not
just astonishingly low wage, they were also incredibly dangerous.

The strike got started after two workers were killed, crushed in a
sanitation truck`s compactor.

Supporting that strike was what Martin Luther King Jr. was doing in
Memphis in 1968 when he was assassinated 45 years ago today. He was there
to support those sanitation workers in their strike and in their struggle.


MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ICON: We are saying that we are
determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying -- we
are saying that we are God`s children. And we are God`s children, we don`t
have to live like we are forced to live.


HAYES: That strike ended not long after Dr. King assassinated. The
city agreed to raise wages and to recognize the sanitation workers union.
Today, full time sanitation workers are mostly unionized. About 90 percent
of them are represented by AFSCME. The union tells us they make an average
salary around $18 an hour. But they are still struggling with fair pay and
benefits with two double digit hikes to their health care premiums.

So, the struggle has certainly not ended. But you have to wonder in
45 years, will we look back at today, at this unlikely strike by fast food
workers in New York City, as the starting point of a struggle that will not
end but that could lead to a more decent wage and dignity of work for these
workers and for the millions of other people who serve and cook food for a
living in this country.

Joining me at the table, Tsedeye Gebreselassie, attorney with the
National Employment Law Project, Joseph Barrera, a striking Taco Bell
employee; Dorian Warren, political science professor at Columbia
University, and Tabitha Verges, a Burger King employee, also on strike.

It`s really wonderful to have all of you all here.


HAYES: Joseph, I`ll start with you. Just to ask, what is it about
the working conditions at the KFC that you are at, I think, right? What is
it about the working conditions there that prompted you to go out on strike
today despite the risks you might be taking?

that just the pay, it doesn`t allow me to live day -by-day with the basic
necessities is enough -- you know, for me to be outraged enough to do
something about it.

I guess I have to tell you a little bit of life to really I guess tell
you what it`s like. I`m not able to maybe always buy the food that I need,
my have to skip meals, choose metro card and whether I have to work just to
save a couple dollars. I haven`t bought clothes in a couple of years. I
have been able to afford a jacket. It`s ripped. It`s only jacket I have.
And it was only because it was handed down to me from a friend before he
moved away to Vegas. You know, if it wasn`t for that, you know, that`s
another story I have to live through, you know?

HAYES: You`ve been working in the food industry since you were 15
years old, more and less, and the wages have not gone up much very much.

BARRERA: No, I believe when I first started 15 (ph), at Taco Bell, I
was making $7.15 an hour and I`m only making 10 cents more that`s what six,
seven years later. I`m 23 now. So, nothing`s changed.

HAYES: That`s really incredible.

Tabitha, why did you decide to go on strike today?

strike today because I`m tired. I`m tired of being taken advantage of.
I`m tired of working hard, doing a three or four-person job when there
should be other employees there doing the job with us. I actually went out
on strike today for $15 an hour, to create a union without any intimidation
from any manager or any other co-worker.

HAYES: Are you worried object intimidation?

VERGES: I`m not. Not at all. Not anymore. I`m fed up. I`m so fed

It`s not right for us to be, you know, busting our hump everyday
making $7.25 an hour. I myself make $120 a week. I have to provide myself
with food, clothes, a roof over my head. My rent is over $700 a month.
I`m backed up on my bills. I have to pay Con Edison.

I don`t have enough to even survive for the basic necessities in my

HAYES: And you`re working full time?

VERGES: And I`m working full time. It`s not right and it`s unfair.

HAYES: How did this strike come about today? What made this happen
in the last -- in the last little period of time?

workers` backs have been up against the wall for decades now. We have a
minimum wage every year falling further and further behind in terms of what
you actually need to survive.

You have this explosion in low wage job growth, right, because a lot
of the good paying jobs we used to have, have gone and what`s taken their
place are jobs in low end service sector industry. I mean, a quarter of
workers work in jobs that pay less than $10 an hour. That is stunning.

So, in the absence of government policy raising wages. We have a
campaign for raising minimum wage but not happening as fast as it should,
workers are taking direct steps in their workplaces to raise this issue and
improve working conditions.

HAYES: Those direct steps, Dorian, you`re a scholar of labor. You`ve
written about labor history. I mean, this chart is an important chart to
understand everything about the way American political economy works. It`s
work stoppages involving a thousand or more workers and lasting at least
one shift over time.

And basically that -- what you`re looking at right there is the
evaporation of the strike as a tool and the evaporation of the strike is
the evaporation of worker power fundamentally.

DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: That`s right. If we go back to
1968, 45 years ago, the average number of strikes -- the number of strikes
was roughly 400. Last year, there were about 20 major strikes from a low
of five in 2009. So, the strike level has been eviscerated with politics
starting with the Reagan administration when President Reagan famously
fired air traffic controllers and continued to decline, and with it the
power of workers to change their conditions at work, whether it`s
increasing wages or stopping hazardous conditions at the workplace, the
strike weapon is no longer on the side of workers, on the side of

HAYES: Tabitha, how did you find out about the strike? What made you
think to yourself, I want to do that?

VERGES: Well, it actually was about, approximately, about a month
ago, a month and a half ago when I heard about the strike.

HAYES: The first one.

VERGES: The first strike that happened in November. I was kind of
upset that I missed that one. So, when I heard there was another one, I
was all for it.

I was enthusiastic about it, positive about it. I wanted to go out
there and fight for my rights and my respect for hourly wages. You know --

HAYES: How does it feel today to be out on strike?

VERGES: It felt great. Honestly, it felt great to be out on strike
out there today. To fight for, you know, our $15 an hour, to build a

To fight for -- not just for me but all my other co-workers that don`t
have a voice, I have to be the voice for them, you know, because they do
have families that they have to support. I`m single. I`m, you know, on my

So, I can see that, you know, if they can`t do it, they need somebody
else to help back them up and be that voice for them. So, I was really
motivated today especially on the anniversary of Martin Luther King that
died 45 years ago today to go out and be on strike like they were when the
sanitation workers died. So --

HAYES: Did you talk to your fellow workers about the strike and
possibility of retaliation, I mean, about getting fired the day you come

BARRERA: Oh, yes. I think it was challenge just getting through to
them there really is nothing to fear. If we do it the right way, that
their jobs are secure. I guess the most they will expect when they come
back to work is an angry look and bad attitude.

But I think that if it wasn`t for me, I don`t think my -- I guess my
co-workers would have gotten on board. I basically got the majority of my
store to strike, as because me being a supervisor, I know my workers. I
know them in and out. They`re basically my friends. So, I can see when
they`re afraid, I can see when they`re feeling oppressed, I can see when
they`re not happy at work.

So, basically, that motivated no stand up for them, you know what,
enough is enough. I`m not doing this just for myself but the greater good
of everybody, millions of workers across New York City that work in the
fast food industry. And I think that if things don`t change, millions of
people are stuck in poverty, honestly. And that`s not right, you know?

We work hard and I think that we have the right, as any other human
being, to be self-sufficient, independent and to be able to be proud of the
work you do, instead of going home and feeling worthless because the seven
days you just put in barely gives you enough to survive the next three

VERGES: With metro cards going up, with the taxi going up, you go to
the store now a 99 cent bag of chips is $1.49, you know? So, everything is
going up and balances out. Minimum wage going up to $8.75, that`s what
they`re talking about now, right?

HAYES: Here in New York state, they`re passing a minimum wage law.
That`s --

BARRERA: It`s taking too long.

HAYES: That`s treading water.

VERGES: For one, it`s taking too long, it should have been done years


VERGES: Two, it`s not enough in the state of New York, especially
living on Manhattan. I live in Broadway, in the midtown Manhattan.


VERGES: It`s not enough, paying all that money, working for $7.25,
$120 a week, you know?

GEBRESELASSIE: You know, in 1968, the year of the sanitation strike,
the minimum wage was $1.60. And if you translate that to today`s dollars,
it`s almost $11 an hour. It`s kind of amazing to think we are far behind
where we were 45 years ago.

HAYES: I want -- I want to play some more sound of the Dr. Martin
Luther King at the sanitation worker strike and invite a representative
from the restaurant industry of New York state to the table.

Tabitha, great to have you here. Thanks for coming in.

VERGES: Thank you, sir.

HAYES: Right after this break.



KING: You are reminding not only Memphis, but you are reminding the
nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and
receive starvation wages.


HAYES: Joining the conversation is Andrew Moesel, spokespersons for
the New York State Restaurant Association. He`s a registered lobbyist with
Sheinkopf Ltd. We spoke with him before.

Andrew, I really, really appreciate you coming here.

having me.

HAYES: Look, the restaurant industry has a lot of jobs and
particularly in New York, and those jobs end to be low wage jobs,
particularly at the level that Joseph is working. And I guess, you know,
obviously, you`re not going to speak about the specific labor dynamics and
specific firms in the restaurant association. But, broadly, like, how do
you think about how those wages should be set, right? How much is fair or
is fairness not part of the equation? Is it simply whatever the law or
market bears?

MOESEL: Well, the one thing I want to address before you go into that

HAYES: Sure.

MOESEL: -- is that it`s easy to sit on a panel like this and think
that every single job in the restaurant industry is a low wage job or a
federally mandated minimum wage job. The fact is that`s actually not close
to the case. Only about 5 percent of the jobs, even in the fast food
industry, are federally mandated minimum wage jobs. And 80 percent of the
people who own fast food companies and other restaurants actually started
out as entry level workers and went on to become incredibly successful.

HAYES: Right.

MOESEL: So, the restaurant industry is a launching pad. And, yes,
there are some low wage jobs, entry level jobs for young people and others,
but it actually creates an opportunity for people to go on and live the
American dream and actually get a piece of a better life that we all want
for people.

HAYES: Do you feel like that`s the case in your workplace?

BARRERA: Maybe for other people. But, specifically in my location, I
don`t think there`s any room for advancement. I really think it`s like a

GEBRESELASSIE: You know, the median wage for a fast food worker in
New York City is $8.70 an hour. And nationally, it`s $8.79 an hour. So,
we`re talking about jobs that pay under $10 an hour. That`s the median
wage of a fast food worker in New York City. The vast majority of these
workers are adults, the median age for a fast food worker is 28 years, for
a woman, it`s 32 years old.

These are not the types of entry level training wage jobs that I think
they`re sometimes characterized as, than the types of jobs sometimes people
believe they are. They actually are jobs more and more workers in this
country are going to spend their careers in and jobs that pay very low
wages by and large.

HAYES: We are seeing an expansion of -- we`re seeing an expansion of
low wage work broadly, right, in the American economy. It`s the story in
many ways of the recovery from the great recession.

The majority of these jobs created. So, higher wage jobs cut 19
percent of recession jobs losses and 20 percent of recovery growth. Mid-
wage jobs constitutes 60 percent of jobs lost and only 22 percent of those

Low wage jobs consisted of 21 percent of recession losses but 58
percent recovery, right?

So, we are moving towards a more low wage economy in this period after
the great recession.

WARREN: We are moving towards a low wage economy. We are already

And, in fact, I think it`s disgraceful that 45 years after Dr. King
started a poor people`s campaign supporting striking sanitation workers in
Memphis we actually have more low wage jobs in the percentage of our
economy today than we did in 1968.

So, it`s great that Andrew thinks this is an entry level job but the
reality is that too many American workers are in low wage jobs and it comes
at a cost to all of us, because as taxpayers we pay the costs. We`re
basically subsidizing employers.


WARREN: Because w you work full time at a low wage of $7.25, you
often have to get food stamps. You often have to go on public assistance.

HAYES: OK. But if you`re -- if you are Yum Brands, right, you have
shareholders. Your job is to deliver profits to those shareholders. You
have labor costs. Those labor costs are probably quite large on you
balance sheet.

The equation there, Andrew, seems like you minimize labor costs to the
extent you can, and you maximize profits and make your quarterly targets.

MOESEL: It`s true. Eighty percent of restaurants are small
businesses. And it`s easy to even look at Yum Brands and McDonald`s and
say those are huge corporations, they make huge profits. But the fact is
that most of those are actually own by franchisees, who are in charge of
setting labor costs and in charge of paying the bills, and they kick it up
to McDonald`s who makes larger profits.

But they`re in a different kind of business. They`re selling products
to the franchisees.

And as you mention in your opening statement --

HAYES: Let me just mention, the strike today was directed at large
firms, just so that we`re clear about where the direction of the strike.

MOESEL: It`s true that there is growth in low wage jobs. But the
fact is those are jobs. And one of the things that`s fascinating about the
restaurant industries, it`s one of the industries that we can`t outsource.

HAYES: That`s why there`s been growth.

MOESEL: That`s why there`s been growth here. And we`re at an
interesting cycle in the economy now. And after every recession, it`s true
that some of the bounce back comes at low wage jobs. But we hope as the
business climate gets better for small business people and others, that
those jobs will come up and wages will grow.

WARREN: I just want to address the franchisee argument, because it
doesn`t pass the smell test, right? When you go to any McDonald`s in this
country, you order a Big Mac, fries and a shake, it looks exactly the same.
Even on that, they`re exactly the same in every franchisee. So, you mean
to tell me McDonald`s --

MOESEL: They`re buying a business. They`re buying a business model
and the advertising and the (INAUDIBLE) business.

WARREN: McDonald`s controls the Big Mac, it controls fries, but all
of a sudden, they can`t control wages. That`s ridiculous in the face of

GEBRESELASSIE: And not only can McDonald`s not control wages, it can
pay higher wage wages. So, it boasted $5.5 billion in profits last year,
the top three low wage employers, Wal-Mart, McDonalds and Yum Brands all
posted large profits and they can afford.

HAYES: Let me say this as a final in Andrews -- not only Andrews
personally, who I do like. In the restaurant industry`s defense, right?
It`s not their job to raise wages for any other reason than being forced to
wage them (ph), right? I mean, in some ways, that`s the point of striking,
that`s the point of minimum wage. They`re not going to do it because we
sit here on cable news, right? They`re going to do it when they have to do

Andrew Moesel of the New York Restaurant Association, Dorian Warren of
Columbia University, Tsedeye Gebreselassie of NL -- the National Employment
Law Project, and Joseph Barrera, a striking Taco Bell employee -- really
awesome to have you here. Thank you very much.


HAYES: His voice the strongest when he never spoke a word, even after
he completely lost the ability to speak. How Roger Ebert changed the
culture. It`s coming up.


HAYES: We talk tonight about the brave and difficult, even desperate
choices of hundreds of low wage workers with no labor protections, making
minimum wage facing debts and uncertainty, making the decision to walk out
from their jobs for one day to protest their low wages, knowing full well
the law doesn`t protect them, they could fired and find themselves the very
next day with the same expenses and no income. These are people with very
little power in our society. They`ve decided to empower themselves by
using the one tool at their disposal, the power to refuse, to say no, to
walk out.

They are not the only ones. There is another strike happening as I
speak. It features a group of people with far, far less power than the
minimum workers we just spoke with. The strike is far away from the
cameras and there are no signs. It`s a strike of the most powerless, a
strike of those who have quite literally no recourse under the law, who
have no autonomy except their own bodies.

I`m speaking of the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay. At minimum, 40
men who are using the only power, they have, the power to control what goes
into their bodies to make their voices heard. Eleven of whom are being
robbed of even this and even force fed through their noses.

And let me be clear, while the Pentagon says there are 40 men on
hunger strike, the lawyers we spoke to today said that number in reality is
much higher. The strike appears to be spreading and the lawyers who
represent the detainees and the few reporters who cover the facility sense
we are hurtling towards some kind of breaking point.

Now, the 76 detainees left to Guantanamo, over half of them have
already been cleared for release, meaning the government does not have a
case against them, and does not think they pose a threat to the United
States. And yet they languish at the prison at Guantanamo. They are there
to rot thousands of miles away from their families and their home while the
United States government tells the world they should be free.

And so, these men, after a decade of imprisonment, have resorted to
starving themselves like they have in 2005 and 2006 and almost every year

Yasin Qassem Muhammad Ismail, a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo, told
his lawyer, David Remes, in a letter on March 11th, "In general, everything
is going toward the worst. I believe I`m going to die in this hunger
strike and this might be my last letter or today is probably my last day in
this world."

Barack Obama recognized as a stain on the national honor, a moral
abomination, an insult to our laws, and unsustainable policy in practical


rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness for allies to
work with us fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By
any measure the cost of keeping it open far exceed the complication of
closing it. I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legal
framework for the remaining of Guantanamo detainees cannot be transferred.


HAYES: He did to his great credit try to close the facility only to
be met by the most raven Republicans and then fellow Democratic members of
Congress. But in the face of that opposition, he and the Democrats and
frankly, all of us as citizens have fallen into accepting complacency.

Four years after Barack Obama signed his ill-fated executive order to
close the prison. It remains fully open and operational more than it was
when he took office. It is after all very easy not to think about 166 men
locked up thousands of miles away.

But the status quo in Guantanamo Bay where we keep people locked up
for no reason other than we don`t know what to do with them, that cannot go
on and yet it does. While, there are genuinely hard questions on
Guantanamo and what to do with some of the detainees, there are some easy
ones, too.

The dozens of men who have been cleared by the United States
government for release should be released immediately, should be paid
restitution and offered legal residence in the United States.

If that sounds radical and I know it does or outside the boundaries of
political feasibility. I would say this, shoving tubes up the noses of men
a few times a day to force them to stay alive in our prisons even though we
readily admit we have no reason to do so, is pretty damn radical, too.
We`ll be right back with click three.


HAYES: In an update tonight on a story we`ve been reporting on Exxon is
responding to criticism over its handling of the Tar Sand`s crude spill in
Mayflower, Arkansas and as points out, the company is
getting defensive. Exxon tweeted this afternoon, "Exxon Mobil will pay for
cleanup costs in Mayflower, Arkansas. Allegations to the contrary are not

In the meantime, an no-fly zone has been in place over the spill since
Monday and it will remain in place until further notice. The FAA`s own web
site noted an exception earlier, only relief aircraft operations under the
direction of Tom Surhoff are allowed.

Tom Surhoff happens to work for Exxon. So any media outlets or
independent observers will have to ask Exxon`s permission for an overhead
view of the spill caused by Exxon. But as the "Arkansas Democrat Gazette"
reports an FAA spokesperson said officials were amending the restriction to
allow news media aircraft. We will continue to monitor this story as it

But now I want to share the three awesomest things on internet today.
First, a reminder, the year is 2013. Barack Obama is a few months into his
second term as president of the United States. The country is on its way
to a decidedly mixed race future.

And yet students in Wilcox County High School Georgia are attending
segregated prom. White students attend one prom for white students. Black
students attend a different prom for black students.

The segregated proms aren`t sponsored by the school, but rather
organized by the parents. Now several teens are banding together to change
that. They created a Facebook page to raise money for one integrated prom.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have some people that still have a past
state of mind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It embarrasses to say I`m part of the county
that does this.


HAYES: Hot tip to our Twitter fan Aaron Bentley who told us you
should cover these kids and hats off to the students for having the guts to
upset an odious tradition, which is really no small thing when you are a
teenager, nice work.

The second awesomest thing on the internet today, some truly great
reporting from Spencer Ackerman who was on the program last night on his
"Danger Room" blog for "Wired" magazine. Ackerman got an exclusive
interview with an American-born Jihadi Omar Hamani.

Hamani agreed to speak from Ackerman through direct messages on
Twitter, 21st Century and told him, I believe in attacking U.S. interests
everywhere, no second thoughts and no turning back.

Ackerman writes sentences like that make it likely that Hamani will be
the next American killed in the U.S. drone strike. Incredible, fascinating
stuff, and a compounding character study, a terrific read worth checking

And the third awesomest thing on the internet today, there`s been an
online fire storm brewing over the past few days on the subject of
marriage. (Inaudible) writing for Slate says 20 something should take the
plunge and follow her lead and get married young.

Amanda Marcot took issue without advice and offered us some data
suggesting it`s best to wait. Now Dilan Matthews is sifting through the
debate and he is armed with charts. Matthew examines data from the
National Marriage Project in its latest report "Knot Yet," makes a pretty
convincing case that waiting to get hitched causes women`s earnings to go

Of course, money is not happiness and here the data gets interestingly
complicated. The report finds that self-reported happiness with one`s
marriage is highest for those who marry in their mid 20s compared to those
who do it in their late teens or early 20s or who wait until they are late
20s or early 30s?

Should you wait to say I do? That is absolutely not clear cut, but as
Matthew points out it depends a lot on what you want out of marriage, a
career and life in general and those preference sure as heck are not fixed.

But there are a lot of charts to sift through while contemplating your
life choices. You can find all the links for tonight`s Click 3 on our web
site, and on our Facebook page, We`ll
be right back.


HAYES: The man who nearly single-handedly refashioned television movie
criticism into something engaging and addictive, a celebration of both art
and critique, Roger Ebert died today at the age of 70.

I just mentioned caveat about his effect on television inserted
because he was, of course, best known as part of a team, Siskel and Ebert.
Here`s part of their review of 1976`s epic takedown and prophecy broadcast
journalism network.


GENE SISKEL: Don`t get the idea that this picture is good simply
because it puts TV down, it`s the way it puts it down with fine
performances and some very funny and foulmouthed writing.

ROGER EBERT: Gene, I agree and disagree. I agree in the first place
it`s my favorite Christmas movie. I also think rocky comes in very close
second. I disagree it`s overwritten, one of the nice things about the
movies that it`s written.


HAYES: Amazing. For more than two decades first locally and then
with PBS and then syndicated. The duo offered their instantly infamous
celebrated and copied thumbs up and thumbs down. A gimmick always was
preceded by intelligent on camera reviews and stand your ground verbal
sparring, all with an evident passion and deep appreciation for the art.

The extravagance of movie making along with a respect for each other
akin to that of long lost brothers. Gene Siskel died in 1999 and later
years after illness caused to lose his ability to speak. Roger Ebert`s
voice resonated more thoroughly than ever as he trudged with diligence and
joy along the path of his longer term profession.

The one that predated and gracefully followed that of his TV fame as a
Pulitzer Prize winning movie critic for the "Chicago Times" for 46 years,
anniversary he celebrated one day ago.

As Rick Hogan of the "Chicago Tribune" today wrote, prolific almost to
the point of disbelief, the weakened section of the "Sun Times" often
featured as many as nine reviews on Sundays.

When presented with the goods, Ebert was more than eager to cheer the
artist and art as he does here in the 1986 film, "Hannah and Her Sisters."


EBERT: One of the things that he said a few years ago that bothers me
ever since, Woody Allen said there isn`t a day of his life he doesn`t think
about suicide. This film seems to be an answer to that obsession in which
he say, so we only go around once. So we go around once, let`s enjoy life
while we can.


HAYES: Joining me at the table is film critic, Lisa Schwarzbaum,
guest hosted with Roger Ebert and radio host and producer of "Color Lines"
Jay Smooth, "New York" magazine film critic, David Edelstein and Marisa
Guthrie of the "Hollywood Reporter."

Great to have you here, very sad day, but a wonderful opportunity to
look back over this incredible body of work, what makes a good movie critic
and why was Ebert a good movie critic?


HAYES: Yes, sure.

SCHWARZBAUM: OK, the reason he was a great movie critic was because
he went in wanting to see the movie as it was. He wanted to love the
movie. He had joy in what he wrote about. He had an open mind about what
he wrote about. He took movies at their worth, whether they were big or
small, he looked at them all ready to be astounded.

HAYES: You tweeted today or posted on Facebook, his review of "Do The
Right Thing," which I think is a perfect example of this. Because I was
going back and reading the reactions to "Do The Right Thing," which were
incredible from white critics that said it will incite racial violence.

This is Ebert`s review, one American critic was so angry she chased me
to the exit to informed me the film was call for racial violence. I
thought not. I thought it was a call to empathy, which of all human
qualities is the one that passed entry seem to need.

And then today Spike Lee tweeted I miss my dear friend Roger Ebert.
Roger was one of the first major movie critics to support my joints
especially Malcolm X and "Do the Right Thing." Something about also having
a kind of social vision that informs the work that you do.

Roger the mayor of movie critic. He was a public figure in many ways. You
know, most critics as Lisa will attest are lone twisted figures. Roger
from the beginning saw his job almost akin to being a politician or at
least being ambassador reaching out to the audience saying I`m no different
from you. Let`s think through this together. He also projected a kind of
anti-elite even though he was lucid.

HAYES: Kind of former doctoral student at the University of Chicago.

EDELSTEIN: You know, he wanted to bring you in. He wanted to bring
as many people in as he could, even with difficult material.

JAY SMOOTH, CULTURAL COMMENTATOR: That was one of the things I valued
the most about him as a hip-hop critic the way that he was just as curious
and just as serious about so-called low art and so-called high art and help
to breakdown a lot of those arbitrary distinctions, which often carry a lot
of race baggage, class baggage and other sorts of baggage with them.

So I feel like he helped model a relationship with popular art and
carve out a critical landscape where something like hip-hop culture could
be treated with respect to the attention and respect it deserves.

HAYES: That`s a really fascinating point. I was also right about
"Anaconda" and tweeted me Roger Ebert`s really, really positive review.
Apparently, this is a critical darling, "Anaconda," which I did not know
about until today. He also loomed very large. I mean, what`s interesting
is someone like Roger Ebert goes from being a critic to being a massive
celebrity that looms very large in Hollywood itself.

MARISA GUTHRIE, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: It`s amazing how he straggled --
he survived the newspaper industry. He adapted to social media, blogging,
Facebook, Twitter. I mean, I looked at his Twitter feed today, he had over
30,000 tweets. I mean, he lost his voice, but found a voice in this insane
and archaic social media universe.

EDELSTEIN: A better voice. No slur on Roger to say he liked to be
the center of attention. When a lot of us were kind of left behind, Roger,
even without a voice, said, how can I stay at the center of the
conversation? How can I help set the parameters of the conversation?

How can I frame the conversation? He went in. He found this new
voice, this better voice, this brighter voice, this also more wide ranging
voice because he talked about politics. He talked about his own personal
life. It liberated something in him. It was not just entertaining but it
was inspiring.

SCHWARZBAUM: He also went into all kinds of media. He wasn`t saying,
film, it must be film or nothing or it must be print or nothing. He was
the first person I ever saw walking down the street at Sundance with a
digital camera. He was so excited with all of his toys.

SMOOTH: But he got in trouble with gamers.

SCHWARZBAUM: He was excited to use things. He loved the idea of
tweets and shaping things to the media, rather than say criticism has to be
only this way. He loved bringing in people and other voices, my far-flung
correspondent, what do you think?

SMOOTH: My favorite quote I`ve seen from him today, he said something
along the lines of two things any clear minded person should maintain is
being curious and being teachable. That`s a precious commodity for a
critic or public intellectual to strive to be teachable as much as they
strive to teach and I think that`s a big part of why he could thrive in the
two-way interaction online.

HAYES: That`s what I find remarkable reading through obituaries today
and testimonials from people was throughout his life, he just seemed like
someone who even though he`s very famous and well compensated, he wrote
back to an 11-year-old who wrote him letters saying I want to be a film

He argued with people. He brought himself down to the level to be
interlocutor. I love this clip of him at Sundance after an audience member
has asked a filmmaker who made a film about Asian-Americans. A white
audience member said why did you make it with such amoral depiction
depictions of your people?

And Roger Ebert gets up in the hallway, check this out.


EBERT: I find offensive and condescending about your statement,
nobody would say to a bunch of white filmmakers, how could you do this?
Yes, film has the right to be about these people and Asian-American
characters have the right to be whoever the hell they want to be. They do
not have to represent their people.


HAYES: Look how ruckus and involved he is. He`s not doing it from
the stage. He`s doing it to from the audience.

EDELSTEIN: We won`t remember necessarily as many individual things
that Roger has written. We will remember this political presence,
inclusive. I mean, he is like a politician in that scene. He wants to
engage people on that level.

GUTHRIE: He`s very well suited for Twitter, a bomb thrower.

HAYES: Marisa Guthrie of the Hollywood Reporter, thank you for being
here. We will be back with James Lipton who was corresponding with Roger
at the end of his life.



EBERT: One of the things I liked best about this movie was you had to
be smart to watch it. You had to think a little bit in order to figure out
everything that was going on. It didn`t pound you on the head.

SISKEL: Shake hands with yourself.

EBERT: I really want to congratulate myself for my intelligence and
I`m sure you feel good about yours, too.

SISKEL: I have it really easy and understood everything, more than
you did.


HAYES: The things I learned from Siskel and Ebert is that passive-
aggressiveness makes for very compelling television. We want to welcome
James Lipton into the conversation. He is, of course, the host of "Inside
the Actor Studio," on Bravo. It`s wonderful to have you here. I believe
you were corresponding with Roger the end of his life and you have a letter
you wanted to share.

to him and he had written to me. If you had occasion to see any episodes
of my series in the past few years, you may be aware how often and how
gratefully you`re quoted. I am not regretfully a film scholar and turn to
you, Roger.

I remember your calm clear stance on movies and the world around us
and the political implications of the work you`re asked to explore. You
might or might not be surprised how often I read you and exclaim yes.

Especially at times like this in my view, the barbarians are at the
gates and nice to know something who stands steadfastly a political
rectitude. Maybe I`m only reading my views into yours, but I like what I
read. If it`s all right with you, I`ll continue to rely on you.

HAYES: He had an amazing social conscience. You were with him on the
show at one point. How does that show work? Why does it work? I remember
one of my first memories of television is watching Siskel and Ebert and
getting upset that two people were arguing. Actually saying to my parents,
why do you watch two people argue? I don`t get it. I don`t like fights.

SCHWARZBAUM: That particular argument whether exaggerated for the
screen or not although they had their tensions, that was particular for the
two of them. When he started having guests on, looking for guests to come
in and fill in after Siskel, each was different and all he said was have

One thing you had to do before every show, you had to play patty cake
with him to have fun and get the energy up. The other thing you had to do
was have your thumb photographed. It was a gallery of everybody`s thumb.
Not a gallery of thumbs, yours and Rogers. He was delightful encouraging
you to say anything.

EDELSTEIN: We all loved Roger. We`re all saying wonderful things.
Let`s remember at the very beginning of the show, there were people who
thought these were a couple of chuckle heads and tuned in to see them
bicker and it seemed at times Roger would look at Gene and say, you are
about the dumbest guy I ever sat in my life.

And Gene would be prickly and would pull it back and sometimes cut it
off unceremoniously. That`s why, as we tuned in to laugh, we eventually
developed this respect. Wait a minute. These guys are having a discussion
about art on national TV and they`re bringing people into it.

HAYES: They care enough to get genuinely ticked off at each other,
which is a key. You`re sending a sub-textural cue to the viewer that it

LIPTON: May I ask a point, I am so inappropriately dressed for this

SMOOTH: We were going to let it go.

LIPTION: I`m not. We were in the edit room. I was in the edit room
all day with my 250th episode of "Inside the Actor`s studio." This is how
I dress in the edit room. It says arrested development because I was in it
and they sent it to me. I`m not advertising arrested development and wish
I were wearing a nice appropriate suit for Roger. Roger might be amused
and interested.

HAYES: You could be wearing a green turtleneck like he was in the
early clip. There`s something amazing about watching two people talk about
movies and talk about art and talk about things they care about that is so
compelling. And it`s so compelling I found myself today falling down a
total YouTube spiral in which I just watched. What did they say about
"Good Fellas" and "Aliens" and "Jurassic Park" and every one was just
incredibly gripping.

SMOOTH: They gave this generation a model of what it can be at its
best, the passionate back and forth might seem pointless as you say, but
really has enough mutual respect for each other and for the popular art
we`re discussing to give that art the honor.

HAYES: You know it was the internet before the internet. I think
that`s why he fit so well in the world of social media.

SCHWARZBAUM: Feedback whether from gene or from his readers.

EDELSTEIN: There`s a reason why I think people in my profession like
him so much. One of the difficulties we have with some critics not all,
present companies accepted, frequently, especially in film, a critic will
write about a movie and not know who did what. They don`t know the process
and often gift credit or blame to the director for something that is
clearly the actor`s job, or vice-versa. Roger was very good about this.

HAYES: I was reading today, the cinematographer did this and the
actor did this.

EDELSTEIN: He could separate one`s work from the other.

HAYES: A master of technique and technique is the most important
thing in a writer`s life. Lisa Schwarzbaum, Jay Smooth, David Edelstein
and James Lipton, thank you so much for being here for Roger Ebert.

That is all in for this evening. The "RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.


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