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All In With Chris Hayes, Monday, April 29th, 2013

Read the transcript from the Monday show

April 29, 2013

Guests: Tom Jensen, Leah Gunn Barrett, Karen Bass

CHRIS HAYES, HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. And
thank you for joining us.

There is a lot to talk about tonight, including the news that the
first male athlete in a major American professional support came out of the
closet today. A real milestone. We`ll talk to Dan Savage about that.

And six months after superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast, there
are more stunning reminders in the Midwest about the dangers of extreme
weather and new reports on just how much money it`s costing you.

Plus, the latest in the fight over fixing the sequester cuts.

All that, plus #click3, of course.

But first, there`s brand new data out today that has completely
altered how I understand the politics of guns and more broadly the
potential of the Obama electoral majority. It`s new polling from one of
the most accurate polling firms in the 2012 election cycle and it paints a
picture of the aftereffects of the gun safety battle that I seriously could
not believe when I first read it.

Before I get to that, though, here is the basic structure of the
politics on this issue up until right now.

All right. Everyone basically appreciates, there`s a relatively small,
very well-organized group of people who are incredibly intense about
opposing any and all regulation having anything at all to do with guns.
This small but intense group is made up of the gun industry, the NRA, and
for lack of a better word, let`s say gun enthusiasts.

And the main thing you need to remember any time you`re trying to wrap
your head around gun policy in this country is what you see in these two
charts. These are the key to understanding it all.

OK. One shows the number of guns that exist in this country going up.
While the other shows simultaneously the number of gun-owning households is
going down. What that means is more and more guns are being concentrated
in fewer and fewer hands. More people are not buying new guns. More gun
owners are buying more new guns.

And that smaller group of people is more intensely interested in
defending a zero regulation vision of gun rights. For a long time, that
smaller and smaller number of people with more and more guns have been able
to bully everybody else into going along with their vision of a largely
unregulated firearms marketplace.

But then there was the shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabrielle
Giffords and 19 others in Tucson, which left six of those victims dead,
including a 9-year-old girl. And then there was the mass shooting in
Aurora, Colorado, movie theater that killed 12 people and wounded 58

And then the straw that broke the camel`s back -- there was the
shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which
left 20 children and six adults dead.

The open question after that was, would the sheer horror of that event
and the images of these dead children shake up something about the
political status quo that had previously benefited the small and intense
and well-organized anti-gun regulation group?

When legislation expanding background checks crafted with NRA
consultation by a bipartisan coalition of senators went down to defeat
under the weight of a filibuster, it would not have been crazy, to conclude
at that point that the answer was sadly no. The politics on the issue were
set and a single tragedy or even a series of monstrous tragedies no matter
how awful would not fundamentally alter them.

And even though background checks were polling at 91 percent approval,
with 88 percent support among Republicans and 88 percent support among gun
owners, I, myself, was genuinely skeptical from the very beginning that
that polling meant anything at all. In fact, almost by definition,
something that polls at 90 percent is something that people don`t care much
about. I mean, it`s very easy to tell someone who calls you up on the
phone. Yes, sure, I support the idea of universal background checks.

The question is, a week later, or a month later or, heck, a year and a
half later, when you`re in the voting booth: are you going to be angry
enough that your member of Congress didn`t vote for background checks,
you`ll want to make them pay for it?

And on that question, the answer has seemed to be no. In fact,
polling after the big belly flop failure of the background check bill
seemed to bear that out. The Pew Research Center asked people how happy or
how disappointed they were about the failure of the background check bill.
And among the people who had strong feelings, more people described
themselves as very happy that the bill failed and as angry.

In other words, the politics that brought us our horrible gun policy
six months ago, a year ago and five years ago seem to be the same as the
politics we have now. And that is the reason this new polling out today
was so very surprising to me, because it presents a shockingly high
political price being paid at this moment by certain members of the Senate
who voted against universal background checks.

Senator Jeff Flake represents the state of Arizona where 70 percent of
voters support background checks. Senator Jeff Flake voted against
expanding background checks. And the folks at the Public Policy Polling
have found that 52 percent of Arizona voters say they`re now less likely to
support him in the future because of that vote.

Same goes for Republican Senator Rob Portman whose constituents in
Ohio support universal background checks by a 51-point margin.

And now, almost twice as many Ohio voters say they`re less likely to
support them in the future because of his vote against expanding background

Both of Alaska senators have seen net drop in their approval ratings
since their votes against the background check amendment. Mark Begich is
down net six points, and Lisa Murkowski is down net 16 points from their
February approval rating.

And Kelly Ayotte, the net drop is particular stark. Her approval
rating has dropped a net 15 points since the last time PPP checked back in
November. And 50 percent of New Hampshire voters and pulling out last week
almost pre-staging today`s results say her no vote on background checks
will make them less likely to support her in the future.

You can tell how serious these numbers are being taken because in the
case of Kelly Ayotte, the folks at the NRA, who are not let`s say,
politically naive, are worried enough they feel like they need to provide
her with political cover, firming up these radio ads defending her against
-- defending her against expanded background checks.


AD NARRATOR: Senator Kelly Ayotte is focused on meaningful bipartisan
solutions to our nation`s problems. That`s because Kelly Ayotte is not
just a senator, she`s also a mom who cares about protecting our kids. It`s
why Kelly had the courage to oppose misguided gun control laws that would
not have prevented Sandy Hook.


HAYES: And this remarkable and surprising polling relates to another
key bit of electoral analysis out today, which is that we now know that in
the last year`s presidential election, for the first time ever, black voter
turnout was higher than white voter turnout. A shift that gave the
president a margin of victory he needed in key swing states like Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and Colorado.

That is further evidence of the true significance of the Obama
coalition. It represents a genuine progressive majority in this country.
And when the Obama coalition is activated and invested on an issue they can
change political gravity. They can make things orbit in a different way
than they would have otherwise.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, under the president`s
leadership and the vice president`s leadership, under a sudden outpouring
of money, organization, effort, rhetorical leadership and passion, we`ve
seen the political gravity around the issue of gun safety move faster and
further than anybody would have guessed it could just a few months ago.

So, yes, that vote was a setback for gun safety proponents, a big one.
But the real story here is the politics that come after the vote. And the
president said as much himself on the day the background check bill went
down under a Senate filibuster.


pretty shameful day for Washington. This effort is not over. I want to
make it clear to the American people. We can still bring about meaningful
changes that reduce gun violence so long as the American people don`t give
up on it.


HAYES: That was the president`s message on the very day the
background check effort belly flopped in the Senate. The effort`s not
over, don`t give up.

And this weekend, Senator Joe Manchin, one of the main sponsors of the
measure, made it clear not only is he not giving up on the fort, he`s
incredibly confident about his prospects of getting the bill through the
Senate in the future.

What we know is the politics around this issue have changed in
incredibly important way. The question is, how can this new political
landscape be sustained?

Joining me tonight from North Carolina, Tom Jensen, director of Public
Policy Polling. And here at the table, Leah Gunn Barrett, executive
director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.

Thank you for being here.

Tom, I want to start with you. Were you surprised by these results?

TOM JENSEN, PUBLIC POLICY POLLING: I really wasn`t because what
you`re seeing on these bills is that Democrats and independents
overwhelmingly support them and even a majority of Republicans do. So,
what these senators who have voted against background checks have really
done is forget the Democrats and independents, they`ve even put themselves
to the right of most voters in the Republican Party.

And these states that we`re talking about are really competitive
states. Dean Heller won by one point last year. Jeff Flake won by three.
Portman in Ohio and Ayotte in New Hampshire in states where they won in a
midterm but it`s been going Democratic in presidential years.

These are folks who really have to present themselves as moderates in
order to be successful politically in their states. And this vote really
is not consistent with being moderate at all. It puts you to the right of
75 percent of your constituents.

HAYES: That to me is what I think is significant. I think I
underestimated -- there`s the policy indications and people do support
universal background checks. I don`t think that`s really controversial.
But the question is, how intensely do they care about that?

And one of the things I think happened in the wake of this vote was
that there was enough attention put on the vote and the names of people who
voted against it and the popularity of the measure itself that it said
something about that senator as in terms of their character. What kind of
senator they are, whether they`re just a craven kept coward who doesn`t do
what the majority of their constituents want because they`re scared of the
big bad NRA, or whether they have the guts to take on the NRA? And that
character issue seems to be resonating in a way that I think I didn`t think
the policy issue would.

checks are pretty low bar. It`s like we thought that would pass easy a few
months after Sandy Hook. So, what I think what the American people are
discovering is their representatives are more beholden and more loyal to an
industry association, the NRA which represents gun makers, than they are to
the constituents` health and safety.

And I think that makes a lot of people really angry.

HAYES: But that`s been true. I mean, so the question here is what is
changeable here at the calculus here? Was it the attention of the

Was it -- Tom, was it the president`s calling people out on the day it
failed which I think is in a really fascinating way captured everybody`s
attention and imagination? He didn`t let it go down to defeat without sort
of putting a lantern on it and saying look at what they just did. Do you
think that`s part of what`s playing a role here?

JENSEN: I think the president`s really important. But I also think
that a lot of politicians overestimate the power of the NRA. We`ve
consistently found in our national polling that voters by about a 15-point
margin are less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by the NRA.

The NRA`s not that popular. The NRA has like a 40 percent, 45 percent
favorability rating when you`re seeing background checks at 70 percent, 80
percent popularity.

We did some polling for Project New America before the gun vote that
found that even most people who view the NRA favorably support background
checks. So this is a situation where maybe the senators should be a little
less scared of the NRA and a little more scared of the average voters and
their states.

HAYES: Do you think that`s true? I mean, you and I have had
conversations to this before throughout this battle about just how powerful
the gun lobby is and isn`t. And when you said, well, we thought we were
going to get background checks easily and we didn`t get that. I mean, that
says the gun lobby is stronger than one might have anticipated and yet, the
political consequences here seem to point in the other direction.

BARRETT: No. I just think it means that our politicians are really
weak and not representing their constituents. The gun industry after the
assault weapons ban expired in 2004, rifle production in the United States
went up 38 percent. They don`t want universal background checks because
the gun industry is going to lose $22 million per year minimum in sales.
So, it`s all about sales.

I think the American people are cottoning on to that. And, you know,
after Sandy Hook, if you`re a parent, if you have kids, you know, the
president`s stance, of course, is very important. But this was just a
basic thing.

You don`t want felons getting ahold of guns. You don`t want people
who are -- you know, seriously mentally ill, you don`t want domestic
abusers. It`s common sense. And people are basically, Americans have a
lot of common sense.

HAYES: They have common sense, but political attention spans tend to
be short. And most of these folks, all of these folks, really, are the
earliest they`ll face voters is a year and a half from now, right?

So the question is, Tom, I mean, how much -- how much staying power
does the backlash have? And what are you seeing in the polling that might
indicate predictively how much this is going to be a problem and how
effectively you can run an ad against Kelly Ayotte or Jeff Flake, you know,
when they`re next up for reelection that hammers on this vote?

JENSEN: Sure, well, I think the ones to look at. Let`s talk about
Ayotte and Portman, because they`re up in 2016. They got elected in 2010
in a terrible year for Democrats where Democrats didn`t show up or
enthused, but their states are actually pretty Democratic. They`ve started
voting pretty consistently Democratic ion presidential election.

So next time they`re up, it`s going to be a presidential election,
Hillary Clinton might be the Democratic candidate, an absolute dynamo.
There`s no way they`re going to get reelected unless voters really see them
as being centrist. And this gun vote three years later when they`re up for
reelection, I think for Democrats, will be part of a broader narrative
showing folks like Ayotte and Portman really aren`t centrist.

HAYES: Right, because --

JENSEN: They are just as extreme.

HAYES: Yes, the point for them, right, is that they have -- they
can`t win just a breakdown party line vote in those states increasingly.
And this gets me to another strategic question, Leah.

There`s now talk in Washington state of launching an effort to put
background checks on the state ballot. One of the things I thought was
interesting. Initiatives that were successful partly because of the power
of the people that the Obama candidacy were able to bring to the polls.
Advocates in Washington launching an initiative campaign after state
lawmakers declined to require background checks on gun sales. A group
Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility announces plans Monday,
supporters will need to collect nearly 250,000 valid signatures. If
supporters get enough signatures, the initiative will go to legislature
next year and to the ballot if lawmakers fail to adopt it.

Does this seem to you a strategy that`s worth pursuing for the gun
safety movement?

BARRETT: Absolutely. If your elected representatives are not doing
what you want them to do, then you have to find ways around that. And
ballot initiatives are one really effective way to do that.

One other issue that I think needs to be raised is you take Alaska,
both their senators voted against universal background checks, not even
universal. I think it`s important to recognize that Alaska has the highest
rate of gun deaths in the country. They have very high gun ownership rates
and extremely weak gun laws.

And you take a state like New York which is passing the New York Safe
Act. We have the fifth lowest rate of gun deaths, which is astonishing
giving we have New York City.

HAYES: Right.

BARRETT: The largest city in the country by far.

And we also have incredibly low suicide rate. I mean, low gun
ownership rates and strong gun laws tend to be from states that actually
supported background checks.

HAYES: Yes, it`s interesting because, Tom, I looked at the data on
Begich Murkowski in Alaska and was a little surprised because the cliche
about the political culture in Alaska is that this is not a place where --
this is not Ohio and it`s not New Hampshire and it`s not a place where you
would expect to see them pay a price for this vote.

JENSEN: Yes. I mean, Begich is up for reelection next year and what
we saw after he voted no on background checks, his numbers with Republicans
did not get any better at all, but his numbers with Democrats and
independents declined. So, you have a situation there where his party base
is less enthusiastic about him.

HAYES: Right.

JENSEN: But not anymore Republicans are going to vote for him than
did already, even in Alaska, and this is the state where we found the
lowest support for background checks. Even in Alaska, it`s still 60

HAYES: Leah Gunn Barrett of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and in
North Carolina, Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling -- thank you both very

It not every day a cancer doctor will tell Washington politicians to,
quote, "come look my patients in the eye and tell them that waiting for a
flight is a bigger problem than traveling farther and waiting longer for
chemotherapy." More on that, next.


HAYES: Author and activist Dan Savage joins me with his thoughts on
the watershed moment today for gay equality -- an active NBA player comes
out of the closet.

And in the age of sequestration, I`ll tell you what cost taxpayers
$136 billion over the past two years shows no signs of easing up. All that
still to come.


HAYES: Today, while flights across the country took off with minimal
delay, the full ramification of Congress Friday`s vote to give the FAA
special flexibility to deal with sequester cuts began to set in. The
precedent they set is that the sequester can and will be dismantled if the
right people are inconvenienced by it. We can be sure others will try and
take advantage of them.

And they should, because let`s remember, while America`s frequent
fliers got relief last week, there was no relief for elderly citizens who
are going without hot meals, kids who are getting kicked out of Head Start
programs or cancer patients waiting longer for their chemotherapy.

Today, cancer doctor William Nibley asked Congress "to come look my
patients in the eye and tell them waiting for a flight is a bigger problem
than traveling farther and waiting longer for chemotherapy."

And here we see precisely the problem, because in voting to grant the
FAA an exemption from the sequester, Congress has now set up a grim kind of
zero sum cage match between various groups of marginalized citizens who
have much stronger claims for their own exemptions and who can now point to
the FAA fix as a model to deliver relief.

But today, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, urged
fellow Democrats to hold firm against any further individual exemptions to
the sequester, saying, "I don`t think we should be voting for the
exceptions of this. We`re going to have to draw a line and say we`ve got
to deal with this in a comprehensive way. It`s going to be tough, that`s
why it`s going to require a united position and leadership."

A united position that could give back Democrats some semblance of
leverage but will place Democrats squarely against for instance cancer
doctors lobbying to make sure their patients can continue to receive
chemotherapy. Democrats are now faced with a question of what to do moving
forward -- embrace the shameless legacy of the FAA vote and attempt a
piecemeal dismantling of sequester, or stand firm against any and all
future exemptions and let the real impacts of austerity set in, with hopes
of eliminating the whole destructive experiment.

Joining me tonight from California, Democratic Congresswoman Karen
Bass. She advocates full scale repeal of sequestration, right now is
supporting efforts to repeal some of the cuts.

Congresswoman, thank you for joining me.

And my question to you is a strategic one, which is, what is the game
plan here? There was a lot of buzz on Friday afterwards that this was
essentially a kind of declaration of defeat for Democrats on the sequester.
If you can repeal the things that are inconvenient for the powerful, what
does that mean for the rest of the people?

And if you start piecemeal repealing individual parts of it, what is
the long-term strategy towards actually getting rid of the whole thing?

REP. KAREN BASS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, let me just tell you, I agree
with you and especially with Chris Van Hollen 100 percent. I know a number
of us had concerns on Friday`s vote and not so much from the flight delay,
but more from the flight safety perspective.

But you`re absolutely right. We cannot give into this. Sequestration
needs to be repealed completely.

I was out walking door to door, talking to my constituents today. Let
me just tell you, I met with a group of seniors who told me they`re very
worried about Meals on Wheels because that`s their basic best meal they
have in a day.

And so, one of the things that Speaker Boehner and the Republicans
have been saying for the last couple of years is for the Senate to pass a
budget. The Senate has passed a budget and so he now needs to call for the
conference committee where the Senate has passed a budget, the House has
passed a budget, we need to come to the table. That way we can get rid of
sequestration and pass a budget that is reasonable.

HAYES: So, that`s -- from what I`m hearing from you, the strategy is
the demand to get a conference committee to actually get a budget that both
houses can agree to as the replacement for sequester.

BASS: Absolutely. That`s absolutely right. That`s the only
responsible way to deal with this. We can`t take the piecemeal approach.

HAYES: Can I ask you a question?

BASS: Sure.

HAYES: You were knocking on doors today.

BASS: Yes.

HAYES: Were you hearing about the FAA vote at the door? Do people
know about it? Were people riled up about it?

BASS: No, to be honest with you, they weren`t. I`ll tell you what
they were riled up about.

HAYES: Please?

BASS: They were riled up about Medicare. They were riled up about
the Meals on Wheels and Head Starts, because I talked to a lot of moms
today. And they essentially are in a panic. They don`t want to lose their

Well, if they don`t have child care, they`re going to wind up losing
their jobs. That`s what Head Start, you know, that`s the role it plays.
In addition to educating our children before they get to kindergarten, it`s
also a way parents can go to work.

HAYES: John McCain said this weekend that Congress after being part
of the unanimous consent that came from the Senate for the FAA deal. I
can`t say that he voted for it because no one in the Senate was willing to
be courageous enough to actually vote on the record for it. It was a
unanimous consent.

And Senator John McCain had this to say about the priorities in
Congress which I thought were pretty interesting. Take a listen.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think we have our priorities a
little bit skewed here. Look, I`m for giving the FAA flexibility, but I
want to give the military flexibility, and I don`t want the sequestration
cuts to be as deep as they are on national defense.


HAYES: What`s your response to the move we`re going to see to start
getting the defense sector out of the bind of sequester?

BASS: Well, see, I think there you have it. I mean, I think he
reveals the real concern that the Republicans have. In fact, Paul Ryan in
his budget, you know, has talked about completely protecting defense. If
it was to continue on a piecemeal fashion, I can guarantee you the pieces
they would put up wouldn`t be Head Start. It wouldn`t be health care. It
also wouldn`t be Meals on Wheels.

HAYES: Right.

BASS: And it`s going to come down to really this is a way to get it
what the real agenda is, which is the Republicans are fine with
sequestration except for as it hits defense. They want it to hit Health
and Human Services.

HAYES: Here`s my question. You voted -- you voted aye, I believe on
the FAA bill.

BASS: I did.

HAYES: You did. So, but you said right now, you`re agreeing with
Chris Van Hollen.

So, my question for you is, are you saying now, you`re not going to
vote for anymore piecemeal repeals?

BASS: What I`m telling you now is that I`m going to support the
ranking member on the Budget Committee that says the piecemeal approach
won`t work. And as a matter of fact, it`s a very dangerous way to allow
the Republicans to get at their real agenda, which is to protect defense.

My concern on Friday was for air safety. So I think Chris Van Hollen
is absolutely right.

HAYES: That`s Congresswoman Karen Bass. You heard it here on
national television.

Thank you for that. I really appreciate it.

BASS: Thank you.

HAYES: Chris Christie said today the president kept every promise he
made on relief for hurricane Sandy. But six months after Sandy, there`s a
big question we need to ask about how we keep our promises to t next
storm`s victims. I`ll explain, next.


HAYES: Today marks six months since superstorm Sandy hit New York and
New Jersey, where communities continue the slow difficult work of
rebuilding. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey says President Obama has
kept every promise he`s made. And New York Senator Chuck Schumer says
we`re making progress, not only in rebuilding efforts, but in the way
disaster relief money is distributed.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It took too long. There is no
question about it. But I think the next six months will be a whole lot
better than the previous six. And that`s because we learn from the
mistakes of Katrina on how to put this together.


HAYES: But tomorrow, April 30th, is the deadline for thousands of
people in New York City made homeless by Sandy, the expiration of their
temporary housing. Many of them still have nowhere else to go.

So the Coalition for Homeless is petitioning the New York City Council
and Bloomberg administration to extend what the advocacy group calls an
arbitrary deadline.

The national political battle over relief funding that preceded the
passage of a Sandy relief bill less than six months ago did eventually get
to where it needed to be, of relief to those in desperate need.

It was an affirmation of our society`s basic belief, that people
should get the help they need in the wake of a disaster, that a tragic,
cruel twist of fate shouldn`t be the thing that permanently knocks someone
off of their rung on the economic ladder.

But here`s what adhering to that correct principle looks like in
dollar figures: $136 billion has spent on disaster relief just between
2011 and 2013, according to a study by the Center for American Progress
using conservative estimates; $68 billion of that came in the form of
supplemental appropriations.

The other $68 billion was through the normal appropriations process.
So half of that spending wasn`t budgeted for ahead of time. Over the past
30 years, the number of billion-dollar weather events has risen from an
average of two per year to more than 10 per year. That trajectory you see
there isn`t flattening out.

Increasing population density combined with the era of climate
disaster means that we`re going to spend more and more and more on
providing relief to victims of weather catastrophes.

At some point, and I am confident we`ll collectively wake up to the
fact that ignoring climate change and doing little or nothing about the
carbon emissions that exacerbates it is costing us a fortune, even beyond
the loss of life.

But the rise in global temperature from the damage we have already
done means we need to think in a comprehensive way about what we can do to
mitigate the effects of climate related disasters like superstorms and
flooding and drought.

Our political system recognizes -- refuses to recognize that we are
inviting more and more disaster. And Republicans in particular scoff at
even the most practical measures preventing the worst kind of damage.

In fact, one of the complaints about the Sandy relief bill was that
billions of dollars would go to mitigation projects to prepare for future
storms, to make communities more resilient to future disasters.

I spent a lot of time reporting about the aftermath of Sandy in the
Rockaways neighborhood, which was one of the hardest-hit areas, and what
I`ve come to realize in talking to people that were just barely making ends
meet before the storm hit, just barely keeping it together and making it to
payday, keeping their kids in school, keeping their jobs through a commute,
is that they were just one storm away from total destruction.

Thirty percent of small business never reopen following a federally
declared disaster or emergency, according to a 2010 study by the National
Federation of Independent Businesses. If we think long-term about a future
in which there are going to be more Sandys, we have to think what a society
would look like that would be more resilient to those storms.

And the answer to that is a society that is more broadly resilient
without the storms. The things that make a place able to come back from
natural disasters are the things that make a place prosperous and flourish
even without storms: strong amounts of social capital, robust public
services and access to health care, access to transportation, access to
child care and good-paying jobs and decent, affordable housing.

A good society that provides those kinds of things that gives people a
chance to make it is going to be a strong, resilient society in the wake of
a storm. The genius of social insurance is that it magically transforms
risks individuals might face that would be too much to bear into risk that
we as a society can face and manage together.

We should be looking out for each other, even without the threat of
waves and wind and floods growing on the horizon. But when the storms do
come -- and they will -- it`s all that more important that we have each
other`s back. We`ll be right back with click3.


HAYES: Jason Collins was selected with the 18th pick in the first
round of the 2001 NBA draft. Twelve years and six teams later, Collins is
the first active male player in the NBA or any major American team sport to
come out of the closet. His story`s coming up.

First, I want to share the three awesomest things on the Internet
today, beginning with a viewer`s submission, from Twitter fan David Kelly
pitching this: Sandra Day O`Connor saying Bush versus Gore was a mistake.
You heard that correctly.

The former Supreme Court justice sat down with the editorial board of
"The Chicago Tribune" for a wide-ranging interview. But it`s her remarks
on Bush v. Gore that are lighting up the Internet today -- and rightly so.

More than 12 years after that decision, O`Connor now says, "Maybe the
court should`ve said, `We`re not going to take it, goodbye.`

"Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach
a decision. It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn`t done
a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme
Court added to the problem at the end of the day."

Fascinating introspection and honesty from a remarkable figure
although perhaps a wee bit too late to come that recognition.

The second awesomest thing on the Internet today, a click3 update:
after decades of separate proms for black and white students, Georgia teens
At Wilcox County High School organized and hosted their first integrated
prom over the weekend. It all started when one group of friends got
together and put up a Facebook page and started fundraising. That Facebook
page got nearly 30,000 likes.

Folks from across the country pitched in to help. "The New York
Times" reports deejays from Texas volunteered to play music, a motivational
speaker from Florida gave a speech and photographers from New York and
Savannah took pictures, all without cost.

The students say a good time was had by all, and thanks to their
efforts, the Wilcox County school board plans to vote on making future
proms official school events, which would prohibit racial segregation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As long as you know you`re standing up for
something that`s right, just keep on doing it. Just keep on going with it.

HAYES: Those two have so much swag.

It`s tough enough to be a teenager. Hats off to these kids for
showing such grace and guts and paving the way for future students.

And the third awesomest thing on the Internet today, this epic
takedown of one of Alex Jones` conspiratorial goons.

Dan Didondi calls himself a reporter for Jones`s website Infowars.
He`s the guy that you heard who had been publicly questioning authorities
as a first question in every press conference to prove the Boston Marathon
bombings wasn`t some sort of false flag inside job attack, as in the
government planned the whole thing.

Well, one Bostonian appears to have had enough. He confronted Didondi
the other day and the results were posted on YouTube. Here`s is just a


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your boy said this was a false flag. The bomb
that blew up people was a false flag.

What is that supposed to mean? Yom the FBI`s behind the bombing,
that`s what you`re here to cover. And that`s why I`m the (inaudible),
because the FBI blew those people at the Boston Marathon? I don`t give a
(inaudible). I am the smart guy because I`m not standing here saying the
FBI blew up the people at the Boston Marathon, you (inaudible).

I don`t care if people think I`m an (inaudible). I`m not saying the
FBI blew up innocent people. You`re saying that and that`s what makes you
a dumbass.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there you go. Now why are you in my
(inaudible) neighborhood?

HAYES: That is, I think, what they mean when they say don`t mess with
Boston. You can find all the links for tonight`s click3 on our website, We`ll be right back.


HAYES: All right. Big, big news today. Something momentous happened
today. I think a lot of us have been waiting for with anticipation. A
real turning point, a signature moment in the continued struggle for equal
rights for LGBT folks.

Today, NBA player Jason Collins became the first active male athlete
in a major American team sport to publicly announce he is gay. Finally,
the active Big Four American sports -- baseball, hockey, basketball and
football -- has broken this barrier.

There have been other active professional athletes to come out, they
just didn`t play team sports or if they did, they weren`t American.

Last October, for example, pro boxer Orlando Cruz came out before a
big fight. He later told "The Advocate" that, "I wanted to show that I`m a
man fighting another man in the ring. In boxing, there`s a lot of
misconception they being gay means that I want to be a woman, and I wanted
to show that it`s not the case."

In 2009, former Welsh rugby captain Garrett Thomas came out and played
two more seasons before retiring.

And in a reminder of how difficult it can be to come out publicly as a
professional athlete, the great tennis star Martina Navratilova tweeted
today, "Well done, Jason Collins. You are a brave man and a big man at
that. 1981 was the year for me. 2013 is the year for you."

Jason Collins played for the Boston Celtics this year before being
traded to the Washington Wizards.

His Celtics coach Doc Rivers said this today of Collins coming out,
"If you`ve learned anything from Jackie Robinson, it is that teammates are
always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn

And it seems that Rivers was right. Reaction around the NBA has been
substantially supportive. Former NBA all-star Baron Davis tweeted, "I am
so proud of bro Jason Collins for being real," #fthehaters.

And two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash tweeted, "The time has come, maximum

Even Lakers superstar NBA Kobe Bryant, who two years ago was fined
$100,000 for using a gay slur against a referee, lauded Collins for coming
out, tweeting, "Proud of Jason Collins, don`t suffocate who you are because
of the ignorance of others."

And then there was the not so supportive response from ESPN`s Chris


CHRIS BROUSSARD, ESPN: If you`re openly living that type of
lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that,
you know, that`s a sin. And if you`re openly living in unrepentant sin,
whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication,
premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that`s
walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ."


HAYES: Luckily for Broussard there is no adultery or fornication in
any of the professional sports.

In his very public coming out essay for "Sports Illustrated," Collins
wrote, "I didn`t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a
major American team sport, but since I am, I`m happy to start the

"I`ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a
lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet
when I acknowledged my sexuality, I felt whole for the first time."

To top things off, a couple of hours ago, the President of the United
States himself called Jason Collins to express his support and tell him he
was impressed by his courage.

It should not be a big deal for a male professional athlete in team
sport in 2013 to publicly announce that he is gay. And the fact that it
still is might say a lot about the culture of the average American sports

Don`t go away. We`re going to talk about this with Dan Savage, Bill
Rodin of "The New York Times" and Coach Hudson Taylor next.


HAYES: We`re talking about the coming out of NBA player Jason

Joining me tonight from Seattle, author and columnist, Dan Savage.
He`s the co-founder of The It Gets Better Project. And joining me here at
the table, Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, a
nonprofit group that works with athletes to combat homophobia.

And the great Bill Rhoden, sports columnist for "The New York Times,"
someone whose sports columns I have enjoyed for a very long time.


HAYES: Dan, let me begin with you, talk about the significance of
today, how big a deal did this feel like to you?

DAN SAVAGE, COLUMNIST AND AUTHOR: It feels almost as big a deal as
the "Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell" repeal. We`ve been told for years that the
presence of openly gay people, particularly openly gay men -- you know,
there have been a lot of out lesbians in the WNBA.

But we`ve been told that it`s different, that straight men, you know,
straight men are very obsessed with being macho and heterosexual male,
sports fans would never be able to accept a gay man in a team sport like
football, baseball, basketball or hockey, because to be a gay man is to be
perceived as weak and feminine.

To be a lesbian basketball player is to be perceived as, you know, a
lesbian is perceived as more masculine.

And we were told -- were always told that gay people, because we`re
weak, because we`re feminine, which not all of us obviously are -- look at
Jason Collins and openly gay Marines now in the U.S. Marine Corps -- we`re
not all weak and we`re not all feminine, although some of us are and those
guys are fine, too, and part of the community, too.

And our presence isn`t the destabilizing toxic force that we`ve been
told that the culture told itself that it would be. We`ve seen the "Don`t
Ask, Don`t Tell" repeal described as the biggest nonissue ever to hit the
United States military, that it didn`t have the negative impact that the
Religious Right claimed that it would have.

They said that 500,000 troops, half a million troops would quit if
DADT was repealed. Two did, both chaplains, who could be spared.

And I think what we`re going to see with openly gay athletes in
professional sports in the Big Four male professional sports, is, again, it
turning into the biggest nonissue -- another big nonissue, because the
culture is ready for this. I think that this is a lagging indicator, not a
leading indicator, of where we`re going.

HAYES: Yes, it`s such -- it`s so interesting because in the essay
that Collins wrote -- he actually talked about "Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell"
repeal. He talked about -- he explicitly made that parallel, right, this -
- the sort of -- the idea of the intimacy of the barracks or the locker
room as these very male, straight sort of homophobic spaces that can`t
tolerate this kind of thing.

In fact, he pointed at DADT repeal to be like, look, actually, they
can, right? But -- and I think -- I thought that was really an interesting
comparison to point to these places as the last redoubts in American life
of the closet.

RHODEN: Absolutely. And I`m so happy that we`ve arrived at this
point. But like you said, I mean, it`s really silly. I mean the fact that
2013, we`ve got headlines talking about a guy`s come out with his

But to the extent that sports can help break down this last frontier,
I`m happy and he was courageous, although it was at the end of his career.
I think the real litmus test is going to be where he lands next year. We
were just talking about that.

At this moment, I`m sure NBA execs are all trying to figure out how
this is going to play out, you know, is it going to play out with Texas?
Should it be out West? I mean, I think he`s going to end up somewhere just
because A, somebody, -- David Stern, somebody said, well, listen, you can`t
-- you know, somebody`s going to --

HAYES: Well, if he didn`t, right, he`s 34 years old, I believe. He
probably -- he`s a big guy. He`s (inaudible) the article, he had a
hilarious line, he`s like "I`ve got six hard fouls to give." (Inaudible)
in the game. (Inaudible) hilarious self-conception of his role as a
basketball player.

But I think, you know, there`s two questions here about the reaction.

Dan, you`re talking about lagging and leading indicators. So the
question is, there`s a locker room question. And there`s this great
Charles Barkley quote you know, he`s like back in 2011, he said, "Of course
I played with gay men. I`m like, what do you think, I`m an idiot? Like
just because people are in the closet doesn`t mean they`re not gay."

So there`s the locker room reaction and then there`s the fan reaction.

And tell me a little bit about the organization you founded, which is
-- which grows out of your experience as an athlete in the locker rooms and
seeing a culture there that made you uncomfortable.

HUDSON TAYLOR, FOUNDER, ATHLETE ALLY: Sure. So, you know, I founded
Athlete Ally to get more straight athletes to start speaking out against
homophobia in sports.

I was a wrestler my whole life. I started wrestling since I was 6
years old, but the one thing that remains true is in locker room after
locker room, on team after team, sometimes even coach after coach, I would
hear my peers use that homophobic and derogatory and sexist language to
isolate, segregate and emasculate those perceived to be less masculine.

And so, you know, I really took an issue with that, as someone who has
friends that came out and, you know, realizing that diversity is beneficial
to athletic success and that we as an athletic community will be better the
more diverse we are, the more talents we can draw on and that`s only going
to happen when we can have openly proud LGBT athletes.

HAYES: Is that still the case? I am not a sports reporter. I don`t
spend a lot of time in NBA locker rooms and you have.

Is the culture in those places -- I mean, I`ve played basketball my
whole life. And I know what that what culture is, I know what people
dropping an F word against someone or a slur on a pick-up game or in a
locker room, I`ve seen that, of course.

Is that the culture in the NBA?

RHODEN: No, I think that`s softened, Chris, I mean, Rutgers

HAYES: Right, we saw the Rutgers coach fired partly for using
precisely that slur -- anyone who`s ever played -- I think as a man or boy
who`s played organized sports has heard that word a lot.

RHODEN: Yes. So (inaudible) that was somewhat sobering in this
context. But I think things have softened, A, because a lot of athletes
have family members who are gay. So that stuff has softened.

But there`s this precisely -- this Berlin wall that just has to do
with this sexuality and this myth of manhood and what it is and what it
isn`t. And the fact that Collins, who`s a guy who has kicked a lot of butt

HAYES: Right, right, of all the players, right.

RHODEN: Yes. So, yes, I think that that has softened.

HAYES: Dan --

SAVAGE: What this debate ultimately comes down to is not who gay
people are and where gay people are. We are who we are, and we are
everywhere. If there`s no openly gay people in whatever environment you`re
in or whatever environment you`re talking about, that doesn`t mean there`s
no gay people. (Inaudible) gay people.

I think that what ultimately this comes down to is who straight people
are. This isn`t about whether Jason Collins or other athletes who happen
to be gay are pansies, it`s about whether heterosexual men and heterosexual
pro athletes in locker rooms are pansies, if they`re afraid of gay men, if
they`re jumping up on chairs and shrieking and too terrified to shower in
the same conditions that Marines and sailors and airmen and everyone shower

You know, I think that`s what`s really irony here, is not -- this
isn`t about who gay people are, this is about who straight people are.

HAYES: Well, what is your -- what -- ?

SAVAGE: And are straight people better than they`ve been billed? Are
straight people less bigoted than they`ve convinced themselves that they
are? And I think they are less bigoted, as we saw in the military after
the DADT repeal and a lot of LGBT soldiers came out and it was a nonissue
and they were accepted by their peers that they were serving with.

And I think we`re going to see the same thing in elite pro male
sports. Because straight people are better than that. Better than the
bigots give them credit for.

TAYLOR: I think there`s absolutely more allies than we give the
athletic community credit for. One of the major obstacles that we`ve had
thus far is that in male sports, there are still relatively few out gay
male athletes. And you don`t have that context that you do in other

So when I go and talk to college athletes about why it`s important to
be conscious of their words or how we can be allies to the LGBT community,
sometimes they`ll say to me, that`s great, but I don`t know anybody who`s

And that`s something that I think Jason`s announcement today is
helping to change. It`s something that, you know, we need more people to
come out and we need more allies to speak out if that`s going to be the

SAVAGE: And all straight people need to know is you do somebody who
is gay, you just don`t know you know somebody who is gay because they`re
not out to you yet.

HAYES: That`s the power, Dan, precisely of -- the political power of
coming out of the closet is precisely that.

And we`ve seen it. We`ve seen it, as you`ve talked about it before
and we`ve had conversations; you`ve talked about as, quote, "our
superpower," right? That the fact that being in every part of society and
then actually being publicly in every part of the society. We just
recently saw it with Senator Rob Portman, Republican, whose son came out to
him, right.

That is the power that we`ve seen in the momentum, the tremendous
momentum in social change we`re seeing right now. And Bill, do you think
you`re going to see that power? Are we going to see dominos fall in
professional sports, where this is quickly followed by other announcements?
What do you think?

RHODEN: This is what I hope happens, Chris. He described himself as
a young black man who came out -- what I hope will happen with a lot of
young black athletes, number one, there are so many political issues that
we really need their voices, all right. We really need gun control, mass
incarceration. Hopefully they will become empowered by seeing this.

HAYES: Not just on this issue, but just the courage to come out on
this issue. That`s really interesting. Hudson Taylor of Athlete Ally,
Bill Rhoden of "The New York Times" and in Seattle the one and only Dan
Savage, thank you all.

That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts now.

Good evening, Rachel.


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