THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
May 2, 2013
Guests: Ladd Everitt, Lincoln Chafee, Kirk Bloodsworth
CHRIIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now with
one of my favorite people, guest host Melissa Harris-Perry.
It`s so wonderful to throw to you, Melissa. How are you?
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, GUEST HOST: I know. It`s like the weekend,
HAYES: Yes. That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
And also, thanks to you at home for staying with us the next hour.
Rachel has the night off.
We begin tonight in Texas this afternoon at the Bush International
Airport in Houston, in terminal B, near the ticket counter, a man allegedly
fired a gun right there in the airport. He shot up in the ceiling and no
one was injured.
But when security personnel confronted him, the gentleman shot
himself. The man was pronounced dead at a local hospital. So, police say
the incident was an isolated one. There`s no search for additional
suspects or anything like that.
And, again, no one else was injured, but it was still very scary for
the people in the airport. One witness told the "Associated Press" there
was screaming when the shots were fired. That was Houston today.
And this will be Houston tomorrow. In tactically unrelated news, the
National Rifle Association is hosting its 142nd convention at the George R.
Brown Convention Center in Houston. The festivities begin Friday and go
If previous NRA conventions are any guide, you can expect a lot of gun
sellers selling a lot of guns. And you can also expect gun and hyperbole
enthusiast Ted Nugent to say something intentionally outrageous.
Last year, "The Nudge" said that by this time this year, if President
Obama were re-elected, he`d either be dead or in jail. Well, like much of
what the long haired outrage generator says, that turned out not to be
true. He`ll be speaking at the convention Sunday.
Outside the convention is another politically powerful group,
survivors of gun violence and families of gun violence victims, including
at least one relative of a Newtown victim. As they have done many times
before, they will read aloud the names of gun violence victims, 4,000 of
And that`s happening over the next few days in Houston.
What`s also happening in the next few days, the Congressional Medal of
Honor Society will honor the six educators gunned down and killed at Sandy
Hook in December.
The organization is made up of people who received the Medal of Honor.
Four Vietnam veterans will travel to Newtown to present the honor and
present to all Sandy Hook teachers and staff a certificate of commendation.
That`s in Newtown, Connecticut, this weekend.
A 2 1/2 hour drive from there, in Boston, former congresswoman and gun
safety advocate, Gabby Giffords, will be receiving the prestigious, the
very prestigious profile in courage award, John F. Kennedy presidential
library and museum hands out the annual award to politician, activists and
civil leaders who display unusual and almost super human-like bravery in
Back in March, Caroline Kennedy announced that Gabby Giffords was this
year`s very deserving winner. Ms. Giffords will receive that award this
And Gabby Giffords is inarguably one of the most powerful and
effective political leaders today. For someone who should tire easily,
Giffords has been tireless in her efforts to get a gun safety bill through
Congress. She hasn`t sat on the sidelines. She sat in senator`s offices.
She`s literally confronted them where they work on Capitol Hill.
Do you remember this from last year`s State of the Union address?
This was one of the most powerful and emotional moments from any
presidential address ever.
Then-Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was about to leave
Congress. Just a prior, she was shot in the head in a mass shooting that
killed six people. Giffords was at that State of the Union and she sat
with her friend and fellow Arizona, Republican Jeff Flake, at the time he
was in the House and now, he`s in the Senate. Because Giffords was still
relatively weak, still in the early stages of her recovery, Congressman
Flake had to help her to stand every time she wanted to join her fellow
Democrats giving the president a standing ovation. Mr. Flake was often the
only Republican because he was standing with her.
That was last year. This year, Giffords again found herself holding
onto her friend, Jeff Flake, again, one of those emotionally powerful
moments when you hear about it you will never forget it. Remember Gabby
Giffords and Jeff Flake really have been friends for years.
And here`s how the "New York Times" described their most recent public
encounter. When Gabby Giffords was trying desperately to get Republicans
like Senator Jeff Flake to vote for a background check in Congress, quote,
"Ms. Giffords, who still has trouble speaking because of the damage what a
bullet did to her brain, grabbed Mr. Flake`s arm and tried furiously and
with difficulty to say that she needed his vote. The best she could get
out was the word need.
Mr. Flake looked at the ground. `I said I was sorry,` Mr. Flake
recalled Thursday, looking despondent. `I didn`t know what else to say.
It`s very hard.`"
Profile in courage indeed.
Gabby Giffords` lobbying on gun safety has been amazing, to say the
least. But her approach, her tactics, they`re not unique. This is what
the pro-gun safety activism has looked like ever since the horrific
massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Victims of gun violence, their
families, and the families of people who have been killed by guns, they
have conducted this one-on-one approach to applying political pressure.
They have pushed hard to meet with members of Congress directly, not with
their staffs, in order to tell their personal stories.
With specific tales of tragedy and loss and violence have been at the
very core of the movement, and yet despite all the political power that
these victims and their families really do possess, the one gun safety bill
that seemed to have at least a chance of passing this year failed.
Republicans in the Senate and a handful of Democrats blocked the
bipartisan background checks bill sponsored by Senator Joe Manchin, a
Democrat, and Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican. Yes, it is true the bill
did not pass. But no, it is not true the activism behind it ceased to
Just one of the Republican senators who voted against the bill needs
to be asked that question. New Hampshire`s Kelly Ayotte held her first
town hall this week, well, let`s just say her vote against the background
checks bill has been the other elephant in the room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a question but it`s based upon something
that was said during the conversation and I`d like to be recognized to make
my point. Thank you.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Let me say this, I do every
town hall meeting this way. I have a process and we will get to as many
questions as we can. So --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You like to regulate that. You don`t want to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, same day, different town hall, this happens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERICA LAFFERTY, SANDY HOOK MASSACRE VICTIM`S DAUGHTER: I`m just
wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the hall of an
elementary school isn`t as important enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That woman, that was Erica Lafferty. Her mother was
the principle at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She was killed in the
massacre there in December. And Erica Lafferty wasn`t the only one who
showed up to ask Senator Ayotte some rather pointed questions this week
about her gun vote.
Regular folks, too, they showed up wanting to know why Senator Ayotte
voted the way she did. At today`s town hall, it wasn`t the question that
was most notable, her was the senator`s answer that`s getting all the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I received your four-page letter regarding guns
and background checks. I really don`t understand. It doesn`t make sense
to me. What is wrong with universal background checks?
AYOTTE: OK. Thank you, John.
AYOTTE: Thank you, John. You know, John, I know obviously we`ve
known each other for a couple years. I have a lot of respect for you.
And on this issue, my -- I`ve described it for you, but I will tell
you, in terms of a universal background check, as it`s been framed, I have
a lot of concerns about that leading to a registry that will create a
privacy situation for lawful firearms owners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Seriously, Senator. I have a lot of concerns that
leading to a registry that will create a privacy situation. Translation, I
bought into the conspiracy theory performing the same background checks we
already run on some gun buyers, on all gun buyers, that will lead to a big
scary national registry of all gun owners.
OK. No. No. No. That is not true.
Not only does current law ban a national registry, but the bill that
you, Senator Ayotte, just voted against is doubly, triply banned. It ban
as registry in so many ways, you could calculate it in scientific notation.
And we know this, remember, Senator, remember after you voted against
the bill, remember the president`s barn burner of a press conference?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The gun lobby and its
allies willfully lied about the bill. They claimed that it would create
some sort of big brother gun registry, even though the bill did the
opposite. This legislation in fact outlawed any registry, plain and
simple, right there in the text.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: What Senator Ayotte`s non-truth tells us politically
speaking we are no longer in the land of needing to be convinced, we are no
longer in the land of needing to be persuaded, this is straight up
So, where do we go from here?
Joining us is Ladd Everitt, director of communications at the
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
Lad, thanks for being here this evening.
LADD EVERITT, COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE: Thank you for having
HARRIS-PERRY: So, here`s what worries me when elected officials are
lying directly to their constituents, it makes me wonder -- is there any
room for persuasion? I mean, when you see a senator just willing to say
something that is not true.
EVERITT: Well, look, Melissa, I think we need to play hardball
politics here. You know, the persuasion basically appealing to their
hearts and saying, please do the right thing on this, please stand with
Gabby Giffords and these other survivors has not worked.
I mean, what we need to do now is convince them voting for sensible
gun legislation is good politics, that it won`t hurt you.
And I think a lot of senators, like Jeff Flake, who you mentioned in
the intro, are finding that out the hard way. You know, Jeff Flake is the
one who in the other day, looked at his poll numbers and said, I`m now less
popular than pond scum.
And that`s how it`s going. The senators who voted no on background
checks are seeing their poll numbers plummet and people like, let`s say,
Kay Hagan and Mary Landrieu, who thought they were taking tough votes for
us, are seeing their poll numbers rise and chances in the next election
So, you know, I think that`s the sea change. The sea change is that
voting for smart gun laws has now become a boon to your political career.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is interesting. I was sitting next to each
other. On the one hand, you`ve got Jeff Flake, who`s taken a hit, but is
claiming that hit is artifice of the survey, right? So, he`s saying, look,
it`s a push poll. In fact, people really aren`t that mad at me about it.
But on the other hand, you have Senator Baucus saying, you know what,
I`d be willing to reconsider my vote if I heard from my constituents.
What do you think is the message that the senators who voted against
this are taking home with them?
EVERITT: Well, look, I mean, Jeff Flake`s claim was a little
ridiculous. As I understand it the Public Policy Polling firm he was
referring to predicted his election win when he became a senator more
accurately than any other firm in the country. So, I`m not quite sure what
he`s referring to.
But I think what you are seeing happened and we saw this start with
Pat Toomey, right, is that, you know, senators who are inclined or used to
be inclined to basically side with the NRA in a kind of knee-jerk reaction
are now understanding that there`s a political price to pay for doing that.
Their understanding I think now that the Newtown effect is not going away.
It`s not going to go away.
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me -- I want to push you on that a little bit -
- this idea that there`s a political effect for this. I think part of what
seemed to make President Obama so angry in that press conference right
after the bill failed was this sense that in fact members of the Senate
apparently didn`t think they were going to lose their job.
Is there someone who is going to lose their job as a result of this
EVERITT: Yes. Undoubtedly yes.
Look, I look a lot at the immigration issue to see how this dynamic on
guns is now working. I mean, if you go back just a few months, you would
see Mitt Romney running for president and on the immigration issue on the
right wing, saying things as radical as you can imagine. Then, they go
into the 2012 elections in November and they get hammered and they lose the
Latino vote overwhelmingly.
Now, all of a sudden, you have Republicans across the country that are
dying to work on immigration reform, right? I think the Republicans will
change when basically they have that deer in the headlights thing going on,
where they are looking at their political survival and understanding they
can no longer take these radical pro-NRA positions and, number one, get
their campaigns funded and, number two, get elected.
HARRIS-PERRY: Fifteen seconds. There`s going to be a new president
now of the NRA, as of this convention. Will that make any difference?
EVERITT: Well, look, if you love Ted Nugent, you`re going to love the
new incoming president for the NRA, Jim Porter. I mean, this guy could
have walked out of a militia camp a few minutes ago. He called the civil
war the war of northern aggression, says that Obama is a fake president and
claims that the U.N. treaty to curb the trade and elicit small arms
worldwide was a conspiracy to take away all individually held firearms
across the world.
So, you`re going to love Jim Porter. This is a gold mine, I think.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, wow.
Ladd Everitt, director of communications at the Coalition to Stop Gun
Violence -- thanks for joining us this evening.
EVERITT: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And there`s lots more to come, including some big news
from a little state about same sex marriage.
And later, the new George W. Bush Library remembers hurricane Katrina.
But, first, one more thing about the background vote check last month,
Republican senator Kelly Ayotte was not the only senator to be held in
account for her vote. Senator John McCain, who split with his party on
this, who voted for background checks, he had a town hall meeting, too, and
a former aide to Gabby Giffords wounded in the same mass shooting in Tucson
that almost killed the congresswoman, she showed up directly to speak to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAM SIMON: I would like to thank you very much for your vote on
Manchin/Toomey background checks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Pam Simon, former aide to Congresswoman Gabby
Giffords and a gun violence survivor.
Those Manchin/Toomey votes were not made unanimously.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There is not a black America and white America and Latino
America and Asian America, there has the United States of America.
The pundits -- the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red
states and blue states. Red states for Republicans, blue states for
Democrats. But I`ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in
the blue states and we don`t like federal agents poking around in our
library in the red states.
We coach little league in the blue states and yes, we have friends
that are gay in the red states.
We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and
stripe. All of us defending the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We all remember that moving speech that then Illinois
state senator, a very young Barack Obama delivered at the 2004 Democratic
It was a speech that paved the way for his presidency.
But since the 2012 election, the red/blue color divide has grown
deeper. Red states seem to be getting redder and blue states bluer and
compromise, well, it is harder to come by.
We saw this firsthand just last month after the gun control bill died
in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate
voted for that idea. But it`s not going to happen because 90 percent of
Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea.
I have consistently said there are regional differences when it comes
to guns, and that both sides have to listen to each other. We can do more
if Congress gets its act together.
And if this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass
common sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come
from the voters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In this country, if laws don`t pass on the federal
level, movement often happens slowly on the state level. Voters lobby
their state representatives to get the ball rolling. So, in a sense,
states become training grounds or laboratories for legislation.
Take for example Romneycare, it passed in Massachusetts and then we
decided basically to implement it across the country. So, with this notion
of states as laboratories, let`s look at two experiments that happened this
For red laboratory, we have the great state of Alabama, a state with a
Republican governor, Republican Senate and Republican House. And in this
state earlier this week, the Alabama Senate passed legislation to nullify
all federal gun laws in Albany. Meaning, any federal laws deemed contrary
to the Second Amendment would be declared null and void.
So, the Alabama state senate voted two days ago to nullify federal
law. Should that bill become the law of that red piece of land, it is
unclear if it would ever have its intended effect.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Kansas Senator Sam
Brownback last week, asserting Kansas new state law that says guns made in
Kansas are immune from federal regulations is unconstitutional. Still, we
know where certain red states are coming from regarding gun regulation.
So, now, to a blue laboratory, to the great state of California, where
we have a Democratic governor, Democratic Senate with a super majority, and
a Democratic House. In this state earlier this week, California Governor
Jerry Brown signed into a law a measure that allocates $24 million to
confiscate illegal weapons owned by convicted criminals and individuals
with mental illness. California is now the only state in the country with
this type of program.
Democrats fully in charge and extremely aggressive approach to the gun
regulation, how that new law works and what effect it has remains to be
State Senator Obama was right. We are the United States. But there
is no getting around the fact there are red laboratories and blue
laboratories among us. And the divide between the two is growing deeper.
While we do not know what all these experiments will amount to, it`s
revealing to see what unfettered political parties on both sides will do to
at least express their will.
HARRIS-PERRY: Have you ever been to Rhode Island? Let me rephrase
that. Have you ever been to Rhode Island in summer?
I`m talking about the fancy pants part of the state, along the
seacoast around Newport. They are tall ships, lots of them. There`s a
jazz festival, music and ships. There`s an air show, planes and ships.
There are Kennedys, Kennedys and ships. There are weddings, Kennedys
and weddings! Jack and Jackie got married in Newport in 1953.
And more recently, the co-founder of Facebook got hitched in Newport
last summer -- no, not Mark Zuckerberg. One of the other founders whose
name you don`t actually know even after watching the social network.
The state of Rhode Island markets itself as a destination wedding
state. It tries to sell you on the idea that your Aunt Phyllis doesn`t
need to schlep all the way to Aruba to watch you get married on the ocean.
She can drive her Buick Encore right up I-95.
Earlier tonight, the governor of Rhode Island saw to it that Rhode
Island`s get married here industry extends to everyone, including same sex
couples, because tonight, Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the state`s new
marriage equality bill into law. He didn`t even wait for the bill to be
delivered to his desk. He signed it on the steps of the statehouse only
minutes after the final version of the legislation was approved.
Which means that starting August 1st, Rhode Island becomes the 10th
state in the country to have legal marriage for all couples. The very last
state to do it in New England. Look at that sea of yellow in the
Delaware might be next. The bill authorizing same sex marriage has
been sent to the state Senate there for vote next week, and more same sex
marriage bills are waiting for consideration in Illinois and Minnesota.
And New Mexico is being asked to come up with an opinion on the issue one
way or the other.
Every state in the country has a law either for or against same sex
marriage except New Mexico. Two same sex couples denied marriage licenses
in New Mexico have recently filed suit in an effort to force the state to
But, right now at this hour, same sex marriage has become law in the
state of Rhode Island and it goes into effect August 1. Ten states now
have marriage equality on the books plus the District of Columbia , fully
20 percent of these United States have expanded this very lovely loving
right to all.
And joining us now for the interview is Rhode Island`s independent
governor, Lincoln Chafee.
Thanks to being here, Governor.
GOV. LINCOLN CHAFEE (I), RHODE ISLAND: My pleasure, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there was a lot of celebration at the capitol
today. What did the moment feel like for you?
CHAFEE: Oh, it was a great celebration. Historic vote, 56-15. So
And then as you said, we marched out and signed the bill. So, first,
it passed the senate last week and today`s vote in the House, marched
straight out and signed a big celebration still going on here in
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me about the overwhelming nature of this vote,
because this is the kind of sea change that we`ve seen on this issue.
CHAFEE: Yes. And earlier, in your segment, you were talking about
the gun issue and public opinion and how that`s shaping this debate
politically. That`s very true on gay marriage.
Rhode Island is one of the highest Roman Catholic states in the
country if not the highest. And still, it was 56-15 in the House and 26-12
in the Senate. So, overwhelming votes.
And I think that`s because public opinion is just changing, especially
with young people. Young people very, very tolerant, accepting the
diversity that comes with gay marriage and actually welcoming of it.
That`s a big political dynamic.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I know you have made marriage equality arguments in
this kind of very moral ethical sense. But the other kind of marriage
equality argument you made is economic. Make that claim for me.
CHAFEE: Absolutely. I do believe those studies that show there is a
correlation between tolerance and economic prosperity. Richard Flora (ph)
is an author that talks about tolerant, technology and tolerance being the
foundations of a good economy.
And tolerance aspect is very, very important. Young people,
especially creative people, not only if they`re gay, but also, they just
like that atmosphere -- younger people, creative people and that`s how you
grow a good economy -- start-up companies, engineers, young people, that`s
the roots of a good economy. There is a correlation.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we were talking about the states as laboratories
around gun legislation, but the states have also been laboratories around
this issue of marriage equality. How soon until we see this as a federal
CHAFEE: Good question. I do think Republicans are changing. Believe
it or not, in our state senate, the Republican caucus is not a big one here
in Rhode Island, but the entire Republican caucus voted for same sex
marriage. And it`s the first time either caucus in either party has voted
in a block for gay marriage in any of the states, or any of the other nine
states, plus the District of Columbia.
So, our entire Republican delegation in the Senate voted for it. So,
you can tell -- things are changing, even in the Republican Party. And
HARRIS-PERRY: Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, once a
Republican, now independent, always an ally -- thank you very much for your
CHAFEE: Thank you, Melissa. Have a good night.
HARRIS-PERRY: And one brave state legislator made a life and death
decision today. I`ll have that next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The first person to ever be exonerated from death row
due to DNA evidence was released in the state of Maryland. His name is
Kirk Bloodsworth. And here he is on June 28th, 1993, the day he was
released from prison after nearly nine years.
Mr. Bloodsworth was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a
child and DNA evidence cleared him of that crime and helped identify the
This is a picture of Mr. Bloodsworth today, holding one of the pens
that the governor of Maryland used to sign that state`s repeal of the death
This morning, Maryland Governor Martin O`Malley signed Senate bill
276, which abolished the death penalty in his state, making Maryland the
18th state in the country without the death penalty.
Since his exoneration, Kirk Bloodsworth has been on a mission to
repeal the death penalty by telling his own story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRK BLOODSWORTH: At the time, I was married, and I was newly
married. I was 22 years old. I have never been arrested before,
discharged out of Marine, I went to a Christian high school. I don`t
pretend to purport I was an angel, but I certainly knew what I wasn`t and
that was a child killer.
My mother passed away before the results. This was in January of
1993. And she died of a massive heart attack when I was in prison. I was
allowed to see her for five minutes in handcuffs and shackles and I went
back to prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The DNA evidence that cleared Kirk back in the early
1990s was a scientific breakthrough. It changed the way we think of DNA
evidence. DNA evidence made it clear that some like Kirk were not guilty
of the crimes they had been sentenced to death. And that began to give
many states pause. Another piece of evidence giving states reason to
reconsider their execution practices is the racial equation of capital
Back in 1999, then Maryland then-governor commissioned this study to
figure out how race and jurisdiction factored into whether a defendant was
sentenced to death and the study found a vicious racial alchemy determining
life and death in Maryland. It was a combination of the race of the
assailant and race of the victim that ended up making a big difference.
When the defendant is black and the victim is white, the likelihood of
getting death is significantly higher.
But the last person to be executed in Maryland was this man, Wesley
Eugene Baker. He died at the hands of the state on December 5th, 2005,
more than seven years ago. The reason no one has been executed in Maryland
for more than seven years before today`s official ban on capital punishment
was signed into law? Because Maryland had a de facto ban on the death
penalty that had nothing to do with DNA evidence or evidence from a big
official study showing racial disparities in the way that death is being
The reason for the state`s de facto ban on capital punishment was an
obscure regulation. Prison officials in Maryland have come up with their
own processes by which they put people to death and those processes were
not signed off by the appropriate authorities. That is why Maryland had to
stop executing people in 2006 unofficially.
But when we talk about capital punishment in this country, we can talk
about the science or we talk about the race, or we talk about guilt and
innocence, maybe we talk about oversight. But rarely do we talk about
whether or not we want to be a society that chooses to kill its own
citizens for their crimes. Only China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia put
more of their citizens to death than we do.
Do we want to be in the company of those countries on this issue? If
not, is Maryland`s repeal of the death penalty a promising sign that we
could be moving the country in the right direction.
Joining us now is Kirk Bloodsworth, the first American death row
inmate exonerated by evidence. He is now advocacy director for Witness to
Innocence, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering exonerate
death row survivors and ending the death penalty in the U.S.
Kirk, it`s so nice to have you here tonight.
BLOODSWORTH: Melissa, it`s a pleasure to be here. It`s a big day.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is a big day, and your group, Witness to Innocence,
has been working on this repeal, kind of across the U.S. Tell me how
important the Maryland victory is.
BLOODSWORTH: Well, you know, 28 years ago, I was sitting in a prison
cell and waiting to die for a crime I didn`t commit. There`s been 142
Americans who have been found wrongfully convicted and Witness to Innocence
has been showing these individuals for the last 10 years.
Our anniversary is coming up this October. I have to say that, you
know, since I got out in 1993, it`s just one right after another. And,
honestly, we don`t need to be executing our citizens, like you say,
because, in fact, they are innocent people.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it does feel to me like a lot of the argument, a
lot of the momentum around abolishing the death penalty is about that, the
idea of people like you for whom DNA evidence shows that they are not
guilty of those crimes. Can we get to a point where we can make an
argument that even if someone is guilty of the crime, we don`t believe the
state should be putting them to death?
BLOODSWORTH: I think so. I mean, we`ve come a long way in this
thing. DNA has shown us that we have a ton of problems. You were talking
about one of them earlier, the racial disparity in Maryland, it`s quite
I was on the commission as well. I sat there and was just
flabbergasted by some of the stuff that I didn`t know. You know, the way
we do forensic sciences. Racial disparity, jurisdictional disparity, you
It comes down to it, Melissa, that the death penalty is a failed
policy. It hasn`t deterred anybody and certainly hasn`t detected a soul
since it`s been enacted. I`m happy to see it go today.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Kirk, it`s also an expensive policy. I was just
talking to the governor of Rhode Island about marriage equality and
economic arguments around it. Is there an economic argument to be made to
states abolishing the death penalty?
BLOODSWORTH: Oh, absolutely. The state of California for example,
you know, just spent -- had a 725 people on death row, billions of dollars
in up front costs.
Maryland, we found the same thing. You know, about $3 million more to
execute a person and put him in prison for life or life without parole. I
think, you know, we have found that this practice is expensive and for
Witness to Innocence, and people like myself, the worst thing that could
happen and the most pensive is the execution of an innocent person.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Kirk Bloodsworth, thank you so much for
your advocacy and also for joining us tonight, and enjoy this night, which
is a big win for you.
BLOODSWORTH: I will indeed, Melissa. Thank you.
At the new George W. Bush Library in Dallas, we get this version,
verse from the president about the response to hurricane Katrina. It is an
incredible bit of self-written history, and it`s next.
Did I mention I live in New Orleans?
HARRIS-PERRY: So if knowledge is power, why do Republicans want less
knowledge? That`s just ahead.
HARRIS-PERRY: This handsome fellow is the Count. By his own account,
the Count is called the Count because he loves to count. Who can blame
him? Counting is fun and very useful.
And so, the Count has been teaching children the fun and importance of
counting for generations. I love the Count. Thanks to you, Count.
Millions and millions of Americans get it that numbers matter.
I mean, Cookie Monster is going to eat how ever many cookies you
count. But in most areas of endeavor, how many is a super important thing.
For instance, tomorrow is jobs day. That is the day we want the
number to be high, the day in which we learn how many jobs the nation
created the previous month and whether the unemployment rate went up or
Knowing how we`re doing influences investment and public policy, so
fingers crossed because numbers are powerful.
Now, imagine if suddenly these numbers disappeared? What if the
monthly jobs report didn`t exist and we were left to guess what the monthly
unemployment was, getting better or worse.
This completely untenable, unworkable, and damaging possibility could
be reality if Congressman Jeff Duncan, a South Carolina Republican could
pass a bill he`s pushing. It`s called the Congress Reform Act and
Congressman Duncan and 10 of his House colleagues are all for it.
If Jeff Duncan`s name sounds familiar, it`s because Rachel mentioned
him just two weeks ago when the South Carolina Republican was one of four
members of Congress pushing Glenn Beck`s conspiracy theories in the wake of
the Boston bombings. But now, he`s waging a different kind of assault on
He`s sponsoring a bill that would tell the Census Bureau it would be
allowed to continue to do that once a decade count of the populace, for
which it`s famous, and that is all the Census Bureau would be allowed to
Here`s the thing about that proposal, the Census Bureau also oversees
an economic census, an agricultural census, a government census and on and
on. It provides reliable, accurate information to all of us and it is
information that helps us to live better lives.
A business owner is wondering where to build a new factory. City
planners need to know where to expand roadways. Investors want to know
what the nation`s gross domestic product is. All of those job creators,
well, they rely on data from the Census Bureau.
Ken Prewitt, the former director of the U.S. Census, who is now a
professor of public affairs at Columbia University, told "The Huffington
Post" this week that if Duncan`s proposal became law, from now on, we won`t
have an unemployment rate.
Maurine Haver, a past president of the National Association of
Business Economics added, "Do they understand that these data, that the
Census Bureau collects, are fundamental to everything else that`s done?"
The proposal to scrap a huge part of the Census Bureau`s work is
unlikely to get anywhere, because Democrats and probably some Republicans
will have none of it. It is important to note there are members of
Congress, at least 11 of them, who do not care to be tethered by
information for whom information appears to be a nuisance. Yes, there are
Republicans in Congress who dare to defy the dauntless defender of data,
Seriously. You don`t want to listen to this guy? What`s next? A war
on Big Bird?
HARRIS-PERRY: What are you doing this weekend? Got any big plans?
If for some reason you happen to find yourself in or around Dallas,
Texas, there is a brand spanking-new attraction that just popped up in your
own backyard. Introducing the George W. Bush Presidential Library and
Yesterday was the grand opening for the general public and this
weekend marks the library`s long-anticipated inaugural weekend.
And if you`re going to be in Dallas over the next few delays, I`m
telling you, you just must check it out, if only for the shock value.
Last night on this show, Rachel discussed the main attraction inside
the new Bush Library, which is an exhibit called Decision Point Theater.
It`s basically an interactive game where you can reenact the biggest
decisions that George W. Bush had to make as president. Decisions like
should we invade Iraq.
The problem, as Rachel pointed out last night, when you try to say no,
we should not invade! Please let`s do anything but invade Iraq --
President Bush pops up on the screen and starts making the case of all the
overwhelming evidence against Saddam Hussein, evidence that has since been
thoroughly discredited 10 years later in what`s supposed to be a library is
being taught as fact that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat who must be
dealt with unilaterally if necessary?
So there is a certain shock value to the new Bush Library. But if the
Iraq war isn`t exactly your thing, if you want to relive the glory of
another Bush decision, the George W. Bush Library gives you the opportunity
to do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a look at the list of scenarios in front of
me. First, you will select which one you want to tackle. The majority of
the theater chose hurricane Katrina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, hurricane Katrina. What is the decision point
that the Bush Library asks you to confront when it comes to hurricane
Katrina? A disaster in which nearly 2,000 Americans died, many in their
own homes. What`s the decision point that`s laid before you at the Bush
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officials in New Orleans are overwhelmed. The
president can send in troops, but those troops would serve in supporting
roles and state efforts and would not have law enforcement powers unless
the president invokes what`s called the Insurrection Act.
President Bush had to make a choice. One, rely on the National Guard
and local police. Two, send in federal troops in a supporting role with no
law enforcement authority. Three, invoke the Insurrection Act and send in
troops to restore order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Excuse me, restoring order was the problem when it came
to hurricane Katrina? Seriously? The main dilemma faced by President Bush
when it came to the government`s response to Hurricane Katrina was quelling
The Bush Library takes you through this whole scenario about how to
deal with the problem of looters and how to restore law and order in New
Orleans. That is the decision point.
No mention at all of, you know, search and rescue. Eight years later,
the people of New Orleans who were basically left to starve and dehydrate
and die in our city, mostly elderly people and children, eight years later,
these people are memorialized at the Bush Library as public enemies, not as
citizens who were in need of relief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Americans are facing lawlessness and chaos. We
need to send in federal troops (INAUDIBLE) the city in the state of
insurrection, so our troops have the legal authority we need to restore
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, federal troops aren`t trained police
officers. There`s a danger that sending them in put them in harm`s way
without the ability to defend themselves or the training necessary to
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I decided that sending in federal
troops would diminish authority was better than sending in no federal
troops at all. It was what the crisis required, and the troops helped
restore order in the city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. The legacy of hurricane Katrina that`s on display
at the Bush Library is that order had to be restored to the lawless and
violent city of New Orleans, and thank goodness President Bush was there to
make the right call.
Wow. This game at the Bush Library is supposed to make you feel the
intense pressure of the presidency, the minute-by-minute decisions you have
to make as developments unfold all around you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most powerful hurricanes in several decades --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Levee broke yesterday, another levee broke today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Water is rising so fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no food, no water, no electricity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s going to be increasingly chaotic in New
Orleans, the city`s Homeland Security chief says there are gangs of armed
men moving around the city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time`s up. It`s time to make a decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: So it should be noted that the level of urgency that`s on
display inside Decision Point Theater was not so much on display when it
came to the decider himself. This was President Bush, the morning that
Katrina made land fall, sharing a cake with John McCain in Arizona. This
was after his administration had already been informed that levees in New
Orleans had been breached.
This was President Bush on day two of the disaster yakking it up with
the country music star in southern California. That night as the situation
was growing worse and worse in New Orleans, George W. Bush decided to
return to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to finish up his vacation.
When he finally headed back to D.C. the next day, President Bush got
an aerial view of the damage in Louisiana and Mississippi. But by Friday,
five days into that disaster, his aides at the White House were putting
together DVDs of news coverage to convince President Bush how bad things
were in New Orleans.
During those five days, President Bush was not on the edge of his seat
as the Bush Library would like you to believe. He was basically checked
out. That`s the real history.
The truth is, the American people have already decided how they felt
about President Bush`s leadership during Katrina and while his approval
ratings before Katrina weren`t that impressive, they never recovered
afterwards. Fifteen months after the failed response, Democrats took
control of the House. They took control of the Senate. And they took a
majority of gubernatorial seats across the country.
The public has already decided, hey, here in Dallas this weekend,
you`ve got some time? Go see how President Bush saved a city from
disaster, restored a sense of calm in all of the disorder.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell.
Have a good night.
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