May 11, 2013
Guests: L.Y. Marlow, Shelby Knox, Kathryn Stamoulis, Melissa Gilliam, Anu
Bhagwati, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Jackie Speier, Nancy Pelosi, William Chafe,
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-
Perry. Monday evening, 5:52 p.m. The unbelievable story that has
dominated the news cycle this week began with this call to Cleveland 911.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANDA BERRY, 911 CALL: I`ve been kidnapped and I`ve been missing for ten
years and I`m here. I`m free now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was 27-year-old Amanda Berry who disappeared the day
before her 17th birthday in 2003, calling for help after emerging from a
ten-year nightmare. Berry along with her six-year-old daughter, 32-year
old Michele Knight and 23-year old Gina DeJesus was freed from the house of
horrors where they were held captive. Sometimes bound with ropes and
chains. More than a decade. The survival story of these women after
enduring abduction, enslavement and torture is a chilling echo of others
like Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart that have also captured national
attention. These are the stories we remember because they go to the very
heart of our most horrifying SVU-filled nightmares of teen girls and sexual
vulnerability. But far more common when it comes to young women and sexual
exploitation, are the stories we forget or overlook altogether. Teen girls
regularly denied the space and support to emerge safely into womanhood in
an environment of sexual consent and exploration. Instead, America`s young
women are shamed, silenced, mis-educated, exploited and sometimes even
denied health care.
We got a good glimpse this week in North Carolina of exactly what that
looks like in policy form. Republicans in the State of House of
Representative attempted to advance a bill that would have required minors
to get notarized consent from a parent or guardian to be treated for a
sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, substance abuse or mental illness.
It`s failed to advance after a debated on the North Carolina House floor,
but backers of the bill were hoping it would, quote, "reinforce the long
standing presumption that fit parents act in the best interest of their
children." But the truth is that the that only re-enforces the misguided
presumption that all children have fit parents. It completely ignores the
reality that some young women seeking care for disease or for pregnancy are
survivors of rape by the very parent or guardian who would have to give
their OK. It overlooks the uncomfortable truth that younger women are more
likely to have an older male as their first sexual partner, which is
associated with an increased risk of unwanted pregnancy, childbearing and
sexually transmitted diseases. And that when young people are forced to
seek parental consent for birth control and STD services, pregnancies go up
while the likelihood of teens seeking out STD-testing goes down.
At the federal level, President Obama`s administration is pursuing the same
kind of senseless policy making in its opposition to lifting age
restrictions on over the counter emergency contraceptives. If it were made
openly available, emergency contraception would be one of the safest
purchases a young woman could make at the drugstore. So devoid of any
valid scientific evidence for opposing easy access to the drug, the
administration`s opposition boils down to this. Feeling icky about the
thought of young girls having sex. Listen, I get it. It is not a thought
that a parent wants to entertain. But even less appealing is the idea of
girls facing unintended pregnancies and finding themselves with limited
reproductive options. Because the rest of us just can`t handle the truth.
As much as we`d like to bury our heads in the sand and keep them there, we
cannot escape the facts. By the age of 19, seven in ten teens have had
sexual intercourse. And if thinking about teen girls being vulnerable to
sexual (inaudible) makes you want to stop listening right now, you may want
to take a deep breath for this. Some of those sexually active girls are
having sex because they really like it. Now you can stop clutching your
pearls. The fact is that all teenagers who are having sex are not just
acting out some kind of pathological behavior. Maybe girls are happily
exploring their sexuality. Educating themselves about their own personal
boundaries and ways that are healthy, safe, consenting, pleasurable.
Abandoning the willful ignorance that informs many of our current policies
requires embracing both ends of the spectrum. It means supporting girls
who are sexually vulnerable and those who are sexually empowered. Getting
comfortable with our discomfort. And finally having some real talk about
teenage sex, starting right now. Joining me at the table, activist blogger
and feminist organizer, Shelby Knox, Dr. Melissa Gilliam from the
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Center for
Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health,
both at the University of Chicago. Kathryn Stamoulis, an education
psychologist and adjunct professor at Hunter College. And L.Y. Marlow, an
author and founder of Saving Promise, an organization devoted to help women
dealing with domestic violence. She herself was once a survivor.
Oh, I want to start with you, because I imagine this week, what we saw out
of Cleveland was tough.
L.Y. MARLOW, FOUNDER, SAVING PROMISE: Absolutely. This has got to serve
as a wake-up call that tolerance will no longer be held when women are
violated, when girls are violated. And it begs the question, where do we
go from here? Perhaps, Amanda and Gina and Michelle`s abduction could have
been prevented if Ariel Castro had been held accountable for viciously
beating his wife years ago. If the police had followed up on leads that
they had gotten from the community and if we as the community had paid
closer attention to the size. We are so plugged in to our iPhones and our
iPads and our busy lives that we become unplugged to humanity.
HARRIS-PERRY: And why -- it does feels to me like there`s a special kind
of evil that is Castro in this moment, right? What he did is almost
inexplicable and unimaginable. Whatever you want to spend time imagining
it. On the other hand, Shelby, I worry that, you know, like my first
reaction is, all right, I`m locking my daughter up, she`s not going outside
anymore. Because the world is full of too many dangers and I worry that
our response to the horror that we saw in Cleveland is to become even more
horrified about the idea of the vulnerability of our daughters. So we just
muss what they are actually vulnerable too.
SHELBY KNOX, FEMINIST ORGANIZER: Right. And I also think that, you know,
If the reaction is, let`s lock up our daughters and protect them, why is
the reaction not let`s make sure my son is not the next Ariel Castro?
KNOX: Let`s make sure my son`s friends know how to be -- how to intervene
in cases of rape and sexual assault. I mean these are the horror stories,
as you said, this is the thing that we fear most for our daughters, but
actually what the biggest dangers are, are being uninformed and starting to
explore their sexuality. But not having the information to talk about
consent, to negotiate condom use, not having the legal access to
contraception. Not being able to talk to the adults in their lives, for
instance, at school, you know. There are only 20 states in the United
States that mandate sex education with HIV education. So we still have
young people who are not getting this information. And that is where they
are actually most vulnerable on a day-to-day.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Melissa, this is precisely the work that you do, right,
at the University of Chicago, is you`re engaged with young people on the
ground there in the city of Chicago on this question of vulnerability.
What do you see from young girls in terms of how they are thinking about
their sex lives?
DR. MELISSA GILLIAM, UNIV. OF CHICAGO: So, I think we can look at it in
two different ways. Part of it is what happens at a personal level and
what they need to know. We are going to be very naive if we just think
young people don`t have questions or are not wondering. What also happens
is, they really don`t have safe spaces to have this conversations, and so
we have to create these spaces for young people. But also understand the
rule of really helping them to thrive in every aspect of their lives. If
we always frame it as risk, and all the bad things that will happen --
GILLIAM: We really lose this opportunity to (inaudible) among young
people. And those assets, communications, great schools. All of those
things help to defer these risk behaviors.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, I want to ask in part, we`ve got, you know, the Plan
"B" image up. Because the other piece of like that was going around sort
of behind all of this, was this idea that we need to protect the girls.
Not only from exploitation, but we need to protect them from their own
decision making. Keep them from walking in and buying Plan B. You`re a
physician. Is there a good reason for us to limit the access of Plan B to
GILLIAM: No, these are policies that really harm the most vulnerable young
people. Plan B is incredibly safe. There are no contra indications to it.
Accessing medical care is really, really difficult for young people. So
the goal should be to lower as many barriers for these young people. To
actually navigate, to have health care, insurance -- all of those things,
that`s really hard for young person. And in the middle of the night, when
they need this, that`s not when you want to put these unnecessary barriers
HARRIS-PERRY: Barriers. But what are the key barriers that young women
are facing if they`re trying to have sort of reasonable and safe sexual
life of young people?
KATHRYN STAMOULIS, EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I think a huge barrier is the
shame and judgment that sexual young girls face. And I mean they get this
message that female sexuality is wrong from all fronts. Parents, teachers,
music, you know, media, all of that. So that shame can really inhibit a
young girl from talking honestly to a doctor or to their parents,
absolutely. And the shame really silences young people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I`m thinking, if I have to go in to get Plan B and I
live in a small town, and it`s behind the pharmacist counter and I live in
a very small town and my pharmacist knows my whatever, my auntie. Then,
right, then those ways, in which because we don`t act like it`s going to
get an antihistamine, right, we have a much kind of shaming position on it.
STAMOULIS: And this is so much better than having to try to call up a
doctor you don`t know. I mean it`s frustrating for me as an adult to try
to make an emergency doctors appointment.
STAMOULIS: Much less the transportation, the finances and just the
wherewithal and maturity to do that. And this is so much a better option.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, when we come back, we`re going to talk more about the
issue of how we educate young women to be in this place. Because Elizabeth
Smart actually weighed in on abstinence only education. Yes, that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH SMART: I remember in school one time I had a teacher who was
talking about, well, about abstinence, and she said, imagine you`re a stick
of gum, and when you engage in sex, that`s like getting chewed, and then if
you do that lots of times, you`re just going to become an old piece of gum.
And who is going to want you after that? For me, I thought, oh my gosh.
I`m that chewed up piece of gum. And that`s how easily it is to feel like
you no longer have worth. You no longer have value. Why would it even be
worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are
rescued? Your life still has no value.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Elizabeth Smart speaking last week at John Hopkins
University about how abstinence only education made her reluctant to come
forward during her nine-month abduction. Currently, of the 37 states that
require abstinence to be a part of sex education, 26 of those states
require students to be taught that abstinence is the best method to prevent
pregnancy. Even when the research shows us that abstinence-only education
doesn`t work. A 2011 study from the University of Georgia analyzed
pregnancy and birth data from 48 states, to evaluate the effectiveness of
those states` sex education policies. And the study found that even when
you control for socio-economic status, education, ethnicity, access to
health care, abstinence only education doesn`t necessarily result in
abstinent behavior. The researchers concluded that "abstinence only
education" as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy
and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the
Shelby, I want to -- I want to go to you on this. Because I know this has
been your work. That commentary by Elizabeth Smart was just gut wrenching
to hear how that actually made it easier for her to be victimized.
KNOX: Yeah, I mean, for me it`s not uncommon. For me it was -- we were
dirty toothbrushes. I have seen a warm cup of spit and a thorny rose with
no petals. And the problem here is that this abstinence-only sex education
is telling young women that their only worth is sexual --
KNOX: -- and then not giving them the information to be empowered sexual
beings, which I think would be the goal. I mean, we don`t want to talk
about our kids having sex, right, but like the whole society`s goals for
everyone to grow up to be a sexually functional, happy, responsible adult.
KNOX: But these young people are being told, my worth is that I`m a sexual
thing and I`m going to be used, and if I`m used, no one will want me. On
the contrary, young men are actually being told I`m a predator. I can
steal a young woman`s worth. These feelings that I have make me a bad
person, rather than being taught how not to be a predator, actually. How
to deal with these sexual urges, how to negotiate consent.
KNOX: Abstinence only is just telling young people sex is bad. You are
KNOX: And then, they`re getting all of these messages. That`s the other
thing here, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: And if you engage in it, then you`re used, right? And this
is exactly the kind of shaming -the kind of shaming we heard Elizabeth
Smart talk about there.
STAMOULIS: And this is heartbreaking. But it happens on an individual
basis. I hear it in my therapy office. I hear it from my students. And
we also wonder why boys are sometimes treating girls in a disrespectful
manner. And you think of Steubenville and how all of these classmates
complicit in this. Well, what do we expect? We are teaching kids that
girls are worthless if they`re sexual. So, boys are going to view sexual
girls and women as worthless.
HARRIS-PERRY: As worthless.
STAMOULIS: I mean, some, of course, not all, but this is what we -- it`s
not just damaging to girls. It`s damaging to boys, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: And then this is part of that overall cycle of violence.
MARLOW: Absolutely. It certainly is. And one thing that I noticed is
that Elizabeth seemed to be misconstruing abstinence with self worth and
shame. Abstinence is a personal choice. Self worth and shame is related
to unwanted sex or rape. They are two different issues. And I think what
we need to be focusing on, is teaching our young girls greater prevention,
education and awareness and about their self worth that is not tied to
their bodies. Whether it`s wanted sex or not wanted sex. And that`s one
of the things that Saving Promise is looking to do. I might have shared
that -- we`re looking to launch a national call to action targeting young
women for this very reason, to help them understand greater prevention,
education and awareness. About their self worth and their self empowerment
and who they are. And one of the things that I really want to implore
people, is that it is so important that we get involved in these issues
sooner than later. That we come up to the front line and we say that we`re
going to protect our young girls, we`re going to protect our young women to
help them make better choices.
HARRIS-PERRY: And one of the -- it seems to me, Melissa, I mean, Dr.
Gilliam, that one of the best ways to protect them is really to think about
-- to hear them. To listen to them. We were looking at data from the
black youth project out of the University of Chicago. And they`ve
collected data from African-American youth, Hispanic youth, white youth.
Asking them questions about sex and sexuality. And so, first question
being, these are the young people who believe that becoming a teen parent
would actually embarrass their family. And what you see across all of
those, is that a minority of youth of all -- of youth of all races think
that becoming a teen parent would actually embarrass their family. They
ask, are you comfortable telling a partner what you are OK with sexually?
And you see, actually, a majority of students saying -- of young people
saying, actually, yes, I can communicate about what I want and don`t want.
Comfortable telling your partner that you are not yet ready for sex? Up to
82 and 84 percent of youth saying yeah, I can say I`m not ready yet. And
then this one. Do you feel confident persuading a partner to use a condom?
Upward of 87 to 90 percent -- that feels to me like the kind empowerment we
want. We want our young people to be able to set limits. To be able to
know what will protect them, right? But that only comes if we have these
conversations with them.
GILLIAM: That`s exactly right. So the teen pregnancy rate has actually
really decreased quite dramatically in this country. And a lot of that has
to do with sexuality education and the increase in condoms. That rise in
condom use is because we are unashamed to give a strong message around HIV
and HIV prevention. So it is the exact opposite of what we`re trying to do
with abstinence education. If you actually give young people information,
they know what to do with it. And young men, as was just said, are a very
important part of the picture.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s been interesting. We`ve just been looking at,
President Obama has been sort of battling an uphill battle around this
abstinence-only education. There`s three pie charts I want you to see.
They`re a little bit complex, but just look basically at the red on these
pie charts, and what you will see are the federal dollars spent on
abstinence-only education, and the extent to which the president has been
trying to shrink that pie in this administration so that you are actually
getting information about pregnancy and HIV prevention and education. So
it is getting better, but it`s still undoubtedly shall be an uphill battle.
When we come back, we`re going to talk not only about this pie chart, but
about the culture in which this education is occurring. And don`t forget
that joining us later in the program will be House Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi. But up next, we`re coming back with more on teens, sex and safety.
I`m bringing the vampires of "Twilight" into the conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Farrah Abraham`s story on MTV`s "Teen Mom" was about what
happens in the aftermath of teen pregnancy. But her latest foray into
camera stardom is a depiction in graphic detail just what she did to get
pregnant in the first place. According to several reports, the
pornographic film Abraham shot with porn star James Dean has outsold even
the gold standard of celebrity sex tapes. Distributed by adult film
company Vivid Entertainment, just 12 hours after its debut on Monday night,
the 70-minute film has already been watched by 2 million viewers. That way
outdoes the Kim Kardashian tape that only got 600,000 views in the same
amount of time. So, OK. Sex shaming. No, not trying to do that. On the
other hand, I feel like this -- the teen mom piece is complicated. And the
idea that she has learned from our reality TV culture that exploiting her
own body is what will get her fame and fortune, that seems like a problem.
MARLOW: That is a huge problem. This is an area that I have a lot of
problems with. Now what Farrah decides to do with her body and with her
choices is her choice. But I`m concerned about where we as a culture that
the only TV that we find entertaining is one that exploits young women and
young girls around teen pregnancy, teen moms, and tell that person that
it`s OK, the way to get ahead is to now take that and go out and exploit
your body. If that is the only TV that we as a culture will accept, shame
on us, shame on us, shame on us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. On us. Not on Farrah. On us.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I`ve got the "Twilight" poster in the back, because this
is one of the ones that makes me nervous. I feel like we see the teenager
engaged in pornography. And that`s the clear red flag, but also the
romantic story of stalking and being bitten and the kind of restrained
violence that`s part of that whole narrative. It feels to me like sexual
desire is endogenous, and we generate this idea that what is desirable is
this kind of power relationship between the man and the woman. No? Yes?
KNOX: So what I`m sitting here thinking is this is actually why we need to
be talking to young people about sex. So I get it all the time. If you
talk to kids about sex, it will make them curious. Are you kidding? They
watch TV. They have--
KNOX: But also they`re reading "Twilight." They`re seeing these things on
the Internet, and they have to be taught how to interpret these sexual
messages and how to see -- it`s media literacy 101. How to see something
like "Twilight" and go wow, that`s stalking, rather than wow, that`s sexy.
But if we`re not talking about to young people about what real sex is and
what real sex looks like, then we have the problem of them thinking that
sex looks like porn.
HARRIS-PERRY: See, I appreciate this, that you took it to the point of
media literacy and critical viewership and reading. It`s not keep your
child from reading "Twilight," it`s reading "Twilight" along with your
child and have that critique, right? Enter into that conversation.
The other sort of moral panic going around these days is the twerking
phenomenon, right? So there were these teenagers in San Diego who made a
twerking video and were expelled. So there they are twerking. I mean,
it`s, you know, one might be impressed by it. So I wonder like, on the one
hand, it`s just sort of teenagers doing lewd dancing, but it clearly
develops this moral panic in so many people, including the school
STAMOULIS: Yes, so I don`t really know what to say about the 33 girls
HARRIS-PERRY: Sorry, they were suspended, right. Not expelled.
STAMOULIS: I would hope the school took such swift action against
harassment and bullying as opposed to dancing.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a good point. So the idea that these students are
suspended for a representation of sexuality that we`re uncomfortable with,
but there may in fact be kids not suspended for behaviors that are in fact
far more aggressive and possibly damaging.
KNOX: This is not a representation of sexuality that they did on their
own. Have you ever seen a high school dance team? They do some of the
same moves. And that`s something that is being taught in a class. I also
really have to really if any of those students were boys or if they were
all boys, and they were engaging in a video they did on their own that was
something sexual. They probably would have laughed it up. I do not think
that they would have been suspended. There is something so gendered about
fearing young women`s sexuality, because young women`s sexuality, if we
can`t control it, then we fear it and we try to control it even more. And
it never works.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Gilliam, you have some tools. Some resources. Ways of
thinking about doing this better.
GILLIAM: So we have added a new dimension to our work, which is around
game design. And we use both storytelling and narrative as well as game
design and digital media. And what is special work for us is that we hear
from young people and we tell their stories. One of the things about being
afraid of young people`s sexuality is we kind of put our fingers in our
ears and we don`t want to hear it. When you ask young people to tell the
stories that are affecting their lives and you give them the tools to tell
those stories, then it really opens up this whole world that I think most
adults do not have the tools and the ability to communicate with young
people. And then we use those tools as a way of communicating with other
So we`re really excited. We`re about to launch a game that has to do with
sexual assault and dating violence. And I think it gets to the core piece
that we`re really missing from this conversation: Giving young people tools
for their relationships, whether those are relationships with one another,
relationships with adults. Those are very complex. We`re much more quick
to say sex is bad rather than relationships are beautiful. And you have to
work at them.
HARRIS-PERRY: The goal is not to shame sexuality out of existence, but
instead to create healthy empowerment.
Thank you to Dr. Gilliam, to Kathryn Stamoulis, to L.Y. Marlow. Shelby is
going to hang out a little bit longer, because up next, the growing and
enraging sexual assault scandal in the U.S. military. My letter of the
week after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: For the past several months, we here in Nerdland have been
following closely the dozens of sexual assault allegations at Lackland Air
Force base. So we were particularly concerned to see the new Pentagon
report showing that alleged incidents of sexual assault in the military
have risen 35 percent over the past two years. And quite frankly, we were
aghast to learn how some in the military are addressing the problem. And
that`s why we`re sending this week`s letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck
Dear Secretary Hagel, it`s me, Melissa. Congrats again on your new
position in the Obama administration. I know you have a lot on your plate
between an ongoing war in Afghanistan, unrest in the Middle East, but I
just want to be sure that in the midst of the complex international
conflicts, you don`t forget about another crisis confronting our men and
women in uniform every day: sexual assault in the military.
I am deeply troubled by the new report from your department this month
finding an estimated 26,000 reported cases of sexual assault took place in
the military last year. That`s more than 70 instances of sexual assault
But what makes those numbers even more troubling is the other news coming
out about how sexual assault prevention is being handled. This week, the
Air Force chief officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs was
himself arrested for sexual battery. And that happened only shortly after
he completed the sexual assault training course. So I have to wonder what
is being taught in that course? Because if it was anything like the
brochure uncovered this week by Wired.com`s Spencer Ackerman, there is
cause for great concern. The training brochure from Shah (ph) Air Force
Base in Sumter, South Carolina, includes tips on how to avoid sexual
assault, like don`t walk or jog alone. Avoid doorways, bushes and alleys.
And in the case of an attack, it may be advisable to submit rather than to
Do you see the pattern here? You see, the brochure fails to mention, Mr.
Secretary, that sexual assault training should maybe first teach people not
to commit sexual assault. Instead, it shits the entire responsibility for
preventing assault onto the potential victims.
Then there`s the case of Matthew Herrera and James Wilkerson. Both
military officers who were convicted of sexual assault. But because
commanding officers have the power to reverse criminal convictions, both
men had their charges dismissed. In one case against the advice of the
commanding officer`s legal team. And in both cases, no public explanation
was provided about why convicted assaulters should be allowed to return to
Secretary Hagel, taken by themselves, each of these incidents is
problematic. But together, they spell out a grave institutional failing,
that despite the attention military sexual assault has received in the past
years, this feels like something is simply not working. Mr. Secretary, you
are to be commended for the steps you have already taken to address some of
these issues, but sir, you got to stay on it. We heard about the changes
the military would make and the promises of zero tolerance after the
hallway horrors of the Tailhook convention in `91, after the Aberdeen
Proving Ground rape scandal in `96, after the explosive report of sexual
assault at the Air Force Academy in `03, and yet here we are again. This
time it has to be different. Our service members need real institutional
changes that allow victims to report crimes without fear of retaliation or
humiliation. They need a cultural shift that puts blame on assaulters and
sets out real, immutable consequences determined outside the chain of
Secretary Hagel, we are counting on you to lead the change. Sincerely,
HARRIS-PERRY: The gun lobby would have you believe that there`s no safer
place for a woman in jeopardy of being raped than where she can wield a
gun. What safer place then than the U.S. Military? After all, these women
graduate from basic training, they carry and train with weapons, and now
officially they are going to be phased into combat roles fully by 2016,
which means women will be protecting all of us with the serious weaponry of
war. But despite this, we learned once again this week that women in the
armed forces are appallingly vulnerable to assault, perpetrated by the
servicemen who are supposed to be on their side. A new report from the
Department of Defense office indicated that there may have been
approximately 7,000 more service members who experienced some kind of
unwanted sexual contact in 2012 than in 2010. 26,000 in total.
Back with me is feminist organizer Shelby Knox. And joining us are Anu
Bhagwati, a retired Marine captain and now the founder and executive
director of the Service Women`s Action Network. And Sabrina Rubin Erdely,
who is a contributing editor at "Rolling Stone," whose report, "The Rape of
Petty Officer Blumer," appeared in the magazine in February. It`s a tough,
tough piece to read. And also with me from San Francisco is Democratic
U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California`s 14th District. It`s Nice
to have you, Congresswoman.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER, D-CALIFORNIA: Great to be with you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this report drew a really sharp rebuke from President
Obama at his Tuesday news conference. I want to listen to it for just a
moment and then have you respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I expect consequences. So I don`t want just more speeches or
awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way.
If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they got to be held
accountable. Prosecuted, stripped of their positions. Court-martialed,
fired, dishonorably discharged, period. It`s not acceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Congresswoman, is this the turning point?
SPEIER: I sure hope so, Melissa. But you know, we`ve had plenty of
turning points before and nothing seems to change. The problem is that the
military continues to want to follow the same path, which is we`ll do lots
of training, we`ll do lots of prevention, much of which you talked to in
your letter to Secretary Hagel, but we`re really not going to change
anything. And unless we take these cases out of the chain of command,
we`re not going to see much in terms of the kinds of prosecutions and
convictions that we need to have.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask you, I started by saying there`s this notion
that these our GI Jane, these are our servicewomen, they protect us. So
I`m just not buying this story that they are vulnerable, they must be lying
about these sexual assaults. We hear this over and over again. What is it
that is unique about the position of servicewomen in the military that
makes them uniquely vulnerable?
ANU BHAGWATI, SERVICE WOMEN`S ACTION NETWORK: The military today is still
an insular and insulated system, where there is very little oversight from
either Congress, the White House, even the courts. There`s a continuous
deference that all of these institutions have given to the military over
decades. And so you just don`t see progress within the institution. You
see that the military is about a couple of generations behind where the
civilian world is on sexual assault and sex crimes. And we know how broken
the system is in the civilian world, too. It`s not perfect, but the
freedom of movement afforded to civilian victims, the access to additional
forms of redress afforded to civilian victims makes it a unique case. In
the military, we don`t have access to those forms of--
HARRIS-PERRY: You have to continue to live next to your attacker. You
have to continue to work for your attacker, you have to continue to report
to your attacker. Those are things that are not really part of the
civilian experience of sexual assault.
BHAGWATI: Absolutely. And we can`t train our way out of this problem.
The military unfortunately have used that phrase, "zero tolerance," again
for decades. We have decades of hundreds of thousands of survivors now
hearing the same language from military leadership. This problem has to be
legislated at this point. There is no question about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Your piece was so tough to read, in part because just -- you
feel so powerless as a reader in the sense that all of the rules that are
being made are being made in a system over which you have no control. What
did you learn from that investigative process about how we need to fix it?
SABRINA RUBIN ERDELY, ROLLING STONE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: One thing that I
really learned is that one major reason for the prevalence of sexual
assault in the military right now is that there is basically a lack of
consequences for offenders. But the victims themselves who come forward
and report are themselves punished. And it goes back to this insular
system that Anu was just talking about. The idea that you are so enmeshed
in this culture where there is no privacy whatsoever. Even something as
private as a rape report, the victims that I talked to said that as soon as
they filed their rape reports, the details were immediately known among
their colleagues, their coworkers, their friends. And that has
consequences. In this year`s DOD report, the numbers that were released
said that of the people who reported sexual assault last year, 62 percent
of them experienced reprisals at a professional, administrative or social,
whereas the same time, the offenders are really not being penalized. There
is really no light at the end of this tunnel for the victims who report.
HARRIS-PERRY: This notion of like the immediate shaming, Shelby, I think
is part of what makes this resonate with the conversation we were just
having around young girls, around teens and sexuality. This idea that if
you are a survivor of the sexual assault, the shame all belongs to you, so
the responsibility of keeping it from happening is your responsibility, and
then if it does happen to you, you are at fault.
KNOX: Exactly. It`s the same sort of thing that we`ve been talking about.
Why are we asking women not to be raped, rather than asking men not to
rape? Something that I find incredibly disconcerting is that as a culture,
we still believe that rape and sexual assault is somehow tied to
masculinity. We cover it up. We say, well, they`re soldiers, and of
course they are in spaces with these women, so what else are they going to
do? Whereas the women are being told, well, you know, it`s their nature.
You might as well prevent it. And then when they do report, I`m on the
board of the Service Women`s Action Network, and we hear that when they do
report, they suddenly are diagnosed with a pre-condition, a mental illness.
They start to be punished by their officers. And who wants to talk about
something, as we were talking about it before, that your worth is only in
your sexuality, and if you`ve been sexually abused, if you`ve been raped,
you have no worth. If you are already at a lower status in the military as
a woman -- the percentage of women in the military -- why are you going to
want to talk to your colleagues about that when you know that everyone is
going to know as soon as you report?
HARRIS-PERRY: So Congresswoman, there are ways, though, legislatively to
address this, right? We are in fact not powerless in the face of this.
This report has caused a sort of flurry of legislation. What are you most
sort of seeing as possible to actually move through the 113th Congress?
SPEIER: I think there`s no question that in the National Defense
Authorization Act, there will be more amendments put into that bill that
will require more accountability. Here is the rub, though. If we just
tinker around the edges and say we fixed it, we will still be where we are
today, and we will be just dealing with another scandal in another six
months, another year. Until you take these cases out of the chain of
command, we are not going to have the independent third party evaluating
whether or not a case should move forward. And the problem is, with these
3,000 cases where you actually have people having the guts to report the
crime, only 191 of them go to conviction. And as we saw in the two cases
you mentioned earlier, they still have the convening authority under the
Uniform Code of Military Justice that can allow them the power to overturn
a court martial conviction and even the commander in chief of the United
States can`t reverse it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congresswoman, stay with us, because when we come back, I
want to ask you about that Facebook page that you got taken down this week.
More on this when we return.
HARRIS-PERRY: Rape culture even shows up in military social media. This
week, Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California protested a sexist Facebook
page ridiculing women in the Marine Corps. "I almost expected to see this
trash," Speier said. "The military is not policing itself."
Congresswoman, tell me why this piece, the Facebook page was important to
SPEIER: Well, I was actually called by a whistle-blower and told about a
number of websites, a number of Facebook pages. I wrote a letter to
Secretary Hagel, and it was Facebook that took down that page on its own.
I did not make a request that they do so. Facebook said it violated their
Here is the issue. Free speech is free speech. But if this was conduct
done during working hours on servers and computers owned by the taxpayers
of this country, then heads should roll. It was vile. It was misogynistic
And it really speaks to the fact that the culture in the military is so
ingrained to think of women as chattel that that kind of communication
could be put up. But what was most interesting was kind of the vile
comments that were made about me afterwards.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, of course. I mean, Anu, and it feels to me like what
Congresswoman Speier is saying there is - it is representative of exactly
what happens when survivors come forward, right? Then you suddenly are
suddenly the problem, not the assaulter, not the attacker.
BHAGWATI: Absolutely. And that kind of language is just a day in the life
of the Marine Corps unfortunately. I experienced the receiving end of a
lot of that, even as an officer. But women are subjected to vile behavior
every day from fellow enlisted and officer ranks, throughout the armed
services. I mean, I was subjected to rape jokes, daily sexual harassment,
daily discrimination. And that kind of culture is something that leads to
condoning of sexual assault. And so there`s a link between the language
and the behavior, and the jokes and all of that, and this pervasive crisis
of sexual assault in the military.
ERDELY: If I can build on that actually, there is research that shows that
in units where sexual harassment is seen as tolerated or sanctioned by the
superiors, the rate of sexual assault in those units goes up by four times.
HARRIS-PERRY: So when it is part of the culture, when people see it as
permissible, then in fact they act in these ways. A part of what is
constantly hard for me every time we do one of these segment, and the very
fact that we have done it now repeatedly is I just keep thinking we have
this kind of mythology about our servicemen and women. We have this notion
that our veterans and that our enlisted, particularly in a volunteer army,
are the people we should be most concerned with protecting because of the
sacrifices that they are making for the country. And yet the unwillingness
or ineptitude in fixing this just flies in the face of that myth.
KNOX: I got to say I keep thinking, where are the women? Like would this
be such a problem if we had women at the top in the military. I think it`s
notable that it`s women elected, Congresswoman Speier, who are bringing
this forward and demanding a legislative solution, because there are so few
women in the military who have made it to the highest. I don`t think,
correct me if I`m wrong, but I don`t think that we`ve ever had a female
joint chief of the armed forces. If we had that in there, if we were
changing the culture on a day-to-day, more women higher up, then would this
change? And I think that the answer is yes, and I think they are going to
change, because women in Congress, we are now taking over. We have more
than ever before, and they are going to demand it and they are going to
show that leadership.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I was going to say, actually, we do know one place
where the woman are, and the women are in the 113th Congress. In fact,
Congresswoman Speier, thank you so much for joining us today. And thank
you for the fact that being part of this 113th and this class of the first
-- the largest number of women ever. I`m beginning to believe that maybe
there`s a possibility that we can get this done this time?
SPEIER: I certainly hope so.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Congresswoman Speier in San Francisco. Also
thank you to Shelby, Anu and Sabrina. Later in the program, the struggle
really continues in North Carolina. There are dozens of activists and
scholars willing to take the risk of arrest in order to take the stand.
And up next, the other place where the women in charge are. Well, right
here in Nerdland. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi joins me live in
studio at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Back in June, I had an opportunity to sit down with House Democratic Leader
Nancy Pelosi when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the
Affordable Care Act. No one doubts that Nancy Pelosi who made passage of
the ACA possible. Her tenure as speaker of the 111th Congress is quite
simply the last time anything got done in Washington.
In addition to giving millions of Americans access to health insurance,
Pelosi`s congress rewrote the rules for Wall Street, worked to revive a
slumping economy, invested in alternative energy and ended "don`t ask,
don`t tell". And that is just a few.
As Washington struggles with issues like immigration, gun control and
Benghazi-gate, and with the midterms on the horizon, I can`t think of
anyone I would rather talk with than House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Welcome to Nerdland.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER: Good morning. Great to
be here in Nerdland.
HARRIS-PERRY: I greatly appreciate you taking the time this week because
it really has been a pretty incredible week of news. Can we start with
PELOSI: You can start wherever Nerdland wants to go.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it feels to me like now that Senate Judiciary is
bringing the amendments and we`re looking at this "gang of eight" proposal,
are you confident? Are you feeling good that we`re going to get
comprehensive immigration reform?
PELOSI: I`m optimistic. Confident is a hard word to use when you`re
dealing with the House Republicans. But nonetheless, I`m optimistic. The
fact that 70 percent of Hispanic voters voted Democratic in the last
election was clear message that Republicans that they needed work. And
work they needed to do was to pass an immigration bill.
So I`m optimistic that a good bill will pass, a bill we will write. That`s
what compromises that, and we would welcome. What we have now in the
house, we`ve been having our own task force of people, Democrats and
Republicans, who have been working on it as well. And I would hope that
the principles shared in the working groups would be what Congress will
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s one piece that you talk there about the question of
Latino voters. There`s another kind of intersecting group. And that`s the
group of LGBT voters and those of us who are allies for LGBT communities.
It seems like one of the sticking points here is about whether or not gay
Americans are going to be able to bring their partners as part of this
Is that going to get stymied in the Republican efforts here?
PELOSI: Well, it remains to be seen. It`s certainly -- we`re not for
discrimination of any kind, so we would hope that there will be no
discrimination in the immigration bill in terms of marriage equality,
couples enjoying the same opportunities, other couples.
However, there are other obstacles. There`s some business labor issues
that have been resolved in the Senate. Not quite so in the House. There
are issues about diversity visas. And how does that affect Sub-Saharan
Africa. There are issues that relate to health insurance.
So this is -- this is not the outstanding issue. There are other obstacles
to overcome. I`m confident that they will. I would hope that by then,
DOMA have been struck down by the court and it would be a nonissue.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, even though there`s some compromise now beginning to
happen on immigration, one place where I`m just stunned by the
unwillingness for compromise and common sense is on guns.
HARRIS-PERRY: What in the world is going on, on this question? I mean,
former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, your former colleague, $11 million
over the past four months, her gun control group has raised. The resources
are there. Where is the political will?
PELOSI: Well, nothing is more eloquent to a member of Congress than the
voice of his or her own constituents. So while, macro, 90 percent, 80
percent, 78 percent, depending on the take on a gun legislation -- gun
safety legislation, the public by and large knows we have to have a bill of
serious background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those who
shouldn`t have them.
That has not -- that message has not been delivered clearly enough to some
members of Congress. It`s appalling that it could not pass the Senate.
But it also raises questions as to why you need 60 bullets to do something
that overwhelmingly American people support.
But we`re not ever backing down. In fact, that`s what the t-shirt says.
The groups that were in my office just on the end of this week, we`re not
backing down, whether it`s a Brady group, Gabby Giffords and her efforts,
and Mayor Bloomberg, and other mayors, Mayor Nutter, Mayor Menino of
Boston, Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- all of these groups, mayors of
advocates who have had impact of gun violence, and their families all
coming together, they brought to me the other day, 1.2 million signatures
which they had gathered in 10 days.
PELOSI: And I said, well, it`s important for me to receive them. But it`s
important for these people to communicate directly with their member of
The public sentiment, Lincoln said, is everything. So, I think as long as
the public is aware of what the choices are and votes of their own
constituents and make their views known to their constituents, we will have
to be ever hopeful that this will pass. It would be -- I don`t know how
anybody could go to work the next day, look themselves in the mirror,
whatever, if Congress cannot pass a background check.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what I love about the response is it shows you are still
an optimist about the project of democracy -- the idea that two sides can
find a reasonable compromise, that me as voters can still hold our elected
officials accountable. But then there`s Benghazi-gate.
And I just -- I want to ask you about it because it`s part of what feels to
me -- it takes away the optimism. It sort of chips it away for me. This
week, we`re back to Benghazi, we`re back to this anxiety now about tell us
who changed the talking points.
I want to take a quick listen to how the White House responded to the
revival of Benghazi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Jay, you told us the only changes that were made
were stylistic. Is it a stylistic change to take out all references to
previous terror threats in Benghazi?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I appreciate the question
again. And I think that what I was referring to was the talking points
that the CIA drafted and sent around, to which one change was made. And I
accept that stylist may not precisely describe a change of one word to
KARL: This was not a change of one word. These underwent extensive
changes after they were written by the CIA.
CARNEY: There was an interagency process, which is always the case,
because a lot of agencies have stakes -- have a stake in the matter like
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So is there a transparency issue here, or is this political
PELOSI: Well, Senator Corker, he himself a Republican senator, said he was
satisfied with the responses from the White House. The obsession that some
of my Republican colleagues have in the House is it doesn`t look like it`s
on the path to really finding a solution, but just to keeping the issue
We have to find out everything about what happened there. There`s no
question about that. To wrangle about some wording, that is the
intelligence consensus estimate process. Everybody puts in and says this
is how I think it should be. They sign off. Those are the talking points.
But the point is this, I think is this. We`ve taken oath to protect and
defend the American people and all of its manifestation. It was a terrible
tragedy in Benghazi. We keep -- California feels particularly protective
of the ambassador because he went to school there, their family is there.
So we want to find out what did happen.
But there is one -- there is one line of investigation or looking into it.
The State Department with the high, very esteemed, distinguished leadership
appointed to look into it. And then it becomes an issue that is
subterfuge. Let`s talk about Benghazi forever so we don`t have to talk
about really what the American people want to talk about.
They don`t want to talk about jobs, they want to talk about economic
security, economic growth. We want to talk about the education of their
children. They want to talk about their future.
And we certainly have to give the full attention that Benghazi deserves.
PELOSI: But we cannot let it soak up all of the congressional attention.
What would be the purpose of that?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. To keep you from governing, right?
PELOSI: If you watch the shows, which I don`t, surfing the channels,
there`s an obsession with Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, let`s stipulate to a
set of facts about it, see how we can prevent it from happening again,
because that`s really the point. And recognize that we live in a dangerous
world and we certainly want to protect all of our diplomats, our
intelligence people. They do great work protecting our country and
advancing our values. But we don`t do that by cutting their budgets and
then spending all of our time investigating why something happened.
HARRIS-PERRY: As you`re thinking about your colleagues in the House and
about the oath that everyone takes, you`re about to have a new colleague in
the House, Representative Mark Sanford, who is going to be coming in from
PELOSI: Before you go there. I want to say about Benghazi issue --
PELOSI: -- and the rest of that, this, again, with all of the sympathy and
concern for the families involved, we have to get the point. I will say
this, there is much of what is being said out there by some of my
colleagues in Congress that is simply true.
PELOSI: And then we go into this, well you said but it wasn`t true and
this and that. It simply isn`t true.
So we have to make sure that the public record is clear about what actually
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I`m going to leave us then on the sobriety of that
thought around Benghazi and the importance of those getting to the bottom
of the facts without getting distracted by the kind of politics that
clearly seems to be about discrediting particular individuals so that
they`re not sort of available for public office later. We`ll leave that
there. We`ll take out a break.
And when I come back I want to talk to ask you about the 2014 midterms and
about the special election in South Carolina. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
2014, the goal is to retake the House of Representatives. If that happens,
if you pick up 17 seats or more, will you seek the speakership?
PELOSI: You know what, one step at a time. What`s really important is
that we get back on track to creating jobs for American people, growing our
economy, educating our children, protecting our people and doing so in a
fiscally sound way. In the election, we`d won the election, but on the
issue of immigration, the message was clear from the Hispanic community at
large that we want an immigration bill. And now, we get an immigration
So the election could serve two purposes. We could win or we can win the
debate and the agenda will change. But right now, with how the Republicans
in the House are acting with no agenda, nothing, that`s our agenda.
PELOSI: Never does that work for you in terms of timing. It is that
urgent that we do everything we can to fight the fight, to make sure what
the issues are about job creation as we go forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, part of what I have found fascinating, though, in the
South Carolina Sanford race --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- is that although you are not currently the speaker of the
House, Sanford -- you would think that he was running against you. I just
want to take a quick look at some of his strategies here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP-ELECT MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I fought hard to make South
Carolina a better place to call home. But those efforts fail now against
the larger battle for the direction of our country. Maybe that`s why Nancy
Pelosi now has spent more than a million dollars to defeat me.
But this contest is bigger than them or me. It`s about two different
visions of how we restore America and rein in Washington spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, at one point, during the campaign, he actually had a
cardboard cut out of Pelosi. So, we have a Mark Sanford cardboard cut-out
today. So, is there anything you would like to say to --
PELOSI: I wouldn`t dignify it. I wouldn`t dignify it.
PELOSI: The fact is, is that Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, she got -- President
Bush lost the district by 18 to 20 points. She lost it by about 9 points.
PELOSI: She outperformed the Democrats in the district. It`s a very
She chose to run. She`s a great candidate. And as I say, she made a good
But he just shows the bankruptcy of his ideas and I wouldn`t even go there.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`d just put him back on the floor.
So, Colbert-Busch is an interesting example because one of the things
you`ve been very clear about is the desire to increase the number of women
in elected office, including a real interest in seeing Hillary Clinton run
for president in 2016. Talk to me about that.
PELOSI: Well, the one thing I don`t like about the silliness some of these
people of bringing up my name up where in the race where -- they know him.
He`s been governor two terms. He`s been the congressman for a while. And
he`s got to talk about something else, instead of talking about himself in
a very Republican district.
Why bring -- the return of that is, what I don`t like about it, it doesn`t
bother me, but what I don`t like about it is other women who I`m trying to
encourage to run will say, why should I subject myself to the silliness of
some of these guys? Why should I do that? I have options in life. I have
a family. I don`t want them to have to be subjected to this.
Well, we say we want people with options. We don`t want people without
options. So, don`t -- you have to put that aside. If you`re effective, if
you pass a health care bill and the Wall Street reform, the powers that
will be will come after you and they`ll come after you with big money. And
they`ll mischaracterize you and then try to associate you with others --
I`ve never even met Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. I admire her, but I have
never met her.
PELOSI: But the fact is, that`s what bothers me about it is women --
really talented great women that we want to come run for Congress say, who
PELOSI: That negativism.
I promise you this -- if you reduce the role of money in politics, which we
must do, and you increase the civility in politics, you will have many more
women, minorities, young people running for office, because it will be a
discussion of ideas and not politics or personal destruction, or squeezing
the air waves out with their misrepresentations.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the viciousness and the even silliness as you describe
of the politics --
PELOSI: And the sexism.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the sexism of it, right, it all then shows back up in
the policy. And the key one that`s kind of on the agenda right now is this
Flexibility Act that is described as though it is supposed to be good for
working women but in fact it`s quite bad for them. It`s described as a war
against working women. You have said that it was a shameful, deplorable
Tell us why.
PELOSI: Well, why that is so is of itself it is a mirage. It tries to
pretend it is something that it isn`t.
It`s even worse because it`s more dangerous in this way. It`s more work.
less pay. Happy Mother`s Day. I don`t think so.
And so, rather than going into the intricacies of it, I will say that it`s
harmful because it fits also along the path of no increase in minimum wage.
Do not pay past the Paycheck Fairness Act. By the way, we want you to work
more time with less pay and call it a break for you when it really is
almost an interest-free loan for the company.
And so, they go out there and they -- as I say, they put a shine on it.
But that`s what they always do. They`re good at that. But women cannot be
fooled by that and we want to make sure they understand that they not been
on the side of shutting down government rather than fund Planned
Parenthood. They`re trying to undo those Affordable Care Act where being a
woman is no longer a preexisting condition.
And all of it comes to two issues that I have been -- two issues that I`d
like to bring up. One is child care, which we absolutely must advance.
Affordable, accessible, quality child care, so moms can work and have their
family responsibilities honored, relate and intact. And so, we can go
nowhere in the Congress with affordable child care.
And then the other is the disparity of income in our country, which very,
very negatively impacts women. If you went back 40 years ago, you would
see that the average CEO of the top company, the average CEO made about 40
times the average worker. And now, the average CEO of the same amount (ph)
of companies makes about over 350 times the average worker. That disparity
of income is undermining to the middle class, is undermining to a
democracy. It`s undermining to the American dream.
These are the same people who don`t want to raise the minimum wage --
PELOSI: -- who want to balance the budget by eliminating investments in
education, shun people who need food stamps, even working families who
can`t afford to put food on the table because of their low wages and the
list goes on.
So, this is -- we have a moment where we have to protect and defend our
Constitution and our democracy and a lot of it relates to fairness in terms
of our economy.
HARRIS-PERRY: And are these issues --
PELOSI: So, flexibility is just another manifestation of their more for
us, less for you, happy Mother`s Day.
HARRIS-PERRY: And are these the issues that you think they don`t want to
talk about? Is this what Benghazi is meant to papering over so that we
don`t ask about minimum wage?
PELOSI: Well, I would say that Benghazi is -- you know, there are
legislate concerns to be addressed there. To make it an obsession as they
do with sequestration, what they do with the debt ceiling is all to say
let`s load the airwaves with this instead of having a talk -- speaking
about a big vision, how can we come together.
When I was speaker, President Bush was president, we worked together. We
passed the biggest energy bill in the history of our country. We passed
Mental Health Parity bill. We saved him on the TARP. Nobody wanted to
vote for that.
We had issues that relate to low-income people that we work together on and
low-income tax credit. We didn`t agree with him on the Iraq war and we
fought him on privatizing Social Security. But where we could find common
ground, we did, and we had many successes there.
This president comes in. They say, as I said to you before -- nothing,
does that work for you. Mr. President? How about never for timing?
PELOSI: And they just had an attitude that they will not give him any
The only reason we were able to pass the Violence Against Women Act was
because we made it too hot to handle in the public.
PELOSI: They bring up the bill, over half of the Republicans voted against
the Violence Against Women Act.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when we come back, I want to ask about exactly this
question of obsession versus real policy, because this is the moment when
the Affordable Care Act is now finally going to be implemented and we still
have members of the House of Representatives talking about repeals.
When we come back, I want to talk to you more about health care.
PELOSI: OK. I love that.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
So health care is back on the agenda, because now we`re going to implement
it. Parts of have been implemented. But now, this is a full
implementation. And yet, Eric Cantor this week tweeted and I hate to
report on Twitter, but he tweeted, "The House will vote next week for a
full repeal of #Obama care." And I`m thinking -- let it go. Let`s move
forward with the most important piece of legislation in the past two
PERINO: Well, we don`t see it in the context of anybody`s -- Eric`s
tweets. We see it in the context of a great transformative moment. This
will be the 37th time the Republicans in the majority have brought up a
repeal of the Affordable Care Act. So there is nothing new about that.
It`s a same old, same old.
But what is very positive is that we are now coming into the mode of
implementation. It has never been off the table for us.
PERINO: But now, it`s more in the forefront. As you know already,
children can be on their parent`s policies. Little children can -- will no
longer have a preexisting medical condition to deprive them of access to
health insurance. Seniors pay less for subscriptions. They have free
wellness check up and the rest of -- some things are already in effect,
including high risk pools, et cetera.
Now we go into the full implementation, we`re right on schedule to do it.
They were the naysayers who were there when we were passing the bill, spent
hundreds of millions of dollars discrediting, misrepresenting what it was
and now, we have to overcome some of that. Those who said it will never be
approved by the court, which I always believed it would, as we discuss last
But now, it`s very exciting. It`s going to be transformative. People will
see. This honors the vows of our founder`s -- life, a healthier life,
liberty, the freedom to pursue your happiness. Whatever, if you want to be
a cameraman or writer, if you want to be self-employed, start a business,
change jobs, whatever you want to do, you can do that and not be job locked
because of a preexisting medical condition or just the need for health
insurance, in affordable way for your family.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet the governors of the states we`re beginning to say,
I lived in Louisiana. We`re seeing it in North Carolina. These decisions
not to take a Medicaid expansion, often therefore not extending this
protection to the most vulnerable members of their constituencies.
PERINO: Well, I don`t know that the concerns of the most vulnerable of
their constituency is at the top of their agendas. But what I do know is
as this moves forward and many more people sign up and see what the
advantage is to them, whether you`re a woman. Women are discriminated
against in rates from insurance.
Note, no longer being a woman is a preexisting medical condition. After
all, we had babies or we had babies and that, and to some of them -- they
told me, you have five children. You`re a poor risk. I thought it was a
sign of strength. They thought it was poor risk.
So, yes, they`re doing this or that, but the train is leaving the station.
And as people see what it means, think of all the people in our country,
100 million either have or someone in their family has a preexisting
PERINO: All of the advocacy groups, whether it`d be cancer, Alzheimer`s,
you name it, all of them will benefit because of this. And so, again, we
believe in it. We believe that the structure is there to implement it.
And as people do come on board, it will be wonderful for their lives. And
that`s really what`s important, what does it mean in the individual lives
of American`s family.
Because I tell you, if there is no other reason to pass a bill, if
everybody loved their insurance and insurer --
PERINO: -- and their health care, we would have had to do it because the
present, the system as it existed was unsustainable fiscally and
financially, for individuals, for families for small businesses, for
corporate America, competitiveness issue, globally, for state, local and
federal government, that we just could not sustain the costs. Already the
costs are going down, more to come as the bill is implemented.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as you pointed out, when it comes to these questions of
those most vulnerable, of those who may most assisted by Affordable Care
Act, mothers are at the top of that list. This is Mother`s Day weekend,
talk to me about your Mother`s Day plans and how they are different than
PELOSI: Well, Mother`s Day is -- I`m so glad that the president talked
about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on women and especially as we
approach Mother`s Day. Every year, for many years, I`ve been in Iraq or
Afghanistan visiting our troops, their moms, believe it or not, grand moms
who are serving our troops overseas. Also to thank our men in the service
for protecting our families.
I also visited with women in Afghanistan, Iraq, when -- it was Iraq now.
Sometimes I went both in the weekend, Afghanistan, but mostly Afghanistan
now, women in Kabul, of course, but also very poor women who lived in the
hinterland, little girls who want to go to school and the rest of that, to
hear what their concerns are as moms.
One piece of wisdom, much wisdom, but one that I have told the president of
Afghanistan and others, the poorest of the poor women in the hinterlands of
Afghanistan had said yes, we want our girls to go to school. Yes, we want
to send them to health clinics and we want to go ourselves, but it`s hard
to leave the house if you don`t have security, we all know that. And these
poor women went on to say, you cannot have security unless you end
corruption -- the great wisdom of women.
PELOSI: So that`s why we need more women all over -- of the word, that`s
why I`m so proud that our House Democratic Caucus, 54 percent women,
minorities and LGBT community members. You saw Jackie Speier representing
our women members and our men members on this issue of assault of women in
the military. So many that are now getting the attention they deserve
because of women in Congress.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I tell you what, the 113th Congress is amazing and
exciting for exactly that. But I am still holding out hope that their will
be 114th Congress where you will once again be Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
PELOSI: Happy Mother`s Day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
PELOSI: Hi to Parker.
HARRIS-PERRY: I will say hi to Parker.
PELOSI: I have four wonderful daughters who are all wonderful moms. So,
I`m proud of them on this Mother`s Day as well. It`s really a lovely
weekend just to say thank you to all of the women of our lives who have
served as mothers. And thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for your leadership.
PELOSI: Speaker Pelosi, thank you. I appreciate you for being here.
And also I want to let everyone watching know that tomorrow, we`re going to
be presenting a special program based on a single idea. The leader is just
talking about the importance of inequality.
And tomorrow, we are spending two hours with the assumption that poverty in
America can be solved. We hope everyone will join us for that most
important discussion. That`s tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
But, up next this morning, the fight for voting rights and so much more in
North Carolina. The struggle continues, Tar Heel edition.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here in Nerdland, we`ve been closely following the
Republican takeover in the New York state legislature, mainly because of
the avalanche of proposals aimed at restricting voting. But there is so
much more at stake.
In the four months since North Carolina Republicans took control of both
chambers of the general house assembly, and the governor`s mansion,
lawmakers have also proposed sweeping changes to education, welfare
management and health care policies, including refusing to accept federal
money to expand Medicaid and restricting access to abortion.
And that`s on Monday, more than two dozen NAACP activists, distinguished
scholars, students, and even a group dubbed the Raging Grannies rallied at
the state legislative building as part of the ongoing protests they`re
calling Moral Mondays. So far, more than people have been arrested on
trespassing charges, including the man helping led the campaign, Reverend
William Barber, the head of the state NAACP chapter, who issued this
challenge, calling out what he called the so-called conservative
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. WILLIAM BARBER, PRES., NORTH CAROLINA NAACP: Where are you? We
couldn`t help -- we couldn`t help but hear you when there was a discussion
about sexuality. My concern is as an evangelical, as a person of Christian
faith is, are you reading half or just two or three scriptures in the
Bible? Doesn`t the Bible have more to say about how you treat the poor and
how you treat the sick and how you treat those on the margins than any
other subject in all of the Scripture? Where are you now?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Where are you now? Amen. When we come back more about what
is really going on in North Carolina.
HARRIOS-PERRY: Proposed laws that would restrict reproductive rights, cut
early education, refusal to expand Medicaid access and bill after bill
after bill designed to create undemocratic obstacles the right to vote.
What is going on in North Carolina and why?
Let`s get right to it.
Joining me by remote from Washington, D.C. is Barbara Arnwine from the
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.
And from Raleigh, North Carolina, William Chafe, who`s Duke University
professor of history and who was arrested Monday during a protest against
the Republican-led legislative agenda.
Professor Chafe, I would like to start with you.
Tell me, why did you decide to take part in the protest?
WILLIAM CHAFE, DUKE UNIVERSITY HISTORY PROFESSOR: Well, it was because
it`s important that people who are mainstream people of the state stand up
for justice. The legislature is really trying to eradicate North
Carolina`s progressive history. And as someone who has written about that
history, had been part of that history, we want to make sure the people
knew that the legislature was really intent on destroying who we had become
over the last 50 years.
HARRIS-PERRY: And look, this is really important. You know, maybe I
should reveal, you were my history professor in graduate school. What I
know about North Carolina history in so many ways, I learned in your
courses, reading your text.
And you`re saying there`s a progressive history here. I think sometimes
folks who aren`t from the South don`t really get the North Carolina story.
Tell us a little bit about it.
CHAFE: Well, North Carolina history, go back 50 years. This is where the
sit-in started, in 1960, when four young first year students of North
Carolina A&T decide they need to be served at a lunch counter after they
bought products at other counters. That four went to 23 the next day, to
66 the next day, to 100 to 1,000 within five days. And within nine weeks
it extended to 54 cities in nine different states.
That inaugurated a period of time. It started in North Carolina when
there`s direct action civil rights movement came along. After that, the
state really became a different kind of place, led by those kinds of
demonstrators. Terry Sanford was the governor, elected in 1960. He
actually was one of the new white people who set a model for the rest of
the state by sending his children to segregated schools.
He started a war on poverty before the war on party started in the country.
And Terry Sanford set a model on how to be a progressive state that could
use its laws and its commitment to fairness, to attract new businesses.
So, North Carolina has become one of the fastest growing and progressive
states in the country based upon that foundation. And that`s the
foundation that`s been followed by Republican governors like Jim
Holshouser, as well as Democratic governors like Jim Hunt.
And now, this legislature is sort of throwing it all out. And it`s
terrible. It`s going to destroy the state.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Barbara, let me bring you in here, because Professor
Chafe has sort of, you know, laid this groundwork that North Carolina was a
place where these kinds of sort of, you know, mobilizations of the people,
and that is definitely what you have been up to, how can people in the face
of this kind of disenfranchisement get their voices heard?
BARBARA ARNWINE, LAWYERS CENTER FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER THE LAW: Well, I
think it`s so important for people to know that the voter ID bill that was
introduced in North Carolina was introduced on April 4th, the anniversary
of the association of Dr. Martin Luther King. How nefarious can you be?
It`s also important to know that we who believe in democracy and want open
democracy and want to make sure everybody has the voting rights according
to them, that we have to use the same tactics that Dr. Martin Luther King
used in his strategies of pray-ins but also we can use our modern tool of
Internet, of our ability to mobilize and move in great ways. I`m so glad
to hear about these Moral Mondays. I want to see more of this.
Right now, North Carolina is ground zero in this fight for voter -- against
voter suppression. But it is critical that we fight in the other eight
states, where we have these critical fights going on right now around
attempts to suppress the right to vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: Barbara, when you say that it`s ground zero, I actually
think you`re going somewhere slightly different, which is just how
important is North Carolina in 2014 and in 2016?
ARNWINE: Well, the whole fight is over North Carolina. I mean, the whole
-- this battle right now in 2013 is over 2014. We should be very clear
that already, this year since January, 58 to 60 voter suppression bills
have been introduced in the various state legislatures. People are
thinking really hard about 2014 and how to make sure that people cannot
On the other hand, those of us who believe in democracy, we`re fighting to
make sure that people can vote and to expand the right to vote. So there`s
a fight, a contest, wheels, counter-visions, different perspectives, but we
are fighting every day. And I want to make sure the people are engaged in
this fight. That you are making sure that this is your moment, because
this is the fight of our lifetimes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Professor Chafe, I have just a few moments left. But I do
want to give sort of a final opportunity. What do you see as the most sort
of insidious current legislative actions? What are the things that really
seem to undermine this progressive history?
ARNWINE: Well, they`re taking away women`s right to control their own
bodies. They`re trying to outlaw abortion. But above all they`re trying
to destroy the capacity of people to register their opinions at the polls.
North Carolina had 85 percent of African-Americans in my county registered
to vote. They all came out to vote. They helped elect Barack Obama in
2008 and almost in 2012.
It`s also important to recognize that 50 percent of the votes for the
legislature this year were Democratic votes. But because of
gerrymandering, two-thirds of the seats that were up went to Republican.
CHAFE: So, 50/50, becomes two-third and that is not only unfair, it is un-
American and it`s undemocratic.
HARRIS-PERRY: Professor Chafe, I have always learned so much from you. I
continue to be inspired by your work. Thank you so much.
CHAFE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Barbara, I`m always feeling something from you. I`m
going to steal from you this phrase -- we who believe in democracy. I
think that`s a critically important way for us to define ourselves. Not
Democrats, not Republicans, but we who believe in democracy.
So, thank you for that.
ARNWINE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Professor William Chafe in Raleigh, North
Carolina, and to Barbara Arnwine of Washington, D.C.
And up next, the simple imagery that could shake up the gun control debate
in the Senate. The people behind it are my foot soldiers of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: How did you feel when you first heard about the shootings at
Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown? I know I felt helpless. I mean, what
could I do in the face of such senseless evil and violence?
We know what the teachers of Sandy Hook did. Many gave their lives trying
to shield students with their own bodies. Nothing could be a greater
contrast to the heroism of these selfless teachers than the choice of 45
U.S. senators who voted no on the Manchin/Toomey amendment that would have
expanded background checks for gun purchases.
Our foot soldiers this week are determined to make that distinction crystal
clear. Our foot soldiers, Faun Chapin and Meg Paradise, from the Brooklyn
design firm Guts and Glory. They created an online campaign called, "They
Don`t Work for You". The campaign pairs photos of each of the 45 senators
who voted no on gun reform with pictures of child victims of gun violence.
The pictures that you`re seeing behind me are from this campaign. Faun and
Meg were us frustrated with the Senate`s inaction on gun reform. But they
chose not to be helpless. They put their talents to work.
As graphic designers, they understood the power of pictures to tell a
story, and they told us we needed to distill down a very noisy conversation
to its core truths, that these senators voted the way they did because they
don`t work for the American people. They work for the NRA who works for
the gun industry, whose sole purpose is to sell more guns. And although
they had never done a political campaign before, they were so moved by the
senseless loss of so many young lives, and they decided to commit every
waking hour to this effort.
They started with photos from Newtown but were determined to show that the
tragedy of child gun victims is a routine occurrence in American towns and
cities. They wanted us to feel the full weight of grief that each of these
families feels, and they wanted us to know which elected members of the
U.S. Senate had refused to take a stand on behalf of these young victims.
I think you`re going to agree that these images achieve exactly that
effect. The Web site is also a direct call to action. Underneath each
photo, they provided links for you to click that will lead you to each
senator`s Facebook page or their Twitter account or you can directly call
their offices from your smartphone. Faun and Meg are seeing results,
thousands are tweeting and Facebooking and calling every single senator on
So, we`re -- for reminding us that we are not powerless, and that we can
stand up, and that we can hold our senators accountable because they`re
supposed to work for us, Faun Chapin and Meg Paradise are our foot soldiers
of the week.
To read an interview with the women of Guts and Glory, please go to our Web
site at MHPShow.com.
That`s our show for today and thanks to you at home for watching. But
please be sure to join us tomorrow, because we`re going to present you with
one simple idea, that poverty in America can be solved. We`re going to
take two hours and bring you all the people who have the ideas about how to
Also, we want to hear from you. What do you believe is the most important
thing we can do to solve poverty in America. Send us your most innovative
ideas by e-mail at MHPmail@MSNBC.com, or via Twitter, using @MHPShow
#Nerdland. Or visit us at Facebook.com/MHPShow.
Poverty in America can be solved but it is not going to be easy. That`s
tomorrow at 10:00 Eastern.
And right now, it`s for preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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