THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
March 24, 2014
Guests: Anthony Roman, Matt Katz; Brad Owen
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: The seven largest economies in the world
shunned Vladimir Putin today. And the mystery of what happened to the
missing Malaysia Airlines plane is now much less mysterious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We start with the latest on missing Malaysian Flight
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The missing flight did not take a northern route over
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All evidence suggests the plane went down --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flight 370 did in fact go down --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- in the southern Indian Ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to this new data --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This conclusion is based on the satellite images.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a vast, vast area.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hundreds of miles off the coast of Australia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This endless horizon of blue ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Far from any possible landing site.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is unprecedented.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The search area is far from contained.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have never seen an airliner go 17 days and not know
where it was.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the search is still under way --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That vital search for the black box.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no conclusion to the international search
efforts as yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The search will be stepped up tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This plane did indeed start in Kuala Lumpur.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flight 370 went down somewhere in the southern Indian
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And traveled all the way to the bottom of the earth.
O`DONNELL: It is now 10:00 a.m. in the area being searched for the
wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. And weather conditions in the
Indian Ocean are making it all the more difficult now.
It`s been 18 days since the flight took off in Kuala Lumpur. Engineers
from Boeing and the British satellite company Inmarsat did further analysis
on the available data, particularly those six pings the plane gave off
after disappearing from radar screens. They combined that information with
the jet`s last known heading, speed, and altitude and concluded that it did
take a path into the southern portion of the Indian Ocean.
That analysis of course all but confirming the theory that the plane went
down in this area about 1,500 miles off Perth, Australia. That`s where
officials continue to search.
And earlier today, the Malaysian government announced to the families of
the 239 passengers and crew and to the world that the flight ended in the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: This is a remote location, far from
any possible landing sites. It is therefore with deep sadness and regret
that I must inform you that according to this new data Flight MH370 ended
in the southern Indian Ocean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Authorities are paying special attention to four locations
around the search area where satellites have picked up images of possible
debris. And aviation experts also tell NBC News that in the end, the
wreckage might only be found using high-tech submersible robots that can
scan the ocean floor.
One former NTSB chairman said today, quote, "This is just the beginning."
NBC News producer John Boxley tweeted this picture of the cover of
Malaysia`s "New Straits Times." The headline reading "Good Night MH370."
Joining me now live from Perth, Australia, is NBC News Asia correspondent
Ian, what is the latest on the search area this morning?
IAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ASIA CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Lawrence.
Well, the search has been suspended today. The weather is just too bad out
there. This larger fleet of aircraft waiting to go in has remained on the
ground. We`re hearing of winds up to 50 miles an hour, swells up to 15
feet, very low cloud.
And the Australian authorities who are coordinating this search have just
concluded it`s too dangerous to send the planes out. They can`t operate in
The HMAS success, which is an Australian navy supply vessel, which had been
en route to try and check out the objects, the apparent debris that was
spotted yesterday by Australian search aircraft, has been withdrawn from
the area because the seas are so bad and will wait outside the search area
until the seas have subsided and it can return possibly Wednesday.
That means that that debris, who knows what will happen to it in that 24
hours, in that swell, in those churning oceans. It`s going to be doubly
difficult now to try and find, to try to & trace what was seen Monday by
the Australian search aircraft. That had raised hopes. That and also some
sightings by a Chinese aircraft.
Today, Tuesday, in Perth was to be the day when they went in to check those
out. But it`s all been suspended. The weather`s too bad, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: And, Ian, what is the weather pattern in that area of the
ocean? Is this a particularly difficult area for weather in searches like
WILLIAMS: It`s very difficult. Just in the short time that we`ve been
down here you see predictions, you see forecasts, and then by the following
day there`s something very different. It`s unpredictable.
What you can say for sure is the conditions are very, very difficult. It
couldn`t be more so. The weather can be extreme. We did have a tropical
cyclone just to the north of the search area, and this may be partly an
impact of that, although it didn`t hit directly.
But what we`re seeing is a lot of unpredictability. There`s a lot of heavy
cloud and fog, particularly in the mornings. They are now saying that they
hope this will clear by later today. But it does seem unlikely that the
aircraft will get out today and it does seem unlikely also that the ships
which were to go in and check on what those objects were won`t be able to
So not good news really for the many relatives who possibly will not accept
what they`ve been told by the Malaysian government until some sort of
debris, some sort of evidence is found, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: NBC`s Ian Williams live from Perth -- thank you very much for
joining us tonight, Ian.
And for more here in the studio I`m joined by retired NBC News aviation
correspondent Bob Hager and also security expert and former commercial
pilot Anthony Roman.
Bob, given the new information today, what is the -- what is the best
available theory as to what has happened to this plane?
BOB HAGER, RETIRED NBC NEWS AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, there aren`t --
either it`s foul play or it`s some catastrophic incident on the plane. And
so far, what we know, you simply can`t tell at all. And no matter which of
those two scenarios you plug in, there would be a lot of unanswered
questions and things that seem to contradict it.
So, that means you really need some hard evidence of what went on. And I
don`t know. If they don`t find anything in the background of these pilots
and they haven`t so far. The only other hard evidence you can go for is
this wreckage, in particular the two black boxes.
O`DONNELL: And, Anthony, the black boxes have a life-span, as we now all
know. It`s ticking down pretty rapidly. When you start to hear those
weather descriptions of what`s going on there and you`ve got a very limited
number of days of life left in those black boxes, the weather could be the
biggest -- obviously may be the biggest enemy of what we`re dealing with
ANTHONY ROMAN, FORMER COMMERCIAL PILOT: The weather is the biggest enemy,
not only for the obvious reason -- low clouds, high winds, pitching decks
on ship making it difficult to eyeball the debris. Aircraft that have to
fly lower than normally so that their slant range view is more limited than
at a much higher altitude.
But once they begin to deploy sonar buoys known as hydrophones that try to
pick up the ping and once they start deploying submersibles and side scan
sonar, the sea state can affect them terribly as well as the topography of
the bottom of the ocean here, where you have deep crevices, volcanoes,
valleys, and very high mountains.
So, it`s about as difficult an environment as you can imagine.
O`DONNELL: Bob, for several days in the course of this investigation there
would be an announcement, a leak, something, a picture from this satellite
or that satellite, and it would be reported as a development of a certain
kind. That development would then be reversed or the analysis of that
development would be reversed within 12 or 24 hours. What has changed
today that made this so conclusive that the Malaysian government could make
HAGER: You know, it sounds like such a dramatic announcement. All it is
is a mathematical calculation based on the same satellite information we
knew about, but they just plugged that in, massaged it a little bit. So,
we haven`t got anything fresh to deal with.
And actually, I was a little surprised that the Malaysian government went
ahead and did it now. You could proclaim this plane lost, could have said
it a week ago, but just because it hadn`t turned up anywhere. To do it
today simply based on the fact that they know it was on that southern track
and there`s no landing fields around there, they could have waited until
they actually had some wreckage.
I wonder if that would have been a little easier for the families. The
families will grasp at anything. And even if there`s wreckage found, they
don`t want to believe the plane crashed. Understandably.
O`DONNELL: Anthony Roman, for an audience that has watched the findings
shift back and forth, is what was announced today going to hold? Is there
any possibility that this will somehow be contradicted?
ROMAN: I don`t think so. The Inmarsat company has a tiffany reputation in
interpreting this kind of data. And even though they used new, never-
before-used formula to interpret some of the old data, they had the
wherewithal to seek their colleagues and other companies and in the
government to review that data in the blind to see if they reach the same
conclusions. And the fact is they all reached the same conclusions.
So there`s a very low likelihood that this will not contradicted.
O`DONNELL: Robert Hager and Anthony Roman, I`m sorry you have to join me
under these tragic circumstances, but thank you very much for joining us
HAGER: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, President Obama meets with European leaders who are
united now in their opposition to Vladimir Putin`s action in Ukraine.
And Chris Christie has spent over a million dollars of taxpayer money,
supposedly investigating why Bridget Anne Kelly wrote the e-mail "time for
some traffic problems in Fort Lee." It`s too bad he didn`t ask her why
before he ordered her fired.
And in "The Rewrite" tonight, the most important woman of the 20th century
in America that many of you have probably never heard of, but you saw her
today if you used Google.
O`DONNELL: The most important story of the day is also so far probably the
most important story of the year. Vladimir Putin`s action in Ukraine.
O`DONNELL: Tonight, President Obama has succeeded in isolating Vladimir
Putin from the rest of the world`s most powerful leaders. The G8 is once
again the G7. In a show of solidarity the leading industrialized nations
known as the Group of Eight, the G8, voted to suspend Russia from the G8
during a 90-minute meeting in the Netherlands today, whereupon the G8
became the G7 once again.
They operated as the G7 until 1998, when Russia was admitted to the group,
thereby creating the G8. Russia was scheduled to host the next G8 meeting
in Sochi in June.
A G7 declaration released by the White House tonight says, "Under these
circumstances we will not participate in the planned Sochi summit. We will
suspend our participation in the G8 until Russia changes course and the
environment comes back to where the G8 is able to have a meaningful
discussion. And we`ll meet again in G7 format at the same time as planned
in June 2014 in Brussels to discuss the broad agenda we have together. We
have also advised our foreign ministers not to attend the April meeting in
Secretary of State John Kerry continued his close contact with Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. They met for an hour in the Netherlands
today. Kerry urged Lavrov to, quote, "deescalate the situation and have
discussions with the new Ukrainian government."
The Russian foreign minister issued this statement about the G8 today.
"The G8 is an informal club with no formal membership. So no one can be
expelled from it. Its raison d`etre was for deliberations between western
industrialized countries and Russia, but there are other fora for that now.
So if our Western partners say there is no future for that format, then so
be it. We are not clinging to that format."
After meeting with the Dutch prime minister today, President Obama said
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Europe and America are
united in our support of the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people.
We`re united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far. Prime
Minister Rutte rightly pointed out yesterday the growing sanctions would
bring significant consequences to the Russian economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to the
Russian federation. He wrote an op-ed in today`s "New York Times" entitled
"Confronting Putin`s Russia." And the "Atlantic`s" Steve Clemons. He`s
also an MSNBC contributor.
Ambassador McFaul, what is the significance, the real significance to
Russia of being dropped from the G8? Russia`s trying to play it as oh,
this is no big deal.
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: I think it`s the end of
a 30-year era. An era that began under President Reagan and Mikhail
Gorbachev, which was defined by engagement with Russian leaders, engagement
with Western leaders, and integration into these Western clubs.
Gorbachev was invited in the summer of 1991 to be a guest of the G7. It
took several years until they formally joined in 1998. But that`s always
been the strategy -- integration, bringing Russia in. That era ended, I
O`DONNELL: Steve Clemons, there`s been a fascinating at minimum dual-track
approach going on here and possibly more where there`s an awful lot of
obviously now very tough action being directed toward Vladimir Putin from
what was the G8, now the G7, also from President Obama. While John Kerry
is constantly, it seems, keeping the Russian foreign minister as close as
possible and staying in as much direct possible contact with him as he can
manage. It seems as though Kerry has no intention of giving up the
conversation with the Russians.
STEVE CLEMONS, THE ATLANTIC: Well, we`re in a position where we have to
hedge our bets. I`d say that Mike McFaul`s article in "The New York Times"
today is arguably the most important chronicle of where we`ve gone and
where we`re going. And what Ambassador McFaul lays out is that we need to
combine both a strategy of containment and engagement.
No matter what people think about Crimea and Ukraine, the fact is that
Russia is also a vital player in many other parts of the world, in areas of
significant strategic significance to the United States, like Iran, like
Syria, like what goes on with global intelligence, like what goes on with
And so, we hope, and we can`t get lost in these hopes, that we can move
forward with this somehow with some, you know, Hail Mary pass. And I think
that`s what John Kerry is trying to hold out. But we have to continue to
deal with Russia, no matter whether in the g7 or not down the road. And I
think Mike McFaul would agree with that as well, despite the fact that we
need to confront Putin`s ambitions in the world, which are very ugly right
O`DONNELL: Well, Mike McFaul does agree with that in his "New York Times"
op-ed piece, as we all know who`ve read it.
But I want to go to something else you said here about -- in your op-ed
piece about Putin`s rise to power and among the things he needed to gain
public support was he needed an enemy. You write, "Mr. Putin needed an
enemy, the United States, to strengthen his legitimacy, his propagandists
rolled out clips on American imperialism, immoral practices, and alleged
plans to overthrow the Putin government. As the ambassador to Moscow, I
was often featured in the leading role in these works of fiction."
Tell us more about that.
MCFAUL: Well, you`ve got to remember, go back and remember the context.
There were parliamentary elections in the fall of 2011. They were shown to
be falsified. And tens of thousands, actually sometimes hundreds of
thousands of Russians protested on the streets. That was the context
within which President Putin announced his re-election bid.
And so, to demonize the people on the street and to rally people around the
flag, they rolled out this old playbook. It`s the Soviet playbook but with
bigger fangs. I lived in the Soviet Union, and this was something even
more I thought outrageous in terms of the way they portrayed my country,
our country, and me personally. And they portrayed me as the guy who came
with bags of money handing out money to the opposition to overthrow Putin`s
regime. That was on almost every single night.
I think Americans would be shocked if they spent just 20 minutes watching
the Russian news today. It really feels like a different era.
O`DONNELL: And, Steve, there are things that the United States has done
over the years that feed into some of this imagery. And former Ambassador
McFaul in his piece, as you know, makes the point that it`s very difficult
when you`re trying to talk to them about respecting borders and the
sanctity of borders, that sort of thing, when they can just shoot back to
you -- well, what about Iraq?
CLEMONS: Well, I mean, this goes back very, very far. Not just with the
invasion of Iraq, a sovereign country, where we didn`t have any legitimate
cause to do so in my view. But there are other things that Russia sees as
grievances, including the recognition of Kosovo, including going back to
really not creating a real track for Russia in NATO.
I mean, when Russia was essentially a basket case in the world, you could -
- you could do all sorts of things and you could say there would be no
track for eventual inclusion in institutions like NATO. But if Russia is
ascendant and it`s feeling wealthy and powerful, and as Michael McFaul
outlines, it`s high on a kind of pugnacious ugly nationalism today and it`s
using outside threats to justify that, that kind of Russia is going to go
back and try and create security buffer zones and try to basically flip off
the rest of the world, so to speak.
So, we`ve been feeding Vladimir Putin with opportunities to show his
domestic constituencies how bad the rest of us are in their eyes. And I
think a strategic response would begin to sort of deflate some of that.
And as Michael suggests, engage Russia in where we have absolute core
interests. But we need to confront him as well because he`s really on a
roll right now.
O`DONNELL: Ambassador McFaul, you talk in your piece about the silent
skeptics in Russia, both in the government and outside of the government,
who we don`t get to hear these days and also the fact that what`s going on
there is Putinism. This is not so much a policy as the effect of one
person. And that leaves us wondering what the life span of Putinism is
likely to be.
MCFAUL: Well, I don`t know. And I don`t believe anybody who says they
know. What I saw there as ambassador was a very constrained debate. Just
think about what just happened with Crimea. There was no independent
television stations from Russia reporting what was happening actually in
Crimea. Instead you have a different image of these so-called fascists
streaming into Crimea.
Second, there was no parliamentary debate. There was no discussion, is
this in the national interests for Russia? And when you don`t have those
Democratic constraints on presidential power, I think you get results like
what you have today.
That said, I have to say there are lots of people that would rather
integrate into the West than have another confrontation with the West.
They would rather have stronger Democratic institutions and a more
prosperous Russia. And those people tend to be younger, more educated, and
live in the big cities in Russia.
So, someday that voice will become a majority voice. And I don`t -- I
don`t want to predict when it will come, but I`m rather confident that it
O`DONNELL: History is on their side. Ambassador Michael McFaul and Steve
Clemons, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.
CLEMONS: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Christie paid over a million dollars of New Jersey
taxpayer money to a pal`s law firm to investigate Chris Christie. And
tonight, the Christie administration is saying that the pal`s law firm
found that Chris Christie did nothing wrong -- even though the Christie
administration is also saying that no one, none of them have actually seen
that law firm`s report yet.
And later, breaking news from Washington state. Just minutes ago,
officials there have announced the number of people possibly missing has
gone up substantially tonight. We will have the very latest.
O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, Christie investigates Christie.
The internal review that governor Chris Christie ordered, investigating the
George Washington bridge scandal is not yet complete. But that did not
stop the Christie administration from issuing a press release telling us
what is in their not yet complete report. The press release said that the
internal review is quote "comprehensive and exhaustive" and that it will
give quote "a full airing of what happened."
This press release about the internal review includes a sentence that could
only be composed in Christie world. The ongoing review, which is not yet
complete and therefore has not been delivered to the governor`s office or
anyone else yet.
So here is a press release describing an internal review that it says has
not been delivered to anyone. This press release was sent out by the
deputy communications director Kevin Roberts, who can`t possibly have seen
the ongoing review he is describing because he says in his press release
that the review hasn`t been seen by anyone. That includes Kevin Roberts.
Kevin Roberts then goes on to tell us that the review he has not seen
includes individual interviews with the governor and lieutenant governor,
individual interviews with more than 70 individuals inside and outside of
state government including governor`s office senior staff members and New
Jersey officials at the port authority, access to the government and
personnel e-mail accounts and personal phone of key current and former
administration officials. The governor himself handed over his own iphone
and provided access to his government and personal e-mail accounts.
Chris Christie spent over a million dollars of taxpayer money in producing
this yet unseen report, which does not include interviews with the most
important known players at the center of the scandal, Bridget Anne Kelly,
the author of the e-mail "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
David Wildstein, the enthusiastic recipient of that e-mail, and Bill
Stepien, Chris Christie`s former campaign manager. Christie, of course,
could have saved the state of New Jersey a million dollars by simply asking
Bridget Kelly one question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have -- I have not had a
conversation with Bridget Kelly since the e-mail came out. And so she was
not given the opportunity to explain to me why she lied. Because it was so
obvious that she had. And I`m quite frankly not interested in the
explanation at the moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Matt Katz, who covers Chris Christie for public
radio`s WNYC and writes for the blog "the Christie tracker."
Matt, big surprise. Million dollars sent to a pal`s law firm to do a
report which no one has seen, but the Christie administration knows says
that Chris Christie did absolutely nothing wrong.
MATT KATZ, WNYC, THE CHRISTIE TRACKER: It`s a little complicated how all
this went down today. "The New York Times" actually got a leak with
information about this internal review. And that press release you just
cited from was Christie`s people reading off "The New York Times" and
taking out excerpts.
Now, the leak had to of course have been sanctioned by Christie`s office in
the first place because Christie`s main attorney investigating this was
quoted in it. So, we assume they at least cooperated or knew about it. So
there`s a lot of kind of a circular sort of thing going on here. And the
conclusion is not unexpected that they say he`s innocent. But the reason
why they did it this way is because they`re trying to set the stage for
when the report is released probably later this week. And they were trying
to say they did a very comprehensive exhaustive investigation.
They said they did 70 interviews. They said the governor gave up his
iphone for a time so it could be examined. And they`re trying to say this
is as comprehensive of an investigation as could be done.
And even though they didn`t talk to Stepien or Kelly or Wildstein, the main
players in Bridgegate, they say hey, the Democrats were running their own
investigation, the legislature, they haven`t spoken to these three people
either. So their investigation is just as good if not imperfect as the
And this is -- so this is their offering. And you know, they finished
theirs before the Democrats did. So hey, he`s innocent, now what does
everybody else have to say?
O`DONNELL: You know, there`s going to be a few ways to judge this report.
But the most -- the most available way if they want to do this the right
way is to simply not just release their report but show us the complete
transcript of your interview with Chris Christie, the complete transcript
of your interview with David Samson, complete transcripts of their
interviews, not just these references to oh, you know, we talked to Chris
Christie and he told us everything.
KATZ: Well, they`re not going to do that, unfortunately. We should talk
about who is running this review. The lead attorney, Randy Mastro, was
Rudy Giuliani`s deputy mayor in New York City. Rudy Giuliani has been the
most outspoken defender of the governor as this scandal has unfolded.
One of Randy Mastro`s assistants is a woman named Debra Wong yang who`s a
former U.S. attorney, who got a contract with Christie when he was U.S.
attorney and she was in private practice.
"The Bergen Record" reported tonight that her daughter actually interned at
Christie`s office. And I can report now for the first time that Debra Wong
Yang`s family with her three daughters had vacationed with Christie and his
family several years ago.
O`DONNELL: OK. Hold it, Matt. We have to get the breaking news banner
under you when you say that, just one more time. So he has vacationed,
Chris Christie and his family, with the family of one of the lawyers
involved in the investigation of himself.
KATZ: That`s correct. So these are people that are close to him, at least
one or two of these people. And they were hired to be his attorney. So
it`s not totally unexpected. But it`s not a situation where we can expect
them to come out with a totally unvarnished impartial report of course.
O`DONNELL: All right. Well, the show me the money demand from the media
that reporters released should be show me the transcripts, show me the
Matt Katz, thank you very much for your time tonight.
KATZ: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, an amazing story. First Barnard College accepted
her, then Barnard College rejected her when they found out she was black.
And then she went on to get an honorary degree from Barnard and many other
honors. The astonishing life and times of Dorothy Height. That`s next in
the "rewrite." This is really a profound and moving American story that
you will want to know and all of our children need to know.
O`DONNELL: I`m going to tell you the story of Dorothy Height tonight. And
if you`re like me, you just might cry when you hear about some of it. I
think I maybe shed a tear this afternoon reading about her, thinking about
her, and writing about her. That`s next in the "rewrite."
O`DONNELL: If you sped through Google`s home page today, you made the
mistake of not examining the Google doodle. Now, I usually fly right by
that myself, but today if you clicked on the picture of that woman you
would have read about possibly the most important American woman of the
20th century whose name you don`t know.
Dorothy Irene Height has earned many more important honors than today`s
Google doodle. President Clinton awarded her the presidential medal of
freedom in 1994. And his successor, George W. Bush, awarded Dorothy Height
the congressional gold medal. Those two medals are our nation`s highest
But in 1929 she didn`t seem destined for awards when she arrived here in
New York City as an admitted freshman to Barnard College, the distinguished
women`s college associated with Columbia University. It was only when she
arrived on campus that the college administrators realized that Dorothy
Height was African-American, whereupon they immediately rewrote her
acceptance letter into a rejection on the spot and turned her away because
they had already filled their quota for black students that year. The
quota was two. And Barnard simply couldn`t bear a third black freshman in
What would you do? You traveled to your new college only to be told that
your acceptance is invalid and it`s invalid because of the color of your
skin. What Dorothy Height did while still staggered by what happened to
her at the gates of Barnard was get on the subway, ride all the way
downtown to New York University, and show them her Barnard acceptance
letter. NYU admitted her on the spot. She earned her bachelor`s degree in
1933 and earned her master`s in psychology in 1935.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Never underestimate the
power of your example. The very fact that you are graduating, let alone
that more women now graduate from college than men is only possible because
earlier generations of women, your mothers, your grandmothers, your aunts
shattered the myth that you couldn`t or shouldn`t be where you are. I --
CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: No woman did more to shatter the myth that you couldn`t or
shouldn`t be where you are than Dorothy Height, who was turned away from
the very place where President Obama delivered that 2012 commencement
address. President Obama knew Dorothy Height`s story but graciously,
perhaps too graciously, did not include it in his Barnard commencement
She became, as "The New York Times" once called her, a largely unsung giant
of the civil rights era. She spent eight decades in the civil rights
movement beginning with anti-lynching protests in the 1930s. She was
president of the national council of negro women for 40 years. She advised
several presidents of the United States on civil rights.
The "Times" described her role in the movement this way. "Over the years
historians have made much of the so-called big six who led the civil rights
movement -- the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, John
Lewis, A. Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney M. Young Jr.
Ms. Height, the only woman to work regularly alongside them on projects of
national significance, was very much the unheralded seventh, the leader who
was cropped out figuratively and often literally of images of the era."
There she is in 1963 on the platform when Dr. King delivered his "I have a
dream" speech. She was one of the chief organizers of that event. And in
high school, she was the only black contestant to make it to the national
finals of a public speaking contest, which she then won. Her winning
speech was about the reconstruction amendments to the constitution that
extended constitutional protections to former slaves. But the audience at
the march on Washington that day did not get to hear her speak because all
the speakers were men.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: She wasn`t interested in credit. What she cared about was the
cause. The cause of justice. The cause of equality. The cause of
opportunity. Freedom`s cause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was President Obama speaking at Dorothy Height`s funeral,
in the national cathedral in 2010. She was 98 when she died, 15 months
into the Obama presidency. And in those 15 months she was invited to and
visited the White House 21 times.
President Obama made sure that she had a good seat up on the platform for
his first inauguration address. Barnard recognized its mistake a Long time
ago. When Dorothy Height died, the president of Barnard said "denying Dr.
Height the opportunity to attend Barnard was an egregious decision that
truly saddens all of us at the college. We join in celebrating her
inspiring achievements as a leader of the civil rights movement, a crusader
for justice, and a fearless role model for young women everywhere."
Thirty years earlier Barnard officially apologized to Dorothy Height and
awarded her the college`s highest honor, the Barnard medal of distinction.
And in 2004 Barnard gave Dorothy Height an honorary degree. When she
received her Barnard degree that day, Dorothy said, quote "something that
could have hurt forever has been removed."
Today is Dorothy Irene Height`s 102nd birthday.
O`DONNELL: In Washington state after that massive mudslide where 14 people
have already been found dead. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PENNINGTON, DIRECTOR, SNOHOMISH COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: This
morning I shared with you the number 108. This afternoon I have to share
with you that the approximate number of the names that have been reported
in under our consolidated call center which is now up and running is 176.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: We have breaking news from Washington State tonight. There are
now 176 reports of people missing or unaccounted for up from 108. From
Saturday`s massive mudslide which has killed at least 14 people and
destroyed close to 50 homes.
Officials stress these reports are vague and could include many duplicates,
that it does not mean necessarily that 176 different people are missing.
Two hours ago, President Obama declared an emergency in the state of
Washington, allowing the federal government to provide funds to support the
local response effort. Earlier today NBC News`s Miguel Almaguer assessed
this devastation from the air above Oso, Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: One square mile of debris to 500
football fields worth of destruction. It just goes on and on. (INAUDIBLE)
were demolished by the mudslide. Dozens of homes are damaged or destroyed.
Crews in the air and on the ground have been spending hours looking for
victims, but their job is dangerous. There`s concern another mudslide
could be triggered. So they`re being asked to pull back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now from Seattle, about 50 miles from the site of
the mudslide, lieutenant governor of Washington Brad Owen.
Mr. Owen, I just want to clarify this thing about missing people. There
can be some duplication there because maybe one or two or three friends of
the same person could call up, not knowing that they were all reporting the
same person, and that could pump up the number. Isn`t that why we`re
unsure of exactly what the number is?
LT. GOV. BRAD OWEN (D), WASHINGTON: Exactly. It`s highly expected that
there`s many duplicates in that number. We`re optimistic that the number`s
going to go down as we were able to put this all together and figure out
who`s talking about who and as people are calling in and hopefully letting
us now that they`re safe, which is another issue that we`re encouraging
people to do if they`re from the area. But we expect that number to go
O`DONNELL: Now, you`ve been in charge of this effort with the governor out
of state for a bit. The governor`s back. But what is the biggest
challenge facing the recovery effort now?
OWEN: Well, right now if you talk to the people that are there, there`s
incredible search and rescue folks. If you ever heard of stuck in the mud,
that`s exactly what the situation is. It`s taking them forever to go short
distances just to get to where they need to search. When they get there,
the mud is like -- it`s been described as like cement. This came down,
this crushed buildings. You`ve got wood, debris, mud, and it`s like
cement, and trying to get it apart just to search has been extremely
difficult for the folks there. But they`re doing the best that they can,
and our hats are off to them of course.
O`DONNELL: Were any warnings issued about the possibility of this kind of
OWEN: Not a word that I`ve been able to determine at this point.
Certainly there will be a lot of looking around and checking. But as far
as we can tell, people were just in their homes, no expectation. Next
thing you know their home is being crushed by a wall of dirt and mud and
trees. It`s just a horrible situation.
Our goal, number one, is first to try to help these people find, you know,
missing loved ones and help them with a lot of grieving and distraught
situation for the folks. But no, there was no warning, no expectation that
there could be a problem that we knew of.
O`DONNELL: There are areas that are prone to this sort of thing in
California and other west coast locations that I`m aware of. And there`s a
certain local awareness of the possibility. Was this one of those regions?
OWEN: Well, again, you know, not that we know of at this time. I`m sure
there will be a lot of people checking into that to see if there was. But
everything that we can determine at this point is that there was no
indication whatsoever that there was a problem. But it came down. We had
a lot of rain, and the ground was loosened. And it happened. But as far
as we can tell, at this point there was no indication from the past or
anything that would give us some warning that this might happen.
O`DONNELL: Lieutenant governor Brad Owen, thank you very much for joining
us tonight during this very difficult time for your state.
OWEN: You bet. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL