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All In With Chris Hayes, Thursday, March 27, 2014

Read the transcript from the Thursday show

March 27, 2014

Guest: Paul Butler, Margie Omero, Robert Costa, Terry O`Neill, Dave Zirin,
Robert Smith, Allison Schrager

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Good evening from New York. I am Ari Melber,
in for Chris Hayes.

It`s been one of the most significant days for New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie since the start of the bridge-gate scandal. Today, a law
firm that the governor`s office hired released the findings of an
investigation which they claimed exonerates Christie and puts the blame for
the bridge-lane closures mostly on a former staffer and former Port
Authority appointee.

But, the findings leave numerous questions unanswered. We will
explore those in a moment. Today`s self-exoneration from Christie also
comes on what is effectively the start date for the 2016 Republican
presidential primary. We will explore Christie`s high stakes political
offenses shortly.

But before all that, night, for the first time since his marathon
press conference following that original set of bridge-gate revelations,
Chris Christie faced a member of the national press. Imagine that, on ABC
"World News" tonight to proclaim his innocence.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This report says that I had no
knowledge of it before it happened. Nor did I authorize it and -- or have
anything to do with it. And that`s the truth. Sometimes people do
inexplicably stupid things.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Do you really believe they didn`t do it
because they thought that`s what would please you? If you didn`t know
about it, that they were going to try to please you?

CHRISTIE: I can`t get into what their motivations were except to say
that anybody who really knows me would not believe that doing something
inexplicably stupid would please me.


MELBER: That new report got into the motivations and we`ll get on
that in a minute.

But Chris Christie`s big PR push here, it began yesterday after
reports that his own internal investigation which was estimated to cost $1
million exonerated him in this scandal, even though the governor
acknowledged on his monthly "Ask the Governor" radio interview,
investigators never spoke to any of the key players in this scandal.


CHRISTIE: Bridget Kelly, Bill Stepien, Bill Baroni, David Wildstein,
Dawn Zimmer, Mayor Sokolich, all refused to be interviewed.

RADIO HOST: Those are some pretty key figures in this, that if they
weren`t interviewed, how do you come to that conclusion?

CHRISTIE: Well, because you don`t just come to conclusions from
interviews. There`s lots and lots of documents that involve all those
people, which have been part of the public record and will be becoming part
of the public record as we go forward.

Some of those folks, at least three of them, have asserted their
constitutional right not to speak. If they continue to do that, no one
will ever speak to them.

RADIO HOST: So, there may be questions surrounding this, would you
concede, that we may simply never the answers to?

CHRISTIE: Right. But I don`t think any of the important questions.
I think all the important questions will be answered.


MELBER: Today, Christie`s lawyer, Randy Mastro, released the full
360-page report to the press. We have it. It is lengthy.

And despite Governor Christie`s prediction, it doesn`t address some of
the most important questions at all. Why, exactly, former members of
Christie`s administration ordered these access lanes from Fort Lee, New
Jersey, on to the George Washington Bridge, to be closed for what became a
four-day stop causing traffic jams and delayed school buses and emergency
responders under the guise of a new fictitious traffic study?

What the report did do was exactly what skeptics have long predicted.
It tried to provide cover for the embattled governor as he tries to move
past these scandals.


Christie had no knowledge beforehand of this George Washington Bridge
realignment idea. Our findings today are a vindication of Governor
Christie and what he said all along that he had no knowledge of this lane
realignment beforehand and no involvement in the decision. There is not a
shred, not a shred of hard evidence that the governor did anything other
than he has publicly said.


MELBER: That was from this morning`s press conference, and despite
those strong denials, the report has interesting stuff in it. It
acknowledges the Port Authority official who oversaw the lane closings,
David Wildstein, says that he told Christie about the closures while they
were going on at the time. That is something Christie has denied knowing
about. He says when they were happening, he didn`t know.

And today, Governor Christie said he didn`t recall that very
conversation, and if it did happen, well, Wildstein definitely did not
spell out sufficiently the -- excuse me -- the specifics of what was going

The report cast Wildstein and Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie`s former
deputy chief of staff and author of that infamous e-mail, "time for some
traffic problems in Fort Lee," as most responsible for the lane closures,
suggesting they were seeking to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, though
not necessarily because he wouldn`t endorse Christie for re-election as has
been publicly suggested.

The report goes so far as to suggest that Kelly`s actions may have
been related to her having been jilted by former Christie campaign manager
Bill Stepien. A lawyer for Stepien told the "Washington Post" today the
two had briefly dated but the, quote, "gratuitous presence of the
relationship in this Christie report was only done for the purpose of
creating alternative headlines."

More than half the report is also dedicated to debunking the claims by
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer who has said the Christie administration
threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy funding if she didn`t back a very
key redevelopment project. The report called her claims, quote,
"demonstrably false and said they do not match objective reality."

Now, in a new statement, Zimmer called the report a "one-sided
whitewash of serious misconduct by the Christie administration." A New
Jersey lawmakers investigating Christie vowed that a report from lawyers
hired by and paid by the Christie administration, itself, to investigate
the governor`s office who then say the governor and most of his office did
nothing wrong will not be the final word on this matter.

Joining us now is reporter and MSNBC host, Steve Kornacki, who`s
reporting is cited repeatedly in Governor Christie`s internal investigation
report. And Georgetown law professor, Paul Butler, who served as a federal
prosecutor focusing on public corruption cases among others.

Welcome to you, both.

Steve, let`s start with you. I walked through some of the details,
not all, in something this lengthy. What is your takeaway? What have we
learned about Governor Christie`s response from this report by his lawyers?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, "UP": Well, what strikes me about it is
how heavy-handed it is, because they clearly wanted to present this and
dress this up as like the authoritative final word on this subject. Hey,
he`s been exonerated, nothing else to see here. He can go out to Vegas,
and he can tell everybody there, hey, you know, the last is 11 weeks didn`t

But it`s not even -- I expected this would be artfully written.
Everybody expected this conclusion was coming. But I expect -- they don`t
just lay out the facts that they have, the facts they want you to see and
let you get to the conclusion.

They use loaded language. They beat you over the head. They
characterize people`s motives in here. People they haven`t even

They just give Christie credit for it, at one point, when they
acknowledge that Wildstein alleges that he had a conversation with Christie
on 9/11 having to do with this. They acknowledge that and quickly put a
dash in and say, but even if that conversation took place, Christie
wouldn`t have remembered it because they`re --


MELBER: Let`s pause on that very point, Steve. You mentioned it`s no
doubt significant that that point about what he was told and to the point
you`re making about this report, what`s weird about it is that before they
even get through the factual assessment, they start debunking it. He was
asked about this, Governor Christie, in an interview with Diane Sawyer that
I mentioned.

Let`s take a listen to that.


SAWYER: David Wildstein has said at a 9/11 event, he talked to you
about traffic. It`s a little ambiguous exactly what. Did he?

CHRISTIE: Yes, I don`t have any recollection of that, Diane. David
was one of hundreds of people I spoke to that day. We stood around and
spoke briefly that day. I don`t have recollection of him saying anything.

But I`ll tell you this -- I`ll tell you what he didn`t say. He didn`t
say, "Hey, by the way, Governor, I`m closing down lanes on the George
Washington bridge to stick it to the mayor. Is that OK?" That I`d


MELBER: Paul, unpack that for us from a prosecutorial perspective.
This is one of those times where the governor is setting himself up to
defend by saying, even if I heard something, I didn`t hear a thing that was
bad enough I should have cared about at the time.

prosecutor looks for is a motive. Who would want to close this bridge to
get back at somebody? So, a prosecutor thinks, that sounds like a bully.
Who`s the bully in this neighborhood? And then folks started looking at
Governor Christie.

Again, why would other people like Wildstein or Bridget Kelly done
this on their own? They wouldn`t have gone off and done this unless they
had a reason. Kelly is a loyal lieutenant to the governor. Come on.

MELBER: Right. So, you`re saying, yes, what else would the reason

Obviously, Steve, the governor there in that interview isn`t providing
an alternative theory there. And that also brings us, as you look at
Bridget Anne Kelly to -- what is a pretty concerning allegation being
floated in the report paid for, as we mentioned, by taxpayer dollars, that
the report doesn`t even claim to have a reason to offer, which is that
there was some sort of romantic relationship there. What light can you
shed on that?

KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, what they`re doing is putting public for the
first time what`s been sort of on the grapevine in Scranton, New Jersey,
political world, excuse me, for a while now. But nobody has aired this
because this is something nobody can put a date on, hey, yes, this is the
nature of the relationship, it started here, it ended here, and all of

And it`s particularly strange to me because they acknowledge they
didn`t interview Bridget Kelly, they acknowledge they didn`t interview Bill
Stepien, but they`re going to air they have some kind of relationship,
they`re going to characterize it as a relationship that Stepien ended and,
perhaps, motivated Kelly in some way.

I was, you know, really surprised to see that in there. They suggest
all sorts of motives. They talk about her emotional state. They also talk
about a sick family member.

You know, at the time of the -- at the time that this was all playing
out. They also note, what`s interesting is, that she called apparently one
of the top members of Christie`s campaign on August 12th. This is the
night before the "time for some traffic in Fort Lee" e-mail went out.

That she called Matt Mowers` campaign, to make sure she was correct
that Sokolich had not and would not be endorsing.

MELBER: Right.

KORNACKI: So, that timing is interesting. But they don`t say that`s
what they think explains it all.

MELBER: Yes. I want to be clear and fair. Let me play Chris
Christie`s lawyer, Randy Mastro, trying to explain today why they included
that romantic relationship.

Take a listen, Paul.


MASTRO: The relevance would be that it might explain, particularly
not speaking, a lack of communication between the two of them during a
critical period when this lane reassignment decision was made.


MELBER: Now, Paul, there are times in a legal context, particularly
in a case, where you might try to impeach someone in cross-examination.
You might try to raise things about them that might make them less
credible. In your view, legally, is this normal and is this appropriate
here when the answer that the Christie lawyer is providing is simply that
this explains some sort of lack of communication, the romance?

BUTLER: Well, it`s not ethical unless they can make it relevant to
the case. And at this point, I don`t see how what`s relevant. It is
normal, though, in the sense that when there`s a male in a public
corruption case, if you can bring in some woman to say it`s her fault, if
you can blame her, and the report uses incredibly charged language about
not just Bridget Kelly but also Mayor Zimmerman. It says that she`s out of
touch with reality.

MELBER: Zimmer. Yes.

BUTLER: Yes. You know, she`s a vindicated woman that says that,
well, they have things going on with their personal lives. So, maybe they
couldn`t focus. I mean, these are old-fashioned sexist cold words that are
trying to dirty up people who might be star witnesses in a prosecution
against governor.

MELBER: Right. And as you say, star witnesses who could be very
important later. Pivotal, even, Steve.

Zimmer, of course, we should mention, as I said in the intro, is cited
repeatedly here including your reporting because your show broke the story
of her allegations. Your thoughts on the way she was depicted here? And
whether it gives you any pause about her as a credible accuser?

KORNACKI: No, I say, we call this a report, and they certainly want
to set this up like this is some independent objective report. I really
think the best way for people to view this is this is the Christie defense.
This is, you know, if the U.S. attorney asks any questions, these are the
answers you`re going to get. If the public has any questions, here are all
your answers.

But they did not speak to Dawn Zimmer. They didn`t get documents they
asked for from Dawn Zimmer. They didn`t talk to anybody around Dawn Zimmer
they wanted to talk to.

You know who did talk to Dawn Zimmer? The U.S. attorney. You know
who talked to people around her? The U.S. attorney. Who got those
documents? The U.S. attorney.

So, you can repeat that with Sokolich. Didn`t talk to them, will talk
to the U.S. attorney. You can repeat that with all the main players in the
case. Wildstein is openly asking for a deal with the U.S. attorney.

So, that`s where the ball game really is, the important thing to keep
in mind. This is the Christie defense. It may or may not be credible.
U.S. attorney is going to decide that.

MELBER: Right. And what it is, it`s defense to a set of allegations
that at times looked like it`s masquerading as an independent inquiry,
which is obviously not.

I want to also put up briefly on the screen the picture of Dawn Zimmer
that appears in the report that sort of gives people a flavor if you`re not
going to read the whole thing. There`s a picture of her. They have her
yawning, and then they write -- they basically write that, you know,
someone who was threatened, a person does not normally yawn when being
threatened, coerced or spoken to improperly.

That in the law what we would often call conjecture. Their view that
because they found a photo of her yawning, she couldn`t have been
threatened during that interaction. I thought that was so weird, it just
made them look not credible. There are, as well, some very interesting
pieces of evidence in here.

So, it`s a lot to unpack. We`re going to do more of that actually in
the next block.

Steve Kornacki, you can catch, of course, more of your reporting on
this on "UP" weekends at 8:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on MSNBC, of course.
And Paul Butler, from Georgetown University Law Center, thank you very much
for your time.

The long awaited release of Governor Chris Christie`s internal
investigation is not the only big development in Christie land today. He
also did his first major news interview, as you saw, since that now famous
press conference about the political payback on the George Washington
Bridge. In a town hall earlier this week, he was reflective about what
this says about his entire political career.


CHRISTIE: When you become governor, you realize how your life really
changes. I never come in the front door of anyplace anymore. It`s really
depressing. You go in the backdoor, because the backdoor, like I went to
go to get my annual physical two weeks ago, and I met -- my doctor met me
at the garbage dumpster behind her building. Like, is this really it? I
got -- we meet by the garbage dumpster?


MELBER: Yes. The requirements of power can be depressing, but
apparently that`s not stopping the governor from heading to a key stop on
the GOP`s preprimary for presidential aspirations. Forget Iowa. It`s all
about Vegas. That story is next.

Plus, some personal news about why my colleague, Chris Hayes, is out
tonight. Stay with us.


MELBER: Welcome back. You may have noticed I am not Chris Hayes.
It`s true. He`s not here tonight because he had something -- well, amazing
happen today. That thing is this. Chris` wife, Kate, gave birth to their
son, David, at 5:3 a.m. Eastern Time. We can report with absolute
certainty here on MSNBC that the child is eight pounds and extremely cute.

Both baby and mother are doing just fine. Congratulations to Chris on
your new addition. Mazel tov.

And we will be right back.


MELBER: We continue with the big week for Governor Chris Christie.
His lawyers attempted to re-brand bridge-gate with their own internal
report today and the governor amplified on that effort with the first big
TV interview since the allegations of political dirty tricks rocked his


SAWYER: What about Iowa?

CHRISTIE: Oh, I think they love me in Iowa, too, Diane. I`ve been
there a lot. I think they love me there, too.

SAWYER: Has this torpedoed your 2016 run?


SAWYER: Your 2016 chances?

CHRISTIE: No, listen, I haven`t made a decision about 2016, and I
don`t intend to make a decision on 2016 until a year from now. But it
won`t have anything to do with what`s happened the past ten weeks.


MELBER: They love him. He can`t help it.

That`s not all. Christie is gearing up for the first big primary of
the 2016 race. Here`s what he said on ABC "World News" about that. It`s
not in the snowy plains of Iowa or a famous town hall in New Hampshire.
No. This year the first big primary is in the mecca of family values and
fiscal responsibility, Las Vegas, specifically -- this is true, it`s at the
Venetian, a mega casino that cost over $1 billion to build with 4,000
rooms, its own bridge and waterway system, gondola rides and, of course,
its own wedding chapel.

Why? Because it`s one of the crown jewels of Sheldon Adelson, whose
$38 billion fortune makes him one of the richest people in the world
according to "Forbes", and he`s become a very important man in GOP
politics. You may remember he backed Newt Gingrich last time then
eventually came around to Mitt Romney, ultimately plowing over $90 million
into the 2012 race.

Today, he`s posting top Republicans at the spring meeting of something
called the Republican Jewish coalition. And over days, he will host
Governor Christie, plus, former Governor Jeb Bush, Governor John Kasich,
and Governor Scott Walker. The financial backing could jump-start
Christie`s political fortunes, to say the least. No matter who Adelson
decides to support this time around, there`s little doubt in the age of
unlimited super PAC money and spending, Nevada is fast becoming the new

Joining us now is Margie Omero, managing director of research at
purple strategies, a Democratic political consulting firm. And Robert
Costa, national political reporter for the "Washington Post" and a
specialist on all things Republican right now.

Welcome to you both. Let me start with you, Robert. Tell us about
this meeting, what`s going on in Las Vegas and why it seems to important to
so many top Republican potential presidential aspirants?

ROBERT COSTA, WASHINGTON POST: It`s happening at the Venetian. You
had some golf today, donors, Adelson, a lot of his friends when to the golf
course. There`s been scotch tastings. Jeb Bush is speaking at a private
closed door, no press dinner tonight at Adelson`s airplane hangar. But the
most important meetings are the one-on-one Adelson with the four
contenders, the four potential contenders that have come to this cattle

MELBER: Yes. You mentioned the scotch and the golf. I got to tell
you, that is -- that is key. And I wouldn`t wish against them having their
scotch and golf on the road.

Margie, I guess one of the questions here, though, is, what does this
say to us about our democracy beyond things donors want to do for fun and
for bonding, right? We took a look at what Adelson`s money actually means
for him given the scale of his fortune, about $38 billion compared, you
know, if you compare that to a lot of other people.

For him, the $90 million he spent last time is less than 1 percent of
his total net worth. For the median adult household, that would be like
spending 88 bucks. So, if he and other billionaires want to get into this,
they can have a huge impact without having it take any real bite out of
their wealth.

huge amount of impact the amount of money in raw dollars that folks like
Adelson have spent and can continue to spend. Ultimately, the people
decide who becomes president. And if Adelson was in charge and his money
was the only thing that mattered, then we`d have President Gingrich or
President Romney.

The truth is, all Republican candidates need to focus not on the
constituent of one of what`s going on in Las Vegas, but of the entire
country. The majority of Americans who disagree with Republican positions
on a whole host of issues. They`re worried about breaking bread with
Sheldon Adelson when they`re not worried about all the people -- millions
of people around the country are getting kicked off food stamps because of
Republican policies.

It`s a real sign of how disconnected the party continues to be from
the people who make the decisions about who becomes president.

MELBER: Well, you know, that may be true. I think I`m definitely
sympathetic to that concern. And yet, Robert, when you look at the sheer
politics of this, it`s not like these Republican aspirants are hiding it,
and specifically with Chris Christie, who as we said, had a big, big news
day today.

It seems like it`s important to him to be out on the circuit not only
seeking money, win, of course, can help him, but seeking the prestige
associated with being a first-tier candidate hobnobbing and doing the
things we expect of these first-tier candidates to show in a way, tell me
if you agree, that he`s over bridge-gate and he`s moving on?

COSTA: That`s right. I think a year ago when I was going into
Trenton to cover Governor Christie, you saw a person, a politician, who was
the establishment favorite. He was looking ahead to 2016, his entire team.
Bill (INAUDIBLE) and others, thought they were going to be the candidacy
that could win the establishment.

Bridge-gate has rocked that and that has enabled someone like Jeb Bush
to re-enter the conversation. Jeb is not even doing anything in the early
primary states. That doesn`t really matter right now at this early stage.

But Jeb is getting the attention of the donors who used to swoon for
Chris Christie. So, that`s the battle tonight. It`s a battle in
prepositioning, a preprimary battle to try to win over some of these big-
dollar donors. Who are they really going to end up with as the 2016
primary approaches?

MELBER: Margie, what do you think about that and other names we have
out there like Jeb Bush and Walker?

OMERO: Here`s the thing that all these candidates -- Jeb Bush is
maybe different from some of the others.

The problem is, it`s not just about appealing to folks like Adelson.
It`s also about moving the far right wing of the party, that is so much
farther to the right than the majority of the electorate. And being able
to heal those two groups and bring them together.

And the more we hear about the fighting between the Republican
establishment and the far right wing, the more we understand, the more
we`re reminded of how far to the right the Republican Party is from voters
overall. And Chris Christie maybe had had some advantages in that regard,
but right now, a majority of Iowa voters and half of Republican voters in
Iowa say they disapprove of how he handled bridge-gate and --

MELBER: Robert, briefly?

COSTA: I think we got to really look back at Adelson. Look at this
event tonight. Who`s attending?

You got Scott Walker, you got John Kasich, Chris Christie. These are
more center-right politicians. I think Adelson, Margie, learned some
lessons perhaps from 2012. He learned if you back someone like Gingrich or
a Tea Party favorite, it`s not going to pay off if you`re spending $90

So, I think it`s interesting to look at Adelson, who he`s inviting,
who`s not there. Ted Cruz isn`t there, Rand Paul isn`t there.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, I think that`s interesting. I think it goes to
the attention here that`s complex, which is on the one hand too much money
in politics, obviously dilutes other people`s voices. On the other hand,
there`s no doubt that some of Chamber of Commerce business interests in the
GOP right now are actually to the left of the extreme part of the Tea Party
for what it`s worth.

COSTA: Are they going to get out of their primaries? Are they going
to win in South Carolina? You know, it doesn`t look good right now. I
mean, Chris Christie, some of these folks are going to -- I mean, do you
think Chris Christie can win in South Carolina, even before bridge-gate?

MELBER: We`re out of time. But lucky for us, we have more time to do
2016 in future evenings. Democratic pollster Margie Omero and Robert Costa
from "Washington Post", thank you both.

OMERO: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, last night, Chris interviewed someone from
Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brother`s funded group about the massive
resistance to the ACA and their hand wringing over the extension for
signing up.


CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Why does extending a deadline for two
weeks take away the choices you have for your children?

care right now who don`t have health care for their children don`t want
this law, Chris. It`s not helping them. That is true.

HAYES: That isn`t true.

STEFANO: They`re not signing up. As a mother, I take real offense
that women are being forced to have no choices to cover their children.

HAYES: What are you talking about?

STEFANO: They don`t want this law.


MELBER: We`re going to do a little fact checking and some math,
straight ahead.



HAYES: Jennifer, the first question is, why should anyone care about
this extension of the deadline?

care about the deadline for the same reason that I wake up and millions of
women, actually 85 million across -- 85 women million across country wake
up and think about their children as well. That`s how many mothers we
have, because we really are having choices removed from us as mothers and
the health care we can provide our children.



STEFANO: Why? Because the president lied to us.

HAYES: Why does extending a deadline for two weeks take away the
choices you have for your children? Explain that to me.

STEFANO: Because it continues to not allow people to go back and
change this law.


MELBER: As the kids say, that happened.

And, as loyal ALL IN viewers know, last night, Chris interviewed
Jennifer Stefano of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group that
says its mission is to educate the public about economic policy.

The discussion was, as they say on the campaign trail, was passionate.
And if you really want to see it, you can go and look at the whole thing on

But the original focus of the segment was to look at the substantive
concerns around extending the ACA enrollment deadline, which many
conservatives have criticized. Today, the White House announced that more
than six million Americans have signed up for plans since October 1, and
analysts expect a rush of enrollments to continue.

As last night`s interview moved away from the policy question about
what`s wrong with extending that deadline for those who tried to enroll
earlier, there were also some claims that were not accurate. Most notably,
Ms. Stefano said that under the ACA Medicaid expansion involves raising the
poverty level to -- quote -- "people making $94,000 a year."


HAYES: Bumping up Medicaid eligibility from 100 percent of poverty
line to 133 percent of poverty line so that some working poor people can
get some health insurance, what`s the objection to that?

STEFANO: I have a real problem. When you talk about raising the
poverty level, that`s people making $94,000 a year. They`re not poor.
That`s taking resources from the poor. The expansion of Medicaid is a
moral issue, not an economic one.


HAYES: That`s a math train wreck. That`s not the Medicaid expansion.


STEFANO: Excuse me?

HAYES: It`s not the Medicaid expansion.

STEFANO: Oh, my brother, yes it is. You need to look at your facts.


STEFANO: Take 133 percent of the poverty level in states like
Pennsylvania and others, you get $94,000 a year. Now, I don`t know what
you consider rich. But that`s an awful lot of money.


MELBER: That is an awful lot of money, and it is good to look at your

The income for that percent of the poverty level for a family of four
is actually about $30,000. That`s a long ways from $94,000. And that
figure, $94,000, has been cited in very different contexts.

A family could make that much and still be eligible for some ACA
subsidies to defray the cost of insurance on the private market.

Now, whether this is a case of misunderstanding, a miscommunication or
disinformation, it`s not a small point. It is the entire point, because
there are two conversations about Obamacare now. One is an ideological
battle over whether the federal government should be driving the health
care market to expand coverage.

The other is an empirical inquiry into how the ACA works. And a lot
of people either don`t understand or refuse to understand the facts on the
ground. One debate is worth having with anyone in good faith, and the
other, well, it isn`t a debate at all. It`s a question of math vs.
rhetoric, or facts vs. myths.

Joining us now is Terry O`Neill, president of the National
Organization for Women.

Terry, welcome.

On this basic idea of where the ACA debate is going, my question to
you, looking at these conservative arguments is, if the ACA is so terrible,
why do you have to make stuff up about it?

exactly the right question.

I mean, you know, I was really intrigued by Jennifer Stefano`s
completely over-the-top, histrionic performance, and clearly making -- you
know, saying things that were not just false, but demonstrably false,
obviously false, easily fact-checked.

And I found myself asking myself, you know, what in the world is going
on with her? What is she really trying to do? Honestly, I don`t think
she`s interested in having a serious conversation about the Affordable Care
Act, because -- and we can talk about what the Affordable Care Act actually
does for women. It does a lot of good things for women.

I think what Jennifer Stefano is trying to do is, she is reaching back
to 2010, when Tea Party extremists and Republican Party were really
successful at shouting and creating a lot of diversion, a lot of
misinformation about what the Obama administration had done with regard to
many things, including Medicare.

And part of the effect of all of that shouting and misdirection and
hysteria was to depress the women`s vote. I think that that`s a lot of it,
because, you know, frankly, women do like the Affordable Care Act. Women
do like the Obama administration`s policies. Women generally will vote
progressive, particularly unmarried women.

But when they don`t vote, that`s when Tea Party extremists can flood
into both United States House of Representatives and the state
legislatures. I think that`s what they`re trying to do again. And I think
it`s going to fail.

MELBER: And whether or not there`s an electoral goal in the short
run, it also seems that there is a very deliberate interest in getting away
from the facts of the enrollment numbers of who`s getting covered, of how
it works, and going into the sort of other avenues.

In the Supreme Court case just this week, we saw a lot of confusion
even from justices of the Supreme Court about whether contraception is
equal to abortion. Medically, it`s not.

O`NEILL: You know, what happens when you just have a bunch of men
talking about what goes on with women`s reproductive processes, you get
confusion. You get men not really being willing to think it through or not
even able to think it through.

And then you get people like Justice Scalia or Justice Alito, who are
adamantly opposed to women having basic health care like birth control, and
they`re able to swing things their way. It`s really upsetting and very,
very disappointing.

I do note that the women on the Supreme Court were absolutely on point
with their questions. And they actually were willing to look at individual
women`s religious rights and religious freedoms, and the men were all hung
up on the mysterious cellular workings of fertilized eggs and women`s
uterus walls.

MELBER: Yes. I hear you. And that was striking there. It`s
striking that it`s not only happening sort of in the corners of some sort
of media echo chamber, but really all the way up to where very serious
legal thinkers and political thinkers are, and, again, not just debate over
ideology. People of goodwill have long disagreed on where government and
abortion should fit in, although we have a precedent in Roe, but going
beyond that to real confusion and misinformation about this stuff.

Terry O`Neill, thank you for your time.

O`NEILL: Thank you.

MELBER: And coming up, a major change in the world of college
football that could have a profound effect on NCAA sports and unions in
general. I will explain ahead.



RUSSELL CROWE, ACTOR: He`s going to destroy the world.

ANTHONY HOPKINS, ACTOR: My father said that, one day, if man
continued in his ways, the creator would annihilate this world. He speaks
to you. You must trust that he speaks in a way that you can understand.

CROWE: I saw water, death by water. And I saw new life.

A great flood is coming. We build a vessel to survive the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I have men at my back, and you stand alone and
defy me?

CROWE: I`m not alone.


MELBER: Looks kind of hard-core. That`s the new Hollywood
blockbuster treatment of the story of Noah`s Ark and hits theaters

But Glenn Beck got a special private screening of the film last
weekend. He got an invite from Paramount after calling the film dangerous,
hostile to God, although he hadn`t seen it yet.

Now Glenn Beck has seen the big, flashy Noah`s Ark treatment, and his
official review is in.


awful. I believe that it is not a Godless climate change movie. It`s more
like "Sinbad the Sailor" meets "Shining" and "Friday the 13th" with a
sprinkle of "Mad Max" in the Thunderdome.

Noah doesn`t really seem to have a real good relationship with God.
If you`re looking for a biblical movie, this is definitely not it. I don`t
think it`s an environmentalism thing, as much as it`s just pro-animal and
anti-human, and I mean strongly anti-human. But it`s not the story of
Noah, I mean, that I was hoping for.



MELBER: You know, he`s actually, as a movie reviewer, he`s like --
he`s less obnoxious than on politics. It`s just a thought. I hadn`t heard
that yet.

But Glenn Beck is not alone. The controversy over this film does run
deep, indignations cropping up all over the world with some interesting

Tomorrow night on up -- not up -- on ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES, we`re
going to have a closer look at who is mad about Noah and why, as well as
some hard-core debunking with a real-life scholar.


MELBER: We could be looking at the beginning of the end of what we
know as big-time college sports.

That`s all because of a decision yesterday that granted Northwestern
football players the right to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board
in Chicago had its regional director base the decision on the control the
coaches have over the lives of scholarship athletes to find that players
spend 50 to 60 hours per week engaging in football-related activities, that
their Internet presence is restricted, that coaches even excerpt pressure
over students` personal lives.

And all of this led to the key decision, that this is exactly the kind
of control that an employer has over an employee, something to keep in mind
during March Madness, and perhaps America`s second largest sporting event
behind the Super Bowl. Sure, these kids do have scholarship, which means
that, yes, they get something, they get compensated.

But we shouldn`t look at them necessarily as just unpaid workers.
Yesterday`s ruling changes the law. It means that athletes here, at least
at these private schools, have a right to organize. That not only cracks a
door to unions at a private school. It could spark the kind of labor
conversation we haven`t had in a long time in this country, because it
scrambles some of the myths, that unions just protect mediocre workers from

That`s a point, of course, Republicans have pressed against public
unions across the nation. After all, if there`s one thing everyone knows
about these athletes, it`s that they`re really good at their jobs. But if
you`re good at your job and your employer still has all the power, it
doesn`t mean you will get paid or treated right.

Joining us now is economist Allison Schrager, a contributor to
Reuters, where she just wrote a piece on this very topic, former NFL
running back for the Minnesota Vikings Robert Smith, now a college football
analyst for ESPN, and Dave Zirin, sports editor at "The Nation" and author
of "Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down."

Welcome, everyone.

Dave, your thoughts on today`s ruling -- on yesterday`s ruling.

DAVE ZIRIN, "THE NATION": Oh, it`s massive. It`s the first crack in
the NCAA`s cartel. And it reminds me of an expression, pigs get fat, hogs
get slaughtered. The NCAA is getting slaughtered right now precisely
because it`s gotten too fat.

I was thinking about Robert Smith`s alma mater, Ohio State, legendary
coach there, Woody Hayes. His last year coaching, roughly 30 years ago, he
made a $42,000 base salary. Urban Meyer, coach today, $4 million base
salary, just like that, and that doesn`t include the perks.

In 39 of 50 states in the United States, the highest paid public
employee is a football or a basketball coach. Meanwhile, the position of
the player, particularly in the revenue-producing sports, has remained
almost entirely the same, despite this flood of money.


And, Robert, when you look at this decision, which I was reading
today, what`s striking, is the NLRB in here talks about the burden on
employers. And the decision states, look, it was employer`s burden to
justifying denying its scholarship football players employee status,
writing: "I find the employer has failed to carry its burden."

Basically, they want an exemption. They had to prove that they
deserved it, and now they have been told they don`t because of the way they
treat players.

ROBERT SMITH, ESPN: Yes. I think that we need to be careful, though.

Although I think it is a landmark decision, this isn`t anything close
to the last step. This is the very first step of the process. Of course,
Northwestern is going to appeal this, and it`s going to appeal it
eventually if they have to into the courts, into the federal court system,
and there`s a great deal of case law that`s on the side of Northwestern
saying that athletes aren`t employees.

And, of course, if they do get designated as employees, the one thing
that is a kind of a be careful what you ask for kind of situation is, if
you`re an employee, and the foundation of that argument is based on the
fact that you`re getting compensation, then the IRS is going to have
something to say about that as well.

Then, of course, you also have the work comp issues that certainly
need to be dealt with.


SMITH: But I think this is a great first step, but it`s far from the
end. I think at the very least, it gets that conversation started.


MELBER: I have got to go to Allison, who has a bit of a different

And part of your argument is that, if we go down this road, we will
end up with minor leagues and a system that actually only benefits 1
percent of athletes.


I mean, you can define these athletes as student athletes who are also
employees. I mean, I actually have been on this side before, because, as a
graduate student, I went through this -- in between 2000-2005, because they
ruled us as graduate students, employees, and then said we weren`t
employees anymore.

And it was actually -- I don`t really have a firm view either way
about whether or not they`re employees and whether it`s important. I think
the important conversation is, what`s the best way to compensate...

MELBER: Well, let me push you.

Your piece is in defense of the NCAA, so it had somewhat of a firm
view saying this could be bad for athletes.

SCHRAGER: Well, you can define them as work study students and then
pay them, although I don`t think the conversation should be about monetary
compensation, as the best way to serve the average athlete is through
really a better dialogue about how to best educate them.


SMITH: You can`t -- the problem here is that you can`t defend a
system where you have billions of dollars flowing in, and you see the
coaches, their compensation increasing. You see the conferences benefiting
from this, the athletic departments benefiting from this. But players
can`t even get simple protections for life, for help from injuries that
they have received from very dangerous sports like football, which are the
high-generating sports, obviously.

Now, look, the Affordable Care Act is going to impact this in a very
positive way, I think, because athletes that do have preexisting
conditions, they still will be able to get insurance.


MELBER: Let`s pause. You guys stay with us.

And we will come back right after this.


MELBER: We are back with Allison Schrager, Robert Smith, and Dave

We have been talking all about NCAA and unions.

Dave, go ahead. You wanted to jump in.

ZIRIN: No, absolutely.

I mean, this is a social justice issue. Dr. Harry Edwards has called
this the civil rights movement of our time, precisely because the NCAA now
operates as a system of organized theft of black wealth and black
educational opportunity. If you listen to what the Northwestern players
are even asking for, they`re not asking for compensation. They`re asking
for actual guarantees on their scholarships. They`re asking for guarantees
of health benefits.

And Allison talked about the need for a dialogue. And I agree with
her about that. But the whole reason why they organized in the first place
is because they felt like it had been a monologue. They were not getting a
seat at the table to even have their interests heard.

MELBER: Robert, you were a Buckeye. Speak to some of that, from your
experiences, if you could.

SMITH: Well, not just a Buckeye, but being a Minnesota Viking as

And I know that now, especially with the way that the collective
bargaining agreement has changed, the players negotiated periods in the
off-season where they have a break. So the players in college football,
the demands on their time are even greater than what a professional athlete
will go through. You have winter conditioning, then you have spring
football, then you have summer conditioning.

So I think that what they need to do here is legislate some
restrictions on that time, allow the players to work during those periods
so they can earn some extra money, which is prohibited right now.

SCHRAGER: I think we need to -- as I said, we need to be having a
couple conversations here.

So I don`t think anyone can oppose what they`re asking for, very
reasonable things, protections they do need. And I think a bigger question
is, is unionizing the right way to do it? And also I think a point that
gets lost is, they are compensated in terms of education. And actually the
inflation on education has gone up way much more than prices.


ZIRIN: But we have to point out these are only one-year scholarships
that are renewed on an annual basis at the pleasure of the athletic

And given the amount of travel and everything Robert described, the
value of that education is profoundly diminished.

SCHRAGER: Yes. And I think that`s the conversation we should be


MELBER: Hold up. Hold up.


SCHRAGER: I think that`s why we should have the conversation more
based on, how can these kids actually get the education they need and

Because the fact is, most of them are not going to go pro. And I
think this is why this is a good model, is because if we just had a minor
league, they will get whatever small nominal pay you get in the minor
league, and then most wouldn`t go pro, and that`s all they would have.

This actually works as a nice safety net for the kids who don`t go pro
to actually get a skill set that will pay off way more over their lifetime.

MELBER: Robert, briefly?

SMITH: Well, I think that these players should be able as well to
benefit from their likeness while they are players.

ZIRIN: Absolutely.

SMITH: That window of opportunity is so small to be able to earn that

And what the schools could do, they could kind of control that, maybe
put that money, part of that money into some sort of escrow, and then what
they would be able to do is go after that money, instead of going after the
school and hurting the other players and teams if there`s a violation. And
they could make the player have to get his degree to get that money that`s
held in escrow.


MELBER: And that really goes to the conversation we`re having, which
is partly about what`s right for these athletes that the NLRB is saying are
workers. And that`s different, of course, when they don`t have the right
to unionize, that they won`t -- they`re not really a part of that

ZIRIN: Exactly.

MELBER: That`s what was so interesting about the ruling. We will see
what happens on appeal.

Economist Allison Schrager, Robert Smith from ESPN, and Dave Zirin
from "The Nation," thank you.

That is ALL IN for this evening.


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